Essential Chef Blogs

Relax, settle in, and eat and drink vicariously with our bloggers.

thumbBlog roadTripJoin us as we search for the most authentic, tastiest, ethnic foods from around the world. Current series: Pork Sandwiches: the cubano, banh mi, croque monsieur

Heritage Apple Tasting

Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, Eau Claire, Michigan
Nichols apples at a Chicago farmers market
Suncrisp apples at Tree-Mendus
left to right: Belle de Boskoop, Newton Pippin, Clovis Spice, Swazy, Baldwin
left to right: Gold Rush, Cortland, Suncrisp, Macoun
Linda: As American as apple pie….you are the apple of my eye….Eve unleashed all our problems by (allegedly) making Adam eat an apple…. Apples are an important fruit in America. But before this tasting, I had no idea there were so many apple varieties. You're lucky if you see a dozen in a grocery store. The apple farm we visited, T...
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Tasting Farmers Market Tomatoes

Eleven varieties of farmers market tomatoes
Green zebra
Mr. Stripey
Purple Cherokee
Carolina Gold
Brandywine and Pineapple
Cherokee green, Great White, Torbay
Oregon spring and Early Girl
Nichols Farm: green zebra, Cherokee green, Carolina gold, Torbay, Mr. Stripey, great white
Scheeringa Farms: green zebra, purple Cherokee, pineapple, brandywine, Mr. Stripey
Linda: "Looks can be deceiving." When it comes to tomatoes, truer words were never spoke. Did you know that most store-bought tomatoes are picked well before they are ripe and then ripened using ethylene gas? So a red tomato isn't necessarily a sweet tomato. Ripening a tomato on the vine and picking it at the optimal moment is the best...
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A Chicago South Side Rib Smack-Down

Aquarium smoker at Lem's
Lem's ribs
Sign at Lem's
Uncle John's aquarium smoker
Ribs and hot links from Uncle John's
Alice's BBQ
Alice's ribs and hot links
Line at Alice's
Back home, eating ribs, yummmmm......
Max Sevier of Uncle John's BBQ, died on June 1, 2015.  His restaurant, Uncle John's, is closed. This is truly a tragedy -- his ribs and hot  links were delicious and he trained a lot of other really good rib masters. It was over 90 degrees in Chicago at the start of the Labor Day weekend and we were four souls looking for...
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Ice Cream vs. Gelato Taste Test

Vanilla ice cream at Oberweis
Blueberry pie ice cream at Oberweis
Oberweis counter
Justine's Ice Cream Parlour
Bobtail counter
Mix of cookies 'n cream and salted caramel ice cream
Scottish Highland Creamery
Cup of pistachio and blood orange sorbetto at Cafe Gelato
Cafe Gelato counter
Cup of espresso and blueberry french toast at Black Dog Gelato
Black Dog Gelato counter
Cup of pistachio-almond and 3 vanilla at Paciugo
Gelato offerings at Cafe Gelato
​Which tastes better: ice cream or gelato? Linda: I know, I know, that's like asking a mother "who's your favorite child?" Her response is "They are all my favorites". But our inquiring minds (and the heat of the summer) led us on our quest to see if we could taste the difference and which we preferred. My personal answer to the question is: g...
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Pork Chop Taste Test

Dominick's pork chop
Publican Quality Meats pork chop
Faith's Farm pork chop (note marbling)
Whole Foods pork chop
Hampshire pig feeding
Kim Snyder, owner of Faith's Farm
Berkshire piglet
Pork chops from Whole Foods, Publican, Faith's Farm, Dominick's
Cows on Faith's Farm
Gloucester Old Spot pig
Does a $13.99 per pound pork chop taste better than a $4.29 per pound pork chop? Yes, but….. Linda: We got to wondering if the hype about naturally raised pork was just that, or if we could actually taste the difference between a standard grocery store pork chop and a fancy butcher shop chop. So we set off to buy and blind-taste-test four bone...
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