Today on my lunchtime walk I passed the Chicago Lyric Opera Building, where the James Beard Award Ceremony  was being prepared. The Beards are pretty much the Grammys or Oscars of restaurants in America, complete with the same complaints about homogenity, sexism, lack of outside the box thinking, and awful award shows. If you’ve been reading this column (thank you) you know that I’m one of those filthy people everyone loves to hate. I’m a Foodie. I prefer Culinary Enthusiast, but we don’t get to choose our own epithets.

On April 14th, Homaro Cantu, founder and owner of moto, was found dead by his own hand in his home. The meetings I had with Chef Cantu were very brief. A handshake at a function. A few second snatch of conversation at a ramen contest. And a happy birthday when I dined at his restaurant. I only dined there one time. It was my 31st birthday. It was the most money we’d ever spent on a single meal. I thought about it from time to time over the years, often in not-flattering comparisons to other places. But to hear the news was shocking. I was confused, then sad, then nostalgic. I found myself reflecting on the impact that meal had on my life, and wanted to say something but no medium seemed right.

Going to moto was the first time I was lucky enough to go to a restaurant that (in this case it eventually would) had a Michelin Star. For those who don’t spend way too much time on food blogs, Michelin is not just a tire company. Their annual restaurant guides for various cities/countries have become the touchstone. The nod of a single star from Michelin says that your restaurant is one of the very best not just in your city, but in the world. To receive a second star means that you have reached a level of excellence that makes you a destination, a rare gem. And for those hallowed few that reach three stars, you are a beacon for diners from around the world. Right now only 12 restaurants in the United States hold this distinction. The Michelin Guide holds a power to sway opinion that even Dave Meltzer would be jealous of.

Since that night at moto, back in late 2008, we’ve been lucky enough to “collect” (which I hate for making it sound so tawdry and status chasing. I can assure you I’ve never gone somewhere just for having a star.) 24 stars at 15 restaurants. I’m going to be mentioning a few of them during this week’s review.

But before that, let’s ask some questions of DubDubE:

  1. Will Daddy Paul and Mama Stephanie arrive and ask what the hell is going on around here? Seth has been put into a triple threat match against two of his biggest enemies. Uncle Glen has apparently been hitting the Wild Turkey extra hard given some of decisions he’s making lately. Is this just bad decision making by Uncle Glen, and his comeuppance is forthcoming? Or are there deeper plots afoot? Will we soon learn that Face of the WWE is a more fungible commodity than we thought?
  2. How much will we miss Lana and Rusev when they’re broken up? The leadup for this is like watching a slo-mo car crash. Cena’s going to make Rusev quit, then Rusev is going to be left alone. I’m preemptively angered. No one has reached out for that mythic brass ring with more gusto than Rusev. He owned that character, worked like a maniac in the ring, and brought much greater than normal attention to detail to his performance. And he’s halfway down the track to ending up in comedy sketches. Perhaps the real question is whether he ends up as a Rosebud or getting dance lessons from Fandango. Damn it now I’m pissed off. Show hasn’t even started yet!
  3. How will Wade Barrett blend his nickname of “Bad News” with his new royal status? King Bad News Barrett? Bad News King Barrett? Wade “King of Bad News” Barrett? King Bad News? I am excited to see what happens with this. That’s not true. But on the sliding scale of Raw excitement this is quite anticipated.

Newhart Update: Been preoccupied with other shows this week. Also, get ready soon to see this feature replaced with the Barney Miller update.

Let’s eat! And watch wrestling.

WWE Monday Night RAW
May 4, 2015
Montreal, Quebec

Randy Orton Has Some Brief Thoughts to Share: Randy is talking in threes tonight.

Reigns has been getting positive reactions most of the time. But how will he fare against Orton? Has he been rehabbed enough to not get swallowed by Orton’s popularity?

Well, I guess the RKO chants answered that question pretty clearly. I’m beginning to think that this company really doesn’t like Reigns very much. Every time he starts to get some momentum they do something to grind him to a halt.

Reigns would be much more effective if he were a couple inches taller.

I’m pretty sure that the pages in the script got all mixed up. New Day is at least four or five segments early on this entrance.

Vince is fapping in the back at getting the Montreal Screwjob reference.

This whole segment would have been amazing if it weren’t about to lead to the tag champs losing a 3 on 2 match to WMTTP (Wacky Mismatched Tag Team Partners). Or as some call it, a Russo team. The bit about Rollins having Orton’s number was priceless.

As the show goes to break JBL makes sure to point out “Randy Orton and Roman Reigns can’t get along.” What level is above Captain Obvious? Is he Rear Admiral Obvious?

