Posts for January 30, 2013

‘Coffee Rust’ Is Destroying Central America’s Coffee Berries

There is a fungus among us.

Forget for a second that global warming will soon render several farming regions that produce much of the world's supply of Arabica coffee untenable as soon as 2020: Costa Rica's coffee plantations are at the moment being devastated by a fungus called "coffee rust." Authorities are saying that the 2013-14 harvest may be halved in the hardest hit farming areas. What's worse is that coffee rust is affecting crops in other countries, and a University of Michigan in Ann Arbor-based ecologist named John Vandermeer tells Nature that the outbreak now includes “reports of devastation in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico."

It's not looking too good in Costa Rica. »

Watch a Preview of Anne Burrell’s New Show, Chef Wanted

Like her mentor Mario Batali, Anne Burrell dons shorts and clogs in the kitchen, only her clogs are fuchsia and she seems to curse a lot more. The new season of her show, Chef Wanted, which premieres tomorrow night on the Food Network, approaches the "restaurant-rehab" theme with a novel setup: Burrell leads teams of professionals through challenges at actual restaurants (like the Old Homestead Steakhouse), and there are actually executive positions to be had at the end of each line. In the exclusive preview, just ahead, a fearsome Burrell confronts a contestant she thinks is screwing around. "That's your Amatriciana sauce? Amatriciana does not have garlic in it," she says. "Italian cuisine is regional," the contestant gurgles back, "I grew up with it in my sauce."

The heat is on. »

Take Your Pooch to Filini For Puppy Bowl IX Viewing Party

Photo: courtesy Animal Planet

We don't know about at your house, but at ours the big event coming this Sunday is the Puppy Bowl, not that other one with humans. Animal Planet's preposterously irresistible sporting event created out of random footage of puppies playing on a miniature football field is must-awww TV, and it was only a matter of time, we suppose, before restaurants added it to their Super Bowl Sunday schedules. So here's to Filini Bar and Restaurant in the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel for being first up with a Puppy Bowl IX viewing party, benefiting PAWS Chicago; we're betting we hear about dozens of them by this time next year. Starting at 2 p.m., you can bring your pup to the Radisson's lobby; the dogs will enjoy complimentary treats from Chef Will Johnson, humans can order human food and drinks from the restaurant and bar as well, and 10% of profits from the restaurant and bar during the Puppy Bowl will go to PAWS.

A Look Inside Taiwan’s Very Pink, Very Creepy Barbie-Themed Restaurant

The inspiration.Photo: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

In the heart of Taiwan, there is now an electric-pink Barbie restaurant full of more dead-eyed, busty blondes than the Playboy Mansion. The restaurant, in the heart of Taipei (where Barbies were once manufactured), is fully licensed by Mattel, a company not known for its culinary prowess. Odd that food is on sale here, really, since Barbie's measurements are prime endorsements for anorexia. But eating isn't really the point: It's all about selling dolls! In a move that's probably great for business and horrible for feminism, "The staff who work at the restaurant sport a not-entirely practical uniform of pink Barbie logo T-shirts, matching tutus, Barbie logo armbands and glitter and tiaras on their heads," the Telegraph reports.

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The Levitts and Manion Team Up For Bare Knuckle Farms Dinner February 17

John Manion, Rob Levitt.

Been a while since you've had a true, unabashed porkfest? Here comes exactly the dinner of your dreams. John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina will team up with Rob and Allison Levitt of The Butcher & Larder to make a meal out of a pig (and other things) from Bare Knuckle Farms, the Michigan farm co-owned by Abra Berens, who's cooked at places like Vie in the area (and was recently featured in the Reader's people issue; Bare Knuckle is also where this Reader feature took place). Here's a menu that begins with "Shot of Porky Black Bean Juice," and just continues from there. (You can see it below, in all its porkerrific splendiferitude.) There's actually two choices: dinner is from 6 to 9 p.m. for $85, seven courses, with an optional $30 drink package (and if you've been to La Sirena, you know you want that). Then from 9 to midnight they'll be polishing off the pig with a few extra a la carte items ("boudin empanadas"). It all sounds great, though Rob Levitt insists "As excited as I am about cooking an amazing pig with the great Juan Manion, I'm reeeeeally excited to have Allison back in the kitchen!!!" It's at La Sirena Clandestina, Sunday, February 17; for reservations, call 312-226-5300.

