That cocktail in the picture serves a purpose. Yes, we have something to toast today. We’re just one day away from the launch of “The Feed,” a new podcast I’m launching with Chicago chef Rick Bayless. Rick and I have been talking for months, if not years, lamenting the fact there isn’t really a radio show in the U.S. covering the food and drink scene the way we would like to. I know there’s a show on KCRW in L.A., and there’s also “The Splendid Table” out of Minnesota Public Radio, but neither of them are heard here (only online), and despite my having worked a decade at WBEZ-FM as the Food Contributor, there wasn’t any interest in developing a food show there. I’ll never forget sitting down in former CEO Torey Malatia’s office, after bringing home a James Beard Award for Best Radio Segment: Long Form with my then-producer Justin Kaufmann, and hearing him tell me that “there’s just not enough interest in Chicago for a show dedicated to food. You’d have to include the arts, theater, lots of other things,” he told me then. Well, I haven’t stopped trying to get that show on the air, and so after a long conversation with Rick about what we’d like to hear on the radio (or in a podcast), we decided to just do it ourselves, with some help from Matt Cunningham, a friend and former producer at WBEZ. Read More
Very few of our Beers of the Week have had the distinction of being named in a lawsuit at the same time The Hopleaf’s Michael Roper was singing their praises, but such is the situation this week for the talented guys over at 5 Rabbit in Bedford Park. The local brewery – which specializes in creating beers that pair extremely well with Latin food (but are certainly great on their own too) – is probably spending more on attorneys than it would like. But internal issues aside, this week’s pick is a winner. I know where Roper is coming from on this one. The Huitzi is a very special beer, with its hints of chamomile, hibiscus, fresh ginger root and some local Chicago honey. The warm, amber color makes it a perfect mid-winter beer and the aroma is, well, you’ll have to see for yourself. Cheers.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Chinatown recently, looking for stories for Chinese New Year. Frankly, I hadn’t even thought to stop by Phoenix, the venerable 18 year-old restaurant hidden up on the 2nd floor of a dingy building across the street from the more dynamic Chinatown Square Mall. But the restaurant recently underwent a major facelift and renovation, shutting down for nearly seven weeks to remodel, and like its name, has been reborn with a confidence previously held by places like MingHin Cuisine, which is swallowing adjacent storefronts in the Mall across the street like the mighty Borg. Read More
You’ve probably seen the River Valley Ranch stand at a number of Farmer’s Markets in the area. You might have even seen their main store and growing facility, if you ever take Highway 50 west toward Lake Geneva. What I had thought to be a quaint little family business selling salsas and jars of mushrooms, is now getting into the restaurant and deli business with a new store along Wilson, where the old City Provisions used to be.
You may have heard about this New Orleans trip I’m organizing in the spring. 22 people are coming, but two of those people haven’t been chosen yet. That’s because we’re holding a contest to give those two tickets away. Here’s how you can win: Read More
By now, you’ve probably heard all about the pizza, pasta, carne and pesce at Eataly, the 63,000 square feet behemoth in River North. What you probably haven’t heard too much about is their beer. Yes, they have a brewery on site, but they are also importing some very special beer from Italy, including this week’s pick, the Super Baladin, which Michael Roper says is along the lines of a Belgian (as in very food-friendly) but with an Italian accent. If you can make it past the Nutella and gelato bar on your way upstairs, be sure to grab a few bottles (alternatively, pick up some at The Hopleaf). Cheers.