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Irish stew and Guinness

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

– Traditional Irish toast

 

“Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.”

– “Colcannon” (song)

 

Anyone who lives in Chicago must surely be aware that the city takes its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations very seriously. Between the annual Loop, South Side, and Northwest Side parades, the (temporary) emerald green hue of the Chicago River, and the throngs of happy, shamrock-bedecked revelers filling the Irish pubs, restaurants, and taverns around town, there is something for everyone who claims Irish heritage (if only just for the day).

Julia Maish

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“I love coffee…I love tea,
I love the Java Jive and it loves me.
Coffee and tea and the Java and me,
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup…boy!”

– Java Jive,” The Ink Spots, 1940

 

“Pace the floor, stop and stare,
I drink a cup of coffee and start pulling out my hair.
I’m drinking forty cups of coffee,
Forty cups of coffee,
Forty cups of coffee, waiting for you to come home…”

– “Forty Cups of Coffee,” Ella Mae Morse, 1953

 

Bloomberg study conducted in mid-2016 estimated that before the year ended, Americans would consume, on average, 6.8 pounds (yes, pounds!) of hot coffee per person. If you are one of those “java junkies” (and you know who you are) who are on a first-name basis with your local barista, you might be wondering where this popular brew came from, and how it got to be so omnipresent. While you’re standing in line waiting for that grande skim latte with extra foam, let’s take a look back…

Julia Maish

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Beignets

The thousands of revelers who take part in Mardi Gras celebrations no doubt enjoy many of the traditional Creole and Cajun dishes that go with it, either as diners in some of New Orleans’s justly famous eateries, or here in Chicago. To those of us who are not native to Louisiana, Creole and Cajun foods are often lumped together as they share a number of commonalities. But how do these two cuisines differ? How and where did they originate?

Julia Maish

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Paczki

Not long ago, Chicago was home to more citizens of Polish descent than Warsaw, attracted here beginning in the mid-19th century by the city’s booming industries and opportunities for independence and growth. The Polish community is still one of Chicago’s largest and most prominent, at last count making up just over seven percent of the population. The number of Polish speakers in the area is second only to English and Spanish, and Poland’s cultural presence in the city is remarkably strong and vibrant, through its many festivals, churches, and museum.   

Julia Maish

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A locally sourced dish at Lincoln Square's Elizabeth

Are you a locavore? If you know what this term means without having to look it up (and consider yourself to be one), chances are you’re a fan of the “farm to table” movement. In honor of a Check, Please! featured eatery in this category, Evanston’s Boltwood, here’s a closer look at the what, when, and why.

Julia Maish

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French onion soup

“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.”
— Julia Child

 

“The French approach to food is characteristic; they bring to the consideration of the table the same appreciation, respect, intelligence, and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature, and for the theatre.”
 — Alice B. Toklas

 

You have surely heard the French phrase “joie de vivre,” which in English means “joy of living.” For the French, this applies to all aspects of everyday life, especially the cuisine. 

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Me dee Thai

In recent years, the popularity of Thai cuisine has burgeoned in the Chicago area, and it’s easy to see why. Even a cursory glance at a menu in a typical Thai eatery will tell you that there is something available for just about every taste, from sweet to salty, bitter to spicy, sour to soothing.

 

Julia Maish

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Pintxos

Anyone who thinks of Spain only as the land of flamenco, bullfighting (olé!), and Antonio Banderas (or, if you prefer, Penélope Cruz) might be surprised to learn the place is surprisingly diverse in a variety of different ways. This largest country in southern Europe, located on the Iberian Peninsula, spans an area in size about halfway between Texas and California and across its 17 autonomous regions, the geography and cuisine vary greatly. (As far as climate goes, in case you were wondering, My Fair Lady’s “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” is only a song title.) Spain borders France, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and notably, is the only European country to share a border with one in Africa (Morocco). All of these influences, and more, are present in the local cuisine.

Julia Maish

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Meatloaf

To mark Inauguration Day (and our broadcast of the 2001 Check, Please! episode featuring then-State Senator Barack Obama), let’s take a whirlwind tour of some favorite foods and culinary quirks of some of our past presidents.

Julia Maish

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Macaroni and cheese

The Urban Dictionary defines comfort food as follows: “Food that gives emotional comfort to the one eating it, [such as] favorite foods of childhood, or linked to a person, place, or time with which the food has a positive association.” In other words, food that warms you and makes you forget your troubles. These might include your mother’s meatloaf, your grandmother’s chicken soup, and baked goods made from scratch. The kind of food you might find at a retro diner, pub, social house, or communal kitchen, like two Check, Please! restaurants, River Roast and Fat Rice.

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