Posts for January 18, 2013

Orange Wine Already Over, Say Two Wine Writers

A spectrum of orange wine.Photo: Ceri Smith/Biondivino

Despite the fact that most of your friends, and possibly even you, have not yet heard of orange wine, two people this week have penned pieces cutting it down and declaring the trend over. Writing for Forbes, Richard Betts declares that Tecate is a superior beverage to orange wine, quoting a friend who calls them "the Kardashians of wine," and lamenting that he "look[s] forward to the faddish / cultish following they’ve engendered in certain wine circles waning." (You'll recall that as far as pop-culture comparisons go, Grub Street thinks the wine is more akin to Bon Iver than the Kardashians.) The San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonné, who was one of the first American wine geeks to write about orange wine back in 2009, concurs.

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AAA Picks Awfully Familiar List, But Does Manage To Eat at Next

On the one hand, AAA's Five Diamond list for Chicago could have been the list from ten years ago, if not for the absence of Charlie Trotter's. On the other hand, at least AAA managed to eat at Next, unlike Michelin. The guys who change the flat when you pop one of the other guy's tires released their five diamond choices today, which are Alinea, Arun's, Everest and Tru. Next is the sole new addition to the four diamond list, which has 15 Chicago restaurants and two in the suburbs: Blackbird, Boka, Courtright's (Willow Springs), L2O, Les Nomades, Lockwood, MK, Moto, NAHA, Next, NoMI, Shanghai Terrace, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Tallgrass (Lockport), Topolobampo, and the in-fact-already-closed Zealous. As for, say, Acadia, Balena, Elizabeth, Girl & the Goat, Goosefoot, NellcĂ´te, Yusho, etc. etc.? Let's not rush into anything, guys. [AAA]

Ruby Lauds Elizabeth, Lambastes Neighbors; Nagrant Goes Home To South America With La Sirena Clandestina

"While $205 is a lot to spend for a meal from a chef you’ve never heard of, you don’t eat the chef’s name. What you’re paying for is the discovery of a talent still in its infancy, an artist whose ideas—good and bad—are pouring out at a remarkable rate. People compare Elizabeth to Alinea, but [chef Iliana] Regan is less like Achatz 2013, the impeccable superstar, than Achatz 2001, the ambitious kid whose ability had not been identified beyond his circle at Trio," Jeff Ruby says of Iliana Regan, Elizabeth's chef-owner. He clearly relishes an experience where "no other restaurant in Chicago presents a more undistilled vision of its maker." What he didn't relish, though, were the foodies he shared the communal table with: "a smug concert pianist, two socially stunted computer geeks, a name-dropping phony, two large Canadians—one making love to his Canon EOS, the other napping between courses—and my wife." For Ruby, Elizabeth is caught in a tension between Regan's vision and foodies crossing it off their list for bragging rights: "Some of us take it all too seriously and others not seriously enough. No one can tell the difference anymore because we’re all simultaneously bloviating." Which as predictions go, is pretty prescient: it only took a couple of days before the reviewer got reviewed himself in the comments below by someone who says they were one of his fellow diners. [Chicago]

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Crafty English People Will Convert Horse Burgers Into Cozy Home Heating

Because food-safety authorities in the U.K. would have a hard time trying to figure out which burgers among the 10,000 frozen patties spread out across inventory at seven chain supermarkets contain trace amounts of horse DNA and which ones are actually 29 percent equine — not to mention which ones are unadulterated, old-fashioned beef — a decision has been made to convert the horsemeat of the apocalypse into energy at anaerobic digestion plants. Earlier this week, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland announced it had found varying amounts of horse and pig DNA in Tesco's line of frozen (and ostensibly) beef hamburgers; up to 10 million burgers may be affected by the recall. [Guardian UK via Daily Meal, Earlier]

Storefront Theater: Breaking Down The Kitchen's Fourth Wall

Chef Bryan Moscatello (center right) and team in the new open kitchen facing the bar.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

"You really want to breathe plaster dust all over again?" Claudia Gassel, co-owner of Storefront Company, recalls asking her partner, Steve Harris. The Wicker Park restaurant had only opened in March, and now Harris was proposing ripping out a wall during the week they were closed after New Year's. But the idea made sense: one of the restaurant's most popular features was the four-seat chef's counter, which looked straight into the kitchen. And so they spent the closed week tearing out the existing back bar, creating more than a dozen ringside seats which would look straight onto the cooks at work, and joining restaurants such as Next and Grace as one of the places where you get the most direct and dramatic view of what's happening in the kitchen.

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How To Make a Food Star

Jeff Mahin

In the old days Hollywood had a publicity machine for turning a new face into a star everyone was talking about. There may not be anything quite as well-organized in the food world, but you can still tell when suddenly you start hearing a name everywhere, and Dish calls attention to the process this week by dubbing one 29-year-old chef "About To Go Supernova Chef Jeff Mahin." So who is Jeff Mahin and more importantly, who is behind his impending astronomical event?

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Whole Foods CEO John Mackey Takes Back That Whole ‘Fascism’ Thing

This man sure knows his world history.

Oops! Turns out that while Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey stands by his political beliefs, he says he probably shouldn't have called the Affordable Care Act a form of "fascism," NPR reports. "Well, I think that was a bad choice of words," he says. And now he's working the apology circuit, also appearing on the "Brian Lehrer Show" in full-on retraction mode. "I realized that word has so much baggage associated with it, from World War II, with Germany and Italy and Spain," he explains. "That's just a very provocative word, so I regret using it." [NPR, Earlier]

The Reviews Are In on Sumi Robata Bar's First Hour of Operation

The Sumi crew, awaiting judgement.Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

A few months back we held a colloquium with colleagues in the food coverage biz about the speeding-up of the review cycle— the fact that it seems inevitable that reviews from ordinary diners will hit online sites like Yelp almost immediately, and how that affects how long mainstream media critics should wait before evaluating a restaurant. Well, strike the "almost" from in front of that "immediately"; here's a perfect example of what we're talking about. Sumi Robata Bar, the new Japanese restaurant from ex-Japonais chef Gene Kato which we've covered here, had its soft opening last night. And it's not merely that some of the very first customers to eat there last night posted something publicly— literally the first three customers ever served appear to have posted their accounts at Yelp and/or LTHForum, offering praise for certain things but also critiquing others, and attempting to settle on an overarching view of the restaurant— based literally on its first hour of service. Does this make any sense? Is it inevitable anyway? Probably, but it's certainly food for thought on what you can actually say meaningfully about a restaurant when you're also competing to have the very first words to say about it anywhere.

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