The Jibarito from Borinquen Lounge It took ethnic comfort food to make me forsake my own mother, but, Puerto Rican jibaritos (hi-bar-itoes)–deep fried plantain sandwiches–and Vietnamese pho (fuh)–beef tendon soup–have displaced her chicken noodle and grilled bologna and cheese in my personal comfort-food pantheon. If you ever saw my mom tenderize a recalcitrant pork chop or bring the gleaming business end of her Wusthof cleaver to bear on bloody tenderloin, you’d know that I’m betting a whole lot on the notion that the mother and son bond will keep me safe. Advertisements
Gennaro’s Gnocchi Gennaro’s is the kind of restaurant no one writes about until it closes. It’s not the oldest restaurant in the city, it doesn’t have liquor license number one, they don’t dip the Italian sausage in liquid nitrogen and the interior doesn’t look like a Frank Gehry dream of imploding stainless steel. It’s just an old red-sauce emporium in Little Italy whose stoop is darkened by the shadow of the ABLA power-plant tower and the crumbling remains of Jane Addams Homes.
This week I sit down with Cameron Hughes, the man some folks are dubbing the robin hood of wine. Hughes owns no vineyards, makes no wine, but he has an inside connection to some of the best wineries that do. The way the model works is many top wineries produce wine that either doesn’t fit in to their profile or they make too much of a wine. That’s where Hughes steps in. He buys up the excess lots and then markets them under his own label and sells them direct on his website or through Costco. Because Hughes bypasses traditional middle men and marketing fees, he’s able to offer incredible wines for about $10 bucks.
Andrew Zimmerman once played music for 10,000 people, recorded with famed Producer Steve Albini who’s recorded PJ Harvey, Nirvana, and the Pixies, and played a guitar Kurt Cobain once used. He gave up his music career, and now rocks it out in the kitchen at Chicago’s Del Toro restaurant, a gourmet Spanish influenced small plates restaurant.
I’ve given cocktails short shrift. I’m a descriminating gourmand, who’ll travel a thousand miles just to eat a local specialty, but when it comes to the bar, I’m more likely to amble a couple of blocks, and ask for my old standby of bourbon and Coke. Lately though I’ve been spending some time with bartenders who pursue mixology with the same dedication as top chefs. These guys are focused on seasonal ingredient driven cocktails filled with chopped farm fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t know why it took me so long to have an epiphany. Whenever possible I’m looking for farm grown heirloom tomatoes for caprese salads or local creameries for my milk, and yet I think nothing of using mixes full of corn syrup, sodium benzoate, shelf stable gums, and artificial colorings for my drinks.
This article first appeared in Newcity Chicago. Pics are taken from my 12 course foie gras tasting at Avenues restaurant in May. Asparagus with bacon bits, confit duck egg, and foie gras torchon If karma truly governs the universe, then someday my prostrate body will be pecked to death by a quacking covey of bloodthirsty Moulard ducks. I am a foie gras eater.
Adam Seger is the Charlie Trotter of cocktails. Actually, Trotter doesn’t serve spirits in his Lincoln Park restaurant, so it might be more appropriate to call Seger the Grant Achatz of Spirits.
This week we try something different, with a little reporting piece on the history of greek restaurant staples the gyro and flaming saganaki. Believe it or not, flaming saganaki, Opaa, and the whole theatrical production was invented in Chicago on Halsted St in the 1960’s at the Parthenon. The Parthenon also played a role in popularizing the gyro in Chicago by giving it away as sort of a free amuse course in the late sixties.