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Posts by Kari Skaflen

I’ve never bartended before. The closest I ever came was two winters where I bussed tables before graduating to make salads and deliver pizzas in an Italian restaurant that was part of a hotel complex in a Colorado ski town.   Bussing tables was physically hard work. Myself and the other busser had to clear tables with giant trays (no bus tubs allowed!), hoisting them with two hands over one shoulder and walking back and forth between the dishwasher and […]

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In the fall of 2012, the NYTimes magazine ran a piece by Dan Buettner with the catchy title The Island Where People Forget to Die.  It was about the Greek island of Ikaria and, yes, it looks just like all those Greek islands, with the whitewashed walls, the turquoise sea and the nostalgic haze suggesting that this slower, simpler life must be a better one.  The difference is, at least when it comes to human lifespan, life on Ikaria really […]

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We had fun documenting the progression of an Au Cheval cheeseburger being downed bite by bite. Who’s hungry?

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We asked everyone to bring in their favorite (read: wacky, ugly, possibly even offensive) t-shirts for a first annual t-shirt contest. Vote (only one vote per person!) for your favorite Hogsalt t-shirt. Scroll through the images above to see the brave contenders, then click here to vote.

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Eighteenth century oil paintings of fruit cornucopias; an elaborate 19th century picnic depicted in detail; Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want serving up a corpulent turkey at a family feast; an epic silkscreen of a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup from Andy Warhol; an Art Deco cocktail service set — all are a part of Art and Appetite, a show currently at the Chicago Art Institute. While aesthetics are in abundance, the appetite of this show, its essence, is an insightful […]

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The Plant is a farm of the future. Its mission: “to promote closed-loop food production and sustainable economic development through education and research.” But what does this “closed-loop food production” mean and how does this small experiment shape the future of agriculture?   Let’s start with the basics. The plant is housed in a 93,500 square foot former meat-packing plant on Chicago’s South Side. In addition there’s a two acre outdoor garden facility that grows vegetables, primarily in raised boxes […]

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August 8th, 2013

Sharp Knives

BY Kari Skaflen

Quite seriously, Kari Underly leans in and says, “Always have sharp knives when you cut in front of people.” I nod. It’s only when she breaks into an enormous laugh, the kind that rumbles around in her belly before making its way up into gorgeous peals do I understand — she’s kidding with her obvious statement. Now I’m laughing too. This is classic Kari Underly, cleaver and humor well-honed. Given her gender and her trade as a butcher, she’s needed […]

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A man with nimble hands is making a latte in front of four rapt baristas in Chicago. He’s done it before. If you’ve seen the lattes on McDonald’s posters or happend to catch a certain Japanese Nikon commercial, you’ve seen Hiroshi Sawada’s handiwork, but it’s even more impressive to watch it come into being.   His focus is unshakeable, his movements graceful and precise as he demonstrates. His pitcher of milk hangs above each cup of coffee, moved by quick, […]

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We asked last week’s interviewees, Nora Chovanec and Kate Thorman of Abbott & West, to give us their top food moments. We knew there would be some good stuff coming from these two—after all they’ve traveled the world solely to eat; and traversed New York City experiencing foreign cultures through food. In their own words, here are the lovely ladies of Abbott & West with their favorite food moments. Nora 1. Baking Christmas Stollen with my Mother Nothing makes me […]

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Meet the ladies behind the multi-media, food, culture and travel website, Abbott & West. In addition to the travel essays, blog entries, photography and recipes on the impressive site, the duo also produce a food-travel video series, Innocents Abroad (the name is a nod to Mark Twain). Abbott & West, is unusual not only in its devotion to all things food and culture related, but also in the ambition and scope of its two young female founders, Nora Chovanec and […]

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April 25th, 2013

Wild Ramps

BY Kari Skaflen

Aside from being known as the Windy City, Chicago is also associated with the wild onion Allium tricoccum, more commonly known as the wild ramp. Once dense in growth, the regional ramp was called shikaakwa (Chicagou) by Native American tribes. The pungent smell of the ramps was defining and the name stuck. The ramp’s flavor is often described as a mix between an onion and a garlic. Traditionally in the Appalachian region— where wild ramps are celebrated as a sign of […]

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On our recent trip to Japan, we hopped the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto where we encountered a city surrounded by hills, steeped in history and bursting with a kind of hospitality that can only be described as sheer kindness. Here are a few of our favorite spots— places we’d resolutely recommend to anyone visiting Kyoto. Restaurants Yoshikawa Inn Breakfast Why: This traditional Japanese inn in the older pedestrian part of Kyoto is steeped in quiet luxury and tradition. […]

