Food

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  Notes on Food. I should split this up into Foreign Food, Restaurants, Ingredients,  Drinks, Cooking, and Miscellaneous Food. 

Bars

  • Nisei Lounge

Wrigleyville Those looking for a respite from the Wrigleyville madness can rely on this age-old holdover, dating to the era when the neighborhood functioned as Chicago’s Little Japan and going on to serve as a community hub for ensuing generations. Today, the ever-friendly Clark Street hangout is stocked with dart boards, giant jenga, pool tables, and a whole boatload of Malört, so yeah, you know what to do.


Buying Ingredients


Dishes

Basa: A kind of farmed catfish, which I had in the Umi Grill Japanese restaurant as: Breaded whitefish served with greens, fresh mango, shrimp, asparagus and avocado in a garlic dressing.

But it might be unsanitary if imported from Vietnam.

Marmite

"HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN MARMITE". An exquisite familiar essay, on par with Joseph Epstein's if more oriented towards pleasures of the flesh than towards high literature:

When I started blogging I searched around for an original name. Not an easy task, blogger rejects any blog name that has already been chosen. I reached deep inside myself and thought about who I truly am, my background, my influences, formative experiences and I came up with the moniker MsMarmitelover.

For I am a Marmite baby. I had Marmite on toast for breakfast every morning...

The recipe:

RECIPE FOR HOME MADE MARMITE:

A litre of Brewer’s yeast (top fermentation from a brewery)
A little sea salt
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 turnip, diced
1/2 celery stick, diced
1) Put a litre of brewer’s yeast with a little salt, in a bain-marie. Simmer at blood heat, 30 to 40 ºc for ten hours or overnight.
2) Then simmer this mixture at 50 to 60 º c for 2 to 3 hours.
3) Boil at low temperature 90ºc for half an hour. (In the factory they have a special machine for this, or you could ascend a mountain of 10,000ft, to achieve low altitude boiling)
4) Filter though coffee papers or a sieve and cheesecloth
5) Let it cool for a day or so. It separates further.
6) Filter again.
7) You then want to convert it to a paste. This is best achieved by putting it in a large flat pan and simmering. On an Aga, you can simply leave the pan on the lid for a few hours. Keep an eye on the mixture.
8) Meanwhile boil up all the vegetables until they are cooked. Strain off the liquid and incorporate into the Marmite paste.
9) Let the mixture reduce into a Marmite like texture. Do not allow it to burn:

The entire process takes about ten days.


Meat

Underrated: Neck. "You never see anyone use it, most likely because they don't know what to do with it, but if you slow braise the meat on the bone you can achieve a depth of flavor not easily paralleled by any other part of the animal."

Underrated: Tri-tip "Tri-tip, that larger, tender, triangular part from the bottom of a steer, isn't well known to most people. It is probably the least-expensive, best taste of beef you can purchase. There's not a lot of connective tissue, so it cooks very quickly and easily. It has been my go-to meat for grilling, it has a way of soaking in the wonderful flavors and allowed a slight caramelization on the outside."

Underrated: Flap meat, or bavette "The most underrated would be flap meat, or bavette. It has lots of flavor and it can't be overcooked. You've got to slice it against the grain, but it has a flavor and texture you can't find in other cuts."

Underrated: Hanger steak, chuck "There are a couple of really wonderful underrated cuts of beef, starting with the hanger steak. The hanger steak comes from the plate, which is the lower belly of the animal, and literally 'hangs' from the diaphragm. You’ll find it to be rich and full with a hearty, beefy flavor, similar to that of a ribeye, but without the price tag. I also love any of the newly popular chuck steaks. Chuck refers to the shoulder and neck of the animal and yields some incredibly well-marbled and flavorful cuts, such as the Denver, flat iron, and shoulder petite tender cuts. All three of these are incredibly supple and rival any of the more expensive and highly recognized cuts of meat."

Most Overrated: Hanger steak "Comprising only about a pound and a half of a 900lb steer, this cut, while delicious, is best served infrequently and only bought from your local butcher shop. I love cuts like bavette, Santa Fe, and Denver in its place."



Pizza

*Best Pizza in Chicago," The Thrillist: 

You’re not allowed to argue with me on this one: Home Run Inn is the best frozen pizza ever (Thrillist's frozen pizza ranking attests to it). It's on this list because, if you’re not from Chicago, this is one of the few things in your local freezer aisle that you can experience along with us. Obviously, it’s much better fresh from one of the eight locations in Chicago, but even from your oven, there’s something about that damn buttery crumbly crust that keeps everyone coming back for more.

