Posts for March 15, 2012

Rod Blagojevich Grabs Some Patty Melts on His Way to the Slammer

In case you missed it, the former Illinois governor reported to prison today in order to serve out that 14-year corruption sentence. Though he didn't go directly to jail when he landed in Denver — he stopped for lunch first. Blago reportedly hit Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and ordered two patty melts, but, as the location's owner told the AP, he "didn't appear to have much of an appetite." [AP via WP]

Tokyo 21 Asian Pub Opens in Old Kamehachi Space

They don't actually use the word "izakaya," but by the loose definition that it has in Chicago, they might as well. The owners of Kamehachi, one of Chicago's sushi pioneers, have taken its former Old Town space at 1400 N. Wells (it moved into new digs up the street a few months back) and turned the once-homey sushi spot into Tokyo 21. The menu is pan-Asian pub food including dumplings, yakitori and some cross-cultural craziness like sliders and tacos— just not sushi. Drinkwise, sake is the focus with 21 different sake cocktails (called "bombs") on the menu (and a "sake passport" program for those wanting to really get bombed). [Eater]

Chocolate Wine Is Now a Thing; Jet-Setting Wine Collector Arrested for Fraud

"This Cocoa Bordeaux tastes great over ice cream!"

• So, there's chocolate wine now. A Washington-based company is marketing this stuff called Chocolate Shop, which is a Bordeaux-style blend from California mixed with sugar and chocolate. And apparently it isn't just college girls who are buying it. [Drinks Business]

• Everyone knows that the wine market in China is a hot topic, but not so many people know that Chinese nationals are increasingly buying up property in California's wine country. [Wines and Vines]

• Watch a video and listen to a seminar about Chateau Margaux, the second-oldest of the premier cru, or "first growth," wineries in Bordeaux. [Wine Spectator]

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The James Weird Awards: Beehive Thievery and Parachuting to Avoid a Check

The food world tried to teach us a few lessons this week. First: Don't swallow cinnamon (unless you put it on some applesauce or buttered toast first). Second: Don't steal from poor, defenseless food carts, because it's rude. Third: Do not, under any circumstances, provoke a cranky Jamie Oliver. He will snap. More what-not-to-do parables can be found in the James Weird awards, straight ahead.

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Chefs Create New Organization, Ground Up, To Promote Farm To Table

You might think there are plenty of ways Chicago chefs are already involved in promoting closer connections between farmers and city folk when it comes to food, and they are, but that doesn't mean there isn't a mission for another one. Ground Up, which calls itself "a chef farmer community," grew out of a Chef Camp put on last year by Spence Farms in association with chefs such as Stephanie Izard, in which chefs participated in butchery, farming and other forms of food education. That led chef Thomas Leavitt of White Oak Gourmet, who's on the Spence Farms Foundation board, and some Chicago chefs including SMarianne Sundquist, Jared Van Camp, Chris Pandel and others to the desire to create a permanent organization promoting farmer-chef collaboration. Ground Up will launch its first program, an indoor farmer's market held at Browntrout to help incubate small family farms selling directly in the city, on May 1. But before then, you can help Ground Up get off the ground (so to speak) at a fundraiser to be held at Spacca Napoli on Monday April 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be food tasting stations from restaurants including Anteprima, Browntrout, C-House, Floriole, MK, The Bedford, Vincent and Wood, as well as vendors from Mess Hall & Co., Rich Chocolates, Las Manas, Rare Tea Cellar, and Green Grocer. August Hill Winery and Two Brothers Brewery will have beverages on hand, and there will be a silent auction with items donated by a wide range of well-known chefs including Stephanie Izard and Heather Terhune. For tickets and more information, go here.

Schools Can ‘Opt Out’ of Pink Slime

You may recall that the country's schools were all set to be the last conceivable place that people could get "pink slime," the beef additive that even Taco Bell won't buy. But an unnamed USDA source tells the AP that schools won't have to peddle this crap if they don't want to.

