Buzz List for March 20, 2017
A Quiote rave, mixed reviews for Ronero and Won Fun, you got pickle on my candy cane, Iliana Regan has two books coming, and Brauhaus is closing, or not, or maybe!
Michael Nagrant finds thinks he likes about Ronero—”With a list of 25 cocktails and many more highballs and drams, Ronero is a sexy place to get your drink on. Were this New York City, you could imagine Marnie dragging Shosh and Hannah here for a post-work tipple (if, of course, any of the ‘Girls’ characters had real jobs).” But he can’t endorse anything on the menu without at least some reservations: “Ropa vieja ($15), which translates to ‘old clothes,’ is often an apt descriptor, as the braised meat left behind in the preparation is sometimes dry and shredded like cast-off vintage laundry. Morris’, the product of a 14-hour braise, is the silkiest I’ve ever had. It’s topped with goat cheese, which adds a touch of seasoning. Still, I yearned for more salt here.” (Redeye)
2. QUI BONO
Mike Sula seems to move in a daze through the multitudes of experiences that Quiote offers, from Bobby Baker’s offerings in the mescal bar: “To get a sense of the vast diversity of the bar’s base spirit you need to dive into the thick mezcal list broken down by agave varietals,” to, unexpectedly, bread and butter: “A $5 border-bridging bread course that sounds ridiculous and pandering but is something you’ll want to avail yourself of: slabs of more PQB bread to be smeared with habanero-compounded butter, and thin, crispy fresh tostadas with raw tomatillo salsa. Do yourself a favor: butter your tostadas. Smear salsa on your bread. For that matter, apply butter, then salsa. Make America great again!” (Reader)
Is this really a thing—that on the South Side, people stick candy canes in dill pickles? Well, it’s certainly not far in flavor from the Kool-Aid Pickles that are fairly common in the South Side African-American community. Nick Kindelsperger investigates: “I quickly found that the snack dates to at least 1983. That’s when Vernon Garrett, an obscure blues musician, recorded a raunchy song called ‘Dill Pickle & Peppermint Stick’ for ICA Recording Group.” But the trail goes back much further than that. Now someone needs to look into Taffy Grapes…
4. CHU-WON THE FUN
Louisa Chu finds some of Won Fun delightful: “The mapo tofu, boasting a red oil slick over silky bean curd, and dandan mian, featuring satisfyingly chewy house-made noodles, are both made with caramelized minced beef.” And some of it overpriced: “The sesame cabbage salad seems shockingly overpriced for nothing more than raw Napa cabbage leaves in sushi house, freebie-grade sesame dressing ($9.99).” In the end, two stars. (Tribune)
5. TRUMPED UP
Some food writer’s rant against Trump was bound to attract full on attention from the Right, and it proved to be Helen Rosner of Eater (and long ago, Grub Street Chicago) for her piece on why it really matters to all of us that Trump eats ketchup on his well done steak. Matthew Continetti in The Free Beacon does the honors: “I am fascinated by the condescending use of ‘pedestrian,’ with its connotations of déclassement, to describe one of America’s most popular condiments. What it suggests is that the fixation with Trump’s manner of eating is in reality a fixation with the persistence of habits and attitudes and trends that the over-schooled and undereducated metropolitan producers of news and opinion do not like.” Please cancel all your appointments, and fight about this all day on Facebook, America. I expect nothing less of us all.
6. THE STATE OF STATE & LAKE
State & Lake in The Wit hotel has hired two noted chefs—Nathan Sears, formerly of Vie, and Kevin McMullen (EL Ideas, The Brixton). But Graham Meyer says “State & Lake fails to converge, with the dishes delivering disappointment for different reasons. A porchetta sandwich ($14), plopped bisecting-cut-side down in tomato broth, resembling Xoco’s famous ahogada torta, lumps rich pork with a rich mayonnaisey condiment and a creamy-rich broth, tasting great for the three bites before you start to feel full. Braised beef-cheek chili ($17), looking beautiful on the plate with watermelon radishes, corn and cilantro, devolves into a big bowl of boring black beans and starts to seem awfully pricey.” (Crain’s)
Chicago Brauhaus is for sale, so maybe it’s closing! (Chicagoist)
Chicago Brauhaus is totally closing! (DNA Info, since removed)
Chicago Brauhaus isn’t closing any time soon—but it could! (Tribune)
And finally, as John (ManBQue) Carothers said on Twitter: “Man that Brauhaus closing rumor caught fire. Walked in at 4:55 and they told me they were booked for the night.”
