Gastronomy legend, social entrepreneur, and food scientist Homaro Cantu was found dead this morning in a vacant building on the Northwest side that he planned to turn into an organic brewery. According to the Chicago Tribune, Cantu apparently committed suicide by hanging . Author of the Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook, owner of Moto and Berrista (and now-closed iNG), and chef under Charlie Trotter, Cantu was a major force in the Chicago food scene. Though beset with recent legal and financial woes, he was a brazen individual who used food to entertain, enlighten, and transform. In 2013, Cantu described his last meal as his wife (chef Katie McGowan)'s homemade tomato and basil pizza. The 38-year-old chef is also survived by two children.
The Chicago Culinary Museum and Chef Hall of Fame has announced their picks for the top players in the 2014 Chicago culinary scene, to be honored at a gala on Thursday, October 16 in downtown Chicago.
Chef Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat and Little Goat fame takes away the title of Chef of the Year, proclaiming, "The culinary scene in Chicago is amazing right now and I am happy just to be part of it." Other winners include Chef Gale Gand for Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef Michael Kornick for Legendary Chef, Phil Stefani as Industry Leader, and Larry Levy as Industry Legend.
The event, now in its 9th year, aims to honor Chicago's preeminent culinary talents as well as promote Chicago as top dining destination. Past inductees to the Chefs Hall of Fame range from the late Chef Charlie Trotter in 2006, Chef Rick Bayless in 2008, Chef Art Smith in 2010, and Chef Graham Elliot in 2012, among multiple others.
Tickets to the event, held on October 16 from 5:00 - 9:30 pm at the Castle on 632 North Dearborn, can be purchased in advance for $99 through August 31 (after which the price will increase) at Brown Paper Tickets. Look forward to an open bar, silent auction and raffle, awards ceremony, and--last but not least--food prepared by around 25 different local restaurants, including cuisine from past inductees.
Hotel dining has always seemed like the pinnacle of luxury to me-- perhaps a direct result of my parents denying a younger me any opportunity to order room service, ever. Therefore, I jumped at the invitation to sample a sneak peak of the new summer menu at the Four Seasons Chicago's flagship restaurant Allium.
Located on the 7th floor of this sweeping hotel, Allium is all luscious elegance and modern refinement-- not to mention delightfully generous with its armchairs and plush carpeting. On the current menu one can find the tried-and-true standards-- a house burger, a roasted chicken for two-- but alongside these favorites are some surprises, such as a Chicago-style hot dog and a cheese lavosh, an Armenian-style flatbread.
However, newcomer Executive Chef Steven Wambach, previously head chef at Epic, is eager to put his own spin on the menu and show off some of the hits of summer. In the sun-drenched private events room, cooks busily garnished bites of tuna with artichoke aioli and shaved truffle, white asparagus gazpacho with cucumber and Marcona almonds, and pork rillette toasts with foie gras and caviar. (See! Pinnacle of luxury. I was not wrong.) I have a soft spot for hors d'oeuvres and the attempt to capture so many different elements in a single perfect bite-- crunch, creaminess, freshness, salt, acid-- and Chef Wambach carried this off exceptionally well. In all of the bites, one could taste the brightness of summer ingredients side-by-side with the comforting familiarity of Midwestern flavors. The Chef himself returned periodically to the dining area to speak with guests and assist with plating.
Ina Garten, the best-selling cookbook author and star of Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa," is coming to Chicago Thursday, Nov. 6, and presale tickets are available today! Ina Garten will share her natural approach to food, entertaining tips, stories, and maybe even some recipes. The Emmy Award-winning host of the "Barefoot Contessa" television show on Food Network and a New York Times best-selling author will be joined on stage at the Auditorium Theatre with special guest host Catherine De Orio, host of WTTW's Emmy award-winning "Check, Please!"
Garten will deliver a charming insider's view of the hit TV show, now in its eleventh season, and the pleasures of good food, cooked with love and passion, engaging the audience with an interactive Q&A. Garten's eagerly-anticipated ninth cookbook, Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (due out Oct. 28) delivers her top make-ahead recipes and invaluable tips, making meal-planning easier than ever. Ina Garten's Food Network show, "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics," is now in its 11th season on Food Network and her previous eight cookbooks have all been New York Times bestsellers. Presale tickets for the event are available now by using the code INA.
Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Burger Bar are hosting their 9th Annual Burger Fest, May 12 - 16, as part of their celebration of National Burger Month.
Executive Chef Amanda Downing has created five over-the-top creations paired with fries using flavor profiles from the featured burgers. "For this year's Burger Fest menu, we inspired by recipes that we've worked on throughout the year - including top recipes from our weekly #Burgerlab night, each Saturday, at Rockit Burger Bar," explained Chef Downing.
Jesse Valenciana knew what he wanted his mole-inspired stout to taste like, but he was a cook and home brewer, not a professional brewmaster. The co-founder of ManBQue, the local men's grilling and social club, and recent author needed a brewer with the same depth of skills for manipulating flavors in beer as he could in the kitchen. To create his first craft beer collaboration, Valenciana called upon Clint Bautz, co-founder of the Northwest side Lake Effect Brewing Company.
An avid fan of Bautz's work, Valenciana was unsatisfied with the mole stouts on the market, as they were not "authentic enough." Bautz, equally as passionate about food and someone familiar with working with chefs in beer making, jumped on board to create the Unholy Mole, a seasonal milk stout inspired by one of ManBQue's recipes, and infused with various roasted chilies. The beer made its debut at Dimo's Pizza in Bucktown and select taps around the city late last year and was so popular that the two men recently met again in the brewery to revive the recipe and bottle it for distribution.
Little did Valenciana know, however, that he and Bautz were contributing to the vanguard of one of the curious partnerships coming out of Chicago's exploding craft beer scene - the intersection where chefs and brewers meet. This time, however, it's more than just beer and food pairings.
By now, you've probably heard the phrase "Alinea Baby" circulating on social media, sparked by a couple that brought their 8-month-old into the fine dining restaurant this past Saturday, claiming that their sitter canceled. Of course babies will do what babies will do, and Grant Achatz decided Twitter was a forum for discussion on the topic.
You can imagine the polarizing discussion that then took place, but what you may not have seen yet is the Alinea Baby twitter account started by an unknown author. So far, the account has 748 followers, and whoever is behind the account has a wicked sense of humor.
To add to the wonderful irony, Grant's in on the conversation.
Oh, and it gets better. Grant took to "Good Morning America" yesterday in an interview only to have George Stephanopoulos mispronounce the restaurant name. I mean, it's not like Alinea is considered one of the best restaurants in the world or anything. Good work New York. Way to keep it classy.
Have you ever wanted to host a dinner party in your home, but not worry about the actual cooking or cleaning up after? Perhaps you've wanted a personal chef for a special night but haven't known where to start? Enter Kitchensurfing.com - bringing you chefs with vision and talent, for whatever reason you might need one.
My partner and I picked a date, invited 8 friends over, pushed together our dining room and office tables, and gave them our list of food restrictions (pescatarian, coconut allergy). In our case, the Kitchensurfing team picked our chef, and they could not have made a more perfect choice. I communicated with Chef Carlos Dalisay via the Kitchensurfing website, and he came up with menu ideas and we narrowed things down; we also discussed what my kitchen did or didn't have, and what he could expect. I warned him it was vintage Chicago (no dishwasher, no counter space other than our Costco stainless steel island we bought for a song), and that we didn't have 10 matching plates or bowls (he said he would bring his own). While Chef Carlos has a regular gig as a chef de partie (sushi chef) at a steak house in the city, he definitely has his own personal style, and this side hustle is a fantastic way to showcase his talent.
On the day of the dinner, Chef Carlos and his team showed up about an hour before our agreed upon dinner time, as he'd done a large amount of prep work at his own home; they surveyed the kitchen they had to work with, got set up, and got to work. Friends trickled in with bottles of wine, and we hung out in the living/dining room area with my polite-as-she's-capable-of-being-in-the-presence-of-fish dog. All the humans were welcome to peek in on the action when they wanted, and before long it was dinner time.
Photos of the prep and dinner after the jump, courtesy of Belen Aquino.
In the wake of the death of Charlie Trotter Homaro Cantu, chef and owner of Moto and iNG and a well-known veteran of Trotter's kitchen, created this family tree of past chefs, sommeliers, management and servers from the famed restaurant with photos of each.
As Cantu acknowledged on Twitter today, there are plenty of gaps still to be filled in -- including such notable alumni as Curtis Duffy, Mindy Segal and Grant Achatz (however briefly). The tree might also include Trotter's roots, cooking under such culinary luminaries as Gordon Sinclair, Carrie Nahabedian and Norman Van Aken.
It's not nearly complete, but here is the start of the Charlie Trotter Family Tree. Hundreds more to add:) http://t.co/FXywd5jEsx
Considered and labeled by man as the greatest chef in the United States and one of the finest and most respected in the world, 39-year-old Grant Achatz has been at the forefront of molecular gastronomy (or as he likes to call it "progressive") cooking since he opened his world-renowned restaurant Alinea in 2005. In just a few short years after Alinea's opening, it was declared the finest dining establishment in the country and one of the top 10 in the world.
Before opening his own restaurant, Achatz worked as the executive chef of Trio in Evanston, and before that at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. Although Chicago was certainly a food-oriented city prior to Alinea coming into being, it was mostly about attracting customers from the suburbs to drive down into the city on the weekends. But since Alinea, the city has now become world travelers' destination if they are interested in fine dining. In more recent years, Achatz has expanded his empire to include Next (which opened in 2011), a restaurant that changes the theme of its cuisine every three months, and the adjoining bar the Aviary, in the city's Fulton River District.
One of Chicago's most loved chefs, Rick Bayless, added actor to his resume in 2011 with the opening run of Cascabel, a "sensory experience" of theater blending Cirque du Soleil, pop-up dinner (Bayless' signature Mexican of course), comedy and love story into one night, in fact, exactly what my Cinco de Mayo party might look like if I threw one.
