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March 2005

La Bodega Chicago~Perfect Spanish Fritatta

Dscn1353One of Roscoe Village's cutest little neighborhood coffeehouse's recently changed ownership, hired a new chef and all I can say is wow!   The vibe is so friendly & open and now the brand-new menu is something to drool over.   Not only are they BYOB, they are now open for dinner and are creating a deli-style gourmet take-out section that is perfect for busy days such as these. 
The fresh vegetable fritatta that was presented was absolutely incredible.  So many veggies are pouring out of it and it's hard to believe she only used four eggs in the dish.  It's gigantic and easily enough for three people to split.   I loved that it was topped off with a big dollop of buttery cream cheese...I've never seen that before and it added this tangy taste of sweetness to the final bites.  With free wi-fi on the way, it is the perfect place to kick back, have an awesome meal with a nice bottle of vino and take care of some business, all at the same time.  Nobody would ever know your working from the charming outdoor cafe at La Bodega, glass in hand, of course.

Onion Rings: The Real Kind

Dscn1312Take it as a know, the 'ole septic tank needs cleaning and what does the Roto Rooter guy spew out as I was giving him a blow by blow description of the meal I'd just wolfed down from Waycrazy's (BBQ joint on the mountain I call home in TN)? 
He tells me that if I want good onion rings (the ones I'd just had at Waycrazy's blew), then I gotta head to Nikki's Drive-Thru down in North Chattanooga.  He claimed they served the best in town, made from real onions, not the freeze dried junk that most places sling in oil.  'Nuff said.
I just happened to roll past at about 10 p.m. and whaddayaknow?  Still open, ready to make some rings.
They were crispily delicious, not too oniony and the perfect price:  less than $3 bucks.  Doused in ketchup and just very, very lightly fried (almost tempura-style), I must say I was quite impressed.  Next time I'm there, I'm gonna have to order up a platter of the fried shrimp the praise on the wall's claims Nikki is famous for.  But seriously, as a side could you not serve dessert?  You're the ultimate diner.  Get with the big sweet tooth, you know?

Chattanooga, TN~Outside Magazine's Top 10

Dscn1302A decade ago, I bolted from what we lovingly call Chattavegas, intent on never returning to the mountain that I was raised on~I was headed for grander pastures like movie-mecca Hollywood.  Ahhh, how times change though.  Not only do I now return every month or so, my whole family lives in/near here and it is literally my favorite spot (besides Yelapa, Mexico) in the world. 
A few years back, Outside Magazine named Chattanooga as one of the Top 10 Places to live in the  USA;  indeed, I definitely took another look at my hometown after reading the article.
Perched directly on the TN river and surrounded by magestic mountain ranges and wide open spaces, what was once a sleepy little river town has turned into an adventure lovers paradise.  There's kayaking, rock-climbing, hang-gliding, mountain hiking, boating, extreme bicycling, rafting, canoeing, lake swimming, and three-wheeling.  The restaurants have become more and more delicious and buying a home isn't going to put you out a cool million.  You can actually purchase a super-cute bungalow, in a cool part of town, for about a $100k.   
The weather rocks, the people are friendly, there is ALWAYS parking, and the vibe is definitely mountain eco-hip.  I just love calling it home.

Irazu~Mindboggling Oatmeal Milkshakes

Dscn1135Irazu is a funky little Costa Rican joint on Milwaukee Ave. whipping up the most incredible oatmeal milkshakes that you've ever tried.  Though they won't give away the secret (of course), I have a sneaking suspicion that bad boy has a base of horchata (a milky Mexican drink made from rice & almonds).  They will cop to not using any ice cream at all, just 2% milk for the creamy, slightly icy consistency.  Sprinkled with cinnamon and loaded with tiny bits of ground oatmeal, this is one of the best treats going.  Seriously, who needs ice cream?

