Grub Street’s State of the Food Union

The kind folks at Grub Street and NYMag were kind enough to allow me to play in their sandbox and share my thoughts on the state of American dining. Most of my opinions made it in, but for those who are interested, here is the full transcript of my responses. 1. Who are the three most important chefs today, and why? Rachael Ray, Jamie Oliver and Guy Fieri. Guy Fieri has more frat boys wearing sunglasses on the back of their heads at a single Dave Matthew’s concert than Thomas Keller has served meals in his lifetime. Go to any non-foodie cocktail party in the nation and I’m willing to bet 7 out of 10 people won’t even know who Ferran Adria or Grant Achatz are. The road to eating at Robuchon for the majority of people goes through Rachael Ray. Ray and Fieri are the culinary versions of marijuana, the food TV gateway drug to eating and cooking either bigger, better, and badder food, or for lazier folks, a lifetime of the cooking equivalent of smoking really bad weed. Thankfully with guys like Oliver who’ve consciously chosen to cook in an unfussy appealing way while featuring super-fresh ingredients, and…

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Triple Play

I like it when a restaurant owner dines in his own establishment.

Macondo’s Empanadas

I was woken by a stomach-churning caterwaul followed by a horrid thump and the sound of drywall crumbling into the chasm between the studs behind my bed.

Taking My Life Into My Own Hands

I’ve not been especially easy on The Bristol. In an old review, I accused them of cooking mediocre dishes, mixing terrible drinks, and ripping off other Chicago restaurants.

Obama’s Favorite Pancake

Many a president has had a regretful dalliance. For Kennedy, it was Marilyn. For Clinton it was Monica. And for Obama: a cornmeal pancake.

A Meal Fit for a President: Calypso Cafe

There are times I’m primed to make fun of a restaurant. I’m not indulging in some twisted unprofessionalism, just human nature. I know if I told you I was going to a place that serves Caribbean, Creole and Southern food in a tin-roofed faux-island-style shanty outfitted with a Pier One’s worth of wicker and kitschy wall-mounted bric-a-brac including taxidermied fish and vintage soda company advertising, you’d probably respond, “I didn’t know TGI Friday’s launched a Jamaican specialty menu.”

A Tortilla Tale: St. Jude delivers the goods at Carbon

Painted up in a post-apocalyptic vision of what it might look like if a volcano erupted underneath the Loop, the Pilsen taqueria Carbon is hard to miss. However, what you can’t see beneath the neo-arty-graffiti-style façade is that there was once a somber mural on these walls of Jude the Apostle that stood guard over the nearby freeway overpass and the building that now houses the taqueria. Though the mural is gone, there’s still a cornerstone embedded in the east side of Carbon that also invokes St. Jude. Both of these facts might explain a lot.