Posts for January 24, 2013

Gourmet Grilled Spam With ‘Flamin’ Hot’ Cheetos Actually Looks Pretty Good

Save room for dessert.

Jerky canapés, Red Bull reduction sauce, pan-seared Spam with Tostitos "queso-dip" mashed potatoes, and other assorted snack-size garnishes make up this stunningly beautiful bodega-sourced tasting menu at the Bold Italic. It can't all be farmers' markets and heirloom beets, writes Jessica Saia, because "life's about as fair as the trade of these ingredients." At least there's a lot of Pepto, poured into stemware of course, served as a digestif. [The Bold Italic]

No More Mystery Fish: McDonald’s Will Use MSC-Certified Sustainable Seafood

Okay, so they lied about selling halal food, but redemption is right around the corner for McDonald's: Now you can eat their fish sandwiches guilt-free (provided that your only reservations about eating a Filet-o-Fish stem from seafood sustainability issues). McD's will become the first national restaurant chain to adopt the Marine Stewardship Council’s (very attractive!) blue ecolabel on its fish packaging in restaurants nationwide, a hallmark of responsible sourcing practices. The marketing technique is going swimmingly so far!

Read more »

Metal Shards Prompt Recall of Annie’s Homegrown Frozen Pizzas

The Berkeley-based maker of organic and natural pastas and pizzas has announced a voluntary recall on its entire line of frozen pizzas. According to an FDA press release, a "fine metal mesh screen" at a third-party vendor became loosened during the milling process and disintegrated into the flour that eventually became Annie's dough, and while no illnesses or incidents have yet been reported, the manufacturer warns that small pieces of metal mesh may be out there, lurking inside frozen pizzas stamped with "best before" dates ranging from "09Jan13" and "14Sep13." Full refunds for all pizzas potentially affected are being issued; more information is available here. [Annie's, USFDA]

Time To Get Cracking On Your Food Film Festival Entry

Actors are cattle, Hitchcock once said, but he was never willing to take it to the next level and literally use food as his actors. (Though there is a great moment involving fried eggs in To Catch a Thief, among others.) You don't have to limit yourself the way Hitch did— you can make a movie all about your favorite foods, and now's the time to do it— because entries for the Food Film Festivals just opened up, and your single entry opens up a chance to be in both the Chicago and New York festivals this fall. Entries are accepted now through March 22; get the full details here. The Chicago edition (never mind the old logo shown here) will be November 21-23.

Previously: Slideshow: Three Days of the Chicago Food Film Festival

Here Are Ten Photos of Vegetables Being Used to Operate iPhones

A little mushroom three-way action.Photo: Fun!

You're probably aware that the surface of your iPhone responds to fingers, but not pens, because of the capacitors that are built into the layered screen. Other than a few inconvenient workarounds, it was thought that few options outside of expensive styluses were available, until a man named Norihide Nishi figured out that the cheap, sturdy, and organic king oyster mushroom did the job just fine. Nishi's photo of the mushroom stylus in action was retweeted more than 8,000 times, which of course inspired other users to see what worked. And hey, look at that — all sorts of other veggies have the natural capacitance to operate the iPhone's screen. You may now use baby carrots to get through Temple Run 2.

Bitter melon! How come you scroll so good? »

Rachael Ray Yet Again Denies Salacious Rumors About Her Husband

The (allegedly) happy couple.Photo: Getty Images

Today the web is abuzz with a fresh rumor about Rachael Ray's husband, John Cusimano, and his alleged affinity for the Checkmate Club, a swingers club in Manhattan. Rumors have swirled about Ray's marriage pretty much since it began, all of which Ray and her PR team have vehemently denied. For instance, just a year into their marriage, the Enquirer published a piece interviewing a sex worker who claimed Cusimano had hired her multiple times to spit on him and put her feet in his mouth. Divorce rumors then swirled for several years, forcing Ray to issue multiple denials and tell various talk shows how "flattering" all the negative publicity was. And now, the Enquirer reaches back "several years" again with these sightings of Cusimano at Checkmate. But, boring as it may be, the fact remains that Ray and Cusimano remain married after seven and a half years, and they remain gazillionaires. The end. [NYDN]

Criminals Ransack Girl Scouts’ Cookie Cash Boxes

Do-Si-No-You-Didn't.

