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September 2010 Archives

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Chicago pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer makes his big-screen debut Friday in "Kings of Pastry," premiering at 5 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State.

In 2007, a documentary film crew trailed Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago's French Pastry School, as he competed in Les Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition. At stake: the prestigious title of Best Craftsman in France, or M.O.F.

It was the first time cameras were allowed in to the three-day competition, which takes place every three to four years.

Pfeiffer had no problem mentally shutting out the cameras. "Whenever you're competing, you don't think about anything else. You don't even go to the bathroom for 10 hours," he says.

Pfeiffer has no problems multi-tasking. He spoke to me by phone as he blow-torched a sugar sculpture to bring for his appearance tomorrow on "Good Morning America." He also was finishing a chocolate sculpture in the shape of a giant film reel, which will be on display at Friday's Chicago premiere.

Filmmakers Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker come to this project having done the documentaries "The War Room" about President Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, and "Don't Look Back," about singer Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour of England.

Different topics, same message: "It's about people taking a risk," Hegedus says.

There's another Chicago connection to the project: Flora Lazar of Flora Confections, a friend of the filmmakers from her days living in New York, first suggested Pfeiffer and the M.O.F. competition as a possible film subject. Lazar was studying at the French Pastry School at the time.

How did Pfeiffer fare in the competition? The answer is out there, but let's not ruin it, shall we? See for yourself. "Kings of Pastry" runs through Oct. 7; go to siskelfilmcenter.org for the schedule and tickets. Here's a taste:

KINGS OF PASTRY Theatrical Trailer from Pennebaker Hegedus Films on Vimeo.

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Our own Dave Hoekstra spent some time with the oystermen (and women) of the Motivatit Seafood in Houma, La., whose Gold Band oysters are distributed by Villa Park's Supreme Lobster and Seafood to Chicago restaurants. Motivatit was one of six major suppliers of Gulf oysters before the oil spill; now, it's the only one.

Hoekstra's profile of the company, and the hard-hit industry, is in today's Food pages. You might be surprised to learn that oysters are rather frisky creatures, capable of producing 12 million sperm and eggs each. Or you might be inclined to slurp down a few (you're in luck -- Shaw's annual Royster with the Oyster fest starts Oct. 11, though those won't be Gulf oysters, but rather East Coast ones.)

What didn't make it into Hoekstra's story was his explanation of how an oyster gets from the Gulf of Mexico to the plate. Even in the best of times, it's a gritty seven-step process:

1. Boats go out from the Bayou Dularge dock, about 40 miles from Houma, La. The boats travel about three or four miles into the oyster bays, just before the Gulf waters.

2. Dredges are dropped and oysters are dredged up on the deck.

3. Oysters are placed on a large table, where they are deemed marketable. In the summer, the best oysters are put in a burlap sack and placed in a cooler. During the winter, they can be left on the deck because the atmosphere is already refrigerated.

4. The oysters are brought back to the dock, where 100-pound burlap sacks filled with oysters are unloaded on a conveyor belt into the back of a truck. About 25 sacks are put on a pallet in the truck. The sacks are transported to Motivatit Seafood under refrigeration.

5. At the plant, the sacks are dumped into a washer and oysters are separated. A $400,000 oyster grading machine with interior cameras automatically picks out small, medium or large oysters.

6. The oysters are shucked.

7. After packaging, the oysters are shipped mostly to distributors.

by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

James Beard Foundation Award-winning writers Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg are celebrating two anniversaries. Their book, The Flavor Bible, was published two years ago; their wedding took place two decades ago. theflavorbiblecoverdepix0808.jpeg

Among chefs, culinary students and sommeliers, their reputation is something more than solid. Chicagoan Belinda Chang, wine director at the Modern in New York, describes them as "the quintessential husband-wife pairing."

Dornenburg and Page may be atypically talented but, like other true foodies, they are generous. "They're true enthusiasts," Chang says. "They're not looking for everyone to fail. They want everyone to succeed."

