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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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Archive for January, 2008

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« Previous Entries

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01.31.08

Grape Expectations

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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This last week I’ve been drinking more than Charles Bukowski and Orson Welles at an Arizona State Keg Party. Speaking of which, I found some pretty funny (actually sad) drunken outtakes of the eminent Shakespearian actor and celebrated director slinging Paul Masson plonk. But I digress. I’ve been drinking a lot of wine and I came across a couple of bottles this week worth mentioning…

2005 Muller Catoir Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spatlese (Pfalz)

Forget Bogey/Bacall, Brad and Angelina, Jay and Silent Bob, the front end citrusy sweetness and backend acidity on this bottle along with my Thai chili and limey crispy onion topped banana blossom salad from Thalia on Monday was the perfect match. One of the best German rieslings I’ve had in a while. You’ll find it at Sam’s.

2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

One sniff of this crisp number is like getting a swirly in a toilet filled with ruby red grapefruit juice. The fruity splash here is atypical of your normally arid Savvy Blanc. At only like $16 bucks a bottle at Binny’s, if your palate agrees with me or not, it ain’t no big thang….nice sipper to wash down some Harold’s fried chicken.

01.31.08

Wingin’ It

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Great Sea’s spicy wings

I hit nine spots and ate over 100 hot wings with the national chicken wing eating champ, local boy Patrick Bertoletti, to find the best wings in Chicago for Time Out this week.

Though this wasn’t a story about Bertoletti, who is now the number #2 ranked competitive eater behind Nathan’s Famous champ Joey Chestnut, it very well could have been. You figure a mohawked competitive eater might be a punky meathead with a chip on his shoulder, but Bertoletti who’s also a culinary school grad, is a thoughtful passionate gourmand.

While waiting for wings in the lobby of Harold’s Wicker Park, we watched a WWF battle between a crazy midget leprechaun and Chris Jericho. I was laughing, but Bertoletti remained stoned faced, then turned to me and said, “I can’t laugh. In the hierarchy of sport, competitive eaters are way below professional wrestlers.”

That may be so, but there’s nothing fake about what Bertoletti does. He breaks down wings by crushing the joint between the two wing bones and then pushes the meat off the bone with an “umbrella technique” and sweeps it into his mouth before I’d even pick my first wing up. There’s a lot of strategy and focus that goes in to what he does. Watching a video of Bertoletti beating the legendary Kobayashi and Chestnut on Spike TV in the wings discipline, I was struck by his intensity. It really reminded me of Lance Armstrong on his famous last climb of the Alpe d’ Huez in the Tour de France. I asked him about that moment and Bertoletti says he was so zoned that he felt as if he were unconscious until the last three seconds of the match.

01.30.08

Pizza Lojack

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Domino’s has developed a pizza tracker. Unfortunately, the device stops working when the driver leaves the store, ensuring you still have no idea if your driver stopped for a bong hit before dropping off your pie.

01.30.08

Top Pizza

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Chicago Traveler names its best 10 pizzas of 2007. Considering #2 is Home Run Inn and predicated on the fact that “Being announced #1 pizza at the Taste of Chicago six times in a row is mighty impressive”, we don’t put much stock in this list. Then again, it’s the “Chicago Traveler” and everyone knows Taste of Chicago is populated by amply girthed tourists looking to suck down cheesecake as big as their head, so they can tell fish stories to their neighbor across the fence about the slice that didn’t get away when they get back to Nebraska.

01.29.08

Taking on Theise

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Terry Theise, the Lon Chaney of wine

Terry Theise is a man of a thousand faces. Well, at last five or six. In the introduction to his 2007 German wine catalog, the legendary importer’s Fu Manchu-ed visage and hands are engaged in a range of poses including rapture, self-strangulation, a Humbert Humbert-style leer, mock-contemplation and a potential gang sign (Austrian Riesling represent.)

