Updated Short List

Old List:
  1. Girl and the Goat
  2. Nightwood
  3. Piece
  4. Great Lake
  5. Next Restaurant/Alinea (this is more of a fantasy dinner)
  6. The Publican
  7. Hot Doug’s
  8. Birrieria Zaragoza
  9. mk
New List:
  1. Next
  2. The Publican (have reservations for post-Thanksgiving Sunday brunch)
  3. Hot Doug’s – so far away and ridiculous hours
  4. mk – interesting but not urgent
  5. ruxbin
  6. Arami
  7. GT Fish & Oyster
  8. The Pump Room
  9. The Bedford
  10. Perennial Virant

Same deal.  Look out for my review of Lao Hunan in this week’s issue of the Chicago Weekly.

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A Compact History of Everything I have Eaten Since May

Dead Week and Finals Week – Lived off Sarpino’s, the occasional dining hall meal, minimal sleep.

Last day of Spring Quarter- Paris Club and Aviary
Awesome awesome.  We started with a bottle of Reisling, croque monsieur fingers, and a foie gras and short rib terrine.  (A terrine is a sort of roughly blended mixture of meat, not unlike a pate, refrigerated in a mold.)  I had duck confit with dried cherries for my main.  The dining area is very open and efficiently packed, sort of like Cafe Iberico but more reserved and less chintzy.  Dinner was wonderful, the food was delicious – a perfect way to begin an evening out.  Come here with people who make you laugh.

The one gripe I have was that the waitress inspected our ID’s for about a minute each – long enough to put me on edge as to whether she intended to eject my of-age friends from the establishment.  To be fair, this should probably be registered as more of a nota bene than gripe, as I’ve often been told I don’t look a day over 20.  I can’t really hold the scrutiny against her.

Afterward, we took a cab to Aviary for drinks.  When we arrived, there was one table available for our group of four – a standing table, by the kitchen.  We ordered a round – a Ginger, a Root Beer, a Rooibos, and a Blueberry, and a few selections from the “bites” menu.  Watching the mixologists work in the kitchen was engaging and the source of much speculation, but standing for 90 minutes did end up being a bit of a bother.  The presentations were fun and though I didn’t think any of the drinks were blow-your-socks-off amazing (though I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about cocktails, and in retrospect am worried that my experience may have spoiled me for bars in the future), for under $20 a drink, it’s easily justifiable for a night out and has wide appeal to all types of drinkers (unless you plan on getting blitzed, I guess.)

The next morning, I flew to London.  I am told the food has improved over the past few years.  Most of it was good.  We did eat at La Petit Maison (on Gwyneth Paltrow’s recommendation) which was very good.  The pork belly and lamb stand out in my mind as being especially great, the treatment of the proteins and vegetable accompaniments was technically flawless.  Each course was flavorful and well balanced – after the mains arrived, the table fell quiet so we could taste each bite properly.

Norway was okay.  We stayed on the Queen Mary 2.  The food we actually ate in Norway was forgettable, though favorites include smoked salmon and pancakes with raspberry jam and sour cream.  The food on the ship was very good, though almost all of the menu items seemed to be fairly standard luxury cruise fare (read: generic “fancy food.”)

I give the country of Norway three stars:

When I arrived back home (after a brief interlude in LA for my cousin’s wedding), I immediately set to work undoing the damage I had done to myself over 3 quarters of school and 2 weeks of indulging in Europe.  I followed a raw food diet for about a week and gradually adjusted to a less extreme “healthy” meal plan consisting of low sodium soups, salads, health bars, and snacking on fruits and vegetables.  (With the exception of a few allowances for baking extremely fattening desserts, namely, Crack Pie and Better-Than-Crack Brownies.)  I combined this diet with working out 5x a week (note to self: difficult to adopt strict workout routine on a raw food diet) and went from running barely a mile before collapsing to completing a 10k less than 3 weeks after my return.

