Saturday, February 28, 2009

Salty island breezes, bone warming broth and my favorite of foods.

I haven’t been posting much because I haven’t been cooking much. I’ve been plagued by a hovering black cloud the past two months that seems to rain on everything I’ve cooked, depriving any joy in the process or consumption. I’ve been consisting on grapefruit, yoghurt with preserves and cereal in the mornings. Rice and salads in the evenings. Lot’s of meals eaten elsewhere. Breakups and challenging times do that to me. I’ll eventually snap out of it and regain my grace in the kitchen, but it’s no excuse to not write about what I’ve been learning. So here goes:

In Mauritius it’s a common treat to pick a pineapple from a tree and dip it in sea water, sometimes sprinkling a little spicy chili pepper on top. The first person to tell me about this was from the island. He was reminiscing about acquiring said pineapple and riding his bike down to the coast with a group of friends to pair it with the salty sea water. It was what they did on a lazy afternoon, with the sun shining and the ocean breeze blowing. It sounded like heaven to me, and I’m excited that he’s started a company that produces preserves and other spices and honeys from his native land. We should be getting them into the Deli in a few months, and my first bite of the pineapple preserves with chilies and salt will be taken with my eyes closed, imagining the smell of the ocean air and warm sun.

I was in my old haunting grounds of Chicago this past week, and my trip wouldn’t have been complete without a steaming bowl of Vietnamese Phở. Dora (ever passionate and knowledgeable about ethnic cuisines) and I piled the freshly torn Thai basil, ngò gai and jalapenos, sweetened it slightly with the hoisin sauce and spiced it with the Sriracha. It has a similar effect on me to how I feel when I’m immersed in a hot tub- it warms my entire body, all my yards of skin and organs from head to toe. It also makes me very sleepy, which was a welcome feeling since sleeping has been eluding me of late. I can never finish an entire bowl, though, and learned a great way of extending the joy from Dora: strain the noodles from the leftovers and warm it for breakfast the following morning. It’s my own version of ‘hair of the dog.’

I have a timeless friend named Brad who has a gracious place at the bar of a lot of the great unsung restaurants throughout the windy city. I always envision him doing a waltz between chatting with the waitress who’s inevitably a good friend, completing the latest crossword in the paper and watching baseball if there is a tele around. Saturday morning he introduced me to 'The Bristol' in Bucktown (2000 block of N. Damen). I ended up having brunch there two days in a row, and would have gone back if I could have. Straightforward and delicious, the small brunch menu features a lot of dishes involving eggs, all perfectly poached with gloriously runny yolks. The eggs benedict with stone ground mustard hollandaise sauce was great, as were the chilaquiles with New Mexican green chilies and lime, and the bourbon manhattans and bloody marys. There was duck on the brunch menu as well, which sounded equally promising. Next time.

No comments: