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Friday, June 29, 2007

Picking Up the Pieces

Does any other food item inspire the kind of fanaticism, feuding and philosophizing that is caused by pizza? Chicagoans have had a running battle with New Yorkers for decades regarding pizza – but let's face it, we can't even agree amongst ourselves about what makes a truly great pizza. I think that's the beauty of what is too simply labeled "Chicago Style" pizza. Chicago has every style of pizza and no matter how you slice it, we get it right.

Chicago has famous pizza. Go anywhere in the country, even other parts of the world, and people speak rapturously about Gino's and Uno (those of us who grew up with them don't need to use their formal names, right?). I grew up in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, where you could find a delectable, greasy, oregano-perfumed thin crust on practically every corner. The pan pizza, or thick crust, or deep dish, seemed to arrive a little later, but we embraced it (and often inhaled it) with the same affection we showed its skinny sibling.

Now I work in Des Plaines, 5 days a week. So I'm asking you - how's the pizza?

I will share a Des Plaines pizza story with you, a miraculous story of pizza craved and pizza delivered. Two years ago I met up with my brother for a concert at the Allstate Arena. It was Friday night after a hectic week and we wanted a good meal before the show. I remembered that one of those famous pizza chains had a restaurant near the arena and we clawed our way through the rush hour traffic, dreaming about the delicious end to our quest.

Except that we didn't know the restaurant had closed some months before.

We went from dreamy to desperate. Relatively unfamiliar with the surroundings, I pointed north toward Des Plaines and said, "Head that-a way!" Wouldn't you know it, through the wonders of serendipity, we found Armando's Pizza at 1591 Lee Street in Des Plaines. Got a table, a friendly waitress and then -- a deep dish pizza that knocked our socks off. Hot, flaky crust, flavorful sauce, and just enough cheese. Fresh, hot cheese, not that "cheese product" that's like flavorless rubber cement. We were noisily stuffing it in our mouths and yet couldn't stop commenting on how delicious it was. Since that night, if I'm out this way and the occasion calls for pizza, Armando's gets my vote every time. This just in - Armando's has closed since the time I last ate there. Now I need your pizza recommendations more than ever! See the comments below for more information and to suggest your favorite pizza parlor.

How about you? Who gets your business when nothing but pizza will do? Send us your recommendations and, if you'll share, best-kept secrets. While we wait for your votes, here's a list of library books, even a movie, to guide you in your search for the perfect pizza.

The Man Who Ate Everything - Food critic Jeffrey Steingarten has an opinion about anything you can eat or drink and he really pontificates about pizza. A New Yorker only recently won over to Chicago's culinary charms, read Steingarten for a funny if bull-headed take on pizza. Call number – 641.0130207 STE

Easy Recipes for Great Homemade Pizzas, Focaccia, and CalzonesCharles Scicolone. Can't find a commercial pizza you like? Make one yourself. Call number – 641.8248 SCI New Book

American Pie: My Search for the Perfect PizzaMaster bread baker Peter Reinhart does the legwork (and chew work?) for you. Call number – 641.8248 REI

Pizza: the Dish, the Legend – Translated from the Italian, this book traces pizza from its Italian origins to the modern table. By Rosario Buonassisi. Call number – 641.824 BUO

For kids, check out Let's Make Pizza by Mary Hill. Call number -- E 641.824 HIL

After your pizza arrives or finishes baking, watch Mystic Pizza, the big screen breakthrough of young Julia Roberts. In our DVD Comedy section.

Getting our ducks in a row...

On my morning commute today, I saw something quite unusual. We were sailing along, eastbound on I-90, when traffic slammed to a halt. Nothing unusual there - three squad cars, a scraped-up semi-truck and a badly smashed sedan. Somebody's Friday was getting off to a bad start. We crawled past the accident scene then collectively put the pedal to the metal once again - only to slow down again about a mile past the accident!

I'm sure I muttered some choice words under my breath and glanced at the clock for the eighteenth time. Then I saw the unusual thing. This slow-down was caused by a group of drivers who had pulled onto the center shoulder and left their cars to protect a flock of geese or ducklings (I couldn't tell from my vantage point) that were trapped in the middle of the expressway. I'm not sure what they could do for those little birds, but there was something touching about their willingness to drop what they were doing and attempt a rescue. If it makes the news tonight, or if you happen to be one of those rescuers, let me know what happened, okay?

