Foodporn Fri Jan 01 2016
— Robyn Nisi
As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block is on indefinite hiatus. The site will remain up in archive form while we evaluate our options, which may include a redesign or sale.
✶ Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. ✶
Thursday, December 8
— Robyn Nisi
In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, [...] experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up," effectively mourning the birth of the social media influencer and the Yelp critic alongside the death of the old-guard food writer.
Earlier this year, Chef Marc Vetri took similar mumblings public with his article, "How food journalism got as stale as day-old bread," insinuating that food media is awash in a clickbait and listicle crisis. He claimed that instant access to buzz content has forced "real journalists" to downgrade their standards by "pandering to the most basic, low-brow instincts of readers." Separately, Food and Wine launched FWx.com -- a digital platform aimed at "food-obsessed" Millennials -- in 2014. The difference in brands was stark, from a completely different design showcasing editorials titled "How to make reindeer cupcakes."
— Brandy Gonsoulin
Fun fact I learned about the Old-Fashioned while watching Holly DeRuyter's documentary "OId-Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club": Korbel set up a booth at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 to introduce the world to their brandy, which became popular with the Fair's many German customers, who brought it north to Wisconsin. The state is still the top buyer of brandy today, because hey, an Old-Fashioned with whiskey is downright heresy.
DeRuyter's documentary, which was crowdfunded (we enthusiastically covered it back in 2011), makes its Chicago debut on Jan. 23rd at the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State) for two screenings. The film does a great job of tracing the origins and distinctive style of the (mostly) Wisconsin-based restaurant phenomenon known for its relish trays, ice cream drinks and fried perch, as well as the role the supper club plays in their community for being a beloved meeting spot for locals and tourists (even the Chicago gangsters of the 1930s liked them). It's hard to watch this on an empty stomach, so if you have a car, you can be at the Wisconsin border in an hour.
— Robyn Nisi
Ah, the ubiquitous diner-- where one goes to meet friends, cure hangovers, and linger over endless cups of coffee. To me, the perfect diner provides a rallying point for its community. Johnny's Grill, the Logan Square mainstay, has always served up diner standards while offering the perfect position to people-watch across the square. When the original Johnny's Grill closed in summer of 2014, the iconic spot remained empty for a little over a year-- until August 2015, when it opened its doors again and the old-school Johnny's Grill signage remained untouched.
In fact, most of the interior is very recognizable-- counter seating, vinyl bar stools, laminated menus-- just brighter, updated. Chef Sarah Jordan, mostly recognized for her previous work as a pastry chef, now has her hands in all aspects of the restaurant and seems to know what the people want. The breakfast menu features tried-and-true standbys such as "Johnny cakes" and a full Irish breakfast (Jordan herself is originally from Dublin). However, when I visited recently, it was for dinner.
Along with updating the original Johnny's Grill space, Jordan also expanded into a defunct florist next door, creating the Flower Shop Bar-- a complete one-eighty from the old-school diner vibe. The Flower Shop is dim and quirky, with vibrant teal walls and light fixtures that seem to float above the bar. Drinks include cocktail classics, along with budget-friendly boilerplates and Moody Tongue beers on tap. Dinner options (also available at lunchtime) are varied and surprising: there's your double cheeseburger, yes, but also Irish Bacon Bap sandwich (thick-cut bacon, Swiss cheese, and giardineira) and, on my recent visit, a pleasantly spicy tofu Bahn Mi on a soft roll. Specials are ever-changing, and my friend and I polished off a bowl of fragrant red lentil dal. Definitely not a diner standby, but there was no complaining. On a past visit I also tried the fish and chips-- one of my personal go-to's-- and found it crispy but tender in all the right ways, and an appropriate diner portion (i.e.: large).
Yes, it may take some time for some to completely come around to the idea of a "new" Johnny's-- there are significant changes at this new iteration, but at its heart, it maintains that greasy-spoon vibe (just with less actual grease). Most importantly, it serves up lovingly-made food with a dash of personality-- and that classic people-watching perch.
Johnny's Grill is located at 2545 N Kedzie Blvd.
— Danielle Snow / Comments (1)
— Robyn Nisi
If you're like me, last minute and holiday shopping go hand in hand. And if you're like me, the way to my heart is through my stomach. If you still have shopping left to do, these curated local food and drink gift ideas might make last minute not look so last minute at all.
For the "likes finer things in life" foodie on your list, or the "I need something quick and easy that says thank you for doing business with me," housemade macarons packaged in a Tiffany's-inspired box from RM Champagne is a definite winner. They come available in quantities of 9 (for $10) or 12 (for $19) and you can even customize your own box with a mix of flavor choices such as violet and cocoa nib or classic favorites like peach and red velvet. Combine it with a bottle of bubbly and you're on your way to sealing the deal for 2016.
