Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hold the Beans

I took a weekend trip up north to celebrate a birthday, cheer on the Marquette basketball team, and get totally disgusting over a bowl a chili. Hot damn, I have been missing that stuff!

Real Chili is a Milwaukee institution. It's been around since 1931, where it started in the basement of the Jesuit Residence at Marquette University. It's since moved and added a second location, and I'm happy to see that it's thriving.

Back in the day this was my spot. Pre-bar, post-bar, lunch on the go, whenever. Real Chili called to me like suicidal peeps call helplines. It was just that desperate.

It's not the classiest of establishments, but they're great at what they do. Ante up to the lunch counter and order a bowl - mild, medium, or hot. Choose to have it with spaghetti noodles, beans, or both. Add grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, raw diced onions, and/or jalapenos. They dish up a serving of oyster crackers on the side, which serve as weapons during the early morning hours. Food fighting is allowed, although perhaps not encouraged.

The chili is greasy heaven. It's not Texas-hot, but it packs a punch. I've always needed the sour cream to tame it down, but I'm a sissy when it comes to spice. The crackers, if you're able to avoid the urge to chuck them across the room, lend a great crunch. Who cares if they're not the standard accompaniment?

It would be impossible to estimate the number of bowls I ate in those four years. I was addicted. My college boyfriend lived above the Real Chili on campus. Dealing with the constant smell of chili spices was a small price to pay for that kind of convenience. This is not health food. This is comfort food. So comforting, in fact, that I weighed significantly more then than I do now.

My arteries are thankful that Real Chili is confined to Milwaukee, but I wasn't the only diner in our group who wondered if there was an option to franchise in Chicago.

Dare to dream!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lets Eat!

I am consistently at a loss for restaurant ideas when it comes time to choose one. Although there are a infinite options for dining out, ideas of where to go, and what to eat, seem to leave me whenever I actually need a concrete place. A friend calls, hungry for dinner, and the pressure to pick a restaurant looms large. I've been meaning to write down a list of places I'd like to visit to have as reference for a long time. Finally, I've done it.

Below is my incomplete list of places I'd like to eat at in Chicago. It ranges from sandwich dives to suit and tie. I'll add to it from time to time. Please let me know if you'd like to accompany me to one!

Brasserie Ruhlmann
The Brown Sack
The Gage
Big Buns and Pita
Bon Soiree
El Cid
La Scarola
Le Bouchon
Marrakesh Express
May Street Market
Pierogi Factory
Snappy’s Shrimp House
West Town Tavern

Monday, January 21, 2008

If it's like this on the outside, what's it do to your insides?

My attempts at a low fat bran muffin are disastrous. (STOP RIGHT THERE! I know what you're thinking. No one wants a low fat bran muffin anyway, but silence your opinions long enough to read on, and you just might learn something. Probably not though.)

I'm in the midst of recipe development in my own kitchen. The general topic for today is muffins. After etching out a rough menu of 5 muffins that will be served year-round, I've begun messing with ingredients to produce them. Although I am personally opposed to them, it seems inevitable that a low fat option be offered for all of those health conscious folks out there. The thing I don't understand is, if you're trying to be ultra restrictive with your diet, then why are you eating baked goods in the first place? Have an apple.

But, I digress...

I carefully measured my flour, bran, raisins, and everything else. There's low fat buttermilk in this recipe, and a very small proportion of eggs. Other than that, it's skinny city. Applesauce replaces the need for butter or oil. I even replaced the refined white sugar with honey. What do I end up with? A spongy, sticky mess that won't even release from it's paper liner. And if it won't come away from the liner, how will it ever come away from the side of my dear customers' intestines?

Excuse me...the cinnamon struesel sour cream muffins with pecans need to come out of the oven. There's nothing low fat about them, and they are smelling very nice.

Back to the drawing board with the bran.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Color Splash

It's inexplicably warm in Chicago, but it's raining and lightening. It's quite dreary. Apparently, winter doldrums can still happen if it's 60 degrees outside. This year I'm fending off winter boredom with purple cauliflower. It's so shockingly unvegetable-like in appearance. Next time I shop I think I'll buy two heads - one to eat, and one to use as a table centerpiece. Beautiful!

Roasted Fennel, Onions, and Purple Cauliflower with Fresh Oregano

Friday, January 4, 2008


On the drive home today I was saddened to see paper up in the windows at Meritage. What once was my favorite restaurant in the whole city is no more. Sad.

I was there on several occasions. Wish I could have enjoyed a final dinner before they shuttered the place. Didn't even get to say good bye.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


I am seriously considering writing a cookbook.
Crap! My Boyfriend Will Be Here In Ten Minutes For Dinner, and All I Have Are Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookies!

How to pull together a damn salad when you've been baking test recipes all afternoon and lost track of the time because you stopped to dance to too many songs on your MP3 shuffle.

Do you think there's a market for a book like this?

If you're bored perhaps you would like to review the frequency of my blogging last year. You're probably not that bored, but Dave was, and hence this lovely chart! It smacks of desk jobs all across the world.