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ML in Naperville IL's Profile

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Phantom Gourmet.

My first job out of college I returned to Mass. and remember enjoying "Phantom Gourmet" on New England Cable News. Eddie was host of the show back then. ... And I'm figuring that if they're still using the same format 15 years later, it might be getting a little stale.

Any native New Englanders remember 'PM Magazine' from the late 70s and early 80s? Matt Lauer was the co-host. It was a locally-produced, but nationally syndicated enterainment / light news show. Two segments I remember my dad the chef enjoying: The 'Phantom Gourmet' segment that reviewed local joints with a grade system based on a maximum of 4 Gold Forks; and also the cooking segments with Chef Tell and his "Very simple! Very easy!" catchline.

Out here, Chicago Public Television has a decent review show called 'Check, Please!': a 3-guest roundtable with a host. Each guest talks about their favorite place, and the other two review it. Not only does this show unearth area gems, but you also gain perspective from hearing 3 different reviews regarding the same place.

Is there Chow in Chicago's Western Suburbs?

Thumbs up for Gematos!

Is there Chow in Chicago's Western Suburbs?

Anyone else getting sick of the general unfriendlyness one encounters, over the counter, at Nicky's? Granted, this is not a white-tablecloth establishment, but they really seem to go out of their way to sneer at people. Almost as if they're completely disgusted you're there. ... Or maybe they just don't like me (lol). But if I wanted surly, I would have stayed in New Jersey. Sheeesh ... I like the gyros and all, but eventually I will stop going ...

Caputo's comes to N. Plainfield / S. Naperville

Gelato, I weep daily that I only was able to shop at my Wegman's for 18 months. Yes, a grown man crying over a grocery store that actually understands.

I had it all and then I moved away from it!!!

Caputo's comes to N. Plainfield / S. Naperville

Of COURSE you don't believe one store can do it all, Jim -- you're from Chicagoland. Here it is normal for shriveled and moldy produce to be offered for sale year-round. Or darkened meat on its expiration date with a cheery '75 Cents Off!' sticker. Or some strange club-card swindle that pumps up the prices so high it makes it look like you're saving money even though you clearly are not. Or for a brand or product to be sold regularly at one of a chain's stores, but never at another of the chain's stores -- even if they're located just a few miles apart.

Out here, grocery store club cards rarely actually lead to real rewards and incentives to loyal customers. The stores don't even offer something as simple as reserving a few prime parking spots for parents shopping with tiny children. And even though a lot of these places are open 24 hours and have stockers filling shelves at 2 a.m., I'm still ALWAYS tripping over a store employee who feels the need to justify his job by getting in my way in the middle of the day. And buying fish at one of these places? -- NO WAY.

This is not to say I never shopped at crappy grocery stores before I moved out here. I'm saying that I'm shocked that such crappy service has been accepted as the norm. I swear, Jim, I thought these Jewels and Dominicks and Cub Foods were grocery store MUSEUMS -- not actual grocery stores. Milk and eggs still sold in open-air cases?!? HUH? Typically, one can usually learn the identity of a town by shopping at one of its grocery stores. Which is why 5 years later I am still stunned that we all put up with this in Naperville.

I agree that Costcos and the other clubs have altered most peoples' shopping routines, although it still is not a mandatory grocery-day stop for me. More like maybe once per month to restock the bulk. Trader Joe's is just for fun. Is there REALLY anything we need there on a daily basis?

I'm the steward and the cook at home. I enjoy shopping, too. But as the children get bigger and the schedules get tighter, I'm not in the mood to ALWAYS have to stop at Casey's for good meat (or a fishmonger for seafood) and whichever chain is pissing me off the least for the non-Costco stuff. Screw it, I'll just buy more and more from Casey's. At least there you get what you pay for. I'm accustomed to relying on a grocery store I trust to have the quality products I like and not rip me off -- and actually offer me real deals, "Baby Bucks," free turkey or ham incentives during the holidays, etc.

It's a real drag out here. Chicagoans love their food -- they deserve better core grocery stores. Because Caputo's pretends to act like a core store -- it doesn't only sell fancy imported goods -- this chain simply falls into line with the other frauds out here.

Caputo's comes to N. Plainfield / S. Naperville

Aside from the overabundance of import items, I'm not terribly impressed. Overall, it's the same slipshod shopping experience one finds at Jewel and Dominicks. And honestly, I liked the previous tenants, Marsh's, much better.

Casey's off Washington and Gartner is earning more and more of my money. The combination of meat case and deli/bakery is unsurpassed in this area. Though the store is a bit small and doesn't offer as vast a selection (or low prices) for everyday needs as the two major dopey chains, I'm getting sick and tired of making that extra trip to Jewel for toilet paper and laundry detergent, and then having to bolt to somewhere else for high-quality foodstuffs. (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's is nice and all, but it doesn't fill the everyday void.) At Casey's, you beleive that a grocer in the SW suburbs actually cares about what you're buying.

