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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).

Chicagoans are dining out less and keeping more of an eye on how much they're spending in restaurants, the new Zagat survey of Chicago restaurants says.

Forty-one percent of diners say they are eating out less -- 2.8 meals a week on average -- and a third say they're going to less expensive restaurants, according to the survey of 5,701 diners, released today. One in five diners is passing up appetizers or dessert to keep their tab down.

Prices at those expensive restaurants, meanwhile, just keep going up. The average meal price at Chicago's 20 most expensive restaurants -- $104.95 -- ranks just behind those of New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

And here's something restaurants can learn from the survey, which is updated every two years: The Internet counts. The majority of eaters (83 percent) check out a restaurant's website and try to find out more about the menu before heading out for the evening. As for making reservations, just under half of diners do that on the Internet; 44 percent use that phone thingamabob.

On the restaurant rankings side, most of the names are familiar. Surveyors ranked the accolade-laden Alinea top for service, though Les Nomades, the tres Francais restaurant in Streeterville, was voted No. 1 for food. Xoco, Rick Bayless' torta-and-churro outpost with its everpresent lunch line, was the top newcomer; casual neighborhood joints Browntrout, Belly Shack and Nightwood also were recognized in that category.

The most popular restaurant in Chicago? Bayless' Frontera Grill.

Consider this the first in an occasional feature on Digging In that we'll call Edible Mailbox Swag: a quick review of a new food product that's found its way into our inbox and just begs for a bite.

Just arrived: Doritos Late Night All-Nighter Cheeseburger.

That's right. A Dorito that's supposed to taste "just like an authentic cheeseburger you'd get from your favorite after-hours drive-thru."

It tastes, amazingly, just like the onion bits, pickle slices, ketchup and soft bun of a certain cheeseburger from a certain leading burger chain that may or may not start with an 'M', all mish-mashed together. And crunchy.

There are no pickles in the ingredient list (or perhaps, they are in there, under "natural flavors" -- but we'll never know for sure). Ingredients do include, however, modified corn starch, Cheddar and Swiss cheese, MSG and mustard seed powder and "artificial flavors." Naturally.

Eat a bag of these and you bet you'll be up all night.

Inquiring minds were all abuzz this week over Esquire food critic John Mariani's visit Tuesday to graham elliot, chef Graham Elliot Bowles' restaurant at 217 W. Huron. The general uproar among the twitterati took us back a few years to the story we broke about Mariani's alleged demands made to moto chef Homaro Cantu, and the ensuing debate about what is or isn't ethical behavior.

At any rate, Bowles posted this on Facebook today:

"i just wanted to take a second to comment on mr. mariani's recent visit to graham elliot. during his time in the dining room, he was nothing but gracious and paid for his meal in full. it should also be noted that mr. mariani was the first writer/critic to ever take notice of me while i was chef at the jackson house in woodstock, vermont...where he also paid for his dinner and showed no sign of 'douchebagery.' "

Phew -- the man paid. As for who makes Mariani's Best New Restaurants list this year, we'll just have to hold our breath (or will we?).

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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



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