Four Questions for Tona Palomino

Palomino met Michael Sheerin in 2000 on the line at Jean Georges in New York. They’ve stayed connected ever since. They were roommates in New York (but first, Sheerin roomed with the woman who is now Palomino’s wife). Both served on the opening team at New York’s molecular shrine WD-50. And when Palomino moved to Chicago this summer, Sheerin asked him to be the beverage director at Trenchermen (2039 W. North Ave.; no phone yet), his upcoming venture with Patrick Sheerin, his brother, which is now scheduled to open in February. Palomino’s cocktail menu includes creations named Beer (raisin-infused bourbon, stout, and nutmeg) and Rye (Old Overholt, Zirbenz pine liqueur, and orange juice concentrate shaken and served up). Below and also in this video, Palomino discusses pairing the Sheerins’ food with cocktails.
Dish: How do you create a cocktail pairing? Is it similar to pairing wines?
Tona Palomino: Wine people speak about the different ways to approach a pairing. They seek to match, say, food with acidic components to wine that has the same acidic components. Like to like. Or by opposition.
D: So either similar or different—can it just be anything?
TP: If you have ordered Dover sole but you like red wine, what will make you the happiest is to have the entrée you’ve chosen with the wine you like. [But] what a sommelier will try to do is to expand the experience. What you look for is synergy. You want the beverage to act not just as a backdrop, but you want an interaction between what you are eating and what you are drinking.  
D: Let’s create an example with something from Trenchermen. What would you pair with this item from a draft menu: bacon-cured sweetbreads, black pepper, kohlrabi, and candied kumquats?
TP: Take some palo cortado sherry. You turn it into a cocktail by giving it some formal cocktail structure. Some gin. Gin is going to lighten the sherry. Gin and citrus and the orange family are very friendly. Kumquats, mandarins, oranges, certainly. So I would do some orange bitters and call it a day. Stir it. Serve it in a martini glass. Up with no ice. And garnish it with a flamed orange peel or twist.
D: Why does that work?
TP: You have this richness of the dish. The meat of the dish is that sweetbread and bacon characteristic. Throw some sherry at it. Marry the richness to some more richness. You want that nuttiness and slight sweetness [of the sherry] to lift the sweetbreads. Wash it down with something, literally. It’s fatty. And you have the bitters aiming for the kumquats on the dish. I think it would be delicious.


Best Word in This Week’s Newsletter: Screwpine

As part of the Singapore Tourism Board’s Global Chef Exchange, Krista Lotesto visited Singapore for four days last month, touring markets and attending workshops. After closing from January to April for renovations (during which time the restaurant will continue service from another location within the hotel), Nix (Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago, 163 E. Walton Pl.; 312-751-8100), where Lotesto is the chef, will add a Bugis Street (the name of a shopping district) section to the menu, consisting of Singaporean and Singaporean American dishes. “It’s Asian food, but it cannot be strictly defined by one Asian culture,” Lotesto says. “It’s like a melding of Chinese, Indian, and Malay foods.” One typical ingredient is rempah, a paste made of belacham (dried shrimp cake), galangal, lemongrass, and chilies. The new breakfast menu will include congee (a porridgey dish) and kaya French toast, which is French toast filled with bananas and kaya (coconut-egg-screwpine spread) and drizzled with Nutella. Apparently screwpine is also called pandan, but we had to use “screwpine.”



“When those waiters ask me if I want some fresh ground pepper, I ask if they have any aged pepper.” —Andy Rooney (1919–2011), American radio and television writer


Heart and Seoul

Asked whether there are other Chicago restaurants doing what he’s doing at Tozi Korean BBQ (1265 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-2020), the manager, Derek Baek, replied, “Not as good as ours.” Open since Thursday, the 150-seater (with free parking!) contains more than 30 tables and booths with built-in grills for the barbecue, which comes with radish and cabbage kimchis and a changing slate of other side dishes, such as a spicy fish cake or sweet potato. For diners eschewing the tableside grilling, Tozi offers bibim bap, noodle dishes, stews, bulgogi, and galbi, among other things. Definitely a similar menu to other Korean barbecue places around town, but the bragging there is not as good as Tozi’s.


