New Address

29 May

Hi everyone! I hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend! I just wanted to let you know that I’ve moved One World, One Plate to http://oneworldoneplate.net. So update your browsers! Everything moved over and nothing was lost. I just decided to move things over because it gave me more control over the site then hosting the site at wordpress.com did.

The only hiccup is if you subscribed to this website via email, you will have to do so again on the new site. I’m really sorry, but I swear I won’t move it again! If you haven’t subscribed yet, subscribing allows new posts to be delivered straight to your inbox. Give it a try!

Thanks again for your continued support! I am looking forward to working on this project more and more!

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Happy National Burger Day!!

28 May

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Celebrate America’s favorite grilled meat sandwhich!! It’s Burger Day!! This yummy combination of flavors has had fans since the 1700’s!!

What I love about a good hamburger is that it is highly customizeable. What’s your favorite combo of toppings? For me, I’d go with the classic pairing of bacon and cheese. Ooh, maybe I’ll head to Five Guys today . . . .

Looking for a place to grab a burger? Check out Groupon Loves Burgers with deals across the nation from May 27th to 29th!

Defining Food – Lok Lak

26 May

When I told my father that I was going to be traveling to Cambodia he said, “Really? Cambodia? You know, we weren’t really nice to them. We bombed them, you know? Are you sure?”

Yes, I went on a Holiday in Cambodia.

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Quick, what’s your favorite Cambodian dish?

What’s that you say? You’re asking me what IS a Cambodian dish?

Well, before we get to that, there are some things you should know about Cambodia. (Don’t worry, the history lesson will be brief and vauge. If you want to learn more, you can do your homework.) First, Geography. Cambodia is surrounded by the nations of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The history of these places impacts the history of Cambodia. Back in the day, Jayavarman II, started the Khmer Empire that lasted from 802 C.E. to the mid 1400 C.E. The Khmer people are probably most well known for the building of Angkor Wat. The French then rolled into town around the 1800’s when colonization was all the rage. They stuck around until 1953, when Cambodia gained independence. The Vietnam War impacted Cambodia in many ways which gave rise to the Khmer Rouge (which is a whole other story), who were in power until the nation was reunited under a monarchy in 1993.

Cambodia has been through a lot. It is still recovering from the effects of much of it’s history – all of which can be reflected in its food. There is one dish that stands out to me as clearly Cambodian – Lok Lak.


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Looking at it, you wouldn’t think that it is anything special, just some stir fried beef; but I have to tell you it is one flavorful dish. The basic ingredients in the marinade are oyster sauce, garlic, chili oil, and ketchup (yes, ketchup). The beef sits in this marinate 20 minutes or so and then it stir fried in a wok. It is served with white rice, a side of sliced tomato and cucumbers and a lime juice with salt and pepper sauce. (The sauce is where it’s at. Seriously.) So simple and so good.

[Side Bar – I learn more and more about food, simple seems to be the way to go. I’ve traveled to India and parts of South East Asia. Some say I have a thing for Third World Travel. And I guess I do, but it’s just reinforced by the fact that simple is good. When resources are low, people really do the best with what they have. I have seen poverty in my travels, but I have had some really great food. More on this in a future post.]

When I think of Cambodia, I think of Lok Lak. Not only because it was on nearly every menu (along with fish amok) that we saw, but because to me it IS Cambodia. Upon first glance, Lok Lak doesn’t seem like it has much going for it, but once tasted, the flavor is comforting with just a hint of spice. Just like Cambodia. At first, it doesn’t seem like it has much to offer. I would recommend Cambodia to anyone traveling in South East Asia. The people are warm and comforting. The sights are breathtaking. And you don’t want to miss a ride on a bamboo train! The travel industry is just picking up and will be going crazy in no time. I would love to go back and explore more of the former Khmer Empire. There was so much that I didn’t see. The bottom line is, Cambodia makes an impression.

I’ve made Lok Lak at least seven times since returning. Most of those were within the first week back in the The States. It made an impression as well.

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If you would like to learn how to make Lok Lak, please “like” the One World, One Plate Facebook page and you will find a recipe there – it’s really easy to make!.

