Posts for November 23, 2011

Tweet of the Day

From Tim Mazurek, author of one of our favorite blogs, Lottie and Doof: "Are leftovers really such a burden/mystery that they warrant everyone addressing what we do with them? Eat them." And on that culinary note, have a happy Turkey Day, and see you Monday.

What Really Happens In Restaurant Inspections

Gapers Block put up an interesting post a couple of days ago about the health inspection process. Actually it's two posts, put together. One, by Andie Thomalla, provides some context for the diner on the restaurant inspection process and how it's changing under Mayor Emanuel. The other is a firsthand account of inspection experiences by chef and writer Alan Lake, a native Chicagoan who's worked around the world. Not surprisingly, it's his kitchen confidential tales that are the most interesting part of the piece:

He'd seen some oxtails braising in back and when I described the final dish (braised ox tail ragoƻt with chanterelles and roasted shallots, paired with seared day-boat diver scallops) he mentioned that it sounded delicious and he would love to try it sometime. I in turn glibly offered him a sample and we continued the inspection.
Sitting at the bar 10 minutes later, out comes a badge that he flashes in my face with the threat of arresting me for the attempted bribery of an officer of the court...
Inspecting Chicago's Kitchens: Two Views on Some New Developments [Gapers Block]

Wilshire Chef Nyesha Arrington Eats Lou Malnati's Pizza and Drinks With Andy Dick

Nyesha Arrington, taking a break at WilshirePhoto: Lesley Balla

Flip the food channels and you'll probably catch a glimpse of Nyesha Arrington. Within the last month, she acquired her current position as executive chef at Wilshire restaurant through a victory on Food Network's Chef Hunter, and debuted as one of L.A.'s contenders in Top Chef: Texas. Before that, Arrington was cooking with Josiah Citrin at Melisse and the now closed Cache, and before that, at Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier and The Mansion in Las Vegas. Toypically, the only time the chef can grab anything to eat away from her Santa Monica kitchen is after work. "We finish our service, you go outside and everyone's out partying, the weekend warrior-type mentality. A bunch of drunkie kids running around," she says. "And I'm just looking for sustenance, to just grab something to eat and go home." Thankfully, there's always a food truck near her Venice pad, and plenty of bars on the boardwalk for a beer. Find out which haunts Arrington hit this week in today's L.A. Diet.

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2 Sparrows Gets 3 Stars From Tamarkin; Shouse Loves Cai, Sula Takes EL

Bacon doughnut at three-starred 2 Sparrows.Photo: courtesy 2 Sparrows

More brunch from Time Out Chicago this week: David Tamarkin goes to 2 Sparrows and struggles with the existential nature of upscale breakfast— if you're making think pieces like a foie gras pop tart (which grosses him out), are you losing the comfy point of breakfast? "That pop tart was the first thing I’d eaten all day, and I spent the rest of the meal trying to get the taste out of my mouth. Perhaps the richest elements of fine dining are relegated to dinner for a reason. You can eat the stuff and then immediately go to sleep." In the end, he finds the simpler things satisfying and the more ambitious things unsatisfying, reserving praise for "a football-shaped honey-lemon doughnut with a satisfying, crisp crust and tart lemon-custard filling" and "a slice of mushroom-leek quiche with all the featherlight qualities of an expertly made souffle." [TOC]

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Manager, New Chef at Pensiero: "We're Here To Succeed"

Wilson Bauer, chef, and Marcello Cancelli, general manager of Pensiero.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Marcello Cancelli wants to make it clear that Pensiero Ristorante is not cursed. That the media picture of its kitchen as having a revolving door is not how the last year has felt to him as its general manager since April. "We had one chef who came from Bistro Bordeaux and an Italian restaurant, it was not a good fit, we saw that in the first week," he says. "But the next chef, Joe Wojciechowski, who came from Michael, was here for 10 months." Compared to Cancelli's own nine-year stint as general manager of Carlos, among other things, that's still not that long. But a bit media-wary as he is by now, he's still willing to put himself out there to sell the idea that Pensiero— a year-and-a-half-old reboot of a 30-year-old Italian staple on the Evanston scene— has finally arrived at the point that six chefs and no shortage of public turmoil were leading to. He's confident about his new chef, Wilson Bauer, a veteran of Longman & Eagle and other kitchens around town. He feels he understands how to make it in the mercurial Evanston market (close to the city yet suburban-conservative, budget-conscious, tied to Northwestern's residency cycles). Most of all, we learned as we sat down to speak with Cancelli and Bauer, he wants us to know that "We are a professional restaurant. We are here to succeed and to grow."

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Nagrant on Today's Tabloid Chefs

Michael Nagrant stirred up a tempest in an immersion circulator late yesterday with a piece at Chicago magazine on chefs as, well, celebrity divas or bad boys of one kind or another. Not exactly a new complaint, but he makes a reasonable case that we've hit some kind of tipping point locally, citing such examples of chefs gone wild in one form or another as Graham Elliot, James Toland, Chuy Valencia and Brandon Baltzley. "One form or another" is perhaps the operative phrase here, because chef-ego takes very different forms in these cases. In Elliot's case, what Nagrant objects to (that he's now being handled very carefully as one of the stars of a network TV show) is actually a reaction to his earlier celebrity bad boy persona, in which he said whatever he pleased. If you have to submit questions in writing now, it's less because he's too big for you these days than because he has corporate masters.

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