Posts for February 27, 2013

Groupon Stock Continues to Drop After Sad Earnings Report

Insert joke about $10 for $20 in stock here.

Groupon, once upon a time a beacon of deal-site glory, continues to get battered as a public company: Yet another dismal earnings report got released today. The news of a fourth-quarter net loss of $81.1 million hit the airwaves after the markets closed, but it's already sent the company's stock price tumbling in after-hours trading — it's down at $4.46 as of this writing, a full 25 percent drop from its closing price of $5.98 just an hour ago. Things had been looking slightly up for the company since hitting an August low amid some media mumbling about the public having serious "deal fatigue." Maybe too many people are sick of the unused scuba lesson coupons staring them in the face every time they open their junk drawers. [Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Earlier]

Customers Weirdly Not Cool With Porn-Browsing Pizza Hut Worker

Several Pizza Hut customers in Richmond, Virginia, who encountered a worker spending his break looking at pictures of naked women on his laptop in the restaurant's dining room were nonplussed when management told them it wasn't their problem. "It was personal time," a shift manager tells the local NBC affiliate, explaining it's really Larry the mozzarella guy's right to spend his downtime any way he chooses. "He wasn't on the clock." The employee apparently spends many of his three-hour breaks out in the dining-room booth, which doesn't really seem to freak out Pizza Hut management, who say it doesn't affect his "job performance" and that they "had a talk" with the guy after the incident. Ten bucks says he was looking at pizza-delivery-guy porn.

Break time's over! Let's get back to work! »

Bill Daley On Making Pies Via Twitter

If you follow Trib writer Bill Daley on Twitter, you may have noticed that he's been making a few pies. That's a little joke; Friday night, when everyone else was out carousing, your Twitter feed was likely to consist entirely of two or three dozen tweets with photos by Daley, minutely documenting his late night efforts to master the art of pastry:

I didn't do this for ego. It was a disguised call for help. I reasoned if I started doing something wrong, someone would step forward amid the snickers and offer assistance.

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In Utah, Restaurants Still Can’t Pour Alcohol in Front of Customers

Home of the sober.

Close your eyes, kids! Don't look at the scary bottle of chardonnay! People in Utah apparently think it's harmful for children to see servers pour alcohol. In 2010, the state lifted a mandate that required bars to operate as members-only clubs, but there was a compromise: At restaurants that have been open for less than three years, servers can't pour alcohol in front of patrons. Now lawmakers are considering repealing the ridiculous "Zion curtains" rule, which requires bartenders to make drinks out of sight, like they're cocaine dealers. (One of the bill's notable opponents, Republican State Senator John Valentine, says, "Alcohol is a drug.") The law is crippling for new restaurants; not only do they have to waste money building special service bars, they also have to cut back on tables to make room for them. And pouring booze in the back causes customers to think a restaurant's being shady. "It lessens consumer confidence," says Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association. "We have got to stop feeling like everyone who drinks alcohol is doing something wrong." Preach. [AP]

It's a Busy Week For Soup & Bread, Starting Tonight

The hummus soup rocks.

If you've been a fan of Soup & Bread, the longrunning series of benefit nights at The Hideout which offer soups made by various cool people around the culinary world (including ourselves long ago) and pass the hat for food depositories and other organizations, there's a lot of it going around this weekend— including the debut of its second suburban edition. First up, tonight's edition of Soup & Bread at The Hideout is on the theme of New York City vs. L.A.; participants will include Mike McDermott, co-owner of Smoque BBQ, and Cheryl Munoz of Sugar Beet Coop. It's 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. tonight at 1354 W. Wabansia; $10 suggested donation at the door, with proceeds going to Association House. But that's just the beginning.

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Nightmare Scenarios: Tainted Burrito Leads to Brain-Invading Tapeworm

Watch out!Photo: Corbis

It's like a scene from a particularly vile VH1 Behind the Music. Jay Whalley, the front man for Aussie punk group Frenzal Rhomb, suffered seizures, headaches, and feared he had a brain tumor. But his woes had nothing to do with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Instead, it was because Whalley consumed a tainted burrito while on tour in Central America, and then pork tapeworm eggs jaunted from his intestines to nestle in his brain.

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Macy’s Gives Emeril Lagasse the Boot

At a trial for Macy's case against Martha Stewart and JCPenney, the department store revealed that it will no longer sell Lagasse's cookware line. Stewart’s company owns and designs Lagasse's products, which it purchased in 2008 for $50 million (along with his franchises). Macy's is suing Stewart for violating their exclusivity deal, but claims that dropping Lagasse's line from 800 stores has nothing at all to do with the lawsuit. The decision apparently stemmed from weak sales performances; customers have been panning his pans. [NYDN]

Meet The Ale Syndicate, New Name For New Chicago Beer Co.

