Category Archives: News

Grace Young’s Chinatown Stories: One Year Later

It is hard to believe that it has been 1 year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Restaurants were one of the first sectors hit, as restaurants were ordered closed in cities across the US in March 2020. Restaurants in Chinatowns across the US were among the first hit by declining restaurant patronage, even before the dine-in bans, largely due to racism and xenophobia. In March 2020, chef and food historian Grace Young started making a video series documenting the effects of the early pandemic on Chinese restaurants in NYC. These videos were produced with the Poster House Museum in NYC who contacted Grace to work with them in conjunction with an exhibit on Chinese posters, “The Sleeping Giant: Posters & The Chinese Economy.” Grace sprung into action, and with photographer Dan Ahn, interviewed restaurant owners and other leaders in Chinatown about how the epidemic was already affecting their lives and businesses. It is especially poignant to look back on these stories now, as Asian Americans have increasingly been the target of violent crimes in the US.

You can view all eight videos in the series on Vimeo, which ended in October 2020. Grace’s projects brought welcome publicity to the restaurants and businesses, earning widespread media coverage, including a GrubStreet article which called her the “unlikely voice of Chinatown.” Unfortunately, some of the restaurants featured, including French-Malaysian restaurant Aux Epices, closed even over the course of Grace’s coverage, and their future remains uncertain. However, Grace’s video coverage of this community was only the start. In December 2020, she started an Instagram campaign to highlight Chinese restaurants around the world, #savechineserestaurants. In January 2021, Grace also started a Go Fund Me to support legacy restaurants in NYC’s Chinatown, to which you can still donate. Grace’s coverage of these businesses during the early throes of Covid-19 is a poignant record of the effects of the virus on one community’s food culture. Unfortunately, one year on, Chinatown NYC is still a long way from recovery.

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Australian Food Adventures

AustraliaThings have been a bit quiet here, because we have recently moved, and we are going to Australia in a few days! We are excited to experience several different cities in Australia, from the cosmopolitan restaurant scene in Sydney to the night markets of Darwin. Leading up to our trip, we have been trying to learn more about Australian food (we do know that they love savory pies)! While in Sydney, we are excited to try Din Tai Fung, and all the laksa (Malaysian noodle curry, pictured below) we can eat. We are also reading up on the latest directions in Australian food, and what makes Australian food Australian. See you in August!


Chicken Laksa at MaMa Laksa House in The Grace Hotel, Sydney by Stilgherrian


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It’s time for Pierogi Fest!

PolandPierogiFestPierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana (just over the border from Chicago in NW Indiana) has been going strong for over 20 years – and is wholly dedicated to celebrating the humble Polish dumpling, the pierogi. Pierogi Fest (July 29-31 this year) boasts all the Polish food you can eat, polka music and dancing, games (like Pierogi toss) and appearances by Mr. Pierogi and Ms. Paczki (along with the Village People this year). Pierogi Fest has grown in size over the years, and is now a major attraction for those in the Chicagoland area, and has even garnered national press. Thought the pierogi is the star of the show, you can also get other Eastern European food favorites like: sauerkraut, potato latkes, Polish sausages and stuffed cabbage. We will not be anywhere near Whiting, Indiana, so we are hoping that someone can visit and give us a full pierogi report!

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Shepherd’s Pie in honor of David Bowie

united_kingdomDavid Bowie (1947 – 2016) was a brilliant tastemaker for decades in the world of Fashion, Music and Art (and their intersections), but it turns out his tastes for food were a little more traditional. Bowie’s favorite dish of all time was reported as a simple English Shepherd’s Pie, which his wife Iman would often whip up for the singer. Food and Wine has a series of recipes to choose from, so why not make a Shepard’s Pie in honor of Bowie this week?

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Introducing Paleta Press


Happy 2016, everyone! A new year brings new adventures, and I am excited to introduce a new project I have been working on related to food and travel: Paleta Press. Paleta Press is a letterpress and graphic design studio I started in late 2015, which features cards and posters that are influenced by both travel (as in the Portuguese azulejo card above) and food. If you like pie, check out my Peace, Love & Pie card or my international foods series featuring horchata, tacos and cerveza (or cerveja). You can check out more Paleta Press products on my Etsy shop and learn more about the press at Stay tuned for more adventurous, food-centric cards in the coming year!

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Nando’s is coming to Chicago!

