WBEZ | David Hammond http://www.wbez.org/tags/david-hammond Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Are raw milk advocates getting a raw deal? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-26/are-raw-milk-advocates-getting-raw-deal-95847 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-26/David Hammond.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you have been following the Republican presidential race, you have probably heard a lot of talk, especially from folks like Ron Paul, about less government and the supremacy of individual rights. The push for all of those principles was apparent Dec. 8 at a <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2011/11/30/raw_milk_rally_to_taunt_fda_in_irvi.php" target="_blank">raw milk rally in Chicago</a>. It was organized by those passionately committed to drinking milk that goes pretty much straight from udder to cup. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> food contributor David Hammond was there and he talked to some the supporters and opponents of raw milk.<br> <br> David Hammond is a founding moderator of <a href="http://www.lthforum.com/bb/index.php" target="_blank">LTHForum.com</a>, a Chicago-based culinary chat site. You can read his <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/food/9998847-423/food-detective-a-bite-of-the-wild-side-at-annual-raccoon-fest.html" target="_blank">“Food Detective”</a> column every Wednesday in the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>.</p></p> Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-26/are-raw-milk-advocates-getting-raw-deal-95847 Celebrating National Cheese Month with David Hammond http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-11/celebrating-national-cheese-month-david-hammond-93039 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-11/4393276056_8bcda76949_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>October is National Cheese Month. In honor of that delicious news, food journalist<a href="http://www.dchammond.com/index.php?id=6" target="_blank"> David Hammond</a> spoke to a few folks in the vanguard of the cheese business who hoped to bring artisanal varieties back to the plates of American diners.</p><p><em>Music Button: Primus, "Seas of Cheese", from the album Sailing The Seas of Cheese, (Interscope)</em></p><p><em>clip of "Cheese Shop Sketch" from Monty Python's Flying Circus</em><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 11 Oct 2011 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-11/celebrating-national-cheese-month-david-hammond-93039 Finding deliciousness everywhere, even in strip malls http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/finding-deliciousness-everywhere-even-strip-malls-90911 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/5949214954_0316befdec_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In July, I went to visit a few mall-based restaurants with two very trusty dining companions: <a href="http://www.michaelgebert.com/" target="_blank">Mike Gebert</a> and <a href="http://web.mac.com/olverajennifer/Site/JENNIFER_OLVERA.html" target="_blank">Jennifer Olvera</a>. Gebert won a James Beard award earlier this year for his food videos, and Olvera recently published <a href="http://www.foodloverschi.com" target="_blank"><em>Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago</em></a>, a compendium of worthy dining zones in and around our city.</p><p>We start our tour of strip malls at a darkened Korean place in a Niles. While&nbsp; patiently waiting for it to open, I asked Olvera why it seems that strip mall restaurants get no respect.&nbsp; She says “well, a lot of them are pretty nondescript, you know. A place like we’re standing in front of right now doesn’t do much to jump out at you from the street, mixed in here with a bank and lot of other chains.”</p><p>Gebert agreed that appearances aside, strip malls might very well be excellent places to find very good chow, interesting ethnic food that pleases in ways that go beyond what’s offered at the standard chain.&nbsp; “Obviously,” Gerbert says, “there are a lot of big ethnic populations in a place like Chicago, where they’ve moved out to the suburbs, and there’s a lot of second-tier real estate, a lot of second-tier shopping malls and things like that, so you kind of have to look for those – areas where Koreans, or Eastern Europeans or whoever, have moved to a particular suburb. And so look for those little shops and you often see them mixed together. On Milwaukee Avenue in Niles you’ll see Korean, Polish, Russian, Middle Eastern, all sort of mixed together side-by-side in these strip malls.</p><p>“But you kind of have to know where to look” Gerbert continues.&nbsp; “Bridgeview is a good example that’s well known – to some people at least – as to where Middle Easterners from the city moved.&nbsp; So, once you know that’s where the population is, you just look around and there’s all kinds of Middle Eastern places tucked into these shopping malls. There will be a bakery here, a place to get falafel and shawarma here, and a grocery.”