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Taste of Melrose: Arancini, Sfingi, Twinkie

Taste of Melrose: Arancini, Sfingi, Twinkie
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  • Taste of Melrose: Arancini, Sfingi, Twinkie

    Post #1 - September 3rd, 2005, 5:42 am
    Post #1 - September 3rd, 2005, 5:42 am Post #1 - September 3rd, 2005, 5:42 am
    Taste of Melrose: Arancini, Sfingi, Twinkie

    “The gastrointestinal festival’s bestival.”
    Bare Naked Ladies

    We got to the Maria SS Lauretana Festival around 6:00 PM last night; things were just setting up and food prospects looked surprisingly bleak, so we headed north to the Taste of Melrose. Wow. Had my first fresh arancini, an Italian street food I have previously purchased from the deli counter at Caputo’s and places like that; there’s no comparison with the fresh “out-of-the-fryer” version: crisp on the outside, melted on the inside, with plump peas floating in a cheesey grotto of moist rice. It was fabulous.

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    The Wife, always attracted to nuns, was swept away by two habited sisters cooking up sfingi:

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    We got some of the little balls, and The Wife swooned over the eggy friedness of them.

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    Tickled by the sight of a place offering fried Twinkies, I had to have one. It was lightly breaded, fried for 90 seconds, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. I will never again eat Twinkies any other way. (Note: click to enlarge and see micro-goombah with glowing Nuck in mouth).

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    Under a Tiramisu sign, I met Joe Rosa, the son of the original Slicker Sam (Salvatore Rosa), who regaled me with tales of Sinatra in the 40’s (yes, he was a customer, as legend had it) and Melrose in the 60’s. A very good guy; I would have kept talking to him, but people kept coming by who were in the family, so I bowed out with a promise to return.

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    The Taste of Melrose goes through the Labor Day Weekend, opening before noon and closing sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 (times seem vague in the festival world of the western suburbs). My heart is at the Lauretana festival, but gut goes with Taste of Melrose. The picture below is just one bank of four or more similar banks, packed with food that was heavily weighted toward the Italianate (as opposed to Hispanic), which may no longer be reflective of the neighborhood.

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    Hammond
    Last edited by David Hammond on September 3rd, 2005, 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #2 - September 3rd, 2005, 10:23 am
    Post #2 - September 3rd, 2005, 10:23 am Post #2 - September 3rd, 2005, 10:23 am
    Just a note... this fest is only open on Saturday and Sunday. NO MONDAY.
  • Post #3 - September 3rd, 2005, 3:43 pm
    Post #3 - September 3rd, 2005, 3:43 pm Post #3 - September 3rd, 2005, 3:43 pm
    Hammond, the way I heard it: "Then death it is....but first...Chi Chi!"

    And it still makes me laugh out loud.
  • Post #4 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:20 pm
    Post #4 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:20 pm Post #4 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:20 pm
    David is right, I thought the Twinkie would suck, but gee wiz, they are gooood.

    We overdid it, but between four of us, we tried a lot of what they had to offer. We liked, J.T. Busschetta, Betty and Docca's Mostaccioli, The corn on the cob, Scardino's Sausage (Bread sucked), Marie's Rigatoni with the Vodka sauce, The Arancini, Mickies Italian Beef.

    We did not like the crab cakes at all.

    Being a fest, we realize that these are not commericial kitchens, but did find a couple of places, with a dish that was great, and when we went back for seconds, an hour later, the dish sucked. So ya pays your money, and ya takes your chances.

    We also had four people with different tastes. Some liked the Nun's offering of Sfingi, some did not. Two liked the fried bologna, one did not like it, and one said it was the worst thing they ate.

    Most of the items are up to two dollars, but still, even with beer, the four of us spent less than $50.00, and left very full.
  • Post #5 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:47 pm
    Post #5 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:47 pm Post #5 - September 3rd, 2005, 6:47 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Tickled by the sight of a place offering fried Twinkies, I had to have one. It was lightly breaded, fried for 90 seconds, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. I will never again eat Twinkies any other way.

    If you can't wait for a festival, you can get a fried Twinkie fix at these Ala Carte taverns: The Lion Head Pub, 2251 N. Lincoln; Famous Freddie's Roadhouse, 510 S. Park, Fox Lake, and Dick's River Roadhouse, 702 N. River, Mount Prospect.

