Okay, I know I've been promising a report on some of David Chang's perverse ramen-based concoctions from the first issue of Lucky Peach for a while now, but the truth is, I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen lately. My parents are visiting from Toronto, and we've been running all around town on home-improvement-related errands all week. I've spent more time at Ikea than anyone really ever should, and, consequently, my living room is now a fortress of neatly stacked cardboard boxes. Hopefully, there will be time for ramen hijinks this weekend.
I'm glad to say that my boyfriend and I at least had the time to sit my parents down in front of the TV and not-so-subtly present them with the Chicago episode of Tony Bourdain's No Reservations, hoping to entice them into driving us to some of the more out-of-the-way destinations it featured. That's how we ended up on a desolate stretch of 95th Street on Wednesday, way farther south than we've ever ventured, taking our pick of some luscious smoked fish.
Now, I wouldn't have expected to find good smoked fish in the Midwest, much less at such an unremarkable-looking roadside joint, but I trusted in Bourdain as I tend to, and it definitely paid off. Calumet Fisheries is of a dying breed of smokehouse in America--since 1948, they've been smoking fish on premises the good old-fashioned way, smouldering wood and all. And they're really all about the fish--they do retail out front, take-out only, and smoke the fish out back. We took our fish home to eat, but there was definitely a line of parked cars when we got there, people inside happily eating away, picnicking on the roadside.
The fish was fantastic, the salmon especially. When we got home, we unwrapped our precious parcels at the table and just dug in. There was no conversation, only the occasional exclamation about how good everything was. It was a splendid meal after a long day of errands. I hadn't had take-out with my parents in years, and this was certainly the best we've eaten together.
Update 07-13-2011: The folks at Calumet are great. My parents were so thrilled with the fish that they insisted we go back for more this week. The guys behind the counter were encouraged by our enthusiasm for their fish--so much so that they pulled out a salmon head, just smoked an hour and a half before, broke it down for us on the counter, and let us have at it. My grandmother has been a big fish-head enthusiast for as long as I can remember, and I guess I am now too. I still have mixed feelings when it comes to fish eyes--a little too mushy, if you ask me--but the rest of the head is awesome--wonderfully fatty and flavourful.