Monday, January 25, 2010

Not your average American cheese...

No, the Great American Cheese Collection doesn’t sell 100 different varieties of square yellow cheese! They sell great cheese made in the United States – 26 different states to be exact. They open up their warehouse doors to commonfolk (i.e. non-industry people) every Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm and the trek to the South side is well worth it.

It’s a casual set up – card tables with various cheeses displayed. Our trusty cheese guide, Linda, gladly sliced us slivers of whatever our hearts desired. At the end of our visit, I’d guess we sampled between 15 and 20 different cheeses and walked away with about a dozen or so hunks. A *little* more than we needed, but at wholesale costs, we basically got twice as much cheese as our dollars would get us retail.

If you plan on going in the next few weeks, bundle up – the warehouse can be chilly. Feel free to bring with beers or wines to pair with the cheese while you sample. They accept credit cards and cash. It’s a really fun and interesting experience – one that I will be doing again soon!


Great American Cheese Collection warehouse sale:
EVERY Saturday – 10 am to 1 pm
4727 S. Talman, Chicago, IL 60632
(between Western and California Avenue)
** Plenty of parking!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Upcoming Lecture | The Local Option

As part of their Culinary Chicago series, the Chicago History Museum is hosting a round table discussion on local and organic eating. For those of you in the Chicago-land area, here are the details:

The Local Option | Tuesday, April 22, 7:00 p.m.

In honor of Earth Day and Chicago’s efforts to go green, join us as we discuss all things local and organic. What does organic and all-natural really mean? How can I support local growers? What is a "locavore" and how can I become one? And what are area businesses doing to improve our food options and assist the local farmer? Featuring Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass CafĂ©, and Dave Cleverdon, farmer and owner of Kinnikinnick Farm and Green City Market board member. Moderated by Dimitra Tasiouras, Program Director of the Illinois Humanities Council.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the museum, visit

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Westown Tavern BBQ Sparerib Special

Last night was the official kick-off of the West Town Tavern’s BBQ Sparerib Special. Every Wednesday night, Chef Susan Goss serves her Texas-style pork spareribs alongside fried potato salad and black-eyed pea relish – all for $18.75. And last night’s special dinner also included a free piece of Lemon Chess Pie and a bag of Chef’s dry rub spice blend to take home. Plus (as if that wasn’t enough) you could add a glass of Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2004 for $10.

The ribs were awesome – really meaty, really tender, fall-off-the-bone, flavorful, plentiful (we each took two home with us) and they tasted just as good, maybe even better, the next day. I never would have thought to fry potato salad, but one taste and I knew why they did. It was reminiscent of Italian fried rice balls and the extra crunch from the breadcrumb coating added a nice texture.

Not only do I highly recommend the Wednesday dinner, West Town Tavern also offers a Monday night Fried Chicken Special and a Tuesday Hamburger Dinner Special. I can’t vouch for the burger (we haven’t tried it yet), but the chicken and the ribs should be on the top of your “must try” list.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Review | Think Like a Chef

A friend was over and spotted Thomas Coliccio’s Think Like a Chef on my bookshelf. He said “This book is the reason I became a chef.” Damn. That’s a bold statement – and it must be one heck of a book. Sheepishly, I had to admit to him that I hadn’t read the book or even looked at it that closely. In my defense, I bought it over five or six years ago when I wasn’t as much of a “foodie”. I appreciate good food, good cooking and good cookbooks much more now than I did then.

So I took that book off the shelf and read it cover to cover. And it is a good book. A really good book. There’s recipes. And pretty pictures. But it’s more than that. Coliccio organizes and paces the book in a way that really does get you into the mindset of a chef. He explains his ideas and approach to food in a way that makes sense and you can begin to see how you can apply them to your own cooking. In fact, I had one “ah ha” moment in particular that I think back to time and again:

“Believe it or not, I rarely begin with the thought Gee, I’ve got some beef. How should I serve it? The proteins – beef, lamb, chicken, fish – are the constants. What do change frequently, bringing the color and excitement of the changing seasons, are the vegetables. So, vegetables make up the building blocks that spark our imagination and let us fly.”

That paragraph changed the way I now think about cooking and creating meals and menus. Not quite as life-altering as going to culinary school, but worth the read.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Green City Market Summer BBQ

Thursday, July 12, 2007 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Join over 50 of Chicago’s Top Chefs as they prepare delicious tastings using Green City Market foods at this popular annual culinary event. Musicians will add to the festivities.

