5.21.2009

A Day With Pete

A few weeks ago, on one of the hottest days in Chi in recent memory, Peen and I decided to grill out at her dad's place. To load up on succulent veggies and for Peen, juicy steak, we headed over to Pete's Fresh Market, about 6 blocks west of my place. (Side note, check out the picture on the main page of their website. I'm pretty sure that the lady has a crop-top and belly button ring)

Pete's is HUGE, super clean, has anything you could want, and best of all, is really affordable. It's a local chain with 6 area locations, many of which are on the Southside. My recommendation for local readers - do your grocery shopping at Pete's. I mean, just take a look...

Legumes. Lots of them!

Queso Fresco, Queso Ranchito, Queso Cotija, Queso de Quesadilla - a queso lover's dream.

Yes, this is their citrus section and yes, you could do cartwheels in this place.


Peen's namesake drank - the Juego de Pina! Pineapple juice for all!

After our trip through Pete's magical mart, we headed south to Calumet City, Illinois and set up shop in Peen's dad's backyard. Rufus ran around, happy to have a yard of his own and we got to work on the food. First things first, drinks! I whipped together a Pear and Cilantro Margarita. It was delicious and dare I say it...beautiful. (brought a tear to my eye) Here's the recipe for those adventurous mixologists at home:

Pear and Cilantro Margarita
2 cups of tequila
1 cups of lime juice
1/2 cup of Cointreau
splash of soda water
1 pear, sliced
A handful of cilantro leaves
Ice

1. Wash and trim the stems off the cilantro
2. Cut the pear into slices
3. Mix everything and blend until frosty
4. Enjoy outside with BBQ

Veggie kabobs and margaritas. A perfect day, all thanks to Pete!

5.19.2009

Cooking With Chayote

I bought a "soup vegetable packet" on my last trip to El Guero #3, my local Mexican grocery store. I'm trying to save money and nothing is better for that than whipping up a big pot of soup and living off of it all week. Boring? Sometimes. But friendly on the wallet. So anyway, the veggies included in this soup starter were a half of a cabbage, 2 carrots, one stalk of celery, a bunch of parsely and cilantro, an onion and something I had never seen before. See exhibit A below.

The vegetable above is a Chayote. It reminds me of an old man who lost his dentures. A few clicks on Google and I found out that this is a type of squash or gourd, and popular in Costa Rica and Mexico.

When putting together my cheap soup, I cut into the chayote, which looked like a green apple on the inside, chopped it into small pieces, and boiled it with the rest of the vegetables. Once cooked, it tasted like a cross between a potato and a bitter apple. I don't know if I've found my new favorite vegetable but hey, trying new things is always exciting to me. Thanks chayote!

Mr. Chayote, chilling with the Pilsen spice blend that Carmen got me for a house warming present.

Shaw's In The City

Shaw's Crab House is one of those Chicago restaurants that I had always wanted to try. I heard its name in the same sentence as "you gotta go" more than once. So I made a trip there on a recent Wednesday night, on the look out for crab legs and oysters.

When you enter Shaw's, you are greeted by a Maitre'd and either taken to your table in the main, formal dining room, or given the option to sit at The Oyster Bar - a much more casual room to the left of the main entrance. Because tonight was all about indulgence, we chose the formal dining menu and were guided into a large yet welcoming room, full of rich wood and deep reds. Very country club with a twist.

We proceeded to eat our way through the wonderful seafood menu with nary a complaint, outside of some shaky service from a waitress that we decided must have been new. Overall, a classic seafood meal, delicious in every way. But don't forget your credit card - this meal, especially if you like crab legs, will set you back quite bit. I say take your parents here the next time they're in town and see if you can get them to foot the bill. (Kidding, Mom!)

Who says you can't have a bloody mary with dinner? Especially if they come garnished with a huge shrimp! Lindsay, take note.

Our first starter (that's right, there were two) was a blue crab & artichoke dip, which arrived perfectly scorched on the top. Looking back, we probably could have done without this but what the hell! It was tasty but it's hard to go wrong with cheese, artichoke and crab.

Our 2nd starter - the classic cold seafood appetizer. Oysters, crab meat, and more shrimp - this tower of seafood, made me want to eat all of my food from a tower. Maybe one day...

The main event, although it may look puny, was a half-order of Alaskan King Crab legs. A lot of delicate meat was hidding in these claws, and with that, I was officially stuffed.

Shaw’s Chicago
21 E. Hubbard St.
Chicago, IL 60611
312-527-2722

5.15.2009

Mexican Food Delights

A few highlights from my recent trip down to Cancun, Mexcio (with none other than the Mexican-rapper, Peen)...

