Posts for November 26, 2012

Of Course European Dairy Farmers Riot With Milk-Filled Hoses

Dangerous for the lactose intolerant, and possibly Cap'n Crunch.Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

If you're like us, you've always wondered what it'd be like to wield a fire hose full of Belgian cow milk against a squad of cops in riot gear. Well, the European Milk Board "unleashed torrents of milk" today outside the European Parliament in Brussels in protest of quotas and unfair pricing schematics, which they say are putting small farmers out of business. Hundreds of tractors were moved into the city center during the protests, and hay bales and tires have been set on fire. Dairy producers sprayed hundreds of gallons of the full-fat stuff at the government building complex, splashing police and passersby in the process. If you happen to be in Brussels, the farmers plan on protesting outside of Parliament until tomorrow afternoon. Bring chocolate syrup. [NBCNews, Related]

Epic Burger Pauses to Digest, Aims To Grow Next Year

Epic Burger opened its first store in 2008, and opened its third through seventh in the last 15 months. And new CEO Scott Norrick says, we're not doing that again, according to Crain's. Norrick, brought over from Potbelly, clearly intends to grow the business in 2013, but apparently in a more cautious way that will involve carefully learn from existing locations (we take that to mean underperformers could get the ax). Founder David Friedman, meanwhile, focuses on concept development and branding. "There's still room for growth in Chicago's better-burger market," Crain's summarizes the advice of analysts, but it's not clear which, if any, of local startups like Epic Burger is really set to take off a la Five Guys. [Crain's]

Should We Be Thinking About Hunger When We Talk About Food?

Martha Bayne of Soup and Bread fame, among a number of other things, has a heartfelt essay at Time Out Chicago about hunger— a perennial topic at Thanksgiving, to be sure, but one to which she brings a modern media-consciousness. In fact her particular starting point is:

Lately the conversation around food has heated up to the point where it doesn’t seem to aspire to the act of eating at all. Instead, local food scribes scramble to scoop each other on restaurant openings and closings and chefly comings and goings. Column inches and digital bandwidth detail the city’s 50 best sandwiches and cutest servers... Food itself sometimes seems an afterthought, given the attention paid to chefs’ personalities and peccadillos.

Bayne, in a subtle, unscreedy way, basically calls out the food scene for Marie Antoinettism, a let-em-eat-$5-cupcakes attitude that overlooks hunger in the context of food. It's not a matter of whether she's right or not about the excess part— you can always find examples of obliviousness and decadence in a subject rooted in personal pleasure and the vanity of celebrity. But is she right that the scene neglects hunger and thus, neglects a central aspect of food?

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Do You Know the Way To Dongbei?

Northern City

Speaking of regional Chinese food, Mike Sula (too late for last week's critics roundup) took a look at two new restaurants which have popped up steps away from each other in Bridgeport, offering the relatively unfamiliar cuisine of Dongbei, which once upon a time was called Manchuria. Although it may have produced emperors, it is not credited with being one of China's major cuisines, and Sula explains why— it's basically the hearty food of herdsmen in a very cold place:

They cook with a lot of lamb in Dongbei, indicative of its proximity to Mongolia. They also cook with vinegar and eat loads of pickled vegetables, especially cabbage, or suan cai, which isn't surprising due to its proximity to North Korea. And unlike a lot of other regional Chinese cuisines, the Dongbei diet isn't based on rice. In its place, farmers grow wheat and the people eat bread, which takes the form of stretchy shredded pancakes that you tear apart with your fingers and dredge through rich, soy-based sauces and oily braising juices.

There are two reviews, this one of Homestyle Taste and this blog post about Northern City, and both will teach you something about a new cuisine— which you'll need; as Sula points out, "Even if you have some familiarity with Dongbei food, if you don't speak Mandarin, your best MO is to rubberneck the tables around you and take note of what everyone else is eating." [Reader]

Slideshow: The Beautiful, Imaginative Macanese-Slash-Global Food at Fat Rice

Asian with a dash of European sausage making... there are days when we would buy that as pretty much the perfect combination for the rest of our life. But fortunately we don't have to make a deal with the devil for that combination— it comes naturally to Macau and other places where the Portuguese had an influence. And so it comes naturally to Fat Rice, Logan Square's new and pretty much instantaneously popular contemporary Asian spot with a strong Macanese influence (but tastes from all over the globe), from the former proprietors of the X-Marx underground dinners, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo. Our man Huge Galdones was on the scene last week, and here's the first comprehensive look at the beautiful, fresh and eye-opening food they're making in their very open kitchen (grab a bar stool for the best view).

Previously: X-Marx Owners To Open [Fat Rice] To Offer "Satisfying, Creative, Square Meal"

And the Chef of Table, Donkey and Stick Will Be... Scott Manley

You may have eaten the pop-up dinners, you should have watched the videos already, and you probably voted for which candidate you think deserved the job of Table, Donkey and Stick's chef. The Alpine inn-inspired restaurant in the former Bonsoirée space held six pop-up dinners with six different chefs to see whose interpretation of the theme should win them the post, and the choice has been made. It's Scott Manley, protege of Paul Virant and veteran of Vie and EL Ideas, and you'll have the chance to congratulate him all this week as the restaurant holds an open house tonight through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:00. There will be housemade bread with pickles and rillettes for $5 (eat in or to go) to offer a little preview of the menu, plus a selection of beer, wine and brandy. (Cash only.)

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Top Chef Seattle Recap: David Rees on Cheese Ball Sophistication and Undercooked Kale

Emeril is not nearly so excited about that turkey.Photo: Bravo

Can we talk about cheese balls? When I was a kid, cheese balls were a gooey talisman of sophistication, a sure sign that I was at a grown-up party featuring classical music and debates about Rite I Eucharist versus Rite II Eucharist. So naturally, this Thanksgiving, I brought a cheese ball to the table in order to class up the proceedings. It had been years since I’d partaken of a cheese ball’s pleasures; I was excited!

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Shake Shack Chicago? Sounds Like It’s Happening

Get ready, Windy City.Photo: Jed Egan

Union Square Hospitality Group's ever-expanding hamburger and frozen custard chain Shake Shack is rumored to be opening its first Chicago location next year. A source familiar with Chicago's restaurant real estate business says the chain is headed for a tourist-heavy stretch of East Ohio Street just off Michigan Avenue, possibly even replacing the Harley Davidson dealership gift shop at the corner of East Ohio and North Rush. We've reached out to Danny Meyer's camp for comment and will report what when we hear something, ahem, concrete. If true, between the news of Shake Shack's big Boston plans and the chain's just-announced expansion to London, 2013 may indeed turn out to be the Year of the Shackburger. Update: Citing company policy, a representative reached via email has declined to comment on Shake Shack's potential expansion to Chicago. [Earlier, Earlier]

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