Posts for February 16, 2012

Two-Buck Chuck Turns Ten; The ‘Sideways Effect’ Abates

"I've been told I have a 'Sideways Effect' on the ladies."

• It's the tenth anniversary of Two-Buck Chuck! Fred Franzia says that sales of TJ's cheapest wine have helped increase the overall American wine market by 5 percent. [Press-Democrat, Shanken News]

• We may think we're big drinkers in this country, but according to some rankings by the World Health Organization, the U.S. doesn't even crack the top 50 in terms of per capita alcohol consumption. Still, Americans, on average, each drink 94 bottles of wine a year. [LiveScience]

• The "Sideways Effect," which boosted the prices and popularity of California Pinot Noir beginning with the movie's release in 2004, is finally abating; for the first time in seven years, Pinot prices sank. [Decanter]

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Chilapan To Open 2nd Location in Ravenswood Feb. 20

Mole at Chilapan.

Dish reported last week that Chilapan, the well-liked Logan Square Mexican-pan-Latin spot, is opening a second location in Ravenswood. Actually, our Chicago Neighborhoods Map indicates that it's "Graceland West," but since no realtor has ever used that term ("Want to buy a house in a neighborhood named for a cemetery?"), maybe the best way to put it is catercorner from popular Mexican spot Mixteco Grill at 1522 W. Montrose, which guarantees it a receptive audience. The second spot from owners Jorge Miranda and Olga Vega-Miranda, it will seat 65 inside, with a patio for another 30 in the warm months. The plan is to open on Monday, and they say the larger size will allow for "more playful specials."

Study: Restaurants Treat Female Employees Even Worse Than They Treat Dude Employees

Anyone who’s ever served time in the hospitality trade’s trenches knows that it can be thankless, grueling work. Now a new study conducted by the Restaurant Opportunities Center, the same organization whose supporters sucker punched Mario Batali in New York and helped push through the controversial gratuity protection law in Philadelphia, indicates that as bad as the work and conditions may be, women take the worst of it.

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The James Weird Awards: Exploding Pig Poo and Antifreeze Smoothies

Sour Patch-packaged weed is a real thing, which we learned about this week. Also real: McBaguettes, a Bon Rappetite cookbook, and a few other odd occurrences of note, which we've helpfully compiled in the James Weird awards, straight ahead.

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Thomas Lents, Sixteen's New Michelin Hope, Releases First Menu, Starting Tonight

Chef Thomas Lents of Sixteen.

Attention Michelin: Thomas Lents is not going to make Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel & Tower into a more casual, more approachable place. His first sample menu has some of the hallmarks of 2012 dining on it (ingredients like yuzu or housemade chorizo)— but it also brings back things, especially on the seafood side, that speak of a long-ago world of superior French and East Coast dining, Dover sole and lobster and John Dory, reinterpreted for today. And it shows how seriously he takes sourcing from around the world, with Scottish pheasant and New Zealand langoustines alongside American wagyu. Finally, it shows that you're going to be dropping some coin, since there's an a la carte menu, then a $115 chef's tasting menu, then a $165 menu prestige. Service starts tonight; see the menus below.

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Mike D on His Wine-Blogging Hiatus, and Making Wine Writing More Fun

Michael Diamond: The country's 1er wine-blogger-slash-music-icon.

When Mike D's wine-blogging career kicked off last year, it attracted some attention, not only because it was, you know, a wine blog from one of the Beastie Boys, but also because the MC's wine knowledge was surprisingly impressive. (His notes on a 2002 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne: "The color has budged from pale straw to slight gold, it is still not giving much away, like it was a few years ago".) But lately, D's wine blog has gone quiet. So when we saw him at a Fashion Week after-party for Proenza Schouler at Le Baron, we asked what was up.

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Takashi, TV Star

Takashi Yagihashi.

Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi and Slurping Turtle fame is on a roll toward being a more ubiquitous face. Next week he'll be on Top Chef Texas (we believe it will during the Quickfire Challenge, so odds are it will have something to do with Asian food, maybe even the ramen challenge ramen-heads have been waiting all these years for). Then he'll compete on Iron Chef America on April 1 (no joke). So which of the Iron Chefs will he go head to head against— someone who knows Asian, or someone who cooks in an entirely different style? We'll have to wait several weeks to see. But we at Grub Street Chicago aren't surprised he's being viewed as a TV-ready chef; we knew him when he was first slinging ramen and bincho.