Dino Bell

The barramundi and the bouillabaisse that recently appeared at Bistro Bordeaux (618 Church St., Evanston; 847-424-1483) herald the return of the “chef-driven menu” to the restaurant, according to the owner, Pascal Berthoumieux. The chef doing the driving is Johnny Besch, a 30-year-old west suburban native who has worked at L2O and Alain Ducasse’s Mix on the Beach in Puerto Rico. Besch’s barramundi comes with braised beet greens, potato à la crème, beet tartare, and apple cider gastrique. The bouillabaisse contains catch-of-the-day fish and shellfish in a seafood broth of roasted lobster, fish fumet, and plenty of Cognac. “The technique is something Ducasse himself showed me how to do,” says Besch, who started in September. Growing up with a server mother and a short-order-cook father, Besch always wanted to be a chef. Or a paleontologist. “Every kid loves dinosaurs,” he explains.


She Said It

“Roland was my first choice. I called him. He’s mature. He has the best skills and technique. He is like Jacques Pépin. He is passionate. He is an artist. . . . I hope that he enjoys being here again. We always have worked very well together.” —Mary Beth Liccioni, the owner of Les Nomades (222 E. Ontario St.; 312-649-9010), on rehiring the chef (and her former husband) Roland Liccioni to take over the kitchen this week. He was the chef at Les Nomades from 1999 to 2004.


One in a Cotillion

“I was cooking at home, and I was doing cooking for big parties, cotillions, baptisms,” says María Alcantar, the owner of Diamante Azul (5661 N. Clark St.; 773-334-5665). Feeling she was ready to run her own place, she opened the Mexican dine-in and takeout spot in Andersonville October 5. Working in the kitchen with her mother, Alcantar makes tampiqueña, chimichangas, and on the weekends, homemade tortillas. Attention, entrepreneurs: There’s an opening in the cotillion-catering market.


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Things to Do

1. Log some face time with the white-hot chef Stephanie Izard, who is in the midst of the nationwide Goat Tour to promote her new cookbook. The Girl & the Goat mastermind will sign copies of Girl in the Kitchen tomorrow from 12 to 2 p.m. at Foodease Market (Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-335-3663). As an added bonus, the market will serve Izard’s brown butter and delicata squash soup—a recipe straight from the book, naturally—all day. If you miss Izard tomorrow, you can catch her at another book signing Friday at noon at Macy’s (111 N. State St.; 312-781-1000).

2. Save the date for Cow Town: An Evening Honoring Wisconsin Cheesemakers, a soiree with a slew of cheese-and-libation pairings to be held at Marion Street Cheese Market (100 S. Marion St., Oak Park; 708-725-7200). On November 16 from 6 to 9 p.m., the shop will shut down for the event, allowing five award-winning Wisconsin cheese makers (including Hidden Springs Creamery and Uplands Cheese Company), and 30-some other artisans (Creminelli Fine Meats, Chocolat Uzma Sharif) and distillers (North Shore Distillery, Hum) to showcase and offer samples of their wares, as well as chat about production techniques. Cheese-loving Dish readers can get $5 off the $30 admission through Saturday: Buy your ticket here and enter the promo code dish.

3. End your post-Halloween sugar detox at Logan Square Kitchen Pastry Market (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-342-2333), which is sweetening up the weekend—from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday—with small-batch goodies from local companies such as Tushiya Sweets & Treats, Wedge Pies, and Ipsento Coffee.

4. Wish Cucina Paradiso (814 North Blvd., Oak Park; 708-848-3434) a buon compleanno on November 16 from 5 to 9:30 p.m., when the family-owned joint offers 30 percent off the entire check (and free cupcakes!) as a grazie for 16 years of business.


Dot Dot Dot . . .

Kamehachi has moved its Old Town operation across the road to 1531 North Wells Street (the former Eivissa space) and will begin service from the new spot tomorrow. . . . Jam has completed the move northwest from its previous Ukrainian Village home and will debut in Logan Square on November 14. . . . Grange Hall Farm Burger sheds its soft-open mode for the real deal on November 15. . . . We learned from Eater that Stephanie Izard plans to open her diner, Little Goat (slated for spring 2012), at 820 West Randolph Street, the location that formerly housed Red Light. . . . Dish, a restaurant with a name propitiously associated with genius, trust, and jokes that are definitely never strained, even a little bit, and unaffiliated with the e-newsletter of the same name, opened last week in Norwood Park. . . . Michelin gave nods to 56 Chicago-area spots in its list of 2012 Bib Gourmand Restaurants.