Thursday, May 31, 2007

Karma Remora

Eat a pear and everyone gets jealous. They're all like "Are those pears for the office?" and you shoot them a glare and covetously slink away to your desk. Not as mainstream or handy as an apple but nowhere near the arduous grappling of an orange, the pear is a shamefully overlooked icon in the fruit canon.

As Tamalehawk considered the logistics and ramifications of a fruit cannon, he ate black bean and mushroom tamales from First Slice on Ravenswood and Montrose. This place is great and brings food to Chicago's homeless so it's a win-win. The tamales themselves lacked a little filling but made up for it with the pumpkin seeds and crispy tortilla strips that adorn them. The sandwiches always deliver - whether it's the astounding and elusive barbecue pork, the reliable ham and cheese, or the roasted duck. Support this place and you get a free dollop of positive karma, and everyone knows Tamalehawk loves to benefit from the altruism of others.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Local Flourish

You should always buy coffee from a local proprietor whenever possible. Local coffee shops define a neighborhood's character and foster community. Starbucks fosters homogeny, over-roasts their coffee, and is too expensive. The Grind on Lincoln keeps it frighteningly real with incredible local coffee and food that Tamalehawk dares call "artisanal."

When Tamalehawk lived on Newport he would do the Clark Canter on a sunny Saturday to the Pick Me Up Cafe. That intersection in many way is a perfect Chicago soundscape. You can hear the cheering from Wrigley, the rumbling of the El, and the...sonorous groan of the...graystones. Along with My Pie, the PMU was the first place he'd eaten in Chicago. The hummus melt sandwich is really exemplary, and your Clown Combo breakfast is a great option when it's too early to reconcile whether you want sweet or savory. The French toast is also clutch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saccharine Destiny

There is an old fable of the Swedish fishmonger who was sad that all the children in the village ran away from him because he smelled like fish all the time. He was going to drown himself in the Klardlven river when he accidentally knocked a satchel of sugar on top of some perch. Later he was indicted for armed robbery and suspected of three local arsons and eventually died in a bar fight but at that point candy factories were already making Swedish fish.

Tamalehawk thought about how candy pioneers suffered to bring joy to a savory world. He silently thanked them as he ate a pre-show Snickers courtesy of Arnie. The best candy bar, incidentally, is the Skor bar, a rigid continental shelf of toffee coated in a lush layer of chocolate sediment. Adding to the perfection is that fact that Skor means "shoe" in Swedish, a moniker no doubt accompanied by its own lurid and tragic Swedish folklore.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Holiday Strike

Summer means it's time to get tropical at all costs. Tamalehawk sensed the urgency and threw a mango on the edge into his blender. Mangoes are a real pain to cut up, so he wound up squeezing it lifeless over his blender. Add some ice, milk, honey, ginger, sugar, and pineapple if you got it. Tamalehawk sacrificed a single-serve cup of pineapple tidbits along with its juice. He also dumped a tablespoon of salt in there by accident but excised it from the mix like a master surgeon before any blending occurred. Crisis narrowly averted. He did momentarily consider going all savory with this concoction, but wasn't feeling that daring.

Recommendation: Hamburger Mary's on Clark. If you're ever doing the Andersonville Amble and looking for a great burger in a lightheartedly bawdy atmosphere, then you have found it. Eaten: the Buffy the Hamburger Slayer, which is a burger cooked in red wine with Swiss and garlic aoli. An avid hunter of local burgers, Tamalehawk adds this place to the list, which, incidentally, also include Jury's and the Grafton on Lincoln. He also noted several new spots open in Andersonville which seemed promising, including a Silician bakery that was stark and white and offered six precious varieties of pastry, making it look like a museum for historic Italian treats.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hot Lights

Sometimes, you get lucky with the things you have on hand. Sometimes, you happen to have all the vital ingredients for a makeshift Marghepita pizza. If Marghepita is too formal to scribe in your food journal, 'Rita Pita is also acceptable nomenclature, albeit a slang derivative. Just pile basil, marinara, and mozzarella cheese on a pita and broil. Remember to first broil your pita on one side, then take it out and add the toppings and broil the top so that it's warm all the way through. Hang out until the cheese is brown in spots, because they are pockets of awesome in a sea of delicious. Take a bite and be instantly transported to Italy via your desperate college days.

