Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, July 12

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Publication Wed Jun 19 2013

Middlewest: Easy on the Eyes, Inspiring to the Tastebuds


I'm a sucker for pretty recipe books. I don't buy all of the ones I think I want, but I do check out a lot of cookbooks from the library. Enough of them that my favorite librarian asks me to tell her if I think a book is worth a read.

I also am a sucker for things that are attractively designed and locally made. So when I heard that David Tamarkin (formerly a food writer and restaurant reviewer for Time Out Chicago) was spearheading the creation of Middlewest, I was intrigued. And since I assumed that I'd never get the chance to peruse one in person at a book store before purchasing, and since the annual subscription price was only $18, I figured I would take the plunge and splurge on some oversized recipe cards that I assumed would be attractive and inspirational if nothing else.

Continue reading this entry »

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

Michelin Guide Wed Nov 09 2011

Chicago's Got Some New Bibs

Bib-Gourmand.jpgThis morning Michelin announced its list of Bib Gourmand restaurants in the 2012 Michelin Guide Chicago. Bib Gourmand, if you recall, is a designation slightly below a star, indicating a restaurant is "an inspector's favorite for good value," where two courses and a glass of wine or dessert can be had for $40 or less. Seventeen new restaurants made the list, while six were dropped -- in most cases because they closed. The new restaurants are:

Gemini Bistro
GT Fish & Oyster
Jin Thai
Kabul House (Skokie)
Lao Sze Chuan
Maude's Liquor Bar
Mundial Cocina Mestiza
Owen & Engine
Perennial Virant
Sen (Oak Park)
Sol de Mexico
Xni-Pec de Yucutan (Brookfield)
Yolo (Skokie)

Former awardees Bistro 110, Kith & Kin, mado, Otom and Veerasway all closed within the past year, while Perennial has transformed into Perennial Virant, which made the list. The only outright drop was Frances' Deli, a Lincoln Park institution opened in 1938.

The full list of Bib Gourmand restaurants is below. The star announcement will be next Tuesday, Nov. 15, with the guide on sale Nov. 16.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Dessert Wed Jan 26 2011

The 10 Best Candy-Inspired Desserts Across The Country

In this month's Bon Appetit, frequent Iron Chef America judge and perennial long hair aficionado Andrew Knowlton has a run down of the 10 best candy-inspired desserts across the country. A few standouts on the list: an Almond Joy ice cream sandwich in Atlanta, a brownie tart with salted caramel ice cream in Las Vegas and a chocolate-peanut butter candy bar with buttered popcorn ice cream in Miami. Of course, any "Best Of" list about, concerning or evening mentioning desserts wouldn't be complete without a selection from Mindy Segal's Hot Chocolate. He could have picked anything on the menu, so he picked Thoughts On a Peanut Butter Cup. Read the full list here.

Andrew Carlin

Publication Wed Jan 05 2011

Chicago Chefs Well Represented in "Saveur 100"

saveur-100.jpgSaveur 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:

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Random Mon Dec 27 2010

Foodies and Their Photography: Finished?

Over at the Chicago Tribune today, a part-time food writer discusses foodie fatigue, getting opinions from many local chefs and food writers about the state of foodie-ism, which seems to steer toward annoyance.

Initially, the article struck me as incredibly funny, considering that earlier this month the Trib perpetrated this very behavior by publishing a list of What's Out/What's In for 2011. Looking at the list, who even knows what "face dining" is, and who will be able to afford Achatz's upcoming "edible cocktails"? And who isn't sick of the ampersand restaurant trend already, with the half-dozen or so that opened in the past year?

sausage n waffles.jpg
sausage & waffles, Old Town Social

I think we all get why foodies are annoying: the constant use of cameras to document their meals (for the love of god, turn off the flash), the pissing contests over who has been to the latest gastropub/farm-to-table restaurant first, and the general snobbery involved in the local vs. organic debate is certainly tiresome. But as a commenter over at LTH Forum points out, "The bottom line is that people who continually obsess about anything are tiresome, whether it be food, fantasy football, training dogs or scrapbooking" (I can vouch for this: I love football, but watching it with my Packers-obsessed partner tests the limits of my sanity).

Discussing the article with a friend, he remarked, "It's great that people are talking about [food] instead of shoving more happy meals down their gullets," which is true I suppose. I'm all for people knowing and appreciating where their food came from and learning how to cook. It's when we start to look down on someone for their love of a particular fast food chain (Wendy's spicy chicken, anyone?) or other pedestrian interests and tastes that these so-called "foodies" lose my respect. It's ok to love both Lula Café's Monday night farm dinners, and Coke Zero, because if everyone loved only bacon and cupcakes and whatever else is "in" as much as food writers have touted, what a boring world we would live in.

Jen Bacher / Comments (1)

News Tue Dec 07 2010

Call for Papers!

Did you know that there's an online journal for ivory-tower style musings about food and community development? One that ISN'T this blog?? Well, I didn't either, but nevertheless the aptly named Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development is looking for submissions for its next issue. An online, peer-reviewed publication with international contributors, the journal "emphasizes best practices and tools related to the planning, community economic development, and ecological protection of local and regional agriculture and food systems, and works to bridge the interests of practitioners and academics."

Right now they're looking for articles (applied research papers, critical reflection essays, commentaries, etc.) about "small- and mid-scale food value chain development." Essentially a strategic view of the supply chain and partnership constellation of agriculture, food value chains are apparently the current burning issue in the field (no pun intended). If you understand that more clearly than I do, maybe you should submit a paper. More details on submission process and guidelines are available on the journal's site. Papers are due February 15 for submission in the next issue. Best of luck, food scholars!

