Archive | March, 2012

Publican Quality Meats

31 Mar

The Publican, one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago, recently opened Publican Quality Meats, a contemporary American high-end sandwich and butcher shop.  I’m obsessed.

We stopped in for lunch for the first time last week.  Prior to PQM opening, we had talked with Ling quite a bit about the concept and the objective (for example, we spent a long night at the Publican some months ago discussing “mother” dough, the origin of all of the house-made breads at PQM), but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

The space is small and bustling – like a European market – especially at lunchtime.  It is part specialty store, part sandwich shop, part local grocer.  It is in the theme of the Publican (there’s that country, rustic feel) but has its own character, too.  The space is designed for quick turn over lunches and private dinner and cocktail hour events.  It’s an exciting space, if you like this sort of thing.  There are freshly baked breads, rows of thick cut steaks and sausages, an olive bar, complex cheeses, and special sodas and other treats.

The lunch menu includes a variety of interesting sandwiches, including a tuna muffaleta, pork belly gyro, and a special turkey sandwich with lime onions and piri piri sauce.  There are a number of soups and salads, too.  For lunch, I chose a lamb meatball sandwich – a slightly random choice for me, but it was delightful.  The meatballs were firm and slightly sweet.  The tomato-based sauce was tangy and cut through any heaviness in the lamb.  The bread was a soft, buttery white bread (like a gourmet hot dog bun, just to give you a point of reference).  The entire sandwich was topped with a cool slaw (no mayo!) for brightness.  All sandwiches come with house-made potato chips.

Delicious.

After lunch, Ling took us on a tour of the prep kitchen.  This blew my mind.  What appears to be a fairly simple operation on top is actually a complex, brilliant, food-producing machine underneath.  PQM has a meat closet filled with animals waiting to be prepped  (my way of saying butchered – yikes),

and an entire line of chefs butchering meat, making salads, sauces, sausages, and more.

It’s truly amazing.  And solidified, for me, the brilliance of Paul Kahan – his food, his restaurants, they are the real deal – there is nothing incidental or unplanned.  PQM is no exception.

Have you been?  If not, go!  You’ll love it, I’m certain.

Have a great weekend!

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You Can’t Take The Food Lover

23 Mar

So, I had an emergency operation last week.  It came out of nowhere, and was horrible, but I’m OK – getting better and better, anyway.  And this is not the focus of this post.

After my surgery, which was about two hours long, the first thing I asked for was my husband.  The second thing I asked for was a deep dish pizza.  Yep – I had one delivered directly to my post-op recovery room.

(To be honest, it was better in theory.  I managed about three bites of one slice and that was about all.  I wasn’t quite ready for it.  At that point, it was after midnight, and Abe had fallen asleep on the nice pull out bed next to the window, so it was a one-man show.)

See, this is the focus of this post: you can take the girl to the ER, but you can’t take the food lover out of the girl.

Have a great (healthy!) weekend!

Beautiful Laura Gibson

16 Mar

My dear friend, Laura Gibson, has been described as gentle, wise, vulnerable.  Each of these words paint some picture of Laura – a small piece of her, anyway.  There is something so much more bold about her than this, though.

Laura is a pioneer of Indie, retro, vintage, gorgeous music, being the first of the NPR Tiny Desk series, among other things.  What I love about Laura’s music, above all, is how sweet it sounds.  Even when the tone of a song is quite dark, what you take away from it is something much closer to white, or relief.

Her lyrics are artful and deliberate.  She is smart, and you can tell, but there is nothing forced.  By drawing on an array of instruments and funky vintage microphones, and with the support of her fabulous band, Laura is making music that is both new and reminiscent.  It’s truly something to hear.

As one stop on an extensive North American tour, Laura and her band played a show here in Chicago, at the Hideout, last week (if you recall, the last time we were at the Hideout it was for a show of a very different nature).  It was a privilege, as always, to be in the audience.  Laura has a wonderful elfin presence – not that she is short – but she is at once demure and fully engaging.  You are compelled to watch and listen, but the watching and listening are not passive – you have to really look, somehow.

Laura’s recent album, La Grande, is lovely.  On this tour, she is playing songs from La Grande, as well as a few songs from prior albums (she has released eight, I believe).  And, throughout the show, Laura and the band share great stories from their recent European tour.  (She was cornered, for example, by the host of a French radio program and pressed to describe when exactly (or maybe how?) she lost her innocence.  This incident in response to Laura describing the track off La Grande, “Skin, Warming Skin,”  as a song about loss of innocence.  Laura tells the story in such a sweet and funny way, with a self-proclaimed horrible French accent (though I thought it totally worked).)

As we speak (write!), Laura and her band are playing and telling stories at South By Southwest.  If you are there, go see her!  You can check out her schedule here.

Of all the ways Laura and her unique presence and musical offerings can be described, for me, beautiful suits her best.

Chocolate Orange Granita

9 Mar

Granita, a delicious, shaved coffee icy of sorts, is commonplace in Italy – you see it in every gelato bar – but hard to find here in the States.  The good news is that, with few ingredients (coffee, sugar, water), it’s super easy to make.

