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November 2010 Archives

What's that? You missed today's Food section? No, you didn't. It ran last Sunday - click here to find those stories and more to help you through the holiday weekend. 10-24 hale bannos21 5717.JPG

For our cover story, writer Lisa Shames profiled Jimmy Bannos, the Heaven on Seven patriarch and Thanksgiving dinner junkie. Bannos is a refreshing subject for many reasons; here, we discover that at home, Bannos cooks much like the rest of us -- or our grandmothers.

In his Thanksgiving arsenal: Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic, which he uses in his stuffing; Wondra flour, whisked into his gravy along with heavy cream; and Kitchen Bouquet, a bottled seasoning sauce that fellow restaurateur Ina Pinkney turned him onto. Bannos rubs it all over his turkey; I've seen it used by a food stylist looking to add sheen to a burger.

There wasn't enough space to run all of the recipes Bannos gave us, but his turkey recipe is too much of a doozy not to share. Note that what follows is for a 25- to 28-pound turkey.

Roughly, you:

Preheat oven to 425.
Chop 1 bulb of celery, quarter 2 large onions and put those in a giant roasting pan with 2 bags of baby carrots.
Cut 2 pounds butter -- that's just the beginning -- into small squares and stuff in turkey's cavity.
Cut 1 pound butter -- there's more -- into small squares and tuck under the skin of the breast.
Massage 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning into the turkey.
Pour Kitchen Bouquet over turkey and massage all over skin.
Melt 3 pounds butter and pour over turkey.
Place turkey, uncovered, in oven and roast until "it gets a nice color brown, no longer than 45 minutes," Bannos says.
Then, cover with foil and continue cooking, basting every 30 minutes. Cook 15 minutes for every pound until done.

There is a reason why Thanksgiving comes but once a year. That reason is butter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Still glowing from its Michelin star, NoMI is closing -- but only for a facelift.

The restaurant on the seventh floor of the swanky Park Hyatt, 800 N. Michigan, will close after Jan. 30 for a mostly cosmetic overhaul. The goal is to reopen in June, a spokeswoman says.

Clearly, NoMI ain't broke. But this renovation has been in the works for about five years.

Urbanbelly/Belly Shack owner (and Michelin Bib Gourmand pick) Bill Kim, meanwhile, says he's consulting with several other chefs on "new concepts for the city" for 2011. He's not talking about a new member of the Belly family just yet -- though Kim still is holding fast to "my dream to put all the Bellys in one place," namely in the humble strip mall on North California that now houses Urbanbelly.

At Wednesday's party to celebrate the release of the first Michelin Chicago guide, there was a lot of chatter, but not much talk.

Jean-Luc Naret, the guide's director, didn't want to talk about the leak on Yelp that forced him to move up by one day the announcement of which Chicago restaurants snagged the coveted stars.

Laurent Gras, recipient of three stars for his work at L2O, didn't want to talk about his departure from the restaurant that had previously been couched in vague "for personal reasons" terms.

"I think we're pretty done with that. We just want to celebrate why we're here," said the Gucci-wearing Gras, who had flown back to Chicago from his home in New York to attend the fete at the Cultural Center. With him was wife Jennifer Leuzzi.

On Tuesday, it appeared Gras was L2O limbo -- at least to his boss, Rich Melman, who said he'd already started tweaking the menu here and there in Gras' absence. Earlier Wednesday, the ground had shifted, with Gras telling the Food & Wine blog that he and Melman, his now former boss, "always had different points of view on L2O" and telling the Eater Chicago blog that he's working on a new project in New York.

Even at shoulder's length, Gras was a hot topic among other chefs and party attendees, who still were scratching their heads at possibly the weirdest Michelin guide launch in history.

"I had this whole plan for how Wednesday [the original announcement day] would go," said Frank Brunacci, chef at Sixteen, which won one star. "The first call was going to be to my wife. The second call was going to be to my sous chef. Instead, I'm getting calls from friends in London and wherever, telling me they saw [the leak] online."

