Sloppy Jo's Lunchroom

Welcome Kate, guest blogger extraordinaire, with her suburban slop-sloppy jo adventure!
One evening, Desi and I were watching some sort of MetroMix show and they featured Sloppy Jo's Lunchroom. We decided that this might be the best idea ever and that we needed to check it out. So, Myself, Desi, Tim and Micah set out on the first big snow day of the year to Highland Park to eat some sloppy jo's.

Here are some of the finer points of Sloppy Jo's Lunchroom:
1... it's decorated adorably...
2... it has lots of candy...
3... you can play with Etch-A-Sketches...
4... the buns are un-cut and hollowed out instead, so they're easier to eat...
5... they use recycled materials...
6... it's cheap as hell
7... it's only 20 minutes away

Their Adorable Little Sloppy Jo Character.

I Etch-A-Sketched My Name.

The Etch-A-Sketches

The Recycling Info.

Super Cute Decorations and Super Super Cute Micah.


Also Yum.



Some More Brewin'

Beer babies!

And now the exciting middle-part of Carmen's brewing adventure. (side note, her friend Carlo lives a block away from my new place. Score! I am totes inviting myself to the conclusion of the brewing process) Take it away Carmen.

Its been 2 weeks since we put our wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer or whisky) in an air tight carboy with a small packet of yeast. It has since then fermented into beer. Carlo and I met up this weekend to take our next step in the brewing process. Carlo sprung for the kegging system. He didn't like waiting anymore. Plus, how cool would it be to pull up to party with a keg of your own beer?!

The first thing we did was clean the keg really well. It was an old 5 gallon soda keg that smelled like sprite. After it was nice and clean Carlo siphoned his porter from the carboy into the keg. While that was happening, we poured 15 shots of espresso into the keg. He then attached the Co2 to the keg and turned the gas and shook the keg for about an hour so the Co2 mixed in well with the beer.

I then took Carlo's carboy and cleaned it out so we could transfer my IPA for the dry hopping process. I ordered some whole hop leaves from American Brewmaster. When it came in the mail at work I walked around and showed it off even though it was in a vacuum sealed foil bag. I was so excited to finally open it. Carlo and I had to taste it. It pretty much tasted the way it smelled...really hoppy.

While siphoning the IPA from the yeast filled carboy into a clean carboy, I added the whole hop leaves. We also took that opportunity to pour ourselves a glass of the beer post-fermentation and pre dry hopped. It was fantastic! I then gave it a good mix and sealed it back up. The hops won't make the beer stronger in alcohol content. Instead it gives a good strong hoppy aroma and taste.

My IPA post-ferment pre-added hops. It was so good. It wasn't carbonated though. It has such a beautiful color.

We returned to the keg. After adding the Co2 and shaking it for a while Carlo had to try it. Unfortunately, the beer shot out at full force giving us a pint full of head. It might of been a combination of the pressure that was built up and the constant shaking of the keg. So we let the pint settle a bit and the tasted the coffee porter. It was fantastic. Carlo decided it was probably best to let the keg rest and cool down before trying to pour another glass. If all goes well, he should be enjoying a nice pint of coffee porter as we speak.

Gotta let the beer relax!

Tune in next week for bottling!


New Veggies Needed!

So I'm sick of the MS Paint veggies above. You know the Broccoli, Cucumber and Jalapeno peeps. So I'm calling for submissions. You know you're bored at work right now. Take 5 minutes and make me a veggie-themed artistic masterpiece. The best veggies will be featured on my new blog header!

Stevie's Morsels

Hello folks. I moved yesterday, from Bucktown to Pilsen, and I currently feel like I fell off of a cliff. Please excuse any typos or nonsensical sentences. And look for lots of Pilsen correspondence, as I discover my new neighborhood (which feels kinda like my beloved Brooklyn). Until then, enjoy the morsels of Mike's Wives bassist, Stevie!

