We were just having a really lovely chat with the other MenuPages editors, musing on various things like whether we should continue the stylistic tic of saying “we,” and why it is that DailyCandy uses the phrase “fat pants” so much (hilarious! yet vapid). We were sort of complaining about tabbing over to this screen in order to do today’s roundup, because Phil Vettel is talking about graham elliot, and that is so three weeks ago, and what the hell. But then we realized two things: First, we were complaining opining the other day about how some reviewers who will go unnamed have this unfortunate habit of basing their entire review on one, maybe two meals at a place, generally within just a few weeks of the restaurant’s opening. And here’s Phil Vettel, giving Chef Bowles a full 12 weeks’ grace period to work out the kinks, and so rather than being cranky and vitriolic we really ought to be applauding him.
The second thing was that the promise of being cranky and vitriolic is a really excellent catalyst for us getting off our butts and actually writing the post. On with the show!
• Hey guess what! Phil Vettel reviewed graham elliot! While previous reviews from TOC and the S-T have accused Bowles of having ideas bigger than his kitchen, sloppily repurposing lowbrow ingredients in pursuit of an ironic highbrow nirvana, Vettel seems charmed by everything he puts in his mouth: Bowles is “a culinary Warhol, turning mass-production items into foodie icons.” This diametric opposite to the previous consensus could be due to Vettel’s delayed review, since in the past few weeks the restaurant has abandoned the handwritten menus, worked to lower the noise level, and made numerous other little tweaks — no doubt including to the menu. Still, there’s continued dissonance between the vibe and the price points, all in all resulting in a two-star review. [Vettel, Tribune]
• Valentine’s Day isn’t for another 190 days (not that we’re counting), but Monica Eng makes the bold assertion that sweltery summer is a better time for lovin’ than is frigid winter. There’s certainly some sense to that claim, and in its service she rounds up six aphrodisiac meals from all over. They range from the literal (the traditional Jamaican soup called Mannish Water at Good To Go, which contains goat scrotum — sexy!) to the unexpected (mustard fried catfish from BJ’s Market, because “mustard is believed to stimulate the sexual glands and increase desire”) to the fun-fact-filled (did you know! The Aztecs referred to the avocado tree as the “testicle tree”!). All in all this might be the most fun article ever published in the Chicago Tribune, ever. [Eng, Tribune]
• Like Vettel, Heather Shouse over at Time Out is also covering pre-Bruno’d ground, weighing in on carpetbagger-celeb-chef Marcus Samuelsson’s C-House. She’s less than overwhelmed by what is essentially a straightforward high-price-point seafood joint, pointing out that “in a town that Laurent Gras (another transplant but one who’s obsessively present) is currently owning when it comes to that market, you better go big or you better go home.” Emphasis, for the record, theirs. She is, to her credit, forgiving of Samuelsson’s general absence from the kitchen — his role here was never supposed to be that of an on-the-line chef — but even with that handicap the restaurant simply underwhelms. Except the desserts, a surprisingly delicious and innovative end to an otherwise blah and overpriced meal. Three out of six stars, which sounds about right. [Shouse, TOC]
[Photo: an avocado tree (yeah, we totally see where the Aztecs were coming from), via digital_lumpensammler’s Flickr]