Life Happens

27 Apr

So I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen, but it did. I let life get in the way of my updating this site. I prefer to keep the reasons why I’ve been M.I.A. private for now, but it looks it feels like things should sort of be settling down soon so I will be able to dedicate more time to One World One Plate. In the meantime, can I offer you some spinach artichoke dip (with tortilla chips, of course)?

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Thanks again for sticking with me and I hope that you’ve eaten well over the past few weeks!! Stay tuned for the defining food of Cambodia, Lok Lak.

Dinner Conversation: Girl and The Goat

4 Mar

 


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You know you’ve eaten somewhere special if you are thinking about the food over a week after you ate it.

Recently I was fortunate enough to be taken to Stephanie Izzard’s restaurant, Girl and The Goat, in Chicago, IL. As a Top Chef fan, when I was first told I would be eating here, lots of screaming and jumping up and down occurred. I was super excited.

Izzard (Top Chef Season 4 Winner) put together a really remarkable restaurant. The atmosphere is refreshingly relaxed. The dress code (I don’t think there really is one) is semi-dressy casual? Let’s just say, I saw plenty of people there in jeans. The staff is welcoming and friendly and really knows their stuff. Beyond the well coordinated decor and awesome painting of a goat on that wall, one thing that really stood out was the eclectic music collection. There were many times during the meal when I commented on the songs being played. They included selections from Shakira to Bob Dylan. It all melded together very well – the music, the furniture, the artwork, the menu design, and of course the food.

Girl and the Goat feels like a upscale update to the neighborhood restaurant. I couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed to be in a good mood. The atmosphere was one that encouraged us to talk to other diners and overall, it was just a fun place to be.

Besides the fantastic setting, the food was amazing. There were combinations of ingredients that you wouldn’t think would go well together, but they did. There were many times when the food left me speechless. I couldn’t quite put into words how great it was. (It’s a true story, I’m not just trying to sound like a food critic.)

One thing I really like is that the portions of food at Girl and The Goat are more like small plates and are meant to be shared. This is nice because it allows you to try multiple items on the menu. I guess the only complaint I would have was that everything on the menu sounded so good, we really didn’t know where to begin. Luckily, the Girl and The Goat staff are well educated on the ins and outs of their offerings. We asked our server for recommendations and threw in a few extras just for fun. In the end we couldn’t really go wrong.

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Surprisingly the favorite dish of the night was roasted cauliflower. Doesn’t sound like it would be mind-blowing, but when pickled peppers, pine nuts and mint are added in, the combination is something that really is just spectacular. There were unpredictable, fresh flavors in each bite. It instantly stood out above the rest of the amazing food we ate that night. Just thinking about it again makes me hungry.

I could go on and on about the food, but I want to analyze this experience a bit further.

There were a few things I took away from this meal (besides the fact that I was having a great time and couldn’t believe that I was there in the first place. Did I mention that Stephanie was there that night? I was too shy to say hi. But she really was there!). One thing I wondered about while eating this meal was what cultural category does this food fall into? After mulling it over a bit, I think it really is modern American cuisine. Not in the cornbread, hot dog, apple pie sort of way, but in the bison butt, scallops, squash bread kind of way. Izzard’s menu borrowed flavors from all over the cultural spectrum. The chickpea fritters we ate were clearly inspired by Indian spice combinations. The fish we had was probably prepared as Frenchy as any fish I’ve had. The fries sprinkled with ham dust were distinctly American. Each dish went well together.

The menu, to me, reflects what America is today. We are becoming a more global society and the answer to the question – what is American food? – keeps changing. After all, we are a melting pot. Or is it a mixed salad? Anyway, you get the idea. We are a young country and our culinary identity changes along with the make-up of our population. Who knows what American cuisine will taste like in just 50 years from now.

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Something else stuck with me from that night. I thought about was how accessible this food seemed to be to me. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t an expensive meal (that I was lucky to have), but if you wanted to come in sit at the bar and order just one small plate, you could and you’d still have a fantastic experience for less than $30/person with a drink. Yes, that is a lot for a Friday night dinner, but when the quality of food is what it is, it really is not that bad. Beyond the financial accessibility of the food, the whole restaurant was inviting and comfortable. A couple walked in and were recognized by the staff, as if the couple was just stopping by like they do every Thursday night.

