La Madia’s Jonathan Fox to Open Firecakes, a New Doughnut Shop in River North

Doughnut Call Us; We’ll Call You
If Jonathan Fox were to create a resumé about his dough expertise, here are some items he might include…

 

Doughnut Call Us; We’ll Call You

If Jonathan Fox were to create a resumé about his dough expertise, here are some items he might include:

  • Has run a successful modern pizzeria for five years, continually updating his dough recipe, now using a double-rise technique for a crispy, Neapolitan-inspired crust
  • Opened the original Corner Bakery
  • Is introducing an heirloom doughnut recipe

The heirloom recipe came from his wife’s great-grandfather, Grandpa Billy Hobbs, from his time as a baker for Wisconsin logging camps, where they made doughnuts over open fires. “We have his original doughnut cutter,” Fox says. Firecakes (68 W. Hubbard St., no phone yet), the 600-square-foot shop Fox hopes to open by the end of October, will use a modern iteration of Grandpa Hobbs’s recipe and offer 12 or fewer flavors, which will include chocolate, vanilla bean, and a few more yeast doughnuts. As with the other trendy doughnut shops, Firecakes will likely stay open each day only until it sells out. We’ll call you about the job, Jonathan, but we have to warn you that there are no health benefits.

 

China Pattern

Tommy Wang hears the same complaint a lot. “People say, ‘Oh my god, I cannot find a really good Chinese place in Chicago,’” he says. “Most places here in Chicago are either [off-putting] feeling or have decor from the 1980s.” Wang’s solution is the fast-casual MAK: Modern Asian Kitchen (1924 W. Division St., no phone yet), a departure from his other ventures as a partner in the company that owns the nightspots The Drawing Room, and Evil Olive, among others. For MAK, his only partner is his father, Eugene, the onetime chef/owner at Tien Tsin, a Chinese spot opened in the mid-1970s on the 7000 block of Clark Street. When MAK opens in October, the menu will be shorter than most Chinese restaurants’ multihundred-dish behemoths. “I’m only going to have 12 knock-your-socks-off items,” he says. Hmm—that makes us wonder whether all those other Chinese restaurants also have 12 good items, but they’re buried among 200 mediocre ones.

 

New Review: Balena

New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website.  Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Balena previously was not listed. The review appears in the October issue, on newsstands tomorrow.
 

Balena (1633 N. Halsted St., 312-867-3888). Italian.
★★½ (very good to excellent)
$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
 
In a stunning cathedral of a dining room—boasting plush leather seats, soaring flower displays, and a cocktail list that will make you see stars—chef Chris Pandel has created the kind of fun, accessible menu that gives modern Italian cooking a good name. All your Mediterranean food fantasies are here under one roof: a brilliant Italian wine list, a composed octopus farro salad drizzled with salami vinaigrette, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, the creamiest pomodoro sauce in town, and a small but smart entrée list. And if the apricot-honey gelato sundae spiked with prosecco doesn’t make you giggle, no dessert ever will.
 
For the dishes we liked best, click here.

 

Quotable

“Every day after school, he’d lean over the counter, watching her experiment with combinations—shifting flavors like the beads in a kaleidoscope—burnt sugar, hibiscus, rum, espresso, pear: dessert as a metaphor for something unresolvable.” —From Birds of Paradise, by Diana Abu-Jaber

 

Waiting to Exhale

When the Waldorf Astoria took over the Elysian, foodies held their breath. Although some major aspects of the food program have yet to be determined—including what will happen to the space that housed the four-star Ria—a chef has been hired: Herve Cuyeu, relocated from the Waldorf in Naples, Florida. “The food offerings in Chicago are what I have lived for my entire life,” Cuyeu says, citing customers’ appreciation for foie gras among Chicago’s advantages. Cuyeu’s fall menu for the hotel’s still-operating restaurant, Balsan (Waldorf Astoria Chicago, 11 E. Walton St., 312-646-1400), will include dishes such as a butternut squash bisque with a diver scallop beignet and salted caramel foam, as well as foie gras tortelloni with duck-crackling wafers and spiced duck consommé. Balsan’s Sunday Suppers, a fixed-price, multi-course, family-style meal, continue under the Cuyeu regime with geographical themes. August was France (Cuyeu comes from Nantes), September is Spain, and October is Germany. There’s still cause for breath-holding, but you can exhale long enough to be a real Chicagoan and eat some foie gras tortelloni.

 

He Said It

“We are going to focus on a-lot-older spirits. [For example,] a pre-Castro Cuban rum that we found.” —Matthias Merges, on Billy Sunday (3143 W. Logan Blvd., no phone yet), the 50-seat cocktail bar he plans to open at the end of October. Homemade bitters and tonics will inform the cocktail menu, and the limited food menu will tend toward “1940s and 1950s dinners at grandma’s house.”


