Chicago’s autumnal wallet harvest.

deep dish pizzaMy beloved camera has been sent away for repairs, forcing me to use my little backup. Blame it and my amateur skill for the blur in these photos. I’d like to blame the camera woes for failing to post lately, but instead I’ll blame a recent trip to Chicago and my two main activities there: gluttony and prodigality.

Oooh, how I ate. Oh, how I spent! Living in a smaller city, I can’t buy much “fancy food” without paying high shipping costs, so I used this trip to buy every affordable non-perishable item that I’d ever yearned for. When I wasn’t enjoying a deep-dish spinach pizza from Caffe Florian in Hyde Park, an arbol chili dark chocolate pyramid from Bon Bon in Andersonville, or a raspberry petit four from Swedish Bakery, I was buying three pounds of fat chestnuts at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, dried scallops in Chinatown, or exciting salts like earthy red Hawaiian, architectural Maldon, and sticky gray fleur de sel. You know you’re having a good time when you’re shopping at an organic farmer’s market, sample a sugar snap pea sprout (tastes just like sugar snap peas!), and trip over a pink fingerling potato. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever tripped over!

chestnutsThe fleur de sel was probably overkill, but because I couldn’t buy all the stinky cheese, delicate fruit, and pricey meat that I wanted for fear of spoilage, I comforted myself with foods that would last decades. Besides, I don’t drink. Think of the thousands of dollars that I’ve saved by not buying wine every week. Oh heck, think of the millions of dollars that I’ve saved by not buying cases of 18th century wine every day! Don’t I deserve a little hand-raked sea salt? The salt may still be around when I’m 80 because it’s too expensive to use. I’ll bring it out to show guests, but I’ll be sure to let them know that they’re not important enough to eat it. If anyone requests a taste I’ll say in a shocked tone, “You think I’m made of salt?” (Insert biblical spouse joke here.)

raspberry petit fourThe Amedi chocolate bar, salt caramels, and Trader Joe’s grade B maple syrup—I finally found grade B maple syrup—will disappear before the decade is out. I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do with dried white fungus, but I’m going to enjoy figuring it out. I know excactly what I’m going to do with the dried morels. (Hint: It involves the Italians and rice.) The Arbol chili pyramid is long gone, but the lingering heat kept me company for at least five minutes before it faded into a warm memory. Can you be addicted to a chocolate after one dose? And could the flavor be improved with a dip in fleur de sel? There’s only one way to find out.

chocolateI hope to go back soon clutching a new shopping list in my hands and wearing an extra-absorbent bib around my neck. After all, I still haven’t tried every deep-dish pizza in town, nor have I tried one of the famous hot dogs that you can’t order with ketchup or else an angry mob will drag you to the stocks to pelt you with lake effect snowballs. Also, the one store I found that stocked El Ray had run out of the white chocolate, I need to find a decent masala dabba in Indiatown, and I hear that Szichuan peppercorns packed in oil can knock a grown man into a stupor. Now that’s Chicago.

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Chicago-based Fancy Toast is a treasure of a food blog. It’s beautiful, hilarious, and a little—just a little—completely insane. I love it.

Family feast.

Back from my road trip! And what better welcome home than finding that the photograph from my inaugural post, The birds & the (non-) berries placed third in the Originiality category of the Does My Blog Look Good In This contest, hosted last month by Grab Your Fork. I’m truly surprised—as an amateur I didn’t think that I’d even place out of all that beautiful competition. A big thank you to the judges!

kimchiTo celebrate, more photos! I’m sorry I didn’t blog from the road much, but heat, fatigue, and spotty wireless connections took their toll. I did manage to snap some photographs of Korean food at a big dinner. Family trickled in from Queens and Long Island to a cousin’s home in New Jersey for the feast. I pigged out, I admit it.

The pictures below are, from top to bottom, mook salad—mung bean jelly topped with scallions, cucumber, and soy sauce; kalbi—grilled, marinated short ribs, one of Korea’s signature dishes; and watermelon—fruit is always the favored dessert after a big Korean meal. Of course, the picture above is an obligatory kimchi photo required under international law to be posted by Korean food bloggers at least once a year. Really. You can look it up . . . somewhere.

mook

kalbi

watermelon

Annie on the road: cuckoo for cookie.

Fort Wayne, a city tucked between Amish country and Ohio in northeast Indiana, may not seem like a mouth-watering town, but every place has its treasures. Consider the hot potato wedges tossed in Old Bay seasoning and served with a side of thick tzatziki at Munchies. The best French toast I ever had came from, of all places, a cafeteria in a government building, where they used three fat slices of soft bread and sprinkled the whole beautiful plate with powdered sugar. I can’t count the number of times I ordered Breads & Spreads at Dash In: a plate of hummus, roasted red pepper dip, and herbed cream cheese served with toast points and pita triangles.

Not trashy enough for Midwestern food, you say? Try the stinky hot dogs at Coney Island (no real relation to the New York City beach), which are legendary dogs on squishy buns, topped with ripe diced onions, and doused with a thin cumin-laced beef chilli that soaks into the bread. I can name countless other favorites: the prime rib at Acme Bar, the tangy barbecue sauce glazing succulent ribs at Ziffles, the thin crisp fries dusted with a mysteriously alluring herb (thyme, maybe?) at Henry’s.

So I went back to Indiana to visit friends, I claimed, but in reality I think went back for this iced sugar cookie from The Cookie Cottage. I don’t know what’s in it, and I’m not sure I want to know because it might require the use of powerfully addictive substances currently illegal under multiple state and federal statues. The cookie itself is a perfect combination of crisp and tender. The icing, a thin soft layer spread neatly over the top, has a tangy rich flavor laced, surprisingly, with a slight salty kick. It’s an astonishing combination. I’m glad I left Fort Wayne, because resisting this cookie while trying to lose weight would require a force of willpower that could rip a hole in the fabric of the universe.

sugar cookie