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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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Archive for May, 2008

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« Previous Entries

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05.30.08

Graham Elliot’s a Go

Bites: News and Miscellany


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The trademark Stetson has been shelved, the tattoos are fierce, the black lacquered mod glasses and the red Chuck Taylor Converse shoes are bared, and tonight Chef Graham Elliot Bowles comes out swinging with a BYOB opening (a few days ahead of the June 2 expected opening) of his namesake restaurant (217 W. Huron) which finally honors his true personality.

I stopped in today to check out the space, and everything from the informal tea towel linens to the hammered copper sinks in the ladies bathroom look shiny and ready to serve as the backdrop of one of Chicago’s more exciting openings. The room is warm, elegant and mod, and doesn’t entirely reject luxury, in fact it could go either way.

Though don’t kid yourself about the formality, as Bowles remarked that they were thinking of hiding a flat screen TV behind the bar to show old WWF Wrestlemania tapes for the late night crowd. Appetizers are running $9-15 with entrees from $27-37. The menu features Bowles’ handwriting and personal sketches of his dishes.

Tune in for more in next week’s Newcity.

05.29.08

Measuring Up

Bites: News and Miscellany


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There are a lot of terms used for what we’re seeing happen today—international village, globalization, shrinking world—but whatever the term, the result is we now have lots of stuff from somewhere else. That’s a wonderful thing. However, if some of that stuff happens to fall into the category of food preparation, it can become a confusing thing. More »

05.29.08

The Top Chef Scallop Situation, Part II

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Per Rick Tramonto:

“The Top Chef producers stocked and paid for the product that went into our coolers. Unfortunately, due to editing and the whole reality tv way of filming, it was not conveyed that it was part of the challenge, nor is the conversation shown where Tom pointed out that they were not the restaurant’s product. None of my restaurants have ever used frozen scallops or any product that is not of the highest quality. Other than that, it was a pleasure being part of such an amazing production, and I loved the way that Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood looked on screen. It was a lot of fun to be part of.”

Wait, reality TV sets people up and then doesn’t show “reality”? This is too much for me to take. Seriously though, it is pretty despicable that the producers made it look like Tramonto was serving poor quality scallops in his kitchen. Frankly I love that he stood up to Spike and didn’t make any excuses. On the other hand, planting frozen scallops seems all fair to me, and if a chef makes that decision, as Spike did, he deserves to go.

05.28.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Tramonto Edition, aka, Were those frozen scallops planted?

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Antonia, I will break you.

Spoke with Tramonto and Cenitare Group PR guru Jeffrey Ward tonight. He says of the rogue scallops that brought Spike down. “…that was Top Chef’s product, not ours, for sure… “

1 – What’s with the crotch pads for butchering steaks?

2 – I can’t believe all the meat in the Allen Brothers plant. Have you see the prices on their stuff? It’s literally as much as most finished prime dry aged finished dishes at good steakhouses around town. I can’t believe they sell that much product.

3 – This is the first Quickfire challenge that actually determines how good a chef you are.

4 – Unfortunately, this means Spike has chops.

5 – Why is everyone wearing a hoodie?

6 – Nice Glad trash bag commercial. Do all their bags come with big fat logos on them?

7- Why would you take “frozen” scallops? Spike doesn’t use his advantage well, ever.

8 – Stephanie just said sweetbreads are like “a chicken McNugget if they’re done right.” She’s so right…which is scary, but the reality is that, all snobbery aside, most high end chefs are seeking to surpass the satisfaction of a crunchy moist Chicken McNugget with their platings.

9 – Did she just say peanut butter whipped potatoes? No way. Lisa’s going home.

10 – Richard finally comes off as human.

11 – I think hearts of palm, fresh or canned are overrated. They’re like the upscale tofu of the haute cuisine world.

12 – I totally dig that Ilan is rocking the t-shirt. I wonder if he’ll require jackets at his tapas truck.

13 – I feel Ted Allen got shafted this season in favor of Gail Simmons….of course this may just be Chicago favoritism.

14 – Damn, Spike called out Tramonto for having frozen scallops in his walk-in. Of course, Tramonto called him “bro”, and big-footed him.

15 – Rick’s cookbooks are fabulous. It’s actually a great prize. Not to mention the GE kitchen.

16 – Spike. He gone…eventually immortalized in the Jackie-O museum of iconic hat wearers.

05.28.08

If you didn’t think Blagojevich sucked before…

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Lots of stuff on the new bill that restricts out of state wine purchases. Bill Daley of the Tribune notes it takes effect June 1 and there’s a good editorial on the subject.

Finally, I wrote the following column when the bill was moving through the legislature:

I love champagne like fat kids love cake. Of course I’m a fat kid and I love cake, too. But the state legislature isn’t banning the out-of-state retail sales of cake. On August 7, both houses of the Illinois legislature passed bill HB429, which is supposed to reconcile state law with a Supreme Court ruling that requires states to treat in-state and out-of-state wineries the same. More »

05.26.08

Dippin’ in the L20

Restaurant Reviews


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Pour my beer in a Solo cup and give me a spit-roasted pork taco and I’m a happy man. It’s not that I don’t appreciate luxury dining, but the balance between food and other details at the high end has increasingly tipped toward silly. Given the current climate, it’s probably only a matter of time before someone offers high colonics in lieu of a post-meal digestif. More »

05.26.08

In and Out of Africa

Bites: News and Miscellany, Recipes


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Chicago has long been a great town for exploring the cuisines of a wide range of cultures. However, the rate at which potential new food adventures are being added seems to be accelerating, and the culinary options are rapidly spreading into the suburbs, with Niles recently being identified in the Chicago papers as pretty much the ethnic food shopping mecca of the universe. But until recently, there have not been a lot of options for exploring Africa’s varied cuisines. More »

05.26.08

Hot Links

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Chuck Cowdery, Chicago’s resident whiskey expert and all around interesting dude tells you where to shop for and drink Bourbon in Chicago. I’d add Lush as a nice spot to pick up some brown spirits in Chicago. While they don’t have the selection of Sam’s or Binny’s, every once in a while they have a nice surprise like black label Maker’s Mark hanging around. Mitch Einhorn, who is also the Twisted Spoke owner, is behind Lush.

Look’s like it’s not up on the website yet, but this month’s Chicago magazine which features plenty of Grant Achatz coverage, also has a great scoop article on the Paul Kahan Fulton Market beer and pork project by Cassie Walker, and nice article on Greg Gunthorp. Pick it up.

Rick Tramonto has a blog over at R and I magazine.

The funny Hub51 recruitment video from the Melman boys.

Thomas Keller’s Sous Vide book drops this fall (Thanks Bill)

Word is you can score the famous Mar-A-Lago Turkey Burger, as trumpeted on Oprah, at the Trump Chicago Hotel and Towers this summer for a very Trump over-rated price of $26 with garden salad and fries. Of course you could make it yourself.

05.26.08

Patty Burger Promotes Waste

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Pattyburger is running a promotion where you can trade in any burger in return for a Patty Burger single with cheese, a regular order of fries and a regular drink. Normally, I’d be headed to White Castle to secure the cheapest burger around to reap the benefit, but I’m not really a fan of Patty Burger. Still, I thought this is kind of a cool promotion. Then I thought about it some more, and I realized that basically Patty Burger is encouraging people to buy a whole bunch of burgers from local competitors that no one’s going to eat and the wrappers of which will probably end up in local landfills. I suggest Pattyburger just give away free burgers instead.

05.22.08

Watercress

Food History


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The Greek general Xenophon and the Persian King Xerxes ordered their soldiers to eat it to keep them healthy. Louis IX of France (St. Louis) found it so delightful that he placed it on a coat of arms. During the 14th-century, it had an important place on the menus at the courts of England’s Richard II and France’s Charles VI. And I just picked some up at my local grocery store.

“It” is watercress. More »

05.21.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Restaurant Wars Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Dude, why did I give up smoking?

1- Why doesn’t Tom Colicchio wear his chef’s coat in the Top Chef house kitchen? He wears it in every other kitchen, even though he never cooks on the show.

2- Lou Mitchell’s. Over-rated. Look at the way the hash browns are stacked up and steaming on the grill, nothing says quality hashbrowns like steam. They should shut the place down over that egg poaching liquid.

3- It took me a while, but I love Antonia. She’s a tough mother fu@*er.

