When the Guthrie's new restaurant re-opens (the eatery formerly known as Cue) under new management (Tim Mckee and Josh Thoma), it will have a new point of view and a new chef. The modern seafood restaurant's kitchen will be helmed by Erik Andersen, formerly of Porter & Frye.
Anyone looking for a fun activity on Tuesday night should hop on over to Azia for the second incarnation of Bill Summerville’s Junior Gourmet Club dinner. There are still seats available. Bring the kids for this amazing family-friendly food event. The cost is $35 bucks a head, and you can call Azia for details, 612-813-1200.
I was on the road last week on the West Coast. Ate some great food, and talked with some smart people who all feel energized by the economic downturn. How so? Well, these chefs seem to have navigated the waters away from fine dining in the first place and have a lock on casual fare within their respective categories. Phoenix’s Chris Bianco (Pizza Bianco) has a new bakery/sandwich joint that is killing in the Valley of the Sun, and his flagship operation is going great guns.
I pulled into the parking lot of his VPN (Vera Pizzeria Napoletana) pizza joint and was informed that the wait was three to four hours. Now, this is a pizzeria that is only open five hours a night, five days a week. Yowza! The homemade sausage pizza, roasted onion and Reggiano Parm pizza, and crushed tomato-oregano-garlic pie were all superb, and the price point is what keeps the people coming without a second thought. The quality is what makes 'em wait and wait and wait without breaking a sweat. Everyone needs to check out PB, one of the truly great VPN pizza places in the country. Bianco is a true master with more passion for what he does than anyone I have met in a long time.
Up in Seattle, I checked out Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie. Not a VPN pizzeria, so Tom is not yoked to anything other than his own standards, which are pretty darn high. Serious Pie is impressive. Gossamer light calamari salad, superb ribbolitta, rustic duck liver pate, and locally raised field greens in a sherry wine vinaigrette. The wood-fired pies come out irregularly shaped and topped with superb ingredients. I ate a house-cured guanciale pie with baby arugula and two eggs, which are cracked and roasted as the pizza bakes. Killer stuff. And the pizzas bake at at 600 degrees versus Bianco’s 800-plus oven, so the crust and the ingredients have a chance to spend a little more time in contact with the heat, a nice change of pace from my usual VPN addiction.
Back closer to home, Chef Steven Trojahn is no longer at Cosmos at the Graves 601 Hotel. Half my pals say he left and is looking for a new gig (Cue perhaps?), the rest say he was shown the door. Sign of the times perhaps? Well, one well-placed friend of mine pointed out that The Graves still hasn't replaced the front office manager let go in early February, and it has dropped the rates on the web almost 40 percent. Don’t let that shock you, however; this is an industry-wide fact of life.
So who is not discounting rates and reorganizing kitchen staffs? Pizzerias and sandwich shops, that’s who. BTW, a few weeks ago, I asked a question about local diners in relation to Paradise Pup in Chicago. I wondered if locals here would wait on line for a half-hour in the snow for a burger or dog like they do at PP. So I’ll try again: Would you wait four hours in Minnesota for any food experience at all? I think we wouldn’t. But at Bianco’s, they have been dealing with three- to four-hour waits five days a week for fourteen years. Interesting.