Monday, November 30, 2009

Grandma's Dumplings

Over the holiday weekend, my grandma made me some dumplings (some might be an understatement as I think she made around 200 of them). I kept asking her what she uses to marinate the filling (apparently just soy sauce, sugar and salt). Perhaps their simplicity is what makes them so tasty. The thing about restaurant dumplings is that they can be overwhelmingly meaty. My grandma's dumplings have pork, chives, mushrooms, wood ear, nappa cabbage, and dried shrimp. One of these days, I am going to make these dumplings for her.

What a cutie!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot Doug's

t-shirt from Hot Doug's
image courtesy of


While visiting Tara in Chicago this past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Hot Doug's. You see I've been a mission to find the best hot dog place EVER. I haven't been to Bark Hot Dogs over in Park Slope, but I have sampled Super Hotdog and I was mightily disappointed with the small dog and the skimpy toppings (even though we got delivery, I thought it could have been better).

Hot Doug's lived up to my expectations. I had traveled 45 minutes on the El, walked 20 minutes (even under a sketchy overpass!) to get there. When I arrived, there was a line out the door. This was at 2pm on a Monday. Plus, Hot Doug's is located on a corner between a somewhat-suburban street and an industrial park. Weird location, but people travel to this place. I heard the girl behind me saying to someone else in line that she and her boyfriend took a cab, and the cabbie got lost taking them there.

It was a difficult decision. I wanted to try The Dog, which is just the regular hot dog with all the trimmings, but then I started looking at all of the daily specials. I knew that my stomach couldn't handle both, so I decided to go with the The Hot Doug's B.L.T.: Bacon Sausage with Avocado Mayonnaise, Cherry Tomatoes and Iceberg Lettuce with a side of french fries.

Um, seriously, bacon sausage - the best of both meats! Plus, I love a good BLT.

As I sat on a stool by the counter waiting for my food, I looked around. Hot Doug's had an incredibly warm, homey feeling about it. Everyone was enjoying the food. The staff were happy, and everything seemed to run smoothly. I loved it there. No pretentiousness even though there were some really gourmet dogs (e.g. Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris)

When my food arrived, on a plastic red tray, I looked at my dog and thought, this doesn't look like much (maybe it was the iceberg lettuce? It never looks pretty). Then I bit into it, and I was instantly convinced. The one thing I find when cooking sausage is that the casing can get a bit tough; Hot Doug's sausage was perfect and easy to bite into. I could taste the bacon flavor, but it didn't overwhelm the sausage taste. It tasted just like a B.L.T., but in sausage form. YUM.

As I left Hot Doug's with my euphoric meat high (Can one get a meat high from just one sausage? Yes, yes one can), I thought about what other hot dogs or sausages I would sample when I came back. I would have to come back on a Friday or Saturday for their french fries fried in rendered duck fat (um, yum). I walked all the way back to the train with a huge grin on my face.

I long for a place like this in New York.

Hot Doug's
3324 North California
Chicago, IL 60618
Phone: (773) 279-9550
Open: Monday-Saturday 10am - 4pm
Closed: Sundays and Holidays

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The grits at No. 7

This weekend I had brunch at No. 7 (I had dinner there once before, but not brunch), and I had the most amazing grits of my life, which I am still thinking about right now.

It came served, unassuming, in a small white bowl. The description on the menu was "
Grits with Shredded Pork, Napa Cabbage and Swiss." One bite, and I felt like Anton Ego in Ratatouille: instantly transported to a time in my childhood. Where did I have this taste before? It tasted like a dish my grandma had cooked, but my grandmother has never made grits. Why did it then taste so familiar?

Grits I have had in the past have tasted like a vehicle for butter and cheese, but this was different. Was it made with meat broth? Is that what gave it the rich taste? It was so hearty, so warm, like sitting in front of a roaring fire at home during a blizzard.

The side of grits blew away the main that I had ordered (corned beef hash with fried eggs). After the last bite, I still hadn't pinpointed what it was that made the dish so special. It looked simple, yet had such complex flavors.