Theise’s pictorial is accompanied by a “War and Peace”-length manifesto punctuated with quotes from poets and philosophers. Some of his personal tenets: “Harmony is more important than intensity”; “The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts”; “Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil and artisanality.” More »

01.29.08

From California Surf to Chicago Turf

Podcasts, Profiles in Food: Interviews


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This month, I sit down with Chef Carol Wallack of Sola. On the eve of Sola’s second anniversary, we spoke about her old schoolmate, Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery and Mozza fame, the challenges women chefs face in a male dominated world, and Wallack’s attempts to become a pro surfer.

If you have Adobe Flash installed, you can play the file right on this site, below, by pressing the play button. If not, download the file and play it on your PC or on an MP3 player here: Carol Wallack Interview

01.28.08

Sunflower Market Closing

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Sunflower Market (1910 N. Clybourn) is shuttering it’s doors in February. No surprise there. I definitely won’t miss their self help produce weighing stations or the high prices.

01.28.08

Moto Chef Ticks Off Toronto Writer

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Chef Homaro Cantu’s lasered vanilla bean schtick irks a Toronto food writer. The linked article is a run of the mill cantankerous rant against everything wrong with the food world, including a call to ban Mario Batali and unban Emeril Lagasse. I don’t know about that, Mario actually cooks with real technique on his show, whereas Lagasse would have us believe the proper way to start a roux is with a cold pot, a tablespoon of flour, a gallon of butter, ten heads of garlic and a healthy dose of fresh cracked pepper. Another interesting note regarding the article is that part of Vancouver is considering banning drive-thru windows, proving foie gras foe Chicago may no longer be alone in the stupid legislation department.

01.28.08

Power Lunch

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Crain’s releases their take on the top 25 downtown business dining destinations. We’d also make a case for Sepia, Powerhouse,Viand, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

01.28.08

Best of 2007

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Mole rojo taco from Manolo’s at the Maxwell St. Market

I’ve been a little late getting this up, but I wrote a slew of best of top 5 food lists for Newcity in December. Here’s my take on the best (in no particular order within each group of 5) of 2007…

Top 5 Restaurant Openings
Sepia
Aigre Doux
Smoque
Old Town Brasserie
Nazarlik
More »

01.25.08

Bruno Gets it Wrong with Overpriced Thai Food

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Today, Pat Bruno reviews Vong Thai Kitchen

I know the major dailies are all about providing service these days, so I ask, is it a service to direct your readers to a nine year old place slinging $14 Pad Thai and Panang curry that preys on tourists and the Loop business lunch crowd?

Bruno contends:

Make no mistake about it, you will shell out more money at Vong’s Thai Kitchen than at your basic neighborhood Thai joint. But when it comes to finesse, flavor and atmosphere, Vong’s Thai Kitchen (VTK) steals the show.

I guess he’s never been to Spoon Thai (4608 N. Western) or Silver Spoon Thai (710 N. Rush St.), where the blonde walls are just as glorious as Avec, and the garnishes are carved by hand. Oh, and the Pad Thai is $6.95. Sure the service may not be four star, but it’s friendly and pretty responsive. Besides, at Vong, you’re likely to get an entitled college graduate waiter slumming it for cash while dreaming of making it at Second City or contemplating where they might drink their PBR tonight in Wicker Park instead of thinking about refilling your empty water glass.

It feels like Bruno is just interested in cozying up to famous chefs like the restaurant’s namesake, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. After all, the review is titled, “Currying Favor “. But, that’s not the case.

Bruno says:

“I have no idea if Vongerichten visits VTK Chicago to tweak the menu or to change this dish or add that flavor.”

Well, Pat, I know with your “freelance” career working as the sole reviewer for the Sun Times, you probably no longer have time for real journalism, but I bet if you called and asked Vongerichten, he would have given you the answer.

Regarding the food, Bruno says:

The “logs” of tender and flavorful pork, stacked askew, were quite delicious. And the tidy small salad on one end of the plate was quite good, too.

I don’t understand how a high priced long serving wordsmith gets away like using trite adjectives like “delicious” and “good”. At least Rachael Ray came up with Yum-O.

