Posts for November 15, 2012

Open Table: Threat or Menace?

The Tribune takes a look at the economics behind Open Table. But it's a curious piece— plus another related piece— that leaves as many questions as it answers. Here's part of its opening:

When you book a table through the Open Table website, the restaurant is charged $1 per seated guest — so if you show up as a foursome, that's $4 off the restaurant's bottom line... And if you call the restaurant and make the reservation human voice-to-human voice, that costs the restaurant nothing.

Nothing? Really? People answer restaurant phones for free? Sure, it's just one more part of the job for staff at some smaller places, but larger restaurants often have dedicated staff answering phones, or at least people for whom it's a major part of their duties, so it certainly costs something.

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Legendary Sommelier Larry Stone on Charlie Trotter’s Wine Collection (Which He Built)


Tomorrow, Christie's in New York will auction off the top bottles from the collection amassed over 25 years by Chicago's legendary Charlie Trotter's restaurant. (The remainder will be on sale online through the end of the month; you can see the collection catalogue here.) Master sommelier Larry Stone was Trotter's most celebrated wine director, working at the restaurant from 1989 (when it was two years old) to 1993, and then returning for its last few months. But more than that, he was Trotter's collaborator in developing an American way that wine and food could go together in contemporary fine dining, largely responsible for building the restaurant's celebrated cellar and setting the direction that it followed after he left. Stone recently took a new post as dean of Wine Studies at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, California; we caught up with him via e-mail in Burgundy and asked him about the collection, which Christie's buyers will be bidding on tomorrow.

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Win Free Tickets To the Midnight Ramen After the Chicago Food Film Festival. Plus EL Ideas After-Party!

We were going to write about this event called the Midnight Ramen. What it is, is, after the Chicago Food Film Festival on Saturday night, a new outfit called Kitchit Chicago (there are outposts elsewhere) that stages way cool food events would bring in a celebrated Japanese ramen chef, Keizo Shimamoto, for a latenight ramen party at Phillip Foss's EL Ideas. (Foss comes into it because one of the films in the fest is about him and he'll be serving something during one of the programs.) The problem was, it sold out instantly, and we don't really like to write about things our readers can't go to. But now you can after all, so here we are. There will be a raffle for the last 10 tickets, free; you can go here to sign up (but hurry, they're picking winners this afternoon). And we have another pair to give away— all you have to do tweet one of our trademark ridiculous hashtags, #TheresAGrubStreetInMyRamen and we'll pick a winner on Friday. But that's not all that's happening that involves EL Ideas, Kitchit Chicago, and the Chicago Food Film Festival.

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Padma Does Playboy

But don't get too excited, fellas: It's for a Q&A, and the accompanying photo is very tasteful. (The same cannot be said for the ads on the site.) Anyway, topics discussed: Lakshmi's lack of sentimentality ("I’m like a truck driver trapped in this body"), ex-husband Salman Rushdie ("Now there is somebody who has great wit and is a great flirt"), her role in the 2001 box-office bomb Glitter (money job), and attractive people who don't have a lot to say ("A lot of people I see in magazines or on TV bore me"). So it goes. [Playboy]

Slideshow: Last Night's All-Wine-Star Sommelier Smackdown at Spiaggia

A whole case of top Chicago sommeliers gathered last night at Spiaggia to compete in public, remember the late Spiaggia somm Henry Bishop, and raise money for cancer research. With Alpana Singh and Spiaggia's Jason Carlen hosting, ten of Chicago's best paired off in biodynamic duos to offer their wine selection for each of Sarah Grueneberg's five courses, following a theme of Old World vs. New World in their selections; guests then cast a vote for the winner of each round (using red or clear glass beads). Our man Huge Galdones was on the scene; here's his photographic report.

Top Chef Seattle Recap: David Rees on Personal Branding and Geopolitical Humblebrags

Photo: Bravo

I’d like to apologize for last week’s disparaging comments about soup. After doing a little research, I realize that soup can be, in fact, quite complicated and delicious. I must remember to eat it someday.

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What To Eat at Fat Rice, Open Now (Shhh...)

In New York a young chef opens a place making artisanal Asian food with craft and care that isn't your usual delivery Chinese, word gets around... and in no time, David Chang has an empire. Could the same happen in Chicago? Who knows, but if we were going to pick a place that just might, we'd look at Fat Rice, which has been in soft opening mode (dinner only) for a week or so in Logan Square, but whose website went live yesterday. We spoke with owners Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo some months back, when it was still going to be called Flour and Bones, and if you missed that piece then, it's still worth reading for a sense of the tradition and intellectual curiosity they're bringing to the job of making a "satisfying, creative, square meal" inspired by, but not limited to, the food of China and Macau (with some African and Caribbean influences sneaking in around the edges). Oh, and if you're curious, the name comes from a Macanese dish, Arroz Gordo. Check out the menu below.

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Department of Deportment: The End-All, Be-All Guide to Using Your Phone at the Table

Resist the urge to play some mid-meal Angry Birds Star Wars.Photo-illustration: Konstantin Sergeyev

Look around any hot-ticket dining room and you'll see it: the vulgar, telltale glow of smartphones laid on tables, bars, and laps. iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxies full of Twitter updates and text messages; equipped with cameras ideal for mediocre food photography; even able to, in the most loathesome of at-table scenarios, make actual phone calls. They're a great technological advancement, and an even greater nuisance to both diners and the cooks whose food has to compete for your attention with push notifications. The ubiquity of smartphones in restaurants now has even led to calls for a hard ban — or the invention of odd games involving stacking phones on the table during the meal. But such extreme measures are unlikely to succeed, and the use of phones at the table should be a matter of etiquette, not law, so here is the definitive road map to using your phone at the table.

"A phone left on the dinner table is a shifty kind of power play." »

Guy Fieri Responds to Times Smackdown [Updated]

Guy Fieri didn't say anything yesterday in the wake of Pete Wells's public thrashing of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, but he did show up on Today — increasingly becoming the go-to morning stop for Food Network stars in damage control mode — to address the issue.

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