Greg Hall

  Beer, Chicago, Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall. Enough said. Enjoy this month’s podcast interview over a glass of suds. If you’re enjoying the pod during your commute as some of you like to do, you might hold off on the beer ’til you get home. On the other hand, we have no idea how bad your job really is. Advertisements

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Requiem for a Restaurant

The tables are now empty at Del Toro When Del Toro opened in December 2005, it was a modest affair, devoid of the auspicious pomp surrounding most restaurant launches. There was some buzz because local impresario Terry Alexander was reinventing his popular Wicker Park spot MOD. But when I first met chef Andrew Zimmerman, he spoke of the inspiration of a simple grilled monkfish that he had on a recent trip to Spain. He hoped to bring a similar quiet grace to Del Toro. Early critics seemed conflicted, but by the time I visited last July I’d felt Zimmerman transcended the party culture and assembly-line inauthenticity of other local tapas bars.

North by Northwest

Arancini from Pasta Fresh Riunite is kind of like the Italian Boone’s Farm, which is to say, it’s usually drunk by college kids, boozy moms and the homeless. For a proud Italian to have to sell these wines as a traveling salesman is akin to a Parisian butcher turning to sell Spam door to door.

Falling into the Rabbithole

You probably shouldn’t go see a play about parents coping with the death of their four year-old child the night before your own first child is born. But, by chance, that’s exactly what I did.

Smuggler’s Blues

Some people smuggle drugs. I smuggle muffuletta. Muffuletta is one of New Orleans’ iconic sandwiches, an Italian sesame-seed-studded bread loaf split horizontally and topped with a salad of olives, celery, cauliflower and carrot marinated in olive oil and herbs, and layers of freshly sliced capicola, salami, mortadella, emmentaler and provolone. You can find the sandwich outside of New Orleans, but as with many regional delicacies, such as the Philly cheesesteak, something gets lost in translation. Thanks to my friends Brian and Sara Gronowski, who fly in a bakery’s load from Central Grocery in New Orleans for their annual Mardi Gras party, I got a shot at the best version before ever stepping foot in the French Quarter. The sandwich might as well have been the president of the New Orleans chamber of commerce, because after my first bite, two months later I was on a plane to Louisiana.

To Be Franc

The many faces of chef Alain Ducasse Like a geographic Rodney Dangerfield, the Midwest gets no respect. Whether it was the California stylings rooted in locally grown politically vetted food of Chez Panisse or the haute wizardy of Daniel Boulud in New York, for many years, America’s culinary consciousness, much like our artistic one, veered to the coasts.

Court-Martial at Fort Devens

Victory Garden’s production of Court-Martial at Fort Devens is an examination of three young African American women serving in the Women’s Army Corp during World War II and their struggle to triumph over the destructive toll of overt racism and unchecked institutional power.

The Devil’s Wine

I had this 2005 Carmenere from Concha y Toro the other night, and went back and bought five bottles this morning at $6.99 a pop at Trader Joes (also available at Sams for a buck more locally here in Chicago). It’s honestly one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year. It reminds me of a $50 Bordeaux. It’s basically way more Salma Hayek (big, spicy, and deep) than it is Penelope Cruz (whispy thin and fruity).

The Truth About Mrs. Warren

Is it nobler for a woman with limited prospects to slave away for minimum wage at a fast food joint or to work the streets for a stash of cash?

Rick Bayless

Twenty years ago, one of Frontera Grill’s first customers walked in, perused the menu, slammed it shut, walked up to Rick Bayless, told him “This isn’t Mexican food. You’re never gonna make it.” Nonetheless, with his mother and his mother-in-law’s retirement money on the line, Bayless adhered to his vision of authentic regional Mexican and the good fight against the Chimichanga began. In a city where a restaurant lasting three years is a feat, Frontera charged through the awkward teenage years, and on March 18th, the restaurant celebrates it’s 20th anniversary. In this month’s podcast, you’ll get a chance to hear about those early days, what Chef Bayless thinks about the Nuevo Latino trend, as well as his thoughts on why Latino chefs don’t always make it out front and center in the restaurant world.