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Drive-Thru

News Wed Oct 31 2007

Mmm, Midweek Quick Links

• Local Apostrophe Brands launched Kilo Kai spiced rum over the weekend. It's an aged rum from Curacao, suitable for sipping.

• Next from the folks behind Cans: Bottles!

• If Halloween is putting you in a mood for the candy of your youth, you might want to check out Suckers Candy, Inc.

Centerstage rounds up good food on a stick.

• ...While Kevin Pang rounds up pumpkin-spiced coffee at the Stew.

• Chicago Apartment Therapy thinks you should stop wasting money of seltzer water and make your own.

The Becker-Posner Blog discusses rising food costs. [via]

Hungry Mag interviews Bob Djahanguiri, owner of Old Town Brasserie.

• Speaking of interviews, our own Alan Lake posted a great one with Mario DiPaolo, Jr., owner of Mario's Italian Lemonade, on LTH Forum.

• Daley wants to raise taxes on beer and liquor.

• The NYTimes talks to chefs, including Moto's Homaro Cantu and Elissa Narow, pastry chef at Custom House, about candy real and imagined.

• Now that Halloween is nearly over, start thinking about El Dia de los Muertos.

Andrew Huff

Restaurant Wed Oct 31 2007

Check Please! Early Warning: Kuma's

I mentioned earlier this month that Kuma's Corner would be on "Check Please!" soon, ensuring egregiously long waits for your heavy metal burger. Get in there before Friday or be prepared to wait.

goblincockburger.jpgYour reward for going this week is a pair of new items on the menu: the Goblin Cock (formerly a chalkboard special) and the Minsk. The Goblin Cock, named for this band, drops a split char dog on top, along with a dose of pico di gallo and a special mustard; the menu warns that use of ketchup is punishable by expulsion. The Minsk is essentially a Reuben on top of a burger. (You might want to bring some antacid.)

[photo by Rachelleb]

Andrew Huff

Event Wed Oct 31 2007

Espresso-nist Art

Ever wonder how your barista got that cool little leaf design on the top of your latte? Learn how to turn your cup into a canvas at Intelligentia's Espresso Enthusiast Class--a basic course in barista training. Topics include espresso preparation, milk steaming and of course latte art. You'll even receive a free bag of Black Cat coffee for your efforts. There are a variety of dates available and reservations are required. Fulton Street Roasting Works, 1850 W. Fulton, Chicago. $200 per class.

Bobbi Bowers

Business Tue Oct 30 2007

Come As Your Favorite Burrito

There are rumors that Chipotle is giving out free burritos on Halloween ... if you show up dressed as a burrito. There's nothing on the Chipotle web site to confirm, but those in the know at Chowhound say it's true. And that all you need to look like a Chipotle burrito is a bit of aluminum foil on your person.

Lori Barrett / Comments (2)

Review Tue Oct 30 2007

Pumpkin Spice Deliciousness

It's that time of year again. The time where everything pumpkin-related seems to come out of the woodwork just in time for the cold weather. From the old classics (muffins, pies, cookies, coffee drinks) to the new ones (ravioli, bisques, risottos, beers, pizza)...I love them all. There's something about the sweet pumpkin spice that makes the impending winter weather seem a bit more tolerable.

I recently had the pleasure of discovering a new pumpkin delicacy--the Pumpkin Spice Cake doughnut from Krispy Kreme. Perfectly spiced with just the right amount of glaze, it's a melt-in-your-mouth treat that's bound to become a new fall classic. Yum.


Bobbi Bowers

Store Tue Oct 30 2007

Not Just the Gold Coast is Gold

chococitycake.JPGEver wonder what the Sears Tower would look like rendered in chocolate, or more accurately in golden chocolate? Some friends came for dinner the other night, and brought this chocolate cake from House of Fine Chocolates in Lakeview. It's wrapped in a skyline that invokes mouthwatering civic pride. And, yes, it tastes as great as it looks.

Lori Barrett

Recipe Tue Oct 30 2007

Share Your Recipes for Local Cookbook

The National Museum of Mexican Art is holding a contest to find the best family recipes for Recetas de mi tierra, an upcoming cookbook to celebrate the Museum's 20th anniversary. A contest for the best recipes that have "survived the journey" from Mexico to Chicagoland is being held, with the winners receiving a free copy of the book, which will include their recipe, a biography and photograph of their family. Deadline is October 31. Click here for more details.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Mon Oct 29 2007

No, It's Not a Manhole Cover.

Autumn Harvest Pancake

It's finally autumn; the chill in the air seems to be sticking around, the trees are raining down gloriously hued leaves onto the sidewalks, and the local famers' tables are brimming with apples, pears, pumpkins, yams, bunches of Indian corn and twigs of bittersweets. From the cornucopia of autumn, I've always loved the combination of sweet potatoes and apples. One recent morning, I returned to my old favorite combination for breakfast.

Essentially a big, multi-serving pancake loaded with sweet potatoes and apples, then cut into individual pieces at the table, this autumn harvest pancake makes for a fun presentation. The sweet potato circles, embedded on the surface of the flipped-up pancake announce autumn, and their earthy sweetness is met by the tart-sweet goodness of the apple wedges hidden inside. And best of all, it only takes a bowl and a skillet to cook.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa

Recipe Mon Oct 29 2007

Brain on a Platter

brain.JPG
We have a Halloween party every year. And while the food we serve varies from year to year, the one constant is the gelled cheeseball I make with a brain jello mold. The first year I made it, I followed a recipe I found online that combined canned mushroom soup, cream cheese and shrimp, along with some unflavored gelatin (and lemon juice and tabasco sauce). It was tasty, and there wasn't much left by the end of the night. The next year, I tried making it with crab meat instead. It didn't taste as good or, more importantly, have the right texture or the right shade of pinkish gray to look like a brain. This year, since my son won't eat meat or seafood, I used sun-dried tomatoes instead of shrimp. Again, the color and the texture weren't quite as brainy as they were the first year, but it was a good vegetarian version. Plus, the yellow oil that the sun-dried tomatoes came in formed a little pool around the brain, which was a nice effect. The recipe for the shrimp version follows.

