First of all, I have some good news. I get lots of emails from readers asking me where they should eat when they visit Chicago. While I’m not in the business of restaurant reviews, I am always happy to suggest some of my favorite places. I have finally gotten around to creating a guide to Lottie + Doof approved sources for good food in Chicago. You can find it HERE or through the menu on the left. I’ll add to the guide as I remember favorite places or find new ones. The page also links to a very useful Google map with the same information. Thanks to Bryan for his help getting this up. It is just the beginning of a bunch of exciting improvements around here. Next up- that recipe index which is woefully incomplete and out of date.
What do you do with your vanilla beans after using them? (how about that segue?!) Hopefully you don’t throw them out. I’d like to suggest you use them to make vanilla sugar. Simply rinse off the bean, dry it, and add it to a container of granulated sugar, or take Edna Lewis’ suggestion and add the bean to a jar of sugar cubes. Allow the bean to hang out with the sugar for a few days before using. You’ll have subtly perfumed vanilla sugar to use as you please. The genius of the sugar cubes is that you can then crush the cubes and use them as a crunchy topping on cookies, muffins or cakes. Anywhere that a coarse finishing sugar is called for. If you have extra vanilla beans I also recommend vanilla salt. Same procedure but using a coarse sea salt. My friend Ashley topped some fresh ricotta with a sprinkling of vanilla salt and blew our minds. It is lovely and I can imagine it being great on top of ice cream or even on something like the chocolate caramel tart.
Changing topics again: Haiti. In a nation where 80% of the population lives at or below the poverty level, life in Haiti can be difficult on the best of days. The suffering that Haitians are enduring as a result of this earthquake is unfathomable to most of us. If you haven’t already done so, please make a donation to one of the many organizations collecting aid relief. The simplest method may be to donate to the Red Cross by texting HAITI to 90999 and $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill. I’ve heard that the Red Cross has already received over 3 million dollars ($10 at a time) through this text method, which is unbelievably moving to me. Please, please continue to help in any way you can.
(And yes, I am aware it is ridiculous that I am writing about helping Haiti and making vanilla sugar in the same post.)
January 14th, 2010 at 10:01 pm
I can’t believe how much money the government has and aid has barely gotten to haiti as BBC new reports. But lovely sugar by the way. hah
January 14th, 2010 at 10:08 pm
what about the gage on your where to eat list? i love the curry fries there!
January 14th, 2010 at 10:40 pm
I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all. While helping those in Haiti we must still work hard to make life beautiful for the people in our lives. It’s worthwhile, even if it’s just a scoop of vanilla sugar. :-)
January 15th, 2010 at 5:58 am
Tim: I love, love, love the guide. The look of the page, the spot-on selections, and your commentary. All perfect. The spots on the list that I haven’t tried yet (Floriole and Hot Doug: for shame, I know) are now at the very top of my to do list.
January 15th, 2010 at 6:27 am
Love the guide! But I have to admit, I was sad to see that my favorite coffee in the whole world isn’t on there – Intelligentsia! I know it’s less dining and more, well, coffee, but it rocks. I make trips to Chicago from Oshkosh, WI just for that coffee.
Ting Zhou says:
January 15th, 2010 at 7:52 am
Thank you very much for your good guide. This autumn when I come to Chicago from China, I will try some food according this. I hope I can enjoy pure coffee。
January 15th, 2010 at 10:05 am
I love what you write. I’m new to your blog but I love to read it and see the beautiful things you do in the kitchen. You are a great source of inspiration! Thanks for taking the time to share your talents.
Jess R. says:
January 15th, 2010 at 11:47 am
Tim, I contacted you several months back for Chicago restaurant recs and I was completely remiss in sending you a Thank You after the fact. We ended up at the Bristol and LOVED it! I’m sure we’ll be back in Chicago soon and this guide will come in handy.
