Changing of the Seasons
As meteorological fall gives way to winter this week, so goes Seasons (Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-649-2349) after New Year’s Eve, as Steve Dolinsky reported a few weeks ago. The chef, Kevin Hickey, is staying, however, and he’ll oversee the menu for the yet-to-be-named successor restaurant in what’s currently the lounge bar and bistro area. (The Seasons dining room will become a ballroom.) Instead of separate menus for the bar, lounge, café, and fine-dining areas, the new spot will offer a single—albeit wide-ranging—menu, including items such as chicken-kale pappardelle, homemade lamb sausage with Turkish pepper sauce and lemon-mint yogurt, and crab fritters with lobster-caviar dip. Among the meats will be dry-aged bone-in filet mignon, the homemade hot dog on the current bar menu, and, Hickey says, “a really kick-ass burger.” Brunch will also change dramatically. The first course will be a tower of small-plate items such as oyster shooters, a smoked salmon and potato pizzetta, and toast sticks with egg and Fontina fondue. The second course is an entrée chosen from a list of several. The third course is a dessert buffet, with cakes, shakes, and “maybe an interactive liquid nitrogen sundae station,” Hickey says. The restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-February, although we may wait for warmer weather for our liquid nitrogen sundae.
Pollack’s Dinner at Bar Toma in 150 Words
Bar Toma (110 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-3110) is cool. So cool I would want to hang out there even if it didn’t serve good food. But it does—good, fun, hip food. Like a seafood salad in which just-cooked shrimp and squid warm the lettuces, a properly salty baccalà carpaccio tempered by marinated Italian beans, and a “tasting of all”: six distinct versions of mozzarella. There are communal tables, marble bars, wines on tap, pillowy pizzas, an espresso bar, and two food cases—one for sorbets and gelatos, one for breakfast pastries. (BT opens at 7 a.m.) Somehow the bill was higher than it seemed like it would be and the pizza crust didn’t quite deliver, but in this flowing space, stretching from a wine bar to an atrium to a main dining room, no matter where you sit, you feel lucky to be eating there. How cool is that?
The month-old Food Network show Chef Hunter filmed an episode at Quay (456 E. Illinois St.; 312-981-8400) that airs December 8. In each episode, the chef recruiter Carrie McCully finds candidates to become a restaurant’s executive chef, and then each candidate test-drives the kitchen for a night. “It’s done as honestly and as real as possible,” McCully says. “Truth is stranger than fiction.” For Quay, the final two candidates were Dan Marquis (Grocery Bistro, Pasha Spanish Cuisine) and Cara Thompson (Bellmore, New York’s The Bayou). The winner is already working at Quay, but the show and the restaurant are keeping the chef’s identity under wraps until the episode airs. “Quay is a very large restaurant, and there were a lot of people and a very high-stress situation,” McCully says. Watch Dish for an interview with the winner.
“People have been cooking and eating for thousands of years, so if you are the very first to have thought of adding fresh lime juice to scalloped potatoes, try to understand that there must be a reason for this.” —Fran Lebowitz (1950–), American author
John des Rosiers plans to open the third location of Wisma, the first city outpost of his burgeoning suburban empire, which consists of the fine-dining Inovasi in Lake Bluff and Wismas in Lake Bluff and Libertyville, inside the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St.; 312-575-0306) in January. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find at the city Wisma.
• Roast beef sandwiches and beef stew with meat from Q7 Ranch in Marengo
• Organic turkey, cured and smoked in-house
• Butternut squash soup with squash from Teal Lake Organics in Grayslake
• Chicken noodle soup with Meadow Haven Farm chicken
• Labriola bread for the sandwiches
• Tres leches cake. “It’s actually the family recipe from one of my servers,” says des Rosiers.
He Said It
“Panza means having a big belly. Like me. Me and Scott [Harris] have a big panza.” —Luigi Negroni, the chef/co-owner at Davanti Enoteca and the upcoming Panza, both collaborations with Harris, overlord of the Francesca’s family. Panza will be on the northeast corner of State and Hubbard Streets, seat 150, and serve a menu focusing on pasta that Negroni calls “very simple and very unique.”
“A restaurant is like a boat. The day you buy it, you are very happy, and the day you sell it, you are extremely happy.” So says Alan Peterson, who holds the tiller at The Embers on Broadway (2835 N. Broadway; 773-327-9593), a fine-dining American spot with a plan for modest prices and a January opening. “[The target opening] was last June,” Peterson says, “but there were so many things wrong in this building. Electrical, plumbing—you name it, we did it.” Peterson’s family recipes will inform the food, which he and a chef to be named will prepare. Best wishes for smooth sailing.
- The calabasita pumpkin at Libertad is almost too cute to eat.
- The globetrotting Pollack was back at it last week, discovering scores of tantalizing dishes, including tofu-wrapped spicy tuna in Tel Aviv and fried Padrón peppers in Barcelona.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
1. Toss that post-Thanksgiving detox out the window, ignore the fact that Skilling predicts 45 degrees, and scarf a free chocolate or vanilla cone tomorrow at any of the four Chicago-area locations of Andy’s Frozen Custard.
2. Continue your sweets binge at Holiday Rock & Roll, held tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Café des Architectes (Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, 20 E. Chestnut St.; 312-324-4063) and hosted by the restaurant’s pastry chef, Patrick Fahy, and executive chef, Greg Biggers. Six Chicago pastry chefs, including Amanda Rockman (The Bristol) and Elissa Narow (Perennial Virant), will whip up their versions of bûche de Noël for attendees to sample (along with Champagne and passed appetizers) and vote on. Tickets cost $35, and proceeds benefit Share Our Strength.
3. Make a dent in your holiday gift list at the 11th annual One of a Kind Show and Sale Chicago, which runs from December 1 to 4 at The Merchandise Mart (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza; 312-527-4141). A bevy of gourmet-food vendors, such as Toffee Traditions and the mushroom specialist River Valley Kitchens, will be among the 600-plus artisans showcasing their goods. Your $12 ticket grants you admission to all four days of the show.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
We waited impatiently for months, and Takashi Yagihashi’s Slurping Turtle and Tony Mantuano’s Bar Toma have both opened at last. . . . Team Dish offers condolences to the loved ones of Scott DeGraff, co-founder of N9NE Steakhouse, and Ron Messier, owner of Pauline’s, who both recently passed away. . . . Sommelier extraordinaire Alpana Singh announced via Twitter that she is leaving her post at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.Dining & Drinking