Weird, not surprisingly, still felt good to Michael Carlson, chef at Schwa, which also garnered one star. "It's exciting. It's always good to be acknowledged for what we do," he said. Asked if the Michelin rating will prompt him to change the way he or the restaurant operates -- like, say, adding a phone line -- he said, "I know it's faulty, but we like our formula." As for feeling the pressure from now on, he said, "Nah. I obsess about weirder things, like washing my hands 1,000 times."

And what of the little red guide itself, finally in the chefs' hands? More than a few chefs wondered aloud why stalwarts like Les Nomades didn't get a star. The team from Avenues, a two-star winner, said their listing was "outdated" -- it described a dish from a good 18 months ago. And Sprout's spunky chef Dale Levitski called the guide "too short and too small."

"Not enough restaurants got the stars they deserve," Levitski said. "Only two three-stars is bullshit. I think they were short 20 restaurants and stars. And I promise that we will get one star next year."

Next year -- this much they're talking about.

Michelin director Jean-Luc Naret was able to talk by phone Tuesday with L2O chef Laurent Gras, now a three Michelin star chef, but Gras' (former?) boss wasn't so lucky.

"I called Laurent about an hour and a half ago and left a message on his answering machine, on his cell phone," said Rich Melman, Lettuce Entertain You honcho.

About three months ago, Gras told Melman he wanted out for personal reasons. Melman told him to take some time and think through things, and early this month, Gras left.

"I really, truly don't know [if Gras will return]," Melman said. "My feeling is we're going forward. I love the team we have in place. And we've already made many changes, so hey, if he comes back, I'm thrilled and if he doesn't, I'm going forward."

That team includes chef de cuisine Francis Brennan; Doug Psaltis, who trained under Alain Ducasse, and Jeff Mahin.

Those changes include -- well, Melman says it best:
"There were souffles I didn't love. I thought some of the sushi, the sashimi should be more understandable. Some of the sauce weren't punchy enough.

"There was a chicken dish that I absolutely loved with a foie gras sauce and you had the option of truffles with it, and Laurent would make it for me at Christmas and I'd say, You've gotta put this on the menu. And he'd laugh and wouldn't do it. . . We put it on the menu and it's been selling like crazy.

"There is a rosemary croissant, a little, tiny one that was the best roll. People would always comment to me about it. And Laurent liked changing it all the time, and we'd get all these complaints from people. So I put the croissant back. . . There's been many, many little things like that. But Laurent set the standard for what that restaurant is, was and will be, and in that respect, I won't change it."

Melman says he and Gras talked about Michelin's arrival in Chicago; Gras was certain he wouldn't get three stars. "He always thought one or two," Melman said.

Melman is pleased with all the stars -- the three for L2O, and one each for Everest and Tru -- but like any driven restaurateur or chef, it's not enough. "There's never a restaurant that I'm not working on. There is no such thing as a perfect restaurant, one that can't be better," he said.

Whether L2O gets better with or without Gras remains to be seen; Melman says he's giving Gras a "couple months" to figure it out. Gras is expected to be at tomorrow's reception in Chicago for the Michelin guide; Melman has other obligations.

"There's a good chance he won't come back," Melman said. "Let me put it this way -- it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't."

Michelin worldwide director Jean-Luc Naret said Tuesday he doesn't know how the poster on Yelp got his hands on the list of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurants, but damned if he's going to let "David 'Primo' R" get away with it.

"We don't know yet if the book was sold in advance or if the book disappeared from one of the booksellers, who have all signed confidentiality agreements," Naret said. "We'll find out, don't worry. We'll make sure our legal people know exactly what happened. . . Obviously, there will be some legal issues."

Still, Naret was hardly flustered that the announcement of the first-ever Michelin Chicago guide didn't go down as smoothly as planned, or that the leak did anything to damage the credibility of the vaunted guide.

"There was too much speculation, so it was time to call the chefs," Naret said. "It was really a relief for them, and for [the media]."

Naret called each of the 23 chefs earning a star, including L2O's Laurent Gras, the chef who abruptly left the restaurant earlier this month. Gras was in New York and will fly back to attend a reception thrown by Michelin on Wednesday, Naret said.

L2O earned three stars, the highest honor, as did Alinea.

"We didn't know [Gras] was going to leave," Naret says. "But obviously, we've been there before. You have chefs who leave all the time."

