Sky Full of Bacon

Ina Pinkney • Daniel Boulud Goes to Milwaukee • Paul Bartolotta on Daniel Boulud • Dr. Bruce Kraig on Street Food Around the World • Big Guys Sausage Stand


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This is the book edition, and first up is Ina Pinkney, whose Ina’s Restaurant will close at the end of 2013. But not to fear…


the recipe for her Heavenly Hots is in her book, Taste Memories. You can get it at the restaurant, order it here, or visit Women & Children First in Andersonville. The restaurant is at 1235 W. Randolph; make reservations through the end of the year at 312-226-8227. Here’s a piece I wrote about Ina.


Next I spoke with Daniel Boulud whose new cookbook is Daniel, My French Cuisine (essays by Bill Buford). The occasion was a trip to Milwaukee, and I spoke to the chef who was hosting him as well, Paul Bartolotta:


Here are Gilles and Kegel’s; I went to Uplands here.

Dr. Bruce Kraig is one of the editors, with Colleen Taylor Sen, of Street Food Around the World:


Some places we talked about include Rickshaw Republic at 2312 N. Lincoln.


Then I spoke with Brendan O’Connor of Big Guys Sausage Stand, 7021 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn. I’ve written about it and him for both the Reader and Serious Eats Chicago.

Brendan O'Connor, Big Guys

In Next’s Kitchen • Mark and Liz Mendez on Vera’s 2nd Anniversary • Talking With Anthony Todd on Trotter, Michelin and More


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Shortly after the latest Next menu started in September, I talked my way into hanging out in the kitchen for four hours (it was really a struggle; I emailed Grant Achatz and he said sure), and produced three pieces for the Reader including this slideshow and a piece about the menu. But there was still more material and, more to the point, the audio I felt had its own interest, yet another way to experience this experience. So this episode starts with a visit to the kitchen at Next, and talking with chef de cuisine Dave Beran (right, above) about the menu inspired by the Bocuse d’Or competition. Here’s the cauliflower custard talked about in the piece:


For more pics, follow the slideshow link above.

Then I visit Liz and Mark Mendez at Vera:


Here’s a review of Vera, which topped my ten best list last year. Here’s one of the best things, sardines dressed simply with olive oil and a little citrus:

They mention two of their blog posts in the conversations: here’s Mark’s with righteous advice to a young cook who bailed on him, here’s Liz’s on their second anniversary.


Finally I talk with Anthony Todd about the whole restaurant scene since we last talked, back in episode #1. We talk about Charlie Trotter, focusing not on his death but on why he mattered…

…the return of giant restaurants and steakhouses, how the media scene looks five months after we bemoaned it in episode 1, and finally, the inevitable Michelin discussion/sort of forecast.

Michael Ruhlman, From Keller to Schmaltz • Great Chicago Charcuterie • Road Trip to the Kentucky Ham Lady, Nancy Newsom Mahaffey • Matthias Merges Gets Not Serious


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First up, I talk with one of my heroes, Michael Ruhlman, in the extended version of an interview published at the Reader here. It took place at Balena and followed a public conversation with Chandra Ram of Plate (it’s at their site, if you’re a subscriber). Here’s what it looks like when he’s talking to her:


I’ve made lots of things from Charcuterie, such as this and this, but really the whole site’s existence owes something to my making bacon because Charcuterie said I could.

Afterwards I mention some local charcuterie places to check out, so here are links for those: Paulina Meat Market, Gene’s Sausage Shop, Schmeisser’s, Andy’s Deli, Bari, Riviera, Ream’s, and Dreymiller & Kray. Here’s an old post about the last one, too.

Next, I go to Princeton, Kentucky to learn about Newsom’s Country Hams; regular readers will have already read about my Indy/Louisville trip with my kids. But here are things we saw that you’ll hear about. Here’s Nancy Newsom Mahaffey with a country ham as hard as varnished oak:


Our tasting, preacher ham in front, prosciutto behind.


This spring’s hams in the new ham house.


The oldest hams with their “Civil War beards of mold”:


The hams hanging in the smokehouse (photo by Myles Gebert):


So how do you cook a country ham? Here’s a post on me cooking one according to a recipe from Charleston Receipts. I do this every Thanksgiving now.

