Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There will be berries

A few too many bleak documentaries about how corporations have ruined the Earth and everything we put into our bodies is poison can really take a toll on your culinary motivation.  That and burning gravy to tar-pit status. Lack of variety and inspiration in our food and lack of consideration for our environment are really getting me down. On Sunday I ate four bowls of rice krispies and half a banana. Imported produce and over-processed boxed cereal! I was a real mess and I gave up. With winter toiling on and all hope lost for our planet, I began to complain: Will there ever be brightness and freshness in the world again? Why do the aliens want our planet if the ocean is so full of plastic waste? Is it ever going to be my birthday?
Open bar!
I was grumbly at work on Monday, too. I wore my lazy on my sleeves. I mean fo reals: I rocked the biggest hoodie I could find and tucked my shame away in the pouch. Then I read a message on the interwebs bringing me word of a cheese-oriented trivia contest. Google don’t fail me now! I cried, enthusiasm twinkling to life inside me. And in one season-changing swoop I won two tickets to the UCP Great Chefs Tasting Party, a charity event featuring Chicago food-makers and restaurant-havers.
So tonight, Alex and I spent the evening at the Sheraton with a bunch of fellow Chicagoans who are excited about food. I wanted to write about how this fancy event inspired me to make top-quality food, but it really reminded me how uncomplicated food should be, and how exhilarating it can be when it is simple and clean. It doesn’t need a bagpiper. (Not to hate on bagpipers. Outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes, represent.)
There were tables set up all around the ballroom—each for a different restaurant and chef plating their signature dish (just like on Top Chef! There was even a foam!)—and (in true Top Chef fashion) there were hits and misses.
One owner remarked to Alex that his restaurant was in Oak Park and thus unknown. That’s not why, Alex concluded after one bite of the tamale we’d been given. In the mix of overcomplicated lackluster offerings, there were some sparklers. Pastoral’s cheese and fruit pairings were spot on and Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s goat empanada was delicious—even if we thought Colicchio might say it was salty. 
We tried some alleged new fruit from Africa stuffed with cheese that tasted like a complex piquillo pepper (points for being on a stick and easy to eat). 

My favorite tonight was Capannari Ice Cream. Their raspberry chocolate chip flavor was smooth and tasty, but I thought their limoncello was outstanding, the definition of crisp and refreshing. I had to send Alex to get me more because I’d been seen too many times at the table.
When we left the sun was just setting and I didn’t need a jacket on the way to the car. It seems, when inspiration and excitement are lost, a sudden boon of spring reminds us that the end of winter is near.  We’ll be riding bikes soon. The farmers’ markets will move back outside, even if they only have asparagus and rhubarb at first. If the backwash of cold becomes too much for you to bear, just remember: There will be berries.


  1. There will be berries! Soon! I'm glad you had Stephanie's food (and enjoyed it).

  2. Campannari's looks really good to me. I'm not thrilled by the prospect of trekking out to Mt. Prospect but...

  3. I just realized that the birthday countdown has begun in earnest/ernst.

  4. What a perfect post. YES. I'm so glad you won these and were able to go and get inspired. And spring! Farmers markets. SOON. Before the aliens arrive.