Now that the Chicago guide is out and the champagne corks are popping, the 10 U.S. Michelin inspectors will get one week off. But next week, they start inspecting anew for next year's guide, Naret says.

The hallowed Michelin Guide awarded stars to 23 Chicago restaurants Tuesday, with the highest honor -- the coveted three stars -- going to Alinea and L20, as many food lovers had speculated.

The announcement by Michelin came a day after a person posted on the online review site Yelp a purported list of the restaurants that had received stars. The poster, listed as David "Primo" R., said he had a copy of the guide, which was slated to be released Thursday. His list was identical to what Michelin released this morning.

Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin's worldwide director, called each chef who had earned a star.

Grant Achatz, Alinea's chef, acknowledged the announcement and Naret's call felt "a little bit" anticlimactic, but added, "In today's day and age, with the way the Internet is, it's gonna happen. It is what it is. And it really screwed up Michelin ... Whether I hear today or tomorrow, does it really matter? Not really."

Achatz still planned on attending the reception Wednesday evening and returning to his restaurant, shutting it down, "opening a lot of champagne" and toasting with his staff and diners.

"These things come in life very rarely, and I've done a poor job of this in the past, which is embracing and celebrating the moment," Achatz said. "I'm going to really try and embrace this one."

Among the first chefs to announce their good news on Twitter were Bonsoiree's Shin Thompson and Boka's Giuseppe Tentori. Tentori wrote, "Just got the call. Boka receives one star from Michelin, you are the first to know. And thanks to my team!"

Avec, a favorite among Chicago's food cognoscenti which recently re-opened after a fire this summer, did not earn a star. Its chef, Paul Kahan, had this to say on Twitter: "In the begining, they didn't understand the clash either. Avec rules." Kahan's other restaurant, Blackbird, earned one star, and his gastropub the Publican was named a Bib Gourmand (best value) pick last week.

Also earning stars: newcomer Ria in the Elysian Hotel; Schwa, the notoriously-hard-to-get-a-reservation-at restaurant whose chef Michael Carlson and kitchen crew double as waitstaff, and Longman & Eagle, a hipster whiskey-focused gastropub in Logan Square.

L20's chef, Laurent Gras, quietly and mysteriously left the Lincoln Park restaurant earlier this month, citing personal reasons.

This is the first Chicago edition of the hallowed Michelin restaurant guide, considered in Europe to be the authoritative source on the world's best restaurants and hotels. In 2005, Michelin introduced its first-ever North American guide; New York was the debut city.

The company prides itself on its rigorous review process and the fierce anonymity under which its "inspectors" operate.

Naret says Michelin inspectors ate their way around Chicago for two years before finalizing their decisions in September.

Last week, Michelin announced the Chicago recipients of the Bib Gourmand, which designates the best value restaurants. Forty-six restaurants earned that title.

Three stars:

Two stars:
Charlie Trotter's

One star:
Crofton on Wells
graham elliot
Longman & Eagle

That's the official release. More details in a bit.

The GQ of food sections

| 1 Comment

And 3, 2, 1... Thus begins Thanksgiving countdown madness in today's Food pages.

It somehow turned out that today's section was written almost entirely by guys. Am I the only one who finds that strangely delightful? Whatever your answer, our cover story -- columnist Neil Steinberg's ode to stuffing -- seems a fitting place to start our Thanksgiving hype, er, I mean coverage. People, Steinberg included, have strong feelings about stuffing. Indeed, he argues, stuffing, not turkey, is the holiday's "central foodstuff." He also says slightly crunchy celery and onions have no place in stuffing; I disagree. . . Discuss.

Today also is the debut of the Pour Man, our wine and beer column written by Chicagoan Michael Austin. Expect one wine column and one beer column a month from Austin, and zero pretension.

Our own Dave Hoekstra talks to cook-turned-musician Ben Weaver, who peforms Saturday at Schubas; Food Detective David Hammond looks at grass-fed beef's ubiquity, and Big Jones chef Paul Fehribach looks to the past, to when people put up food for the winter, and offers two delectable recipes -- for apple butter and fluffy Cheddar biscuits. Enjoy.


