Alternative Dining in Chicago

By Kim Campbell (Kimchic)

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A handful of creative food venues, designed to throw us out of our comfort zone by highlighting the skill of enterprising new chefs, offering eclectic cuisines, or whisking up anticipation over a new restaurant, help make up the Chicago phenomenon that is alternative dining. 

Pop-up restaurants, supper clubs, underground dining, and Chaos Cooking are among the out-of-the ordinary culinary experiences available to the adventurous Chicago diner. Some of these concepts have been around for decades; some are being reinvented by new chefs to fit modern tastes. They’re doing this by using social media to build hype, by incorporating contemporary concepts (such as using organic and locally-sourced produce), and by adding new twists to older concepts like the potluck. Read More…

Home Cookin’ 5: Cool Yiayia

by Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

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Synglitiki “Tita” Zervos comes to the United States in 1961 imagining she’ll live in the White House or a Hollywood mansion. From her tiny island of Kalymnos off the Southern coast of Greece (population 1,500), it seems possible. Based on American movies, her impression of the United States is all presidents and movie stars. Little does she know what lies ahead: a life full of cooking, family, and later – memories.

Childhood in Greece

As the third daughter in a family of nine, growing up in Greece during World War II is tough, but not as tough as it is for many of Tita’s neighbors. Bombs destroy the house next door to their family bakery. German and Italian soldiers occupying the island conscript her father to bake bread for them. Convincing them he needs helpers for the task at hand, he brings all 46 members of his extended family to work in the bakery. Besides not knowing what it takes to produce said bread, the soldiers don’t really know how many loaves 100 kgs of flour makes, either…let’s just say no one goes hungry.
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Heaven and Earth in Xian: Persimmon Cakes and Terracotta Warriors

By Josephine Hyde (Josephine)

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Like most visitors to Xian, China, my husband and I were drawn by the prospect of visiting the site of one of the most significant archeological discoveries of the 20th century: the Terracotta Army of China’s first emperor. What we did not foresee was the remarkable variety of street food that awaited us in Xian’s Hui Muslim quarter. How were we to know that, amid the banquet before us, a humble persimmon cake fried in oil would be the one souvenir we were determined to take home?

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Craft Distilling 101 with North Shore Distillery

by Katje Sabin (mamagotcha)

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Tucked in a cluster of small industrial buildings between a freeway and a field, amid loading docks and drainage ponds, is a tiny storefront with a half-barrel of herbs and cheerful little holiday lights in front. Just off I-94 in Lake County, about 28 miles north of O’Hare, you’ll find the tasting room and production facility of North Shore Distillery, Illinois’ very first post-Prohibition maker of hand-crafted spirits.

I climbed out of the car and listened to trucks downshifting in the distance, with a counterpoint of small birds happily celebrating the fact that they’ve just survived Chicago’s worst winter in recorded history. I walked across the asphalt under the weak spring sunshine, not sure what to expect: a rickety Rube Goldberg-style tangle of pipes and flasks? Big oak barrels and good ol’ boys in trucker caps and overalls? A brisk and businesslike sterile laboratory? I am clueless, but North Shore Distillery’s co-owner Sonja Kassebaum has kindly offered to educate me in the ways of small-batch distilling, and I’m reporting for my first (and only) day of class.

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