TOC, Digested: In Which We Digress Perhaps More Than Usual
• Heather Shouse delivers a rundown of the best places to eat on New Years Eve. Holy crap, Heather, it is not even Christmas yet. It isn't even Hanukkah. Why are you pulling this New Year's stuff on us? We realized out of the blue yesterday that New Years is in a scant two weeks, and a week after that is our birthday, and then we will be old as shit. So thanks for using an article in a mid-December issue (admittedly, okay, a double one) to reminding us of our approaching decrepitude.
• Speaking of approaching decriptude! Heather and her cohort David Tamarkin list their favorite alcohols. Note that the spirits on this list are beers and wines, and that true self-medication rarely calls for descriptors like "coppery, with a complex, slightly funky nose and figgy flavor with good bite." But for those of you aiming for gustatory pleasure rather than numbness, this is a solid list.
• Tamarkin jumps on the 2009-prediction wagon, soothsaying a rise in goat meat, a smallening [Is that even a word? –Ed] [Ha ha, we don't actually have an editor. –Self] of portion sizes and prices, and that non-Chicago celeb chefs will continue to be non-Chicago celeb chefs. And he's gunning for a rise in UK-style pub food, a topic with which we totally agree. (In fact, we've been gunning for a "gastropub" category for restaurants here on MP.)
• Mr. T also reviews Century Public House (is this the last-minute replacement review for the now-closed Mantou? We have no idea what TOC's pub lead time is, we're just wildly speculating.) Chef Peter Camphouse "has a way with ... encased meats," which isn't a double entendre: This is a place to go for the sausage. Comfort-food staples like pot roast and roasted chicken round out the solidly executed entrees, though the apps, bar menu, and dessert enter hit-or-miss territory.
• Heather Shouse (you know, we're going to go off on a tangent here for a second to note that we are so impressed by the TOC food team. They have like eleventy billion food articles up a week, plus the blog, and most of the time there are only two of them writing. And the Tribune and the Sun-Times each put out fewer articles with triple the staff, and those articles are of wildly varying quality. Someone give these kids a raise.) Okay, anyway. Heather Shouse advocates that we all go spend some dough at Shokolad, the French-Ukrainian bakery that's suffering thanks to UV's gentrification. Save that bakery!
• Heather again, corralling three chefs to tell us what they do with juniper (fun fact: did you know that "juniper" is the same word as the name "Jennifer"? And it's what gives gin — essentially juniper-flavored vodka — its name? When we learned these things, our mind was freaking blown.) At one sixtyblue the berry shows up in sauerkraut, Northbrook's Prairie Grass Cafe amps up their martinis, and at HB Home Bistro they're using it to marinate squab.
[Photo of juniper via kretyen's Flickr]