By Michael Nagrant
Do you like pinball?
What do you mean?
You know, do you play it? Do you find it fun?
A minute or so passed without an answer from one of Chicago’s mega-celebrity chefs, as he faced a local food reporter while they stood near a pinball machine. The chef was usually so prepared that he’d given the same answers to many questions for almost twenty years with almost no variation in delivery or syllable. His ability to stay on message made even the disciplined Barack Obama look more like the drunken political godchild of Gerald Ford and Sarah Palin.
But that’s when the chef expected to be interviewed. The reporter had not given the chef a heads up that he’d stop by this particular photo shoot. And when he did, the chef was so befuddled he couldn’t even answer a simple question about an arcade game without calculating what the answer might say about him.
Sure, chefs are the new rock stars, but rarely have they acted like them. I chose to write about chefs and restaurants in no small part because I had no interest in profiling celebrities so doped up on fame that their paranoia and control made Kim Jong Il look asleep at the wheel. Read the rest of this entry »
The Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago is hosting its 10th Annual Edible Books Show & Tea event on Wednesday, an event hosted at various venues across the globe in which artists, chefs and book lovers whip up recipes and create books that are made to be eaten. “It’s a fundraiser for the Center for Book and Paper Arts equipment fund,” says Steve Woodall, Director of the Book & Paper Center at Columbia. “This is something that’s been going on since 1999 and it was kind of the brainchild of Judith Hoffberg, who was the founder, and she died a couple months ago. And so part of this year’s event is a tribute to Judith and part is connected to Ray Bradbury.” This year’s Big Read sponsored by the Chicago Public Library is “Fahrenheit 451″-themed, and the Edible Book event will do its best to honor that. “It’s an open invitation for anyone who wants to make one!” Woodall continues. “If you bring an edible book with you, you get into the event free. It’s a really fun, kind of informal and interesting event. The winner last year was an edible book called ‘The Velveeta Rabbit’ that was a rabbit carved out of Velveeta. Somebody [else] made a tablet out of marzipan and a scroll out of pie dough, so it’s just kind of a fun, somewhat surreal event.” The event starts at 6pm at the Columbia College Library.
The Heartland Café is back in business after being temporarily shut down by the Public Health Department on March 12. The inspection resulted from a 311 call made by a customer who felt ill after eating a tofu and vegetable dish at the restaurant. Café owners Katie Hogan and Michael James consider the circumstance to be a hard lesson learned and completely overhauled their restaurant’s kitchen as a result. The staff spent five days renovating floors, scrubbing equipment and patching up “endless nooks and crannies.” When inspectors returned on March 18, the café passed the follow-up inspection with flying colors. “Inspectors were literally oohing and ahhing,” Hogan says. As a result of the situation, Hogan says that they have taken additional safety measures, such as changing certain purveyors and promoting an employee to the position of sanitation manager. “We’ve taken lemons and turned them into lemonade,” Hogan says. “We will never be caught in that situation again.”
Acclaimed novelist and essayist Mary Gaitskill comes to Harold Washington to discuss her career, which, to the frustration of many, has only produced two books and three collections of short stories since the publishing of her first, “Bad Behavior,” in 1988. Maybe it’s for the best, however, as an overabundance of Gaitskill’s various tales of sexuality, sadomasochism, death and self-image would shove some of us over the edge. Her work is haunting not because of the explicit content, but because of her writing’s humanity, life’s treachery, the comfort-and discomfort-found in everyday pain. “Veronica,” Gaitskill’s 2005 novel, focused on two female friends, one who has contracted AIDS. This is no tearjerker. You want sugar, give Mitch Albom a ring. “Don’t Cry” is her newest collection of shorts, released just this week, at it features more snapshots of lives lived with thunderously beating, profusely bleeding hearts. (Tom Lynch)
Mary Gaitskill discusses “Don’t Cry” March 26 at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm, as part of the “Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman” series. The event is free.
This Week’s Biggest Gainers
1 Barack Obama
The president drudged up even more support after a weeklong media blitz that included appearances on “60 Minutes” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Don’t you think it’s time you toned down your manic aspirations? Aren’t you curious about the sweet, sensitive success that could be yours if only you got really calm and peaceful? Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the more manageable opportunities that might become available by accepting your limitations with humble equanimity? Read the rest of this entry »
By Tom Lynch
On an unusually warm and muggy evening in early March, a sizeable crowd has gathered at Andersonville’s Women and Children First Bookstore, all here to help celebrate the release of “Ruins,” local author Achy Obejas’ new novel. All seats taken, some are forced to stand in the back, near the table that supports the bottles of champagne and large white cake, with the book’s title and the author’s name scribbled across it in edible coloring. After a few announcements, Achy’s introduced, and she sweetly refers to W&C as “home base”; her reading’s received well-everyone’s here to see her, after all-and afterwards, you get the sense she’s relieved by the audience’s lack of questions, that she’d rather not be at the center, with all eyes on her. Either that or she wants to hit the booze and cake as soon as possible.
“I still get really nervous,” Obejas says. “Nobody believes me when I say that, but I still get insanely nervous about reading.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Elise Jesnig
Keegan’s Pub on 106th and Western is surprisingly calm the day before the 31st Annual South Side Irish Parade. Four regulars are interspersed around the U-shaped bar, drinking a pint and talking amongst themselves while the bartender wipes down the counter and flips through the channels to see if there is anything good on TV. It’s almost a little too relaxed considering that in less than twenty-four hours, more than 300,000 will come into Beverly by the busload and the bar will swell up to its 133-person capacity.
“We just wait for the storm to come,” says the bar’s manager Mary McDermott. “The whole week before, it’s the calm before the storm.” Read the rest of this entry »
Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 continues Thursday and Friday, kicking off with an event featuring the school’s playwriting students, who stage scenes from their work, at Film Row Cinema on Wabash. Later in the day at the same venue a panel discussion ensues, titled “On the Rise: Chicago Theater and Beyond,” featuring About Face Theatre Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar, Goodman’s Tanya Palmer and Oobleck Theatre genius Mickle Maher. Friday offers a conversation with “The Girl on the Fridge” author Etgar Keret at Hokin Annex, plus a celebration of F Magazine, with Keret, Mort Castle, Augustus Rose and Betty Shiflett, later in the evening. The big event is Thursday night’s “Literary Rock & Roll” party at Metro, featuring Nami Mun, Lydia Millet and “Lush Life” author Richard Price. You should never miss an opportunity to see Price. (Tom Lynch)
Columbia College’s Story Week 2009 runs through March 20; visit colum.edu/storyweek for complete details.
This Week’s Biggest Gainers
1 Gordon Beckham
The young Sox infielder has been on fire during spring training, batting well over .300 and prompting several sportswriters to speculate on his making the big-league team this season. Read the rest of this entry »