Finally, I talk to Matthias Merges about Yusho and other things.


This is from an interview originally conducted for a piece in Where Chicago that isn’t out yet, but I used another chunk of it, about his Hyde Park restaurants, at the Reader here. Ironically, my only review of Yusho here isn’t all that positive, but I’ve been back 3 or 4 times since and liked it better each time, and have no problem joining in the general praise as one of the places you gotta go in Chicago right now.

The Beer Episode: Nathan Sears Revives the German Beer Hall • Jared Rouben’s Moody Tongue • The State of Chicago Beer with Karl Klockars • Golden Shrimp Mystery Solved


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Beer and food go together in this episode like something to drink and something to eat.


First up, Nathan Sears, who I’ve known as Paul Virant’s #2 at Vie for years and years (he appears on camera in this Sky Full of Bacon video from 2008). He’s opening The Radler and DAS, a German beer hall and restaurant with a ten-seat chef’s table (DAS) in Logan Square. That’s him in front of the mural he talks about, for Bohemian Beer.


Next, I talked to Jared Rouben (seen at right in a photo with Allium chef Kevin Hickey from this Grub Street shoot I did), longtime brewer at Goose Island Brewpub who is launching his own “culinary brewing” brewery, Moody Tongue, in Pilsen. (Parts of the same interview were used in this piece at the Reader.)

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Karl Klockars (of Guys Drinking Beer) wrote Chicago magazine’s current cover story on beer, which you can check part of out here.


We talked about beer and beer media at Four Moon Tavern at Roscoe and Wolcott; his recommendations for underappreciated beer bars included The Green Lady and The Local Option. Some of the other things mentioned along the way: here’s an interview with the guy who revived Bäderbrau, here’s Ten Ninety in Zion, here’s Good Beer Hunting, here’s The Beer Temple’s podcasts, here’s Begyle Brewing’s subscription program, here’s The Fountainhead, and here’s The Huettenbar.

And finally, we solve the golden shrimp mystery from last time.

Lisa Shames of CS • Bon Appetit’s Jason Kessler • Tiki Symposium With Paul McGee of Three Dots and a Dash • BBQ Legend Mike Mills



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In the new Airwaves Full of Bacon podcast, I mark a milestone— the first piece produced by somebody else for the show. But first…


I talk on the phone to Lisa Shames, dining editor of CS (Chicago Social), about what she saw as she put together this year’s dining issue (which you can read in “digital edition” form here; the food part starts around page 86).

Then I talk to Jason Kessler, who writes for TV as well as The Kessler Report for Food Republic and The Nitpicker for Bon Appetit, about what an expat in LA eats when he comes back to Chicago. Here’s his satirical piece about the Food Network, referenced in the podcast. He also appears on camera in this Sky Full of Bacon video about St. Croix:

Paul McGee at Three Dots and a Dash, photo courtesy LEYE.

Our Tiki Symposium was produced by Roger Kamholz and features Paul McGee, who is the mixologist behind Chicago’s new Tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash; Rob Christopher who writes for Chicagoist and covered the closing of Trader Vic’s in Chicago here; and rum expert Ed Hamilton who wrote this collectible and has this site.

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The music for the Tiki segment is by Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, a modern ensemble playing exotica and Esquivel among other things. You can check them out and get some free tracks from them by signing up for their website, or contribute to their in-progress new album; check that out at

A couple of references that pass quickly in that conversation: Witco was the company that made much of the vintage Tiki decor (giant Eastern Island heads and that sort of thing), and one of the best places to see that is in the Chicago area, Hala Kahiki in River Grove. The central figure in Tiki revivalism that Ed mentions is Martin Cate; here’s his site. Another author mentioned is Jeff Berry; here’s his site.

Finally, I talk barbecue with a true legend of BBQ, Mike Mills of 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois, who is the central figure in my latest video podcast, Woodsmoke Nation:

More about him, and that video (which follows a BBQ competition for 28 hours), here.

