Eat This!

All things foodie!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Autumn is in the air!

Autumn is my favorite season. I seriously hate cold weather, but I love living in Chicago because of the four distinct seasons, especially autumn. Of course growing up in Vermont, autumn is the most special time of year. Not only is the landscape breathtaking, the air clear and scented with burning leaves, the days milder but the food is amazing! It's harvest time which means lots of hearty dishes to eat and lots of preserving to be done.


Not only am I an avid foodie, but I'm also a craftie. Yes, I knit and bead and all sorts of Martha Stewart schtuff. I also LOVE craft shows. Last year, my mom and I went to one of the biggest annual craft shows in Vermont at the Champlain Valley Expo. Craft fairs hit big before Christmas and they are great places to pick up gifts for the holidays. We stopped by a booth full of homemade preserves, jellies and jams made in Rock Tavern, NY. Of course the best way to get people to buy your product is to sample! Typically, savory jams and jellies aren't my thang, but the wonderful woman who makes and sells From My Father's Kitchen had a plate of her horseradish jam spooned over a block of cream cheese served with Ritz crackers. WOAH! Seriously, this is the most delicious tasting jelly I've ever tasted. Just the right amount of horseradish, some shredded carrots for texture and the cream cheese. We bought 5 jars! Two for ourselves and three to give as gifts. Everyone we've gifted the jam to or has tried it absolutely raves about it. If I ever take up canning, this is the first recipe I will try and recreate! Check out her website for other yummy looking treat like Beer Jelly (great for basting chicken), Scotch Marmalade (on scones with clotted cream), and pumpkin butter (toss with pasta, walnuts and chopped sage).


So last week I posted about Riedel wine glasses. This week, it's all about Waterford and their new product lines designed by Marc Jacobs. Marc Jacobs is a wonderful clothing designer who in recent years has branched out into the fragrance and even has a new children's lined of clothing called Little Marc. Ironically, Mr. Jacobs just did a stint in rehab this summer, so he should know a thing or two about wine glasses (bad taste, just had to). Anyway, check out the beautiful collection he designed for Waterford of china, crystal and home accents. Each pattern, is named after a special person in his life and are made of crystal, fine china and hand blown glass. And you thought Riedel was pricey! His crystal Elizabeth champagne saucer goes for a whopping $95 - a piece! Do the math. But oh my are they gorgeous!

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I love autumn - but I love Christmas more! I've already started to make a list of all the goodies I'll be making for gifts this year. One that I have been making the past couple of years are candied nuts. The great thing about candied nuts are you just need one recipe and you can make all sorts of great substitutions - exchange walnuts for almonds, use cardamon instead of cinnamon, use maple syrup instead of honey, use curry powder instead of cumin. The possibilities are endless so experiment! Also, not only do they make a great snack or appetizer, you can throw them in a salad, roll them into soft cheese for a quick spread or crush up and put in oatmeal. The kicker - nuts are really good for you!

I prefer almonds over most any other raw nuts. They are good sweet or savory and are easy to pick up in bulk. Make sure to get raw almonds, not salted or roasted. Did you know?:

California produces 100% of the US supply and 80% of the worlds supply of almonds.
Almond trees are closely related to peach trees. Ever noticed how a peach pit looks almost exactly like an un-shelled almond?
Almonds are the most nutrient rich tree nut - it even lowers "bad" cholesterol and is a great source of protein, vitamin E and antioxidants.
Almonds were one of the first known cultivated foods and are even mentioned in the Bible.


1/3 cup butter
2 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
3 cups whole natural almonds
4 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place butter on 15 ½ x 10 ½ -inch jellyroll pan; place in oven to melt butter (about 7 minutes). Meanwhile, beat egg whites with salt until frothy; gradually add sugar, beating into stiff peaks. Gently fold in almonds and cinnamon. Pour almond mixture onto jellyroll pan; toss with butter. Bake about 40 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, until almonds are crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store cooled almonds in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

TIP: If you are making a large batch, buy refrigerated egg whites. About 2 tablespoons from a carton of egg whites, equals what would come from one egg. This will save you time AND 50% of the cost of eggs!