Apparently, Rick has a flair for drama and by that, I mean stress, signing two new leases on spaces for new restaurant concepts, one in the former Salud on Milwaukee and one on Randolph Row. There are no details yet on opening dates and concept, but I'd image we'd be seeing these places roll out next summer, just in time for Cascabel. Nice PR move, Rick.
"Cascabel: Dinner-Daring-Desire" opens July 30 at the Goodman Theater and runs until August 24. The 2012 production sold out immediately so if this sounds like something you can't miss, have your thumb on the clicker November 19 when tickets go on sale to the public. (Lookingglass subscribers get first dibs starting October 29.)
"Culinary beer?" Sounds like two of my favorite words wedded together, and if you feel the same, you're in for a treat this upcoming winter.
Pilsen's upcoming Moody Tongue Brewing Company, the brainchild of former cook Jared Rouben, specializes in applying culinary techniques to the brewing process: think steeping, macerating, infusing, baking, extracting. This hybrid method-- honed through Rouben's collaborations and experiments with over 50 different chefs-- promises traditional-style beers with amplified, unexpected flavors.
Seasonality and top-of-the-line (most often local) ingredients are the guiding forces behind Moody Tongue's unique approach. For example, a recent collaboration with Chicago chef Rick Bayless produced the Marisol, a Belgian golden ale accentuated with green tea, grapefruit and lime peel. Rouben also makes good use of his local resources, citing the Green City Market as an inspiration and sourcing ground for fresh, unusual ingredients such as bubblegum plums and green strawberries.
Rouben earned his brewing chops as the previous pub brewmaster at Goose Island and creator of two of its experimental brewing programs, Chef Collaboration Series and Farmers' Market Series. He opens Moody Tongue's doors in winter 2013, located at 2136 S. Peoria Street.
In the sun-flooded arena of the Daley Plaza farmer's market on Thursday, August 1, three top Chicago chefs competed to earn the title "Master of the Market."
With only 50 minutes to create a standout dish featuring fresh market produce, the three chefs-- Chef Beverly Kim Clark of Kendall College, Chef Jared Van Camp of Nellcôte and Chef Thai Dang of Embeya-- raced against the clock to the thrill of the crowd. In the end, Chef Kim Clark beat out her competitors with a gorgeous dish, easily adaptable to a home-cooking preparation: stir fried udon with corn custard, summer tomatoes, kale, and pickled shallots.
The annual competition, currently in its seventh year, is a collaboration between COUNTRY Financial and the city of Chicago intended to introduce Chicagoans to the wide offerings of farmers' markets and stimulate interest in local-based cooking. Stay tuned to the competition website, where runner-up recipes from Chef Van Camp and Chef Dang will be appearing soon.
I like restaurants where it's OK to eat solo. I like settling into a bar stool, I like anchoring my book to the countertop so I can read hands-free, I like coffee served in a vessel that straddles the subtle line between "cup" and "bowl." I like poring over a menu and imagining every item: its flavors, its plating, how it would look being swept from the open kitchen to the wooden mosaic of a tabletop. I like the anticipation -- especially when you know it's gonna be good -- fueled by bottomless refills of aforementioned coffee. This is the brunch/lunch experience at Endgrain, and it's delightful.
This new Roscoe Village spot, opened and operated by sibling duo Enoch and Caleb Simpson, has been on the receiving end of flurries of press--most of which heralds Enoch's signature donuts as the newest heroes of Chicago's donut scene. To me, this was exciting, but ultimately misleading: Endgrain features some standout donuts, sure; but don't let the full brunch menu stand by in supporting role. Chef Enoch is also a master of biscuit sandwiches, weaving creativity through the stronghold of tradition, as exemplified in his marbled rye biscuit topped with caraway seeds and piled high with smoked trout.
City life can sometimes seem like an all-in-one package: everything's right here in Chicago, and just an L ride away there's another neighborhood with some undiscovered funky gelato shop or untapped coffee roastery waiting for you to walk through the doors. But despite the city's abundance, especially in all things food-related, the grass always seems a little greener on the other side--and in the case of local Illinois farm dinners, it actually is.
The John Hancock Building is basically Chicago's answer to the Eiffel Tower, with all of the same reasons for renown: it's a landmark seen across the city boasting spectacular views and a swanky restaurant at the top. However, in the past said restaurant -- the Signature Room on the 95th, so named for its roost 95 floors above ground -- has delivered more impressively on window seats rather than on actual menu fare. The Signature Room celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer and has marked the occasion with the addition of a new executive chef: Rosalia Barron, previously of Frontera Grill and NAHA -- the Signature Room's first female chef. I was invited to come sample some of the new offerings.
Not too long ago, we were reporting on the closing of City Provisions with a personal letter from Cleetus himself. Looks like we didn't have to worry about his next step for too long as Friedman first garners a spot as one of seventeen candidates for the vacant "Check, Please!" host and now gets dibs as executive chef at Fountainhead, the Ravenswood craft beer bar, in an announcement today. The new menu will be focused more on seasonality and will be rolled out over the Spring. I have only one wish for the new menu... a Cleetus named burger.
After the holiday season, it's not uncommon for me to find myself abysmally broke. Going out to eat, usually my most prolific hobby, becomes increasingly uncomfortable as my pocket change dwindles (and then finally disappears altogether). Luckily, there are options. When times get financially tough, I choose to live vicariously through the experiences of others, and I have yet to encounter a better medium for exploring the various microcosms of Chicago restaurants than through cookbooks. My favorite cookbooks are not only compendiums of recipes, but also capture the culture of the restaurant itself--the behind-the-scenes lifeblood that you might normally not experience as a diner. These cookbooks showcase the Chicago food scene at its finest. And all of these titles can be found at your friendly local library branch!
Chicago's Chef Table by Amelia Levin
This book has received a lot of buzz, and for good reason. Within you will find some of the best recipes sourced directly from some of the best restaurants in Chicago: street food to white tablecloth, it's all here.
The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant
Chef Virant's Chicago-based restaurant, Perennial Virant, relies on in-house pickling and preserves to create signature dishes that showcase produce at its prime. The Preservation Kitchen makes these techniques accessible to the home cook, with a beautiful balance of the scientific and the sensory.
Advance registration for Chicago's 2013 National Restaurant Association Show, one of the nation's biggest showcases for all things food, beverage, kitchen, and lodging, is now open!
Tickets to this extravaganza of cutting-edge industry technology and culinary curiosities are priced at $49 through April 5, and $99 afterwards. The show runs from May 18-21 at the McCormick Place, with over 1,900 exhibitors, education sessions, "cheflebrity" appearances (Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Marcus Samuelsson, and more) and cooking demos lined up over the course of the four days. Additionally, Anthony Bourdain himself will be hosting "Restaurants Rock," the official after-party on Sunday, May 19 as well as a presentation and book signing on the NRA main stage on May 20.
Registration is restricted to those directly affiliated with the hospitality industry.
The ultimate food porn experience is going down this weekend at the Chicago Food Film Festival. The festival organizers just added an exclusive event to the line-up: Meet n' Eat, a private dinner for 20 hosted by Kitchit at El Ideas, Chef Phillip Foss' micro restaurant.
Foss is creating an original menu for the occasion, and is serving Fries & Ice Cream, an avant garde dish to go alongside a screening of a film with the same name. Plus, foodies get a chance to have an intimate meal and conversation with George Motz, the festival director and host of Travel Channel's Burger Land.
Tickets are $165 and can be purchased here. The Meet 'n Eat begins at 6pm at El Ideas (2419 W. 14th St.).
While the crew at Eleven Madison Park took over Alinea this past week, the staff at Nellcote is heading to the James Beard House in New York City this Wednesday for an evening of foie gras, charcuterie, agnolotti and baba rhum. Tickets $130-170.
It was just announced that Erling Wu Bower, sous chef at The Publican, returns in the coming weeks to avec as Chef De Cuisine (previously occupied by Koren Grieveson) under Executive Chef Paul Kahan. Bower isn't elaborating on what he's bringing to the table but it is rumored that the chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates, the focaccia with Taleggio cheese and the wood-oven roasted pork shoulder will remain untouched. Whew!
While tickets for a few of the extremely affordable three-course celebrity chef meal deals at the Taste of Chicago I profiled a few weeks back have sold out, you can still partake in the culinary stylings of Jimmy Bannos (Purple Pig) and Carlos Gaytan (Mexique).
Chicago's restaurant review show "Check Please!" is hosting its first ever festival Sept. 2 at Southwest Michigan's Round Barn Winery. The fest will feature some of the city's best chefs, area farms and wineries. You could also make a weekend of it and check out the local St. Joseph's Farmers Market the day before. Tickets for the event range from $75 to $150; you can learn more about the festival at checkpleasefestivals.com.
Fresh off the line from making a lunch of kale salad, walleye and braised oxtail for Mrs. Obama and fellow first ladies yesterday at the Comer Youth Center, chef Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, Big Star, Publican) will be putting down the serrated knife and picking up the Serato (see what I did there?) and DJing at Barcito (151 W Erie) tonight from 8-10pm as part of the restaurant's Amigos Pinxtos series.
If you've thought that all that was missing from your iPhone's screen was Chef Rick Bayless' smiling face, you're in luck. Chronicle Books has released Rick Bayless: Mexican Essentials, an iOS app that features 35 recipes that Bayless considers the must-knows of Mexican cuisine, as well as 40 instructional videos and a guide to key Mexican ingredients.
Fish Bar owner, chef Michael Kornick (of MK, DMK Burger Bar), gave you a gift, Chicago. It's called the SatchmoPo' Boy and it demands that you eat it. Delicately fried shrimp and crawfish, roasted garlic aioli, butter pickles and lettuce on perfectly toasted bread, all crying out, "Eat us! We're delicious!"
