Posts for November 1, 2012

Bourdain Reflects on No Reservations Ahead of Its Finale

He just might be his own worst critic.Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

We’ve already heard plenty about what Anthony Bourdain doesn’t like about television’s food programming. And we’ve also heard almost as much about what he does like. However, what we’ve never gotten a definitive word on is what he thinks about his own show. Ahead of Monday’s big finale, he took to Tumblr today to reflect on just that. And based upon the sheer length of the post, it’s obvious that he put a lot of time into mulling over all 140 episodes. In his self-assessment, he gives high marks to last season’s holiday special, mostly because it fulfilled his goal of causing “terror and confusion” among network executives.

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You Thought You Found Pot Pie Paradise, Now It's Official

Most people who've had pot pies at Pleasant House Bakery have found them to be pretty magically wonderful. Now, in one week this opinion will be official. At 9 p.m. central on Wednesday, November 7, Pleasant House will be featured on a program called "Pot Pie Paradise" on the Travel Channel's Food Paradise show, which hunts out the best of different genres (sometimes more than once— they'll be showing "Bacon Paradise #2" right after). As happy as we are to see one of our favorite places make the big time (we remember when Chef Art Jackson made his video debut), we have to admit we're also curious... you mean there are other places that make pot pies about as good as Pleasant House's?

Now Today's a Day That Really Brings the Living and the Dead Together

Sugar skull by the Mondragon family, displayed at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

We like Halloween as an excuse for the kids to wear costumes and to sneak one, maybe two Butterfingers. And that's it; the last thing we want around the house is a bunch of grocery store candy calling to us. Which brings us to this point... want something new and novel to nosh on this time of year, suitably ghoulish but not the same old? Go Mexican. Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which is today, is like a Halloween that comes from a whole other culture with its own traditions or something! Traditions that are actually deeper than "buy some plastic stuff at Target," in fact, as they involve rather morbidly remembering actual dead people and stuff. Day of the Dead is all about cool art, but David Hammond points out the cool food that goes with it in his Sun-Times piece, including where to get your hands on sugar skulls, tamale mucbipollo ("buried chicken"), and the bone-shaped pan de los muertos. Beats a pack of Skittles any day... of the dead. [Sun-Times]

New Romney Ad Blames Obama for Barbecue Restaurant Closure

Thanks a lot, Obama!Photo: BBQ Geek

In a last-ditch attempt to appear human, Mitt Romney has exploited found a shuttering barbecue restaurant and managed to pin the blame for their downfall on President Obama. In a hard-hitting video, Bill's Barbecue president Rhoda Elliott tells the sad story of the Richmond institution's closure, pinning the blame on Obama's inattention to small businesses. "Bill's Barbecue couldn't take four years under President Obama. Can we afford four more?" the video demands. It's a tear-jerker. The video pans across empty booths, a barren countertop, and a vacant parking lot. The camera even lingers over a sad-looking pie.

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In Memoriam: Diran J. Soulian, Owner of Top Notch Beef Burgers

The original Top Notch Beef Burgers on 79th, with Diran Soulian behind the counter and his parents at left.Photo: courtesy Top Notch Beef Burgers

Today we have a number of places that offer hamburgers which use freshly-ground beef of a particular quality, along with fresh, handcut, twice-fried fries— and make some noise about both of them as a way to distinguish themselves from the next place serving mere frozen "Angus Beef" patties. But it was only a few years ago when both of those fresh things were much rarer, and many food cognoscenti cited a burger place in the south side Beverly neighborhood as a rare model of what burgers and fries should be but rarely were. That place is Top Notch Beef Burgers, which opened in 1942 on 79th street but has been on Beverly's small town commercial strip since the 1950s. You could cite many reasons for that longevity— the freshly-ground-in-house round steak from which the patties are made; the beef tallow in the fryer oil that gives them a lushness that peanut or canola oil will never know— but surely the biggest reason was Diran Soulian, who just passed away at age 84. Soulian took over the family business from his parents shortly after getting out of the Army after the Korean War, and maintained its quality standards and commitment to the old-fashioned ways of doing things for six decades.

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Save On Chicago Food Film Festival Tickets, Plus Schedule Announced

Food Film Fest honcho George Motz.

The Chicago Food Film Festival returns for a third year on November 15th through 17th, and between now and noon on Friday you can save a third off ticket prices by going here. What is the Chicago Food Film Festival? Well, an outgrowth of the New York Food Film Festival, created by Hamburger American author/TV host George Motz among others, it brings films and videos about food together with samples to eat of many of the foods on display, which is way more than The Dark Knight Rises or The Master ever did for you. We chronicled it extensively last year (as well as having a couple of films in the festival ourselves), as in this slideshow here. This year, besides films from around the US, it will include a film about Phillip Foss's EL Ideas (with tastes of the item shown in the film), and also serving food will be Hoosier Mama and Pleasant House Bakery, among others. Summaries of all four programs have been released; read them below and then get some tickets, quick.

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Curtis Duffy's Grace To Open Reservations on Tuesday For December

UPDATE: We initially misunderstood the announcement; reservations will begin being taken next Tuesday at the number mentioned below. Of all the restaurants to open in a very busy year of openings, the most auspicious pedigree has always belonged to Grace— the new restaurant from Curtis Duffy, number two to Grant Achatz and then two star Michelin man himself at Avenues. We've been chronicling its progress in our video series Finding Grace, among many journalists who have been or are about to cover its creation for your vicarious enjoyment. But your chance to see it for yourself just got closer to being real: Grace will soon be is now accepting reservations for December at 312-234-9494. Actually, we hear it might actually open a bit sooner, but if so it will make announcements via social media at the last minute for those spots. December is your first chance to make a regular reservation for the restaurant at 652 W. Randolph.

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