The first sighting of Girl Scouts is one of the happier moments of the winter season. It's the excitement of Groundhog Day, times ten. The troops are huddled outside a bookstore, in the freezing cold, hawking some of the best packaged cookies ever made — while building a lifetime of skills and confidence! This is our country at its best. But a few awful Americans see this as an ideal time for crime. Two men allegedly stole nearly $400 from a Girl Scouts cash box at a Massachusetts store, and they're being held on charges of unarmed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and shoplifting.

There's more. »

Watch the Mythbusters Popcorn Explosion That China Is Apparently Obsessed With

While this country continues frittering away precious productivity time scrutinizing panic-stricken squirrels and an ever-expanding procession of Grumpy Cat memes during the workday, a video of Americans blowing up a popcorn-maker is burning up bandwidth in China. The clip, which comes from an episode of Mythbusters, has become such a hot topic that Chinese Central TV — the most watched news network on Earth — recently devoted a segment to it. In it, the Mythbusters crew, with the help of Alton Brown, takes on an antiquated, and potentially explosive, popcorn popper that’s popular with Chinese street vendors.

Read more »

Slideshow: First Look at Sumi Robata Bar's Authentic Robata Cuisine

Need some zen serenity in your life right now? Just check out our man Huge Galdones' slideshow of the food at Sumi Robata Bar. Robata is about the simplicity of Japanese food, including the simplicity of grilling done to high perfection. And Sumi is about chef Gene Kato's devotion to producing perfectly-executed food for a small number of guests in a human-scaled, serene surrounding. See how they come together on the plate in our slideshow below, starting with some items from the kitchen, then ones cooked over the robata grill.

Previously: Touring the Soon-To-Be Sumi Robata Bar With Gene Kato

Top Chef Seattle Recap: David Rees on Naked Sushi and Human Centipede Chicken

The real Steve Zissou probably makes a mean fried chicken.Photo: Bravo

Kristen’s absence hangs like a druid’s shadow over the Top Chef kitchen. The chefs still can’t believe Kristen refused to throw Josie under the bus. Meanwhile, Josie picks at her sock while justifying her behavior during last week’s elimination — she admits she feels a little guilty. On the other hand, she reminds us “I’m not here to lose,” which is said by all reality-show contestants to justify their ungodly behavior. Just once I’d like to hear someone try this line on St. Peter. They’d be sent straight to hell in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

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Wahlburgers’ Reality Show Will Air on the History Channel

An icon of our times.Photo: Getty Images

The esteemed network that has brought us such classics as Pawn Stars and Swamp People will also air the historically significant Wahlburgers reality show, per the New York Daily News. "Walhberg brothers Mark, Donnie and chef sibling Paul have begun filming on a reality TV show that will follow the entrepreneurial family as they build their burger brand, aptly named Wahlburgers," they report. Because, you know, it's gripping to watch complete unknowns make history struggling to hit it big!

Read more »

Great Lake Coming Back... But Not as a Restaurant?

That's the still-cryptic word from Lydia Esparza of Great Lake, according to Time Out Chicago—pizza will be part of the business, but it won't be a restaurant and is due sometime in the spring. Start speculating now. [TOC]

Pabst Blue Ribbon Is Really Maybe Buying Twinkies

A new hipster food group emerges from the rubble of bankruptcy.Photo: Ubcule/Wikimedia, http://freebeercoupons.com

They threatened as much last November, and now it really seems that the private-equity firm that owns Pabst Brewing Company is going for it and will make a bid to buy Twinkies from the liquidating Hostess Brands, creating the most potentially formidable confluence of hipsterdom and nostalgia to ever enter the free-market economy. “We are working diligently to get a deal done,” a representative from the company tells Bloomberg, which means it could only be a month or so before everyone will be bringing Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, and Devil Dogs to your next house party along with twelve-packs. In six months, Drake's Cakes may even replace Irish whiskey shots and accompany shotgunned-PBR at bars across the country. [Bloomberg, Earlier]

