Twinkies for Wrigleyville
She Hearts Art
Ashley Galliart, co-owner of the brand-new Luscious Layers Bakery (2315 N. Damen Ave.; 773-661-1335), has custom-made everything from a Fender Stratocaster–inspired cake for the actor Steven Seagal to a Champagne wedding cake that included one gluten-free tier for the bride. “I went to school for a fine arts degree in textile design,” says Galliart, who rented space for personal orders before opening Luscious on March 22nd. “My husband is a graphic designer, so we make a computer drawing of every wedding cake. That way the bride and groom can see what it’s going to look like.” A rotating array of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies fills the shop’s display case, but custom orders dominate Galliart’s business. Which is apparently a good thing: “I can’t cook to save my life,” she says. “But I can bake because it’s very specific.”
“Explaining something sensible to Lord Killanin is akin to explaining something to a cauliflower. The advantage of the cauliflower is that if all else fails, you can always cover it with melted cheese and eat it.” –William E. Simon (1927-2000), former U.S. secretary of the treasury
A Conversation with Jim August
The creative former chef/owner of Café le Coq has landed at Stretch Bar & Grill (3485 N. Clark St.; 773-755-3980), a new 100-seat spot in Wrigleyville where he plays with bar-food staples, and makes everything from scratch.
D: How did this partnership come about?
JA: I worked with NoChance Productions [owners of Stretch] on Cortland’s Garage. They remodeled the whole bar that used to be Tryst, a little bar that was trying to be trendy. They asked me to come up with a menu. It will go into effect next week.
D: How will it be different from every other bar menu in Wrigleyville?
JA: Our wings are a little bit different. Instead of deep-frying, we season them and roast them in the oven. Then we toss them in one of four different sauces that I came up with.
D: Which are?
JA: A Jack Daniel’s/chipotle smoky BBQ . . . There’s a Thai ginger BBQ that has peanut and coconut milk . . . a “Hurt Me Habanero” sauce with a mango base . . . And the last one, I take all the elements of the classic Buffalo wing and combine that into a sauce. So instead of a hot sauce that you dip, like a ranch/blue cheese, and celery, it’s all in the sauce.
D: What else?
JA: I do a mac-and-cheese fritter like an arancini, double panko-crusted. All the melted cheese and bacon are inside. You crack it open and it’s all runny with Cheddar cheese sauce. Also, a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich. And I do something that I loved as a kid: I split open a hot dog, stuff it with Cheddar, and wrap it with bacon. A francheezie. Served on a pretzel roll.
D: Desserts must be fun.
JA: One that I am working on is a Twinkie truffle. I take Twinkies and cut them into truffle-size bits, freeze them, then dip them in chocolate. They look like truffles but the center is a Twinkie. I use real Twinkies. No one can make a Twinkie better than the Twinkie people, so why bother?
Zak of All Trades
Marc Stein is no longer the chef at Zak’s Place (112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale; 630-323-9257), Yamandu Perez’s ambitious year-and-a-half-old spot in the western suburbs. “I am taking over the whole menu,” says Perez. “And I’m very aggressive about changing things. It’s still a seafood/steak restaurant but a lot more seasonal. We’re going to have more fun.” Not sure if it’s fun or not, but Perez touts the seared foie gras with caramelized bananas and pineapple-mango sauce, a chocolate-braised short rib with white truffle orzo, and a pan-roasted scallop with squid ink tagliatelle and saffron cream sauce.
Most Popular Dish
“We do a French lamb stew, which is really a navarin of lamb. We stir-fry potatoes, carrots, turnips, and green beans and we pour the stew over the top of the vegetables. So it’s like a meal all in one beautiful high-sided dish. We can’t make it quick enough.” –John Winslow, the owner of Bananas Foster Café (1147 W. Granville Ave.; 773-262-9855), a charming 32-seat Edgewater café. (How charming? “The culinary and front-of-the-house team really get on, which is quite extraordinary,” says Winslow. “They thank each other! Can you imagine chefs thanking servers and vice versa?”)
Cheap Things to Do
- Get a free fried (or grilled) chicken sandwich on April 2nd at Pollo Campero (2730 N. Narragansett Ave., 773-622-6657; 4830 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-282-1966), while supplies last.
- Snag a hot dog for $1 any time between April 6th and April 10th at America’s Dog (four area locations).
- Test taste more than 50 flavors of Jelly Bellies on April 4th at Candyality (3425 N. Southport Ave.; 773-472-7800), which is hosting a “Jelly Belly Trunk Show” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Check out playboy.com’s list of the top ten sushi places in America. Wicker Park’s Mirai Sushi (2020 W. Division St.; 773-862-8500) cracks the roster, which seems a solid choice.
- Throughout April, get a half-pound prime burger on a brioche bun with hand-cut fries at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (25 E. Ohio St.; 312-329-9463) for $6.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Four openings in the next few days to report: Branch 27 (1371 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-850-2700), an American bistro with Bob Zrenner (X/O, Graze) in the kitchen, on April 1st; Taxim (1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558), a 73-seat Greek/Asia Minor restaurant in Bucktown, on April 2nd; Abigail’s (493 Roger Williams St., Highland Park; 847-849-1009), a 60-seat farm-to-plate American bistro near Ravinia Park, on April 3rd; and Birchwood Kitchen (2211 W. North Ave.; 773-276-2100), a Bucktown artisan sandwich shop, on April 6th. . . . Already open is Q2, an upscale lounge across the hall from Quince (1625 N. Hinman Ave., Evanston; 847-570-8400), with a menu designed by Quince’s exec chef, Mark Hannon. The bad news: Hannon plans to leave this month, to go work at a restaurant in Perth, Australia. . . . Marigold (4832 N. Broadway; 773-293-4653) has launched a “naanwich” menu that includes chicken tikka, lamb vindaloo, and duck leg dum, all served with pappadum chips. . . . Zonca’ed!: Ristorante Al Teatro (1227 W. 18th St.; 312-379-3984) hasn’t even opened yet, and its chef, Gianni Zonca, has already quit. . . . Oh, and Powerhouse (215 N. Clinton St.), a onetime mighty spot in the West Loop, quietly closed last week.