    Sun-Times article on carnival food at local restaurants
  • Post #6 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:22 pm
    Post #6 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:22 pm Post #6 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:22 pm
    sabersix wrote: Two liked the fried bologna, one did not like it, and one said it was the worst thing they ate.


    The Wife is fond of the fried Bologna.

    Image

    I actually found it quite edible.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:28 pm
    Post #7 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:28 pm Post #7 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:28 pm
    In fact that's about the only way I will eat bologna.
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #8 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:33 pm
    Post #8 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:33 pm Post #8 - September 3rd, 2005, 8:33 pm
    Octarine wrote:In fact that's about the only way I will eat bologna.


    The Wife would actually have preferred to have had some mayo on it. I believe she spend many years having this as an after-school snack.

    At the Taste of Melrose, the Bologna Grrllzz seemed quite eager to pose.

    Image
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #9 - September 4th, 2005, 7:39 am
    Post #9 - September 4th, 2005, 7:39 am Post #9 - September 4th, 2005, 7:39 am
    I also visited Taste of Melrose Park last night. I had a great time, from the food to watching the crowd who were watching the ernest young folk singer trying to connect with the primarily older Melrose Parkers (and everything that implies). Anyway. I don't have much to add, but here are some pics:


    Sfinging Sisters
    Image

    Levitated Firetruck
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    David Hammond's Italiante Atmosphere
    Image
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - September 4th, 2005, 8:34 am
    Post #10 - September 4th, 2005, 8:34 am Post #10 - September 4th, 2005, 8:34 am
    Steve,

    Regarding Italianate atmosphere...

    I did notice the lady in your final shot (on Friday night, she had a black vinyl cap on), and she represents something in Italian culture that both attracts and repels me, a circusy-surreal-grotesque-fashionable-hideously beautiful allure that finds representation in the films of Fellini (most obviously) but also Wertmuller, and others.

    In college, we saw Fellini's Satryicon, and a German friend of mine didn't care for it. Said it was "too Italian." I knew what he meant...though I liked it for that very reason.

    Taste of Melrose has one more day to go. Buon appetito!
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #11 - September 4th, 2005, 9:11 am
    Post #11 - September 4th, 2005, 9:11 am Post #11 - September 4th, 2005, 9:11 am
    David Hammond wrote:Steve,

    Regarding Italianate atmosphere...

    I did notice the lady in your final shot (on Friday night, she had a black vinyl cap on), and she represents something in Italian culture that both attracts and repels me, a circusy-surreal-grotesque-fashionable-hideously beautiful allure that finds representation in the films of Fellini (most obviously) but also Wertmuller, and others.

    In college, we saw Fellini's Satryicon, and a German friend of mine didn't care for it. Said it was "too Italian." I knew what he meant...though I liked it for that very reason.

    Taste of Melrose has one more day to go. Buon appetito!


    I think all three subjects in the photo represent a different, unique aspect to the culture of which you speak.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - September 4th, 2005, 9:15 am
    Post #12 - September 4th, 2005, 9:15 am Post #12 - September 4th, 2005, 9:15 am
    stevez wrote:I think all three subjects in the photo represent a different, unique aspect to the culture of which you speak.


    You count only three? :lol:

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #13 - September 4th, 2005, 5:39 pm
    Post #13 - September 4th, 2005, 5:39 pm Post #13 - September 4th, 2005, 5:39 pm
    "Frank" and the "Rat Pack" hit stage at 8:15.

    The Wife and I are headed over there in the next hour or so.

    Swing baby!

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #14 - September 6th, 2005, 11:37 am
    Post #14 - September 6th, 2005, 11:37 am Post #14 - September 6th, 2005, 11:37 am
    Our favorites included the sfingi (piping hot out of the fryer - yum!), the meatball sandwiches (on a bun perfectly sized for one meatball doused in red sauce), cannoli, and the rigatoni in vodka sauce. I don't know if we missed it, but couldn't find any braciole this year. One of our group loves the taste (and I assume the nostalgia) of the fried bolonga sandwich, and we always give him grief, though I'll admit it did look tasty with its sauteed onions and mustard topping.

