Culinary adventures along the Illinois River

August 19, 2011

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At a gathering of fellow foodies, Catherine Lambrecht was asked the following hypothetical question: If you had 10 days paid vacation and an unlimited budget, where would you go?

Her cohorts listed distant locales with enticing food cultures: Thailand, Switzerland. But the co-founder of LTHForum, an online site dedicated to parsing the fine details of the region’s local eats, replied this way: “Give me the budget and a car full of gas.”

The moderator of the conversation snorted.

“What, are you going to Gary?”

“I can make a day out of Gary,” Lambrecht told an audience assembled by Culinary Historians of Chicago in June. “There’s serendipity involved.”

Serendipity, and in Lambrecht’s case, persistence. To prove her point that one can discover delicious food in the most surprising, out-of-the-way places, Lambrecht has made a habit of exploring not just Chicago, but the city’s far outer suburbs.

When she heard that there was a region along the Illinois River where one could obtain fried turtle – a local delicacy – she spent the next three or four years hunting down leads until she found a cluster of restaurants that still served the dish.

Along the way she found a number of other unusual, and often delicious, local practices, including tortellini in broth curiously called “ravs,” and an entire county where local restaurants are fiercely competitive about their fried chicken.

In June, she shared some of her discoveries, starting with her fried turtle odyssey.  You can hear her story, and her review of the food, in the audio above.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Catherine Lambrecht spoke at an event presented by Culinary Historians of Chicago in June. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.