Buzz List for March 6, 2017
Ravus maximus for Next Ancient Rome, praise for The Barn, GT Prime, The Gundis and Temporis, Stephanie has a magazine baby on the way, and the history of every piece of a Chicago dog.
1. CHRONICLES OF BARNIA
Gee, you think the same people who did Found are behind Evanston’s The Barn? “The unforgettable (and nearly unfindable) venue features a 20-foot rustic ceiling hung with a twinkling chandelier, a hayloft lined with a red leather banquette, a living wall of moss, and a strangely mesmerizing photo of an alpaca,” says Jeff Ruby. And with a mild complaint about excessive tableside prep, he considers it as much a find as Found: “[Chef Nicole] Pederson has a knack for zeroing in on pure flavor. Rich dabs of crème fraîche magnify the earthy essence of maitake mushrooms topped with herbed breadcrumbs. Weekly specials—such as Wednesday’s chicken pot pie, in which a wondrously crisp pastry crust somehow encases a soupy velouté without uncrisping—pull off quiet miracles, as do the prime Heritage Angus steaks. They aren’t aged, and it doesn’t matter. The meat around the bone on my 16-ounce rib eye pulsed with an intense flavor amplified by the red wine demi-glace. The Morton blood runs deep.” (Chicago)
2. QUATTRO STELLAE ITERUM
Where do you go with praise—or hyperbole—when you give a restaurant four stars for two or even three menus each year? Phil Vettel has to praise the Ancient Rome menu at Next by comparing it to… Next: “Ancient Rome is Next’s most fascinating menu in several years. In terms of scholarship, faithfulness to concept and unbridled, joyful execution, Ancient Rome recalls only Paris, 1906, Next’s inaugural menu in 2011, as an equal.” (Tribune)
Vettel has much more fun poking around Grant Achatz’s attic, reminiscing about past Next and Alinea meals through the odd pieces he finds at their storage space (upstairs from Next): “In one corner sit several bourbon barrels, which were used as outdoor tables for Next’s Tapas menu (2015). On a nearby shelf are barrel staves, cut from full barrels, that held a charcuterie course for The Hunt (2013). Skis used as decorations for The Alps (2016) are tucked in a far corner; snowshoes, used for the same menu decor, stand 7 feet off the ground on a top shelf. On a lower shelf sits a pretty, divided glass plate, like a grandmother would have; it’s used to hold whipped cream and other toppings for the ice-cream sundae at The Office, the bar below Aviary.”
3. GUNDIS SHOW
Michael Nagrant says The Gundis means “villager or country boy,” but the food at Chicago’s first Kurdish restaurant has a sophistication belying the name: “Though inspired by childhood dishes, Yavuz’s plates are anything but rustic mom-fare. The Mardin special ($20.25) features an artful yin-yang arrangement of sour yogurt and punchy lemon-spiked tomato sauce. The yogurt is studded with a bright confetti mosaic of diced bell pepper. In the center, cubes of luscious lamb are wrapped in silky fried eggplant.” (Redeye)
4. GOAT GHOTI
The rumor was that Stephanie Izard was planning a magazine, and People has the deets: “The quarterly magazine will include many of the things she loves the most, including food and recipes, first-person travel stories, photography, and profiles of chefs, winemakers, farmers, artists, and ‘all around cool people.’ But unlike other chef-driven or ‘serious’ epicurean titles, Izard says goat fish will be about ‘looking on the brighter side, a happy side of everything.’”
