When Alinea alums enter kitchens elsewhere, it’s always interesting. Andrew Brochu, 26, a veteran of Grant Achatz’s kitchen, has been named the exec chef at jazz lounge Pops For Champagne (601 N. State St.; 312-266-7677)—a seemingly unlikely place for an Alinea disciple. “I am working with the wine director to make sure that everything is Champagne-friendly,” says Brochu. “A lot of seafood, a lot of light flavors, nothing too sharp that will overwhelm the Champagnes.” For example, Brochu developed intriguing small plates such as Bollinger-poached lobster with smoked paprika risotto, pickled fennel, and lobster broth; and desserts such as chocolate cake with raspberries, milk pudding, violet gel, and parsnip ice cream.
“Fish, to taste right, must swim three times: in water, in butter, and in wine.” –Polish proverb
Dale Levitski’s post–Top Chef plan involved opening Town & Country (525 W. Monroe St.), a 175-seat West Loop spot, this spring. Check that. “We have a cement box of space,” says Levitski. “It will take at least four months to build. When it happens, it happens. I’ll be traveling a lot in the next couple of months, doing cooking demos, events. And the Top Chef cookbook is coming out. I’m keeping myself busy.”
6 Questions for Rosemarie O’Carroll, partner in Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery and Café (2901 Central St., Evanston; 847-859-2723)
D: Why did you open the bakery?
RO: We knew there was a market for it. According to the U. of C., gluten sensitivity affects one-third of the population across all races. Some people die from it and some people don’t even know they have it. It’s been linked to almost every autoimmune disease you can name. I was baking all the time, anyway.
D: Ever been in the food business before?
RO: No. My husband and I just retired from the Navy. I went to Kendall for a couple of classes, so I’m not completely crazy.
D: Did you develop the recipes?
RO: Not completely on my own. There are gluten-free cookbooks out there. But there are a lot of ethnic grocers in Chicago, so I could pick up different kinds of bean flours: mung beans, garbanzos, tapioca starch. They have gluten-free mixes online, but they’re like $7 a pound.
D: Do you have a specialty?
RO: Birthday cakes for kids. Cookies and cakes are easy to translate into gluten-free because cake flour is low-gluten. The breads are the hard part. That took some tweaking, but we are there. Even people with no gluten sensitivity love the brownies. We also have a 36-seat café with soups and salads and sandwiches.
D: Is it more expensive than regular fare?
RO: We try to keep the process pretty reasonable. The bread is a bit more pricey: $8 a loaf, but the profit margin is tight. It is what it is.
D: Are you allergic to wheat?
RO: Yes. So is my mom, and my two daughters. [My oldest daughter] had been cheating somewhat on the gluten, but it’s hard when you’re at school. Kids bring cupcakes. Her face actually started to swell. When you’re 13 and that happens, you’re done cheating.
That’s All He Said
“‘Great Lake’? There’s no big story. It’s just what the name is. I’m making pizza. I’ll have a few chairs. You can eat here or to-go. There’s some fresh mozzarella that I’m going to make. Some goat cheese from Spain that I’m using. Crème fraîche with bacon and onion. A few prepackaged food items. Metropolis coffee, Ricci teas. Imported Italian tuna in olive oil.” –Nick Lessins, owner of Great Lake (1477 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-9270), a tiny Andersonville pizzeria/grocery that opens February 20th
Elizabeth Janus, owner of Honey (499 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn; 630-469-0000), explains why we should all be interested her new 85-seat organic-focused spot: “It’s contemporary and urban. . . . lots of vegetarian options . . . Our pastry chef [Wheaton native Anna Davidson] and her team of bakers come in every morning and make everything from scratch. Our signature is our cupcakes—the vanilla bean cupcake. The way she does the frosting you just want to lick it like an ice cream cone. . . . We have a coffee bar with some terrific baristas, and our coffee is Metropolis. . . . Our dinner concept is modern comfort food, like cheesy jumbo shrimp and grits ($17) or sautéed, oven-finished rainbow trout stuffed with fresh herbs, with crispy beet chips and garlic mashed potatoes.”
Things to Do
- Take the kids to John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave.; 773-525-6670) for “Family Night,” an early dinner that includes balloon-making, tableside magic, and make-your-own sundaes every Sunday night.
- Click here to find out which 41 restaurants will participate in Chicago Restaurant Week February 22nd-29th, by offering $22 prix fixe lunches and $32 prix fixe dinners. (Note: There are some pretty good ones.)
- Screw the Academy; go to the anti-Oscar night at Sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868) on February 24th, directed at those who care more about beer and wagyu burgers with cambazola, caramelized onions, and housemade bacon than Hollywood.
- A really unappealing ad campaign.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Correction: Last week we called the soon-to-open Indian restaurant at 844 West Randolph Street “Veera Sway.” It’s actually Veerasway: one word. We apologize for the error. . . . Union Pizzeria (formerly Wild Geese, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; 847-475-2400), from Campagnola owner Steve Schwartz, has opened . . . Marble Slab Creamery (1241 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-447-0633), the first Chicago outpost of a national ice-cream chain, won’t be the last. Expect other stores in the South Loop, West Loop, and, maybe, at 35th and State streets. . . . La Dolce Vita, a family-friendly Italian restaurant with locations in Frankfort and Lemont, opened a third one in Western Springs (800 Hillgrove Ave.; 708-783-1500) last month. . . . Unheard of: Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-942-7585), a 50-seat American bistro in the old She She space, opened ahead of schedule. Bravo, Tallulah.