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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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01.18.09

Helen Rosner vs. Food and Wine

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Though she claims a limited repetoire as an oenophile, Menupages Chicago super-blogger Helen Rosner bested Food and Wine grape genius Ray Isle this week. This month, Isle lauds affordable Argentenian Malbec and calls out the 2007 Clos De La Siete Malbec blend as his “Star Selection”. At about the same time I was flipping through Food and Wine, and just before I went to Binnys, I came across Rosner’s posting about her love for Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2007. I decided to pick up both. The Clos had a lot of fruit but ended up totally bitter and highly alcoholic in the finish and I’d felt like I’d wasted $16 and would have been better off with some Charles Shaw Shiraz and 12 Super Lotto tickets. Whereas, last night the Kung Fu girl full of citrus and lots of acid cut right through the heat and sweet of a schwarma and falafel throwdown from Baba Pita. For $11.99 (at Binny’s) it was a brilliant wine, and easily as good as some 20 or 30 dollar Austrian or German rieslings. Though be warned, it doesn’t have the minerality of the Euros, but displays more of a lemon and grapefruit New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc profile, albiet with a touch more sweetness. One thing’s for sure, it’s the perfect wine for a Cantonese or Thai chowfest. I suspect Isle was swayed a bit by the Clos’s pedigree via French superstar wine consultant Michel Rolland. The lesson here is that wine (and food) critques have nothing to do with superior knowledge, but rather, about being true to your palate.

01.15.09

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Cook Worse than Sandra Lee Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Welcome to sprockets. Pet my chicken. Pet it!

1 – Quickfire challenge: cook with canned garbage. It’s official, Top Chef is now Top Chef Sandra Lee – Semi-Homemade: You use 90% horrible ingredients paid for by your commercial advertisers and 10% talented cooks, and Bravo get’s 100% of the credit for ruining what was once a decent food show.

2 – I was hoping we were going Top Chef Abbatoir and the teams would have to kill their protein.

4 – Do any of these people know how to do any dessert that isn’t a tart, a custard, or a bread pudding? And it looks like they don’t even know how to make a custard, because team pig’s looks totally scrambled.

5 – Does Toby Young sit at home in the dark writing down nursery rhymes and contrived zingers he can use on TV. “The pesto is the big bad wolf that blew this pig’s house down.” Seriously?

6 – Dan Barber just compared some of the desserts to airline food….

7 – Leah: “I’ve rolled many things and tied it up”…..hahaha

8 - PETA is officially on Toby Young watch, as he wants to have “full blown unprotected sex” with pork.

9 – Ariane she gone. Hosea’s girlfriend Leah is saved.

01.14.09

Pass the peas, please

Food History, Recipes


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Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

Most of us remember the old nursery rhyme about pease porridge, but some of us actually wondered what they were talking about. More »

01.12.09

The Professor of Pork

Profiles in Food: Interviews


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Despite the apparent liability of being a skinny Jewish kid from Evanston, Barry Sorkin is one of the smoked-pork (and beef) kings of Chicago. In just a few short years, Sorkin and his BBQ joint Smoque in Irving Park have proven you don’t have to be a grizzled soul man or a beer-bellied Nascar, Jesus-lovin’ southerner to make good ‘que. Some would-be haters, however, contend that Sorkin’s only successful because he’s a white dude who opened a good rib shack in the relatively affluent North Side of the city where the media pays attention. More »

01.12.09

Probative Cuisine

Cookbook Reviews, Food History


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My wife Holly and I began amassing a sizable and comprehensive cookbook collection right after we were married in 1970 starting with a simple paperback, Italian Home Cooking. After many pleasurable meals on Hester Street on the lower east side of NYC, we brought home a modest book whose cover, in retrospect, looked like an outtake from “Goodfellas,” when Joe Pesci’s character comes over to his mother’s house at three in the morning with two associates after a particularly hard night’s whack. The photo shows Momma all too eager to load the table with pasta, sausages, peppers, a woven straw covered fiasco of Chianti, and good fresh bread. More »