4- Blaze (or is that Blaise) Up? Was it a hookah bar?

5- Oh, god, Bourdain has a chef’s jacket on. That’s even worse than Colicchio. At least Colicchio still has a restaurant.

6- Is Spike going to hang porkpie hats from the ceiling for decor?

7- Ras al hanout is back.

8- Dale’s menu sounds better to me. Chinese restaurant? Since when is Halo Halo a Chinese dish…c’mon Antonia.

9- It’s really weird, Bourdain’s kitchen interaction is like an impression of Colicchio.

10- Blaise doesn’t know how to clean shellfish.

11- In their selection of pastel candles and fake Asian imports, does Pier One really have “Gastropub” style decorations?

12- Jose Andres….they should have let Richard loose….

13- I agree with Bourdain, it takes so much effort to get the smear back off a plate.

14- It’s not the size of the short rib, but how you cook it.

15- Padma sounds drunk. How else explain her use of the phrase, “slammin’”?

16- Scylla seems to have served Stephanie well.

17- They should send Spike home for being a smarmy bastard

18- Dale. He gone. First time I’ve disagreed all season. Shoulda’ been Lisa.

Next Week: Tramonto.

05.20.08

Unswayed

Restaurant Reviews


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Angela Hepler-Lee is like the new Jerry Kleiner. Years after the Marche and Red Light impresario staked his claim to Randolph Street, Hepler-Lee, who opened Sushi Wabi, De Cero and now a new mod small-plates Indian spot, Veerasway, is taking it back piece-by-upscale-ethnic-piece. More »

05.20.08

Win a Date With Tad Hamil….err, Spike from Top Chef

Bites: News and Miscellany


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That’s right boys and girls. You can put in an ebay bid for a night of cooking (thanks Jasmine) from your favorite porkpie hatted Top chef contestant. The winning bid covers menu consultation and cooking appearance. You also have to pony up for the ingredients. If you win, I suggest you test Spike’s Top Chef skills and tell him he only has $1.50 per person to work with and he has to create a foie gras and pork only menu.

05.15.08

First Sip: L20

Bites: News and Miscellany


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I always like when owners dine at their own restaurant. It makes me feel like I’m not being poisoned. And indeed, on opening night, of L20, the new Laurent Gras seafood super restaurant, Rich Melman, grandaddy of Lettuce Entertain You, and his son RJ (clad in suitcoat, jeans and canvas Vans style shoes) and a couple others held court at a table in the center of the room.

Bottom line, even on opening night, with a few jitters, this is Chicago’s best new restaurant since the opening of Alinea. It’s now really just a question of where L20 falls in the spectrum of fine dining, aka relative to Tru, Alinea, NoMI style dining in Chicago. L20 might be what you get if you crossed Alinea, Tru, French Laundry, and Masa. It’s going to take me a few days to process this one in full detail, and you’ll be able to read about it next week in Newcity. In the meantime, a couple of thoughts:

1) L20 is true Michelin 3 star style dining.

2) I was skeptical that a multitude of seafood courses would prove nuanced to hold my interest. L20, like Green Zebra which redefined what it means to eat vegetarian, is a paradigm shift in terms of seafood focused dining.

3) After all these years of dining in converted homes, it feels really different to kick back in a wide open, high ceilinged room. Oddly, the wide open space feels more intimate.

4) Pork Belly has almost become a ubiquitous cliche. That being said, the version at L20 (pictured below) marinated in sake and coated with duck fat is the best version in the city. The skin was a true cracklin’ in the hard core chicharron tradition. If they bagged the crispy skin by itself, you’d have yourself a four star Super Bowl snack.

5) Lamb tartar with Ebi Shrimp, pickled peach and tarragon - pretty and pretty damn tasty.

6) I’ll take this study of key lime (pictured below) which features jalapeno topped fruit, caramel, and various tropical fruits and textures including frozen coconut foam cylinders and rum soaked pineapple and shaved pineapple over the most decadent chocolate confection anyday.

7) From house baked creamy pan au lait to pefect mini-baguettes to salty anchovy stuffed buttery croissant puffs, there is no better bread service in the city.

You can find a PDF of the opening night menu here.

Here’s a complete photo-slideshow of my entire meal.

