Glunz Show

max wolod arthur mullen xoco manager rick bayless chicago 3rdarm glunz frontera grill parsons

As the beer buyer for the empire, I attended my second annual Glunz beer show. The first person I saw inside the door was Max, who managed Xoco before me. He is my beer guru.

sonia 5 rabbit arthur mullen pelotas can wheat beer 3rdarm

After talking to Tom at Saugatuck Brewing about bringing in their fresh serrano amber ale on draft at Frontera, I beelined to the 5 Rabbit booth. Sonia showed me the prototype can for their agua fresca wheat beers, called paletas.

champi five rabbit chicago 3rdarm glunz show

I told Sonia about my fifth grade gifted program project on the Aztecs, and my current reading of the myth of Quetzalcoatl. The god of the midday sun, he brought humankind the knowledge of the gods. In the early American mythology, agriculture and culture culture are tied together, as a higher level of thinking attributed to the gods. Quetzalcoatl brought the people corn, art, chocolate and more.

frontera grill team glunz show arthur mullen kyle fontaine jay schroeder meagan oconnor 3rdarm chicago rick bayless

Team Frontera represented well at this year’s show!

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

honey butter fried chicken night rain chicago 3rdarm

On Saturday it was seventy degrees for the first time since the beginning of October. That’s almost a full six months. The energy in the city was wild. The next day a low pressure system brought the temperature back down. On a rainy Sunday, Etta and I went to the late afternoon showtime for Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. I had listened to the podcast On Point with Tom Ashbrook about the meaning of the Great Flood, and hadn’t stopped thinking about it since. I can stop thinking about it now: we should of gone to see the Grand Hotel Budapest per the recommendation of Mrs. Yak and Aunty.

honey butter fried chicken plate 3rdarm chicago

After the movie, Etta recommended we pick up Honey Butter Fried Chicken: we had both heard good things. It’s funny, the Chicago food critics who decry the saturation of new chicken restaurants. Newsflash: people like to eat chicken. And I don’t mind paying more, say high twenties for 8 pieces, because I know Honey Butter Fried Chicken is getting well-treated chickens. I want my chickens happy alive, delicious after death, and Honey Butter does that. I thought the drumstick would be the main event, but the juicy thigh stole the show with its bonelessness.

The sides were good too. I really like the spicy mac and cheese (spiral noodles). The schmaltzy (chicken fat) mashed potatoes were sickeningly schmaltzy, in a good way. The kale slaw cut the schmaltz back. Still, I could handle at most 2 chicken pieces in a serving. I also ate Honey Butter’s salty cookie and brownie: I love the salt with the sweet, so I was a big fan. That night they were out of dump cake. This is rich food, even before the honey butter goes on. And it goes on.

Hatchway to Spring

arthur mullen xoco chef andres padilla topolobampo roof spring 2014 3rdarm

I am under a lot of pressure at work due to the brutal winter’s effect on sales. Year to date we are several percentage points down. It is depressing to be in a hole and have to dig your way out. The weather certainly hasn’t helped my mood.

carlos katy frontera grill 3rdarm hatchway roof xoco

The third floor above Xoco used to be the entry point for the roof: it was a vacant office. The building owners (they own a lot of buildings in River North) decided to renovate. The roof was inaccessible during construction: then I found out the stairwell had been demolished. Last week the temperatures started to climb, and a group of chefs and managers led by Carlos took an alternative route, up a maintenance stairwell and out a hatch, into the sunlight of spring. It was not an easy climb but we got back on top.

Edzo’s Part Deux

edzos lincoln park 3rdarm chicago salted caramel milkshake

Whitney, Oliver and I went to Edzo’s for a manager power lunch. Having only eaten at the original Edzo’s, and with Xoco Wicker Park coming soon, I was curious to see the if the high quality and consistency carried over to the second Edzo’s.

spicy sconnie burger edzos lincoln park 3rdarm chicago

I was very impressed! The man running the burger shop was not Eddie Larkin, but he was on point, personable, warm and a great communicator. I went with an original patty Spicy Sconnie: the meat blanketed in Merkt’s cheese, chile and caramelized onions. I also got a side of buffalo fries and a salted caramel milkshake.

edzos burger shop lincoln park 3rdarm chicago

Oliver said he wished the burger was a little bigger: he got a grass-fed single. It’s great to see the sustainable meat option for a few dollars more. Later on that night, Oliver reported his digestion continued until 8:30PM (sounds about right for me too).

oliver and whitney frontera grill topolobampo edzos burger shop 3rdarm chicago

The spirit and ambience of the original Edzo’s lives in the Lincoln Park space: the colors, art and antique sodapop and burger pieces would not be out of place in Edzo’s Evanston. The quality and consistency were the same, with a colorful personality at the helm.

Edzo’s got the sequel thing right!

Nico Osteria

leslie lockett youngbloods chicago 3rdarm nico osteria brunch

I had brunch at Nico with Etta and Leslie. The bottom line: come for the food and service and enjoy Viagra Triangle people watching. There were moneyed folk about on a sunny spring Sunday.

