When their kids were on a play date, Lisa Fosler Kelly, a lawyer, and Jennifer Wisniewski, a model (and ex of Michael Nahabedian of Naha and Cafe Absinthe), discovered they shared the dream of opening a wine bar. Kelly left her full-time job, and after the permitting and licensing is finished in December or so, Bread & Wine (3732–34 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-866-5266) will introduce a new ampersand to Chicago. “We’ve had our name since the inception of the idea, and then all these ampersands came and we said ‘Seriously?’ We thought about stealing the ampersand from the Kith & Kin sign,” Kelly says. Dinner options will include lamb–mustard seed meat loaf and house-made pappardelle with braised beef shank, pickled radish, and crème fraîche. A bar-snack menu, available at 3 p.m., includes fried pickles with a horseradish dip, house-made kielbasa, and tacos with house-made chorizo. The restaurant will also contain a market area selling cheese, jams, jellies, baked goods, and nut snacks. We must be doing something wrong—somehow our play dates have not been similarly productive.
“Food is a subject of conversation more spiritually refreshing even than the weather, for the number of possible remarks about the weather is limited, whereas of food you can talk on and on.” —A. A. Milne (1882–1956), English playwright and author, and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh
Pollack’s Dinner at III Forks in CLXXI Words
III Forks (333 E. Benton Pl.; 312-938-4303) occupies a stunning space in Lakeshore East, our newest city central ’hood. Expansive rooms, heavy linens, paneled walls here, glass walls there—an altogether retro-hip steak-house look draws you, like a moth to a flame, to the glassed-in fireplaces on the main floor and the gorgeous rooftop bar/lounge/deck. In a town rife with prime beef, III’s 28-day wet-aged bone-in rib eye has the stuff of rib-eye dreams: enough fat to render the meat super juicy but not so much that it’s fatty, a big bone to gnaw on, mineral tang, like-buttah steak. That’s the good news. The less-good news is that the seafood medley was lackluster—an OK scallop wrapped in limp bacon being the worst offender on the plate; gorgeously thick, juicy lamb chops didn’t measure up (great mouthfeel, but they didn’t quite taste like anything at all); and six-cheese potatoes should have been way cheesier. I’ll go back for that rib eye any time and hope that the rest shakes out soon.
Six Questions for Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Vongerichten created the menu for the reborn Pump Room (Public Chicago, 1301 N. State St.; 312-601-2970), as well as more than a dozen other restaurants, including the Michelin three-star Jean Georges in New York City.
Dish: How is the new Pump Room tied to the old Pump Room?
Jean-Georges Vongerichten: We wanted to really capture the glamorous time of the twenties and thirties and bring it up to today. I never saw the old Pump Room. I saw it when it was closing with no customers in it. But I think the essence of it [is intact].
D: How about with the menu?
J-GV: It’s kind of different, I believe. I have an old menu from 1929 that somebody gave me. We tried to reinterpret a few of the classics. Chicken-liver toast. Wiener schnitzel was popular in those days. I am from Alsace so I am familiar with that. [The new Pump Room is] a new picture of an old friend.
D: What else was on the menu in those days?
J-GV: [One thing I heard about was] flaming meat attached to a sword. Maybe we would do that for New Year’s Eve or do a once-a-year classic like that.
D: There are a lot of chilies on the menu. Is the spiciness part of the rejuvenation of the restaurant?
J-GV: I am a big fan of chilies and things. For me, the first bite has to be as exciting as the last one. I think a little punch, a little sweet, a little sour. The food has to be exciting.
D: What demographic were you aiming for with the restaurant?
J-GV: We tried to attract every age. We are in the Gold Coast here. The first week in September we got a different crowd [at] 5:30 to 8:30 [from the] crowd after 9 p.m. People so far have been very receptive to what we have done. They are not saying, “I miss the old.” They are very happy we kept the name. And the glamour part of it.
D: And at lunch?
J-GV: [We had] 120 for lunch today. Maybe 110 women.
Remembrance of Things Pasty
Although “food truck” is a half-misnomer, the food truck Bridgeport Pasty hit the streets five weeks ago, selling beef, chicken, and veggie versions of the Cornish miner’s lunch staple called a pasty (which rhymes with “nasty” but isn’t), a pie crust folded calzone-style around filling. The “truck” is actually a Gem electric car the size of a Mini Cooper, and it typically makes one run a day, around lunchtime. “We can park this thing where the big trucks can’t park,” says Jay Sebastian, who co-owns the business with his wife, Carrie Clark. The beef pasty, called the Yooper, will be familiar to those who have eaten the traditional version, which is popular in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The chicken pasty resembles a chicken pot pie, and the veggie version has spinach, mushrooms, Gruyère, and béchamel. Sebastian and Clark hope to find a more central kitchen (which would make Bridgeport Pasty a half-misnomer) but not necessarily to open a storefront or expand to other Cornish foods, which means those seeking saffron buns with clotted cream are still out of luck.
