Uh-oh, Crain’s has some bad news about one of our favorites, Lincoln Park French restaurant The Blanchard: “The majority owner of the fine-dining Lincoln Park French restaurant the Blanchard has filed suit against executive chef and minority partner Jason Paskewitz, alleging the chef diverted more than $548,000 for personal use… The accountant uncovered a pattern of questionable transactions, including… Debit charges totaling $61,478.78 for personal items purchased from Barney’s of New York, Bloomingdale’s Sports Authority, Chicago Children’s Museum, Prada, and 578 separate charges from Monsignor Murphy’s, a bar in the Lakeview neighborhood.” It remains to be seen what the response will be to the allegations, but they don’t bode well for the longterm survival of the much-loved, well-reviewed French restaurant.


Nick Kindelsperger goes to Roister for lunch on its first day, and likes it: “The fried chicken sandwich is incredible. Fried to a glowing golden hue, the crust on the chicken is shatteringly crisp, and it remains so until the final bite. Like the best fried chicken, there’s no separation between the chicken and crust… Each bite is complex — juicy, salty, fascinatingly floral — yet balanced.”

But some Facebook users including Roister owner Nick Kokonas didn’t like how the story framed it as if the chicken sandwich alone was a crazy $29 for lunch—yes, technically they do say “meal” in the headline, but many seem to have read it as if it were a $29 sandwich. (Note that writers don’t write headlines.) The sandwich alone is $13, comparable to PQM’s pork belly gyro ($13.50) or Cold Storage’s grilled whitefish sandwich ($14)—and a three course lunch for $29 isn’t that much more than the $22 Restaurant Week three-course lunches at NAHA or Blackbird that get a Tribune rave every year.


Among the many things on the south side northsiders may not know exist is the alternative weekly South Side Weekly. And their latest issue is a full guide to the south side by neighborhood, full of interesting things, not all of them food, but certainly hitting some highlights around the area (including Sky Full of Bacon fave Pizza Castle, which I was pleased to read has gained traffic since it’s gotten TV coverage… at least partly from producers who’ve contacted me after reading my writings about it). Check the whole issue out, it’s highly recommended.


Mike Sula has plenty to say on the menu at John Manion and Mark Steuer’s El Che Bar, but I’m going to quote this part because it was one of my favorite dishes too: “You know a chef is talented when he makes the most overplayed item ever recorded by man—a beet-and-cheese salad—taste exciting. The blistered char on a disk of scamorza cheese and a bitter gremolata made from the beet’s greenery play counterpoint to the powerfully sweet roots.” He likes the meats cooked on the open hearth as well: “If you’re not getting that already meaty dishes are significantly brightened by the season’s current bounty, check out the juicy prawns, fairly exploding from their exoskeletons, luxuriating with charred sweet peppers, garbanzo bean puree, and a red-pepper-and-tomato salsa criolla… Lamb riblets with an almost pastrami-like quality are showered in shaved fennel and come plated with a minty yogurt.” (Reader)


I ran into Todd Stein once in my neighborhood, which is near many of the restaurants of the 4 Star Group, and he complained about how that group didn’t get any love from food writers. And honestly, it is hard to describe their restaurants (Crosby’s Kitchen, Remington’s, Frasca, etc.) without using a phrase like “family-oriented” or even “suburban-style,” which comes off like a bit of a slam. (Or, in Tuco & Blondie’s case, by invoking Chi-Chi’s.) They do lots of business, the food’s of good quality, but their stroller-mom-and-family niche gets no respect.

Anyway, so it’s not totally surprising that Stein, an Italian food star a few years ago, has left 4 Star and now found himself a spot as the third head chef in not much over a year and a half at Formento’s, the B. Hospitality Italian place that just brought on chef Stephen Wambach (Epic) last spring. Will Stein finally crack the code on this big, handsome, promising place and make it the top-notch Italian star it’s been meaning to be all along? (Eater)


