Friday, June 29, 2012

Almond Butter

Before Dolinsky, there was Graham Elliot vs. Fuckerberg

The news that Graham Elliot booted Steve Dolinsky yesterday got me thinking that this might be a good time to post about the origin of my blog's name.

Well before Dolinsky's tweet got him onto Graham Elliot's shit list, my own unrelated actions on Twitter had made me Enemy#1. After eating at grahamwich, I tweeted some criticism of a lousy pickle I had tried, along with a line that said when it comes to grahamwich "I'm ready to stick a spork in it," referencing the cheap, useless, "whimsical" tools that Elliot's crew gives out as part of the sandwich shop's shtick.

I had no idea how rapid and ridiculous the firestorm would be following my tweet. Within minutes, Elliot had read my tweet, done some research about me, and found out my full name. This is what he tweeted back to me:

"Nice spork reference, fuckerberg."

That seemed in relatively decent humor, and for the moment I was just amused that a famous chef had bothered to respond at all to online criticism from a nobody like me. But what followed took a much meaner and more bizarre turn. A few minutes after the fuckerberg tweet, Elliott sent this to his thousands of followers:

"D-Bag Alert. Keep a lookout for this guy."

The above tweet included a link to a picture of me along with a short profile from a social networking site Elliot had found. I don't make any effort to maintain an anonymous online persona, so this didn't particularly bother me. I was surprised, however, that someone with such fame and success would act so childishly vindictive as a result of an admittedly snarky, but hardly personal post about his sandwich shop.

What followed from there was not really Elliot's doing, but he had started a comical storm of internet rumors about me, with my picture circulating among thousands of people, many of whom posted pretty nasty comments based entirely on false information that was being spread by Ari Bendersky at Eater and Audarshia Townsend at 312DiningDiva. First Townsend circulated my picture on her blog and twitter stream, captioning it with "OMG, Graham Elliott outed the 2-cent tipper". A couple of days earlier, there had been a widely circulated report of a guy who left a 2-cent tip along with a nasty note to his server. In Chicago, reports about the "2 cent tipper" and unconfirmed speculations about his identity had gone viral. Now, for some reason the Dining Diva believed she had gotten the scoop! Bendersky, ever-careful fact checker that he is, picked up Townsend's story and ran an article on Eater, again linking to my picture. Within hours, over a hundred comments were circulating around the internet bashing me and linking to my picture.

Though I had some choice words for Bendersky and Townsend - both of whom I still find to be useless, ass-kissing hacks whose main skills include shilling for chefs in order to gain access and cutting and pasting from press releases - for the most part I was humored by the fame I had gained for a day. Through this blog's name, I continue to try to milk it for all I can get.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Yo Face

So I was all done with facebook and closed my account and everything.  I was very bummed that I no longer see photos of my brother's son or know the daily whereabouts of my other brother.  But other than that I didn't really care.

Facebook is so weird.  People join and have like 300 friends and then no one says anything or posts anything.  And then if someone does you almost get annoyed with them, how dare that acquaintance I don't even know anymore get pregnant and post what size fruit her fetus is!  There's pressure to friend everyone who wants to friend you and then you hesitate to post anything because is it appropriate for ALL these people you barely know to read about?  How many cat photos are appropriate????  So I'm virtually silent, I don't even post when I had an emergency appendectomy, and I still don't know why.  I guess I was over Facebook by then.

And even then in the back of my mind I thought, well, maybe one day we'll be able to adopt and then I'll rejoin Facebook then.  That just speaks mounds.  It seems most if not all of my Facebook anxiety revolves around my infertility.  What is possibly left when everyone is posting about their kids???? Do I seem like the biggest loser in the world when I post yet another cat photo?  I think I do.  I do not know how to face infertility gracefully, I wish I did.  I think I'd have to have some crazy ambition in order to do that.  My ambition has been and will always be to have a family.  I couldn't give a rats ass about a career.  And even then do I post career bullshit while other people are posting baby photos and their kid's soccer practice.  It's just not the same, unless you're my brother and you are traveling and doing interesting things.

It's just so weird, facebook politics.  When I encountered privacy problems linking my pinterest without my knowledge or consent I just gave up on Facebook and closed my account.

And here it is just a few months later and a long lost friend FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY asked me to friend him on facebook or join facebook.  And it's like here's the person I really want to be Facebook friends with, the kind of thing facebook should be for, and I have to make a decision.  Do I rejoin Facebook or not?  I have to really think about this.

I want Facebook to be what I want it to be.  I want to do what I want to with it.  I want it to be like a blog or flickr but the difference is I feel like people find people they want to know about and read their blog or look at their flickr photos but on facebook I feel like it's a numbers game.  No one wants to hear from all 300 of their fake friends.  In a way I want facebook to be what I want it to be and I don't know if that's possible.

