TOC Reviews: Wings, Deep South, Mole Ole

We started to feel nervous that Heather Shouse still doesn’t have a byline (that we can find, we could be wrong) on TOC, for the second week in a row, but for the fact that David Tamarkin name-checked her in yesterday’s TOC Blog post about Missy Robbins leaving Chicago’s Spiaggia for New York’s A Voce. (On that matter: We have eaten at both restaurants, and while we realize this is a great opportunity for Robbins, we think Chicago’s getting the short end of the stick here. But we’re intrigued to see what she does with A Voce’s famous meatballs.)

Anyway, we wonder what Heather is up to. Maybe if we are a very good little girl and wish very hard, we will find out. Meanwhile, this week is a fiesta of Tamarkin, Julia Kramer, and a special visit from Mike Nagrant.

The headline story is a seriously feel-good one: Jo Brena Bleach earned her culinary stripes in the military — she was dining hall manager at Manas Air Base in the Kyrgyz Republic — and returned home only to immediately enroll in the French Pastry School. Now, every Saturday, you can find her at the 61st Street Farmers’ Market (at Dorchester), under the banner of The Bee’s Knees, selling homemade jams and pastries. She’s one of the only vendors at any farmer’s market anywhere in the city who actually lives in the neighborhood where she sells. We are kind of in love with the DIY-chic of her website, and can find nothing about this to snark on.

As for reviews, there’s a lot on the docket.

• Tamarkin and Kramer round up three notable riffs on the classic chicken wing; interestingly, all are from recently-opened, recently-reviewed places. Perennial chef Ryan Poli serves his wings in a soy-orange glaze on top of spicy Asian slaw, and touts the wings’ “cheapness” as a major point in their favor. At graham elliot, Chef Bowles first cooks his buffalo wings sous-vide, and then deep fries them. And at Duchamp, the fried wings get a Korean sweet-spicy glaze, and go hand in hand with a riff on classic American cole slaw, to cool the palate.

Mike Nagrant visits Cafe 103 (1909 W 103rd St, 773 238 5115), which is so far south it’s a scant 20 blocks from the city limits. But the food could easily find a home downtown — Nagrant says the seasonal dishes “could be on the Blackbird or Lula menus.” Right now they’re curiously devoid of patrons, but the owners wisely think it’s just a matter of time before the neighborhood catches on to the gem in their midst.

The big review this week is Tamarkin at Real Tenochtitlan, the latest incarnation of chef Geno Bahena’s deft hand with the mole. A lot’s been written about the man’s way with sauces, but here’s a telling sample: “Their nuanced interweavings of fire, fruitiness and spice is so expertly rendered that long after you’ve swallowed you can still feel the flavor echoing in your chest.” Bahena’s been restaurant-hopping for a while now, doling out the same dishes in new digs, but he promises this time he’s staying put. If you haven’t tracked him down before, Tamarkin’s road map is a good place to start.

[Photo: the buffalo chicken at graham elliot, via]

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TOC Reviews: Wings, Deep South, Mole Ole