Sky Full of Bacon

As I was saying about food before I was interrupted…

I was trying to think of an analogy for The Trenchermen, the new restaurant from the Sheerin Brothers (which I went to for a PR dinner, so I don’t think I can fairly comment on whether service and kitchen execution is better for reviewers than normal folks, as has been alleged in at least one review). I settled on the Coen Brothers. Which is to say, possibly brilliant, in such a quirky, possibly three steps ahead of everybody way that I’m not sure yet what it was really about. (This is on my mind because someone recently asked me what No Country For Old Men was about beyond just really brutal violence, and my attempt to summarize some theme about individual will versus blind chance in an amoral universe promptly drove into weeds it could never get out of. But it’s sure about something!) Also, as with the Coen Bros., the joke may be in some way on us the audience. Certainly some of the combinations, even in this era of weird combinations, seemed like parodies of 2012 fine dining— like mortadella fried rice. Yes! At last, the Italian deli-chop suey fusion restaurant we’ve been waiting for! Yet however preposterous they sounded, they were mostly, if not always, pretty great.

But the way they were great was not like the way I’m presently used to things being great. I mean, they’re back there curing meats as you expect restaurants to do today, they’re buying good farmer’s market stuff as they always have wherever they worked… but the result isn’t Perennial Virant, a tribute to the fine intrinsic flavors of such things. (Mike’s charcuterie at Three Floyds was certainly like that.) Somehow what they’re doing with them is more complex and surprising than that, a four-dimensional game of chess in which frying and pickling and smokiness and acidity and fruitiness and who knows what all get put together in a new strange way that’s different with every plate. (Not every time, of course, and when things don’t add up in the Sheerin’s new math, they’re often wan— corn tortellini in a broth, for instance, at the height of corn season, somehow fizzled on the launchpad. But three out of four.)

Now, I’ve eaten at places that seemed like a different restaurant with every plate, and in most cases it’s simply a chef who knows how to do a lot of things but has no overarching personality of his own that comes out in every dish. I’m convinced that this is not the case here, that the Sheerin Bros. not only have personalities but in some sense one personality they form in the kitchen. But I would need to eat more analytically, and less socially than I did that night, to start to get what it’s really about. (Which will be costly— it’s pretty pricey, but at last as small plates go, they’re pretty big. Still, it’s an intellectual pursuit worth paying for, I think.)

For now, don’t miss the bacon cured (!) sweetbreads with XO sauce and black garlic, which give insanely likable southern fried crunchiness with a dark, haunting Asian depth of flavor, the heirloom tomato salad with, I think, balsamic vinegar ice cream, and order whatever fish is involved in the smoked fish dish (sturgeon when I went, looks like Kentucky paddlefish now). And though some reviewers have dinged dessert because the chefs do it themselves and don’t really have a pastry chef per se, I loved the non-traditional dark and savoriness of a couple of the desserts, notably the coffee cake with smoked meringue.

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Stout Barrel House looks like any bar in Chicago, dark wood and TVs turned to sports. You would think the menu would be like any bar’s, “Angus” burgers and mozzarella sticks. But this is 2012 and the guys who previously had a nightclub of no culinary distinction here hired away the chef of Blue 13 (now gone), Chris Curren, to up their company’s food game, and so it has, for one thing, an inhouse charcuterie program. Five years ago this would have been a miracle— housemade cured meats in a bar in River North? Think how much credit Avec got for that. Now we’re so spoiled it seems normal. Housemade charcuterie? Call me when you make your own blood pudding.