Starred Restaurants not talked about:

  • Le Bernardin – New York, NY – ***
  • Per Se – New York, NY – ***
  • Graham Elliot – Chicago, IL – **
  • Blackbird – Chicago, IL – *
  • Bonsoiree – Chicago, IL – *
  • Elizabeth – Chicago, IL – *
  • Longman & Eagle – Chicago, IL – *
  • NAHA – Chicago, IL – *
  • Takashi – Chicago, IL – *
  • Topolobampo – Chicago, IL – *
  • WD-50 – New York, NY – *

New Day vs. Randy Orton/Roman Reigns: Booker T keeps mis-stating what the Freebirds Rule is. The Freebirds Rule simply meant that any two of the three members of the team could defend the tag titles. Not that they could use all three members at the same time.

Despite my many food experiences over time, I have never in fact lifted weights for breakfast. Sounds like a trend out of Williamsburg or something.

The crowd enjoys telling New Day that they suck. But beyond that there’s not much interest. Or maybe the crowd just really loves JBL and felt that there was no better time than the present to let him know that.

Forgive me for this, but I think Roman Reigns was feeling a little homesick for Suplex City.

The things this crowd seems to like are: JBL, CM Punk, Randy Orton. Things they like to dislike: New Day. Things they seem to be really not at all excited about: Roman Reigns.

So New Day gets to win, but only because of Roman Reigns hitting his finisher. At least they let Kofi seem somewhat smart by dodging Reigns. At least the announcers are trying to play it up like something important.

Uncle Glen! And he’s back to doing evil things. I give it an hour before the bourbon kicks in and he’s back to acting the fool. Winners: New Day Sucks

And now Seth is pulling the “mommy and daddy are going to be mad at you!” card. And that’s all it takes to get Glen’s dander up. Seth learns the lesson of all teenagers that using facts in an argument will only get you in even deeper trouble. Sometimes you just have to accept you can’t win, storm back to your room, and listen to Avenged Sevenfold.

Ryback And a Very Conveniently Placed In-Ring Promo: I am certain this will not end up in Bray Wyatt appearing.

That was awesome. Ryback took the Goldberg chant, turned it around, and pulled the crowd back on to his side.

There are so many people talking about positive attitudes these days. The New Day is positive. Ryback is all about positivity. Bo Dallas wants everyone to be positive. I’m positive that Ryback is kind of pulling a lot of cliches together here. I’d be madder, but I’m beginning to think that may actually be the way he puts words together. He loves The Secret and PMA and all that. Sure half of his promo was just cliches, but I believe he means it. Authenticity, even when it shows you’re authentically not that deep, is still something I connect with.

Bray Wyatt on the other hand….hoo boy. I just don’t know what’s left for him. He just keeps hanging around with no real purpose. They try to make him seem special, keeping the trappings of his supernatural powers, but they keep putting him in pedestrian feuds.

I know it can’t happen right now, but I wonder if maybe a face run for Wyatt wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Something to get him out of the rut. If he’s feuding with heels he isn’t under the same pressure to be something more than Weird Swamp Guy. A little time as that might give him the space needed to become an effective heel again at some point. Winner: Ryback for playing that crowd 

Restaurant 1: The Gateway Drug – moto  – * – Chicago,IL – This was the one that started it all. I had always been a fan of eating well, but I had deep skepticism of anything that was “experimental” or really even “fine dining.” I was raised in a meat and potatoes home, and I couldn’t fathom that there could be anything other than a fine porterhouse and a jumbo baked at the top of the restaurant pyramid. On top of that I was a very picky eater, and my parents indulged my whims growing up. But in the couple of years before going here, I had been broadening my horizons. Trying things I never would have considered before. I lived in a place that had every possible type of food, and I wasn’t going to look back and say “maybe I shouldn’t have gone to Chili’s every night.” I don’t remember how I first heard of moto, probably from friends who raved about it. Maybe a TV feature on some of the more off the wall courses, like the edible menu. So I decided it was time to take a plunge, even though I was still certain that after dinner I would need to stop for a couple hot dogs or a burger, since there was no way a powerfully bearded eater such as me could be sated with such tiny, delicate courses as these.

Every misconception I had about “fine dining” was obliterated that night. Nobody was stuffy and wearing tuxedos, barking out orders in French. The music was the kind of music I had on my iPod. I remember a lot of Marvin Gaye in particular. The servers were all young people who had tattoos and piercings. The food was designed to be clever and challenging while maintaining a sense of humor throughout. A common theme throughout the meal was examining the way sights and words can influence something as seemingly objective as taste. Plating a dish called Roadkill in a manner evocative of violence and surprise sets the mind up for something harsh and backwoodsy. Not a neatly composed dish with venison and beets as the main components. When the meal ended I could barely get out of my chair I felt so stuffed. In a span of three hours everything I thought I knew about fine dining and modernist cuisine was proven wrong. I’ve gone on to have better meals in my life. But I can never have another first time. Thank you, and rest with the angels Chef Homaro Cantu.