Wash it down with a Cinnamon Toast: Sailor Jerry-spiced rum and hot apple cider, served in a mason jar with a cinnamon-sugar coated rim.
Fish Bar is located at 2956 North Sheffield and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30am to 12am.
Most of us know about Rick Bayless from Frontera Grill and Topolobamp and his stint on Top Chef's Masters. And if there's anyone to be associated with authentic Mexican cuisine in Chicago, its him. But how many of us knew that Rick also moonlights as an . . . actor? On March 1st, Chicago Live! returns to its new space in the UP Comedy Club in Old Town with none other than one of our foodie favorites Rick Bayless to discuss his upcoming role in Cascabel. Food bloggers (or Rick Bayless fans) take note, this season Chicago Live has added the new "Tweet Seat" section reserved solely for local writers and bloggers with mad Twitter thumbs skills. Six seats are reserved for every show and a complimentary pass can be won by replying to the weekly Friday callout posted on Twitter by @TribChicagoLive. Tickets for regular seats can be purchased at www.UPComedyClub.com, at the Second City Box Office, located at 1616 N. Wells St., or via phone (312) 337‐3992. General admission tickets are $18; premium seats are $28.
This picture from the Twitter feed of Next Executive Chef Dave Beran is of the Childhood Menu's Chicken Soup. I'm starting to think that the purpose of this menu (which will be in a cookbook form soon) was to show what a terrible cook your mother was, given that chicken soup at my house was often from a Campbell's can and contained an oily broth with gray chicken chunks and thin noodles.
I digress. Next is on the final servings of the Childhood series (you can find last-minute reservations on their Facebook page, and while ticket sales for their upcoming El Bulli menu will still be released in an unannounced, "Gotcha Retail!" style (before Feb. 8), it promises to be explosive; Beran also posted a picture of a collaboration with Half Acre Beer on a course.
Chef and author Michael Ruhlman visited the Purple Pig, the Butcher and Larder, the Bristol, XOCO (where he made a love connection with their chocolate-making conching machine), and the Publican during his trip to Chicago last week. Guy gets around!
Friday night, the Kenmore 50/50 Range will present an evening with Suzy Singh. The former MasterChef contestant will be giving out her best tips to prep you for making multiple dishes at once over the holidays. Every year your Aunt Sue makes lumpy vegan potatoes and Uncle Joe continues to insist that pizza is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, dating back to the pilgrims of course. Well that's a-okay! Singh encourages us to embrace the fact that every household has their own set of holiday traditions. Including her own. In this Kenmore Live Studio event, she'll demonstrate how to juggle making the "classics" but still give it your own flare. The event will feature Singh's twist on classic recipes, including harissa spiced brie cheese puff pastry, spice rubbed turkey, and ginger and chai spiced creme brulee. You can even start your own tradition of sorts and watch the event online! Event is free. Samples given. Kenmore Live Studio Chicago is located at 678 N. Wells Street. Starts at 7pm. 312-265-0871
If you'd like to see chef/molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria of Spain's El Bulli up close and personal, he is making an exciting stop at the Chicago Public Library next Wednesday at 6pm for a talk and booksigning to promote his latest tome; however, the event is sold out, but you can wait in a standby line. Bummer, right?
Chef Koren Grieveson and her portrait by Tim Anderson
All photos and video by Andrew Huff
Last Thursday, Aug. 18, the Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a fundraiser event called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where four of Chicago's top chefs were paired with four of the city's top artists to collaborate on a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.
Each artist's work was displayed next to the respective chef's station, where guests could sample the appetizer-sized dish prepared for the evening. The artworks and "experiences" at each chef's restaurant were offered in a silent auction, while works by CAC members graced the walls. In addition to the chefs' dishes, desserts from Alliance Bakery were served in the Bolt Gallery in back, and drinks from Koval Distillery, Tito's Vodka, Haymarket Brewery and several wineries were pouring all night. The event showcased the the CAC's new Fulton Market space to its fullest extent, both as a gallery and studio space and as an event venue.
I spoke with the chefs about what they made and what they thought of the collaboration. Over in A/C, arts editor Kelly Reaves shares interviews with the artists.
Breast Cancer and AIDS programs have millions of people willing to march across cities and countrysides to raise money to fight those cancers. However, head and neck cancer research has Grant Achatz. He has a team of forward-thinking doctors at the University of Chicago to thank for saving his life, and his tongue from very advanced cancer. And in the way he knows best, he's helping to raise funds to support the program's continued research by hosting a dinner where a $2500 donation gets you a 12-course dinner and a kitchen tour of Alinea on Tuesday evening.
You may know Rick Tramonto, best as the founding chef and partner at renowned Chicago restaurant Tru, he has also been honored with several culinary awards, appeared on "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," and written many cookbooks. In his new book, Scars of a Chef, Chef Tramonto writes about how his road to stardom was rough and rocky.
In his words, "It's something I want to talk about so I can help other people who've had hardships."
In an article in the Chicago Tribune, he goes into a little more detail about the tribulations he's experienced.
Chef Tramonto is currently working on opening a new restaurant in New Orleans. You can see him at Chicago Live this Thursday and at the Printers Row Lit Fest, June 4-5.
Not permanently, of course. Chef Gilbert Langlois isn't giving over the reins to his slate, or North Center's best Southern-style fried chicken (seriously -- how do they do it?!), quite that easily. Chalkboard restaurant is being taken over only for the evening of Tuesday, May 10 (a night when the restaurant is usually closed), with a customized menu built on the combined know-how of guests Peter Klein of Seedling Farms and Gale Gand of Tru. Namely, fruit. The proposed menu includes an apple pie soup (inspired by Schwa, apparently), blueberry pasta with duck ragout, and a cider-brined pork with smoked mustard spaetzle. And, of course, desserts by Gand.
Despite living only blocks from Chalkboard, I've eaten there just once. The fried chicken really did floor me, as did an Asian-inflected duck with dried plums, and a scallop appetizer that combined olives and vanilla in a way that not only made sense, but made a lot of what I've seen on Top Chef in recent years sort of relatable (not to mention the Vosges d'Oliva bar, which I think has been discontinued in favor of a different white chocolate combo). The service was surprisingly inattentive for an early evening meal in a nearly-empty dining room, though, and while the wall-mounted chalkboard provides a tidy conceptual framework for the restaurant's often-changing menu, it was also incredibly hard to read from where we were sitting and a printed version didn't seem to be available. A takeover evening, which if the Facebook photos (like the one above) are to be believed, are ROCKIN', might be the right way to get off on the right foot with Chalkboard -- or if your experience was similar to mine, get your foot back in the door.
The price for the takeover menu on May 10 is $65 per person for 6 courses, first seating will be at 6:30 p.m., and reservations can be made online or by phone at 773.477.7144. Chalkboard, 4343 N. Lincoln Avenue.
It's opening day for the Cubs today and Chicago's sweetheart, Stephanie Izard, will be there to cheer on her home team as they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. This morning, Izard announced that she's bringing along her pet goat, Padma, who Izard says was the inspiration behind her award-winning restaurant, Girl and the Goat. "I thought today would be the perfect day to introduce Padma to Chicago. And, we're hoping her visit to Wrigley Field will finally reverse the curse," Izard said over the phone as Padma bleated in the background. The game starts at 1:20. Check here for tickets and information.
Now We're Cookin' in Evanston is offering shared-use kitchen space that's available to farmers' market participants. If you have reserved a space at a local market and haven't yet finalized your prep kitchen arrangements, give them a call.
Their kitchens are open 7 days a week so you can prep for any market, anywhere in the city or suburbs. Don't forget that summer is an extremely busy period in the kitchen, so reserve your time now.
Contact them to schedule a tour at 847-570-4140 or firstname.lastname@example.org
With his new Next and Aviary opening soon and a memoir out next week, Grant Achatz and his partner, Nick Kokonas, have been very visible lately. The pair appeared onstage at the Tribune's Chicago Live! at the Chicago Theater for a conversation with Rick Kogan and Chris Borelli last night, which you can hear here, and next Thursday, March 3, they'll be doing a book signing and discussion of Life, On the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat at 6pm in the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library.
If you're really lucky, you could get into an exclusive event after the talk at the library: Achatz announced on Facebook that 100 lucky people will get the chance to buy $75 tickets to an afterparty at Thomas Masters Gallery, where guests will receive a signed copy of the book, Laurent Perrier champagne, small bites by Curtis Duffy of Avenues "and a few surprises." Proceeds will benefit the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Achatz received treatment for his tongue cancer.
Eater is having a "Chicago's Hottest Chef" contest, with former Top Chef-er Radhika Desai, Curtis Duffy of Avenues, Worachai Thapthimkuna of Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, Ryan Poli of Perennial (pictured), Bryce Caron of Custom House Tavern and ex-Mado chef Brandon Baltzley. Currently Poli is leading.
Today this could only be Rob Levitt (although I'm sure his staff are also equally happy), since he's opening The Butcher & Larder today from noon to 4pm. He'll also be open on Monday, which many of you should have off work, from 10am to 7pm. He's starting out with just cuts of meat to sell, but will have his full selection of sandwiches and other noshables on Wednesday.
Saveur devoted its annual "Saveur 100" issue to chefs' picks this year, and Chicago's restaurant scene was fairly well represented on a list dominated by New York chefs.
On the other hand, nearly all of the Chicago entries were provided by just two chefs, Grant Achatz and Bruce Sherman. Sepia's Andrew Zimmerman delivered two, and Rick Bayless just one. I don't think I spotted any other chefs with as many entries as either Achatz or Sherman, in fact. Were they just generous, or does Saveur have a crush?
Here's a rundown of Chicago chefs' entries, in order of appearance in the 100:
If you eat bacon, you likely think it is awesome. Because it is. But have you ever considered taking an entire pig and having it broken out into bacon cuts, lomo cuts, leaf lard, liver, shank, parts for making head cheese, etc? I have. I fully admit that I would have a hard time slicing the throat of a live pig, but provided I could muster the arm strength and stamina, I think I could happily break down at least a section of a pig into individual cuts.
