At 8:30pm on a Friday night, The Drawing Room at Le Passage is kind of a lonely hearts club. There’s a six-top of cargo-shorts-wearing sunburned dudes slurping down Coronas. There’s a bony bald-headed Nosferatu-like guy in a smart-looking suit making his way through some food. In the opposite corner, an employee, head-to-toe in black sporting a taut ponytail, a “Marked for Death”-era Steven Seagal look-alike, warily scans the room. Finally, there’s a lanky, lonely old dude, who with his slicked-back gray hair, Harry Caray face-engulfing black-rimmed glasses, turquoise nylon windbreaker and Daisy-Duke-length boating shorts looks like a Viagra Triangle Aristotle Onassis. Advertisements
Whoever coined the phrase, “Ain’t no thang, but a chicken wang” was clearly a careless philosopher.
In addition to Vernors ginger ale, Joe Louis, Nelson Algren, the MC5 and of course, the automobile, John King books might just be one of the greatest things Detroit has ever offered the world. Located in an old glove factory, this is the bookstore that a city like Chicago should have, but doesn’t. Located at 901 West Lafayette Street, it’s a four-story warehouse that sits a Kirk Gibson home run away from the rusting hulk of old Detroit Tigers stadium, housing 750,000-plus used books and mountains of kitschy and rare ephemera. The twenty-five years of accumulated dust and must, which channel the funk of a grandparent’s basement, draws book hounds, including Jay Leno and Teller of Penn and Teller, from the farthest reaches of the world.
For Rocky Aoki I spent the better part of the last three years as a food writer lobbying against the likes of Benihana. That is to say, I generally stay away from lauding global mass-market restaurant franchises that distill ethnic cultures into palatable stereotypes through cheap entertainment and the service of second rate food products. But, now, as I read the previous sentences, I think, “Man, what arrogant bastard wrote that?”
When Bruce Sherman, executive chef/partner of North Pond restaurant, was studying to become a cook, dealing with fruit thieves was never on his list of expected responsibilities. But for the last two years, some park walker, perhaps a rogue pie baker, absconded with the fresh blood red rhubarb stalks that grow in the tiny garden plot that abuts the Arts and Crafts style former ice skater’s warming hut housing his restaurant. He says, “They take the flowers too. Growing anything that bears fruit is out of the question.” For Sherman, the garden is part of his hyper-commitment to cooking seasonally. A growing number of chefs and bartenders, like Paul Kahan of Blackbird, Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, and Adam Seger of Nacional 27, are no longer content to fill their kitchen larder exclusively with farmer- and vendor-provided produce. Following the burgeoning locavore movement, these chefs are using herbs, vegetables and fruit from their own restaurant and home gardens on their daily menus. For some chefs, like Roland Liccioni of Old Town Brasserie — who’s currently cooking up zucchini blossoms from his 50-by-100-meter plot in Mettawa — the home garden serves as a reminder of his youth. Liccioni says, “In Biarritz…
Hmmm..how can I contradict myself next? Maybe I’ll totally bash that whole raw food movement I supported. It never caught on anyway. Chefs are the new rock stars, and as such, some of them have been honoring that heritage by acting like first-class liquored-up self-indulgent retards. I figured since this is the common-sense issue, I’d try and bring a little balance to all things silly and culinary.
ADMIT IT: Most of you grab bottled sauce when stocking up for a barbecue. There’s no shame to that game, but if you’re going to go bottled, at least go local. Which brings us to determining just which Chicago-made barbecue sauce is worthy of slathering all over your hot-off-the-grill grub. To find out, we enlisted three Chicago ’cue kings: Barry Sorkin (far right) of Smoque BBQ (3800 N Pulaski Rd, 773-545-7427); Robert Adams Jr. (far left) of Honey 1 BBQ (2241 N Western Ave, 773-227-5130); and Gary Wiviott (center), founder of LTH Forum and coauthor of Low and Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons (Running Press, March 2009). The panel took part in a blind tasting of seven local sauces, rating each on a scale of one to six. Here’s the breakdown: