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October 2006

September 2006

A Wee Food Tour with My Parents & a Dog

Dscf1670Keeping company with my parents has always been one of my ultimate joys. Like me, they're always up for a good adventure and can turn an absolutely dreary situation (like a daughter being sick) into the best of times. So when I told them I was practically on my deathbed last weekend, they jumped in the car (puppy in tow) and hauled up from the mountains of Tennessee.
The timing couldn't have been more perfect, it being my first full weekend off in what seems like decades. Ill as I was, I had big plans for Mom, Dad and pup Pearlie Mae, and they all involved food.

There was only one problem...the doggie. If Pearlie couldn't roll, then neither could they. This slight inconvenience only meant one thing: Everything we did had to be on the fly, picked up to go or delivered. Let the eating fest begin.

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Gui Coin and Cafe Nhu Hoa

Goi_cuonYeah!!!! This job I have been working on for the past 4 months has wrapped and I can't wait to never really return to the suburbs.  Actually, I happened upon some pretty decent food finds out there, but still--I'M NEVER GOING BACK!!!  The very first thing that I want to munch on the minute I have a free afternoon is some tasty goi cuon from one of the little shops on Argyle St.
One of my favorites is Cafe Nhu Hoa (1020 W. Argyle St.), the old-school Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian restaurant.  It's been a mainstay for years and their rice paper wrapped shrimp appetizer is absolutely one of the best in the city--plus their peanut sauce is wildly flavorful.  I've been living off pizza, chopped salads, chicken noodle soup, tuna fish sandwiches and baked potatoes for far, far too long.  The horizon is once again very bright~

Robey Pizza Company in Roscoe Village {From The Raving Dish}

Dscf1614I never thought I'd say it, but the time has come for me to leave my beloved Roscoe Village neighborhood behind. It's not that I don't love her any longer; it's just that I've exhausted all of the dining opportunities within a three-mile radius. I've chowed at every taco joint, cozy Thai restaurant and quaint sandwich, from the good (Volo) to the very good (Victory's Banner) to the holy-moly-this-is-awesome (Kaze Sushi). I'm craving new horizons and new haunts so it's simply time to move on.
I thought when the time came for me to move, I'd hightail it to a remote village in Mexico or the lush mountains of Bali. Instead I've decided that I want to stay in sweet old Chitown and buy a cute little place by the lake. What 'hood have I chosen?

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Spice In Cafe--Secret Indian Gem in Hoffman Estates {From The Raving Dish}

Dscf1635I've been commuting to the suburbs for three very long months and the baseball reality TV show I'm working on ends in just over a week (they lost the playoffs). I've been giddy over the thought that I'll soon be able to roam my old grazing haunts, and until today, I seriously doubted that I'd ever return to the dreary suburbs. That is, until I made my way through the buttery naan-filled lunch buffet at Spice In Cafe, a just-under-a-year-old Indian restaurant in one of the dozens of strip malls populating Hoffman Estates.
What is it about strip malls and good food? You'd think cheap rent would mean mediocre food, but that seems to never be the case. It's more like cheap rent means damn fine home cooking, especially outside the city.

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Simple Food Is the Way to Go~

Dscf1421The very simplest of food is what always catches my eye.  I swear, all that crazy jazz top chefs are whipping up all over the place (meals made of foam and full-on tastebud trickery) is for the birds...gimme a pile of rice, meat and fresh herbs sizzling on the griddle anyday.  This meal is from one of the awesome restaurants over on Devon Ave., and every time I walk up and down that street, I'm slammed with sensory overload.  The smells, the smiles, the sighs of utter joy every time I see a chef carving meat, flipping rice or fiddling with tandoor bread---I love it all.  Today, I want to go exploring in Pilsen, but its pouring rain and I'm working...but when huevos rancheros calls, there is simply nothing that can be done but to answer the call.  What is it about plain old eggs, beans (they gotta be whole) and rice?  Again, it's the simple stuff~~I mean, seriously...who the hell can deal with eating foam?  Christ.

