The aforementioned ordeal did involve an isosceles triangle with Chicago at its apex, which allowed for a very thorough perusal of the Chicago Sun-Times, which garnered the following items of interest.
Hot Doug’s is in hot water with the city. The Northwest Side hot dog joint, known as much for its thuringer as it is for specials like gyros sausage with creme fraiche tzatziki, is the first restaurant in Chicago slapped with a $250 ticket for offering — in sausage form — the outlawed delicacy, foie gras.
As a perceptive observer noted in response to this item, while this may or may not be a miscarriage of justice of Sacco & Vanzetti proportions, but it is, hands down, just about the cheapest way to get exposure for your restaurant. In exchange for $250, Doug Sohn gets to look like the Rosa Parks of gourmands, and grab a few column inches. If the foie ban comes to NYC, look for Deathwatch'd establishments to stage special seal clubbing events on sidewalks in front of their restaurants. Also:
Is an Alain Ducasse Chicago restaurant in the works?
The decorated French chef -- the only chef in the world to have three restaurants with three Michelin stars -- appeared to be on a scouting mission recently in the Windy City.
On Dec. 7, chef Graham Elliot Bowles at Avenues in the Peninsula hotel got a call: Ducasse was on a plane a few hours from Chicago, and he wanted to eat at Avenues.
Bowles said it was past 10 p.m. when Ducasse and two guests arrived, but the restaurant stayed open, and Ducasse told the young chef to cook at his whim.
"It was like cooking for the Messiah," said Bowles of serving Ducasse a meal that included venison tartare, salmon with "sauerkraut bubbles" and a Kobe strip steak with smoked potato beignets.
Restaurant manager Nicolas Dubort, who is from Paris, exchanged a few words in French with Ducasse, telling the chef "he would be a delight to have on the Chicago restaurant scene."
Ducasse smiled and said, "It is a little bit cold," adding that he was "undecided" but that "Chicago was a pleasant city," Dubort said.
Sacre Bleu! Or maybe not. This happened back on Dec. 7th, and was in the newspaper yesterday. This is hardly Nixon-in-China level intrigue, but it is curious that it comes out so far after the fact. It is hard to imagine that the S-T had Janet Fuller, the author of this article, all Woodward and Bernstein on this until she broke the story, so one has to wonder if Alain's people passed the tip on as part of a pub campaign. Also, this kind of thing:
This line of thinking makes me a) think of the Simpsons monorail episode and b) wish my critiquing-late-capitalism chops were a little bit sharper. The phenomenon of the global "uber-chef" has made provincials of us all. The notion that a superstar from away setting up an outpost in your town makes your town a "big food town" is not limited to Chicago, viz the NYC Robucop hype of last fall, but no matter where, it makes dining in cities with their own talented chefs and interesting restaurants seem like shopping at an outlet mall -- "we should go to the one in Kittery -- it has a Coach outlet and a Ducasse restaurant." If you start using franchises from away as a yardstick of your rep as a municipality, you are in the same kind of conversation as Commerce, GA vs. Gaffney, SC. (The outlets in Commerce have a Starbucks, FYI.) Alinea, Blackbird and a host of other places make Chicago a dining destination, not Ducasse.*
*For my five years in Chicago, the U had me on a fries and sauce budget, so my sense of fine dining in Chicago is a) hazy b) limited and c) dated.