Another worthwhile org to consider for Haiti donations–Doctors Without Borders. They are already on the ground in Haiti treating people and do worthwhile work the world over.
January 15th, 2010 at 12:43 pm
Hello! I just moved to Oak Park a few months ago from FL and can’t thank you enough for this list. And how exciting to see three of the places you listed in walking distance. YEAH!
January 15th, 2010 at 1:13 pm
Thanks for the nice comments, all!
Caitlin- don’t be sad! It can still be your favorite coffee!
Jess- Glad to hear you liked The Bristol! and thanks for the Doctors Without Borders suggestion.
Melissa- I also moved to Oak Park a few months ago! But not from Florida, from Chicago. If you haven’t been to the farmers market yet, you will be in for quite a treat once summer rolls around!
January 15th, 2010 at 1:22 pm
Commenting on the castrophe in Haiti along with a vanilla sugar post pays tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit. Hope in the face of tragedy — that’s how we continue to go on. Thanks for bringing up the issue.
January 15th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
Love the Chicago guide! I live in Indy and go to Chicago and can’t wait to check out some of these restaurants– especially Xoco… You need to publish a guide!
:) Can’t wait to try the bakery recommendation.
January 15th, 2010 at 11:48 pm
I love Lotti & Doof, long time reader, first time commenter. I just wanted to add something to this post about donating to the Red Cross (or other charities). Having worked in non-profits, I can tell you that although texting your donations is probably the most convenient method of donation, it is unfortunately rather slow. Your text donations do not get paid out until after you pay your monthly cell phone bill. Typically it takes an average of nearly 90 days before NGOs will receive it.
Sending a check in the mail is more efficient, in terms of processing.
January 16th, 2010 at 8:11 pm
just had a splendid day feasting in Chicago…XOCO and The Purple Pig and it was all perfect. I was determined to eat at Xoco and was at a loss to know where to go for dinner in that general area (we were coming from Aurora on the train to visit the Modern Wing). Luckily I read your recent post and was delighted to find your Mag Mile recommendation! We feasted on brussels sprouts, beets, chicken and pork…all thanks to you! Can’t wait to go back!
January 16th, 2010 at 10:07 pm
That sounds like an amazing day of eating, Carol! I’m so glad you liked the Purple Pig!
January 17th, 2010 at 9:16 am
January 19th, 2010 at 9:04 am
Tim, I know by offering us a wonderful guide of your favorite Chicago places, you will have to deal with people like me who have big opinions. I am sorry but I must speak up…. no Avec?!
January 19th, 2010 at 9:05 am
January 19th, 2010 at 9:07 am
I should say, Avec is lovely- it just didn’t make the list. (Lots of lovely places didn’t make the list.) But now I look forward to Whipped’s Guide to Chicago!
Dawn (KitchenTravels) says:
January 19th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
I’ve been away from L&D too long! Yes, I realize it’s only been a few days, but even that is too long. ;) Very excited about the Chicago guide, and I haven’t even had a chance to read it yet. But I will, I will!
And writing about helping people is never ridiculous. It’s sweet, and it shows you care (just like making vanilla sugar). xo, D
Mark C says:
April 16th, 2010 at 1:46 pm
I just found this site yesterday and already can tell I will stop by daily to check for new recipes. Cooking the Pizza Cipolla for dinner tonight. Thanks for the idea!
April 6th, 2011 at 4:46 am
For some reason, I’ve (stupidly!) only recently discovered your blog. I’ve quickly fallen head over heels in like, or homesickness, I haven’t quite decided yet. I used to live in Chicago and reading your entries and recommendations has got me jonesin’ for a trip back somethin’ fierce. Please please keep up the excellent work and I just wanted to let you know that I’m forwarding all of my Chicagoans a link to your blog.
April 6th, 2011 at 5:40 am
Emily, thanks for that super sweet message! Glad you’ve found L+D, and I hope you make it back to Chicago soon. The eating just keeps getting better and better.