Think Kyoto. Think Kaiseki. Think fall in Japan meets fall in Chicago. That vibe is in full effect at my new favorite place in America to eat, drink, and hang out: Next Restaurant. Chef Dave Beran told me that rare Japanese maple leaves from the oldest (of that varietal) in the world are being served as an edible component to the dessert course. I am very excited about the menu, and I can’t wait to check it out in a few weeks. If Next isn’t on your list of “musts” it should be. I spent a lot of time there last month and have known the Alinea/Next team for years, and I was still shocked and thrilled to learn that the Sichuan peppercorns and some other goodies I have sent Dave and Grant have made their way onto menus and into their beverage program. Hanging with the kitchen crew during a training day for future menus I also learned that Bourdain and Zimmern Travel Channel shows have been used in past for staff training. That’s insane! And flattering. But it really shows the level of commitment Next brings to get their staff into the themes and cultures they are cooking from. Very impressive.
The Association of Food Journalists announced winners in its Awards Competition 2012 at its annual conference in Washington, DC last week.
First place awards include Craig LaBan of the Philadelphia Inquirer for Best Newspaper Restaurant Criticism, the Village Voice’s Fork in the Road won for Best Food Blog, and the LA Weekly’s Beth Barrett won for Best Newspaper Food News Story with “L.A. Farmers Markets Exposed.”
The full list is on Eater.com, but GUESS WHAT!?!?!?! Lee Dean and Rick Nelson from our Strib won some awards for food features. Congrats to the hometown team!
BEST NEWSPAPER FOOD FEATURE
200,001 & Over Circulation
FIRST: Lee Dean, Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Pop! Pop! Popcorn!”
SECOND: Renee Enna, Chicago Tribune, “Devil in Disguise”
THIRD: Rick Nelson, Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Wild Thing”
Speaking of Eater, they have produced another Heat Map—a guide to Where to Eat Now. Eater says, “As was the case with the last edition, Star Tribune restaurant critic Rick Nelson has kindly shared with us his picks for the hottest drinking and dining his city currently has to offer. Among the map’s offerings is an exceptional charcuterie, sausage, and barbecue spot (Butcher and the Boar), a casual option from the couple behind the acclaimed Heidi’s (Birdhouse), a New Nordic café (FIKA), a modern deli (Rye), and a mixology destination (Eat Street Social). Wanna see the rest if them?”
This brings up an odd little bit of inside baseball that is currently driving me nuts. Rye is getting better, but I am not sure it’s list worthy even within our own city. So why did Bon Appetit magazine include them in their annual round up of best new eateries nationwide as a recommended example of the new coast-to-coast trend of artisan new-age delis as best exemplified by the extraordinary Mile End in Brooklyn? I think for the same reason they included Bachelor Farmer . . . because they needed a Midwest entry, something that isn’t already written about everywhere else. I get it; I sit in plenty of meetings in the TV, magazine, web businesses and hear editorial honchos ask for less LA/NY/Chicago/SF, but at end of day I think you create more damage, tarnish credibility, and circulate misinformation when you force the issue in some of these broader round ups.
If you love food and want to see some AMAZING style and substance, and if modernist style is even minimally appealing to you, then you need to catch Harvard University’s public lecture series on Science and Cooking that began last Tuesday with lectures by supreme food science nerds Harold McGee and Dave Arnold. It will be livestreamed every Monday night at 7 p.m. (EST) through December 3. The full schedule is below, but Joan and Jordi Roca, José Andrés, Dan Barber, Wylie Dufresne, David Chang, and Ferran Adrià are all featured this semester. The lectures will also be posted to YouTube and iTunes as the semester progresses.
Harvard’s 2012 Cooking & Science Lecture Series Schedule
· Tuesday, September 4, 2012 — Dave Arnold (Food Arts), Harold McGee (New York Times)
· Monday, September 10, 2012 — Joan Roca and Jordi Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), Salvador Brugués (Sous-Vide Cuisine)
· Monday, September 17, 2012 — Bill Yosses (White House Pastry Chef)
· Monday, September 24, 2012 — Enric Rovira (Master Chocolatier)
· Monday, October 1, 2012 — Fina Puigdevall (Les Cols), Pere Planagumà (Les Cols), Paco Perez (Miramar)
· Monday, October 8, 2012 — Raül Balam Ruscalleda (Moments)
· Monday, October 15, 2012 — José Andrés (Think Food Group, minibar, Jaleo)
· Monday, October 22, 2012 — Wylie Dufresne (wd~50)
· Monday, October 29, 2012 — Dan Barber (Blue Hill Farm)
· Monday, November 5, 2012 — Joanne Chang (Flour Bakery)
· Monday, November 12, 2012 — Jack Bishop (Editorial Director at Cook’s Illustrated and an Editor on The Science of Good Cooking), Dan Souza (Associate Editor of Cook’s Illustrated)
· Monday, November 19, 2012 — Nathan Myhrvold (former Microsoft CTO; co-founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures; and author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking)
· Monday, November 26, 2012 — David Chang (momofuku), Carles Tejedor (Via Veneto)
· Monday, December 3, 2012 — Ferran Adrià (elBulli Foundation)
Speaking of great chefs, the group below representing Brasa, Alma, Cupcake, Vincent, Heartland, Victory 44, La Belle Vie, Sea Change, Meritage, Heidi’s, Birdhouse, 112, and Bar La Grassa all came together last week to cook up a storm for a fundraiser for Senator Amy Klobuchar in Jim and Cindie Smart’s backyard. It was epic. The chefs and restaurants were the stars of the night, and regardless of political leaning, it proved once again that the food community is always the first call for any organization trying to do something for someone and that community always responds. What an amazing city we live in.