Forty-six Chicago restaurants, from Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill to Ann Sather, the 65-year-old diner best known for its cinnamon rolls, have been named Bib Gourmands by the esteemed Michelin restaurant guide, the first ever for Chicago. (Read the full list here and after the jump.)

The Bib Gourmand designation is for restaurants considered to be a good value -- those offering two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. Restaurants included ones that are all the rage right now -- Girl and the Goat, Publican, Gilt Bar -- and more unassuming eateries such as Lincoln Park diner Frances' Deli, the Hopleaf bar in Andersonville and Polish restaurant Smak-Tak on the Northwest Side.

Bib Gourmand picks are separate from those restaurants earning the highly sought after Michelin stars -- that announcement will be made next week. Chalk drawings of the Michelin man's noggin were etched outside each of the restaurants early Wednesday.

Bill Kim's restaurants, Urban Belly and Belly Shack, both made the Bib Gourmand list -- which means they aren't in the running for a Michelin star. Fine by Kim. "Stars, reviews, those are fine, but this is more for our restaurant family who finally get to see all their hard work pay off," says Kim, who saw the good news this morning on the Facebook page of his friend, sommelier Elizabeth Mendez.

"People get so crazy over ratings," Kim says. "I don't work to get rated or reviews. As long as the restaurants are busy, that's what matters."

Keepng restaurants busy is part of the significance of the Bib Gourmand award, something people often overlook, says Michelin worldwide director Jean-Luc Naret, who will leave his post after the end of the year.

"It really is an award," Naret said, speaking by phone from Paris. "We have almost as many Bib Gourmands around the world as we do Michelin stars."

Anonymous Michelin inspectors, who had been dining in Chicago for the past two years, visited all the restaurants in the guide at least twice, Naret says.

Next Wednesday, Naret will be up early to call each chef who has earned a Michelin star. Last week, Alinea chef Grant Achatz (who is expected to snag a star or three) told me he is convinced there are two restaurants in Chicago with three stars. "No way they're going to give Chicago more than New York," which has three three-star restaurants -- a theory Naret shot down.

"No, no, no -- we give the stars where we find them," Naret said, pointing out that there are currently more three-star restaurants in Japan than in France. "There's no quota as to how many we give."

One more tidbit to whet the appetite for next Wednesday: Naret said some chefs who have multiple restaurants and who have earned a Bib Gourmand today -- we can think of one or two -- might be just as happy this time next week.

The full list of Chicago's Bib Gourmand picks after the jump.

Nov. 17 -- Michelin Chicago day -- already will be a busy day for Grant Achatz (who, as we spoke, was en route from the airport, fresh off an appearance on the Martha Stewart show, to the site of his next projects, Next and Aviary).

A writer from Time will be lurking around that day for an upcoming story, and a documentary crew will be filming in the restaurant that week, Achatz says. The director/producer on the project also filmed a documentary about the now-shuttered Trio in Evanston, where Achatz first rose to fame.

Achatz has set early February as the target opening date for Next and Aviary, which will sit side-by-side on West Fulton.

As the calendar inches toward Nov. 17 -- the day Chicago chefs learn if they've earned Michelin stars -- the chatter is ramping up.

Earlier this week, Blackbird's Paul Kahan (below) wrote on Soapbox, a digital magazine for chefs run by publicist Ellen Malloy, that he received an email from the Michelin folks asking for the best way to reach him on the morning of Nov. 17. kahan.jpg

"Hopefully, that's good," Kahan wrote.

'Tis very good. Michelin's (outgoing) worldwide director Jean-Luc Naret calls each chef who's earned one, two or three stars. He'll be making those calls starting at 8 a.m. Nov. 17, a spokeswoman said. So, it's a safe bet Kahan has earned at least one star.

Alinea's Grant Achatz and Curtis Duffy of Avenues say they've also been asked by Michelin for their phone numbers. (Charlie Trotter and L20's Laurent Gras, both of whom many speculate are star-worthy contenders, didn't return calls. Gras might be incommunicado because of his tenuous work situation being reported today.)

The thing about these 5-ingredient-recipe books is you want to try all the recipes because, hey, they're only five ingredients! Or four!

