Archive for the 'Food/Dining' Category

Chicago restaurant: Paprikash

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

So far I’ve only managed to find one Hungarian restaurant in Chicagoland: Paprikash. It’s not in my neighborhood, but regardless, I’ve made the drive several times already as their cooking is so authentic and good. They have come in at second place on Chicago CitySearch’s Fine Dining list. I’m not sure what the “fine dining” category is supposed to cover. I can certainly think of much more elegant places to eat (as per decor and service), but the food is hard to beat. The staff is friendly and accomodating albeit at times a bit slow, but hey, that’s the Hungarian restaurant experience for you. You can also try out your Hungarian as several staff members speak it, not to mention the other guests. The fact that there are so many Hungarians who visit this restaurant says something about it authenticity and the quality of the food. The live Hungarian and Gypsy music also adds something to the atmosphere. It’s located at 5210 W. Diversey (at Laramie), do try it sometime.

Evanston restaurant reviews

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Although I still have plans of writing up my experiences with various Evanston restaurants, I found a guide hosted by the Northwestern Associated Student Government with a list of reviews that is worth a pointer. They also cover places in the area past city limits such as the Pita Inn in Skokie. (My recommendation regarding the Pita Inn is similar to theirs, it’s great. You will likely have to wait in line, but given the price and the quality of the food, a little wait (5-10 mins) is definitely worth it.)

Store Wars

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Learn the ways of the farm with the help of Ham Solo, Chewbroccoli, C3Peanuts, Tofu D2, Obi Wan Cannoli, Cuke Skywalker, Lord Tader and Princess Lettuce. [thanks]

Chocolate in Chicago

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

Here are some spots I’ll have to try this summer:

Blommer Chocolate Store – I’ve had their dark chocolate almond toffee and it’s great!
Chicago Chocolate Company
Hot Chocolate
Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop
bon bon Chicago

Starbucks espresso brownies – lose the fudge!

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

I don’t drink coffee so a store like Starbucks has much less appeal to me than to many others. I am also not fooled by most of their pastries. They tend to look good, but usually do not measure up in taste. (I have fallen for the looks enough times now to know better.)

There is one exception, however: the Starbucks Espresso Brownie Bar. Unfortunately, in the past few months I have noticed that they have added fudge on top. It is a really bad innovation (if you can even call it that). They have pretty much ruined an extremely good pastry. Yes, I can get dramatic when it comes to chocolate. I don’t like people messing with a good chocolate product.

It turns out that you can still get the fudgeless type in other markets. During my recent travels I have noticed them at various airports. But the store on my block only has the fudge type.

Maybe introducing the new version in some markets is their way of experimenting to see if the change holds up. If you’d like to join me in saving a perfectly good pastry then please send the company a note by filling out this form on their Web site.

Feminist humanist modern version Haggadah for Passover

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

It’s that time of year again when the Passover page on my Web site starts attracting lots of visitors. A few years ago I compiled a feminist humanist modern version Haggadah for Passover as the traditional ones I could find did not meet my needs. I would have preferred to just grab one from a Web site, but none provided the type I was seeking. Once compiled, I figured others may find it helpful as well so I decided to post it. Feel free to grab a copy if it is of interest. It contains no references to a higher power, it includes an orange on the Seder plate, it is inclusive in language to both Jews and non-Jews and it refers to contemporary plagues such as hunger, war and racism. It is certainly not meant to offend. It is meant to offer people an alternative that better aligns with their beliefs and concerns about the world. (The Web page does not contain a Creative Commons license because I myself grabbed most of the material from elsewhere so it’s not really up to me to make a decision on that. I credit the sources on the document and include links to their Web sites. )

Great pastry

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005

The Hungarian Pastry Shop in New York is my favorite pastry shop in the U.S. While in the city last week taking in The Gates I stopped by with a friend to try some of their goodies. We had some poppy seed strudel, a chocolate pyramid, a lemon petit-four (they have that in three other flavors as well) and a rum ball. They were all very good, but the rum ball was especially amazing.