Recommendation: Erba on Lincoln. Seeing Urban Italian on the awning can easily inspire both hunger and fear in a potential patron. Luckily, Tamalehawk is of the mindset that urbanizing anything makes it worth a look. Eaten: asparagus soup, romaine and arugula salad with "24 hour" tomatoes and Parmesan crisps, goat cheese gnocchi with pesto, potatoes, and green beans, and spaghettini with shrimp, calamari, clams, and scallops. All standouts. Follow the whole thing up with the apple crostata, which you may have seen gracing the cover of a recent Chicago magazine. As a general rule, eat anything that's been on the cover of a magazine. Unless it's like Barf Weekly or something. Tamalehawk adds the crostata to the list of cover foods he's eaten, alongside Hopleaf's famed ham sandwich with tarragon-apple slaw . It's important to have standards.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Advancing Smoke

The race to finish the organic basil continues. The Watermelon-basil iced green tea proved as refreshing as regular iced green tea. Watermelon is not famous for bringing a whole lot of excitement to the party. If you muddle the basil with your spoon you get an interesting herb kick, but all told, just drinking it straight does the trick. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as Tamalehawk always sighs.

Significant: Tamalehawk spent a night grilling in Grant Park as part of a work event, one that required selecting, purchasing, transporting, assembling, preparing, using, maintaining, disassembling, and repacking a new Weber grill. Brats, hot dogs, and some pageant-worthy Jewel burgers made the long, smoky, insanely windy night a success. The most important thing to be witnessed, however: throwing burnt test dogs up high into the air and watching the gathering seagulls gulp them down without breaking their stride. It was like an air show. It made Tamalehawk want to abandon his post and soar with his coastal brethren.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Brine Of Denial

Tamalehawk was crestfallen when his eCoupon for 10 Pizza Points at Chicago's Pizza was somehow lost in the ether of the internet. Outraged and humiliated, he made a solemn vow to never again cross paths with the vile conclave of liars. He stalked into the kitchen to make an unexpected dinner, the worst kind.

Luckily: Pasta Puttanesca. Easy like a Sicilian breeze. It doesn't require any fresh ingredients except basil, which can be optional. Boil water and put your pasta in, like an angel hair if you got it. Chop up any olives you have, black and green. Chop up some garlic and dice an onion if you want. Heat some olive oil in the pot and add some anchovy paste, stirring it until it disappears. You can buy anchovies in a tube which sounds gross but is crucial in this context. Slide in all your other ingredients and add some tomato paste, which is also way better in tube form. Let all that cook down and blend together, and add either jarred marinara sauce, diced fresh tomatoes, or canned tomatoes. Tamalehawk prefers jarred or canned over fresh here. Do the ole strain and drain on your pasta and toss it into the pot. Stir it up with some Parmesan cheese and torn basil. Field a call from the Chicago's Pizza webmaster and have your Pizza Points triumphantly restored. Add them back to the list of viable food options.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

By Instinct Alone

Tamalehawk advises watching TV while cooking because too much concentration on either is boring. He watched a substantial chunk of the Survivorman marathon that was on Discovery, because that show is incredible. The premise alone is enough to make you tremble with primitive glee: Can a man survive completely alone for six days in a wide range of insanely unforgiving environments? This guy can. You really just have to watch this show.