Continue reading this entry »

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Restaurant Mon Oct 29 2007

Opening: Summer Noodles & Rice

Edgewater gets a new noodle shop today with the opening of Summer Noodles & Rice, just west of the Granville Red Line stop. Here's a look inside from yesterday:
summer_noodles.jpg
Looks pretty nice; details to come as we get in for a review.

Andrew Huff

Recipe Sun Oct 28 2007

Roommates Rotating Dinner feels like Family

My roomie Liz, our friend Andy and I used to alternate cooking dinner for each other a few times a week. Those nights, I felt like I was eating with family until the dinners faded months ago. A few days after Andy suggested a revival, Liz was searing slices of leftover neatloaf in a small cast iron pan.

I'm vegan, which pretty much makes our dinners vegan. Our dining room table was full of analogues to traditional American comfort food in sturdy baking dishes. A square glass dish held baked mac (rotini instead of macaroni this time) and not-cheese. Pan seared neatloaf lined a deep white oval baking dish. A small wavy white pitcher was full of gravy Liz had just made from scratch. A slender white candle completed a metaphor of comfort food purity. A clear glass bowl held pureed cauliflower. It looked like mashed potato, but tasted clearly not - much lighter.

After dinner, I asked Liz to explain what she made. Below are my notes with Liz's quotes mixed in. Amounts weren't measured, but in many cases I asked Liz to tell how she knew when she had added the correct amount of an ingredient. Improvising based on what's going on is key. Any stated quantities have been guessed after the fact.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Recipe Sun Oct 28 2007

Can't Stop Eatin' 'Em...Until December

If Jay's Potato Chips will be no more by the end of this year, then now is the time to take advantage of this crispy chip while it still exists. You can start by making potato chip cookies, one of the best marriages of snack foods ever. Here is a simple, killer recipe.

Robyn Nisi

Feature Fri Oct 26 2007

It's Apple Time!

As the weather becomes colder, my thoughts turn to apples. Whether baked into a sweet pastry, slathered in peanut butter, or paired with a hunk of cheese, apples are a versatile, healthy fruit that is emblematic of the season. Fall is also the time to make the Mecca-like trip to an orchard to pick, buy and taste apples in their natural habitat.

My favorite place is Edwards Apple Orchard, located in Poplar Grove, a small town east of Rockford. Edwards is a picturesque, sprawling property located in an area dotted with farms and endless county roads. A country store sells a large variety of picked, packaged apples and cider from the Edwards orchards. If you are an apple connisseur, I highly recommend the Jonagold, which makes a wonderful applesauce when your one-person apple-eating contest goes awry and you're racing to use up your supply. A separate candy kitchen manned by a gaggle of local teenagers makes fudge. The store also sells a range of jams, honey, ornaments, candles and preserved beef (no lie). The place also smells like fir trees and cloves.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi

Random Thu Oct 25 2007

The Friendly Frankfurter

I recently received a delivery menu for the Byron's hot dog stand near my office. Fairly standard, run-of-the-mill menu, really, until I flipped it to the back. There, in small type so it'd fit on the half-page, was a poem. An ode to "The Friendly Frankfurter."

The gentle frank all red and white, I love it with all my soul.
It gives me meat with all its might to eat upon a roll.
It's tasty, toasted - It's racy, roasted - It's full of iron and phosphorus.
It's the favorite ration of all our nation.
And mustard is the sauce for us.

The frank's the friend of every man, proud,
It's curve is pure American, and full of eating beauty!
Thanks, thanks for excellent franks.
That are practically always digestible.
The dickens with chickens or steaks on planks.
The frankfurter's my comestible!

This masterpiece was unsigned, which is a shame, for it is a poem for the ages. Almost makes me hungry for a hot dog.

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

News Wed Oct 24 2007

Mmm, Midweek Quick Links

• Interesting: right on the heals of conquering the food media with Adam Segar's new baconcello, Osteria via Stato has transformed itself into Pizzeria via Stato. Sad to see Osteria's family-style small plates go. Correction: Just the bar section of Osteria will become Pizzeria. Blame a poorly written press release for the confusion.

• Chicagoist also notes Bridgeport Coffee House's charity coffee blends.

• There's the "Check Please!" Effect, and there's the Saveur Effect. Burt's Pizza in Morton Grove is suffering from the latter after its loving coverage in the magazine's October Chicago issue.

&mbull; MenuPages Chicago notes that Vella Cafe has expanded its hours to include dinner -- as long as you don't mind being done with dinner by 7pm

• It's getting chilly, so it's definitely soup season. Centerstage rounds up some of the city's best.

• Or you could make your own. Bunny Pie has you covered with an acorn squash soup recipe.

• On the fall food tip, Pro Bono Baker shares a recipe for Brussels sprouts and white beans.

• Oh, and if you're carving a jack'o'lantern, you should make roasted pumpkin seeds. Yum.

Last week's Dish included a little more info about Butter's closing, news that NY chef Marcus Samuelsson is coming to town with a new restaurant this spring, and an interview with LTHForum's David Dickson about their Great Neighborhood Restaurants awards.

Help save a historic Chicago brewery!

• Cheese shop Pastoral's Loop location is finally open.

Southtown candy showdown.

Andrew Huff

Drink Wed Oct 24 2007

Wine Pairings for Halloween Candy

Hellllooooooooooo! (please imagine in a spooky voice)

Back by popular demand, I have created another wine n candy pairing challenge! Yes indeed, you can count on me to suggest things to drink after the kids (or your roommates) are finally down from their sugar rush and zonked in their beds. Follow these three steps to play along at home.

