Posts for November 8, 2012

Vettel Tries to Predict Michelin, Knowing He's Too Enthusiastic For It

Tribune food critic Phil Vettel says it up front, so we don't have to: "If there's one constant to these books, it's that Michelin never awards as many stars as I think the Chicago area deserves." Vettel has in the past predicted new enthusiasms for Michelin which proved to be completely unsupported by reality (steakhouses!), but this year he seems to have accepted the glacial pace and parsimonious bounty of Michelin and his predictions seem largely in line with most (including our own). He is likely right in thinking that Alinea will remain the only three-star, but that Sixteen and L2O could get to two (we think Next might as well given its chefly pedigree, though it's awfully casual for two stars by traditional Michelin measures).

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Slideshow: The Exquisite Precision of Next's Kyoto Menu

With the excitement of the Alinea-Eleven Madison Park switch-off, and speculation about the menus for the 2013 season, the last menu of Next's 2012 season, Kyoto, has been a bit overlooked (relatively speaking for the phenomenally popular restaurant). But dining at it almost exactly midway through its run, we feel not only that it's one of the more interesting menus, but one that shows Next achieving maturity as a concept, capable of replicating world cuisines faithfully in the spirit but not the letter, via local ingredients that adapt their techniques to the midwest's seasonal offerings. If Sicily was Next going rustic in one part of the world, this is Next at a level of refinement that demonstrates the affinity between the minimalist precision of Japanese kaiseki dining and the equally painstaking perfectionism of Grant Achatz. There are dish by dish slideshows out there on various food sites, but we'd like to share one that demonstrates our point about the precision and minimalism of the meal— and since tickets pop up regularly on Facebook and Twitter, you still have the chance to go (it ends December 31).

Taco Bell Menu Turning Increasingly Experimental, Strange-Sounding

We're not even sure what this is.

As you no doubt know, Taco Bell is killing it with those Doritos Loco tacos, and apparently the success is giving the chain the confidence to go even more loco on its menu. Today Advertising Age runs down all the crazy crap Taco Bell is working on to further the success of its hybrid snacks. In addition to a bunch of desserts — caramel-filled empanadas, churros that look like a take on cheese twists, an triangular ice cream sandwich — there's also a forthcoming series of snacks known as "Loaded Grillers," which will wrap entire servings of nachos and baked potatoes in tortillas for its loaded customers. The Gut-Bust-y approach isn't going unnoticed by the competition.

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Gene Kato Announces Second Concept in Sumi Space: Charcoal Bar Led By Matthew Lipsky

Gene Kato, Sumi Robata Bar and Charcoal Bar.

When Sumi Robata Bar was first announced, Gene Kato said that the Japanese restaurant at 702 N. Wells would have three concepts within its space, but the only one he was talking about was the main robata grill. Today he announced the second: Charcoal Bar, featuring cocktails which make use of traditional Japanese spirits including Japanese whisky and sake, as well as a curated selection of the latter for straight up drinking and Japanese beers, sodas and teas (from Rare Tea Cellar). But at least as notable is who will be manning the intimate 12-seat bar: Matthew Lipsky, formerly known as "Choo" Lipsky though that nickname is notably absent from the materials. Lipsky is probably best-known as mixologist for the short-lived Morso, but he also worked at The Southern and launched Untitled's cocktail program including a selection of some 300 whiskys.

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Bourdain and Ripert’s ‘Good & Evil’ Chocolate Bar to Make Its Debut

Good & Evil: Anthony Bourdain and Eric RipertPhoto: Melissa Hom

Just as we’d suspected, that “mysterious” Good & Evil chocolate bar that’s co-opted the schtick that Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert put forth in their traveling Good vs. Evil roadshow, makes its big debut at this weekend’s Salon du Chocolat. Philadelphia’s Inquirer spills the beans on the the bar, which is the culmination of more than a year’s work from Ripert and Pennsylvania-based chocolatier Christopher Curtin’s Eclat. To create it, the two trekked deep into jungles of Peru in search of an elusive type of wild-growing cacao believed extinct since 1916.

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Top Chef Seattle Recap: And We’re Off!

Some hopefuls, and their omelettes.Photo: Bravo

Most TV shows would kill for Top Chef’s reputation: In its tenth season, it continues to represent an upper-middlebrow trashy sensibility that purees accessibility, celebrity, and actual talent in a back-stabbery broth of semi-sophistication. Let us sup together!

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West Town Billy Lawless Project Headed For Orange Space

Billy Lawless.

A few weeks back we noted that Billy Lawless (The Gage, Henri) was talking about a West Town project with a great patio. It was always possible that that would be in a space that wasn't currently a restaurant, but if it was taking over a place that was still operating, it made us worried for Frontier— which has a great patio. Well, it is replacing a previous restaurant, but we were looking on the wrong street: the still-unnamed project will go where the Orange at 739 W. Grand was, according to Dish. When it opens in the spring, it will have three bars and a wood-burning grill— though not pizza, since Piccolo Sogno is right across the street and Lawless apparently thinks that's too close to go head to head. Capacity will be about 160 to 170 seats (presumably not counting the patio.) Lawless is in partnership with Branko Palikuca, who has Topaz Cafe in Burr Ridge, and bar guy Clint Rogers and sommelier Shebnem Ince from The Gage and Henri will oversee the drinks. [Dish]

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver Used to Run a Burrito Blog

The burrito bracketologist.Photo: Christopher Anderson/ Magnum

Two billion dollars spent on it and no one noticed this until the day after the election? Apparently. Nate Silver, the New York Times statistician (of FiveThirtyEight blog) whose predictions reached Wine Spectator-ish absurdities of precision ("Based on his necktie, I have upgraded President Obama's chances of being reelected to 77.83% from 77.82%") but proved, in the end, to be spookily accurate, was a baseball stat geek before a political one, but before that, he was ... a Chicago burrito stat geek, a fact buried in an Advertising Age feature on him. Wait, what stats do burritos produce, you ask? Well, none, unless you generate them, which he did at a blog called the Burrito Bracket in 2007, comparing burritos and other Mexican fast food in his then-Wicker Park vicinity in an NCAA-style competition.

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