Pokeweed

See the Pokeweed page.

Snacks

  • Ritz Crisp & Thins, Cream Cheese and Onion (2021).


Mushrooms

  • Salted Psathyrella snacks.

Drying Rack Garbage Can for Psathyrella with Salt and Pepper

  • Sabatino Tartufi Truffle Salt.

Sabatino-truffle-salt

Cooking Shows

  • That southern cook-- Collard Valley.
  • Good Eats
  • Iron Chef
  • Julia Child

Drinks

  • Spooky dill pickle Bloody Mary mix.

Beer

"Metropolitan Brewing Ravenswood A haven for German-style beers and lagers since 2009, Metropolitan largely flies under the radar among suds novices but continues to reign as one of the most respected makers in Chicago. While many contemporary breweries fall all over themselves trying to get your attention with the weirdest or most hop-forward beers imaginable, Metro keeps things simple with flat-out good beer that puts drinkability front and center. The venerable brewery’s profile has been raised slightly, thanks to the fairly recent addition of its Rockwell on the River Tap Room—one of the best taprooms in the city thanks to its homey atmosphere spanning reclaimed wood furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Chicago River. Must-try beer: Krankshaft, their flagship Kolsch, is brewed in homage to Cologne, Germany, featuring a burst of lemony aroma and a dry, clean finish characterized by Metro’s trademark smoothness."

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Distilled

  • Kettel cucumber-mint vodka.

Malort

  • Postgradproblems.com on Jeppsons Malort. A nice essay, though not to be trusted. He's right that malort doesn't mix well with anything except water, but wrong that it isn't good to sip.

It’s a differentiator. Depending on your mindset, this can be seen as a pro or a con. You might get an approving nod from the longtime bartender when you order the first round, but you also might get several grimaces from your group of friends and even some bystanders. If you’re new to Chicago or looking to make your mark, ordering a few shots of Malort is an instant way to gain a bit of credibility.

"Malört is mankind’s most foul-tasting alcohol," says Matthew Wright, a former Milwaukee bartender who says he’s consumed more than 20 shots of it, mostly after losing bets or darts. "It never grows on you. Every shot is worse."

"It's definitely the shot that keeps on giving. It isn't terrible at first but then after two or three seconds, something awful happens," says Wisniewski. "I think it tastes like what death smells like."

"I have a buddy, who videotaped his girlfriend doing a shot of it the first time. She was talking ---, saying there’s no way the spirit is that awful. She takes the shot, looks at him, coughs a few times, and pukes it back up," says Pietrykowski.

Malört – which is Swedish for "wormwood" – is an old spirit invented in the 1800s by a Swede named Carl Jeppson who brought his recipe to Chicago, where he eventually moved. In 1934, Jeppson sold the recipe to George Brode, a lawyer who started the Carl Jeppson Company. It was made in Chicago until the mid-70's, when the distillery that produced it for the company closed down. Currently, it’s made in Florida. In 1999, Brode died and left the company to his secretary, Patricia Gabelick, who still runs the company today and sells the product under the name Jeppson’s Malört. There is also another brand on the market, R. Franklin’s Malört, which is said to be equally as soul-crushingly terrible but anise flavored.

Malört's brand of wormwood has an extremely low thujone level—the chemical compound that supposedly causes mind-bending effects

While Malört means "wormwood" in Swedish, the Russian translation of the word is "Chernobyl." The infamous nuclear power plant was named after the native wormwood fields that once grew there… you know, before that whole radiation thing.

Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson arrived in Chicago in the 1930s, toting along his homemade spirit. Rumor has it that the cigar shop owner and avid smoker loved both selling and drinking Malört, not only because it padded his pockets, but also because it was rumored to be one of the only things his tobacco-ravaged tongue could actually identify.

Cleverly labeled as “medicinal alcohol,” good old Jeppson sold bottles of Malört sold door-to-door throughout Prohibition. Thanks to that loophole, it was the only legal wormwood product sold in America for a full 96 years, all the way from 1912 until 2008.

Moved to help their fellow Chicagoans during those first few chaotic weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak, the good folks over at CH Distillery began cranking out Malört-branded hand sanitizer and donating boatloads of the stuff to area hospitals, clinics, and blood donation centers in need. These days, you can pick up your very own “two-fisted clean” sanny by the gallon or spray bottle at the distillery’s Bar & Table tasting room.

