100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago: MoonPie to Phaal

100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago: MoonPie to Phaal

Once upon a time, somebody created "The Food List Challenge," a selection of 100 foods and drinks that the author believed everyone should try before they die.

I looked through the list recently and discovered there were many I had not tried – and some that I didn't even know where I could try them at. So, I decided to find out:

61. MoonPie: Strangely, I've never tried one of these sweet concoctions. They aren't quite as easy to find in Chicago as the Hostess Fruit Pie, but you might get lucky if you try enough stores. I'd suggest you order them online. And if you're good this year, perhaps Big Jones, 5347 North Clark St., will decide to serve its take on the MoonPie again at a future Baconfest.

62. Morel Mushrooms: Also known as morchella, these delectable fungi are supposedly quite the treat. But like searching for the mushrooms, finding a dish with these on a restaurant menu in Chicago turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. Finally, like a determined morchella hunter, I found a restaurant with morels on its menu. It was in a sauce, but we're going to count it. Froggy's French Cafe, 306 Green Bay Road, Highwood, has a veal blanquette casserole with morel mushroom sauce.

63. Nettle Tea: Tea made from these things doesn't sound like my cup of – well, um – tea, but so be it. This is another item that seems ridiculously hard to find without ordering it online. And in the end, I'm sending you to Amazon.

64. Octopus: Finally, octopus, something that is relatively easy to find in Chicago. And Serious Eats made it even easier by recently posting a blog called "8 Octopus Dishes We Love in Chicago." Thank you, Serious Eats. The first dish mentioned on their list is the Pulpo en Su Tinta at Topolobampo, 445 N. Clark St.

65. Oxtail Soup: Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. And, yes, what is sounds like seems kind of gross. But you can find out for yourself by visiting Tozi, 1265 N Milwaukee Ave., and ordering the GomTang (oxtail stew) for $10.

66. Paella: I love paella, especially when it's made in one of those humongous pans. It makes me feel as if I were stealing food from a giant. Then I remember I'm sitting in a restaurant, and giants don't frequent restaurants. Not even restaurants such as Vera, 1023 West Lake St. which was named one of the 20 best new restaurants in 2012 by Chicago Magazine. The magazine describes Vera as having a "showstopping vinegary paella." Good enough for me.

67. Paneer: Another dish I had never heard of before looking it up. (It's a South Asian cheese.) Jaipur, 847 W. Randolph St., serves a paneer tikka for $17 that sounds pretty good.

68. Pastrami on Rye: Easy enough. We're going to pick one of President Obama's favorites – Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen, 1141 South Jefferson St.

69. Pavlova: I never would have guessed that this dessert named after a Russian ballet dancer was created in Australia or New Zealand. I would have guessed that pavlova is not a commonly served dessert in Chicago restaurants. I couldn't find one that currently has it on the menu, though Benny's Chop House served it for Valentine's Day. I'm afraid the best I can do is to direct you to a Chicago Home + Garden article that tells you how to make it for yourself.

70. Phaal – Also spelled as Phall, is a super-hot curry dish. It's become more well-known after Adam Richman of "Man Vs. Food" took it on in 2008 at Brick Lane Curry House in Manhattan. In fact, Brick Lane so far has been the only place in the United States I've found that serves it. Its main-culprit pepper supposedly is rare. But if you're just looking for a curry to burn your tongue (and the inner layer of your mouth, esophagus, stomach, etc.), try the vindaloo at India House, 59 West Grand Ave., and ask for the "special Indian spices."

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• Joe Grace is a writer and longtime journalist who lives in Chicago. Write to him at joewriter81@gmail.com. Out of all of these, he has tried just paella. Yes, somehow he has never had pastrami on rye. Oh, and as for the phaal? Forget it. He enjoys living. If you haven't yet, please like Going for Gusto on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

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