</p><p>Olvera adds “You have to do some trial and error to find something that’s good. You’re going to find different tiers of quality wherever you go. But I think having a concentration of places gives you a lot better chance to find something special, and I think Bridgeview is a good example of that.”</p><p>Gilbert says “I think you definitely get more authentic places because there’s no built-in tourist base coming in there to eat that food.&nbsp; It’s not like Chinatown where people know to go to Chinatown. The majority of the population in Bridgeview is Polish and Irish, and I’m guessing the majority of those people have never had Middle Eastern food in Bridgeview, even though it’s a large part of the retail restaurant there. It’s mainly serving its own people, and so at least you get over that barrier of the things they’re offering are authentic.&nbsp; You’ll be able to find examples of things that you wouldn’t find in Lincoln Park, or somewhere where the Middle Eastern food is mostly serving a non-Middle Eastern audience.”</p><p>The Korean place looked like it was never going to open; I guess when you’re in a relatively low traffic area, you can take the day off without sacrificing a lot of revenue.&nbsp; Fortunately, in Niles and other northern suburbs, there are a lot of strip malls with restaurants offering authentic ethnic food. We go to a nearby place called <a href="http://www.himalayanrestaurant.com/" target="_blank">Himalayan Restaurant &amp; Bar</a>, which serves Nepali food, a relatively neglected cuisine in Chicago.</p><p>Olvera says “What I like about a place like this is you wouldn’t necessarily notice it driving by, but I think it’s a place that people in the area probably come every day. I don’t know if it’s a place you’d drive to from the city, but when you’re in the area, it’s good to know there’s something unusual or out of the norm that’s not part of the whole chain scene that people generally associate with the suburbs. And the thing is, you can find these places everywhere, as long as you keep your eyes open and you’re willing to have an open mind and you’re willing to go inside and try.”</p><p>The server comes to our table with something to eat.&nbsp; Curious, I ask him “what do we have?”&nbsp; He tells us it’s “chutneys and crackers.”&nbsp; Chutney and crackers?&nbsp; Well, I’ve had that before, but part of the fun of dining at an ethnic place like Himalayan Restaurant and Bar is that flavors are frequently familiar though sometimes hard to pinpoint.&nbsp; We had an order of momo – Nepalese dumplings – and there was a flavor in there we couldn’t quite identify. Our server helped us out.</p><p>I ask him “In the momo, what kind of seasoning is there?”</p><p>He says “Momo we only put onion, black pepper, ginger…”</p><p>“Ginger!” I exclaim.</p><p>We also ordered a goat stew. Now, I like goat a lot, and this savory pot presented the meat in a sauce that had us playing the guessing game again.&nbsp; Olvera gives it a shot.&nbsp; “I’m trying to get the seasonings in the sauce,” she says, “because it feels different to me than straight-up Indian.&nbsp; Again, I think maybe it’s the cumin in there. There’s something in the background that’s maybe not typical or familiar to me when I think about a stew I’m going to have at an Indian restaurant. But it’s really rich, it has a lot of depth, and the goat’s pretty tender.”</p><p>We head over to Chaihanna, where they specialize in Uzbek cuisine. Our server at first seemed a little remote, but when he saw we were genuinely excited about the menu, he introduced himself as Kevin, which he told us is Kostya in Russian, but in Uzbekistan, they call him Constantine.&nbsp; He tells us “This is my family restaurant. We’re all from Uzbekistan.&nbsp; I was born there, my parents were born there.&nbsp; That’s how they know how to prepare this food.&nbsp; I grew up with this food.”</p><p>On the Uzbek menu, pickles show up several times.&nbsp; So we order a platter that includes a beautifully colorful collection of carrots, watermelon, cucumber and cabbage.&nbsp; Olvera lets out “I’m a huge fan of pickles, but I can’t quite figure out what’s up with this.&nbsp; I’m assuming carrot?&nbsp; What’s up with the spice in this?&nbsp; It’s really different from the watermelon.</p><p>I tell her “It’s clove.”</p><p>“Clove!&nbsp; You got it” Olvera replies.</p><p>I say “it’s not an unpleasant flavor, but it’s not the flavor you expect in a pickle.”</p><p>Olvera continues “the carrot is different than the cabbage is different than the watermelon. They all have a distinct flavor.”</p><p>I add “and it does seem like there’s a little bit of dill in there somewhere.”</p><p>“Definitely in the watermelon” Olvera adds.</p><p>Gebert jumps in with further analysis, and a little bit of history.&nbsp; “It’s definitely more spiced like medieval” he says, “or renaissance cooking where there wasn’t really a line between savory and sweet, and you used a lot of cinnamon or clove in like roast chicken dishes or something.&nbsp; It’s kind of like that.&nbsp; It’s very garlicky and yet it’s got almost Christmas spice flavors to it, too.”</p><p>As a food reporter, I’ve found that food is a universal topic of interest and conversation.