Nando's Peri Peri Sign

We are so excited – one of our favorite restaurant chains, the Peri-Peri chicken joint Nando’s is coming to Chicago! We have previously visited Nando’s locations in Washington D.C. and London and really enjoyed the food. The closer-to-home West Loop location opens May 20th. We will be first in line for some Pasteis de Nata!


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US Postal Service’s celebrity chef stamps

We first learned of the Post Office’s celebrity chef stamps at Chicago Gourmet this year, where you could pick up a postcard with one of the stamps and fill in your favorite dish by the chef. The chefs featured in the stamp series are: James Beard, Julia Child, Joyce Chen, Edna Lewis, and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, who are profiled in the LA Times. At Chicago Gourmet people, posted a range of dishes inspired by each chef, and I had to give a nod to Southern chef Edna Lewis’ Shrimp and Grits. The post office also recently featured a Farmer’s Market stamp series, and we certainly appreciate the foodie turn of our recent letters.

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The New Economics of Haitian Chocolate

Haitian flagMuch has been made of the dire economic situation of Haiti, and its continued degradation especially following the devastating 2010 earthquake. During and even before French colonization, Haiti’s economy has been based on agriculture; today manufacturing is the broader basis of the economy in terms of exports, and Haiti’s main export is been clothing. However, a new possible economic driver is on the horizon: chocolate.  NPR recently reported on the presence of unique “mother / maman” Haitian cacao trees, which can produce more and better cacao pods than normal trees. Though these trees are not necessarily unique to Haiti, they are plentiful here, and are an untapped resource, sometimes producing twenty times the pods of normal trees.


Ripe Cacao Pods in Haiti by Nick Hobgood

Though around 60% of Haitians work in agriculture, the cacao market in Haiti has not been a primary economic driver in recent years (though it was exploited by colonial traders in the past). Even though cacao may only be a relatively small business in Haiti, there is major opportunity. As the global taste for chocolate grows, the demand for high quality chocolate products (even at a high prices) is there. One important potential stumbling block: even though the cacao produced from Criollo varietal trees in Haiti is of high-quality, it is often not fermented post-picking, which is considered an essential step in high-quality chocolate production. Consequently, unfermented Haitian cacao beans are often sold for much less than competitors.


A display of export-quality Cacao Beans at a fair by Nick Hobgood

So what are the next steps to realizing this cacao dream? Unlike many other food industries, cacao is still produced in overwhelming majority by small family farms, a model which will continue in Haiti. One collective, SOGEPA (Societe Genérale de Production Agroindustrielle, “General Society of Agro-Industrial Production”), a cacao exporter that represents 450 family cacao farms in Haiti, was given a grant by LEAD (Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investment Project –  funded by USAID) post-earthquake to establish distribution and sales channels for the farmers in the collective. US Aid has also developed a program to help train Haitian farmers in effective cacao-raising techniques. FECCANO, a collective of cacao producers in northern Haiti has also been established. Slowly, artisinal Haitian chocolate is even being made available outside of the country. On such brand, the French Fair Trade label Ethiquable, boasts a “Grand Cru” Haitian chocolate bar. Currently Haitian chocolate does not enjoy the same cache as a French or Belgian label, but that could soon change.

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No More Minimalist

Mark Bittman’s longstanding and iconic Minimalist food column for the New York Times is closing up shop. The last column was a few weeks ago. As sort of a sendoff, Bittman culls through over 100 columns to pick his greatest hits. I’ve been reading that column for many years now and it always had such great ideas – it will be missed. Fortunately you can still pick up the cookbooks.

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The Eaters Meet Stephanie Izard!

We were having brunch today at Milk and Honey Cafe, a popular breakfast place in Wicker Park, when we noticed lounging in the outside seating area was none other than Chicago’s own Stephanie Izard, this season’s winner of Top Chef. Stephanie was our favorite contestant on the show from the start, and as Chicago natives ourselves we were thrilled when her innovative style and friendly, sincere personality took the top prize in the show. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I (M) went up to chat with her. So friendly! Immediately asked my name and said it was nice to meet me before I could even congratulate her on her win. I asked about her new restaurant, slated to open to replace her now-closed Scylla. She said there is no current location or name, but as soon as the inspiration strikes, plans will be in the works. It should be open in the Spring of 2009, and she advised that we check her website for updates.For what seems like great food from a genuinely down-to-earth celebrity, the Eaters will definitely be in line when it opens.

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