Posts for December 14, 2012

Vettel Loves Elizabeth's Long, Strange Trip, Nagrant Doubts Mexique Is a Star

Bear at Elizabeth. Really.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

It's review time, so it's time to see what restaurant Time Out Chicago didn't much care for that Phil Vettel gives three stars. Last week was Baume & Brix, this week it's Elizabeth, and it's clear that Vettel was happy to be taken along on Elizabeth's trip: "Foraging is an imprecise science; one never knows what treasures might appear and when, and the joy of the finding compensates for the tedium of the looking. So it is for Regan's restaurant. Her multicourse menus, the smallest of which require a three-hour commitment, provide moments of rapture, and occasionally of indifference. But nothing is ever less than interesting." [Tribune]

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Watch the First Episode of ‘Epic Chef,’ the Competitive Cooking Show From ‘Epic Meal Time’

Suitcases filled with bacon strips, self-hate, Top Chef, and "sushi-grade lard" all collide in the first episode of "Epic Chef," a new web series from the makers of "Epic Meal Time." If you're already familiar with the team most responsible for this year's bacon shortage, then you already know what you're in for. The first installment pits chefs David Alvarez and Ilan Hall against each other. The pair are tasked with reinventing breakfast, and this is probably the first time you'll ever hear a judge preface his or her comments with the words "I would just like to say that both meals were shitty." If you can stomach it, click on through.

"I'm going for the baby snot." »

Klezmer Brunch at City Winery? Who Knew?

Hanukkah ends Sunday, but even after the holiday, there are good reasons to check out the Klezmer brunch at City Winery. Like, it's the only brunch in town right now where you won't have to hear Let It Snow at some point. We visited it recently and enjoyed the combination of peppy, jazzy klezmer music (by a group called Balkano) with a just-different-enough Hanukkah buffet brunch including bagels and lox, blintzes, latkes and ruggelach. There's a different klezmer ensemble every week— who knew that there were so many?— and you can see the ones through the end of the month here; this Sunday's is the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble. Food and music is $30 for adults, half that for 12 and under, and includes bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys (shouldn't that be Miriams?)

Dark Meat: A Brief History of Pork-Chop-Related Violence

Worth killing for?Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

Yesterday, a Florida man shot his drunken roommate in a pork-chop dispute. Thomas Hahn objected to his roomie's views on how to properly cook pork chops, so he planted three bullets in his head. At first blush, this might seem like a slight overreaction, no matter how important it is to get a nice char and a juicy center. But careful research reveals that arguments over pork chops are frighteningly common. Ahead, a short social history.

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It's a Dessert Superstar Mashup Thing at Trenchermen, January 3

Trencherpersons.

Some critics have knocked The Trenchermen for not having a dedicated pastry chef. (We are not among them.) You want pastry chefs, on January 3 they're going to be full of pastry chefs— six of them to be precise, from all over the globe. The first three we know— Dana Cree of our own Blackbird, Christina Tosi of the fanatic following at Momofuku Milk Bar in New York, and Rosio Sanchez of the world-acclaimed Noma in Copenhagen. Who are the other three? Each of them will bring along an up-and-comer they admire, to be announced later. The event is called Killing Me Sweetly, honoring women in the industry, and each duo will collaborate on a savory and sweet course. There will be an entree by Mike and Pat Sheerin of The Trenchermen, pairings by master sommelier Alpana Singh, and cocktails by Jenny Kessler of Masa Azul— but let's face it, you're already thinking about this because six pastry chefs means at least three desserts. It's at 6:30 p.m., it's $100 with a charity benefit to be named later... call 773-661-1540 to get your reservation.

Lunch Lady Loses Her Job for Feeding Needy Kid

A Missouri elementary-school cafeteria worker named Dianne Brame was fired on Tuesday for feeding a fourth-grade boy whose mother hadn't renewed him in the school's free lunch program. The rules at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves state that children whose eligibility lapses are entitled to a few freebies but thereafter are given a carton of milk and a lowly cheese sandwich. In the local news video below, Brame says she served the fourth-grader a free full lunch for two months in order to prevent the other students from bullying him. On Monday, however, a co-worker reported her to the food-service company that has a contract with the school, and though she has now lost her job, the former lunch lady says she has no regrets.

The video. »

L2O Chef Matt Kirkley On Losing and Winning Back Michelin Stars

Matt Kirkley with a very fresh crab from L2O's kitchen tank.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Whatever you think about Michelin— and we've thought plenty already— there is one story they've gotten right, neatly enough to make a Hollywood comeback story. It's L2O, which in the first year was the only other three-star besides the inevitable Alinea. Then in the second year, with chef Laurent Gras gone, it plummeted to one star in what seemed nearly a public rebuke to a restaurant which had once had it together and lost it. And then, barely a month ago, it won back one of its two lost stars. Most observers would agree with the judgement of L2O as it stood at each of these moments— and so does Matt Kirkley, who was on staff in some capacity at nearly every step of the way, even as he spent time in between at a different two-star restaurant, the now-gone RIA. Shortly after dining on Kirkley's current menu, we met him at Pizano's for pizza and talked Michelin and everything else with him, from why the Elysian Hotel didn't make it to Charlie Trotter's auction (which he attended with one of his chefs). We've got a frank interview with him below; on Monday we'll have a slideshow of what's happening at the newly two-star L2O now.

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Vodka Saves Stranded Siberian Elephants’ Lives

Here's a story everyone can relate to: After his trailer caught fire, Russian circus trainer Leonid Labo found himself and his two middle-aged elephants stranded amid Siberia's brutally bone-chilling landscape. To keep his pachyderms from freezing, he fed them ten liters of vodka (each) diluted in warm water. A zoo director later said the move "saved the animals from frostbite and pneumonia, without harming or even intoxicating them." [AP]

Meet OpenTable’s Idea of the Best Restaurant in Chicago, Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse

Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse: Chicagoland's best restaurant?Photo: courtesy Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse via Facebook

We get lists all the time, and most of the time, even if they have shiny bait in the form of Chicago names on them, we just don't care enough to give the list-creator publicity. So you think Yusho is one of America's 25 hottest restaurants, magazine from New York? Get in line, pal. But sometimes one is so out of left field that you can't help be fascinated by it. And that was the case with OpenTable's "Diner's Choice" list of the top 100 restaurants in the U.S., based on some algorithm of user rankings divided by value and multiplied by relative quality around them, or something like that. Although many famous places make the list (French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, etc.), only one restaurant in the Chicago area does. Alinea? Les Nomades? Gene & Georgetti? Nope, it's... Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse in Downers Grove. Of course, you say. And so we were all set to raise the Grub Street eyebrow at how some steak-on-swords joint in Mallburbia beat all these big city swank joints in OpenTable users' minds. And then we spoke to general manager Nelcir Muller to see why he thinks his restaurant earned the top ranking in all of Chicagoland. And by the end of our conversation... we started to believe that in some sense, OpenTable users are right.

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