And that’s not all she’s up to—Chicago’s only female Top Chef winner, and the person who came closest to equaling that—Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde, who was a first runner-up—will both be contestants (not at the same time) on a new Iron Chef spinoff, Iron Chef Gauntlet. (Eater)
5. THE PRIME OF MR G. TENTORI
GT Prime is different from other steakhouses, says Lisa Shames: “first with what you won’t find (towering seafood platters, shrimp cocktail, gut-busting potatoes) and then with what you will, including a variety of meat, both exotic (bison tenderloin, and venison and lamb loin) and traditional cuts (beef tenderloin, strip loin), available in 4- and 8-ounce portions to encourage sharing. Odds are, once your meat arrives in its cast-iron plate, a steak knife won’t be needed, since the cuts are served sliced and medium-rare—unless otherwise requested—and butter-knife tender. That’s what we experienced at my table with the venison and skirt steak, which had hints of smoke from the wood-burning grill. Decision-phobes can get The Carnivore, which includes four cuts, including American wagyu, and is available in two sizes.” (CS)
6. TEMPORIS FUGIT
Temporis “takes the idea of intimate fine dining to a new level, with only 20 seats a night, most of them at tables for two. It all makes Temporis a textbook fine dining choice for romantic dinners,” says Elizabeth Atkinson in Time Out. “Menu standouts on our visit included a starting bite of king crab with briny trout roe and dill pollen and a wild mushroom consommé, with port-glazed mushrooms and scallions; the umami blast was so perfect, we were wishing for a bigger bowl.”
8. EAT THE CLASSICS
The Trib’s doing a month of Chicago classics, which is okay I guess, but the more interesting angle was taken by Nick Kindelsperger with a piece devoted to sussing out Chicago’s modern classics, the things you’d tell friends they have to have here… that come from the 2000s, not the 1940s. He makes a case for the 2017 essentialness of things ranging from griddled double cheeseburgers a la Au Cheval to Bourbon County Stout.
9. DOG PARTS
As long as we’re talking Chicago classics, Monica Eng talks to Bruce Kraig about the history of Chicago hot dogs. Not that you haven’t heard that, quite possibly from Kraig himself, but this is an interesting drill-down looking at it ingredient by ingredient, not just the dog but poppy seed buns, relish, celery salt, everything. But no ketchup! (WBEZ)
10. LINKED IN
Links Taproom in Wicker Park won the title of best beer bar in Illinois from Craftbeer.com, which tallied winners based on nominations and 7000 votes from its readers. Sayeth they: “Links Taproom in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood puts a modern twist on the traditional beer hall. For one, you never have to guess if the beer you’re eyeing is on tap because TV screens display a comprehensive live beer list (including how much of the keg is left). Links also throws a heck of a Halloween party, changing its theme every year.” Check out the other 49 there, too; Anthony Todd explains more about what makes them stand out at Chicagoist.
11. CULT OF THALI
Mike Sula finding South Asian food in the burbs is maybe our favorite Mike Sula, and this time, believe it or not, it’s in a strip mall in Wilmette: “If I told you a take-out joint in a Wilmette strip mall served the most exciting Pakistani food north of Granville, would you take the Brown Line, transfer to the Purple Line, ride that to Central, then wait a half hour for the 201 to shove off to Old Orchard Mall before plodding about a third of a mile up Skokie Boulevard for some freshly curdled palak paneer and bhindi that tastes like green fireworks?” It’s called Thali Bites; here’s the LTHForum post that first tipped him off.
12. EXPLORERS' CLUB
Just when you thought the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel couldn’t possibly be cooler… it does a popup bar in conjunction with a Field Museum exhibit. Julia Thiel explains.
13. HEAVEN ON DEVON
Chicago-based Indian cookbook author Anupy Singla shares some of her favorite places to eat and shop on Devon in NewCity.
14. ONE PLATE AT A TIME
This First We Feast piece on Rick Bayless starts by going through the cultural appropriation business again, but there’s a more interesting piece buried below all that—Bayless recalls ten dishes that influenced his life, from the barbecue at his parents’ restaurant to the aguachile which freaked him out when he first tried it, before everyone ate raw fish.
15. EVERYTHING BUT YUL BRYNNER
Grace chef Curtis Duffy and manager Michael Muser have been in Bangkok for the Bangkok Gourmet Festival, and Muser has been posting terrific pictures of the street life and food there—check them out at Facebook.
16. GIMME THE USUAL
The bartender at Loop fixture Miller’s Pub, Michael Gorman, is retiring, 43 years after he first walked in the joint and was promptly offered a job. CBS Chicago pays tribute.