Photo: Michael Silberman
By Amber Gibson
Chef Homaro Cantu can make cheesecake without sugar, fat or cheese. Instead, all he needs is a spoonful of non-fat sour cream, a lemon wedge and a miracle berry tablet. Lemon and sour cream might not sound like dessert, but the miracle of the berry is that it makes these two ingredients taste better than Eli’s Cheesecake.
Cantu, a molecular gastronomer, among other things, has spent more than eight years researching the rare miracle berry, which temporarily makes sour things taste sweet. At a recent cooking class at his Michelin-starred Moto restaurant, he demonstrated to wide-eyed guests how easy miracle berries are to use.
“You just made cheesecake in a split second,” Cantu tells his class of fourteen students, after they diligently squeeze several drops of lemon juice over their servings of non-fat sour cream. After exchanging incredulous looks, one by one each person eats a miracle berry, then tries the sour cream. It’s unanimous. This stuff tastes good. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Anthony Tahlier Photography
By Eric Lutz
I should admit, before we proceed, that I was one of the many Chicagoans who dropped their forks in sadness when I learned Alpana Singh was leaving “Check, Please!”—the show she’s hosted for the last ten years—to open her own restaurant.
I’m a professional journalist in my mid-twenties, so you can guess what my annual income is. Suffice it to say, after rent and groceries and gas and a couple nights at the local watering hole, there’s not much left to be a serious foodie. But you didn’t have to be to love watching “Check, Please!”—alongside the four-star restaurants most of us could only dream of affording, there were BYOs and greasy spoons and food trucks much more in the financial wheelhouse of those of us making hourly.
As Singh will tell you, a big part of the show’s populist appeal were the people themselves. Each week, three random Chicagoans got together to talk about their favorite restaurants—that’s going to bring about populism the same way sitting three random movie goers down to review the latest releases at the multiplex would.
But as the knowing yet hugely accessible host, Singh granted the reviewers legitimacy. She gave meaning and weight to the criticisms and compliments the three guests each week served the restaurants. It’s one thing for three regular Chicagoans to sit around and opine about food, but it’s another thing entirely for the youngest woman to ever be a Master Sommelier and the former director of wine and spirits for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and all-around restaurant expert to present those opinions as valid and important and even prescient. Read the rest of this entry »
If you want to get your fix of gourmet mini donuts from Beavers Coffee & Donuts, you normally look to their website or Twitter to find the food truck’s location and hours. But once Beavers opens its first storefront restaurant in the Chicago French Market in early January, you’ll know where and when to get your hot breakfast on demand.
Since the Beavers truck opened in December of last year, requests for its catering service—and for donuts after the truck’s weekday morning-through-lunch hours—grew so rapidly that co-owners Gabriel Wiesen and Jim Nuccio started planning an expansion this summer. “Logistically, it makes sense to have a storefront in conjunction with a food truck,” Wiesen says. “Being able to facilitate those requests was really hard without a store.”
Operating a food truck makes starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant a much easier task. For starters, the idea has already been tested: Food-truck owners know what sells, know who their customers are and, when scouting for locations, know where their customer-base lives. They already are making money, and they’ve built a brand that can attract investors. Read the rest of this entry »
For foodies who can’t decide where to dine, Dishcrawl makes eating out easy by skipping the selection process altogether. Like a pub crawl for food, Dishcrawl organizes a walking tour of four different restaurants for a $39 edible adventure you don’t have to plan. The Wicker Park crawl kicks off at sustainable eatery Prasino on November 7, and another crawl goes downtown to explore the Loop on November 13.