What To Do With Tofu~Make Soup, Of Course

Dscn1127I am on a hardcore veggie plan right now and there is no better meal to whip up than a hot, steaming bowl of Vegetable Soup.  Always on the hunt for ways to sling more protein into my system, the perfect scenario is to throw some firm tofu into the pot of vegetables and let all the juice soak through each little cube.  For anyone who has never tried tofu, this is the perfect introduction~
+You can add any type of veggie you want to the soup, but I think the secret to simple soup like this is the pre-saute.  The vegetables get all infused with butter and it just makes the flavor explode.  You don't  even have to add spices...just a hit of crushed black pepper.

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Contributing Editor For New Food Book

Maxinewlogohungry_2So, the Hungry City book series is finally making its way to Chicago and I have been chosen as one of the Contributing Editors for the Chicago edition (set to unveil this summer).  Very exciting stuff, because I get to revisit and remember all of my favorite places to eat...some that I had forgotten how much I loved.  Some that made my list are:
+Twisted Lizard
+Sweet Mandy B's
+Zephyr Cafe
+Burgundy Inn
+Chicago Diner
+Turquoise Cafe
As much as I adore all of these places (and frequent them far too much), I have just made a "loose" resolution to eat at as many new places as I can.  No more repeat business for a bit, because there is just too much happening in the food world in Chicago, and I need to try them all!!!

Fatcake to Produce New TV Show~Tracking Expats

Tracking_expats_final_2It's official!  On April 15, me and my partners at fatcake productions leave for Baja, where we will spend weeks on the dusty, winding roads, tracking all the surly expats that call this peninsula home.  We'll be documenting the entire process from once we cross the border into Tijuana, all the way down to the tip of Baja, and I will be reporting back to, where they will post a daily update (via a blog) on how to tackle becoming an expat yourself, with a focus on extreme adventure travel.  This will  be shot on Mini DV, with a small, rowdy, all-female crew.
Mexico, cute chicks, seasoned film crew, and renegade expats~Good lord, look out!!!

Organic, Fair Trade Coffee~It Just Makes Sense!

Dscn1016I'm putting together a new story for next month's issue of Third Coast Press about Organic/Fair Trade Coffee and my primary slant is a local organization called Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  They have something called the Coalition Cafe (the Coffee Project) where they are the local distributors for coffee from fair trade farmers in Nicaragua, Mexico and Guatemala.  They happen to sell the delicious coffee all over town, at farmers markets and on-line.  Just support them...all the "teeny" amounts that they make off the coffee goes right back into the organization and helps support the homeless.  It's a wonder that EVERYONE doesn't just buy fair trade/organic coffee (not much more expensive, tastes far superior, helps out the migrant farmers and just plain better for you!)  The fascinating Coordinator of The Coffee Project is a dapper & charming fella named Larry (formerly homeless, as well) and he was once a member of the Black Panthers...funny how life brings you back around, yeah?  I'm just so impressed with the dedication, enthusiasm and support this "unknown" organization has for giving back. 

New Article in Third Coast Press~on Organic Produce

Dscn0995This was a goody.  Kings Hill Farm, which I've ranted about many times before, definitely deserves this sort of exposure.  This article touts all of the magic of organic produce plus the sweet nature behind the farmer, Tom Ulick.  For the final research, I took an afternoon and went to lend a hand & helped get all of the produce prepared for its weekly distribution.  Not only did I have blast with the inner city crew, I renewed my membership to Kings Hill and just by being in the midst of all of that glorious fruit and veggies, I recommitted to the daily struggle to eat well.  People like Tom make it much easier to remember how lucky we are that we have a choice.  The March issue of 3rd Coast Press is all over the city right now.

Saveur #1~Fasoladha {Bean & Vegetable Soup)

Dscn0992In my first peel through the pages of the November '04 Saveur magazine, the recipe for Fasoladha caught my eye immediately and I happened to have all ingredients on hand.  Super easy to make and delicious to boot, this ancient Greek soup was even better the next day, heated up, with a poached egg, cracked black pepper and fresh dill sprinkled on top.  Oddly, I did have to cook the beans an hour longer than the recipe called for, though; they were still slightly crunchy after the called for two.
I also added in fresh dill and skipped the feta cheese.  Dill just has a delicious way with beans.

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