Posts for February 22, 2012

Vie Book Dinner, Rhapsody Wine Event

From the events hopper: Paul Virant's book The Preservation Kitchen comes out in April, and we'll surely cover it more extensively closer to when you can actually buy it, but in the meantime, Vie in Western Springs planned an event to mark the occasion on April 2nd... which promptly sold out. Now they've added a second night, on Wednesday April 4th. For $125, you get a signed copy of the book, a five-course dinner based on recipes from the book, wine pairings and... a jar of Virant's housemade jam. And a portion of the proceeds will go to the DuPage Medical Group Charitable Fund. Call 708-246-2082 to snag your spot now.

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Wolfgang Puck Preps for the Oscars During the Week, Cooks for Muhammed Ali’s Birthday on the Weekend

Puck shows off the 3-D dessert he'll serve at this year's Oscars.Photo: Lesley Balla

Even by his own, crazy successful standards, Wolfgang Puck is having a red-hot winter: He's got a brand-new restaurant at the Hotel Bel-Air, he's set to receive a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, and he's of course getting ready to reprise his role as the caterer for the Oscars Governor's Ball this Sunday. "It's more like an ensemble of dishes, like tapas. So everyone can eat as much as, and whatever, they want," Puck says of the menu he's planning. And even he says he's watching his weight in advance of the big day: "I have a tailor-made fancy cooking jacket for the Oscars," he jokes. "If I gain three pounds, I won't get into it." But even with all that going on, Puck still managed to find time to hang out with Lenny Kravitz in Vegas, hit the Santa Monica farmers' market, and cater Muhammed Ali's 70th birthday party. Read all about how the world's foremost celebrity chef lives in this week's L.A. Diet.

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Chefs Vs. Yelp, Chapter XXXVIII: John Des Rosiers

John DesRosiers, scourge of Yelpers.

John des Rosiers' Inovasi in Lake Bluff has regular customers who love it as a kind of neighborhood bistro, of an inventiveness that never crosses the line into weirdness. This much we know from going there; but we can see that you might never know it from reading Inovasi's reviews on Yelp, which seem to be a collection of misfit complaints from those who were destined to never like it anyway. And it's winter and gray out and, well, at some point John des Rosiers decided to start answering his Yelp critics. And some of the answers started to get a little snarky.

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Sloshed: Will a Dash of Bitters Do Anything at All?

A dash here, a dash there....Photo: Melissa Hom

Bartenders' recent fascination with bitters — the mysterious potions sold in little apothecary bottles — has created a market for all sorts of variations. There are citrus bitters, maple bitters, cherry bitters, celery bitters, bitters aged in whiskey barrels, chocolate bitters, etc., etc. There are a lot, is what I'm saying. But do bitters — often added in doses so small that they verge on homeopathic — actually impart a discernible difference? I sat down and drank a lot of booze to figure it out.

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Check Out Local Tofu Dishes at Sun Wah BBQ

This is not a tofurkey.

Some years ago, we heard that the owners of Argyle Street's Hong Kong-style meat palace Sun Wah Bar-B-Q also had a tofu factory, and expressed interest in documenting it on video. The word came back that they were, shall we say, perfectly happy not being called to the attention of the world. (We did make this video with them.) But like the restaurant itself, the tofu factory has both moved locations and moved into the hands of the next generation, who are more open about their more modern ways of doing business. There was a tour of their new tofu factory in Canaryville for LTHForumites a month ago, and now Tasting Table has a slideshow of some of the dishes they make with their ultra-fresh, locally-made tofu, which has a yellowish cast from never spending time in water like storebought tofu. It might be hard to go to Sun Wah and not just order one of each of the meats hanging in the shop, but these gorgeous dishes make a case for fresh tofu the way Neapolitan pizzas make the case for fresh buffalo mozzarella. [Tasting Table]

Watch Alec Baldwin Discuss Diabetes and Foods Worth Dying for With David Letterman

When Alec Baldwin visited David Letterman last night, the host pitilessly probed the diabetes-saddled actor about all the sugary treats he's had to resist since his diagnosis last May. (It's probably safe to assume Paula Deen won't be showing up on The Late Show anytime soon.) Baldwin's no-no list includes candy bars, pies, and even, sadly, grapes; not too many carrots either! But what's the one thing that Alec Baldwin would die for? Individually wrapped butterscotch candies from the British Callard & Bowser company, which he used to eat as a kid. Thankfully for the actor's insulin levels, the company is no longer around. Watch the whole thing, straight ahead.