Stevie G
Age: 27
Occupation: Assistant Director of a Contemporary Art Gallery
Resides in: Humboldt Park, Chicago

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
The String Cheese Incident… obvio... consistently sick first sets

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Sweet potatoes... either in French fry form, mashed with cream and butter, or baked with brown sugar and marshmallows.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Soft serve from Tasty Freeze

4. Favorite food show:
Mexico: One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless on PBS. His daughter is seriously annoying and I hoped she would fall into the backyard pit during the slow roasted pork episode. She didn't. However, Rick's Chicago garden is amazing!
[ed. note - hilarious because as much as I love Rick, the daughter needs to go. The 6th season of the show starts in April.]

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
A giant slice of cheese from Bacci's complete with a generic fountain drink.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
I've never been to a steakhouse, but if I do go I will order a baked potato with sour cream. I hope that's an option.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
On the rare occasion I go out to eat, it better be Kuma's Corner, during a weekday afternoon without any bummer long lines. I always get a veggie burger with bacon, usually the Yob or Mastodon. Waffle cut fries on the side never hurt anybody. Their jalapeno-infused vodka makes a delicious Blood Mary, but for my money, go when Brittany's working and get yourself an endless pint of diet coke.

8. How do you take your coffee?
Hot off the French press, with lots of soy milk

9. Top 3 condiments:
• Nacho Cheese [ed. note - as in pump cheese??]
• Mustard
• Sweet Relish

10. How do you like d'em apples?
Green, sliced and accompanied by Brie and honey


Toy Food...Like Real Food But Toy

Ever since my babysitting days in college, I've had a weird fascination with toy food. And apparently this guy does too. Check out this ode to toys made to mimic food. Careful, it's catchy.

It Takes A Garden

And now, a much-needed guest blog from my LA-lady, Smitty. This is a bit of a new type of post for The City Vegetable, but you know what, I like it! Enjoy this Oscar-preview.

The Garden

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, I want to share with you a movie that you probably have not seen or heard of, but is one of the nominees for best documentary at the Oscars this year, called The Garden. I happened upon this movie at the Zocalo public lecture series a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, or what the movie was really about -- I just knew it had something to do with urban gardens. Little did I realize, I had stumbled upon one of the most compelling stories I'd seen on film in a long time; probably because it addresses a bunch of topics that I'm really interested in -- namely, Los Angeles current events and politics, urban poverty, sustainability and urban development, mixed in with some old fashioned corruption and shady characters (no, Blagojevich does not make an appearance).

Anyway, I won't spoil the drama of the film for you in case you happen to see it (which I suggest you do), but as you'll see in the trailer, it's the story of the largest urban farm in the United States. Directly after the Rodney King riots in 1992, 14 acres of blighted urban property was turned over to the community and converted into farmland -- in the middle of South Central Los Angeles. These 14 acres ended up directly feeding over 300 families, and countless more throughout the community. Through a back room political deal in 2004, ownership of the land was turned over to a local developer, and the farmers are told they have to leave so that a warehouse and soccer field can be built on the land. It's a fascinating story that swings from jubilant highs to devastating lows, but the most compelling parts of the film show these farmers finding their voice and fighting to keep their land (it's great to see real-life community organizers in action, and chants of "Si se puede!" long before Mr. President made it cool).

I don't think this movie stands a chance against the other nominated films (particularly the celebrated Man On Wire, and Werner Herzog's newest Encounters at the End of the World). I actually don't think The Garden has even been shown in theaters, something that can't bode well for its chances of getting the Oscar nod. But in this case, I think it truly is an honor just to be nominated, particularly if it draws more attention to this important story.


Shannon Wine

This is what I drank with dinner tonight (feta cheese flatbread, btw).

California's Shannon Ridge Vineyards have great labels (which I admit, is definitely how I usually choose my wine) and the Barbera, which I had never had before, was delicious. Bold and spicy, it's my new favorite. The fact that it shares my name is just a bonus!


Kate's Morsels

Age: 27
Occupation: High School English Teacher (!!!)
Resides in: Humboldt Park, Chicago

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
I've been listening to the new Andrew Bird a lot lately. And since chickens are "birds," I hope that counts...Plus, the album is called Nobel Beast, and cows are "beasts." So....

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Butternut Squash roasted in the oven with a bit of butter and salt. [ed. note - you are a girl after my own heart.]

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?

