There’s one picture of Ina Pinkney in a leopard-spotted coat that justifies your New York Times subscription this year, as the story of her and her ex-husband Bill Pinkney’s marriage and amicable divorce is chronicled in the Times’ Unhitched column.


The Washington Post talks to Iliana Regan about her memoir Burn The Place and her “glamping” spot in Michigan, and she says one grew out of the other: “Writing is quiet, reflective work like cooking and foraging, and scrabbling to string words together is a lot like scouring the forest for wild edibles. The process was not cathartic; she had already done a lot of the inner work. But it did stir a deep longing in her. “‘I didn’t know how much I missed the farmhouse,’ she says. ‘I was generally unhappy and wanted to go back to a place where I felt safe.’”


Flora Fauna, in the former Bohemian House space, is the collaboration of cocktail expert Liz Pearce (The Drifter) and her husband Jonathan Meyer (W Hotel, Beatnik) and things seems a bit in Beatnik’s sensory overload vein, per Phil Vettel’s descriptions: “On the fauna side, the seared octopus is a star, over crisscrossed stripes of guajillo-pepper sauce and avocado puree (the bright and umami flavors mesh wonderfully); gooseberries and tomatoes add brightness, and extra texture comes via plantain shoestring fries.” While on the cocktail side, “Pearce’s cocktails also have a beachy feel, none more so than the Basic Beach, which is essentially a Miami Vice made with mezcal instead of rum. There’s also a refreshing yuzu daiquiri, a boozy pineapple Old-Fashioned, and, for those who like bitter tastes, a Negroni mixed with a little passionfruit.” Two stars. (Note: I bungled Liz Pearce’s name and affiliation in the email version, sorry, but corrected now!)


Maggie Hennessy often talks about taking her “mister” along to the restaurants she reviews, but for St. Clair Supper Club she goes straight to the source, and takes her dad: “Dad ordered the orange-scented brandy old fashioned. ‘Sweet or spirit-forward?’ the server asked. To which he responded, ‘Huh?’ He explained that sweet is best suited for supper club purists, while booze-forward is the right mix for Irish-American Dads.”

Anyway, on to the main course: “The meat itself was outstanding—seasoned clean through and tender from salt curing and a slow, low roast, though we agreed that it was more rare than the stated medium rare. Silky creamed spinach and a crispy, butter-slicked Yorkshire pudding balloon completed our spread of upmarket Americana. An indulgent smear of 50/50 mashed potatoes (half represented by butter and cream) seemed stingy for its $12 price tag.”

And if you want to know why the Alinea Group opened a palace for red meat, maybe the announcement of their first event makes it clearer: it’s a wine collector’s dinner, featuring six vintages of The Hermitage of Jean-Louis Chave—ten wines in all, including two from the 1990s, for a cool $735 a ticket on Tock.


Ariel Cheung likes the simple but well-honed “neo-French” food at Cafe Cancale: “Raw scallops ($19) are simply adorned with radishes and a drizzle of olive oil, but a silky, salty dollop of aerated butter pudding makes the dish. Dressed lobster ($34) arrives as a black lime-speckled mound of chilled morsels of lobster and sliced shallots, all tossed in that same sweet, light butter pudding. Don’t be discouraged by this no-frills presentation; the yellow chicories ($16) are similarly thrust on a plate, but smoked eel and bacon elevate the crisp, bitter endive-and-escarole salad to the point where stylish plating hardly matters.”

She’s also impressed with the way Vajra leads her out of her Indian-food comfort zone: “Pungent, cumin-laced duck chhoela ($13), sweet lobster malabar curry ($34) and rich Denver venison ($34) roasted in the tandoor oven infuse familiar classics with high-end ingredients in mouthwatering ways.”


Joanne Trestrail likes the approach taken by the latest food hall, Fulton Galley, which currently incubates five concepts, Fairview (Latin American rotisserie), Taco Mucho, Italianette, Pink Salt (Thai) and Steingold’s: “The idea is for chefs to hone concepts that could lead to bigger things without the daunting risks and expenses of independent storefront startups. The human scale of their kitchens and abundant talent and optimism produce dishes that are closer to home cooking than they are to fast food, both in quality and in quickness.”


Fill in the blank: “_______ says that the restaurant will feature ‘groundbreaking technology to add to the immersive dining experience’ which will appeal to all your senses. ‘There will be music playing, visual projects on the walls and on the tables, interactive ingredients that you touch, and obviously smell and taste coming from the food.’” Sound like Grant Achatz talking? Actually, it’s one David Zhao, who is opening a “5D,” robot-based hot pot experience in the South Loop called The X Pot. Nick Kindelsperger explains.

