A few days ago, I happened upon a recipe (thanks, Saveur) for roasted red peppers (which I love) that actually has you put the entire pepper in the oven (400 degrees)--whole. I've never done that before...it's always been the slice, slather in oil and THEN toss in the oven. This way was much simpler. You just put the entire thing in the oven (sans oil) and let it cook for 20 minutes (until soft). Then, turn the oven off and let it steam in there for about an hour. When you take it out, the skin slides right off and it's ready to de-seed, slice and cover in oil--I also toss on a bit of red wine vinegar. Very I'm-wishin'-I-was-in-Italy feelings come on fast and furious upon first bite.
Ususally when me and my fatcake team have meetings, they're taken at a restaurant or pub and always involve some sort of drink and food. That's just really a great way to operate. Things tend to go better, smoother, and we don't feel like we're working when we're tossing back a nice chilled Greek rose. (I'm usually a pinot grigio girl, but I was really impressed with this super-cheap...$20 per bottle.... pink wine). Pegasus is great for meetings because there are always back tables (the mafioso tables) and the Greek's love to have a drink with ya (some insanely rich and flowery cognac made its way to the table by nights end) and they have this lovely appetizer that showcases all of their delicious dips with warm pita. The eggplant (which we subbed for the tiromisalata) dip is a taste sensation. I do so love the Greeks~
So, lucky me. Last night a friend of mine brought me over a Greek feast and he just happened to bring a big bowl of Kalamata olives from his friend who has a family farm in Greece. They were totally delightful...deep, golden brown, just soaking in a bunch of oil and split down the middle so all of the juices can seep into the middle of them. Getting food straight from the source is becoming more of a way of life for me and I want to try and make it happen more often than not. Just straight good stuff~
Yesterday was the perfect day in Chicago. But previous to that, there were torrential downpours (which I love), gray days, and 100 degree marathons of heat. All of this weather insanity quickly made me remember that winter is coming up real quick and truth be told, every single winter, images of Mexican paradise flash through my head continually. Usually I schedule a few trips during the bleakest months (home to TN, Barcelona, Baja, etc...) and earlier this year was no different. I took a month long trip, meandering my way through the Baja peninsula (making a TV show called "Tracking Expats") and one of the final towns we ended up in was the magical village of Todos Santos. Just 40-miles north of Cabo San Lucas, this tiny hamlet was truly an oasis in the midst of all that desert heat (vineyards, organic farms, cafes and eco-adventures abound) and every few days, I daydream about buying a place down there. I'm thinkin' it's a bit more expensive now that folks have happened upon it, but I'd bet there's still some super cute houses you could find right in the village for very little money; I mean, there are only a few paved roads, yet and it's in the middle of nowhere. Fine by me and really, any remote Mexican village that sports a wine bar, a delicious organic cafe, world class surfing and the best margaritas for miles is king in my world.
In the end, as much as I try to avoid it, the one thing that gets me through the day is the idea of an awesome dessert awaiting me at the end of each meal. This week alone, I have managed to wolf down a pint of Haagan Dazs Strawberry ice cream, several Good Fella Almond Bars, some pistachio ice cream, a bowl of chocolate mousse, a slice of sour lemon tart, a hunk of tofu chocolate cheesecake, a few handfuls of Laura's Wholesome chocolate chip bite cookies, a cup or so of Indian rice pudding, and untold amounts of blueberries, grapes and plums. I gave up coffee a while back thinkin' it would help my sugar kick, but as I see it laid all laid out, good lord...just pure insanity....and, I'm sure that I left some out. Totally terrifying, yeah?
After a recent trip to New Orleans (where I had one of the best tuna fish sandwiches ever created), I blazed back into the city with a full-blown tuna fish addiction. I've been hunting high and low for the best tuna in the city, and after sampling what seems like hundreds of versions, I'm thinking that Su Van's is pretty dang high up on the list. And, lucky for me, so are her home-style baked goods, super fresh veggie paninis and thick and glorious hot chocolate.