That's a typical industry perspective, but Dornenburg and Page's generosity doesn't stop at the cellar or kitchen door. To celebrate the two-fold anniversary, they sent their friends copies of a later book, What to Drink With What You Eat - and, because a pairing book is useless without something to pair, a few bottles of Washington State wine. Here's Chang's succinct review of What to Drink With What You Eat: "genius."

whattodrinknewcoverdepix.jpeg Don't look for the snob factor - not in conversation with Dornenburg and Page, not in their books, (seriously: What to Drink with What You Eat includes ginger ale as a pairing) and not in the bottles. Oh, sure, the writers can go high-end, but we're in a recession here. Let's keep it real - and affordable.

There are worse things to do than pour a glass of wine and pore through this book. As you might guess from the title, there's a "What to Drink with What You Eat" section.

Here's fare for the Washington wines:

Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling 2008 ($21.99 at Binny's) serves well as an aperitif. It also goes with apricots, artichokes and asparagus. One letter into the alphabet, and the choices are broad. Riesling migrates across consonants and vowels. In a world written by Page and Dornenburg, everything does.

They offer different approaches. Another chapter is "What to Eat with What You Drink." Break out Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($11.99 at Binny's) with basil, bay, beef, braised dishes, dark chocolate, black currants, duck, pork, rabbit, rosemary . . . variety is the spice of wine.

Champagnes and sparkling wines beg for celebration. (There's something about that "pop.") Drink Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise ($10.99 at Binny's) with caviar or oysters, or with Asian food, gougeres, pasta or - good news - dessert. Brunch is in the lineup. Sleep in and have a lazy breakfast in bed. That's a good enough reason to pop the cork.

Twelve wines to keep at home, after the jump

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Amazingly, not a single chef bombarded Jean-Luc Naret (at right), worldwide director of the Michelin Guide, while he was in town for Chicago Gourmet to pry about the upcoming Chicago guide (because while it would be uncouth for a chef to do so, it's not for a reporter to ask whether a chef has done so. Ha).

"I'm sure they're talking about it among themselves, though," Naret said.

All the hemming and hawing and star-giving is done; the book is going to print soon.

So, save the date, chefs: The Chicago Michelin guide will be released on Nov. 18. But all the chefs who've earned stars will get a phone call from Naret on Nov. 17.

"Usually, I call them in the morning to tell them before the selection is out. And it's an interesting call to make, because you're bringing joy to them," Naret says.

Until then, you can immerse yourself in Michelin Chicago's rather engaging Twitter feed (which sounds like one person, but that's only to throw you off).

What, if any, impact will the departure of Bon Appetit editor-in-chief Barbara Fairchild mean for Chicago Gourmet, which this year benefited from the magazine's sponsorship and presence?

Not much, Fairchild hopes.

"Quite frankly, I'd love to attend next year just a private person because I do love the city so much and I have relationships with a lot of chefs there," Fairchild said today, back in her office in Los Angeles. Early last week, Fairchild announced she was leaving the magazine after 32 years; parent company Conde Nast is moving the magazine's operations to New York.

Reflecting on the jam-packed weekend, Fairchild was genuinely pleased by what she saw as a successful event, right up there with the magazine's Vegas Uncork'd event, albeit distinct in personality. "I loved the atmosphere. . . This one had a wonderful air of almost being in a country fair but in an urban setting," she said. Now, now, don't take those as fighting words. "It's well spread out," she continued. "Even though there were 13,000 people there, I never got the sense it was crowded. Everybody kept up the pace."

She admits, however, that those long lines were hard to miss.

"Some of the food lines were really long, but that's what happens when you get Rick Bayless and some of these other chefs cooking," she said.

While the discussion over how to remedy those nagging lines unfolds, Fairchild simply offered this: "Maybe instead of reducing the number of people, what you need is more food."

Fairchild will be back in our big city/small town in November to promote her Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook.

7-13-10 podgo daley 33x.jpg p.s. Let's have more of this next year, shall we?! (Minus, uh, Mayor Daley. And Barbara Fairchild as Bon Appetit editor).

