Food & Drink

Thursday, January 19, 2017

With Futatsuki, Chicago’s far north side has great ramen again

Posted By today at 04.52 PM

Tonkatsu ramen and the remains of chicken ka-raa-ge. - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Tonkatsu ramen and the remains of chicken ka-raa-ge.

It seems churlish to complain about the lack of ramen on the far north side when we've got so much pho and also a fair amount of matzo ball soup, but I can't help feeling a twinge of envy when I read about all the exciting new ramen joints opening in Logan Square and Wicker Park. Is there some reason why those of us who live on the upper reaches of the Red Line don't get to slurp our dinners, too? Is this some sort of punishment for no one volunteering to save the Sunshine Cafe in Andersonville when its former owner retired? Are we now forever unworthy?

It was a relief, then, to hear that Futatsuki Ramen had opened in the fall in Uptown, among the stretch of African restaurants across the street from Truman College. I headed over there one night that was cold enough to make ramen feel not only like a good idea but a primal need and invited a friend who claimed her life had not been the same since she couldn't get her regular fixes of Sunshine's katsu don.

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Tesfa Ethiopian Cuisine serves up abundant wonders in Uptown

Posted By today at 04.21 PM

Shiro, yemisir wat, siga wot, doro wot, and more at Tesfa Ethiopian Cuisine - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Shiro, yemisir wat, siga wot, doro wot, and more at Tesfa Ethiopian Cuisine

Tucked between a Payless and a branch bank in Uptown, there's a tiny glass storefront, the most distinguishing features of which are the sacks of brown teff flour stacked by the dozens in the window. This new, unnamed bakery specializes in the tangy, spongy, fermented flatbread injera, milled from that grain native to the Ethiopian highlands.

It's a testament to the appetite for this essential East African staple in Uptown and Edgewater, where it's produced and consumed in variety. Around the corner, on Lawrence Avenue, there's another small storefront trafficking in the same thing. I wrote about the spot four years ago when it was Lake Langano, a counter service Ethiopian-Chinese takeout spot, with an unusual specialty: qocho, or false banana bread, a dense, chewy starch served with berbere-spiced kitfo (aka Ethiopian beef tartare).

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Watch Publican Anker chef A.J. Walker make gluten-free falafel

Posted By on 01.16.17 at 04:10 PM

In our gluten-averse society, a gluten-free grain that's virtually unknown sounds all but impossible. Job's tears, which have been consumed for centuries across Asia, are technically not a grain (the plant is part of the grass family), but that didn't stop Bon Appetit from declaring them "the next cult gluten-free grain" last year. In the case of the wild strain, Job's tears are often dried and used as beads, while the softer domesticated version can be steamed like rice, ground into flour, boiled to make tea, and brewed into beer.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Osteria Langhe’s David McCabe utilizes snails to put a new spin on the Bloody Mary

Posted By on 01.09.17 at 02:27 PM

Osteria Langhe, the Piemontese restaurant in Logan Square where David McCabe tends bar, has been serving snails in pastry shells with beurre blanc since it opened in 2014. Until recently, though, McCabe had little to do with the gastropods, leaving them to the restaurant's chefs. But when Christopher Marty of Best Intentions challenged him to create a cocktail with escargot (or lumache, as they're called in Italian), McCabe had some planning to do.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A former Chicago bartender returns from Cambodia to mix cocktails from her Phnom Penh bar

Posted By on 12.30.16 at 07:25 PM

Annemarie Sagoi pours Bura the Explora at Le Boutier - JUDE GOERGEN
  • Jude Goergen
  • Annemarie Sagoi pours Bura the Explora at Le Boutier

When longtime Chicago bartender Annemarie Sagoi, a veteran of the Dawson and the Drifter, went to Cambodia last year with her business partner, David Chhay, to consult on a hotel bar opening in the city of Phnom Penh, she only expected to stay for a few months. But while plans for that bar fell through, both Sagoi and Chhay became enamored of the city. At the beginning of 2016 they opened Le Boutier, a craft cocktail bar that celebrates Cambodia's "golden age" of rock in the 1960s and '70s. On January 3, Sagoi will be bringing several of Le Boutier's cocktails to Bar DeVille for a one-night pop-up bar highlighting Cambodian flavors. She talked to me recently about her bar, the drinks she'll be serving in Chicago, and cocktail culture in Phnom Penh.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Logan Square Peruvian restaurant rises from the dead under another name

Posted By on 12.22.16 at 02:57 PM

  • Julia Thiel

The bad news is that 4 Suyos, one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants—which I loved for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and BYOB policy as much as its excellent food—is closed. The good news is that I only realized it was gone when I went to Tumi, a Peruvian restaurant that, it turns out, occupies the old 4 Suyos space. Aside from a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new curtains, and the addition of flashing lights that frame the front windows, the new place looks almost identical to its predecessor. Low-key vibe? Check. BYOB? Check. While the management has changed, the chairs remain the same.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Cafe Tola is building an empanada empire

