In case you haven't noticed, we're BIG fans of eating and drinking here at TOC. Which is why we recently entered into an exclusive partnership with Foodspotting—a social network for food lovers.
Today we're kicking off a new weekly feature called TOC Foodspotting Fridays, where we bring you the most mouth-watering bites from Foodspotting on a certain theme.
This week, in honor of opening day, the theme is ballpark snacks. Luckily, you don't need a game ticket to get into any of these restaurants serving modern twists on concession staples, including triple truffle fries and soft-shell crab po' boys(!).
Wondering what Foodspotting is? It's a social network for foodies, where you can find and recommend dishes, not just restaurants. Follow us on Foodspotting and spot your favorite dishes, or follow our guides, including Best bar food and Brunch drinks.
Confession: The Preservation Kitchen, the cookbook from and chef Paul Virant (co-written with occasional TOC contributor Kate Leahy and photographed by Jeff Kauck), which came out this week, has been sitting on my desk for a long time. Like, possibly months. I think there are two types of people in this world: people who can regularly, and people who have never canned at all. It's not that I haven't pickled some rhubarb or made a refrigerator jam, but I fall squarely into the latter category. Unless Paul Virant comes over to my house and shows me how to process and sterilize jars, I live in fear that I will do something terribly wrong and poison myself and loved ones.
It's this section that I am smitten by. Its organized in a way that reminds me of one of my favorite cookbooks, Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques: The recipes are broken down by season, and within each season, they've divided into menus. Cookbooks that are divided by menus are often hilariously rarefied ("Menu for a six-year-old's locavore tea party"), but not so in the case of The Preservation Kitchen. The first menu is "Early Signs": lemon-pickled turnips with baby leeks and picked herbs, braised chicken legs in pearl pasta with swiss chard and pickled stems and pound cake with dehydrated strawberry jam and sweetened crème fraîche. In other words, it's exactly what I wish I were eating at this very moment of the year. The menus glide slowly through the seasons, featuring a grill out (with a recipe not only for a burger but also its bun), an "Autumn Chicken Dinner" (tomato jam–roasted potatoes included) a "Chili Night" (beef chili with chow chow) and more.
These recipes do not look easy. And the ingredients called for—("pork fatback, cut into cubes and ground in a meat grinder"?)—are at times a bit much. But to flip through this book is to await every turn of the season and every visit to the farmers' market to come.
There's a caliber of restaurant that pays special attention to hospitality, that makes the extra effort to make sure the guest has the experience he/she wants. On Sunday night, I believed I was at such a restaurant. Maybe I was. You tell me.
Let's call this restaurant Anabel's. A friend of mine had taken me here to celebrate my birthday (my 25th, I'm pretty sure), and as at any celebratory meal (or, really, any meal at all), we wanted to start the night with a drink. Should we dip into Anabel's extensive cocktail menu? Go for a bottle on the wine list? We asked to see the sommelier to help us decide.
The somm was perfectly nice, but he also exhibited some odd behavior. For example, he came to our table with the wine list in his hand, but he didn't hand it to us. Instead he said: "Would you like me to leave the list here so you can look through it, or would you like me to help you pick something out?"
I said: "May we do both?" Of course, it wasn't the names of the wines that concerned me, but the prices.
The somm listened to our preferences—Italian white, no noticeable oak—and picked out two bottles for us. One was $55, the other was $53. My friend (who was paying for the dinner) was comfortable with the prices (it pays—literally—to have doctor friends) and asked the somm to go ahead and choose between the bottles for us. "Surprise us," my friend said.
The somm did just that. "I went in a totally different direction," he said when he returned to the table a few minutes later. He was confident we would love this wine, and we did.
Of course we did. It was an $80 bottle. Which we only found out at the end of the night, when we got our check.
There are two schools of thought here. One is that we had no right to be surprised—if we had been concerned about the price of the bottle, we should have asked. The onus was on us.
