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Monday, July 23, 2018

Eating elsewhere: of cow tongue Reubens and fresh pasta at Raduno, in Traverse City, MI

Posted By on 07.23.18 at 12:00 PM

Tagliatelle, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Tagliatelle, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

I headed to Leelanau County in northern Michigan last week for R&R, armed with a list of cideries, wineries, farmers' markets, ice cream stands, and restaurants to check out. That's the little peninsula on the state's greater lower peninsula that sticks out between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay like a pinky finger on a wine stem. Blessed with a glorious maritime climate (in summer, anyway), it has a serious viticulture (relative to the rest of the midwest) and a comparably respectable food scene.

Porchetta sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Porchetta sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

There's almost too much to take in in a week, but near the top of my list was Raduno, an Italian cafe-deli in Traverse City, founded in part by onetime Chicago butcher Andrea Logan Deibler. Deibler, a Kansas City native, dove into the charcuterie arts at the late, great Mado, studying whole animal butchery with Rob Levitt, then later went on lead the charcuterie program at the late City Provisions, and then set up as the in-house butcher at Hopleaf. In 2014 she moved to Traverse City, where her husband grew up, and bounced around various farm and restaurant kitchens on the peninsula, notably at 9 Beans Row, a beloved farm-to-table situation in Suttons Bay where she met chefs Paul Carlson and Janene Silverman, the latter an accomplished maker of pasta and bread who'd worked in Italy's Piedmont region for nearly two decades.

Rigatoni with pork bolognese, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Rigatoni with pork bolognese, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Last summer, the three struck out on their own, opening in a small neighborhood strip mall well off Traverse City's well-touristed waterfront strip. Inside it's roomy with lots of tables and a good view of the operations, but what's most striking is the display case of the fruits of Logan Deibler's labor: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, speck, bratwursts and blood sausage, and a striking bowl of fat corned cow tongues, all preserved from local beasts.

"I get whole Durocs from Hampel Farms up here near Buckley, Michigan, and make sausages, patés, smoked meats, and such in house," she told me later. "Whole lamb I get from a farm near Williamsburg. We don't move enough beef for me to get whole steers (and labor is very tough to find up here) ,so I buy odd bits from a great local food distribution company called Cherry Capital Foods. They are getting organic beef tongue from dairy cows at Dekam Dairy near Falmouth."

Smoked turkey sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Smoked turkey sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Many of these are put to good use in fat sandwiches like smoked turkey with mozzarella, pickled red onion, pesto, and greens; or porchetta with salsa verde and arugula; or an enormous banh mi with country paté, chicken liver mousse, pickled carrots, and aioli. All come on Silverman's seductively chewy ciabatta. The cow tongues are sliced and used to build Reubens that Logan Deibler reports sell surprisingly well. "People here get really excited for all the bits you can’t find easily. It’s a farming community, and a lot of people grew up eating beef tongue and blood sausage and braunschweiger and can't get that at a lot of places."

The other key component to the operation are the fresh pastas made by Silverman that, along with Carlson's sauces and fillings, stock another display case: tentacular tagliatelle with bright tomato sauce, ruddy rigatoni with lamb ragu, bucatini, gnocchi, sardi, ravioli, each available raw and unsauced to take back to your vacation pad or back home to Chicago. Either way it's an essential stop to or to from the peninsula.

Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Raduno, 545 E. Eighth St., Traverse City, MI

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Monday, July 9, 2018

The sad state of the sandwich at Logan Square deli Rosie’s Sidekick

Posted By on 07.09.18 at 06:00 AM

Italian beef and not-eggplant Parm, Rosie's Sidekick - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Italian beef and not-eggplant Parm, Rosie's Sidekick

Seems like I've been burned by menus a lot lately (more on that in this week's review), so I don't mean to pick on Rosie's Sidekick, a counter-service sandwich shop from the family behind Portage Park's 50-year-old Sicilia Bakery. But in this corner of the galaxy, eggplant Parm refers to battered slices of eggplant rolled in bread crumbs and grated Parmesan, then fried crispy and draped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