&nbsp; Still, sometimes staff at small ethnic places might seem a little standoffish. &nbsp;Of course, that could just be my overly-outgoing American attitude. Or maybe servers at ethnic places are tired of taking back to the kitchen food that customers say is too spicy.&nbsp; My experience has been that if you demonstrate a sincere interest in – and respect for – the cuisine, the people at the small ethic place will open up and you’ll end up with something tasty that you’ve maybe never had before. You might even get a delicious insight into the cultures that produce the cuisine.</p><p>“And I think a lot of times if you come into a place like this,” says Olvera, “they’re more than willing to walk you through the menu and give you suggestions.&nbsp; But, I think you can come here and try something that’s more familiar and then try a single dish that is out of your comfort zone.&nbsp; So, you’re not going all-out and taking huge risks, but you’re notching yourself forward a little and finding new things every time you go out.</p><p>There’s a lot to be said for “comfort food” – familiar vittles that don’t challenge but rather fully satisfy and soothe with their familiarity. There’s also, of course, a lot to be said for food that nudges you into a new realm of taste and flavor. During our afternoon of lunches, Mike Gebert, Jennifer Olvera and I reaffirmed our faith that you can find deliciousness anywhere.&nbsp; Even in strip malls.&nbsp; Perhaps especially in strip malls.</p><p>Gebert says “You kind of have to know where to look.”</p><p>And Olvera adds “You can find these places everywhere, as long as you keep your eyes open and you’re willing to have an open mind.”</p><p><em>Music Button: Talking Heads, “Nothing but Flowers,” from the release Naked (Fly Records)</em></p><p>Food reporter David Hammond covers the culinary world for <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> and other outlets.</p><p>He’s a founding moderator of <a href="http://lthforum.com/bb/index.php" target="_blank">LTHForum.com</a>, the Chicago-based culinary chat site. You can also read his<em> Food Detective</em> column every Wednesday in the Chicago Sun-Times.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/finding-deliciousness-everywhere-even-strip-malls-90911 Getting serious about the tea in your cup http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-19/getting-serious-about-tea-your-cup-85386 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-19/Bill Todd, courtesy David Hammond.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>For <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, food writer <a href="http://www.dchammond.com/" target="_blank">David Hammond</a> visited a tea merchant in the western suburbs. He discovered that these folks take their tea very seriously – and only rarely with sugar.</p><p><br> Tea drinkers are a breed apart, and none more so than Bill Todd, who runs a world-class tea shop just a mile or so from my home.&nbsp; He’s one of the owners of <a href="http://www.todd-holland.com/TeaCart/pc/Todd-Holland-Our-Story-d1.htm" target="_blank">Todd &amp; Holland</a> Tea Merchants located in Forest Park. He’s been in the tea business for fifteen years.</p><p>I stopped by Todd &amp; Holland to get a lesson in “cupping,” the connoisseurs’ time-honored practice of preparing and savoring tea.&nbsp; Todd starts by using a digital scale to measure out an exact quantity of gnarled black leaves. “This is a Japanese black tea,” he says. “The Japanese make very little black tea. Almost all of their tea is green. And this is an interesting black tea because most things that the Japanese do, because they’re a very homogenous society, they do very well. And this tea is a loose leaf tea that has got a different flavor than you’ve got out of your India or China black teas.”</p><p>High-quality tea is always sold loose. We fill a tea bag and drop it into a small white pot. Todd brings water to a boil.&nbsp; Then he pours it into the pot, and sets the timer to ensure his tea bag is in hot water for exactly three minutes.&nbsp; According to Todd, “the third minute is when the minerals in the tea leaf come out and what flavors your tea is the mineral binding between the minerals in the tea leaf and the minerals in the water. If you want to have a tea that’s absolutely flat, use distilled water. The tea will have no flavor profile to speak of…because there are no minerals in the water to bind with the minerals in the tea. We’re fortunate in Chicago to have about eight grains of hardness in our water, and you can use filters that take out the chlorine (and) things like that, if you want to. But basically, our Lake Michigan water is good tea-brewing water.”