The second is that the somm should have assumed that we wanted to stay in the price range we had agreed on ($55, more or less), and should have given us a heads up that the bottle he wanted to sell us was significantly more.
It's probably obvious where I stand here. If Anabel's wants to practice hospitality, I think it failed. If, on the other hand, Anabel's just wants to make a lot of money, well, they did a very good job.
I will be back to Anabel's. Very soon, actually. And not because I'm writing about it, but because I had a great time—a great time that was dampened, but not cancelled out, when the check came.
But I'll always go in a little suspicious. A little on guard. Looking for the upsell.
Am I the one being inhospitable here? Again, I beg you: You tell me.
Time for Burger King to play some ketchup. (Zing!) This fast-food giant, once comfortable with the silver medal of inexpensive, immediate dining, has recently been bumped down by Wendy’s to third place on that podium. The chain's solution? Well, to think like the enemy, of course.
On Monday, Burger King released 10 new, “health”-inspired items for its ailing menu. What's strange about these items? Most can also be found in similar form under those Golden Arches. From specialty salads to snack wraps and fruit smoothies to “premium” chicken tenders, can Burger King’s most recent facelift catapult it back into the big leagues? And more important, how does this food taste?
I sat down with Time Out Chicago’s food editor, David Tamarkin, and associate food editor, Julia Kramer, to find out. We put five of Burger King’s newest choices head-to-head against their nearly identical McDonald’s counterparts. Read on to find out whether Burger King stands a chance.
Passover is rapidly approaching—the first night is this Friday, April 6—and if you still have no clue what you are doing, we can help. Restaurants all over Chicago are offering Seders Friday and Saturday, along with specials throughout the week.
Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Come to Joe’s Stone Crab on Friday and Saturday for a three-course menu featuring traditional Passover favorites. $45.95 will get you gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and chocolate macaroon pie to name a few. RSVP required. 60 E Grand Ave (312-379-5637). 4pm–midnight.
If a Passover dinner with French flair is your thing, Mon Ami Gabi is the place to go. The multi-course menu on Friday and Saturday will fill you up, but make sure to leave room for the dessert: flourless chocolate cake with fruit compote. Call for reservations or to order a carryout platter for your own Seder. 2300 N Lincoln Park West St (773-348-8886). 5–10 pm; $36.95/adults, $15.95/under 12.
Mity Nice Grill
Amid floor after floor of shopping, a Seder meal can be found at Water Tower Place. A family-style Passover menu is available at Mity Nice on Friday and Saturday for $36.95 for adults and $16.95 for 12 and under. 835 N Michigan Ave (312-335-4745); 4–9pm.
If you’re hosting a Seder but don’t want to cook, pick up a full Passover dinner from Foodease, located in Water Tower Place, instead. Potato pancakes are $2.99 each, and sweet-and-sour beef brisket is $10.99 a pound. All orders must be received by 4 pm on Wednesday. Feel free to tell your guests the truth…or not. 835 N Michigan Ave (312-335-3663). 10am–7pm.
Steve’s Deli in River North has got your Seder dinner covered. On Friday and Saturday, they will deliver dishes to your front door, you can pre-order and pick-up food yourself or you can walk right in and choose your Passover favorites straight from the deli counter. The best part: you can bring your own Seder plates if you want to dine-in. 354 W Hubbard St (312-467-6868). 9 am- 8 pm; $20 delivery fee, pre-order 24 hours in advance.
Magnolia Bakery knows how to make a Seder sweet. Starting today, flourless chocolate cupcakes are $4 while chocolate dipped macaroons are $1.50. 108 N State St (312-346-7777). Mon–Thu 7:30am–10pm; Fri 7:30am–midnight; Sat 8am–midnight; Sun 8am–10pm.
Real Urban Barbecue
Highland Park’s Real Urban Barbecue is offering a carryout Seder feast this Friday. Flame-roasted Fuji apples, matzo-meal sweet-potato pancakes and pan-seared salmon are a few of the items featured on the Passover menu. 610 Central Ave #177 (224-770-4227). Order 48 hours in advance.