Anyways, make no mistake about it. I’m not being snarky for snark’s sake. Pat Bruno has a responsibility to his readers, and part of that responsibility is to find great places that his readers would not otherwise find. Likewise if he can find them at a value and from locally based entrepreneurs and chefs slinging their own blood, sweat, and tears and not celebrity mega-chefs who own twenty other restaurants and spend the bulk of their time in New York City, then he’s really on to something.

Nine years ago when Arun’s was hot and Vong was opening, maybe this was a good review. Now it’s not even topical. Bruno should be writing a piece on how Arun’s can still get away with charging $70-80 bucks for what’s now generally available at clean, friendly, value-priced, and authentic neighborhood Thai spots like Spoon, TAC Quick, and Sticky Rice.

Not only that, but these neighborhood spots execute just as well or better than Vong on accessible dishes like Pad Thai, satay, and basic curries. Silver Spoon’s crab Rangoon is one of ther better versions in the city. Better yet, once folks walk in the door and work their way through the familiar Thai-American fare, there’s a whole world of regional delicacies to discover from funky Issan Sausage to dried beef jerky to banana blossom salad that really celebrate what Thai cooking and culture is all about.

Bruno might contend that his wide reading audience (read, Grabowski rubes) isn’t ready for an authentic experience and that he’s fulfilling his mission. Well, I’m part of that reading audience, and I’m the Polish son of a blue collar tool and die maker from suburban Detroit and I’m interested. As far as the rest of the reading public, they had no problem looking beyond burritos as big as their head and deep fried chimichangas to eat Rick Bayless’s Oaxacan moles, so why won’t they do the same with Thai?

01.24.08

More Bad Boy Brits

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Local scribe, Trib’s Monica Eng has a fantastic story on Marco Pierre White in this month’s Gourmet. Good to see one of our best local writers enjoying some national prominence. The only question that remains: Why isn’t there more writing like this in the Tribune food section? There is in the New York Times.

01.24.08

Brit Invasion

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Trib’s Trine Tsoudero’s has a nice review of the British chef invasion. Though she attributes the Brit’s success to good timing, saying,

The culinary renaissance in Britain boils down, so to speak, to good timing. English chefs such as White and Ramsay raised the level of cooking in restaurants as home cooks were being urged by writers and television chefs to open their minds — and their pantries — to new flavors, ingredients and techniques from the Mediterranean and other regions, Waxman said.

I disagree. I think it’s because, the Brits have eschewed the prim ’50’s housewife aesthetic of cooking (”Oh, the beauty of a glistening oyster.” , “How to celebrate the bountiful essence of black truffle”) that still dominates American food journalism, in favor of sex, drugs and rock and roll. More »

01.24.08

Bruno Bad on Decor

Bites: News and Miscellany


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It was good to see Sun Times Pat Bruno break away from his string of Italian restaurant reviews, and make his way to Ed’s Potsticker House last week.

My biggest quibble is this line from Bruno:

“Ed’s is polished and pristine, comfortable, too, with a line of booths on one side, tables on the other.”

Last time I was at Ed’s, the restaurant’s yellow walls and neon green accents reminded me of a third grader’s idea of cool interior design. Not to mention the Chinese characters on the walls look like they were spray painted through a hand-made template. Bad Bridgeport gang graffiti looks better. The booths themselves look like they’re made from white painted rough-sawn planking cobbled together by a novice carpenter, and hardly comfortable.

That being said, I don’t really care about decor so much, but I’d hate for dainty pseudo-gourmands wielding Bruno’s review to feel as they’ve been betrayed when they stop in at Ed’s.

On the food front, Bruno did get the eggplant, scallion cake, and lamb with cumin dishes right, as those are Ed’s best.