First: Once the kids are asleep, strike quickly and snag the premium candy from their bags and plastic pumpkins. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey's Minatures, "Fun Size" real candy bars...stuff like that. (Leave the Smarties - even your kids won't eat those. Who hands that crap out anyway? Lame.) It should be noted that some children do keep track of their loot in great detail. If your kid has an excel spreadsheet detailing their haul, you will have to alter that too. Can't be too careful.

Second: Select one or two or eight of the wines mentioned below. You will need to purchase them ahead of time, so swing by the wine store on your way home from the Mega Mart when your getting candy for the neighborhood. You'll be glad you did.

Third: Pour yourself a sample of wine and taste with the recommended candy treats or anything else you could weasel from the little ones' stash. Relax and enjoy. You deserve it. After all, you created a Sponge Bob costume from foam rubber and an old swim suit. Note to self: try to sell the tyke on "ghost" next year.

After the jump, the wines...

Continue reading this entry »

Christine Blumer

Chef Wed Oct 24 2007

It's Country, Ya'll!

Paula Deen, the Food Network's queen of country cuisine, is coming to The Chicago Theater on November 17th for two live shows. Paula will share her favorite down home recipes with fans, as well as cooking tips and advice. Tickets are still available for both shows. You bet your britches that I'll be there.

Can't wait until November? Try making one of my favorite Paula recipes--corn casserole--at home. (Warning: recipe may not be suitable for the calorie-conscious.)

Paula Deen's Corn Casserole

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour into a greased 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with cheddar. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand for at least 5 minutes and then serve warm.

Bobbi Bowers

Restaurant Tue Oct 23 2007

"Breakfast!" the Bird Says

Breakfast at TweetIt's a gray, dreary morning, almost bone-chilling. It's been unseasonably warm for the past few weeks, and I'm utterly unprepared for the chill. As I walk a few steps from the car to the door of Tweet, breeze from the lake stirs up the few fallen leaves on the pavement, and I bury my chin in my fleece jacket. Once inside the restaurant, though, the scene undergoes a drastic change: it's warm, cozy and welcoming.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

News Tue Oct 23 2007

Talkin' Healthy About Halloween Candy

Sometimes the truth hurts: in a few days, Halloween will be here, and whether you work in an office building or are a third-grader, you'll be eating candy. Lots of candy, unless you're the part of the Power Bar and Aquafina set. The Tribune had a nice debate over whether candy corn or a mini-chocolate bar was healthier to eat, with the victor being the candy corn, as it has less calories and is sweet enough to curb your sugar jones. Frankly, I think the candy corn should be used as a chaser for the chocolate. Times are hard. Eat more candy.

Robyn Nisi

Chef Tue Oct 23 2007

The Spatulatta Girls

The next generation of Chicago celebrity chefs is hitting bookstores and cooking demos this month. Fourth grader Isabella Gerasole and second grader Olivia Gerasole have a new cookbook for kids based on their web site, Spatulatta.com. Last year the site, which has videos to accompany the recipes, won a James Beard Foundation award in the webcast category and landed the girls on Jay Leno's show and in the pages of Food and Wine. It's a great site for kids interested in food. Right now there are Halloween recipes, including Spiderweb Soup and Spooky Skull Meatloaf. And in the archive are vegetarian recipes for Thanksgiving, as well as recipes for everyday snacks and meals, and even a concentration game with images of cooking utensils. The girls are appearing around Chicago, signing their book and giving cooking demonstrations. I recommend introducing any kids you might be spending Thanksgiving with. Let them do the cooking this year, while the adults keep asking when dinner will be ready and if they can have pie even if they don't eat their Quinoa Stuffing Pilgrim Hats.

Lori Barrett

Chef Mon Oct 22 2007

Grand Hopening (for Hospital Food-Loving Folk)

Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern opened Saturday, and along with it another chapter of the well-hidden secret of why I love Northwestern Memorial Hospital: their cafeteria. If you've ever tasted hospital food, you know its bland calling card; however, I've enjoyed many countless meals at Spice of Life, the NMH cafeteria. The place has even been on Check Please!. Their sister restaurant at Prentice, Fresh Market at Fairbanks, promises to deliver as much, with chef and author Joyce Goldstein at the helm. I'm excited to get to the new hospital and get my chow on; thankfully, that will be my only reason to be there.

Robyn Nisi

Random Fri Oct 19 2007

Hot Pockets

We've been eating out of pockets a lot lately in my house. Last week I found a recipe on Epicurious (under quick & easy, which it wasn't) for homemade empanadas. I went to my local Jewel and bought two packs of empanada wrappers; I boiled eggs, grilled some fake ground beef with olives and raisins, combined it with the boiled eggs and filled the little empanada disks with the mixture. They were a big hit with my family, and as we ate we talked about the different names for this same sort of food: pierogis, pot stickers, dumplings, ravioli, and so on.

Continue reading this entry »

Lori Barrett

News Thu Oct 18 2007

Tax Dollars May Give Milwaukee Avenue a Nice Pair of Beer Goggles

Handlebar owner Josh Deth is pursuing financial help from the city for the redevelopment of a vacant storefront at 2323 North Milwaukee into a two-story brewpub and restaurant scheduled to open by the end of next year. Deth is asking for $490,000 in TIF (Tax Increment Financing) money to help build Revolution Brewing. Deth's proposal, which would be a welcome tenant in a blighted section of the avenue, has the support of 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colon and neighborhood residents. The TIF money would account for a mere 15% of the total bill to rehab the space. Deth's request is pending approval by the City Council.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (5)

News Thu Oct 18 2007

Good Eating Award Recipients Announced

The Tribune announced the winners of the eighth annual Good Eating Awards, which honors significant contributions to Chicago's culinary scene. This year's winners include educators, businesspeople, bloggers (i,e. Gary Wiviott, creator of LTH Forum) and local celeb Alpana "Check Please!" Singh.

Robyn Nisi

News Wed Oct 17 2007

Check Please! Early Warning

Fans of Tanoshii, Kuma's Corner and Xni-Pec beware, "Check Please!" is invading. Tanoshii, my personal favorite sushi place, will be on this week's show along with Xni-Pec, and Kuma's is on soon. LTHers are already cringing at the thought of needing reservations for their next Mastodon.