I tried a bunch from both Claire Robinson's 5 Ingredient Fix and Abigail Dodge's Desserts 4 Today, featured in today's Food pages. I was a mad woman. I was hooked. Of course, we didn't have the space to run the whole lot, so here you go. Enjoy.

Creamy Roasted Broccoli
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds fresh broccoli (about 2 large bunches), florets removed, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 large orange plus 2 teaspoons orange zest
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Put 2/3 of broccoli in large bowl with olive oil and orange juice; season with salt and pepper and toss well to coat. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet, arrange in one layer and roast for approximately 15 minutes until just tender with golden brown edges.

Meanwhile, pour cream into medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add remaining broccoli, garlic and orange zest and bring to gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until cream is reduced to half its original volume and broccoli is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

With handheld immersion blender or potato masher, or in food processor, blend or pulse cream and broccoli mixture until coarsely blended and still a bit chunky. Gently fold in roasted broccoli until combined; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to serving bowl and serve warm.

From 5 Ingredient Fix

More recipes after the jump.

Crumbs Bake Shop, a 7-year-old New York chain known for its oversize cupcakes, is coming to Chicago.

The first shop will open at 303 W. Madison in mid-December, a spokeswoman says "in time for the holidays," a release says.

More Crumbs shops are slated to open next year in the Chicago area, which is sorely lacking in cupcake-dispensing options.


Restaurant news from the inbox: After nine years in business, Spring, the first in chef Shawn McClain's mini-empire, is closing. And Mado's husband-wife chef team Rob and Allie Levitt have left to open a butcher shop.

Spring, 2039 W. North, will serve its last meal on New Year's Eve. McClain will focus on his other restaurants, Green Zebra at 1460 W. Chicago and Sage in Las Vegas. He also is working on a cookbook and new restaurant concepts "in Chicago and elsewhere," a press release said.

The Levitts, known for their nose-to-tail cooking at Mado, 1647 N. Milwaukee, are aiming to open the Butcher & Larder in the Noble Square neighborhood late this month. Beyond meats cut to order and charcuterie, the shop will offer lunch and occasional classes.


The curtain soon will close on a little play put on by a group of Albany Park teenagers, but the seeds of something bigger already have been planted.

The Albany Park Theater Project's production of "Feast" -- about how food figures into immigrants' lives -- has inspired the creation of a community vegetable garden in the park where the theater is based.

"Feast" runs through Nov. 13 at the Laura Wiley Theater in Eugene Field Park, 5100 N. Ridgeway.

The site for the proposed garden is in an unused section of the park just beyond the basketball courts, says Shylo Bisnett, president of the Eugene Field Park Advisory Council who with her husband Brian Sobolak is heading the volunteer effort.

The seed money for the garden -- about $1,000 to launch and support the project for two years -- came from ticket sales from a recent performance, says David Feiner, artistic director for the Albany Park Theater Project.

Bisnett and Sobolak are avid backyard gardeners who rented a plot this year at the Peterson Garden Project, another community garden at Peterson and Campbell Avenues (once a World War II victory garden).

The couple longed to bring the concept to Albany Park, where Bisnett says "hidden gardens" are sprinkled throughout.

"Feast" had an initial run in April and May.

"When we decided to bring it back for an encore run this fall, I thought, Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could connect with that garden effort in some way?," says Feiner. He approached Bisnett in August offering to sponsor the effort.

The garden is starting small -- three raised beds (as required by the Chicago Park District) that Bisnett hopes to install by the end of the month.

Next year, "as soon as the ground thaws . . . we will start planting," she says.

The hope, Bisnett says, is to give neighborhood youths an opportunity to learn while literally getting their hands dirty, and to donate the produce to a food pantry.

She envisions the garden as a microcosm of Albany Park. "We want to reflect that same diversity in the garden. Maybe we'll grow an interesting variety of tomatillo, or an unusual herb," she says.

Eventually, Bisnett hopes to add a larger garden divided into plots that residents can claim as their own.

Bisnett welcomes volunteers, donations of tools, organic soil, seeds and plants. For more information, e-mail or call (773) 610-6871.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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



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