Swing Cats vs. Ascension: So this is Natalya’s look going forward? I’m certainly not going to voice opposition to it.

This week the Ascension appear to be 80’s throwbacks lost in time who are likely to be laughed at and lose in not too much time. If they wait around maybe next month they’ll get to be bad asses again for a week.

I’m sure that the huge cheers for Cesaro’s series of uppercuts was just due to Bizarro World or something like that. Nothing to do with Cesaro being absolutely awesome to watch and having tons of crowd pleasing offense. After all, he’s Swiss. Who likes the Swiss?
Winners: Swing Cats

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins: Every time I see Ambrose lately all I can think of is this clip from Clerks II.

Well then, this could be interesting. If Dean Ambrose wasn’t the guy the Washington Generals look to when they want to feel good about themselves I would be really intrigued.

One of the best parts of this match is the way so many of the moves are having an extra twist, or coming from a different angle. They know each other so well that all of their usual moves are expected by their opponent. Any normal move is scouted.

Perhaps no better example was Ambrose modifying his pendulum clothesline, Rollins still being ready to counter, and catching Ambrose with a buckle bomb into the railing.

Holy crap, Dean Ambrose won a match. The main event of Payback just got a little more interesting. We can commence fantasy booking the Shield reunion starting…now. Renniw: Naed Esorbma (my computer won’t let me put it right order. I installed a block against using phrases that invoke the curses of the Forgotten Gods.)

Oh my, Seth is in full tantrum mode. Uncle Glen has just totally gotten into his head.

Restaurant 2: The Perfect Day – The French Laundry – *** – Yountville, CA –

There’s a scene in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray remembers a wonderful day in paradise, and laments that he is not repeating that day over and over again. If I were to be stuck in a Ramisian Time Loop, I would hope for the day that we went to The French Laundry. To be in Sonoma, in the springtime on a sunny day when the vineyards are having a festival, is to be in heaven. Perhaps it is unfair to factor in such things when looking at a restaurant. But I have only my imperfect memories with which to make such judgments, and I cannot compartmentalize to that sort of degree.

I remember having spent the day touring wineries. I remember hurrying down the highway to get to Yountville in time for our reservation. The joy at seeing old friends who we were going to be dining with. The giddiness at seeing the sign, looking into the kitchen from the garden, and being amazed that such a rustic building in a quiet field could be one of the most revered restaurants in the world.

Seated in a small nook in what could have easily been someone’s living room we had the meal that makes memories carved into stone. With my wife and I each ordering a different menu (one more vegetable focused than the other) we tried over 30 dishes that night. The small details made us giddy with wine-soaked joy. As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean the room became darker and quieter. What I remember was not just the courses that have been raved about for 2 decades now, but the details. How wonderful the bread was, the salt selections that taught me how different salts could be and what they could do to a dish, the care put into non-alcoholic pairings for one of our party. You could not dream up a more perfect combination of place, people, and food than The French Laundry. It is truly a destination one seeks out, and then only reluctantly ever leaves.

Rusev vs. Fandango: Oh please god let this lead to the most epic squash ever. I will not be satisfied unless Rusev keeps the Accolade on until he actually pulls Fandango’s head from his oily body.

Lana’s doing the Fandango dance. Rusev’s taking offense and getting thrown into ringposts.

Sure Rusev won, but we are heading towards a terrible fate.

Winner: Rusev today. Loser: Rusev tomorrow.

Stardust vs. R-Truth: Stardust worked in a Star Wars reference on May 4. Well played.

Booker T stole my Jake the Snake reference. Rest assured I would have done it better.

I like the crowd giving Cody the goalie chant.

Random JBL Eurosport Reference: Stewart Bingham winning his 3rd straight Snooker title.

For a moment the crowd was very excited. R-Truth thought he had finally connected with the crowd. Then he realized that it was just something in the crowd. His heart broke.