I'd be surprised if Caputo's lasts more than 3 years on 111th and Rt. 59. If anyone from the corporate offices of Wegman's (based in Upstate NY and now stretches down to the DC area) is reading this, get your keisters out to Chicagoland ASAP and save our souls. I'm begging.

What do Chowhounds do for a living (besides eat of course)? [old]

In his heyday, my father was the executive chef at the Sheraton Hartford (now a Hilton, I believe) in Connecticut during the late 70s and early 80s. He really had fun with it -- prepared meals for Ford and Reagan when they were in town; won gold at the Pan Am Culinary games in New Orleans; appeared on TV for local CT morning-show cooking segments. He even was the chef pictured holding a platter of lobster on those bookmarks you'd find (and use and take home) in your room at Sheratons across the world.

Yet I knew from the beginning that my living would be dominated not necessarily by mother sauces, but by newsprint. My folks said when I was 3 I was already folding up papers and scribbling gibberish headlines and stories and drawing stick-figure pictures in newspaper form. I majored in journalism in college and have been an editor going on 15 years.

Starting when I was 13, I made my summer cash in the kitchen, first by scrubbing pots. By the time I was 21 I was working the line in a busy kitchen at a prominent hotel in Central Jersey -- with no formal training. Obviously, I had picked up quite a bit from Dad. Food and prep, as you would guess, have always made me feel comfortable. Theraputic is the term I use.

When I began dating the girl who'd become my wife, she hadn't experienced artichokes or asparagus or sushi or most of the wonderful things we Hounds wax poetic about daily on this site. She wanted to hide the first time her folks plopped down a canned DAK ham in front of me on their Easter table. (As you'd expect, canned ham will always own a special place in my heart. Not that I'd ever eat it again, of course ...) We were 22 when we took our first vacation to Cape Cod, and it was on MV when I ordered her first lobster roll. She never looked back. Within a year she was in charge of the public relations side of NYC's Waldorf=Astoria, getting acquainted with that circle's culinary talents and delights. 15 years later, she can carry a knife and fork out there with any "foodie" I've ever met.

I'd say we have an above-average combined median income. We've dined at some of the best restaurants in the country. We also indulge in our share of horribly guilty pleasures. (I'd like to give a shout-out to my peeps at Red Lobster ...) And like many parents, we often are simply too tired to cook. We have twin preschoolers -- one will try anything: pate, crablegs, sushi; the other says he wants to be a chef, or "a cooker," yet he is one of the pickiest eaters I've ever met.

I was introduced to about 6 or 7 years ago by a coworker at a newspaper, who like me, is someone who enjoys a good meal and is often inspired to talk or write about it. And I've never looked back.

Pancakes anyone?

A buddy of mine was out here one weekend and really wanted to go to IHOP one morning. Fine, I said. We sit down, start reading the menus and he asks me, "So, what do you usually get here?"

I replied: "Heartburn."

May 30, 2007
ML in Naperville IL in Chains

Jersey Tomatoes

Recite all the Jersey jokes you want, but it is not called "The Garden State" for nothing. And I most definitely miss a nice Jersey Tomato. And the corn. And the peaches. ... Overall, since I moved Midwest 5 years ago, I've been disappointed in the quality of produce out here. Blah is the norm, and I don't understand why, since most of Illinois and Iowa and Indiana and everywhere else it seems, is patched together with dark-soiled farm after farm after farm ...

Pizza to Bake at home

I'm sure I've seen some Papa Murphy's in and around Chicagoland. It's a take-and-bake chain. Never tried it. Never will, either. I'm with JJ on this one and am baffled at the concept.

Anything Good in RFK?

Yeah, I never set my hopes high regarding ballpark food, but every once in a while you hear about gems here and there -- Boog's at Camden Yards; garlic fries in SF; Dodgerdogs in LA; bratwursts in Milwaukee; back in the Montreal days, cheese curds and gravy was a fan fave at the Big O; even the Legal Seafood clam chowder is usually pretty good at Fenway.
Knowing that I probably wasn't going to eat all day Friday until I got to RFK, I was interested in what the options were. I hope this thread helps out someone who finds themselves in a similar situation ...

ISO seafood restaurant open for lunch on Sat.

Hank's has a brunch on Sat-Sun from 11-3. Was there at noon on the 19th -- a beautiful Saturday. Place didn't start filling up until 1. Had some sparkling wine with the Snow Hill oysters (unbelievably awesome!), and the crabcake eggs benedict. Perfect meal. Just perfect.

Anything Good in RFK?

