Common Sense on Common Culinary Misconceptions

According to biographer Craig Nelson, in the last few weeks of his life, everything Thomas Paine ate triggered episodes of vomiting. In response, he allegedly gave food up entirely until he died. Maybe that’s the real story? We think maybe Paine just witnessed the bad behaviors and fibs of colonial celebrity chefs and restaurateurs and couldn’t take it anymore. We know the feeling. As their modern counterparts have grown in stature and the PR machines have heated up, so has the mythology of dining out. Since the truth shall set you free, we bring a little common sense to bear on some common culinary-related misconceptions. Advertisements

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French Kiss

I’m in Café des Architectes, which boasts one of the sharpest dining rooms in Chicago, and the greasy-haired guy in the gabardine blazer at the table next to me is holding forth on the subject of—what else?—Eastern European prostitutes.

Pimm & Not So Proper

There may be no better reward for enduring one of Chicago’s hard winters than a boozy alfresco afternoon. Put away the juleps, the Daiquiris and the Margaritas, though, because there’s a new sipper in the city.

Grocery Lore

Andre Christopher, the punky, fast-talking former executive chef of Pops for Champagne, former chef de cuisine of Japonais and vet of Ambria and Spiaggia, has left behind those “foofy and bourgeoisie” (his words) spots to open West Loop hotspot Grocery Bistro. With BYOB, killer low price points, produce occasionally procured from the corner grocery store and thrift store china, it’s the ultimate neighborhood restaurant. We checked in with the homeboy (he’s a grad of Lane Tech) about his new project and to get his verdict on age-old Chicago culinary conflicts.

Cracking the Code

If man truly had to live on bread alone, especially bread he’d baked himself, I’d starve to death. 

Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Death’s Door

Artisanal spirits are the new micro-brew. It seems as if small-scale liquor dudes are rivaling celebrity deaths in number these days. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most of these booze-artisans are pretty much snake-oil salesman capitalizing on the human penchant for the little guy while passing off bad-to-mediocre vodka.

The Pastry Trail: Eclair, the moment I met you…

For many folks, a first trip to Paris turns out to be a bolt of culinary enlightenment. For me it was pretty much about trudging up thousands of really old stone stairs with the occasional side of mediocre pan au chocolat. Of course, as in substandard sex or pizza, one can always find something to love in a bad croissant stuffed with the gooey chocolate. But the point remains that during that trip I was not sophisticated enough to know where I should have gone for good pastry.

Grapes of Mirth

There may be no better time in our history to hit the bottle. Certainly we are not lacking for motivation, what with all the layoffs, pay reductions, bankruptcies and mortgage adjustments. But, more importantly, even with thinner wallets, because of the over-production of wine, the growth in negociants (folks who often capitalize on that over-production by buying great wines for a song and selling them for a comparably low price at retail), and increases in manufacturing efficiencies, we’ve never had greater opportunity to buy relatively low-priced wine.

So You Think You Can Cook? America’s Top Chef is Hiring

Want to cook with Julia Child? You can’t, because, God rest her beautiful, French gourmet–cooking soul, she’s dead. But maybe the next closest thing (and seemingly as unlikely) would be holding down the kitchen line alongside the No. 1 chef in America (according to Gourmet magazine and the James Beard Foundation), Alinea’s Grant Achatz.