#1: Try Some Street Cart Food on Devon Avenue (Indian)

Posted on: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I will always give Chicago credit for broadening my culinary horizons.  Before becoming a Windy City resident I kept my food scope pretty limited to classic american comfort foods.  Eating Indian, Japanese or even Greek cuisine would never have crossed my mind.  Moving to a major city presented me with a smörgasbord of global cuisines and at eighteen, I was eager to-quite literally-gobble it up.

I had my first taste of Indian cooking my freshman year of college when my glamorous and clutured friend, Ana, brought me to Standard India (which is now closed?!?) on Belmont Avenue.  A small, no-frills Indian buffet where I was introduced to a whole new spectrum of flavors and dishes (and probably ate my weight in samosas on that first outing).  Over the past twelve years here in Chicago I have eaten my fair share of Indian food, but have never spent time exploring Devon Avenue where you can find the best Indian dining in the city.

When I arrived on Devon Avenue a few weeks ago, I was totally unprepared and had no idea where I would go or what I would find.  Turns out, there weren’t any street carts serving up food that day, so I took a spin on the idea by visiting three different spots and ordered items which are deemed traditional street cart cuisines in India.  Fleixibility within structure…that’s my motto for life.

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At Tahoora Sweets and Bakery I started out my trip with a few desserts (“life is short, order dessert first” as they say): Carrot Barfi, Pista Katli and Cream Black Jamun.  All of these patries were combinations of milk and sugar and vegetable shortening with various other mix-ins.  For my taste they were a bit on the cloying side, but I particularly liked the Carrot Barfi which had a subtle nuttiness to it and slightly chewy texture.

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My next stop brought me to Sukhadia’s where I tried my first ever Puri: an unleaveaned and deep fried indian flatbread.  They puff up into crispy balls which you bite into and then fill with curry for a crunchy, spicy snack.  I ate these while Indian soap operas played on the TV screens in the restaurant which I found to be oddly fitting.

On my way to my third stop, I strolled through several Indian couture clothing stores which was as much a feast for my eyes, as the food was for my stomach.

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My final destination was King’s Sweets where I ordered a samosa doused in Chaat.  I tried to avoid ordering a samosa, as it is my usual Indian go-to, but fried dough gets me every time.  The combination was perfection.

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Chaat is a mixture of potatoes, chickpeas, sour indian chili and Saunth (dried ginger and tamarind sauce).  The cool crispness of the sour chili combined with the heat from the potatoes balanced each other perfectly, while the Saunth and other spices brought a surprising depth of flavor.  It was straightforward without being pedestrian, and rich without being too heavy.  Definitely the highlight of my Devon Avenue excursion.

And for good measure, here are a few more photos I took.  Just because I like pretty pictures.

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And Then This Happened…

Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2013

I am so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented artists each and every day. Let me introduce you to my dear friend Jess Godwin who has just released her newest music video, which has a super timely and important message.

And while you are at it, why don’t you watch her other videos too? Ok?

Good, I am glad we had this talk.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Friday Fotos

Posted on: Friday, July 5, 2013

Now here were are, with July 4th at our backs, and despite what the wildly varying weather reports may depict, summer is officially here.  It cannot be denied.

I am heading into the weekend totally rejuvenated from yesterdays holiday.  We spent the morning cleaning, did a little exercising, I dusted off the old Kitchenaid and made this cake(!), then we welcomed friends over for a low-key cookout topped off with some neighborhood fireworks.  Good day indeed.

Last week began with the show opening and the purchasing of some new clothes…I accidentally walked into a Zara…totally on accident.  I took a selfie by the ATM of my new necklace (and dress!).

Saturday we visited City Winery for a little tour and Tasting

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A Sunday afternoon stroll through the Milwaukee Ave Arts Festival brought us to these yummy cream puffs (we settled on salted caramel and chocolate)

Friends stopped by on Tuesday night for a little grilling and game playing.  We whipped up a DIY Bruschetta platter complete with homemade pesto from our basil plant.

