Friday, January 21, 2011

This Week in Food & Drink: The Making of a Belgian Gastropub, Key Ingredient Natto, Recent Openings, and More

Posted By on 01.21.11 at 03:21 PM

Michael Gebert goes behind the scenes to profile the opening of Leopold, the new West Town Belgian gastropub from chef Jeffrey Hedin, formerly of Spring and Green Zebra, and owners Christy and Don Agee, who also own the Lakeview tavern Witts. You can watch Gebert's excellent nine-minute accompanying video here.

Kate Schmidt braves the suburbs for the sake of Inovasi, John des Rosiers' destination restaurant in Lake Bluff, where the inviting bar and eclectic, inventive menu showcase house-made and artisanal ingredients and sustainably produced meat, seafood, and vegetables—something of a cliche these days, but not here. Des Rosiers, a past participant in our Key Ingredient chef challenge, is also behind the Lake Bluff take-out store Wisma, which has a second location in Libertyville coming in March.

In this week’s Key Ingredient Topolobampo chef de cuisine Brian Enyart puts a Mexican spin on the mucilaginous Japanese breakfast staple natto, fermented soybeans. The result: Horchata Rice, Natto, and Flavors of Cauliflower, which features smoked cauliflower fluid gel, pickled pasilla chiles, and a raw egg. Next up is Mike Sheerin, the Blackbird chef who’s currently consulting at Indiana's Three Floyds Brewpub and plans to open a new restaurant, the Trencherman, later this year. He'll cook with dried guaje seeds, the fruit of the leucaena tree.

Morsels, our news feature, notes the openings of Rob Levitt's Noble Square butcher shop the Butcher & Larder (which as of Wednesday is serving one hot and cold sandwich daily); River North’s Public House, a showy bar featuring DJs and booths equipped with tableside taps; and Bia for Mia (1147 W. Grand, 312-226-0312), an Italian "fun pub" from longtime Chicago restaurateur Mel Markon that's slated for a February 8 opening.

In the listings are other notable West Town restaurants, among them Habana Libre, the Cuban restaurant with arguably the best ropa vieja in town; Coalfire, which is now open for lunch every day except Monday, when it's closed; and La Farine, the bakery that supplies bread for Leopold and sundry other restaurants around town.

Gebert also chips in with a One Bite on kürtös kalács, aka "chimney cakes," a Transylvanian confection now available at the new bakery Chimney Cake Island, on Devon.

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