Andie Cavedo

News Wed Nov 10 2010

Bib Gourmand Hungers for More

In just one week, Chicago will officially be entered into the elite group of Michelin Guide-crowned cities. As we here at GB HQ get ready to celebrate the guide's release, the famously discreet Michelin inspectors have graciously let some of their secrets slip by revealing their "Bib Gourmand" picks.

As the Michelin Man says himself, "The Bib Gourmand designation denotes good cuisine at a reasonable price in a variety of comfort categories. Defined as "Inspectors' Favorites for Good Value," Bib Gourmand restaurants offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included), and are often of most value to a city's residents, who regularly dine in neighborhood restaurants." They also cause the Michelin Man to adorably lick his chops in anticipation of a good meal.

Continue reading this entry »

Ben Schulman

Publication Mon Nov 08 2010

Kickstarting a Restaurant Guide

beatcopsguide.jpgThe Beat Cop's Guide to Chicago Eats is a new book by former police sergeant David Haynes and author Christo­pher Gar­ling­ton, giving readers a look at the Chicago food scene through the eyes of, yes, a CPD cop on the beat. Lake Claremont Press has been trying to publish the book for more than a year, but the ongoing economic conditions have kept that from happening. So, rather than shelve it permanently, the authors and the Press have turned to Kickstarter to crowdsource the first printing.

They're looking to raise $5,000 by Dec. 5, and pledges of $18 or more will get you one or more autographed copies of the book, along with increasingly interesting premiums. The book itself will include $34 in coupons good at some of the locations reviewed, making it a pretty good investment.

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Publication Mon Nov 08 2010

Just Another Meatless Monday

If you're on the fence about this whole Meatless Monday thing, perhaps because you're already having a manic Monday (wishing it was Sunday, even) consider that veganism is now linked to power on the pages of Business Week. According to a recent article, Bill Clinton, Steve Wynn and Russell Simmons are part of a group of powerful vegan bosses. It's an exclusive club, not only because such a small segment of the population is vegan, but also because veganism isn't cheap. For some of these moguls, the change in diet is prompted by love. NYC restauranteur Bart Potenza says, "the rise of the power vegan coincides with the rise of the vegan second wife."

Lori Barrett / Comments (2)

Publication Mon Oct 11 2010

Poet Talks Trout (Metaphorically) in Chicago

The current issue of the New Yorker includes a poem titled "Table Talk" by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. It opens:

Not long after we had sat down to dinner
at a long table in a restaurant in Chicago
and were deeply engrossed in the heavy menus,
one of us--a bearded man with a colorful tie--
asked if any one of us had ever considered
applying the paradoxes of Zeno to the martyrdom of St. Sebastian.

The differences between these two figures
were much more striking than the differences
between the Cornish hen and the trout amandine
I was wavering between, so I looked up and closed my menu.

Track down a copy of the New Yorker to read the rest.

Sharon Bautista

Publication Tue Apr 20 2010

Kristin Chenoweth on Chicago Food

Kristin Chenoweth, who played the endearing Olive on Pushing Daisies and Glinda in the musical Wicked, was interviewed in the most recent issue of Bon Appétit. Chenoweth splits her time between Los Angeles and New York City, and has traveled all over the world. Yet, when asked where to find the best food, she named Chicago.

"A lot of people might say Europe, but I love the feel and atmosphere of restaurants in Chicago. I was just there singing, and we went to McCormick and Schmick's, which is pretty well known, and the feel of it was so good -- the atmosphere and the service and the food. The steak was outstanding...Maybe the experience was enahnced because the people were so cool. No matter where I've been taken to in Chicago, I always think, Man, the food is good!"

The full interview can be found in the May 2010 issue of Bon Appétit.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon Nov 16 2009

New Yorker Finds Spit Cake in Chicago

The New Yorker's latest food issue gives Chicago's Lutz Cafe a shout-out in an article on "spit cake," or Baumkuchen. To make this "king of cakes," a baker must brush layer upon layer of batter onto a spit, creating an elaborate ring of cake that looks like the inside of a tree trunk when sliced. According to the New Yorker article, the cake is so hard to make that it is only sold during the holidays at Lutz, and it sure isn't cheap.

Dana Currier

Publication Mon Aug 31 2009

Where Rick Bayless gets his white Iroquois corn

This weekend's New York Times Magazine included an article (with slide show) on Spence Farm, a family-run farm in Fairbury, Illinois, that supplies hard-to-find crops (like popping sorghum, green pine cones and papaw) to many of Chicago's top restaurants.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Publication Fri Aug 28 2009

Whet Both Your Appetites

This doesn't look like it's for the squeamish, what with its recipe for human-incubated yogurt, but newly launched magazine Food + Sex looks like it offers some thoughtful essays or photo collages about composting, factory farming and bees, along with some material that seems a little less food related. The magazine is a "combined effort of artists, writers, farmers and foodmakers, exploring how desire shapes the food environment." You can check out a list of articles on the web site, but to really find out what these artists and foodmakers have to say, or to show you, you'll have to order a copy (for $10) online.

Lori Barrett

Publication Thu Feb 12 2009

Guide to Chicago Dining Deals

Zagat has released their Chicago Dining Deals guide, targeting restaurant-goers who may want to spend a little less dining out. The new guide features 337 eateries reviewed by 5,300 individuals, many with dinner selections for $30 or less, and lunch options at $20. Rating and reviews are also online at, or from your mobile phone.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Random Wed Dec 10 2008

There's Eating Local, And Then There's ...

