"Did that work?" Nick Kokonas asks from the atrium of the recently renovated Alinea. It's Tuesday afternoon. The restaurant reopens on Friday night, after undergoing a five-month, seven-figure facelift. And its owner can't find the light switch. "I'm still learning where everything is," he says as the lights turn on over the service station in one of the four dining rooms — each of which has totally different decor and an entirely new menu. Meanwhile, Grant Achatz is fixed to his station in the kitchen — where you can find him from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on his day off, according to Kokonas — trimming an artichoke with the precision of a surgeon.
When Rick Bayless opened his first restaurant Frontera Grill nearly 30 years ago, he changed how the world thought about Mexican cuisine by offering rich mole sauces, flame-grilled meats in freshly made tortillas, and seasonal vegetables in a vibrant environment. Tonight, he hopes to open diners eyes again with a deep dive into the seafood-centric realm of Baja cooking — complete with an open hearth and adjacent brewery on Randolph Street.
"Mac and cheese is the only thing I've cooked over the past two years, and it's out of the box, and it's delicious," Jason Vincent says from his Logan Square home, where his partners Ben Lustbader (Nightwood) and Josh Perlman (Avec) are finalizing details for their forthcoming restaurant and Vincent's highly anticipated return to the kitchen. Giant should open at 3209 W. Armitage Ave. in Logan Square next month, and when it does, the little restaurant — 1,400-sq.-ft. to be exact — has big ambitions.
In the March issue of Bon Appétit, also dubbed as its "Culture" issue, editors lay out 21 elements that define cool in the culinary industry, from fried chicken sandwiches to marijuana edibles. The final entry is a two-page article by John Birdsall entitled "How Every City Became Brooklyn." It offers the notion that "Brooklyn" now exemplifies a phenomenon of "food codes" (artisanal pickles, throwback cocktails, pour-over coffee, etc.) which will fast track a city to its maximum potential. The article uses Indianapolis—via James Beard Award nominee Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth—as its case study.
If you want to test a chef's huevos, then make him cook an egg. For decades, heads of kitchens have vetted potential protégées by having them prepare prefect eggs. It sounds simple, but therein lies the challenge. Well-cooked eggs are judged by their texture, color, consistency, and delicate flavor that won't mask mistakes. One misstep and you, plus your eggs, are done.
In the age of the craft cocktails, there's a lot to think about when ordering a drink: What type of base spirit do I want? Should it be shaken or stirred? Is it served with a banana dolphin? Does the bartender making it have a properly quaffed beard? The last thing on that checklist of imbibing essentials is often ice, yet the best bartenders know that good ice is the building block of a great cocktail.