Thursday, June 28, 2007

Buried And Reborn

The great thaw continues. Any item recently chipped free from the primordial ice cliffs of the freezer should be considered a candidate for either a salad, a casserole, lasagna (deconstructed or traditional), or a soup. The key is to bury its freezer-burned faults with a barrage of supporting ingredients, a host of scrappy alternates who, together, can obscure the truth of its origin.

In this case, Tamalehawk battles through a clutch of frozen chicken parts. Peaked with icy terrain and bearing sell-by dates that harken an altogether different season, he decides to try for chicken salad. After defrosting, prying apart, splaying, and rotating, he poached them all in chicken stock. When they were cooked, he shredded them, added mayo, dijon, BBQ seasoning, and really anything else that seemed up to the task. Cheesed and lettuced, he decided to pose them in a dramatic angular fashion, as though the sandwich was going to eat you. He eschewed the industry standard sandwich pose, where the corner of one half is stacked gently atop its brethren in a jaunty fashion, as though it were clamoring to find its fate in the first willing maw that came along. In the end, the series of select staples rallied to reveal a rewarding finale.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unknown Expedition

You can tell the groceries are approaching a dramatic terminus when the freezer becomes a desolate tundra of complicated and unappealing stalwarts. Tamalehawk begins the arduous endeavor of defrosting the long-neglected selections wrapped in unmarked foil and stashed sideways in random arctic alcoves.

He doesn't know what this is. There is Italian sausage, retrieved from antiquity, compiled with a melange of remaining regulars including artichokes, olives, garlic, anchovies, olive oil, tomato sauce. The key here is making something that reaps the meager harvest in a palatable way while yielding lunch leftovers. A mild triumph in those respects, Tamalehawk can't help but long for a bountiful future.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vice and Virtue

It's been documented that Tamalehawk drinks liquor only as a novelty or at weird weddings on someone else's dime, but his desire to innovate compelled him to create a new cocktail. He did, after all, receive his honorary doctorate in Mixology from a bartending school that is as prestigious as it is non-existent.

Seizing scattered components and christening his cocktail shaker, he added leftover brewed coffee, Maker's Mark whiskey, Triple Sec, and almond flavoring. Shake it up and strain into a glass. You have just made a Cowboy Sunset, guaranteed to blur the line between alcohol and coffee buzz. You're not drinking alone at home, you're just having a fancy coffee drink. Besides, if Starbucks could offer you two fingers of whiskey, you know they would. They would also somehow burn it, overcharge you, and continue speeding the demise of modern music. Oh no he didn't. Yes he did.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frozen Assets

For Tamalehawk, summer brings a fierce predilection for ice cream. He found this in his grocer's freezer, a low-fat frozen yogurt made by Haagen-Daz, that really transcends any of the deterring modifiers in its title and lives up to the standards of its ultimate namesake. It's really hard not to bypass an actual dinner, eat the entire thing in one to two sittings, and give yourself an old-fashioned stomach ache.

As far as local options, Dairy Queen scratches the ice cream itch in a complete and nostalgic way that Tamalehawk appreciates. He agrees with the heap of good press the butterscotch dip cone has reaped. You can do the Blizzard, as it undoubtedly has done its fair share of heap-reaping, but Tamalehawk tends to grow tired of them a few bites in. Plus, a wise man once stated that you'd have to be a complete lunatic to get anything bigger than a small size when dealing in Blizzards. Also, it's OK to be intrigued by the Peanut Buster Parfait, but don't ever get the Brownie Earthquake. The mantle of stale brownie disappoints to the core. Cold Stone Creamery is really not an option unless you're getting the cake-batter ice cream, in which case, proceed. Get it with: almonds and cherries or just straight up fudge. Just don't even glance at their abhorrent suggestions on the wall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

But For The Gilding

Frying egg or hideous eyeball of advancing robot overlord? You decide. Tamalehawk always turns to eggs when he's alone and has waited too long to eat. He's not always in the mood for them or anything, but they are really fast and versatile. When you've been ranging from kitchen to living room to computer in a doomed triangle of hunger, you settle for almost anything that will put an end to that misery march.

