Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln Square’

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Grillin’ and Chillin’

Friday, July 18th, 2014 by Quincy

I really give my grill a good workout this time of year.  But I haven’t always had a love affair with my grill.

I recall a very important dinner party involving sea scallops. My parents had flown in from Texas and some good friends were joining us. After that not so successful grilling experience, I thought about a separation from my grill. I considered buying a new grill that would be superior, with greater firepower and more features to my liking.  Instead, I stuck it out with my old grill.  I learned to master the piece of equipment that, at times, confounded me.  I have also mastered grilling sea scallops perfectly.

Now that I’m a bona fide “grill master”, I concentrate on other elements that go along with entertaining outdoors for friends and family. There’s nothing that compliments those grilling masterpieces more than a beautiful and comfortable outdoor space.

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Here’s a checklist of some of the things I use whenever I grill:

  • Full tank of propane
  • Grill that has been cleaned and oiled
  • Sturdy grill brush
  • Great pair of tongs
  • Bottle of grapeseed oil
  • Finishing salt

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I have a gas grill, so I always check to make sure that my propane tank isn’t empty. That may seem obvious, but I have made a few last minute runs for new tanks before! I always make sure to season my grill grates to create a non-stick grilling experience.  To do that, I heat up my grill till it’s good and hot. I take a wad of paper towels, grip them with a pair of sturdy tongs, dip the paper towels into a small bowl (about ¼ cup) of vegetable or grapeseed oil and then rub the oil soaked paper towels along the hot grill grates.  The more often you do this, the better seasoned your grates will become.

A sturdy grill brush to clean your grill grates before each use is necessary. Also essential is a sturdy spatula that will come in handy when flipping juicy burgers. A fish spatula will seriously make turning filets of fish or even a whole fish much easier to accomplish.

I use grapeseed oil for my food when grilling because it has a high smoke and burn point of 420 degrees. The smoke point is when oil begins to smoke and burn, which in turn affects the flavor of whatever you’re frying, sautéing or grilling.

After finishing up whatever I’ve just grilled, no matter if it’s meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and even fruits, I finish it off with a tiny sprinkling of a good sea salt.  I really like Maldon Sea Salt, which we carry at The Chopping Block.  It’s a flaked salt that has a clean taste and because it’s flaked, it gives a bit of a crunch to your finished food.

An outdoor deck space is just as important to me as the grill and its tools.  Guests will enjoy a lush and plush back deck, with lots of seating, an outdoor table, great outdoor lighting, some candles, hanging plants, soft pillows, and comfy cushions.  Do I sound more like an interior decorator then a chef? I think there’s a little bit of decorator in all of us chefs. After all, we create beauty on the plate and appreciate the same for our surroundings.

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I’ve done some pretty awesome things on my grill over the years, but the best part is continuing to experiment and discover new aspects and intricacies of my grill.

Here are some of my favorite and noteworthy dishes I’ve mastered on the grill:

Peaches grilled with brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh vanilla bean and brushed melted butter.  Top with fresh thyme, Black Isot Pepper and drizzle with agave syrup.  This was not only a tasty dessert, but was also a pretty darn good looking dessert. I suggest serving it topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

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Last night, I grilled some sea scallops and laid them on a pool of roasted tomatillo sauce and topped them with a mango and avocado relish and fresh lime zest.  I served this with grilled zucchini, spiced with a sprinkling of ground ancho chile and cinnamon.

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Another favorites dishes is grilled Italian sausage and mini cheddar burgers topped with grilled onions and tomato.  To please my doctor, there was no bun for the burger.  The burger and sausage were complimented by grilled asparagus, wrapped in prosciutto, grilled striped white and purple eggplant brushed with garlic grapeseed oil and fresh thyme. Lastly, there was roasted corn with poblano pepper butter, crumbled cotija cheese and a tiny sprinkling of smoky paprika.

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I hope some of these food ideas inspire you to grill and some of my back porch decorating ideas entice you to chill.  You know what else helps with that grilling and chilling thing?  Enjoying a glass of your favorite cold beverage. Cheers to your glass of wine, lemonade, or easy summery cocktail: take your favorite summer fruit, put it in a blender with some water, a bit of sugar and turn it into a refreshing fruit water.

Our outdoor grilling patio at Lincoln Square is another great place to grill and chill. Check out some of these upcoming classes:

The Thrill of the Grill

Global Grilling

Chicken on the Grill

Rendezvous Under the Stars

Summer in the City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.

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Lincoln Square’s Good Eats & Drinks

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Robyn

One of the biggest perks of working at The Chopping Block is that I get to be in Lincoln Square every day. Nestled in the armpit of Lawrence, Western and Lincoln, this neighborhood is host to lovely scenery, attractive young couples, playful puppies, a shocking number of babies, and lots — LOTS — of good eats.

That being said, it’s great to work here, and it’s nice that on lunch breaks and after work I can pop out to any of the following good spots for nosh and/or beer and/or wine. But, I have to admit, it’s getting a little out of hand. Every day? I mean, EVERY day?