But, since I recognize that these arms are better made for stirring risotto than cracking ribs on a several-hundred-pound animal, I'm happy to have the chance to read about the experience. From both perspectives.
Rob Levitt (who is supposed to be opening The Butcher & Larder any day now) recently traveled to Ellen Malloy's house with an entire pig cut in half. He butchered the first half, explaining things as he went. And then he guided her through cutting the second half, explaining her options for cuts, discussing recipes, describing curing techniques, while she cut the second half apart. And they did all this while Paul Fehribach from Big Jones, hung out trimming pieces of meat and offering up his homemade moon pies.
It's an experience this lover of all things tasty would enjoy, but reading "his" and "hers" accounts is enough to keep these non-butchering arms happy. For now.
Tuesday, December 21, Chalkboard Restaurant will allow Chef Michael Sheerin from Blackbird and soon, The Trenchman, to take over it's kitchen, menu and of course, chalkboard, as part of the second annual chef takeover. Sheerin's menu will feature delectable items such as sweetbread bacon with graham cracker and pickled golden raisin and scotch quail egg with cauliflower and caviar.
The prix-fixe menu is $70 and reservations can be made now at ChalkboardRestaurant.com or by calling 773.477.7144. Last year's event sold out quickly so if you want to attend make that reservation now (see awesome food pic to understand why)!
Seeing as how one competing chef is from our fair city (Dale Levistki of Sprout) and several competitors are from the rad season that was filmed in our fair city (Richard Blais, Spike, Antonia), it seems worth spending a few moments to reflect on this week's Top Chef All Stars episode and apologize for missing the first episode until remembering I'd DVRd it this past weekend. Whoops. Assuming it takes you one second to read a long, rambling sentence or two, here are five seconds on Episode 2:
Dale Levitski is...kind of a jerk! Referring to a natural history museum cavewoman as a stuffed analogue to a fellow-cheftestant, trash-talking hyper kids (who he just gave sugar to! What do you expect to happen?!), and generally being surly and bitchy -- all of which does, however, make for some fine television.
Dale Talde thought Joe Jonas was a maybe a trendy pastry chef. Win.
Episode 1 featured liquid nitrogen-aided mustard ice cream (on the quickfire winning Chicago-style deconstructed hot dog, natch), and this week featured an entire vat of the stuff being used to solidify marshmallows, or...something. Ten bucks says by season's end a cheftestant accidentally immerses a limb in liquid nitrogen and sees it shatter when they're pushed to the floor in the mad rush to the fridge after the fateful words, "Your time starts...now!" (like this!).
And *spoiler alert* of course Jen, one of the consensus favorites to go far this season, went down in weird, fidgety, defensive flames -- channeling Spike, showing her true crazy-ass colors, or just the effects of a 24-hour run with way too much sugar and way too little sleep. You be the judge.
This March, Chicago's own Rick Bayless will be the featured chef at the Latin America Food and Wine Festival in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico and is a combination or resort and historical fishing town - not a bad setting for eating and drinking all things delicious. For three days Bayless, along with mixologists and chefs from throughout Mexico, will provide cooking demonstrations, tastings, seminars and tours of the beautiful community.
The festival is set to take place from March 26 - 28, 2011 and is the first foray into Latin America. Currently other Food and Wine Festivals include Aspen, New York, and South Beach.
Full festival line-up and ticket information will be available here soon.
With the Michelin Guide Chicago's publication the talk of the town, both the New York Times and Chicago Tribune thought next week would be a good time for a live event with some of the city's most prominent chefs. They're booked on consecutive nights, so if you haven't gotten enough Michelin talk in print, you can fill your evenings with even more, live.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, the Tribune's "Chicago Live!" stage show at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., will revolve around food. Kevin Pang will interview Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret; chefs Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard and Graham Elliot talk, no doubt, about the guide's picks in Chicago, and Hot Doug's Doug Sohn will discuss "the state of the hot dog" with Bill Daley. Tickets are $25 through TicketMaster or the Chicago Theatre box office.
Then on Friday, Nov. 18, the New York Times brings its TimesTalks series to the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St., where chefs Rick Bayless, Art Smith and Charlie Trotter talk with Frank Bruni and wine and food festival organizer Lee Brian Schrager. The Michelin Guide isn't explicitly a topic, but given its timeliness and Bayless' lackluster opinion of the guide, it's hard to imagine it won't be brought up. Tickets for this show are also $25.
Tickets to both shows will most likely sell out, so get yours soon.
For those of you who weren't able to make it up to Wisconsin this past weekend for the annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience, check out Eater's mouth-watering recap of the event ("Wisconsin-inspired risotto with nine-year aged cheddar, pearl onion, cooked-down PBR, fall apples, bacon dust and some bratwurst folded in"). Their festival wrap-up is also replete with interesting-ish Graham Elliot factoids such as, he hates broccoli(!) and maple candy is his "kryptonite"(!). Wait, a second - Graham Elliot has a sweet tooth? Go figure. [Eater]
Shortly after their first child was born last year, chefs Timothy and Elizabeth Dahl moved from Chicago to Madison, WI, to start up a new restaurant. The spot opened Thursday, with about 70-80 customers on their first night. Called Nostrano, which means "ours" in Italian, it's a Mediterranean restaurant (with eastern French, Portuguese, Spanish, and, of course, Italian influences) focused on showcasing local, homegrown foods.
The Dahls, both former pastry chefs (Timothy at Blackbird, and Elizabeth at Boka and Landmark), moved up to Madison to be closer to his family. Elizabeth still plans Nostrano's dessert menu, but Timothy was ready to get away from pastries. Nostrano's menu is collaborative--each chef in the kitchen comes up with a dish on the menu, and they all go shopping together at one of Madison's daily farmers' markets for fresh ingredients. Timothy plans to change the menu often. Otherwise, he says, "I get bored."
Chef Art Smith! Chicago's own southern cuisine master and one-time personal chef to future President Oprah Winfrey, tweeted his bib number this evening. The 50-year-old chef recently lost 85 pounds in an effort to reverse his diabetes. Good luck, Art! [via]
Tonight C-House will host a private dinner party benefiting Friends of the Fisherman, a Louisiana Fisherman organization. C-House's Marcus Sammuelson and Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano will be cooking up their favorite home cooked dishes from their latest cookbooks and dinner will be served with select craft beers from Goose Island. Both chef's will be available to sign their cookbooks after the event.
Tickets are $125 and seating is limited. While it's a lot of money, I am sure the food will be amazing. I've personally met both chefs at different events and they are as kind and gracious as can be! To make a reservation for tonight call 312-523-0923.
Michael Nagrant of Hungry Mag spoke to chef of Kith and Kin David Carrier about the decision the owners and brothers, Ash and Moe Taleb, may have made to end Carrier's position with the restaurant. The Taleb's aren't giving much information, but Carrier says he was telephoned, while visiting his family, and told his services were no longer needed because he yelled at staff and didn't change the menu when ordered to. I have a feeling we'll hear more about what happened and what will happen with Kith and Kin, and I think some yelling is to be expected.
Your homeboys over at Aviary are making up another feat of chemistry! Plymouth gin with distilled lemon juice with ice cubes of distilled sorrel and finished with distilled strawberry juice ice cubes. As the cubes melt, it seasons with flavor rather than dilute the constantly clear drink.
These days your luck is about as rare as a five star Lohan flick. You just left work late for the third day in a row because your boss conveniently asked you to revise that Excel spreadsheet at 5:01pm and to top it off the zipper on your bag fittingly broke spilling your belongings on the 'L' platform only to reveal to the world that yes, you're reading Twilight (for at least the third time judging by the worn out cover).
Before you dial 1-888-YOUR-CTA to complain that your headed-north train is delayed just to let your rage out on an innocent customer service representative, gather your things (the Team Edward shirt can come too), re-swipe your CTA card and head straight to Cafe 676, 676 North Michigan Ave., at the Omni Hotel.
Just steps away from tourist packed Magnificent Mile, Cafe 676 is an unassuming, farm-to-table venture from the mind of Chef Daven Wardynski. Practicing and preaching sustainable and organic cooking, the cafe's menu features local fare using ingredients from around the Midwest as well as Wardynski's own rooftop garden.
This afternoon, the Daley Plaza Farmers Market was host to a culinary competition starring some familiar Chicago chefs. The fourth annual COUNTRY Chef Competition showcased the quick, fresh-food talents of Ivan Yuen, chef de cuisine at the Peninsula Hotel's Shanghai Terrace, Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno, and Patrick Fahy, head paster chef at Blackbird. The contest was judged by Gaztro-Wagon mastermind Matt Maroni, WLS's Roe Conn, and Sun-Times food blogger Janet Fuller, and emceed by CBS 2's Steve Baskerville.
Fahy ultimately took the win and its corresponding "Master of the Market" title, but all three chefs prepared exciting dishes with only 30 minutes to shop the market for ingredients and 30 minutes to cook and plate the food. And when I spoke to the trio before the competition, I found that each chef brought his own ideas about what to look for and choose for yourself when shopping at a farmers market.
This week is National Farmers Market Week and in Chicago, we're celebrating by hunting for a Master of the Market.
Three renowned Chicago chefs will compete in the Country Chef Challenge Thursday, August 5th at the Daley Plaza Farmers Market starting at 11 am. Chefs Tony Priolo of Picolo Sogno, Patrick Fahy of Blackbird and Ivan Yuen of Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula Hotel will hit the market, shop for produce and make their winning dish from fine Midwest goods, in hopes of earning the title Master of Market. The chefs will select the goods with agile discretion and then demonstrate their breakneck cooking skills as they are only allowed 30 minutes for drafting and shopping a menu and 30 minutes of prep all in the midst Daley Plaza.