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Ruby Compares and Contrasts Goosefoot, Les Nomades; Vettel Loves Next El Bulli

A leg at Goosefoot.Photo: Mel Hill Photography

Other reviewers have seemed to take it as a given that the natural pairing of the moment is the north side's improbably-posh-in-a-gritty neighborhood Goosefoot vs. the south side's improbably-posh-in-a-gritty neighborhood Acadia. But other than opening within a month or so of each other, we don't see that much similarity; Jeff Ruby in Chicago Magazine hits on a far more revealing comparison, that of former Les Nomades chef Chris Nugent's Goosefoot with former Les Nomades chef Roland Liccioni's new restaurant... which is Les Nomades. He sets it up, almost too neatly, in his opening sentence: "If you want to see where upscale dining has been, go to Les Nomades. Want to know where it’s going? Goosefoot... Nugent’s satisfying flavors haven’t changed much from his Les Nomades days, but his approach is leaner and cleaner. A good example is the crisp roasted quail with fiery beluga lentils, ginger gelées, vinegar-soaked “compressed apple,” and dots of parsnip purée and whole-grain mustard vinaigrette—an exquisite L2O-ish tableau that has been composed to within an inch of its life." While at the actual Les Nomades, "The French-Asian mind-meld that once felt so progressive now seems almost quaint, as in a lovely Arctic char with a maitake mushroom topped with an olive tapenade and resting on forbidden rice and a sauce of yellow tomato and lemongrass... If all this feels straight out of 2000, that’s fine with me—2000 was a pretty good year." [Chicago Magazine]

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Phil Vettel Abandons Anonymity as Price of Dining at Next

"That's Vettel!" "No, I think it's that one..."

You may wonder how the Tribune's Phil Vettel manages not only to get seats for every Next menu so far, but managed to grab early enough seats for El Bulli that he is able to review it today. Did the entire staff of the Tribune click away during those crucial minutes of availability, like Veruca Salt's father's nut factory employees desperately unshelling candy bars to find a golden ticket? After all, Michelin, with millions to lose each year on the guide, apparently couldn't manage it. Well, Vettel admits today that Next is a special case that required a special violation of the Tribune's customary rules for restaurant reviewing. And special case though Next undoubtedly is, one can't help but see this as another crack in the pretense that restaurant critics are anonymous.

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Carl’s Jr. Recruits Kate Upton for Its Latest Ad

Someone at Carl's Jr. must have been listening last week when Kate Upton told us that she craves fries every once in a while. The chain has recruited the Sports Illustrated cover girl for the latest ad in its hot-women-eating-burgers campaign (remember that spot with Padma?) There's no actual ad yet — it will premiere Sunday, presumably during the Oscars — but there is a behind-the-scenes promo vid with a convertible, cleavage, and hair blowing in the wind. Oh, and plenty of burger-related money shots.

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Padma Lakshmi on the Occupational Hazards of ‘Top Chef’

She's judging you right this second ...Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

It may seem like a dream job but Padma Lakshmi insists that hosting Top Chef is not for the weak. Last night at the launch party for Gail Simmons's new book, hosted by Beauty & Essex (where Andy Cohen also told us that Martha Stewart will soon be making an appearance on Watch What Happens Live), we caught up with the Bravo host, who dished about life after nine seasons as a TV star, coping in the judge's chair, and her favorite show not named Top Chef.

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A-Rod on C-Rations; Raw Milk Takes a Hit In Study

• Alex Rodriguez reportedly follows a special high-protein diet that has him bringing his own food to restaurants. We bet chefs just loooove him. [Off the Bench/NBC Sports]

• Though many people so believe in raw milk's health benefits that they'll flout state laws to drink it, the unpasteurized product causes illness at a rate thirteen times higher than its pasteurized counterpart. [Your Life/USAT]

• Still or sparkling? Chatty or hands-off? Waiters all over are increasingly trained to read body language and provide the style of service they think a table would prefer. [WSJ]

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