This is how Lincoln Square gets you:

 

  1. genesRegional, curious shops. Gene’s Sausage Shop across the street from The Chopping Block is always a fun place to pop in and explore (woah, the candy Polish kids eat is so weird!), and it’s definitely got the best prices on meats and deli salads in the area. With this in mind, I always walk in planning to grab a cheap little something, and walk out with a $5 bottle of Kombucha.
  2. Provenance Food and Wine? Same idea. It’s a place you enter to gaze at the beautiful oils, vinegars and chocolates and leave with a $15 block of delicious cheese.
  3. selmarieCharming, tiny cookies. At Cafe Selmarie, the romantic French pastry shop, you will feast your eyes on gorgeous tarts and bonbons sitting fresh-made in the pastry case. The vision: you’re sitting with a book on their bistro-style patio, sipping red wine and taking an hour to nibble through a single, quarter-sized sugar cookie because you’re French now. The reality: 10 sugar cookies, two beers, and half a quiche later, you’re sunburned and full.
  4. badappleBad ass burgers and damn delicious beers. The Bad Apple, a bit down Lincoln from the square itself, is one of our favorite places to pop in for a few beers and some laughs. Of course, when the menu comes around I suddenly realize I’ve been robbing myself of the true stuff of life—unique bar food and fancy beverages—for too long. I know we were going to go home after and cook, but who knows if I’ll ever have the opportunity to try a bacon and peanut butter veggie burger again! This could be my only chance! And I have to get this one funky beer to go with it! Fail.
  5. taqueriaSalsa verde. Okay, so we’ve all been eating red salsa at Chi-chis since we were seven. We’re over it. Salsa verde, though? With the chips? Now that’s something to sit down and wait for! Taqueria El Asadero down at Lincoln and Montrose has the right idea with this. At least once a week when I’m off work and starving, I can’t not go to this ten-table joint for some of the best vegetarian tacos and, yes, salsa verde, in Chicago. That is, I do this instead of going to the Jewel right next door and getting the goods to cook for myself. Because my tacos just aren’t that good. I don’t know what “el asadero” means, but I’m guessing it’s close to “place where you spend all your money.”

What’s your favorite place to blow your paycheck in Lincoln Square? Reply here and let me know.

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Robyn recently moved to Chicago from Boston, where she taught math and reading in an urban high school. During that time, she discovered with dismay a huge lack of food knowledge and access in her students' communities and got totally fired up. She started cooking with the kids and created a class in which students learned how to budget for and select healthy, ethical, sustainable food. She is now at The Chopping Block with the hope to further the mission of getting the world to cook! In her free time, Robyn enjoys cooking and eating, bicycling and running, blogging and reading and adventuring.

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Apples, Apples and more Apples

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 by Patrick

After participating in yet another Apple Fest in Lincoln Square this year, one would think I have had my fair share of apples. Rather, I have a new found appreciation and respect for the fall fruit after watching our amazing chefs and assistants knock out over 300 Apple Pies this year. That’s over 100 more than last year!

Patrick & Chef Carrie

Patrick & Chef Carrie

This year, we went through 28 cases of beautiful Granny Smith apples, hundreds of pounds of flour and sugar, countless cast iron skillets, all over a four day stretch that challenges even the hardiest bakers. I could not be more proud of our team who rose to the challenge: from our retail team who manned the store while others slung pie at a staggering rate, to our dishwashers who had to clean most of the 300+ skillets, to our pie production team who worked tirelessly rolling, crimping and baking. All that being said, I’m not here to just give you stats about how great Apple Fest was, but how amazing apples are this year.

piesI heard all during Apple Fest that the pies this year were the best tasting to date, and even though our team performed flawlessly, I have to give some credit to the apples themselves. This year has been outstanding for apples, no matter what type is your favorite. As I mentioned earlier, we use Granny Smiths for our famous Apple Pies, but you can’t go wrong no matter what variety you choose this year. The great tasting apples of 2013 are not limited to one region either.  Our Granny Smiths came from the great state of Washington this year, but there are fabulous local apples right here in the Midwest.

The day after Apple Fest, I was recovering comfortably out in the burbs when my mother came in with a bag of Honey Crisp Apples she just got from a local orchard. Admittedly, that was the last food item I wanted to see, but I sampled one of the fresh apples and I was blown away at how good it was. The natural sugars of the fruit gave the sensation of eating a bowl of candy verses a healthy fruit. Needless to say, I ended up having a few more that day.

orchardA few days later, I took advantage of a day off and drive to my family’s cabin in Door County, Wisconsin.  Once there I stopped at a well-known orchard called Seaquist Family Orchard. Seaquist has a wide array of apples to try; I counted well over 10 different varieties, and they were all fantastic! I asked one of the Seaquist family members, why apples were so good this year, especially the Honey Crisp. He said it was simply the way the weather had been during the spring and summer, the right combination of heat and moisture. Whatever the reason, I’m glad it happened because these apples are better than I can ever remember. I encourage everyone to get out and give some local apples a try. Usually, I’d recommend a recipe at this point in a blog, but I think the apples are good enough on their own. Sometimes it’s best to just enjoy the simplicity of a darn near perfect piece of food.

