It all happened in a food-induced blur: I volunteered to host the next meeting of the Traveling Pans way back in March. Sure, I could host in June! Sure! Eight people could easily fit in our dining room! And the next thing I knew, we were actually planning the event.
One fun thing about hosting Pans is that the host gets to choose the theme. I went with "Sweet Home Chicago" in which each person chose a different ethnic neighborhood of our fair city, and cooked a dish that went along with that neighborhood's culture.
For those of you not in the know, Chicago's neighborhoods are just as diverse as the dozens of countries from which their residents hail. And, while most cities may have a Chinatown, or a Little Italy, Chicago has over 200 distinct neighborhoods! I sent this map out for inspiration:
We each chose a different neighborhood, and made sure we had a nice balance of appetizers, main course, and a great protein to vegetable ratio.
I set the table early, just to get it out of the way, complete with my new orange tablecloth.
Jenn came over early to cook her dish, and it was so fun to see her and catch up! It had been way too long!
I also made a batch of watermelon lemonade, and we decided to spike our glasses with a touch of homemade limoncello. It was quite the treat, and so pretty!
I loved how the limoncello sunk to the bottom and made layers. Not long after Jenn arrived, everyone else started showing up, bags and food in hand. We enjoyed the weather outside for a while on our patio, even though we don't have patio furniture...it was just so lovely outside, and something about watermelon in a glass makes being outside essential.
Hi Amy, Eo, and Tina!
The spread was set, and we were all eager to start eating.
We did a brief intro of each dish, and which neighborhood it came from, as well as the original culture. Beth brought amazing Italian meatballs, representing Little Italy, but somehow they went unphotographed. They were truly some of the best meatballs I've ever had though!
Tina brought two Vietnamese dishes which represented the Uptown neighborhood.
Shrimp spring rolls
Lemongrass burgers, eaten in a lettuce wrap with loads of veggies
Liz brought a HUGE Greek salad, representing the Greektown neighborhood, as well as homemade tzatziki and some pitas.
Eo brought, quite possibly, the largest bowl of guacamole I've ever seen, along with chips and some Mexican pastries to enjoy with dessert. This represented the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It's primarily a Mexican neighborhood, and is the home to the only Mexican Fine Arts museum in the U.S.
I chose the Little Village neighborhood, which is primarily Puerto Rican. I made tostones, which are fried and pressed slices of green plantain, and a coconut-brown-sugar rice pudding for dessert. For the rice pudding, I used this recipe from Tasting Memories.
My mom chose Chinatown for her dish, and brought a spicy and veggie-ful peanut noodle dish. The leftovers were most definitely dinner tonight!
Jenn represented Portage Park, a primarily Polish neighborhood, and made placki ziemniaczane, also known as Polish potato pancakes. They rocked!
Amy chose the Ukranian Village as her neighborhood, and made rogaliki, a nut and sugar filled cookie that looked a lot like the rugalach of my youth. I was a big fan!
As always, the food was fantastic, but the conversation was even better! We were missing one of our members, Emily... she was scheduled to have a baby! She ended up giving birth today to a beautiful baby boy!
What will we come up with next? Only time will tell...
I'm anxiously awaiting a very fun giveaway tomorrow; I just hope you like it as much as I do!