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Everything posted by markh

  1. Thanks for the info, everyone!
  2. Two words: population density. In Chicago you have large concentrations of people in small areas, and that is what's needed to support restaurants. For example, Pilsen has a large Hispanic population, so it can support a number of quality Mexican restaurants. However, this is also true in the suburbs. West Chicago has a large concentration of Hispanic residents and it has several very good Mexican restaurants. The corridor of Westmont, Downers Grove, and Lisle has a large concentration of Asian residents, and lo and behold, you'll find a myriad of excellent Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Korean restaurants in that area...
  3. In one way Michael reminds me of Gene and Georgetti's. At both restaurants, those who don't have an "in" are treated much worse than those who do. While all restaurants do this to some extent, these two places take it to levels I've not encountered elsewhere in the Chicago area.
  4. Just south of Gary Farrell on Westside Road is a winery by the name of Porter Creek. It's off the beaten path and well worth a visit.
  5. I am going to disagree with this as well.. The whole point of chain food is to have food that will never vary from place to place.. Thats why most sauces are premade and come out of containers. All the ingredients require minimal to zero real cooking.. A Applebees in Chicago should taste exactly the same as the Applebees in Ohio.. Thats the chains goal.. ← I agree with you, and that's my concern with these new entrees. The one I tried did not taste like typical chain food, and I'm sure it took some skill to do this, which likely doesn't exist at all Applebees locations. And that's why I wondered whether these entrees will remain on the menu for very long, because they seem to fly in the face of a chain's goal of consistency. Then again, if Tyler Florence came up with a way to make these entrees as consistently good as the one I had, then as I said, he deserves a lot of credit. Otherwise, we'll see a new promotion at Applebees in a few months...
  6. You're talking in generalities, I'm talking specifics... I have no issues with your saying that you don't go to Applebees because you have been there before and didn't like it. And Tyler Florence is a celebrity, which makes him fair game for criticism, justified or otherwise. But I do have issues with someone criticizing these specific entrees without trying them first. If a person has no intention of ever trying them but says they can't possibly be good, I can think of a few terms to describe such a person. In your case, your past experience would lead you to the conclusion that the new entrees are no different than any past promotion at Applebees. My one experience says that may not be the case. It's just one data point, and time will tell all. But it's a data point. And as I said above, I'm interested to hear of others' experiences with the new entrees to see whether my own concerns are justified.
  7. OK, so you answered my question...you prefer to criticize the entrees in question without actually trying one of them. You think it is impossible for any chain, large or small, to develop quality entrees. I now know where you stand. I'm not a fan of chain dining either, but I won't criticize their food without trying it first -- and on the flip side, I will give credit when they do something right, as Applebees might well have done here. I say "might well" because ambitious (for a chain) entrees such as these require more skill on the part of the cook, and chains rarely hire cooks for their culinary skills. So the entrees can (and often do) vary greatly in quality from place to place, and it's why ambitious entrees rarely stick around very long on the menu. So I would be interested in others' experience with the new Applebees entrees. This doesn't change the fact that the chicken entree I had yesterday at Applebees was as good as a similar entree at any local eatery cooked with care and love. It might well have been a lucky fluke experience, it might not. But there was no denying the quality of this particular entree, and if Tyler Florence was able to come up with a laminated flow chart to accomplish this, then he deserves a lot of credit...
  8. If the detractors have gone to Applebees and tried at least one of the entrees in question, then I agree with you. Otherwise it's pure, unadulterated snobbery...and pretty arrogant as well. I say this after just returning from taking my dad to Applebees because he wanted to try one of the "Food TV entrees" (his words). I urge those who have trashed Tyler Florence and Applebees in this thread to actually try one of the two chicken entrees -- you might just be pleasantly surprised. And if not, well, at least you would have a legitimate reason for your criticisms. For the record, I was pleasantly surprised...
  9. The food at Chef Paul's is quite good, and the beer selections are fantastic. More info can be found at: http://www.bavarian-lodge.com I would also suggest Fabulous Noodles on Old Tavern Road in Lisle. It's been discussed here and on other foodie sites on many occasions. More info at: http://www.fabulousnoodles.com
  10. About a mile north of the Ikea store is a place called Sandpiper. It should have exactly what you're looking for. To get there from Midway, take the 75th St exit off I-355 (you'll pass the Ikea store exit at 87th St), turn left onto 75th St, and Sandpiper will be on the right just past the second stoplight (Janes). To get to Ikea, go south on Janes for about a mile...it will be on the left.
  11. On a brighter note, the chef and staff from 302 West will be opening their new restaurant, Niche, on August 30th in the space formerly occupied by Chez Francois. Phone: 630-262-1000. The Geneva Chamber of Commerce lists a website at http://www.nichegeneva.com but it's currently a "will be opening soon" placeholder...
  12. markh

    Wine Wars

    Mary, maybe I should get you in touch with some "boutique" distributors in the Chicago area and let them tell you what wineries put them through. You know it's illegal and I know it's illegal, but there are a growing number of wineries who demand that their wines be sold on-premise exclusively, and demand depletion reports as evidence. And if something is sold elsewhere, a winery will move to a new distributor (which is very easy to do in Illinois). I have had many discussions with a couple winery owners in Santa Rosa about this topic. It's their belief that since Illinois is a reciprocal state, consumers should buy from them directly. They do not demand on-premise-only sales in non-reciprocal states, so I can go to, say, Michigan and find their wines on store shelves. I guess what I'm leading to is, in many ways a person like Juanita Duggan was a blessing to wineries because she knew nothing about the industry, and quite frankly didn't care. Consider how much damage someone at WSWA could do if they focused their efforts on some of the stuff I've been mentioning! Seems to me this is also a good time for groups like Family Winemakers to start policing their own and developing a "code of ethics" that member wineries must follow when dealing with phone/mail customers. When you have wineries like Blankiet, Sloan, and Pride that charge $40-$50 to ship THREE BOTTLES, then something is wrong... Mark
  13. markh