Speaking of "Check Please!," we hear that host Alpana Singh will be hosting the holiday party at Google's Chicago offices this year. With Singh's sommelier skills and Google's budget, you can bet the folks at that party will be drinking well.

Andrew Huff / Comments (4)

Business Wed Oct 17 2007

Franchised Coffee Shop Seized

Franchised coffee shops don't seem to be doing to well in Chicago, with the Coffee Beanery on Damen breaking ties and becoming the independent Bucktown Beanery and now the apparent closure of Saxbys Coffee. The Saxbys Coffee on the corner of Jefferson and Lake was seized by the Cook County Sheriff's Department recently and the location, as well as the local Saxbys Training Facility, is no longer listed on the Philadelphia based companies website. A Plano store is open and operating, but a second location in Chicago was to open on North Clark but never came to fruition. From what little information I was able to gather, the owners or manager of the Lake Street store may have had issues in regards to paying employees — as in not paying them. Saxbys has been billed as an alternative to the corporate giant Starbucks — a location of which is coincidentally across the street.

UPDATE 7/26/09: John Larson, former owner of Saxbys Coffee, contacted us and offered the following letter of explanation regarding this case:

I am John Larson, Founder of Saxbys Coffee. Many posts have appeared after this article was written and I wanted to take this opportunity, given to me by the Editor of Gapers Block, to set the record straight.

I started Saxbys Coffee in Windsor, Colorado in January 2004. The concept was simple; a coffee shop which would eventually rival Starbucks Coffee. At the time there were no other coffee shops which were expanding aggressively and as a result Starbucks began raising prices on their products often and offered less service (they actually stopped stirring the drinks). Saxbys Coffee was designed to give superior customer service at a price which was lower than Starbucks. I used my over $400,000 of my own money to grow this company (which I would never get back).

In order to challenge Starbucks we would have to franchise the business and grow through Area Developers (mini-franchisors of Saxbys Coffee). This was not in any way a get rich quick scheme as one post states on this page and was a legitimate business set up to catch up to Starbucks in half the time it took Starbucks. For the most part the first two and a half years were successful for everyone.

Due to personal family issues I stepped down as an Officer and Director of Saxbys Coffee in September 2006 and Nick Bayer was voted in as Sole Director and Sole Officer which effectively gave Nick Bayer total control over Saxbys Coffee. Nick Bayer went on a rampage and set out to cancel many Area Developer contracts and close down many franchises that Nick Bayer felt remained loyal to me.

Nick Bayer then, as Sole Director and Sole Officer of Saxbys Coffee, fraudulently sold all the assets of Saxbys Coffee (which totaled over $6,000,000) for a mere $5,000 down and $300,000 to be paid in three years to Saxbys Coffee Worldwide LLC which is a corporation formed by Joe Grasso just days before the fraudulent sale. Joe Grasso "rewarded" Nick for his part in this "sweet deal" by giving Nick a job as President of the "new" Saxbys Coffee along with bonuses and jobs for Nick Bayer's father, mother and best friends. They were all given back pay as an added incentive.

One of the first actions the new Saxbys Coffee did was to stop paying rents and employees at all Chicago locations in an apparent effort to embarrass me (I lived in Chicago and the new Saxbys Coffee was in Philadelphia). As a result all the landlords evicted Saxbys Coffee in the Chicago locations.

Nick then continued his "witch-hunt" for all the other Area Developers and franchisees he wanted closed and Nick succeeded in ruining many lives through financial devastation (including mine).

Please take the time to read everything that happened with Saxbys Coffee and you will find that everything "bad" happened AFTER I stepped down in September 2006. Also please take note that I have filed two lawsuits against Nick Bayer, Joe Grasso, and Saxbys Coffee Worldwide, LLC for the fraudulent sale. One case is in the Chicago Circuit Court in Illinois (filed in July 2007) and the other is in Philadelphia and was filed this year. I will provide court case numbers and witnesses to anyone who asks.

This ordeal has financially devastated me, my family, my friends, and several hard working and honest Area Developers and franchisees that put their trust in Saxbys Coffee. Stepping down and giving Nick Bayer control was my mistake and one which I will regret for the rest of my life.

The court cases will go on (justice is slow) but we (the shareholders of Saxbys Coffee, Inc.) will be victorious. As a side note, ne of the reasons the court in Chicago is taking so long is because Nick Bayer, Joe Grasso, and Saxbys Coffee Worldwide, LLC, refuse to pay their attorneys. As a result the attorneys fire Nick Bayer, Joe Grasso, and Saxbys Coffee Worldwide, LLC. As their clients and the judicial system allows several months for new lawyers to be acquired and get caught up to speed o the case. This has happened on three occasions already.

People like Nick Bayer and Joe Grasso should be sitting in jail with the other fraudulent executives who cheat honest people.

I am including my email address and cell phone number for anyone who wants or needs additional information. I am doing this because I have nothing to hide, I am not afraid of any slander lawsuits as I only tell the truth, and I have documents to back up everything I say. My cell number is 312-515-9272 and my email address is johnlarson[at]jetgroup7[dot]com. Feel free to contact me regarding anything in this case.

To the bloggers who post things when they don't know the facts, I have one simple question. Why don't you use your real first and last name when you recklessly slander someone with no regard for the tole it takes on their life? You don't because you're afraid of a slander lawsuit because what you say is not the truth. My hope is that the readers of this article take that into consideration when reading the mean spirited posts following this article.

Sincerely,
John Larson

UPDATE 2: Comments have been closed.

Christian Scheuer / Comments (26)

News Tue Oct 16 2007

Frango Mints Return to Chicago

Production of Frango Mints, the candy mascot for Marshall Field's, will be returning to Chicago, according to today's Sun-Times. The mints have been produced in a Pennsylvania factory since 1999, but will now be manufactured by Cupid Candies, a south-side factory that is already familiar with chocolate-covered mints. The change was promised by Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren in 2005 when the New York-based retailer took over the Field's chain and discontinued the department store's name and branding.