What does this have to do with the PlainTalk blog? Well, it lets you know that the conversation is going to flow pretty freely and spontaneously! Seeing that careful rescue operation also reminded me to caution you about Internet safety. Feel free to post your comments anonymously - if you want to personalize your post, add your first name or a screen name. Please do not include:
  1. your address or telephone number;
  2. your email address - it isn't necessary;
  3. any other personal identifiers, like your library card number or Social Security Number.
In addition, we ask children under 13 to get a parent or guardian's permission before posting anything to PlainTalk.

Otherwise, our guidelines are pretty simple - you can click on the "PlainTalk Terms and Conditions" link in the Sidebar for the specifics. See you Monday morning for our first PlainTalk post - have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're Almost Ready!

Just four more days until the PlainTalk blog opens its virtual doors! Thanks to everyone who has stopped by so far, sending emails and comments and cheering us on.

That's a view of downtown Des Plaines, taken from the Des Plaines Public Library's lovely outdoor terrace. (Didn't know we had a terrace? Stop by and check it out on our 4th floor.) Here in the library we feel privileged to have this very central location and bird's-eye view of the city, so it seems only natural that our new PlainTalk blog will celebrate the very best of what makes Des Plaines a unique and vibrant community.

PlainTalk makes its debut Monday, July 2, 2007. How about a little homework for the coming weekend? Monday's topic will So consider that your permission slip for some carb-heavy, extra greasy pizza-eating over the next few days! Don't worry - we'll work it off together at the Fourth of July Parade.

Look for the library staff in the Fourth of July parade, including the debut of our awesome Book Cart Drill Team. And don't forget -- look for PlainTalk on Monday, July 2, 2007!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A What???

weblog, n. [WEB n. + LOG n.] later BLOG n.

1. A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary.

"Blog," "weblog" and "blogging" have permeated our global vocabulary so quickly and completely that many of us use these terms without really knowing what they mean! While "blogging" seems like a brand new concept, the Oxford English Dictionary (quoted above) created an entry for "weblog" back in March, 2003. You may have noticed blogs popping up on Web sites for your favorite daily newspaper, celebrities and politicians, movies and television shows.

So now it's your turn, Des Plaines - here comes a blog just for you, created by the Des Plaines Public Library. This blog is called PlainTalk: named, of course, for the city of Des Plaines, but also for the Midwestern ideal of speaking plainly, speaking at a level in which everyone can participate, speaking openly and honestly.

Why a blog? The Des Plaines Public Library strives to serve as catalyst, advocate and place for the Des Plaines community. One of the library's strategic goals is "to assist the residents of Des Plaines in developing the skills they need to engage in respectful, productive conversation on topics of interest in order to create and build community."

That's what PlainTalk is all about. Being a library, we'll talk about books, movies and music - and we'll ask for your opinions and recommendations on what to read, listen to, watch. But like a great backyard barbeque or front porch gathering, we'll also chat about whatever catches our collective imagination. We'll want to hear from you about Des Plaines - its festivals, restaurants, parks, houses of worship and social organizations; the riverfront, the downtown area, the traffic and the weather; its best-kept secrets, if you're willing to share!

The PlainTalk blog will make its debut on July 2, 2007 - watch for posts three times a week, or more frequently, but we'll need your "voice" to keep the conversation going! You don't need to sign up or log in - just read each day's post and add your thoughts by clicking on the "Comments" link. Easy, fun, and, we hope, soon to be part of your Web surfing routine.

You can link to PlainTalk directly from the library's home page, or bookmark the blog at Advanced Net surfers can add our RSS feed to your aggregator and check in with us whenever, wherever. A few ground rules and disclaimers:

  • All submissions will be reviewed prior to publication. Remember: the goal is friendly and open community conversation - please keep comments appropriate to the topic at hand, keep your language and the subject matter "family friendly."
  • The Des Plaines Public Library reserves the right to withhold publication of any submission.
  • All submissions automatically become the property of the Des Plaines Public Library (Owners).

  • All submissions and names of contributors may be published or distributed by the Owners in print, electronically or in other forms.

  • We ask that children under the age of 13 have a parent or guardian's permission before submitting entries to PlainTalk. By submitting an entry, you agree to these terms and conditions.

  • Opinions published in PlainTalk are those of the Web Services Librarian, other library staff members and community members - not those of the Des Plaines Public Library.