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New Orleans cookbook

Go with what the locals cherish most. The Times-Picayune tracked the three most purchased cookbooks when the people of New Orleans needed to rebuild and replenish their kitchens after Katrina. They were: The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin, The River Road Cookbook by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, and The Plantation Cookbook by the Junior League of New Orleans. And I myself, all the way up in Chicago, have owned and used the Collins' book ever since its first print run nearly 35 years ago. It is, along with Julia Child's French cookery books, the cook book I treasure and use the most. 'Nuff said.

Aug 18, 2010
lindygal in Home Cooking

Why Do Bananas Turn Black in the Refrigerator?

Freezing peeled leftover bananas with a little lime juice is excellent if you want to use them in future for banana cake, too (for which you'd need to mash them anyway, so no difference). And the aside about cell phones was just inappropriate to this forum and pointless, so let's stick to the food talk, yes?

Jul 01, 2010
lindygal in Features

Paul Clarke's Falernum #9

40 cloves?????! You must be kidding! Even ONE clove flavors an entire gallon of liquid sufficiently for you to tell it's there. 40 cloves will simply overwhelm everything else in the mix -- unless clove extract is really what you're after. In falernum, clove overdose is not desirable. But I agree about using Bacardi 151 or another rum of similar strength and about the almond extract and lime juice, except that I'd use 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and skip the slivered almonds entirely.

Jul 01, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Homemade Grenadine

Hibiscus flowers have a characteristic flavor all their own (one that those who drink rose hip tea contaminated with hibiscus to darken the color are familiar with) that detracts from the flavor of grenadine. For that matter, it detracts from the flavor of rose hip tea, too. If you're a purist like I am, use freshly squeezed lime juice instead of lemon (lemon, too, has a distinct flavor than changes the taste of grenadine), skip the hibiscus, go easy on the orange-flower water, and add a teensy drop of almond extract to each quart of grenadine you make. You can even re-use your Rose's bottles while getting a better product.

Jul 01, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Maraschino Cherries

I should add that fully ripe pie cherries are really sweet-sour, whereas Bing and other sweet varieties are too sweet to use given the amount of sugar that must be added to make a decent syrup. The same is true if you're making your own cherry liqueur, which my family does using Montmorency cherries (which are in season only for about two weeks here, starting this weekend!). Moreover, you get a better result if, along with the vanilla, you add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract per quart of cherry mix. That helps to give that characteristic Maraschino flavor.

Jul 01, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Maraschino Cherries

Nah, Bing cherries are *not* the ones to use for homemade maraschino cherries. Giv that you're looking for sourness plus flavor, fully ripe Balaton cherries and Montmorency/Northstar pie cherries fresh from the tree (NOT frozen or canned, please!) are the better bet. Here in the Midwest, there are plenty of U-pick cherry farms in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin that can oblige with the pie cherries, whereas for Balaton cherries, there are only a handful of orchards in central Michigan that I know of, but Balaton growers are slowly increasing.

Jul 01, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Financiers

That's the Paris Bourse, which is their equivalent of the stock exchange. At Laduree, which makes the best financiers in Paris, the financiers are still shaped like little gold bars. Finally, they are less like madeleines and more like almond macaroons, except for the shape. And this is the only time I've ever seen a recipe that treats them like muffins or cupcakes!

May 13, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Where do you take visitors to Chicago?

I'm shocked -- shocked and amazed -- that NOBODY mentioned either Fluky's or the Vienna hot dog factory store/deli as the place to get a properly made Chicago style hot dog. Yes, we argue quite a bit here about who makes the best dogs, but those two spots are definitely in the top 5, if not top 3. Hot Doug's gets mentioned often mostly because of the duck fat fries and the other hot sausage servings, but real Chicago dogs require a trip elsewhere.

That said, we also argue about who makes the best Chicago style pan pizza. Giordano's is a few decades behind the originals -- Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due, Gino's East, and Lou Malnati's -- and not all the franchise locations are the same. I always thought Uno chopped up the ingredients too much into tiny bits and preferred Gino's East and Due, in that order; never did like Malnati's much, but there are people who swear by it. The original Giordano's, which used to be on California just off 63rd street when I was college age, has long been gone but was by far the best of the lot; other Giordano's locations vary somewhat in their results -- but seriously, who can/wants to eat that much dough these days? I focus more on excellent neighborhood thin crust now (no pizza chains!!!!!).