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Leopold Partners With Homebrew Club For Beer Dinner March 26

Beer dinners are almost as common as wine dinners, with all the excellent breweries we have these days. But here's one with a different twist— the beer's from a homebrew club called Chaos (Chicago Homebrew Alchemists of Sud). They're clearly a serious crew, with an actual brew house on the near west side where they get together and collaborate (here's an interesting blog piece about them). The $75 five-course menu will pair a different style, most of them barrel aged, with each of chef Jeffrey Hedin's courses; the styles include a California Common, a Belgian quadrupel, a barleywine and an Imperial stout. You can see the whole menu here; go here for tickets.

Here are the Super-Secret Wines the Obamas Served at Last Night’s State Dinner

What are you drinking, Mr. President?Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Among the chatter leading up to last night's State Dinner was talk that the Obama Administration, in keeping with a policy it set last year, wouldn't be publicly releasing the names of the wines served at the meal. The menu simply said that American wines would be paired with each course, and the going theory is that the move was in response to backlash the White House received after serving pricey wine at a 2011 State Dinner.

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Two of Our Favorite Chefs In Media Today: Achatz, Sorkin

These popped up next to each other in our newsfeed, and so we feel there's some nice symmetry in referring you to both of them together— after all, while we have no idea if Barry Sorkin has ever eaten at Alinea or Next, we definitely know that Grant Achatz brings in barbecue from Smoque to staff meal. First up, The Atlantic's Cities subsite has a sharp interview with Sorkin, which really encapsulates his story of how doing Texas-style barbecue in an obscure neighborhood proved to be a great way to escape corporate life and have a line out the door. We especially liked this story about how a mentor found him:

Ina Pinkney [known as The Breakfast Queen] was probably our first customer. I’d never met her, never spoken to her, never been to her restaurant. We literally opened our doors and a grandmotherly looking figure walks in. She said, “Come over here and sit down” and starts giving me advice: You have to close on Monday. Here’s the name and number for the guy you’re going to use for ventilation. Here’s the guy who’s going to clean your grease trap. For whatever reason, she took me under her wing and decided to make me her project.

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Tribune Asks, Where Are the Black Chefs?

The most prominent black chef in Chicago is Swedish: Marcus Samuelsson.

Christopher Borrelli and Phil Vettel have a couple of pieces at the Tribune today that are worth some thought. The question is, where are the black chefs? It's not that there aren't plenty of black-owned food businesses in town, but they're cafes and soul food restaurants and, most recently, turkey-based healthier fast food chains, not Michelin star joints. And it's not that there aren't plenty of black graduates of the culinary schools— Washburne's student body is primarily black, Kendall is about 20% black. So where are the head chefs? (We've asked ourselves the same question while producing the Key Ingredient chef challenge series for the Reader; early on, we got a lot of comments asking where the women chefs were, and we ultimately have had a decent number of them, but our next African-American chef will be our first.) Borrelli finds no particular reason to see outright racism, but it's clear that whatever the customary social path is to top restaurants, blacks aren't on it— one clue is a throwaway mention that Washburne doesn't even have a placement office.

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How Curious, an Irish Whiskey Story This Week; We Didn't Even Know Kate Upton Had a Sperm Count

• We're not just saying this because it's almost St. Patrick's Day: Irish Whiskey is making a comeback. Think of it as somewhat along the lines of small-batch American bourbon. [Food Republic]

• Some guilt with your coffee? Around 30 to 50 percent of food in the world goes to waste, with Americans one of the worst culprits, tossing 33 pounds a week per person, on average. [MSNBC]

• Kate Upton eating a dripping Carl's Jr. burger might be sexy, but that sandwich is going to lower sperm count, dude. [NYDN]

• Mon dieu: The French Right has caused a furor this week by claiming that most butchers in Paris are selling Halal meat to all customers, Muslim or no, without informing the non-Muslims of this. [Salt/NPR]

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