Dean Carson’s Smoking Lecture
Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It
Pollack called Dean Carson, the kingpin of Carson’s barbecue restaurants, to ask what was going on at the original location (612 N. Wells St.; 312-280-9200). It’s a full interior remodel that closed the place on November 7th, with a planned reopening Friday, November 19th. She also got an earful (condensed and edited here) about the barbecue trend:
“The thing with the barbecue: I don’t care if someone says, ‘I like this guy’s barbecue,’ but I am tired of the words ‘marinade’ and ‘rub’ and ‘liquid smoke.’ These are euphemisms, words for chemicals. Our product is never marinated. Never rubbed. Never nothing. When we started 30-some years ago, barbecue was not only made that way but advertised that way: ‘fall-off-the-bone.’ Now no one touts fall-off-the-bone. All right, Twin Anchors does. That’s their thing. I really believe that ten years from now dry rub and marinating are going to be looked at the same way. And by the way, it’s ten times harder to cook the stuff [without rubs and marinades]. You take 100 slabs. The hard part is that you smoke them and not every one of them is the same size, same weight. You have to be a real pit master to get all of them good. If you marinate or dry rub them, you take the ones that are tough or would be tough and elevate them. It eliminates the highs and the lows. It’s like going to [hear] music [without] the high-pitched notes or the really low bass. That’s a safe way but not really the best way. Living on the edge is to say, ‘I’m going to take this food and just smoke it.’”
“Health food makes me sick.” –Calvin Trillin (1935–), American writer
If you’re not already fatigued from the verbal outpouring in the food community about the release of our rubberized friends’ Chicago restaurant guidebook, Chicago’s chief dining critic, Jeff Ruby, recently posted several Michelin pieces at chicagomag.com.
• First, Ruby discussed why Michelin matters.
• Second, he concocted a betting pool of local food critics to predict which restaurants would garner stars. Spoiler: David Tamarkin of Time Out Chicago won.
• Third, Ruby analyzed the selections and criticized Michelin’s handling of the book release.
Two Pearls from Scott Harris
1. Harris, the owner of the ever-growing Francesca’s empire, on Nella Pizzeria Napoletana becoming Francesca’s Pizzeria Napoletana (2423 N. Clark St.; 773-327-3400) if the new sign comes in as scheduled on Friday: “I think the name has a little more pull than the Nella’s name.”
2. Harris on his restaurants’ Michelin shutout: “Why would I want stars from a tire company? I give my Michelin stars to my dishwashers at two in the morning when they are cleaning up all of our mess.”
Four Questions for Greg Elliott
Elliott, 35, took over the kitchen at Lockwood (Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe St.; 312-917-3404) on October 5th. His resumé includes Ambria, Tournesol, Aubriot, and Naha, a chef de cuisine position at One Sixtyblue, and two years helming Brannan’s in Calistoga, California.
Dish: How was it that you jumped from the orbit of Eric Aubriot to wine country?
Greg Elliott: When I was looking to leave One Sixty, an offer came my way to go to Napa, and I jumped on it. The job market wasn’t so hot. It was a chance to get my first exec chef gig under my belt. Me and my wife spent a couple of years out there. Wonderful experience. But we decided to get back. Come back to home and a big market. Napa is wonderful and beautiful, but it’s country and definitely a smaller market.
D: What about your California sojourn affected your food the most?
GE: I think having access to phenomenal products all year round. Made me slow things down a bit. The whole “less is more” philosophy.
D: Are you planning an overhaul at Lockwood?
GE: I don’t think a whole lot is going to change. Hats off to Phillip [Foss, the previous chef]. He put this restaurant on the map. He drove it and got it to where it is today.
D: What are your menu plans?
GE: Modern American cuisine. Definitely some Mediterranean influences from my background. A little French and Italian shining through here and there. But ingredient-driven first and foremost. Local when available. Clean flavors. Proper techniques. Modern touches and a little element of surprise here and there. Nothing crazy. Nothing out of the box. Trying to keep the cuisine approachable.
Those Famous Cupcakes Are Now Closer
Another crumb tumbles out about the upcoming Chicago branch of Magnolia Bakery, the chain often credited with launching the cupcake craze (with an assist from Sex and the City) from its original New York location. (Feast L.A. first reported the Chicago plans.) Steven Abrams, Magnolia’s owner, says he’s negotiating a lease for a space on State Street in the Loop, with what would ideally be a spring opening. When asked how he started in the cupcake game, Abrams replied, “I am in the bakery game. That is one of the things we need to distinguish. I sell 60 products. Cupcakes is one of them.” He loves Magnolia’s flourless chocolate cake and its banana pudding, to name a couple of those other things. “We are not coming to town as the cupcake place,” he says. “You guys in the press will do that for us.” Sorry about the headline, Steven.
- Two tried-and-trues: Bufalina pie at the place soon-to-be-formerly known as Nella Pizzeria Napoletana and steak frites at Mon Ami Gabi.
On the Blog
Things to Do
- Balance out buyer’s remorse at Ai Japanese Restaurant & Lounge (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-335-9888), where you can get 50 percent off food from November 25th to 28th by showing any retail receipt from Black Friday (November 25th).
- Treat the kids to a Tiny Tim–themed lunch or dinner for $8.95 at Trattoria No. 10 (10 N. Dearborn St.; 312-984-1718) after seeing A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre. Presumably the lunch reflects the end of the story, when the Cratchits actually have enough to eat.
- Step right up to $2 bottles—including Goose Island 312, Two Hearted Ale, and Amstel Light—throughout the holidays at Leo’s Coney Island (3455 N. Southport Ave.; 773-281-5367).
Dot Dot Dot . . .
“My experience at Sofitel, it was a great experience,” says Martial Noguier, whose last day at Café des Architectes (20 E. Chestnut St.; 312-324-4063) was November 11th. He had planned to open a not-too-expensive spot serving food similar to what’s on the neighborhood menu at Café des Architectes. Alas, financing fell through, and now he doesn’t know his next step. . . . Susan Goss, the chef of West Town Tavern (1329 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-666-6175), collected her recipes in West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food, a collaboration with her husband, Drew. The cookbook hits shelves on the 23rd. . . . Raise a stein in Palatine when Bauer’s Brauhaus (45 W. Slade St.; 847-991-1040) taps its first kegs in early December. . . . Our heartfelt condolences go to the family, friends, and colleagues of Paul Wildermuth, one of Chicago’s innovators in pan-Asian cuisine and a former chef at Red Light, Opera, and Saiko. Wildermuth passed away at age 46 on Saturday, November 13th, from complications related to a heart condition.
Dish is giving thanks next week and will return December 1st—check chicagomag.com and Twitter for breaking news.