Brandon Baltzley made a video announcing his hiring at Pensiero Ristorante (1566 Oak Ave., Evanston; 847-475-7779) and released it to Eater on Monday. Already well-traveled himself (Mado, Tribute) since arriving in Chicago 14 months ago, he’s joining a kitchen that has seen a number of chefs pass through since the restaurant’s change of ownership last year. Here’s a timeline:
• Alan Lake, July 2010–September 2010. Lake contracted as a consultant to reopen the restaurant and moved on when it was up and running.
• Christian Fantoni, September 2010–September 2010. Fantoni now helms the kitchen in the soon-to-open Filini.
• Frank Mnuk, October 2010–December 2010. Mnuk is chef de cuisine at Cité.
• Joe Wojciechowski, December 2010–September 2011. Wojciechowski moved to The Signature Room at the 95th as sous chef under Patrick Sheerin.
• Brandon Baltzley, September 2011–present. Baltzley’s new menu, which launched this week, includes charred cauliflower–burnt lemon pudding–octopus gnocchi and pappardelle with smoked clams and the end-of-season green tomatoes.
- Pump Room has the toast with the most.
- Pollack digs up details about Brendan Sodikoff’s plans for Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Sweeney’s, and a yet-to-be-named barbecue concept.
- Gold Coast lunch suggestion: Belgian salad from Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter.
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Things to Do
1. Get your hands on the first Florida stone crab claws of the season at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House (1024 N. Rush St.; 312-640-0999), when the catch arrives next week. Because Hugo’s staffers need a few trial runs to get back into the swing of making the perfect crack, you can order one complimentary “practice claw” on Tuesday (during either lunch or dinner service).
2. Slurp a Concord grape phosphate ($3.50) from the soda fountain Jo Jerx, a one-time collaboration between Jo Snow Syrups and X-Marx, popping up at Sunday’s Dose Market (River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois St.). The jerks (get it?) behind the booth will offer food such as a tuna melt ($8) and a jerk chicken slider with pickles ($6) along with old-school potables that incorporate new Jo Snow syrup flavors.
3. Eat your fill at the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest (Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley Ave.), this Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., where 150 amateur bakers will compete before a panel of judges, but all you have to do is nosh. The goods will be sold by the slice ($3) or whole pie ($25), and admission is free. New to this year’s bout, a group of about 15 professional bakers—including those from Floriole Cafe and Bakery, Sweet Mandy B’s, and Pleasant House Bakery—will engage in a friendly bake-off of their own.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Cheers to Michael Nagrant, who last week was named dining critic for the Sun-Times. (Here’s how Masa Azul fared in Nagrant’s first official review.) . . . Kudos are also in order for Chicago Cut Steakhouse, which made the grade for Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants 2011” list. Next, Girl & the Goat, Paris Club, and the soon-to-open Tavernita (which was dubbed “an early 2012 contender”) all earned Esquire shout-outs as well. . . . Jam has switched off the griddles at its 937 North Damen Avenue location. But don’t fret, malted-custard French toast devotees, the restaurant’s new digs at 3059 West Logan Boulevard are scheduled to open by the end of the month. . . . Up the street from the former Jam, Dion Antic’s newbie, Melt Sandwich Shoppe, opened its doors today at 1840 North Damen Avenue. . . . We bid a fond adios to Totopo—one of Chicago magazine’s picks for 2011’s best new restaurants—now closed. . . . A new paint job, a new sign bearing the new name, new ownership, and voilà, Cinnamon Café took over for Ravenswood Grill five weeks ago. The chef (Hector Hernández) and the menu remain the same. . . . Cupcake bakery Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique is adding a second location, at 509 North Orleans Street. In honor of the new shop, which opens October 18 at 8 a.m., both locations will hand out a limited number of free mini cupcakes on Tuesday. . . . On Monday, the Deleece team will close the restaurant’s current location in order to set up the new space, just down the way (and adjacent to Mercury Theatre) at 3747 North Southport Avenue. Pending inspections, the new Deleece is slated to open the week of October 24.