01.09.09

Resolutions for a Culinary Revolution

Bites: News and Miscellany


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I punked out a few times this year. Tired and overworked and having drunk too much bourbon or ingested too much garlic (I’m mildly allergic) on a Pat-Bruno-worthy Italian red-sauce bender, I’ve occasionally written a few columns that didn’t require a whole lot of research (like this one). I’ve hated myself for it. Shame on me. I plan on doing better next year. But, I’m not the only one who mails it in from time to time in the culinary world, and so in the spirit of the New Year, I give you my resolutions for the Chicago food community. More »

01.07.09

30 Seconds on Top Chef, brought to you by Diet Dr. Pepper

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Bites: News and Miscellany


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Hello Padma, do you have any French in you…

1- As usual, at least one chef is surprised there’s a dessert challenge…dude, there’s been a dessert challenge every single season.
2- Radhika breaks out of the Indian cooking stereotype and wins the quickfire
3- Oh, lord, Stephanie Izard just pimped Diet Dr. Pepper in the commercial break
4- Carla is a total whack-job
5- Shouldn’t they always anonymously judge the dishes?
6- Ha, ha, Toby Young, Anthony Bourdain would like his schtick back.
7- How does Toby know what cat food tastes like? Has he been dining with his pets?
8- Ariane should definitely win Top Chef Obvious – skate wing with brown butter…dude, Escoffier was making that (granted without pineapple)
9- I’m officially printing a “Team Stefan” t-shirt, he’s the most arrogant bastard I’ve ever loved.
10- Colicchio doesn’t like raw garlic in gremolata…I thought that was the classic preparation…either way I love the raw spiciness myself…maybe that’s why I’m not a judge on Top Chef.
11- I bet Toby and the French judge dude Jean Christophe (Jeff Goldblum’s lost twin brother) or whatever would make sweet sweet love together
12- I think most of the judges are acting on prejudice rather than reality regarding the daikon with tomato basil. Daikon is so mild, I’m pretty sure it could be a base for anything.
13- Melissa and Eugene, they gone.
14- Oh, and this has nothing to do with Top Chef, but Oprah just came on, and I know she’s complaining about letting herself become a fatty again, but I think she looks pretty good.

01.06.09

Open Sesame

Food History, Recipes


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While traveling through southern India, doing food history research (this is where most of the world’s great spices originated) and learning more about Indian cooking, I kept meeting chefs who would tell me how they added flavor to dishes by using gingelly oil. They tried to describe to me what it was, how it was pressed from a particular type of seed that was hard to describe, but was very small. When I asked what the English word was for it, they replied that gingelly was the English word. More »

01.05.09

Chewin’ on Chickpea

Restaurant Reviews


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Judging by the cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” by Israeli-French singer Yael Naim playing over Palestinean café Chickpea’s sound system, the Arab-Israeli conflict doesn’t have much purchase here. That’s no surprise, though,as pretty much everything here is a touch askew. More »

01.04.09

Loafin’ Around

Restaurant Reviews


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As anyone who’s ever seen the films “Serial Mom” or “Mommy Dearest” knows, you don’t mess with mother. But, Cynthia Kallile, chef/owner of The Meatloaf Bakery, isn’t quaking in her kitchen clogs. She’s ready to go baking mitt to baking mitt with the assurance that she’s got the best meatloaf you’ve ever tasted. More »

12.20.08

Chris Ware, Grim Gastronomic Griper

Bites: News and Miscellany


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Chris Ware, Chicago’s comic laureate, does some culinary related hating in the Nov 24th food issue of New Yorker (you have to be a digital or print subscriber to see the actual panel). The panel depicts a fear and loathing organic macaroni and cheese cooking mother (potentially a descendant of Cathy Guisewite’s cartoon Cathy) who must entertain her architect husband’s clients while enduring post-modern style gastronomy dinners of “molecularly reduced cucumber foam”. Ware’s strip says, “I think aestheticizing the sense of taste is a classist, morally, indefensible notion, a function of privilege rather than of necessity, especially when it comes at such expense…” More »

12.17.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Martha Stewart Untethered

Bites: News and Miscellany


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milli

Blame it on the fridge…the new single from Milli Fusili, in stores now

1 - WTF is there a Christmas theme…wasn’t this show filmed last summer? Can anyone say scripted?

2 - So do the Top Chefs really respect Martha Stewart or just the fact that she’s made money doing food TV?

3 - damn…sea scallops….did Jamie forget the Spike/Tramonto disaster last year?

4 - How come everyone is using five pots for a one pot cooking challenge?