Schedule of Events
11:30 Chefs begin shop the Midwest's finest produce at Daley Plaza Farmers Market
12:00 Culinary frenzy begins
12:30 Knives down, plates are presented to judges; judges taste, deliberate, discuss, decide
1:00 Master of Market is announced
Country Financial is giving away 500 canvas market bags before and after the event and has further details on their website.
Perhaps owing to a long and not-so-illustrious line of three-namers this country has produced (Mark David Chapman, Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy who tried to hunt down Osama bin Laden), Graham Elliot Bowles announced via Twitter that he will henceforth be known simply as Graham Elliot. [via]
"That's her!" I pointed and whispered, as if I were afraid she could hear me. There was obviously no way that chef Stephanie Izard could hear me over the racket of clanking dishes, hissing burners, and shouting chefs at her new, much-anticipated restaurant, Girl & the Goat, right in the heart of the Randolph Street restaurant scene. And she was pretty focused on whatever she was doing anyway -- she didn't move from her spot right outside the kitchen, just open enough to provide a good show to any customers eating in the restaurant (some lucky patrons get to sit at a table directly facing the kitchen so they can watch Izard all night long).
As the first female winner of "Top Chef" (fittingly, during its season set in Chicago), young Izard seems to have done well for herself. Nine days into the opening, when I went with my fellow foodie friend, Heather, the only available reservation for two on a Wednesday night was 9:15pm. We barely had to wait more than three minutes before we were seated.
Exposed brick, wood pillars, and dim lighting give the large interior a rustic but funky feel, kind of like a ski lodge. The tables, made of butcher blocks, are set minimally -- the napkin is wrapped in a cardboard napkin ring illustrated with a cartoon billy goat. Despite Izard's celebrity, the restaurant feels homey and comfortable.
Our server, casually dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans -- the "uniform" -- came up to us and leaned down. "I'll be your third tonight," he quipped.
A couple of days ago, Graham Elliot Bowles invited some folks to come to a sample tasting of food he was prepping for Lollapalooza. He hand-picked the guest list of foodies, bloggers, writers, musicians and chefs. Chicago magazine's Cassie Walker was invited and saw it as an opportunity to give readers a sneak peek into what they could expect to eat at the area's largest music event. She decided to write up what she tasted and present it with gorgeous photographs so attendees could decide how best to spend their one to three meals' worth of appetite at Lollapalooza. Little did she know, as she wrote her cheeky review, that she was going to get serious flakfrom Chef Bowles for writing what she thought Lolla attendees might like to know ahead of time.
No plans for this Saturday night? Why not beat the heat with something chilly, delicious...and free!
The new Kenmore Live Studio in River North is hosting a preview event for the upcoming Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival. Local ice cream makers ("micro-creameries") will be on hand to show off their flavors, and Chicago baking celeb Michelle Garcia (Bleeding Heart Bakery) will be giving a baking demonstration in the studio. Additionally, live music will be provided by Liquid Soul.
The event lasts from 7:00-9:00 p.m. this Saturday, July 17. The baking demo will begin at 7:30. For more information, visit facebook.com/kenmore or call (312) 265-0871. The Kenmore Live Studio is located at 678 N. Wells.
Tonight was the premiere of "Food Buddha," a new TLC show featuring Chicago's own Rodelio Aglibot, head chef at Sunda. The premise of the show seems way over-the-top, but Aglibot's easy-going nature makes it work: In each episode, he visits a different city and hits up three different restaurants. At each restaurant, he orders one of everything.
Yes, you read that correctly: "OOE," as Aglibot says. One. Of. Everything.
By ordering OOE, Aglibot says he gets the restaurant's whole story. (It also prompts some very funny reactions from the chefs in the restaurants he visits, including eye-rolling, swearing and momentary panic.) At the end of the show, he selects the dish that most inspires him and brings the recipe home to Chicago, where he puts a twist on it to serve as a special at Sunda.
I watched the first episode of the show tonight, in which Chef visits New Orleans. One of the restaurant's he dines at is Squeal, a pig-focused joint that serves pork cakes -- kind of like crab cakes, but way worse for you because, uh, they're made out of pork. And filled with cream cheese. Oh, yeah, and they're also deep-fried. The Sunda version was still pork-a-licious, but it was considerably lighter, with braised pork belly, no cream cheese filling, and a pan fried, not deep fried crust.
Food TV addict that I am, I'll definitely tune into "Food Buddha" again. Aglibot is so good-natured, he actually makes it fun to watch a person eat his way through an entire menu. No small feat indeed.
If you've been to the French Market, you've probably seen the brightly-colored Raw food stall in the back corner. I visited recently and was not only impressed with the samples I tasted and the willingness of Polly Gaza, one of the shop's owners, to talk and answer questions. I have to admit, I was also really impressed with Ms. Gaza's glowing complexion. It made me want to get rid of my oven, clear out my pantry full of pasta, cereal, and cookies and become a raw foodist. In Chicago, that isn't such a hard thing to do. Besides Raw, which has been open since December, there are a number of caterers, restaurants and even classes offering food (or the chance to prepare food) untouched by mysterious additives or processing.
Last night at Moto, Scientist/chef/delightful nerd combo Ben Roche and Homaru Cantu hosted the premiere for their new Planet Green series, "Future Food." Staff served appetizers like cigars (pulled pork sandwiches wrapped in leaves, banded in edible paper, and served in a tray of sesame seed ash) and FedEx envelopes filled with what appeared to be packing peanuts, but which tasted like popcorn. Visual/gustatory discombobulation was the theme of the first episode as well -- the chefs tried to turn watermelons into tuna and commit other sleight-of-taste-bud tricks to convince Chicagoans their faux seafood was the real deal. The show works around these "Mythbusters"/reality television quests and challenges for the hosts as well as the quirky kitchen staff. The show also spends a good amount of time in and around Chicago landmarks, including a future episode's cook-off in front of the MCA. Book your table at Moto now if you want to get in before the foodie rush...some pictures after the jump.
Semifinalists for this year's James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, with a few new places and faces among the usual suspects of the city's high-end dining options--Bill Kim of UrbanBelly was nominated for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region, and Cibo Matto at the Wit is up for Best New Restaurant. Finalists will be announced March 22.
After receiving my daily Tasting Table email on Friday, I was inspired to recreate the featured recipe, offered by Branch 27's John Manion, for an egg-topped pasta dish. Manion's version featured a lot of interesting ingredients - kale, butternut squash, fried sage and ricotta salata - which I didn't have, so I simply boiled some pasta, covered it with tomato sauce and placed the poached egg on top, finishing it all off with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of Parmesan. It was unquestionably simple and uncomplicated but also very satisfying since the runny yolk melts into the other ingredients and creates a silky sauce. Other additions - maybe sauteed onions, a few minced anchovies or a handful of fresh herbs - could turn this simple meal into something more dramatic. The possibilities are endless...
According to the Wall Street Journal and Eater and Grant Achatz is planning a bar/lounge named Boom that will focus on cocktails that use ingredients playfully. One such cocktail is a Sazerac served in a edible syrup-poached kumquat. You'd sip the tiny cocktail and then eat the glass.
But Helen Rosner of Grub Street says Achatz isn't creating a molecular bar anytime soon. It's just something "Mr. Achatz envisions." And even if it is a hypothetical opening, and even if we couldn't afford to go very often, the cocktail porn we're sure would come out of it would be amazing.
But alas, even the chef himself posted this on Twitter:
After last year's foodie focus on serving and eating the whole hog, it would be nice if appetites turned to vegetarian and vegan fare this year. An article in The Chicago Tribune this week predicts nutrition trends for 2010, including a move away from meat. Local nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner backed up the forecast, saying concerns over health, the environment and the economy will prompt people to cut back on meat. Already, many are taking part in Meatless Mondays.
Another person touting the benefits of a meat-free diet is Chef Tal Ronnen, who recently released The Conscious Cook, a cookbook named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Epicurious.
Rick Bayless never rests. He just topped several other master chefs on Bravo's competition, then opened a new street-food restaurant. Next up: He's hitting the stage with local ensemble 500 Clown for The Madam Barker Holiday Variety Show at Prop Thtr. The burlesque show, which runs for the three Fridays from November 27th to December 11th, will feature Bayless in the last two shows. Along with the holiday-themed music, dancing, magic and comedy, Bayless will be on stage creating edible concoctions.
Tickets are $10, available at the door only, so expect the same sorts of lines you find at other Bayless businesses around town--though the 11pm start time might cull the crowd a bit.
For its Fourth Annual Author Event, the Women's Board of the Chicago Regional Office of the American Cancer Society, has delved into the world of food by presenting an evening with celebrated Chicago pastry chef and Food Network star Gale Gand. Gand will be demonstrating from and signing her latest book Gale Gand's Brunch! at a special event on October 28.
The event will take place at Macy's Narcissus Room (111 S. State St., 7th floor) beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and book signing. At 6:30 Gand will conduct a demonstration and tasting in Macy's Culinary Studio.
Tickets for the event cost $95, with a limit of 150 guests. For more information or to make reservations contact Dawn.Kobel@cancer.org, or call at 312-279-7264
The induction will take place at the Union League Club of Chicago tomorrow night. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are available at the door for $175. This is the annual fundraiser for the Chicago Culinary Musuem.
What can't Chicago's macchiato-mustachioed molé-master conquer? Last week, fending off fierce competition from Californians Hubert Keller and and Michael Chiarello in what looked like quite possibly the best meal on earth (recipes online, cooking ability tragically not included), Rick Bayless proved himself a standout not only among Chicago gourmands and élotes vendors everywhere, but the nation's top cooking talent. With dishes like the tongue tacos that got him through the first round (a quickfire challenge creation that's become a hot menu item at Frontera) to a concentrated conchinita pibil that made me want to lick my TV, Bayless has, hopefully, proven his worth even to critics who doubt his ability to convincingly rep traditional Mexican cuisine to the masses--to say nothing of his many supporters. Suffice to say, I'm sold.
