• Oh cookbook roundups, we love you. You are our favorite kind of roundup. David Tamarkin makes good with a listing of some recipe receptacles that we can expect this fall. This autumn, in particular, is dominated by three really big deal books: Alinea, of course, as well as the behemothic The Complete Robuchon (which rounds up every published recipe from international superchef Joel Robuchon) and the uber-behemothic The Big Fat Duck Cookbook from UK chef Heston Blumenthal, which weighs about eight pounds and costs $250. And that’s just getting started.
• Here’s a real head-scratcher: Tamarkin goes to Naperville to check out new restaurant Sugartoad (2139 City Gate Lane, in the Hotel Arista, Naperville, 630 778 8723), which is helmed by celeb chef Jimmy Sneed. The food is inventive and of generally high quality, but something’s a little off. Like the part where the chef goes home for the night before Tamarkin is done with his meal. Wha? We’re as baffled as he was. Still, the restaurant’s good elements pull through enough to land it 3 stars (of 6).
• Heather Shouse also headed for the ‘burbs this week, trying out Soul (1 Walker Ave, Clarendon Hills, 630 920 1999). Three weeks ago, the Trib handed it three stars (of four), and Shouse is riding a similar train with 4 of 6. The restaurant loses points presumably on the aggressively weird decor: Captain America, a blinged-out Zeus, and American Gothic all make appearances on the restaurant’s wall. Good thing the food makes up for it: Chef Karen Nicolas and her sous, Wendy Carreira, are qualified out the wazoo, and their straightforward-except-perfect southern-inflected American showcase their talents phenomenally.
• Want to eat some smoke? Heather Shouse delivers three options for that quintessentially autumnal flavor: smoked-up bourbon and a soupçon of cigar smoke are the star players in Nacional 27’s Extra Smoky Manhattan; at Cru Café & Winebar your Kurobuta pork-belly dish is accompanied by smoked pears; and leave it to Schwa to smoke cobia (a firm fish) and cow’s milk cheese, and serve it all up in a jumble of ingredients and flavors that, despite their complexity, work out blissfully.
[Photo: Short-rib pot pie (omg we are dying) at Soul, via LTHForum]