  • Malört, tonight's the night you fight your dad.
  • Malört, the Champagne of pain.

Malört, turning taste-buds into taste-foes for generations. Drink Malört, it's easier than telling people you have nothing to live for. Malört, what soap washes its mouth out with. Malört, the authentic taste of social distancing.

Malört had considered litigating against Sam Mechling for creating unauthorized Facebook and Twitter pages for the company without their consent. Instead, ownership decided it made more sense—and was probably cheaper—to hire him, first as the Director of Marketing and, more recently, as the brand’s Cultural Ambassador.

The original back label describing Jeppson's brand was capped off with: "The first shot is hard to swallow! PERSEVERE. Make it past two 'shock-glasses' and with the third you could be ours... forever."

Between multi-award-winning Indiana outfit 3 Floyd’s white whale-worthy Malört Barrel Aged Dark Lord, Anti Hero Malört, a limited-edition series distilled from excess Anti Hero IPA from hometown powerhouse Revolution Brewing, and Lake Effect Brewing Company’s perfectly puckery Barrel Aged Malört Gose, the iconic wormwood liquor definitely has friends in high places.

They were quick to clamp down on accused infringers like Chicago distillery upstart Leatherbee, who’s 2013 debut of R. Franklin's Original Recipe Malört turned many a head, as well as Evanston heavy hitter FEW Spirits, who’s Anguish and Regret Malört hit the shelves shortly thereafter. After a touch of legal skirmish, Leatherbee renamed their darling bottle Bësk while FEW dropped the controversial word from its label altogether, opting for the simple Anguish and Regret.

As a part of their fully loaded retail line, Malört recently put out the aptly named Chicago Handshake, a drinking card game strewn with Chicago-centric scenarios, prompts, trivia questions, activities, and other booze-fueled hilarity. }}


Wine

  • May Wine is German white wine flavored with woodruff. It is no longer sold commercially because the German government thinks woodruff is too toxic.
  • Greystone Cellars red and white table wine is very good. About $11.00/bottle.
  • Pilschuterz apple cinnamon fortified wine.
  • Hark and Holldy Gluhwein, like Norweigan Glugg, a German mulled wine with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and orange peel. Cheap, too.

Sake Kit

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Knives

Knife Maintenance and Sharpening, by Chad Ward, August 13, 2003:

The purpose of a sharpening stone is to grind the edge and remove metal. Oil reduces friction and makes the process much slower. Supposedly oil helps float away metal particles that would otherwise clog the pores of the stone. You can do the same thing by wiping the stone with a damp cloth when you’re done..

...
Waterstones are another matter entirely. Both Japanese and synthetic waterstones require water in order to cut effectively. Japanese waterstones can be damaged if used dry and must be soaked thoroughly before use. Waterstones wear very quickly, revealing new layers of cutting abrasive as the swarf builds up and is washed away. That’s why they are so effective. There is always a new layer of sharp abrasive cutting away at the metal of your edge. By the way, “swarf” is one of those cool terms you get to toss around when you discuss sharpening. Swarf is the slurry of metal filings and stone grit that builds up as you sharpen.
...
Push cutting involves parting fibers and requires a polished edge. Shaving, for example, is push cutting. So is peeling an apple or julienning a carrot. You are pressing your thin, finely polished edge through the fibers of the food, pushing them to either side.

Slicing, on the other hand, involves severing fibers and requires a toothier edge. Crusty bread, a soft tomato, roast chicken – anything with an outer layer that is tougher than the squishier inside demands an edge that can bite into the skin without crushing the interior. A highly polished edge will simply skate over the surface of a ripe plum until you put enough pressure on it to push through the skin. But the fruit underneath will give way before that happens. Not pretty.

Now you must decide. Do you do more push cutting or more slicing? Do you have knives that you use more often for dicing, peeling and julienning? Do you have a knife that is dedicated to slicing?

A good basic strategy is to start with a standard 20 degree bevel (a 15/20 double bevel if you’re feeling adventurous) with a moderately polished edge on all your knives. This alone will be a vast improvement over what you might be used to.