 

Run in Hyde (Park)

Things don’t change very fast in Hyde Park, so restaurant news there should be counted double. And speaking of double, two tidbits on the neighborhood arose lately. One, Eater reported that the Longman & Eagle crew plans Promontory for 53rd Street. Bruce Finkelman, a partner on the project, says they hope to open by early next year. Two, South Side Shrimp (5319 S. Hyde Park Blvd., 773-952-6162) opened patriotically on July 4 under Julia Moore, who also owns the Mount Greenwood location of the counter-service spot. Moore says the crew from the History Channel show Big Shrimpin’ supplies all her shrimp, which run about an ounce apiece. Also, if you see a teenager biking around persuading people to visit South Side Shrimp, it’s Moore’s daughter. “I promised her money back on her referrals,” Moore says. “Two dollars per referral. She made enough money to buy a guitar.”


 

There’s Just Something About Bulk Bins

Usually we hear about people’s passion for restaurants and cooking. This week, we heard, “I realized I have a love of grocery stores from when I was six years old.” The speaker was Marsha Pesavento, who owns the new grocery store Artisanal Wilmette (414 Linden Ave., Wilmette, 847-512-3155) with her husband, Ray. Organized with alcoves and nooks in addition to the standard aisle format, Artisanal sells produce, dairy, meat, and eggs from local, sustainable farms whenever possible. Locally sourced meats, cut to order from a Publican Quality Meats–trained butcher, are available, along with some prepared foods such as house-made pulled pork and sandwiches, and items from the gourmet-takeout spot Real Kitchen. And Pesavento hopes to put her experience as a pastry chef (Evanston’s Café Provençal) to work, once things get humming. Looks like the love of grocery stores trumps the love of baking.


 

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Things to Do

  1. Snub wheat, rye, and barley at Zed 451 (739 N. Clark St., 312-266-6691), which has a special menu that makes observing Celiac Awareness Day (which is tomorrow, you know) a cinch. For $48, gluten-free eaters and their sympathizers can feast on the all-you-can-eat selection of dishes such as Faroe Island salmon, pan-seared New Zealand red deer, and hummus-stuffed eggs.
  2. Check out the second annual Chipotle Cultivate Festival (Lincoln Park, N. Stockton Dr. at W. LaSalle Dr.), a free bash created by Chipotle and running Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. that merges food, farms, chefs, and musicians, and aims to educate festgoers on the importance of responsibly grown local ingredients. The shindig includes an artisans’ hall with tasty morsels from spots like Black Dog Gelato, a chef’s tent where heavy hitters such as Sarah Grueneberg and Paul Kahan will perform demos, and a music stage where G. Love & Special Sauce, among a myriad of performers, will regale the crowd.
  3. Use Toni Patisserie & Cafés (65 E. Washington St., 312-726-2020) birthday as an excuse to eat cake. As the restaurant celebrates its first year in business during September, they’re offering slices of cake (white chocolate mousse, chocolate-raspberry mousse, carrot cake, flourless chocolate cake, and white buttermilk cake, all normally $5.25 per slice) for $3.65.

 

Openings

  • Embeya (564 W. Randolph St., 312-612-5640), a progressive, French-inspired Asian joint, is open.
  • Wicker Park claims a slice of the Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta (2056 W. Division St., 773-252-1777) pie when the mini-chain’s newest spot debuts tomorrow in the former Crust space.
  • Just down the block, Fatpour Tap Works (2005 W. Division St., 773-698-8940), a beer bonanza complete with table taps and a 200-strong beer selection, will get the craft suds flowing on Friday.
  • Lincoln Avenue Maid-Rite (2429 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-687-9250), the first Chicago location of the Iowa-based chain at the historical forefront of franchising and carhop service, rolls out the welcome mat on Saturday.
  • Tesori (65 E. Adams St., 312-786-9911), the new tenant in the former home of Rhapsody, is primed for a September 17 opening.
  • Carriage House (1700 W. Division St., 773-384-9700), Mark Steuer’s (The Bedford) ode to South Carolina’s lowcountry, will join the barrage of Division Street newcomers on September 18.

 

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Kudos to Gino’s East, Great Lake, Spacca Napoli, Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria, and Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta, which made The Daily Meal’s list of America’s best pizza. . . . 312 Dining Diva reports that Brendan Sodikoff is at it again, planning a ramen lounge below Gilt Bar. The Diva also reports that Michael Dean Reynolds (the Gage) is the new chef at Leopold. . . . Fans of the once and future restaurant Marigold (Marigolddiggers?) can preview its new menu in October at City Porch (Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., 312-595-5560), as the rotating menu and two special dinners cover its upscale Indian cuisine. The relocating Marigold is scheduled for a November debut in Andersonville. . . . Aria (Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, 200 N. Columbus Dr., 312-444-9494) replaced the Top Chef contestant and Bonsoirée partner Beverly Kim with Tommy Greer, who was promoted from sous chef.

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