These observations reminded me of a discussion I heard on Anthony Bourdain’s 100th Episode of No Reservations. Bourdain joined some of his friends in Paris. They examined how the old ways of fine dining were disappearing and this new bistro style was really taking over. High quality food is being made more accessible to the masses.

This change can be reflected in the amount of young people that are eating at fine dining establishments. I think that this accessibility is going to have a huge impact on what we see in lower cost food restaurants in the future. Already we are seeing fast food restaurants looking for more natural ingredients, and it all goes back to the accessibility to high quality food. If we as a whole, become more accustomed to a a certain standard of food, it is only a matter of time before this is reflected everywhere – even McDonald’s. Not that white tablecloths and waiters in tuxes don’t have their place, but you don’t have to go to a venue like that anymore to get the same caliber of food. Girl and The Goat did a great job exemplifying this change. If I could, I’d make it my “wanna grab dinner around the corner?” place in a heartbeat.

That however, will just have to wait until I make my millions writing about and photographing food. 🙂

Mini-review: I highly recommend making it to Girl and The Goat at the very least once. Personally, I cannot wait to go back. Save up if you need to and have fun. When you go, make sure you call at least month in advance to get table. You won’t regret it. Oh and order the roasted cauliflower. And the blood orange sorbet while you’re at it.

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If you would like to see more photos of the wonderful food I ate at Girl and The Goat, please “like” the One World, One Plate Facebook page and you will find them there.

The First Time I Ate Indian Food

22 Feb
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Growing up, my access to interesting foods was pretty limited. My parents made good food, but it was mainly American. Despite the diversity of ethnicities in my household, when it comes down to it, a Stoffer’s Lasagna always came in handy during the week.

Looking back on my college years, I wasn’t as adventurous as I thought I was at the time. I had a lot going on, but I still thought I was “cultured”. I really wasn’t. I don’t remember many food experiences from back then, but I do remember the first time I had Indian food. It’s not too off the mark to say, that that day changed my life.

I was never good with dates, but I think it was 2004 or early 2005, I was visiting my college roommate at her home in Chicago. We spent some time catching up, but then we got hungry. The time had come to figure out what to eat. Now if you know me, you know I’m never a good person to go to in this situation. I can never make up my mind. I’m happy to just be eating. But this time, Noemi knew exactly where she wanted to go – the famed Hema’s Kitchen off of Devon Street.

I had never had Indian food before because it never really was an option. To be honest it was so foreign to me I was a little scared of it. However, I figured now was as good of a time as any to try it out. I was happy I didn’t have to think of a place to go eat and was excited to go to some where I had never been. So hopped in the car.

Devon Street in Chicago is the heart of the Indian neighborhood. Driving through, I saw signs in grocery store windows with ingredients I had never heard of before. There were stores with brightly colored fabrics in the window. The street was full of people out and about – walking from store to store and catching up with neighbors. Even though it was overcast, everything seemed a little more vibrant. I was so glad that Noemi was driving because it gave a chance to look out the window like a three year old child seeing a new world for the first time.

What’s that? Look over there – did you see that? Oh, I want to go there! (This is a trait I am proud to say, I still have not outgrown.)

After being amazed by the proper parallel parking skills of a true Chicagoan, we stepped into a tiny restaurant. The windows by the doors had copies of newspaper articles written about the place and it was Zaggat rated. If I was going to try Indian food, this seemed like the place to do it.

We sat down at our table and honestly, I was a little nervous. The air was full of aromas I had never encountered before. I remember getting the menus and being overwhelmed because I had no idea what anything was.

Was I going to like this? Do they have grilled cheese on the menu just in case I chicken out?

Luckily Noemi had been here many times and gave me the lay of the land. It didn’t stop questions from popping up in my head.

How can so many things be “masala”? What is “aloo”? What’s “paneer”? What does it mean to be “tika” and “masala”? Samosa! Oh I know that one! Let’s get some of those.

After I became more familiar with what my options were and I had reminded myself that Noemi brought me here and she thinks its good, so it was probably good – we placed our order. We split vegetable samosas and I ordered something with mushrooms and peas in a creamy sauce (I still don’t remember the name of it), rice and naan. The waiter took the menus and headed off to the kitchen. There was no turning back.