8. BEARD SEARED
I already gave my two cents on the Beard nominations this year, so read Anthony Todd’s now—he’s definitely in the “we got screwed” camp.
9. REGAN RAINBOW
Congrats to Iliana Regan, who it was announced this week has not one but two books coming out. One is a cookbook called Elizabeth: A Study of the Farm, Field, and Forest. The second is a memoir about her journey to being a chef as a recovering alcoholic and a gay chef, called Burn the Place. The memoir will be out in 2018, the cookbook will come out in 2019. (Eater)
10. WHAT'LL YOU HAVE, HON
I don’t think anybody who’s been to Sepia would argue with this: sommelier Arthur Hon was named one of Food + Wine’s best sommeliers of the year. Congrats!
11. NOTHING COULD BE FINA THAN AN EMPANADA WITH INA
Ina Pinkney’s breakfast column finds three neighborhood gems from owner-proprietors. First The Growling Rabbit in Edgewater, now in a bigger space: “Chef Laura Soncrant always looks happy, and the food is testimony to that.” Then the new outlet of empanada outfit Cafe Tola on California: “The dough is flaky and the fillings well-balanced and seasoned perfectly. Each one was distinctive and delicious.” And finally, philanthropic-mined Blue Sky Bakery: “Is there anything better than eating well while doing good? I think not.”
12. GROWING BEER
Peter Frost in Crain’s reports on what it takes to grow your beer these days, which is apparently, crack the Chicago market: “The key to competing starts with the quality of the beer and how well it is differentiated from the competition. A beer shipped from out of town ‘has to stand out,’ Watson says. ‘Local is a big part of people’s purchasing decisions, but taste and flavor is always No. 1.’ Even so, no one wants to be the 35th IPA on a distributor’s sell list or a retailer’s dusty bottom shelves.”
13. SUFARA TO GO
When I was on The Feed with Steve Dolinsky and Rick Bayless to promote The Fooditor 99, I brought them food from Al-Sufara Grill in Palos Hills to taste. Now Dolinsky goes back for a video report complete with mouthwatering footage of the charcoal pit over which this butcher shop/restaurant grills chicken and lamb shawarma. It’s a long ways, but it’s worth it, check it out.
14. IRVING PARKOUR
Monocle does an audio Chicago neighborhood tour—and no it’s not the West Loop or Wicker Park, but Irving Park, with a visit to Smalls among others.
15. THAT'LL NDUJA
Nice short piece on ‘Nduja Artisans, at Gear Patrol.
WHAT MIKE ATE
Without entirely intending to, I wound up trying two new family-run places a few blocks apart in Uptown. Futatsaki Ramen is a ramen spot in a former hot dog stand (to judge by the black and white checkered tile), and it’s pretty solid and quite busy (we had the chance to say hi to their wandering two-year-old several times).
Kie-Go-Lanee is a fairly new and very friendly Oaxacan restaurant, a little nicer than your usual Mexican family joint but still very reasonably priced. I’m still not sold on the tlayuda as a concept, after here and Cruz Blanca, and the too-large hunks of carne asada on it surely would have been better hot in a taco, but there were several standouts including a terrific pork and green mole tamale (weirdly soupy in texture, but it tasted great) and a block of grilled cheese, like saganaki, served with a vinegary slaw (cortida); it doesn’t look like it’s going to count for much, but it is. Both places are modest-priced finds worth your checking out.