It is a lesson as old as history—whip up the mob for your own purposes one day and you may find it coming for you the next. It happens frequently in the hothouse culture of social media, and an example of it may be happening this week to Shelby Allison, owner of Lost Lake and co-founder of Chicago Style, a woman-focused cocktail conference held in 2018 and 2019 (and obviously not held during lockdown last year). The New York Times described it in 2018 as “a new cocktail conference with a political twist,” and it seemed a self-declared exemplar of a new, more inclusive and frankly, woke approach to bartending culture, in a field that has often been male and was often sexist. As SevenfiftyDaily put it, CS “centered on issues relating to diversity and representation in the industry, as well as sustainability behind the bar.”

And now it’s announcing its “sunset” (because when we’re on our journey, sometimes ordinary words like “closing down” or “quitting” won’t do). Here’s how the three white woman founders, Allison, Caitlin Laman and Sharon Bronstein, describe the sun going down on CS:

Ahead of our April 2021 virtual training series, a member of our community reached out to us with concerns about the ways in which we — as individuals and as an organization — have faced conflict and caused harm in the past. We are so grateful to this person for their call-in, and we’re very sorry to those we have let down. We recognize that we each have work to do, and have engaged the guidance of professionals to advise us as we hold ourselves accountable for doing that work.

Are we all clear on what happened? The language is so soft and indistinct, it sounds more like they’re going to a spa than apologizing for whatever it is they think they have “work to do” about and need the guidance of professionals (attorneys?) for. Apparently the person for whom they are so grateful is Ashtin Berry, a Black woman entrepreneur and “hospitality activist” who is, in that area, kind of a big deal—her Instagram account, @TheCollectress, has 38,000 followers, and she was just named by Food and Wine to a list of 25 game changers, “leaders in the culinary field who push their peers to dream bigger and innovate harder.”

Berry was evidently a board member at CS for a time. Here’s how she describes her issues with CS on Instagram:

Because there was no transparency with the CS community or sponsors, I am attempting to establish and name what happened to result in a brash shutdown of the organization and why the response put out last Friday is problematic.

…I took my position as a board member seriously so I will not allow them to disappear while survivors and others are left to deal with the fallout of their actions with not even the slightest apology. We have to stop calling racist and misogynistic behaviors mistakes when they happen repeatedly.

Ouch! That doesn’t sound very “centered on diversity.” Berry spells it out further in some 86’d List-like graphics at Instagram, as noted before not the best format for making a sustained or easily searchable case, but here’s a high point:

Yikes. I still wouldn’t say this post spells out exactly what happened that broke CS apart, but what does seem clear is that Berry saw herself being used to add some token color to a very white organization—and now wants to cancel them for how they treated her, and operated in general, spectacularly failing to live up to the lofty and much-advertised goals of the organization. (There’s more here about alleged racism at Ace Hotel, from a beverage professional named Roshelley Mayén.)

As someone once on the receiving end of a mob whipped up by, among others, Ms. Shelby Allison, I trust she will find it as much of a growth and learning opportunity as I did. I expect social media to dig further into these allegations with all its usual fairness and even-temperedness, and to explain exactly what happened here in due course, and how we can all be grateful for it.

Returning to Food and Wine, this from Berry seems particularly pointed under the circumstances:

“Being Black in this industry-especially if you’re not a chef-means you have to have so many tools, skills, or information to be special or interesting to the white majority, to the people who decide who’s interesting,” Berry says. “And while I’ve never really searched for validation, I think I’ve finally reached a point where I don’t care if white people find me interesting or not.”


The magazine La Cucina Italiana focuses on a dish at Testaccio, Mezze Maniche al Sugo di Manzo:

“It started off with me braising oxtail with tons of Mediterranean spices, from aleppo to mace, for about eight hours,” says [chef Jacob] Solomon, who himself has a Moroccan heritage. “It was rich and delicious, but I knew it was missing something.”

One day, he made himself lunch at Testaccio and called upon a childhood favorite—spaghetti with beef ragù. “I ate it every day as a kid,” he recalls. “I could eat that dish for life and be satisfied.” Between bites, he looked up at the oxtail braising on the stove and had an epiphany. “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, here we go—we’re definitely putting these two together.’”


David Hammond talks to Don Young, chef of Venteux, about learning to cook French in the kitchen—from Roland Liccioni and Culver’s.


