Heaven and Earth in Xian: Persimmon Cakes and Terracotta Warriors

By Josephine Hyde (Josephine)

persimmoncakesfront

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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In Defense of Deep Dish: Ending the Debate Over What Defines Pizza

By Daniel Zemans (MarlaCollins’Husband)

pizzamalnatis

A bona-fide Chicago-style deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s

 

“They [Italians] would go to Chicago and they would kill themselves if they saw what was going on over there…It has nothing to do with pizza.” – Mario Batali

“It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.” – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

“Let me explain something: Deep dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza, it’s not pizza. It’s a f***ing casserole!” – Jon Stewart (spoken while using a picture of a stuffed pizza not deep dish as a visual aid)

There’s not actually a serious debate in this country as to whether deep dish pizza counts as pizza. It’s been called pizza since its invention in 1943; it’s universally referred to as pizza and it shares a flavor profile with every other style of tomato sauce-topped pizza. That said, the dissent seems to be increasing. It could just be that New Yorkers are getting even more vocal; it could be part of the move away from traditional red-sauced Italian-American food to more “authentic” Italian options; it could be that more willfully ignorant food writers are craving attention; or it could just be that Jon Stewart really does have that much sway over public discourse. Whatever the reason, now seems like a good time to make clear that the argument that deep dish pizza is not pizza flies in the face of pizza history, linguistics, and common sense. That’s the nicest way I can say that the argument that deep dish pizza is a casserole is complete and utter bullsh*t.

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Craft Distilling 101 with North Shore Distillery

by Katje Sabin (mamagotcha)

nsdethel
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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Home Cookin’ 4: Ronnie Suburban and Steve Zaransky

By Alan Lake (Jazzfood)

three-amigos

Steve Zaransky, Alan Lake, and Ronnie Suburban

Happening upon LTHForum.com was a game changer for me. After nearly two decades, I returned home to Chicago knowing the streets but not what was on them any longer. The city had changed quite a bit in my absence.

A mention of LTH in the Reader (probably by Mike Sula but I can’t remember) teased me with a cut-to-the-chase of like-minded people in all things culinary.  Every weekend for the first year I was back, my sister would show up at my apartment asking “Whattayagot? ” in an accent heard only around these parts. By that she meant, where would we be eating based on my newly gleaned knowledge from LTH discussions the preceding week?  We sampled Thai grocers and Pakistani BBQ, attended a few events, and in so doing met a lot of new people. People I never would have met left to my own devices. While I had old friends here that helped tip the scale to come back, now I have new friends too – many of which who’ve come via LTH.

In reading the forums, certain writing stood out. I found myself laughing and agreeing with some, and shaking my head and wondering with others. The first time I was able to put a face to a name was during the historic Fanny’s debacle of ’06. Having been weaned on Fanny’s, I went in with high expectations. I left feeling I’d experienced an abortion (a.k.a. the meal) without anesthetic. Misery loves company, though, and the company was excellent. That evening I met a couple of people who would become my friends. And then I met more. And more. So it’s safe to say that LTH had significant influence on me (as it has on many that are reading this).  This is but one reason many of us at LTH take this community so personally.

As if we own the damn thing.

But we don’t. Steve Zaransky, Ronnie Suburban and Dave Dickson do. So, I’d like to introduce you to two people (one I met that fateful evening, the other a short time later) that act as caretakers for LTHForum. Steve Zaransky and Ronnie Suburban. Since we’ve fressed so often together over the ensuing years, both in their homes and in the many restaurants found here on LTH, I thought they’d be naturals for this Home Cookin’ series.

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