4. Favorite food show:
Top Chef. Sadly I have class on Wednesday evening and have missed the last few episodes, I may have to get DVR for this show alone.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Regular Coke and Chachos from La Pasadita. The Chachos generally make me sick in the morning, but I like to blame that on the alcohol, not the greasy, cheesey, meaty mess that is Chachos.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
I don't think I've ever been to an official steak-house, but I was at my parent's for dinner last Sunday and my dad threw together some home made Macaroni and Cheese as a side for our steaks. Amazing.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Probably Tank in Roscoe Village. It's a pretty standard Sushi place, but on weekends they have half price rolls.

8. How do you take your coffee?
Lots of half & half and a few Splendas.

9. Top 3 condiments:
• Honey [ed. note - nice choice!]
• Ranch Dressing
• Sriracha

10. How do you like d'em apples?
Dipped in peanut butter.


Split Pea and Ham Soup (vegetarian style)

Guest blogger Carbomb is back with a super-delicious-sounding-mouthwatering-take on Split Pea and Ham (Tofu).

One of my favorite soups when I was not living with a veggie was split pea and ham. There's just something so right about the flavor and consistency of mushy peas and then bits of savory meat in the middle of that thick delicious soup. I've made a variation that the whole house can eat and I pretend that tofu is as good as pork.

For the soup:
Vegetable broth
Salt & Peppa
Of course, lots of peas (I just had a bunch of frozen peas, but you can go authentic with split peas if you got em)

I let that cook up until the potatoes are tender and the flavors have had time to hang out. While that's going, I take my brick of extra firm tofu, quarter it and rub both sides with salt, pepper and a Jerk rub that was intended for pork, fish or chicken, and approximates what the flavor might be on real protein - on the tofu. Heat oil (I used a garlic/hot pepper infused oil for even more kick) in a pan and cook up the tofu until it's nice and crusty with all the flavors.

Take the soup and food processor the crap out of all of it until it's nice and thick and smooth. Throw it back on the stove, toss in some corn to add some texture. Dice the cooked up Jerk tofu and toss it in the soup as well. Cheese makes everything better, so throw some of that on there too and you have a nice approximation of split pea and ham soup that your veggie-for-18-years fella can enjoy.



Please welcome guest blogger Carmen, who is going to fill us on her attempt to make sweet, sweet beer in her very own home. Trust me, this isn't Mr. Beer.

My friend Sara and I recently took a class on brewing beer. Needless to say it was the best damn class I've ever taken. So instead of waiting to see how our pale ale turned out, I asked my friend Carlo (beer brewing master) if he would like to have a brew session. So we took advantage of the February heat wave and brewed some beer on his back porch while others were drinking on stoops and rooftops.

Carlo's old roommate was a chef and bought tons of equipment for brewing and then moved to New York leaving it all behind.


Next we took a trip down to Bev Art Brewer and Winemaker Supply, where I took my class the week before, to get ingredients. Carlo wanted to get started on making a coffee porter. So he went with a Robust Porter kit. I'm a huge fan of hops so I decided to go for the India Pale Ale kit.


We started by heating up about 5 gallons of water. We had to have it at a temperature that wasn't boiling so we could soak the barley for about 15 minutes.

Then we brought it up to a boil (about 212 degrees Fahrenheit). That's when we added the malt extract and bittering hops. We then let that boil for about 55 minutes, added the finishing hops and let it boil for 5 more minutes before running the counter-flow chiller. This bad boy built by Carlo chills a 5 gallon vat of boiling beer in 5-7 minutes. Its pretty much just a copper coil with cold water running through it.

Next we prepared the yeast and then poured it into the carboy. Then we poured the beer from the boiler into the carboy, then sealed it up with the airlock. The processes were pretty similar for both beers.

The IPA turned out lighter than the porter. In about 2 weeks, Carlo will be adding 15 shots of espresso to give his coffee porter its flavor and I'll be adding whole hops for a process called dry hopping which gives the beer an enhanced hop aroma. Then 2 weeks after that we'll be bottling...

The beer baby.

Leftover yeasty film from the process

TO BE CONTINUED....tune in, 2 weeks from now, for an update on our brewin' crew.


