At The Table With...Sana Khan of Chai and Pie Co.

Interview with Sana Khan of Chai and Pie Co. |

Today we're curling up with Sana Khan, a baker who recently moved to Chicago from the Bay Area and started a custom pie company, Chai and Pie Co. I met Sana last weekend when she hosted a pop-up shop at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Lincoln Park (see above). Though we tried to arrive early, Shiraaz and I just managed to get the last two slices Sana had left. I invited her to do this interview as we sampled the rosemary plum galette and chai chess pie because, well, she and her pies caught my attention. Chicagoans, check out Chai and Pie Co.'s menu and place an order here

Read on to get to know Sana!

What is your all-time favorite book?

I have a few as each book is associated to a defining point in my life:

The Secret Garden, the theme and inspiration for my garden wedding ceremony in California (I had a Jane Austen Library/Tea Party Bridal Shower!)

Little Women, the root for my love of reading, the classics, and femininity.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz is a brilliant author and storyteller. I grew up instantly reading his book.

The Namesake, it's my parents' love story in a nutshell. I never cried so much after reading a novel.

What meal do you love to cook? 

The easy answer would be pie, but the real, honest answer is pancakes. Pancakes are so fluffy, cute, and delicious! There are also many types and styles of pancakes which make it fun to experiment with. I recently visited Amsterdam and learned how to make and bake the Dutch Baby (pancake). I get way too excited when the batter puffs up and even more excited to eat it.  

What is your favorite food scene from a book? 

The description of Gatsby’s weekend routine in The Great Gatsby which we would call in today’s terms, a “farm-to-table experience.” I’ve dreamed about dining or simply drinking tea at Gatsby’s home, each sip would be a soothing and magical experience. 
‘"Every Friday, five crates of orange and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York — every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen, which could extract the juice of 200 oranges in half an hour, if a little button was pressed 200 times by a butler's thumb."

Coffee or tea?

Coffee, extra hot, always. My rule is only drink iced coffee after first having a cup of hot coffee. I’m a pretty big coffee snob to the extent that a café or coffee shop is always on the itinerary when I travel. I even went on a neat coffee tour around a plantation with my husband during our honeymoon to Costa Rica
However I do love masala chai and Kashmiri chai and recently developed an appreciation for Chinese Gong Fu tea due to my husband’s passion for making it. He’s the Chai to my Pie.  

What is the last book you abandoned? 

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I literally abandoned it because I accidentally left it in California when I moved!
Chai and Pie Co's sweet cherry pie. (Photo by Sukoon Creative)

Chai and Pie Co's sweet cherry pie. (Photo by Sukoon Creative)

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order? 

Zadie Smith and Sophie Kinsella. Zadie and I would walk to the Altab Ali park on White Chapel Road in East London after meeting for some chai and banoffee pie. Sophie Kinsella and I would go window shopping in Soho and grab burgers and milkshakes at Shake Shack.   

Where do you go to find new recipes?

Usually from my collection of recipe books, a huge notebook filled with my mother’s recipes, newpapers, magazines, and various blogs. I enjoy visiting local farmer markets to pick up fresh, organic produce and re-creating traditional dishes with unique ingredients or often making my own recipes from scratch. I recently made a yellow daal (lentils) with heirloom tomatoes and arugula, it's now my new favorite comfort food. 

Where do you go to find new reads?

Usually independent bookstores and local libraries. I enjoy reading the staff recommendations and going from there.  In fact, in addition to cafés, I love exploring bookstores and libraries in new countries and cities. I'm not the type who gets recommendations online; I usually have to hold the book in my hand. 

Tell us about your company — the inspiration for it, why you bake and your favorite aspects.

Chai and Pie is a space where my passion for home-style cooking, explorative travel, and wholesome living come together. I’ve always enjoyed baking, cooking, and crafting since a young age, learning the majority of the techniques from my mother and elder sister. When I met my husband, who is a vegetarian and an authentic foodie, I became even more adventurous with my cooking and expanded my culinary knowledge as well. We’re big on supporting local businesses, discovering new places (restaurants, bookstores, cafes, scenic spots), and sharing ideas to encourage a healthier, wholesome lifestyle. I started Chai and Pie Co. as part of our efforts to build and support communities through creative alternatives like new vegetarian-friendly recipes and menus, off-the beaten path travel tips, and simple yet unique craft and décor ideas.
I also love how food can bring families, friends, and communities together in one space where ideas and good conversations are exchanged. What could be better then sipping on spiced Chai and eating homemade Pie?
I make and bake pies with organic and natural ingredients from local farmer’s markets and our home garden. Enjoying food is a natural thing, and bringing smiles on people’s faces by baking fresh pies is natural to me. Its all about quality pie time! 

What are your favorite blogs, and why? 

