Last week I noted that I was going to take a culinary trek to Chicago. And I did.
Jason stopped at my house around 8AM. We loaded a couple of my coolers into the back seat of his car and hit the road.
The hula girl was wobbling away on the dashboard and Richard Cheese's
most recent album, Silent Nightclub
cranked on the stereo as we sped down the interstate. Not only does the album include versions of "Holiday in Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys and Depehce Mode's "Personal Jesus", but it also has what I think is Dick's first ever progressive rock tune - "The Trees" by Rush. It's a great cover as I loved the brass arrangement. Geddy Lee must be proud. Truth be known, Jason's CD changer was full of Richard Cheese so we heard a few of his albums on the drive down. Speaking of the drive, it went quite smoothly. Not a lot of traffic and we had my iPass with me. We made good time. Rolling into town, we immediately made our way to Andy's Deli
in the heavily-Polish Jefferson Park neighborhood on Chicago's north side.
I hope the folks at Andy's don't mind me grabbing this photo from their site. I forgot to get a picture of their sign but I did manage to get pics of some of the other places we shopped at. We lucked out and got a parking spot in Andy's lot right between two SUVs. The owners of the SUVs were a couple hottie mommies so we thought this a good sign from the gods of shopping. Each of us grabbed a cart and proceeded inside.
The first thing you see walking in is a shelf with countless jars of pickles. Decent pickles are easy enough to come by here in Madison and there would be even better pickins to come. So we moved on to the next shelf and found the Cracovia bacon and pork loaf. I bought a couple cans of the stuff when I was at Andy's in the spring. One went to Jason while the other clogged my arteries. It's like Spam but bacony and much, much better. The pressed and formed loaf of meat is canned in lard. Jason ate his one night when his wife and kid left him to fend for himself. He sliced the loaf and fried it up. As you can imagine, it defies all known laws of physics and secretes more grease than the entire volume of the can. He made it into an open-faced sandwich with lots of mustard and raw onion. His wife came home as he was eating it and was thoroughly appalled at the sight of grease and mustard covering his face. While it's certainly not something you wanna eat 3 squares a day, it's concentrated bacon goodness it addictive. And so we cleared the shelf of every last can.
Wandering to the other side of the shelving unit we came to the beer.
There were oodles of Polish beers as well as Slovakian and Czech brands. No Miller nor, more importantly, Bud was to be found. I grabbed several bottles while Jason twice as many. As we stood there looking, a kindly gentleman asked if we needed any recommendations. While I cannot remember which brand he recommended, I do recall grabbing a bottle of it. We were now at one end of the store and this end had a couple magazine racks against the wall so we checked them out. There was the usual coterie of celebrity gossip rags and the Polish equivalent of Good Housekeeping. But they also carred the Polish version of Playboy. As I was about to reach for an issue, a blonde pushed her cart over by us which held her daughter. The woman looked like a lot of the mommies that I see there - thin, tight jeans, and lots of make-up.
From the zine racks we started at one end of the lengthy display case which was the centerpiece of the store. One part held sheets of a couple different varieties of these hoolies whose name I don't know. It's like a couple slices of deli meat are loosely rolled up together and set in aspic with garnish on top. Here's a bad picture:
Follow the cases to a turn, there was a section of desserts from Ideal Pastry which was down the street a few blocks. These were cakes and pies that required refrigeration. Moving away from the desserts we came to salads. Jason picked up some marinated mushrooms while I bought Salatka-Selerowa
- celery salad. Moving on further still, we came to the deli proper. The deli case holds many treats and I think Jason and I started drooling heavily at this point. As he grabbed a ticket, we heard the numbers being called out over a loud speaker by a young blonde woman who was very, very beautiful. A bit too much make-up but she had the face of a model. Unfortunately, she called out in Polish. A woman who was standing in line next to us looked at our ticket. We had 97 and she told us in her Polish accent that that was the number that was just announced. Jason rushed to grab the attention of a person working behind the counter and I thanked the woman who had taken pity on us.
Jason pointed at the Black Forest Ham and asked for one. The deli worker pulled out the remains of a ham and asked, "Thick or thin?" Jason raised his hands so that they were about a foot apart and replied, "The whole thing." The woman just stared at him for a moment and then put what she had in her hand back into the display case and pulled out a whole ham which she passed over to him. I grabbed it and put it in his cart. When I returned, Jason had started in on the smoked sausage.
The woman who was helping us only spoke a modicum of English so this process involved a lot of pointing and holding up of fingers. He asked for 20 of a certain kind of sausage. The woman looked at him oddly again and said, "Two?" Holding up all ten digits, he flashed them twice and said "Twenty." I thought the scale was going to buckle underneath the weight of all that pork and the look on her face was priceless as she struggled to stack all the sausages into a pile which wouldn't collapse. By the time we wandered from the deli counter, Jason's cart was full for all intents & purposes.
Poles really took to the invention of canning. There were about a million kinds of vegetables salads.
We tacked the winding aisles and grabbed the odd jar here or a bag of something there.
Of course there were pierogi. Meat, potato, kraut & mushroom - plus fruit-filled varieties as well such as strawberry, blueberry, and plum. I grabbed some blueberry. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. You've got this glowing line of pierogi stretching out to infinity.
Next to the freezers was a shelf that had, among other things, pound cake and poppy seed rolls.
Doing a 180, I found myself confronted by pastries.
Next to all of this was a wall of bread.
The last 2 aisles are coolers of produce and dairy. Our next stop was a produce store and Wisconsin has got the dairy covered. However, there were pickles to be had. At the end of one aisle were buckets. One side was all pickles. There were two 30-gallon drums of them which were flanked by 2 5-gallon pails.
The other side has cucumbers in brine and sauerkraut.
And off away tucked into a corner was pickled herring filets.
The checkout counter was not far away but we were forced to walk by this highly tempting wall of chocolates.
We swung our carts into a register manned by two beautiful young women. The taller was dark-haired while her companion was shorter and blonde. A look of exasperation came over their faces and Jason wheeled up. His cart was overflowing. There were a couple bags and jars teetering precariously upon this mound of sausage. They laughed and joked with one another in Polish and Jason & I got the distinct impression that they were making fun of the goofy non-Polish speakers who had sausage equivalent to a whole pig in their carts and lots of beer as well. Jason's total was near $200 and the vast majority of that was for some kind of pork product. Mine was nowhere near that bad though he and I would divvy up the sausage later. The gal at the register liked Jason better as he got a free candy bar and I did not.
In the parking lot, we pulled out the coolers and started packing. Once done, 2 of the 4 coolers we had with us were full as we headed a couple blocks down the street to The Produce Center.