Rhapsody in Blue

With Michael Jordan as a silent partner in the West Loop’s one sixtyblue, it’s tempting to dub the restaurant’s new chef, Michael McDonald, the culinary Scottie Pippen. Advertisements

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On Coffee

One of my favorite M. Doughty (former lead singer of Soul Coughing*) songs is Busting Up a Starbucks. Not because I REALLY dream of kicking in the windows of the local franchise of the twin-tailed siren and taking my frustrations out on a couple of baristas. It has more to do with using ironic appreciation of extreme notions as a way of salving my general ennui toward the company formed on the basis of unexamined ideas about Starbucks being a bad corporate citizen.

Spicy Smackdown

With all the truth-seeking, moneyed, mid-life-crisis-experiencing entrepreneurs “climbing” Mt. Everest, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a nationwide boom in Nepalese cuisine. After all, in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the counter-culture got tired of smoking peyote and mainlining Mexican mezcal, they returned to the States bearing larded beans, chimichangas and burritos as big as your head. But, while young reformed hippies needed to build a life and make some money, flush hedge-fund managers don’t quite need sidelines beyond month-long sojourns to the Turks and Caicos or weekend benders at Maybach dealerships. And so our nation suffers a culinary debt.

Guy Talk

How many guys does it take to make a great burger? Based on my recent experience at Five Guys in Oak Park, it’s definitely more than five. Of course, quantity probably doesn’t matter, as McDonald’s Corporation employs hundreds of thousands of people and they’ve yet to get it right.

Cast Iron Love

The cookware huckster at the department store was wrong: My heavy clad nonstick cookware set hasn’t outlasted me or my marriage.

Sweet on Senegal

I don’t know if Diaw Sow, owner/chef of Café Senegal in Rogers Park, has seen “Field of Dreams,” but she clearly doesn’t agree with the movie’s tagline that if you build it, they will come. Or, rather: if you cook it, they will come. Because the restaurant is so new and because of her concern for freshness, she’s waiting for customer traffic to increase before she expands her selection. As a result, though her French-inflected West African-style printed menu features forty or so items, you’ll likely only be able to order a handful on any given night.

Superior Donuts

Kirsten Anderson shatters the ideal of the quintessential doughnut baker, embodied by the pudgy, pajama-wearing Fred the Baker in those mid-’80s Dunkin Donuts commercials. 

Pho

If chicken soup feeds the soul, then pho (pronounced “FUH”), the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup, is the curative for frozen bones. Usually served with a condiment tray featuring limes, chile paste, hoisin, bean sprouts, Asian basil and culantro (a sawtooth-shaped cilantro-like herb), it’s also the ultimate tableside soup buffet. Customize to your heart’s content, but for the purpose of this article, we stayed away from the extra flavorings and focused solely on the quality of the base broth, cuts of meat and noodles. In order to ensure the most “beefiness” and to compare apples to apples, we ordered our pho at each restaurant with eye of round steak, brisket, tripe, tendon, flank steak and tendon meatballs. Excepting the pho at the Noodle (where it’s called Pho Chín, Nam, Gau, Gân, Sách) and at Tank (Pho Xe Tang), this was always the pho dac biet or “supercombo” version.