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Tarka in Chicago


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Heartlanders and eG'ers,

Fellow eG'er and United Kingdom & Ireland forum host, Tarka will be spending the next month (on this side of the pond) in Chicago. She's kindly offered to keep a diary of sorts for us, which will document her food experiences while she is here. Since she is a fan of both fine dining and street food--as well as an anti-fan of supermarkets--her reports will likely be of interest to all of us. She's armed with a digital camera, a portable and (pardon the pun) a well-seasoned palate.

It's always interesting to see one's own space through the eyes of a visitor. I especially look forward to Tarka's perspective of the Chicago food scene. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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:wink:

Finest kind -- but Ronnie, resident in what 'hood?  At what point can we all go play in the street with the lady?  Details, man, details!

:biggrin:

I'm going to hold off on answering any questions and let our guest of honor fill in the blanks for everyone... :wink::cool:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Why hello! My diary has started and I haven't had time to post anything....

First- a bit about me...I'm over in Chicago for about a month (probably slightly longer) as my company's headquarters are here. I figure I can't eat at Trio every night while I'm here...so this is my real chance to get to know your city.

I've not had a bad first few days, apart from being trapped in the Hard Rock Hotel for a conference when I first arrived (and we'll gloss over that) I've started getting out and about (aka lost) and managed to take 1.5 hours to get from Marshall Fields on State Street to where I live on North Michigan on Saturday.

I figure the easiest way to do this is to start from today (natch) and try and catch up the past week in a couple of longer posts. I'll try and post links to threads about places you're all talking about too so you all remember to keep checking in on me!

I am also here to answer all your queries about London, Barry Manilow (who I will be seeing on July 4th (along with a couple of thousand other people, I hasten to add)) and why supermarkets are a force for evil. I'd also be happy to accept suggestions for where I should eat....so far I've been to (deep breath) Trio, Spring, Naha, Ambria, Salpicon, Avec, Giordanos and Chipotle. When I am not eating I am usually found on a treadmill.

If you see anyone with bright red and blonde hair wandering around looking lost or eating by herself reading at the table next to you, please come and say hello. It's likely it's me. And if it's not you've only frightened a complete stranger :-)

So more from me later.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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hey tarka- welcome to chicago!

you may or may not yet be familiar with a great chicagoblog, fuckcorporategroceries; it certainly seems right up your alley. while some of the places jes posts about may be a little far flung for someone not completely down with the CTA, there are still some good tips on places to shop that are not evil. plus it might be nice to get out of downtown.

come to wicker park; here we all have red and blonde hair and sit by ourselves reading; it's a signifier for own brand of disenfranchisement!

terrence

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I am also here to answer all your queries about London, Barry Manilow (who I will be seeing on July 4th (along with a couple of thousand other people, I hasten to add)) and why supermarkets are a force for evil.

OK - I'll bite. Why are supermarkets a force for evil? I rather like a couple of my local supermarkets.

You're the first person I know who has ever admitted to liking Barry Manilow. I won't hold it against you :wink: .

I'm not from Chicago - but I vacation there a fair amount. It's a wonderful city for art - architecture - design - etc. If you have any interest in these things - I'd be glad to tell you about my favorite places (which aren't exactly "undiscovered"). If you don't have an interest - you should develop one - because Chicago is one of the most exciting cities in the world to explore these things.

By the way - I'm sure there are people who know lots more about the restauants there than I do - but if I think I have something to offer - I'll try to help. Robyn

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So last night I went to Marche as it’s round the corner from where I am working and Blackbird was heaving. I was craving something quite simple and when I saw whipped Yukon mashed potato on the menu I stampeded for the door. Yesterday was such a miserable day I went totally for comfort food (chicken soup from Leona’s for lunch) to cheer me up. If I want rain I would have stayed in the UK…:-)

My guide book described Marche as “One of the highlights of the West Randolph restaurant row, this French bistro packs them in every night with its bally-hooed cuisine- including wonderful bacon-wrapped sea scallops and some amazing desserts- and nightclub style atmosphere. Expensive”