This is a very pleasant coffee shop. You order at the counter, go find a seat and a few minutes later the drinks and pastries are brought to your table. They have free refills on coffee and hot water, which is all self-served close to the counter. The space is a bit dark, but this does not seem to deter many many people from reading and studying there for hours.

I wish we had a pastry shop like this in my area.


Saturday, February 12th, 2005

I just received the following:

Hungarian sweets

Ask any Hungarian living abroad what he or she missed the most and Túró Rudi will be on their list (pictured left). It is a candy bar that is hard to describe and a description cannot do it justice anyway. The basic ingredient is farmer’s cheese (incorrectly often referred to as cottage cheese). It is sweetened in some ways.. I’m not sure how.. and then covered in dark chocolate. It is incredibly yummy. Unfortunately, it is perishable and so even harder than most products to get abroad.

On the right are various Hungarian chocolates I love. And all this is mine to consume now!:-)

Google Maps

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

Last week Gawker Media launched Lifehacker, a site I have gotten addicted to quite quickly. It’s a great resource for any geek or geek-wannabe. One of today’s finds is the most recent service launched by Google: Google Maps. They offer very nice clean maps that allow searches for more than just addresses. For example, see chocolate in evanston. Click on the red pointers and get the exact addresses. With another quick click you can add an address for directions. By clicking on “Link to this page” you get a static link you can share with others. (Note that the arrows for navigating are in the upper left hand corner not on the sides of the map as with some other services.)

The results to searches are far from exhaustive though. I’m afraid the above search misses my favorite chocolate store in town. In fact, curiously, it misses relevant stores that a regular Google search will bring up and Google Local doesn’t seem to be using Google Maps yet either. Since they’re still in beta, hopefully we’ll see some improvements. Regardless, it looks like a very nice new service worth checking out.

Chocolate chemistry

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

If I was more like my parents or my brother (i.e. if I had a Ph.D. in Chemistry), I’d probably appreciate this NYTimes article about the intricate physical and chemical details of baking more than I do, but it’s still an interesting read. Alternatively, in that case I wouldn’t need an NYTimes article to explain this info to me.

Chocolate, New York edition

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

Following up on my note regarding quality Chocolate from a few days ago, here’s a link to another article in the New York Times, this time about a chocolatier in NYC. [The article is already behind a subscription wall, bummer I had forgotten to get the blogger link. Readers at institutions with LexisNexis subscriptions can find a copy in their archives.]


Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

This on CT.

It’s my birthday (it’s still the 15th where I’m writing this) so I’ll take this opportunity to talk about something dear to my heart: chocolate. A friend who clearly does not realize how little time I spend working out gave me two pounds of some very good quality chocolate for my birthday. (Maybe the idea was that this way even after sharing with him I’d still have enough left for me.:) Another friend – whose wife and I have a monthly ritual of giving each other Belgian truffles on random holidays – sent me a link to a New York Times article about some of the best places in Paris for quality chocolate. One of the most intriguing gifts I’ve gotten recently came from Paris and was chocolate related: chocolate perfume. The scent is very real, and I don’t mean of some cheapo imitation American candy bar. The aroma resembles very high quality chocolate. Surprising as it may be, smelling the perfume can have healthy repercussions. A whiff of that scent will nullify any craving for poor quality chocolate (the type most likely to be around one’s office where such cravings often arise). Before completely dismissing all American chocolate, I should note that at a chocolate party where the hosts had us guests sampling and rating unidentified milk and dark chocolates from all over the world, some American chocolates actually came out quite highly ranked (including something as generic as Hershey’s dark chocolate).

I think a sophisticated chocolate enthusiast has cravings for specific types of chocolate, not just chocolate in general. So sometimes it is that M-azing candy bar you crave while other times only a Cote d’Or hazelnut dark chocolate bar, a Ritter Sport Marzipan bar or a Sport falat will do (just to name some of my favorites).

For those in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend the Belgian chocolatier Piron in Evanston (the source of my monthly chocolate truffle ritual mentioned above). I welcome pointers to other great chocolate stores wherever they may be.

