Thursday, March 25, 2004

Marketing Director Needed

ISO, Marketing professional, ideally with experience in viral marketing and other non-traditional go-to-market tactics. Equal2 is a California-based company with an innovative approach to online consumer-to-consumer transactions. Currently in the process of first-round funding, we have a developed business plan and several investors. The business launches in July, 2004, and we need someone who can help build the market once site is fully operational. No need to relocate. Send questions, resume, or other responses to
Getting Bored +Gene and Jude's

I'm not one to eat often at high-end chef-centric places, and in my mind I belittle their attempts to re-create, revise and otherwise constantly re-interpret dishes. Conceptually, I believe if some one came up with a great recipe for pot au feau or whatever dish, why mess with it. Other diners somewhat disagree. For instance, the other day, a poster on an Internet site bemoaned his meal at a fancy place in Florida because the menu had not changed in a year. Now, I find it hard to imagine anything wrong with having the same exact great meal once a year, but I do actually find sympathy with the notion of getting bored with food. I get bored.

Four years or so into being away from Argyle Street, that heady source of pho, take-away Thai, Chinese BBQ meats and such (and missing it dearly), I find it hard to believe there was a time that I grew tired of such fare. Yet, the Condiment Queen is always willing to remind me that yes, come Saturday mornings, I became no longer willing to have our usual noodles and iced coffee yet again. As good as something can be, I do grow bored. For a long time this school year, the VI family was making a Wednesday routine. The chowhounditas did yoga at the local library. Ms. VI luxuriated at said library with 60 minutes of peace, and when they were threw, they'd pick me up for the short trek to the World's Greatest Hot Dog Stand, Gene and Judes. Then, wham, I had my fill of Gene and Judes.

Yes, I no longer wanted to eat my favorite food at my favorite place for such food. It is certainly not that hard to see why someone could tire of Gene and Judes. There is probably no place else in Chicago more focused, more singular in its being. I marvel the place's supply chain management. Their entire inventory is probably 15 items--and I love how you can see them all neatly stacked behind the counter. It is a simple place. They give you two tastes, two tastes alone. First, there is primordial sausage. Unlike more classic Chicago hot dogs, you focus nearly exclusively at Gene and Judes on the hot dog, on its intense, beefy, snappy meat. Second, there are the french fries, fresher than fresh, seconds out of the fryer, occasionally improperly made leaving them too raw, but always tasting foremost of the spud. One must take a strong shot of pop, maybe even a fruit drink from those fast fading swirling plastic contraptions, to relieve the mouth of these gustatory prods. As ideal a Chicago meal as it is, it can get to be too much.

Not too much for the rest of the family. They cried each week as I suggested some other option come Wednesday. Yesterday, I relented. A month away from Gene and Judes was enough. We luckily entered Gene and Judes right before a rush. I have postulated that Gene and Judes hot dogs are so good because of the rapid turnover. I have come to learn, that with the french fries, their best product comes when the place is emptiest. Too crowded, they sometimes rush the fries out, leaving them excessively limp, and as noted above, sometimes raw-ish. Yet, when they time it right, this is a great french fry. The fries are as preternaturally tan as George Hamilton, as all the sugars within the potato become carmelized. They are never "Wiv crisp", more like hardened sticks of mashed potato than super-stiff sticks some prefer. Once again, come Thursday morning, my tongue remains zinging from those tag-team jolts.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Who Runs the Kitchen?

I've been pissed at Chicago Magazine's Morsel's column ever since I thought they were taking things from Chowhound without attribution. (Peggy insists that she found the Chicago Little Italy site JUST as I was posting on it, or something kinda like that.) Still, I try to read Morsels each week. This week's Morsels brought up the story of another chef leaving his primed pasture, ostensibly to walk the Appalachian Trail. The restauranteur here noted he had a new chef in the works and everything would be the same. I have no idea how this place Pil Pil will hold up because I never tried it under the first regime, and I do not in any way knock the skill of the owner, Jack Weiss to run his place with new chefs. Still, I wonder if the Chicago dining scene suffers because it always appears to me that the chefs are not in charge.

Compare and contrast to New York. There, the leading restraunteurs to a large extent, are chefs. Mario Batali, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Thomas Brennan, Danny Meyers, and Tom Colicchio all own and run multiple places. Are there any equivalents in Chicago. Does this make for better dining. I am not sure, but my gut sez yes, New York has it better.
Guest Post by MikeG
La Luce

Among old school Italian places, La Luce has never seemed to get much Chowhound attention compared to La Scarola a few blocks away, or other spots like Bruna's.

(photo of the movie-perfect awning under the El)

But I always heard good things about it, even including lavish gifts of free wine to a newly engaged couple and so on, from my friend Wyatt and his various friends. So tonight I made him go there with me.

Charming old Victorian building with tin ceiling, wooden meat locker with milk glass front, and so on. Food was generally simple but not screwed up-- big scallops lightly breaded in a lemony sauce were light, almost Chinese food-like grilled calamari was exactly what it should be.

Homemade "8 finger" (whatever that means) cavatelli in a vodka cream sauce was an argument for the metallic trumpet blast of San Marzano canned tomatoes as superior to the fresh kind.

The only non-Old School note was the total absence of Frank music as we walked in-- but then we realized that The Sopranos was on over the bar, so that made sense.

Anyway, I didn't experience the lavish hospitality on this quiet Sunday night but the meal was satisfying and I'd go back on a busier night for the full effect...

By the way, all these food shots I keep taking have inspired me to put them all together on a page. Go there and you'll also see some interesting Japanese product packaging that Wyatt picked up at Mitsuwa, and some wonderful vintage shelving from an old fish shop in Winnetka that probably won't be around forever (judging by the age of the owners).

Mike's chow photos-- now a blog or something, resident on a friend's site that has open server space

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Blue Cheese at Jimmy's

Jimmy's Place in Forest Park is a well documented Chowhound favorite. For instance see here, here, or here. Has anyone, however, fully documented Jimmy's skill with blue cheese?

First, of course, there is their finger cramping stunt of getting the blue cheese into the olives to accompany their superior martini's. Besides those olives, Jimmy's shakes up about my favorite martini, having pretty much what I want and need: extreme cold, extreme pour and any top shelf liquor like Bombay Sapphire for the respectable $7.50 (especially respectable as 1 drink sets up well for the entire night). Second, Jimmy's offers for the splurge of an extra dollar, the ability to spew blue cheese all over their house salad. A simple salad, but their house dressing, strong of garlic and vinegar combines ideally with the blue cheese to make a stinky, strong statement, that I suppose goes ideally with those martini's. The rest of the food is generally good. Fried calamari the other night were better than sometimes--occasionally too dry, but I was most pleased with my blue cheese dinner.

Jimmy's Place
7411 Madison
Forest Park, IL
(708) 771-7476