This week the Little Green People blog on sustainable living posits the question, Should we eat our wild urban critters? So far only two commenters have weighed in, on that website at least. Elsewhere on the web, others have been throwing the idea out there for thought. Food supplies are diminishing, and our ancestors ate rabbits, pigeons, geese and squirrels. In Europe many people still eat (some of) these animals, though from farms or from the wild, not from city parks. I'm not planning to take my local diet in that direction ... but it's an interesting facet of the larger omnivore dilemma.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Publication Wed Dec 10 2008

Bon Appetit: Chicago

bajan2009.jpg "The best of the year" issue of Bon Appetit (January 2009) recently arrived in my mailbox.

In the recurring "BA Foodist" column a reader from Naperville, IL asks, "What was the best restaurant dish you ate in 2008?" The reply includes one Chicago selection: #8 Sauteed Maine scallops with soba gnocchi at Takashi.

In a round-up of the best new American taverns, The Publican is listed at #9. "The long-awaited more casual follow-up to well-regarded Blackbird and Avec is finally here. The menu features lots of fish and sustainably raised heirloom pork. The restaurant also has one of the city's most diverse international beer lists."

And on the Bon Appetit website, the excellent Chicago blog Blue Kitchen is highlighted in the Blog Envy slideshow for his hazelnut rosemary jam cookies.

Gemma Petrie

Publication Thu Nov 13 2008

Pucker Up

Last Sunday's New York Times Style Magazine, Design and Living, was a treasure trove of fun reading about food and dining trends, from a list of the season's hottest ingredients (kimchi, sassafras, tongue, halvah, peppercress and red quinoa) to a short item about restaurants combining art and food. TOC's blog recently mentioned Blackbird's salon series, a monthly (usually) meal inspired by an artist's work, served in the restaurant's upstairs dining room. There's a meal coming up on November 13, featuring the work of artist Juan Angel Chavez (the meal is $135, and likely already sold out.)

But the thing that piqued my curiosity the most was an article about sipping vinegars, something the writer describes as "the first truly adult nonalcoholic drink I'd ever had." The concoction is also known as shrub, and the article describes how to make shrub at home. If you're not too keen on boiling vinegar and fruit in your kitchen, there are a few places around town to sip some shrub. Centerstage has a list of bars that serve vinegar-laced cocktails, and most of the drinks actaully sound pretty good.

Lori Barrett

Chef Tue Oct 14 2008

My Life in France by Julia Child

lifeinfrance.jpgThis 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.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Publication Thu Oct 09 2008

Good Reading?

My initial impression of the Chicago Tribune's redesigned Good Eating section: looks great, less filling.

I'm withholding final judgment until next week, when some standing columns will return to the rotation.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Random Wed Oct 01 2008

Why Can't He Really Make it Interesting?

Mayor Daley is wagering a boatload of Chicago-based foodstuffs (Ferrara Pan candy, Vienna beef hot dogs) on the Cubs/Dodgers divisional title with Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who in turn has wagered a rice cake and some Pinkberry coupons (just kidding).

Robyn Nisi / Comments (2)

Restaurant Fri Aug 29 2008

An Onion-Worthy Article from Sioux City

This 1,200 word ode to Olive Garden reminds us how lucky we are to live in a city with a vibrant food scene.

As one commenter aptly put it, "If it's sly parody, it's genius. If not, all the better. "

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Recipe Wed Jul 30 2008

Cooking Light Features Chicago Market Pioneer

This month's issue of one of my favorite magazines Cooking Light features the story of Abby Mandel, who started Chicago's Green City Market in a downtown alley in 1999. Today, the market is "the best sustainable market in the country," according to the Alice Waters.

The story is a good read and includes fun recipes from Mandel, a cookbook author and former syndicated food columnist. Her German Apple Pancake and Albuquerque Corn Salad not only highlight farm fresh ingredients, but also are wholesome and look lovely.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

News Thu Jul 17 2008

CTA: Grocery Stores Near Stations a Good Idea

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is exploring the idea of expanding commercial development, including grocery stores, near its L stations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As a frequent visitor to Alta Vista Foods, a small but fully loaded produce and grocery store accessible from inside the Sheridan Red Line station, I can attest to how great it is to be able to pop in after work to pick up hamburger buns, lemons, tomato sauce or even a package of chicken legs. My husband and I got rid of our car last year, and grocery shopping is about the only reason we miss having it. Alta Vista definitely makes things easier -- and based on the fact that there's always a steady stream of fellow L riders in line with me, it makes good sense that the CTA is looking to spread the love to other stations.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Foodporn Thu Jul 17 2008

A Field Guide to Doughnuts

41026355.JPGThis Chicago Tribune article helps readers wade through the fried dough options in and around the city -- and suggests where to buy them. They have also included a delicious photo gallery.

The Gulab Jamon, "A small dark doughnut hole of flour and milks (powdered, regular), steeped in a sticky syrup of rosewater and sugar (and sometimes cardamom) until it's spongy and dense, and sweet," looks particularly delicious.

(Don Churro's churro pictured. Photo from the Chicago Tribune.)

Gemma Petrie

Publication Fri Jun 27 2008

Hot Doug's in Gourmet Magazine


The July issue of Gourmet Magazine mentions Hot Doug's in a short piece on duck fat fries. Also mentioned: The Harrison in NYC and Joseph's Table in Taos, New Mexico.

Serious Eats has a great round-up of other locations to find duck fat fries across the country.