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One could say that Brian MacDuckston is obsessed with ramen. Feeding this infatuation is easy for MacDuckston, he lives in Tokyo, home to an over-abundance of awesome ramen shops. He’s spent some serious time and effort getting to know the best places to go for those heaping bowls of soft chewy noodles and broth. MacDuckston has a blog where logs his ramen quests, appropriately called Ramen Adventures. He also does informal ramen tours for English speakers, taking the ramen-hungry around Tokyo’s best ramen […]

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Recently, several chefs and a beverage director traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto to eat, drink, and not surprisingly, learn a few things about devotion to craft and extraordinary hospitality. Full disclosure, we had some expert guidance from Ramen Adventures blogger, Brian Macduckston, who graciously made recommendations to a few of his favorite ramen shops. Here are our favorite Tokyo spots with a brief word on why they were great, and worth visiting or even revisiting. Up next, Kyoto.   Restaurants […]

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February 9th, 2013

Sukiyabashi Jiro

BY Kari Skaflen

We had a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro for 5:30 pm. I’ve never been so nervous for a meal in my entire life.   There’s something intense about crossing the threshold ducking under the blue awning with the large white Japanese character, entering into the small, warmly lit restaurant. Past the door, it’s a world of masterful precision, Jiro’s world. We arrived just before five pm for our reservation. Fifteen minutes later the six of us were ushered into Sukiyabashi Jiro. […]

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January 16th, 2013

The Electric

BY Kari Skaflen

Across the Atlantic, the Soho House recently unveiled a revamped diner and club, the Electric House on London’s famed Portobello Road.   Closed after a small fire, the Electric Diner re-opened leveraging Chicago’s Au Cheval diner as a touchstone.  The launch, menu, and kitchen of the Electric Diner and the private Electric Club were all overseen by a team of chefs from Chicago. The historic Electric Cinema next door is also home to Electric Donuts, offering hot, fresh doughnuts each […]

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January 9th, 2013

Go Ahead, Inhale

BY Kari Skaflen

Have you downed a drink so quickly that your friends accused you of inhaling it? Well, now their charges just might be true—  you can inhale your drink— without the social stigma. Curious? Well you’re in luck Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar is hosting an event tonight from 6 – 8pm where you can literally inhale your choice of bourbon, vodka or gin. The liquor is heated in a small vessel, the VaportiniTM . 1 oz pours are recommended, […]

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January 3rd, 2013

INDO in Motion

BY Kari Skaflen

We gave the gals from INDO, Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover a camera to create a stop-animation of their most recent window installation, the H2okinetic™ Technology from the faucet maker Delta-Brizo. Here’s a fast-motion version of how INDO transformed roughly 17,216 yards of string into a visual streams of water. The video starts out with the disassembly of thousands of laser cut baroque shapes that were suspended from the ceiling overlapping with a trail of black fabric to mimic the sensation of ink […]

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December 20th, 2012

Window to INDO

BY Kari Skaflen

Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover are the driving force behind some of the city’s most innovative window displays and installations. The duo work under the name, INDO, “window” without the w’s. Because for these two it’s the space between the w’s, the IN DOing that matters most. These are not your conventional window displays of vinyl cut-outs or stiff mannequins. What sets INDO apart is not simply the sophisticated, thoughtful design work for clients such as the Steppenwolf Theatre or Jam restaurant; […]

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December 12th, 2012

Letherbee Distillery

BY Kari Skaflen

This week we caught up with distiller Brenton Engel of Letherbee Gins, Absinthe and coming soon— Malort. The self-described “gin made with the bartender in mind,” is a big, spice-driven mouthful, and a cult favorite in Chicago. One of the noticeably unique aspects of the Letherbee gins is that they turn cloudy once ice is added. While cloudiness might be seen as a cosmetic flaw, Engel embraces the turbidity. He explains why: “The gin is not chill filtered. This not […]

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November 21st, 2012

Gypsy Brewing

BY Kari Skaflen

The staff at Au Cheval received an early holiday treat when Brian Ewing, the founder and owner of 12 Percent Imports, brought in two of the most fun, irreverent and sought-after gypsy brewers around.   Both Brian Strumke who is the founder and brewmaster of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø the mad genius behind Evil Twin Brewing stopped into the diner to talk beer. Ewing met both at different times in his importing career and has encouraged each to […]

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If you’re anything like me, you think you know a thing or two about coffee. You know what you like, you can tell when a coffee is too acidic, too bitter, or just right. You know your cappuccino from your latte, and have a grip on just how many espresso shots you can do before it’s too much. But then you meet someone like Brian Frain and you realize, you know NOTHING.   Frain is the Wholesale Operations Manager at […]

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The burger at Au Cheval has gotten its fair share of press as of late. So we thought we’d go behind the counter to the grill and bring you a photo step-by-step of how the Au Cheval burger is done. Step One: It starts with burger patties seasoned on the grill Step Two: Then there’s the flip Step Three: Now add the cheese slices (1 per burger patty) Step Four: Grab the toasted bun, add a silver dollar sized dob […]