I missed the first two years of Chicago Gourmet (year 1: maternity leave, year 2: vacation, if you must know), so I can't make comparisons between this year's fest, which ended Sunday in Millenium Park, and past seasons.

And I don't care to make the comparison, as others have, to this being the real Taste of Chicago. (Isn't that an insult to the Eli's Cheesecakes and Robinson No. 1 Ribs of the world who've been around for decades and, year in and year out, cater to the masses in Grant Park?)

Nope. Chicago Gourmet stands on its own, in beautiful Millenium Park, as a wine and food festival (emphasis on wine; more on that later) for the gourmands in all -- make that, some -- of us. At $150 a pop, this is not a fest for everyone, and the crowds that strolled the grounds could best be described as well-heeled.

This year, the festival, conceived and organized by the Illinois Restaurant Association, had an big, bold sponsor next to its name -- Bon Appetit magazine -- which added a certain degree of cachet. And attendance this year, organizers say, was up 25 percent to about 10,000 attendees -- which was very clear to those hoping to actually eat something.

There is an incredible amount to see and drink and attempt to eat at Chicago Gourmet. In addition to straight-out tastings, there were food and wine seminars, cooking demos on different stages and book signings. It can be overwhelming, for the eaters as well as the chefs. There were even more chefs added to this year's lineup, to balance out what in the past had been described as a major wine-to-food imbalance, but even if you were a newbie, like me, things still felt a tad askew.

Standing behind his station in one of the tasting pavilions, Urbanbelly/Belly Shack chef Bill Kim looked out at a line that stretched further than he could see -- a line I'd fell into for the tail end of one tasting session, and immediately re-joined for the next session, a strategy which, it turns out, wasn't so original -- and let out a bemused gasp. "Whew. That's a line," he told me. Kim said he'd limited himself just to cooking under this one tasting pavilion this year. "It's too crazy" to do more, he said.

For those who moved through this particular line, under this particular pavilion, it was a good little moment: five dishes from five restaurants (Kim's Urbanbelly, plus Arun's, Le Colonial, Boka and Japonais), right in a row. Arun Sampanthavivat smiling at you as he hands you a plate of satay and cucumber salad -- not bad. But you could only hold so many little plates, and so many of us in line resorted to wolfing down what we could as we moved through. And then, your moment was over.

A friend described the scene under another pavilion as more chaotic, in that there wasn't one continuous line, but rather several separate ones, and it was difficult to see which chef and restaurant you were getting in line for.

If there's a solution to line management at Chicago Gourmet, I don't know it. Lines are inevitable anytime you get thousands of people in one venue. The attitude to take here: Resign yourself to the fact that you're going to miss out on some things. Chicago Gourmet is about Chicago's vibrant culinary scene happening right now and the people shaping it (with some out-of-town celebs thrown in to impress the easily impressed), and getting a taste of all of that under one Frank Gehry-fied "roof."

Another moment: The line at one of the two dessert tents stalled for a bit, as Eddie Lakin of Edzo's Burger Shop hurried to pour shots of his now-signature Nutella shakes. As I got closer, I saw what the hold-up was: a young woman just chatting up Lakin about his hard-working vintage Multimixer machine. He was laughing and waved a goodbye as he handed her a shake, and then she was off and the line was moving again. We all got our shakes.

Finally: It is very easy to get sloshed at Chicago Gourmet. No lines there.

executive-chef-dale-levitski.jpg You knew it was coming . . .

Bravo will debut yet another "Top Chef" spinoff -- "Top Chef All-Stars" -- at 9 p.m. Dec. 1.

The inaugural series (because surely there will be more to come, along with the requisite cookbooks) brings back 18 TC alums who almost won, including Chicago's Dale Levitski (at left); Richard Blais, runner-up to our own Stephanie Izard, and the second season's weasely runner-up Marcel Vigneron, plus a few who were just too memorable to let fade to black (Spike Mendelsohn and Dale Talde of the fantastically profane fourth season, among them).