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Tue Oct 16 2007

Dodo to Close and Relocate

The lively and colorful Dodo will see its last day of breakunch - as they call their breakfast + lunch service - at 935 N. Damen on Sunday, October 28. They plan to reopen with air conditioning at 2003 W. Fulton in early 2008. I've written about their tofu scram twice (in April and my first time in January), and have more recently enjoyed venturing to order that savory fill with half seitan and half tofu. I will certainly miss it while Dodo moves.

Chris Brunn

News Tue Oct 16 2007

Can You Survive on What You Grow in Your Backyard?

This year, localvorism has been the rage; Green City Market's eat-locally challenge immediately rushes to mind. Some, though, have gone further than just buying food from local sources. NPR has an interesting story on a guy who tried to live off of a hand-made "farm in his 20- by 40-foot Brooklyn backyard." At the start of his month-long challenge, he dreamed of collecting fat from his ducks and brewing vodka from his potatoes. When the challenge ended, he had earned the neighborhood recognition of eccentricity. Listen to the story here and see what he thinks of this extreme localvorism.

Yu Kizawa

Drink Tue Oct 16 2007

Pinot Days - get tix now

pinot_days_logo.gifIf you go nuts for great Pinot Noir, you best get on the stick and register now for Pinot Days at Navy Pier. Over 50 producers of Pinot Noir from California, Oregon, Burgundy, New Zealand, and beyond will be in town from November 7th to November 10th for a muti-event festival celebrating the soft and sexy red grape. The grand finale is a tasting of over 150 different Pinot Noir-based wines from 1-4pm. $50 Lakeview Terrace at Navy Pier. More info is available at the Pinot Days website.

Christine Blumer

Feature Tue Oct 16 2007

The Art of Artisanal Cheese

The word "artisanal" is rapidly replacing "organic," which suddenly seems so... twentieth century. Unlike the term "organic," federal regulations do not govern the use of "artisanal," though most definitions refer to "hand-made" and "small-batch," which would apply to most of the food our grandparents ate.

At Chicago's Green City Market, I talked to artisanal cheese-makers and -mongers who satisfy consumers eager for the honest flavors and pleasures of traditional cheese.

Many American artisanal cheesemakers started into operation just a few years ago. Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell opened Prairie Fruits Farm outside Champaign, Illinois in 2005. Though new to the business, their old-style artisanal cheesemaking techniques recall a much earlier era, a time well before large-scale computerized cheesemaking and quick service restaurants.

Cooperband explains that "Historically, there have been numerous small cheese plants dotting the landscape in the US. Even here in Illinois, there used to be a lot more small dairies and small cheese plants."

Continue reading this entry »

David Hammond

Restaurant Tue Oct 16 2007

Argo gets a New Kind of Vegan Muffin

Chicago's homegrown Argo Tea has a new brand of vegan muffin made by the same company, Bake 'n Joy, that makes their conventional ones. I think I remember a gal behind the counter at Argo on Adams telling me that the staff there thinks that these new vegan muffins taste better than the non-vegan ones. I must qualify that with: I'm vegan, my note-less memory could have blurred, and she hadn't tried them herself. Thinking about the taste of the apple caramel variety and already pedaling home, I adjusted my route home to pass another Argo in order to try the other vegan flavor, blueberry. Both types tasted tender and moist, with a soft, slightly spongy mouth feel that sparkled with a touch of sweetness. Either would be brilliant with a morning's tea or coffee.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Restaurant Mon Oct 15 2007

Butter Goes Private

American contemporary Butter, tucked into a side street not quite part of the Greektown scene and too far from Randolph Street to be considered part of that world, is nevertheless quite well thought of by most diners and consistently gets good press. Its menu is adventurous and tasty, and its service is impeccable. I stopped in on Saturday night with my family after a nearby event, and we were treated wonderfully and even received an amuse bouche, even though we were only having desserts.

So imagine my surprise when I learned from an industry friend that Butter had abruptly closed its doors Sunday. True, the restaurant was mostly empty at 9:30 on a Saturday night, but it didn't seem like it was in that bad of shape. I called this morning and was informed that Butter had indeed closed, but only for ala carte service — in other words, no reservations, no walk-ins. The woman who answered the phone informed me that the owners had decided to focus on hosting private functions in the space.

If you're interested in booking the space (or have any questions), the old phone number still works: 312-666-9813.

UPDATE: Another contact familiar with the situation says, "That's their spin, but really the "just for a la carte" thing is trying to save face and hang onto what little banquets they had booked. The staff has been released and the remaining dates will be served by servers from other Really Nice Restaurants with a different chef. The location will be either sold or launched as something entirely different next year."

Andrew Huff

Random Mon Oct 15 2007

All Good Things Must Come to an End

farmersmarketonions Farmers Market season is winding down. This is the last week for several Chicago markets, so if you haven't already walked through rows of produce tents brimming with seasonal offerings, maybe you ought to skip your weekly trip to the Jewel's this week. It's going to be a long, cold winter before you get the opportunity again, so pick up some fresh seasonal fruits at anyone of the city's neighborhood markets.


Meghan Murphy Gill

Blog Mon Oct 15 2007

LTH Forum Names Great Neighborhood Restaurants 2007

stlclg-lg.jpgWhen I'm trying to see if a restaurant is worth the travel and expense, I head to LTH Forum to see if any of their dedicated posters has written about the place in question. If you aren't familiar, this website forum is a great resource for finding (and posting) restaurant reviews in and outside of the city, as well as a place to talk about recipes and, well, food. Their annual "Great Neighborhood Restaurants" award recipient list was released today, with over 20 new additions to the elite group, (predictably) among them Smoque and Kuma's Corner, as well as some little-known places that are sure to become highly sought after as a result of LTH Forum's recommendation (similar to the "Check Please! Effect").