Tamalehawk is sure you've eaten at any number of the city's Golden diner options, be it the Golden Angel, Golden Cloud, or Golden Apple. Normally, the word "golden" would describe something of precious value, however, in restaurant terms, it means "cheap diner with a mind-bogglingly extensive laminated menu." Having eaten at all local Goldens and enjoyed them all, he recommends the Golden Angel. Slight disappointment with the coffee is overridden by a general pleasing vibe. Fresh mushrooms in the omelet is always a sign of a diner that cares, and two kinds of hot sauce on the table is an added bonus. No need to mess with that Tabasco stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Service Defined

According to the sundial, it's high meatball season. These feature the trifecta of meats - pork, beef, and veal - with garlic and all the other stuff. Then ball them, dredge them in flour, brown them, etc. You can purchase the three meats together in one shot at Treasure Island. That is considerate of them.

After an extended trial period, Tamalehawk can honestly say he recommends Treasure Island. His grocery strategy has been, historically, riddled with indecision and dissatisfaction. Jewel has cheap prices, a value card, and lots of recognizable brand names. But awful, detestable produce and completely unreliable meats. Trader Joe's can't deliver on many items, but makes up for it with lots of interesting exclusive products. Treasure Island humbly meets them in the middle, offering great produce and meat while still sort of exuding a somewhat European air. Tamalehawk is not sure what that means or why he likes it, but it seems to work. It's the closest thing to one-stop grocery shopping that he's been able to find. Also the deli people always give you a slice of what ever you've ordered to taste-test, which is a nice touch. Having a man in a bloody apron dangle a piece of ham in your face then wait patiently for approval is far more satisfying than it should be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day In The Sun

Some advice: If you buy Nutella, then make sure you have something on hand to dip in it or spread it on. Dipping is less work and therefore superior. In an ideal world you'd have like a pretzel stick or something. Like a shortbread cookie. Or any kind of cookie. A biscotti for sure. Tamalehawk got desperate and tried it on some Kashi Fire Roasted Vegetable crackers. The Nutella kind of takes over completely, so really they worked fine. He finally settled on dipping a spoonful of Nutella into a jar of loose peanuts. That worked out exceptionally.

He's going to go ahead and recommend the breakfast roll at Ginger's Ale House. Consisting of Irish bacon and sausage, eggs, onions, and cheese on a long roll, it just tastes good, especially before witnessing a massive slaughter at Wrigley. Make sure to get an Old Style while you're there. You'll be intrigued by the PBR tall boys, but stay with the classic. If you still have room, pack away peanuts and a dog or two. Also, Tamalehawk noticed they have nachos with like shredded pork on them? Did you know about this? He was mesmerized.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Series Of Delusions

Why the bear gets all the credit associated with the versatile bounty of honey, Tamalehawk will never know. You should be squeezing a plastic molded bee, since they are the ones carefully cultivating the honey. Based on this misappropriation, the bottle may as well be a human form, somebody with a sheepish look holding some granola and waiting for the lazy suzan to spin his way.

It is with a heavy heart that Tamalehawk administers an unflattering review of the Chicago Ale House. The standard fare could potentially be overlooked if not for the inescapably unfortunate decor. Weird carpet and dull upholstery make the front room look like a banquet hall, giving the place an overall "family bar" vibe that is as distracting as it is muddled. Is Tamalehawk being petty? He probably is - this type of problem shouldn't be considered an impasse. He will readily assess the mashed potatoes as exceptional, and his grilled chicken sandwich with pears, pesto, arugula and melted brie was also pretty good. He also noticed that the back room of the giant bar seemed distinctly better - hardwood floors and an immense TV that would be great for when you want to watch something huge. Also there are 60 beers on tap, including Old Style, and that is never bad and always good. So, the final recommendation: If you are in the neighborhood and want to watch a popular local sporting event and feel like a beer and a plate of mashed potatoes, actually, this place is ideal.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bête Noire