I was quite surprised by the interior of the restaurant. From the outside it looked a bit like a supermarket or maybe like a downmarket French bistro, but inside it really was quite vaudervillian and very much like a nightclub with the accompanying music. For the first time this trip I thought “thank god I am eating alone” as trying to hold a conversation here would not be easy. Still, the food was pretty good, a half a spit roasted chicken served with excellent mashed potato and a thin, slightly too salty gravy. I quite like salty food but I think other people might have found this a bit too much. I drank a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and ate with what appeared to be a dagger and a garden fork. I had to ask the waitress for smaller cutlery, as I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

While I'm talking about French restaurants, I'll play catch up and tell you about my meal at Ambria last Friday. At least, I think it was a meal. I was in and out in 35 minutes so longevity wise it feels more like a snack. This is the first place I’d been to in Chicago that made me feel like a leper for eating alone. I was stuck in a small corner of the room, next to a table so noisy and nauseating I assumed my complimentary glass of wine was to make up for them. One female will remain in my mind forever, her voice the aural equivalent of licking a battery. Foodwise it was fine and the “mescaline salad” I was offered as a special very tempting, but the 3 minute wait between my appetizer and main meant that I never really got to appreciate what I was eating. The softshell crab with jamon vinaigrette that I had to start was pretty good; the ham in the dressing complimenting the sweetness of the crab really well. I followed with sweetbreads with judion beans and chorizo. This is a real “Year of the Sweetbread” for me and I’m having them wherever I can. These rate just above Sketch review of sketch but below Casa Mono in New York and The Fat Duck in Bray. They were served with a sauce that was just too reduced, the sweetness over-powered the rest of the dish and rendered the seasoning on the sweetbreads redundant. Luckily the flavour didn’t linger as they quickly cleared my plate as soon as my knife had hit the porcelain and served me a complimentary amuse to go with my green tea(bag).

Is this a new record? 35 minutes for 2 courses, an amuse, a predesert and a cup of green tea?

BTW, if you want to talk abotu Ambria, there's a thread here Ambria

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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come to wicker park; here we all have red and blonde hair and sit by ourselves reading; it's a signifier for own brand of disenfranchisement!

terrence

hey terrence,

thanks for the links. am trying to work out how might factor a trip to the green market in...not sure i'll get there with my schedule. i'm glad to see that it's not just me that wants to reject the supermarket hegemony. i tried looking for some books about the american supermarket system in borders the other day but didn't get anywhere. can you recommend anything? there's a great book just come out in the uk called "shopped" chat about shopped and a link to buy it and make money for egullet i'd *love* ot know if there is a similar us version and would be keen to hear your thoughts.

btw i will be in wicker park over the weekend as i've been told it's a good place to explore my other passion - shoe shopping. i look forward to blending in!

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Foodwise it was fine and the “mescaline salad” I was offered as a special very tempting, but the 3 minute wait between my appetizer and main meant that I never really got to appreciate what I was eating.

With real mescaline? :unsure:

Noise is music. All else is food.

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Isn't Moto (sp?) in the Chicago area? I didn't see it on your list.

And what about Charlie Trottersky's - that famous poish sausage joint I keep hearing about? Suze - you should try to go if you can.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Suzi,

That really is amazing about Ambria. Sounds more like a pit crew than a wait staff. Or, maybe the mescalin affected your perceptions. :biggrin:

As for books about the grocery industry, check out Food Politics by Marion Nestle. It won a Beard Award in 2003.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Isn't Moto (sp?) in the Chicago area? I didn't see it on your list.

And what about Charlie Trottersky's - that famous poish sausage joint I keep hearing about? Suze - you should try to go if you can.

keep up moby ;-) that list is of where i've been not where i am planning to go....

i've heard such bad things about trotters i don't think i can bring myself to go. my planned fine dining at the moment is...

a revist to moto

tru

everest

green zebra

but i would be keen to hear what people think. have i missed anywhere?

i have a copy of food politics...i will read it as soon as it arrives in my care parcel. thanks for the suggestion ronnie.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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i have a copy of food politics...i will read it as soon as it arrives in my care parcel. thanks for the suggestion ronnie.

I was going to suggest this earlier. I just finished it last month.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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but i would be keen to hear what people think. have i missed anywhere?

Have you been to Les Nomades or onesixtyblue? I think they're both outstanding in the area of fine dining but it's been a few years since I've been to either.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I have really enjoyed all the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants I've been to in Chicago, especially Nacional 27 and Brasserie Jo. I always recommend people go there.