Joining the judging panel: Anthony Bourdain.

by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

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On the last day of New York Fashion Week, Naeem Khan and his wife Ranjana Khan (he designs clothing; she, jewelry) collaborated on a show that was art in motion.

In elegant pop-up lounges, attention went to art of a different kind: wine provided by a Fashion Week sponsor, Sherry-Lehmann Wines and Spirits.

The story begins last century. Phillipe de Rothschild, owner of Château de Mouton Rothschild, was in the habit of asking one renowned artist a year to design a label. (Baron Rothschild's daughter, Philippine, continues the tradition.)

"In 1975, he chose Warhol to design the label for the '75 Mouton," he says. Adams leans forward, his voice sparkling like wine. "When the wine came into Sherry-Lehmann, in the summer of '79, he came into the store ... We had the big bottles - the double mags, the imperials - on display, and he said, 'Hey! Can I sign? Can I sign these?'"

According to CEO Chris Adams, 2010 isn't Sherry-Lehmann's first year near the catwalk. The relationship began a few years ago. "It is a scale at which we don't operate," Adams observes, but "[Fashion Week] is a New York institution, something that's been around for a while ... We think of ourselves as a New York institution. It is a pretty good match."

Sherry-Lehmann's been selling wine for 76 years. New York Fashion Week has strutted its stuff, under one name or another (it started as Press Week) since 1943. Paris was under Nazi occupation. Holding Fashion Week in New York diverted attention from Paris and gave people a welcome, if brief, distraction from the grimness of the war.

Now, there are fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris - but make no mistake; the French have a foothold in Manhattan's off-stage bars. Adams is especially buzzed about one of this year's bottles. Sherry-Lehmann provided "a slew of wines" (the full list is below), "but this week has been about the Warhol Dom Perignon."

There's a direct connection. "Andy was a client, but he was also part of our marketing strategy." That's not something every liquor store can claim.

The story begins last century. Phillipe de Rothschild, owner of Château de Mouton Rothschild, was in the habit of asking one renowned artist a year to design a label. (Baron Rothschild's daughter, Philippine, continues the tradition.)

"In 1975, he chose Warhol to design the label for the '75 Mouton," he says. Adams leans forward, his voice sparkling like wine. "When the wine came into Sherry-Lehmann, in the summer of '79, he came into the store ... We had the big bottles - the double mags, the imperials - on display, and he said, 'Hey! Can I sign? Can I sign these?'"

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Mike Sheerin, who is stepping down as chef de cuisine at Blackbird to work on opening his own restaurant, said Thursday a Brothers Sheerin restaurant -- mentioned as a possibility in an earlier interview -- will have to wait.

"Pat [Sheerin, chef at the Signature Room at the 95th] is kind of locked in where he's at now," Mike Sheerin says. "I'm sure some day we will come together to do something. But at the moment, I'm going at this alone."

What Sheerin is planning (for next summer, he says) will be "definitely casual, definitely approachable."

"I want to continue to do the same kind of food now, which is creative and seasonal, but keeping it where I don't lose an audience. I want to gain an audience. I want to create an audience. I want to really bridge the gap between fine dining and casual dining," he says.

Meaning ... designer burgers? Hot dogs? Goat-themed gastropub? Nope. Nope. Nope.

"I think there is a lot of beer- and pork-focused food out there now, and I think the ones doing that all do that very well," he says. "But that's not what I want to do."

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By guest blogger Seanan Forbes

With the temperatures dropping and the evenings growing cool, red wines are looking increasingly attractive. It's not quite Burgundy weather -- sweaters, but not coats -- just about right for Pinot Noir.

There are some interesting Pinots in New Zealand. That's a long distance - in miles or time zones - for a conversation. When Felton Road's Blair Walter crossed hemispheres to discuss wine in New York's Sherry-Lehmann en route to flash trips through Denver and other cities -- might as well hit 'em all while you're here -- he came within conversing distance.