Bring your Haggadah down to Feast Restaurant + Bar Gold Coast to enjoy Passover without any of the work. A prix-fixe dinner served family style, as well as an à la carte menu, is offered for the entire holiday. Reservations are highly recommended for the prix-fixe meal. 25 E Delaware Pl (312-337-4001). $45 per person/minimum group of 4.
Experience a Passover breakfast favorite from The Breakfast Queen herself, Ina Pinkney. Come to Ina’s for fried matzoh featured on the breakfast and lunch menus starting Friday. Not to miss as well: Ina’s almond macaroons with ganache and chocolate. 1235 W Randolph St (312-226-8227). Mon–Fri 7am–2pm; Sat 8am–3pm; Sun 8am–2pm.
e.leaven Food Company
Swing by e.leaven starting Saturday to pick up a Passover meal to go. Pickled herring in wine vinegar ($5.95/lb) and roasted lamb shoulder ($23 per person) are only a few of the things on the massive Passover menu. Order take-out 48 hours in advance. 54 E Ontario St (312-202-0899). Mon–Fri 7am–3pm; Sat, Sun 8am–3pm; through Apr 18.
The Goddess and Grocer
Starting Thursday, all three locations of The Goddess and Grocer will be fully stocked to help your Seder dinner go smoothly. Don’t miss the matzo lasagna ($50 a half pan). Through Apr 15. 25 E Delaware Pl; 1646 N Damen Ave; 2222 N Elston Ave (773-292-7100). Orders need to be placed 48 hours in advance.
Dale Levitski's new Midwesternish bistro, Frog n Snail, opens today for lunch, and only lunch. There's no dinner service at this time. No liquor license, either. There's no outdoor seating yet, and the coffee-and-crepe cafe that will be a big part of FnS's daytime business isn't open yet either. But all of these things are coming down the line (dinner could be as soon as Wednesday night), and besides, why focus on what we don't have? What we do have is lunch! Here's the menu:
Flipping through the yet-unpublished pages of next week's issue, it occurs to me that at this moment we—and by "we" I mean both the food editors here at Time Out and also the restaurant community at large—are just a little bit obsessed with bread. Of course, most people love bread (with a varying range of guilt), and always have. But historically bread has not been paid much attention by chefs, who I think have seen it as a nuisance—an expensive giveaway that diners feel entitled to, and fill up on to boot.
Things are different now. The number of restaurants that are providing loving bread plates—yet are charging for them—is many, and growing. We give details (and gorgeous photos courtesy of Martha Williams) in next week's issue. But for now, I want to talk about an interesting by-product of the new way restaurants do bread:
Welcome back to "Cookbook of the Week," now in its second consecutive week, in which we spotlight a new release.
It is sad and disturbing to admit this, but I very slightly cried while reading the Introduction to the Back In The Day Cookbook, the first book from Cheryl and Griffith Day, the owners of Savannah, Georgia's Back In The Day Bakery. In those three short pages, Cheryl tells the story of losing her sister, Natalie, and how the community that had formed around their bakery supported her and her husband, Griffith. Cheryl's voice, even in this short introduction, is so genuine and understated that it's impossible not to immediately connect with her. This tone carries throughout the book, which is basically made up of my daily diet: coffee cakes, cupcakes, pies, puddings, cookies, brownies and confections.
Scott Harris is getting into the not going small. His shop, Glazed and Infused, is gearing up to open three locations this spring and summer: A walk-up window operating from the side entrance of (1576 N Milwaukee Ave) in Wicker Park, slated to open early April; a
3,500-square-foot-seat location at 813 W Fulton Mkt in the West Loop, which will open mid-April; and a Lincoln Park spot at 929 W Armitage St near the Armitage El stop, planned for mid-June.