Everything came to the table at once. (In retrospect, I totally wish I had my camera with me. The photo above is not of this meal.) There was no space for anything else.

I remember trying the mushroom and peas dish first. I scooped some up with my fork and in it went.

It is hard to describe the feeling I had as my taste buds were exposed to this new cuisine. However, it was a moment that is bookmarked enough for me to want to write a blog post about it almost six years later.

The first thing I remember thinking was, “This is comforting. How can this be so familiar when I’ve never had it before? This makes me happy.” I ate and ate and ate. I used the naan like a tortilla, gathering up rice and veggies into one scrumptious bite. I dipped samosas in the various chutneys. I ate until I was just past full.

It was so delicious. Indian food was no longer unknown. I took this thought away with me: If something this unknown tasted like it was something I had eaten my entire life, I couldn’t wait to go taste what else the world had to offer.

Luckily, there were leftovers.

I remember going home to my family and talking about my experience at Hema’s Kitchen non-stop. After listening to me go on and on, they admitted that they probably wouldn’t eat at Hema’s even though it has been featured on their favorite Channel 11 show, Check Please! I tried to convey to them the feeling I had while I ate Indian food. It was the same feeling I have when I eat at grandma’s, it was that comforting. I didn’t comprehend why they didn’t want to try it after listening to my enthusiastic review.

I am convinced that this day in the timeline of my life was the day I made a decision to give myself opportunities to learn about and experience other cultures. I could not shake the feeling I had when I first tasted my lunch that day. There was a whole world out there. Fear no longer was going to keep those doors closed. I wanted to go out there and taste and see everything. At the time, I had no idea where this was going to take me or if it was going to take me anywhere at all. But, I can tie many decisions I made in my life since then, to this single experience. After all, almost three years later I was asked, “Would you like to go to India?”

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If you liked this post, please “like” One World, One Plate on Facebook! You can also follow the site on twitter at @1world1plate.

Defining Food – Deep Dish Pizza

17 Feb

Defining Food is a feature on One World, One Plate that looks at a place and the food that defines it. In other news, if you “like” this page on facebook, you will get access to recipes of foods mentioned in this section (or sometimes just a recipe I want to share)!

Pizza. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t like pizza. It’s a food loved by millions. Pizza has become as much of an American food as it is Italian. Kids like it. Adults like it. You can’t go wrong. One of the reasons why pizza is so beloved is it’s versatility. Thick crust, thin crust, deep dish, stuffed crust, double dough, not to mention the unlimited number of ingredients. There are infinite combinations!

Here in Chicago, we make our pizza a little differently. We like it deep dish. Some people say that deep dish pizza is not pizza at all. If you are one of those people, I ask you to open your mind for the reminder of this post. Deep dish pizza is the same concept, just done a different way. For example, the ice cream in a cone tastes the same as the ice cream in a dish, right? Stick with me and you will find that there is room for all types of pizza in stomachs around the world.

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What makes deep dish pizza different? For starters, it is more like pie than what most people would think of as a pizza. Instead of having a light flour crust that is thrown through the air, deep dish crust is made of olive oil and cornmeal and covers the inside of a deep round pan. Then it is put in the oven and parbaked before the ingredients are loaded in. This allows the crust to be a bit crispy, almost like it’s fried. To me, the crust is an essential part of the pizza. If you have a bad crust, it can change the whole ballgame. Baking the crust first, allows it to support the ingredients later. Next, a layer of cheese is put down before the other ingredients fill up the pan. When it comes to choosing a meat to put on deep dish pizza – sausage is king. Pepperoni seems to get lost in the pool of cheese. Veggies are good, but you have to have a lot of them to make the pizza anything more than a cheese pie. Spinach usually works well for that purpose. Finally, the pizza is topped with tomato sauce and put back in the oven to bake until nice and warm. It’s perfect if the cheese is bubbling up through the layer of sauce.

Once the pizza is out, it’s time to eat – with a fork and knife. (I can hear New Yorkers crying “sacrilegious” as I type this.) I told you at the beginning, deep dish is a little different. This pizza is an experience. It’s heavy as a brick when it comes to your table. That doesn’t stop us from eating it. It’s worth every calorie. A fork helps.