Coming Up: 2nd Annual Chicago Restaurant Week

I'm always torn when it comes to "Restaurant Weeks". I think it's because I had a bad experience last year during NYC's Restaurant Week. We went to Tabla, an amazing Indian food restaurant in Union Square, which normally was way out of my price range. The food, as expected, was delicous, but the way they limited the options and portions for the RW-specials, left me feeling like I got a raw deal. I can't say if that's how it's done here in the Chi, but I'll sure try to find out!

Check out more here about the good deals during Chicago Restaurant Week, which runs February 20 - 27.

All particpating restaurants (of which there are hundreds!) have the following deals in place:
• $22 for 3-course prix-fixe lunches
• $32 for 3-course prix-fixe dinners (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity)

Just In Time For My Move to Pilsen

Simone's, a new "bar and grill" opening this Thursday in Pilsen, comes to us from the owner's of dance-house Danny's and one of my old standbys, Northside. The food sounds delicious, but what has me excited is the cocktail menu. I'm a sucker for any place (and I mean any place) with a seperate cocktail menu. And this one does not disappoint - with drinks like Pisco Sour (here's a shout out to my Chilean ex-roommate Tamara, who introduced me to the picso!) and a Zimbabwe, which inclues one of my favorite drink ingredients, Campari, I'll be sure to frequent this sweetly named joint in my new neighborhood. See ya there!


Tim's Morsels

I couldn't decided which Tim picture to use. The obviously each have their own merits. So enjoy both!

Tim S.
Age: 28
Occupation: Music Biz Promo Guru, Blogger
Resides in: Logan Square, Chicago

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
It's already been said by one of your interviewees, but Phish.

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Mushrooms. Sauteed on a a burger with Swiss cheese.

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mint Chocolate Chip. It's always been my favorite, although I do love a good vanilla.

4. Favorite food show:
Top Chef all the way. Padma: oh my.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
A Trader Joe's veggie corn dog and a beer.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
Mashed potatoes and gravy.

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
I've been lucky enough to go to Alinea twice in my life. The second time was my 27th birthday when we were served 27 mind-blowing courses. There was life before Alinea, and life after. Certainly the best dining experience of my life and one could reasonably argue that it's the best restaurant on earth.
[ed. note - Please check out the pics on Alinea's site. True food porn, to make even Anthony Bourdain proud.]

8. How do you take your coffee?
Darker roast, fair trade & organic, with plenty of cream and sugar.

9. Top 3 condiments:
• Mayonnaise
• Ketchup
Soy Vay Island Teriyaki
[ed. note - I really enjoy their regular Teriyaki, nice choice!]

10. How do you like d'em apples?
In unsweetened organic sauce form, as a side dish for a great sandwich or some mac and cheese.

Taco Mex for Mija

Peen's Grandma recently passed away. So last weekend, I went over to her house to help her start cleaning, sorting, and organizing her grandma's things. We needed fuel for this heavy task, so we met Peen's sister at Taco Mex, right off of 106th, on the South Side. Taco Mex is known for their tamales so what else did I order but cheese and jalapenos tamales! The corn husks filled with corn meal were creamy with just the right touch of spiciness from the peppers. Peen and Marcy rounded out the meal with an order of Carnitas and Chilaquiles.

After stuffing ourselves with rice and beans, we went to work, for a good 4 hours - cleaning and sorting through years of her grandma's life. We found the papers she got when she walked across the border from Mexico to Texas many years ago. We found the drawings that a little Peen had made for Grandma back in 1986, still in perfect condition. In the kitchen, there were giant clay pots that she used to make beans right on the stove, and old fashioned ice-cube trays. We found potions and powders, left over from her superstitious beliefs. And at every turn, there was a framed Jesus staring right back at us. But as we sorted through her life, we hoped that Grandma could somehow feel the care and love that we put into this task.

Sadness aside, we found some amazing stuff.

Grandma had some amazing glasses. And hats.


Chicago's Power Lunch

Walking into Petterino's, in Chicago's Loop, I like to pretend that it's 1940 and I'm here on some glamorous errand for my hard-driving boss who "talks like this, ya see?" and I have to lock in the deal before my 2nd dirty martini arrives and my Steak Diane gets cold....

