Buzz List for April 3, 2017
Elske is adorable, Temporis is museum-pretty (but left Julia Thiel hungry), food trucks are still screwed, Karl Ratzsch's closes, and NewCity crowns the 50 who shape our food scene from behind the scenes.
1. TRUCKED UP
Hey, remember when everything was going to be fair and above-board and just generally better for Chicago food trucks? Now Rahm even promises them at Chicago airports. Yet somehow the food truck renaissance still hasn’t come. Julia Thiel has an in-depth piece explaining why in the Reader, very much worth your time, though the following pull quote from one of the Beavers Donuts crew pretty much sums it up: “We used to joke that it’s less of a risk to sell pot on the street than it is to sell food from a food truck. If you’re caught with pot here, it’s a couple-hundred-dollar fine and you can go on your way. With a food truck it’s thousands of dollars, having to get an attorney.” (Reader)
2. 50 GUYS BEHIND THE GUYS
That was David Mamet’s other phrase for how Chicago worked, “the guy behind the guy,” and that’s the theme of NewCity’s latest biennial look at movers and shakers in the food world: “Chicagoans who wield largely behind-the-scenes influence… the owners, media personalities—journalists, bloggers and PR people—business leaders, as well as food-oriented entrepreneurs, including farmers, beer/spirit makers and coffee roasters.”
As often with such lists, the top ones are obvious—Boka Group, Nick Kokonas, David Manilow and Cat DeOrio of Check Please (the most consistent restaurant-packer in food media). The more interesting part is further down the list, from influential vendors like Rod Markus and Chris Chacko, to the diversity of non-big media media who portray our city from different angles than reviews and openings—okay, yes, I’m #26, but also the Chewing duo, Plate, Edible Chicago, Between Bites, Chicago Food Authority and most interesting to me, the Filipino Kitchen team, who bring a particular group’s own perspective on their culture to the overall discussion, usually said to be dominated on the internet by white guys. (Though it’s interesting to note that I’m the only one fitting that description on the roster I just cited.) Anyway, the whole thing is a good snapshot of our food world as it exists at this moment.
3. ELSKE TO HAPPINESS
Lisa Shames is charmed by Elske—and so is her dining companion, clearly: “‘I feel like the sun just rose,’ said my dining partner in regard to the next course’s bright yellow color and the blue-and-white plate it was served on. She declared the leeks vinaigrette topped with toasted oat hollandaise and melted Blue Mound Dairy cheddar the night’s most beautiful dish.” (CS)
4. TEMPORIS WORKER
Julia Thiel leaves Temporis’ tasting menu aesthetically satisfied—but hungry: “The museumlike quality extends to dish presentation. The first course, silky Dungeness crab accented by briny trout roe and creamy yet sharp parsnip puree, perches on the end of a graceful oblong porcelain piece that doubles as a spoon—and, viewed from the right angle, is as suggestive as a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. It’s followed by a volcano-shaped charcoal-gray platter with a tiny fish course nestled in the center… I found myself wistfully eyeing the food arriving at other tables. Those diners might not be willing to give up any of their tiny bites of rabbit, but surely they could spare a few microgreens.”
5. CART BEFORE HORSE
The table side cart is back and Anne Spiselman explains why: “‘Guests love them, and they bring a panache to dining that can’t be matched by food simply coming from the kitchen,'” says Amy Morton, owner of the Barn in Evanston, whose father, Arnie Morton, was the ‘king of carts,’ using them at many of his restaurants. She also says they increase sales. ‘Almost 75 percent of our guests order the little gem salad, and it wouldn’t fly off the carts like that if people didn’t see it being wheeled through the dining room.'” (Crain’s)
6. THE BELLEMORE TOLLS
Two of the biggest questions on the dining scene have been, what’s going to happen in the giant empty Embeya space, and what’s Boka’s restaurant with Jimmy Papadopolous (ex of Bohemian House) going to be? They now have the same answer: The Bellemore, described as “New American Classic,” which we hope means more than “Boka’s third steakhouse.” Papadopolous told Eater it would: “‘What is American cooking?’ he says. ‘It’s everything. It’s all encompassing. The menu is going to feel very warm, very soulful, very fluid.'” Maybe the resolution of the Embeya mess will also answer another question: When’s Thai Dang’s Hai Sous going to open?
7. CHEFS ARE THE NEW ROCK STARS
Michael Nagrant tells the story of how the Doner Men truck guys, who now have D-Men Tap, went from rockers to cooks. It paid off: “The gas-roasted chicken doner ($11) is juicy and flecked with char and pepper. The pickled salad and condiment zings through the richness of the chicken, and their toasted pita is crackling on the outside and pillowy inside. The currywurst sausage ($9) is custard smooth and sits on a bed of golden French fries smothered in thick, lip-smacking curry paste.”
8. TRE'S COMPANY
Long-running Coco Pazzo moved in with sibling Tre Soldi and Graham Meyer seems to think the result is a little tired: “The good-enough food lends itself to the kind of meal where you’d rather focus the conversation on business than close analysis of everything on the plate (ahem)… Service was fair, overattentive one moment and under- the next, specifically when we wanted the check.” (Crain’s)
9. BRING ME THE TACOS OF ALFREDO GARCIA
I don’t know what my headline means either, but anyway, there’s at least promise in the Trib’s latest monthly theme being Mexican food in Chicago. If you can get past the Tribune’s user prevention/torture test of an interface, there should be good things from Nick Kindelsperger and others. It starts here.
10. WALK LIKE AN ASSYRIAN
Why you should eat like the Assyrians, according to a cook who teaches their ways to U of C researchers.
11. ANSELMO'S STORY
FamilyFarmed.org has a blog which is generating a bunch of content by Bob Benenson about things related to the recent Good Food Festival and the Frontera Farmer Foundation, but the most interesting so far is this one about Anselmo Ramirez, the Frontera grad who launched Ixcateco Grill.
12. IN MEMORIAM DONNIE KRUSE
Many tributes to the owner of Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap in Lincoln Park, who passed away last week; here’s an interview piece from a while back that I liked.