— Brandy Gonsoulin
Legend has it that Chicago-style cheesecake, known to be richer and creamier than its New York counterpart, was created in 1977 by Chicago restaurateur Eli Schulman. The happy accident came about because of a customer complaint that led Schulman to develop a recipe for a dessert that pleased everyone. The story behind the invention of one of the nation's most famous desserts and many other tales of the famous Chicago culinary icon's life are now preserved in The Eli's Cheesecake Cookbook.
Beginning with the first cheesecake creation at Eli's The Place for Steak in the 1970s, the book tells the story of how Eli's was not only a pillar of Chicago's culinary community, it was also a noted celebrity watering hole. The cookbook collects some of the Schulman family's favorite celebrity anecdotes, which also act as introductions to recipes.
The release of the book coincides with the 35th anniversary of Eli's Cheesecakes, and finally allows home cooks to make Eli's famous cheesecake for themselves. . .and just in time for all of your holiday parties.
— Jeremy Owens
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— Robyn Nisi
Three big stout events this week, beer fans.
Tonight at Fischman Liquors, 4776 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lake Effect Brewing and Superdawg celebrate the release of SuperShake, a chocolate malt milkshake-inspired stout that joins the line of collaborations between the brewery and hot dog stand. Starting at 6pm, stop by to sample SuperShake as well as SuperBier and WhoopskiBier. There will be Superdawg and Whoopskidawg samples to pair with their respective beers, ice cream to make SuperShake floats, and a raffle for branded glassware and other stuff.
— Andrew Huff
Food heals, figuratively, but starting next year, figurative will become literal in Illinois. And it will be sweet.
Cresco Labs, Illinois's largest cannabis cultivator, and James Beard Award-winning chef Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) announced early this week their partnership on a line of edible products. It is the first partnership for both in the medical marijuana edibles industry (that's a legit thing), and a bold move for Chicago. The line, which will include a chocolate brittle bar, infused granola bites and an infused chocolate drink intended to be warm, is set to roll-out at licensed dispensaries across the state starting in February.
If your head is spinning, this is not a vision out of Half-Baked; ever since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, edibles have become what some call the future of the industry, by providing traditional non-smokers with an alternative way to ease the pain.
— Brandy Gonsoulin
As of these past few weeks, window panes across the city of Chicago have begun to fog up and armchairs, left largely unoccupied during our lengthy summer, have begun to beckon once more. To me, winter months mean catching up on reading: more time spent on buses and trains (I'm quite the fair-weather bike commuter), less time going out as a form of entertainment.
Luckily, I can turn to David Baker's debut novel,
Vintage, to satisfy my taste for adventure without the need to put on five additional layers of clothing. Sweepingly cinematic in scope, the story begins at a tucked-away restaurant in modern-day Chicago and whisks readers through French winemaking county, a rambling train through Alsace, musty German war archives and a Moscow prison. The objective: track down a long-lost war vintage, a wine lost to the Nazis during World War II that many had believed to be lost to history (or simply a myth).
— Danielle Snow
Beginning at 11:30am tomorrow, the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe) will be giving out free brownies to celebrate National Brownie Day from its real, actual birthplace. Fun fact: in 1893, Bertha Honore Palmer (pictured), wife of dry goods merchant and hotelier Potter Palmer, commissioned a simple, transportable "ladies' dessert" from the Palmer House chef to be served in box lunches at the Women's Building at the Columbian Exposition. Even more fun of a fact: brownies are easy to make and schlep to a holiday potluck. Bertha was a genius.
— Robyn Nisi
— Robyn Nisi
Tom and Friends are back on Thursdays at 9 CST!! This season takes place in cities across California, and while there are no Chicago chefs representing our glorious city, there is certainly no shortage of interesting contestants.
— Judy Wu
Strudel and pretzels, yah?? Yah. If you're in the Loop this December, stop by Christkindlmarket in the Daley Plaza. More than half of the vendors at the market travel from Germany to Chicago to share their traditional offerings, including hand-made holiday ornaments and wooden toys.
For the food-inclined, there is schnitzel, pretzels, potato pancakes, bratwurst, freshly-roasted nuts, and sweet candies. Also look forward to imported German beer (because let's face it, Germans do beer really well) or Glühwein (hot spiced wine)!
Chicago Location: Daley Plaza in the Loop (There's also a market in Oakbrook)
Dates & Times: Friday, November 20 - Wednesday, December 23
Sundays - Thursdays 11am - 8pm
Fridays & Saturdays 11am - 9pm
Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Eve
11am - 4pm
— Judy Wu
In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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