Delicious event: Middlewest magazine launch // making its pea pâté recipe

Middlewest pea pâté: magazine page & my version
Middlewest pea pâté: as shown in the magazine & my version

I’ve been waiting to blog about the final Fête event that I attended a few weeks ago (see previous Fête coverage here and here): the official launch of Middlewest magazine. Middlewest was created by David Tamarkin and Erica Gannett, both formerly of Time Out Chicago and well-known for food writing and photography, respectively. They worked with design team Sonnenzimmer to produce a new kind of food magazine, meant as a complete departure from tradition. Aesthetically, it’s striking: 10 seasonal recipes on 10 double-sided cards, plus a fold out literary supplement, all inside a white envelope. The images of each recipe are intricately layered for a look that’s undeniably unique. At the event, the creators discussed their bold intentions with Middlewest and how the process unfolded with this inaugural issue. It was really interesting to hear how they ended up with the deconstructed look, the three-word recipe headlines, and other features of the final product.

Middlewest magazines and totebags
Middlewest magazines and totebags
Served at the event: editor David Tamarkin's coffee cake (featured in the magazine) and pourover coffee from Gaslight
Served at the event: editor David Tamarkin’s coffee cake (one of the recipes in the magazine) and pourover coffee from Gaslight Coffee Roasters

So, when it came time to decide which recipe to make first, this brilliant green pea pâté practically leapt off its artful page. I subbed in sage for tarragon (out of availability and personal preference), but stuck closely to the rest of the recipe: toasting, then grinding the fennel; sweating down the shallots; blanching, then shocking the peas; and carefully processing it all together with garlic and salt. The result was bright, springy, and basically addictive. Turns out peas and fennel are great together! I tried it spread on both toasted baguette and seedy cracker, and served it with roasted radishes. I have a feeling the other Middlewest recipes will be just as successful, and can’t wait to explore more of these seasonal flavor pairings.

Toasting the fennel seeds
Toasting the fennel seeds
Peas chillin' in the ice bath
Peas chillin’ in the ice bath
Whirling it together in the food processor
Whirling it together in the food processor
Middlewest pea pâté and roasted radishes
Pea pâté and roasted radishes

The details: For this and other recipes, buy the magazine’s first issue here.

This week’s Best Bite: Wood-grilled octopus, Taxim

Wood-grilled octopus with fennel and red onions, Taxim
Wood-grilled octopus with fennel and red onions (Htapodáki sti schára), Taxim

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: For me, this octopus dish was all about texture. While I had high expectations after everything I’d heard about this Wicker Park restaurant, chef David Schneider still blew me away by managing to eliminate every ounce of rubberiness from the octopus. It was almost closer to a firm crab meat, unlike any octopus I’ve ever tasted. The smokiness from the grill seemed to evoke the essence of Greek cuisine, with the well-caramelized fennel, onion, and peppers adding aromatic depth. Even a couple of my friends who were octopus-shy enjoyed their bites! The dish was in good company with smoky eggplant dip, fried cauliflower, and other excellent savory and sweet plates, but it remained the star of the meal.

Arches and light fixtures inside Taxim
Arches and light fixtures inside Taxim
Cocktail with Greek grape brandy, honey, and lemon, served warm
Cocktail with Greek grape brandy, honey, and lemon, served warm

The details: Taxim, 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.