It's also rich coming from someone who actually has a blog and can write whatever she wants in it and never posts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hummus brushetta

Hummus recipe note: you can half the hummus recipe or enjoy leftovers - they're your chickpeas

In case you missed it

Our first hard-copy mag came out earlier this month! Exciting times here at Bona Food. So much wonderful and positive feedback coming through - we're loving it! Check out the virtual issue below. You can also order a hard-copy from our website by clicking here
Note: International friends, please choose the 2nd drop down option in your purchase to account for postage costs. Thanks!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Next: Sicily

Turning on a dime from 30-courses of molecular cuisine to a family-style Sicilian meal is certainly a challenge for a professional kitchen, so kudos to the Next team for pulling it off.  Because that’s what it’s all about, right?  We watch what we’re told are the greatest chefs in the world pull off the impossible!  We see a team of rising culinary stars push themselves to the limit without breaking!  Through playlists and handwritten notes, we experience the seamless transformation of a restaurant’s ambience from grade school cafeteria to Sicilian grandmother’s home!  I enjoyed much of what I ate at Next Sicily, but I just don’t value those other things by which I’m supposed to be impressed.  And without them, a meal at this price - with many service missteps and culinary failures – is not one to be lauded.

As is surely always the case at Next, the team serving our table was friendly and professional, if a bit overly rehearsed.  But polished they were not.  Our initial drinks were dropped off with no explanation by a runner who disappeared in a flash.  It took at least a couple of minutes for someone to come over and explain what we had.  After almost every course, my wine glass was removed while it still had wine in it, with no warning or inquiry about whether I was still drinking.  The staff seemed to be rushing to make sure they kept to a pre-determined pace.  One of our party received her dessert missing an integral component that everyone else had gotten.

While there were a number of food items I didn’t like, only one was a complete disaster.  The Bucatini in our first pasta course were unpalatably gummy, so while the flavors in the dish were fine, it was tough to eat.  Sometimes pasta texture is a matter of taste, but in this case I feel strongly that the kitchen simply produced something bad.  Not disastrous but still surprising for a meal with this price tag were the Panelle - light and crisp at the top of the serving bowl, but soggy and greasy toward the middle.  Garnishes throughout the evening generally disappointed me too, with big clusters of tough, tasteless leaves that seemed a better fit for rabbits.  They weren’t washed well enough either, as when I made the mistake of tasting one to see what it was (couldn’t tell, flavorless), I was left with a mouthful of grit.

To be sure, there was also some downright fantastic cooking.  I’ve never tasted a piece of swordfish cooked more beautifully, and I loved the lightly mashed chickpeas served with it.  The Cassata was a very special dessert – beautiful to look at with flavor and texture to match.  I loved that the kitchen dared to serve lamb tongue to a crowd with diverse culinary adventurousness, and it was delicious inside the light and wonderful arancini.

I paid over $200 for dinner at Next Sicily.  The magic these people have created is that for a fleeting moment, even I thought this was a bargain.  I’ve heard people laud Next as the future of dining.  I’ve heard them say that people who don’t rate it highly enough are simply living in the past, unwilling to see the way food is being redefined by Achatz and his team.  Call me a laggard, but I’m pushing back on a future where $200+ meals with gritty garnishes, gummy pasta, and rushed service are the pinnacle of dining.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chicken Works & Salad Company

You can't go a half-mile in my neighborhood without stumbling on one of the chicken joints, most of which feature very good South American-style rotisserie birds. These are mostly humble places - some of which might reasonably be called dives - that cater largely to a clientele of their countrymen. Among this crowd, Chicken Works & Salad Company stands out like a show poodle in a rescue kennel full of mutts. As far as I know Chicken Works has only one location, but the glossy menu board, cheery, uniformed staff and many meal deals scream "chain". Assuming the facade meant that this place would be appealing to the lowest common denominator of neighborhood folk afraid of people who don't speak great English and menus with amusingly bad translations, I waited quite awhile before checking it out. Don't be fooled as I was; Chicken Works is serving some outstanding food.

Birds here are marinated overnight in what tastes to me like a citrus brine, then butterflied and grilled over coals. The results are juicy and compellingly delicious flesh, with skin that crisps up a bit and is tender and tasty. In line with what one might expect from a glossy chain, side options are bountiful and diverse, spanning the gamut from baked potato and pasta salad to curry rice and carrots with pineapple. There's even a salad bar. Despite misgivings about whether such expansive offerings ever include anything of note, let me tell you that the curry rice light and flavorful, with a little sweetness and a little kick that make it an excellent accompaniment. Chickens also come with good, fresh-tasting pita that gets a last minute warm-up on the grill.

Chicken Works & Salad Company is a worthy place, not to be overlooked amidst the sea of fowl in the area.

Chicken Works & Salad Company
3658 W Irving Park Rd

Friday, June 1, 2012

Little Gray

So this is happening...

He does the best matador I've ever seen...

Maybe this one pulls the heart strings a little more:

 2 Saturdays ago I was on the deck feeding the outdoor cats when I noticed various strays running under the fence next door and then running back.  Then I heard this really sad kitten cry.  I had my pjs on so I yelled inside, "Brian there's a kitten crying next door!"  He ran outside and between the houses while I threw on some clothes and brought back this little floof ball with his eyes completely sealed shut with goop.  I tried to gently rub the crusties off but had no luck.  We called various vets and ended up spending Saturday morning waiting at the vet.  The vet got him cleaned up, even had to use a electric razor to my dismay, and gave us loads of medicines and some can food.  I gave him meds for 10 days and he did really great, he looks great and he's super sweet.  He's mastered the litter box but still can't figure out dry food.  He eats his food by sucking on it, it's kind of weird.  We're trying to find him a home because gee wiz, we do not need 5 cats.  He's so cute though.