Saturday, June 5, 2010

Onions, ash and leather

While I love to cook, and find that there is so much flavor to be explored, sometimes prepared foods give you a lot of flexibility. I was at the White Sox game tonight, and I had a delicious evening, all gluten free and all fantastic.

I started the evening with custom nachos from the Tex-Mex stand. These are not those horrible nachos of sporting even infamy, with neon orange gelatinous cheese. These are fully loaded, no cheese product sauce added, crisp bits of joy. At this stand, the customer chooses the base, much like at Chipotle Grill, then adds to it. As I cannot eat the gluten laden tortillas used for burritos or fajitas, I opt for the crisp corn chips. Complementing this crunch, I add soft, shredded chicken, juicy tomatoes, biting salsa, cool and creamy guacamole and a spattering of shredded cheese and lettuce. Nachos may be a finger food, but I always grab a fork for this monster sized dish.

A little later in the night, I ventured out to see a friend, selling Italian ice from a cart covered with a festive red, green and white umbrella. This is their first season with the White Sox, hopefully the first of many to come. Their's is not mass marketed, overly sweetened, bogged down with artificial flavoring Italian ice. It is smooth, creamy, cool and satisfying, handmade. My friend, who, along with his cousins, sells it at the games, also makes the ice, alongside his parents, brother and cousins. They work from a small, seasonal shop in Chicago Heights, IL, which has been providing the area with quality love on a spoon since 1983. Check out Zarlengo's Italian Ice & Gelato on the web or Facebook, but if you're in the area, you really just need to go there.

I had Oranges 'n' Creme Italian ice, which melted slowly in the heat, dripping down the cup to land with a splash upon my hand. It killed me to speed, even slightly, my consumption of this flavor experience, but until the ice was below the cup edge, it was in danger of dying a cruel death on the sidewalk, never fulfilling its purpose as a cool summer delight.

I've sampled several flavors of Zarlengo's Italian ice over the years. The tart lemon, mouthwatering strawberry, zesty pink lemonade and flavor explosion of Double Berry all satisfy and delight; however, Oranges 'n' Creme goes one step beyond. Creamy and smooth, with the texture of cool milk, it simply speaks of a hot summer night under the stadium lights, the smell of cut grass, beer and onions interwoven and dancing the air, the crack of ash against a leather-bound rubber ball. When I think of summer, Zarlengo's always makes an appearance.

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