5 - Yeah, I’m sure Martha puts on her scuba gear and goes “diving” for scallops.

6 - How do you sear off a duck breast, when polenta is in the bottom of the pot?

7 - Why isn’t Top Chef called Top Caterer? Every other challenge is cooking for 300.

8 - Hey Fabio, how about Tiramisu with nine lady fingers?

9 - Radhika makes pear chutney. What? Indian food? That’s totally out of the box

10 - Where’s Liam Neeson? Jailed in Natasha Richardson’s cleavage?

11 - I would have done the most kick ass onion rings ever for “Five Golden Rings”

12 - Korbel – this is your grandfather’s bubbly. Did they do Cold Duck shooters afterward?

13 - No one gone. Top Chef is soft.

12.15.08

Gabbin with Gras

Bites: News and Miscellany


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You can run Laurent Gras over, but you can’t stop him. Though Gras, the chef of L20 in Lincoln Park, was hit by a car while cycling earlier this year, he’s already resumed a nineteen-hour workday and kicks out four-hour bike rides on his days off. In the last two months he also picked up best-new-restaurant honors from Esquire magazine and Newcity. I checked in with Gras to see how he was doing post-recovery and to see what was afoot at Chicago’s high-end seafood emporium. More »

12.11.08

Top Chef: Killer Cleavage Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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danny

Aye, Mr. Miyagi, please teach me crane kick

1 –I’d like to see Stefan and Richard Blais have a stand-off to see who can be the bigger arrogant bastard.

2 - Quickfire: I wonder if these dudes can actually taste what’s in the sauce, or they’re just naming ingredients in a traditional mole.

3 - Hosea and Stefan and Colicchio, aka Team Chrome Dome, has supplanted Team Rainbow

4 - You couldn’t pay me enough to subject my own marriage, bridal shower, or any important event to the whims of a reality television cooking show.

5 - Blue team should try to make a Smurf shaped cake for Gail Simmons shower

6 - Did Stefan just call Hosea “Doucheboy”?

7 - Radhika makes a raita….it’s official, she is the token Indian cook.

8 - Stefan is so cocky he thinks he can turn a lesbian.

9 - Jeff is wearing two watches on his left wrist. Is that like a modern take on the 80’s gummi bracelets phenomenon?

10 - Nothing says overfished unsustainable 90’s catering cliché like Chilean Sea Bass

11 - I think Food and Wine magazine only hires hot women.

12 - The judging panel looks hammered from Gail’s shower. Padma is a little glassy eyed. Not to mention I haven’t seen this much cleavage since the San Andreas fault.

13 – Danny, he gone.

14 - Next week, Martha Stewart and the Top Chefs swap inside stock trading tips.

12.07.08

New Kid on the Neapolitan Block

Restaurant Reviews


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antica

Whoever said all roads lead to Rome must have been suffering from some Caesarian nostalgia. When it comes to ancient Italy, Naples is the crown jewel. After all, this is where pizza is said to have been born. Like Jesus in Bethlehem, this storied city in the country’s southern boot lays proud claim to one of humanity’s finest gifts: thin, slightly chewy, delicately dressed, blast-heated, Neapolitan style pies. Chicago may be celebrated as the deep dish breadbasket, but the current rash of new Neapolitan influenced joints attests that there’s a much different demand afoot locally. The relatively new Antica Pizzeria in Andersonville claimed to satisfy this demand. More »

12.05.08

30 Seconds on Top Chef: Dancing with Rocco Edition

Bites: News and Miscellany


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boboli

Remember, only you can top Boboli!

1- Rocco – is he going to ask the chefs to do an impromptu Dancing With the Stars episode?

2-Hey, Stefan, they’ve been cutting the tops off eggs at Arpege and The French Laundry for years, try something original.

3-Breakfast challenge…I hope someone makes a micro-egg mcmuffin.

4-I thought Rocco was going to give Leah some Bertolli frozen pasta for winning the quickfire.

5-Come up with a two and a half minute recipe? I thought this was Top Chef, not Top Chef: Rachael Ray on amphetamines edition.

6-Alex thinks by doing desert that he’s going to stand out. He clearly hasn’t watched Top Chef ever….can you say, elimination?

7-Tom and Gail are doing a really good job pretending to be brain dead morning show hosts.

