Friday, June 24, 2011

On Acquisitions, Consumption and Produce Bags

I am not, or ever have been, a Trekkie. I'm spelling it here with two Ks only because Google made me. That Google is also an aggregator* of Trekkies should not come as a surprise. I would have spelled it with one K, but I guess it follows the same rule as doggie, nutter, and coffee.

Anyhoo, at some point in the not-too-distant past, I came across the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, which are a must read. The Ferengi were an extraterrestrial race from Star Trek and they were obsessed with profit, sort of like the Underpant Gnomes from South Park.  In addition to the Rules, there are also the Five Stages of Acquisition, delineated here:

1. Infatuation: An unreasoning love or attraction … "I want it."
2. Justification: Moral excuse used to explain … "I must have it!"
3. Appropriation: To take to one's self in exclusion of others … "It's mine at last!"
4. Obsession: A compulsive or irrational preoccupation … "Precious!"
5. Resale: The action of selling something previously bought … "Make me an offer."

The time span between Obsession and Resale is amusing to consider. I prefer to think of it as split second, as flightiness is always funnier than being deliberate.

But it's necessary to be deliberate about meal planning and shopping to eat well. And doing your part to reduce waste requires taking responsibility for what you consume. Carting home market acquisitions in reusable bags has become a practice for many, but reusable produce bags are still up and coming. I began using these ones about a year ago after seeing many friends from Telluride using similar ones. The Town of Telluride went so far as to ban the use of paper and plastic grocery sacks, but plastic produce bags are still on display like those giant slabs of meat skewered and rotating before a vertical rotisserie in the window of  Greek restaurant. Well, there are no Greek restaurants in Telluride, or vertical rotisseries. My point was that many of the most environmentally friendly markets are still supplying plastic bags for produce.

Using reusable produce bags demands having an adequate supply of them, as some will remain in your fridge preventing the formation of fruit unions. I have five, and probably need five more. My system is to return my reusable grocery sacks to the car soon after unpacking them. The produce bags get tucked inside so they're right where I need them. Having a few more of them will really help. I often find myself at the market with only one or two reusables and need to supplement with plastic.

You can pick up the bags in many grocery stores. I like mine because they have a handy drawstring and they're washable. They make no claims about keeping produce fresh for longer, so you might look for something in that category if that's a concern for you.

Have a great weekend!

* Different from an alligator only in the shape of the jaw.

Read Full Post

Monday, June 20, 2011

Boka Group 86s Landmark

The hobo cookie, definitely.

If you had to pick the item on the Landmark menu that signaled that the end was near, it would have to be the massive chocolate chip confection that looked as if it were baked in a Campbell's soup can. No, they didn't intend for it to be shared by the table. To their credit, it was called Gigantic Chocolate Chip cookie on the menu. But nothing could have prepared me for its mass. It really was if they let a creative eight-year old come up with the dessert. The can shaped cookie was unsophisticated and an embarrassment, even to the server who presented it.

Boka Restaurant Group has a pretty good thing going. Perennial Virant opened in May (you could say it reopened but it was altered and improved beyond compare) and is turning out incredible food. Boka remains a safe bet and there's a 10-week wait for a table at Girl and the Goat (I'm going in mid-July).

So, the news that Landmark has closed and will reopen with a new chef and name (Balena, which is Italian slang for fat man) isn't surprising. Chris Pandel, who will run the kitchen, hails from The Bristol on Damen. He worked previously at Tru and Cafe Boulud in New York. He doesn't arrive at Balena with the buzz that Paul Virant still has, but I'm expecting good things in time for the 2011-2012 Steppenwolf season.

Read Full Post

Summer? Nice to meet you.

There has been some uncertainty regarding the season in which we find ourselves. I might point out to those among you grumbling about the rain and reluctant sun that it is still spring. Complaints can be free to flow in 24 hours. Until then, make peace with the rain.

Several things change in the tide between seasons. Winter is over when the last Ruby Red is shipped from Texas. Spring is over when the first corn and peaches hit Chicago. Where these come from is a question without a good answer. Independence Day is not far off and corn went in the ground late this year owing to record spring rainfall in the Midwest. Corn is nowhere near knee high and yet it's been on our plates for a few weeks now. When I go to Trader Joe's later today to refresh my supply of both I will make inquiries as to the origin.

This morning we enjoyed a fine breakfast of Crêpes, thanks to the efforts of four of my favorite girls on earth. They rose early and used every drop of milk and nearly every egg, but they made the batter and tucked in into the fridge to chill and rest, as is necessary for crêpe batter*. By the time I was up all I had to do was make a few lattes and warm my crêpe pans.

Since we wanted to make things extra-special for our houseguests we got really jiggy with flavors. Usually we just do cinnamon sugar or raspberry jam filled. Today I pulled out Catherine's blueberry jam, nutella, sliced almonds and chocolate chips and let people fill their own. Kata had a brilliant idea of adding sliced peach to one of hers. When she offered to fill one for me I had to try her combo: a thin slathering of raspberry jam topped with fresh peach slices and rolled up. Peach with blueberry jam was equally heavenly. We have a fair amount of batter leftover and I can't wait to have another peach-blueberry crêpe tomorrow.

I don't care to waste a minute on less-than-stellar produce so I'm always giving and taking recommendations for the best sources. The corn on the cob (unshucked) and peaches (by the case) at TJ's have been perfect. Don't be nervous about buying 12 peaches. You can always chop some up and freeze for smoothies.  Treasure Island has fantastic watermelons right now.

*  "Why?" you ask. Because after all that whisking you've worked the gluten in the flour. Retiring the batter to the fridge allows the gluten to relax again, ensuring the delicacy of your crêpes. If you don't allow the resting time, you risk a rubbery crêpe.

Read Full Post