    Wine Wars

    Sorry for the delay in responding, I don't often visit here, though I do know a few of the regulars. I suggested that winery organizations like Family Winemakers, not WSWA, establish an 800 number that customers can call to deal with shipping problems and corked/cooked bottles, and have that office farm out the info to the appropriate winery member. I deal with just one person at my local wine shop, why should I be forced to deal with dozens of faceless wineries? If you want my business, you make it easy for ME, not for YOU, to do business with you! A big case in point here is shipping, which due to the above has become a new business (dare I say it, an added tier?). Shipping charges have escalated to such an obscene level that it's insane for me, or anyone else, to even consider buying under-$20 wines directly from a winery -- UNLESS the winery is looking out for its customers and is handling shipping themselves. But I know it's easier to just have a shipping company stop at the winery, pick up lots of boxes and a list of orders, and have them take care of everything. And charge whatever they want, because many wineries today allow the shipping company to bill the customer directly. I just checked, and NOT ONE of the wineries whose mailing lists I receive currently offers a case discount. Some did in the past, but not today. And I know that they insist their wines be sold locally only to restaurants, if they sell anything locally at all. These wines HAVE disappeared from store shelves. It's interesting, though, that I can go to stores in nearby states and find the wines...those states do not allow shipping but mine does. Yes, interesting.
  14. markh

    Wine Wars

    Tom Wark's views are as extreme in one direction as Juanita Duggan's are/were in the other, so I'm not going to bother reading his "recap". If I were in charge of the WSWA, I would stop using underage drinking as a weapon against direct shipping. It was a dumb idea from the beginning. The vast majority of wine drinkers have no interest in the hassle of ordering wine directly from wineries, they want to have the "wine guy" at the local wine shop recommend something to them. As more and more wineries stop selling FOB, many of those recommendations no longer exist at the local wine shop. If something isn't right with a bottle, whatever the wine, whatever the reason, they can take it back to the local wine shop and get it replaced. It is a hassle having to deal with multiple wineries to get replacements, assuming the wineries will even offer replacements (many do not). So as CEO of the WSWA, this is what I would focus on in the media: direct shipping results in the loss of choices at your local wine shop, and it also results in increased hassles because one must now deal with dozens of faceless wineries thousands of miles away, as opposed to one person you know at the local wine shop. (Back to being a consumer) Winery organizations have spent years trying to get direct shipping in order to increase their profit margins. For the consumer it has resulted in increased prices, and increased hassles having to deal with defects as well as shipping mistakes. I think it's time these organizations start developing a "direct shipping code of ethics" which must be followed if a winery wants to be a part of those organizations. Like replacing corked/cooked bottles at no charge whatsoever to the consumer. Or how about an organization-sponsored program where a consumer could call one number if they had a problem with a purchase from a member winery, and the organization would take care of contacting the winery to get bottles replaced, correct shipping errors, etc. Probably not the response you expected, but you DID ask...
  15. markh

    Lead Crystal

    First, leaving a wine in any type of decanter overnight will probably render it undrinkable due to oxidation. You're much better off putting the cork back in the bottle and putting the bottle in the refrigerator. (FWIW, if I wind up with maderized wine, I keep it for sauces which call for Madiera...) And second, the industry limit was based on the amount of lead leached from a brand new one-liter decanter after 24 hours of containing undiluted vinegar (which is 100 times more acidic than most wine). It was meant to be a worst-case scenario. Virtually all the lead in leaded glass is chemically bonded to the silica in a crystal lattice (which BTW is why it's called crystal, since regular silica glass has no crystal structure). Most of the tiny amount not bonded is locked in the crystal where it can never be leached. I should add here that certain compounds can break the crystal lattice and dissolve the lead salts, but such compounds (eg, hydrofluoric acid) are so toxic that they will never be used in a decanter, even in extremely dilute form. So there is a limit to how much lead can be leached from a crystal decanter, and the 1.5mg amount is very close to that limit for a one-liter decanter. And virtually all of the 1.5mg can be removed if you "season" your decanter before using it. By "season", I mean filling it with a dilute homemade acid (two ounces distilled vinegar, one teaspoon table salt, one quart water), letting it sit for a couple days, and then thoroughly rinsing the decanter with moderately hot (120-130F) water. You'll be left with a decanter that, if poorly made, might be able to leach a few micrograms into 750ml of wine the first time it's used. And if you repeat the above cleaning process, you'll get more lead in your system eating Idaho potatoes than from drinking wine out of the decanter... (In case you're wondering, for many years I was an engineer at Corning Glass, a company that makes many different kinds of leaded glass, from CRT panels to Steuben Crystal.)
  16. "Original Gino's East"? Time for a history lesson. Back in the '70s, there was a pizza place called Gino's on Rush St. It had wood tables and benches for seating, and through the years the place became ratty-looking from all the graffiti carved into the tables and benches. The pizza was incredible and the place was extremely successful, so around 1980 they opened a second place just east of Michigan Ave. And they called it: Gino's East. The owners actually liked the graffiti and asked its customers to help carve up the seating in the new place. It became a tradition that still exists today. This was about the time when Rush St. lost its luster and Michigan Ave became a tourist destination, and the original place eventually closed. The person responsible for the crust never left the original location, and I believe she retired when the Rush St. location closed. A place called "Original Gino's" has since re-opened in the original location on Rush St.
  17. If you're into wine, check out Dave's Italian Kitchen and Stained Glass. Both are in downtown Evanston...
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