However, the verdict (1, 2) seems to be that horse fat is the best way to go. Selling horse fat in the U.S. is illegal (but if anyone is in Montreal, you can find them here). Has anyone tried horse fat fries?

(Photo from Pro Bono Baker.)

Gemma Petrie

Ingredient Fri Jun 13 2008


vanilla bean.jpg

Though vanilla is now produced in many parts of the world, did you know that this sweet and earthy bean originated in east-central Mexico? A Chicago Tribune reporter shares a detailed account of her trip to Veracruz in search of one of the oldest vanilla producing companies in this article. The article also links to several recipes using vanilla, including Blackbird's goat cheesecake with vanilla-Meyer lemon marmalade.

Photo from Steamy Kitchen.

Gemma Petrie

Publication Mon Jun 09 2008

Bon Appetit: Chicago

The July 2008 issue of Bon Appétit arrived at my door filled with recipes for grilling season and one mention of Chicago. Takashi, the new restaurant from Takashi Yagihashi, recently opened in Wicker Park. The photographs of this French-American cuisine on the Takashi website are stunning. Yagihashi also lends his name to Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi, a lunch spot in the loop that has received mixed reviews. The Wicker Park restaurant seems to be fairing quite well so far.

1952 N. Damen

Gemma Petrie

Publication Fri May 09 2008

Georgia -- The Country

I finally got around to reading the Gourmet Magazine from last month. While I didn't catch any mentions of Chicago in their "Cooking Vacations" themed issue, I was pleased to find an entry on the Republic of Georgia.

Georgia is a country at the top of my travel list. When I spent some time in Russia a few years ago, one of the highlights was the prevalence of Georgian restaurants. Chicago doesn't have any full-fledged Georgian restaurants, but we are very lucky to have one of the only Georgian bakeries in the country.

Argo Georgian Bakery is located in Rogers Park and serves up some of the most delicious breads from their "tone" oven. The main reason I visit is to order their incredible khachapuri - a cheese bread that is unimaginably delicious. Their lobiani are also delicious - breads stuffed with kidney beans, garlic and cilantro.

If you would like to try your hand at making your own khachapuri, the beautiful site, The Traveler's Lunchbox has a great recipe. I also highly recommend one of the books she mentions, The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein. (Gourmet also provides a recipe with their article).

(Oh, and if anyone wants to fly me to Georgia to write an article, I will happily write more than the one page the Gourmet author mustered.)

Argo Georgian Bakery
2812 W. Devon Ave
(773) 764-6322

Gemma Petrie

Publication Thu Apr 10 2008

Bon Appetit: Chicago

BAmay copy.jpg

The May issue of Bon Appetit focuses on international destinations including Paris, Marrakech, Umbria, County Cork, the Yucatan, and Kuala Lumpur. The writers also highlight fresh spring ingredients like beets, artichokes, strawberries, new potatoes, lettuce, green garlic, fava beans, tangelos, asparagus, and peas.

Chicago is briefly mentioned when one reader writes in to request the recipe for the Portobello Mushroom Satay at Vong's Thai Kitchen. Oddly, the recipe does not seem to be in Epicurious' online database, but I was able to find it published here, in a 2006 Chicago Sun-Times article.

The most intriguing part of this issue for me was the mention of Mugolio (Pine Cone Bud Syrup) from Primitivizia. They suggest using it over fresh fruit, yogurt or ice cream. Has anyone tasted this type of syrup before? At $24 for 3.6 ounces it is a bit pricey, but it sounds delicious.

Gemma Petrie

Publication Wed Mar 26 2008

Gourmet Magazine: Chicago

gourmet april copy.jpg

The April issue of Gourmet Magazine focuses on the culinary marvels of Italy (with a sprinkling of Passover dishes). Though, there is brief mention of Chicago in the "Letters" section. A reader writes in to request North Pond's recipe for Ramp Soup and Gourmet obliges (page 24).

Some of the Italian recipes featured in the issue sound delicious and perfect for spring. Asparagus Ravioli in Parmesan Sauce, Fava Beans with Red Onions and Mint, and Creamy Limoncello would make an impressive meal. Perhaps this will be the year I finally break down and buy my own pasta machine.

Gemma Petrie

Restaurant Tue Mar 25 2008

Details Magazine: America's Best Breakfast Restaurants

00004f.jpg, the "Online home of Details and GQ," has posted an article on the 15 best breakfast restaurants in America. Unsurprisingly, Lou Mitchell's makes the list. I have a special place in my heart for Lou Mitchell's because it was the first place I encountered the incredible combination of apples and cheddar cheese as a kid (in one of their omelets). However, I think any resident could name half a dozen better choices for breakfast in the city. These lists always make me wonder if some author just did a Google search to write the article...

There is a slide show of 5 of the selected restaurants (including Lou Mitchell's). The picture above was the most intriguing to me. It is from Taco Taco Cafe in San Antonio. I love the dishes.

The full list after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Publication Mon Mar 24 2008

Umami in the Tribune

The Chicago Tribune has an article today on umami, the "fifth-taste." High protein foods like meats and dairy tend to have high umami content. The article mentions a four-course umami tasting menu that Rick Bayless recently hosted at Topolobampo which included his favorite umami ingredient -- bacon.

An associated article provides suggestions for eating more umami at home.

