Buzz List for October 9, 2017

Glam at BLVD and Proxi, protests get ugly, the NYT gets Chicago right for once, and thanks Week 1 Patreon supporters

Proxi/Facebook
Black pepper pork at Proxi
1. HOLLYWOOD BLVD

Before he ever gets to talking about BLVD, Michael Nagrant offers a short history of the decline and rise of the West Loop that anyone who watches the food scene will profit by reading. It’s all to the point of explaining how improbable, yet also inevitable, the glitz and glamour of BLVD seems.

But it also leads to saying that the show is backed up by well-made food: “One great example is a bowl of roast summer corn, charred scallion, crab and parmesan ($18). I’ve had similar dishes and they eat like a dry succotash or maybe slightly refined street elotes. [Chef Johnny] Besch has added in thick nubs of king crab and lays down a base of silky corn pudding, which provides a cohesive richness and velvety finish. Cacio e pepe ($16) features a creamy swaddle of chewy house-made noodles bathed in Parmesan bursting with black pepper. It’s so good, I kind of go full Cookie Monster— only lifting my head once the plate has been cleaned—my chin and Cheshire Cat grin dripping in remnants of noodle bits.” (Redeye)

2. FOXY PROXI

“It’s only October, so it may seem audacious for me to be giving away ‘best of the year’ accolades. But Proxi is so good (and, frankly, 2017 has been so mediocre) that I have absolutely no problem making the claim,” says Anthony Todd in Chicagoist. I might disagree about 2017 being mediocre, though it’s had its crop of big underwhelmers, especially in hotels, but can’t argue with this: “Proxi feels like [chef Andrew] Zimmerman is finally getting to cook what he wants to cook. The bright Asian, middle eastern and Latin flavors, inspired by the street foods of the world, could be incoherent fusion-y muck in the hands of a lesser talent. But Zimmerman brings this mishmash to life, creating food that, frankly, it feels like the stuff he wants to eat and share with you.” (Chicagoist)

3. I'LL GRANT YOU THAT

Some years ago when the Alinea cookbook came out, a writer named Carol Blymire had people following along as she blogged about cooking each recipe at home. Now Chicago mag’s Carrie Schedler has topped that—she invited Grant Achatz himself to help her throw a dinner party: “As Achatz and I embarked on the planning, it quickly became clear that my standard approach was going to get a major retooling. The first thing he insisted on was that I make a written outline of the meal and its preparation, starting with the initial concept—the kinds of foods and flavors I wanted, how many courses, how many wine pairings—and then, once the courses were decided on, what steps would be required to execute them. He instructed me to break out the cooking stages strategically, with big, time-intensive tasks first and small, last-minute details at the end. ‘There’s a calculated order to ensure success,’ he wrote in an email. Oh great, I said to myself, I’ll be cooking with Alan Turing.” (Chicago)

4. CAPOBONCI

Nick Kindelsperger finds two apparent gems on the cheap eats beat. First, the pizza by the slice with unusual toppings at the Chicago outpost of Rome’s Bonci: “I’ve enjoyed every single slice I’ve tried. My only suggestion is to grab at least one piece of a pizza with ‘nduja. The bright red spreadable sausage kicks like pepperoni on overdrive, adding genuine heat and complexity to each bite. Last time I visited, I sampled it with a luscious layer of burrata, potato and fresh mint.”

Then he finds a rare new place offering Chicago classics-slash-gutbombs like the breaded steak sandwich: “CaPo‘s manages to do something with the breaded steak sandwich I never thought possible: make it taste like a balanced, reasonable sandwich. A fresh and vibrant red tomato sauce livens each bite, and you can add spicy giardiniera for a kick. I simply didn’t know a breaded steak sandwich could taste this good.

5. MOUSE PARTY

Phil Vettel gives two stars to the Giant-like mix of international flavors at City Mouse: “Skewered bay scallops are simple and clean; Chinese broccoli with chickpeas and sunflower seeds is murky and complex; but both dishes work. Fried artichokes smothered in pork ragu was a step too far, an intentionally messy dish in which the simmered pork overwhelmed the artichokes’ subtlety.” (Tribune)

6. HELTA DELTA

Titus Ruscitti blogged about a trip to the Delta a few years back, and so he’s approving of the authenticity of The Delta (which Fooditor wrote about here) and its mix of Mississippi and South Side eats: “So how do the tamales at The Delta stack up to the ones in the Delta? Just fine! Man I was happy to see that these are only 3 for $5 which would be expensive in Mississippi but when you consider you’re at a cocktail bar in Chicago it’s pretty reasonable. I’m glad they aren’t charging more. Because in the end these tamales are peasant food at its finest.”

7. HIZZONER LATEST PODCAST

Last week I mentioned The Feed’s live recording with Mayor Emanuel, Hot Doug Sohn and the owner of Dat Donut and Uncle John’s BBQ; well, here it is.