Seventeen new cheftestants roll the dice on culinary fame in Las Vegas as the new season of Top Chef starts tonight (8pm on Bravo). And with the success of our fair city's chefs in recent seasons, as well as in this summer's amuse bouche show Top Chef Masters, one would expect a strong showing from Chicago again this season. In reality, one would be dead wrong. Nary a Chicagoan in sight. Not even an Illinois resident. The closest we get is Eve Aronoff from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She's the sole representative of the entire Midwest region! The hell?!
If lack of a home team doesn't dissuade you from watching, you might want to check out the weekly viewing party at the Kit Kat Club, hosted by former cheftestant Radhika Desai. No cover, and each week will start with a cocktail demonstration and end with a Q and A session.
A blogger recently griped about why Rick Bayless gets so much attention for his vast knowledge of Mexican cuisine. Especially because he's, well, white.
"Something just bugged me that a white guy was gaining so much fame for his Mexican cuisine. I'm sure his love of Mexico is genuine and he does good charity work. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, and he is a great chef. But why does the media make him the spokesman for Mexican food in the United States?
You can accuse me of being too politically correct. But how would the French feel if their premier chef celebrated by the media in France wasn't French at all?"
This issue is interesting to me. The best Italian food in my family was made by my non-Italian mother, who learned the trade of the mangia from my grandparents' very knowledgeable housekeeper. She could turn out a mean braciole in red sauce just as easily as a plate of dull American fare. I'm very picky about eating at Italian restaurants in town, because I've already eaten the best.
My mom was a versatile chef. But was she an interloper? Were her dishes not authentic? No. Like any cook, she learned and perfected the recipes. So is criticism of Bayless made out of jealousy--that a skinny white guy with a goatee who lives and breathes Mexican food is more highly regarded than someone who actually is Mexican and cooking the same food? I think so. Food is food and great food is great food, regardless of who cooks it and what they look like.
Prolific food writer Michael Ruhlman came to Chicago on a recent weekend and enjoyed an architectural boat tour. He spent some time dining here in Chicago as well and had great things to say about Paul Kahan's Publican and Avec and of course he dined at Alinea. Which makes sense, since Grant Achatz was working at The French Laundry while Ruhlman was interviewing Thomas Keller and his staff for The French Laundry Cookbook and some of the experience is described in his follow-up book The Soul of a Chef -- not to mention he contributed an essay to the Alinea Cookbook.
When the cattle call went out soliciting interest in covering this event, it spoke to me. Déjà chef if you will. The comparisons with my professional life were too many to say no to and is how I found myself at the Country Chef's Challenge at Daley Plaza this Thursday, Aug. 6.
The three chef contestants had 30 minutes and $50 to shop the Farmers Market, with an additional 30 minutes to create a dish with their selected ingredients. The results were scored by a panel of judges, the winner claiming bragging rights as "Master of the Market."
Having competed in (and won) numerous similar events, I was intrigued by seeing it as an observer instead of a participant. Highly skilled chef's going "mano a mano" in public, preparing mystery food against the clock, "Iron Chef" style. A daunting task under the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances.
The Culinary Historians of Chicago will sponsor a lecture on the evolution of the Asian Culinary Tradition this Saturday from 10am to noon at Big Bowl, 6 East Cedar. Chef and cookbook author Bruce Cost will share his vast knowledge of Asian cooking, so you know it's a good way to escape the mucky weather. Cost is $3-5; RSVP via email or call (708) 788-0338.
Tomorrow night, at 7pm at an undisclosed location somewhere near Pilsen, fine dining and music criticism come together to create a themed menu and perhaps, if their on-air banter is any indication, a Desert Island Pantry list of dessert toppings. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions have teamed up with Chef Efrain Cuevas's community dining project Clandestino for a meal and Candid Wine pairings based on five selected albums, including selections from Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, Curtis Mayfield, Common, and Mavis Staples. Why exactly Naked Raygun goes so well with fennel and herb crusted hanger steak, braised marrow, potato terrine, oyster mushroom ragout -- I guess you'll have to try it to find out. The inspiring albums will, of course, supply the soundtrack for the evening.
Spots still seem to be available (click to RSVP) -- $250 covers the meal and gratuity for one guest, and a portion of the total is tax deductible. Exactly how much, and exactly where the event will take place will be announced this week via email to registrants.
This past Saturday I caught Bravo Channel's Top Chef Tour at the Chicago Green City Market. On hand were Antonia Lofaso and Radhika "Rad" Desai, both Cheftestants from Top Chef's Season Four and Season Five respectively. Over the course of 4 sessions on Saturday, both demonstrated their skills and amused the crowd with anecdotes from the show, dishing out answers to the audiences questions like "Are Hosea and Leah still together?" (The answer is yes), and "Is Toby truly that way in real life?" (Off camera, he's supposedly much nicer and very much the family man).
After the second session I had about five minutes with Wicker Park's Radhika Desai, who I found to be wonderfully charming and very funny.
So what's new for you?
"I left Between... it was a friendly separation,but I just felt like I needed to move on. I'm also doing private dinners and catering, and a lot of charity stuff. I'm not sure if you've heard of Deborah's Place?
It's a foundation for homeless women and children, and I donated a dinner where I went to someone's house and cooked. We raised $8000 for the charity! So I'm using my pseudo-fame to give back to the community rather than just being a consumer.
Atwood Café's Executive Chef Heather Terhune will be baking up a storm in the next two weeks in preparation for participating for the second year in Share Our Strength's (SOS) Great American Bake Sale to end childhood hunger. Last year, the Loop restaurant's bake sale raised more than $1,500 for SOS. This year, their goal is to "bake" in $2,000 or more. You can help by stopping by the restaurant (at 1 W. Washington St., on the corner of Washington and State streets) on Thursday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to purchase some of Chef Terhune's homemade apple butter, granola, cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, and brownies.
The Chicago Culinary Museum has chosen Chef Carrie Nahabedian as its 2009 inductee into the Chefs Hall of Fame.
Nahabedian's highly acclaimed career has lasted nearly a quarter-century, the last nine years of which have been at her own River North restaurant NAHA, which showcases Nahbedian's distinct style, blending her Armenian roots and a Californian lifestyle. She's a proponent of locally sourced foods and Chicago's Green City Market. Last year she took home a James Beard award for "Best Chef Great Lakes." She is the Hall of Fame's fourth inductee and first woman, joining past honorees Charlie Trotter, Jimmy Bannos, and Rick Bayless.
Nahabedian's formal induction will take place this fall at a fundraiser for the Chicago Culinary Museum, with details to be announced at a later date.
This sounds like too good to be true, especially given the date, but we're going to run with it: Now We're Cookin' is hosting a cooking demonstration by Grant Achatz at their Evanston store on April 1st. For a mere $65, you'll get wine and appetizers made by the staff at NWC, and Achatz will demonstrate his kitchen magic. For an additional $50, you can buy the slip-covered edition of his newest book and get it autographed. Event begins at 6:30pm at 1601 Payne Street, Unit C. Reservation required.
One of my colleague is a venerable veteran of bread making, with more than 20 years under his belt, during which time, rumor goes, he hasn't bought a single loaf of bread. Since I discovered the fun of bread making (and also the fact that he was a closet bread maker), we've been spending good ten minutes every Monday morning discussing what we'd done in the bread department in the preceding weekend. And we steal a few minutes here and there during the week, too, talking about bread. During a recent chat, he told me about an improbable bread recipe he saw on PBS. He called it "Jacques Pépin's pot bread."
"I just don't see how it can be any good," my colleagues added, "it defies all that I know about bread."
While watching the Oscars last night, I saw an ad for Diet Coke featuring Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio:
While I'm certain that Chef Tom wasn't in the drawing room when this ad was crafted, one local restaurant sprang to mind when I saw the wire contraption that was an object of scorn and ridicule, a place that gets a lot of press and fanfare and whose chef has a lot of name recognition in the industry (and who also is a huge Diet Coke fan himself).
Cookstr, the long-awaited recipe search site, launched today. The website hosts free recipes from noted chefs and cookbook authors. The site currently allows you to search by ingredient, chef or recipe. There also handy ways to refine your search like "five ingredients or less" and "inexpensive." They are adding new content daily, so if your first search doesn't yield what you had hoped, it may be wise to check back. New features will be added over the next few months, like chef profile pages and personalized recipe boxes.
This charming memoir captures Julia Child's first impressions of France and the joyful adventures she found in her adopted homeland.
Child was first introduced to France in 1948 when she moved to Paris with her husband and Foreign Service Officer, Paul. The book follows Child through the early days of the Cordon Bleu, the intense creative process that ultimately bore Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the cultural differences between French and United States cooks during the '50s.
This book is a highly recommended companion for these bountiful fall days.
When I think of Las Vegas, words like repulsive excess and unnecessary waste spring to mind. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by Rick Moonen's Chicago Gourmet seminar on selecting fish the sustainable way.
Moonen, considered one of the nation's top seafood chefs, owns RM Seafood at Sin City's Mandalay Place, a 200-seat restaurant designed to look like "a swank cruise ship," according to the Web site. The chatty, energetic chef knows how to put on the ritz, but it's clear from listening to him that his twin passions are protecting endangered seafood species, while helping home cooks get comfortable with preparing fish.
"Everything we cook has an odor, but do you ever hear someone say, 'Eeew, it smells beef-y in here?' No!" he said, alluding to one of the reasons people often cite for not cooking fish at home.
At his lecture at Chicago Gourmet, the chef focused less on cooking and more on educating. Moonen is a regular visitor to Web sites like Seafoodwatch.org, which "raises consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources." The site regularly updates a list of fish that are the worst and best choices for consumers who want to buy "green."
