Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, New York chef Sue Torres was transported by the charcuterie plate at Osteria, one of chef Marc Vetri's Philadelphia restaurants. What drives you wild, Marc?
Who: Marc Vetri, chef-owner of Vetri, Osteria and Amis
What: Spiced Pork Rinds
Where: The Publican, Chicago
When: Summer 2009
"I took all of my line cooks and managers from Vetri - I think there were eight or nine of us - and went to Chicago on a Paul Kahan restaurant tour. I always take my staff somewhere every summer for an overnight - we go somewhere that's inspiring. Paul has always been a big inspiration for me. The year before we went to Stone Barns for dinner. This year I was like - 'let's go to Chicago!' I think we actually spent more money eating at Stone Barns than we did flying to Chicago and eating in four restaurants. I'm not even exaggerating, if you can believe it.
We ate at all of Paul's restaurants in one day and he ate with us. Actually, not all — we had to skip Blackbird because they weren't open. It was a pretty fun-filled day of eating. Right in the middle of it, we went to the lake and four of us actually stripped down to our underwear and hopped in the lake to wake up. This was after Avec and prior to the Publican. We went to Publican and the pork rinds were unbelievable. They were these airy puffs - they melted right in your mouth and they had just the right amount of spice on them and were just awesome."
Publican chef Brian Huston explains:
"For the pork rinds I should give a shout-out to Mike Sheerin, chef de cuisine at Blackbird. When we were waiting for The Publican to open I spent some time with him, and he was doing some sort of rind with a salad. With us being a strictly pork place, I took that idea and said 'who needs a salad with it?' We made ours something of an ode to the spicy Chee-tos that you used to eat as a kid, we put some cheese powder, espelette pepper — they're kind of spicy, cheesy pork rinds. It's kind of the perfect start to wet your whistle, to make you want beer.
Most of our tables order them, but we do also give them away. We're close to the United Center where the Bulls and Blackhawks play. One of our owners is anti-sports because he says when teams do well people stay home and watch the game, but I, being a sports fan, think we should embrace being close to the stadium, we should be a place to go on the way. So what we do is if anyone wears a Hawks jersey before a game, we give them free pork rinds. Bulls too, though we don't get too many tank tops in here. We want them to know that we don't have any jerseys hanging on our walls, but we do support our local teams."