I wish I could give you a section where it was, or even tell you for sure that it was somewhere down the left field line. The crabcakes weren't in a regular concession booth -- the area was more like a series of small tables on the side of the concourse where t-shirt stands would be. They sold for $13 a platter. I think they sold shrimp there, too. Maybe it's not a regular concession? Maybe trotted out special for the Baltimore series? ...

Anything Good in RFK?

I'll answer my own question. Was in town for a wedding -- first time I was in D.C. in about 10 years -- and on May 18th I visited RFK for the first time. Good seats available, even for the Beltway Series, and I couldn't resist shelling out $140 for a 6th row seat directly behind home plate. (Can't think of too many teams with attendance so dismal that one can actually walk up on gameday and literally get one of the best seats in the house.) The ticket gave me pre-game access to the Diamond Club buffet area above right field.
The spread was plentiful, for sure, but the quality was very average. (If I were a food snob, I probably would have been downright upset.) Hard to imagine the same type of just average quality for VIPs at ballparks in Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A., or even Baltimore -- but what do I know? I'm not a regular Diamond Club visitor. For all I know, this is as good as it gets anywhere.
RFK's main buffet entre was little salmon filets slathered in BBQ sauce, which I simply was in no mood for. There was also a shrimp Cesar salad, and other side-dish items. Also, a roast beef carving station. And TONS of hot dogs and sausages. And popcorn and peanuts and nachos and a large dessert table. Free non-alcoholic beverages. With all that free food up for grabs, the $6.50 beers and $7 wine didn't feel so expensive.
Flying in from Chicago, I hadn't eaten all day, and I was starved. Keeping ballpark food prices in mind, it's probable that I ate my money's worth. Plus the pregame view from the club area was a cool place to watch batting practice, and my Section 116 seats were AWESOME. The in-seat waiter service for even more free hot dogs, nachos, etc. was appreciated.
Would I have been just as happy with a Field MVP $65 seat and a trip or two to the lower-level crabcake stand (which I hadn't noticed until the game was pretty much over)? Yes. Definitely yes. But what the hell, I had a fine time either way. Great to be back in D.C.

Anything Good in RFK?

Looks like I'll be there for Nats-O's. Anyone ever sampled the Diamond Club spread?

Food prank -- pulled on you or by you

Wow, this was a while ago when my wife and I were living in Hoboken, N.J., before we were married, I believe. There was this little bagle place I'd walk to on Sundays. One morning I figured I'd finally try their specialty, which was a sandwich heated and smashed by this little bagle press they had. The sandwich would get compressed by about 2/3 the size of a regular bagle). So I come home, give my wife-to-be her regular sliced-and shmeared bagle, and she watches me take mine out of the bag. Immediately she asks why my bagle was "flat." As I unwrapped mine and lifted it to my mouth for a bite, I couldn't resist: I told her it had fallen out of the little paper bag, landed on Washington Street, and got squashed by a passing truck. Horrified, she shrieked that I could not possibly eat "that thing." ... I finally had to tell her the truth. She really wasn't going to let me eat it.


No, not the solid edible emulsion of fat obtained from churning cream -- the restaurant on S. Green Street. Next to impossible to find a review of Butter on this site due to the archive's baffling search limitations.

We may have reason for a nice celebratory dinner in the coming weeks, and my wife said she's heard a lot about Butter. Any Hounds up for filling me in?

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

Fine, I'll call it CORN SOUP. And I'll bake some CORNbread and slather pikawicca's Indiana shagbark syrup all over it. Does that make everyone happy?

(Corn dogs not a bad idea, actually ...)

Neighbor accross the street, a beer distributor, is hosting the shindig I'll be at. So it won't matter what food anyone brings, we'll all be half in the bag by halftime ...

I'd say the Tom Brady era has made up for Super Bowl XX and then some, wouldn't you? And I'd probably watch those "46 to 10" jokes. The Colts can make a good defense look real bad in a hurry ...

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

Super Bowl food often IS have-a-heart-attack kind of food. It's a tough day for food snobs, I'm realizing ...

I want to watch the game, not spend two hours explaining to other guests what shagbark hickory syrup is, and why I brought sweet potatoes to a Super Bowl party ...

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

Corn-on-the-cob in the Midwest in February?

Didn't think 'corn chowder' was a New England-centric dish. You're trying to tell me that people in Indiana don't make soup out of corn? ...

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

Corn chowder. Make corn chowder. Get creative, people. ... Nobody's going to be impressed if you bring "maple syrup from Indiana" ...

Look, I googled this in 4 seconds:

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

When I think of Indiana I think of corn. And I'm bringin' a nice big pot of corn chowder to represent the AFC at the party I'll be attending (full of Bears fans). If my beloved Patriots had just held on a little longer Sunday night, I'd be bringing my clam chowda, which was a big hit two years ago ...

Looking for Local Food fares of Indy and Chicago

Ugh. White Castle. I actually want to watch Super Bowl XLI, not sit on the can for two hours ...