The ending involved rubber spiders. There’s no joke to be made here. Winner: Stardust

Restaurant 3: The Markout Moment – Alinea – *** – Chicago, IL – I have met celebrities from the A-list to whatever list indie wrestlers fall into. But in my adult life I have only ever gone into full Newhart stammer markout mode three times when meeting a famous person. The first one was a column theme topic of mine a while back. The second one I am too ashamed to mention. If you want to know, retweet the link to this column when it’s posted. The third time happened just before the 20th course of an extraordinary meal. Alinea is proudly experimental to the point of custom designing most of their presentation materials. Courses come at you from all angles, including bites dangling off wires, set atop scented pillows gradually releasing a fragrance to enhance the course, and sometimes, sometimes it’s just strewn about your table. Like in the final course.

Earlier in the evening I had mentioned to our table captain (given the complexity of presenting some of the courses there were up to eight servers involved in setting up a course for two people) that as it was my birthday it would be nice if we could take home something from the evening. Perhaps have the staff sign the menu or something small like that. He said he would see what he could do. By the end of the meal nothing more was mentioned, and I didn’t mind in the slightest. The evening was impeccable. Then a server came by the table, rolled out a large silicone mat across our table, and smiled as he walked away. A minute or two passed, and I was looking down at my phone when I heard a voice say “So I hear it’s your birthday!” I look up and there’s Grant F’n Achatz in front of me, with various servers holding trays. He proceeded to plate a dessert course on the table in front of me, comprising of what seemed an unending stream of different flavors. It was fantastic. I wish I had said more but I was too amazed at what was happening. Chef Achatz was friendly and funny, staying at the table for nearly 10 minutes despite my having absolutely nothing of value to add at that point. I’m pretty sure my wife was afraid I would leave her to stalk Grant in the plot of the weirdest Lifetime movie ever made. There’s a reason Alinea has held three stars since the first time Chicago restaurants were ranked. It churns out flawless courses night in and night out, and has a mad genius at the helm.

John Cena vs. Montreal: Cena pulling the reverse Hogan is funny.

The crowd is apparently ready for a soccer game judging by the Ole chants.

Cena is the trollingest troll who ever trolled. I would so buy a John Cena “U Mad?” shirt.

Okay, Cena just called out the two dudes behind the announce table who pissed me off. I’m not going to say any other mean things about him tonight.

I think Montreal likes hockey.

John Cena vs….Bret Hart?: I don’t think Bret should be wrestling at his age. Though he did win the US title a few years ago. Maybe he wants one more reign.

He is introducing a great wrestler!

John Cena vs. Heath Slater: The match the world has been waiting for! Tonight it is time for the ONE MAN BAND to claim what is rightfully his.


Poor Heath, he never gets his title shot.


John Cena vs. Sami Zayn: STOP TALKING COLE!

As we go to commercial break, I would encourage you to take a moment and check out “I am El Generico’s Father” by the late (and very missed) Michael Ryan.

This is also a good moment to mention Sami Zayn’s entrance music is absolutely perfect.

Zayn’s exuberance is radiating from him right now.

This was either very unfortunate or a not very good idea to have a doctor looking at Zayn.

One striking thing to me about this is how physically Zayn fits in against Cena. He doesn’t look too small or like some scrawny indy guy. He looks like a WWE wrestler.

I think the injury angle has taken the crowd out of the match somewhat. (Tuesday edit, I guess the injury was legit. I was thrown off by how clearly the X was being thrown up. Thought that was now the code for fake injury.)

There it is! The dive through the ropes into the tornado DDT on the floor!

I was so angry at the ending. And a couple minutes removed from the ending I’m so glad that’s how I felt. They sucked me in, and I was so disappointed for Sami. I know he has bigger and better things to come. I know that he will be on the winning side of many matches, and win titles. But tonight he was able to come home and have a moment he could never have imagined or even dreamt of years ago as a masked jobber. Winner: Sami Zayn. John Cena pinned him. But Sami Zayn won.

New Day being oblivious and Cesaro calling the New Day Sucks chant “infectious” are things that bring me joy.

Naomi is obviously heel. She’s got what WWE considers all the “scary black lady” trappings now. The long hair braids, the black leather, and scowl. And Tamina Snuka.

King Barrett/Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler/Neville: King Barrett it is! Sadly he is not changing his finishing move to lopping off the heads of those he does not care for.

A man kissing another man’s butt cheeks is certainly one of the funniest things in Vince McMahon’s world. Whether it is as funny as hillbillies or nearly naked fat guys is the sort of thing I hope Chris Harrington can quantify one of these days.