</p><p>The timer beeps; the tea is ready to drink. We’re not adding sugar or (heaven forbid), milk, of course, as that would cover the subtlety of the beverage. As you might suspect, there’s a procedure in place for maximizing your ability to taste the tea in all its dimensions. Pouring the tea, Todd guides me through the process: “I want you to inhale some air into your lungs, take a sip of the tea, and when the tea is in your mouth I want you to take your tongue and squish your tongue against the roof of your mouth and squeeze the tea out of the backside of your mouth. I’ll just inhale some air, squish the tea against the roof of my mouth and swallow the tea. And what you’re looking for is what the sensation is on the roof of your mouth, on the top of your tongue. And what you’ll notice from any tea that’s really tea is a sense of dryness developing, and that dryness results from the tannins in the tea squeezing the fluid out of the cell structure in your mouth, creating a condition called astringency.”</p><p>It’s fascinating how, when you take the time to think carefully about what you’re consuming, you actually do taste more.&nbsp; “To really taste the tea” Todd says, “after you’ve tasted the astringency, is you inhale air into your lungs, take a sip of the tea, and once the tea is in your mouth you keep your mouth closed. The reason you keep your mouth closed is that if you open your mouth and breathe in air, tea is a delicate beverage and the air is just going to overpower it. So what I want you to do is inhale some air, take a sip of the tea.”&nbsp; I do this, and Todd continues “swallow the tea, and then breathe out from your nose. It’s the breathing out through your nose where you get the taste of the tea in the back, because tea is an aroma beverage more than it is a mouth beverage. The only thing you taste in your mouth is the tannins, the astringency, the dryness in the mouth, but the flavor in the tea comes from sipping the tea. To exaggerate that sipping, what I want you to do next is I want you to inhale some air…Take a sip of the tea, and when you do I want you to (Todd slurps) audibly slurp it. So, I’ll give you a little demonstration. Inhale” Todd says, slurping again.&nbsp; “And what you’re doing is you’re inhaling air into your lungs at 70 degrees, heating it up to 90, you’re taking the tea and (slurp) slurping it.&nbsp; (You’re) throwing it against the back of your throat, you’re swallowing the liquid tea, and (with) the heated air you’re pumping up and picking up the concentrated tea vapor over the olfactory bulb which is at the back of the sinus cavity.<br> <br> “It’s the slurping that fills that cavity, and you’ll get that intensity of flavor that you’re drinking.”</p><p>But for all those clearly articulated procedures, the most important step in cupping tea is to slow down.&nbsp; Todd says “to really enjoy tea, you need to plunk yourself in the chair, stop what you’re doing, concentrate on the tea and enjoy the flavor of it. Which is why people are always asking me, ‘what’s going to be the next Starbucks of tea?’&nbsp; And, in my humble opinion, there will never be one because Starbucks is a whambamthankyouma’am.”</p><p>Before we began this interview, Todd had referred to coffee as the “evil elixir.” It’s clear he feels coffee fuels a face-paced approach to life that’s inimical to the enjoyment of tea.&nbsp; He says “you’ve got to boil the water, brew the tea, let it cool and then drink to enjoy it. All of that takes time.”&nbsp; Learning how to drink tea comes naturally; learning how to enjoy it requires some training. Todd says “now, you probably didn’t notice, but you opened your mouth three times.&nbsp; It’s a learned skill to keep your mouth closed.”</p><p>Keeping my mouth closed?&nbsp; Yes, that’s a skill I haven’t acquired yet.</p><p><br> <strong><em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> food contributor David Hammond is a founding moderator of <a href="http://lthforum.com/bb/index.php" target="_blank">LTHForum.com</a>, the Chicago-based culinary chat site. Every Wednesday, you can read his “Food Detective” column in the <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/" target="_blank"><em>Chicago Sun-Times</em></a> and “Oak Park Omnivorous” in the Wednesday <em><a href="http://www.wednesdayjournalonline.com" target="_blank">Journal of Oak Park and River Forest</a></em>.</strong></p><p><em>Music Button: Django Reinhardt, "Tea For Two", from the CD Nuages Vol. 2, (Epm)</em></p></p> Tue, 19 Apr 2011 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-19/getting-serious-about-tea-your-cup-85386 Chicago chefs say they educate customers one plate at a time http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-18/chicago-chefs-say-they-educate-customers-one-plate-time-85348 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-18/Randy Zwieban of Province. Courtesy David Hammond.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you’ve dined out in the past five years, chances are you’ve ordered from menus annotated with references to where the food came from: short ribs from <a href="http://www.dietzlerbeef.com/" target="_blank">Dietzler Farms</a> in Elkhorn, Wisconsin; lettuce from Farmer Vicki of <a href="http://www.genesis-growers.com/" target="_blank">Genesis Growers</a> in St. Anne, Illinois; and so on. Serving food sourced locally has become almost an entrance requirement for opening a restaurant in Chicago.