Also in this week's newsletter: Puebla, Nico Osteria, Coppervine, Sweet Baby Ray’s
December 04, 2013 | Forward to a Friend |
{ DISH: The Latest in Dining }

Sarah Koechling Takes Over Dessert at the Bristol and Balena

The departure of the pastry chef Amanda Rockman from Balena (1633 N. Halsted, Lincoln Park, 312-867-3888) and the Bristol (2152 N. Damen, Bucktown, 773-862-5555) set the table for the arrival of Sarah Koechling, a French Pastry School graduate who returns to Chicago after a sojourn in California, sweeting at Quince in San Francisco and Patina in Los Angeles.
She brings back a farm-focused approach, born of California’s year-round growing season, and thrifty techniques such as squeezing apple skins and cores through cheesecloth to extract pectins. “I had never done that before,” she says, “the using-all-the-parts-of-the-pig approach to vegetables and fruits, not wasting anything.”
Her desserts have already begun to appear on the restaurants’ menus. At Balena, you can order her pear crostata with apple butter, pastry cream, and crème fraîche gelato. At the Bristol, you can get hazelnut cake with malted-rum ice cream, preserved cherries, and chicory anglaise. The popular Basque cake at Bristol will stay on the menu. Nice for Koechling to have a hit dish like that to build off, but still have room for her own desserts. She can have her Basque cake and eat it, too.

Photograph: Neil Burger

{ Quotables }

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”

—Mark Twain

{ Latest News }

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{ Openings }
  • Open now: Hey, have you heard about this place called Eataly (43 E. Ohio St., River North, 312-521-8700)? We may have mentioned it once or twice, and now that it’s open, don’t expect the crowds jockeying for pizza and gelato to thin any time soon. (We heard reports it was mobbed last night around 8:30—a dreary, chilly Tuesday.)
  • Open now: Nico Osteria (1015 N. Rush St., Gold Coast, 312-994-7100) the new Italian outpost in the Paul Kahan empire, is now serving housemade pastas and crudos (along with some delicious-looking desserts from pastry chef Amanda Rockman) inside the Thompson hotel.
  • Open now: Now that Don Sritong (Just Grapes) and Michael Taus (Zealous) have opened Coppervine (1962 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park, 773-935-1000), you’ll never again worry about what drink to pair with your meal—each menu item is listed with a wine, a beer, and a cocktail (served in a smaller, sippable portion) that works with the food.
  • Friday, December 6: Asian Outpost (1315 S. Wabash, South Loop, 312-662-1100), the new project from Hot Woks Cool Sushi owners David and Lois Lee, will be serving up rustic Asian dishes both with modern lilts and childhood-throwback touches.
  • Friday, December 6: Should you need some flamenco to go with your tortilla española, when Bulerias Tapas Bar (3656 N. Ashland Ave., Lake View, 773-404-2855) officially opens Friday, they’ll kick off with ten days of live music and dancing.
{ Morsels }

After less than a year in operation, the Wrigleyville location of Sweet Baby Ray’s (3478 N. Clark St.) has closed. Owner David Raymond said in an e-mail announcing the closure that the opening of this third location of their smokehouse chain (Wood Dale and Elk Grove are still going strong) was too much, too soon.
We talked to Tony Hu yesterday about the River North location of Lao 18’s temporary closure—and he stressed the word “temporary.” “The basement has water problems,” Hu says. “That’s where the kitchen is.” He says they’ll reopen soon, maybe December or January, but the reopening may bring a change in concept. As for his other projects, his in-progress Michigan Avenue restaurant may not open until May, and the Evanston location of Lao Sze Chuan (1633 Orrington Ave.) is “almost finished.”
Gold Coast seasonal cocktail lounge the Drawing Room has promoted sous chef Tommy Sheean to executive-chef status. Sheean also had previous stints in the kitchens of Boka and the Signature Room.

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