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(photo by John J. Kim/Sun-Times)

When Ina Pinkney suspended dinner service in January at her West Loop restaurant because of the limping economy, with it went her popular gluten-free fried chicken nights.

Well, dinner service still is dark at Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph (it's business as usual at breakfast and lunch) but customers clamoring for Pinkney's gluten-free chicken have won out.

On June 18, Pinkney will open the restaurant at 5 p.m. for a three-course, gluten-free prix fixe meal. Diners will get to choose between that famous gluten-free fried chicken, pan-seared salmon and vegetable risotto.

"We get at least half a dozen calls a week just about our chicken night," she says. "We need the business, and we also want to acknowledge that this is a part of the community.

"There is no crunch in the gluten-free world. They can't have fried food. It's a taste they miss, it's a texture they miss."

Pinkney doesn't have the gluten-free fried chicken on her lunch menu because she only has one dedicated fryer for potato pancakes and french fries. However, she now stocks
a "magnificent" gluten-free pita bread from Rose's Wheat Free Bakery in Evanston for sandwiches.

"Sandwich bread is really the missing link in all of the gluten-free foods," Pinkney says. "But Rose has been genius in figuring out gluten-free baked goods."

The dinner at Ina's is $30; reservations are required. Call (312) 226-8227.

And check out next Wednesday's Food pages for more on the world of celiac disease and gluten-free cooking.

A killer of a sandwich

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[540 cal, 32g fat, 1380mg sodium]
Really, KFC? Really?

Wings over America

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Does anyone remember the days when -- and it wasn't that long ago, really -- chicken wings were a bar food, something that would run you a dime or a quarter apiece with a pitcher of beer?

Well, not anymore. According to this story in the Sun-Times today, the price of chicken wings for restaurant and tavern owners is soaring, which means consumers are paying more, as well. Wings "used to be a throwaway item," Andy Howard, head of purchasing and product development for the Texas-based Wingstop chain, told Gannett News Service. "The poultry guys couldn't even give it away. Now prices have gone through the roof."

According to the US Agriculture Department, the average wholesale price of wings in 2009 was $1.47 a pound, up 39 percent from 2008.

According to the National Chicken Council, 12 billion chicken wings are consumed annually in the U.S. It's gotten so that the other, meaty parts of the chicken, like the breasts, are the throwaway parts. The vast majority of wings, according to the Chicken Council -- especially those destined for foodservice -- are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the flapper) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints being sold domestically.

Prices fluctuate, too, and because of supply and demand, prices will peak around the time of the Super Bowl, the biggest wing-consuming time of the year.

With billions of wings being consumed every year (and more than 1 billion of them on Super Bowl Sunday alone!) this humble item has come quite a way from that day in 1964 when Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. The boys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, "Buffalo Wings" were an instant hit, according to the NCC. Dick Winger (I kid you not -- that's the man's name), who sold hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners' son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and the item gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country.

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If you haven't yet read Louisa Chu's fantastic profile of chef Art Smith, get going. Smith is in his prime -- he's got Oprah/Obama cred, Top Chef cred, a book and TLC show in the works and on top of all that, he's lost nearly 100 pounds and looks amazing.

Now... if you haven't checked out the recipe for Iris Davis' fried chicken (that's her in the photo above), do that now, too -- but for those of you who also have the print version, I'm sorry to say there was a goof in the directions.

If you're wondering what to do with the 6 beaten eggs, you dip the chicken pieces first in the eggs, and then in the flour mixture. (Those of you who've done this before no doubt knew that, and I eagerly await an invitation to sample your fried chicken because I'm guessing it's some good eating.) The recipe on our Web site is the correct version.

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Rockit Bar & Grill this week is celebrating the bar food of bar foods: chicken wings.

Five different styles of wings (or really, five different sauces) will be on the menu this week for the first annual Wingfest: super spicy buffalo with a blue cheese dressing; sweet chile and lime (pictured above); pomegranate and port wine with a mango sauce; lemon-grilled with wild oregano, garlic and feta fondue, and, brace yourself, truffle butter-tossed with a foie gras gravy. The wings are $10 a dozen. And for dessert, strawberry milkshakes!

Higher wing prices notwithstanding, chef James Gottwald is a big believer in wings -- and in weeklong promotions that, to him, are kind of like their own holiday. The restaurant's early summer Burgerfest is going on five years now.

"To be honest, sometimes I get bored with the menu. We have the favorites we just can't take off ... or I'll be shot," he says. "These food celebrations keep me and my staff excited."

Gottwald talks like a wing aficionado. With their high skin-to-ratio, wings are "kind of like pork belly," he points out. And, mind you, we're not talking piddly 25-cent numbers. "I pay a premium for my wings, the big jumbo ones, no hormones, none of that garbage."

He soaks the wings in a brine for a good hour (1 cup of kosher salt per half gallon of water, for those of you wanting to try this at home) to season them. He then roasts the wings to render off the fat, and crisps them up in the fryer. (The Greek-style ones, by contrast, are grilled).

Mark your calendar: Gottwald already is planning a Mac 'n' Cheese Fest for January.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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

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