Hello again, Gentle Readers.

That last post was a rather ominous note to disappear on, wasn’t it?  My apologies.  I’ll admit that I was balls deep in what folks call a “life change” and remained so until recently.  While I was gone, you may have noticed small differences over time – a new banner picture, an amended title and “About” page – but no concerted effort to actually write.  To be honest, anything more than that was too complicated.  Nothing notable was happening in the kitchen on a regular basis.  People can read about combinations of cheese, crackers, fruit and booze for only so long.  Plus, I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around where I “was” existentially.  Geographically, I’m in Rogers Park.  (Yes, that’s still Chicago.)  Here are some culinary notes from in between and my new ‘hood.

1) Japanese whiskey:  You need it.  I highly recommend Yamazaki 18, as well as Hakushu.  Both will put you in your place.  Yamazaki is nearly indistinguishable from a good scotch and goes very well with the sticky toffee pudding at Wilde in Lakeview.  It will make you believe for one minute that this song, as well as anything else good, is possible.  Hakushu, on the other hand, is like chewing cinnamon gum.  It goes very well with cheese and crackers and was responsible for quite a few Bridget Jones moments in late January.  Thankfully, I have the sense to not get on the phone when in that way.

2) Devon Avenue:  My current location is closer to many things, particularly work.  It’s also closer to that strip of Devon Ave. designated Little India.  At the invite of someone in the know about Indian food, I finally went sometime in late November for a greatest hits tour.  Then went again a few weeks later for some more greatest hits.  Then again…and again.  It’s become a monthly thing.  Things you must try:  Patel Brothers pickle bar (try the garlic ginger pickle – mix it with yogurt, put it with scrambled eggs, eat it out of the plastic container…yes), Mysore Woodlands for dosas, Royal Sweets for puri chaat, chole bathura, rasmalai and masala chai (Rajiv and I feasted like kings for $18) and finally Khan Barbeque for mutton biryani.  If you’re feeling frisky and want to see just how capable you are of overriding your brain’s “YOU’RE EATING POISON” signal, try paan at any number of the places along that strip.  Once you’re fit to burst out of your skinny jeans, window shop for saris that you will (a) never be able to afford, (b) never again have the abs to wear and (c) look ridiculous in because you’re a white girl.  I will recommend that you do most of these things before dark/8:00 p.m. and with at least one other person.  The area is known for its very cheap rent that was originally intended to help freshly arrived S. Asian families.  Word got out and the unseemly Chicago natives moved in.  Once all the families have done their shopping for the day, the streets are nearly empty of anyone except weirdos.

3) Rogers Park (in general):  I’ll always remember my boss’s reaction when I told her I was moving to Rogers Park.  “GET MACE!!!!” she exclaimed.  I’ll also never forget the gas man’s comment when he came in to turn on my stove.  “Nice girls like you didn’t live on this block twelve years ago.”   As it turns out, Rogers Park does still retain vestiges of its rough past.  Gang graffiti still pops up.  We have a good number of wandering addicts begging for change on the main strip.  A woman was sexually assaulted at the secondary entrance to my train stop very early one morning in December.  While I wouldn’t wander to close to Howard by myself at night, I would like to ask the nay-sayers if there is a neighborhood in Chicago where this doesn’t happen.  Aside from the very posh neighborhoods, it’s hard to find one.  In fact, the hotbed for sexual assault in the summer is Lincoln Square, which is considered *the* location for trendy young things in their 20’s and 30’s.  Just because your ‘hood has a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s does not mean that it’s safe and spotless.

4) Rogers Park (food scene):  I’m not going to blow my neighborhood open in one fell swoop because I like the cheap rent and the walking access to a number of good restaurants, a great grocery store, a florist, a dollar store, a movie theater, two gay bars and a beach.  Keep believing that this place is a total ghetto, please.  I’d rather not see your Ugg boot wearin’ ass gumming up the works with your no carb and egg white requests at my favorite diner.  However, I would like to point out Taste Food and Wine.  Located a hop, skip and jump from the Jarvis red line stop, this place is a jewel of Rogers Park.  In addition to good affordable wine, they have a small selection of cheese and charcuterie, as well as other things that I need like sake and whiskey.  The best thing?  IT’S TOTALLY IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!  For the first god damn time since I’ve lived in Chicago I can actually pick up a decent bottle of wine on the way home without getting fucked over by bodega prices on top of all the city, county and state taxes.  At any rate – go there.  Support this guy.  They have tastings on Fridays and Mondays from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  I got a lovely bottle of Umbrian red and a wedge of sharp cheddar for $14.95 last night.