8-Hi, I’m Stefan. Welcome to sprockets. Pet my monkey. Pet it.

9-Kathie Lee is like the Sarah Palin of morning television. Somebody should banish her to one of her sweatshops.

10-Alex, he gone.

12.04.08

Back up to Big Buns

Restaurant Reviews


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hummus

I like Big Buns and I cannot lie. Though, as with foie gras, Alderman Joe Moore apparently does not. According to a recent local story by Martha Bayne about Sahara Kabob, the artist formerly known as Big Buns and Pita restaurant, Moore asked the owners to take down their pseudo-Vegas like marquee in favor of a more “genteel” awning. More »

12.03.08

The Next Black Truffle Explosion?

Bites: News and Miscellany


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mash chocolate

Photo Courtesy: Lara Kastner

Tonight, I asked Grant Achatz if I could hug him. Fortunately, he had the foresight to preserve our collective dignity, and he said no. It wasn’t just the glass of Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc, Rhone 2000 talking, either. Rather, it was a dish named Chestnut, quince, chocolate, baked potato.

On paper, the dish looks like what you’d chow down on at 3 a.m. after you break out the water bong and smoke down a Snoop Dogg sized portion of kush….which is to say, what would happen if possessed by monster munchies and a fogged noggin, you head to your kitchen cupboard determined to hook up a loaded baked potato only find that you have some Hershey’s chocolate syrup, a moldy quince, some petrified chestnuts, and a bag of Idaho Russets left over. This, of course, is an imaginary construct, since the only stoner even remotely likely to have such a pantry would be Andrew D’Ambrosi of Top Chef, season 4.

But that being said, from Achatz’s palate to the plate to my tongue, it’s the best dish I’ve ever had in the Alinea kitchen, even better than the black truffle explosion or hot potato, cold potato. Sure, those two plates serve up a batch of comfort that would soothe you even if your life resembled all of the worst scenario country music songs combined, but, they’re almost totally predictable. What’s not classic about pasta dough, black truffles, and parmesan?

With “chestnut”, you still get a heavy dose of comfort with a dollop of warm mashed potatoes so creamy, your denture-free grandma would approve, but that’s followed by an explosion of chocolate gelee so congruous with the mashed spuds in your mouth, but so inconceivable in your brain, that even Jacques Torres on an acid trip could never conceive of this.

Over the next week or so, I’ll likely parse my whole experience of the Keller/Achatz $1,500 a head meal at Alinea to celebrate the publication of their new cookbooks in a couple of articles I have planned, but this was one moment and one bite, hugs or not, that couldn’t wait.

(Caveat: As longtime readers know, I’m a stickler against taking comped meals, even for features. But, as a contributing author on the Alinea book, I made an exception for what I suspected might turn out to be one of the great opportunities and experiences of my life, one that I could not otherwise afford.

I do believe you have to be in the room to tell the story, and I needed, for a variety of reasons, to get in to this particular room. While I’m grateful for Keller and Achatz’s generosity, I do believe I can still judge the experience with integrity. On the other hand, given all this information, that’s for you to decide.)

12.02.08

King of the Court

Restaurant Reviews


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noodle

This weekend, I was chowing down in a mall food court and Tommy Hilfiger was foremost on my mind. It was as if I were reliving my junior high glory days, those times when my mom stuffed me and my posse into the back of our teal Lincoln Town Car, aka the “land yacht” (a nod to its two-and-a-half-Chicago-parallel-parking-space-inhabiting body length) and dropped us off for a parentless afternoon to unleash mayhem on the mall. More »

12.01.08

Chef Michael McDonald: Out of Charlie’s Shadow

Profiles in Food: Interviews


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mmc

Not that being linked as Charlie Trotter’s right hand man is a bad thing, but it sure feels vindicating to stand freely on one’s own feet. Such is the case with Chef Michael McDonald, the Chicago-bred Luke Skywalker to Trotter’s Obi-Wan. After years of sharpening his kitchen technique under some master mentors, McDonald is ready to settle down and set up shop. His return to Chicago at one sixtyblue (succeeding Martial Noguier), after stints cooking across North America, is one of finality. This is his chance to rise from the celebrity chef shadow that may have been hunkering over his domain; his chance to prove himself to the masses, to himself, and perhaps most refreshingly, to Charlie. More »


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