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Pastoral Plate is a Bay Area-based co-operative structured on a CSA model. Members sign up, they order online, and then they pick up their order at a predetermined place. So what’s the big deal? Pastoral Plate offers some of the freshest, most sustainably farmed and organic meat available. Yes, meat. No greens in these boxes. Pastoral Plate has been talked about in the New York Times and is on Forbes list of ‘Nine Innovative Food Websites You Can’t Live Without’. […]

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I met up with Jarrett Quint, sommelier at Colorado’s Vail Valley Sonnenalp Resort on his recent trip here for the Chicago Marathon. Over burgers at Au Cheval, the topic of venison came up.   He commented that, to his knowledge, there wasn’t much venison on the menus in Chicago. I had hardly noticed, but Quint had. This is probably because venison can easily be found at all three of the Sonnenalp restaurants. I probed, what’s venison taste like? “Venison shares […]

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This week we’re continuing our conversation with table top designer Martin Kastner who has worked with some of the industry’s most famed restaurants and bars including Alinea, Aviary, and Wolfgang Puck to name a few. Kastner recently launched a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the Aviary’s Porthole cocktail vessel to the larger public.   “I wanted to ask you about the Porthole that you designed. Tell me how that came about.” MK: Well, it was before Aviary opened, because […]

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I’m in Martin Kastner’s studio. Martin Kastner – the mastermind behind the Antenna and the Porthole, exotic presentation pieces that are changing the way we approach food and drink. Martin Kastner – the craftsman who has helped Grant Achatz elevate fare at Alinea and Aviary to a whole new level of art. Martin Kastner, the entrepreneur who shattered records when he raised $700k on Kickstarter in under two hours.   The man himself is soft-spoken and unassuming, guiding me through his […]

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Crossing Death’s Door, the strait between the northern peninsula of Door County and Washington Island was once a treacherous feat, but despite the straits’ nefarious name, we ferried safely across to pick juniper berries with the waterway’s namesake spirits company. The Potowatami and Winnebego tribesmen, were not, however, so lucky. Not only were they not invited to the juniper berry picking festival, they were also swallowed up by storms that quickly enveloped the strait. And henceforth the passage was named […]

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September 12th, 2012

Staff Meal at Jam

BY Kari Skaflen

It’s a warm, rainy September morning at Jam in Logan Square. The restaurant’s large windows are open onto the sidewalk and guests, sheltered from the drizzling rain, are watching a storm roll across the sky. But we haven’t come to enjoy the food. We’re here to take in Jam’s staff meal; the first in a series of looks we’ll take at these behind-the-scenes moments. Every restaurant is its own culture, complete with the attendant customs and rituals. But for each, […]

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Italy. One short single word. Three syllables. Visions of rolling hills, vineyards, terracotta rooftops, marble cathedrals, heaping plates of fresh pasta and glasses of chianti….   As much as we’d like to be there in person, we’ll take the next best thing, a little rustic Italian cuisine. In homage to l’Italia, in our on-going series Nick Lush of Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Wine & Bread and I are giving you the lowdown on some Italian formaggio. Ranging from a starburst blue […]

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Although getting lost, making figure-eights in a rented Fiat through a maze-like village of high walls and narrow streets, and being chased off of a hillside castle by an octogenarian farmer and his dogs who greeted our arrival with hoarse yelps of “Privato, privato!” probably doesn’t sound like much fun, it was. We were on what has to be one of the most beautiful and enjoyable roads, period. We were in Northern Italy, Lombardy to be exact, tucked between Lake […]

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At one end of a humming kitchen, milk churns in a machine while an employee in a grey t-shirt chops chocolate into coarse, fragrant chunks nearby. She turns her attention to a large mixing machine and in no time, a thick, creamy mass is oozing from the spout. The woman carefully guides the luscious mounds into small white buckets and returns to her work station, swiftly mixing in the coarsely chopped chunks of chocolate by hand. This the last stage […]

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July 23rd, 2012

Uncommon Farm

BY Kari Skaflen

More and more it seems we live in a world where value is quantifiable. Everything has a price that correlates to its worth. This extends certainly to the foods we eat, too. How much are we willing to pay for a tomato salad, a sirloin steak, a glass of wine? Answer such questions, and you’ll learn an item’s value. Now answer this question, why would a restaurant bother to fund and maintain a tiny, certified organic rooftop farm that provides […]

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St. George Spirits is a legendary California distillery that began with eau de vie thirty years ago. Today St. George continues its tradition of unparalleled, world class distilling. Founder and master distiller, Jörg Rupf comes from a long line of family distillers in Germany, and old-world practices infuse the distillery’s methods. The eau de vies and other liquors that the company produces have won numerous awards and it is known as one of the most innovative and quality-driven distilleries, period. We […]