What’s your favorite variety of apple?

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Patrick Foerster is the Store Manager of The Chopping Block Lincoln Square and has a profound passion for food. His favorite part of his job is sharing his cooking experiences with customers to assist them in creating culinary masterpieces. When Patrick is away from the store, you can find him taking his two dogs for a hike or unwinding on the golf course.

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The Wine for Food Fall Challenge

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 by Robyn

There’s something about the cooler months that just makes me want to share. It could be that there’s a day coming in November entirely devoted to giving thanks. Or it could be that I realize, as I wrap myself in scarves and blankets, that I am among the lucky who can, in fact, wrap myself in scarves and blankets.

LS Friendship DisplayNo matter the reason, as soon as the air cools, I start measuring what I can afford to give. Sorting through my clothing, participating in alumni days of service… these things, along with apple cobbler and squash soup, make me feel like I’m really experiencing the joys of the season.

I heard someone say once (perhaps on a TV commercial) that she makes it a policy to always give something away before she buys something that she arguably doesn’t need. She doesn’t apply this to the purchasing of food, but when it comes to clothing or household items, it helps keep her in check. “I really love that dress” turns into “Do I like it enough that I can give away something in order to have it?” It’s not a bad policy, and this fall I’m going to try to do it, but in a way that’s relevant to me. This means I’m making it about food and wine. Instead of trading an old article of clothing for a new one, I’ll donate food each time I buy a bottle of wine.

LS Friendship Center LogoIt should be easy. The Lincoln Square Friendship Center just opened, and The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square is now accepting donations items for the community center. I’m looking forward to this little humbler every time I purchase wine. I hope it will make me realize I’m lucky to be able to do this and if I’m indulging, I can certainly splurge so someone else can have dinner.

If the scents and sights of fall put you in the giving mood as well, you can bring donations of non-perishable food items to our store in Lincoln Square any day and we will deliver them, along with the leftover ingredients from our cooking classes, to the Friendship Center. Keep in mind, you can find many donate-able foods on our shelves – along with a bottle of wine if you’re in for my challenge!

Here’s a list of items the center could always use:

  • Nuts
  • Canned chicken/tuna
  • Coffee/tea
  • Pasta and sauce
  • Honey
  • Peanut butter
  • Powdered milk
  • Hearty soup
  • Beans
  • Cereal (hot and cold)
  • Baby food and diapers
  • Rice
  • Canned fruit and veggies

The Lincoln Square Friendship Center’s Grand Opening will be held on Saturday, October 12, 2013 from 6pm-9pm at 2733 W. Lawrence Ave. There is a $20 suggested donation at the door.

Will I see you there?

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Robyn recently moved to Chicago from Boston, where she taught math and reading in an urban high school. During that time, she discovered with dismay a huge lack of food knowledge and access in her students' communities and got totally fired up. She started cooking with the kids and created a class in which students learned how to budget for and select healthy, ethical, sustainable food. She is now at The Chopping Block with the hope to further the mission of getting the world to cook! In her free time, Robyn enjoys cooking and eating, bicycling and running, blogging and reading and adventuring.

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Ode to the Belly

Friday, March 8th, 2013 by John

I have spent the better part of the last year talking about my weight loss successes and have provided you many ideas for getting on the healthy horse. But from time to time, we have to sit back and enjoy some of the guilty pleasures in life that put smiles on our faces.

JPLast Monday, I helped represent The Chopping Block at the Common Threads event at Soldier Field. Common Threads seeks to reach out to young kids to expose them to the many different cultures and cuisines around the world.  A collection of 75 chefs from around the city gathered for the event to help raise money for this great organization.  The Chopping Block chose to represent Germany and the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

CommonthreadsdishWe served Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Citrus-Braised Cabbage and Caraway Potato Pancake.  Pork belly has to be one of the earth’s greatest gifts to the culinary world.  We cured the pork with salt, sugar and caraway seeds overnight.  The next day, we rinsed off the cure and placed the bellies in a 200 degree oven.  The meat cooked very gently for a solid 12 hours, pork bellymuch like the cooking of a pork shoulder or brisket in a smoker.  Once the belly was cooked to tender, we placed the meat on a large sheet tray and placed another tray on top.  We used some heavy pots to add weight to the belly to press the meat together.  The next day, we cut our little tasting portions and headed off to the stadium.  We quickly thinseared both sides of our portions to provide a nice, crispy texture.  This, served with the caraway flavored potatoes and the nice touch of citrus in the braised cabbage provided the perfect representation of Germany.

Pork belly is indeed one of the most delicious, guilty pleasures to be enjoyed. Have you cooked with it before? Let me know here what dishes inspire you and your belly!

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John Peters is the Sous Chef of The Chopping Block at the Mart. In addition to teaching several times a week, John orders and receives the products for classes and private events, manages scheduling, works with the private events team in party planning and organizing, and keeps an overall open eye to the entire space at the Mart. He enjoys both cooking and eating Mexican food and the thing he enjoys most about cooking is truly making people happy with food!