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Drink Fri Oct 12 2007

Spotted: 2 Below

2 Below An impromptu beer run this week resulted in a pleasant find: all the New Belgium Skinny Dip had been replaced with 2 Below, the socially conscious and progressive brewery's Winter Ale. (Good thing, too, because I couldn't handle one more reminder that summer, while officially over, wasn't over. Like removing a band aid, I prefer to just get it over with quickly.)

The geeks (and I mean that in a good way) over at RateBeer have given it only an average rating thus far, but I happen to really like this cold-weather brew. Especially with hot soup. And the hissing of my radiators.

Meghan Murphy Gill

Event Fri Oct 12 2007

The Chicago Marathon--of Apple Pies!

This Sunday promises to be the reason why Chicago should get the 2016 Summer Olympics bid. The Bucktown Apple Pie Contest at Holstein Park Fieldhouse (2200 North Oakley, 2:00-5:00 p.m.) will feature 75 contestants competing for the top honor. Pies (and other foods) will be available for the selling and the tasting, along with games for the kids, a silent auction, and a $1,000 cash raffle (which could buy a lot of All-Clad, my friend). The event benefits the Friends of Holstein Park.

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Thu Oct 11 2007

Schooled on Sweet Potatoes: La Encantada Mexican

I didn't know how well mashed sweet potatoes accept the smoky flavor of chipotles before La Encantada schooled me last night. My dining companion suggested they'd be brilliant for Thanksgiving. We shared an order of two enchiladas banana - hers with cheese, as it comes, and mine without. Its thin mole moistened well. Plantains inside tasted of rich caramel. A side of sautéed spinach with mushrooms and onions refreshed while tasting grilled. Service was great. Look for this crisp and clean storefront Mexican restaurant under a bright awning on an otherwise gritty block. Don't be turned away at night, when surrounding shops close and the bakery across the street only has its window sign lit. La Encantada serves wine, beer, margaritas, sangria and other drinks.

3437 W. North Ave., (773) 489-5026

Chris Brunn

Random Wed Oct 10 2007

Full Disclosure: Eating Ethics

An article in this past weekend's Wall Street Journal discussed the ethical issues surrounding restaurants offering free meals to Yelp reviewers, bloggers and other amateur food critics. The article led off with a story about Dine, a hotel restaurant in Greektown, spending about $1,500 to give 100 members of Yelp a multi-course dinner and open bar. As a result, the restaurant's Yelp star rating rose significantly; it's half a star behind the acknowledged best restaurant in the city, Alinea, and is even with Charlie Trotter's and Moto.

The event that garnered all the positive reviews occurred in August of 2006 (not this year as the article seems to imply). The majority of Dine's Yelp reviews are based on the event, and to their credit, most reviewers acknowledged that fact (though not that it was free). Their ratings were entirely four or five stars; the six reviews since average out to 3.5 stars, including a five-star review written by a semi-professional critic who was previously employed by one of the restaurant's managers, based on a media luncheon. Take out that review and the post-event average drops to 3.2.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

News Wed Oct 10 2007

October Gourmet Shout-Out

Chicago restaurants have been getting their fair share (though still short of the share they rightly deserve, one could argue) of national press these days. With Saveur's Chicago cover still gracing supermarket magazine racks, a related shin-dig scheduled for tonight at the Chopping Block, and the festive juggernaut of the Trotter's anniversary, our fair city's cuisine is not ready to give up the spotlight anytime soon.

If you missed Trotter-palooza and can't make it to the Chopping Block tonight, how about grab a drink in its fifteen of food fame? The October issue of Gourmet magazine has, as the frontispiece to its Drinks section, a piece on the mojito garden at Nacional 27 featuring seven kinds of mint with more herbal additions on the way. Cheers, Chicago.

Andie Cavedo

Feature Wed Oct 10 2007

Sensational Sandwiches

The origin of the sandwich is mysterious. The oft told legend is that the name came from the Earl of Sandwich (John Montegue) who asked to be brought a piece of meat between two pieces of bread while he was playing poker He didn’t want his hands to become soiled, as he was holding cards. Whether this is true or not, we do know that the Earl did not invent the sandwich. The earliest form of a sandwich (though not by that name) was mentioned by Hillel the Elder in the first century B.C.E. As the story goes, he placed charoset between two pieces of matzo, a practice which would become a Seder custom at Passover.

Despite elusive beginnings, sandwiches can can be found in every culture. Each has its own version of some kind of filling eaten inside some kind of bread. The sandwich is multi-cultural and the varieties are endless. From hamburgers to reubens to veggie gyros, we here at Drive-Thru love all kinds of sandwiches. This week a few of us thought we’d share some of our thoughts on sandwiches, including where to find the best ones and how to make our favorites at home.

Continue reading this entry »

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (4)

News Tue Oct 09 2007

Mmm Miscellany

• On November 8, Vella Cafe and Cellar Rat Wine Shop are holding a Spanish wine dinner. $65 (tax and tip included) gets you six courses and wine pairings for each. The dinner will be held at Vella, 1912 N. Western; purchase tickets at the Cellar Rat, 1811 W. North Ave.

• Thinking about lunch? If you're near one of these seven Potbelly's shops, your life got a little easier as they now accept online orders.

• Carol Mighton Haddix has started a new series on the Stew where she asks famous chefs what their favorite Chicago restaurant is. First up is Rocco DiSpirito, who's a fan of Mr. Beef.

• By coincidence, Mr. Beef is also one of Tavern on the Park Chef John Hogan's favorites too.

• KIPlog's FoodBlog gives us a little foodporn from Paramount Room.

Hungry Mag talks with Kendal Duque and Emmanuel Nony, chef and owner, respectively, of Sepia.

• Chicagoist thinks you should try Cocina Cocula.