Taylor Ham

About a year ago I discovered a local grocer who carries Taylor ham. (Every time I take a bite, I feel like I'm back at Rutgers.) Once, someone saw me grab a roll out of the case and asked, "Are you from New Jersey?" She was from Philly. She knew.

Another NJ delight that doesn't exist in the Chicago area is a veal parm sub, which was my all-time favorite comfort food.

What they do out here to a hot dog is bizarre. And I don't get the appeal of 'Italian Beef' sandwiches. A great bagel is hard to find, as is a good Italian sandwich shop. And Portuguese rolls don't exist out here.

I LOVE deep-dish pizza. Forget about the 'thin-crust' we all know and love -- you won't find anything noteworthy here. In fact, they don't even cut those pizzas in slices (they're served in tiny squares!!)

Otherwise, the Chicago area is wonderful for those who love their food.

What's the most indulgent thing you ate/drank over the holidays?

Oh my gosh. This is what was going on in my kitchen:
-- Lobster Eggs Benedict on New Year's Day. And memosas.
-- Two-pound lobsters and rib-eye hearts on New Year's Eve. Plus too much bubbly.
-- Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, horseradish mashed potatoes, roasted baby carrots, arugula salad for Christmas evening. Merlot, merlot everywhere.
-- Pancake breakfast Christmas morning.
-- Crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp, broiled tomatoes (stuffed with diced zukes and squash), basil-pesto cheese tortilini for Christmas Eve. Drank pinot like crazy.
-- Wonderful fruit and wine and cheese spreads during X-mas eve and X-mas, including some to-die-for gouda and manchego from Zingerman's.
-- Cheesecake Factory cheesecake and an incredible Yule Log cake.
-- Christmas cookies and peppermint bark up to our eyeballs.
-- And we took everyone out to eat one night at Rosebud for Italian.

I'm not eating again until March. Thank you.

Heh, which sucks worse: Jewel or Dominick's?

There is indeed a gem in Naperville's grocery wasteland. (I swear, it's like an '80s time warp when I do Jewel or Dominick's.)

The best combo of butcher, deli case (Boar’s Head), bakery, and produce in town is Casey’s Foods on 124 W. Gartner Road in the Naperville Plaza shopping center, not too far south of the hospital off Washington Street. Their phone number is (630)369-1686 and I’m pretty sure they have a Web site.

The quality there is absolutely phenomenal.

It’s located in a very useful shopping center that has a good drug store, a Trader Joe’s, some restaurants, a bread shop, and a fish monger, and several other stores.

But not unlike every other grocery store in town, Casey’s has its flaws:

-- It’s too small. It’s about the size of a really, really large 7-Eleven. They really pack the goods on the shelves, but the major chains simply carry more items. And people love this place, so it can get pretty crowded. The service, though, more than makes up for the tight quarters.

-- It’s pricey. You get what you pay for. Plus, this is run more like a mom-and-pop place. This shouldn’t be your every-day-shopping-list type of place. You’ll realize this once you get there.

-- It closes early. Check the times for sure, but if it’s 8:30 at night you forgot to buy that flank steak you wanted to marinate in the morning, you’re S.O.L.

I lived in Naperville for 2 years before someone finally told me about it. And I’m bitter it took that long. Check it out and enjoy.

Sep 25, 2006
ML in Naperville IL in Chains

Pizza on a Plane! (or: how do I take pizza from Chicago to Phoenix?)

I know as a fact that the grub at Pizzeria Uno near the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J., is consistently better than Due in Chicago.

And that is just sad.

Anyway, I'd take with me a frozen Uno or Malnati's packed in dry ice and see how that goes. Very cool idea, by the way.

What is New York Pizza?

Exactly. "NY pizza" isn't TOO thin, and it's soft. 7 Star Pizza in Hoboken would make slices so large, you could hoist them up a flag pole at Yankee Stadium. I betcha the pliable pizza-pennant would crisply snap while flapping proudly in the wind ...

Strangest chow you've eaten?

Sounds like The Carnivore, where my wife dined once in Nairobi. She ate gazelle ("Tasted like chicken"). Drew the line at giraffe.

I savor chow as much as the next hound, but I'm not Fear Factor material. I'm still reeling from back in '99 at Yankee Stadium when some dummy served me sauerkraut, along with the peppers and onions on my italian sausage ...

What's the strangest, or best, food you have eaten at a State Fair, stadium, or other outdoor venue?

Pork chop on a stick at a 2002 Chicago Bears-New England Patriots game at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus. It was like eating a shoe. On a stick. The Pats won, 33-30.

A buddy of mine claims to have eaten and enjoyed Rocky Mountain Oysters a few years ago at Coors Field in Denver. I'm still not sure how I feel about this.