Deep Dish Pizza is a reflection of the town it’s made in; the city of broad shoulders. Chicagoans are tough, no-nonscense people. We have to be to both put up with and form our corrupt city government. Eating thin crust pizza all the time wouldn’t mesh well with our cultural identity. Think about it. Al Capone eating a pizza he folds in half or eating a pizza that if he threw it, could leave a dent in your car? (Just kidding, it’s not that heavy!) This is a pizza that can’t be eaten on the go. You have to stop and sit down to eat it. Chicago is a major city and is always moving, but we will always stop for good food.

Fun Fact – Chicagoans are both attached to and proud of their deep dish pizza. Many restaurants here offer shipping of their pizza to anywhere in the United States. This means that when people move away they can still get their Lou Malnati’s fix. For those of us still in the city, we can send it to friends around the country who don’t believe it until they taste it.


Elephant Food – Plus an Update!

16 Feb
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I recently had the opportunity to travel to South East Asia and hangout with some elephants. I won’t go into the details now, but it was one of the most excellent days of my life. Anyway, the photo above is a photo of a basket of food I got to feed an elephant. Really elephants a lot more food than this, but this is just a sample of a snack. The basket contains bananas, bamboo and pumpkin. Who knew that elephants eat pumpkin?

Also, I just wanted to post that I have not forgotten – like an elephant (get it) – about this project. Since returning from my trip it has taken longer than I want to get back in the swing of everything I want to do. Don’t worry though, I have a lot of interesting things planned for this site. And I can’t wait to tell you about the food I experienced while traveling through South East Asia!

Just sit tight, a new post will be up by the end of the week!

(photo taken by staff at Patara Elephant Farm)

The Tortilla

7 Dec

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I have a strong connection with the tortilla – let me explain. . . .

I am half Mexican and half Polish. These are two very different cultures, but I found that there are a lot of similarities between them. For example, the polka sounds a whole lot like the ranchera. Both cultures are fond of their respective alcohol and Catholicism seems to work for large populations in Mexico and Poland.

Anyway, one would think that I had a rich cultural upbringing with these two sides of my family, but that was far from the case. I actually grew up with very little cultural education, but was always searching for more. I wanted there to be some sort of battle between my parents trying to prove which culture was superior just so that I could learn all that I could about them and in the process would get to eat some awesome food. As it turns out, my mom isn’t all that Polish, she’s second generation American and my dad is so into being American that he didn’t really tell me what it is like to be Mexican.

My grandparent’s house was the only place I had growing up, to get a glimpse at Mexican culture. I always looked forward to visiting them in the city because it meant that grandma would cook and grandpa would tell stories. We would walk in the house and smell the carne, arroz y frejoles on the stove. We would all sit around the table while my grandmother would refill our plates and my grandfather flipped the totrillas on the comal (1). As a kid, I noticed everyone on my dad’s side of the family using a tortilla to eat. They would use the tortilla to scoop up the meat, rice and beans. I had never thought that food could be eaten like that. Each visit I would try to mimic what I saw, but always ended up using a fork. It was a big accomplishment when I figured out how to put it all together because I finally felt connected to the Mexican culture.

As I grew older I realized that Mexicans weren’t the only ones that used bread as a vehicle for food. While traveling in India, I saw people using paranthas much in the same way as I use a tortilla. This is when I declared that every culture has a tortilla (ask my boyfriend, it really was a declaration) and became fascinated with finding the connections between cultures through food. That’s what I hope to do with One World, One Plate.

I hope to post as often as I can about different dishes and ingredients. I cannot promise a plethora of recipes, because that is not my goal – but if I find a good one, I’ll post it up here.

Here are few facts about the mexican tortilla . . . it is one of the oldest foods on the planet. Dating back to 10,000 BCE and – according to Mayan legend – were first served by a peasant to his hungry king. (2 ) They are usually made by soaking corn in lye and then grinding the grains into a dough. A ball of dough is then patted down into a circle and then the tortilla is placed on a hot griddle and heated on both sides. Since then, the process has become mechanized and tortillas are mass produced. They are so popular, that tortillas have “surpassed bagels and muffins to become the number two packaged bread product in the U.S.” (3).

What’s your culture’s tortilla?