I liked the spicy sopressata and the prosciutto, a little dry and chipped as a result, but they were pleasing. (The Sheerins are making prosciutto too.) Pates were fine but not that intriguing, the rest was a nice cheese selection (the Pastoral truck actually pulled up while I was sitting there.) What would have rocked the bar world a few years ago gets a B+ for effort now. The rest of the menu is artisanalish but leaning, not surprisingly, to the meaty and fried. Partly for the sheer perversity of its name I ordered the fried dill pickle salad:

It was great! Buttery bibb lettuce with an ultra-fresh buttermilk-dill dressing partied with the crispy fried crunch of pickles and cheese curds. It did a little dance of joy in my mouth. It was one of the funniest things, and one of the most fun, I’ve eaten in a long time. There’s so much talent in Chicago kitchens, more than we have enough fine restaurants for— which makes it possible to discover things like this in ordinary and clichéd places. There is no excuse for eating bad things!

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Ten years ago a place called Grandma J’s Local Kitchen would have been done up in Kountry Kute. But now even grandma places have a certain thrift store-hipster vibe, and this one in Humboldt Park just south of North & Kedzie (looking right across the street into the doors of the armory) looks like it could be a calculated effort at Etsy-esque homespun chic, like the Wicker Park steak place Time Out called “if Pinterest designed a steakhouse.”

Then the friends and neighbors start wandering in and out, helping deliver supplies in the middle of breakfast service (they’re betting on a big crowd from something called RiotFest), and you know that ramshackle is not an act— this is the real deal, the kind of food business where people without a lot of experience decide to follow their heart into hospitality and the result can either be sweet or disastrous.

Happily, the results are mostly happy. Would a professional chef have invented a version of eggs benedict that has both ham and bacon on rye bread? No, a home chef winging it out of what ingredients she has on hand would, but the rye bread works surprisingly well, a little sharpness to cut into the egg and the sauce. And the actual cook that morning, a small Latino lady working on a portable grill, must have some experience because the poached eggs are perfect and the home fries are just fine, no underdone bits at this early point in the day. It’s a winning place with a sweetness hard-edged Humboldt Park could use, and I’ll be back.

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So I spent months, intermittently, doing the hard research of eating tacos for the taco slideshow I did (as did all the Grub Street cities) a couple of months back. And looking for new places to add to the body of known good Mexican spots, I tried a lot of places that were all right… but not good enough or different to take a slot on a 25-slide slideshow. Not good enough to suggest somebody ought to drive very far to check them out. I affirmed the position of some places I’d heard about but not tried, or needed to try again, but I think I only made one real discovery that nobody’s talked about— Tacos y Salsa in Berwyn. (And even then, how far should you drive to go there? Depends on what you’d pass on the way, I guess.)

And so the first Mexican restaurant I go to after taking a taco break afterwards, proves to be, if not city-crawling-worthy, certainly one of the best new finds in my approximate area (I guess it’s Humboldt Park, which I, if probably not many of my neighbors, consider fairly close, at least for lunch). It’s called Taqueria Perejil and it’s in a spot which I believe I checked out once under previous owners, but found either closed or utterly forgettable. They’ve spiffed it up for sure, but more than that they’re doing some nice things right, like handpatted gorditas and sopes with a nice salty-corny flavor, and taco or quesadilla choices like huitlacoche, cactus or flor de calabaza (squash blossome), which look like alien eyestalks and taste like canned asparagus. That’s a sentimental dish for me because it was one of the first exotic things I learned about in early Chowhound days–

BZZZZZZT! you’re not supposed to talk about food discussion sites!

— er, when I had first had friends who wanted to go eat Mex at the Maxwell Street Market. Whenever that was. I can’t remember for the life of me.

The floor is made of linoleumized guacamole.

Anyway, nice stuff, friendly people, check it out. We actually arrived at it after my sons, quickly learning the ropes, called an audible on my first choice because all it had was American beer signs in the window, and promptly said, c’mon dad, it can’t be an authentic Mexican place with Bud Light signs. Not sure that’s strictly true but the place certainly looked lamer than its Yelp reviews would have suggested, just proving that while Yelp is a good source for ideas, you can’t count on the Yelp community as a whole to–


Okay, okay. Anyway, as we drove past that place we spotted a nice looking little Churro and Mexican hot chocolate stand, Xocoatl, which turns out to have a few locations around the area. It’s a bit bare inside for what should be a friendly neighborhood spot, let us say it has more of the anti-atmosphere of the south side wings and fish stand than of the atmosphere of the Lakeview ice cream parlor, but you can watch the churros being made through a window, they come out hot and tasty, always fried to order… it was just fine.