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Old Shore Vineyards is a boutique Michigan vineyard and winery that’s insistent on doing things small, and doing them well. Owners David and Dannielle Maki purchased the Michigan farm with its gently sloping hills and 100 year-old tree line in 2005. They planted vines, limiting themselves to two grape varietals: the ethereal pinot noir and its cousin, pinot gris. Just a few years later, along with winemaker, Cornel Olivier, Old Shore Vineyards is a small, thriving vineyard with a different […]

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June 20th, 2012

Sheep Cheese

BY Kari Skaflen

It’s cheese time! I made my occasional pilgrimage to Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Wine & Bread to talk cheese with my favorite cheese monger, Nick Lush.   Sheep cheese is in season and Pastoral is rocking a great selection, so we trolled through the cheese counter and pulled up some awesome, 100% sheep milk cheeses.  As we talked, I learned a bit about why I am evolutionarily (and economically) so impartial to sheep cheese. It turns out that sheep don’t produce […]

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It’s common knowledge that if you want to create a mood, to slow down, or relax— you break out the candles. Lighting is everything when it comes to ambience. We recently discovered a set of bronze candle holders while saddling up to the zinc bar at Au Cheval that cast a light so entrancing, we were instantly smitten. A series of heavy bronze candle holders, whose organic, low-lying shapes, unfold and billow out like clouds were eye-catching. The quality of […]

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We swung by Au Cheval diner, not to eat, but for photos. We came armed with an old Polaroid camera and instant film. Instead of pointing it at the Au Cheval team, we turned the lens around and asked them to take the pictures. The goal was see a different viewpoint of the diner, maybe to know what it’s like on the other side of the zinc bar, and to see if the team, who we already know can cook, […]

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Alright aspiring brewmasters, get your pencils out for this equation: what do you get when you add two friends, a passion for beer, and mix in a trademark lapse? The perfect recipe for reviving a world class Chicago beer. Yes, that’s right, Chicago’s thriving beer scene is expanding to include a formerly extinct, and much eulogized beer, Baderbräu. Baderbräu was a European style pilsner made with pride in Chicago-land. Baderbräu began in 1989, and was brewed by the Pavichevich Brewing […]

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May 16th, 2012

Pushing Pulled

BY Kari Skaflen

Screen printing was once viewed as an innovative way to reproduce messages (think French advertising posters for products such as absinthe, or late night cabarets), and has long been affiliated with liqueurs, restaurants, and clubs. It’s prized for its ability to produce multiple prints with relative ease.   With the advent of printers, it became inefficient, even archaic to create an advertisement by burning silk screens and pulling ink across the screens onto the paper.  The medium has been re-appropriated […]

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The unique and delicious preserves company, Quince & Apple are now setting their sights on another surefire hit: cocktail syrups. We visited their kitchen to see the first syrup being made. It’s a small batch labor of love that pays in dividends— the quality and taste are exquisite. In some ways the Wisconsin-based Quince & Apple began in London. Before going to culinary school, Matt Stoner Fehsenfeld, one half of Quince & Apple, was studying abroad at Queen Mary University. […]

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There’s a small, unassuming, pastry program buzzing in the kitchen at Maude’s Liquor Bar right now. French pastries are notoriously difficult. It takes precision and dedication to work on classics with even an iota of success. While the ingredient list may only be five items deep, infinite challenges lie in a pastry’s execution.   We spent an afternoon with Nathan Huntington at Maude’s, who’s been making the patisseries. Here he showed us the start-to-finish process of both the custard-style, cannelé […]

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It’s spring, the time of year when goats are making the richest, most nutritious milk for their young kids. Unlike cows that have a 300-day lactation cycle, goats are on stricter breeding and milking cycles, so that means that the freshest and best cheese is found just once a year: now. With this in mind, we stopped by our go-to cheese gurus at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine to check out a few different styles of goat cheeses that […]

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April 4th, 2012

Prima Cider

BY Kari Skaflen

For the Bertsches, cider is a long family tradition that began three generations previous with a grandfather who had a propensity for good German cider. In recent years cider has become an even larger part of family life—  Patriarch, Richard Bertsche; and his three sons: Erich, Tristan and Martin; along with nephew, Carl Maier, are making noteworthy ciders themselves. Their locally sourced, small batch artisan cider, Prima Cider, has been turning up in some of the best restaurants and shops […]

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We first came across the diminutive little 33 series notebooks at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine in Chicago, and were immediately smitten. The classic, modern designed exteriors give way to easy to use charts and rating systems. With 33 pages worth of sampling notes, the notebooks are sheer tasting genius. Made to document (and remember) life’s little luxuries: wine, cheese, beer, whiskey, cigars, and even coffee—there’s something for every palate in the series.  We talked with creator, Dave Selden by phone, […]

