June 14, 2010

What's Up in Chicago

Last month, we turned our trend-spotting radar on Chicago. The city hosted the 21st annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) show--and as we walked the floor of the exhibition halls, we noticed that several of the presenting companies and speakers were expressions of Culinary Shifts. Mobi Munch, a consulting company for mobile food trucks, explained the practicalities of street food--the hottest trend in fine, casual dining (Luxury Re-valued). Chicago chef Rob Levitt, of Mado, showed how to butcher a whole cow (an example of getting More with Less). Twist Potatoes, a Korean company, served up elaborate, spiral-cut potatoes, dipped in bulgogi seasoning, a powdered version of the popular marinated, Korean beef dish (and reminded us just how important Korean flavors are to the Cultural Curiosity shift).

But NRA was only the beginning. The streets of Chicago--and the restaurants on them--were even better examples of how the city's food is evolving. Actually, Chicago was such a contemporary culinary hot spot, that we created an entire list of restaurants that play into Culinary Shifts. This way, you (and your clients) have a year-round resource for understanding the city in SRG Culinary terms. Keep reading for more information. Or wait until later today, and we'll send out a map of Chicago and the Shifts restaurants.

Nightwood Community Connected The savvy staff at this Pilsen restaurant starts every day with farmer meetings and a trip to the market. Then, they sit down to write the daily menu. Rest assured: You’ll get seasonal produce (such as rhubarb or ramps) and local proteins, like smelt (small, dark Michigan fish).

Mado More with Less
Waste is the antithesis of this popular Bucktown spot. Sustainable bamboo tables line the airy dining room. Chefs butcher the meat in house (and use head-to-tail cuts). And the owners adopted a BYOB policy to avoid high alcohol prices for their diners.

Karyn’s on Green Dr. Me Holistic health guru Karyn Calabrese has filled her menu with both nutrients and gourmet flavors at this contemporary vegan restaurant. Try dishes, like coconut curried cauliflower and wild mushroom risotto.

Belly Shack Cultural Curiosity The husband-and-wife pair that runs this spot put its cultural heritage into the menu. He added the ever-more popular Korean flavors, and she dropped in a touch of Puerto Rico. Order eats like kimchi and kogi and tostones and boricua.

The Publican Luxury Re-Valued This go-to spot has no white tablecloths or secluded dining nooks. Instead, it serves gourmet beer (microbrews) and bar food (European cured meats) on long wooden tables.

Big Star Always On This ├╝ber-popular, taco stand-style, Mexican restaurant has built its relationships with diners via Facebook and Twitter—instead of a conventional website. Follow its social media sites and you’ll get updates on Big Star’s menu, patio, and more.

Violet Hour Simple Refuge
Sink into a plush chair here and you’ll return to the bygone era of English clubs and French salons. The space is dark and intimate, and the lengthy cocktail list offers classics like negronis, mai tais, and sidecars.

Alinea Break Free In the United States, Alinea is the beacon for molecular gastronomy. Its chef-owner Grant Achatz is known for using science and art to push the boundaries of food. His PB&J, for example, is a single grape encased in peanut butter.

Kazia Jankowski
Associate Culinary Director

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