Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Great Lakes, Pequods, the never ending quest for best pizza

Pizza. What is there to say that hasn't already been said? I love love love pizza. I don't care if its Chicago style - pan or thin, Neapolitan, NY Style - it doesn't matter. All that matters is that its good. And good pizza is not easy to find. In New York or in Chicago. Or anywhere for that matter. Here are some of the more memorable experiences from my time in Chicago.

Spacca Napoli
I ventured to this Ravenswood pizzeria with a friend a few months ago after reading a lot about it in various places. We shared two pies (the daily special - cannot remember what was on it, and the Diavola - Buffalo Mozzarella, Salami, Red Pepper Flakes, Basil) that were among the best I have ever had. Im not sure if it was because I hadn't had a great crust in months at that point - and this crust was seriously mind blowing - but it was SO good. Definitely the best I had in Chicago - significantly better than Great Lakes, which has been called the best in the country.

Great Lakes:
 So after all the fuss over this place I put it on my 'cant-leave-town-without-going-here' list. Everything Ive read said it was incredible but it took forever to get a seat, even longer to get your food, and the staff are stand-offish and generally not nice. This couldn't be further from the truth. We arrived a half an hour after the doors opened and put our names in. About 45 minutes later they called us and we came back to the restaurant and were promptly seated. The dining room is just as small as everyone says. Theres a community picnic table - capable of seating maybe 8 people? And 2 or 3 other 2 top tables. That it. In a room the size of my bedroom. It was charming though, in an Ikea kind of way. The staff were all very gracious to us and not at all like I had read. We ordered one of each of the pizzas available that day - and added Mortadella to the Pizza #1 ( tomato sauce, farmers cheese, dante cheese, fresh herbs, and grey sea salt) as this was the specific pie named the best in the country. It was very good - my favorite of the three - but still nowhere near the pizza we had at Spacca Napoli (my dining companion agreed). Ive been told they are currently selling some Mortadella at SCCC - so I may try to recreate this pizza at home. 

I cannot remember what was on this pie but it was good. Second favorite of the evening.

 The third, and my least favorite, spring onion...asparagus?, cumin...I felt everything was a bit overwhelmed by the cumin which made the whole pie taste kind of muddy. Oh well. My two friends both loved this one so...maybe Im the weirdo. 

 So after searching high and low and listening carefully to the recommendations of Chicago natives I ventured to Pequods a few months back. It was so good it wound up being my last meal in Chicago. Not much to say here...just look at these ridiculous pictures.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sous Vide Fried Chicken

First you brine your chicken overnight; I used Thomas Kellers recipe which can be found here:

Next I rinsed the chicken, deboned it, bagged it up and dropped it in a water bath at 64 C. This is 147.2 F. Health Department says cook your chicken to 165 F. I figured the frying process would bring it to a good temperature somewhere between 147 and 165. It did.

 Since my chicken was all kind of thick I left it in the bath for about 1.5 - 2 hours. Wasn't paying that much attention to the clock. Once it was done, I removed the chicken from the bag and patted it dry. I then coated the chicken in seasoned flour - again, I used Thomas Kellers recipe for this. After coating, I heated some oil in a dutch oven to 350 F and fried the chicken until it looked done.

Clockwise: Roasted broccoli, mashed cauliflower, fried chicken. 

Garnished with flash fried herbs. Yum.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Well that was fun

My last week in Chicago was a whirlwind of prepping for graduation, packing, running around the city with Sheena, eating so much good food (including a "10" course dinner at Graham Elliot) and finally graduating from the French Pastry School. Needless to say, I am sad to leave. Here are a few pictures from graduation, to give you an idea of what it was like!

Yummy! I will, of course, do a more complete post on that...soon. (really! I mean it). Now that I am back in Albany I have agreed to help a friend & former ACF Hot Foods Team - teammate prepare for the Student Chef of the Year competition at the ACF national convention in Dallas TX. I will be attending the convention; in fact I am driving all of her equipment down so maybe there will be a brief road trip post here or there. I am hoping to make a pit stop at Townhouse in Chilhowie VA as it only adds a few miles to my trip and it has been essentially impossible to get to for me for the past year or so. So...some exciting stuff coming up!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


West loop, Chicago.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Skipping town

A few days before moving out to Chicago, I had decided I should put some music on my phone so I would have something to listen to on the drive out here. Its been a while since I paid much attention to music and I knew the other people in the car wouldn't want to listen to Milo Goes to College on repeat for 12 hours so I tried to put some stuff I knew would be more universally accepted. One thing lead to another and I wound up with Come on Feel the Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens on there (and Milo Goes to College). These two records, along with the weekly podcast of this American Life, have been the soundtrack for my daily commute.

I have two more actual days of class  where I will complete my sugar showpiece - from there I have a week of practicals and then preparation for graduation. In two and a half weeks I will be leaving Chicago and heading back to upstate New York. Chicago has had a profound impact on me in so many ways. The food I've had, the people I've met, the places I've see and things I have done. School. So much has happened in the past six months its hard to articulate how I feel about the whole experience. I've grown so much.  It breaks my heart leaving - I feel like theres still so much I can do here. But at the same time I am excited to be back in the comfort of my home, with my family and those I love. There are a tremendous amount of possibilities now - things I can do, places I can go. Who knows whats next. I am anxious for whatever it is.