There was an accident. Basically the cilantro salsa came crashing down and destroyed a bowl and an adjacent glass, smashing them to tiny shards, turning the bottom part of the glass into a jagged spire not unlike the tower of Mordor, and the bowl into a pile of ceramic dust coating everything in a four foot radius. Tamalehawk knew the unrelenting nature of granite, but it never ceases to astound with its impenetrability. Fortune smiled on the cilantro salsa, who was returned to the shelf rattled but intact.

Something clearly has to be done about the shelf organization. Why is the Hungarian paprika front and center on the most accessible shelf? Why must the long pastas be laid horizontally across the canned goods? Nothing worth eating is visible or easily acquired. Heavy jars teeter on the brink of calamity. Various boxed teas comprise an entire shelf of prime real estate. Order and sense has given way to confusion. Tamalehawk has resigned himself to getting brained by a suicidal can of chick peas.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wanton Disregard

Another contender in the inadvertent series of comfort foods. Tamalehawk supposes that category includes anything that is inherently unhealthy and delicious and has mass appeal. Things that require you to briefly abandon your conscience before you can be excited by the prospect of eating them. He waves a concessional wing at this definition because guilt makes everything taste better.

Tamalehawk builds his cheese sauce on a basic bechamel by melting 4 tablespoons of butter in a pot until it bubbles, then adding 4 tablespoons of flour and cooking it until it is blond in color. Add 2 cups of cold milk, a little bit of nutmeg, salt, and cayenne, and stir it with a whisk over a medium heat until it thickens. Add a ton of cheese, in this case cheddar and parmesan, but please get fancy and do the whole gruyere thing. Pour it over your cooked pasta, then into a buttered casserole dish. Take that time to toast your Panko breadcrumbs with a little more butter in a pan. Dump the crumbs on top and bake it until you're too hungry to wait any longer. Add a side salad or don't. It doesn't matter because you've just changed the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Phantom Pangs

Tamalehawk has come to terms with the fact that a thriving bagel culture has not entrenched itself in the Midwest, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still feel the longing on a Saturday morning. Breakfast just can't be the same. Harder to acquire than the bagel is the rarely photographed bialy, captured here only in the grim repose of death. A sad fate for such a noble starch, who must brave the heat of the hearth without the bulwark of boiling first.

If there is a reputable bialy repository in the city, notify Tamalehawk post-haste. He has located a place on North Avenue that does a good job but few things are worth traversing the gnarled retail morass that surrounds it. Also, just like a roll? To assemble a bacon and egg on a roll sandwich? Which exists in its own wing of the Breakfast Hall of Fame? That you have to pay an extra $5 to visit but is completely worth it?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Midnight Raid

In a culinary sense, few things can make you crestfallen faster than a lack of eating options. Do you really want to defrost that chorizo and make some sort of taco thing? Will olives taste good on toast? Couldn't you swear that you bought some jalapeño jack cheese? Tamalehawk knows this despair all too well. It haunts him, cutting his predatory night flights short with a cold finality.

Sometimes you have to just stop staring into your empty fridge in the dark and go to Ribfest. Wear shorts because it is really hot and you'll be there longer than you think. Make sure to eat ribs from four-time festival winner Cy's Chop House - they are incredibly tender and sort of have a citrus-ginger thing going on. Do not eat anything from the impostor Robinson's. Merle's has good pulled pork sliders with mac and cheese, possibly the best deal there. Gale Street Inn has good ribs to especially when you shuffle down the block and douse them with Hecky's barbecue sauce because that is how you roll.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dreaded Appendage

The art of the supplemental side is self-taught; a trade forged in the fire of exigent hunger, of anticipated yearning, of old-fashioned glutton. No one wants to find themselves pacing the living room after inhaling an undersized burrito, or flipping the channels restlessly after a scrawny salad that didn't even have the decency to feature croutons. Rules for a good supplemental side: it's got to be assembled fast, so there's no time to second guess yourself or feel shame, and it's got to fit in one hand.