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March 21st, 2012

Pork Shoppe

BY Kari Skaflen

On an unassuming block of Belmont Avenue in Chicago is a barbecue joint with some of the best meat in town. We’ve got the five w’s, the who, what, where, when, and why Pork Shoppe is well worth exploring. What: Pork Shoppe— A-typical, American Barbecue. It’s a cherry picking of the best of regional barbecue combined in one location. Who: Jason Heiman, Steven Ford, and Mike Schimmel Where: 2755 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago. The brightly lit space is decorated with a collage of […]

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I’ve hosted my fair share of dinner parties; well usually they weren’t quite dinner parties. These get-togethers usually involved inviting my friends over for appetizers, mostly consisting of cheese and bread; and lots of beer and wine. We’d all hover like hummingbirds picking away at the food and disproportionally somersaulting into our drinks until the wee hours. Not to mention that I didn’t actually own enough chairs for everyone invited to sit, the real tragedy of my ‘dinner parties’ was […]

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February 29th, 2012

Wild Blue Yonder

BY Kari Skaflen

Yes, yes, we’ve heard all the nay-saying before. “Blue cheese smells like smelly socks!” “It’s molded, why would I eat that?” But for the cheese-head brave enough to strike out into the wild blue yonder, the rewards are pretty awesome and surprisingly un-stinky. Whether you’re a trepidatious newbie to blue or a seasoned veteran who’s always up for an assertive cheese, we’ve got three “must-try” blues, hand-selected by the good cheese mongers at the renowned Pastoral— whose cheese selections are […]

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This week we’ve got a second serving of our interview with Michael Harlan Turkell, photographer, radio host and former aspring cook who brings a kind and intelligent eye to both the back of the house and the front. We’re delving into the philosophy behind Turkell’s photography, and what he will and won’t shoot. And we’re also talking food: where and what a fellah eats when he’s surrounded by mouth-watering dishes on a daily basis. Plus, he’s been kind enough to […]

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Michael Harlan Turkell has a unique perspective on kitchens. The once aspiring chef has spent time in some of the nation’s best restaurant kitchens, wielding not a Kikuichi knife, but a camera. Turkell is not only an outrageously talented food photographer with multiple, drool-inducing cookbooks to his credit, he’s also the force behind the jaw-dropping Back of the House photo documentary series of life in and around kitchens. The former Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan photo editor’s reverent perspective explores […]

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February 8th, 2012

Tempting

BY Kari Skaflen

While we may be bombarded by advertisements and products, (according to an CBS News story, the average American sees more than 5,000 ads in a day), we’ve become jaded. Yes, we’re buying what they’re selling, but we’re also looking for smaller production, newer items that haven’t hit the mainstream. Hidden gems, if you will. Earlier this year, while surfing the web, we came across a label that was so jaw-droppingly beautiful and unlike the rest, we paused. The ubiquitous clicking noise […]

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The bubbles in the Champagne glass rise, spiraling up with dizzying speeds. Giddy after being freed from the pressure, they tickle tongues. This dance is one of the more beautiful and metaphoric in Champagne. Weightless bubbles continually rising, carrying the hefty weight of an age-old industry on their delicate backs.   This is particularly felt in the Champagne region of France. It is here, in this anointed region, where the world’s only true Champagne is made. Champagne is more than sparkling glasses […]

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January 25th, 2012

Chicago Honey

BY Kari Skaflen

The label says, “honey”. There’s a picture of a bee on the jar. You grab it and toss it in your cart. You go home and put it in your tea, on your peanut butter sandwiches, thinking you’re getting pure honey from little honey bees. I mean, after all, you are, right? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.   The Chicago Tribune recently reported on the topic of “honey-laundering” (as its called when a honey product isn’t pure honey), citing […]

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January 18th, 2012

Sexy Slate

BY Kari Skaflen

Think about the last time you had cheese. Remember the cheese? Probably. Remember the plate it was served on? Probably not. But then, sometimes you come across a platter or plate so crisp, so contrastingly sexy that it makes an impression that extends well beyond the memory of the smoky Gouda or the earthy Blue that perched atop it.   Such was the case when we laid eyes on  the slate cheese and charcuterie boards made by Brooklyn Slate Company. The […]

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Patagonia isn’t just warm jackets anymore. Implanting civilization in a region of Argentina’s southern-most province is part of a daring project from a family-owned vineyard.   In the arid desert of the Patagonia the winds blow light, chalk-colored soils in small tornados of dust between scrappy plants and cacti. The infinite blue skies and intense sun yawn on. The scant 180 mm of annual rainfall provides little nourishment for anything more substantial. The Viola family, nevertheless, took a gamble, betting […]

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Nashville’s The Catbird Seat restaurant is perched above the well-respected Patterson House cocktail bar, and as the name implies is indeed a position of advantage. Only the advantage here isn’t about cliche breath-taking views or expensive Champagnes— it’s a seat across from a chef. This “catbird seat” is in the thoughtful meals that are served by the same hands that have prepared it; and it’s about the conversation that happens between guests and chefs when the kitchen is the dining room […]