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Bocuse d’Or 2013 Results: France Wins Gold; USA Places Seventh

Picky eater.Photo: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty

Congrats to France, which just took the top prize at the world's most prestigious culinary competition. Denmark (winner of the gold last year) was awarded silver, and Japan got bronze. Team USA placed seventh, but captains Richard Rosendale and Cory Siegel (of West Virginia's Greenbrier) shouldn't feel too bad; we've never placed higher than sixth. And apparently, "Born in the USA" played at some point during the competition, which is a huge win in itself. If you don't agree with the results, you can blame Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation president Thomas Keller, who judged the meat platter. Check out the full list of winners, straight ahead.

Two for the United Kingdom. »

What To Eat at Lillie's Q, Opening Today in the French Market

Baby back ribs, closer than ever before.Photo: Nick Kindelsperger

If there's one thing you haven't been able to get in the Loop area, it's good barbecue. Or for that matter, bad barbecue, or any barbecue. With recent openings in River North, barbecue creeps closer to downtown. But as of today there's finally good 'cue just on the other side of the tracks from the Loop, in the French Market. Wicker Park's Lillie's Q is opening a branch aimed at lunchtime diners (and those brave enough to take a box wafting the smell of barbecue onto a train). Charlie McKenna, the former sous chef at Tru and Avenues- Memphis in May-winning owner of Lillie's Q, will serve about half his Wicker Park menu of barbecue and other Southern dishes in the market stand, including pulled pork, smoked tri-tip and baby back ribs, along with other faves from the restaurant like the Brunswick stew and the crawfish roll. Lillie's Q line of sauces will also be on sale at the stall; check out the complete menu below.

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Thirteen Appetizing Super Bowl Ads From the Past 33 Years

Don't dispute this one.

Whether you're excited to see the Ravens play the 49ers, or you're just watching for the Beyoncé halftime show, everyone can get excited about the $4 million commercials. Beer and car spots will always dominate, but over the years, there have been some fantastic commercials hawking fast-food and non-beer drinks, too. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing Horse is enough to make you want a Big Mac (maybe), and we can collectively blame the nation's current soda crisis on Britney Spears gyrating ten years ago. Here are thirteen of the best, presented in chronological order.

From Cindy Crawford to Betty White. »

Markethouse Restaurant and Bar Names De'Ann Wellwerts Chef

De'Ann Wellwerts

Markethouse in the Doubletree Hotel in Streeterville— which remains open, unlike Custom House and C-House, in case you're having trouble keeping track— has appointed a new chef to take over the reins from Scott Walton who, as reported yesterday, will be running the big new Howells & Hood project in the Tribune Tower. She is De'Ann Wellwerts, who rose from prep cook at the restaurant under Walton beginning in 2009, and plans to continue many of the farm to table things that made Markethouse stand out among the ranks of hotel restaurants. The release says that "the restaurant will introduce a casual focus on comfort food fare tailored to the mealtime needs of its surrounding Streeterville neighborhood," which we take to mean they're bringing the food down a price notch to more of a comfort food range (a la Little Market Brasserie, say). But at the same time, happily, they're touting her continued use of produce directly from farmers and from the large rooftop garden Walton and his cooks built, including creating garden herb-infused teas and craft cocktails.

Check, Please! Auditions Now Open

Not that not being open yet slowed anybody down— producer David Manilow said he had been approached by about 175 hopefuls as of a couple of days ago— but the casting process for the replacement for Alpana Singh on the popular restaurant review show is now officially off and running. What does the perfect candidate need to be?

Man or woman, young or old, our new host needs to be nice, fun to work with, and a brand ambassador for Check, Please! He or she could be currently (or formerly) working as a chef, server, bartender, sommelier, restaurateur, writer, blogger, or other occupation that allows for a broad, intimate understanding of the culinary world. Previous on camera experience is not necessary.

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Don King Explains Why Josie Should Be Voted Back On to ‘Top Chef’

Don King: American, patriot, and Josie suporter.Photo: Dario Cantatore/Getty

The greatest boxing promoter of all time — who worked with Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Julio César Chávez, Evander Holyfield, and Larry Holmes — has now turned his attention to Top Chef, of all things. Don King says that, at 81, his interests in cooking and food are deepening, and as a regular watcher of Bravo's cooking competition, he feels that chef Josie Smith-Malave was "unjustly" booted at the end of last week's episode, and he's now enlisting the public to get her voted back so she can cook her way through the final rounds. Grub Street spoke with King yesterday afternoon as he waited to board a flight in Cleveland back to his home in Florida.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." »

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