Texas BBQ Meets Filipino Food • Julia Kramer on Life as an Anonymous Food Critic • Foodie Parents and Kids: My Story



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It’s back: the Chicago podcast about food and food media. Here’s what I talk about (and with who) in episode 2:


First up, I talk to Joaquin Soler, chef and co-owner of Smalls Smoke Shack & More, a tiny BBQ place which I predict is going to be huge any second now— in attention and lines out the door, if not physical space. Soler and his partner Dan Scesnewitz had the Brown Bag Lunch Truck and refined their BBQ there, so this is the rare BBQ opening with no learning curve. The other cool thing about it is that Soler, who’s Filipino-American, makes Asian-tinged sides which are a great alternative to the usual fries-and-cole-slaw BBQ model. Here’s pulled pork (which is fantastic) with elotes and sugar snap peas:


and they also do great fried chicken, not as armor-plated as many deep-fried chicken offerings because of the two-step method they use to keep it crispy, which Soler learned from his mom:


The barbecue comes out of this tiny Southern Pride smoker, but they’re already looking at where to stick a bigger one in their tiny location at 4009 N. Albany:




How much do I love this place? Well, I ate lunch with my kids there one day, and went back the next to interview them— and at the end of it, bought $45 worth of smoked meat from them to bring home for the 4th of July. The only thing I think some people are going to hold against it is that the sauces that come with the meat don’t match the usual BBQ profile; the brisket comes with a “tiger cry” sauce, a spicy-sweet vinegar dip, while the pulled pork comes with a mustard-bacon sauce. Both sauces have some precedent in the BBQ world (mainly in places like North Carolina) but I have to admit I broke out the Famous Dave’s sauce, my standard supermarket-available BBQ sauce, when it came to eating the stuff at home.

At the end, we talk a little about other Filipino restaurants so here are some links to help you find them; here’s Merla’s Kitchen, Michael Nagrant did a nice review for Isla Pilipina here, and I wrote about Pecking Order at Grub Street here.

Next I talk with Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago food critic who has since moved on to Bon Appetit, about life as an anonymous reviewer. We met for lunch at Chill Cafe— which I wrote more extensively about here:


Chill Cafe is at 2949 N. Belmont, but as noted in that thread, it’s not necessarily easy to spot, so look for the storefront shown in my earlier post.

Finally, a couple of months back I read a story at a storytelling event put on by 2nd Story and Fete Chicago at Ina’s Restaurant. You’ll hear that, about my adventures in food with my kids in tow, too.


2nd Story posted Ina’s story from the same event as a podcast; listen to it here. And after you’ve listened to mine, you can compare how I shaped the stories dramatically in 2013 to how I recorded them way back when they happened at various food sites; here’s The Pharaoh’s, here’s Himalayan (though I think the “red chicken” story came from a later visit), and here’s Brothers Coffee.

Homestead on the Roof • Riots and Food in Turkey • The Shrinking Food Media Scene, With Anthony Todd


Ready for some smart, interesting talk about the Chicago food scene? You know, the kind of thing I was doing at Grub Street Chicago before I was interrupted? Well, I’m excited to announce a new place for it: my new audio podcast, Airwaves Full of Bacon.

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Every few weeks I’ll present a new episode in which I talk with chefs, talk with other food journalists, talk with diners, take you to interesting places in the world of food. Beyond that, who knows where it will go— this is an experiment for me, too, in a new medium (audio).

But first— there’s episode one. I talk to Chris Curren of Homestead about the rooftop restaurant’s plans for its rooftop garden, and along the way beverage director Benjamin Schiller turns up too…


Next, I talk to my friend Dan Schleifer, who was just in Turkey where he tells us about both the rioting and the food. Here’s a cell phone pic from Dan of the wet hamburgers he talks about:

Islak Hamburgers

Islak Hamburgers

I mention a couple of restaurants to try along the way. Here’s doner meat and hummus at Cafe Orchid, 1746 W. Addison:


and pide (Turkish pizza) with Turkish pastrami at Pide ve Lamahacun, 1812 W. Irving Park:


You can read more about my trip to Turkey in late 2011 here.

Finally, I talk with Chicagoist food editor Anthony Todd, seen here at a Big Jones event with his colleague Amy Cavanaugh.


Among other things, we talk about this review of Next and this piece about a much-written-about chef.