Gemma Petrie

Publication Wed Mar 12 2008

Bon Appetit: Chicago


The April issue of Bon Appetit has a one-page spread on design shops in Chicago. Oddly, five of the ten stores featured are located on Damen. A list of the stores with addresses and website links after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie

Publication Tue Mar 11 2008

Chicago's Tastiest Street

Good Magazine recently published an article on America's Tastiest Streets. Broadway in Chicago's Lakeview and Edgewater neighborhoods shares the page with picks in Queens, Houston, Seattle, Miami, Nashville, and Los Angeles. The article highlights the following establishments with a favorite offering from each. See the Chicago list after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Restaurant Wed Feb 27 2008

Gourmet Magazine: Chicago


The March issue of Gourmet Magazine highlights Chicago's Prosecco in their monthly restaurant roundup. "Thirty varieties [of prosecco] are on offer; a minurature flute starts each dinner; and the drink finds its way into chef Mark Sparacino's creamy gold-leaf risotto."

Prosecco is currently participating in the Chicago Restaurant Week, offering a $32 prix-fixe dinner menu.

710 N. Wells
312/ 951-9500

Gemma Petrie

Publication Sat Feb 16 2008

New York Hearts Rick Bayless

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...

Dana Currier

Publication Fri Feb 08 2008

Readers' Choice Vote

Time Out Chicago's annual Eat Out Awards are coming out soon, and the Readers' Choice nominees are now up. Vote early and... well, you know.

Andrew Huff

Publication Fri Feb 01 2008

Chicago Mag Dishes on Sixteen's First Day

Sixteen.jpgChicago Magazine's Dish has a review of the first breakfast service at Sixteen, the restaurant located on the 16th floor of the just-opened Trump Hotel. The reviewer makes it seem decent, but not overwhelmingly delicious (although she does note that she ordered a rather "boring" breakfast).

Sixteen is currently only serving breakfast but will open for dinner beginning next week on Feb 6.

Photo by Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune

Meghan Murphy Gill

Drink Fri Jan 11 2008

Beer Ads and Beer Pedicures


Jezebel pointed me to an article in Portfolio by Lew Byrson encouraging beer companies to begin considering women as part of their marketing demographic. Women reportedly make up at least a quarter of beer drinkers these days, yet marketing campaigns from major breweries still continue to predominately show woman serving beer or flanking male beer drinkers.

But lest you think that beer companies completely ignore women, according to the article, "[Women] are supposedly the reason beer comes in six-packs rather than eight-packs--a sixer was presumed to be as much weight as a woman would feel comfortable carrying in one hand." [!]

Most of my female friends and I love beer, though we typically stick to smaller, higher quality breweries. While I will never be a Bud Light or Coors drinker, I am surprised that these major companies have yet to make a real effort to court female drinkers. (Though, I am by no means suggesting that sexist advertising is entirely unique to beer companies.)

Apparently at Chicago's Exsalonance Salon, you can get a beer pedicure. The salon claims that the enzymes and hops in the beer help reduce calluses.

I think I will stick to drinking my beer.

Gemma Petrie

Publication Thu Jan 10 2008

Chicago Tribune: Best Food Photos


The Chicago Tribune has a photo gallery up right now of their "best food photographs." The pictures by Bill Hogan and Bob Fila are indeed beautiful. Those of you, like myself, who have tried your hand at food photography know how difficult it can be to compose a nice shot of a food item -- especially without fancy equipment.

When you are done there check out two of my favorite food photographers/food bloggers at Still Life With... and La Tartine Gourmande.

(Photo: for the Tribune by Bill Hogan)

Gemma Petrie

Publication Sun Jan 06 2008

How Sweet It Is

There have been some bitter feelings since local favorite Marshall Field's became Macy's back in 2006, but Frango chocolates are sweeter than ever due to their nationwide availability. I received The Frango Cookbook: Simple Recipes & Sweet Ideas as a Christmas gift from my mother in-law—a charming and beautifully photographed dessert cookbook featuring 36 Frango-filled recipes. From easy recipes that even the most amateur baker could tackle (like Flourless Frango Chocolate Cake which is featured on the cover of the cookbook and uses only 3 ingredients—including 45 Frango chocolates), to ones that are a bit more complicated (like Famous Frango Chocolate Cheesecake), this is a sweet cookbook that will pull at any chocoholics heartstrings.

[Photo from]

Continue reading this entry »

Bobbi Bowers

Restaurant Fri Dec 28 2007

Bon Appetit: Chicago


The most recent issue of Bon Appetit highlights three local establishments. Smoque BBQ is hailed as a stand-out option in a city that apparently has a "dearth of good rib joints." Lovely Bake Shop's adorable mini-pies and down-home ambiance charm the writers into comparisons to New York's Magnolia Bakery. And Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi, located in the former Marshall Field's building, has received decidedly mixed local reviews, but Bon Appetit highlights this new establishment in an article on U.S. noodle bars. Perhaps we Chicagoans just aren't ready to spend $10 on a bowl of broth and noodles. Personally, if you are looking for a nice lunch in the loop, I would recommend the gem that is Frontera Fresco in the same location.

Smoque BBQ
3800 N. Pulaski

Lovely Bake Shop
1130 N. Milwaukee

Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi
111 N. State, 7th floor

Frontera Fresco
111 N. State, 7th floor

Gemma Petrie

Publication Mon Nov 26 2007

Culinary Classes in Chicago, Part 2

Cooking Light's December issue arrived in my mailbox over the weekend, an early Christmas gift. In addition to more than a dozen holiday cookie recipes and a great article in which everyone's favorite health nut Dr. Andrew Weil sings the praises of chocolate, this edition also features the final installment of the magazine's year-long countdown to the healthiest U.S. city.