01.24.08

Coffee Wars

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Everyone is all abuzz about Starbucks test marketing $1 cups of coffee. Some speculate the reason they’re doing this because of a threat from McDonald’s and their “premium” coffee push. What’s really sad about this is, that McDonald’s coffee is horrible. This isn’t some high foodie snobbism either. I know because I tried the stuff every Monday (they give it away for free) from four different McDonald’s in the last month in an effort to see if it was any good. It’s not. In fact it may be worse than whatever they were doing in the early ’90’s. The cups I’ve tried have ranged from a watery to burnt to having the faint aroma of cardboard. Ironically, even though it seems there’s a Starbucks on every corner, it proves once again that convenience, aka drive-thrus, and million dollar marketing pushes are more important than actual quality. More »

01.23.08

Schwa Pulls an Alinea

Bites: News and Miscellany


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If the name wasn’t already taken, Michael Carlson and the Schwa folks should rename themselves Alinea. Alinea is after all a “new beginning”, and that’s just what the Schwa boys are about to embark upon. According to Heather Shouse’s excellent article in Time Out, Carlson and crew are about to restart the fantastic voyage at their humble storefront on Ashland.

01.23.08

Blackstone Hotel Chef Runs Into Delays

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Joses Garces, the chef scheduled to open Mercat a la planxa tapas in the Blackstone hotel experiences delays with his third restaurant

Of course, if the website for Mercat is any indication of the organizational prowess we can expect from the Garces team, we’ll be surprised if they open on time in Chicago. Nothing but Helen Keller Flash on Acid design and unintuitive links here. There’s more calls to “touch me” on the site than a Madonna album.

I said this before regarding the possibility of Ducasse and Robuchon coming to Chicago, but I think it holds true for Garces as well:

“I don’t begrudge Ducasse and Robuchon’s desire to make money. They’ve earned that right, but the reality is that the pool of dollars is limited. I’d rather spend mine savoring a local hungry chef who’s clawing his way to the top night after night, infusing his soul into the food at the pass of his own restaurant.”

01.23.08

What’s Wrong with Chicago Ave?

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Drove by Fan Si Pan (1618 W. Chicago Ave.), the pan-asian spring roll and dumpling spot last night and noticed the door covered in plywood and the windows plastered with garbage bags. Seems the spot may have been a bit too Fan Si Pan(ts) for the hood. According to the 312 Dining Diva, the owners said:

they’re “looking to make the concept a little more clearer and move somewhere else.” Oh, and they’re not staying in the neighborhood either.

In other sad news, Painted Lady Organic Eatery (2018 W. Chicago Ave.) closed. Mike Sula over at the Reader has the goods. You can imagine my surprise as I wrote about this spot pretty favorably for Newcity just last week.

Proving I know nothing about restaurant longevity, I wrote:

Ukie Village’s confederacy of hoodied hipsters, hand-holding girlfriends and sleeve-tattooed citizens will keep this place in business for at least two Johnny Cash lifetimes.

Word is they may reopen in a few months, so I may not be all that off. A cold January is always a tough time for any food business, what with all the resolution driven gym visitation and holiday calorie hangover. My bet is they’ll be back.

01.22.08

First Bite: Crisp

Restaurant Reviews


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As the window on this Lakeview storefront says, “The Bird is the Word”. Though this mod storefront serves a wide spectrum of Americanized Korean favorites from Buddha bowls (aka BiBimBop) to Korean burritos (aka ssam) to deep fried fish, it’s the chicken that matters. More »

01.22.08

Reach of a Chef files: Chefs on a Plane (and a boat) edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Looks like sushimeister general, Nobu is hitting the friendly seas, while our own Charlier Trotter is making the skies safe for your grumbling stomach.

Nobu will be opening satellite restaurants on cruise ships as Charlie slings “shredded pork complemented by wild rice and Michigan sour cherries” hearty enough to withstand the hellfire swelter of those metal airplane hotbox ovens. Tough to say which is the nobler venture or whether either is. I tend to file both under the idea of the rediculous reach of a chef file. This is America and I’m pretty sure the right to make money is in the bill of rights somewhere, but I sure would love to see Trotter and Nobu do something else. What if instead of feeding rich people on luxury cruises, they devoted more time to opening up fast casual concepts rooted in high quality healthy ingredients or maybe even reforming school lunch? That’s not to say Trotter hasn’t raised hundreds for charity and helped many local school kids, and I’m sure Nobu had done a similar thing, but who’s worse off, the fat cats in first class or the fat citizens in the McDonald’s drive-thru lane?


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