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So first off: congratulations to the recipients of the two well-deserved new stars on the 2015 Michelin list for Chicago. Grace, which has both food and service that truly live up to the top level of fine dining anywhere in America, has joined Alinea as the only two restaurants in Chicago with three stars. And 42 Grams, the tasting-menu-only, 18-seat-maximum, run-by-a-couple-in-the-space-downstairs-from-their-apartment, formerly underground-dining place that is a sheer delight, jumped straight to two stars in its first year of operation. (Blogger Joe Campagna asked a good question: Are there any other two-stars that are BYO? We have several in the one-stars—Schwa, El Ideas, and Goosefoot—but you figure Michelin to expect more hoitiness at two stars, like a wine cellar, a heliport, ivory toothpicks, etc.)
That's all to the good; the problem with Michelin is that it stops there. Absolutely nothing else happened with Michelin's list except that Mexique, which only they seemed to like anyway, was demoted from one star to nada.
All the action on Michelin's list was at the two- and three-star levels—which makes it basically a competition limited to about a dozen restaurants, to see which ones with $200 tasting menus get the highest prize. Michelin is like your dad coming to town with a short list of fancy places it's acceptable to eat; you can suggest that he try Fat Rice or the Radler as new and really interesting, but one look at the communal tables and shaggy hair, and he shakes his head. By sheer numbers, if nothing else, the bulk of the creativity on our scene is happening at the places that Michelin crams together without distinction in the one-star and Bib Gourmand realms. Places like Boka and Blackbird have had major changes in the last year; staying eternally stable at one star masks that rather than illuminating it.
And, frankly, the longer they operate here, the more you sense that the impression they try to give of exhaustively dining on our scene is maybe not really that true. It's not just that the Michelin Twitter account doesn't seem all that clued in—like the time it recommended a dish at Laughing Bird after the restaurant had closed—but this has been a great year for really interesting, personal restaurants focused on specific cuisines, and only one of these newest ones, Parachute, got so much as a Bib Gourmand. "There are probably a dozen others we're following very closely, that might have just missed qualifying this year," Michelin Guide director Michael Ellis told the Tribune. Seriously? You really need another year to eat at the Radler or Tete Charcuterie or MFK to make sure they're as good as the Dawson or Belly Shack (both Bib Gourmands)? Take it from me and nearly everyone I know here in Chicago, Mich, they are. Check 'em out, at least by next year.
In other food news . . .
• Tickets are on sale for this year's edition of the Chicago Food Film Festival; the festival runs from Wednesday, November 19 to Saturday, November 22, and will include documentaries on Buffalo chicken wings, sriracha, craft beer, and more (including a very short film by me). And you can save 10 percent on tickets with the promo code READER10.
• Two beer-related events tonight! Before FOBAB (Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer) this weekend, there will be a preview event tonight at River Roast as Surly Brewing beverage director Chris Jecha takes over the taps from 6 to 8 PM. And Farmhouse Chicago will host Forbidden Root, a new local brewery that uses botanicals in its beers, for a beer dinner tonight. It's $65 for four courses with beer pairings; call 312-280-4960.
• Lula Cafe will have a collaborative chef dinner with a Mangalitsa pig raised by John Laursen of Farm.Butcher.Table; besides Lula's Jason Hammel, the chefs will be Charlie McKenna of Lillie's Q, Rob Levitt of the Butcher & Larder, and Cosmo Goss of the Publican. Tickets for the five-course dinner—6 PM on Monday, November 17—are $95.
• And Baconfest announced its seventh annual fest's dates: April 17 and 18 at the UIC Forum. VIP tickets will go on sale in time for the holidays on December 3.