We’re Not Gonna Bake It

Our favorite new bakery these days is Twisted Sister Bakery (1543 N. Wells St.; 312-932-1128), which opened three weeks ago in Old Town. “I’ve collected and tweaked hundreds of recipes over the past 30 years,” says Lisa Alexander, a partner. “They are all the things that I love.” She loved them so much that when her husband persuaded her to quit her job as a nurse manager at Illinois Masonic and open a bakery, she did just that, teaming up with her best friend, Doug Lee (who didn’t quit his day job as a gastroenterologist). We loved the chocolate tart, Alexander’s husband can’t get enough of the banana cream pie tart, and Old Towners so far seem to love everything. “Most everyone buys at least one cupcake,” says Alexander: “There’s a couple around my age [54] that comes in regularly and thanks me for being here and I thank them for coming and then they thank me again.”


“Smoked carp tastes just as good as smoked salmon when you ain’t got no smoked salmon.” –Patrick McManus (b. 1933), American writer

5 Questions for Dean Zanella
The longtime exec chef of 312 Chicago (Hotel Allegro Chicago, 136 N. LaSalle St.; 312-696-2420), Zanella has closed the restaurant for ten days to unveil a new look and menu on April 23rd.

TD: So what can we expect?
DZ: The dining room and bar will be drastically different, more modern. It was ten years old and it looked dated. The bar will have a cuvinet system.

D: And the menu?
DZ: Antipasti will be the big focus. I would love an antipasti board out but with two floors, it would be complicated. We’re also thinking about a cart, and the choices listed on printed cards at every table. I want to focus on the vegetables I get from the farmers. I am doing a bagna cauda.

D: What is that?
DZ: It’s a dipping sauce that they do in Italy. They keep it warm. Almost like fondue with a little candle under it. Basically olive oil, butter, garlic, and anchovies. They put that on the table and you dip your vegetables in there. Very, very tasty.

D: Have rising wheat prices affected you?
DZ: The price of everything affected us. It’s so bad now. We bake our own bread, so we notice it there. Seafood has really gone up because we fly it in. Last week, even though halibut is in season now, it was all of those flights from American that got canceled. We didn’t think about how that would affect us.

D: Are you getting a chance to take advantage of the vacation?
DZ: I’m cooking barbecue for my staff right now. We are going to the White Sox game tonight.
(Editors’ note: The White Sox lost that game to the Oakland A’s, 2 to 1. Bummer.)

This Goose Ain’t Cooked

You’ve probably heard by now that the original Goose Island Brewpub (1800 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-915-0071) lost its lease and will close by year’s end. “We saw it coming and tried to negotiate something and we weren’t successful,” says John Hall, the founder. “But it’s not the final story. We are close to [securing another space] but nothing we can announce right now. And we are going to celebrate until we close. We’ve made a lot of beers over the years and we’ve had a lot of great brewers that have gone on to bigger and better things. We’ll have some of them come back. There are a lot great chefs in Chicago that we’ll have come in.”

Nice Surprise

Pollack had an unexpectedly good meal at the brand-new Topaz Cafe (780 Village Center Dr., Burr Ridge; 630-654-1616)—the place with Giuseppe Scurato (formerly of Boka) in the kitchen. It’s a pretty dramatic restaurant: high ceilings, a circle motif, beautiful wood pillars, glassed-in open kitchen. The menu and wine list are decidedly American, and the retro cocktail list is pure fun. She adored the juicy, inch-and-a-half-thick pork chop topped with masterfully breaded crispy shallots and blue cheese potato gratin, not to mention the strawberry shortcake with Cognac strawberries. Topaz just opened two weeks ago, so service is still a little raw, but very endearing. All told, it’s a real find, and well worth floundering your way through the prefab-looking shopping-center community that surrounds it.

Worst Press Release Lead of the Week

“Streeterville’s very own Timothy O’Toole’s serves up more than just garlic ginger wings and Jolly Rancher martinis in their underground wonderbar—they got jokes too!”

Brilliant or Ridiculous?

We got an e-mail this week from a publicist plugging a new cooking device called the Poultry Pal ($20). Seems Tom Simon of Bay City, Michigan, observed that while making beer can chicken (wherein you stuff a full beer can into a chicken’s, um, cavity, and then roast the bird), the beer can kept tipping over. (Not to mention that the paints and inks were tainting the chicken’s flavor, and were, um, toxic.) “To the joy of beer and chicken lovers everywhere, he created an innovative device that avoids the problems and mess,” the publicist, Carol Ells, wrote. “You just gently place your chicken, butt-side down, on this specially designed non-stick metal holder and fill the base with 12 to 15 oz. of beer or any other flavor-filled liquid. Then cook it in the oven.”  

Things to Do

  1. Watch “The Lonely Critic”, Ruby’s new song and video about his sad life as a food writer. If for no other reason than to coo at the kid in the Clash shirt.
  2. Reserve your spot at the 12th annual Girl Food Dinner at West Town Tavern (1329 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-666-6175), which features six top female chefs (including Susan Goss and Christine McCabe) cooking for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. (Date: May 4; time: 5:30 p.m.; price: $150.)
  3. If you’re buying a washer or something at Abt Electronics, check out Jölane’s Café & Wine Bar (1100 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview; 847-375-6986), a new breakfast/lunch/dinner spot just east of the store. The menu is a tribute to Jölane Abt, the Austrian mother of Abt, owner, Bob Abt.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

La Casa del Gordo (2014 First St., Highland Park) has closed, and in its place, the third location of That Little Mexican Café (847-266-1411) has opened. . . . Garrett Ripley’s (712 N. Clark St.; 312-642-2900), whose new chef, Marianne Sundquist, is a veteran of Avenues and Spiaggia, has morphed into a gastropub. . . . In Fine Spirits, a smart Andersonville wine shop, has opened its adjoining lounge (5420 N. Clark St.; 773-334-9463) of the same name. . . . As usual, Gibsons ($20.85 million) and Bob Chinn’s ($20.45 million) made Restaurants and Institutions’ list of the year’s top ten independent restaurants in F & B gross revenues. . . . Potter’s (17 E. Monroe St.; 312-917-4933), the new classic lounge in the lobby of the Palmer House Hilton, opened two weeks ago, with unique design elements such as four glass-enclosed feather-filled columns. . . . Get your hands on a copy of the new May issue of Chicago magazine, which features our picks for the 21 best new restaurants of the year.