When we toured The Plant last year, one of the businesses that was planning to become part of its sustainable ecosystem was a new brewery called New Chicago Beer Co.; the theory was that its spent grains would go to feed tilapia elsewhere in the complex. But New Chicago had to back out of the building and we thought that was the end of New Chicago Beer Co. Which it was but it wasn't— now the brothers behind it, Jesse and Samuel Evans, are set to begin operations in The Green Exchange, another sustainable business project, later this year as The Ale Syndicate. They tell DNA Info that the name change came in part from the fact that they've been collaborating with other breweries such as Big Chicago Brewing Company in Zion and Galena Brewing Company in Galena, and more generally from the collaborative nature of their business, where there's no head brewer as such. Their first brews— Municipal India Pale Ale, Sunday Session, and Richie Imperial Porter— will roll out at 20 craft beer bars around the city around March 20. [DNA Info]

The Yeastmaster: Flowers Foods Is Buying Wonder Bread

There was supposed to be an auction tomorrow for the portfolio of bread brands — including Home Pride, Merita, and Nature's Pride — that used to belong to the now-defunct Hostess, but since it appears that no other bidders are going to show up for this whole-wheat party, Bloomberg reports a crusted source tells them the Thomasville, Georgia-based Flowers Foods will snap the brand up for $360 million, which sure is a lot of bread. We're now, of course, just counting down the days till PBR buys Twinkies. [Bloomberg, Earlier, Related]

IACP Awards Food Writing Finalists Announced

The International Association of Culinary Professionals announced the finalists for its annual food writing awards this morning. Nominees include the heavy-hitting Bouchon Bakery cookbook, but also Nancy Singleton Hachisu's excellent Japanese Farm Food and Naomi Duguid's great Burma: Rivers of Flavor. Friend of Grub Street Ian Knauer got a nod for The Farm, and the always thoughtful Rebecca Flint Marx was recognized for her "Modern Love"-esque, Gilt Taste essay "From Sex Cake to Spurned Salad," which you should go read right now. [IACP, PDF]

Things Are Changing For a Farm To Table Pioneer, Michelle Dietzler

When the idea of putting the name of your farmer on a menu first hit the scene, Dietzler Farms beef was one of the names everyone in Chicago liked to drop. Michelle Dietzler had gone from working as a writer on beauty and fashion in the dot com era to joining her father in launching a naturally-raised cattle business in Wisconsin, starting in 1999 with just 35 acres and nine cattle. By marketing her superior quality beef directly to restaurants and consumers at farmer's market— and by directly we mean, hauling a carcass in a restaurant's back door herself— she was one of the major figures in evolving Chicago's food scene to farm to table, though she modestly credits chefs like Paul Virant and Randy Zweiban more than her own efforts with making farmer's names like hers something diners cared about. So when we saw a tweet today that her family was selling off a parcel of land and cattle in Wisconsin, we contacted her to find out what the story was— was it over for the farmers who supply farm to table restaurants? The answer is, no— but it is an evolution for her and her family.

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Mother and Daughter Crack Coca-Cola’s Bottle Cap Contest

Scammed!

A family of computer criminals manipulated Coca-Cola's bottle cap contest and ended up costing the company over $200,000. After Carrie and Sarah Jones from Albany, Oregon, figured out the winning codes, which awarded prizes such as concert tickets and gift cards, they grouped their earnings and sold them on eBay. The women have to pay Coca-Cola back $50,000, but no one's quite sure how much they actually made off the prizes, as they claimed thousands (thousands!) of codes. Kind of genius, no? This is like a modern-day version of Heartbreakers. [HuffPo]

Sodikoff Week Continues: Deli In, Ramen Out, BBQ Huh?

Besides the fact that every newsstand this week declares his place at one pinnacle of Chicago restaurateuring, there is, as always, a lot going on in Brendan Sodikoff's busy world this week. Where the original announcement of his Dillman's Deli project occurred in Time Out, for some reason he chose Eater this time for the news yesterday that Dillman's is indeed going into the Steve's Deli space in River North, as was rumored some time back.

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Are These the Six Best Ramen Shops in the Country?

Extruded!

Food writer Keizo Shimamoto is a ramen obsessive: Exhibit A is his blog Go Ramen! and the tangential claim that he's "probably slurped more bowls of ramen than any other American." The peripatetic noodle guy is now also the subject of Michael McAteer's short documentary Ramen Dreams, an odyssey of broth and chashu. Shimamoto has been hitting up East and West Coast shops in the last year, and in no particular order, he tells the Asia Society's Asia Blog that his current top five are Totto Ramen in Manhattan, Dassara Ramen in Brooklyn, Tsujita in L.A., Shoki Ramen House in Sacramento, and Foo-Foo Tei in Hacienda Heights. Though not a dedicated ramen shop, Grant Achatz's high-end Chicago bar Aviary ranks as a bonus pick, if only for its "molecular ramen." [Asia Blog]

Watch This Homemade Robot Go to Town on an Oreo Cookie

Portland-based artist, copywriter, and Rube Goldberg machine builder David Neevel lost out on some quality time with his dog, risked cold hands, and skipped some potentially good lunches all in service of building this robot that separates the cookie portion of Oreo cookies from the cream, which Neevel dislikes and dispatches with an automated hatchet. It's a Nabisco ad, of course, but a fun one. "I don't have a catchphrase for my machine," he says. "But I guess if it did have one, it could be something like 'let's get that cream out of there,' or like, 'this cream's no good let's get it off the cookies,' or something."

Let's see what this baby can do. »

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