Rankings were based on how well a city fared in helping its residents live by the magazine's motto, "Eat Smart. Be Fit. Live Well." Seattle takes the cake, but Chicago did make the Top 20. Among the reasons cited was our city's high number of chefs and head cooks. They're not just hiding behind their kitchens' swinging doors, either: at spots like Bespoke Cuisine, amateurs can book afternoon or evening cooking parties with Bespoke's pros. Guests eat what they cook, according to Cooking Light, and take home creative "doggy bags" -- recipes and spices used in the dishes.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Recipe Thu Nov 15 2007

Soup's On

onion soupReal Simple's Web exclusive this week features 14 recipes for quick, easy and belly-warming soups ranging from an ultra basic French onion to a slightly more exotic spicy sweet potato and coconut and everything in between. Even if you're not a recipe follower (and who really needs to be with soups?), these are good for a little inspiration and can definitely be improved upon (Gruyere instead of Swiss on the French onion?).

Meghan Murphy Gill

Business Sun Nov 11 2007

Chicago's Indie Coffeehouses

Newcity Chicago's latest paper edition features a "selective indie coffeehouse guide," helpfully organized by neighborhood. The collection of reviews is fun to read. Did you know there's a coffeehouse in Ukrainian Village where you can take tango lessons several nights a week? Or that you can get a tamale, Viennese breakfast, or even sushi with your coffee at shops around town? Despite the loss of institutions like Filter in Wicker Park, it's nice to see that so many indies are still serving it up hot and quirky in Chicago.

The Web version of the Newcity's guide is more extensive -- though my one minor gripe is that I wish it linked to the coffeehouses' Web sites, when available, so readers could more easily check out the menu and hours of operation.

Mandy Burrell Booth

Review Fri Nov 09 2007

Simply Delicious

store_simplefoodNot too long ago, I scored a copy of Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food to add to my small collection of cookbooks. The pages are understated, adorned with sketches of vegetables, herbs and meat. The recipes seem basic at first glance; Waters gives instructions on grilling vegetables and preparing a chicken broth. But with recipes such as Pork Shoulder Braised with Dried Chiles and Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad, Waters asserts that simple food does not mean bland food.

The recipe for Tortilla Soup is after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Meghan Murphy Gill

Publication Thu Nov 08 2007

Pizza Party

The current issue of Time Out Chicago is devoted to ranking the city's best pizza places. The best part of this feature is the heated debate among pizzaphiles over which crust type--deep dish or thin--revs their engine the most. GB staffers Nilay Patel and Dan Morgridge are part of Team Deep Dish, and staffer Marla Seidell on Team Thin Crust, which, of course, makes both crusts the best type of pizza. Word is bond!

Robyn Nisi

Chef Tue Oct 23 2007

The Spatulatta Girls

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

Lori Barrett

Chef Wed Sep 26 2007

Get Your Anti-Griddle Order in Now

alineabook.pngChef 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, (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.

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Event Tue Sep 25 2007

Savoring Saveur's October Issue

The October issue of Saveur magazine will be totally dedicated to Chicago eats. Recipes from the kitchens at North Pond, Tru and Nacional 27 will be featured, as well as profiles on local chefs and food stores. The Chopping Block will be hosting a cooking demonstration lead by chefs from local places as well as the test kitchens of Saveur on October 10. The event doubles as a benefit for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Click here for more information.

Robyn Nisi

Publication Thu Sep 13 2007

Saveur does Chicago

Saveur.jpgKeep an eye out for the October issue of Saveur magazine, which is dedicating its entire issue to the food of Chicago. (Or, in their words, "America's new culinary star.") The cover, predictably, is of deep-dish pizza, but judging from the full article list, they dig a lot deeper. Should be a fun read; sometimes it's revealing, or at the very least interesting, to get an outsider's view of one's own city.

Sandy Weisz / Comments (1)

Publication Mon Aug 13 2007

Call for nominees for Good Eating Awards

The Tribune is looking for nominees for its annual Good Eating Awards honoring those in the food and beverage industries that have made a difference in Chicago’s ever growing food scene. The Trib is looking for nominees crossing the gambit of food professions, chefs to butchers, sommeliers to educators, anyone working in the culinary field that you think makes an impact. The October issue of Good Eating will feature the winners saluting them and their accomplishments. Nomination deadline is August 17th. More information is available at the Tribune's website.

Christian Scheuer

Publication Wed Aug 01 2007

Philip Morris and Wal Mart profit from your organic groceries

While plenty of folks in Chicago claim to "shop responsibly" by attempting to buy only organic products, the definition and certification of organic items continues to be frought with problems.
There is an interesting post on the Trib's food blog, The Stew, that traces the ownership of the largest organic food processor, Hain Celestial, and its shareholders. While "big organics" are making organic foods available to a much larger group of consumers, it's interesting to see who shares in the profits.

Christine Blumer

Publication Fri Jul 20 2007

Artisanal Cheese Alert

Slow Food Chicago brings us a reading and cheese tasting hosted by Jeffrey P. Roberts, author of "The Atlas of America Artisan Cheese," which features a forward by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini.

The event is only $20, and you'll get to taste Midwestern artisan cheeses from Capriole, Leelanau Cheese Company, Prairie Fruits Farm and more. The event will be held at Uncommon Ground on August 11 at 5 pm. Make your reservations today by emailing helen [at] uncommonground [dot] com.

Shylo Bisnett

Publication Thu Jul 05 2007

Trib reporter rates the entire Taste. I do the booze.