Taqueria Perejil
3835 W. Fullerton

3755 W. Armitage

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Lest you think I’m a pushover who just likes whatever’s put in front of him, here’s one vaunted place that was quite a disappointment— in fact a real head-scratcher: Ada Street. Chicago magazine had it on their best new restaurants list, but it seemed like 10 left feet to me. It’s hidden away near the Hideout, but where the Hideout’s ramshackle bar seems a natural fit for this nowhere location near a City of Chicago refueling station, the sleek Ada St. just seems kind of forlorn. The entrance is genuinely bizarre; a dark non-descript place with rows of LPs for you to choose from (hmm, maybe everyone would enjoy Metal Machine Music), which aims to evoke the Velvet Hour’s entry, I think, but comes closer to the camouflaged entrance to the kitschy Spy Bar in Milwaukee. Then you walk down a long, disco-lit pathway which feels like a tracking shot in Enter the Void until you come to the main room, a dark box which during daylight hours, at least, looks onto a sunny patio paved with astroturf and with a ping pong table. The feel of the two spaces is so completely disparate the patio doesn’t seem quite real— the bar is dark like the hold of a space freighter, the patio is the holodeck recreating your sunlit childhood memories.

But hey, if the food is good… only it really wasn’t, and neither was the drink. I don’t remembered what drink I ordered, but I remember the first words that came to mind: “drinking cologne.” I ordered a couple of plates, too, and the only one I remember had octopus, beans and some kind of vaguely spicy sauce… but really it had no distinct flavor at all. Things weren’t bad, but they were unmemorable, as evidenced by the fact that I have unmemoried them. (Maybe they can bring them back on the holodeck.) I didn’t hate this place, but nothing about it at all worked for me, or made me ever want to spend any more time there figuring out why others think it’s one of this year’s stars.

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Apologies for the bad language but if you follow my Twitter feed, you know what this is about. I went to Andy’s Thai Kitchen, the new restaurant from the longtime chef of TAC Quick, and ran into a group of— I don’t want to say LTHers because that could be anybody; LTH insiders will do for now. There were three of them and four menus, so I didn’t presume to sit down, but as the place is small, I chitchatted with them from the adjacent table. When I addressed one of them, a former friend and now a Tribune contributor, directly he instantly turned belligerent, and in no time was screaming “Go fuck yourself!” at me. (Needless to say, I decided there was other company for lunch that wasn’t barking mad to be had, and left.) I now regard that as the unofficial motto of LTHForum, since when I called him out on it on Twitter and Facebook, the response of present-day LTHForum management was to deactivate my account. Calling out bad behavior was an unforgivable offense, but they apparently approve of an LTHer bullying diners out of a restaurant. (No word yet on how the Tribune might feel about a Trib stringer chasing other food media out of an establishment.)

Hmm, chasing people out of the great ethnic restaurants in town— now that is a strategy shift from when I ran the place. I don’t really have anything beyond that to say about the incident itself, but it does point to something I’ve never really talked about, which is the broader implications of leaving LTHForum when I did at the end of 2007 to pursue what would become Sky Full of Bacon and all these other things I’ve done.

David Hammond has mentioned that the growth of our community on Chowhound seemed to be spurred in some oblique way by 9/11— my time there certainly coincided with that post 9/11 period of foreboding— and if that’s the case, then you have to see our central mission, cherishing and promoting Chicago’s richness of ethnic food, as in some way being a response to 9/11, a celebration of the American ideal of immigration and cross-pollination, of the city as a place where peoples met peacefully and shared food and culture. We went to Thai and Arabic and Mexican and Indian restaurants, whether we thought about it or not, to keep our world from closing down into fortress America, to celebrate the polyglot world that comes together, uniquely, in American cities like ours.

