Buzz List for October 2, 2017

Thank you Katsu, why yes that is a Katana, see The Feed on stage and Fooditor at Taste Talks this week, and support Fooditor on Patreon

Katana Chicago/Facebook
Scallops at Katana Chicago
1. FAREWELL, SENSEI KATSU

Few restaurants still around have a bigger place in my own culinary development than Katsu, the intimate sushi restaurant up on Peterson Avenue. I knew little about Japanese food then (though ironically I had been to the ultra-authentic spot where Katsu first worked in Chicago, Yanase), and little enough about my city that I had never even spotted it and wondered. But others on Chowhound had been, and so I discovered it from them, and learned so much quickly about many pleasures—from interacting with the impish Katsu Imamura at his counter, to discovering dishes like grilled fish collars. Also, that you could write about discovering such things online, and others would read them and respond back.

Kevin Pang, who broke the story in Chicago magazine of Katsu’s impending retirement in November, has more to say there, well worth reading. Me, I’ll just say so long, and thanks for all the fish.

2. KATANA MATATA

Phil Vettel is impressed by the showbiz and the chef skills at the Sunset Strip import Katana, speculating that the presence of Chicago veteran Jason Chan will help it seem like it belongs here. But honestly, the food sounds ambitious enough to warrant a long run: “I ordered the omakase at the robata bar (Chan dubs it ‘robatakase’) and received (among other dishes) fresh uni and hearts of palm in bonito dashi; a thumb-size piece of caramelized foie gras on a lacquered-brioche bun, with dots of aged soy; braised eel and sushi rice nestled in a taco-shaped curl of roasted nori, dressed with caramel-miso soy; beautiful grilled prawns in garlic butter; and king crab leg topped with bruleed bonito aioli, topped with lime zest and bonito flakes.”

One line originally went too far for some readers, though—Vettel’s review originally commented on the attractiveness of the female waitstaff in pure Hef-1966 terms, only to get a reprimand on Facebook from, among others, friend of Fooditor Sarah Freeman: “Maybe, some day, women in this industry—hospitality and food media—will be treated as equals rather than objects, threats or underdogs.” Vettel apologized, and took the line out. It raises an interesting question for which I have no easy answer—there’s no doubt that certain places hire for perceived attractiveness, so is it right to mention that it’s happening at this or that place? Is it right to pretend it’s not happening, either—or isn’t that also sweeping a certain amount of sexism under the rug?

3. CAVIAR FOR THE HUMBLE

Mike Sula’s looks at Humboldt Park’s seemingly mismatched-with-the-neighborhood, yet somehow likable, Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar, and finds that it’s even more eccentric yet likable once you get past the fish eggs: “Did you think Heritage was going to get by on caviar alone? Of course not. There’s a seasoned chef-owner at work here. Guy Meikle, formerly of Bridgeport’s much-loved Nana, has also assembled a more financially accessible menu that skews eastern European, with a few curveballs, notably toward Korea, like a grilled vegetable ramen with a doenjang base, grilled baby back ribs rubbed in spicy gochujang, and luscious king crab legs rubbed and broiled with tobiko, gochuchang, and lemon aioli.” (Reader)

4. SIXTEEN BELOW

Sixteen has taken beautiful pictures of its food—I know, I ran some of them with this article about chef Nick Dostal. So who knows how a rather sad Twitter picture of steak (cut up into bits and spread all over a plate), reportedly from Sixteen, got onto the Trump Hotels account, but as Joseph Hernandez said in the Tribune, it came in for a lot of grief as a result, obviously exacerbated by the big target of the name on the hotel. Well, ha ha, but I’m going to temper my hilarity there, because Dostal is a very fine chef who’s worked his way up and paid his dues.

5. SEE "THE FEED" LIVE

It’s a busy week for events! Tuesday, you can attend a live taping of Rick Bayless’s and Steve Dolinsky’s The Feed, at The Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont. Guests include “Hot” Doug Sohn, Darryl Townson (Dat Donut, Uncle John’s BBQ) and Mayor Emanuel. Go here to get tickets.

6. TASTE TALKS IS BACK!

It’s a busy week for events! Friday through Sunday, Taste Talks returns to Chicago with a whole day of cool programs, from knife demos to chefs telling stories of their lives. I’ll be moderating one Saturday at 11:30 on making a career as a chef, with Jason Vincent, Jimmy Bannos Jr. and David Posey, but check out the whole schedule here.

7. BABALU!

Did you know that there’s a live Tiki dance show in a strip mall in Des Plaines? I didn’t until a couple of years ago when I wrote about a woman doing a Tiki tour of Chicago, and I’ve meant to go ever since. Louisa Chu did and writes about it.

8. EMPANADA HIGHWAY

If you’ve gone to the Music Box recently, as I did for Dunkirk, you may have noticed how many empanada places there are along Southport, going back to the original, the little market that spawned Tango Sur. Janet Rausa Fuller did and profiles Empanada Row—as one shop owner says, “I’m a big believer that the more empanadas, the better for everybody. I think they’re still a product that needs to be out there more.” (Chicago)

9. BURGERS BATTED IN

Sports Illustrated writes about cheeseburgers? More than Fooditor writes about the infield fly rule, apparently, as it makes a case for Small Cheval being a great burger that should be the next Shake Shack. I can see that okay, but this statement got some Twitter dissing: “Truly, on Small Cheval’s worst day, it’s hard to think of a better-value burger in Chicago.” Truly, Chicagoans can name lots of them

10. PING, PING!

Ten under-the-radar recent openings—that’s the subject of my second piece helping fill in for Anthony Todd at Chicagoist: “Smaller places without PR budgets open up all the time, trying to serve their neighborhoods with food from their own culture—or from the heart.”

11. DIVE, DIVE!

The absolute best list of dive bars in Chicago? That might be an oversell—for one, Carol’s is closed, for another, it’s all north side except the Skylark—but it’s not a bad list as listicles go. Now you have an ambition in life!

12. DINE, DINE!

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one skeptical that the Diner Grill would ever come back after its fire last Christmas Eve, but after much wrangling with the city, it’s happening. (DNAInfo)

13. CORN IS AS HIGH AS...

Greater Midwest Foodways is putting on a big conference too, Saturday mostly, about one of the midwest’s main crops—corn, or maize properly speaking. Get the details here.

14. WINE ON TOP

John Lenart was going to write this piece about the wine cellar (actually more of an attic) at Italian Village for Fooditor, then another very similar piece beat him to the punch. Still, if the subject interests you, as it did me, check it out.

NOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FOODITOR

My plan for Fooditor was to make something that was both great food content and an advertising vehicle to support it. Well, I hope I’ve done the first one, but going out and selling it usually seems to get away from me as I scramble to tell great stories. (Big big thanks to our existing sponsors, however—J.P. Graziano and Sparrow Coffee.) So, time for a Plan B… or rather, P, for Patreon.

I’ve created a Patreon page that gives you four options to subscribe and support Fooditor for an extremely modest price per month, plus some special rewards for higher pledges. That’s besides the reward of just knowing that you’re part of a community of thoughtful food people, helping to keep Fooditor going.

Please take a minute to look at the Patreon page for Fooditor, and consider picking a monthly level that’s a tiny fraction of what you pay for food and drink each month, for something that enhances your life immensely by telling you what’s really going on in our city’s food scene, from great chefs to great tacos and Chinese dumplings. Your support, monetary and moral, will help keep Fooditor going. Thanks.

(Oh, and if you think you would like to advertise to Fooditor’s concentrated, dedicated foodie audience, I’m all for that too—just email me.)

 

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