Food & Drink

Monday, June 1, 2015

How a cook from Tennessee is making himself into a Japanese chef

Posted By on 06.01.15 at 01:00 PM

Scott Malloy

People are always on the move in the restaurant business, and I've known plenty of chefs on the way up. But there's something different about the moves made by a cook named Scott Malloy, who currently works at Momotaro's izakaya. A Tennessee native, Malloy didn't have Japanese food till he was nearly an adult, but he's made up for lost time by being obsessive about it ever since. That's been reflected in a career driven less by where he could boost his salary and title, and more by where he could learn the next thing about the cuisine he loves. Next year he plans to take his first trip to Japan, with his wife Becky, office manager at Grace, and the couple is working on eventually living there for a time. The ultimate goal is, yes, his own restaurant, but for now he's more determined to learn everything he can from others than to run the show himself. I met him at Star Lounge (hence the coffee beans in the background) to learn more about how he's driven his career to satisfy his obsession with Japanese cuisine—and what he plans to do with it someday.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

A Trenchermen bartender makes a porky peach-soda float

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 03:35 PM

When Andy Rivera of the Publican challenged Trenchermen's Rachel Rodeghiero to create a cocktail with pork stock, she didn't want to just use the liquid in a drink. Instead, she and pastry chef Sierra Smith made pork ice cream. Using a quart of pork stock didn't impart quite enough piggy flavor, so they tried another batch with the addition of pork jus.

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Transient Artisan Ales makes slow beer that sells out quick

Posted By on 05.29.15 at 12:30 PM

Transient founder Chris Betts with some of the barrels in which his beers acquire their special qualities
  • Transient founder Chris Betts with some of the barrels in which his beers acquire their special qualities

As much as it must suck to make beer that nobody cares about, making beer that rivets the attention of bottle-trading nerds comes with its own aggravations. Count yourself lucky if you've never seen a full-grown man whining like a spoiled child in an attempt to guilt a brewer or shop manager into parting with a small-batch bottle that's reserved for someone else.

The expensive and interminable rigamarole of the Dark Lord Day bottle line is one way for a brewer to cope with demand that far outstrips supply. But most craft-beer producers don't have the staff or the infrastructure to take that route, even if they want to. Chris Betts of Transient Artisan Ales runs a subscription service instead, in part to help ensure that his most loyal customers get their fair share.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rain or shine, a tale of two festivals: Beer Under Glass and the Welles Park Craft Beer Fest

Posted By on 05.28.15 at 02:30 PM

Welles Park Craft Beer Fest
When the weather is nice, an outdoor beer festival is a magical place to be. When a steady, cold drizzle falls continually—as it did at Beer Under Glass, the May 14 kick-off event for Chicago Craft Beer Week—it's a little less appealing. Fortunately, some of the beer was actually being served under glass this year, so it was possible to take shelter in the Garfield Park Conservatory and continue drinking (unlike last year, when ongoing repairs to the conservatory meant many breweries had to set up on the waterlogged lawn, earning the event the nickname "Beer in the Mud"). And the rain did keep the lines down at the outdoor beer tents. It didn't seem to dim anyone's spirits much, at any rate.

Weather-wise, though, Chicago Craft Beer Week's closing event last Saturday—the Welles Park Craft Beer Fest—had all the luck that BUG didn't. Abundant sunshine and a cool breeze made the day warm but not too hot, tailor-made for sitting in the grass and drinking beer. The event isn't exactly new, but this is the first year it's been in Welles Park; aside from some initial confusion about where the entrance was, things seemed to go smoothly.

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Let's talk about pierogi (part two): Alexandra's Pierogi

Posted By on 05.28.15 at 01:30 PM

Pierogi in the pan.

When I wrote up a short piece about the pierogi from Pierogi Street on Tuesday, I encouraged readers to start a raucous Internet discussion on the subject—but I knew that it was unlikely; soft, fluffy pierogi are just too comfy to incite fervor. I was right so far as that went, but if pierogi don't prompt heated feelings, there seems to be a deep love for them all the same—or so I conclude from the post winding up with over 1,500 Facebook shares, making it one of the most popular things I've ever written here. Well, if you love your pierogi journalism, I'll oblige: today's pierogi post is about Alexandra's, the northwest side's favorite pierogi maker.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Paul Fehribach shares a recipe from The Big Jones Cookbook: gumbo z'herbes

Posted By on 05.26.15 at 02:30 PM

Paul Fehribachs gumbo zherbes

Continuing our series of recipes from local cookbooks, today we address Paul Fehribach's outstanding Big Jones Cookbook. Since the book's publication, Fehribach's talked quite a bit about its origin, and his role as researcher and keeper of Southern foodways. Broken into chapters by region—low country, south Louisiana, the Appalachian highlands, Kentuckiana, and the delta and deep south—with additional chapters on bread, cocktails, pantry staples, and charcuterie, it's packed with unusual and tempting recipes and the stories behind them (salty sorghum pie, five-pepper jelly, benne oyster stew, reezy peezy, Antebellum rice waffles).

