Buzz List for July 30, 2018

Pastry erotica for Lost Larson, chitlins get a review, Rockit explodes, and people are telling stories

Michael Gebert
Laminated pastries at Lost Larson

1. LARSON IN THE HEART

Mike Sula writes a paean to the pastries of Bobby Shaffer, ex of Grace and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, at Lost Larson: “There are likely to be piles of glistening cinnamon and cardamom buns, the latter another Scandinavian standard: twists of sweet burnished dough dotted with sugar gravel, their soft folds releasing gusts of warm spice. Lovely chocolate tart shells containing hazelnut praline and passion-fruit ganache topped with a hypnotic spiral of salted caramel share space with an unlovely loaf of zucchini-flecked custard cake that sags in upon itself yet reveals luxuriant pleasures with the first forkful.”

2. FRIMFRAM SAUCE

When’s the last time you saw a real review of a soul food restaurant in Chicago—I don’t mean an upscale place in Bucktown or Lincoln Square, but a real soulfood joint in Austin like Chef Daddy’s, where “Owner Terry Green prepares chitterlings ‘errrday!’—as his menu joyfully declares—by boiling them in changes of water until their pungency dissipates, then seasoning them with hot sauce and a spice mix he calls Love Rub. You can add more hot sauce at the table, depending on how much you want to distract from that distinctive odor.” That’s John Kessler in Chicago, who also recommends smothered pork chops or catfish for the chitlin-averse.

3, TRAVERSE THE DISTANCE

Mike Sula took a road trip to Traverse City, Michigan to check out its food and drink scene, notably the meaty and pasta-based offerings of Raduno’s Andrea Logan Deibler, who learned her butchery at Rob Levitt’s Mado and other places way back in the day: “What’s most striking is the display case of the fruits of Logan Deibler’s labor: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, speck, bratwursts and blood sausage, and a striking bowl of fat corned cow tongues, all preserved from local beasts.”

4. PACIFIC HEIGHTS

No one seems quite sure what the California part of Pacific Standard Time is about, but how about just sheer sensual pleasure? That seems to be Titus Ruscitti’s take: “Next up was the Slagel Farms Ribeye with roasted onion, marinated pepper, grilled wedge salad, miso bagna cauda. I never did get to try the wedge salad but the ribeye was pretty bomb. Yeah I just used the word bomb in 2018. That miso whatever it was was full of umami. The steak itself was a tad fatty in that the back pieces were mostly mush but it was the good mush that melts in your mouth.”

Dominic Lynch at The Monthly Memo sums up the appeal by talking about a short-lived special: “The brisket came served in a broth with sweet corn made al dente, extraordinarily ripe sun gold tomatoes, parsley, and radishes. It was excellent and assembled perfectly. In [his girlfriend’s] words, it was reminiscent of a ‘backyard meal,’ or something easily assembled with backyard-fresh ingredients and expertly cooked meat. The freshness of this dish in particular couldn’t be overstated. One bite of the tomatoes is enough to make you realize how much stale produce is the norm.”

5. SKYSCRAPER

It’s been open a while, but on their podcast Michael Nagrant and Penny Pollack check out S.K.Y., with some interesting observations about the gentrification question—and why Stephen Gillanders’ lobster dumplings are better now than they were at Intro.

6. DEC’D OUT

In news that, honestly, we’re not sure what it means, Billy Dec and partner Brad Young are splitting up, confusingly so that Dec gets the Rockit Ranch name, but Young gets Rockit Bar & Grill in River North (which is currently closed for renovations). Dec is buying Young out of Sunda and most of the other businesses (including Rockit Wrigleyville), and statements suggest his eyes are on his movie production interests and expanding Sunda nationally. What will all this mean for Chicago’s late night bro culture? Only time will tell; until then, party on. (Eater)

7. THE VITTLE OF MIDWAY

With O’Hare having stepped up its game, Midway has now been the sadder airport for dining in a foodie town for a while, but that’s finally changing. In addition to things already open like Big N Little’s and Porkchop, there will be a sushi place from Arami, something called Woodgrain Neapolitan Pizza, which is apparently in the burbs, and more. Crain’s has the story.

8. BOKEH GROUP

I had dinner with an old old friend—grade school, that’s how old—on Friday night as he passed through Chicago, and he told me he admired how I was doing just what I wanted to be doing. Considering I’d been in a “chuck it all and move to an island” mood earlier in the week, it was a reminder that the appearance of things going swimmingly and feeling pecked to death by ducks can happen at the same time.

That’s basically the theme of this entertaining and insightful personal tale Kevin Boehm tells at a conference on the lofty theme of “Restoration of the Soul.” He talks about the toll that Boka Group’s blur of openings in 2017-18—outwardly, a sign of astonishing success—took on him personally, and finding your way back to a balanced life. Bonus: at one point he talks about food writers being asked by Eater for imaginary headlines of 2018, and how Boka’s hyperactivity was the subject of several of the jokes. And, um… guess who that duck was.

