Tag Archives: Chicago

High and Dry

Adam Richman’s new TV series, Man Finds Food, has been indefinitely postponed by the Travel Channel. The series was originally scheduled to debut this evening with the showing of two half-hour episodes. This preview/review – prepared before the postponement was announced, should give everyone a taste of what they’re missing.

Man Finds Food

TV Review: ‘Man Finds Food’ on the Travel Channel

If you’re looking for a zany, weird and entertaining program that makes a half-hour go by pretty quickly, you may want to check out the new program Man Finds Food on the Travel Channel. The show premieres on Wednesday, July 2, 2014, with two episodes, the first based in Los Angeles and the second in Chicago. The premise of the show: Adam Richman goes to quirky – and sometimes slightly dangerous, neighborhoods in major cities to discover some surprisingly good restaurants. There’s a specific focus on “secret food finds,” both off-the-menu items and outrageous dishes.

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Richman is funny but has the unfortunate tendency of channeling Guy Fieri. For many, including this viewer, a little bit of Fieri goes a long, long, long way; the same is sometimes true of Richman. Richman projects the personality of an immature, never-grown-up man who behaves as if he’s still in middle school. He often pretends that he and his crew are lost but I think this is just showmanship. There’s one humorous moment in which Richman and his cameramen and assistants are driving through L.A. and he asks a crew member why he’s never lived there. The crew member responds, “Because I hate the sun.”

I won’t cover every restaurant and sandwich featured in these episodes, as I dislike spoilers. But in L.A., Richman finds a New York steak with fixings that include eggs, bacon, cheese, toast, and potatoes. This ungodly sandwich is known as “Godzilla Destroys Skid Rokio.” He goes on to locate an inside-out grilled cheese sandwich on Melrose Avenue, a massive Mexican-Peruvian-Korean burrito in Alhambra, and The Jazzburger. The latter is a burger served with ten very spicy-hot Thai chilis, and the sandwich is found at a strip mall restaurant in East Hollywood.

The show is entertaining but not quite informative, for prospective chefs, as those preparing the food generally refuse to share their recipes and secret ingredients with Richman and his viewers. As you might gather from the limited descriptions found here, this is food that’s a million miles away from being heart healthy. In fact, if everyone were to dine on what Richman eats, cardiac surgeons would be billionaires and registered dieticians would go bankrupt. Another issue is that Richman loves sandwiches that include the rarest of rare cooked beef; if you like your meat cooked medium well or well done (and I plead guilty to that), it’s sometimes nauseating to watch Richman salivate over these pinkish-red concoctions.

In Chicago, Richman makes stops at Logan Square, Urkranian Village, West Town, and the Fulton Market District, which is located in the South Side. Among the “hidden gems” he discovers are a super-sized Mexican torta, a Shrimp Po-Boy, and a 3-pound Italian ribeye (rare) meat roast and potatoes combo. He also finds a hodgepodge bigger-than-enormous sandwich that includes short rib, skirt steak, sweetbreads, linguica sausage and chicken hearts. This is the episode where we are expected to believe that Richman and crew cannot find the A Tavola restaurant in West Town which is located in a home rather than in a commercial structure. OK, play along.

In future episodes of Man Finds Food, the show will visit Atlanta, Boston, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Portland (Oregon), and San Francisco. This is a show that may literally represent an acquired taste. It’s entertaining but relatively harmless – unless, that is, you seek out the food that’s featured on the show. If so, you might want to find out when your local well-qualified cardiac surgeon can perform your heart bypass operation.

Joseph Arellano

This article was originally published by the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/tv-review-man-finds-food-on-the-travel-channel/

Preview DVDs were provided by the Travel Channel.

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Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)

A beer review: A look at two India Pale Ales.

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rubicon-ipa

Rubicon India Pale Ale from Sacramento is a High Quality Product.

India Pale Ales (IPAs) originated when English explorers had to transport hearty hops to the West Indies that could survive the journey, thus providing a flavor distinct from traditional pale ales. The West Coast of the U.S.A. has long been the forerunner in the craft beer craze, and Rubicon Brewing Company of Sacramento, CA, has brewed a fine IPA.

This reviewer’s journey through craft beers has consistently led him to settle on IPAs as far and away the favorite. Usually, the hoppier the better. However, Rubicon’s IPA is neither excessively hoppy nor overly fruity. At 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), it is instead instantly refreshing. That is the initial impression on the taste buds.

I am told that Rubicon will now be releasing this beer in six-packs. I first sampled it in the traditional 22-ounce bottle. As a Chicago customer, I am not sure if it will be available in the region, but if one can get this on draught at a bar or restaurant, it is highly recommended. I am speculating, based on the regional pricing, that the beer would go for about $9.99 to $10.99 for a six-pack if available.

The ever reliable Beer Advocate website rates Rubicon IPA as an 83 on a 100 point scale.

