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First Art Smith was going to host his own show on TLC, and all about comfort food, no less.

Then we learned that the show wasn't going to happen after all -- though a spokesman for the network promised that Smith's talents wouldn't be wasted.

So here's the consolation: the man formerly known as Oprah's chef is one of the three judges for the competition-style TLC series, "BBQ Pitmasters," now in its second season. He joins Myron Mixon, a real live pitmaster from Georgia, and ex-NFLer Warren Sapp, who knows something about being under heat.

Filming begins shortly; the show premieres Aug. 12.

by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

If bringing home a bottle of Goose Island feels like turning your kitchen into a friendly local bar, then there's good reason. Brewmaster Greg Hall honed his craft at the Siebel Institute, but Goose Island started small. His father founded it in 1988, as a brewpub.

"Brewpubs are great," Hall says, "because you control the process, all the way to the pint." Brewpubs also don't need to register new beers, so brewers are free experiment. Hall cites another asset: getting direct guidance and feedback. Do customers like something? Want something? The brewer can try making it. "A brewpub's a great way to start, as a brewer," he says.

In 1995, Goose Island started its second pub and began packaging. Now, the Chicago beer is in 20 states, and it's expanding . . . in more than one way.

"There's a new drinker - a whole bunch of new drinkers - out there," Social drinkers are out having fun. "When you're out having fun, you're probably drinking beer, too," Hall remarks.

About the new drinkers, he says, "They didn't used to drink craft beer, but they drink craft beers now." Goose Island makes craft and traditional brews. There's also something for "reserve beer drinkers, who are getting out of cocktails or wine, and into beer." They're not giving up wine and cocktails; they're just drinking beer, too. For them, there are Belgian style ales. (Kids don't need to feel left out. Goose Island has sodas, too.)

Drinkers aren't the only ones who are changing. Producers see the world differently. "For a long time," Hall notes, "we thought that there were beer occasions and there were wine occasions, and they were different occasions." Now, he happily sells beer at what were once seen as "wine occasions."

With summer looming, many of us are breaking out the grills. What does Hall recommend drinking with grilled foods?

And the food TV shows just keep on coming.

TLC, which is on the road filming Art Smith's new series on comfort food, debuts yet another food-obsessed show at 9 tonight: "BBQ Pitmasters," an eight-episode "docu-series" that delves into the competitive barbecue circuit.

The show follows pitmasters from Texas, Georgia, Virginia and California as they tackle six competitions, including the Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-Off in Downstate Murphysboro. (But what? No Gary Wiviott? Something's not right.)

TLC is really getting into this food game. Their Discovery Channel's Planet Green is responsible for Homaro Cantu's Future Food series, also filming now, in which the moto chef applies his culinary derring-do to environmental issues.

Meanwhile, for lighter (for lack of a better word) fare, head over to the Food Network for the new series, "Worst Cooks in America." Yup, it's just as it sounds -- 12 hapless, hopeless souls (and two hosts you've never heard of) vying for their time in the spotlight. It premieres Jan. 3.

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We've been hearing about Stephanie Izard's not-yet-existent restaurant, the Drunken Goat, for months now.

We still have a few more months of waiting (she is hoping for a January opening), but until then, Izard has come up with yet another way to whet our appetite -- an underground "Wandering Goat" dinner series.

The first of five dinners is on July 26. It will be in the backyard of one of Izard's chef friends (which chef? Only those going will find out, via email right before the event, her publicist says). Izard will grill up stuffed calamari, short ribs and other eats; Three Floyds beer, Black Dog Gelato sorbet and music also are on tap. The cost for each dinner: $50.

Only 40 tickets are available for the first shindig. Those interested are encouraged to follow Izard on Twitter for details on tickets.

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Pit master (or, as he likes to say, barbecue life coach) Gary Wiviott -- whose barbecue almost did in Sun-Times reporter Dave Hoekstra, through no fault of Wiviott's own -- will sign copies of his new book, "Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons" this weekend at the Book Stall in Winnetka and the Barnes and Noble in Oakbrook (details here).

The book, co-written by Colleen Rush (picture above), is a gem as is Wiviott, a founder of the LTHForum culinary chat site. We finally met Wiviott face-to-face a few weeks ago (it is entirely possible and all too common in this line of work to correspond with someone for a good amount of time without ever actually meeting them).

Anyway, we're glad we did. He's a bear of a guy, as the photo suggests. This being his first book -- and his first book signing -- he admits he's a little nervous. So go meet the guy. You'll probably pick up some good grilling tips. To work past the nerves, he'll just be picturing you all naked.

The National Restaurant Association's annual trade show hits town Saturday, which always makes for an exciting, dizzying, busy couple of days. This year, however, we are literally busting at the seams with anticipation. Forget celebrity chefs ... the Kogi Korean BBQ Truck is coming!

Make that, three key people behind the Los Angeles sensation-on-wheels -- owners Mark Manguera, his wife Caroline and chef Roy Choi. Choi will be cooking his now-famous kimchi quesadillas in the Korean Pavilion.

If you've been living under a rock and don't know what we're talking about, you should be ashamed. Ok, kidding. But do your homework here and here.

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We caught up with Choi, 39, this week as he prepped for yet another day (and night) on the streets. We wondered if his appearance at the NRA show signals an expansion into our fair city. Not quite yet, he says.

If you've ever talked to Gary Wiviott, you know the man can talk. (If you've never talked to Gary Wiviott, try it sometime. Even if he doesn't know you from Adam, chances are he'll engage and get going and before you know it, you'll be downing dumplings and Tsing Taos at some hole-in-the-wall joint on Argyle Street).

One of the founders of the LTHForum.com chat site, Wiviott also is known for his skills with the grill. He's come out with his first cookbook, Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons.

It's perhaps the only cookbook we know of that begins with a section on cooking gear that "should be avoided at all costs," charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid among them. But that's refreshing. We like that. (And kudos to co-author Colleen Rush for capturing Wiviott's voice so perfectly).

Our Dave Hoekstra spent some time barbecuing and eating with Wiviott recently; his story runs in Food next week. The book is in stores now. And Wiviott and Rush are hosting a book release party at 6 tonight at the Paramount Room, 415 N. Milwaukee. What more do you need?

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About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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

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