If there’s a major food street in Chicago that never gets reviewed, well, Devon Avenue and its Indian and Pakistani restaurants aren’t the only one but they’re up there. There’s a perception, not entirely unfounded, that nothing changes and everything’s the same there, but Michael Nagrant offers a look at a new and somewhat different spot, Meerath Kabob House: “No dish at Meerath, however, is more succulent than mahogany-colored, crispy-skinned hunks of luscious chicken dripping in hot chili oil tossed with green chilis and golden fried strips of fragrant ginger. It’s called chicken balochi tikka, and it’s served tableside in a sizzling bowl. The sides of the bowl and chicken are covered in a salty garam masala spice blend that I ended up scraping off the sides and eating solo once the chicken was gone. The fried ginger had an addictive French fry-like quality, and I ended up digging deep into the dish to rescue any remaining bits. I considered ordering a packet of the stuff to go.” (Redeye)


Here’s a sweet, flavorful story from the Trib’s pizza month: Louisa Chu talks to the original Nancy, that is, Annunziata Palese of Nancy’s Pizza. About how her husband Rocco probably invented Chicago stuffed pizza. And about how Nancy’s expanding quickly into franchising resulted in literal pizza wars—when a couple of franchises were bombed in the early 80s.


Bloomberg has a story on that Silicon Valley company that was going to revolutionize the egg industry by making them out of plants, Hampton Creek. Not so fast, basically: “In August the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department launched probes of Hampton Creek for possible securities violations and criminal fraud… Hampton Creek denies any wrongdoing.” If you’ve heard of it in Chicago, the reason probably has to do with the fact that two prominent Chicago chefs—Chris Jones of Moto and Nate Park of Moto, Knife & Tine and elsewhere—joined it a couple of years ago as R&D chefs.


Nobody has any details why, but the famous Uptown honky-tonk Carol’s Pub is closed per Facebook. The Sun-Times had a great piece on Carol’s a few years ago, but I can’t find it now; get a taste in this piece from the Uptown Update.


As Anthony Todd observed on Fooditor Radio a while back, anyone who loves fine dining in Chicago needs to be taking it in once in a while in Milwaukee, too. So just go ahead and bookmark the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s 30 Best list now, and if you haven’t been to number one, Ardent, go there, and then keep working your way down.


That new Filipino market is big news, but Anne Spiselman points us to a host of Korean markets, of which giant H-Mart and Boong Joo are only the start. (Crain’s)


Gary Alan Fine is a Northwestern sociology professor—and a fellow foodie from LTHForum days. If somebody asked you what the hell the food world is all about these days, you couldn’t do much better than this essay that sums up how food became our theater.


Mental Floss talks about a new edible mushroom that’s been discovered here, a subspecies of chanterelles. Do not go looking for any mushroom without expert help, though!


I wrote up a quick history of south side Chicago barbecue for First We Feast this week. We’ve had a few of those lately but I offer a few recommendations of where to eat what that are a little different.


Taste Talks is this weekend, offering interesting panel discussions and other events with local chefs. Check it out here; I’ll be moderating a discussion about making kitchens more human-friendly, with Iliana Regan, Alpana Singh, Noah Sandoval and Karen Shields, at 10:30 on Saturday. Be there or I’ll go all Gordon Ramsay on you!


I love The Loyalist, been there three times already which I just don’t do because of all the new places I feel I should try, and for a casual place it makes such sophisticated school-of-Trotter food that I was a little unsure what I would think of its upstairs, tasting menu half, Smyth. Well, start with the atmosphere which is completely different—it feels like a big living room where the chefs are working quietly and pleasantly in the background, making your food. It’s not particularly like Oriole, but there’s similarity in the mellow vibe, where no one can yell at anybody or throw a panic. That’s great; whatever you find unwelcoming about fine dining, they don’t do it.

I found the food, though, more challenging than The Loyalist—more complex, but also less readily likable. There were some instant-wow dishes—that egg dessert thing is a mindblower—and also some that puzzled me, or put me off in some way. (I think it helped a lot having recently been to Japan, and thus being more receptive to seafood-based flavors, but I still found some just… odd.) But is it weird to say that I liked not liking all of it easily? So many tasting menus become predictable, we just had salmon so beef or venison must be next, and I feel like this was operating by a different set of rules I don’t quite grasp yet. I am left curious to learn more, as it evolves.