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July 2007

June 2007

Whoever Said Fire and Rum Don't Mix?

Img_1317I can honestly say that you do not know joy until you have created fire aboard your own sailboat.  And, escalate that joy times one million when you happen to be sippin' a cuba libre made with caramel-tinged Flor de Cana rum at the exact moment it happens.  My boat has a tiny stove on it that is alcohol based and I'm gonna admit, I've never cooked on board a boat.  But, of course in my latest shopping spree at West Marine, I happened upon a giant container of Denatured Alcohol and couldn't wait to get straight back to the boat to test it out.  It worked perfectly-- (though I will share with you...there was a bit of troubleshooting involving a blazing wadded up piece of paper and a horrific-on-the-eyes heat seeking missile of an incense stick).  Whatever, dude.  I made a fire.  While having a perfect drink.  On my own friggin' boat.  I can't think of anything more amazing~

A Perfect Bowline, Thanks to Mel~~

Img_1339Last time my mom and dad came up to Chi, they brought me something from my Grandad's house; something they figured I needed and would cherish and also, something they knew he'd love for me to have and to utilize.  Today I finally found the perfect location for it on one of the walls in my dining room.  It's perched heroically next to my painting from Bali (that I traded a young kid for a voice recorder) and my painting from Africa that showcases some happy villagers drumming, sifting maize and dancing wildly.  And, so today, (thanks to Mel's handy glass-encased display of sailors knots which he kept on the wall in the living room hallway down in Tennessee), I have managed to perfect the bowline.  It's funny how staring thru the glass at that little knot, I suddenly got all connected...and in less than a few seconds, I'd flipped the line around and created a thing of beauty.  I bet a million bones Mel chuckled and winked when he saw that one.

Tamale Addiction~

Img_1218I can legitimately say that right now I'm riddled with a fierce tamale addiction.   I cannot seem to get enough of their melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  The ones I like the best are in the firm family and wrapped in a corn husk, but I have to say, some of the more memorable, I wolfed down on Isla Mujeres and they were softer and tucked in a still-warm banana leaf.  You can find them on Isla in the early AM from little roadside vendors and at some loncherias, and they usually cost about a dollar.  With the proper salsa and a Nescafe, they are heaven in the mouth.  I'm researching all my favorite tamale haunts for an article that I'm writing here in town and I've discovered a few new ones along the way.  I'll post more local intel about where to find these perfect little packets soon...and in the meantime, happy tamale hunting~

The Boat Gets a Whoopin'

June_16_008Hi pretty boat, all shiny and clean~
Today, me and three of my most generous (love to start slamming 'em back at 10 am) pals scooted on over to the boat and went to town scrubbing, cleaning, organizing, sudsing, and generally flipping on the boat.  We used an entire bottle of deck cleaner and lost a rag in the water (and almost an entire bucket, til I jumped in and saved the day), but I'm telling you after a few hours, this little mama was spic and span.  Of course, first thing, we gleefully jumped off the side of her into the freezing (in a good way) water and slurped back the most ghetto concoction of the year (wine, mango juice and ice tea with lemon and lime). Once done with cleaning and swimming, we cranked up the Mexican radio station, whipped out the watermelon (happily dunked in the faux sangria/long island iced tea spritzer), and the  guac, pico and chips and just chilled in the cockpit.  A day of all days...Oh!  And, the best is my 400 thread-count sheets found themselves a nice, new home in the v-berth.  Can't wait to stay the night, spy on the birds spying on me and plot and plan my escape down the Mississippi.

Sail, who has time to sail???

Img_1277So, I've pretty much become obsessed with the boat (my tough little C & C 30--Free 'n Easy).  Rather, it has become almost a full time job.  A week or so ago, my dad came up and helped move it from storage to it's little star dock--let me just start by giving you the lowdown---Pouring rain, engine died, not a lick of wind (the lake was flat as glass) so sails couldn't be utilized, no trace of food to be found, ran out of water...oh, the list of Day 1 goes on and on.  Hours later, we rolled into Montrose Harbor---JUST BARELY---pretty much laughing the whole way.  I mean, who the hell could have known all that madness would shake down?  Just goes to show, man you gotta be prepared (both of us were in a hunger rage at that point and we CHOWED at Big Buns as soon as we got off the boat!).  Of course, the other day, I head back to the boat to test the engine and what do I find?  A nify little surprise of a full-on dead battery.  Freakin' lovely.  So, I had to haul that thing to the battery shop to get tested and re-charged.  Oh, add to the list, I need/want/must get some oar locks for my dinghy, a GPS, an auto pilot, a couple of solar panels, a complete change of fuel...oh, and I need to go ahead and rewire the entire electrical system as soon as I have time, remove the spinnaker pole, install my dinghy wheels, stock the damn boat with food, water, paper towels, toilet paper, books, etc...oh and don't let me forget to go sailing sometime this summer.  I mean for the love of God!  What a glorious summer this will be though...if I can every make it out of the Yacht Club (with their $2 cuba libres)~~

Big Buns and Pita on North Clark St. {From The Raving Dish}

Img_1275(*Sorry, the photo of the Tashreb was taken from my cell phone and really do the dish no justice)
Some places along N. Clark just scream for attention—those tiny, tucked-away restaurants that even miss most foodies' radars. Big Buns and Pita is exactly one of these primo finds. Thanks to the take-out vibe and questionable name—the phrase "big buns" alone would guarantee a walk-on-by from normal folk—the masses wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. But that's part of the beauty of the Buns.

What the layman doesn't realize is that behind the glaring sign and the fluorescent lights lies some of the best Middle Eastern food known to man. I've already been back four times after stumbling on this place a mere week and a half ago.

