Posts for December 4, 2012

What to Eat at Park Tavern, Opening Tonight

The foot-long grilled cheese, though we're pretty sure that's not only grilled cheese on it.Photo: courtesy Park Tavern

Which park is Park Tavern near? More like the United Center and Rush University Medical Center (as you'll know if you ever went to Moretti's, its predecessor in the same location at 1645 W. Jackson), but we suppose Hospital Tavern isn't really that great a name. (Actually, the name originated with the first location, in Rosemont.) Still, the menu does a surprisingly good job of bridging those two worlds nearby— sure, it has an impressive assortment of burgers and things like Animal Tots for the sports-game-bound, but a little "V" for Vegetarian (Or Can Be Made That Way) dots a surprising number of items, too, which suggests that there's healthier variety here than you often find in such places. Other features of note in the space, which seats 250 plus some private rooms, include a VIP table tap system where you can pour your own beer or spirits, and next summer, a 3000-square foot beer garden. So we guess the answer to where the park is, is at Park Tavern. Check out the menu below.

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Famed Italian Winery Hit by Vandals Destroying $25 Million Worth of Wine

Gianfranco Soldera

A highly respected winery in Tavernelle, Italy, south of Montalcino, was the target of a calculated attack on its cellars this week that may have been an act of revenge by rival winemakers who were tired of being bad-mouthed. Case Basse di Soldera is a top producer of Brunello di Montalcino, with bottles of their last vintage (2006) selling for around $300 apiece, and as the New York Times reports, vandals succeeded in opening up vats containing six years' worth of vintages and dumping the wine out onto the floor. The motive for the crime? Estate proprietor Gianfranco Soldera maybe kinda needed to be put in his place.

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Breaking: Donald Trump Given ‘Highest Rated Sanitary Award’ in New York

The laconic entrepreneur just tweeted some excellent, if unanticipated news: "Just won the highest rated sanitary award in NY—an A--& the food is great also. Trump Grill/ 57th & 5th." That's right, things may still be a little bit stanky in Vegas, but today, a new high bar has been set over on Fifth Avenue, and it all happened during a routine health-department inspection. According to the NYC Department of Health, his restaurant joins a small-but-prestigious list of only 18,824 other spots to receive "A" grades. Remember this day, people, and never stop dreaming. [realDonaldTrump/Twitter, Earlier]

Holiday Gifts In an Atmosphere Of Beer Tonight, From Ms. Mint Trading Post

Want to shop for cool gifts? Need a tall cool one to even contemplate doing such a thing? Have we got the event for you. It's Ms. Mint Trading Post's 3rd annual holiday bazaar, and the location this year will be Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub, tonight from 4 p.m. to 9:30. Goose Island will be sampling Jared Rouben's seasonal beers, Virtue Cider, Death's Door and other wine and spirit makers will be sampling their wares too, and there will be tons of good artisanal food makers on hand, from savory (Co-Op Hot Sauce, Scrumptious Pantry, etc.) to sweet (Puffs of Doom, Das Caramels). General admission is free and all ages; a tasting ticket for the over-21 stuff is $12 online here for a little while longer, or $15 at the door; see the whole list of vendors here.

"I Was Always a Deli Shlepper": Owner Bette Dworkin On Why She Had To Bring Kaufman's Deli Back

The new Kaufman's, Skokie.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

It’s been a tough month for delis. Ashkenaz in Chicago’s Gold Coast closed; so did Stage Deli in New York. Yet there was a piece of good news, too, when Kaufman’s Delicatessen & Bakery in Skokie reopened in early November after a fire almost exactly a year earlier. Bette Dworkin, whose father bought the deli in the 1980s from Maury Kaufman, came close to giving up more than once in the process of buying and completely rebuilding the business, which they had operated in rented space for 25 years. But deli is in her blood, going back to her great-grandfather, a baker in Russia who opened Imperial Bakery at 1011 N. Damen in Chicago in the early 20th century. And with her mom, Judy, she persevered to bring her nearly 60-year-old classic deli back for another generation. We spoke with Dworkin about the struggle to keep this iconic Skokie business going and its rebirth in new, snazzier digs on Dempster in Skokie.

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The Hunt Club Coming Down, To Be Replaced By... Maple & Ash

Photo: courtesy The Hunt Club

The Hunt Club, a longtime nightspot near the Gold Coast's Viagra Triangle, will shortly see its last evening of pursuit and trophy-bagging. Jim Lasky, owner of the club (he also has The Southern), is teaming up with David Pisor, developer of the Elysian (now the Waldorf-Astoria), to knock down the popular club and replace it with a huge restaurant and nightclub complex which will include a two-level restaurant called Maple & Ash, plus an as-yet-unnamed nightclub. Though public meetings are under way, the project seems to be moving rapidly and without a hitch, in part because Alderman Brendan O'Reilly recognizes that it could be a lot bigger— the site would have allowed a building three times as tall. No closing date has been suggested for The Hunt Club, but it can't be far away— construction is supposed to start January 15; we suspect the New Year's Eve Blowout advertised on the Hunt Club website is about to become the swan song as well. Maple & Ash is described as a "sophisticated version of Chicago's most successful restaurant venues," which we translate as, Randolph Street is coming to Rush Street. [Chicago Real Estate Daily]

Counter Culture Coffee Scores Big in Atlanta Coffee Competition

A year and a half after it opened in the West Loop, Counter Culture Coffee remains a bit of an open secret on the coffee scene. Many local baristas have trained at the Raleigh, North Carolina-based company's Chicago Training Center, and many customers have had their coffee horizons expanded there, but its profile as a roaster and supplier remains lower than other Chicago coffee icons. This weekend's news should help a little: Counter Culture dominated the Southeast Regional Barista Championship this past weekend in Atlanta. Barista Lemuel Butler won first place for the fourth time using Counter Culture's Kenya Thiriku. According to this site:

Mr. Butler has a long history of inventive signature drinks with clever names - this year’s drink was called “The Illusionist”, and included pistachio cream, shots of Thiriku espresso, and a hibiscu tea with lemon zest that Mr. Butler steeped live on stage. The end result was a drink that yielded “hidden” chocolate and cranberry notes - an illusion that gave the drink its name.

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The 2012 Grub Street Gift Guide: 29 Gift Picks for Food Lovers of All Sorts

If you're reading this, your gift-giving list this year probably contains at least a couple of food-loving people you just know would love ... something. But there's so much clutter — and so many useless kitchen tools — that finding a real gem of a present can turn into a chore. Rest easy, though: Grub Street turned to some of the country's best chefs, bartenders, and restaurant owners to see which gifts they'll be giving (or hoping for) this year. From simple $6 stocking stuffers all the way up to the best (and no doubt most expensive) knives imaginable, we've got you covered at every level.

Watch Alinea Take Over Eleven Madison Park, and Vice Versa

We had the good fortune to hang out behind the scenes of the great and ambitious switcheroo between the Chicago restaurant Alinea and New York's Eleven Madison Park earlier this fall, and now here's a companion music video, produced by Alinea to commemorate the occasion. It gives some sense of the logistical hurdles — and a healthy dose of the inherent frenzy — involved when one fine-dining restaurant steps outside of its comfort zone, travels 800 miles, and settles right now into another kitchen.

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