Eating America: The Best Food in Chicago, Part 1: Budget Restaurants

PDSoupBetter

Consider this the food blogger's guide to Chicago. As I say on my About Page, being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. Each year I tell my stories of trips to Beijing, Hanoi, and Mexico, but sometimes I leave out my favorite places right here in the U.S. No more! This is the latest installment of my 'Eating America' series, featuring the best eating around our fine nation. In my few trips to Chicago, I’ve mostly had the chance to eat at only a few places while passing through the city on the way to Brett’s family’s place out in the burbs. … [Read more...]

Altura Takes Itself Just Seriously Enough

Papardelle

It was a coincidence that Altura received a semi-finalist nomination for a James Beard Foundation award the day we had reservations. It made it all the more surprising that tables around us sat empty for hours as we ate, despite my needing to book two weeks out to get a reasonable time slot. After the level of service and cuisine we witnessed, I can't help but wonder (hope!) if it was purposeful--to relax the kitchen and the waitstaff workload--so that the diner's experience is impeccable. If not, perhaps we were just fortunate that nobody read the nominations and tried to jump on the … [Read more...]

Dan Dan Mien: Hand-shaved noodles and a Favorite at Home

Handmade Hand-shaved noodles

Dan dan noodles, or dan dan mien, is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world. In the five years since I first sampled it, I've tried it everywhere I could find it, in my own city, in Flushing Chinatown in New York, in Beijing, as close to the source as I could get, and even in Korea, just for good measure. The first time I ate dan dan mien with hand-shaved noodles at Seattle's Seven Star Pepper, I remember thinking it just might be the best thing ever invented. Thick ropes of uneven noodle dough swam about in a sea of peanut sludge, spiked with islands of pork. Later, I would learn … [Read more...]

Best Recipes for Fall Seasonal Cooking

Kabocha squash roll close up

Last week, Seattle sweated through an 80 degree day--not something we have to do often. Three days later, we looked out on grey horizons, at that point where the slate sky meets the silver waters, through a screen of incessant raindrops.  The rain was typical Seattle--not hard enough to get your shirt wet, but leaving puddles and clumps of fragrant leaves strewn about. It smelled like fall. The season was here and it had a woodsy aroma--smokey, yet fresh. Cuddled into a cowl neck sweater, my mind wandered to the wonders of fall foods. Like a kid picking pumpkins from a patch, I selected a few … [Read more...]

Wordless Wednesday: DimSumCouver #7

[Read more...]

Pasta without a Pasta Maker: Orechiette

Before I owned a pasta maker, I too fell into the lazy pattern of assumption. I assumed I lacked the rolling pin skills to make pasta. I assumed I could buy pasta that was good. I assumed that those assholes with pasta makers were the only ones who got to have real, homemade pasta every night, up there, in their pasta-maker having castles. In Italy, I'm sure. Now I have a pasta maker, but sometimes, you just don't want to get down all the gear, and you just want some FREAKING PASTA. This is me, like, all the time. I'm a pasta maniac. So at times like this, the solution is Orechiette. It … [Read more...]

(Stir-Fried) Water Boiled Fish

FinishedWaterBoiledFish

"You'll like it." These were the words that I was told the first time I tasted the Sichuanese dish known as water-boiled fish. That phrase may just be the most epic understatement in the history of my life, up there with descriptions of me such as 'a little competitive' and the usual elementary school report card 'can be bossy.' For once, I had found a Chinese restaurant that 'got' me. That didn't dumb dishes down when they saw my skin color, that didn't come running with a fork and a glass of ice water at my pronunciation of Chinese words. No, Chiang's Gourmet had made a dish suggestion … [Read more...]

Recreating the Perfect Meal: Seafood Boil

Crab Boil Plate

The Meal The perfect meal. I ate it the other day, at a gas station in a town called Kenner, Louisianna. I stopped in at the Check in Check out Deli, five minutes up the street from the New Orleans airport because I'd heard online it had decent po-boys and I could kill two birds with one stone by filling up the rental car before hopping my flight home and grabbing one last sandwich for the flight. Lucky me, the wait for brunch at Stanley was too long, so I just took off early to the airport, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely afternoon. As I drove up, there hung a plain lettered … [Read more...]

Aura at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler

Whistler is like a second home for me, I grew up flying down its slopes and was raised on the what little great food was available there in 1989. Not to sound too much like an old-timer, but when people ask me for a restaurant recommendation in Whistler, both the places I suggest have been open since the mid-80s, Sushi Village and the Rimrock. Now I have a third suggestion. Though I've been there a tiny fraction (okay, the once) of the times I've been to the others, I'm inspired and hopeful about the ambitious, innovative and yet totally fitting menu that Aura, at the new and already under new … [Read more...]

Alterna-Thanksgiving: Peking Turkey

Peking Turkey

Somehow, somewhere I got the idea that I needed to make a Peking Turkey for Thanksgiving this year. It was extravagant, cross-cultural, a project. It was perfect. Most people just looked at me sideways as I excitedly described my plan. I even found evidence that someone had done it before and was able to use their recipe to guide me. My parents left town for Thanksgiving, and left to my own devices, I took over their kitchen (nicer than mine--and there's a dishwasher), and created a feast with my friends. I was also lucky enough to have the amazing Valentina at Thanksgiving dinner, so she is … [Read more...]