Actualized: Sausage and basil risotto. Put a pot of broth on the stove and get it to a feisty simmer. Brown your loose Italian sausage in a deep pot, preferably something iron. Remove the sausage from the pot when they're done and set aside. Cook your onion in the brown bits until they're translucent, then add your rice and toast it for a minute or two. Then deglaze that pot with some white wine. Start ladling in your hot broth and start stirring slowly. The stirring isn't as slavish as it is often made out to be, but be diligent. Keep stirring and adding broth until the rice is cooked. Take it off the heat and add some butter and grated Parmesan. Add back your sausage and some julienned basil. Be happy you're not eating squirrel bones in the Canyonlands and happy that someone has.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ruin and Renewal

The evocative namesake. A corn casket lovingly concealed in husk, shaped and steamed into a perfect provision for the intrepid traveler. Paired with a High Life because, truly, that's what you are experiencing with tamales. Seize them at the Gingerman whenever the nomadic vendor appears - you get six for five dollars. Acquire them from Trader Joe's frozen aisle, selecting the chile and cheese variety with confidence. Get Meador to take to you a fantastical tamale shop in Rogers Park.

How could something formed from corn and lard and draped in its own dead skin be so arrestingly flavorful? Tamalehawk posed this question to the Incan gods. Tamale history is lurid and storied. Shrouded in mystery, it is said that all of South America as we know it sprouted from a drop of tamale blood that splashed to the ground during an ancient harvest incantation. Over the millenia, tamales provided crucial sustenance to warring tribes, causing brothers to kill each other and children to become warriors. In the modern era, we continue to see the tamale at the root of all progress and subversion, rebirth and extinction. Indeed, each time you eat a tamale, you become a part of this mythology, embedded in its history and woven into its future.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Stalwart Sentry

Culinary crisis creeps daily. One office baby shower ambush and you have less than six usable hours to create a potluck retaliation that will hold your position. Luckily, Tamalehawk exists perpertually on the precipice of catastrophe.

The result: emergency pasta salad. First, forget completely about having to make something until ten o'clock. Curse your fortune and consider going to the grocery store. Realize the how truly painful putting socks and shoes on would be at this late hour, and angrily peruse your cabinets and refrigerator. Pull out anything that may work together. In this case, jarred artichokes, chick peas, olives, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. Mix all of that together while your box of pasta boils. Make a dressing with leftover roasted garlic gloves, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. Go back and eliminate the serial comma from your first list of ingredients because you are grammatically progressive. When the pasta is cooked and drained, combine everything, correct the seasoning, and put it in the fridge. Maintain your role as prepared celebration participant.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Trained Eye

That moment prior to seizing a foreign cookie, Tamalehawk's brain forms a secret assessment as to whether the target cookie is soft or crisp. Failure to select correctly can prove disastrous or glorious. When the Meyer Lemon Cookies from Trader Joe's entered his cookie crosshairs, it was deemed crisp. Nestled by the rows of truly awful wheat breads, its chances of deliciousness were tallied as poor. The lure of the Meyer modifier, sweet where lay-lemons offer only sour, spurred the shelf-to-cart transfer.

Verdict: Delicious. And pleasingly bendable. Purchase these and conduct simultaneous experiments with the molasses ones. In other news, dandelion greens are not bad and perhaps good. Eat them in a salad of mixed greens with a Meyer lemon and olive oil. Two things that Tamalehawk misjudged. Is it cause for alarm? Should a mandatory re-calibration of all assessing functions be performed? What else is good that by all accounts should be bad? Tamalehawk shivered at the possibilities.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sweet Sojourn

Fruit knows it is photogenic and that it's the only food that gets posed. But it resents on a very fundamental level being gathered into bowls with different fruits. It's a very quiet, prevalent type of fruit racism that you're dealing with. Beauty often teems with ugliness. The apples release ethylene and slowly suffocate the bananas. The mango, days since its forced diaspora to the midwest, angles for freedom. The lemon waits to be sliced or mercifully squeezed. Tamalehawk rushing to eat them all before they rot.