Italian beef is another Chicago original. And it *must* be made with fresh Gonella bread to soak up the gravy without falling apart. The big debate there used to be between Mr. Beef on Orleans and Al's No. 1 on Taylor Street, but neither is quite what it used to be. Still, on a nice warm, sunny day, I'd give Al's on Taylor the edge, if only because the excellent Mario's Italian lemonade is right across the street.

For Italian, yeah, you have a lot of places that serve the kind of food you could easily get in your own home town, but there are some that are a step above. Of two local Italian chains, the Rosebud group and Francesca's, the original locations again rate the highest -- Rosebud on Taylor Street, and Mia Francesca on Clark Street -- and are also among the noisiest restaurants you'll ever dine in. However, there are more interesting Italian places, too: Pizzeria DOC on Lawrence, which serves plenty more than just pizza, and at the haute cuisine end, Spiaggia (still one of my favorites after more than three decades!). Spiaggia also has a sister spot next door, Cafe Spiaggia, which is easier to get into and often serves some of the same dishes.

Another Chicago staple: ribs and barbecue. The north side has its offerings -- Smoque, Fat Willy's, Sun Wah Bar-B-Que for Chinese style, lots of Korean barbecue places, and of course Carson's for baby back ribs -- but the south side can compete with places like Wing Chan (great duck! take-out shop only), Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen, Uncle John's BBQ in South Shore (more or less), Ribs 'N' Bibs in Hyde Park, Lem's in Grand Crossing, and the little-known Park Ribs way the heck out near Archer and Harlem, at the very SW edges of the city. However, my current fave is on 79th Street in SW suburban Burbank: Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe and Voodoo Lounge. THE BEST, dammit! Real wood smokers. And Chuck knows his stuff and serves much more than barbecue: plenty of southern and haute Mexican specialties, which is what you'd expect from a guy who worked for Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill/Topolobampo for years. Those two would be at the top of a long list of excellent real Mexican restaurants, BTW (so far from the usual taco and burrito stand that it's not funny; truth: you've never eaten Mexican this good unless you ate at some miracle-making cook's house in Mexico). Yes!!

And that's just scratching the surface. Haven't even mentioned the wealth and breadth of other ethnic places all over town. Many nationalities here, many great meals. Seriously, there's some damn fine eating here. You can tell by the distinct lack of Hollywood-style anorexics and bulimics on the street. We like our food in Chicago, and it's usually better priced than in New York or San Francisco. The only thing we don't have is Creole to match New Orleans, but that just gives us a reason to hit Mardi Gras in NOLA and skip the parades ...

Enjoy your trip to Chicago! May you eat your way from one end of town to the other, from the lake to Oak Park, and never have a bad meal. It's doable.

Mar 18, 2010
lindygal in Chicago Area

Salmon en Croûte

Just to clarify, in Coulibiac the mushroom duxelles goes on top of the salmon inside the puff pastry.

Mar 17, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Salmon en Croûte

Mushroom duxelles (finely minced and sauteed mushrooms and onions) is the traditional filling used with the version of this dish called Coulibiac -- Kulebiaka in Russian (yes, they borrowed it from the French, if course). Dill and white-wine cream sauce would be just right with this, and the buttered asparagus spears on the side would be an appropriate vegetable.

Mar 17, 2010
lindygal in Recipes

Looking for Advice on Shaoxing rice wine

I searched using wine-searcher.com and found the wine at Brian's Wine & Liquor Emporium in Piscataway, NJ for $6.99 a bottle, plus tax and shipping. It can be ordered online and shipped to most states.

However, the search function at the store's web site is in a dumb place (bottom center of the web page) and is stupid -- you have to input the name just so, or it won't come up. Use this exact phrase for your search term:

Pagoda Shao xing rice wine

Now you just have to hope that they're not out of it when you try to order it! But it's a beginning ...

Mar 17, 2010
lindygal in General Topics

Where to buy chinese rice wine

I searched using wine-searcher.com and found the wine at Brian's Wine & Liquor Emporium in Piscataway, NJ for $6.99 a bottle, plus tax and shipping.