Speaking of Culver’s, at the Reader Megan Kirby sings a song of midwestern custard in honor of Culver’s opening in Ravenswood:

Do you know Scoopie? He’s the Culver’s mascot, a sentient custard cone with a dull grin and no discernable personality. Other fast food mascots at least hint at interior lives. Ronald McDonald has an impish, winking approach. The Burger King is a noted pervert. But Scoopie is a blank slate, a creamy canvas to project our own desires. His blank eyes reveal nothing. No thoughts. Just custard. Will I ever know a peace like that?


John Kessler on a quest for tacos árabe:

They’re a specialty of Puebla, where Christian Arabs fleeing the Middle East settled and brought with them not only the shawarma spit, the progenitor of al pastor, but the tradition of wrapping spiced lamb in a pita. Over time, the lamb gave way to pork and the pita to a thick flour tortilla.


Titus Ruscitti tells us where to go while in Traverse City this summer. And speaking of Michigan…


A lovely piece by Friend of Fooditor Maggie Hennessy about how the omnipresence of whitefish salad in the upper Great Lakes region grew out of the confluence of cultures there—Native American, Scandinavian and Jewish:

The Carlsons [of Carlson’s Fishery in Fishtown, Michigan) emigrated from Norway to the then-shipping hub of North Manitou Island in the mid-1800s, where they sold lumber to ships and grew produce to sell to the ships’ cooks before relocating to Fishtown, where they started fishing. They were part of a wave of some 400,000 foreign immigrants who came to Michigan between 1860 and 1900.

Indeed, that smoked fish dip also bears striking similarity to the Jewish deli whitefish salad is no coincidence; Ashkenazi Jews who settled in Detroit during those decades sought whitefish for its kosher designation, especially during the fall high holidays, when it’s harvested.


After more than a year of being off the food beat, Anthony Todd is back with the Dish newsletter for Chicago magazine. If you used to get it, you should have gotten the new one, if not, go to the bottom of this main page to subscribe. The opening issue is mainly about Trevor Teich’s Claudia getting its permanent home in Bucktown, but I’ll link to that next week when the content is up on the site.


The future of reviewing seems to be strong at the low end but increasingly skimpy at the high end. Imagine if a publication hired a new reviewer who wrote about Smyth—based on 50 previous personal visits. We’d be wowed that someone of that level of experience took on the high end restaurant beat in this day and age. Well, needless to say no local publication has hired any such person, but I found them by chance this week—that is, their blog, Understanding Hospitality.

The pseudonymous reviewer calls themself Grimod (a reference to this historical gourmand). There’s rather a long essay explaining their philosophy of dining and writing about it here, but I think this might be the most salient section:

The present generation of gourmands enters a landscape that has almost been entirely liberated from that European paradigm of fine dining “excellence.” Renowned restaurants come in every shape, style, and size. A rare few articulate a sense of place so well, so truly, that they can rightfully be called transcendent on a global level. These restaurants are rarely acknowledged as the “best” in the country–rather, they have but one or two Michelin stars and an assortment of plaudits from local and regional publications. They excel in expressing something pure, something “true” to their locale–a celebration of distinction rather than a cratering to the pressures of globalization. We romanticize this sort of distinction when we travel the world—aping the “simple life” of the “old world”—but, for some reason, label it “backwards” when it manifests itself in our own backyard.

You won’t find disagreement with me by suggesting that certain definers of the scene (rhymes with Fishelin’) are too slavish to outmoded European models and that we should be looking to what’s rooted here and evaluating it for what’s best and most original in our own country. Anyway, a number of pieces are up on the site, going back to the fall of 2019; there’s the 50-times-at-Smyth assessment, which makes a strong case for the Shields’ restaurant being the best in town and a genuine innovator:

The “lightly smoked lobster” likely benefitted by way of adjacent elements such as the aforementioned “lobster consommé” and “lobster oil.” As before, these components intensify the dish’s principal flavor while allowing for a more powerful contrast to emerge from accompanying notes like the “grilled onion” or “pickled blueberry.” Sure enough, the Dungeness crab sees itself paired with a “roasted squid stock,” which, you think, extends and expands the essence of seafood in the dish beyond the domain of the crustacean alone. Of course, an ingredient like “tomato seawater” embraces this idea even more: blurring the lines between the essence of the sea and that of the field. Paired with trout roe, such a creation takes the static idea of a “caviar course” into an entirely new domain, grounding it in a sense of place that transcends the coast.