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November 30th, 2011

Now that’s a Record

BY Kari Skaflen

HogSalt took a small road trip over the languorous Thanksgiving weekend to Nashville. Items on the trip agenda included visiting a much talked about restaurant, Catbird Seat, from Maude’s alum, Josh Habiger (more on that next week). But beyond this, we knew we’d be fools if we went to Nashville and didn’t indulging in its rich musical history. And to our honest surprise, we were overwhelmingly stoked about the vinyl scene, yeah vinyl, in Nashville.     Established in 1949, […]

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It was a short video, quirky as all hell, featuring a character called Chip Baltimore that lured us in. Chip was some sort of D-grade actor hired to pitch wines for a small distribution company called, Vinejoy. With a decadent moustache and a gleaming bomber jacket, his pretentious veneer was hilariously thin, as he struggled not to burst out laughing several times during the video.       The video’s wickedly funny edits, cutting between the words, Trans AM,[cut] Fiction Wines, [cut] […]

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We chat with author, Marissa Guggiana about her new book, Off the Menu.   When we heard the Marissa Guggiana was coming through Chicago to celebrate the launch of her latest book, Off the Menu, we couldn’t resist stopping by the low-key book signing at Urban Belly. Guggiana’s book, Off the Menu is a compilation of photography, interviews and recipes about staff meals in some of the nation’s most coveted restaurant kitchens. Guggiana traveled the country for 4 months, documenting the […]

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It’s been quite popular lately, and it appears that Memphis Guard Tony Allen even handed out packages to trick or treaters this Halloween. Maybe he reads Lucky Peach, the newest and most acclaimed food magazine to hit the stands in quite some time, whose entire first issue was devoted to— ramen.       While the beloved noodle dish caught a bit of a bad rap in the nineties as a cheap and msg-laden meal in a Styrofoam cup, ramen […]

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When a nascent company launches, more often than not it goes to great lengths to craft a precise, consistent logo with a bible-size instruction manual. Survival of the small business, it is pre-supposed, is based on recognition of the product. Such thought processes seem to be particularly true in the fierce and saturated beer market. Then, there’s the Half Acre Beer Company.   Half Acre Beer Company is a well-known Chicago brewery with a unique approach to its beer production […]

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It’s 3 days before Julie’s marriage to Andy. They’ve invited a scant 200 people. They’ve decided that they’re making all of the food, save the whole pig, which will be roasted on a spit en plein-air.   Julie grew up in a big Italian-American family where food and friends were paramount. Whole pig-roasts were par for the course in her house, right along side giant pasta dinners with homemade noodles and hand roasted tomato sauce. Julie is slicing through thousands […]

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October 12th, 2011

Eat Retreat

BY Kari Skaflen

In our altruistic quest (okay maybe not totally altruistic. There’s a grain of selfishness built in, we confess.) to introduce cool new things going on in and around food, we were stoked to discover Eat Retreat.   It’s exactly what the name implies, an intense but utterly fun, food-based retreat that amasses some of the most creative people working in and around food today. Headed by editor, designer, photographer and entrepreneur Laura Brunow Miner; a marketing director for Bon Appetit, […]

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We went to Little Italy, not for an over-sized plate of pasta, but for one of the cities best burgers served up at a little rock n’ roll spot that describes itself as, “The Italian countryside meets the American farmhouse… in Keith Richards’ basement bar.”   When we walked into the kitchen at Three Aces to meet head chef, Matt Troost, he was busily breaking down an entire pig for an upcoming roast. Rap music was kicking at a good […]

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HogSalt might be based in Chicago, but this week we’re turning Japanese for… cookies. Yes, you heard right, cookies. Our friends at the journal Nikkei, Japan recently stopped by to report on the Doughnut Vault, (the Japanese are big doughnut fans).  Being from a culture that prizes politeness, they of course brought a gift of their own sweets, direct from port city of Kobe. In Japan, there’s a genuine pride to being from Kobe. As one of the first cities […]

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With bright, sweet peaches in season, it’s the perfect time of year to make a good wholesome cobbler; but don’t be fooled. The historical roots of the cobbler are fascinatingly seeped with an exotic underbelly. The cobbler stems from the classic pie or tart, which dates back to Roman times at the very least, and probably even earlier. Back in the day, a tarte was a small open bit of meat with a pastry bottom. Pastry, or a mixture of […]

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The sheer thought of making cheese from scratch is enough to make most of us sprint to the nearest deli to buy over-priced, underwhelming cheese, no questions asked.   But it turns out that there are certain cheeses that are actually pretty darn easy to make. In our hasty run to the cheese monger’s, we’ve been throwing in the towel far too fast without even knowing it.  Making cheese simply requires a few ingredients and some muscle. At Gilt Bar, […]

