Buzz List for June 5, 2017

42 Grams may be -30- and Vettel's 20th Next review could be why, the next food hall could be... Time Out?, and eating all the Bokas.

Kitsune/Facebook
1. FOX POPULI

Lisa Shames finds kawaii at Kitsune: “Cuteness can sometimes transfer to the plates at Kitsune. ‘This looks like it came straight out of The Little Mermaid,’ said my dining companion when the seared scallops arrived dusted with tiny purple flowers and crispy puffed rice all nestled in a white seashell. I agreed—or at least I think I did. I was busy stuffing the wonderfully tender bivalves in my mouth.”

2. -30-

In a cryptic Tweet last night, 42 Grams, the innovative and doubly-Michelin-starred 8-seat restaurant (whose prices have shot up in recent times), announced that it would be “closed indefinitely.” A couple of outlets inquired more and got back responses faulting the Tribune for reviewing Next 20 times, almost always giving four stars, and only giving 42 Grams three stars. (It also noted that somehow the Tribune put 42 Grams in Lincoln Square—which even by the Trib’s lax standards of neighborhood boundaries, is quite a ways from Uptown.) By morning the 42 Grams Twitter account was gone entirely. So who knows? But it appears that 42 Grams is no more. UPDATE: Alexa Welsh of 42 Grams confirms that 42 Grams is “officially over.”

3. HALL OF THE UNKNOWN MAGAZINE

According to the Tribune, the group behind Time Out Chicago plans to launch a food hall in the Fulton Market district: “The media company has used Time Out Market as a profit generator and a method to build awareness of its magazines, websites, apps, guides and events.”

To which one can only reply: what magazine? It’s not just that what was once a cheeky, sometimes tacky, certainly lively and provocative weekly magazine that set the agenda in several areas of local culture has turned into a decidedly non-essential website and quarterly freebie advertising vehicle. But even that has seen steady attrition, with its last bylined food staffer, Elizabeth Atkinson, reportedly being let go recently. The food hall may turn out to be a good thing (though I immediately imagined a cover story circa 2012 loudly proclaiming “Why Food Halls Suck”), but there simply is no Time Out Chicago of any significance on the scene to promote any more.

4. ENDANGERED PASTRIES

Mike Sula on a Syrian bakery in Ann Arbor that presents the food of a place that’s now gone: “If Jisr al-Shughur has been destroyed, it’s some small consolation that its food traditions are preserved in a small deli in suburban Michigan. Some two dozen salads and sides reside in the refrigerated display case, along with mamoul, baklava, and other Levantine sweets. In addition to French pastries, there’s an array of the savory hand pies called fatayer, stuffed with meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables, plus a full sandwich menu ranging from conventional kefta and chicken shawarma to house specialties like the Aleppo (eggplant baba ghanoush, veggies, feta, pita chips, and fattoush dressing) and the Jinan (ajjeh, aka the Syrian omelet, with tabbouleh, pickles, and garlic sauce).”

It’s part of the Reader’s road trip issue, which also includes Aimee Levitt’s report on slumming it as a hobo in Britt, Iowa (marginally a food story as well).

5. ROGER, GEMINI II

Mike Sula on the latest iteration of Gemini Bistro, now just Gemini, reads like a tryout for the Adequate-For-Business-Lunch beat that Graham Meyer has at Crain’s: “The menu, on the other hand, executed by Miguel Ortiz, if not a faithful duplicate, remains faithfully rooted in the expected and the conventional: no one need fear going without steak frites, roasted chicken, salmon, or a burger. There’s a wedge salad, a beet salad, and a Caesar salad. And for those who feel frisky there’s a crab cake, risotto, and mussels. For the most part these standards are reliably well executed.”

6. NEXT HOLLYWOOD BABYLON

Hollywood is Next’s 20th theme—and Phil Vettel’s 20th Next review. Is Next, so many years in, so essential to the life of the city that it requires this devotion? It certainly seems like caring about it enough to return three times a year belongs to another age, long before places like Oriole and Smyth became the fine dining conversation. But Vettel promises he’ll be back for #21 at the end!