05.15.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Cook for a Cop Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Do you like burritos?

1- Spike thinks Dale’s arrogance is going to haunt him? Yeah, Hung Huynh really sucked it up last season.

2- Bringing salad sexy back…I smell a new Saturday Night Live short featuring Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.

3- How embarrassing, Spike wore that same hat last episode.

4- Yeah, Andrew, because Police cadets are gonna totally dig on raw food. Last I checked, Ricobenes and Billy Goat were filled with cops, Karyn’s Raw, not so much.

5- Based upon the massive trash talking the producers are playing up, I’m thinking Andrew’s going home.

6- Colicchio looked at Stephanie like, “How cute, mushroom leek soup.”

7- What’s with Richard’s headband? Is he putting on a mud mask after this interview?

8- Oh, damn, Spike just smacked down Colicchio…never good to talk trash at a judge.

9- I’m guessing that no one messed with Lisa’s burner or the producers would have whipped that footage out.

10- Andrew. He gone. Back to the meth lab in Appalachia.

05.14.08

Foie Gras is Dead. Long Live Foie Gras!

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Foie Gras ban overturned.

05.13.08

Partners In Crime

Bites: News and Miscellany


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A full photo slideshow of the Original Rainbow Cone

Most people are familiar with the Taylor Street Twosome, but how many know about the Beverly-Bi? The Taylor Street Twosome is the tradition of sucking down a nutmeg-spiced Italian beef, with your knuckles slathered in gravy and flecked with stray giardiniera, at the original Al’s, followed by a saunter across the street for an icy sweet-plastic-spoon dip into a wax-lined paper cup of Mario’s Italian Lemonade.

The Beverly-Bi isn’t quite so easy, as you need a bit of willpower and have to walk about seven blocks to complete it, but it’s no less venerable than the Taylor Street Twosome. But, unless you come from a long line of far Southwest Siders, it’s probably not as well known. More »

05.08.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef:Wedding Wars Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Don’t mess with me or I’ll cut you.

1. Spike is depressed that his kiwi brofriend Mark is gone.
2. Can you image being the intern that needs to put all those fork and spoon decals on those knives?
3. With all those hats, Spike must be dating a milliner
4. Dale asks the question I’ve been wondering for weeks: Why is Nikki still here?
5. Stephanie whips mayo like a high priced dominatrix and wins the quickfire challenge. From now on we’ll refer to her as “The Forearm”.
6. Seriously, I don’t care how big a Top Chef groupie you are. You don’t let Top Chef cater your wedding.
7. Andrew and his “culinary boner” proves he’s probably on crystal meth, since he’s all tweaked out about staying up all night.
8. The bride doesn’t want classic catering menu items for her wedding, but she loves “well seasoned steak with mushrooms and blue cheese.”
9. Dole fresh asparagus…mmm, nothing says wedding food like factory farmed produce
10. Nikki doesn’t know how to cook her own recipes, awesome
11. Pre-peeled garlic, sweet, the show has now become Top Second Class Caterer
12. Colicchio talks trash about the groom’s cake, calling it a “battleship”. I like.
13. Well it’s good to know that the co-owner of Galleria Marchetti actually gets married at Galleria Marchetti. I wonder if his new wife is cool with him pimping out their wedding on behalf of the family business?
14. I’ve come to love Dale. He better not go home.
15. Nikki. She gone. Finally.

05.08.08

The Improbable Tomato

Bites: News and Miscellany


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I spent some time in Three Oaks, Michigan a few weeks ago checking out the hydroponic heirloom tomatoes of McWethy farm for the Sun Times. Forget spring grocery store tomatoes. Todd McWethy’s tomatoes are better than anything available at this time of year locally. They’re even almost as good as late August traditionally grown tomatoes. Take a look at this photo slideshow of the farm.

05.06.08

Tapped Out?

Restaurant Reviews


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Saying that the 77-year-old red-sauce joint Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap has seen a lot is like saying Magellan took a short boat trip. When the tap opened in 1931, Halsted was paved with brick and Taylor Street was the port of entry for Italian immigrants. Italian beef may have been drenched in gravy and sandwiched between two pieces of Gonnella bread, but only in those immigrants’ kitchens, as Al’s Italian Beef didn’t open until 1938. More »


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