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August 24th, 2011

True Blue

BY Kari Skaflen

They were on the table as pilgrims sliced through their first Thanksgiving turkey, they make a damn fine pie, and they’re touted for their antioxidant properties. Yes, it is the common blueberry we’re talking about here, but they weren’t always such a ubiquitous item easily to be found in supermarkets every summer.  In fact, they’re even a bit exotic on their home turf of the East Coast. A now familiar, sweet, indigo-blue sign of summertime, the blueberry wasn’t always so.  […]

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The recent cocktail resurgence has come with a welcome formality of dress that hearkens back to days of yore when men dressed for dinner, donned top hats, and wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing flip-flops outside of the bedroom. This is particularly true the gentlemen behind the bars of the country’s top cocktail spots. Habillé in Victorian vests, tie pins, and tack sharp bow-ties, these fellas know how to rock the neck-wear. We’re sharing their knot know-how in a series called, […]

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August 10th, 2011

New York, New York

BY Kari Skaflen

The City that Never Sleeps; the Big Apple; a place Kurt Vonnegut called, Skyscraper National Park; they’re one and the same: New York.   We plunked ourselves down in this vast culinary haven for a few short days; and ate, and ate, and ate some more. Our diet: a melange of steak, bbq and noodles. From sweaty (but delicious) ramen noodle bars to old-school steak houses to graffiti saturated tiki-bars, we made an eclectic food-driven sojourn through some of New […]

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During the summer there are local farms that offer Community Supported Agriculture memberships, or CSAs, where for a set fee, you can sign up to receive a box of fresh (often organic) seasonal produce on a regular basis.   All this is great in theory, but what does one do when confronted with a diverse array of perishables?  We made a bee-line to our chefs for ideas. The first line of business was to get our hands on a CSA […]

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July 21st, 2011

Foodie Apps

BY Kari Skaflen

For the dedicated foodie, tracking the plethora of food trucks, new restaurants opening, and seasonal markets can be a full time job. And with summer vacations and travel, it can be tough to navigate a new city’s culinary gems in a small amount of time. But thanks to the vast world of apps, it’s actually pretty easy to accomplish all of the above and then some. We pooled a few of our favorite foodie apps and share ‘em here. iWant […]

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As mid-summer rolls into the kitchen, we’re adding fresh berries to the dessert menu with the Summer Berry Trifle. So what’s a trifle, you ask? This is actually quite an old dessert and dates as far back as: 1596, where the quite interestingly titled book, The Good Huswife’s Jewell, by Thomas Dawson mentions the dessert. The Good Huswife’s trifle, however, was made of  thick cream flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater.  Gilt Bar, by 16th century English standards, would be […]

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July 15th, 2011

Clowning Around

BY Kari Skaflen

The exterior brick wall at the edge of the block on Randolph Street recently acquired a new piece of art to the ongoing street-art collage: A larger than life clown. Curious about its provenance, we dug around and found that the artist, who calls himself Clown Soldier was in town from his home-base of New York for an opening reception of his art at Pawn Works, a Ukrainian Village gallery. Pawn Works is a small space that “showcases progressive, contemporary […]

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Last Friday we caught up with doughnut fan Amidoux Berube who recently moved to the neighborhood and has a bird’s eye view —he can see the Doughnut Vault from his apartment window. Ami can easily scope out the queue and gauge when he might dash down for a doughnut. But surprisingly he’s been 6 times before and come away empty-handed, but turns out that Friday was his lucky day. Here’s the scoop… Doughnut Vault: Have you been here before? Amidoux […]

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We cruised up to Milwaukee to talk cocktails with a former Violet Hour alum turned cocktail consultant.   Glass Half Full Things fell through on the proposed cocktail bar venture, but undeterred, Koplowitz and Kosevich came up with Bittercube, an idea that may well transform cocktail culture. “We realized that between the two of us, we had a knowledge set that was pretty unique and we decided to do something with it.” They approached Bacchus in Milwaukee and went to […]

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Here’s the setting: You’re having a great evening out— killer food, amazing cocktails, good ambiance, stimulating conversation— the whole nine-yards. You wish it could last all night. Now it can, because Longman & Eagle lets you stay.   Tucked inconspicuously above the restaurant is the stylish and cozy Longman & Eagle Inn. Each of the six rooms is a perfect blend of nostalgia and modernity; think: cassette tape players, terrariums, and clawfoot tubs meets original artwork, apple t.v., and sexy […]

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This week we hung out in the kitchen with Gilt’s chef, Jason and learned how to make pasta from scratch. Step one: Mix a fine grain flour, eggs, egg-yolks, and salt (Sorry we can’t give exact ratios here. Trade secrets!) Step two: Instead of kneading the pasta, chop it. This allows for better mixing and it gives the dough more time to breathe. Step three: After chopping into small chunks, gently mold together into a loaf. Wrap in cellophane and […]

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June 4th, 2011

Cheese Please

BY Kari Skaflen

It’s concert season in Chicago and Millennium Park is cranking out the live evening music with everyone from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to indie-bands. It’s the perfect excuse to grab a few friends, make a simple picnic, and and wiggle your toes in the grass. A few good cheeses and delicate crackers or baguette are easy to pick up on the way to the park. Here’s  a selection of five awesome cheeses to get you started in picnic bliss. At […]

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Back from the farm trip, and loading plates with fresh seasonal produce,   it’s a night in photos at Gilt Bar.

