Happy Hump Day: The Wednesday warm-up (comfort food edition)

January 13, 2010

The Fried Chicken plate at Hearty

The Fried Chicken Plate at Hearty

It's just so darn cold outside. I think I've been rotating the same three pairs of Patagonia socks over the last two weeks just to keep my toes warm on the daily walk to the train. I decided this month that I was going to feature a different type of comfort food every Wednesday for my Hungry Hound report at ABC 7. Last week, I went over to the Hearty Boys' new restaurant - Hearty - and saw how they made their Southern-fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes, and their new-fangled tuna casserole; today, I'm going to Hawaii (I wish). Carol Wallack is the Chef and Owner of Sola, which sits on a side street in the North Center neighborhood (careful, the address says Lincoln, but the front door is technically on Byron). Wallack has a house in Hawaii, so like our President, she schleps between Chicago and the sunny islands every vacation she can manage. To Wallack, a family-style Luau means colorful platters of roasted red and golden beets with fresh pineapple, interlaced with sliced radishes and Asian greens, all dressed in a lively yuzu vinaigrette. Her ahi tuna is flown in weekly from Hawaii; she coats it in a hoisin-mustard glaze, then dredges the giant loins in Japanese panko breadcrumbs before frying them. Sliced in half, they're plated over green-tinged bamboo rice, served with crunchy avocado tempura, as well as a few drizzles of soy-wasabi butter. Heartier platters include Kahlua pork - steamed in banana leaves - as well as slowly-braised shortribs, set over a mound of snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, red peppers and asparagus, then coated with a dark cloak of hoisin, soy and ginger.

Wallack's Sunday night luau runs $30 per person; kids under 12 pay their age. I've got two Wednesdays left for the "Wednesday Warm-Up."‚ 

Where would you go to slip into something a little more comfortable? Foodie Notes:

  • Do you miss Julia Child as much as I do? Learn to cook like "The French Chef" (even though she was from California), on Friday, Jan. 15th, at Now We're Cookin' (1601 Payne, Evanston, 847-570-4140), where they'll be practicing techniques for poaching fish like the grande dame once did.‚  Class starts at 6:30 p.m., cost is $60.
  • On Saturday, the 16th, the Culinary Historians of Chicago focus on "The Pleasure of Pasta," in a lecture from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Quartino (626 N. State St.).Food writer Nancy Ross Ryan will conduct a live interview with John Coletta, the Executive Chef-Partner of Quartino, and author of the new "250 True Italian Pasta Dishes." After the interview, Chef Coletta will answer questions, and then administer a quiz, called "How True?," that tests‚  pasta know-how. Immediately after the lecture, attendees will get to sample some of Coletta's pasta prepared from the recipes in his cookbook. Coletta and Ms. Ryan will also sign copies of their new book, and all profits from book sales will benefit the Culinary Historians of Chicago. Cost of the lecture program is $5, $3 for students and members and no charge for CHC members. To reserve a space, call Barbara Olson at 708-788-0338. Or e-mail your reservation to: rsvpchc@yahoo.com. If you want to make an afternoon of it, there will be a ChicaGourmets luncheon at 12:30 p.m., immediately following at Quartino, with Chef Coletta and Ms. Ryan attending. All-inclusive with wines, $39.
  • Finally, condolences to the family of Jovan Trboyevic, the culinary force behind Chicago's legendary restaurants Jovan, Le Perroquet and Les Nomades.‚  Trboyevic passed away Sunday; he was 89.‚  Le Perroquet and Les Nomades were to chefs what North Carolina is to basketball players.‚  Legions of top toques passed through both kitchens, including Mary Sue Milliken (half of the Two Hot Tamales) and Roland Liccioni, who went on to run Le Francais in Wheeling.‚  Both restaurants were paragons of classic French dining.‚  When Trboyevic opened Les Nomades as a private club in the 70s, you could join for $1, which allowed him to serve as gatekeeper to his guests.‚  The restaurant is no longer private.