Who's making the handcrafted, trans fat–free doughnuts that will be filling these three locations? Pastry chefs Christine McCabe (formerly of Charlie Trotter's and Sugar) and Tom Culleeney, the latter of whom served as the head of operations and new-product development for Lettuce Entertain You's Krispy Kreme franchise on the West Coast. The team has created 10 doughnuts, half yeast doughnuts and half cake doughnuts, in flavors that range from classic (vanilla glazed) to trendy (maple-bacon long john) to nostalgic (PB&J). A different special will run each week. (Check out the full menu after the jump.)
What's to set this artisanal doughnut shop with limited hours apart from any other in the city? According to the press materials: "We are not interested in long lines...We want to get to know [customers'] likes and dislikes, be ready for their pickup and get them in and out quick so they can have a productive and positive day."
In 2010, Time Out Chicago ran a story about Dan Rosenthal, the restaurateur who is on a mission to have his restaurants serve sustainable foods. Rosenthal's most famous accomplishment is the widely praised burger at Poag Mahone's, which Oprah named as one of the best burgers in America in 2006, and which is now always made with grass-fed beef. But that burger might not stand a chance against Mahone's new Ballpark Burger, which is essentially a burger, a hot dog and a soft pretzel all squished and stacked on top of each other. Oh, did I mention it comes with a side of nachos and cheese? Yep. This is happening. If Oprah still had a show, I’m pretty sure this burger would make the list again. Or at least make the “Most Different Meals Jammed into One Meal” list. Four meals folks! Let's break it down:
Allium, the new (or newish—it's been open for over a month now) restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago held its grand opening party last week, with Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm as a special guest.
Lauren Viera, apparently not content to have the full force of PETA's anger unleashed on her after penning an essay on how "Vegetarianism is passé" in TOC earlier this month, is stirring it up once again, this time in the Chicago Reader. Her two-page spread, titled "Mother's Ruin," hit newsstands late last night: In the story, Viera uses the opening of a gin-focused bar, , in Logan Square, as a jumping off point for a variety of claims about the history and current state of Chicago drinking.
Dubious claim #1: "[Scofflaw's opening] might narrow the embarrassing gap between [Chicago] and the competing bicoastal metropolises that, for various reasons, have always preceded us in just about everything on our plates and in our glasses."
Let's leave Scofflaw out of this (I am friends with one of the owners, Danny "Kill me now" Shapiro). And let's leave aside the troubling claim that "everything on our plates"—emphasis mine—is just a copy of something Keith McNally/Danny Meyer did five years ago. There's an "embarrassing gap" between Chicago's cocktail scene and that of the coasts? I reached out to a few of Chicago's finest barkeeps to see what they had to say about this.
Mike Ryan, the head bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar and a alum, pointed out that Chicago is not "behind" New York; it's different from New York—and has its own advantages. "We are...going in a different direction," says Ryan. "Between Sable and , we are showing that craft cocktails can be done on a massive scale, without pretension, in open bars. There are still the quiet, cozy temples to the cocktail, but people seem to enjoy having the option of being raucous around their drink. Yes, there are places in NYC where one can obtain a fancy cocktail in a loud environment...but one feels one is bothering the bartender with one's request for a fancy cocktail. (Not always, depends on the bartender.)"
Dubious claim #2: Even though Chicago bars just received as many nominations as New York ones in the inaugural Outstanding Bar Program category (each city nabbed two nominations; San Francisco had one) of the James Beard Awards, we're still behind New York because we don't have bars that serve one spirit exclusively. That's paraphrased. Here's how Viera puts it: "My logic went like this: If Scofflaw serves exclusively gin cocktails a la Madam Geneva [a gin-only bar in NYC], Chicago wins. If Scofflaw cops out and caters to the masses, we're doomed."
