Richard Sandoval

For this month’s podcast, I sit down with chef Richard Sandoval of Mexx Kitchen at the Whiskey (1015 N. Rush St.) a man noted for Asian-inflected and modern Mexican flair at spots like Zengo in Denver and Maya in New York City. Sandoval’s genius is in his willingness to punch you with the heat of chilis and then sooth with a bit of citrus or sweet.   Advertisements

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Mercury Falling

I’ve taken measure of the Gage and were it a thermometer, the reading is pretty lukewarm. It’s surprising because as a critic, I’ve been about as slow as the Jamaican bobsled team in filing a review on this somewhat new Michigan Avenue restaurant. It opened in April, and everyone from the fleet Time Out to the tortoise-like Phil Vettel has weighed in. Almost all the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

Greg Christian

The debate over school lunches attracts celebrity chefs, angry parents and expert dieticians, many of whom vilify lunch ladies and school administrators while taking a “my way or the highway” approach to nutrition reform.  But last year, local conscious caterer and professional chef Greg Christian founded the Organic School Project to work with parents, administrators and the food-service provider for Chicago Public Schools.

Deeply Delicious

The legendary heft of Chicago’s deep dish pizza-that thick-crusted, pan-baked concoction of meat, chunky tomato sauce, and other ingredients entombed in molten cheese – dates to 1943, when the founder of the original Pizzeria Uno (a Texan named Ike Swell) introduced a pie he had designed to be a one-dish meal. 

Taking a Walk on the Southside

They say defeat is an orphan and victory has a hundred fathers. Likewise, the origin of many classic cocktails or iconic dishes is usually mired in pitched battles between generations of families, restaurateurs, and shady credit claimers. 

Carol Wallack

A former surfer who grew up in sunny California and Hawaii, Carol Wallack, chef and owner of sola, has quickly learned how Chicago winters or rainy summer squalls can dampen the spirit.  She bucks up her patrons with tasty California- and Asian-accented cuisine that’s clean, balanced and, next to the butter-drenched fare clogging our city’s restaurants, relatively healthy.  To her, cooking means caring for others by delivering the foods they want and need. Q. What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/ food scene? A. We have such a family [of chefs] here, a close knit restaurant community.  One night we ran out of linens and someone lent us some.  Likewise, people who run out of tuna know we get great tuna, and they might call us.  We always help someone in a bind.  It’s an honor to be part of something like this. Q. What would your last meal be? A. I don’t plan on being in jail or Death Row anytime soon, but it would be sushi. … No particular fish, I would eat them all.  I also love seaweed. Q. What Chicago chef would you most like to share a…

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Release the Grapes

I love champagne like fat kids love cake. Of course I’m a fat kid and I love cake, too. But the state legislature isn’t banning the out-of-state retail sales of cake. On August 7, both houses of the Illinois legislature passed bill HB429, which is supposed to reconcile state law with a Supreme Court ruling that requires states to treat in-state and out-of-state wineries the same.

Tacos, Shawarma-Style

Antonio Anteliz, a Chicago native, was so enamored of the tacos he used to get in the Mexican city of Puebla, where he took trips to his family’s ancestral home as a kid, that he’d carry the grease-stained paper they were served on back to the States in his pockets, just so he could get a nostalgic whiff of their spicy aroma.

Chain Gang

P.F. Chang’s Orange Peel Shrimp Batman eats at Ben Pao. Rather, according to last month’s tabloids, his alter-ego Christian Bale does. As I recently wrote of Katie Holmes’ order of Gino’s East pizza, you figure folks who have millions of dollars could find themselves a first-rate food concierge to point them to better fare. Bale is after all an extremist who almost starved himself to death for his role in “The Machinist.” Comparatively, a stop in Chinatown for spicy Lao Szechuan stylings or the Yunnan delicacies at Spring World is like a Sunday cruise in the Batmobile.

Allison Levitt

Allison Levitt, pastry chef at 312 Chicago, is dedicated to green causes.  She studied environmental biology before realizing she didn’t want to work in a lab all day.  As she switched to the Culinary Institute of America, she kept her eco-streak.  Instrumental in making 312’s kitchen more efficient, she oversaw the installation of a faucet aerator (to reduce water waste), compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED exit lights.