Taking the Cake
Two big hitters in Chicago’s pastry world announced moves recently. One, Patrick Fahy, the James Beard award–nominated sweetsman at Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708), declared that he’s leaving the restaurant, destination unknown. Two, Meg Galus, formerly of Café des Architectes, started work at NoMI Kitchen (Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-239-4030) for its June 3 opening. Dish spoke with both.
Dish: Why are you leaving Blackbird?
Patrick Fahy: I came to a decision over time that it’s time to get to the next step up.
D: What do you mean by that?
PF: Let’s put it this way. My work has revolved around doing fine-dining plated desserts. I would like to get my hands on more breakfast pastries, cakes, chocolate work, and confectionery work. Everything I’m doing now and more, since I won’t be limited by the space I’m in.
D: Did you try to overcome the limitations of the space at Blackbird?
PF: I built a pantry in the stairwell and brought in my own slab of granite [for chocolate and sugar work] and my own air compressor to spray chocolate from. In the future, I’d like to have more resources available to me.
D: It seems like chefs often open their own places, but pastry chefs seldom do. Would you ever open your own place?
PF: Sure, pastry chefs do that—boutique pastry shops or chocolate shops. If I did that, it would have to be a little bit different from the rest of them somehow. But that’s far down the line.
D: Will your next job be more upscale?
PF: Probably more upscale, but definitely more responsibility. I just got married and went on my honeymoon. [At Blackbird,] sometimes I work seven days a week. Whatever I do, I think it will allow me a little more personal time.
Dish: How did NoMI Kitchen lure you away from Café des Architectes?
Meg Galus: The executive chef, Ryan [LaRoche], the chef de cuisine, Sean Pharr, and I all worked together at Tru back in the day.
D: Is NoMI Kitchen’s dessert menu from your repertoire, or is it brand-new?
MG: The whole dessert menu is brand-new. Ryan had some ideas, and we had a conversation about that and about what I was thinking. We are a team with a shared history, so it’s easier to have that conversation because we have common reference points.
D: What are some of the new desserts?
MG: One of my favorite dishes is a rhubarb soup, served with lemon chiboust, lemon-lime gel, and a ginger marshmallow. It’s just really fresh and light. I don’t generally like desserts to be too heavy. I do have some rich desserts. One of them is baked chocolate mousse served with caramelized cocoa nibs and a warm chocolate sauce. It’s the chocolate lover’s chocolate dessert.
D: Do you ever dream of opening your own pastry shop?
MG: I really thrive when I’m on a team. Sometimes I think all I want is a little macaron shop for the rest of my life, but I love the conversations, and everyone here is so talented, passionate, and smart.
Tout de Sweet
In yet another piece of sweet news, the pastry chef Toni Marie Cox is returning to downtown Chicago after a 20-year hiatus. Currently the chef/co-owner of Toni (51 S. Washington St., Hinsdale; 630-789-2020) and the once pastry chef at East Lake Shore Drive’s bygone Ciel Bleu, Cox plans to open Toni Patisserie & Café (65 E. Washington St.; 312-726-2020) in August. “The space was meant to be a patisserie,” Cox says. “It used to be a jewelry store [in] the Pittsfield building, but with an entrance directly from Washington. This particular space has beautiful display cases. We tried to pick up on the idea of the jewelry store, and we are going to display the pastries like jewels.” The store will sell fresh fruit tarts, éclairs, macarons, and a white chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce that’s popular at the Hinsdale shop. Cox will also serve Parisian-style baguettes, including one with ham, French butter, and cornichons. With all this news about desserts, we’re thinking we should spin off a separate sweets newsletter called Scoop.
“A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet; he has no need for it, being filled as he is with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom.” —M. F. K. Fisher (1908–1992), American author
Like a grounded outlet, Central St Café (2800 Central St., Evanston; 847-864-4444) will have three prongs when it opens near the end of July, if all goes well. First, a restaurant/café serving French and Italian food that the chef/owner, Mitchell Dulin, served at The Chardonnay (1983–1989) and Venice Cafe (1993–2002). Second, a wine and craft-beer store, where you can buy bottles to drink at the restaurant for a $7.50 corkage fee. Third, an upscale cheese shop and deli. In addition to being his own designer and contractor, Dulin says he will run both the kitchen and the front of the house. “Yes. I do everything,” he says. “I have a lot of energy.”
Freedom from Fajitas
“A lot of people were going in expecting tacos, burritos, fajitas. We will not be having those things.” —Marcos Rivera, one of the owners of Libertad (7931 Lincoln Ave., Skokie; 847-674-8100), a modern Latin restaurant scheduled to open June 24.
Some of the dishes they will be offering instead:
• Mussels with leeks, potatoes, and house-made chorizo in a coconut-saffron broth, $9
• Pan-seared salmon with fennel, couscous, grapes, and spinach, served on ancho sangría reduction, $12
• Airline chicken breast with sweet potato–jalapeño hash, asparagus, and chicken jus, $11
• Chicken barbacoa flautas with watercress, crème fraîche, queso fresco, and pickled onions, $7
• Crème brûlée with hoja santa, fresh berry compote, and a sesame seed–shortbread cookie, $7
In a neighborhood with few dining options, Inspiration Kitchens Garfield Park (3504 W. Lake St.; 773-801-1110) opened May 11 a block east of the Garfield Park Conservatory. A new arm of the charity Inspiration Corporation, which also operates an Inspiration Kitchens Uptown (formerly Café Too), the American regional restaurant trains the homeless and those with employment barriers for careers in food service, and it also supplies meals to the needy. David Rosenthall, a veteran of Angelina Ristorante in Lake View, runs the kitchen and the curriculum. “It’s hard to fill a position of great chef as well as a great teacher, so he is a wonderful fit,” says Avril Greenberg, the general manager. This place may bring a new meaning to the phrase “That’s good.”
• Pollack spends the long holiday weekend eating and tweeting around Portland, Oregon.
• Ian Schrager needs help naming his new project: Pump Room or Gold Coast Kitchen?
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
On the Blog
• Tony Mantuano gives Dish a taste of what’s to come at the latest Levy Restaurants project.
Things to Do
1. Eat with a purpose at the Dining for Wishes Buffet Brunch this Sunday at Rhapsody (65 E. Adams St.; 312-786-9911), where from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. chef Dean Zanella will be whipping up goodies such as a spring frittata with local goat cheese and Momma Zanella’s rhubarb coffeecake in the name of charity. All proceeds from the $25 brunch will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois as part of the month-long fundraiser Dining for Wishes, in which M Burger, Lillie’s Q, and other restaurants are also taking part.
2. Snag a reservation at Wheaton Frenchie Suzette’s Creperie (211 W. Front St., Wheaton; 630-462-0898) on June 12 for its monthly Sunday Supper, when the well-traveled chef Roland Liccioni (Les Nomades, Le Lan, Le Français) takes over the kitchen from 4 to 8:30 p.m., using seasonal ingredients to concoct East-meets-West specialties like sautéed foie gras with banana water and clementines.
3. Get your licks in at J Bar (The James Hotel, 615 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000), which morphs into a pop-up ice-cream shop each Friday in June from 3 to 5 p.m., when pastry chef Jove Hubbard churns out $5 gourmet scoops in flavors like Rocky Road stocked with beer marshmallows and smoked almonds.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Newcomers to the dining scene include Roots Handmade Pizza (1924 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-645-4949), a sprawling Ukrainian Village spot with Quad Cities–style pizza and Midwestern beers aplenty; Taverna 750 (750 W. Cornelia Ave.; 773-348-5172), a newcomer in the former Cornelia’s digs that serves $10-and-under Italian small plates; Rustic House (1967 N. Halsted St.; 312-929-3227), the latest venture from the Gemini Bistro owners, set to open tonight at 5 p.m.; NoMI Kitchen, the former NoMI with a menu face-lift by exec chef Ryan LaRoche; The Black Sheep (1132 W. Grand Ave.; 312-997-5100), a West Town eatery with a rock ’n’ roll vibe, which soft-opens Friday and goes for the real deal on June 14; Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi (730 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 773-248-2882), a Japanese spot with a menu of teriyaki, tempura, and fried rice, where the cooking and entertaining takes place at grill tables; Pinkberry (635 N. State St.; no phone yet), the Midwest’s first location of the frozen yogurt chain, which will land in the former River North Berry Chill space early next month; Lady Gregory’s (5260 N. Clark St.; 773-271-5050), the new spot from the owners of Wilde Bar & Restaurant and Beckett’s Public House, which will finally open its doors June 13 after being destroyed (prior to opening) by fire in April; and Michael Diversey’s (670 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 773-327-7040), a pub named for a former Chicago alderman known to brew some tasty beer. . . . Rick Bayless adds granola to his repertoire with Rick Bayless’s Mexican Mix, his salty-sweet collaboration with Milk & Honey. The creation, featuring amaranth, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cacao nibs, and raisins, is offered wherever Milk & Honey granola is sold. . . . Another collaboration (this one between California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company, Big Star, and The Publican) produced a brew called Zephyr. The lager (7.66 percent alcohol by volume) is being distributed to all Chicago Lagunitas accounts.