I've made a few nice things from the book, but the most successful and interesting so far has been the gumbo z'herbes, essentially a vegan gumbo made from an assortment of field greens. I initially assumed that this was in the Cajun tradition of throwing whatever you had on hand in the pot, but Fehribach states in his introduction that it's actually a Lenten dish he offered for his Catholic guests at Big Jones. Counterintuitively, many recipes incorporate ham hocks, so I took that as permission to use chicken broth and smoked pork necks. It was terrific: brick colored from the smoked paprika, meaty tasting from a preponderance of vegetal, umami-loaded ingredients, and as thick and substantial as any gumbo you'll find. Don't be worried about the seeming paucity of stock for this recipe. The greens contribute their own liquid and as Fehribach told me, you can always add more if you need it later—but if it's too thin up front you're stuck with it.

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Let's talk about the dumplings at Pierogi Street

Posted By on 05.26.15 at 01:00 PM

Pierogi at Pierogi Heaven

One thing I've noticed about online food discussions is that nobody gets into fights about steak or foie gras or other luxury goods. If you really want people to go nuts, start with the most plebeian ingredient of all: flour. People argue about pizza (and its crust), about bread and pie, about pasta, about ramen (and its noodles) and the soup dumplings known as xiao long bao—and, of course, about doing without it (and its gluten). It's not really unusual that flour should excite such passion—one, many of us eat it, and two, it's the closest thing to foodie alchemy, turning lead into the gold of supple pasta, toothsome ramen noodles, crusty bread, flaky pie, and bubbly, crackly Neapolitan pizza.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

A Table Fifty-Two chef numbs his tongue with fresh turmeric

Posted By on 05.22.15 at 04:30 PM

Rey Villalobos of Table Fifty-Two, challenged by A10 chef Joe Giacomino to create a dish with fresh turmeric, had never used it before except in its powdered form. "The plan is—there was no plan."

Villalobos first tasted the bright-orange rhizome straight and discovered that like ginger, which it's related to, fresh turmeric has a lot of heat. "It's a completely different flavor [than dried turmeric]," he says. "Pepper notes, earthiness, there's some sweetness behind it. It's unlike anything I've ever had. I will never use dry turmeric ever again."

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thalia Hall's Crap Beer Day asks: Does it even matter which cheap lager you drink?

Posted By on 05.21.15 at 10:00 AM

Seven of the eight contestants in the blind tasting
  • Kim Vavrick
  • Seven of the eight contestants in the Beer and Metal blind tasting

On Sunday, May 24, the last day of Chicago Craft Beer Week ("Chicago Craft Beer Eleven Days" doesn't appear to be catching on), Thalia Hall comes down to earth with Crap Beer Day, a celebration of the Kamino clone troopers of the beer world—disposable, mass-produced, useful mostly in large quantities, and a source of widespread regret. Tickets are ten dollars, and starting at 4 PM the venue will sell bottles and cans for a buck apiece: Miller High Life, Schlitz, Mickey's grenades, Hamm's, Old Milwaukee, Tecate, Lone Star, and Icehouse. The Golden Horse Ranch Band will lead square-dance lessons starting at 5 PM.

You'll also have the chance to compete in blind taste tests against "experts" (it's in quotes because I was invited to be one of them—unfortunately I don't have the time). In that spirit I enlisted my buddy Adam Vavrick, beer manager at the Binny's on Marcey, for a blind tasting of our own selection of cheap lagers.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Go big or go home at Machetes Big Quesadillas

Posted By on 05.20.15 at 03:30 PM

Machete de cochinita pibil, Machetes
  • Mike Sula
  • Machete de cochinita pibil, Machetes

The last time I wrote about a restaurant's quesadillas, it was because they caught my eye for their impressive size. But as large as they are, I suspect the ones at Little Village's Las Quecas might have just been the forerunners of a coming quesadilla arms race. Enter Machetes Big Quesadillas, a bare-bones Archer Heights storefront run by two sisters who brought a very particular expression of the quesadilla gigante from their hometown, Mexico City. If you do a Google image search for "machete quesadilla," so called for its resemblance to the standard coconut splitter, you'll see them getting griddled all over Mexico. But Maria de Jesus Lopez Sandoval saw a void and brought them to Chicago, only sizing down their standard two-foot length by four inches because she couldn't find serving plates long enough to accommodate their impressive measure, according to DNAinfo.

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