Charles Joly, the head bartender at , begs to differ. "I'd like to respectfully disagree with the idea that we are 'doomed,'" wrote Joly in an email, which he also posted on the Reader's website. "Chicago's bar scene has been steadily growing over the past five years and continues to do so. I'd much rather see thoughtful growth than a slew of kitschy bars pop up and dilute the scene." He also objects to the idea that bars here aren't specialized: "There are certainly programs here that are not 'everything to everyone.' Violet Hour, The Drawing Room, and many others unapologetically open their doors every day to offer what I humbly think is a special product. Personally, I strive to give my guests whatever they're looking for. If a guest has a request, and I have the means to meet it on hand, so be it. If I don't believe in a particular spirit, beer etc, it won't be in the bar in the first place—so it's not an issue. To me, that is hospitality. That is a lack of pretension that makes me love the Midwest."
Ryan echoed Joly's sentiments. "Regarding the whole 'gin-centric' bar, 'tequila-centric' bar, etc," he wrote, "We aren't New York. Yes, we have New York to thank for our cocktail revolution, but Toby [Maloney, of the Violet Hour] just showed us the way. In NYC there's a much larger, more compressed populace, and bars are much, much smaller: That same insanely high rent means that the square footage of your bar is going to be restricted severely. There is no way a speakeasy the size of TVH could pay rent in NYC without doing standing or charging eighteen bucks a cocktail. We also have several bars that focus on select spirits, but being absolutely exclusive to one spirit? That's just inhospitable, and I for one don't see the [advantage] in that."
Dubious claim #3: "Therein lies the dilemma with Chicago's bar scene: It's too midwestern. Our bartenders must be everything to everyone."
"I couldn't be more proud to be part of the food and beverage industry in this city. I wouldn't have it any other way," says Joly. Can we all raise a tequila cocktail at a gin-focused Midwestern bar to that?
Welcome to the first installment of "Cookbook of the Week," a potentially weekly series highlighting new releases.
In this week's TOC, Heather Shouse tells the story of Annemarie Katz, a bartender at who is taking Jell-O shots to a higher level using classic cocktails as inspiration. Similar experiments are taking place at , the just-opened bar from the DMK/Fish Bar crew, which offered complimentary Aviation-inspired Jell-O shots to patrons. On the heels of this bizarre Jell-O shot convergence comes Victoria Belanger's Hello, Jell-O! (Ten Speed Press, $16.99), a cookbook made up exclusively of recipes for "gelatin treats and jiggly sweets." The cover features a lime peel filled with a strawberry-vodka Jell-O shot such that it resembles a slice of watermelon—in other words, a Jell-O shot I could not resist. (The cover also states that, "This book is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated in any way with JELL-O.")
There are certainly easier recipes in the book than the "Petite Watermelons," and Belanger's primary focus is not alcoholic Jell-O recipes (though she does devote one chapter, "Boozy Molds," to it). The "watermelon" recipe is actually from the "Americana and Other Favorites" chapter, which also includes Jell-O molds that riff on peanut-butter-and-jelly and New York–style cheesecake. From making these little guys I learned two things: (1) A recipe that includes the ingredient "limes, halved, pulp scooped out and discarded" is trying to hide from you the fact that you will actually need to devote precious years (read: half an hour) of your life to the excruciatingly mind-numbing process of cutting, with kitchen shears, the pulp out of limes; and (2) The key to Jell-O is time. These charmingly retro recipes take hour after hour to set, and in the case of the watermelons, they actually have to set twice. (I didn't budget nearly enough hours for this project, hence my not-quite-set shots pictured above.) Is this a cookbook for people with too much time on their hands? Yes. That's why I salute it.
On March 11, a Facebook page was created to promote a fundraiser for Bleeding Heart Bakery. The page (and fundraiser), which was apparently created by BHB employees, had a startling name: SOB: Save Our Bakery.
"With the opening of The Bleeding Heart Bakery’s latest endeavor, The Bleeding Heart SIDESHOW, BHB has fallen into a bit of a rough patch and [we] have decided it’s time for them to ask for help," the page's About section reads.
Updates to the page took a slightly more alarmist tone:
"We will NOT go quietly into the night," reads a post from March 16th. "Punk rock pastries for LIFE!"
