Barry Sorkin

Assert your opinions on BBQ amongst of group of food minded folks, and you’ll likely find yourself embroiled in an Iraq like quagmire regarding the merits of regional variations, spice rubs, and sauce preferences. In an attempt to pitch our own culinary grenade, we caught up with Barry Sorkin of Irving Park’s Smoque BBQ. In a short time Sorkin and his crew have established themselves as one the generals of Chicago’s ‘cue guard. Sorkin’s traveled the country and made a concerted effort to garner a trove of lessons from some of the best pit masters around. While’s he’s not afraid to break rules, he’s committed to honoring the past, and synthesizing those lessons in to his own Chicago take on a much revered treat. So listen up to this month’s podcast, and smoke em if you got em.   Advertisements

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Michael Altenberg

If chef Michael Altenberg were any more green, he might glow in the dark.  Long before shopping at organic markets became a flashy photo-op for media-savvy chefs, Altenberg was quietly dishing up tasty organic dishes at Campagnola in Evanston and Bistro Campagne in Lincoln Square.

Hungering for More

This article might suck. Sounds like a set-up? You bet. As a self-respecting writer, one should either skip writing such an article, or just write the article and let the reader decide whether it sucks or not. Similarly, any professional waiter shouldn’t start the night’s service with the following statement: “Hello, I just want to let you know we have twelve large parties tonight, and we’re going to be real busy. Your food order will probably take a long time. Just bear with us and everyone will have fun.”

Ramping Up

Wild leeks are kind of like the agricultural version of crystal meth. That’s not to say if you eat a handful of the green, leafy, white-bulbed veg that tastes like a cross between spring onion and garlic you’ll end up tweaked-out and toothless, selling your children in the Wal-Mart parking lot. But then again I’ve never smoked or snorted them. Maybe if you throw a couple of bulbs in some rolling papers and spark up, you’ll commune with the ghost of Julia Child and a Rockette-like dance troupe of truffle-stuffed chickens?

Alexander Cheswick

Chef Alexander Cheswick of May Street Market started cooking at age 16 for the Metropolitan Club in the Sears Tower.  After attending the Culinary Institute of America, Cheswick worked at Le Francais and Tru, where the importance of every dish coming out “looking like gold and tasting like heaven” was paramount.  Cheswick also spent time at Heinz Winkler, a three-Michelin-star French restaurant in Germany.

Petit Forte: Malika Ameen has wowed New York, L.A., and Bono. Now she’s buttering up her hometown

TWO YEARS AGO, Malika Ameen was sleeping off late-stage pregnancy sickness when Bono called. The lead singer of U2 had been winding down over some Irish whiskey at West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont and had heard that Ameen, Marmont’s pastry chef, was sick. A fan of her cookies, he dialed her up at 3 a.m. and recited a broguish couplet of inspirational verse. Three hours later she went into labor.

Talk Shows, Food, and Homaro Cantu

photo courtesy of the Ellen show I’ve basically become a glorified Midwestern housewife. Or at least, since I quit my “real job” and became a freelance food writer a year and a half ago, my tastes have begun to skew that way.

Off the Beaten Path

Troha’s may be Chicago’s oldest shrimp house, but it lured customers with cheap beer and chili when it opened in 1920.  When chili meat became scarce during the Great Depression, Troha’s had to serve smoked and fresh fish instead.  After a 1935 trip to New Orleans, the Troha family got hooked on shrimp and permanently deleted chili and beer from its menu.  Run by third- and fourth-generation family members today, the restaurant’s interior crawls with dusty nautical bric-a-brac, including an oar with fading blue paint, a model of a multimasted sailing ship and conch shells. For more than 80 years, Troha’s has perfected the golden, lightly battered, fried shrimp, which are some of the best in Chicago.  If you’re not fond of shrimp, try the fried chicken made true to its 1959 recipe.  Its special ingredient remains a secret, but here’s a hint: The woman who runs the cash register has the word “love” tattooed on her hand. Troha’s Shrimp House; 4151 W. 26th Street, Chicago (773) 521-7847

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank is the pre- Judy Blume bible for 13 year-old girls. It’s also the paragon depiction of Holocaust life, a hallowed text taught to witless schoolchildren, who in this time, would rather text message their friends, than understand why a precocious German girl has such a hold over their homework load. Count me as one of the witless, as I’ve somehow managed to avoid the text my entire life.