And of course a big part of our spirit of adventure, on Chowhound and explicitly in how we founded LTHForum, was sharing it freely, staging dinners, inviting strangers, and above all, not keeping secrets— if you discovered something, you might sit on it long enough to feel you’d investigated it fully, but always, the idea was to get it out there for others to try as quickly as possible. It was as inclusive as possible, and we took joy in total strangers acting on our suggestions— or vice versa.

Beyond its social gathering role, I think LTHForum had a mission, at that point, to get the food media in Chicago to pay attention to more than just the strip along the lakefront— downtown and Lincoln Park, with a minimal awareness that there was such a thing as Chinatown. And the thing is… that mission was largely complete within a couple of years. Suddenly the food publications in town routinely dropped the names that had once been our secrets— Katsu, Katy’s Dumpling House, Uncle John’s BBQ, TAC Quick. (Even if they had heard of these places before, as they sometimes surely had, they hadn’t assumed their readers had, or would care to, until we showed them that we were their readers and we cared to.)

So when I left LTHForum around the end of 2007 over some personal and monetary issues (if you’re reading this, I expect you know how that turned out, many years later), part of the reason I did so without a lot of regret was a feeling that, hey, mission accomplished. And also maybe a sense that after four years, personally it was time to graduate.

Which has sort of made LTHForum the small town where the people I went to high school with still live, and where they haven’t changed, even though I have. At least that’s how I look at this incident; the anger of the person who is still there towards me who left is 1000 times stronger and more vehement than the fairly pallid regret I feel that things worked out a certain way.

But why is the LTH inner circle so worked up in the first place? I think one answer is that the evolution of interactive food media has continued. LTHForum, when we founded it eight years ago, was the cutting edge of democratic, populist food interaction online; newspapers had been one voice speaking to many, Chowhound was many voices speaking to many, but in a constricted way that didn’t let discussion really flow and community form. LTHForum was, at the time, as open and welcoming a platform as you could imagine. There were restrictions and moderation to keep the community peaceful, but beyond that, it was as democratic a platform as you could wish.

Jump ahead half a dozen years, though, and we have a very different world— the flattening of the food world into equals which was implicit at LTHForum has become the anarchically classless free-for-all of Twitter and Facebook, the universal achievement of “freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one” through blogs. The unity of a well-behaved, fairly likeminded community which was our strength in 2005 or 2006 seems too constricting when Twitter gives you an outlet to snark at the person who the moderators just pulled your post mocking. Instead of belonging to a relatively stable community, we are all continuously reshaping our food worlds and the audiences we talk to and belong to.

So the people who rose to become LTH insiders and the center of adulation in the wake of the departure of so many of the original LTHers, find that they’ve done so right when it stopped counting for much. You can be fawned over on the board but Twitter and Facebook will be out there, arguing (if a Tweet counts as an argument) that that place blows, or worse yet, snarking on, even parodying your purpler prose— and you may in fact have no way of even responding.

The instinctive response, which seems to be theirs, is to circle the wagons closer, guard the community against outsiders that much more. This is not irrational— it increases the value of the social side of things to those for whom that has value— but it obviously isn’t going to matter to those already outside the circle. And it’s led to a clubbishness and insularity— a suckup atmosphere at times, different rules for different people— that is antithetical to what LTH was founded as. (For instance, discoveries have been kept quiet, out of the awareness of the hoi polloi.) If this is a problem, I don’t have a solution; all I am doing is observing that just as LTHForum felt so cutting edge and like it was putting an end to boring, old school newspapers, now something else, basically anarchy, is making it seem out of date, not responsive enough to a community which isn’t likely to be moderated by anything except itself.

But I still don’t think that even if I was still at LTHForum to this day, knowing that that was happening out there would be enough to make me angry enough to scream “Go fuck yourself!” in a Thai restaurant at someone who’s simply moved on. I’d hope I’d have the vision to see that that’s just hastening the demise of one model for participation, and there’s no sense in going down with that ship. It was an exciting time to be at the cutting edge in 2004; it is now, too, whatever the cutting edge proves to be next.

UPDATE 9/15: So I am told– I can’t log in at LTHForum and see that it says that I can now log in– that there is a post at LTHForum explaining that, oh no, I wasn’t banned, that was a “probationary” period. Probation, obviously, is what you do when someone has done something wrong and you want them to cool down and think about the error of their ways. But they don’t tell me what I did wrong.

Was going to Andy’s Thai Kitchen wrong? There was certainly a likelihood that LTHers would be there that day, but since only a few LTHers would go nuts like that at the mere sight of me, it’s hard to know where I’m allowed on any given day.

Or am I supposed to stop being yelled at public places by enraged LTH insiders? I’ve actually gotten quite good at that in the last 5 years, versus around 2008 when it was more common, so I feel I’m being judged unfairly here for one little misstep on my part.

In all seriousness, talking about this in terms of my alleged offense and its disciplining shows that they remain clueless about the real offense here, which is a member who believes he can turn abusive in public with no consequence. (I have since learned this was by no means the first time other members have been abused by him in some fashion.) Yet the moderators specifically refused to answer a member’s question about whether he had faced any consequences for this behavior (which obviously means no).

Besides the disrespect for and even danger to other members, this obviously disrespects the restaurant and restaurateur to turn the restaurant you’re supposedly honoring with attention into the site of a brawl. Any word of respect paid to Andy’s Thai Kitchen on the board is a lie if you respect the man’s place of business so little. It will do LTH grave harm if it becomes known that its attention, and winning a GNR, means its members consider that license to treat your restaurant as their drunken clubhouse and have fights there.

This issue is not going to go away, though individual members already are, until the management of LTHForum recognizes that it has to deal with three serious issues:

1) What is the appropriate code of behavior for LTHers in public places? If you’re going to suspend members for what they say on Twitter and Facebook, clearly their actual behavior in public at a lunch that produces a post, or at other events, is within your purview. (One of the issues here is the reported feeling that this individual’s verbal abuse was, in some sense, coming with the approval of the management.)

2) What is the standard for respectful treatment of the restaurants written about at LTHForum?

3) What is the disciplinary system for members who violate these rules, and how can you ensure that it applies equally to all members and close friends of the management don’t get a pass?

Not to idealize the early years when myself and others were in charge, but we did strive to have transparency, to explain decisions (especially bannings) carefully, and I believe there was trust in our basic fairness and intentions. LTHForum needs to act now to regain that trust.

Once it reached the 30 day comments-are-closed-automatically mark, I decided to remove the post posted on this day, about a certain incident at a certain Thai restaurant, from public view.

There are several reasons for this. I trust the point has been driven home (like a sledgehammer) about the corrosive effect on the forum’s trust of protecting bad behavior, and the attempt to silence discussion of course blew up into ten times the attention that it would have had if they had dealt with the issue fairly and transparently. But it seems unfair to that Thai restaurant to associate it with the incident forever.

And keeping it, complete with comments, also seemed so contrary to the spirit of my site which should be about the joy of discussing food with all openly, not some pinched cliquish Heathers version of food fandom. A couple of days after the incident happened, I tweeted this to a friend:

I was on Taylor St. yesterday to shoot photo, just wandering around stopping in at last few old time places, the sun was out…

…gorgeous day and thinking… “How did we fuck this up? How did we find a way to turn this into a vicious grind?”

That’s just sad, to turn one of the most simple and joyous things in life into another form of greasy, small-minded oneupsmanship. So I’m just not going to be part of it. I’m not going to dwell in the past. (They already dwell in my past, every time they log in.) And if I see a bunch of them somewhere, next time I’ll just move along before they have the chance to go nutzoid again.