THE RESORT

We ate a lot (a lot!) of food at the resort we stayed at and they did not mess around. Fresh guacamole was always on the menu. My dream.

A plate full of fresh salads - romaine with an avocado dressing, nopalitos (cactus) salad with red onion and a light vinagrette, cucumbers with cilantro, carrot slaw, and my favorite - a lightly pickled red cabbage salad. Very very delicious.

CEJAS

This outdoor seafood restaurant can be found downtown, or centro, on the interior of a large flea market. Shrimp cocktail and calamari abound! This was my order or garlic shrimp. The veggies and rice were forgettable but the shrimp - oh the shrimp! Fresh, salty and most importantly, garlicky. I saw garlic shrimp on almost every menu in town.

A crab empanada. This was very fishy tasty, with little threads of crab, but was better with lots of salsa and lime.

Spanish Wal-Mart


That's right, we did it. We went to Wal-Mart. But only because it was 10PM on Mother's Day evening and everything else was closed! It pretty much looked like a regular old Wal-Mart, with some new and exciting products. One of these being Plantain Sunchips. I wonder if these will ever arrive in the US.

I saw Hawaiian Pizza advertised all over the place! In our hotel room, on the sides of buses, in this Wal-Mart. Peen said it's because people want meat on their pizza and ham is a cheap meat so this makes the Hawaiian pizza a nice option for those watching their pennies. But I don't know...any Mexicans have some insight for us on this trend?

La Parilla

This is where we went to see Mariachis - who will perform songs table side using violins, guitars, horns and a strong singing voice, for a fee. We probably spent $75 on Mariachis this night, entertaining Peen's mother with songs from her homeland. It was definitely a highlight.


This little girl was enjoying the music as well.

What swine flu? While we saw very few people wearing masks the entire trip, each restaurant did seem to have their own little bottle of hand sanitizer at the tables. Here's La Parilla's version. Better safe than sorry I guess.

Perico's

Perico's is a large restaurant located in Downtown Cancun and a favorite of Peen's family. The bar stools have saddles on them, the waiters play jokes on you and the menu is large. My kinda place. Being Mother's Day, we started off with a toast...eh...a shot of tequila...to honor moms everywhere! The tomato juice chaser was perfect.

The meal started off with a basket of chips and bread - served not with salsa but refried beans and red pepper butter.

Here is our waiter, Vazquez. As you can see, he was very talented and earlier in the night, he balanced 12 stacked glasses on his head. Seriously, Cirque du Soleil, here he comes. I love him.

The joke was on us...

The perfect margarita. Because of the swine flu scare, Perico's was only serving the buffet, and the place was empty by 8pm. They hadn't ordered enough food because of the decline in tourism and locals hanging out downtown. An interesting side effect of the flu hysteria.

Captain's Cove

After a huge meal of seafood at Captain's Cove, we all had Mexican coffees. The preparation for these was elaborate - heating of the sugared rim, flaming Kahlua, melted ice cream, cinnamon - it's all a blur. But it was quite delicious and a sweet sweet way to end the last meal in Cancun.

A flan double take.

5.08.2009

Adios!

I'm off to Mexico for a little beach R&R. Look for an in-depth taco report next week!

5.04.2009

Lao Shanghai

On a recent rainy night, I made the trip down to Chinatown, on a late night hunt for soup dumplings, also known as Xiǎolóngbāo. Slurping on the savory pouches of goodness sounded like the perfect way to end the day, so a quick drive around the Cermak and Canal intersection lead us to Lao Shanghai. Part of Tony Hu's restaurant group (along with Lao Sze Chuan, which I went to last week! Look for that post soon...), Lao Shanghai's windows are decorated with press clippings and yelp recommendations. We ducked in out of the rain and started on our Shanghai journey.

The mean started out with a Tsingtao, a Chinese beer, brewed since 1903. Light and mellow, it went well with the salty meal.

The stars of the evening, the soup dumplings. The waitress suppressed a laugh when I inquired about a vegetarian version, so when in Rome...the pork balls on the inside of the thin dumpling skin were surrounded by the savory soup filling. Comfort food at it's coziest. I wondered how they were able to get the soup inside of the dough and apparently, they cover the meat filling with a layer of soup gelatin, which melts into actual soup when steamed. Genius!

Braised Pork Belly in Preserved Bean Curd Sauce, which was almost like a plum sauce, in that it had a little sweetness to it and was nice and thick.

The old stand by - vegetable lo mein, with slivered onions, bok choy and charred noodles.

And with that, the two of us slipped off into the rainy Chicago evening, bellies full and minds wandering with thoughts of exotic places. For now, this is the next best thing.

Lao Shanghai
2163 S China Pl
(312) 808-0830