However, the search function at the store's web site is in a dumb place (bottom center of the web page) and is stupid -- you have to input the name just so, or it won't come up. Use this exact phrase for your search term:

Pagoda Shao xing rice wine

Now you just have to hope that they're not out of it when you try to order it! But it's a beginning ...

Mar 17, 2010
lindygal in Manhattan

Why Do People Always Order Ginger Ale When They Fly?

Ginger, mint, and chamomile all settle the stomach and can help relieve nausea -- but mint tea and chamomile tea are hard to come by on a plane. Ginger ale isn't. I drink ginger ale because I like it and am allergic to cola; but I don't drink soda much at home, so ginger ale becomes my go-to drink when I'm on a plane or the designated driver for the night. And yes, I do prefer Canada Dry and Schweppes! Especially on ice with a slice of lime. But I'll gladly take ginger beer instead. I'd try golden ginger ale, but I've never seen it in a store. Is it still made and sold commercially?

Mar 17, 2010
lindygal in Features

Favorite Diet Sodas?

ps -- here's a treat if you don't mind a bit of sugar: you can get really good fruit syrups from Poland or Hungary at ethnic delis. I've found that the best sour-cherry syrup comes from Hungary, tho some Polish syrups come close (look for sour cherry, not Morello, Bing or black cherry). Also, Italian syrup made from amarena cherries or true maraschino syrup is great. Just pour a tablespoon or two into your favorite plain or lime-flavored seltzer, over ice, and garnish with a twig of fresh spearmint, sweet basil, or lemon or lime thyme. Also: Swiss, German, French or Polish black currant syrup and/or Swedish lingonberry syrup are great in seltzers and iced teas.

Finally, for something different, pour a bit of sugar-free hazelnut syrup into your diet cream soda -- tasty!!

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in General Topics

Favorite Diet Sodas?

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned it, but pink grapefruit soda usually isn't as sweet as regular soda, and I'll sometimes drink that instead of diet. Fizz makes a very nice one. When I was a kid, Squirt and Canfield's 50-50 were my favorites -- grapefruit, lemons, and limes: no surprise there -- but the diet versions have too much fake sweetener in them to taste good -- so instead I'll cut the regular version with a bit of lime-flavored seltzer and a wedge of fresh lime. That usually does the trick while reducing the sugar intake to almost nothing.

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in General Topics

Favorite Diet Sodas?

I find that saccharine and Equal both bother me in drinks; Splenda less so, but only if they don't overdo the amount -- and commercial soda makers usually do overdo it. At home, when I make fresh iced tea or soda of my own, I find that a mix of equal parts Splenda and superfine (bar) sugar works well, or else equal parts of Truvia (stevia), Splenda and superfine sugar or simple syrup. Even then, I use a light hand and typically even out the flavor with a squeeze of fresh lime. I even put fresh lime in Stewart's key lime soda over ice and in Dr. Brown's cream soda, not to mention my favorite brunch drink: blood orange juice and Pellegrino with a lime and a splash of Rose's grenadine, over ice. Yum!!

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in General Topics

Favorite Diet Sodas?

Absolutely. IF you can get it.

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in General Topics

Favorite Diet Sodas?

Heck, YES!!!! Doc Brown's diet creme is the best. Diet Vernor's Ale is great, but I can rarely find it in Chicago. Vernor's Ale of either kind used to be very easy to find; go figure. Also agree on the diet IBC root beer -- no off-taste like may others.

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in General Topics

Raiders of the Lost Drink

Given that the questioner was looking for a serious answer, one assumes that Helena was not being sarcastic or facetious in her reply; which prompts one to ask: Helena, have you lost your frigging mind, and where the hell was the editor who let that reply stand??! Really, why are either of them still employed? At the very least, one expects the advice in a manners column to make sense rather than lead people to do stupid things, and the above clearly does NOT -- for all of the reasons mentioned above, and then some.