Wrinkly men wore futuristic frames and I did a double take to check if it was Google glass. An older woman dined solo in a Sunday hat befit for the Queen of England. On the street well heeled families pulled by in horse drawn buggies. Tiny pure breed pups swaddled in handbag papooses looked out to the small park at State, Rush, and Bellvue, and then up to the face of their owners with pleading googly eyes.

nico osteria chicago 3rdarm egg sandwich

The dining room and raw bar where we sat was bathed in afternoon sunlight, with windows facing the famous triangle named for erectile disfunction. If the little blue pill doesn’t work as advertised, I think Nico’s brunch pastries may do the trick. I felt the love for the best chocolate croissant, and other juicy flaky goods, one containing salty ham. On the side is vanilla honey, cannoli filling and one other dipping sauce: I ate mostly the cannoli filling and honey.

nico osteria hangar steak chicago 3rdarm

If I wasn’t “in public” I would have eaten all the cannoli filling and vanilla honey. In the presence of elites, I put forth my most civilized manners and waited for my egg sandwich.

The server, who with his assistant busser were a flawless team, informed me all about the interesting Italian named caper / anchovies aioli on my egg sandwich. It balanced the rich, fatty roasted pork very well. He also told me how the pork is made in house: I remember that it’s brined, wrapped around the loin, roasted off.

etta and leslie 3rdarm

Ladies loved the beef tongue and hangar steak. The music was terrific: some tune from Bob Dylan’s self portrait got stuck in my head. Can’t wait to be back for dinner (and actually try some Italian seafood!)

Sticky Rice Chiang Mai

sticky rice chiang mai yellow curry chicken leg 3rdarm chicago

Flash forward twelve years: now I’m a restaurant manager and live in West town. McDonald’s has been remodeled, adding a second drive thru lane. The Bizmark is gone. Allan Stagg is dead (RIP… the tradition carries on with Nick michaels’ Deep End). The Bloomingdale Trail is becoming an elevated park and the bridge part over Western has mysteriously vanished. Dunkin donuts is Sticky Rice Chiang Mai.

sticky rice chiang mai squid 3rdarm

The bottom line is that good Thai food has arrived, and they deliver. Although not to West Town. The original Sticky Rice up north by Irving Park is a welcoming yellow inside and out: Sticky Rice Chiang Mai is named after a Northern Thai city and it’s interior is paneled in brown wood.

The food Etta and I ate (grilled squid, egg noodles in yellow curry, mango sticky rice) was delicious: the best Thai in the neighborhood.

Alley Sunset

long shadow arthur mullen 3rdarm early spring chicago

First of all, when did the city tear down the Bloomingdale trail bridge over Western Ave? What does it mean?

chicago alley sunset 3rdarm

I remember dish washing at the Union League Club back in 2002. I lived on Artesian near the Bizmark, a fast food place. I would walk to the Western blue line and stop at what is now Sticky Rice Chiang Mai for a Dunkin donuts coffee. On the late night train ride home I would listen to Allan Stagg’s Sanctuary and stop at the 24 hour McDonald’s for a double cheeseburger.

Tiger at Night, Early Spring

hubbard street mural chicago 3rdarm arthur mullen tiger

I started riding my bike again. After the winter we had the streets are broken up with potholes. I already bent the frame of my front wheel when a bottle shattered in the spokes. Glacial remnants still lurk in the shadows I ride past.

Mechanical Keyboard

gaming mouse pad mechanical keyboard 3rdarm

I upgraded my gaming setup in the hope that it will better my Quake 2 skills. I bought a very large mouse pad and a mechanical keyboard: these join the mouse my friend Rusty helped me pick out last year. The mechanical keyboard makes the exact same clicking sounds that drove my mom nuts back in the late nineties. It’s either the rig of an elite gamer or a very old man: watch out Q2CTF!

End of Winter Farm Dinner

logan eagle post winter 2014 3rdarm

In Alabama, the trees’ red buds are out and some are even covered in pink flowers. Spring is arriving, and the temperature was in the fifties, sometimes even sixties in sunlight. When I got back to Chicago it was 19 degrees F and I was confused.

meyer lemon tart puffed rice 3rdarm

Etta and I went for a romantic end of winter dinner at Lula Cafe. I love going to their farm dinners to mark seasonal change, or to celebrate the height of a particular growing season. In this case, I thought it would help me regain my Midwest bearings.

olive oil panna cotta lula cafe farm dinner 3rdarm

The starter was soft and luscious poached black cod, served in a steamer basket, over sauteed dark greens, with aioli and black garlic. The entree was braised veal cheek: an ingredient my sister would have been happy to know I’d never eaten. She won’t be so happy now. It was falling apart delicious, with aromatic, earthy, crunchy carrots, rich jus and perfectly cooked grains.

braised veal cheeks lula cafe farm dinner 3rdarm chicago

We added Meyer lemon tart to the farm dinner dessert of olive oil panna cotta. The panna cotta was jiggly and creamy, with cookie crunch and pistachio notes, the perfect end for most, but not this beast. My second dessert of Meyer lemon tart was even better, half frozen, with the tang of goat’s milk caramel and candied citrus.

poached black cod 3rdarm chicago lula cafe monday farm dinner

We passed the Logan eagle on the way to the train. It was still light out, a good sign after a 3 course dinner that started at 6:30PM, three days before the vernal equinox.


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