Pumpkin pie redux

Friday, November 26th, 2004

This on CT.

Who would’ve thought that discussing pumpkin pie would be such a popular topic among Timberites (and others as well). Here, I offer an alternative European perspective as there were eight of us around the table last night (with not an American in sight although some later joined us for socializing): three Italians, two Germans, one German/French, one Dutch and one Hungarian. First of all, I’m proud to say that you couldn’t have had a more traditional Thanksgiving meal including a mashed potato/sweet potato dish, bean casserole, cranberry relish, cranberry jello salad, squash, stuffing, plenty of gravy and, of course, a beautiful and delicious turkey. Other than the dinner rolls, ice cream and whipped cream everything was home made. But let me fast forward to the dessert portion of the evening.

After a walk out to the beach to make some room for the pies, we started a general discussion comparing European vs American pastries. Several people around the table thought that American desserts are just too sweet. This may explain why most people only took a small slice of my pecan pie (oh, and I cheated, I didn’t make the crust). However, I was happy to note that people were quite excited about the pumpkin pie (pictured here without the important whipped cream component). I relied on canned pumpkin pure, but used a special recipe that adds vanilla ice cream to the filling making it extra fluffy and yummy. To the skeptics who in the comments to Belle’s post wondered whether people just said they liked the pie versus actually enjoyed it, I can report that my guests were quite honest regarding their preferences. Everyone got to take food when they left and people did not seem to have any qualms about expressing their preferences (thus I got to keep quite a few peanutbutter bars given that several of those in attendance have not yet developed a taste for peanut butter). I should add that my friend’s Alsatian apple tart was a really big hit as well (and as suggested earlier, it was not as sweet as the other desserts). One more point about desserts: I never use vanilla extract, I use vanilla sugar instead. I think it works much better (the former seems to have an artificial taste I don’t like). Substituting one packet for one teaspoon seems to work well.

The evening ended with us reminiscing about European 70s music (that may require a separate post sometime) and playing around with the various toys on my coffee table (coffee table books are so passé, try putting some Rubik games out sometime). Of course, after that amount of food no need to get so technical as to introduce elaborate puzzles. I brought out my vintage Schwarzer Peter card deck my grandmother and I used to play with when I was five. There is a reason I used to play with it when I was five. After a few minutes of playing we started wondering how many PhDs it takes to figure out the quickest way to end the game (well, you know, without actually just calling it quits). (Keep reinventing the rules and working with the other players so someone can win.) What a fun evening, and of course, no need to cook for the next several days.

European delicacies in Chicago

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

Thanks to a friend, I just discovered a store on the north side of Chicago that has wonderful food items from all over Europe. I even saw some Hungarian juice (the fruit names literally written out in Hungarian on the box:). Yum! The place is Delicatessen Meyer at 4750 N. Lincoln Ave near the intersection of Lawrence and Western. They have quite a collection of chocolates and other sweets (including vanilla sugar, essential for any serious baking project), meats, cheeses, pickles, pates, wine and more (even some soaps and lotions). They have Hungarian salami (“téli szalámi”) although unfortunately it is “Hungarian style” as actual Hungarian salami can no longer be imported to the U.S. * sniff *

Food across the blogosphere

Friday, October 1st, 2004

We mostly mention and link to political and academic blogs on CT. But there are whole worlds of other blogs out there. One such world that I like to visit whenever I get the chance is the food and recipe blogosphere. This week, Chocolate and Zucchini is celebrating its firth birthday, congrats! That blog has come a long way. It has been mentioned in various media outlets across the globe. Its author, Clotilde, is throwing a birthday party this week in Paris (her home base) and has even opened up a forum for C&Z readers to discuss all topics related to cooking, baking, restaurants, etc. The wonderful images with which she illustrates her posts add that much more to visiting her site (and it’s all licensed under a Creative Commons License). Reading C&Z always makes me wish I had more time to cook and bake.