Though I live in the 'hood, I never gave Su Van's too much thought 'til I got a new office space a half block away. Maybe it's the less-than-obvious name, or perhaps it's the eerie quietness inside (seriously, even when the restaurant is half full there's barely a peep coming out of a soul), but whatever the case may be, there was always something a bit off about the place. Now that I'm always scouring the area for new eating options, I've changed my silly ways; I actually relish in the quiet (my office seems to be production central for every other rogue indie filmmaker in Chicago) of Su Van's and I guess I don't even mind the name (I don't discount my favorite breakfast haunt, Victory's Banner, because I don't know what the hell a Victory's Banner is, do I?).
Deep down inside, I have a raging love affair with Mexico and all of it's beautiful beaches, cheap livin' and frosty margaritas BUT, for some reason as of late, I have been waxing poetic about Italy. Especially when I have desserts like this one. I'm blaming La Bocca della Verita (which quickly became my fave Italian restaurant). It's just so damn cute and the food is so fresh and incredible (plus, I could waste entire days on the outdoor patio). Simple and rustic, very much like Italy. I've backpacked through Italy and lolled through all of the wondrous hill towns (one of the best meals of my life was a fresh seafood pasta in one of the tiny villages of Cinque Terre) but when I was actually in the moment, I (as always) couldn't wait to get straight to Greece (the next pit stop on my backpacking tour). Now, though, I daydream about cakes (like this one from La Bocca--all covered in white chocolate and mascarpone), pastas and wines every single day and sadly, Mexico doesn't give me that romantic vision. It's a little more sandy beach, cold beer and fresh fish (still wondrous). I guess I love both, but as I think about buying a small place in a foreign land, Italy is on the horizon. I guess I could still build a shack in Mexico, but maybe that is what my sailboat is for...less roots, more freedom.
Though the heat in Chicago has blasted through the roof and I can barely stand the thought of eating anything warm, the one thing I crave over and over is the glorious potato. I've written all sorts of things about french fries and scalloped potatoes, but there is truly nothing finer than big fat wedges of perfectly cooked potatoes, slathered in olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Caramely crisp on the outside, flaky and soft on the inside...very Vesuvio style (as much as I crave the chicken that usually comes with, I don't touch the stuff) and straight delicious. Add in icy cold ketchup and that's really all I need for an entire meal. Pompei, over in Lakeview, has a perfect version for just under $2. Beware: They get totally confused when all you order is potatoes...the crazy glances from the line forming behind me is always worth it, though. Just good stuff.
After finishing up a delightful, zipper-busting meal at Topkapi, a funky, deserted Turkish restaurant on Peterson, I had to go a bit overboard and order yet another dessert. I tried to deny it, but the moist little sponge cakes were screaming my name. They'd been soaked in some sort of rose water and honey mixture (I could be way off, but that's what I'm guessing) and were all light and fluffy. Of course, I don't know the name of them, but with a bit of Turkish tea (once again loaded with sugar cubes)...watch out. I tried to share, but it was full shove-down material. My belly was in an uproar over it all night long, though....paybacks are hell, yeah? By the way, it's real cute how I convince myself that I'm eating three tiny, adorable cakes when in reality, it's a full half-pound of straight sugary madness. C'mon, mst....get real little girl. Stop the sugar addiction already~
As humble as the photo may be, to me there is nothing in the entire world like practically killing myself on a movie shoot and then waking up (knowing that the shoot is over, done and done) and dashing straight over to Victory's Banner in Roscoe Village. They're a totally vegetarian Breakfast/Lunch place that serves up the very best French Toast (extra crispy) with slathers of peach butter and the fluffiest, yellowest scrambled eggs I've ever had. The butter flavor just melts in my mouth and I cannot seem to get enough of them (I down the whole dish in about 30 seconds flat). This is my absolute perfect breakfast (I guess, really, I'm there 3x per week). They also have a frequent diner card that I diligently get stamped every time I'm in and cannot seem to have the will to redeem...I just like getting it stamped (of course, then there's the hassle of stapling all of my cards together and fumbling through the little box, looking for the awkward stapled batch...). I just love the Ban~