8. MULTI-LEVEL MOZZARELLING

At Chicago mag, Friend of Fooditor Maggie Hennessy also tries all three levels of the venerable, 90-year-old Italian Village. I know she’s not kidding when she says she loves the old place—when David Hammond and I did a similar “progressive dinner” a couple of months back with the restaurant’s PR, we ran into Maggie and her husband, happily dining before theater in the basement restaurant, La Cantina.

9. EATIFA

It’s one thing to mock Twitter pics, but everyone in the Chicago food community should be appalled at the news that some nut job (he was described as shouting “religious statements”—I shout those too, especially after hitting my thumb with a hammer) did $14,000 in damages to Sixteen, the restaurant in the Trump Tower. Don’t even start about something about, well, Trump is damaging this or that—Trump’s in in New York or D.C. or wherever. This is just terrifying working people at their jobs, and it’s stupid.

10. VIVA POLLOS

Animal-rights protesters protested the live chicken processing facility, Pollos Vivos, a couple of doors down from Hoosier Mama on Chicago. Neighbors fought back, as DNAInfo reports one of them said: “It’s disappointing that the protesters are targeting a locally-owned, farm-to-table shop like this when it’s as close of an educational opportunity about where food comes from as you can get in the city. You see the chickens alive and well before you eat them. Circle of life.” Actually, the piece is full of smart quotes, read it all.

11. OUT IN THE HOODS

Given previous attempts of the New York Times to explore the rude, forbidding wasteland known as Chicago, this visit to three neighborhoods—three far from trendy neighborhoods, Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village and Beverly—seems like about as good as they’ve ever done by our city, capturing some of the charm of neighborhood life here. Anyway, it’s better than Vogue, who described Avondale as “bleak-sounding” because the Lonely Planet guide said it consisted of… houses and churches! Quel horreur…

12. ORI-OLD FAVORITES

Noah Sandoval of Oriole shares some of his favorite spots with Food and Wine—and a certain Filipino diner is definitely “one of these things is not like the others.”

13. STRANGE FOODLIST

Friend of Fooditor Keng Sisavath, creator of the Strange Foods Festival coming up again November 5, posted a list of his favorite bites in Chicago. Forget Au Cheval burgers and Nutella Cafe sweets—this is hardcore Asian food, heavy on the offal, and a fascinating look at how many food cities coexist, like parallel dimensions, in one city called Chicago.

14. MICHELIN PREDICTIONS

Not that I care too much any more—whatever Michelin picks, it will be too little and miss too much of what’s great in our city—but Friend of Fooditor Erick Neu has his predictions at Chowhound. We’ll find out on the 20th.

WHAT MIKE ATE

I went through a patch this summer where everything new I tried was underwhelming. I hope the last two things I tried more or less sight unseen represent the reverse happening for a while. First, Royal Grocer & Co., in the former Red Door/Duchamp space, which Friend of Fooditor Anthony Todd and I went to on a tip from FofF Kennyz. A neighborhood place making food with striking ambition—we both had the same reaction to a gloriously pink radish pasta, given Parmiggiano-like umami with uni, which we thought was weird from the first bite and kind of great by the last. Some Asian cauliflower (that reminded me, in all the best ways, of Orange Chicken in Chinese takeout), a very good bleu cheese and radicchio salad, the gnocchi Kennyz admired… it’s very much a new place worth checking out and encouraging, now.

Raisu Japanese Fine Dining is a pretty new sushi restaurant on Irving, across from the Leader Bar. The sushi chef mentioned his sensei… a little probing revealed that it was Kaze of the old Kaze Sushi. He’d also worked for Kaze’s brother Macku… and then, after a bit, he revealed that he’d worked for Katsu, too! Well, I’d say the regular menu is more Kaze, with the somewhat exotic toppings that can get to be a bit much, than Katsu, but the specialty items were often pretty good and in any case you can order the fish pretty straight. The main thing is that fish quality seemed very high for a neighborhood sushi place, so order things with how much or how little gussying up you want, and you should be quite happy.

FOODITOR PATREON PROGRESS REPORT

So I launched a Patreon campaign last week and am happy to report that in Week 1 we got to almost 20 supporters backing the site (19, to be precise—and none of them Harvey Weinstein!) and an amount of revenue per month strikingly similar to what I spent on sushi at Raisu. So a good start, not only in money but in 19 people saying they value Fooditor and want to be part of the community of this site, encouraging independent, deeper-digging food journalism in Chicago. So thanks to those fine, brave Week 1 people, you band of brothers.

I hope you feel that way, too, and will show it by making a modest pledge—or even an immodest one—at Fooditor’s Patreon here. As Michael Nagrant very kindly said on Twitter, “Mike does amazing work and very few outlets are paying to produce this kind of quality. Support this work!”

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