Buzz List for February 20, 2017
Dinner at Cellar Door Provisions is a natural, the Beard semifinalists are out, Kizuki is okay ramen, and a taste of hot pot at Little Sheep.
1. PROVISIONAL RAVE
Anthony Todd went to the first night of Cellar Door Provisions’ dinner service and it was right up his farm to table alley: “The dinner started with an board filled with snacks not mentioned on the menu. There were two kinds of CDP’s famous bread, some fermented potato chips, farmers cheese, butter, and pickled beets, mushrooms and carrots. It was a perfect, light start to the meal, and the tangy farmer’s cheese and spicy mushrooms were memorably good (I could have done without the not-very-flavorful carrots). The beets, as my date informed me to my embarrassment, actually caused me to raise my shoulders in shock—their funky, awesome tang was enough to give me a start.” (Chicagoist)
The James Beard Foundation Awards semi-finalists are not nominations—that’s a step later, and a shorter list. Still, especially compared to the opaque Michelins, it’s nice that the Beards share their notes in public on what they’re watching for the future, and beyond the things you’d expect (like Oriole, Roister and Smyth all being listed as Best New Restaurant candidates), I was excited to see Hanbun’s Dave Park get a nod for Rising Chef this early, among others. See all the semifinalists here, and you can hit all the Chicago ones by searching for “Chicago” as a term.
3. FAKE NEWS
Okay, I really don’t want to give this site, Urban Matters, any traffic, but I link it just to verify that it exists (don’t click!). It’s a perfect example of the kind of fake news clickbait that pollutes the world of food media, with a nonsense topic (“The 5 Most Unique Restaurants in Chicago,” as if unique was a style in itself and not just a way to ramp up hype) and this entry on Alinea: “Chef Grant Achatz and Dave Beran mix it up with themed adventures that dress up the dining room as well as the plates – as they keep coming. From a choice of three seasonal menus that change every four months, you get an 18 to 22-course menu and theme-enhanced experience coordinated by the entire restaurant.”
Beran? Themes that change every four months? Yes, they’ve confused Alinea with Next. (How unique they both must be!) Of course I only knew this article existed because one of the other restaurants listed shared it on social media. Supporting this kind of fake content only hurts the entire media scene, including your pal Fooditor by giving it credibility. Just say no to sharing empty clickbait!
Time Out Chicago, which has been a lagging indicator lately (they just reviewed Giant), manages to be timely (if oddly obsessed with the idea that Elske might be your first tasting menu—is there anyone left of whom that could be true?): “Elske is amiable, which makes it the perfect contender for a fine dining novice’s first tasting meal. The dishes are inventive and full of flavor while remaining approachable (both confit sea bass and wagyu flatiron are presented in ways that don’t veer too far from what you’d expect to see on a fine dining menu).”
I agree with Mike Sula’s mutedly pleasant review of Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya, that it’s perfectly fine and not anything that stands out above the other ramen joints in Wicker Park these days: “If we’ve learned anything from the Japanese invasion, it’s that the chains defy the conventional wisdom that they necessarily traffic in a soulless, substandard product. Kizuki defies that logic too.”
6. HOT SHEEP
I’d like more detail on how to do hot pot than this brief piece at Chicago mag offers, but at least it makes you aware of a place with an enticing name: “On a frigid Saturday night, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot may be the hottest restaurant in town, in every sense. At this chain’s modern Chinatown outpost, you’ll dine around a communal bowl of steaming broth that’ll chase the chill from your bones in seconds flat—and you’ll likely wait at least an hour for the privilege.”
7. ALAA OVER THE PLACE
The least likely media star of the last couple of weeks might have been Alaa Abdullah, who was the main contact for my piece on the Yemeni restaurant Mandi Noor, and turned up just a couple of days later talking with Chicago magazine about Trump’s ban on Yemenis—his photo, of course, taken at Mandi Noor. Anyway, it’s one of a whole series on people from the affected countries, well worth reading—forget the White House Correspondents Dinner insider crowd, this is the kind of political journalism, introducing people to people, worth 100 times that kind.
8. KOKONOSAURUS REX
You probably saw this by now, but Nick Kokonas baiting Open Table (even as he complies with their cease and desist) is amusing, in the tradition of Warner Bros. threatening the Marx Bros. over A Night in Casablanca and Groucho responding that they were brothers before Warner Bros. existed but he wasn’t suing anybody…
9. TIEDS THAT BIND
A cool article on surviving tied houses, the bars tied to a brewer like Schlitz back in the late 19th and early 20th century.
10. BUTCHER AND BEES
Interesting story about the chef of the Budlong (not owner Jared Leonard, but Jeannine Wise) and how she got into beekeeping as a way to manage recovery. (NewCity)
11. WALK ON THE MILD SIDE
Comedian Hannibal Burress pays tribute to the vanilla of barbecue sauces: “In my 34 years, I can’t recall being angry while eating something with mild sauce on it. I would eat a rat that only ate rats all his life if you put enough mild sauce on it.” (Chicago)
12. CLOSED SIGNS
Do I need to have a regular what-just-closed column here? It’s looking like we’re getting that shakeout at last. Three Aces was the big shutdown this week, but the one I noticed that no one else did is that the taqueria inside a grocery store Restaurante Ricardo on west Diversey, featured in this piece, looked cleaned out when I went by the other day.