When Andrew (chief of Gapers Block clan) managed to secure press passes to the Chiago Gourmet for us, I immediately wanted to cover a seminar on sake. Normally, it would be $60 to attend (on top of the already hefty $150 day pass, I believe), which is a bit out of my budget. I was curious to see how sake is presented and received, given the recent surge of interest in sake in the Untied States. On top of that, as a relative newcomer to the world of sake myself, I was eager to try new varieties and listen to a sake expert describe their aromas and flavors. So I jumped to the opportunity.
After picking up the press pass and walking past a glassed-in seminar room with maybe eight people listening to a suit-and-tied presenter from an exotic winery, I sat down by the grand staircase on the first floor of the Cultural Center. I was a few minutes early. When I was checking the setting of my camera when I noticed a middle-aged, Eastern Asian guy sit next to me. I didn't think much of that; I just thought he was a tired visitor taking a break for a moment.
The man turned out to be the chef Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi, the seminar's presenter. As he walked up to the front of the seminar room, I kicked myself for not looking at him closely enough--I could have talked to him about the Chicago Gourmet and about sake without anyone milling around for their turn to speak to him. There were probably about 30 people in the room for the seminar. Some wore press passes, while others were paying guests (with occasional flashes of ritzy jewelry). It was interesting to see the sake seminar much better attended than the preceding seminar on wine--although, to be fair, there are more than fifteen wine seminars to choose from, whereas on sake there is only one.
Yagihashi's sake cup collection, along with his Starbucks cup, made an eclectic tableau at the Sake for Everyday seminar.
Yagihashi started with a little biography of himself -- growing up in Mito as a grandson of a sake retailer, moving to the U.S., working his way up in prestigious restaurants, and opening his own in Bucktown -- and moved on to the brewing process of sake. Within a few minutes, everybody was intently listening to his charming and informative talk with occasional self-depricating humor (which reminded me of Japan so much!).
For the tasting part, there was generous pouring of one sake from each of the major sake category. A guy from Yagihashi's distributor joined and gave us a lively commentary on each sake. From the "Junmai" category, which uses rice grains polished at least to the 70% of their original size, we tried "Hitorimusume" from Yamanaka Brewery in the chef's hometown (link in Japanese). To my palate, it tasted a little harsh and alcoholic, although, after listening to Yagihashi describe it as "neutral and good with food," I could see it that way, too.
One of Food Network's newer (and, if you ask me, more likeable) stars, giggly Cleveland-based chef Michael Symon, will be at The Counter, the new "build-your-own-burger" joint on Diversey, next Thursday, Sept. 18, from noon to 6 p.m.
The first Chicago outpost of the chain opened this Monday at 666 W. Diversey Pkwy. Symon's visit is more than a well-timed PR gimmick: Proceeds from the location's sales on Sept. 18 will benefit the Big Shoulders Fund, an organization that helps support Catholic schools in some of Chicago's low-income neighborhoods.
In case you haven't heard, The Counter claims diners can choose from 312,120 possible burger combinations, by selecting among a variety of proteins (Angus beef, chicken, turkey, veggie and seafood), 10 cheeses, 28 toppings, 18 sauces and three types of buns.
Symon has a penchant for pork. Might I suggest he order a beef burger on a classic hamburger bun, topped with Black Forest ham, honey-cured bacon, horseradish cheddar, and apricot sauce?
Celebchef Rick Bayless will be inducted into the Chicago Culinary Museum and Chefs Hall of Fame tomorrow night at the Palmer House Hotel, 17 East Monroe, from 5:30-9:30pm. Tickets are $175 (before event) or $200 (at the door) and include attendance to a cocktail reception, silent auction, awards presentation and a "Wandering Feast," which I'm sure is short for "passed hors d'oeuvres."
Now that my heart is no longer aflutter and my breathing has returned to normal, I'm clear-headed enough to write about the encased meat sandwich that lured me to Hot Doug's on Friday. Kevin Haas won Time Out Chicago's contest to have his hot dog made and sold at Hot Doug's. It admittedly wasn't the sandwich I voted for, but I was delighted to try it anyway. I love the concept of combining a variety of different ethnic cuisines into one meal. And it almost works really well. But only almost.
The chorizo sausage is one of the best I've had. It packs a lot of flavor and spice in each bite, and it's not so greasy that you end up with orange juice running down your chin which was nice. Fat may add flavor, but too much fat flattens the flavor and ruins the taste. The spiciness of the chorizo was expected and enjoyable for the first couple of bites, but the spice of the sausage combined with the chili mustard quickly became overpowering and drowned out the flavors of the Asian pear chutney and the paneer. Which was a shame, because the chutney was heavenly and made only better by the chili mustard. The paneer was fried, which I hoped would add a little flavor to an otherwise bland, but soothing, cheese. Unfortunately, the paneer was cold when it was placed on top of the sausage, and served in large chunks, so they mostly fell off while I was eating. If the cheese had been in smaller pieces, so they stayed on top of the sandwich, or if the cheese had been soft and melty so it stuck to the sausage, I think the paneer would have provided the cooling sensation that it provides in many Indian dishes.
So while I had a very, very enjoyable lunch and would even end up ordering this sandwich again, I'd probably split it with someone because by the end of the sandwich all I tasted was the chorizo. Thankfully the ingestion of duck fat fries (which are so amazingly good) provided enough grease to counteract some of the spice so I could eat without sniffling while sitting just a few feet from Anthony Bourdain. Maybe I'm not done swooning after all.
I decided to swing by Hot Dougs today and enjoy the award winning New Chicago dog and some Duck Fat fries. Right after I finished taking a photograph of my encased meat, a young woman came over and asked me very apologetically if I would move over a few seats. "You see, we're doing some filming, and this is unfortunately the seat with the best light." Since I was done using the light for my own purposes, I agreed and asked who was filming.
My belly flopped, my breathing stopped and I was somehow able to mutter "Yeah, but Anthony Bourdain isn't really here? Right?"
"Oh yeah," she replied. "He's waiting in line."
I spent the next several minutes trying to eavesdrop on his ordering conversation with Doug Sohn, owner and head comedian of Hot Doug's, and trying to get a halfway decent shot of him standing in line. And then he came and sat beside me and grumbled about how hungry he was while the camera operators got everything focused and queued up and then he began to eat and talk while he was eating. The eating definitely took preference over the talking and he ate The Dog (what Doug calls a Chicago dog) and he ordered a "Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Mustard, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris", probably just to piss of Alderman Joe Moore for trying to make foie gras illegal and costing poor Doug a fine for selling it anyway.
Honestly, if you've seen one man eat a hot dog, watching Bourdain eat a hot dog wasn't really any different. However, because almost everyone in the restaurant knew who he was, even though they were trying to pretend they weren't staring at him, and since everyone was suddenly "dialing" their cell phones at eye level, even he seemed a bit unnerved by the staring and attention. But he handled it gracefully. I honestly think he's used to being stared at while he eats, but probably not used to being stared at by people who know him while he eats. But he seemed to love his meal, including the duck fat fries (even though the camera operators, assistant and sound folks probably ate more of them than he did). And while Chicago is no Malaysian jungle, this Chicago foodie hopes that Tony enjoyed the rest of the meals he ate in our fair city. I'm not sure about everywhere that he went, but The Food Chain has a few places listed.
Chef and host of awesome PBS cooking show Simply MingMing Tsai will be making an appearance at the WTTW studios (5400 N. Saint Louis) on Tuesday, July 29 for a meet and greet and to sign his newest cookbook, Ming's Master Recipes. Event begins at 6:30pm. Tickets are $10 for WTTW members and $15 for non-members. Reserve your spot online or call (773) 509-1111, ext. 6.
Last week, "Top Chef: Chicago" winner Stephanie Izard went head to head with The Drawing Room Executive Chef Nick Lacasse in a four-course plate vs. plate dinner competition held Sunday. The dinner sold out in moments, as savvy diners realized it would be the first public event for Izard after the show's finale. The fact that she won made the evening that much more of a must-attend event.
The chefs each created a dish incorporating the following ingredients:
• First Course - raw fish and asparagus
• Second Course - foie gras and kumquats
• Third Course - lamb and cherries
Course Four was a collaborative dessert featuring fresh strawberries.
Each chef's dishes were labeled A or B, and diners used ballots to pick their favorite of each course. A run-down follows after the jump.
Don't forget to tune in to Drive-Thru tonight around 9pm for our live-blogged recap of the "Top Chef" finale! D'oh! Technical difficulties interceded! We'll have a (sadly, un-live) recap up as soon as we can.
Carrie Nahabidian won Best Chef for the Great Lakes region. This was Nahabidian's third year nominated, and she was up against two other Chicago chefs, Graham Eliot Bowles and Bruce Sherman — as well as Iron Chef America's Michael Symon.
Much farther down the awards bill was Robert Louey Design, who won Outstanding Restaurant Graphics for their work on Sepia. Lastly, as previously announced, Tufano's Vernon Park Tap was honored with an America's Classics Award.
According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (yes, there is such a thing), Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And while the Chicago dog--in all its poppyseed bun, sport pepper, celery salt glory--is undoubtedly a classic, it's a little...well...old school.
For those who prefer a more done-up-dog, Chicago Tribune's Good Eating challenged five Chicago chefs to revamp the classic hot dog in a way that was unique, yet easy enough for the home cook to replicate. And in true Chicago fashion, you won't find ketchup in any of the recipes.
Chef/Restauranteur Gordon Ramsay has confirmed that he will open a restaurant in Chicago next year. Speaking at a recent book signing event in Macy's department store, Ramsay said: "Chicago is at the forefront of the culinary world right now and I want a piece of that action." Take cover!!
Ramsay, the frothy spittled warlord notorious for whipping untrained cooks into "world-class chefs" using his own signature torture tactics, is currently in his fourth season of the faux food show Hell's Kitchen.
If the whole grade-A bleephole thing just isn't for you, check out Ramsay in BBC America's Kitchen Nightmares (the American version just isn't up to snuff). In Nightmares, not only might Ramsay end up ostracizing the folks to the point that they quit the show or physically attack him, but he candidly talks to the viewer as he identifies the various failings of the restaurant with an amusing combination of incredulity and snark.
