Monthly Archives: February 2013

L’ Patron

l' patron chicago 3rdarm al pastor

Raul is quoted in the Reader as saying his brother’s famous salsa still served at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo is from a family recipe to eat with breakfast. I have heard another story behind Ernesto’s salsa huevona. He would put the tomatoes, jalapenos and knob onions on the grill and forget about them while having a beer. It didn’t matter if the vegetables were charred beyond recognition, the flavors had deepened and matured in the roasting, and when hand crushed, the salsa is a perfect match for scorched meats. I don’t know if the story is true but the flavor is.

gringa l' patron 3rdarm chicago

The gringa with al pastor was maybe the best bite of food for me in 2013. The pork was rich and layered with rendered fat, seared hard, with blackened pineapple providing explosions of acidity. The thick masa tortillas captured the juices of the meat as well as the melty chihuahua cheese and a dip of salsa huevona. L’ Patron is doing a lot of things really well- the battered fish tacos with crunchy cabbage and tangy mayo were real satisfying, the cucumber water was refreshing in taste and viscosity. I can’t wait to go back for another gringa, maybe ask about the story.

You’re the Man Now Dog

topolobampo king orange pork belly bok choy 3rdarm

Every day, I come into work enthusiastic to be challenged by the learning and sharing of Mexican
culture. I care deeply about how I represent the hard work of so many talented and dedicated
individuals and have never been prouder to be a part of a functional working family. I am ready to
commit to my very best work and would like to take up where Dan, Matt and Max left off in the
management position at XOCO. I believe the respect I have for the vision, leadership and high
standards of Chefs Rick, Amado, Shaw, and Adrian, the professional relationships I have with the
XOCO staff, as well as my knowledge of XOCO systems, would all be key attributes.

pumpkin caramel cheesecake latizias chicago 3rdarm

XOCO leads the city in bringing together the trends of street food, craft beer, local and sustainable, and high value- its approachable and quick service yet the history and techniques behind the food and concept run deep. I would dedicate myself to best represent XOCO with the guests, to best teamwork, educate and learn with the staff. I am ready to do my very best.

Roy’s Taxi

3rdarm taxi cab 1991

Richard Linklater: See, so say I have a dream some night that I’m with some strange woman I’ve never met, or I’m living at some place I’ve never seen before… that’s just a momentary glimpse into this other reality that was all created back at the bus station. And then I could have a dream from that reality into this one, that like this is my dream that reality. ‘Course that’s kind of like that dream I just had on the bus… the whole cycle type of thing. Man, shit, I should have stayed at the bus station…

slacker 1991 richard linklater 3rdarm

Old Man: When young, we mourn for one woman… as we grow old, for women in general. The tragedy of life is that man is never free yet strives for what he can never be. The thing most feared in secret always happens. My life, my loves, where are they now? But the more the pain grows, the more this instinct for life somehow asserts itself. The necessary beauty in life is in giving yourself to it completely. Only later will it clarify itself and become coherent.

Slacker, 1991, written and directed by Richard Linklater


frontera grill topolobampo xoco chicago 3rdarm mexican chocolate

Notes from the Frontera pastry meeting- In custards, creams, mousses, and souffles egg white provides structure while yolk brings richness and mouthfeel. Flan which cooks in a ceramic mold that holds its shape doesn’t need a lot of egg whites but yolks will give it richer deeper flavor. Mexico introduced chocolate to the world, traditionally and contemporarily primarily for drinking. Cortez group loved chocolate and brought it to Spain, monks in southern Europe added sugar and some guy in England cut it with dairy to make it less expensive.

frontera grill melon 3rdarm

Chocolate pods grow like red / yellow / orange footballs from the trunk and when ripe they fall to the ground. Broken up, they’re white fleshy fruit with black seeds. The seeds go onto straw mats in the shade to ferment, which cuts down on acidity and matures flavor. The seeds are moved to full sun to dry completely. At XOCO we get the cocoa beans dried and roast them ourselves, low and slow at 270F to 300F, browning them to bring forward flavors. Winnow means chafe / skin separated from cocoa mass. Mexican chocolate is cocoa mass ground for about an hour with equal weight in sugar.

