Archive for November, 2010

Legendary Food: Searching for the Truffle Pizza Puff

The classic Il Taco Pizza Puff, Source: Il Taco

Every knows about the Chicago-style hot dog, our deep dish and stuffed pizzas, and of course Garrett’s Popcorn. One overlooked food that’s been a Chicago staple for the past thirty years is the pizza puff. The tastier deep fried cousin of the calzone isn’t universally known by Chicago natives but its authenticity as a Chicago food remains undisputed.

Pizza puffs were invented in Chicago by Il Taco and you won’t be able to find them almost anywhere else in the country. Where can you find pizza puffs? If it’s serving some fast food and using a combination of Vienna or Scala Beef, chances are you’ll be able to find a pizza puff on the menu, just don’t try looking for a pizza puff on certain chains such as Portillo’s or Al’s Beef.

In fifth grade a friend of mine dragged me out to some restaurant out in our northwest side Albany Park and we had some food. I saw him order a pizza puff and wondered what he ordered. My friend was shocked that I never had a pizza puff before, so he sliced me off a piece and I bit into a crunchy pastry filled with mozarella, tomato sauce with some sausage mixed in and of course all greased up from being deep fried.

A few years back some friends from college dropped into town and I made it a point to introduce them all to the pizza puff. We all went in and ordered two apiece, and then took them back to another friend’s apartment to enjoy our bounty. Twenty minutes later, we were all struck with a fierce case of the “itis” and were rendered much too lazy to go out for the rest of the night’s festivities. Lesson learned: pizza puffs are not to be consumed in mass quantities, lest you seek a food coma to knock you into a complacent nap.

Last month, I had a great brunch over at @RockitWrigley and had some of their savory truffle fries. Truffle oil is much more flavorful than regular oil and will send neurons firing at overcapacity from the taste sensation. Being a great chef de cuisine, @amanda2581 took suggestions on things to make and the first thing on my mind was a truffle pizza puff!

After seeing pictures of this truffle pizza puff and hearing @MannyNevar tell me that the truffle pizza puff was real, me and the rest of my friends were dying to try out this legendary food. What would a truffle pizza puff taste like? How much truffle pizza puff can we eat before we are knocked unconscious? It own’t matter now because the search for the truffle pizza puff is over, it’s coming on December 2nd and Christmas is coming early!

Take Me Out – Lollipopped Chicken Wings


lollipopped chicken wing

Take a step down to 18th Street in Pilsen a bit off of Ashland. You’ll find this charming little wing spot with people shuffling in and out with large carryout boxes of wings. Inside, we decided to linger and take in the whole experience and sat with out group of a half dozen hungry wing eaters. One by one we stepped in line and submitted our orders to the cashier. Everyone was getting wings and everyone was bursting with anticipation of Korean lollipopped chicken wings.

Let’s take a step back, some of you might be wondering, “What is a lollipopped chicken wing?”  Simply put, imagine this – instead of your traditional buffalo wing with the drumette and the flat, these lollipopped wings have pushed all of the meat on the wing onto the drumette, leaving you with one piece of chicken wing with all of the goodies. After they lollipop the wing, they deep fry it and then spin it around in the savory Korean sauce that have come to redefine wing recipes across the country. Sound good? Take Me Out is run by the daughter of the owners of Great Seas Chinese Restaurant in Albany Park which make up one third of the Holy Trinity of chicken wings in the City of Chicago (along with Wings Around the World and Crisp).

Finally, the winner of 2010 Wingfest Best Exotic Wings came flying down on our table. There were mild wings, spicy wings, lollipopped wings, and buffalo wings all dipped in the Korean wing sauce. Korean wing sauce is usually a combination of soy, honey, garlic, and ginger giving you a dizzying does of flavor that can give most other wing sauces a run for their money.  Of course our table had a conspicuous bottle of Sriracha to along with these wings but no one felt any excessive need to douse their wings in it.

Along with the order came some shrimp fried rice and I split some crab rangoon to round out the eats. The end result was great success and the buffalo wings were not in buffalo sauce but were made with the traditional buffalo-style wing cut. Take Me Out is good for bringing in a crowd and the wait won’t be too long. The food presents good value, texture and flavor and there’s plenty of parking on the side streets to avoid the parking fees.