Lack of extra cash can greatly limit eating out at decent restaurants. I truly believe it's a god given talent to be able to eat out and have a decent meal for under $15 a person these days. Not pizza or fast food, but a sit down meal. There's a wonderful website called Metromix in Chicago, that posts daily food specials throughout the city along with drink specials and links to entertainment near your dining spot. Typically, Monday's and Tuesday's are the best nights to get really great deals at restaurants, because business is slow. Most restaurants will offer 3 to 5 course prix fixe meals or 1/2 price bottles of wine. Pubs and restau-bars tend to offer burger, appetizer or all-you-can-eat specials.

One of my favorites deals in the city at Duke of Perth pub. Every Monday, they have 2 for 1 entrees, including their incredible fish and chips! Now, despite what Anthony Bourdain says, I will eat fried fish on Mondays. We live in a day and age where restaurants received orders on Saturdays. Of course, it depends on the quality or the restaurant for I surely wouldn't eat sushi at an all you can eat sushi buffet on a Sunday or Monday (but what idiot would?).

Having been to England, Ireland and Scotland and having eaten fish and chips in all three countries, I know what I like and don't like about fish and chips. Duke of Perth has been the ONLY pub in America I've ever been to that has prepared fish and chips properly and deliciously. Duke of Perth uses delicate pieces of cod dipped in a Tennents lager beer batter. The fish comes out flaky, not greasy and perfectly steamed. Plates come with three large pieces of fish, peas (traditional side in Scotland) and hand cut chips, also not greasy and wonderful slathered with malt vinegar.

Duke of Perth also serves a wonderful Shephards Pie and meatloaf made with lamb, beef, veal, pork and garlic sausage and has wonderful side salad served with their house made malt vinegar dressing. And of course being a Scottish pub, they have an extensive collection of malts - over fifty 10 to 36 year bottles of whisky and scotch! On a recent visit, Jay chose a flight of three malts for $16. A great deal and chance to try some rare vintages. Their beer selection is also great, serving draughts typically difficult to find outside of the British Isles like Belhaven, Fullers and Tennents - and of course Scottish favorite McEwan's!

Check out Duke of Perth's Myspace page!

One last blurb for the week - I loath Halloween. I absolutely abhor Halloween. The one cool thing about Halloween is carving pumpkins. Jay and I bought some oddly shaped ones which we will hopefully carve tonight for our front porch. I hope to get some trick-or-treaters at our house!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First post!

After much thought, I've decided to start a blog - all about food and fun things related to food! All things culinary have been a passion of mine for years, and writing about all the wonderful things I experience in this strange world, seemed appropriate!

Where to start? Well, first let me say I'm not the best writer in the world, so excuse my grammar errors or just plain rambling! I tend to write how I think and/or speak, which of course is complete nonsense, in the literary world. But blogs are a bit like zines, no?


I'm super excited about a new line of wine glasses that Riedel, the fancy-schmancy wine glass company has recently unveiled. Here's a photo of their champagne glass, in the series, they call "O-Riedel", which is a stemless collection.

The only stemless champagne glasses I've ever come across have been at one of my favorite Chicago nightclubs Sonotechque. The glass they use to serve champagne there, is almost a test-tube shape, and capable of holding much more champagne than your run-of-the-mill flute. And if you know anything about Riedel, their new line is pretty affordable. The champagne tumbler retails for about $20 for a set of 2. Seems preposterous, huh? Check out their website:


Secondly, I bought some delicious looking baby yams at Stanley's Produce yesterday and wanted to post a little recipe for cooking these delicious little buggers. To be honest, I've never cooked a baby yam before, but I know this: most "baby" vegetable varieties are sweeter and yams cook much like any other tuber. So, using my incredible brain power, I came up with a little recipe.

Did you know?:

Sweet potatoes and yams are NOT the same! They look similar and have similar flavors, but are distantly related.
Yams have a high potassium content but are low in starch, compared to other tubers.
They are native to Africa and Asia.
Yams can be cooked a variety of ways - fried, boiled, steamed (in a microwave) or baked. Yams are also used in pastry recipes, in pies, breads and even cakes!

Sweet Roasted Baby Yams

1 package baby yams (about a dozen), washed and peeled
2 TBS brown sugar
4 TBS salted butter
1 TBS pure maple syrup (from Vermont, of course)
2 TBS orange juice
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray

325 degree oven

Cut the yams into bite size chunks. Load them into a baking pan that has been sprayed a quick coating of cooking spray. Set aside. Cut up butter into small chunks and also set aside. Pour orange juice and maple syrup all over the yams. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Dot with chunks of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake in the oner for about 35 minutes or until a fork easily pierces any larger chunks.