1. It’s a hit elsewhere. Already established in dozens of cities across the country and Canada, Dishcrawl is ready to give Chicago some love after a test run this past April. “In the Bay Area, where [Dishcrawls] are happening all the time, they’re getting mostly food lovers, but also twenty- and thirty-somethings who want to try something new,” says Tessa McLean, one of Dishcrawl’s two Chicago ambassadors. “Food has become so important in Chicago, it really is a food town.” Read the rest of this entry »
You can stop in for a cup at the new DAVIDsTEA shop in Bucktown, but the Canadian loose-leaf tea retailer would rather infiltrate your kitchen cabinets. It’s already infiltrating Chicago: The Bucktown location opened earlier this month, and new stores in Lincoln Park and Lakeview are slated for later this fall.
“Tea is amazing at nighttime, it’s amazing to share with friends, and it’s also great in the morning and in the afternoon,” says co-founder David Segal. “Because it fits into people’s lifestyle so well, people have been waiting for something like this for a while.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Nolan Feeney
If a global bacon shortage strikes in 2013 and your favorite pig product goes scarce, now you know where to find your emergency fix: the annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest.
The competition, which celebrated its eighth year on a recent Sunday, is the largest apple-pie contest in the country. Put on as a fundraiser by the Friends of Holstein Park neighborhood organization, it’s also home to pies with plenty of creative license. Bacon showed up in multiple entries, and past ingredients have included bourbon, basil, pine nuts, maple syrup, cheddar cheese and even a crust with a henna ink drawing topping off the flakes. The contest rules weren’t always so open-minded—bacon was originally outlawed—but now the only limitations are a top and bottom crust, no uncooked eggs, and no other fruit. Read the rest of this entry »
Boasting a company small enough to “roast on demand,” Bow Truss Coffee Roasters call themselves a “collective of veteran coffee professionals.” The crew at Bow Truss seeks to simplify the coffee experience. They roast in-house, allowing customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a raw bean turns into a pour-over masterpiece that quells even the most discerning of coffee drinkers. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Jenny Yoon
A longtime staple in image-conscious Los Angeles, Chicago has jumped on the juice trend, with new spots like Peeled, just south of Lincoln Park close to the river, popping up around town. A streamlined space with organic, locally sourced produce ripe for consumption, Peeled offers a cold-beverage option that isn’t a tall iced latte or a pint. And it moves away from Jamba Juice’s sugar-loaded “smoothies.” Given the Midwest’s penchant for food that aims to clog arteries (here’s looking at you, ridiculous poutine trend), Peeled also offers a refreshing option that actually incorporates vegetables.
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Fear No Art’s “The Dinner Party” at the Mayne Stage Theatre is a meshing of theater, art and a tasting event—all rolled into a delicious dinner party. Three artists stand on stage with the event organizer who moderates as the artists and audience partake–in the food and conversation, at least via Twitter. The event is streamed live, so anyone can participate on Twitter.
Event organizer Elysabeth Alfano’s impetus for creating the event was a dinner party she hosted a year ago for ten artists. The conversations were so evocative and stimulating that she wanted to replicate it for more than just a small group of people. Alfano curates her guests, choosing three artists who don’t know each other but have something in common. Read the rest of this entry »
Illustration: Elena Rodina
By Elena Rodina
The stretch of Devon Avenue in the Rogers Park area is mostly known for its Indian stores, and my friends head there if they want to buy ingredients for tandoori chicken, a bright sari or some golden bangle bracelets. However, in the late eighties and throughout the nineties, the area was densely populated by immigrants from the Soviet Union. By now, most of them have left the neighborhood, having moved to the greener suburbs. But there are still a couple of places that are full of hidden Slavophile treasures.
One such place is a Russian supermarket named Three Sisters, after the famous Chekhov play. When I walked in there for the first time, I immediately felt at home. Not just because the place was stuffed with nesting dolls, dark bread, sour cabbage and other things that are dear to my heart, but also because the sales clerks there project a traditional Russian attitude toward clients: grimness and neglect. It’s the perfect place for misanthropes tired of the broad smiles and unavoidable enthusiasm of American customer service. At Three Sisters, you will be greeted by silence and suspicious looks, at least at first. It’s a matter of style, though; the clerks are nice and helpful once you start talking to them. Read the rest of this entry »