Walter is a winemaker, and he exhibits the dedication and passion that goes with that job -- along with a sense of humor. He describes their older Pinot Noir as "muscular" and "brawny," as if it were Heathcliff in a bottle. For the past few years, he's been steering the Pinot Noir in a gentler, lighter direction (less dramatic character brooding in a storm; more metrosexual contemplating where to go for dinner).

The winery is in a region with a cool climate, making it ideal for Pinot Noir. That's the bulk of their growth. Felton Road grows approximately 10 percent Riesling, 20 percent Chardonnay and 70 percent Pinot Noir. "It's far too cool for us to ripen any other red variety," Walter says.

Where taste is concerned, Walter gets a fair variety from Pinot Noir. Felton Road Bannockburn is a blend of three properties; like any good blend, it's easy and consistent. Walter describes it as "our starting wine." Calvert and Cornish Point are exemplars of their regions; they make bolder statements -- but remain subtler than the older bottles. The 2004 Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 is rich and complex, with flavors balancing across the tongue. The 2006 is heading in that direction, presenting a tough choice between "drink" and "save."

The grapes come from clean ground; Felton Road is a far stretch from anything resembling a city. Walter chuckles. "It's a three-hour drive for me to see the nearest traffic light," he says. The winery proudly sports organic and biodynamic certification. They grow cover crops to help with the soil. Helping with land-care are goats and chickens, some of which end up on the table (and with the wine, which is food-friendly stuff). Long-haired highland cows are soon to come.

Buy a bottle (easily done at Pantheon Wine Shoppe in Northbrook, and you support people who care about wine and land. Even Heathcliff could get behind that.

Roger Ebert has not posted online -- not yet, anyway -- the baby photo of him using the potty, which he jokingly referenced during our conversation for this story in today's Food pages. The man has a sense of humor. And bless him for it.

That humor is what makes Ebert's new rice cooker cookbook, The Pot and How to Use It, in stores next week, such a read. It is how a man who can't eat or smell still finds pleasure in cooking.

There are no photos in the book. To call it a cookbook is somewhat a stretch. An essay with a to-hell-with-it-just-experiment-and-you'll-be-ok attitude is more like it.

I'll spoil some of it for you. Here is Ebert, on the Pot's intuitiveness:
"How does the Pot know how long to cook the rice? It is an ancient mystery of the Orient. Don't ask questions you don't need the answers to."

On why you should make your own oatmeal:
"Take a good look at the label on that microwave oatmeal you've been eating. It's probably loaded with salt, corn syrup and palm and coconut oil -- the two deadliest oils on the planet. It's a dangerous travesty of the healthy food it pretends to be. But it's high fiber, you say? Terrific. You can die of a heart attack during a perfect bowel movement."

On using bottled sauces:
"A gourmet cook would never stoop to adding bottles sauce to menus, but I stoop all the time."

You get the idea.

Ebert genuinely believes the rice cooker can be a godsend for college kids and those in tight quarters, but he also knows the rice cooker isn't God. It can't cook a souffle, for instance (though if you've successfully made a souffle in the Pot, let me know!).

If there's one thing Ebert thinks everyone should try in the Pot, it's oatmeal. "Put oatmeal + water + fruit in pot and its ready for you. Prep time 30 seconds. Try it," he wrote on his notepad during our interview. I'm of the oatmeal-with-milk persuasion, but I tried it. And while I have to admit I'm sticking with my own tried-and-true method of cooking oatmeal, I was pleasantly surprised at how other dishes turned out. His book had me half-sauteing, half-steaming onions for a tasty corn chowder, throwing raw chicken in for a no-frills rice dish and spooning out a heavenly scented rice pudding.

It had never occurred to me to cook anything but rice in my rice cooker.

The Pot may be just the thing to get more of us in the kitchen. If Ebert is cooking, shouldn't we all be?

Not bad for a 2-year-old.

Province, 161 N. Jefferson, which celebrates its second anniversary in October, is opening a second location in Phoenix, of all places.

The second Province will be in the new Westin Downtown Phoenix. It's slated for a late February opening, chef Randy Zweiban says.