Anyway, Hollywood: “A few times, the presentation upstages the food. I’m thinking of the spiral of golden raisin and aji amarillo puree that turns a yellow platter into a Yellow Brick Road (festooned with an emerald salad of romanesco and fava beans, strewn of course with poppy seeds), the porthole hiding scallop crackers with passion fruit custard under a blanket of dry-ice smoke, the mousetrap that guards a tiny ratatouille tart and the adjustable magnifying glass that turns cured foie gras, amaranth-sunflower granola and green strawberry into a ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ adventure.”

7. FROM LITTLE NAKORNS

In Crain’s, Joanna Trestrail is favorable toward Evanston’s upscale Thai spot (and Fooditor subject) NaKorn: “NaKorn (‘metropolitan’ in Thai) doesn’t push the envelope conceptually or execute as deftly as glamorous Arun’s in Albany Park or scrappy ATK in Lakeview, but it’s markedly more charming and ambitious than the usual neighborhood Thai spot, and more refined than most of the student-friendly eateries in Evanston’s main business district.”

8. BOKALENAGOAT&SONS

A writer from The Daily Meal ate at every Boka Group restaurant. Who hasn’t, you ask? Well, he did it in the same night—and made Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz tag along.

9. BEARD GIRL

Amy Thielen won a James Beard Award for her cookbook The New Midwestern Table; now she has a memoir about her journey to embracing midwestern foodways, Give a Girl a Knife, and Aimee Levitt writes about it for the Reader: “This is, of course, a very personal vision of the midwest, and midwestern women in particular, and Thielen’s midwest feels as distant to me as those New York kitchens she learned to cook in. But she did make me start thinking about the place I come from, and what people ate there, and how I can make it part of my life now, the way Thielen brought her past into the present.”

10. OPERATION MARKET GARDEN

Chicago mag has an elaborate paean to buying your produce at farmers markets (written by Fooditor contributor Janet Rausa Fuller, and Carrie Schedler), with a market map, favorite prepared food stands, and more.

11. VEGAN, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?

Vegan soul food is a thing, and there’s more than a few examples of it on the south side. Here’s the story of the people behind a new vegan restaurant, Majani. (DNAInfo)

12. GARDEN IN THE SKY

Want to read more about Sixteen chef Nick Dostal, or about the garden they’re planting on the terrace, 16 floors above downtown? Hinsdale Living Magazine, from his hometown, has the details.

13. A NEW HOPE

Finally, it looks like the Sun-Times and the Reader, joined by the shackles of Wrapports, may not have to be locked up in Tronc’s big house, per Robert Feder (another Tronc escapee). Former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath, who was a perennially ambitious pol back in the 80s and 90s, is leading one possible buyer group mainly funded by the Chicago Federation of Labor, who ought to have a reason to want more than one very pro-business paper in town; the other is private equity guy Thane Ritchie, who made an earlier attempt to buy the Sun-Times back in 2009. (Crain’s reports a third possible bidder, real estate and casino magnate Neil Bluhm.) We may keep diversity of voices in dead tree media yet.

WHAT MIKE ATE

Ate at two old favorites (old as in, been open more than a year or two) and thoroughly enjoyed both. It’s no surprise that the new items at Fat Rice have plenty of the same virtues as the old ones—sardines escabeche combined funky oily fish with chili brightness, lamb and cumin stir fry was deeply spicy, there was funky comfort in the arroz con mariscos topped with head-on prawns, and more. By the end, the three of us (who had started with cocktails in The Ladies’ Room) were just laying back, murmuring sentiments of love for this place.

Meanwhile, I hadn’t been back to The Radler since chef and co-owner Nathan Sears departed, and honestly, I feared seeing it turned into a German beer hall alone and losing Sears’ interesting food.  The menu is admittedly streamlined, mostly sausages—yet they were all beautifully prepared, with interesting sides full of authentic German flavor (or French, in the case of white asparagus with hollandaise sauce). A friend from out of town in search of German food was completely happy with the choice, and I will be back.

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