Beverages include Goose Island Beer & Root Beer, Ice Mountain Water, Connoisseur Wines Tasting, Glunz Family Winery Sangria, and wines from August Hill Winery.

Tickets ($50 pre-event; $60 at gate) are available at GREEN CITY MARKET each Wednesday & Saturday beginning June 13th through July 11th. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at

Want to make the evening extra special for you and your friends? Reserve a private table for an additional $100. Includes table, linens and 10 chairs. BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers).

The festival is located at the south end of Lincoln Park, just north of the parking area, between 1750 N. Clark Street and Stockton Drive (the same location as the Market).

All contributions support GREEN CITY MARKET, a 501(c)3 organization, and are tax deductible.

Sam’s Academy Wine Classes

The July-through-September class schedule for Sam’s Academy is ready for viewing. Sam’s Academy is the wine education program for Sam’s Wines & Spirits. The classes are held in Chicago (at CHIC/Le Cordon Bleu campus), Downers Grove and Highland Park and are led by Bill St. John.

I have taken two classes at the Academy and I highly recommend them to anyone seriously interested in learning more about wine and cheese. Bill is a great teacher – very knowledgeable, friendly and full of information. He takes teaching these classes seriously and demands that those who attend do too. He doesn’t tolerate talking while he is presenting, which is great if you’re there to learn (not so great if you planned on giggling with your friends over the stinky cheese). That is not to say that it’s all work and no play. There’s time to socialize and enjoy the wine – and you get plenty of both. I attended a French wine and cheese pairing and a Spanish/Italian wine and cheese pairing class. I left both classes tipsy, full and with more knowledge about wine and cheese than I came with.

The classes fill up quick, so if you’re interested, check out the schedule and book a session or two soon:
Sam’s Academy July – September, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Walking Tour of La Villita

This past Saturday, I went on a walking tour of La Villita (or Little Village) as part of a larger group organized by Slow Food Chicago. We met at the famous clock arch that is the entrance to La Villita at 26th Street and Kedzie Avenue. Our tour guide gave us some background information and history on the neighborhood; here is an excerpt from the Little Village Chamber of Commerce website that describes the vitality and importance of this area:

A Driving Force in Chicago’s Economy
Little Village is a thriving commercial area in Chicago’s West Side with more than 1,000 businesses that offer a vast array of goods and services. It is also home to the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, a fact reflected by the many unique Mexican specialty products available from merchants in the area. Little Village residents and business owners are amply recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic, and commitment to family and community. Businesses in Little Village create jobs for thousands of residents.

Th Little Village commercial area generated nearly $900 million in sales in 2001, a year that saw the nation endure a severe economic downturn. This fact reflects the perseverance and creativity of the area’s business owners and residents and serves as testament to the community’s vitality.

Our first stop was La Baguette, a locally-owned chain bakery with twelve locations in Chicago – this location being one of the largest. We sampled wide variety of pastries and cookies.

Next, we went to El Milagro to sample some freshly made tortillas made from masa ground on-site at 26th Street location. The business was started in 1950 by Raul Lopez and the tiny, homegrown tortilla operation grew into a well-established brand that you can find in grocery stores big and small across the Midwest.

We headed to a Western wear shop and briefly spoke with the owner and then headed back out into the heat to try out a street drink called “champurrado”. It’s a warm, thick, chocolate beverage made with milk, masa harina, chocolate and spices. It’s definitely a drink better suited to cold, winter days, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try it.

Moving on to a corner grocery store, we stopped in for a sample of some Mexican cheese. It was similar in texture to string cheese, but it had more flavor and depth. The owners of this small store travel to Mexico every two weeks to buy authentic ingredients and products. They started their business by bringing back Mexican cheeses from the markets. The wheels of cheese are coated in chili powder to keep insects away at the open-air farmers markets.

Next up, a candy and pinata store. It was so bright and colorful and alive. We sampled two different types of candy – a caramel wafer and a tamarind chili pepper candy. The tamarind chili pepper candy was a little sweet, sour and spicy – a great combination.

Our last stop was Carniceria Aguascalientes. It’s a grocery store with a restaurant inside. They’re famous for their gorditas or “little fat ones”. We chose from a variety of fillings and it was a good end to an informative and fun day.

Slow Food Chicago periodically offers walking tours of Little Village, Argyle Street and Devon Avenue. For more information on upcoming events or to learn more about Slow Food, visit their website at

And for some really great photos of the Little Village walking tour, check out nibblekibble’s flickr album.