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After all those bucolic farm pictures earlier in the week, we thought we’d bring you back into the buzzing restaurant and kitchen for some action. Here’s a visual update to the week.

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If you follow the Gilt Bar blog, you already know about the joint Maude’s and Gilt road trip to Spence Farm. And hopefully you read a bit about their unconventional approach to farming and methods of working closely with chefs to grow unique crops for their menus that we were lucky enough to experience first hand. Not only does Spence Farm believe in organic, sustainable farming for their own land, they’re committed to educating future generations of farmers on the […]

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Not only is it potentially the end of the world this week (Rapture), it’s also Craft Beer Week here in Chicago. What is Craft Beer Week exactly you ask? According to the official site, it is “an exhibition of the city’s craft beer community, the venues serving craft beers, and the breweries served in those venues.” We picked a few kitchen favorites from the overwhelming number of upcoming events. You can find a comprehensive list at chibeerweek.com Saturday 5/21 Craft […]

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We asked Maude’s chef Jeff Pikus to give us his top oyster picks. We wanted to know the best oysters he’d ever encountered so we could share them with you; and then sneak off and go buy some for ourselves. But the answer we got was far more thorough and interesting than a simple list of nice oysters. When we asked Jeff to name his favorite oysters he said, “there are great oysters, but I think the ones we have […]

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This is the first in a series on urban gardening. We’ll explore urban alternatives to the grocery store, including: urban farming, farmer’s markets, guerrilla farming, foraging, and in this post— how to make your own roof garden with minimal space and supplies. We all know that gas station attendants are continually hoisting up higher and higher numbers to the price signs. The cost of oil extends beyond the dollars that we’re paying at the pump and affects the price of […]

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Maude’s chef, Jeff Pikus recently created a rhubarb dish and included a recipe for Time Out Chicago. The rhubarb was pickled and served with Maude’s favorite, buttery triple creme délice cheese, described in Time Out as: “…the yin to Rice’s [ Nightwood chef who also created a rhubarb dish] sweet-and-simple yang by pickling rhubarb for a salad, then using the leftover pickling liquid to make a surprisingly easy rhubarb mustard for a cheese plate.” Yum. While the dish isn’t available […]

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With a little cajoling we convinced four different sommeliers to sit down with us and talk about the bottles they love.   Our group of four each hail from different restaurants, but share a passion for finding the perfect bottle of wine to go with a meal or sip on its own. But enough from us, we’ll let them do the talking and tell you what they’re drinking and why. Who: Aaron Sherman, Sommelier and Assistant Food & Beverage Manager […]

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Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and if you’re anything like me, you’re scrambling to come up with the perfect expression of gratitude for all those years your mother put up with your bad behavior. What better way to repay good ol’ mom than with an unforgettable, homemade meal? To give you a cheating head-start, we hit up the chefs at Gilt Bar to find out what they’re making (or theoretically would make) for their moms. Feel free to steal their […]

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This Saturday, (tomorrow) marks the official opening of the outdoor Green City Market in Lincoln Park. To celebrate the kick off join in the 9am rally; take in the chef demos and then scope out the talk at the Nature Museum at 11am with Mark Kurlansky: The World Without Fish. Afterward, Dirk’s Fish will be cooking. A former reporter and renowned author, Kurlansky’s talk should paint a vivid picture of oceans today and tomorrow. The title of the talk is […]

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We’re fans of cook books, wine guides and the like at Maude’s. A recent recommendation from Sara T. pointed us to the clever illustrations and wine travel-writing found in Untrodden Grapes. Untrodden Grapes and Grapes of Ralph are two forays that combine Steadman’s many talents, including writing, illustration and… drinking. The contemporary of Hunter S. Thompson, as well as the illustrator of choice for many of Thompson’s books is also a renowned cartoonist and political satirist. In his lifetime, Steadman’s […]

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April 16th, 2011

Record Store Day

BY Kari Skaflen

At Maude’s we worship good vinyl; (hence the player and frequent record rotations). And in case you share our love of vinyl— and we’re betting you do— you’ll probably want to get in on Record Store Day, which is happening, today, April 16, 2011. Record Store Day started in 2007 to celebrate the unique culture surrounding the over 700 independently owned record stores in the US, and hundreds of stores internationally. It’s a gesture to preserve the small, well-curated kind […]

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