    The S.S. Laurentena Fest seems to be going the way of Berwyn/Cicero's Houby Fest. Back in the day, the big weekend parade and fest included the likes of George Bush, Sr. and Vlasta the Polka Queen and offered a wide variety of Cermak Road foodstuffs, but that was then, and this is now.
  • Post #15 - September 6th, 2005, 11:45 am
    Post #15 - September 6th, 2005, 11:45 am Post #15 - September 6th, 2005, 11:45 am
    Hi,

    The Illinois Mycological Association aka Mushroom Club used to regularly have a booth at the Houby Fest. In fact, we were the only ones displaying mushrooms, which is the Houby Fest's theme. On election years, there were certainly a lot of politicians of high rank meeting and greeting.

    Maybe 10 years ago, there was a change of management and we were no longer invited to participate. So what is the Houby Fest like today?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #16 - September 6th, 2005, 11:54 am
    Post #16 - September 6th, 2005, 11:54 am Post #16 - September 6th, 2005, 11:54 am
    alisonmackenzie wrote:I don't know if we missed it, but couldn't find any braciole this year. One of our group loves the taste (and I assume the nostalgia) of the fried bolonga sandwich, and we always give him grief, though I'll admit it did look tasty with its sauteed onions and mustard topping.


    I don't think braciole made an appearance (could be a cost issue, given the Everything $2.00 or Under policy of the vendors).

    The Wife raved about the onions on the fried Bologna sandwich. ReneG gave me a very odd look when I suggested he try one. You know, though, there's really no reason why such a sandwich couldn't be good (if made with the right ingredients, and "properly prepared").

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #17 - September 6th, 2005, 11:59 am
    Post #17 - September 6th, 2005, 11:59 am Post #17 - September 6th, 2005, 11:59 am
    Houby Fest today is pretty much a shell of its former self. It keeps shrinking year after year. No doubt this is due to the fact that the area is no longer dominated by Czech and other Eastern European groups, so the ethnic pride in the fest has been very diminished. The political winds of fortune in the two suburbs has also changed, which also probably plays a part. They've tried to keep it going, but I think it's on its last legs. Maybe it will be reinvented as a Fall Festival or Taste of Berwyn Fest, which could certainly be a great way of showcasing the many Hispanic restaurants and shops now lining Cermak Road.
  • Post #18 - September 6th, 2005, 12:34 pm
    Post #18 - September 6th, 2005, 12:34 pm Post #18 - September 6th, 2005, 12:34 pm
    Hi,

    Five years ago, Mushroom Club was hunting for a new meeting location. We entertained going to the Moravian Club located just off Cermak Road. I'm glad it didn't pass muster because the following year the building was sold to a Hispanic social organization and Westmont became the new home of the Moravian Club.

    Westmont appears to be the new locus for the Czech community in the Chicago area.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #19 - September 8th, 2005, 10:05 pm
    Post #19 - September 8th, 2005, 10:05 pm Post #19 - September 8th, 2005, 10:05 pm
    Staying late at the festival, The Wife and I witnessed a “performance” by “Frank,” “Dino,” and “Sammy.”

    At first I figured these jamokes would do a handful of tunes in the style of Sinatra/Martin/Davis, but for the most part what they did, and I kid you not, is a song-by-song, adlib-by-adlib re-enactment of a performance delivered in nearby Niles by the Rat Pack in ’62 (available on bootleg only, as far as I know: http://www.thevoice.it/public/lenews/view.php?id=57). It was not so much a collection of tunes as an historical reenactment, a ritualized remembrance of what now seems like a cooler time.

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    At the end of the show, “Dino” pulled off his toupee, drag-show style, during the final chorus of “My Way,” which was modified for the occasion to “Their Way.” It was all very odd and strangely touching, watching people dance and swoon and applaud crazily as though they were in the presence of the gods.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #20 - September 9th, 2005, 8:48 am
    Post #20 - September 9th, 2005, 8:48 am Post #20 - September 9th, 2005, 8:48 am
    I stayed for the first 2 Ratty numbers from these guys, so I missed the wig reveal.

    Is it just me, or did they lip-synch the whole silly thing?

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #21 - September 9th, 2005, 8:58 am
    Post #21 - September 9th, 2005, 8:58 am Post #21 - September 9th, 2005, 8:58 am
    Giovanna wrote:Is it just me, or did they lip-synch the whole silly thing?


    You know, I wasn't sitting close enough to see if they were really singing -- it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't. This was not what you would call an "authentic" experience -- at least so far as the stage show was concerned. What was happening in the audience, however, felt more real. I saw a man who danced with his granny.

    Image
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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