Sam Adams Rebel IPA

By virtue of comparison, Boston Beer Company has recently released Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, it’s version of a West Coast IPA. Rebel is also 6.5% ABV. Upon release, my local store sold it for $13.99 per 12-pack – a steal and well worth the price. Now that consumers have had a chance to taste it, the price has risen and a six-pack of bottles goes for $8.99 (a fairly typical price for decent beer in this area). Beer Advocate ranks this beer as an 82.

Given a choice between the two, Rubicon is slightly better, though Rebel is no slouch. For a slightly higher price, Rubicon’s distinctive IPA is probably worth it, assuming you can find it. If not, Sam Adams’ latest effort – which is well recommended – will easily do the trick.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

Note: The ugly, garish label on the Sam Adams Rebel IPA should cost it at least a few ratings points on Beer Advocate and elsewhere. (Joseph)

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Midnight Caller

The Dead Caller from Chicago: A Mystery by Jack Fredrickson (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 320 pages)

Dead Caller

“I’ve learned to hate Russians/All through my whole life.” Bob Dylan (“With God on Our Side”)

The Dead Caller from Chicago is the fourth in a series of Dek Elstrom novels by Jack Fredrickson. The first, A Safe Place for Dying, was a Shamus Award nominee (sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America) for Best First Novel. The second, Honestly Dearest, You’re Dead, was a Mystery Guild selection.

Frederickson’s bio admits only to a former career as a consultant, owner/manager of an interior design/commercial furnishings firm, and living with his wife somewhere west of Chicago.

Dead Caller starts with a phone call from Snark Evans who was reported dead decades ago. It takes place primarily in Chicago and the faux suburb Rivertown, though any reader who hopes to be drawn by a Chicago backdrop, imagery or traditions (other than corruption) will be disappointed, because there is little of that.

What the reader does get is a private investigator by the name of Elstrom, who becomes entangled in a “confluence” of circumstance that include the return of an ex-lover and news anchor, Jenny from San Francisco – who is equal parts hot for him and a story; an ex-wife who is kidnaped (and only seriously referenced 169 pages into the story); two murders; the disappearance of an old “friend”: an art heist; and, let’s not forget, Russian gangsters to boot.

Fredrickson is generally successful in balancing the construction of a plot, the need to move it along at a rapid pace, and the development of characters that have some pull for the reader. The second to last chapter explicitly ties all of the information together, which is probably good, because there are things that don’t hang together as well as intended.

The last couple of chapters more than hint at continued dalliances between Jenny and Dek, so expect that a fifth novel is in the works.

There is more promise than delivery in this book, but the novel is intriguing and has merit. The writing in engaging and solid, with the exception of too many “cutesy” lead-ins to the next scene or tie-ups of some type of situation or another. The repeated use of this device borders on annoying, yet can be overlooked on the whole as there are scenes that are very well done. There are several examples of the author capturing the reader’s attention, depicting an event or character well, or just plain advancing the plot effectively. But there are just a few too many times when this isn’t the case.

Examples from both ends of the spectrum include this resonant, succinct passage: “It had started to snow. I stepped out of the Newberry into great, sticky clumps of it, coming down as though some maniac upstairs were sitting in the dark, shedding wet, white felt. March was like that in Chicago.”

And these lesser attempts: “I bid a silent adios to the tattooed backsides at the bar and tumbled off to my room at the 8, sure to sleep well and safe.” “The Bohemian, that knower of all things, had done me well. Leo was in sharp, professional hands. Protected for now. Only for now.”

There are very few perfect novels. All nitpicking aside, this book mostly satisfies and will be enjoyed by fans of the crime novel genre.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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The Night Chicago Died

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago by Gary Krist (Broadway Books, $14.95, 384 pages)

“Oh, the winds of Chicago have torn me to shreds….” Bob Dylan, “Cold Irons Bound”

City of Scoundrels (nook book)

Those who have gone on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river cruise will never again look at the city’s buildings the same way. There are many cities in America (New York, with an aura all its own, and Los Angeles with its own unique vibe) that typically rule the pop culture landscape. But there is one city in this country so uniquely American that it is better experienced than described or imagined — particularly when it is paradoxically and arguably the most corrupt city in our nation’s history.

Yes, there is the blue-collar folklore, The Jungle, and everything else, all of which is either true or has elements of truth to it. But Chicago is, and always has been, a mystery of wonder — simultaneously brilliant, politically corrupt, awe-inspiring and bad at baseball.

Gary Krist’s City of Scoundrels attempts to capture the essence of Chicago through the lens of twelve particularly challenging days in 1919. The book starts with a blimp crashing into a bank and then, after it gets our attention, chronicles several events, circling back to this tragic event. A racial incident, transit strike (oh, the unions in this great state), and senseless murder of a six-year-old transpire in rapid succession. These events allow the author to paint a picture of a city and its leaders, including the iconoclastic mayor, William “Big Bill” Thompson, who dreamed of making the city the architectural gem of the world.