Andrew Huff

Recipe Mon Oct 08 2007

Frozen Bananas replace Ice Cream in Shakes

pistachio-cardamom-shake.jpg

Frozen bananas arguably make a shake from what would otherwise be a cold smoothie. On hot sweaty days that bring fantasies of an endless crisp fall, I think of such frozen drinks - the thick type that leaves your mouth and throat well chilled. I created the recipes below when it had been very hot - when the toothpaste in my un-air-conditioned bathroom turned as warm as a fresh baked pie; when I'd replenished myself with four pints of water in some two minutes; and when I'd smell of the ginger spray I use after bicycling to work. That is when a shake makes its best appearance. Here are some of my favorites.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Chef Mon Oct 08 2007

Schwa has closed

According to Time Out Chicago, Schwa officially closed yesterday. No word on any new projects from Chef Michael Carlson but he tells Time Out that he will return to cooking in Chicago "after dealing with personal issues." I'm sure all of Chicago joins me in wishing him the best.

Christine Blumer

Restaurant Mon Oct 08 2007

Autumnal Ice Cream

While it may still meteorologically feel like the dog days of summer outside (a little better today, but I'm still skeptical and wary to unpack my corduroys for at least another week until the weather makes up its damn mind), Chicago is at least gastronomically starting to feel like fall. Apples and squash finally, blessedly, are taking a strong stance in supermarket produce bins and specials around the city are taking on that long-shadowed earthy autumnal flavor, with pumpkin and cream sauces, comfort food and rich dishes creeping onto menus.

For a great shot of autumn that also complements the current atmosphere, check out Lula Cafe's heirloom squash ice cream with cranberry sorbet and apple cider semifreddo. It's like Thanksgiving in a bowl, served up in several icy scoops, with tart apple slices and a honeyed crisp with a consistency somewhere between bread and cookie and a great delicate sweetness on the side. The ice cream is all cream and nutmeg, and the squash is sweet without being overpowering. The two glassier scoops of sorbet and semifreddo (an Italian-derived form of half frozen food, in this case, basically a cider sorbet) are full of strong flavors true to their fruit components and neither too sweet nor too tart, though very very cold.

Lula's menu rotates regularly, so try the ice cream dessert special while you can, and while the warm weather permits. Soon enough it will be cold enough to be craving your squash and cranberries served hot.

Andie Cavedo

Event Mon Oct 08 2007

Forget Roctober...this is OctTrottober

marlon.jpgA lot of media attention has been given to Charlie Trotter recently in celebration of his twentieth anniversary of the opening of his Lincoln Park restaurant. From the city naming "Charlie Trotter Day" in August, to the cover of a recent Time Out issue and a review of invite-only events over this past weekend that was attended by the world's top chefs (the real top chefs, ahem), this is a nice salute to his work.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Foodporn Fri Oct 05 2007

LTH Forum Photo Contest Winners Announced!

The first annual LTH Forum Photo Contest has decided on their winners, all of whom took very compelling pictures of meat!

Robyn Nisi

News Thu Oct 04 2007

Gov Signs Wine Shipping Bill

Bill Daley reports in The Stew that Governor Blagojevich signed HB429 into law yesterday. Starting next June, Illinois residents will be allowed to purchase and ship up to 12 cases of wine directly from Illinois vineyards and out-of-state wineries. This is in compliance with the 2005 Supreme Court ruling on Granholm vs. Heald which determined that states must allow all wineries to direct ship to their residents, regardless of their location, or none at all. Wineries within the state may not have preferential treatment.

There are a few more restrictions that legislators snuck in, though. Illinois residents will no longer be able to purchase wine from out of state retailers. Some of the larger Illinois wineries will be forced to sell all of their goods through distributors, which means price increases to the consumer and tougher competition from other brands.

While these details of the bill may seem trivial, they will impact Illinois consumers more than most folks realize. Winediva is investigating and will report more soon!

Christine Blumer / Comments (2)

News Thu Oct 04 2007

Deep Links and Quick Links

So much "Top Chef" to talk about! Joe Gray at the Stew talked with runner-up Dale Levitsky right after the finale; you can bet that the lamb dish will be on the menu at his new restaurant (he told Zagat it's coming next spring). Chicagoist live-blogged it along with us, but also had someone in the studio audience. They also had a long talk with Dale earlier in the week. While we wait for Bourdain's take, you'll have to make do with Rocco DiSpirito's.

Meanwhile, The Stew has been seeking out filming locations for "Top Chef: Season 4," which is shooting here in Chicago. So far, they've learned that the Green City Market and the Boystown Whole Foods will be regular shopping locations. Know anything we should know? We'd love to hear it.

In other news, the coverage of Charlie Trotter's 20th anniversary continues, with a cover story in Time Out and the Trib's Monica Eng's story of spending a day in the Trotter's kitchen -- along with half a dozen other celebrity chefs cooking the $1500 a seat anniversary dinner. (Read to the end for the least summercamp-like s'mores recipe you'll ever see.)
Some early coverage of the new Honky Tonk Barbecue in Pilsen. Dish has an interview with owner Willie Wagner, and The Stew has a look inside. (I'm a little bitter still about being the first person in line not to eat when Honky Tonk ran out of food at the Hideout Block Party last month. But I'll give'em another chance.)

• Michael "Ubiquitous Foodie" Nagrant suggests some alternatives to the same old bags of Halloween candy on Centerstage.

• The Food Chain continues to stalk follow The Violet Hour's every move. Does Mike Sula own stock or something?

• Hey, KIPlog's FOODblog is back!

Andrew Huff

Store Thu Oct 04 2007

Greek Grocer, Greek Baker

The same friend who showed me the great Italian store on Grand named Bari told me there was a Greek place I needed to try. A few weeks later we were there, in Athens Grocery at 324 S. Halsted. As we locked our bicycles out front, she told me we needed to also visit Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop next door, at 322 South.