Buzz 2


I’ve probably used that headline before, but some things are just inevitable (how many times do you expect to see “Electile Dysfunction” between now and November 2020?) Anyway, Anthony Todd talks to CH Distillery’s Tremaine Atkinson about taking over the venerable… well, at least old… brand of Chicago rotgut: “The acquisition of Malört instantly doubled the size of CH Distillery — they now make as much Malört as they do all their other products combined. But Malört fans need not fear: Nothing is going to change.”


“Rooftop bar” is a phrase that normally turns me off—not against them, but they’re sure to be adequately covered by others—but I have to say that Fifty/50 Group’s Utopian Tailgate, atop the Second City building, sounds like zany fun as Grace Wong describes it: “Seating areas are separated by giant Connect 4 walls that are meant to encourage some friendly competition between groups. Some booths have disco balls, there’s stadium seating for mini golf, and a ‘field of dreams’ area will include rotating attractions like adult bouncy houses, mechanical bull rides and Spikeball. Don’t miss out on the mini table games you can order to your table, like flip cup or other classic board games.”


Steve Dolinsky reports on HFC & Shawerma Grill, which has a menu half from Iraq, half from Bangladesh, and on Libanais, a Lebanese restaurant and bakery which expanded recently in Lincolnwood: “You might see them grill off kebabs or assemble appetizer platters. But the real action is in back, where two massive kitchens work simultaneously. One on savory items, the other on sweets, namely, baklava.”


Everybody was talking about these snippets at Chicago mag from an obviously longer interview with Rick Bayless, because he’s franker than he was before his mother passed away last year about the less than happy home he grew up in (if you’ve read interviews with brother Skip, you’ve heard some of that already) and how he triumphed over a discouraging childhood: “Writing my memoir has been hard, because it was a really ugly childhood. My parents were not very encouraging. Most of the time they just rolled their eyes at me because I wanted to do stuff way beyond my years.” (They were also talking about the original illustration for the piece, which thankfully has been changed.)

Oh and by the way, I guess that means that… Rick Bayless is writing a memoir, did we know that?


Dunning’s Market—not in Dunning but in Flossmoor—is an old time butcher shop that reinvented itself as a gourmet shop, Ji Suk Yi tells us at the Sun-Times.


Leon Finney Sr. started Leon’s BBQ, which was one of the first south side barbecue spots to get citywide attention. His son, Reverend Leon Finney Jr., was in the news recently for saying he was going to start Leon’s up again in response to Denzel Washington asking about it. But Finney Jr., well known as a political fixer and landlord (some say slumlord) on the south side, manager of one-fourth of the public housing in Chicago, is in the news this week as his financial empire, built on payouts from city and federal programs, faces collapse. The Sun-Times’ piece is must reading.


The new iteration of Entente in River North hardly betrays its lineage from Schwa—the stylishly upscale room doesn’t blast hiphop like the Lincoln Avenue location did, and the delicate and beautiful dishes, bedecked with flowers, seem much more refined (but so does Schwa these days). Seafood dishes in particular—fjord sea trout with tiny bits of compressed melon and olive, ora king salmon with sweet corn and fennel—are exquisite. The one knock I had is that there are so many sweet touches even in savory dishes, it was a little bit of palate relief when pastry chef Jared Bacheller’s desserts turned out to be a bit on the savory side.

Uvae is a friendly wine bar in Andersonville with a nice-looking menu that started off well, both in terms of well-chosen wines and a couple of good vegetable dishes (zucchini in mole and some roasted carrots with za-atar). Alas, it went downhill from there, not only because an octopus dish was a little over the hill and a sausage “pie” landed harder than a meatball sub, but because a kitchen without many customers on Tuesday took about 20-25 minutes between course—even with a glass of wine in my hand, that made for a long evening.

Perilla is the new Korean BBQ spot in the same space as the short-lived San Soo, spin off of San Soo Gab San. The aim is to transcend the cliches of Korean BBQ with other things you don’t expect—so there’s a beet salad with goat cheese and a side of roasted brussels sprouts. Someone else’s cliches, I guess. Honestly, in the end I was just happy with them doing Korean BBQ pretty well—some really nice bright-tasting pickles in the panchan, pretty good fried chicken wings, and the miso and sesame oil sauces tasted fresh, not out of a big drum—add in the spectacular setting (a triangle building with big windows looking out on a gritty-glitzy corner of Milwaukee near the tracks downtown) and I enjoyed this hipster version of a comfy old shoe of a cuisine.