But why Phoenix? For one, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which manages the property, has been wooing Zweiban and his partner since they opened the West Loop restaurant. Also, "my parents live about 40 miles outside of Phoenix," Zweiban says.

The new Province will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and like its Chicago sibling, will be seasonally reflective, but with "a Latin American soul," Zweiban says.

He expects to travel to Phoenix "four to five times a year." "My baby is Chicago," he says.

In other chef news, David Posey moves up from sous chef to chef de cuisine at Blackbird as Mike Sheerin prepares to step out on his own -- or rather, with his chef brother, Patrick, as he recently told the Sun-Times' Carol Slezak.

Start detoxing now for the weekend of Sept. 24. It's going to be three day of face-stuffing, and it should be good.

First up: The Chicago Food Film Festival, a two-day affair, gets under way that Friday at the MCA Warehouse, 1747 W. Hubbard. Six short food-related films will be paired with related fare -- oysters, ice cream, cheese curds and more. The fest's second day pairs meaty, boozy films with burgers from Michael Kornick and his DMK Burger Bar.

Oh, and speaking of burgers: Also on Sept. 24, there is the Hamburger Hop, a 15-chef burger contest on the rooftop of the Harris Theatre, to kick off the third annual Chicago Gourmet food and wine festival in Millenium Park.

Fest organizers just released the full, jaw-dropping schedule for Saturday and Sunday, and it's thick with chefs on everyone's hot list, plus some celeb out-of-towners, including Jacques Torres, Cat Cora, Marcus Samuelsson and Fabio Viviani.

There are deals to be had when buying tickets for either the Chicago Food Film Fest or Chicago Gourmet.

For the film fest, you can get $5 off tickets ($10 off VIP passes) to the film fest when you go to chicagofoodfilmfestival.com/tickets.html and use the code "WOOLWICH" at checkout. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door.

For Chicago Gourmet, you can score free entry --a $150 value -- by, um, eating more. Specifically, by eating at five of the participating restaurants in the Dine Around program, then bringing those five receipts with you to Millenium Park.

Story and photos by guest blogger Seanan Forbes

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Ah, the U.S. Open: tennis, sunshine, some of the world's top athletes, stars watching athletes, people watching stars watching athletes . . .

Wherever there are masses, there will be shops, attractions, distractions, kiosks, advertisements and, of course, food and drink. If you're craving an over-boiled hot dog and a watered-down soda, then here's a tip: Don't go to Tony Mantuano's wine bar.

Rita Garza, senior director of corporate communications for the United States Tennis Association, says, "The U.S. Open is the greatest sporting event in the world, and food should go with that." According to Garza, the wine bar is "the most magical place you can be on the ground."

As of this year, there are two wine bars. Like temporary art exhibits, they are not here - or there - to stay. "None of this existed two weeks ago," Mantuano observes, "and it'll all be gone in five days." Mantuano-on-'break'-with-texting.jpg

Steve Paluck, line cook at Terzo Piano ("line cook extraordinaire," Mantuano murmurs) is in New York working in Mantuano's pop-up restaurant and enjoying a rare treat: watching people respond to what he's prepared.

"The people who come to this wine bar are blown away . . . They're sitting in a hallway, but it's turned into something luxurious," he says.

He's speaking of the club-level wine bar. Indoors, away from the sunshine, it is cooler but smaller than the original. The crew doesn't have much room to work in. The patrons would have space to sprawl, if only more of them would stay away. They don't. They come in thirsty hordes. Hungry, too. They tear into bread rubbed with tomatoes and draped with jamon and Manchego. They eat shrimp sauteed in olive oil with garlic, jalapeno and potatoes, flamed with ouzo. The taste takes Mantuano to Greece - "Santorini, like I'm on a yacht somewhere."

Patrons can't know it, but they're tasting a Mantuano travelogue. Chicagoans are savvier. Anybody who's eaten at Spiaggia knows that it's where food from all Italian regions comes to plate.

The Meatyballs Mobile is in business.