I picked up a great collaboration brew from Half Acre (Chicago) and Mikkeller Brewery (Denmark)

My first baking attempt in sometime: Buttermilk and Blackberry cake Before

Buttermilk and Blackberry Cake After: Light, fluffy, with a hint of sugary tartness.  Perfect summer cake.

Have a great weekend everyone!


#9: Have some Hefeweizen on the roof of Gene’s Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square (German)

Posted on: Thursday, July 4, 2013

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Happy 4th O’ July Everyone! In honor of our nations Independence I am going to share a little post about a time when I drank a beer.  How American! It was a German beer….but still!

Lincoln Square is one of  my favorite places in Chicago: From yummy lunches at Café Selmarie, gelato at Paciugo, the European sundries at Merz Apothocary, and the polka music at the Brauhaus…I love it all.  To me it strikes the perfect balance between the cultural expansiveness of living in a large city and the quaint familiar charm of a small town.

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Gene’s Sausage Shop sits proudly in the middle of the square, welcoming you through an over-sized cow to step inside and peruse their selection of gourmet groceries and spirits.  They unveiled their rooftop beer garden two years ago I have been itching to check it out ever since.  It takes me awhile to get around to things.

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Filled with communal tables and a fantastic view of the square, it’s a perfect place to grab a pint and enjoy the summer weather.  If beer isn’t your idea of a meal (beer is food after all) you can satisfy your stomach with an array of German dishes like bratwurst, pretzels with cheese, or schnitzel.  I was too full of Ann Sather cinnamon rolls from a morning breakfast meeting to indulge beyond by Weizen, but it all smelled wonderful.

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And now I have an excuse to go back.  As if I really needed one.

#2: Have some Pho on Argyle Ave (Vietnamese)

Posted on: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

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Pho (pronounced Fuh) is one of those dishes I have heard talk of for years, but surprisingly has never crossed my culinary path.  I also had no idea that a mere five minute drive from my house lay the mecca for the Vietnamese noodle bowl, with a plethora of options to satisfy my palate. You learn something new every day.

Fortunately for me, while in rehearsals for Mahal, one of our locations was right off Argyle Ave, where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Vietnamese restaurant with Pho on it’s menu.  I decided one Saturday, a few weeks back, to pick some up and nosh on it throughout the rehearsal.

As mentioned above, at the corner of Argyle and Broadway Ave, no matter what direction you look, you will gaze upon a Vietnamese dining establishment.  So I took to the Facebook to guide me toward the best spot to try my hand at Pho.  Tank won handily (Pho 888 came in second…).

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Tank Noodle has fourteen different Pho variations on their menu, but I decided to keep it simple and classic by sticking with noodles and sliced beef…I’m not one to mess with a good thing.  Upon arrival at rehearsal, I ripped open my take-out bag, fully expecting to pull out a to-go container filled with the traditional noodle soup. Not the case

Noodles and raw beef.  Piping hot broth. Sprouts, basil and mushrooms.

Noodles and raw beef. Piping hot broth. Sprouts, basil and mushrooms.


Now I knew that Pho is traditionally served in a very large bowl, and yes one could say I should have considered this fact before I decided to order Pho-to-go.  But I didn’t and now I was in a predicament!

Once again, fortunately for me, I am in a show with a bunch of Filipinos who are not only talented and attractive but also quite hospitable.  Within minutes my cast-mate Jillian, returned from the grocery store with a set of large Tupperware bowls (“I needed new ones anyway” she claimed) for me to properly enjoy my lunch.  Meanwhile, Joe, my sweet scene partner, guided me through how to combine all of the disparate elements into one bowl: Noodles go in first, followed by the sprouts and basil, add chili-paste to your liking, top with beef slices, and finish off by drowning it all with the broth which not only brings all the flavors together but also cooks the beef at the same time.

The result: A gloriously savory and soulful soup.  And a very good way to start rehearsal.

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