By now you've probably read about Monica Eng's $1100 Taste experiment; having a bite of each and every offering at Taste of Chicago and living to tell about it. Today she reports back with a rating of everything she ate. A very useful "get it," "eh" or "forget it" system along with her top picks and best overall booths. So, if you're going to brave the greasy mouthed masses, you can make a game plan ahead of time.

The only thing Monica didn't hit was the booze. I did. Yes indeed, you can count on me to scope out the reasonably quaffable adult beverages at any outdoor festival. Read on for my less comprehensive, but all important, drink recommendations.

Continue reading this entry »

Christine Blumer / Comments (6)

Publication Thu Jun 28 2007

Shout out to the Weiner's Circle

In this week's New York Times Dining and Wine section, food writer Alex Witchel pays hommage to the late-night institution on Clark Street, describing her love of the Char Polish. She claims that only at the Weiner's Circle can she relive the barbecues of her youth, during which hot dogs were burned to a crisp on the grates of her family's grill. She does, however, refer to the peppers and celery salt typically served on top of the dog as "that Chicago nonsense." After all, every New Yorker has a serious inferiority complex.

Dana Currier

Publication Mon Jun 25 2007

Graham Bowles does Ratatouille for the movie cast

Mark Caro reports on a dream lunch at Avenues in the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Not that Graham Elliot Bowles food isn't amazing on its own, but inspired by a private screening of Pixar's new film Ratatouille, Chef created a tasting menu for Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt, and director Brad Bird. Caro captures the food and the conversation well, exactly what you'd expect having a fancy lunch with two alternative comedians would be like. My favotite passage reads:

Bowles says: "So what we have here is wild halibut that's been crusted with olive tapenade, and it's been crusted with pine nuts."

"You double-crusted," Oswalt declares. "You maniac. You magnificent bastard."

How much do we all wish we could have been there, too?!

Live vicariously here.

Christine Blumer

Publication Thu Jun 21 2007

I Scream! You Scream!

Time Out's feature this week? Ice cream! The issue includes reviews of different locations to find the icy treat and its variations in the Chicagoland area, as well as homages to Chicagoisms (the Chicago hot dog, an Ann Sather cinnamon bun, etc.) as expressed by ice cream and a review of five different ice cream makers, which I feel is a must-have for the summer.

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (2)

Publication Wed Jun 06 2007

A Day in the Life

So you think it might be all glitz and glamor if you were the executive chef at the Four Seasons? Think again. The Sun-Times profile of Kevin Hickey in today's food section includes a detailed account of his daily schedule. If you had this job, you too might find yourself screaming at fish mongers and opening your mail with a butcher knife...

Dana Currier

Publication Wed May 30 2007

Happy National Mint Julep Day!

In today's New York Times Dining & Wine section, food journalist Kim Severson writes about the many national food holidays that have an official place on the country's calendar. Almost every day is a holiday where food is concerned, and all of these special occasions are documented in Chase's Calendar of Events, which is edited here in Chicago and published by McGraw-Hill. Anyone can propose that a new food be honored with its own day by submitting a form to the company, but only those backed by "tangible enthusiasm" are taken into consideration. I think we have a case for a National Cicada Eating Day, even though it could only happen once every 17 years...

Dana Currier

Publication Tue May 22 2007

The Red Eye Diet

Today's Red Eye featured an article entitled "Eat lean, save green" that offered advice on how to buy healthy food without breaking the bank. While the majority of the article promoted the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the side bar labeled "Apples to Doritos," which compared the prices of various junk food to the healthy stuff, did nothing but undermine the argument. We're not going to get rid of our obesity problem by reminding ourselves that a Dunkin' Donuts Boston Kreme doughnut not only tastes better but also costs about half as much as a grapefruit.

Dana Currier

Publication Thu Apr 26 2007

The best in breakfunch

Can it be close to May already? Which means Mother's Day is around the corner. Which means it's time to make those Brunch plans. Phil Vettel, and The Trib's At Play section, are to the rescue. Today's issue features a smorgasbord of brunch options, and Phil breaks it down in a variety of ways, including five spots under $25, a few quiet places out of the way, and the best in French Toast. Check out their brunch photo essay for 18 shots that'll make you wish it was Sunday already.

Sandy Weisz / Comments (4)

Publication Tue Apr 10 2007

Tribune touts Chicago cuisine

In preparation for the onslaught of 2000 professional foodies who will descend upon Chicago for the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the Tribune has published its Insiders Food Guide to Chicago. At first glance, the list doesn't inspire much confidence with its categories like "Neighborhood Nosh" and "Pizza Power," and for those of us who live in Chicago, most of the Tribune's picks won't come as a surprise. The real question is, are these the places you would send out-of-towners looking for the quintessential Chicago eating experience?

Dana Currier

Random Thu Mar 29 2007

Will the old Time Out Chicago please stand up?

I have a love/hate relationship with Time Out Chicago; I used to love it, now I hate it. This week's issue features the First Annual Eat Out Awards, a completely frustrating, if not perplexing, 13-page section on the "best" eateries in Chicago as determined by TOC's food critics and its readers. The majority of the critics' choices are restaurants you can afford if you have a decent paycheck for your PR job in the Loop. How many times are we going to have to read about how innovative Alinea is? True, I might be bitter that I've never been, and likely will never have saved enough money to blow on dinner there, but I think I'm just longing for the days (i.e. TOC's first year of publication) when they wrote about 19 cent falafel more than they fawned over $19 personal pizzas at Spacca Napoli.