Athens is setup like many small Chicago grocers. It first has a row with coolers and produce, a few aisles of shelves, and a counter up front to pay up at. I grabbed some ripe bananas and after an aisle of American packaged foods, went for the Greek imports. Metal cans with tear-off tops from Greece sit on a shelf over jars of tahini and down from tins of coffee. I took a tin of baked giant beans - the same kind I'd seen dried earlier in the store - 280 grams in all. The ingredients told me the beans make up 59 percent - the remainder being a silky savory sauce (as I'd later find out) of soy oil, onions, tomato, parsley, dill and red and black pepper. I took one of those for $2.99 and another of young okras (57%) for $3.49. The latter came with soy oil, onions, tomato, vinegar, parsley, garlic, and red and black pepper. An elegantly painted tin of stone milled Turkish style coffee found its way into my basket, too. The can showed Aroma Coffee Company in Chicago's 60607. Next, I took a $3.49, 9.7-ounce jar of Kalamata spread from a back shelf that also holds much large jars of giardiniera. In the last aisle, a bottom shelf holds packages of dried stalks of sage and oregano. Large glass $2.99 jars of chamomile herbal tea list their ingredients "in descending order of predominance" - even though they continue to list just one ingredient: the chamomile flower. Across, a counter holds two large filled-to-the-rim pails of olives in brine. One contains green olives, the other Kalamata. A sign says to keep your hands out. Liquor is on the back wall.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

News Wed Oct 03 2007

The Top Chef Live Blog: Go Dale!

8:55 pm - I still hate Padma. I don't know why Salman Rushdie married her and I wish she could move her forehead. Sometimes she makes me long for Katie Lee Joel. Yikes.

8:58pm - Eric Ripert is so hot as to not really be comprehensible. That was schoolgirly, yes. And I've seen Part 1 of the Finale several times and he still makes me fan my face.

8:59pm - I am really hungry so order a cheeseless Chicago's pizza with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. That and the Amy's Apple Pop-Tart knockoff I had should tide me over. I'm also sipping a 2004 Everett Ridge Syrah from the Dry Creek Valley. Yum.

Continue reading this entry »

Shylo Bisnett / Comments (13)

News Wed Oct 03 2007

Top Chef Finale, Pre-Live Blog!

Okay, Blockers. According to Bravo's Finale Clock, we have right about 28 mins until the Top Chef, Finale Part 2. Here at GB HQ, we're all about Dale, but we could go for The Girl. We all hate Hung. I'm sort of thinking you all agree with this, yes? Nobody wants Marcel Deux, although Hung's hair has nowhere near the architectural importance of Marcel's.

One thing: During the live bit, we hope whoever is the loser gets as wasted as Marcel did last year. Yowza.

Predictions? Hhrm?

Shylo Bisnett

Restaurant Tue Oct 02 2007

Macaroni Grill: Crayons, Focaccia and Pine Nuts.

Chain restaurants typically don't lure me, but I like Macaroni Grill. Their service is fun. Servers write their names on butcher paper that's used as a tablecloth. Somehow that doesn't seem cliché there - at least not to me. Perhaps it's because various colors of crayons let you play as you sip large juice glasses of a rather smooth house Chianti and tear apart gratis focaccia. The bread is best mopped around in plenty of olive oil that's been peppered, salted and squeezed with fresh lemon. Customize your pasta. A sauce of garlic olive oil really brings out the flavor and texture of sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, spinach, pine nuts and broccoli. They say to choose up to three (PDF), but will gladly add more on for a few cents. A rigatoni's thick tubes have just the right size hole to help your fork scoop up all these veggies.

21 Blanchard Circle, Wheaton (also in Hoffman Estates)

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Business Tue Oct 02 2007

Waiting for the Beauty

During the Andersonville Dessert Crawl toward the end of September, I had a chance to get a glimpse of the Coffee Studio, a yet-to-open high-quality coffee shop in the northern fringe of Andersonville. In a word, the experience was stunning. The deep, narrow space that combines exposed brick walls and beautiful natural wood, was comfortably strewn with simple, clean furniture. A white, low-hanging ceiling in the middle gave the space an even stronger sense of depth and coherence. It was beautiful. (For the unfortunate who didn't make it to the Crawl, their blog has a few photos of the beautiful interior.) And the coffee they offered as a part of the Crawl was fantastic.

It was Intelligentsia's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, which (shamefully) we'd never tried before. It seemed that the owner-baristas brought out the Ethiopian Y's (as we called the unpronounceable beans) incredible floral note to the fullest. That floral and citrusy first note was so pronounced that I at first thought my palate might have been off, because of all the sugar intake up to that point (remember, it was a dessert crawl), but that was how the amazing coffee really tasted. After having been accustomed to Metropolis' and Intelligentsia's good-quality coffee varieties, I honestly didn't think that I would be blown away again with coffee, but here I was, burbling my amazement rather redundantly to Miguel (one of the owner-baristas), who patiently shared with me his excitement with the coffee. They know what they're doing with their coffee, that's for sure.

According to them, the Coffee Studio hopes to open its doors to the public in a few weeks, when they get all the utilities hooked up, etc. Given the oh-I-could-sit-here-all-day-long interior and the extremely good coffee they brew, I'm finding it rather difficult to wait for the X day. Even more difficult, once the day comes, would be to not go there every day just to be in that space with a blank, euphoric stare.

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

News Tue Oct 02 2007

Bettin' Grub on the Cubs

Richard M. Daley Mayor is a bettin' man. If the Diamondbacks end up winning the first-round play-off series against the Cubs, Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon will find the following items in a box on his doorstep:

-- Hot dogs and Polish sausage from Best’s Kosher
-- gum and candy from Wrigley’s
-- root beer from Windy City Soda
-- pastries and baked goods from Abundance Bakery
-- ice cream from Bobtail Ice Cream
-- Mexican food from Los Dos Laredos
-- pizza from Connie’s Pizza
-- nuts from Fisher Nuts
-- "various delicacies" from Harry Caray’s

What does Daley get when the Cubs win? "Ass-kickin' salsa" and a copy of Arizona Highways Magazine. Sounds like a raw deal to me...

Dana Currier

GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

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...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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