Stollen Memories: Dinkel’s Bakery Feeds the Christmas Spirit

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset By Amber Gibson

My love affair with German bread began in 2007, when I spent a year studying abroad in Germany. Every little town seemed to have a baker on each corner, up before the sun kneading dough and baking bread. Countless frigid winter mornings, my only incentive to get out of bed in the morning was the smell of breakfast brötchen (bread rolls) wafting through my window from the bakery across the street.

The culture of fresh-baked bread and the multitude of hearty loaves studded with nuts and seeds, or a sharp pumpernickel or rye spoiled me terribly. Sliced bread from the grocery store? Oh, the horror! It was in Bickenbach, a small village outside Darmstadt, where I was first introduced to good German stollen—less cloying, more buttery and much tastier than fruitcake. Here in Chicago, many bakeries offer their take on the sweet bread, but none quite captures my taste buds and brings back my memories of the pleasantly plump surrogate oma baker in Bickenbach feeding me extra sweets to fatten me up like the stollen at Dinkel’s. Continue reading

The Eat Beat: Things get explosive when cops talk food

Chris Garlington and David Haynes

It’s Friday night at Cigar King in Skokie, and that means CPD Sergeant David Haynes and Chris Garlington are there, hosting their online radio show. At the back of the shop, sitting amidst a crazy tangle of cords, Haynes and Garlington suck their cigars and adjust the levels on the mixer board. The pair have hosted their talk radio show, “The Dave and Chris Show!” every week since 2007, and their “Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” a compendium of cheap and usually greasy cop favorites, came out in January. They hold court at Cigar King, bantering for two hours about pretty much anything from family life to politics.

Hang out with them for a little bit, and it’s easy to see how their chemistry translates into talk radio. Garlington is an irascible guy with a motor mouth, and coincidentally a liberal. Haynes is conciliatory, bluff and a conservative. The conversation inevitably turns to food—Costco hot dogs, to be precise. “They actually are good drunk food,” Haynes ventures. Garlington pounces. “And the show comes to a screeching halt. They’re terrible.” Haynes just chuckles.

After the show, Haynes and Garlington, plus longtime contributor Ken Parr head out to Jimmy’s Red Hots for a late dinner. The Humboldt Park joint, which earned an entry in their guide, makes perhaps their favorite hot dog in the city. That partly explains why, even on this unseasonably cold March night, they’re willing to stand at the counter, their breath smoking in the apparently unheated stand, and wolf down tamales, red hots and fries. It’s nearly ten, but neighborhood kids are still trickling in. After a few gruesome stories about crime in the area—Haynes worked this district, 025, last summer—the conversation turns to hot dogs once again. Continue reading

Confessions of a Foochebag: Del Seoul’s Korean tacos charm a cranky stomach

By Michael Nagrant

Five years ago, I was just a hungry kid with a dream. As I became a professional food writer, I’ve tried mightily to stay close to those roots. Somehow, though, I’ve found that lately I’ve become a bit of a grumpy critic. In the zeitgeist culinary parlance, I’ve been a bit of a foochebag, aka foodie douchebag.

I knew I’d hit rock bottom when I found myself watching a new episode of “Check, Please!” and yelling at the TV screen because a young woman recommended a Mexican restaurant that had a huge wall mural of a cheesy dude in a sombrero.

I mean I was crankier than the crotchety Sun-Times critic Pat Bruno after being forced to review a non-Italian restaurant with hearing-aid-threatening noise levels. There had been all kinds of signs of my decline. One of the most poignant came earlier this year when Roy Choi got named a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef.

For those who don’t know, Choi is responsible for one of the biggest Twitter food sensations, aka the California-based Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck. With a wink and a jar of kimchi, Choi tapped into an unquenched, but previously unknown desire for Asian-spiced and marinated meat-filled tacos.

But, disgusted that once again Curtis Duffy, the naturalistic molecular gastronomer over at Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel had again been overlooked by Food & Wine, I twittered something like “Dude I’m sure your (Choi’s) food is good, but you make tacos.”

For years I’d been calling for big-time chefs to bring their talents to the masses in an affordable way. And yet, when someone did, I discounted his efforts because he wasn’t serving thirty-seven-course tasting menus. I now realize I owe Mr. Choi an apology.

I came to this realization over tacos one afternoon at Del Seoul, the new Korean “street” bbq taco stand in Lakeview. As much as I love to laud Chicago chefs’ originality, Del Seoul probably doesn’t exist without Choi. Continue reading

My Favorite Things: Vegas Edition

Girl and the Goat

By Michael Nagrant

If he weren’t dead, I’d sure like to have a few words with Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable about the weather in Chicago this past July. I mean I’m sure in 1779, Lake Michigan’s unbesmirched shores were breathtaking and all that. But, as the area’s first non-indigenous settler (usually this means Native American-exploiting white dude—but, refreshingly du Sable was a black Haitian who married a Potawatomi woman and became a high-ranking member of the tribe) Du Sable must have known (he set up a fur-trading post on the north bank of the Chicago River) that, when the pelt business dropped off in July because it was hot and swampy and no one wanted to drape their sweaty bodies in beaver, well, the sticky heat might also be a minor annoyance for future generations. Of course, Du Sable was no Al Gore, and thus couldn’t be expected to anticipate global warming, let alone invent the internet, and so I guess the jungle climes we’ve endured most of this past month aren’t entirely his fault.

Still, what to do when my curly blond fro is frizzin’ like one of those “just add water” sponges that turns in to a four-foot-wide dinosaur from the humidity? Head to Las Vegas in August. Crazy, right? Well, as the joke goes, it’s a dry heat.

Actually, while I’ll relish swimming next to Elvis-jumpsuited dudes in huge football-field-sized pools while sipping on suntan-lotion-scented pina coladas in the shade of fake plastic architecture, my real intent, as it always is, is to discover the real side of Vegas food. While I’ll check out French masters Joel Robuchon’s and Guy Savoy’s places and local boy Shawn McClain’s new Vegas spot Sage, I’ll also be out searching for what some consider the best Northern Thai food in America at Lotus of Siam and the Japanese charcoal-grilled fare at Raku. However, while I’m baking in that arid desert, I couldn’t leave you without a few of my new favorite things. Every single one of these tasty treats is as sure a bet as a pair of panties gracing a Tom Jones concert stage. See you in a few weeks. Viva Chicago, baby! Continue reading

Jazz Hands: Hooping it up at the po-boy emporium, Mac and Min’s

Roast Beef Po-boy

By Michael Nagrant

Ever wonder how Utah, that bastion of alcohol-eschewing, modesty-pursuing, piety-peddling Mormons ended up naming their basketball team after the devil’s music, Jazz? Well, to quote Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei’s character in “My Cousin Vinny”) when questioned about the correct ignition timing on a 1955 Chevy Bel Air with a 327-cubic-inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor: That’s a bullshit question.

The Jazz originated in New Orleans in 1974 and the Mormons had no hand in the moniker. Fortunately for Utah there was also a voodoo curse over those early Nola teams. In 1979, though they would have been the first team to draft and thus eligible to score the pride of Michigan State, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the New Orleans Jazz traded away that draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for the mediocre late-career services of Gail Goodrich. Continue reading