Posted By on 12.09.16 at 03:50 PM

Empanadas at Cafe Tola - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Empanadas at Cafe Tola

Somehow over the last four years I slept on Lakeview's postage stamp-sized Cafe Tola. Maybe I just blinked and missed the tiny, 400-square-foot empanada emporium on the Southport corridor. Or maybe it's because the neighborhood isn't one normally associated with credible Mexican food. But the little place turns out some 700 of the savory stuffed pastries every day, co-owner Victoria Salamanca told DNAInfo in July. And when Salamanca and her husband, Gerardo, branched out onto hot dog holy ground—the Avondale space formerly occupied by Hot Doug's—it was time to reckon with the couple's nascent empanada empire. (The Salamancas are in the process of opening a third, even larger location on Southport.)

Chorizo-and-egg empanada - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Chorizo-and-egg empanada

I wouldn't have guessed it possible, but the Salamanca family have managed to crank up the kitsch level of the space far beyond anything Doug Sohn dreamed up, with glass display cases packed with Japanese robots and monsters, Frida Kahlo art, Dia de los Muertos-style skull imagery, a working Gorf arcade machine, and an exterior mural that manages to incorporate Yoda, E.T., and Transformers character Snarl.

Torta al pastor - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Torta al pastor

It's a diverting environment to take in these empanadas, some half dozen each day, none of which were duplicated both times I've been in. Some are better than others, of course. I like none better than the simple version with refried beans and gooey melted cheese. The piquant chicken salsa verde bests the dull chicken mole, while the chunky egg-and-chorizo outperforms the dry egg-and-cheese. I've enjoyed plenty of the others: rajas, birria, spinach-ricotta, ropa vieja, and more. The pastry is consistently wonderful, tightly crimped, blistered, and flaky; it's light but sturdy, and more than capable of holding the sometimes dense fillings together.

Taco de pancita - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Taco de pancita

Tola 2 also features a remarkably diverse lineup of caffeinated beverages (cold brew, coconut iced coffee, spicy mocha, masala chai) and an expanded menu of tacos, tortas, burritos, and even a queso flameado, a kind of queso fundido doused with tequila and set ablaze. I'm still working my way through all of these delights, but I can say the torta al pastor—even though it's missing the requisite pineapple—is legit, carved right off the trompo, and the taco de pancita features a thick slab of pork belly smothered in beans and pickled cabbage that gives Big Star's taco de panza a run for its money.

Cafe Tola - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Cafe Tola

Cafe Tola Loncheria y Tacos, 3324 N. California, 773-293-6346

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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Tasting Room at Moody Tongue is all class

Posted By on 12.05.16 at 05:51 PM

  • Jordan Balderas

Moody Tongue Brewing's new tasting room in Pilsen isn't for everyone. It's not for those who prefer to watch TV or snack on fried foods while drinking a pint. In fact, it's not even for those who want to drink from a pint glass. Or from a tasting flight of small glasses. The beer is served in hand-blown Austrian goblets with stems so delicate they look liable to shatter if you sneeze too hard, and there are no flights. There are oysters, however—served by the dozen or half dozen—and gargantuan slices of 12-layer German chocolate cake. As far as food goes, that's it.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The textural pleasures of shaved noodles at Chinatown’s Slurp Slurp

Posted By on 11.29.16 at 03:26 PM

Hand-shaved noodles with pork belly at Slurp Slurp - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Hand-shaved noodles with pork belly at Slurp Slurp

By now, the steeliest of us may by inured to Chinese-style hand-pulled noodles, aka lamian. The absorbing figure eight ballet of arms and dough in the production of tensile wheat soup noodles was, a few years back, a star attraction in Chinatown, where chefs did the dance in full view of their fans at places like Hing Kee and Sing's Noodle House. That's to say nothing of the central Asian variant, lagman, produced less visibly at places like Jibek Jolu and Lazzat (now Chayhana). Then the big boys started getting into it: Imperial Lamian and Duck Duck Goat, mainstreaming the art for the crowd that rarely eats outside of downtown or the Fulton Market district.

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Learn to make a matzo ball that will get you drunk

Posted By on 11.29.16 at 02:46 PM

"It was not a fun developmental process," Best Intentions bartender and co-owner Christopher Marty says of his experiments with matzo. Pito Rodriguez, a bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar, had challenged him to create a cocktail with the unleavened bread traditionally eaten at Passover. "He just chose the first Jewish thing he could think of, I imagine," Marty says. "He's trolling me, obviously."

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