The first blog I used the recipes from and still continue to is Smitten Kitchen. I’m a huge Food52 fan and can spend hours exploring all the recipes and links shared there. 

Connect with Sana: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House" & Turkish Donuts In Honey Syrup

The Dervish House pits old against new in layered ways. Turkish donuts doused in honey syrup encapsulate it in more ways than one.

A stork rides the thermals in the early morning air above Istanbul during a heatwave. As the city “wakes with a shout,” the bird glides over a symphony of traffic jams, ship engines, air conditioners and gull cries. But this familiar song is broken with an explosion on a tram, and the only victim is the suicide bomber herself. That’s how it initially seems, anyway.  

Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House begins with a bang and we’re introduced to a kaleidoscope of characters whose stories contract and expand around an ancient dervish house. The novel is set in the near future — Turkey has just joined the European Union and the use of nanotechnology is commonplace. We meet Necdet, who was on the tram when the explosion occurred and shortly after begins to have visions of djinns and saints. 

Then there’s Lelya, who misses a job interview due to the bomb and reluctantly takes a job at a relative’s nanoware start-up instead. Her search for funding leads her to a financial institution where Adnan, a commodities trader, is plotting a major fraud scheme. Adnan’s girlfriend Ayse is a religious artifacts dealer who’s commissioned to find the fabled Mellified Man — a man mummified in honey. 

As the connections between the characters slowly reveal themselves, so too does the connection between nanotechnology and religious fervor. It’s a relationship that echoes the cultural identity of Turkey itself, caught between progress and history. On the surface, The Dervish House is science fiction. But Ayse’s search for the Mellified Man takes us on a detailed journey through Istanbul’s past, from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman conquest. 


What follows is a recipe for Turkish lokma, a deep-fried donut doused in honey syrup. It’s a common street food in Istanbul that dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is a nod to the Mellified Man. In the novel, McDonald describes the process a dying man must go through before becoming encased in honey. Consuming nothing but honey for days, it “permeates every vessel” of his body, “swaddles” his organs and “drips in oozing globules” through his brain. Perhaps eating lokma is the closest we’ll get to "swimming in golden sugar hallucinations."



For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp honey

For the donuts:

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • vegetable oil


Start by making the honey syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a slow boil. Allow the mixture to boil for 10 minutes. Once the syrup has thickened slightly, stir in the honey and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

For the donuts, combine the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the yeast mixture and beat with an electrical mixer until smooth. Add the egg and beat until combined. The consistency should be a bit thicker and stickier than cake batter. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour. 

To fry the donuts, it’s best to use a thermometer or a deep-fryer with a basket and temperature gauge. Keep the cold syrup nearby, as well as a small bowl with oil and a spoon. Heat at least 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees.

Though a bit messy, this method works best for forming the donuts. Grab a handful of dough, squeeze a small ball through your thumb and forefinger, and use an oiled spoon to scoop the dough and drop it into the oil. Fry until golden brown, then carefully remove and immediately drop the donuts into the syrup. The longer you let the donuts sit in the syrup, the sweeter they’ll be. 

The donuts should be crispy on the outside and airy on the inside. They are best served hot with more honey drizzled on top. 

Get more Sarah by following her on Twitter and Instagram, and don't forget to check out her food blog, Delicious Chip.

The TBR List: Classics Reminder

Peach crostata |

I went looking for inspiration last night in the form of online personality quizzes. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Inspiration comes in many forms. 

This time, it took the shape of this food in literature quiz. Could there be a better time-waster for me? I mean, I have a question in my ATTW interviews about people's favorite food scenes in literature. It was fate.

Of course, this wasn't a personality quiz, so I didn't learn much about myself except that I should read more classics (or at least pay more attention to the cuisine in them). But I did remember that snow played a major role in the making of maple syrup candy in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. Thank goodness I had nostalgia to distract me from the fact that I sucked at this quiz.

This weekend, I'm looking forward to a barbecue at my friend's new place. I'll be bringing along the peach crostata you see above (adapted from the plum version I first made this summer). 

But before all that, here are my favorite links from the past week:

- Just read "The Pleasure of Reading to Impress Yourself." And try to tell me you don't see yourself in this.

- Eating fruits and veggies is, apparently, tied to increased happiness. Didn't need formal research to tell us that, did we?

- The writer and co-director of Frozen is going to adapt Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.

- This topographical tea tray may be one of the most beautiful serving pieces I've ever seen.

- I haven't read any of Stephanie Perkins' books, but these cookies inspired by their covers are lovely.

- We're going to IKEA this weekend! I think I'll pick up this teapot and this skimmer.

- This week's news about Robin Williams was heartbreaking. But talking about depression is important, and I'm glad some people stepped up to do so.

- Amelia's latest video attempt (pasta with chick peas, parmesan and parsley) had me laughing. As usual.

- Behind the scenes on the set of The Giver.