Spiaggia also has quite a reputation, but since I happen to have known people who've worked there I'm not so sure. The Cafe is nice enough though.

If you want to come a little further north, you can stop by the bakery I currently manage - Bittersweet on Belmont. It's only a block or two west of the red line/brown line stop.

I also have to put a good word in for my future work place - Vosges Chocolate, with a store on Michigan Avenue.

Enjoy Chicago, and keep asking if you have more questions! I love to help people shape their perceptions of "my" city!

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I have really enjoyed all the Lettuce Entertain You restaurants I've been to in Chicago, especially Nacional 27 and Brasserie Jo.  I always recommend people go there.

Spiaggia also has quite a reputation, but since I happen to have known people who've worked there I'm not so sure.  The Cafe is nice enough though.

If you want to come a little further north, you can stop by the bakery I currently manage - Bittersweet on Belmont.  It's only a block or two west of the red line/brown line stop.

I also have to put a good word in for my future work place - Vosges Chocolate, with a store on Michigan Avenue.

Enjoy Chicago, and keep asking if you have more questions!  I love to help people shape their perceptions of "my" city!

Agreed about the Cafe - particularly for a lunch break on a shopping day.

Is the Vosges store still in the Peninsula Hotel? That's where I discovered the stuff (they were handing out free samples and that was my downfall :wink: ). I order it off the internet now since there is - sadly - no boutique where I live. Good luck in your work there! Robyn

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Personally, I'm shocked that you are choosing to veto Trotter's. I mean, well, you mentioned hearing poor reviews or bad stuff about the restaurant.......I guess I'm not familiar with this stuff but what I can tell you is that I was there in May and it was AMAZING! Its a Chicago icon! Anyway.......I SUPPOSE :rolleyes: its your choice and not mine, and of course it is pricey (but if you can handle Trio you can handle Trotters :biggrin: ) but my opinion is that if your here in Chicago, stop in at Charlies!

~Ben

Edited by bentherebfor (log)

Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox

benherebfour@gmail.com

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For Chicago grocery options you might check out, A Cook's Guide to Chicago, available on Amazon.com, but also at lots of food and bookstores locally.

Yes, I just picked this up at The Spice House yesterday. It's a little dated but still full of great, current information.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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tarka-

i'm not sure what your shoe shopping schedule is but there's a smaller farmer's market in wicker park proper on sunday mornings. a handful of vendors but not bad. i hear last week, the first, showed some good cauliflower and berries. keep in mind though that the farmers wake up way earlier than most of the neighborhood.

some other WP places to checkout:

red hen bakery for good "artisanal" breads and pastries.

sultan's market: a small middle eastern cafe that just added really good lamb schwerma to their list; ($5 sandwich= yum)

sit at the bar at spring for a glass of wine and an app.

piece for hand crafted beer, which is IMO, best in the city, and pizza which reminds me of new haven.

reckless records, quimby's books, numerous shoe places ( fluevog clearance!)

i'm sure others have more rec's too. i'll keep an eye out for you.

t

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Personally, I'm shocked that you are choosing to veto Trotter's. I mean, well, you mentioned hearing poor reviews or bad stuff about the restaurant.......I guess I'm not familiar with this stuff but what I can tell you is that I was there in May and it was AMAZING! Its a Chicago icon! Anyway.......I SUPPOSE :rolleyes: its your choice and not mine, and of course it is pricey (but if you can handle Trio you can handle Trotters :biggrin: ) but my opinion is that if your here in Chicago, stop in at Charlies!

~Ben

I guess it comes down to personal taste. I could go and eat at a thousand places where the chefs are on the ascendancy. I feel that Trotters isn't that place...to me going there would be a bit like going to see "Hair"; once iconic, but now starting to look stale.

Besides, I'd rather given Moto the best part of $200....

Thank you all for the extra suggestions. I'm really looking forward to exploring more food related stores over the weekend. I'm also meeting up with this very strange group of food obessives on Sunday. If I don't post on Monday please send out a search party!

I am having so many problems tracking down the Marilyn Pocius book. I am really annoyed, I was in the Spice House on Sunday and was too busy sticking my nose in the paprika to notice a copy.

I am having a very busy morning but I cannot wait to tell you all about the sushi i had last night. OHMIGOD.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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