I know the history of parmigiana di melanzane traces back to Naples (not Parma), and I know you can cook the eggplant lots of different ways, but regardless, there's no reason not to be very clear about what constitutes an acceptable eggplant Parm. It mostly doesn't mean the eggplant is unadorned and roasted until slippery. You wouldn't do that to a veal or chicken Parm, would you? My colleague Aimee Levitt noticed this very same thing at the late Rosie's West Town Deli, operated by the same family.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Troll the Chicago hot dog fascists with this T-shirt

Posted By on 06.25.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Derek Erdman
Apart from open defiance, the second-best way to resist Chicagoans' pointless prohibition of ketchup on a hot dog is with mockery.

Artist and ninja-level japester Derek Erdman, who recently returned to town after an extended residency at the Stranger in Seattle, posted a good one on Facebook the other day:

Last night on an airplane to Chicago I overheard some guy talking about how much he loved Chicago-style hotdogs. When there was a lull in his dogsplaining I piped up, "They're great with ketchup!" and he gave me dagger eyes. I wrote down his address from his luggage tag because I'm a total psycho and I'm going to send him one of these very pedestrian joked t-shirts.

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

The return of the great Cafe Marianao to the north side

Posted By on 06.03.18 at 05:00 PM

The Cubano at Bia's Cafe Marianao - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • The Cubano at Bia's Cafe Marianao

When the late, great Logan Square loncheria Cafe Marianao mysteriously  shut down and the property went on the market in the summer of 2016, it was like the unexplained disappearance of a loved one: shocking, brutal, and offering no closure. For decades, stoic countermen at the Milwaukee Avenue sandwich shop plied a steady but disordered scrum of adherents with cafe con leche and Cubano, steak, and medianoche sandwiches. And suddenly, without warning, it was all over. News reports were vague—the owners listed the spot for $1.39 million, and not surprisingly it sold a month later.

But who were the original owners? And why shut down? Was it a cold and calculated abandonment of tradition in the face of gentrified real estate prices?

Don't be so cynical. It was because founder Manuel Basilio "Bia" Santiago had gone to his great reward. That's the word from his grandson Marcos Santiago, who assembled sandwiches in the basement when he was growing up before going on to college and embarking on his own career.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Get wet at the first Thai New Year Water Festival

Posted By on 05.16.18 at 03:00 PM

The problem with celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year, in Chicago is that it's too cold for a water fight in mid-April. One of the popular features of Songkran in Bangkok originated as a ceremony offering blessings to your elders by anointing their hands with scented water, but the custom's evolved into a friendly no-holds-barred mass water fight, a euphoric respite from the withering heat that essentially takes over the city this time of year.

Dew Suriyawan, owner and chef of Uptown's great Immm Rice & Beyond, was so intent on hosting a water fight at the inaugural Thai New Year Water Festival that he pushed the date up more than a month so that he could hold it on a (hopefully) warm May weekend: this weekend, that is.

He also bought 1,000 water guns.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Chicago chefs, restaurants lose out at James Beard Foundation Awards

Posted By on 05.07.18 at 10:17 PM

Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo of Fat Rice. Conlon won for Best Chef Great Lakes. - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times Media
  • Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo of Fat Rice. Conlon won for Best Chef Great Lakes.

First Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread lost out for Outstanding  Baker. Then Sarah Rinkavage of Marisol went down for Rising Star Chef of the Year. And then Meg Galus of the Boka group lost for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Chicago's first win tonight at the James Beard Foundation chef and restaurant awards, held at the Lyric Opera House, was Abe Conlon of Fat Rice for Best Chef Great Lakes. Conlon beat out four other Chicago entrants: Andrew Brochu of Roister, Beverly Kim and  Johnny Clark of Parachute, David Posey and Anna Posey of Elske, and Lee Wolen of Boka.

There were high hopes for Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka Restaurant Group (latest restaurants Somerset and Bellemore, their 14th and 15th) for Best Restaurateur, but that didn't work out either, nor did their flagship, Boka, win for Outstanding Service.