PS: Don't forget to enter our giveaway of Jourdan Fairchild's Fly DIY e-book!

Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.

At The Table With...Jourdan Fairchild, Author of Fly DIY [+ Giveaway!]

"Fly DIY" author Jourdan Fairchild |

Today we're rolling up our sleeves with Jourdan Fairchild, the author of a fun new e-book called Fly DIY: Crafts for the Modern TravelerI met Jourdan a few months ago when she took over as the Chicago editor of DailyCandy and was sorry to hear she lost her job when the publication shut down. But seeing what she's accomplished with this book, I can tell Jourdan is a creative, entrepreneurial force who's sure to be a repeated source of inspiration. Fly DIY has only been out a few weeks, but it's already garnered attention from some impressive sources, including Design*Sponge, Redbook and Country LivingJourdan, can you help me whip up a better-looking neck pillow? I guess that might be impossible.

Read on to get to know Jourdan!

What is your all-time favorite book?

I can’t pick just one! But three favorites are Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America (for the brilliant analogies), Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love (for all that talk about feelings) and my childhood go-to, Roald Dahl’s The BFG (for childish potty humor and wordplay).

What meal do you love to cook?

Depends on the season. In the summer, I get lazy and tend to just throw a bunch of fresh stuff together, i.e. grilled veggies from the farmer’s market into a big bowl of couscous or atop pizza dough. I’m also currently into this recipe for turkey-spinach sliders, which I top with Sriracha mayo.

What is your favorite food scene from a book?

I’m pretty fascinated by the way Herman Koch was able to write an entire novel, The Dinner, based on a single dinner setting. The descriptions of the meal — and the secrets slowly revealed between courses — were satisfying.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee, plus a healthy dose of milk (almond) and sugar (agave)

What is the last book you abandoned?

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  It’s not that it wasn’t interesting, but it just went on a little too long for my liking. I tend to abandon books a lot, but sometimes I’ll pick them back up if I’m feeling guilty.

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?

One of my first, and most monumental, interviews as a journalist was with Maya Angelou for a piece that ran in Oprah’s home magazine. I was incredibly nervous and naïve at the time, and we only had 5 or so minutes to chat on the phone. She couldn’t have been more graceful, but it’d be a dream to be in her presence for an entire meal. She’s a Southern gal like me, so I’d imagine we’d share pimento cheese sandwiches and sweet tea.

Where do you go to find new recipes? 

Given my magazine background, I’ll never tire of ripping out recipes from my favorite food magazines (Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food & Wine). I’m also inspired by foodies I follow on Instagram, as well as the dishes my friends make for group potlucks.

Where do you go to find new reads?

I used to rely on coworker recommendations, but now that I work as a freelancer, I depend on Goodreads and The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Jourdan Fairchild is a crafty lady. See here: She decoupaged her bedroom walls with marbled paper.

Jourdan Fairchild is a crafty lady. See here: She decoupaged her bedroom walls with marbled paper.

Tell us about your book — the inspiration for it, why you wrote it and your favorite aspects.

I never intended to write an e-book. But in late March, just six months after I’d started working at DailyCandy, the site suddenly closed and I lost my job. So I did the natural thing: Book a trip to Africa.
Inspired by that life-changing trip as well as my experience as a former crafts editor, I created/styled/designed/wrote Fly DIY: Crafts for the Modern Traveler. The 59-page-book features 12 super easy, affordable, and original projects, as well as successful female business owners as models and a travel playlist by Chicago's top female DJ. Of utmost importance, 10 percent of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the non-profit that I traveled to Africa with, Watering Malawi. I love that anyone can create the crafts in Fly DIY, no matter their age or experience with a glue gun. I mean, I turned a $1 fly swatter into a luggage tag for God’s sakes! These projects may be homemade but they don’t look it.

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

The blog world is so overwhelming that I often take breaks from it to maintain my sanity. But when I have a personal connection to a blogger, I feel fully invested and inspired. I love the ladies of Dinner was Delicious who churn out some of the web’s most drool-worthy recipes, stunning photos, and raw prose. I turn to Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant to educate me about plant-based cooking in the most heartfelt, authentic, and hilarious way. And everything that Claire Thomas of Kitchy Kitchen puts out in the world (hello S'meaches pie) makes my mouth water. 

Connect with Jourdan:  Instagram | Twitter


Inside Fly DIY you'll find 59 pages devoted to 12 crafts, modeled by Chicago boss ladies (AKA business owners and shot by a local photographer. You'll learn to make:

  • Drawer liner passport cover
  • Fly swatter luggage tag
  • Marbled glass bottle
  • Mini suitcases, and more!

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win the book. Entries are open to anyone. The more ways you enter, the better your chances of winning! Winner will be selected at random and contacted by email.

Cover photo and portrait of Jourdan by Carolina Mariana

Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.