Helena must be accustomed to parties in which everyone goes into a stupor. I'm not: that's antisocial. When I have a party, I invite people because I enjoy their company and want to talk with and spend time with them; the point IS to enjoy each other's company and, possibly, meet new people whose company one would also enjoy, not shut them all out by drinking oneself into blinding oblivion. That would be an insult to the host and to everyone else there (apparently, Helena has no qualms about people barfing wherever at her parties). I also have more on the table to eat than I do to drink, plus a supply of nonalcoholic beverages for the designated drivers and those (like me) who'd rather make every other drink one without booze (staying hydrated properly and fortifying yourself with B-vitamins keeps away the hangovers). Nor do I ever pressure people about what they're drinking or to have "just one more,' tho I do make sure to inquire regularly if anyone needs anything and do periodically pass around food to those who haven't gotten up in a while. There's always fun cocktail music on, not too loud, to keep things perky. Finally, if things start getting slow after the first hour after everyone's arrived, there's always party games like charades or Scene-It (the James Bond one is always fun, as are the film and TV versions). Finally, I always sweetly enlist a few people in advance to help me clear away dishes (a few always volunteer, so I rarely have to ask), which then get rinsed and immediately loaded into the dishwasher for a later run (that's if the party hasn't been outdoors and we were using colorful paper and plastic). All these strategies have combined over the years to keep things fun late into the night without my having even one serious drunk to deal with, thank heavens. Oh, and limiting the size of the party to people you know plus their significant others usually helps, too. I don't do huge bacchanals, thanks.

Now I should mention that when my several cousins, aunt, their families, in-laws and I all get together for Thanksgiving or an Easter or Christmas Day party, that's a group of 20-23 people, all but four of which are adults, and we've been known to go through a case and a half of champagne plus some wine and various assorted beers -- but we're talking about an 8-to-12-hour event during which there is much eating, all strategically paced so nobody overdoes it, and there's plenty of coffee, tea, juice and whatever besides. And usually, most of us are staying over rather than driving home that night, so we're not endangering anyone else. Besides, none of our waistlines can afford marathon eating more than three times a year; even so, there's always a group walk of half an hour to an hour before dessert. It's kept us all from being silly about what we eat and drink.

As for taking advice from Modern Drunkard, well, the name says it all, doesn't it? Drunkards by definition aren't known for their prudence, thus one doesn't seek advice from them on anything, certainly not on manners. When the owners of that site chose the domain name, they probably thought they were being snarky instead of simply stupid. *So* not. I rest my case.

Sep 03, 2009
lindygal in Features

Polite Society in the Hamptons

Few of us are ever likely to be i this situation. I live in Chicago -- who would I know in the Hamptons, and why would I care about weekends there?? Really, now. If you're going to tackle the question of what's appropriate for a weekend invitation, the least you could do is to make it relevant to the majority of us, not the spoiled, overindulged, self-important minority that already gets way too much attention. Get a clue: time to end this pointless focus on celebrity and status and be useful to normal people, eh? Or we'll have precious little use for *you.*

Jul 11, 2009
lindygal in Features

10 Good Cheap Liquors

Forgot to mention: my preference in vodka is either Finlandia or Stoli, both plain, but the best value-to-taste ratio is probably Smirnoff, as the New York Times said a while ago; can't go wrong with that.

Jul 01, 2009
lindygal in Features

10 Good Cheap Liquors

Can't comment about bourbon as I don't drink that or scotch, but Beefeater has always been a classic, along with Tanqueray silver and Bombay Sapphire. Flor de Cana, however, is a wonderful revelation, and the two full-agave tequilas are fine. Of all mentioned, I think my favorite is the Flor de Cana rum. Yummy enough to sip straight with a hot tea and lime on the side.

Jul 01, 2009
lindygal in Features

Dumped Over Dinner

Dumpers generally want to pick a public place so that they can make a fast exit -- but that means unnecessarily exposing uninvolved others to the ensuing drama. Which is RUDE. The correct place for such notice is at the dumpee's residence, in private -- meaning, no family members or roommates present. It's just as easy to leave the dumpee's place once you said what you came to say as it is to leave a public place. Just say it and go. Second choice is a handwritten letter, but people today don't hand-write letters anymore, and many prefer not to have hard-copy evidence of what they have to say, which brings us back to breaking up in person, in private. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES is it ever appropriate to break up in public, in a restaurant or anywhere else.

