So, How Was Your Day?
Kefir. Honeycrisp apple. Nugget of Panda Express orange chicken.
Sicilian blood orange green tea. Curried turkey salad with greens, carrots, red pepper and raisins plumped in Blis sherry vinegar and Co-op mole hot sauce.
A glass of Aglianico. Duck rillettes on warm baguette. Dante cheese with curried carrot puree and pepitas. Ham with grainy mustard and Raclette. Toasted brioche with cauliflower and Emmentaler Mornay sauce.
Alarm interrupts a dream filled with frogs and unusually spunky turtles, inspired by some Chinatown pics viewed on Instagram before bed. I have an early flight back to Chicago, so head to the DC airport where time is spent reading a friend’s GQ story on Rihanna, catching up on Lena Dunham tweets and requesting samples of Panda Express orange chicken. I’m expectedly anti-fast-food, except for nuggets of o.c. at Reagan Airport, no matter the time of day. On the plane: Write a story about Fat Rice, a charming new Macanese-inspired restaurant in Logan Square, and make to-do lists for Fête.
Back home and the first order of business is a pot of tea, always from my main dealer, Rare Tea Cellar. Fridge is mostly bare, save for an absurd collection of condiments, but I’m prepared with a stash of provisions brought from the parents’ house. Make salad, Instagram it, eat it, and get back to work. Write more, make a playlist for Tasting Table’s upcoming December dinner party story, and have an hourlong phone catchup with The Chicagoan’s JC Gabel about the future of the magazine and the daunting similarities between Citizen Kane and present-day Chicago publishing. Snacks include frozen peaches and spoonfuls of Blis bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup. I swear, I could spend my entire salary on shoes, bedding and Blis products.
Dinner with a friend at Bar Pastoral, the new wine/cheese/charcuterie bar adjacent to the specialty shop of the same name. Head home to brainstorm pintxos ideas for an upcoming guest-pintxos-maker stint with Ryan Poli at Barcito. Feeling drawn to Middle Eastern flavors and southern Spain’s North African connection, so flip through Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan and Yotam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous Jerusalem. Fall asleep thinking about caramelized-onion tortilla with harissa aioli and chard with preserved lemons and ras el hanout.
Three Last Things…
1. What’s up with your new market Fête?
Fête is a nighttime food and design market that two partners (Emily Fiffer and Jessica Herman) and I are launching on December 6. It’s a celebration of Chicago’s creative talent; each season we’ll curate a group of local artists, artisans and entrepreneurs, and bring them together under one roof for a single festive night. Next year, when we do the market in a larger space, there will be pop-up restaurants, cocktail bars, a DJ… So you’ll spend the evening eating, drinking, connecting with inspiring people, scoring some incredible finds, and maybe even shimmying a bit on the dance floor (a.k.a. my dream night).
2. Most people don’t fall asleep dreaming about ras el hanout (or even know what it is)…where did your love of all-things-food begin?
It’s definitely nature, and a bit of nurture, too. I started pestering my mother and grandmother to do cooking projects as soon as I was old enough to raid their cookbook shelves. Thankfully they were open to spending weekend afternoons making Thai meatballs and Ghanaian jam with a precocious elementary-schooler. I’ve always connected with cultures first and foremost through food. If you want to get an immediate feel for a culture, its markets are the best way to do so (street markets, central markets and supermarkets — I’m fascinated by them all).
3. Anything you won’t eat?
In my line of work, you can’t (well, shouldn’t) be picky or have strong predilections. I can still evaluate or appreciate things that I don’t actually enjoy (natto, no thanks). There are only two things I’ve refused to eat: fermented raw squid innards in Hakodate, Japan, and a dish of warm Spanish sea urchin with corn at a rather famous restaurant outside Roses, Spain. I love urchin, but something about the temperature and flavor of this dish made me instantly queasy. I felt like a total wimp, but it was torture. My dining partner (who didn’t like it either) kindly took that one for the team and sneakily forced down the rest of my plate.
Heather lives in Chicago with her cat Laya. She’s the local editor of TastingTable.com and a co-founder of Fête, a food and design night market. Tasting Table Chicago Fête Chicago photo credit: Elise Bergman