Fox, Obel, and Vulpes?

Vulpes, LLC, a group of locally based investors led by the food retail veteran Bill Bolton, has agreed to purchase Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St.; 312-410-7301), Chicago’s leading gourmet food shop. The name will not change, nor will the people involved, but according to Fox & Obel’s president and CEO, Keith Montague, the deal leverages F & O’s longtime plan: expansion. “For a long time we have wanted to build additional stores and go to other areas,” Montague told us. “River North, South Loop, North Shore: all tremendous areas. Naperville, Oak Park. We are a small company and don’t have the luxury of opening sites that won’t be successful, so we want to be careful to do it right.” The deal, whose financial terms were not made public, is scheduled to close at the end of January.


“The story of barbecue is the story of America: Settlers arrive on great unspoiled continent, discover wondrous riches, set them on fire, and eat them.”
–Vince Staten (b. 1947), American writer

The Continuing Adventures of Aubriot

Eric Aubriot’s latest unlikely destination is Andersonville’s casual Italian spot Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St.; 773-769-9700), where he took over as exec chef on January 2nd. Says the owner, Michael Moore: “I approached him. Eric and I were old restaurant neighbors on Halsted [at Aubriot and Pasta Palazzo, respectively], and we were talking about it over a couple of drinks at Hopleaf, so word kind of got out. That’s what happens when you go for a drink where everyone knows who Eric Aubriot is.” Aubriot’s changes to the Italian menu will be gradual, but so far include a sea bass fillet with cabbage, red wine sauce, garlic chips and parsley ($18) and seafood stew with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and calamari in a saffron fish stock ($17). Aubriot, who has spent years moving from project to project (he’s still involved in Taste Food & Wine in Rogers Park), has always been up-front about his kitchen-hopping. “I basically do what I want and what I like,” he says. “I like to work with nice people in nice places. And I like to cook. So I’m going to stay here for a while. I’m not going anywhere.”

Not as Sleazy as It Sounds

“A lot of people order Spicy Girl.” –Krystin Zhao, manager of Asian Harbor (1930 Ridge Rd., Homewood; 708-799-5388), a new 100-seat Thai/sushi spot in the south suburbs. She’s referring to the restaurant’s deliciously named signature maki roll: shrimp, cucumber, “spicy crunch salmon,” and hot sauce ($11). 

From Bordo’s to Bordellos

Soirée Bar & Bistro (2438 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-477-8880), the brand-new nightspot from Brian Reynolds (Prost!, The Gramercy) is on a rowdy stretch of Lincoln Avenue, but it’s got slightly higher ambitions than drawing sportos. “Soirée is an experience that is reminiscent of Paris’s Left Bank during the 19th century,” says Reynolds. “The ambiance, similar to what you find in the opera or in a bordello of that time: Low lit, dark velvet curtains, rich colors.” And the food? Matthew McCahill, the managing partner, calls it French American dining: “Escargots and frog legs in a cremini cream sauce. And we do a trio of small filets: one peppercorn-encrusted, one bacon-wrapped, and one covered with Roquefort.” Prime beef? “Choice,” says McCahill. “But we cook it with lots of butter, Ruth’s Chris–style.”

Cute Restaurant Alert

A reader called our attention to Curio Cafe (3400 N. Lawndale Ave.; 773-463-2233), a nine-table BYO in Old Irving Park owned by Guatemalan sisters Claudia Pozuelos and Lucy Alvarez. “We’ve been open since May,” says Elena Alvarez, a manager. “A lot of neighbors come. People want to help us.” The menu, by Honduras-born chef Jaime Cavala, is fairly standard—omelets, sandwiches, soups, and salads—but it’s mostly organic and made-to-order. And a Guatemalan dish also pops up: the plato typico ($8), a feast of eggs, refried black beans, red sauce, tortillas, plantains, avocado, white cheese, and sour cream. But Curio’s best selling point, according to the reader who swears by it? “They have tables and toys for kids . . . they encourage kids to get up and play.”

Things to Do

  1. Go to Marigold (4832 N. Broadway; 773-293-4653) on a Tuesday in January and enjoy a three-course, $25 “trail the tikka” prix fixe menu, an attempt to re-create the cooking of “the nomadic people who lived amongst the rugged mountainous terrain of the northwest frontier bordering the northwestern Indian state of Punjab and northeastern Pakistan.”
  2. Flip to page 76 of Bon Appétit’s February issue, and read the smart little essay by Molly Wizenberg on why—and how—she gave up vegetarianism.
  3. Witness Martha Stewart’s icy delight in torturing Cookie Monster

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Chef Laurent Gras has a blog that charts the progress of L.2O, his upcoming restaurant in the former Ambria space (2300 N. Lincoln Park West). . . . In the past week, four health-related cookbooks appeared on our desks:(1) The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger (Taunton); (2) Techniques of Healthy Cooking, by the Culinary Institute of America (Wiley); (3 ) Cooking Light Complete Cookbook (Oxmoor House); and (4) Betty Crocker Cookbook, Heart Health Edition (Wiley). This qualifies as what we in the media would call “a trend.”  . . . Piece Out (1923 W. North Ave.; 773-772-4422), the takeout and delivery operation adjacent to Wicker Park’s pizzeria and brewery Piece, opened in mid-December. . . . On January 17th, Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-328-1198) celebrates the anniversary of Al Capone’s birthday with $5 “Capone Cocktails,” free appetizers, and desserts from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. What’s next, a Jeffrey Dahmer night with “Cannibal Wings”?