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Chicago food

My review of etta: tasting the magic of the hearth

I’ve always thought eggs are a pretty straightforward affair. Hard boiled, poached, scrambled, covered with hollandaise, smothered by chimichurri. There are numerous ways to reinvent tradition, and yet many of them invariably gravitate towards a few tried-and-tested standard applications. I believe that to make your breakfast/brunch eggs brighter and to make you truly happier, a journey of a special kind is needed – one which combines a passion for innovation with a love for quality ingredients, flamboyant and versatile, and most importantly, bursting with rich, immersive flavors. I recently embarked on such an incredible culinary journey at etta, and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, etta is famous for its wood-fired hearth, which bestows charred flavor to dishes ranging from focaccia to meatballs and from salmon to pizza. I visited etta (short for β€œHenrietta,” which in French means β€œkeeper of the hearth”) for brunch a couple of weeks ago, and I was impressed with the high quality of the ingredients used, as well as with Executive Chef Danny Grant‘s hearth-informed vision.

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More eating from the pantry: tricolor vegetable pasta salad – with fresh basil for DH!

If you’ve been reading my posts these past few weeks, you know what we’ve been eating up: the pantry! πŸ™‚ Every day this summer, I have worked diligently to declutter the pantry and to give new life to long-forgotten ingredients – and the work is far from over. In the process, I discovered I had a stockpile of high quality rice and pasta, perfect components for easy light summer salads. These pantry staples can be used creatively particularly in the summer, when there’s an abundance of in-season affordable produce.

Growing up, my family and I had no knowledge of pasta salad and how delicious it could be. We would usually eat pasta with feta cheese, if available, or with hot milk, with some sugar on top. Our meal was nothing fancy: pasta was sustenance, a good filler for our bellies when nothing else was available to eat. As we went on to discover different countries, cultures, and eating habits, we gained a better understanding of the versatility of pasta. We said goodbye to pasta with warm milk (we still make it from time to time, but as a treat/dessert, not as a main meal), and hello to pasta salads and their vibrant mix of flavors. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to pasta, right? πŸ™‚

To make the salad pictured above I used one of the best gourmet pastas I’ve ever had the chance to work with: Tuscanini Foods pasta, imported straight from Italy. Keep Reading

My visit to Arun’s Thai: the magic of approaching food as a postgraduate research project

Ask me about my favorite Chicago neighborhoods, and I’ll have two words for you: Albany Park. Every time I visit one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, I’m in for a treat. I love the people – warm, friendly, bursting with excitement and imagination -, the streets – a mosaic of cultural symbols seamlessly intertwined – and, of course, the food. Many popular Chicago restaurants are located in Albany Park, yet none of them manages to capture the hearts of minds of diners the world over like Arun’s Thai does, which I got the chance to visit recently.

Located on a corner lot on North Kedzie Avenue, next to a grocery store, Arun’s Thai Restaurant looks rather unassuming from the outside. Keep Reading

The magic of the foodie weekend: a recap of fun places & events across Chicagoland

Cake pops served at the recent official launch of Offshore at the Navy Pier

What are you doing this weekend? There’s so much to do, see and eat in Chicago, that choosing can be really difficult. Don’t worry: I understand – as a matter of fact, I’m in the same boat! How can I say “yes” to some experiences, and “no” to others? I want them, and I want them all, lol

And yet, I have to pick – and with that being the case, my first pick is Taste of Chicago. Keep Reading

ROOH: a story of belonging

Every now and then I come across a restaurant which makes me question my own food journey and my purpose in keeping this blog alive. I take the time to reflect on what I do and how I do it: Have I kept true to myself while writing all these stories and posting all these recipes? Have I remained authentic to those influences from my past, which have shaped me in profound and lasting ways? Is it still me who’s doing the writing – or is it somebody else, whom I barely know? This striving for authenticity has always interested me. There are so many stories out there that seem contrived, inauthentic, or downright fabricated – and so many restaurants which thrive on providing an embalmed, carefully manufactured version of their supposed true purpose. And then… there’s ROOH.

Meaning soul or spirit, ROOH is a restaurant which brings India to Chicago in a way that preserves the authenticity of the Indian dining experience while also gifting it with a fresh, innovative perspective. As someone who is familiar with traditional Indian cooking, I was looking forward to seeing how acclaimed Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar would rethink the fundamentals of Indian cuisine so as to epitomize a fine dining experience. I thought such a project had its risks, the most obvious perhaps being the loss of authenticity. As I stepped into the restaurant on its official launch night, I had one question in my mind: Will I be able to find the spirit of India at ROOH?

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My visit to Coarse Italian in Glenview: talking family and community with restaurateur Franco Francese

Ask restaurateur Franco Francese about his favorite food-related memory, and his face lightens up at the thought of Sunday dinners of years past. It was a family affair, with everybody sitting down at the dining table and waiting their turn to get rigatoni. As with many Italian dishes, the secret lied in the sauce – and the Francese family recipe was a work of wonder, featuring cow’s neck bones simmered for hours at a low temperature so as to slowly develop their flavor. “Family matters,” Francese tells me with a pensive voice. “It’s what molds us and shapes us as people. And it’s nice to work with family.”

It is this spirit of family and familial love that Franco Francese is bringing to the Glenview Park Golf Club with his latest restaurant, Coarse Italian, which opens for dinner on June 17. Keep Reading

My review of NRA Show’s centennial edition: when mindful eating takes center stage

Every year in May I get incredibly excited for what’s about to come. Not only am I eager to finish the school semester and enjoy a long-awaited summer break, but I also fidget at the thought of the upcoming National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show.Β In my opinion, this is one of the year’s best food-related events which take place in Chicago, unrivaled in scope, in number of attendees, in showcase of inspiration.

This year’s edition was bigger and better than ever before, for a good reason: restaurateurs and industry experts from all across America came together to celebrate 100 years of existence for both the National Restaurant Association and for the Show. What’s the connection between the NRA Show and my sandwich, pictured above? Read on for the answer 😉 Keep Reading