Lisa Donovan’s “Food Detective” articles, the ones on a particular food item whose collective name we inferred from the articles’ closer (“Curious about an unusual edible or kitchen tool? Want to share some mysteries in your own cabinets? E-mail the Food Detective at email@example.com”), are always a highlight of the Sun-Times food section. This week is devoted to white peppercorns, which differ only from black peppercorns in that their outer layer has been chemically stripped away to reveal the pungent, white core. Apparently, the French and the Chinese use white peppercorns almost exclusive. Look at what two crazy countries with fanatical and radically divergent food cultures agree on! That, and duck. Anyway, since it’s only marginally more expensive than black pepper, maybe it’s worth your while to try it? And it might usher you into the world of artisanal peppercorns, like green and pink and whatnot. Fun with spices!
Okay, the other thing going on is…apparently, there’s this major candy-eating holiday coming up exactly one week from today that everyone’s all excited about. Also, ghosts are involved. Those ghosts occasionally haunt restaurants, especially when that information is marketable. In a headlining story, Lynne Marek chronicles the spectral side of the Chicago restaurant scene, many of whose stories are interesting, or at least whimsical. But when Jerry Kleiner starts talking about ex-speakeasy/liquor warehouse Room 21 and claiming that “Everybody who walks in there feels some sort of mysterious hauntedness, like Al Capone’s watching you,” the whimsy gets sucked right out of the room. Come on, he just made that sentiment up because ‘tis the season, and it’s good for business. Furthermore, there’s no such thing as haunting! There just isn’t!
Normally we skip the S-T events and deals section, but Big Bowl’s offer of 20% off for college students at its Gold Coast and River North locations was worth a mention. This would be useful if a whole group of freshman went together on a bonding/discovering downtown trip - “ooh, this is urban life!” they’ll say. You won’t want to go to Big Bowl that evening.
There are three other articles that are worth noting:
• The “Taste of Ebony” just happened at the River East Arts Center, and it was co-chaired by soob-to-be-Chicago chef Marcus Samuelsson (his restaurants in New York are awesome)!
• Padma Lakshmi has a cookbook out, crediting (among other people) her Peruvian baby-sitter. OMG, but at least she credits her, we guess!
• Apparently, a justification for eating non-deep dish pizza in Chicago is “You have the classic little black dress in your wardrobe. It’s always there. You always have occasions to enjoy wearing it. But sometimes you want to wear something new, something different. You want to feel special.” If there are two things that really don’t go together in the same sentence, it’s deep dish pizza and little black dress. Maybe big black muumuu? (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled! It’s of Hawaiian origin! One day there will be a MenuPages muumuu, and you’ll all get one in the mail.)
[Photo: peppercorns. The guy who did this (3dphoto.net/flickr is awesome]