And now it is the last day of July and I have just finished summarizing the last two months of my adventures in eating.  From here, I will likely post simple lunch and dinner ideas/recipes, which may be worth revisiting when I am back in Chicago for the school year.  It’s great to be home and have such a bounty of fresh produce within arms reach, but a part of me still misses the Chicago restaurant scene.  I will post about eating adventures here if I come across any of note (SF Street Food Festival on Aug. 20th, perhaps?) but any food writing ideas are welcome.

Happy summer.  Go eat a peach and bask in the sun.

L

PS, If you do feel like staying in, here are two highly recommended recipes I have test driven in the past week for you to try your hand at:  http://momofukufor2.com/2010/02/momofuku-milk-bar-crack-pie-recipe/ and http://www.howsweeteats.com/2010/08/better-than-crack-brownies/.


Coming to Terms with Food Fetishization

I’m sure by now many if not most of you have seen foodporndaily.com
If not, or if you feel like looking at pictures of delicious looking food, click the link.

Starting this blog, I thought about all of the things I wanted to include: reviews, ideas, food philosophies, and the occasional snippet about my adventures with food. I also thought about what I didn’t want this project to include.  I noticed that one of my posts showed up on foodpress this morning, so I visited the foodpress site.  In an article explaining how to increase the chance of being featured on the site, the author explained that including pictures is crucial to attaining a greater readership:

“Images are critical when it comes to food. People want to see the food, not just read about it.” – source

Dear readers, is this true?

Food blogging can quickly become foofy – something I’d like to avoid. While I don’t take myself very seriously, I am fairly invested in food.  Many food blogs are centered around the production and consumption of food. That’s interesting, but I’m more concerned with the way food makes me feel and think.  The experience of dining is by nature, fleeting.  That is why I like to engage my brain by taking in all of the sensory elements working together to create the experience.  Taking pictures of food can be nice, but it’s something I don’t generally do for a few reasons:

  1. It takes away from the immediate experience of eating.
  2. It can be inconsiderate if you are dining with others or in a restaurant.
  3. The idea of cataloguing food by capturing it in photographs seems a bit possessive to me.

These are all subjective viewpoints, which are not even necessarily rational.  But I believe in the sanctity of food (I realize that might sound antiquated to some).  How is it possible to focus on eating if you are trying to decide whether to keep your flash on or turn it off?  It’s a modern problem, but by a similar principle I would not use my phone during dinner either.  Admittedly, the question of courtesy is not generally two sided.  Instead, it is more a reflection of consideration.

The other problem I have with obsessive food photography is the fetishization of the eating experience.  See this article from the New York Times.  My main concern with this type of behavior is what the heck are these people going to do with all these food pictures?  Taking pictures of oatmeal and porridge is even more bizarre than taking pictures of a thoughtfully plated dish at an expensive restaurant.  (Be sure to read my forthcoming post on plating)

But either way, I think transience is a part of the essence of food and the dining experience.  What does it mean to take the food out of dining or the dining out of food?  It’s no longer an organic experience.  I don’t bring my electronics to the dinner table and I don’t bring up food at inappropriate times outside of meals.  Isn’t the way food makes you feel more important than how it looks?

What do you think?  Does food photography enhance or detract from the dining experience?


Why you should read my blog…

Here is where I should develop a mission statement or set expectations for what you can hope to find on my page.

First and foremost, this blog is my humble attempt to begin to catalogue some of my Chicago eating experiences.  This is primarily for my own benefit, but if someone actually reads this and finds it useful or amusing then this project will have exceeded my expectations.

Secondly, I hope to also turn this into a sort of open ended to-do-list.  I’m always open to suggestions and recommendations and promise to give everything a shot, time and budget permitting.

Finally, I plan to include some posts on my perspectives toward food.  You can skip these, if you’d like, as I anticipate these posts will be the most abstract.  If you talk to me in real life, however, you may recognize some of these posts from conversations I’ve had before.  I think about food a lot and like to revisit certain ideas.

Of course, this is an ongoing project and will likely be subject to all sorts of modification and amending.  All I can promise is that I will report back my findings earnestly and honestly.

Happy eating,
L