I even blame TOC for the ghastly outcome of the Readers' Choice awards, because the "choices" for which readers were to vote were rather out of touch. Smoke Daddy as an option for "Best Barbecue"? Give me a break! Smoke Daddy is merely okay in a pinch for barbecue, and it certainly doesn't hold a candle to the nominees with which it was listed. It won (?!), but I think that's due to a large Wicker Park readership who hasn't bothered to make the trek to any of the other nominees (Fat Willy's, Honey 1, Lem's, Smoque and Uncle John's).

Last week's feature was titled "Vs", and it claimed take Chicago "classics," make them go "head-to-head," and determine the outcome "in the ultimate citywide smackdown." What it really did, however, was pit apples against oranges, and then they closed their eyes and pointed to one, making for a read that left this reader saying "huh?" so many times, you'd have thought I was doing trigonometry. Spacca Napoli competed with Pizzeria Uno (for "Best place to eat a pie for dinner") and Goose Island Brew Pub (for "Most delicious homebrew"). I think it would have made more sense if Pizzeria Uno was against another Chicago-style pizzeria (some pizza experts don't even call that pizza!) or Spacca Napoli went head-to-head with Pizza D.O.C. (and you know how I feel about that). Likewise, Goose Island isn't really a "homebrew" because it distributes its beer. Comparing it with another local brewery (Two Brothers, perhaps?) would have made more sense.

I'm not about to cancel my subscription, because even with the annoying food coverage, I look forward to each new issue's arrival on Wednesdays. I do think that the "Eat Out" staff needs to take a week off, go to one of those spas the magazine raves about and do a little bit of reflection on the direction of their section––for at least as much time as I put into that last sentence.

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (7)

Publication Mon Mar 19 2007

Gastropub is Not an Illness

The Tribune's Good Eats section has an interesting article about gastropubs, a pub or bar that specializes in high-quality food rather than standard bar fare. Many are familiar with gastropubs; if you have ever been to a Gapers Block gathering at the Hopleaf you know what;s going on, even if Hopleaf doesn't care for the term. The article also includes some recipes from a few of the gastropubs in Chicago, such as Cooper's “Flank steak with mashers and green peppercorn sauce” and BB's “Pork shanks with sausages and 'kraut.” And if that's not enough, some beer paring suggestions for restaurant dishes and your own meals.

Christian Scheuer

Publication Wed Feb 28 2007

Fixation on Food

The lead story on the Tribune's website this evening demands "Are you really going to eat that?" and declares "Food fanaticism gets out of control." In the article, author Emily Nunn bemoans the fraught culture of food that has developed over the past few years in the United States and worldwide. The story is cynical, bitter, and sadly, very truthful. Nunn claims that eating today is so politicized that it is nearly impossible to ingest anything without a guilty conscience. The article includes a reader poll, posing two questions: “Do you think American culture has become too fanatical about food?” and “Do you worry about what you eat?” The current responses are telling: 66.4 percent claim that we are too obsessed with what we eat, while an almost equal 68 percent claim that they worry about food just as much as the next guy. If you ask me, it’s really not all that surprising how much time and energy we focus on food. Aside from air and water, there’s not much more that’s quite as essential to human life.

Dana Currier

Publication Sat Feb 24 2007

The wide world of thin crust pizza

Following up on Wednesday's story on Spacca Napoli (also discussed here), the Tribune printed an article in Thursday's Dining section on where to find the best examples of other "regional thin crust pizza." While much of Chicago seems to feel that deep dish is the end-all, be-all of pizza, there must be a sizeable population out there who yearns for something a little less, well, dense and doughy. The article identifies four varieties of thin crust pizza - New Haven, New York, California, and Neapolitan styles (and gives brief mention to a fifth - St. Louis style?) - and suggests at least one reliable purveyor of each. Having never taken to the deep dish myself, I'm looking forward to sampling my way through the list. Thin crust is where it's at, and it's about time it got some respect in this town.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Publication Wed Feb 21 2007

Flyover Tastebuds?

San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer has caused a flurry of food-board discussions, after describing some spring rolls at a new takeout place as "bland enough to appeal to the Midwestern tourist." Chicago foodies are lauding the city's adventurous chefs, like Alinea's Grant Achatz and Moto's Homaru Canto on Chowhound's The Grinder, while others say Chicago is an exception to the rule. Bauer, meanwhile, defends his statement on his Between Meals blog, saying that he thinks most trends start on either coast then eventually make their way to the flyover states ... or as a commenter on his board says, "states that are shaped like a meat cleaver." Is this true? Don't let them tread on the Midwestern palate.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Publication Mon Feb 19 2007

The Tribune Wants to Know Your Secret Recipe.

The Tribunes Good Eating is introducing a new column called "What's your dish?" They're asking for your well honed family recipes, favorite recipes and what makes them special. Everybody's got one, that secret recipe for some obscure side dish your great aunt Edna handed down to your mom because she didn't trust her sister — why not share it with the world instead? Just make sure it's not your French grandmother Nesele Toulouse's secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Christian Scheuer

Publication Thu Feb 15 2007

Surveying the competition

A hat tip and wave back to Chicago Magazine, who gave a little love our way in this week's Dish newsletter, their weekly dispatch of Chicago restaurant news, interviews and gossip. Dish is a free feature on their website, and if you subscribe, you can get the latest in your inbox every Wednesday. I usually find, in each issue, one or two new restaurants to add to my ever-growing list of Restaurants I Want To Try, as well as a bite-size portions of industry chatter. The authors, Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby, seem to be aware of every new restaurant months before anyone else. Sign up at

Sandy Weisz / Comments (1)

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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