Created: Chicken, chorizo, and potato tacos. Cook your chicken and chorizo in some oil until light brown then add cubed Yukon gold potatoes and some chicken stock. Simmer until everything is done. Smear each warm tortilla with a clove or two of garlic that you have roasted while watching baseball earlier. Add some cheese on top if you generally have the impulse to add cheese to things. Tamalehawk does and typically obliges this impulse.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Labrynthine Elaboration

It is well-documented and available for reference in several prominent libraries that the Tamalehawk has declared the avocados his favorite food. Any properly footnoted editions will also detail the other items in this esteemed group: the Sausage McMuffin with Egg, the brownie sundae, the milkshake, and pasta, and many other entries that vary depending on the editor, interviewer, year, mood, and ingredients. The avocado, however, remains a consistent and undeniable truth.

Bottom line, just don't get the Onion Maze from Yakzies, OK? Consider this an earnest warning with very real consequences. You will get lost in it and no chipotle dipping sauce can guide you to safety, primarily because there is no dipping sauce. Once you eat past the golden, crunchy surface, there is nothing but a tangled nest of limp, translucent onion strands. He saw all too clearly through the eyes of his onion-maligning friends and it chilled him to his feathery core. Also, their fries changed for the worse and it reflects poorly on the surprisingly superior burger. And their wings are really pathetic, not in a way that you could overlook as you watch one of the sixty-two TVs, but in a way that makes you feel a deep sadness for the tiny, malformed chickens they were twisted free from.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Bleak Extravangance

The fragility of the egg holds a lesson for us all. Delicate when tapped or jostled, yet indestructible when squeezed vertically. So, if you work on making your head super resistant to crushing pressure, it's OK if you're completely vulnerable across your midsection. Tamalehawk processed this irrefragable truth with a weary nod.

We none of us don't need the egg. Hard-boiled or cradled in a piece of ham that is itself cradled in a muffin tin, covered with chopped chives and baked until glossy and opaque, the egg accepts all invitations to alter its aeriform innards into a flourish. Except some omelettes are an unspeakable drag, especially when you get down to the last few filling-less bites. You stare down at the porous yellow terrain, void of all shimmering cheeses or intriguing salsas, and you quietly set your fork down in resignation. It is not just a sadness signaled by the abrupt end of a leisurely brunch, nor the tinge of disappointment you feel in yourself for hastily choosing the omelette at the nameless diner who obviously has no business making them; it is the greatest sadness of all - the sadness from the loss of an egg's potential.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Burn To Live

"We broil when we have hope; we broil when we have lost it." Tamalehawk considered the resonant truth of these words and whether a semicolon could feel more perfect in a sentence. They echoed down from his winged elders as he hunched in the cold light of the fridge. We turn to our broilers when we have a good idea for dinner, and when we do not, we put a slap an array of weird things together and broil it still. The broiler offers a sheer will power not emitted by the omnidirectional blasé of the bake mode. It turns doubt into victory, the terrestial into transcendence.

Put on a willing pita: leftover parsley pesto, leftover chicken, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, chopped olives, garlic powder, and salsa. Add more and variant cheeses and you see fit. In fact, your success is directly proportionate to the number of cheeses added. Skirt this mathematic certainty at your own risk. Broil it until it looks meant to be. Do not put your camera to close to the coils, as they bite like the angry milksnake. Keep a reverent distance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Exurban Leviathan

The very first name. Do other krauts aspire to trump Frank's masterful cabbage manipulation? Tamalehawk pondered what it must be like to be the very first in something. Is there anything available anymore? He wanted something that wouldn't require much physical taking so much as default accepting. He'd keep his eyes open.

