Posts for December 26, 2012

The Reader on The Year in Weird Ingredients

Matthias Merges' ingredient, sea cucumber.

At the Reader, Julia Thiel looks back at the past year of the chef challenge series Key Ingredient (for which we are the videographer). We have also heard the complaint that the out-there ingredients are unrealistic or gross for grossness' sake, yet the fact remains that they're nearly always something somebody somewhere eats:

No matter how odd some of these ingredients may seem to the average Chicagoan, many of them are common in other countries and cultures. In 2011 we had balut (fertilized duck egg, a popular snack in the Philippines), bamboo worms (served fried as street food in Thailand), and natto (fermented soybeans common in Japan); this year there's been huitlacoche (corn fungus, considered a delicacy in Mexico), chicken gizzards (available right here in Chicago at Harold's Chicken Shack), dende oil (common in Brazilian and West African cuisine), and bee pollen (which herbalists believe will cure pretty much whatever ails you).

And the chefs do seem to enjoy that part, stretching themselves to use something (even if what they learn is not to use it again)— as evidenced by the fact of how few times the challenge has been turned down. Anyway, find out more about the behind-the-scenes of persuading chefs to work with crazy stuff in her blog post. [Reader]

Scott Walton Leaving Markethouse For Unnamed Project to Open in Spring

Scott Walton in the Doubletree's rooftop garden.Photo: courtesy Scott Walton via Facebook

Here's one from late last week to put on the radar to watch for later in 2013. MarketHouse is the restaurant in the Doubletree Hotel just off the Magnificent Mile, and it could easily be a generic hotel restaurant if not for the fact that they went out and hired a guy with serious farm to table inclinations; besides sourcing from good farmers and winning a spot on this list, Scott Walton started an in-house charcuterie business which was doing a serious trade in to-go sausages. Well, it's no surprise that somebody spotted him as a guy who deserves a bigger showcase in this pork-lovin' town. We don't know what that will be yet... but we know we're interested. Walton's Facebook announcement is below.

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2012: The Year in Made-up Food Words

White Alba truffles: Cloudy, with a definite chance of flurries.Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty

Last week, the Food Section took the appropriate steps to make sure no one forgets about butt-chugging and pink slime in 2013 with its roundup of this year's stand-out neologisms and other food terms, which got us thinking: It's been an exceptional year for food words. The Times gave broader circulation (and immortality) to the words "Donkey Sauce" and "bleu-sabi" when it published its now-famous negative-star review of Guy's American Kitchen last month, so much that Pete Wells might as well have chiseled the Guy Fieri's menu onto a solid gold record and launched it, with a message from the U.N.'s secretary-general, into deep space, à la Voyager 1. While butt-chugging and Donkey Sauce were getting all the play, no one noticed that sriracha made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Farmwashing, foodhazing, and faux-raging. »

50 Photos That Tell The Story of 2012 in Chicago Food

If you're at the office, it's going to be a quiet week, so quiet you could fire a T-shirt cannon and not hit anybody. So we're going to help you kill time by looking back at the year in food 2012, as we chronicled it here at Grub Street Chicago. Today we go through the dozens of slideshows we've run this year to tell the story in pictures. It's chefs you know and love, it's food to salivate over, it's events from EMP at Alinea to Edzo's at Lollapalooza— it's 50 carefully curated (to use a very-2012 word) examples of food porn, mostly by our man Huge Galdones and ourselves, but with some other shots by various friends-of-Grub-Street. Watch it below (each one links to the original slideshow it came from, if you want to see more of anything). Then come back tomorrow for great interview moments, and Friday for a look back at our favorite videos.

End of Year Closings: Park 52, Hop Haus

We don't expect a lot to be happening during this in-between week, but one thing that will happen is a few places closing down before the end of the year so that landlords can get somebody new in. That's the case with, first, Park 52, the once-heralded upscale dining spot in Hyde Park. When it opened in 2008, it held out hopes that Hyde Park might finally have a hot dining scene, as a collaboration between Hyde Park restaurateur Marc Brooks and then king-of-dining-glitz Jerry Kleiner (Marché, Carnivale). (Dig the way overdone c. 2008 website.) That never really happened (Kleiner was bought out soon after) but Park 52, if not a destination for diners from other parts of the city, did steady business and was generally liked for upscale American comfort food. But earlier this month, it announced a closing party for January 9. Hope springs eternal for Hyde Park, though, with new projects on the way from the Longman & Eagle team and Matthias Merges. [Crain's]

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Damage Control: What You Should Be Binge-Eating When You’re Drunk at Three in the Morning

Smile, you're preventing a hangover.Photo: Corbis

Everyone's been there: It's 3 a.m. and you're stumbling around smelling like booze and bad choices. Well done. But now you're starving and your decision-making skills are in rough shape (especially if it's New Year's Eve). The idea that a greasebomb meal will completely prevent tomorrow's inevitable hangover is, sadly, a myth. But we talked to a bunch of professional nutritionists to see what someone can actually eat if they don't want to cause too much more damage and hope to soften the blow the next morning. And don't worry: The advice isn't all wheatgrass and beet juice. Even the pros know that late-night binge-eating should be satisfying.

Grilled cheese, cereal, and cherry pie. »

2013 at Next? So, Yeah, You Missed It.

Next's unpredictability in when it will offer tickets for its upcoming menus is matched only by the predictability of how its Facebook fans will squeal like stuck pigs when they don't get what they want. And we suspect there's going to be a porkapalooza when it sinks in what just happened: 2013's season tickets sales pretty much entirely happened during a time that many people would have been off the clock, off the computer, and paying no attention to social media. It started Friday morning with tickets to past season ticket holders; that ran until Saturday afternoon, at which point about 40% of the inventory (50 seats per night) was still remaining, most on weeknights or Sundays. Public sales began early Sunday morning— still time for Christmas buying at that point! They went quickly— within about an hour, they were down to just a handful of remaining tickets. By 2 p.m. Sunday, they were effectively sold out, with released inventory coming back onto the site only to be quickly snatched up.

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