I’m a little burnt-out on foodie documentaries, many are not really deep enough for a full feature running time, so you can tell I recommend Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent by the fact that I ate up two hours of Jeremiah Tower’s improbable life like candy. Tower was a rich child raised in hotels like Eloise, who turned his loneliness into cooking; fast forward 15 years and he walks into a hippie restaurant, Chez Panisse, as handsome in whites as Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, creating (at least that’s the film’s version of things) the American food revolution by applying French diligence to California product. Drugs, lovers, betrayals and celebrity follow (though the film is a bit too shy about the first two or three), but eventually he burns out and vanishes—to Mexico, mostly. Until he tries a comeback…

Tower is a compelling character, a patrician WASP with an unplaceable Anglo-Harvard accent and a life both charmed and cursed, who must have seemed as alien as David Bowie to all those fuzzy Oakland hippies. But the film is also highly skilled at evoking his journey through a mix of actual home movies, recreated scenes and skillfully metaphorical moments (a scuba diving scene proves that his truest kin is a giant tortoise). There are things I could argue with—I wonder if, rather than being the most wonderful wonderfulness ever, his socialite-packed Stars wasn’t a betrayal of his earlier work at Chez Panisse, and thus the original sin of celebrity chefdom—but it’s fascinating and enlightening, and worth seeing in the theater now. (Now playing at Landmark Century Center.)


I sometimes think Phil Vettel takes too long to review things, but when he says he was about to review Cantina 1910 (but then Diana Davila up and quit), I get the sense that he was burning to talk about her—and the result is that Mi Tocaya Antojeria is maybe reviewed a little too soon, as he gives a picture of a place still getting its act together. Still, you can’t argue with this enthusiasm: “The most intriguing dish, however, is also Davila’s chef-iest. It bears the provocative name ‘peanut butter y lingua,’ and consists of crisped cubes of braised beef tongue in a complex and delicious sauce of peanuts, cured tomato and chile de arbol, accented with bay and cilantro leaves. Rich in flavor and beautifully composed, topped with cooked red onions that provide color contrast to the vivid orange-red sauce, this is as much a must-order dish as anything dubbed ‘peanut butter and tongue’ can ever be.”


Anthony Todd is won over by Ronero, flaws and all: “While, like all pan-[insert region here] restaurants, the menu is a little bit incoherent, everything is well executed enough that, somehow, it works, and I don’t mind seeing yucca with mojo and ropa vieja next to ceviche and alfajores.” (Chicagoist)


In yet another blow to the Democratic Party after November 8, its unofficial Chicago headquarters—Schaller’s Pump, oldest bar in the city—closed Saturday night, following the death last year of Jack Schaller, who ran it since 1960, or about 1/3 of the total time it existed. In what will strike libertarians as quite the irony, the reason the family is having to close the Democratic stronghold is that with Jack’s death, it no longer qualifies for a senior citizen tax exemption—and can’t afford to keep going at normal Cook County levels of taxation.


Sad news: the tiny cured fish gem Snaggletooth, ranked #6 on The Fooditor 99, is closing this summer, at least in its present form. We suspect that this won’t be the last we’ve seen of Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim’s wonderful way with fish, though. (Eater)


Graham Meyer sees big things in the tiny The Texican: “The brassy choices shine. The tacos tortillaed in flour deserve bouquets, the stewed-pork guisado ($8.50 for two) pair brightened by pickled onions and cilantro, and the Gulf shrimp ($9.95 for two) well proportioned with hearty shellfish, chipotle crema and red cabbage. Texas chili mac ($8.25) coats elbow noodles in warmth-trapping beany, tomatoey chili and shredded cheese, all hominess and comfort. Even without any long-standing Texas nostalgia, the dish works as the Proustian madeleine to a thousand potluck casseroles past.” (Crain’s)


I mentioned to Friend of Fooditor Chris Chacko that I liked Carrie Schedler’s piece on him in Chicago magazine and his reply was typical for him—”I spent a year trying to convince her not to do it.” Well, be glad she not only provided this profile of the Sherlock of Chicago coffee, which offers lots of detail on how he tailors coffee for each restaurant, but two sidebars—one in which he tells you how to make better coffee at home, and one in which he analyzes different store-bought coffees (in other words, tells you what’s wrong with each one).


Inspired by their gig in Chilhowie, Virginia as it was, Smyth and The Loyalist would be a lot different if John and Karen Shields had taken the other job they were offered years ago—running Charlie Trotter’s Vegas restaurant. They talk about that road not taken in this excellent Plate piece by Amy Cavanagh: “The job came with [a] pay increase and the chance to develop their own menu, but after starting to work on the project, they realized their hearts weren’t in it. ‘I was ready for something new, but I knew it wasn’t the right move,’ [John] Shields says. ‘The product probably isn’t the best in the desert, and the lifestyle was one that I wasn’t really wanting to be involved in.’”


A sweet piece by Matt Kirouac at Zagat, looking at nine Chicago restaurants where the whole family pitches in—including Fooditor faves J.P. Graziano and Birreria Zaragoza. Best thing I learned: There’s a Chiu family behind Chiu Quon!


“What have you eaten lately?” is my favorite kind of food podcast, and The Feed has the Trib’s Phil Vettel on (by phone) and Nick Kindelsperger (in person) to talk about suggestions for James Beard visitors of where to eat. (Note that two of Kindelsperger’s many suggestions were among the things I brought for Bayless and Dolinsky to eat when I was on a couple of months back—La Chaparrita and Immm Rice and Beyond.)


Chef Travis Strickland isn’t a name I recognized—he was the chef at The Local (the restaurant in one of the Hiltons) a while back—but he wrote a fun piece for the L.A. Weekly about finding equivalents for the Chicago things that a chef who has moved to L.A. misses.