Usagi Ya and Green Seaweed Salad

Dscf1502I use food to fuel my wanderlust. When I want to be transported to another land, I suck on a big hunk of palm sugar that I picked up at an open-aired cooking class in Bali or sip on Moroccan green tea that I bought at a weekend market in Spain. I wander around Trader Joe's, Fox & Obel and Whole Foods, scanning the grocery aisles. Names like Madagascar (red tea), Thailand (hot peppers) and New Zealand (oysters) pop out at me from colorful boxes and make every country seem just that much more attainable.
Tasting my way around a menu is another story all together. I've got an adventurers mouth, but sometimes it's tough for me to go way out, especially if it involves meat. Still, I try to eat something totally different every week. This week it was a brilliant green seaweed salad at the pan-Asian sushi bar Usagi Ya. I rarely make it over to Wicker Park, but something about Usagi Ya's exterior made me squeal on the brakes and head inside with my pal Lisa. We wanted liquor and fish, so why not?

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What Fills Up Your Bookmarks?

141091845_5f01ba4ff3_mI just need to take a minute and rave about my favorite sites--the ones that I check in on a freakish number of times throughout the week.  Some get hit once a day, some are on the weekly chart and others get slammed about every half hour on the hour.  It's funny--if you dig thru someones history or their bookmarks, you could really tell what kind of person they are--or want to become (mine all seem to lean toward tropical escape). What is the hell did we ever do with out internet? Here we go--my Top 10:

1.  Gadling
This is my homepage and it is updated many times during the day with all sorts of tidbits on travel and adventure.  Very good stuff.

2.  Quality Peoples
This fella split from LA and headed to a small village north of Puerto Vallarta to surf and live the dream.  He's such a smart, witty writer and has the most AMAZING photos--which he takes all over during his escapades in Mexico.

3. Palapa in Yelapa
Love this site--another expat livin' the good life in one of my favorite villages in the world, Yelapa, Mexico.  I always check in on this site to see whats rollin' thru the community and who's setting up shop.

4.  Bali Blog
Another smart cookie who set up shop in Bali and updates his blog every day with all sorts of good intel on where to eat, stay, drink and play in the wondrous land of Indonesia. If you ever make it to Bali, I have three words for ya: You will DIE!

5. Epicurious
I check in on this site to try to quell some recipes for all the goodies I get in my weekly farm share--I mean, sometimes I am at a loss with what to do with green beans, Thai coconut and swiss chard

6.  101 Cookbooks
This chick has it down pat.  Beautiful photos, easy recipes, in depth writing and a killer way with words.  Bless her.

7. Baja Quest
Baja still has some of the cheapest property around and this site is updated pretty regularly with all sorts of real estate for sale.  Mulege has some especially great deals.

8. LTHForum
Update a million times a day, the foodies on this site have deep, untrampled details on eating in  Chicago.  They are very educated and you better know your stuff to post--trust me, someone will call you out.  They love getting little word wars going.

9. Go Abroad
This site literally makes me want to ditch it all and volunteer my way around the world.  They have a super comprehensive list of opportunities from teaching in Honduras to building homes in Thailand to saving sea turtles in Mexico.  Very inspirational and if I have all the dough in the world, I'd be rocking this life hardcore.

10. Craigslist
Nothing can beat the real estate ads on craigsy.  Not only can you see homes from all around the world (oftentimes for good prices), I've sold my sailboat on there and tracked down an apartment swith with a couple in Spain.  Brilliant.

Skip the Grocery Store and Go Mad Local

Dscf0447When you travel and travel right, you crawl into the belly of a nation.  I love heading to the furtherest reaches I possibly can just so I can witness how other people live, eat and exist.  But, especially how they interpret food.  One mans pile of weeds is another mans dinner and instead of picking and choosing from a variety of perfect vegetables in a gleaming Whole Foods grocery store, I might have to buy some fruit and herbs off the back of a sputtering moped--and don't you know it will be the most exotic and delicious thing I've ever come across each time. 'Round the world, food is sold from small ramshackle shacks, out of the back of dusty pick up trucks, off the sides of slow-poke donkeys, out of brightly flowing tents and yes, straight off the tail end of a loaded down moped.  Pending on the part of the world you're in, you might find piles of just-picked earthy mushrooms, bowls of fresh stem-still-on olives, plastic baggies full of wild gooseberries, paper bags loaded down with ruby red salak fruit, or crates full of emerald green long beans--each fresher than the next.  No matter where I find myself, I'm always tracking down the tucked away solo vendor with the warm eyes; fresh food and a slow smile make up for a silly old language barrier any day~