Posts for January 21, 2013

Mayor Emanuel Gets His Inner Bloomberg On, Backs Vegan Diet

One of the good things about Chicago, that draws people, keeps us on the map, and brings in lots of tax revenue, is our food scene. One of the bad things is that we shoot each other a lot. So to distract us from the latter, which he hasn't exactly turned around just yet, Mayor Emanuel seems to think it would be a good idea to attack the former. That at least is the lesson we take from his appearance last week on WGN with the author of The Engine 2 Diet, a vegan diet plan which apparently involves eating a lot of sweet potatoes, in which he calls the diet part of a "whole wellness plan for the city in lowering our health care costs and extending our life expectancy."

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Guy Fieri to Open Winery and Event Space in Sonoma

Guy Fieri, who grew up in rural Humboldt County, California and opened his first restaurant in Sonoma in 1996 before becoming a TV celebrity, is now branching out into the wine business. A year ago he bought a piece of property in Santa Rosa with five acres of vineyard on it, and as the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports, he's planning to attach a public tasting room to an existing house (lately used as a crash pad for his friends), and use the place for wine-related events throughout the year. Whether the labels on his estate wines will have his spiky-haired mug on them, and whether they'll be called Pimpin' Pinot and Rockin' Rosé, remains to be seen.

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Chris Cosentino Believes In the Circle of Life

"An egg is the beginning of life, oysters are all-encompassing, and blood is stuff of life. It’s a very powerful, personal dish with a lot of meaning." —The Top Chef Masters winner on his "last meal" dish of blood sausage, oysters, and duck egg. He sometimes serves it at his San Francisco restaurant, Incanto. [First We Feast]

The Woman Who Fed Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago

Edna Stewart.

An army travels on its stomach, said Napoleon, and movements have to eat, too. So restaurants were bound to play a part in the civil rights struggle. But for poorer communities like the African-American community in Chicago in the 1960s, restaurants are up there with churches as one of the sources of social cohesion, a place where people can meet in numbers and organize effectively together. When Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago in 1966, the restaurant that was most important to his efforts was a then brand-new spot called Edna's near west Madison, run by Edna Stewart and famous for her fluffy biscuits and fried chicken. Edna Stewart passed away in 2010, but the restaurant (in its second location on West Madison) still exists as Ruby's, owned by former employees and using her recipes. The Southern Foodways Alliance interviewed Stewart at length in 2008; hear a segment of the interview, and read the entire transcript, here.

Previously: Chicago's Forgotten Role in the Lunch Counter Sit-In Movement

There's Actually Going To Be A Little Kids Cooking Show

Look out, Ms. Cleo. Last week, we pleaded for some unscrupulous network to just get it all over with and turn L.A.'s emerging trend of little kid chefs into another dispensable reality show. Now, Eater L.A. is reporting just such a thing is really, actually going to happen. Junior MasterChef, a U.S. version of an existing U.K. and Aussie show, is currently looking for kids eight to thirteen years old with a passion for cooking, with the additional squeam-inducing request for parents to "bring out that inner pushy stage mum and help your kid try out." One has to wonder if this kind of thing is really necessary. After all, hasn't Guy Fieri already been impersonating a rambunctious thirteen-year-old for years? [Eater]

Tuscany Vs. Tennessee: Inside Spiaggia's Lavish Truffle Dinner With Blackberry Farm

In this corner, the black truffles of Tuscany, legendary for the intoxicatingly complex and musky aromas even the slenderest shavings impart to a dish. And in this corner, Tennessee truffle, no that's not a euphemism for a part of a hog or something, but actual Perigord truffles cultivated in Tennessee (whose soil and climate are said to be perfect for the species) by planting hazelnut trees whose roots are inoculated with truffle spores. Can they measure up to the Old World originals? That was the question behind last week's dinner at Spiaggia, in which chef Joseph Lenn of Tennessee's acclaimed Blackberry Farm joined Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano and Sarah Grueneberg for a truffle-off. The fungi flowed freely as each side lavished diners with freshly shaved truffles tableside. Our man Huge Galdones was there (with his nose for great images) at what will surely rank as one of the year's most decadent dining events; check out his slideshow below.

Waiter Risks His Job to Defend a Special-Needs Child

Michael Garcia at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston.

When Michael Garcia overhead a regular insult a 5-year-old customer with Down syndrome at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston, he didn't stay quiet. "My personal feelings just took over,” he told KTRK. “And I told this man, 'I'm sorry, I can't serve you.'" As the boy chatted with his family and the restaurant staff about his recent birthday, a group of customers at a nearby table got up and moved to the back of the restaurant. After Garcia overheard one patron say, "Special needs children need to be special somewhere else," he flat-out refused to serve the table, and the customers promptly left the restaurant. Someone give this man a raise. [NYDN]

Skewering the Reviewer Who Reviewed His Tablemates at Elizabeth

Jeff Ruby, of Chicago magazine.

On Friday we mentioned Jeff Ruby's review of Elizabeth, which spoke of his communal tablemates in this delicate fashion:

In this communal crapshoot, sometimes you end up with crap. My cohorts include 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. One guy says he spends $10,000 a month at restaurants; another keeps mentioning the 20 pounds of deer tenderloin in his freezer. Neither can pronounce “foie gras.”

We also mentioned that one of the tablemates had recognized himself in this account and responded, refuting some of Ruby's points. But what had happened by Friday afternoon was merely the beginning, it would turn out.

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SushiSamba Rio Closes Suddenly For Structural Problems

The word came out, inconveniently for getting the word out, late Friday— structural problems in the building SushiSamba Rio occupies would force the closing of the restaurant until January 28:

We are evaluating a structural fracture at the truss and are taking the protective measures to repair it. The management regrets any inconvenience, but we are following these procedures for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff.

Besides regular reservations, this forced the cancellation of the first two omakase dinners in the series we wrote about here. The expectation is that the third and fourth dinners in early February will take place as scheduled but the first two will be rescheduled afterwards. Call 312-943-6900 for more details.

Great Lake Has Left the Building

Nick Lessins at Great Lake.

You were going to go hit Great Lake for their amazing artisanal pizza one last time before they closed, weren't you? But we warned you that they would probably close up at least a few days before their January 31 last day on their lease. And if you were thinking of going this week... too late. Their last day of regular service was Friday; they threw a party for friends and very best customers Saturday, and they are outta here. The word on future plans remains where it was— they seem intent on reopening someday, but they're not telling where yet (which probably means it's not 100% set yet), and we would anticipate at least a few months if not more before they reopen. [h/t Hopped Up via LTHForum]

Unsuccessful Starbucks Robber Leaves Store With Coffee

"Please leave room for milk."

Police say a Huntsville, Alabama man entered a Starbucks bright and early yesterday morning and demanded cash from the nearest barista, who regretfully informed him that the register drawer was stuck and would not open. Robber Phillip Sawdey was offered a coffee instead. Police arrested him in the parking lot, drink in hand. Sawdey was charged with venti larceny, though the charges will likely be dropped to "grande" in court. [WHNT]

Padma Leash Me Makes Her Debut on SNL’s ‘Top Dog Chef’

Saturday Night Live spoofed Top Chef this weekend by turning the show's cast into puppies. Tom Collie-cio ordered the contestants to make a dish out of ingredients from a torn-open garbage bag. The challenge's obstacle? A ringing doorbell at random intervals. Host Jennifer Lawrence put her Golden Globe–award-winning acting chops to good use by playing a dog who puts "a whisper of urine" on top of her brunch dish. Mario Barktali loved it.

Woof. »

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