Here's how it happened: Plowing through Rogers Park in the middle of a hellacious rainstorm, I stopped to read the review taped to the window of this storefront. I wandered inside to find a totally empty fast food-style joint with…tablecloths? (Granted, white sheets of paper covered the linen.) I became even more curious about the food once I saw all the color photos on the take-out menu.

Continue reading "Big Buns and Pita on North Clark St. {From The Raving Dish}" »

Lest You Think I Never Cook My Own Food

Img_1168I forget how easy it is to cook sometimes.  I'm usually so on the run and take myself to the level of complete hunger/starvation rage that I eat out on-the-fly and shove down whatever sounds delish at that particular weak moment (right now I'm on an ice cream, tamale, lentil soup, mike-and-ike, iced cafe latte from Whole Foods fixation).  But, then there are times when I cannot stomach another restaurant meal and just want a nice plate of pasta or a simple bowl of soup.  I made this delightful little creation last week when I realized I had a can of juicy clams in the pantry.  It was sorta like a clam linguine but instead of linguine, I used some kind of gluten-free spaghetti (honest go God, you could never tell the difference between the real deal and gluten-free).  Making the sauce was super-easy.  Literally, it was a handful of chopped parsley tossed in some melted butter and swooshed around a bit.  Then, I threw in a few cloves of roughly chopped garlic, more butter, the clams (juice included) and a huge squeeze of lemon, plus salt and pepper.  I let that whole mess cook down  bit and at the very end, I tossed in some half-and-half and let it simmer for a few final minutes.  That little last-minute nugget of inspiration is what took this dish over the edge and caused me to eat all four supposed servings throughout my entire night.  Man, what a feast. After my first bowl, I just couldn't stop going back to the stove where I'd left the whole shebang hanging and just picking up fingerful after of fingerful of little nibbles. I can't really do that, all of it in a span of just a few hours.  That meal was supposed to feed four.  That can't be good, huh?  Ah, whatever~~I was happy as a clam when it was all said and done!

One More Find on Isla Mujeres: Loncheria Tacos Tumbras

Img_1216I guess I straight up LOVE Nescafe and Huevos Rancheros early in the morning.  I'd been wandering around the island early in the AM on the hunt for something to chow on and the only place open at that early morning hour was this tiny loncheria on the far north side of the village.  Just as they were finishing up sweeping the patio, I grabbed a seat and ordered a coffee and some huevos rancheros (one of my fave things to eat in the history of the world).  The cook immediately whipped out her jar of Nescafe and made me a delicious mug of "fresh coffee" and a few minutes later, out came my huevos.  They were not quite like I'm used to having them and instead of a couple of eggs perched on a pile of beans and smothered in red ranchero sauce, these eggs were happily poised on top of a couple of crispy corn tortillas and then sprinkled with a few crumbles of tart queso.  On the side was a spoonful of mashed beans and a small salad.  Just plain old delicious.  I sat there for about 2 hours drinking cup after cup of sweet and milky coffee and watching all the locals swing by with bags of eggs in their hands, the days newspaper and an early morning "hola."  It's all the simple stuff that makes me love this tiny island so much~~I gotta get me some of that Nescafe.

Loncheria El Pimo's $1 Pork Tacos

Img_1171For some reason, when I travel, I find myself doing regular, everyday things at really odd hours of the day.  Strawberry daiquiri at 9 AM?  Bring it on.  Cafe con leche at 7 PM?  Hell, why not.  It's like this little button of resistance toward all my usual habits turns on and I want total opposites all the time.  This is how I found myself at Loncheria El Pimo (just a 3 minute walk from Casa Ixchel on Isla Mujeres) at 10 AM (holiday breakfast time) having a slew of messy pork tacos.  I'd cruised by the open door shack knowing that something delicious was on the stove, but having no idea what it would be.  Being that my Spanish is a little rough (try alot), I just peered thru the little window, pointed to the first thing I saw (a pot of pork and tomato stew simmering away) and said "taco."  Done and done.  A sleepy-eyed gal immediately hurried out of the kitchen and scooted down to the tortilleria I'd passed along the way and a few minutes later, rolled back into the kitchen with a big bag of freshly made tortillas.  My taco only had avocado on it, and the juice from the tender pork soaked all the way thru the middle of the tortillas, but after two bites, I only had two words to say to the cook.  "Uno mas!"  She just laughed (like she'd known all along that I couldn't eat just one of her tacos) and brought me another.  Of course, after that little feast, it was naptime on my favorite deck-bed with a good suspense thriller at 11 AM~

Tiny Loncherias on Isla Mujeres = The Best Food on the Island

Img_1225One of the best loncheria's (tiny, hole in the wall, mom-n-pop eateries) I discovered on this trip to Isla is Loncheria Manolotis. It was just up the road from my hotel and I'd been riding my back (after a long, healthy nap of course) and literally stumbled across it.  I managed to get stuck in there during a torrential rainstorm, but it was fantastic.  Just me and the Mexican soaps blaring into the dining room. The food was so cheap, I just kept ordering.  When I tell you it was the BEST chile rellenos I've tasted, I'm not kidding.  None of the typical gooey cheese or smother in tomato sauce.  It was just freshly fried and packed with ground pork and then splashed with crema and queso.  I had several made to order cheese empenadas (80 cents each) and a taco as well.  Throw in a couple of orange drinks and this was a $5 dollar meal made in heaven.  Isla has dozens of these loncehrias all over the island and they are the very best way to help add tourist dollars to the community.  Plus the food is superior~