Ok ok, so I get carried away easily, but it's not hard, with the large red booths, wall of caricatures, and supper club style comfort food, to be swept back into the era of sophistication. Adding to the vintage atmosphere is the feeling that around you, dine some of the city's business and entertainment elite, power lunch style, where booth's are marked with gold plaques designating them as "Reserved". My last trip there I saw Brian Dennehy walk slooowly to his table. He's currently staring in Desire Under The Elms at the Goodman Theatre, which connects right to the restaurant. Because of this, the spacious dining room is a perfect stop for a pre-dinner bite.

But today, I'm here for lunch, which starts off with the perfect little bread basket, consisting of rye bread, some sort of cheese "crisp", onion rolls, and butter rolls. Quite delicious and I have to restrain myself from eating the entire thing.

As Javier studies the menu, who do we see in the background...?

Why it's our own embattled ex-governor, Rod Blagojevich!

After we ate all the bread, our main courses arrived. In keeping with the supper club theme, I had a Trio of Salads. Cesar, Wedge and Tuna to be exact. It's a surprinsgly rich and filling dish, that often satisfies a junk food craving (let's face it, there's nothing healthy about this trio).

My other power-lunchers ordered the puff pastry chicken pot pie, which by all accounts, was better than grandma's!

And for dessert, Petterino's offers "two bite" treats for $1.95 a piece. Genius! And for someone like me, who isn't big on sweets, it's the perfect way to end the meal, and friendly on the wallet. The photo at the top of the post was the dessert I chose - a lemon puff that was just perfectly tart.

So the next time you want a throwback to more glamorous times, head on over to Petterino's for sympathetic bartenders and classic comfort food. But make a reservation - you'll need one.


Clancy's Fab Morsels

Age: 26
Occupation: Actor, Socialite (okay, and part-time hotel desk clerk)
Resides in: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

1. Favorite band with some sort of food in its name:
Tigercity. You can eat tigers. Not on vegetarian blogs. But you can.

2. Give us your favorite vegetable and how you like it prepared:
Brocolli. Steamed with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. I don't like the stems though, just the florets. Who doesn't like a bushy floret? That sounds bad..

3. If you could only eat 1 flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Vanilla. A simple, creamy vanilla ice cream has been with me through life's ups and downs. It's been there when there were no other ice cream flavors to choose from except maybe chocolate. It would be wrong to betray Vanilla's loyalty by choosing any other flavor for this hypothetical reality.

4. Favorite food show:
Top Chef because I love making fun of Padma Lakshmi. She's so pretentious and dumb, which is the one of the most annoying character trait combinations I can imagine. I have to tell a little story here about the time she came to the front desk drunk at 4am asking if I saw her pashmini scarf. It was nowhere to be found and she was seriously starting to cry. She was like, "it's pashmina... it's peach-colored.. you haven't seen it??" I was like, "No. sorry." All I could think of as she sulked away was how "pashmina" sounds like a mash-up of her first and last names. If I'd gone to grade school with her, that's the name I would have called her while throwing sand in her eye. And no, I didn't look for the scarf.

5. Please describe your ideal 2 am drunken feast:
Some Nacho Cheese Doritos, Vanilla Haagen Daaz, and a Red Stripe. Because that's the best I can do from the local corner store as I stumble home from the train.

6. Favorite steak-house side dish:
Baked potato with all the fixins!

7. If you live in Chicago, give us your favorite restaurant here in
Chi-town. If not, share with us the number one spot in your city
Buddakan - incredible atmosphere and food. Let's indulge next time you're in NY! [Ed. note - yes, please!]

8. How do you take your coffee?
Black and from a french press, with fresh-ground beans if possible! I just ran out this morning and I'm ravenous for it! Well, my roommate has a full unopened bag and she's out of town, but she wrote on it: "Do NOT open." and "NOT" is underlined like seven times. I guess I'll have tea.

9. Top 3 condiments:
I don't like condiments. [Ed. note - insanity!]

10. How do you like d'em apples?
with Fionas. Go to your itunes now and listen to "On the Bound" for old-times sake. You won't regret it.