IDEAS: Substitute orange juice with chicken or vegetable stock, for a less sweet version, or just use water. Watch these suckers closely, you don't want them to stick or burn! The sugars will caramelize and more liquid may be added as to not get a gross burnt sugar taste. For an even sweeter version, add mini marshmallows on top during the last 10 minutes of baking. YUMMERS!


So an old pal of mine Mickey, left the world of marketing a few years back, and went to pastry school. He bought this fabulous bakery in Wicker Park called Alliance Bakery and has done extremely well. Alliance has won all sorts of awards for their wedding cakes and have some outstanding pastries. I stopped in the other day to pick up a couple of cupcakes for my girl Edie and my gay Scott, whose birthday was the same day. They had these ginormous vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, decorated for Halloween. Poor Scott never got his cupcake cos Jay and I devoured it on the way home from said friends birthday party. It was the most delicious cupcake I've had in years! Moist cake, perfect buttercream. If you get a chance, stop by Alliance and devour one too. Heaven!

Alliance Bakery
1736 West Division Street (at Wood)

Me and those delicious cupcakes!!!


Jay (my fiance) and I went out to dinner last night at one of my most favorite Chicago restaurants, Smoke Daddy. It's a small barbecue joint in Wicker Park that has live music most every night and a kick-ass selection of beers. The walls are decorated with old blues and jazz photos giving the place an old southern atmosphere. The menu here is fairly small but everything is delicious. They smoke all their meats with apple, cheery and hickory wood, right on sight! They serve ribs, burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as jars of their homemade BBQ sauce. My old standby, which I ordered this night, is their BBQ pork sandwich (with a side of mac and cheese). Jay had a sandwich, but with 1/2 BBQ beef brisket and 1/2 BBQ pork and sweet potato fries. I absolutely love their standard BBQ sauce! It's sweet, tangy and the perfect color and consistency. But they also have 2 other kinds of sauces to douse your meat with, along with the other standard condiments on the table. For the sandwiches, they serve the perfect amount of BBQ pork on a ciabatta style roll, not too much sauce so it's not incredibly messy. The huge portion of mac n cheese comes served in a crockpot with toasted bread crumbs on top. Surprisingly, some bites had some bite to it, I think from tiny bits of jalapeno. Of course, the star of any meal at Smoke Daddy are their sweet potato fries. Fried to order, their cut slim with just a tiny amount of salt. Absolutely delicious! Of course nothing goes better with BBQ than ice old beer, which Jay imbibed in the Wednesday special, $1.75 Miller High Life bottles (see below for rant about beer). Dessert was a disappointment. I really wanted to try their banana pudding, but the waitress informed me it was served with brown sugar on top, which is a travesty in my book, so we went for the chocolate chip cookie skillet. This dessert is a chocolate chip cookie that has been baked in a mini cast iron skillet served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with some chocolate syrup. Thank goodness it was served with ice cream, because the cookie tasted awful! It tasted as if the chips had either gone bad or were of poor quality. Other than the cookie debacle, an outstanding meal! If you choose to go, the best option is their sampler platter. You get an assortment of ribs and a couple sides. It's enough to feed two! Check out the link below for menu, hours of operation and their live music schedule.

Smoke Daddy
1804 West Division (at Wood)


Now, Jay and I aren't big beer drinkers. In fact when I do drink beer, I'm extremely picky about the beer I choose to consume. Being the foodie I am, most people are led to believe that I'm big on micro-brews or lambics and totally shun commercial brands of beer. Not entirely true! One of my most favorite beers in the world is an ice cold bottle of Miller High Life, aka The Champagne of Beers. Here the thing: it must be ice cold and it must be a bottle and it must be consumed quickly. There may be nothing better on a hot summer day than drinking an ice cold bottle of Miller High Life, but nothing is worse than drinking the same beer when it's luke warm. Gross. So, cheap beer doesn't always constitute poor taste or quality! (Typically, the only beer I like to drink and will order is draught Hoegaarden or a comparable White Ale, like Hitachino, from Japan of all places).

So ends my first post! I hope you learned something and will try something new! Check in often and EAT THIS!!!!!