The other day I was watching Food Network and Ina Garten made a chocolate sorbet that looked rich and amazing.  Somehow, despite the many random things we put on our registry, we didn’t register for an ice cream maker, so I couldn’t make that.  But, I figured I could make a chocolate granita, which would serve basically the same purpose.

This dessert takes two seconds to make (with some patience required for the mixture to freeze).  It’s light, where desserts are concerned, anyway, and super satisfying.  This is my chocolate orange granita, a twist on both traditional coffee granita and chocolate sorbet.

Chocolate Orange Granita

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of cocoa powder

2 cups of water

2-3 tablespoons of 2% milk

1 tablespoon of vanilla (homemade by msupermom, if you’re lucky!)

1-2 tablespoons of orange zest

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Directions:

Add sugar, cocoa powder, and water to a pot.  Turn heat to medium high.  Add milk, vanilla, orange, and cinnamon.  Stir until ingredients are melted (if the mixture is thick, add a touch more water or milk – it should be liquid).

Pour mixture into a baking dish.  

(You can see the orange zest and specs of cinnamon in it – yum.)  Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer.  Check periodically (every two hours or so).

As soon as it begins to freeze, take a spoon or ice cream scoop and scrape the mixture.  

Continue to do this as it freezes (it take about a day to freeze solid).  The end result should be a complete shaved ice consistency.

With this recipe, you will be surprised how rich the chocolate tastes and how pronounced the orange zest is.  It feels so much more special than you would think.  (For a traditional topping, add real whipped cream.)

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think!  Have a great weekend!

Best Restaurants In America – Bonus Post

8 Mar

I love this list of the 101 best restaurants in America.  Thanks to Sunil for sending it along.  

[Photo Credit: 101 Best Restaurants In America Slide Show]

The list was generated by food and wine editors, chefs, and food writers from across the country.  In all, it’s inspiring.  So many amazing places all over the country.

For me, the best ways to use this list include: (1) for the places I’ve been, to consider the review and whether those places are worthy of their placement; and (2) for the places I’ve not been, a jet-set travel list of where to go right now (or as soon as possible).

In the year of Professional Chicks, we’ve talked about Osteria Mozza (#6), Alinea (#2), Next (#28), Babbo (#14), Animal (#25), Frontera Grill (#30), Joel Robuchon Las Vegas (#32), The Publican (#63), and Gjelina (#78).  Not bad, but we have our work cut out for us.

First restaurants on my list of places I would like to go: The Inn at Little Washington (I have been dying to go here since I was a little girl) (#35), Michael Mina in San Francisco (#99), Herbfarm in Seattle (#70), and The Barn at Blackberry Farm (#66) (where Bob spent a weekend and said he had several of the most incredible meals of his life).

Abe better get packing!

What restaurants have you been to on this list?  Any you have been wanting to try?  Please share!

Professional Chicks Goes To Prison

2 Mar

Alternative title: Professional Chicks Drops Abe Off In Prison.

OK so early this week Abe learned he would have to take a deposition in Vienna, Illinois (to be clear, it is pronounced Vy-enna).  Vienna is approximately 6 hours south of Chicago.  It is a town of 1,200.  (I am getting ahead of myself but when we first got to town we asked a couple on the street if there was a coffee shop where we could sit and do some work.  They suggested we try the pizza parlor.  Huh?)  The closest airport is 3 hours away.  There is basically no good way to get there.  After looking into flights to St. Louis just so he could rent a car and drive an additional 3 hours, Abe decided to drive the whole six hours (twelve hours total).  And he recruited me for the road trip.  One benefit of working for myself is that I can take a road trip on a random Thursday, so we work up at 4:30 a.m. and started driving.

There were a few unanticipated aspects of our trip.  First, there are more people on the road than you would expect at 5:00 a.m.  Second, the drive downstate is peaceful, and became increasingly beautiful as we went.  As we drove south, the weather was increasingly warmer – from 30 degrees to 60+ – which makes sense if you think about it.  I mean, by the time we got down to Vienna, we were not far from Nashville and Memphis (these are in different directions, but close to Illinois it turns out).  The trees had leaves on them again.  It was like traveling through the seasons, which was nice.  Half way to Vienna there was a massive cross by the side of the road, too.  It’s hard to appreciate the size here – it was truly towering.

While it was still early, on Kate’s recommendation we stopped in Champaign, Illinois for delicious fresh brewed peppermint tea from Aroma and pastries from Pekaia.  Small town specialty pastries are my favorite, and I had the best almond croissant I have had since Hendrickxs.

Abe’s deposition just so happened to take place in a prison.  The deponent, a witness to a roofing accident, has since landed himself in jail on various armed felony counts.  I felt like I was dropping Abe off at a super weird school where either suits and ties OR orange jumpers are mandatory and the school is surrounded by a large barbed wire fence.

I found a McDonalds, the only place in Vienna with Wi-Fi (love it – by the way, the pizza parlor did not have Wi-Fi), and waited for Abe to get done.  After, we stopped at La Fiesta for some (surprisingly decent) Mexican food despite being in a strip mall, and then headed back 6 hours virtually without stopping.

Twelve hours of driving later, we were back in Chicago just in time for an episode of Battlestar Galactica and more tea.  For some reason, it felt like we had been away from home for a long long time.

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