</p><p>For some years, Bruce Sherman has been serving up dishes that make heavy use of local ingredients. At <a href="http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/" target="_blank">North Pond</a>, his Lincoln Park restaurant, his carefully composed plates have no doubt educated many Chicagoans about what it means to “eat local.”</p><p>“As chefs, we have this opportunity to be sort of profound educators,” Sherman said. “Whether it’s front-of-the-house with diners, in terms of educating them indirectly as to how we or what we source; whether it’s back-of-the-house in terms of what we do with our waste; whether it’s the tail of the animal or the box the animal came in. If we do our job right, as chefs, and we cook something delicious and creative, then those customers are going to ask us about the product. It’s a great entrée into educating them about where it came from and what it is.”</p><p>At <a href="http://provincerestaurant.com/" target="_blank">Province</a> in the Loop, chef Randy Zweiban has found when people go out to eat, chefs may be able to leverage a “teachable moment,” an opportunity to help diners learn, for example, just how good local food can be.</p><p>“If I were to take a carrot, for example, from Green Acres farm, an heirloom carrot and put it next to a commodity carrot, you wouldn’t even think the two were the same vegetable—even with your eyes closed,” Zweiban said. “When you get the ability to have really, really great local products, I think that you get to really understand the flavors of food.”</p><p>With restaurants like Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, <a href="http://www.rickbayless.com/" target="_blank">Rick Bayless</a> taught Chicago that Mexican cuisine is so much more than just tacos and refried beans. He’s also the author of a number of books that join academic rigor with a fundamental love of tastes and flavors.</p><p>Said Bayless: “I always see my role as an educator. What we want to do is sort of seduce people with really great food. That just opens the door for us to be able to start a conversation. Any server at our restaurant will tell you it does open that door. Talking about the history of the dish or where it comes from in Mexico certainly helps people understand our local landscape because there are a lot of people from Mexico here. It helps us get to know that side of our own culture.”</p><p>Increasingly, restaurants are becoming models for sustainable living.&nbsp; For instance, Zweiban recycles paper in ways that demonstrate to customers that there are many small things that can be done to go greener.</p><p>“We buy recycled paper to print our menu on,” Zweiban said. “After we use both sides of the paper that we print our menu on, we then take that paper and cut it up and use it for a variety of things. We cut it up and use little squares for notes in the restaurants, like allergy alerts. That menu paper that starts on recycled paper goes through about three or four more processes before it’s ever done, and then it goes in the garbage can that gets recycled.”</p><p>To cut down on waste, Bayless has rethought how he packages food to go.</p><p>“In our new place Xoco that has some takeout things, we’ve been very, very forward in letting people know how we’ve chosen the packaging,” Bayless said. “We explain everything down to the metal spoons used for caldo, our big meal-in-a-bowl soup, because I didn’t want to create any more trash. To tell you the truth, I could buy an inexpensive metal spoon that could be reused many, many times for almost the same price as a compostable spoon.”</p><p>Although it may cost a little more in the short term, many chefs feel that being a model for green business makes economic sense. Take California’s legendary chef Thomas Keller. At restaurants like <a href="http://www.frenchlaundry.com/" target="_blank">French Laundry</a>, Keller has pioneered the combination of innovative green technology and business smarts.</p><p>“In 2004, we installed a geothermal loop system in our restaurant, the first one in California,” explained Keller. “Now, did I do it strictly for green purposes? No I didn’t. I did it for creature comfort, but at the end of the day, it significantly affected our energy use, and it’s reduced our energy costs. At the same time, it was an enormously expensive piece of equipment to put in.”</p><p>Perhaps the best reason for a restaurant to go green is that customers expect it. And as Rick Bayless points out, they’re often the ones doing the teaching: “I love hearing from our guests if they’re concerned about things that maybe aren’t on my radar screen yet.&nbsp; And even though I think of us as a very green restaurant, if you will, I think that there’s a lot of stuff that we still have to learn. And I love it when the guests push me in that direction.”</p><p><em><a href="http://www.dchammond.com/" target="_blank">David Hammond</a> is a regular food contributor to </em>Eight Forty-Eight<em>and </em>Worldview<em>.&nbsp; Every Wednesday, you can read his </em>Food Detective<em>column in the Chicago </em>Sun-Times.</p></p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 18:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-18/chicago-chefs-say-they-educate-customers-one-plate-time-85348