Buzz List for December 18, 2017

Marisol gets art world raves, six restaurants are in Vogue, Jeff Ruby is impressed by City Mouse, more end of year lists, and see you on New Year's!

Michael Gebert
Jason Hammel at Marisol

IT’S A 99 HOLIDAY!

I think there’s still time to order The Fooditor 99 from Amazon for the holidays, but to be safe, I have a limited supply of extra copies, email me at [email protected] and we’ll figure something out. And listen to me talking about it on Outside the Loop Radio Saturday here.

1. CHICAGO IS IN VOGUE

Vogue has a piece on six hot restaurants in Chicago, and it’s a good list that takes in, but isn’t afraid to look beyond, the immediate downtown area. (I can tell you for sure that author Amy Tara Koch enjoyed the West Loop’s Bellemore, because she was sitting opposite me at a recent media preview.) Anyway, the six she picks run from that new Boka Group spot (“The food, though, is pure elegance”) to HaiSous (“Chef Dang’s connection to his home is felt throughout the space”).

2. THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

Jeff Ruby is impressed that the Giant team’s bigger hotel restaurant, City Mouse, “pulls off the same trick as Giant, on a larger scale. It gives the nice people what they want, and things they didn’t even know they wanted because those things never existed before. In the former case, that means straight-up comfort food, like spicy spaghetti sprinkled with breadcrumbs and bacon or a juicy double burger with gooey layers of American cheese. Those crowd pleasers share space with goofy, brilliant inventions like fried cheddar balls topped with caramel and caviar.” (Chicago)

3. ART INSTALLATION

Speaking of second restaurants… Jeff Ruby is equally impressed with the way Marisol brings Lula food to Michigan Avenue: “The space’s previous occupant, Puck’s at the MCA, played it safe to appease hungry tourists rather than making some sort of culinary statement. By contrast, Marisol’s chameleonic menu, like Lula’s, takes chances. If kohlrabi looks good that day, Hammel and his chef de cuisine, Sarah Rinkavage, might compress it and layer it with thin pear slices, endive, white sesame seeds, and grated chestnut to build the kind of gorgeous vegetable-forward tableau that they mastered at Lula. The next day, that dish may be history, and you will instead find shaved Brussels sprouts with smoked whitefish, caramelized poppy seeds, and an orange vinaigrette.” (Chicago)

4. YOUR EYES

Art is about seeing things with new eyes, and that’s what Mike Sula says Jason Hammel and Sarah Rinkavage are doing at Marisol. He describes lunch: “Sunflower hummus with flaxseed crackers sounds like a depressant at a vegan commune, but the creamy swirl of nut butter is suffused with tangy artichoke and almost cheesy thanks to nutritional yeast. The pile of nutty brittle it comes with should be sold by the bag in the gift shop. Burrata, the second-most obligatory menu item of the last decade, is here one of the period’s most original, garnished with candied squash, semidried persimmons, and charred ginger and served with honey-garlic sourdough toast.” (Reader)

5. TAG ALONG FOR TOCILOG

Michael Nagrant touts the advantages of Filipino breakfast as a hangover cure, calling out the tocilog at newly opened Kubo in Lakeview: “Instead of pork belly, it features hunks of tender pork shoulder coated in a sticky molasses-like sauce that features burnt caramel notes from a pineapple, brown sugar, onion and garlic-infused glaze. The salty fried egg and the heady garlic perfume off the rice lull you into a sated trance.”

6. THE BAKED GOODS

The Trib’s monthly themes have run hot and cold for me but halfway through the month, I am a fan of December’s focus on bakeries, if for no other reason than that they’re the kind of thing that often gets overlooked in a dinner-restaurant-focused food media. From the outstanding caramel cupcakes at Brown Sugar Bakery to bureks at M&A on Lawrence and lots of croissants (we’re kind of in a croissant renaissance; hopefully the very good and very overlooked Southern France Patisserie will make it before the end of the month), there’s plenty to enjoy here, and it’s only the 18th.

7. YEAR’S ENDS

More year-end lists! Ina Pinkney recaps the highlights of her breakfast column here, while the Trib asks lots of local chefs and restaurant owners for their best eats of the year. While some big names make the list (Oriole, Smyth, etc.), there’s one lesser-known name that interestingly keeps popping up—Gather.

Meanwhile here’s a 2017 best-of worth keeping in the glove compartment (next to your Fooditor 99)Titus Ruscitti’s multidisciplinary collection of lists, which includes top individual dishes of the year in Chicago and out of Chicago, plus best tacos, best burgers, best overall meals and more.

8. FULTON EXPLOSION

More details on the (still a bit oddly-named) Time Out Chicago food hall set for Fulton Market in Crain’s: “Expected to open in 2019, the market will include 16 food stalls, three bars, a demonstration kitchen and retail space… ‘Time Out Market is not only a reflection of a city’s best culinary and cultural highlights but also of the city itself, its soul and history,’ Time Out Market CEO Didier Souillat said in the statement.” Now if only Time Out was doing as much to keep the soul of local media alive to cover such highlights.

In other news (also in Crain’s), Lettuce Entertain You’s Ramen-San, which no one is all that wild about but which sure has the funding to expand, will be part of another development in the Fulton Market area, as the former hub of restaurant creativity becomes more and more a spin-off  of River North.

9. POWER OUTAGE

This is sad: Milwaukee-based urban farming pioneer Growing Power, which also had farms in Chicago, has dissolved after financial trouble; one Milwaukee farm is about to be foreclosed on and founder Will Allen, who won a MacArthur genius grant some years ago, is retiring as others will try to salvage what they can of the organization’s assets. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

10. DEE-TROIT DISH

Steve Dolinsky looks at places doing Detroit style square pan pizza in Chicago, including Union Squared and Longacre.

11. PEQUODITOR

Eater’s “Open Roads” video series takes a look at Chicago cult favorite Pequod’s Pizza, and guess who wound up serving as the local pizza expert? Watch for my Fooditor mug as the 4-1/2 minute video runs.

WHAT MIKE ATE

Somerset is supposed to offer a more casual version of Lee Wolen’s menu at Boka. Honestly I don’t see a huge difference—other than that the Gold Coast setting is much busier and buzzier—and that’s a good thing; we loved both of the beet dishes (a tartare on flatbreads, and a salad), octopus (which has always been one of Wolen’s strengths), venison and duck leg gnocchetti. While tablemate David Hammond was impressed by the fact that they held our leftovers for us at the front (with a claim check), so we didn’t have to finish with a bag on the table.

Meanwhile, like Steve Dolinsky I tried one of the Detroit-style pizzas—Uptown’s Longacre. They seem to be aiming to do everything that’s hot in pizza right now—Detroit style, caramelized crust edges a la Burt’s, artisanal toppings, tomato sauce on the side—but less is more and all this was just too much, not to mention that the one (large) size meant that just to get two different flavors, I wound up with leftover pizza for a week. I wouldn’t even eat Pequod’s that many days in a row. Probably.

Buzz List will be off next week, but back on New Year’s Day. 

Got a tip or a link for Buzz List? Send it to [email protected]