Borrelli Finds the Old Chicago at Marie's Pizza and Liquors

Kevin Pang seemed to have the folksy old place beat at the Tribune sewn up, and we've been eating them up, but here comes Christopher Borrelli with a first-rate rival for the honors. It's about Marie's Pizza and Liquors, the since 1940 northwest side pizza place which drips local color, adroitly captured by Borrelli (who starts by correcting some hipster doof on Check, Please who thought the working class clientele was "street walkers and floozies"):

It is authentic Chicago, not tourist Chicago, idealized Chicago, corporate Chicago or contemporary Chicago. It is Chicago preserved in marinara sauce and warm feelings, an Italian-American neighborhood joint owned by Greeks... The clientele? Not hookers. Young families, guys with mustaches because they always had mustaches, leathery men with unnaturally black pompadours wearing satin towing-company jackets in January.

Exactly.

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The Swimsuit Model Dessert Survey

Last year, we thought it'd be fun to ask the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models where they go when they want to pig out. (Because, well, why not?) This year, we've got dessert on the brain, so Grub Street once again dutifully braved the issue release party at Crimson to ask the ladies what they go for when they need a sugar fix. Check out the results, straight ahead.

Valpo To Honor Orville Redenbacher; Con-Agra Fumbles Ball

The man, the corn.

Orville Redenbacher, whose superior fluffy popcorn stood as a symbol of American entrepreneurial ingenuity against Soviet aggression during the Cold War, or at least sold a lot of popcorn, and whose folksy-nerdy demeanor made him a TV commercial star from the late 70s until his death in 1995, will be honored with a statue in Valparaiso, Indiana, by Arlington Heights artist Lou Cella, best known for his Ernie Banks statue outside Wrigley Field. Redenbacher, who was such a perfect TV spokesman that he had to spend considerable effort convincing people he wasn't just an actor playing a part, owned a seed plant in Valparaiso where he and partner Charlie Bowman developed the hybrid strain that their ad agency convinced them should bear Redenbacher's colorful name and folksy image. Ultimately the brand was sold to a variety of corporate owners, and here's where trouble comes in.

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GQ Ranks the Country’s Best New Restaurants, Richman Trashes Husk

Do not serve this man fried chicken skins.

It's that time again: GQ unveils its always-a-little-perplexing list of the country's best new restaurants. Taking the top spot this year: L.A.'s ink, helmed by Michael Voltaggio. The pick is certainly less confounding than last year's selection, Lincoln, which underwhelmed New York's critics. Surprisingly, if the scattered bylines are to be believed, GQ critic Alan Richman only picked five of the ten restaurants on this year's list, but it's nevertheless rounded out by picks that are both expected (like Grant Achatz's Next), and some that are less so.

Oh, and Husk sucks btw. »

Top Chef Recap: Padma’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain

It sure doesn't look like Texas.Photo: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

Did you think that last night was the penultimate episode of this season of Top Chef? Guess again! It was the first of millions of episodes that Bravo will force us to watch to find out who won this godforsaken season. The final spectacle kicked off in British Columbia at the location of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where the chefs were sent to the top of a mountain and pushed off and buried in an avalanche, the end! Oh, no, sorry, we let our fantasies get the best of us with 58 minutes of episode left. But who can blame us when the actual dialogue at the beginning of this episode included lines like, "look at this tree" and, "there is a lot of wind and snow"? Actual. Dialogue. If this show wins another Emmy, we will go bury ourselves in an avalanche.

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Two Chicago Restaurants Make GQ's Top 10; Hot Dog Chef Charged With Bank Heists

• GQ's list of the 10 best new eateries in the US is out, and two of the ten are from Chicago. Next is not exactly a surprise, but Ruxbin is an unexpected choice, honored because "the food, like the rest of the place, is labored over. Time and energy take the place of overused, overpriced ingredients." [Crain's]

• Busted: Food Network had to axe a show called Dessert First after execs discovered the host was ripping off her recipes from other, more famous, chefs. [NYP]

• Probably the best headline you'll read all day: "Hot Dog Chef Charged with Bank Heists." [Charties Valley Patch]

• Dutch scientists released a new study that charts global water use between 1996 and 2005. [NYT]

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