Then branch out. If you have a knife that is only used for vegetables, a santoku for example, you can take it to a very fine, highly polished edge.
...
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are matching an existing bevel is to coat the edge with magic marker. As the magic marker is abraded away by the sharpening stone. you will be able to see where the metal is being removed and whether you have matched the angle properly. Once you have coated both bevels with marker, take a swipe or two down your stone. If the marker is wiped off over the width of the bevel you have matched the angle properly. If your angle is too high, only the marker near the very edge will be removed.
...
Take, for example, a plastic pen, stand it at a 30-45 degree angle on a countertop and lay the knife edge straight up and down on the plastic. Pull the edge from heel to tip. If it bites in, you’ve set your edge correctly. If it slides off, you have some more work to do. The sharper the blade, the smaller you can make the angle before it slips.


Chinese Food

"Many people dislike Shanghai food—which I’m defining as the broader region that encompasses Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, etc.—for being too sweet. In my mind, it’s unquestionably the finest cuisine. Not only is it the best at the high end, its noodles, soups, and soup dumplings make up some of the tastiest casual food as well. It’s the cuisine that varies most by season, e.g. bamboo shoots in spring and mitten crabs in fall, which showcases the bountiness of the region and its emphasis on freshness. (That’s quite unlike the tradition of the north, which celebrates every and any occasion with plates of dumplings.) The mixing of vinegar and hot fat produces a slight, magical sweetness, and that is something that the Shanghainese understand well, along with many other secrets.

I expect that everyone is familiar with the glories of Sichuan food, there’s little that I need to add here. I’ve eaten plenty in Chengdu and Chongqing, I hope next that I can explore some of the villages in the countryside that feature local specialties.

And I hesitate to say that Yunnan is next best because it has become so trendy. Some people question whether Yunnan food is coherent enough to be a cuisine, or whether it’s a useless label for dishes that vary over a huge and mountainous province. I think of it as Chinese cooking styles with Southeast Asian ingredients, featuring dishes like rice noodles, which can be more soft or more chewy than wheat noodles, served in a mutton broth and topped with a generous fistful of fresh mint. There are many things one can find there that are uncommon in the rest of the country, like cheeses. My favorites are the mushrooms: there’s nothing more appealing than some freshly-picked mushrooms stir fried with bits of Yunnan ham.

Any of these three regions are worth traveling to for a food tour. My candidate for an underrated cuisine is the food of the northeast, which features breads and stews of huge proportions. I haven’t had enough exposure to foods of all the interior provinces, but I’m happy to suggest that the cuisines of Jiangxi and Anhui are worth exploring. And the category of highly-rated and correctly-rated cuisines should include the foods of the northwest (breads and noodles), Hunan (spicy, though often too oily for me), and Taiwan (my favorite use of seafood). The following are overrated:

Cantonese: surely the most overrated cuisine in China, and perhaps the most overrated cuisine in the world. I concede that dim sum is often a delight; and no lunch can be more simple or more satisfying than a few cuts of roast duck or pork layered on a bed of rice, accompanied by sprigs of greens and some gravy. But we’ve too long allowed Cantonese food to dominate the world’s conception of Chinese cuisine. The high-end dishes don’t come close to the refinement of Shanghai cuisine: chefs reveal contempt for themselves and their craft when they deep fry a lobster, as if it were a carnival food, and I’ve never understood the emphasis on shark fins and sea cucumbers. Please let’s not continue allowing Cantonese to be a default choice for business lunches, Shanghai is more fine.

Beijing’s imperial cuisine is the only Chinese cuisine that I consider to be dumb. It wasn’t until I moved to Beijing that I realized how many of the unfortunate facts of Chinese cooking are the creation of local traditions: the dreadful “brown sauce,” the excessive use of starch, and the compulsive need to fry. Peking duck is fine every once in a while, but it’s far too much fuss and expense for something of medium tastiness. There are so few redeeming dishes in imperial cuisine that I wonder if it has been yet another cruel trick pulled by the eunuchs to hoodwink the emperor, depriving him of culinary pleasures for sport.

Hotpot transcends regions now, so let’s treat it as its own category. Hotpot is a fun social activity to do with friends. It’s a way to display skill at the table, through the management of cooking a variety of foods. But it can never be any sort of culinary revelation. My worst nightmare is for hotpot restaurants to take over every retail restaurant space, so that our only choice is to line up to eat at them inside malls, forever.

Here is my four-step process for ordering success in China:

  • Greens are usually the glories of the cuisine: order as many vegetables as there are people
  • If you will have a meat, consider the juiciness that pairs well with the starch: something saucy if you will eat with rice, or less saucy if you will have soup noodles
  • Order Yunnan mushrooms if they are on the menu
  • Fill out the rest with cold appetizers, they are never a bad idea"

--https://danwang.co/2020-letter/