Sunday, March 20, 2011

Salon I, Photoless For Now as We Move to Salon II

The first Food on the Dole Salon was, by all accounts, a great success. I was joined by a group of lovely people from varying backgrounds to cook and eat together, with the goals of connecting otherwise strangers, sharing great discussion over well crafted food and, of course, picking up some solid cooking knowledge to be put to use at home. Yours truly led the group over a menu focused on roasted chicken (the rest being filled out by what was looking good in the market that day--tough in the winter in Chicago, but nevertheless--I got most of the food at Fresh Farms); we worked together in the kitchen, sharing stories and perspectives on food, then sat down at the table to continue talking with each other until well after dessert was served. It was, to me, an ideal Salon. The menu was:
  • Homemade Epi Bread, Aged Cheddar, Volpi Cacciatore (a salami, aged and aged, loosely meaning "fox hunter"
  • Watercress, Herb and Beet Salad, Herb Vinaigrette
  • Roast Chicken
  • Bacon Wrapped Rosemary Onions
  • Smashed & Fried Garlic Potatoes
  • Plum Tart Crumble, Black Dog Gelato
Unfortunately, I was too focused on the food and the guests to take any photos, though I do have a sneaky friend who has offered to come and do so one of these times. I suppose the focus is on the event itself, rather than reporting it; a dilemma that will work itself out as the Salon ages. I was pleased that we had so much perspective at the Salon; I believe that one of the things that will make it successful is the variety that guests offer. I've said it before: any level of cooking knowledge is welcome.

Moving on , I'd like to announce the second Food on the Dole Salon: Saturday, March 26. This six-seat Salon will be focused on the gems of the sea; whether the main dish is a rich seafood stew or whole roasted fish remains to be seen. The requested donation is $50; if you are interested in attending, please email me at Interested in future events? Email that same address and I'll put you on the F.o.t.D. mailing list, which will announce future events. More information on my thoughts behind starting the Salon Series can be read in this article with The Onion A/V Club.

A warm thank you to the members of the first Salon--you brought immeasurable energy to this project, and I hope to see you at another Salon!

Off We Go!

As the inaugural Food on the Dole Salon approaches, I'd like to give a big thanks to the support I've received from so many people. It's reassuring to know that in a culinary landscape so seemingly dominated by re-purposed scientific equipment (fine) and stories of how much meat is actually included in fast food, uh, meat (not so fine on so many levels), there is still a strong base of folks quite interested in the food cooked and shared in the home. From old friends responsible for the flyer above and around town to news articles in print to crazy haired people giving advice and trumpeting the cause, the Salon has been on the receiving end of some great support. Thank you thank you.

So, fresh off a relaxing trip into the mountains of Colorado, a trip full of spaetzle and homemade bread and green chile and braised Colorado lamb and chats with funny Italian chefs in cutoff shirts and sunglasses in tiny mountain towns, I'm pretty pumped for the first Salon tomorrow night. We've got a great bunch of guests lined up, and a couple of good looking chickens hanging out and waiting for their moment as well. I'll be sure to write about it and announce the next Salon posthaste (email if interested); until then, cheers, and here's to food!

Manifesto: An Introduction to the Food on the Dole Salon

Wherever I go, I strive to learn about food. Not just to eat the best new dishes, but to look further, deeper into where they are coming from. Beyond the physical source of the food, to the person preparing it, their history, and what they are saying through their food. Here in Chicago, we've got all sorts of restaurants, top-notch chefs setting so many standards, the availability of great ingredients from our neighbors in the midwest and from all over the world. But sometimes what's missing is the actuality of the world of food. The fact that it isn't, and shouldn't be just restaurants that are feeding us--simply eating is, at most, half of the equation. We cook, thus we feed ourselves. I believe this wholeheartedly, and am going to share this with you. I'm going to introduce and cultivate technique and a more basic understanding of food. I'll provide a setting where anybody, beginner or pro, novice or expert can refine their skills and understanding of food, how it works, and why it matters. This will be a community based around real food. This is the Food on the Dole Salon.

A salon, you ask? What on earth is that? Well, despite my reluctance to quote Wikipedia, the first line of their entry on salons reads perfectly: "A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation." Not only do I want to provide instruction, tips and techniques of cooking; I want to provide an environment where people can come together from all backgrounds to discuss and learn about food:
  • I will provide the ingredients necessary (some sessions will include the actual shopping for said ingredients);
  • I will provide the setting and equipment necessary;
  • I will provide guidance through varying topics with the goal of expressing to you the concepts I like to apply when cooking--the why, the how, the story behind the food.
I am seeking guests who hunger to refine their cooking technique, want to enhance their understanding of food, and seek a community rooted in a common thread of the recognition of the importance of food and sound cooking. In a forum of others sharing these desires, an atmosphere free of exclusive notions, open to all viewpoints and the discussion of such, led by myself, Hugh Amano, chef and creator of Food on the Dole:
  • You will attend a session of roughly six people, receiving instruction from myself on a range of topics as the group cooks the evening's meal together;
  • You will sit down in a byob setting, eat and discuss the food we made and food in general, issues regarding food, things you may be curious about or feel need to be addressed;
  • You will help to create a community based on the joy of food, cooking, and the conversation and relationships they foster.
All topics are of course welcome in the natural course of the evening. I hope to develop a non-exclusive community of people who are not necessarily chefs and who don't necessarily eat at the fanciest restaurants (though these folks are definitely welcome), and who come from all sorts of backgrounds. I want to connect those of you who are experts in, say, theater, with those of you who keep bees. Those of you who eat regularly at places like Alinea, and those of you who visit tacquerias and hot dog stands on a daily basis. Over simple, beautifully prepared food, we'll converse on these things, and add to each others toolbox. And in this toolbox will be culinary techniques to make us better cooks at home. Dates, topics and cost will vary, and will be made known through Food on the Dole (

That said, the first Food on the Dole Salon will be held on Thursday, March 10, 2011. A donation of $50 per person is requested, and we will be cooking a full meal featuring what I believe to be an essential, and most appropriate for the inaugural Food on the Dole Salon: Roast Chicken. Email me at to sign up.

I'm excited to open a new chapter in my approach to and relationship with food, and hope to connect and influence many others in theirs. Hope to see you soon.