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Ham on Wry

Add to that crustless white bread soaked in milk, bacon, two egg yolks per pound of meat, a short-shot of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce measured by smell, salt and pepper pinches unique to Laura's fingers. The kneading is important, and I don't know exactly how she does it. And then there's the assembly: bias-cut French bread; the meatloaf cooked, cooled undrained, then sliced roughly into odd-sized bits and pieces; warm mashed potatoes on top and cheap, grocery-store mayonnaise below. It is, in all of my experience, the most perfect sandwich in the world -- good for any occasion, requiring time, dedication, concentration and an unfailing commitment to quality; it's beautifully rich and balanced in flavor, texture and combination of hot and cold ingredients, and redolent of both childhood sandwich memories and my own particular fascination with off-menu diner food. It is the sandwich to end all sandwiches, and currently unavailable anywhere except my own kitchen.

But if anyone out there in Hotcakesland is interested in an Earl of Sandwich franchise and happens to have a spare couple million in investment capital, drop me a line. We can discuss our plans for sandwich domination over some curried-goat po'boys and yak-butter tea on our way to Mount Everest.

The thousand-dollar lamb chop: It used to be that chefs cooked for a living and didn't do much else, but those days are over. In order to be a successful chef/entrepreneur today, have your name on the lips of foodies and be a force in the larger culinary scene, actual cooking -- in your kitchen and on your line -- has become what chefs do on nights when they're not on stage, on TV, at a book signing or charity event, or making the rounds pimping product for the Cranberry Defense League or the International Popcorn Advisory Board.

And I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. The trade has changed considerably since I left it, and I'll admit to doing a fair share of shilling during my last couple of years in the whites. I taught cooking classes where I was paid (handsomely) to name-drop brands and products while terrifying homemakers with a sauternes sauce made with eleven pounds of butter (it served sixty). I collected a paycheck from the local gas utility for endorsing the ease and speed of gas cookery (its gas in particular) and even did some weekly TV where I was done up like a stock car, labels and brands and the names of the restaurant sponsoring my show emblazoned all over my jacket, my kit and my hat.

But this was an occasional thing back then, and I was a rarity as the guy doing it. These days, it's the odd (and consequently unknown) chef who doesn't.

Goose Sorenson, for example, is a good guy, a great cook and a proven businessman who's not only kept Solera, the restaurant at 5410 East Colfax Avenue that he owns with Brian Klinginsmith, viable through a few seriously murderous seasons, but managed to open a second place with Klinginsmith -- the Ivy Cafe -- and make a buck there as well. He's also a "chef-ambassador" for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board; a few months ago he made a nice chunk of change when he traveled to Atlanta for four days of cooking and huckstering, trying to sell a crowd from Omni Interlocken on the merits of Wisconsin cheese. On Monday, November 8, Sorenson will do another event for the cheese-heads: He's opening Solera at noon to any and all industry folk for a tasting party featuring 140 cheeses, five master cheesemakers and wine pairing from Stelzner and Gundlach Bundschu vineyards; it's free for anyone in the trade who wants to come and an extra paycheck for him. And there'll be another public event on November 10, wrapped up with Solera's usual Wednesday wine tastings.

This weekend, Sorenson will be in Chicago for the Wine Spectator's Grand Tasting, traveling on the dime of the cheese people and staying for a Food Artsmagazine award ceremony Saturday night. "I can't believe I have to rent a tux," he complains. Last week, Sorenson was part of a shindig at Johnson & Wales University thrown by the American Lamb Board where he, Sean Yontz, Frank Bonanno and Eric Roeder all cooked in competition -- one plate with lamb as the centerpiece -- and Sorenson won the contest, taking home a cool grand for his saba-lacquered grilled American lamb with roasted radicchio, goat cheese and kabocha squash risotto, and a currant-lamb reduction.

Late last month, Sorenson and Bonanno (along with a bunch of other chefs) cooked at the outdoor Festival Italiano, a benefit for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District campaign. On October 14, at Westword's own Menu Affair, Roeder was up against Tim Maness of the Samba Room in the Steel Chef competition, winning it on the back of an excellent dessert featuring chanterelle mushrooms. And finally, on October 28, Sorenson and Roeder will be together again (along with about a dozen other local chefs) at the Oxford Hotel cooking for the "Too Many Chefs in the Kitchen" event, a benefit for the Young Fund at Children's Hospital(see Urban Experience).

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