In the meantime, for the baseball fans among us, references to the Black Sox scandal are sprinkled in, and the even more corrupt decade of the 20s and Al Capone foreshadowed in the Epilogue.

The factually accurate City of Scoundrels features meticulous research. It is interesting, though this is likely more confined to those who have some existing knowledge of or personal interest in Chicago. It would be less interesting for general readers.

It is a very good book, but despite the shocking events described, it does not capture the raw emotion inspired by the true experience of Chicago — getting off at the train station and being pressurized out of the building into the sights and sounds of the city, seeing the sun over a brick outfield wall as the latest edition of a terrible team attempts to play baseball on a weekly afternoon, or seeing the juices of a barely edible pizza run down the side of the cheek of another innocent victim.

The book feels like an essay. It would be better if it were an essay that felt like the Windy City.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Brand New Day

Oxford Messed Up: A Novel by Andrea Kayne Kaufman (Grant Place Press, $24.95, 336 pages)

“I was lost, double crossed with my hands behind my back…”   Van Morrison (“Brand New Day” – Moondance album)

Yale grad Gloria Zimmerman is so germ-phobic that she endures an overnight flight from Chicago to London and then an excruciating car ride to Oxford University without peeing.   When she and her nearly bursting bladder finally reach her flat – and the private bathroom that she will sanitize and make her own – she discovers to her horror that she must share it with a neighbor.   Not only that, but he is messy and dirty – and he is occupying the toilet when she arrives.

Gloria is a Rhodes Scholar who is studying feminist poetry.   Her untreated Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has always prevented her from forming close friendships.   But even though flatmate Henry Young, a music student and son of a priggish and disapproving Oxford don, is an “unrefined, germ-infested oaf,” he intrigues her.   Or, more to the point, his taste in music does.   They share a love of the music – and the poetry – of the iconic rocker Van Morrison.

That small spit of common ground is enough for love to wedge its foot between the door and the jamb.   Henry embraces Van Morrison’s “fatalistic optimism” and dedicates himself to releasing Gloria from the prison of her cleaning compulsions.   But is it enough to keep the door open when the true extent of Henry’s vile germs becomes apparent?

Author Andrea Kayne Kaufman is a lawyer and a professor of educational leadership at DePaul University in Chicago, where she serves as chair of the Department of Leadership, Language, and Curriculum.   In an interview on her website, she speaks of her belief that people can overcome “irrevocable” damage with hard work and hope.   Her characters Henry and Gloria both view themselves as unlovable.   But as Van Morrison wrote, “It’s a marvelous night for a moondance…” and attraction compels them to muster the strength to try to help each other

Experts on OCD have raved about Kaufman’s sensitive and accurate portrayal of the condition as viewed from the inside.   But readers of all stripes will appreciate Oxford Messed Up for its unique take on what it means to love another human being, warts and all, and for its profound message of hopefulness.   Well recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell

A review copy was received from the publisher.   Oxford Messed Up is also available in a trade paper version for $14.95, and as a Nook Book and Kindle Edition download.

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Breakdown

Breakdown: A V. I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky (Putnam Adult, $26.95, 448 pages; Brilliance Audio, $36.99, 13 CDs)

Once again this reviewer has been moved to extol the virtues of audio books.   Breakdown is the first of Sara Paretsky’s mystery novels that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.   No doubt the choice of Susan Ericson as narrator was the key to the richness of the experience.   It was almost as though V. I. Warshawski herself came to life and led the circuitous tour of Chicago and its neighboring towns during the hunt for the vampire killer.

Ms. Paretsky is a mystery writer whose works clearly reflect her loyalty to Chicago – Paretsky’s home town.   Happily, the main character, V. I. Warshawski, continues to find mysteries to solve that include her group of buddies; family (niece Petra), neighbors (Mr. Contreras, Peppy and Mitch) and dear friends (Lotty and Max).   Although the recurring cast of characters is wholesome and comforting, the topic of this mystery is dark and unnerving.

The central figure in the tale is Chaim Salanter, a Jewish man who is one of the world’s wealthiest persons.   His past includes a boyhood escape from his homeland, Lithuania, during the Nazi occupation.   Salanter is a grandfather with secrets and an ideal target for anyone who wishes to drag his name through the mud.   Although this novel reaches into the past, it is firmly grounded in the present thanks to the not-so-charming antics of a group of tweens – including Salanter’s only grandchild – who are fixated on a series of books about vampires.   Paretsky also adds into the mix some right-wing politicians and broadcasters who are out to get Salanter and the liberal politician he is backing, which makes this an only-in-Chicago kind of story.

It is worth noting that there is a very large Lithuanian community in Chicago, including the Lithuanian National Cemetery where this reviewer’s maternal grandparents are interred.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This audiobook was purchased by the reviewer’s husband.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Breakdown: A V. I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky.

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