However, I do not believe in making things completely disappear, because I don’t believe in 2012 things really do disappear— they just fester. So in the name of open disclosure, and to answer in advance the criticism that I must have removed it because for some reason it embarrassed me, if you really want a copy of the old post, including comments (no matter how unflattering to myself), I will send it to anyone who requests it by email. This is not a veiled tease to encourage you to read it; I actually hope no one asks for it and it fades into oblivion. But it’s open to you, if you want it, because transparency was important to me on LTH in 2004 and it is now. Beyond that, I think point made, thread quietly moved offstage… and no, I will not be selling these at Christmas:

Hey, you gotta laugh at this stuff. It’s too ridiculous not to.

To judge by this site I’ve mainly been making videos lately (which is true and hey, check ’em out here) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been growing and cooking and all those things I used to blog about. I have two basil plants in my Earthboxes, one Thai and one Genovese, which have provided me happily with fresh, incredibly aromatic basil all summer long. But sooner or later they’re going to freeze out there, so it’s time to preserve the fresh spring flavors of basil for the long Chicago winter.

The most common way people preserve basil is, of course, as pesto— the simple combination of ground basil, olive oil, salt, garlic, pine nuts and parmiggiano reggiano or other good hard Italian cheese. An old trick is to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Not a bad idea, but not a perfect one either, because you’re freezing things which don’t freeze well— garlic loses flavor, cheese’s consistency falls apart, and salt of course actively fights freezing. Here’s a method I arrived at that freezes only the part that really needs freezing— fresh basil— allowing you to preserve its aromatics. Then you can easily add the others, fresh, at the time you cook with them; the result is pesto in December that takes every bit as fresh and pungent as June.

First, of course, pick a lot of basil— enough to fill your food processor bowl— wash it and then dry it thoroughly; you don’t want to freeze any more water than you have to.

Pour in some olive oil. Not as much as you would use to make pesto; the goal here is to have just kind of an oily paste once the leaves are ground. That way you can add fresh oil later; the point now is just enough oil to keep air out.

Process the leaves. Since again, you’ll be making the actual pesto later, you don’t need to grind them as fine as in the final dish; just roughly chopped and coated with oil.

Put in a quart freezer bag…

…and press the air out and flatten it until it’s an even 1/8″ or so with as little exposure to air as possible.

Then freeze it. (Be sure to set it on something flat to freeze, or it will take the shape of the ridges on the bottom of your freezer, or of a bag of chicken backs, or whatever.)

When winter comes along and you want pesto, all you have to do is snap off a few pieces of this Pesto Brittle™ and microwave them briefly to bring them to room temperature. Mix them in the food processor with a clove of fresh garlic, salt to taste and enough olive oil to make the paste more fluid. When that’s well ground, add the pine nuts (or any nut, really, given the scares about Chinese pine nuts lately; I often throw cashews or something in there) and grind that. Finally, grate your hard Italian cheese (I trust you have a good hunk of parmiggiano reggiano or something, not the green can kind) and mix that together. And you have essentially fresh pesto, which you can use to make a classic dish like:

Trenette al pesto genovese, or as my kids call it, Train Tracks

1 lb. trenette (which have scalloped edges, hence the term “train tracks”) or other flat noodles
A dozen or so small new potatoes, halved if large
A pint or so of green beans
Pesto made with some extra salt (it will be providing the salt for the whole dish, so the salt will be spread thin by the end)

Boil a big pot of salted water. Boil the potatoes, strain them out, keeping the water. Boil the green beans, straining them out as well. If necessary, add more water, then boil the pasta. Take a spoonful or two of the hot pasta water and add to the pesto to loosen it up. Drain the pasta and the pot and place the pasta back in the empty pot, then add the potatoes and the green beans, scatter the pesto as best you can around the pasta, and mix it all thoroughly until everything seems to have a coating of pesto. Serve in bowls.

