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Sun-Times political columnist Lynn Sweet offers food-tinged coverage yet again, with her story today on Chicago hot dog stand owner Mike Payne's role in getting Chicago-style hot dogs served at the White House congressional picnic Tuesday.

Sweet says Payne, owner of Byron's Hot Dogs, was enlisted by Sen. Dick Durbin, who had gotten a call from the White House asking for help.

White House chef Cristeta Comerford worked off a grocery list Payne sent her of all the required ingredients.

The story, thank goodness, isn't nearly as controversial as Sweet's last foodie go-round. But it still raises a few questions:

Items on Payne's grocery list included "yellow mustard, shredded lettuce, diced onions, sliced cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, peppers, celery salt and dill pickles." If we may: Sliced cucumbers are a stretch, but since when has shredded lettuce belonged on a Chicago-style dog?

Also, Comferford couldn't get her hands on the bright green relish, but "she found something close." And what would that be? Inquiring minds want to know!

Ruh roh. Sun-Times Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet has pissed off the Top Chef Master. Sweet wrote that Rick Bayless was tweeting from the White House kitchen. Bayless, on Twitter, fired back, "I NEVER Tweet from WH, which I KNOW is not permitted. Apology?" Sweet then offers this clarification and apology.


But if we may, just one more Twitterific Bayless-related detail about today's state dinner: Frontera Grill chef Richard James got to pet Bo, the White House dog! This via inimitable fishmonger Carl Galvan's Twitter feed. Galvan is nowhere near the White House or the White House kitchen. Funny how that Twitter works!

The food world over knows Rick Bayless is cooking at the White House tomorrow, and making his 28-ingredient mole, and that he has been tweeting from D.C. (though something tells us he's finally been muzzled, as our White House correspondent Lynn Sweet calls it; by our calculations, Bayless averages one tweet every 5.2 minutes, and his last one was around 7-ish this morning). Obama Next State Dinner.jpg

We know, via his Twitter feed, that he was a little nervous, that the White House kitchen is "rather small" and that he was worried about the ingredients, all of which had to be ordered by the White House.

An AP story that just moved on what is shaping up to be the biggest non-story food story involving a famous chef tells us more of the same, plus this fascinating tidbit: Bayless at first wasn't allowed to bring his own knives -- "I said that's like asking a famous runner to run in someone else's tennis shoes," Bayless told the AP -- but the White House finally, surprisingly, relented.

For this state dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderon, Bayless will be cooking for 200 people. Which should a breeze, considering his past exploits.


The inimitable Ina Pinkney of Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph, is one of three chefs up for a Golden Bowl Award from the culinary organization Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. The award, to be presented in Washington D.C. this weekend, recognizes excellence in baking and pastry arts.

While the nomination alone makes her giddy, here's what really tickles Pinkney: She and 20 fellow female chefs will get a tour of the White House kitchen Sunday from White House commander-in-chef Cris Comerford, she says.

"I'm going to call David Axelrod," Pinkney says. "He was a regular here [at her restaurant, Ina's], as was Rahm Emanuel and Valeria Jarrett. So I'm going to see if David's working and see if I can get a glimpse of the West Wing!"

She says this with a laugh, but she's serious. And don't think she doesn't have pull.

In 2007, the Wall Street Journal named her West Loop restaurant one of the nation's top power breakfast spots. Pinkney says that's because she never feeds the press tidbits on her powerful dining guests and because "it's very, very quiet and the tables are far apart. The deals get done."

Daley eats there. Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda have eaten there. Judy Baar Topinka just announced her candidacy for state comptroller there Sunday, with a photo in our paper to boot. ("Republicans don't tip as well, but they're still welcome here," Pinkney had to explain to a Democratic friend who groused about this to her.)

Some of you also may remember that Pinkney ran for mayor in 2007.

Ok, so she kind of did it cheekily at the suggestion of a regular customer, after Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez dropped out. In her monthly newsletter mailed out to customers in December of that year, she offered up a list of city departments she would create if elected (our favorite: the Dept. of Snacks and Morale).

It was after a call from one alderman, a visit from another and a call from Daley's chief of staff that she realized, "they had no sense of humor whatsoever" -- and formally threw her toque in the ring as a write-in candidate.

Pinkney got 2,302 votes. "And three unannounced inspections from the city that day."

"Even now, it makes me laugh," she says.

You know, Ina, 2011 is coming up fast.

Oh, she knows. "And I keep saying, 'You never know,' " she says.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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



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