Dining and food culture in Chicago

Chicago Pie-oneer: Paula Haney’s Hoosier Mama is Really Booking

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PieShopPhoto

By Matt Kirouac

There are few things as soul-soothing as pie, which explains the adoration for Hoosier Mama Pie Co., and the chief Hoosier behind it all, Paula Haney. From coffee shops to fine dining institutions, Haney has proven her pastry prestige, but what really set her apart from the dessert posse was her decision to break away from the trendy and return to her roots making pie. Now four years in with her first pie shop, fresh off the debut of her own pie cookbook, and on the verge of opening her second shop, Haney is a true pie-oneer in Chicago.

Pie was the first thing Haney learned how to make at home in the Hoosier State. They were the go-to dessert in her family, and by the age of eight, she was making apple pie with her mom. It was love at first bite. “It was amazing how good just the apples and the cinnamon and the sugar were together,” she recalls. Although her passion for pie was there from the get-go, the road to Hoosier Mama was a long one.

Haney studied journalism at Indiana University, but wound up working at a coffee shop in Bloomington called The Runcible Spoon. She dabbled at a couple other places in town getting a taste for the baking life before moving to Chicago and working at The Hilton on Michigan Avenue. Although separating eggs for hours on end was tedious, she chocks it up as good mental exercise and practice, preparing her for her pastry-assistant position at Trio under Della Gossett. She calls the kitchen intense yet supportive, fostering growth in her pastry skills. “I was making stuff I had never made before,” she says. It was here where she felt she really learned and grew during her three years as an assistant and three as pastry chef, curating elaborate dishes using candied seaweed tuiles and foie gras as part of twenty-course tasting menus.  Read the rest of this entry »

Iron Woman: Cinnamon Cooper gives a traditional skillet a global shine

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By Michael Nagrant

There may be no better name for a cast-iron cooking master than Cinnamon Cooper. Cooper, longtime “One Good Meal” columnist for the Chicago website gapersblock.com just released her first cookbook, “The Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook.” In it, she eschews the typical Southern fried chicken, cornbread and beans approach to Cast Iron cooking in favor of a global perspective that includes plenty of Thai, Indian and Latino recipes. I caught up with Cooper to talk about the new book.

What is the fabric of your memory that informs your love for Cast Iron?

I don’t remember not having cast-iron skillets. I was surprised that skillets came in other forms, actually. And while my mother was more likely to use a slow cooker than a Dutch oven, it was pretty easy to translate a number of dishes to Dutch oven cooking. I remember being very young and helping my grandfather punch the centers out of pieces of bread to make “Bird in a Nest,” which is just a piece of bread that has an egg cooked in the center. I thought it was magic and it still has huge nostalgia when I make it. My grandfather taught my mother how to cook, and she passed on a lot of those lessons to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: Food & Drink

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Top 5 New Fine Dining RestaurantsIMG_9074
Cibo Matto
Taxim
Brown Trout
Sunda
Kith and Kin
—Michael Nagrant

Top 5 New Informal Restaurants
Xoco
Café Senegal
Zebda
Han 202
Jam
—Michael Nagrant Read the rest of this entry »

Man with the Golden Tongue: Nelson Algren, The Food Historian

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chow5By Michael Nagrant

In addition to Vernors ginger ale, Joe Louis, Nelson Algren, the MC5 and of course, the automobile, John King books might just be one of the greatest things Detroit has ever offered the world. Located in an old glove factory, this is the bookstore that a city like Chicago should have, but doesn’t. Located at 901 West Lafayette Street, it’s a four-story warehouse that sits a Kirk Gibson home run away from the rusting hulk of old Detroit Tigers stadium, housing 750,000-plus used books and mountains of kitschy and rare ephemera. The twenty-five years of accumulated dust and must, which channel the funk of a grandparent’s basement, draws book hounds, including Jay Leno and Teller of Penn and Teller, from the farthest reaches of the world.

Combing through the cooking and food stacks there a few weeks ago, I located a cool edition of MFK Fisher’s translation of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s “Physiology of Taste” (he of the famous “Iron Chef” opening quote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”), “La Bonne Table,” a fantastic collection of food and travel writing from children’s author and creator of “Madeline,” Ludwig Bemelmans, and a book with a thin salmon-colored spine that bore the words, “Nelson Algren—America Eats.” Read the rest of this entry »

Food Porn Files: Reading cookbooks in bed

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By Michael Nagrant

It turns out I like to dabble in Asian and gay porn. Food porn, that is.

In the last few weeks I’ve been slammed with a trove of advanced copies of cookbooks, mostly five-pound coffee-table versions filled with gauzy soft-focus shallow-depth-of-field photography of come-hither canapés and prosaic stories about learning to cook at the feet of mom, grandma or insert-favorite-dead-relative-who-in-reality-almost-killed-you-with-grayish-green-hard-boiled-eggs-and-leaden-fruitcake here.

Out of that stack I plucked out Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh’s, aka The Hearty Boys, “Talk With Your Mouth Full” (release date October 1) and “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s “New Art of Japanese Cooking.” Read the rest of this entry »