Tamalehawk recommends the chimichurri rice from Trader Joe's. No one does unusual frozen items like that place. In this case, the rice surpasses all the criteria for a quality frozen item: it's easy to make at three minutes in the microwave, it serves a several people instead of being a deceptively tiny portion that angers you instantly, it's easy to open, and it tastes surprisingly fresh. Shown here with pork chops breaded in Panko, the greatest breadcrumb ever because it is drier and crunchier and bigger, and a supplementary quesadilla made more out of fear than necessity.

Unflagging Classic

When you're talking about the spot, and really want to hit it dead on in one meal, you are talking about spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread. Tamalehawk loves the collision of childhood and college found in a bounty like this. Throughout college and post-college city life, Italian sausage gets swapped for meatballs because they're faster, but the joy is the same. You run out to Jewel and grab everything before Survivor comes on and get the water boiling while your roommates do bits and you watch the reward challenge from the doorway.

These days, Tamalehawk will take the time to make the meatballs when possible. His experiments with turkey meatballs have proved successful and, being an aging accipitridae, he has to consider his health as long as it can still taste good. He mixes a pound of ground turkey with Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. He has no problem with dried herbs in this context. Then, he rolls them into golf ball sized chunks and rolls each in a thin coating of flour. Set them all in heavy-bottom skillet in some kind of fat and brown them. In this case, Tamalehawk used some leftover bacon grease that was handy and was strong enough to push past the flicker of guilt he felt. Add your sauce and scrape the bottom of the pan, drain the pasta, and pull your garlic bread out of the oven just before it burns and shatters the nostalgia.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Delicate Haunch

It's hard to front on bacon. In addition to being the most coveted of breakfast meat, it freezes and defrosts really well. Tamalehawk now fully advocates broiling your bacon over pan-frying. Lay your bacon out on a broiling pan, or on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet, and set it about 3 to 4 inches under the broiler. Watch it to make sure it isn't dripping anywhere and flip the pieces over when the top sides are done. This method allows perfectly even browning, creates almost no smoke, and doesn't spit hot grease all over your forearms as your stand over it. Speaking of which, bacon grease is among the most delicious of fats - so be sure to pour some of the grease from your cookie sheet directly into your frying pan or on your griddle and use it to cook your accompanying eggs or pancakes.

Taste of Heaven is the place in Andersonville that got some local heat for having a small laminated sign warning all who enter that "children of all ages must use their indoor voices" when dining there. Tamalehawk reserves judgment on that issue, but wantonly judges the food. Verdict: approved. Many of the things here are homemade, which is always a plus. Great reviews for the Katie Cakes, which are pancakes with berries, lemon cream-cheese whipped cream, and this kind of streusel topping that will probably make your child envious as he watches through the window from the sidewalk.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Price of Glory

Content will cheap beer, Tamalehawk typically only delves into hard liquor on special occasions like open bars, when beergaritas are involved, and when Meador buys him a shot of Malort. This herb liqueur is only distilled in Chicago and tastes like a liquefied acid fart. Some call it a local rite of passage, but it's hard to describe the churning hellscape you are passing to or why you would want to journey there. Still, Tamalehawk loves a challenge. After all, he has witnessed some legendary cocktails being born from the depths of risk and uncertainty, such as the Sticky Pirate (rum and cream soda) and the Brown Derby (vodka and root beer) and will never forget what it's like to stand so close to genius.

As for wing recommendations, the recently expanded Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly BW3) on Lincoln is a great option. When it comes to sauce options, size, and saucing technique, these award-winning wings rank in the upper echelon. Tamalehawk diversified his portfolio with spicy garlic and medium and was rewarded for his savvy. Select the Buffalo Chips, which are small potato discs, over fries or wedges, and you have a classic Champaign feast, right in the heart of the city.