Grimod goes to Rose Mary and treats us to a ranking of its pasta dishes. Here’s cavatelli cacio e pepe:

As it stands, the pepper is ground a bit to finely to have the desired textural impact. Had it provided a greater sense of crunch, the dish might have ranked higher. For the cavatelli–coated in the cheese sauce and absent that contrasting texture–can come across as amorphous and dense. The pasta misses some of the interplay that a tangle of noodles–as in the classic Roman preparation–can provide.

There’s no fear of looking mean by being tough-minded in a time marked by COVID; Grimod has highly critical pieces on Boka Group and the wine programs at Alinea Group, though an actual review of Alinea 3.0 post-lockdown is quite favorable. Anyway, there’s a lot to discover at the site, all of it highly learned and very long. (Verrrrrrry loooooong.) If you’ve been missing such thoughtfulness on food at the tippy-top high end, you have hours of delighted reading ahead, and Grimod will be added to Fooditor’s regular rotation of linked reviewers.


Steve Dolinsky responds to the Trib’s coverage of Gordon Ramsay’s new burger joint (reserved for their subscribers, so not linked here).


The last time I walked the stretch of Cermak near McCormick Place, heading for the train from C2E2 with my kids, it was desolate save for Chef Luciano (closed on Sunday anyway). The other night, an entire instant city seemed to have sprung up there, a glitzy Marriott Marquis and the gleaming new Wintrust Center and a busy hotel and restaurant row. There’s an outpost of HaiDiLao Hot Pot, reportedly the biggest hot pot chain in China, which suggests that the increasingly wealthy patrons of Chinatown straight west are one target market; and a barbecue and whiskey bar, Windy City Ribs, filling the streets with the smell of smoked meats, suggesting that gentrification is trying to be mindful of the Bronzeville neighborhood it’s transforming. And then there’s Apolonia, taking the corner spot of a hotel building at the Michigan Avenue intersection.

Apolonia is a newish venture from Stephen Gillanders of S.K.Y. and now also chef at another hotel restaurant, Somerset in the Gold Coast. With no exterior signage and a stark white interior, it looks like it could be abandoned at any moment, like Robert DeNiro’s apartment in Heat. Hopefully convention business will return to McCormick Place making that unnecessary, and indeed even without a plumbing or dental convention in the buildings to the east, it seemed to draw a healthy crowd on a Thursday night.

My first thought about the food was that it was kind of S.K.Y. Lite—a crudo plate looked exactly like someone pointed to Gillanders’ signature crudo at S.K.Y., seen in the gallery in this piece, and said “Give us that, but different.” But as more dishes came I felt that Apolonia isn’t just getting runner-ups. (The chef de cuisine is Joseph Spretnjak, who was at L2O and also, I presume, Intro, where Gillanders was the resident chef.) An appetizer of Catalan pa amb tomàquet was topped with wood-roasted mussels and Calabrian butter, poured over it tableside; briny and garlicky at once, it’s an appetizer to wake you up out of complacency. Fiorentini al Sugo doesn’t sound like anything that unusual—a tomatoey pork sauce with some tubular pasta—but with smoked tomatoes and excellent Catalpa Grove pork, it was another with more going on than initially meets the eye. Desserts, by Tatum Sinclair of S.K.Y., included a peach melba flavored with rose, honey and the vaguely defined “apertivo mousse”; any concern that it’s barely peach season yet was dismissed by the delicately elegant, floral-winey balance of this bright dessert.

I think they need to get an actual sign, and maybe paint a mural on the white wall over the kitchen, to make it look like they’ve really moved in and plan to stay a while. But Apolonia is very good, and reasonably priced; don’t wait for your next convention to eat there.

*  *  *

Certain places stuck in my mind when everything locked down, and I wondered about them over the past year, if they’d make it to finally get their shot in the After Times. One of these was Bokeh, a bar with a photography theme, somewhere in Albany Park. I used a photo from it once but never went there or even quite knew where it was. But Friday night, my wife had had a long day on Zoom, and I forced her to go out and be sociable in the world for an hour or two.

Bokeh turns out to be on Kedzie at the north end of the middle eastern strip, an unlikely place for a Logan-like hip cocktail bar. But every neighborhood needs one and Bokeh was appropriately friendly and chill, giving out glasses of champagne in honor of being reopened at last. I followed their take on a whiskey sour (the “Maximum Exposure”) with a dry cocktail built on shochu (the “Postcards From Japan”), which was perfect. I chatted with one of the guys, perhaps the owner, about working there alone doing takeout cocktails for 7 months, which he said was incredibly depressing when you’d just opened a bar. They’re happy to finally see people again—and so was I.