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Thursday, December 5

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Event Mon Dec 02 2013

Fabio LIVE!: Brunch with a Top Chef

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Chicago has its fair share of "Top Chef" alums with roots planted the Midwest (Stephanie Izard, Beverly Kim, Carlos Gaytan, Dale Levitski), so I was quite cynical when Fabio Viviani -- a non-Chicagoan -- opened up a "tavern" with extremely strong reviews. After all, someone who has partnered with match.com can't possibly make good food. Fabio has ridden the "Top Chef" media hype hard, endorsing, appearing and biting every marketing bait wiggling its sparkling streamers. He holds, or has held, endorsements with multiple companies, including Domino's, Bertolli, San Pellegrino and Dr. Oetker. He owns two restaurants in California and Siena Tavern in Chicago. He's even the private chef for Captain Kirk William Shatner. Let's just respectfully acknowledge that he's now more of a businessman than a chef (which I completely understand).

But in my unconscious quest to meet all the "Top Chef" contestants, I couldn't pass up Fabio's cooking demonstration at Siena Tavern. According to Bravo's biography, "Fabio has never met a hand he did not want to kiss" and after attending Fabio LIVE!, I can certainly attest to "the sheer radiance of his dazzling personality." I watched swoon-prone women lustfully eye Fabio as he assembled eggs benedicts and imparted tales of setting his grandmother on fire at the tender age of 5.

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Now I generally don't like eggs or kale, so I was shocked upon discovering that I liked...no, that I loved the dishes. In fact, I returned a few days later with friends to confirm the impossible. Since I always intend to clog my arteries during brunch, my friends and I ordered the coccoli (crispy dough, stracchino cheese, prosciutto di parma, truffle honey), biscuits & gravy (smoked brioche bread pudding, prosciutto sausage gravy), and the gnocchi (truffle cream, fried sage, crispy pancetta). For good measure, we added a few salads, including the Tuscan Kale Caesar (oven-dried tomatoes, parmesan, rosemary focaccia croutons, lemon Caesar dressing). Again, the food proved spectacular. I loved stuffing salty prosciutto and soft cheese into pillowy spheres of dough, biting into bouncy gnocchis drenched in cream, dragging smoked brioche through meaty gravy. I wanted to dislike everything, but I couldn't. Siena Tavern's like that hot model with a Harvard degree -- it's got more than just an opportune location and trendy interior -- it's got good food too.

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During Fabio's demonstration, I realized that the secret to great food is 1) making things from scratch, and 2) adding lots of fat. So here are the recipes for two popular menu items:

Lemon Caesar Dressing:
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 large eggs
- ΒΌ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Salted anchovy
- Sprinkling of salt and pepper
- 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil (yes, 2 cups)

Puree ingredients except EVOO in blender. Then slowly add in oil until thick and creamy.

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Gnocchi:
- 2 Idaho potatoes (cooked, cooled, and mashed)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- Pinch of ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper

Mix ingredients in kitchen-aid or dough blender while being careful not to over-mix. The dough should be sticky, but not tacky. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into four equal portions. Roll each portion on countertop to the thickness of about a half-inch rope. Dust with flour as needed. Once rolled, cut into 1-inch pieces and lightly dust in flour. Cook by dropping the gnocchi into boiling water and pulling them out once they float (about 1 minute) and placing them in an ice water bath to halt cooking. Once the gnocchi are all cooked, remove them from the ice water, let drain and then toss with your favorite pasta sauce.

 
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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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