Where To Go For Lunch Today Without Going Outside

We were talking with Serious Eats editor Nick Kindelsperger about this just the other day— long ago, on especially cold days, we would wander the Loop's underground Pedway looking for lunch that didn't require going outside. And, not to get into five miles uphill in the snow both ways stories for you young whippersnappers here, but the pickings then were really pathetic— the big excitement was the time we discovered the Loop actually had a Hardee's, hidden subterraneanly in the food court of what was then First Chicago. We don't think anything on Serious Eats' list of Pedway eats existed then, so the fact that you can now use the Pedway to eat at everything from Hannah's Bretzel to Tortas Frontera (where the Hardee's used to be) is, let's just say, proof that you kids got it easy now, harrumph. Check your underground dining options out, and be sure to note if you walk through our favorite part of the Pedway— the suddenly diagonal ramp connection between the Thompson Center and the City/County Building, the result of some serious miscalculation between the crews digging from either side. Hey, it isn't a Chicago public works project if you don't get a chance to do it at least twice on the taxpayer's dime. [SE Chicago]

Sic Transit Drunkia, Marie's Riptide Lounge

We could try describing Marie's Riptide Lounge in Bucktown, but we think this Yelper had already captured it with majestic precision:

It was like time had stopped. Marie's is still the same ole dive you go to when the other bars are closed. Everyone's WASTED, you're going to hear "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" at least twice, you will probably run into some other drunken friend you weren't meant to see, and you'll probably do a shot or two.

You could spend an afternoon reading them, and we may, but the point is, Marie herself passed into history in 2011 and now the 51-year-old bar, famous for its jukebox of 45s and old Chicago drunkenness and an appearance on Conan O'Brien's show, seems likely to join her— it owes a six-figure probate bill, apparently, and one report says it will close after tomorrow. Though according to Redeye, that was news to actual owner Tina Congenie, and may have come from an employee trying to rally support from customers on Twitter. (Chicagoist has more on the complicated and confusing legal issues, which make it pretty clear that Marie's goose is cooked.) Somehow it's appropriate that the save-Marie's message is kind of incoherent, but anyway, if you want one last visit to the this piece of a vanishing Chicago, tonight and tomorrow night appear to be it.

Ranch Dressing Is Ruining America’s Endangered Chicken-Wing Supply

Who eats chicken wings with ranch dressing?Photo: iStockphoto

Your halftime snacks are in the danger zone: Thanks to last summer's drought, chicken-wing prices are up to an average of $2.11 per pound in the Northeast. The USDA says that's the highest recorded price ever, and we believe them. (As a comparison, three years ago the all-time high was $1.47 per pound.) This means a mere 1.23 billion chicken-wing segments will be consumed during the Super Bowl, LiveScience reports, down 12.3 million from last year.

A conspiracy of Ranch dressing manufacturers. »

Africa Awaits Its Diners; Here's What to Order

Maybe there's a more hidden-in-plain-sight dining subculture in Chicago than African food, but we can't think of one. Especially around Rogers Park and Edgewater on the north side and 79th on the south, there are numerous African restaurants, little known to their neighbors, enough that we've tried a number of them (one just last week)— yet five of the six in an article today would be new to us. That article is by Bill Daley, who skips past the most familiar African cuisine in Chicago (Ethiopian) to introduce us not only to Nigerian, Ghanian and Senegalese, and more than that, to dishes like "Yassa red snapper, a whole grilled fish marinated in spices and served with sauteed onions and fluffy cassava," "ruddy-hued jollof rice, or a dark rice studded with black-eyed peas," and "ogbono, a rich, meaty stew made with ground mango seed." "It's slimy," the owner of Qaato warns. This piece is actually a sidebar to Daley's main article talking about the rise of African cuisine in America, focusing on a new book about African food by Evanston-based Jason Schonwald, called Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches From the Future of Food, which posits that novelty and immigration will lead to an African food renaissance in the near future. Check both pieces out. [Tribune/Tribune]

A Different Kind of Soda War: Violent Dispute Over Big Peach

An ugly fight erupted in Dallas yesterday, and it all started over an argument about Big Peach soda. But we're still not quite sure why a Dallas man and woman were fighting over the soft drink. Maybe one person was guzzling it and not sharing? Or one supports Coke's anti-obesity ad while the other is team Pepsi? But the fight sounds brutal; a box of chicken, a glass jar, a tire iron, and a pillow were all used as weapons. The man is being held on a charge of aggravated assault. [Earlier, Earlier, Dallas Morning News]

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