Over Martin Luther King Day Weekend, Noah and I went to Chicago. When we told friends we were doing this, they gave us are-you-batshit-crazy looks. I supposed this is what anyone planning to go to Chicago in late January deserves, but we were just looking to get away for the weekend and catch up with the many, too many, friends who have moved to Chicago over the last couple of years.
It was, of course, very cold, but nonetheless worth the trip. We saw a very frozen lake Michigan and Frank Lloyd Wright houses. We ate great barbeque and Mexican food.
Mostly, we chatted with friends we miss a lot and poked our heads into cool stores and bakeries. A particular highlight was a visit to the amazing Epic Spices. If you are in Chicago, go. The luscious smell of spices literally permeates the sidewalk in front of this place–I know because I made us stand outside for 15 minutes until it opened, cold weather be damned. If you go, you’ll leave with your tongue tingling from tastes of Japanese Sansho Pepper (a cousin of Sichuan Peppercorns) and with plans to work more fenugreek and orange peel into your cooking.
We came home to an East Coast that was almost as cold and blustery as Chicago. But, I figured we had just learned how to handle the cold from true experts so I did what any sensible person would do and followed their lead.
My friend Noah, who we were staying with despite the ensuing confusion of having 2 Noahs in a small space, keeps frozen passion fruit puree in his freezer at all times. This, it turns out, is a great idea if you live somewhere gray and cold.
Case in point: Our first night in town, as it snowed outside, we huddled in his apartment, rolled sushi, and played games. At some point someone suggested we make pisco sours. The idea was enthusiastically endorsed before we discovered that we lacked eggs and bitters. An egg retrieved from a neighbor’s refrigerator solved the first problem and Noah pulled out the passion fruit to replace the bitters. The result: a totally winning, fruity, sour, and foamy drink that I think is the ticket to getting you through the winter.
The minute I got home, just before another blizzard began, I dashed to the grocery store and dug some Goya passion fruit puree out of the back of a freezer. It was necessary, I thought, to lay in essential provisions before the storm.