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Former underground dinner chef Iliana Regan talks about foraging for her new restaurant, Elizabeth. (5:32)

Video produced for the Chicago Reader to go with Julia Thiel’s profile of Regan, which is here. If you want to see another movie about foraging, check out this past Sky Full of Bacon video.

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Two weeks before closing for good, Charlie Trotter held a $2500-a-plate blowout for longtime customers, and I was invited to record it (and dine there) and interview guest chefs Sean Brock and Nathan Myhrvold. (Here’s more about the night at Grub Street Chicago.)

Last Night at Charlie’s from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

So how was it? I hadn’t been to Trotter’s since 1988 (it was already famous though only less than a year old) and so I have no real standard of comparison for his food. The star, undoubtedly, was Myhrvold, whose tricks of transformation like the centrifuged pea flavor or the liquid caprese salad were stunning, injections of pure flavor almost freed of their corporeal form. I don’t necessarily think that’s entirely a good thing— we’re getting close to the old jokes about futuristic steak dinner in a pill form— but as magic tricks and thought provokers these were astoundingly good, and also satisfying as dishes (he’s not just capturing flavor but also body, form, in different form). Brock’s best dish (he also did a pleasant but unsurprising chocolate dessert) was sous-vided catfish, amazingly clean and silky, with butter beans and lovage puree, but it needed a little twist of pepper or something— and that’s what a number of people have said about his food, that it often isn’t sharpened up to as fine a point as is typical in Chicago kitchens. Tetsuya Wakuda did a crab salad that was, as I think I said in the article, like the best takeout Chinese you ever tasted, but both his and Trotter’s (or chef de cuisine Michael Rotunno’s) dishes seemed on the subtler side, until we got to Trotter’s beer-can squab, which was on a tripe ravioli that was as good an earthy-funky dish as I’ve ever had from Paul Virant or his ilk.

The room, both architecturally and in terms of the crowd, was very 80s-90s money, surely the highest per-capita wealth of any crowd I’ve ever been in; I’ve heard things about service slipping at Trotter’s of late (like from Steve Dolinsky) but all I can say is, for this crowd it could not have been more on point, as good as I’ve ever seen. The wine, much of it brought in by collectors attending the dinner, was incomparable, at least as far as my experience (which obviously is many steps below that of many people there) is concerned.

And Trotter? He was ready to be done with interviews and greet his guests, he made that clear by not responding to my questions but razzing me. Some interviewers seem to get bent out of shape by him doing that. Some may, in fact, write three-part articles after feeling dissed by Trotter. I have no ego as an interviewer, I am happy to ask what seems like a dumb question if it will get someone talking, so it didn’t bother me. The video shows what I genuinely saw about the warmth between Trotter and his staff; that I did not personally feel it is the least interesting thing imaginable about the night. He is who he is, and I think this video is truthfully who he was on one night, at least, of the 25 years his restaurant was open.

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without posts but besides posting continuously at Grub Street, and a week away camping, I’ve been cranking out videos like crazy— I just haven’t updated the archive of Key Ingredients here all summer. Here are the most recent Key Ingredients in order, the video I shot at Charlie Trotter’s is nearby, and there’s another one about a really interesting opening that I think will be at the Reader next week. So watch away…

Meg Colleran of Terzo Piano with colatura:

Amanda Rockman of Balena with Pu-erh tea:

Toni Roberts of theWit with sheep’s milk:

Dave Ford of The Bluebird with strawberries and rhubarb:

Ian Rossman of Frog ‘n’ Snail with cattails:

Blair Herridge of Browntrout with Bailey’s Irish Cream:

Jeffrey Sills of Sprout with chicken gizzards:

Elissa Narow of Perennial Virant with huitlacoche:

and Ray Stanis of Nellcôte with mochiko:

I also made a movie about the new things happening at Arami, which people like me had been quick to write off when its chef left:

Finally, I also shot two videos with Chef Jean Joho talking about Julia Child, for her 100th birthday:

Bon Appetit!