I’m really sad to be leaving Chicago. Aside from the harsh winters, its an amazing city. I fell in love and have made lifelong friends here. However, I have chosen my family and career over prolonging this adventure. We’ve slept our last night (for now?) in Joel’s amazing condo and the movers are coming in a few hours to pick up our boxes and drive them out to California. I miss cooking and am getting quite tired of eating out (I know, poor me).
There’s no doubt Chicago is an amazing food city. Before I moved here, I spent several weeks a year downtown for work and had the opportunity to eat at some amazing top end restaurants. When I moved here as a grad student, my budget no longer allowed for such extravagances. The expensed dinners went away as did the expensive bottles of wine. However, I got to know Chicago’s other neighborhoods and restaurants…some I frequented quite a bit.
What are the places I’ll miss the most? Its the places that we’d go to on Monday night after a long weekend or somewhere we’d grab drinks with friends.
- Sticky Rice – The Thai kids at school turned me on to this authentic & amazing Northern Thai restaurant. It is also ridiculously cheap: $25 gets you dinner for two + leftovers for lunch the following day.
- Tank Noodle – Vietnamese restaurant that helped stave homesickness…and I was able to introduce Joel to the fantasticalness of Vietnamese food, which I don’t cook much of myself.
- Piece Pizza – I don’t care that Chicago is supposed to be a deep dish town, Piece’s New Haven-style pizza is often one of the first things I eat after several weeks away from Chicago. Oh, and they brew their own beer. Don’t like their beer? They have a gajillion more on tap or by the bottle.
- Publican – Okay, not a place I went to every week but a place I always took friends from out of town. A restaurant dedicated to pork? Yes, please!
- Hopleaf – Good beer & food
- Longman & Eagle – I tell all of my SF friends that it is my Chicago version of Alembic…but with more food. And they serve brunch!
- Miko’s Italian Ice – Everyone knows I’m not much of a dessert person but Miko’s turned me into one. The first time I had Miko’s, I was walking home from BaconFest a little tipsy and very full; I traded some bacon chocolates and lollipops for some lemon ice.
- Big Star – When I first arrived in Chicago, this space was a hipster honkytonk bar. Last winter it was remodeled and turned into gourmet tacos with a great outdoor space. Yes, getting seated can take a while but I often get lucky with seats at the bar. The food & drinks are great…and cheap!
Goodbye Chicago…for now. I hope we move back again someday. Just not during the winter.
Adobo is so easy to make and requires minimal ingredients. We made it twice while traveling in Africa. Adobo is also really flexible. I have about ten days to finish as much of my pantry as possible. All I had to buy was some chicken and garlic. I was able to use up a bottle of soy sauce, a bottle of white vinegar, a bottle of red wine vinegar, some apple cider vinegar, some frozen spinach and some brown rice. I also cleared out a can of quail eggs and a can of bamboo shoots. Not bad!!
Eating through one’s pantry can mean not getting enough vegetables, so I snuck some frozen spinach into the rice cooker for some “spinach rice” and I also steamed a crown of broccoli by putting some cut up broccoli on top of the adobo right before we were ready to eat.
My “adobo” is different every time and I don’t really adhere to the traditional recipe since mine is more of a cross between Filipino adobo and Vietnamese thit kho. But that’s the fun of cooking. Here are a few other versions I’ve made: Chicken & Pork Adobo, Chinese Sticky Rice w/adobo, and Adobo Fried Rice.
Also, you’ll have to excuse the photo quality. My SLR is already in San Francisco and my new work laptop doesn’t have an SD card reader so I’ve just been using my Blackberry.
Needless to say, my dad is pretty excited that we are moving to San Francisco. We flew in for the long weekend to settle in to the new apartment and for me to spend a few days in the office. Our welcome home meal was a greatest hits menu of Vietnamese comfort food from my childhood:
- bo luc lac (shaken beef) – cubes of beef sauteed with onions over lettuce & garden fresh tomatoes (the beginning of my California produce swoonfest)
- ca kho (salted fish)- basically braised catfish in a caramel/fish sauce
- ca chien – fried fish
- tom kho – salty shrimp (same preparation as the braised catfish)
- canh rau day – soup made from the leaves of some sort of okra/spinach-like plant. This is my absolute favorite comfort food and I could eat this every single day. This is always what I request when I come home for dinner and I am pretty sure my parents get tired of me asking for the same thing every time I come home. It is simple and its peasant food but you can’t get it in a restaurant. Its slimy so if you don’t grow up eating it, I don’t blame you for not liking it. I love it over rice with some salty fish or pickled eggplants. My mom used to throw in muop (no idea what this vegetable is called in English) or sliced okra. Sometimes she threw in dried shrimp & egg drops and other times she threw in pieces of fresh shrimp. In any case, it is my ultimate comfort food.
We made two trips to Ikea within two days. Normally a maddening experience but since it was a long weekend, bridge traffic wasn’t horrible. I also got to visit some of my favorite East Bay eateries: Picante and Genova Deli.
When I lived and worked in the East Bay, I had lunch at Picante at least once a week and it is still one of my favorites. Not as greasy as your average taqueria but just as tasty and with quality, fresh, local ingredients.
Genova Deli is an authentic Italian deli that I also frequented quite a bit when I lived in the East Bay. They make great specialty sandwiches but also make amazing regular deli sandwiches. Its been at least 5 years since I was last there but all of the old Italian guys are still behind the counter!
Finally, we stopped in at Berkeley Bowl West, the newer and bigger version of where I shopped when I was in college. Coming from two years in the land of meat and cheese, the array of produce was mindblowing. Joel was blown away by all of the beers available. Though I won’t be shopping here very often, it just highlights that we are returning to the land of amazingly fresh produce. I’m looking forward to shopping at our farmer’s markets and getting my first CSA box.
I have about ten days left in Chicago before the trucks come to pick up our stuff…which means I really need to get through the pantry and freezer. I think we will get there (assuming I haven’t packed away too much of the vital kitchen stuff). Luckily, my best friend just moved to Chicago so all of the condiments in the fridge won’t have to get dumped…hooray for recycling!
I used the last of the chicken broth and opened a new tub of grits from the pantry. I have confidence we’ll get through these grits by the time we leave (I found a can of Spam in the pantry!). I’m almost to the bottom of a 2 lb bag of shrimp and we’ll be out of protein in this house. (I bought the bag of frozen shrimp back when we hosted the crawfish boil because I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough food–a common worry among the women in my family though no one has ever left a party hungry.) I also found some frozen corn and spinach…and a cube of monterey jack cheese. Stirred it all up, topped with fresh ground pepper and a healthy dose of Frank’s Red Hot and we have a hearty breakfast!
To make it extra hearty I could put a fried egg on top, but we only have one egg left, which I’ll save for something else.