Phillip Foss' kosher meatball sandwich-dispensing truck officially hit the streets Saturday, after not much notice but for a few tweets. But then, this is kind of how Foss, who last month was canned as chef at Lockwood in the Palmer House Hilton, rolls, and we like it.

"This is so fly-by-night right now, I feel like an owl," Foss texted from the truck.

Foss has been talking food trucks for some time now. He tested the waters for one day on Matt Maroni's Gaztro-Wagon, and then again as a pop-up restaurant in Maroni's Edgewater storefront on a recent Sunday.

On today's Mobile menu: meatballs with marinara and mozzarella ($8); chicken curry with mango chutney ($7) and a cola-bourbon barbecue pork shoulder with apples ($8). Foss' secret to tender meatballs: good ol' fashioned Coca-Cola (which, as it happens, was the secret to the recipe he gave us for our story on helping your younguns develop global palates -- food truck foreshadowing!).

In other food truck news: The Gaztro-Wagon and three other Chicago trucks, All Fired Up, Flirty Cupcakes and Happy Bodega -- which launches tomorrow -- are contenders for the next season of the Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race," but you have to vote them in.

And the More Mobile, which is shaping up to be the Rolls-Royce of cupcake trucks, is aiming for a Sept. 15 launch.

Follow all of the above trucks on Twitter. Figuring out what to eat for lunch has never been so fun, or strategic.

His and hers food porn

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Remember our food photo contest?

Our winner, Sharlene King, 27, took the top prize for her casually scrumptious shot (above) of a chicken sandwich, made for lunch one weekend in her Andersonville apartment.

On Friday, King fulfilled her prize: a day in the studio of Chicago food photographer Stephen Hamilton, our judge for the contest.

Hamilton thought it would be fun to recreate King's photo. That process took hours and involved many scenes like this:

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"I wanted to keep it light and airy and summery with the color palate," Hamilton says. "There were a lot of natural elements of her sandwich, which is what really attracted me ... Really subtle peas coming out of the pea pods. So, I tried to keep a lot of those original elements."

After more than 100 shots (typical for a shoot of this nature), Hamilton and his team finally got the one they wanted. You'll notice (then, again, maye you won't) subtle char marks on the roasted peppers. The bread has more of an "artisan-baked feel."

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The experience left King, who works in digital design, impressed and exhausted.

"I'm both jealous and I totally don't want their job," King says. "It's a lot of fun but it's very tedious and detailed."

And now, for even more fun, check out the stop-motion video King made, using Hamilton's shots, of the sandwich's path to studio perfection:

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by guest blogger Seanan Forbes

Tea in cocktails. It may look like a new trend, but according to Peter Vestinos, now in charge of West Coast sales and marketing for Death's Door Spirits, it has quite a history. "Before we started cocktails in the U.S., there were punches in the UK," he says.

Ask Vestinos about history, and you're in for an education - in linguistics, as well as tradition. Supposedly, the word "punch" is derived from the Hindi word "ponch," which means "five," and punch has five elements: sweet, sour, bitter, weak ("something to water it down," Vestinos says) and spirit. There was always, Vestinos notes, a spice - and "that spice was usually tea." Not new, then. "Tea shows up early in our cocktail history," he says. How early? The 17th century. That's a drink with a lineage.

Rodrick Markus, founder and president of Rare Tea Cellar (the website, www.rareteacellar.com, will go live in a couple of weeks), has worked with more than a dozen Chicago bartenders on the making of tea cocktails. "I'm blown away by how each mixologist handles a blend," Markus says. "It's like a chef."

Sepia's Joshua Pearson, Adam Seger of Nacional 27, Death's Door Spirits' Vestinos and John Kinder each takes a completely different approach to tea and cocktails. Markus is never bored. "I absolutely adore it," he says.

Then again, he absolutely adores tea. Markus' background is in psychology and hypnotherapy. He started importing, and found his way into wine and cigars - and a problem. "Your best clients are abusing the product. It felt like the opposite way to how I wanted to be living," he says.

photos courtesy Rare Tea Cellar

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2010 is the previous archive.

October 2010 is the next archive.

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