Warning: Spoilers ahead
Damarr Brown, the Virtue chef de cuisine and the only Chicago contestant on this season of Top Chef, returned to his Southern roots for the first challenge of episode 7, which required half the remaining eight chefs to choose a sweet ingredient and the other half to choose a salty one and then team up to produce a sweet-salty dessert. Brown, working with San Francisco pastry chef Monique Feybasse, produced cornbread with corn ice cream, pumpkin seed and parmesan crumble, and pumpkin curd.
The elimination round paid tribute to Texas “trailblaz-hers”: each chef was asked to prepare a dish that honored one great Texas woman. Brown and his partner, Houston’s Evelyn García, the previous week’s elimination round champ, drew the Tejano singer Selena, a definite advantage for Brown since García is such a Selena superfan, she dressed up as her for five Halloweens in a row. Brown’s contribution was homemade tortillas and green pozole with cabbage, radish, and cilantro, even more of a challenge because he’d never made tortillas before. But with a little help from García, who taught him how to make the tortillas less sticky, he produced something that Selena’s sister, Suzette Quintanilla, described as a meal perfect for a family gathering.
Brown neither won the elimination challenge — that honor went to García — nor got sent to Last Chance Kitchen — that would be Feybasse. So he lives to cook another week. For a full rundown, head over to Eater Houston.
Chicago Gourmet to return in September
Chicago Gourmet, the annual food festival that brings together some of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants and chefs, will this year maintain the format adopted in 2021 with a series of in-person auxiliary events slated for September 22-25 under the theme “Creating a Stir,” according to a rep. Gatherings will include a kickoff Tacos and Tequila showcase hosted by celebrity chef Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), repeat hit Hamburger Hop hosted by Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), and the Grand Cru, a premium event featuring a more exclusive batch of wines and bites from Chicago chefs, over two sessions on a single day. 2022 events will not, however, include the Grand Tasting, the main event that usually occupies the entire Great Lawn in Millennium Park. Organizers have opted to postpone it until 2023.
A wave of forced temporary shutdowns over safety concerns hit Chicago bars
City officials in late March forced Play Kitchen & Cocktails, a sports bar in Gold Coast, to temporarily close over allegations of an increase in criminal activity at night, according to Block Club Chicago. Alderman Brian Hopkins (Ward 2) filed a request for police to close the bar following a drive-by shooting in mid-December when an as-yet-unidentified person in a car shot at the business from the street, damaging a window and TV inside the bar. A reopening date is not yet set but Hopkins tells reporters that owner Mert Hurmeydan is working “diligently” to make a new security plan. In the meantime, The Point nightclub in Wicker Park remains temporarily closed after police shut it down in February following two shootings in six months. Ownership at Nipsey’s Restaurant and Lounge, the Calumet Heights tavern that was demolished after a major fire in early March, is also continuing to contend with dozens of citations from the city over licensing, occupancy limits, security measures, and more. Its next hearing date is scheduled for Friday, April 22.
State extinguishes plan to convert Rainforest Cafe into a weed dispensary
Despite some amusing headlines, the former Rainforest Cafe site on the corner of Ohio and Clark streets in River North will not become a marijuana dispensary. Palatine-based cannabis firm Progressive Treatment Solutions, which had signaled plans to relocate a suburban Norwood Park dispensary to prominent downtown space, has been stymied by Illinois law, according to the Sun-Times. A dispensary cannot open within 1,500 feet of an existing pot retailer, and at least three other businesses fall within that range around the River North location. The only parties exempt from that rule are “social equity applicants,” individuals or members of communities that have been disproportionately impacted by arrests and incarceration for cannabis offenses in the past.
Public plaza with cafe to open in Chatham this summer
Mahalia Jackson Court, a public gathering spot in Chatham with a cafe, parking spots for food trucks, and children’s play areas will open at State and 79th streets as soon as this summer, Block Club Chicago reports. The plaza, named for the gospel singer who was one of the neighborhood’s most famous residents, will be funded by a $500,000 grant from the city’s Department of Planning and Development and will sit on an 8,500 square-foot parcel of land donated by the Carter Temple CME Church.