Some BHB customers were confused. A facebook user named Michael* made the following comment on that March 16th post: "To be honest, I'm still not sure what's going on. You're expanding, you've got the great space on Chicago, the new space on Belmont, and great exposure on TV. Why a fundraiser? Wouldn't this be better left to investors?"
At this point, a theme about the West Town location emerged.
Playing right into the hands of the folks at the James Beard House in New York, I spent the last hour glued to Twitter as they slowly released the nominees for this year's Beard Awards. The awards (which I'd call the Oscars of the food community if I liked the Oscars) honor restaurants, chefs, servers, food writers and other culinary folk; watch for winners announced in early May. Chicago took home 16 nominations*. Drumroll, please:
Outstanding Bar Program: The Aviary, The Violet Hour
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Michael Carlson (Schwa), Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), Bruce Sherman (North Pond), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia)
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Dave Beran (Next)
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Mindy Segal (HotChocolate)
Best New Restaurant: Next
Outstanding Service: Spiaggia, Topolobampo
Outstanding Chef: Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, the Publican, Big Star)
Food-Related Column: Kevin Pang (Chicago Tribune)
Health & Well-Being: Janet Rausa Fuller (Chicago Sun-Times)
Television Segment: The Hungry Hound (ABC 7 Chicago)
Television or Video Webcast Special/Documentary: Sky Full of Bacon (Michael Gebert)
*Also, Charlie Trotter won Humanitarian of the Year, and Grant Achatz was inducted into the Beard House's Who's Who of Food & Beverage, which I hope is more of an honor than that Who's Who Among American High School Students scam.
Jessica Oloroso has announced that her gelato company, Black Dog Gelato, has signed the lease on its second location: 1955 W Belmont Ave, the space formerly occupied by Bleeding Heart Bakery. For people who are into Oloroso's gelato (is there anybody who isn't?), this is very good news.
In 2008, Oloroso was making her gelato in the unused kitchen of a retirement home. But her gelato had already gained attention at restaurants such as Uncommon Ground and Piccolo. When the latter panini-and-ice-cream shop went out of business, Oloroso painted the walls pink and moved in. The place has been packed—and selling out of gelato—ever since.
In her e-mail announcement, Oloroso notes that the new space will expand the production facilities for Black Dog. She also hints at a new sundae that will be available there: a Hawaiian sundae with grilled pineapple and barbecue sauce. Finally, Oloroso notes what we might have guessed on our own: The new spot will be pink.
Black Dog Gelato is slated to open at 1955 W Belmont Ave in late spring.
We're taking our foodie status to a whole new level, kicking off an exclusive parnership with Foodspotting. Now you'll know not just where to eat in Chicago, but what to eat while you're there.
It's simple, just download the Foodspotting app on your smartphone for easy access while you're on the go.
You can also head to foodspotting.com/timeoutchicago to follow us and check out all of our guides to the best food and drinks in the city. We've got guides for the best bar food in Chicago, our 100 Best list and brunch and we'll be adding more all the time. Then, while you're out and about spot the dishes we recommend to earn badges and photograph your favorites to contribute to our guides. Get started now at foodspotting.com/timeoutchicago.
Today's the last day to vote in what has become the closest Eat Out Awards race ever. Make your picks now for your favorite restaurants, bars, chefs and food trucks to help them make a last-minute win.
Check out timeoutchicago.com/eatoutawards on April 17 for a complete list of Readers' Choice and Critics' Picks winners or follow along with us live during the awards on April 16 starting at 7pm on Twitter.
You've got until 4pm today to vote, so make your voice heard now!
You ate. Now vote. Cast your vote below for Breakout Chef of the Year in this year's Eat Out Awards! Cast your vote for all 15 readers' choice categories and learn how you can win prizes like Coldplay concert tickets, tickets to Chicago Gourmet, FIJI Water and more just by participating!
You ate. Now vote. Cast your vote below for Best fro-yo chain in this year's Eat Out Awards! Cast your vote for all 15 readers' choice categories and learn how you can win prizes like Coldplay concert tickets, tickets to Chicago Gourmet, FIJI Water and more just by participating!