This past Sunday, a committed group of Chowhounds met at the Maxwell Street Market to participate in a joint event to celebrate the unseasonally spring like last weekend in February, collect clothes for the residents of St.Leonards, and, of course, eat to our hearts' content.
We met at the Starbucks stand inside Dominicks at around 9:30 am. JLawrence was the first to show with a big bag of donated clothing, where he caught me polishing off my breakfast of champions: two excellent deep fried meat empanadas from one of the market stands. It was our first meeting and a very welcome one. I had the pleasure of also meeting Steve Z and El Panzo for the first time on Sunday.
As our group of ten hounds gathered, we ventured out into the market where I saw hounds sampling some of the previously mentioned empanadas, excellent tamales from Oaxaca and skirt steak and chorizo tacos from the stand at the far south end of the market.
I tried the goat consomme (with chunks)which I found kind of lacking and muddled tasting. I'll leave it to the other hounds to describe what they tried and where in the market.
All in all, it was a very successful day for St. Leonard's. We collected seven big shopping bags of both new and donated clothes to contribute to St. Leonards. One of their biggest needs was men's belts, and I have counted no less that 11 of those in our contribution.
Thanks to everyone. Both those who contributed at Maxwell Street, those who donated cash and those who arranged to drop off clothing both before and after the event.
After we completed our charitable mission, the hounds paired up in various cars and headed south to Johnson's Family Soul Food at Ashland and 83rd.
As Cathy2 notes in a post below, she brought some "delicacies" from some god forsaken culinary torture session that she attended the night before where rotten shark and sheep testicles were on the menu. It should be noted that the meat filled pastry that she brought from a Russian Bakery caused us to overlook her otherwise well intentioned effort to expand our culinary horizons.
After Cathy2 removed her testicles from the table at the request of other diners, the group indulged in some excellent down home southern eats including Mrs. Johnson's homemade rendition of chicken and dumplings, slow stewed fork tender whole chicken pieces with homemade dumpling pastry rolled thin and sliced the width of papardelle.
Evil Ronny Rosenbuam, being a native son of the south, engaged himself with an excellent looking plate of pigs feet. Which must have been good because in twenty minutes, the tender little hooves had been reduced to an inedible pile of cartilege and bone.
Others had the excellent smothered pork chops. GWiv tried the fried chicken which he pronounced comparable to that of one of Chowhound's west side soul favorites, OT's Soul Food Place.
It should be noted that Johnson's probably makes the finest rendition of candied sweets known to man. I think most in the group agreed.
The meal was topped off with what appeared to be some excellent and large servings of peach cobbler and banana pudding. The pudding itself was excellent: a thin, almost creme anglaise like custard poured over vanilla wafers and seved with fresh banana. The custard seeped deep nto the vanilla wafers causing them to reduce themselves to this incredible moist cake like pastry that was tender and rich.
As usual, the 11 chowhounds in attendance were interesting and convivial company. Some of the most interesting people that I have met in Chicago have come from this informal group of food lovers.
All in all, both a good day for St. Leonards and a good day for Chicago Chowhounds.