You have surely heard the phrase “as American as apple pie.” Well, that’s a misnomer, as it turns out that this quintessentially American dessert really originated in Great Britain. Hamburgers and hot dogs? Germany – or to be more specific, Hamburg and Frankfurt, respectively. Mac 'n' Cheese? Italy (or France). French fries? Not France at all, but Belgium.
Chef, TV personality, and author Anthony Bourdain has traveled all over the world, sampling with gusto the cuisine wherever he goes. When asked by The Guardian to choose “the final meal of his dreams,” Bourdain didn’t hesitate: “A sushi blowout,” he replied, with lots of “rare and expensive sakes.” After that, he continued, “he could die satisfied.
Russia, in terms of sheer area, is the largest country in the world — it stretches across 11 time zones and borders 14 countries (many of which were formerly part of the Soviet Union). Each year on June 12, its citizens observe Russia Day, a celebration that in scope and feel is similar to American Independence Day, Canada Day, King Day in the Netherlands, and so forth. Russia Day is characterized by fireworks, parades, flag-waving and marching bands, entertainment and special events, and the bestowing of State Awards on prominent humanitarians, scientists, literary figures, and others. What foods might be served at such a celebration, and what do Russians enjoy on an everyday basis?
Unless you’re lactose-intolerant, the chances are that you like cheese. And when better to enjoy it than during a week when we celebrate National Cheese Day? Nobody can agree on when, how, or why this great excuse for indulging in Cheddar, Swiss, and Gouda came about, but the farmers of America’s Dairyland, our neighbors to the north in Wisconsin, are probably not complaining.
This week, the annual National Day of Norway (Nasjonaldagen) commemorates the anniversary of the country’s adoption of its constitution in 1814; the locals refer to it simply as syttende mai (literally, May seventeenth — much like Americans have labeled our July fourth holiday, for a similar reason). The public observances attached to this occasion generally center on activities for children (parades, flags, marching bands), but syttende mai also provides a great excuse to take a closer look at the cuisine of a country that is ranked #1 in this year’s World Happiness Report, earning the highest marks in each category of “caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income, and good governance.”
“A man's social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
April, in case you didn’t know, is National Grilled Cheese Month. In light of that, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the history, popularity, and seemingly infinite possibilities of the sandwich (including the grilled cheese).
If it were possible to sum up the cuisine of India in one word, that word would probably be diversity. This vast country boasts so many variations in vegetation, climate, culture, religion, ethnicity, and influence that it’s difficult to classify its food in a specific way. And judging from the wide variety of innovative Indian fusions, including those with elements of China, Malaysia, Singapore, and England (from the time of the British Raj), that are now available here in Chicago and elsewhere, it’s clear that it is still evolving today.
"Standing there an hour alone I dreamt that Greece might once be free."
– Lord Byron
The people of Greece, along with their beautiful scenery and pleasantly temperate climate, enjoy one more distinction: each year in March, they mark a unique dual holiday that is celebrated by both the deeply religious and the happily patriotic.
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?
Hey there! A question I get all the time is what to bring to various BYO places so I enlisted the help of my friend and award-winning sommelier Liz Mendez, co-owner of Vera (not BYO) in the West Loop which serves up sophisticated Spanish cuisine by her husband and chef/co-owner Mark Mendez complemented by her well-curated wine list with an impressive sherry selection. Liz shares pairings with everything from Japanese to pizza as well as giving a wonderfully informative, yet succinct, guide to sherry. Here’s what she had to say.