Food & Wine magazine announced its 10 winners of this year's Best New Chef awards--two of which were from Chicago (and...ahem...only one was from New York). Receiving the honors were Koren Grieveson of Avec and Giuseppe Tentori of Boka.
According to the magazine, the Best New Chefs are chosen as part of a six-month selection process. The process includes working with trusted restaurant critics and food writers around the country to identify outstanding chefs who have been in charge of a kitchen for less than five years. Then the editors travel to taste the food themselves (undercover of course). This is the 20th year of the award.
Recent winners from Chicago include Michael Carlson (2006, Schwa), Graham Elliot Bowles (2004, Avenues), Bruce Sherman (2003, North Pond) and Grant Achatz (2002, Alinea).
The nominees for the 2008 James Beard Awards were just announced, and Chicago has pretty good representation this year. The Chicago chefs/restaurateurs nominated are:
• Rich Melman, Lettuce Entertain You, Outstanding Restaurateur
• Grant Achatz, Alinea, Outstanding Chef Award
• Mindy Segal, HotChocolate, Outstanding Pastry Chef
• Brian Duncan, Bin 36, Outstanding Wine Service
• Spiaggia, Outstanding Service
• Graham Elliot Bowles, formerly of Avenues, Best Chef: Great Lakes
• Carrie Nahabedian, Naha, Best Chef: Great Lakes
• Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Best Chef: Great Lakes
Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap received a James Beard Foundation "America’s Classics" Award. The citation said, "One of the few remnants of Chicago's Little Italy, Tufano's Vernon Park Tap has been owned and operated by the same family since it opened as a bar in the early 1930s. The small table in the bar's kitchen has since expanded to include two dining rooms that are regularly packed with businessmen, police officers, families, and pre-game sports fans. The restaurant's chalkboard menu offers diners Italian-American classics like lemon chicken, eggplant Parmesan, and fettuccini Alfredo at prices that make just about everyone a regular."
In addition, the Sun-Times' Janet Rausa Fuller was nominated for Best Newspaper Feature Writing without Recipes for her story "Fish Fraud: The Menus Said Snapper, but it Wasn't!"; CBS2 Chicago's Vince Gerasoli's "Table for Two" was nominated for Best Television Food Segment, National or Local; and the WTTW special "Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History" was nominated for Best Television Food Special. Robert Louey Design was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant Graphics for their work on Sepia.
Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Avec won The Chef's Chef, for "the chef who continues to make the kind of food other chefs like, while flying largely under the national radar," beating out Scott Bryan of Veritas in New York and Mark Vetri of Osteria and Vetri in Philadelphia.
Mike Nagrant of Hungry Mag won The Steingarten, for "the writer or blogger who actually gets it." He beat out Bill Buford, author of the best-seller Heat, and Pim of popular foodblog Chez Pim. Not even Nagrant expected it.
In this week's New York Times Magazine, Rick Bayless reveals the quirks of his home and daily routine. Bet you didn't know that he often gets mistaken for Eric Clapton or that he has thousands of dollars worth of microgreens growing in his basement...
The Reader's The Food Chain has published a statement from Grant Achatz's publicist announcing the completion of his treatment for cancer. The full text:
"It is with a tremendous sense of gratitude and relief that I have successfully completed my course of therapy at the University of Chicago. It was incredibly important to me to remain as engaged as possible at Alinea while receiving treatment, and during that time I only missed 14 services. I continue to stand committed to innovating fine dining long into the future."
Chef Charlie Trotter has earned a spot on Chicago Magazine'sChicagoans of the Year list. His contributions to the Chicago community include the Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation, which has donated more than a million dollars towards scholarships for aspiring chefs, and the Excellence Program, which treats Chicago Public School students to a multi-course Trotter-esque meal.
I spent the morning reading a profile on NY chef David Chang and his recent success in the foodie and media circles concerning his and business partner Joaquin Baca's Momofuku restaurants. It's the kind of place that seems to exist primarily on the coasts: superior worldly ingredients cooked at a high level which produces what some might call the New American Cuisine. A combination of small plates and large, communal dishes at a very affordable (almost student cheap) price, a lack of reservation options, no dress codes and chefs being cooks, servers and host, all in one.
The question I have for Chicago is this: we're in an amazing place right now for food culture -- Alinea is here, Paul Kahan's Blackbird and Avec, Hot Doug's and Kuma's Corner -- so I ask the readers, where's some really exciting high level cooking going on right now?
This past Saturday I went to see Paula Deen at the Chicago Theatre for what I thought would be a 2-hour cooking demonstration. I was wrong.
Despite an appearance from Art Smith—Oprah’s former personal chef and owner of Table Fifty-Two—Paula Deen Live felt more like a poorly executed comedy routine than a cooking demonstration. The cooking portion of the show lasted approximately 30 minutes, with all the cooking being done by an assistant. Paula’s contribution? Tasting a few recipes and insisting that they all needed more salt…and butter (of course).
However, the night was not drama-free. While Paula spent a few minutes thanking sponsor Smithfield Foods, a group of rowdy protesters sitting in the upper level shouted comments about unfair treatment of employees and unsafe working conditions. Paula shrugged off the comments and said that "she'd rather spend time chatting with her friends" than discuss the Smithfield Foods controversy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
Chef Grant Achatz and his business partner Nick Kokonas have turned down million-dollar offers for an Alinea cookbook in order to go DIY. You can pre-order the book -- due next fall -- at alinea-book for $50, which entitles you to a copy of the book signed by Achatz and everyone else involved in the project, early access to the companion site, alinea-mosaic.com (nice retro web reference, guys) next May. My order is in; yours should be too.
Serious Eats' Ed Levine spoke with Kokonas about the project. Their decision to go independent with the book (which will be published under contract by Ten Speed Press) had a lot to do with the limitations publishers wanted to place on the project.
Kokonas: "Grant and I regard this whole process as an exercise in mass customization. We wanted to do the book our way. The publishers we talked to would have imposed their vision and their way of thinking on us. We didn't want that. One of the key components to us is the online component. On the internet, you can create something rich and hopefully special. When we explained to the conventional publishers what we wanted to do, they all thought we were nuts. They thought that if we put big chunks of the book online, we would be cannibalizing our own sales. But I have tons of cookbooks at home, and I go on the web all the time for cooking and food info, and those are two distinct interactions, and one doesn't come at the expense of the other.
"What we are trying to do here is much more than publishing a book, because with the website, we're going to be adding to the book continuously after the publication date. What we're most excited about is the chance to build an Alinea community. We've already started to do that with the restaurant, and now with the book and the website, we can take that community to a whole new level."
It's unsurprising that a chef who's pushing the boundaries of cooking would also want to challenge the conventions of publishing; if the gamble pays off, I predict a very cool future for cookbook publishing.
Celebrated food writer, cookbook co-author and Bourdain partner-in-crime, Michael Ruhlman wrote a while ago about how the classic Caesar salad was no longer really a Caesar salad in the modern American restaurant (or rather, chain).
The super fabulous Concord Grape Tart returns to the menu at West Town Tavern for a limited time. Make sure you save room for this tasty treat that made the Time Out Chicago "100 Best Things We Ate" list when you go. Also, catch Chef Susan Goss for a live demo of two recipes at Green City Market tomorrow at 10:30am.
Plenty of opportunities to have fun with fish this fall with The Fish Guy. Take a sushi class from Hiroko Shimbo on October 14, 15, or 16 for just $100. Class includes lots of sushi and sake as well as signed copies of both of her cookbooks. You can also snag a coveted reservation at the once a week restaurant Wellfleet on September 7, 14, or 21 if you act quickly. Sign up now and get a free Caviar Wellfleet for each couple. 773-283-7400.
Chef Joel Dennis, most recently Chef de Cuisine at Tru, has been named Executive Chef at Blue Water Grill Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Chef Dennis worked under several other rock-star chefs including Alain Ducasse and Charlie Palmer. Wonder if we'll get a Blue Water version of the caviar staircase?
Two interesting sites with video came across my browser in the past couple days; one bridges the divide between music and food, the other between top Chicago chefs and us.
Cooking with Rockstars is pretty much what it sounds like: rock'n'rollers demonstrating how to cook their favorite meals ...or, well, meals anyway. So far the only Chicago videos are sort of tangentially related; Neal Pollack used to live here and write for the Reader, and Enon is on Touch and Go Records. Stay tuned for more solidly local rockers, hopefully.
Today was one of those rare days that my wife and I both managed to have off from work, so we ventured down to Hot Doug's. It was crowded as usual, but whilst waiting in line we spotted a large, pony-tailed redhead holding court over some sausage and soda: Mario Batali. It's good to see a chef of his stature venture out to the virtual boon docks of the city for some good eating. And while I have it on good authority that the dude can cook, he sure has crappy taste in footware. I don't care how comfortable they are. Those shoes just don't work with orange socks.
Local culinary darling Grant Achatz and his restaurant Alinea took home the top two prizes at this year's Jean Banchet Awards, which was held Friday as part of the Grand Chefs Gala. Achatz was named celebrity chef of the year and Alinea was recognized as the best fine dining in the area. Their sommelier, Craig Sindelar, was also named the best in his field. The Banchet awards are named for the pioneering French chef who founded Le Francais in Wheeling and are distributed every year for the best culinary achievements in the Chicago area.
Other 2007 winners: Elissa Narow of Custom House for best celebrity pastry chef; Michale Carson of Schwa for best rising chef; Suzanne Imaz of NoMI for best rising pastry chef; Le Bouchon for best neighborhood restaurant; and Designed Cuisine for best catering company.
The first line of the introduction to Mindy Segal's newest cookbook Cookie Love (Ten Speed, $25) is all you need to know for understanding why this is required reading for all bakers: "I am a cookie nerd." Yes, the celebrated... Read this feature »