9. THEY CALL ME MISTER STINKY

Another personal tale! Joseph Hernandez read this story at the special Between Bites at the Printers Row Lit Fest, but it’s in print now—the story of something many immigrant kids have faced, bringing their cultural food to school and having other kids find it stinky: “My story is one of many an immigrant child coming to the U.S. and reckoning with schoolyard taunting over our ‘weird’ food, lovingly made by mothers, grandmothers, parents who don’t feel shame for cuisine, who don’t understand the passive violence of this schoolyard, lunchtime judgment.” Read it here.

10. NUNN SENSE

And another story! Remember Emily Nunn, food writer at the Trib? She left town for New York around the time her long-running relationship broke up (her partner’s daughter was a classmate of one of my sons, as it happens), a tale she now tells wittily and literately in a new memoir called Comfort Food Diaries; Joe Gray talks to her about it for the Trib.

11. PARK LIFE

One more story! Michael Austin writes about wine, but he says to notice wines less and moments more in this column: “People will tell you that your life goes by in a blur, and as you age, you might start to believe them. But you can also remind yourself that life occurs in billions of tiny moments, many of which glide by slowly, unnoticed, and to get to ‘there,’ you have to start ‘here.’ Grape growers and winemakers know this concept as well as anyone, and they address it with patience and keen awareness.”

12. IS YOUR DOG GETTING ENOUGH CHEF?

Here’s a feelgood story from Ari Bendersky at Crain’s: what do chefs feed their dogs? A lot of it sounds pretty good for humans, as he talks to chefs from Mindy Segal to John Manion to Doug Psaltis (who brings his lucky dog tomahawk steak bones from RPM Steak).

13. REMEMBRANCES OF GOLD

The passing of Jonathan Gold inspired friend of Fooditor Titus Ruscitti to “honor him by bringing light to a different immigrant owned restaurant each day. But instead of LA I’ll be here in my hometown of Chicago.” He talks about Guatelinda Bakery in that initial Facebook post, and subsequent ones have been Yamon Jerk Grill, Pupuseria Metapan, Somethin’ Sweet Donuts (Cambodian-owned), Xocome, and Bai Cafe.

I mentioned last week in my tribute to Jonathan Gold that I often heard him on the L.A. food radio show Good Food. They have a two-hour tribute to him this week, plus a collection of favorite segments here.

SOUTH SIDE FOOD-I-TOUR UPDATE

Fooditor’s first ever food tour, of the south side, part of the Trib’s Chicago Food Bowl, is going gangbusters. The original tour on Saturday, August 18 is sold out, and so we added a second one on Saturday, August 25, which is one-third sold already. Which means there’s still plenty of room for you, but not for long!

Younger son and I ran a trial run this weekend, firming up another cool place we’re going to visit (it’ll be refreshing) and calculating travel distances between the various points, so we can plan something to occupy that time—clips of Sky Full of Bacon videos or interesting things to talk about (even a poem, for when we pass the building it was written about). It’s going to be exciting and, I promise, full of interesting things to eat and drink. Don’t miss out, go here to get your tickets.

WHAT MIKE ATE

A couple of meals that I’m saving thoughts about for upcoming articles, so for now I’ll just say… go check out Schwa under newest CDC Norman Fenton.

I’ve mostly been trying to hit smaller, little-known places looking for hidden gems, which always means mixed results. Kerely’s is a Cuban restaurant in Logan Square; one son liked his jibarito but my Cuban sandwich was Americanized, by which I mean overstuffed. Some may like that, I thought it threw it off balance. The Chicago Teachers’ Lounge and Eatery is a friendly place on the Puerto Rican strip on Division with the best name of the year, and it’s pleasant if you’re in the neighborhood, but nothing to travel for—a roasted chicken dish proved not to be roasted chicken, but tagliatelle with pesto and a side of a bare chicken breast.

Xiao Mei Xing is the new place in the same strip mall as A Place by Damao, offering skewers and some other northern Chinese (I think) dishes. I had hopes for barbecued skewers but they were pretty one-dimensional, tasting only of the same seasoning on both beef and chicken. A soup with gooey potato flour noodles was quite good, though.

Speaking of strip malls, the one true find of the week was in the one just north of Lawrence on Kedzie (LTHers will remember it as the home of the Korean restaurant Kang Nam back in the day). Karam Grill is a middle-eastern restaurant, with the usual things—falafel, hummus, shawarma and kebabs. But in every case they were just superbly executed, with little touches of extra care (I admired the neat cross-hatched grill marks on the pita), and I’ve been thinking of their creamy hummus ever since. It’s easily the best middle eastern food I’ve had in the city (not counting the Bridgeview-Worth area and Al-Bawadi, Al-Sufara, etc.) in a few years.

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