The Copycat

trencherman chicago 3rdarm mandarinquat vadouvan

I haven’t eaten small scallops from Nantucket Bay in the past two years since I left Cambridge. My favorite preparation is still East Coast Grill style- sauteed with brown butter, bacon, wilted spinach and a squeeze of lemon. I had the following dish at Trencherman-

Perhaps poached pink Nantucket bay scallops with a sauce mandarinquat, a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat, served with crumbly cauliflower, and vadouvan, a French masala curry of fenugreek, turmeric, nutmeg, cumin and red pepper burn, and garnished with small tart bright slices of mandarinquat.

Leo Limón

leo limon national museum mexican art 3rdarm chicago

The guy at the gas station in my neighborhood, the place where I get my New York Times on Sunday, asked why I haven’t been around. In the summer I would stop in for a soda or candy almost every day. But now in the winter I haven’t been making much, so I haven’t been around.

national museum mexican art chicago 3rdarm

He said that he would complete his masters in April and then go back to India to get a good job.

Alligator Ferns

alligator fern garfield park conservatory 3rdarm chicago

My friend from growing up in Connecticut visited Chicago with his girlfriend. I picked them up from her uncle’s place on Lake Shore Drive and took them on a hot dog tour. I fantasize about taking visitors to about seven different hot dog joints, but today we only made it to Phil’s where we split a char dog and a double fatso as midday snack. In the early afternoon we had quesadillas, huaraches, elote, churros, champurrado and Mexican coke. In the evening we went to Trencherman for dinner.

alligator fern 3rdarm chicago

For sites we did the Garfield Park Conservatory, National Museum of Mexican Art, Millenium Park for ice skater watching, and Timber Lanes for Midwestern bowling. I had a subpar outing on the lanes but still consider myself to be about a 180 bowler.

Nada Nunca No

topolobampo 3rdarm chicago

In my dream I was on the lower platform of the el at Division, following my cat. Roly Poly had run away and I chased him all the way to the blue line. I caught him by the train tracks and struggled to hold him to my chest. A stranger walked by with a raccoon on a leash. “You should put him on a leash,” they said.

topolobampo 3rdarm chicago

This week on Top Chef the cooks had to make a dish that represents the moment when they knew they wanted to be a chef. I thought about the moments that brought me into the restaurant business. The first job I ever dreamed of was to drive an ice cream truck. I remember sneaking into service areas at La Renaissance, an old school banquet hall in East Windsor, with my sister when she was in fashion shows. I wanted to know how the waiters lit the baked Alaska on fire table side. But it wasn’t until I dropped out of college and had to feed and take care of myself- when I became a fine dining dishwasher- that I found myself on the other side of dining.

Cerulean Warbler

pork belly salad topolobampo lunch 3rdarm chicago king orange bok choy

Etta brought Andrea and Julie in to Topolobampo for a champagne lunch. Andrea has an avocado allergy and the 32 hour braised shortribs I wanted them to try are served with a peppery salad of black kale rounded out by an avocado serrano chile and yogurt dressing. I talked to Chef Joel in the lab and he decided to make a new dish for them, pork belly and citrus. By the time Andrea and Julie are in San Francisco- the future of dining- the pork belly with bok choy and king orange will have replaced the shortrib salad. They got a taste of the future.

topolobampo chicago 3rdarm 900 blok san francisco

Before I got out the door and on my bike to ride to work this morning, I had a cup of coffee and added a quote by birder Starr Saphir to my blog. She was saying that taking folks out on tours of Central Park to see the birds made her and others feel less sad. I have been feeling a little down this winter, not a lot of sunlight. I think taking people on tours of food brings me into the world and away from sadness. Its not just feeding feelings- I’m enthusiastic and proud of my food knowledge.

Hollander Glass Central

3rdarm chicago glass fusing

Etta got a wholesale account at Hollander Central Glass to buy the large quantity of colored glass she will use to make a lot of the 700 pieces commissioned for the Uncommon Goods catalogue. We were able to visit Hollander and choose sheets of Hot Mix 90 that perfectly matched her line.

hollander glass central chicago 3rdarm

They had an impressive selection and amount of art glass in stock, and were welcoming and professional. It seems like there are many other glass products available and classes on glass fusing are offered. Andrea and Julie are moving to San Francisco. They slept over Saturday night with dog Wilhemina.