Jun 05, 2009
lindygal in Features

Thoroughbred Dishes and Cocktails for Kentucky Derby Day

All of this looks tasty, BUT: except for the julep, there is NOTHING here that would be included in a typical Derby Day brunch!!! Much more likely would be bourbon-glazed ham, cream biscuits, red-eye gravy, and grits puff (which is like a cheesy grits souffle). Surely you could find something that speaks more of Old Kentucky than the menu *you* came up with??

Apr 22, 2009
lindygal in Features

Foodie needs recs on cocktails and brunch

Yeah, the Peninsula folks still think they're in Hong Kong before the handover. Nobody here spends that much on brunch unless it's on an expense account or they don't know where else to eat. I don't doubt it's tasty at the Peninsula, but for that price you could walk a few blocks north and get as good a brunch for less at Seasons at the Four Seasons in the Bloomie's building.

That said, Walker Brothers and Lou Mitchell's are the local standards for best brunch at the best price -- but Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe on 95th in Burbank comes very close in price and is their equal in quality; besides, Chuck's brunch is New Orleans style, complete with coffee and chicory, Eggs Benedict and variations, and Bananas Foster French toast. Yummy!!

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area

Chicago Cheap Eats Comfort Food

I LOVE Walker Brothers for breakfast!!! Particularly the Green Bay Road location in Wilmette. Too bad they don't have a South Side location, or I'd be there every weekend.

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area

Chicago Cheap Eats Comfort Food

I'm for smoked baby back ribs as the ultimate Chicago style, but I'll eat smoked spares, too -- and I have three favorites since Carson's diminished in stature:

Fat Willy's east of Logan Square, across from the City North movie theaters (they make a dynamite mac and cheese side dish, too);

Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe and BBQ, on 95th Street at Central Ave., for excellent, fully smoked ribs, brisket, and really fine pulled pork plus Chuck's own Chicago wings (ask for the honey BBQ sauce with the wings!); and

The Patio, on Harlem near 92nd Street in Bridgeview -- really good ribs, either eat in or takeout, but ask for the sauce on the side to fully appreciate the fine taste of the meat; they also have a location on 159th in Orland Park, but I like the Harlem location better.

But I still miss the ribs and the GREAT scalloped potatoes from the original Carson's in Skokie ...

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area

Chicago Cheap Eats Comfort Food

Nah, gotta disagree there -- Ann Sather's still makes great breakfasts (I like the Swedish pancakes with a side of ham and eggs and *lots* of lingonberry preserves), and who doesn't LOVE those cinnamon rolls, especially when they come out warm from the oven?? I could live on those cinnamon rolls, but my butt and waist couldn't take it. Still, they're a worthwhile indulgence every once in a while ...

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area

Absolute best burger in Chicago?

At last somebody mentioned Top Notch!!! It's like you guys never get south of Chinatown. Top Notch Beefburgers have been The Standard on the South Side and SW suburbs for decades. The Beverly location at 2116 W. 95th is the original, but there's also one in a strip mall on the NE corner of 95th and Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn and another on 159th St. in Orland Park. However, the Beverly location is still the best. Excellent homemade onion rings and fries, too (second-best onion rings in the city).

Hackney's in Glenview and in Palos Park still makes a good burger, ditto Charlie Beinlich's (which also makes great chili) and so does Moody's Pub on Broadway -- but I'll put up the burger at Fox's on 93rd and Cicero in Oak Lawn next to those any day -- and Fox's has THE BEST batter-fried onion rings in the metro area!

Now if only I could get a batch of Fox's rings with Top Notch's burger ...

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area

Top 3 Hot Dogs

Hot Doug's is okay but more a specialty joint, not really what I have in mind when I want a real Chicago hot dog -- and how did this discussion about same get this far without mentioning either Fluky's on Western OR the deli at the Vienna Hot Dog Factory on Fullerton and Damen?? The factory deli makes the quintessential "garden on a bun" Chicago dog, and they'll even sell you the appropriate condiments on the spot -- including that typically radioactive green relish and a great big bottle of celery salt that is, thankfully, more celery than salt. I bought my jar of celery salt two years ago and despite almost daily use haven't finished it yet -- but I'm getting very close! It's the best on fresh tomatoes, which every true Chicago dog has.

As for Fluky's, it's a classic -- and that includes their hotdog-shaped bubble gum!

Feb 20, 2009
lindygal in Chicago Area