At least Sun Wah's preordained Lifetime Achievement Award just goes to show that no matter how much the city loves to shut you down, people can still love you.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

High rents force Wishbone out of its West Loop home after 26 years

Posted By on 04.26.18 at 08:09 PM

  • Wishbone

Wishbone founder Joel Nickson confirmed Thursday that he is moving his southern food icon, a pioneer of the West Loop/Fulton Market District restaurant scene, after 26 years on Washington and Morgan.

The reason? Higher rent.

"We have a location 1/2 a mile to the east lined up but yes, a lot of work and no fun moving," he told me in a Facebook message. "This neighborhood has gotten too pricey and as you know it is all a percentage battle and when you don't own you have to ask how much in beans and rice can I sell and pay yourself.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A new food website aims to help give minority women a seat at the table

Posted By on 04.24.18 at 06:00 AM

Julia Turshen - GENTL + HYERS
  • Gentl + Hyers
  • Julia Turshen

There's an old saying that if you're more fortunate than others, it's better to build a longer table than a higher fence. Loosely, that's the principle on which the new website Equity at the Table is based; it describes itself as a "practical and proactive response to the blatant gender and racial discrimination that plagues the food industry." The site's founder, Julia Turshen, chose the name "equity" deliberately; it's not the same as equality.

"I think they're really different," she says. "It's not just about who's invited to the table, it's who gets to do the inviting, who gets to sit at the head of the table. It's not looking at diversity for the sake of diversity, but true inclusion and intersectionality."

Turshen, a cookbook author based in New York's Hudson Valley, created Equity at the Table to be a database of women and gender-nonconforming individuals in professions related to the food industry, nearly all of them people of color or queer people (or both). The site encourages straight white women to join if they're able to provide resources for food professionals, but it's mostly intended for women who are part of at least one minority group. (Turshen herself is gay.)

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Here’s how to make BellyQ chef Bill Kim’s excellent Korean pesto

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 06:00 AM

Sauces and seasonings for steak-and-asparagus night. Clockwise from upper right: Korean pesto, nuoc cham, gochuchang, lemongrass chile sauce. Center: blackening seasoning. Not pictured: Korean barbecue sauce - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Sauces and seasonings for steak-and-asparagus night. Clockwise from upper right: Korean pesto, nuoc cham, gochuchang, lemongrass chile sauce. Center: blackening seasoning. Not pictured: Korean barbecue sauce
I haven't always been gentle when I've written about Bill Kim's food. I've long been of the (immensely unpopular) opinion that the former fine-dining chef behind the immensely popular BellyQ (and erstwhile Urban Belly and Belly Shack) tends to oversaturate his food with too many disparate influences.

Guess what? He doesn't care.

"Do there really have to be borders on our cuisine?," he writes in the truly touching and humble introduction to his new cookbook Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces, in which he describes his culinary evolution—from his arrival in Chicago at the age of seven, speaking no English, on up through culinary school, Charlie Trotter's, and the three Bellys—as a truly American syncretism.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Dried scallops the key ingredient in chef C.J. Jacobson's 'Mediterranean XO sauce' [VIDEO]

Posted By on 04.16.18 at 06:00 AM

When Brent Balika (Margeaux Brasserie) challenged C.J. Jacobson of Ema to create a dish with dried scallops, Jacobson knew what he wanted to make. First, though, he had to get his hands on the scallops (also called conpoy). "It's been a journey," he says. "H-Mart didn't have them, so I had to go to Chinatown, and finally I called Brent." As it turns out, Balika dries his own scallops in-house and offered to drop some off for Jacobson. "Who just has dried scallops on hand that they do themselves?," Jacobson asks. "He does. I don't know why. I don't think it’s on the menu at Margeaux."

Jacobson says the flavor of the dried scallops is "superdank, musty umami . . . very caramelly seafood flavor. It’s really cool, adds a lot of flavor." Traditionally, dried scallops are used in XO sauce, a spicy seafood sauce popular in China that also includes dried shrimp, garlic, ginger, chiles, and spices. Because Ema is a Mediterranean restaurant, Jacobson added tomatoes and herbs to his sauce to give it a Mediterranean flair.

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