Today's triumph: Portable Poor Bird's Reuben. Slap some turkey and provolone on some bread and heap on some of the first name in kraut. Make some dressing by mixing ketchup and mayo together. Toast it and eat it while bravely facing the uncertainty that is the second half of the afternoon. Also: Tamalehawk ate at Chili's, which, it should be stated, is the first name in oversized suburban chain restaurants. Tamalehawk always spared them the scorn cast upon Friday's and Bennigan's and full-time phony Applebee's. When you consider the rating scale these behemoths are measured on: Thickness of Menu, Appetizer Quantity, Food Name Wackiness, and Wall Fixtures - Chili's sits high on the heap. Every item shown in the menu is in motion; wine is being poured from great heights, butter balls are colliding onto steaks like meteors to Earth, shrimp are cascading onto a fajita, causing peppers to erupt everywhere. Tamalehawk approves.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Red Eye To Volos

Tamalehawk had already concluded that what he was going to make would be called a crazidilla, but other ingredients came into view and his thoughts jarringly shifted cuisines. He juked Mexico and made a break for the Mediterranean, tucking the crazidilla concept into his semiplumes for another day.

Puliverize your leftover parsley in a blender with garlic, olive oil, salt and a little water. Rinse one can of chickpeas, add a spoonful of the parsley pesto, and smash together in a bowl. Form adorable patties from the debris. Fry in some oil while your pita is toasting under the broiler. Forget about the pita, rescue it just in time, burn your hand, swear to a vengeful god, cut the pita in half, and spread some pesto inside both pockets. Flip the patties. Realize you have feta cheese, olives, and pepperoncini in the fridge, elicit a small gasp of delight, and gather them together. Remove the patties from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Mash them into the pita, stick some cheese on each half, and sit down. Reluctantly get up to retrieve a drink or die choking on sheer flavor.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Strategy Redressed

Tamalehawk absconded with perhaps the perfect granola from New Leaf Grocery. What attributes make granola worthy of such a title? Crunchy, but not violently so. Flavorful, but not in a synthetic way. Uniform and intriguing clusters. You can go the Ginger Snap or the Vanilla Almond route or mix them both, either way you have the perfect supplemental meal when it's ten o'clock at night or when you're procrastinating installing the new bathroom fan.

Tested new Cooper's strategy: For two people, order one appetizer, one sandwich with fries, and one dessert. Add a cup of soup impulsively and do not regret your decision. Dining out is about rash, half-cocked audibles to your order. Tamalehawk recommends the Reuben, made of corned beef that has been smoked for a century, the cream of broccoli soup that made him want an immersion blender with an unsettling urgency, and the homemade streusel and coffee ice cream, also homemade. It should be noted that if you've never been to Cooper's, you should be ordering the pulled pork sandwich without hesitation. Now that this fact is publicly recorded, Tamalehawk can let the matter rest until another opportunity to laud its merits presents itself.

Tour Of Duty

Back behind the burners again. Tamalehawk made a big mess but the ends justified his sprawling, disorganized means. Mise en place is for professionals. He got to use the Cast Iron Warship, its flame orange exterior signaling death by even, measured heating to any flagrant flavoring agents in the vicinity. It felt good. He didn't even yelp when he ran his hand over the burning coil.

Acquired and ingested: carnitas burrito bowl. Created and dispatched: pasta with broccoli and pine nuts in a lemon, butter, and garlic sauce. Tamalehawk notched the triumphant victory over the organic broccoli and the stalwart pine nuts, who due to his soaring aspirations, got a free toasting before joining the party. Tip: Don't toss the broccoli stems. Peel the tough outer layer off and cut the stem up, on the bias if you're feeling boastful. They'll go round for round with the florets any day of the week.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Egress In Green

Tamalehawk was pensive and skeptical as he excised the tough stalks from the tough leaves. First, he was upset he couldn't conjoin pensive and skeptical into one glorious word. The only hope for doing so relied on the short "i" sound that unified them. And it would be a tremendous shame to abandon the pleasing "skep" syllable. So, skepsive was unsatisfyingly settled on. Meanwhile, the kale persisted.

Tamalehawk eyeballed the kale. It looked like something you would ride over with your bike when you were a kid. As it turns out, chicken broth, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and some red wine vinegar at the end make for a completely acceptable, if not a bit undistinguished, side dish. Tamalehawk also judiciously participated in a barrage of apps at The Grafton, which, incidentally, has a highly-ranked pub burger that you can get with a fried egg on top, which, incidentally, is always a welcome addition.