Another food blog I visit on occasion is Foodgoat, which takes food discussion to another level including comments about new food products on the U.S. market. And today I found C’est moi qui l’ai fait! through C&Z, another blog sure to get me inspired in the kitchen. My own modest contributions are on a recipe page I compiled mostly made up of some Hungarian specialties. I owe all that knowledge to my Mom who didn’t succeed in getting me excited about cooking while I was still living at home, but who has been a source of inspiration (and much helpful information!) an ocean apart. She is quite the cook and even has a cookbook out in English about Hungarian cooking (written in her “spare” time while continuing her first-rate scientific career). The recipe section, by the way, is one of the most popular parts of my site through search engine referrals (yeah, well, I’d like to think people are interested in my research, but I can’t blame them for preferring to cook a good chicken paprikash instead). I have also started to document good restaurants in Chicagoland.

In my part of the world, the weather is getting chillier and various fun holidays are approaching so I anticipate spending more time cooking and baking (although my upcoming travel schedule may challenge me on that). This is a good time to take stock of relevant blogs out there. I invite you to post links to your favorite food and recipe blogs (and other sites) here.

Chicagoland restaurants

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Even before I got to Chicagoland people from elsewhere were already telling me about the great restaurant scene here. They were right. I’ve decided to blog some of the great finds partly as a reference for myself, but perhaps also of use to those many who pass through Chicagoland at one point or another. (Most academic conventions rotate through this city so a compiled list may be helpful to attendees.)

A few days ago I had dinner at a new Japanese restaurant: Kaze. The service was very accomodating as people floated in and out of our group. We just kept ordering things as the evening progressed. I recommend the soy beans for starters as you figure out the rest of the meal. Everything I – and others at the table – had was wonderful so you really can’t go wrong. Smaller appetizer type dishes are $4-7, bigger dishes are $12-$15, desserts: $8 (for which you probably want to save some room:).

The restaurant is located on 2032 W. Roscoe St just west of the Roscoe/Damen intersection. It is not labelled so you may miss it. Look for the black top, window wall on a corner. They are planning on adding outside seating, which would be nice as it is a quiet area.. and additional space will be welcomed as word of this place spreads.

A restaurant I keep meaning to go back to ever since I had brunch there this past summer is Pierrot Gourmet in downtown Chicago (close to the Michigan/Chicago Ave intersection). It serves Alsacian food including a type of pizza (with a different name I do not recall) that has a super thin crust and is incredibly yummy. It’s one of their specialties and they have several types so it shouldn’t be that hard to find on the menu if you look for a group of entrees with pizza-sounding toppings.

Next in this series: a look at some of my favorite places in Evanston.

UPDATE: Chicago Foodies has a similarly positive review of Kaze.

Cooking across continents

Wednesday, September 15th, 2004

Cuisines in one culture take completely for granted ingredients that are not at all common in other cultures. Hungarian cooking has some pretty basic dishes (e.g. dairy dumplings) that require farina. But farina is not something you can necessarily obtain in the nearest food store in American towns. Fortunately, I have finally figured out that Cream of Wheat works just as well. And Cream of Wheat is a very common item in American supermarkets. It seems to me that it is basically just farina, but with a corporate logo slapped onto it and “enhanced” so it can be repackaged with that logo (I guess). I don’t know how it is enhanced, but I do know that it works in the exact same fashion as farina in recipes. So there you have it. Next time a recipe calls for farina, no need to scratch your head, just grab a container of plain Cream of Wheat.

Julia Child dies

Saturday, August 14th, 2004

Just a few days short of her 92nd birthday, Julia Child died this week. You did not need to be a cooking fanatic to have watched her shows although you may have ended up as one after doing so. And a kitchen is hardly complete without one of her books. I also got quite a bit of exposure to her name while studying at Smith College as she was one of those alums such a school could be very excited about. Hat tip to ms.musings who links to all sorts of interesting sites for more background info. Here’s one nice little interview with Child last year in Ms. Magazine where Child is quoted as saying: “I was a Republican until I got to New York and had to live on $18 a week. It was then that I became a Democrat.”