Food Flight of Fancy: Chicago Part 1 is here.
This is a photo of Fox and Obel , Chicago’s premier gourmet market. It’s slick, well-stocked, and expensive. But my, what heaven! Among the great wealth of food stuff one expects to find in a utopia like this, I pick up a bottle of chocolate extract, a bottle of sanding sugar (great for making sugar cookies sparkle), and a bar of milk chocolate with salty pretzel chunks from Chocolate Bar in New York. Food emporiums don’t usually allow photos to be taken, so this is a photo that I shot “ninja-style.” Who could resist?
Fox and Obel
401 E. Illinois, Chicago IL, 60611
Chicago is famous for a lot of its foods, primarily deep-dish pizza, so I can’t say that I’ve been to this great city until I try one. In downtown Chicago, there’s a popular pizzeria called Due (I’ve heard this pronounced as doo-EH). It’s owned by Pizzeria Uno which is just down the street.
At 4:30 in the afternoon, this tiny place is packed. The servers recommend ordering already, so my sister Charley and I order a small 4-cheese and pesto pie. I guess we should probably order the traditional pepperoni and cheese, but I’m a sucker for anything with more than one type of cheese. The pizza takes 45 minutes to prepare, so we psych ourselves with the spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce is pleasantly sour (I’m not a fan of sweet spaghetti) and there’s a large meatball for each of us, plus one for sharing. The dish comes with garlic bread that’s been smeared with butter and dribbles down my chin as I take a bite. Ah, succulence!
I feel a momentous moment coming on as our pizza is placed before us. This is it! A genuine Chicago deep dish pizza! Because we’re only two people, the pizza is not gargantuan in size ”“ there are only about six big slices. Every thick slice is made up of an almost pastry-like crust on which sits a blanket of cheese. The unctuousness of it all is cut through by the pesto providing its characteristic herb-y flavor, and slices of fresh tomato contribute reprieve. I also taste nutmeg. This pizza is a dripping cesspool of grease and cheese and I love it. I have met the godfather of thick crust pizza.
619 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago
My brother in law Jude, who is from Chicago, has an abiding love for Buffalo Joe’s, a popular grease shack in Evanston renowned for its wings. Every time he goes back home to Chicago, his mom makes sure that there’s a bunch of these wings waiting for him. He’s even brought them back home to Manila, but nothing compares to them fresh from the fryer.
The wings are served hot and buttery with one’s choice of sauce: mild, spicy, or suicide. I try the suicide, and while it zips through my mouth like a pinball, I daresay that a siling labuyo (red finger chili) is much spicier. These wings are meaty and the sauce makes me smack my lips. There are large celery sticks to ease the mouth burn and oversized jalapeÃ±o peppers to get the party started again. Paper napkins are a necessity here and tall glasses of water. I also like the buffalo chips, cute waffle cut fries with holes.
Buffalo Joe’s on Clark
812 Clark Street in Evanston
2000 Green Bay Road in Evanston
The demise of Cold Stone Creamery here in Manila is an enigma, a life that was licked away before it even began. Its successor, Cold Rock lives on, giving new definition to the term “small portion” with their embarrassingly small servings of mix-ins. Going to the Cold Stone Creamery here in the States then is a retribution of sorts for me. Yo Cold Rock, here’s how it’s done!
My obsession with cookie dough ice cream is given free rein here at Cold Stone. I order the Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some, a cookie dough overload if I ever saw one. The bowl is just begging to be licked, and the cookie dough chunks come at me mercilessly. I surrender gladly.
A side note here: I’d think that people would stay away from ice cream when it’s 4°C outside, but no ”“ I drop by at 10pm and the line is out the door into the blustery weather. Come to think of it, I may be just as crazy as everyone else.
As I’ve said before, brunch is a big thing here in the US. It’s the American equivalent of the Filipino Sunday lunch. My tita (aunt) takes me and Charley to Walker Brothers, billed as The Original Pancake House. As usual on a weekend, there’s a 20-minute wait, but my tita understands (as do I) that good food must wait. My tito (uncle) on the other hand, grumbles good naturedly that”… if your tita weren’t here, I’d be happy at McDonald’s.” But he’s a good sport.
“for Lori,” is written on the cup
I’m glad that we wait. There’s a hot chocolate with my name on it waiting for me on the menu ”“ full of froth and bubbly with cream. It’s sweet and hot. Naturally, I order my benchmark for all good things breakfast, the eggs benedict. While the dish is satisfactory on almost all counts, eggs benedict is really a hit or miss thing since the yolks aren’t always as runny as I’d like them to be.
Charley orders the apple pancake, one of the restaurant’s specialties. It’s a baked pancake loaded with fresh apples, kissed with a sugar glaze and teeming with cinnamon. It comes to the table and we all fall silent gazing at this remarkable disc of apple wonder. Charley gingerly cuts into it and a waft of steam escapes into the air.
After it’s cooled a bit, the pancake is ready. It tastes like a slice of apple pie, albeit a more cakey version. It’s delightful.
And what is brunch without a good plate of pancakes? Here are the Georgia Pecan pancakes all a-fluff in a showering of powdered sugar.
It’s a funny name for a patisserie, but these are serious pastries they have at the Gourmet Frog. The service person is French and speaks to us with an accent that gives him away as such. Charley and I come away with a lemon tart and a millefeuille, although these tuxedo cups catch my eye.
306 Green Bay Rd.
Highwood, IL 60040
Maggiano’s takes the cake as far as big servings go. In fact, ”˜big’ may be too insufficient a word to describe the colossal size of their dishes. This is an Italian place where I half expect to see Al Pacino at the next table. Red checkered tablecloths, leather banquettes, and family portraits in sepia decorate the walls. It’s all very “Godfather.” I would not be out of place here if I decide to wrap my cloth napkin around my neck and fashion it into a bib.
But back to those large portions. There’s a salad here that is just out of this world ”“ it’s spinach salad with pine nuts, roasted red bell peppers, fried onion strips, brie, dressed with a pancetta vinaigrette. It’s so good in fact that I can’t even begin to kid myself that I’m eating healthy because it’s “just a salad.” This isn’t just a salad ”“ it may be the salad to end all salads.
There’s a mammoth-sized eggplant parmesan which has a sauce so redolent with tomatoes and so thick that I swear there’s ground meat in there. It must be the provolone cheese because eggplant by itself just can’t taste this good.
I have the gnocchi which our Italian-American server tells me that some Italians don’t like. This gnocchi is simmered in a pomodoro cream sauce then finished with vodka and roasted garlic. I like gnocchi because it’s chewy and I’m drawn to food with that particular texture. But I can understand why others would think eating gnocchi is like dining on chewing gum.
This item is not on the menu. Called zuppa di pesce, it goes to show that it pays to ask your server what he/she recommends. It’s basically a seafood pasta, large enough to include all the seafood in the sea, but there’s really just clams in here and squid, maybe the occasional fish fillet. It’s wonderfully red and herb-y, garnished with two sticks of garlic bread standing at attention. I just love it when my food makes me sit up and take notice.
175 Old Orchard Shopping Ctr
Skokie, IL 60077
Coming up next: Food Flight of Fancy: Boracay (a lot closer to home)