This match was a match. What else is there to say? Part 12 of about 40 straight permutations of these four fighting. People tried and flew around and hammers were bulled. Winners: Sheamus/King Barrett

Restaurant 4: The Coolest Place on Earth – Schwa – * – Chicago, IL The answer to the question, “What if we stripped away absolutely everything people know about fine dining, and just be totally ourselves?” You get a mad and mercurial genius in the kitchen, his bare bones crew of cult-like devotees, a sound system heavy on rap and alternative (once we listened to the entirety of Shellac’s 1000 Hurts while eating there), and that’s it. Trying to book there is a herculean task due to Chef Michael Carlson’s complete lack of interest in things like online booking or clearing out the voicemail. When you book, you know there’s a chance that if the crew partied too much the night before you might get a call the next day letting you know your reservation has been canceled (happened to us on our wedding anniversary). There are no hosts, no waiters, no stemware, absolutely none of the traditional things associated with not just fine dining, but most restaurants period. The most beloved dish is not even on the menu, and they have been known to withhold it from patrons who complain about the music. And I love them. Oh, and they may secretly be serving the best food in the country in a little townhouse across the street from a tire shop.

Chef Carlson remembers people. If you come in too soon after a previous visit he will tinker with the menu so that you don’t find too much repetition in your courses. If you go a few times you will find yourself with courses still in the experimental stage, and when he comes to clean the plates off your table (no busboys either) your input will be taken into consideration. Courses are described by the staff and one sure way to make sure they stick around to answer questions is to offer them booze. This is the only Michelin starred restaurant I could ever imagine going to in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. It’s BYOB, and the kitchen does appreciate sharing. Chef Carlson is known to join patrons for shots and then offer up booze from his stock to share. There’s a standard price, but the bill is whatever they feel like charging (below the norm, never above). After canceling we booked the next night and were given essentially a 75% discount. This is fine dining at the coolest party ever, and I will love them forever.

Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton: Kane sure does take his shirt off a lot for a man working in a corporate environment. I can’t help but feel like something in the employee manual is not being followed to the letter.

Jamie Noble should stretch Cole until he cries for that “Mayor of Munchkin City” crack.

I love the way Rollins talks himself into being confident. If he keeps going long enough he will take on anyone in the world. Then he will quickly realize what an awful idea that is and begin to get angry again.

I really wish they would have shown Dean Ambrose just chilling out backstage, eating cereal right from the box, and letting the other two guy get beaten up. But alas, he had to run out.

Ambrose stands tall! I put his odds at +35,000,000 to win the belt. Winner: No contest?

And that ends this tasty edition of Raw. It was a pretty good show, and Sami Zayn’s debut is a moment we will remember for a long time.

Were the questions we had answered?

  1. Will Daddy Paul and Mama Stephanie arrive and ask what the hell is going on around here? Despite the program guide explicitly mentioning that they would be returning and not being happy, we had another week of no HHH or Steph. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something more to this than just them not putting themselves on the show. Too many things are happening. The Shield members are all in closer proximity than they’ve been since the breakup. Kane is acting strangely. And the usually hands-on bosses are nowhere to be found. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
  2. How much will we miss Lana and Rusev when they’re broken up? I think tonight’s show answered this question, and the answer is the sound of quiet weeping borne of despair at seeing the true nature of an uncaring universe. Lana is Fandangoing, Rusev has been reduced to Angry Boyfriend, and 18 months of character development is circling the drain. Glorious.
  3. How will Wade Barrett blend his nickname of “Bad News” with his new royal status? Turns out he went nice and simple, just calling himself King Barrett. I have to admit, I think if he had called himself King Wade I would have laughed every single time he said it. But then I did see a lot of US Acres in my time.

And who won or lost the night?

Ugh: Naomi and Tamina Snuka. Just the laziest booking possible. I mean, we’ve seen Tamina as the heavy now for multiple women. From Naomi’s hair to the immediate move to pair the average sized heel with a bigger than average muscle, to the fact that Tamina continues to be used despite bringing seemingly nothing to the table, it’s all just so so ugh.

Honorable Mention: The New Day have become a very fun team to watch. They’ve embraced the heel role with vigor, and are loving every second of it. Fittingly Big E, who was a heel for a long time, seems to be the happiest of the three to troll the crowd. Kofi and Xavier, both long time faces, still get a twitch or a frown from time to time when the crowd does not, in point of fact, agree about New Day rocking. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for working hard and giving us their usual excellent match. John Cena for working around Zayn’s injury and calling out the due in the pink tank top.

MVP: I don’t care that he seemingly injured himself by celebrating too hard, the MVP tonight is Sami Zayn. Also, notice that the entire crowd was chanting for Sami before he appeared. The idea that WWE fans are almost all children and pure marks, and that people who follow indies and NXT and NJPW are some sort of tiny minority to be ignored grows sillier by the day.

That’s all for this week. Tell me I suck on Twitter @spiffie6123. Retweet this whether you like it or not! OLE!