The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Great restaurant, pity about the massive theft

The owners of one of the West Loop's hippest restaurants fled the country, leaving behind $1.5m in debts and judgments and nearly bankrupting the chef:

One day last summer, sometime after Attila Gyulai and his wife and business partner abruptly shut what was once one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago, they abandoned their Ford Flex SUV in front of their River West home. Police ticketed the car two​ weeks later and impounded it in mid-August. By then, bank records later would show, their accounts had been used for a series of payments outside the United States. The co-owners of Embeya, a progressive Asian restaurant in the West Loop that won national accolades for its inventive cooking and sleek design, have not been seen in Chicago since.

In all, Cook County court documents show, they absconded​ with more than $1.5 million from the restaurant, which was owned in part by their former chef, Thai Dang, and Dang's older brother, Kenny. The couple also racked up personal and business debts to purveyors, banks, suppliers, landlords, attorneys and credit card companies, according to court records, bank statements and interviews with more than a dozen former colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors. They've been ordered by judges to pay the Dang brothers nearly $1.5 million to cover their losses.

Dang, 32, and his wife, Danielle Dang, 36, who are about to open their next restaurant, have tracked Gyulai and Patel's movements through bank records obtained with a subpoena. They say it's clear the two schemed to take money from the business​ far in advance of their departures. "He threw his life away here—burned it with a match, all in the name of money," Thai Dang says. "He went through painstaking efforts and a great extent to hide money and move it out so nobody could find it." Adds Danielle Dang: "What they did to us is unspeakable. It takes so much hate and effort to do something like that to another person."

It was a great restaurant, and I ate there many times. And I hope Gyulai and Patel are apprehended and remanded to Chicago soon.

But is Chicago really a rib town?

I forgot to mention this article in today's Tribune:

Short of ripping raw flesh from a freshly killed beast in the wild, meat eating doesn't get much more primal than ribs. Sure, chicken wings also have bones, but they are miniature little things one can pick up with two fingers. You can find them on the appetizer section of the menu. A full slab of ribs lands on the table with a thud, like a declaration of true gluttony. They also function as a fair warning to nearby persons to avoid eye contact as things are about to get messy.

Mention ribs, and most people know exactly what you're talking about: a wide hunk of pork interspersed with long bones. Even without considering how they are cooked (smoked, baked or boiled), you know what they look like. But just as there are different cuts of steak, there are numerous kinds of ribs. Four show up the most in Chicago — baby back ribs, spareribs, St. Louis ribs and rib tips. Baby back ribs come from high on the pig's rib cage near the loin, resulting in lean and tender meat. Spareribs are cut from lower down the rib and are meatier and fattier, with one side featuring a host of bones and cartilage. Trim away that gnarly side from the spare rib, and you have St. Louis ribs. The piece you trimmed away is called the rib tip.

One rule of thumb for Chicago ribs? The more comfortable you are, the less likely it is that you're eating real barbecue.

I now have a new list of places to try this summer. Yum.

Ribfest 2017

I've been a bit busy, so I just got a chance to pull Saturday's Ribfest photos off my phone.

I have to say, this year's fest was a little underwhelming. Some of my previous favorites, like Piggery, didn't present this year. So instead of 10 local restaurants, there were actually only five locals, three catering companies, and two itinerants. Not only, but the suggested donation jumped from $5 to $10 just to get in there. And three-bone samplers now cost $8.

So I only sampled four places this year, and none of them was as good as last year's Piggery bones.

  • Mrs. Murphy's. I mean, I love the sauce, but this year they glooped so much of it onto less-than-perfect meat that I was a little put off. Only 2½ stars this time.
  • Pork Chop. Holy crumpets, the ribs were meaty, with some smoky-spicy sauce that I really liked. 3½ stars.
  • Citizen's American Eatery. First, I don't think they exist; I think it's a temporary brand for a catering company, only I don't know which one. That said, they had really good tug-off-the-bone ribs with a sweet-spicy sauce that they didn't slather on the meat. 3½ stars.
  • River Forest Catering. They had the best meat I had but not the best sauce. And they're a catering company. 3 stars.

I really missed the greats this year: Smoke Daddy, Smoque, and Fat Willy's. I wonder why.

It was 50 years ago today

The Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came to America on 1 June 1967, and changed the world.

As one might imagine, most news organizations have articles about it:

As for me, I received a copy of the LP as a gift probably in 1981, and bought a copy of the CD on 3 November 1988 for $12 (about $25 today). It remains one of my favorite musical compositions—and yes, I'm comparing it to Mozart's Großemesse and Orff's Carminia Burana. And I'm going to listen to it again today.

Latter days of the Republic

"A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

Robert HeinleinFriday

Montana's at-large congressional district will stay Republican after millionaire Greg Gianforte won yesterday's special election by 6 points. This is despite him assaulting a reporter Wednesday afternoon and being charged with the crime:

The Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he is alleged to have slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor on the eve of the state’s special election, breaking his glasses and shouting: “Get the hell out of here.”

Ben Jacobs, a Guardian political reporter, was asking Greg Gianforte, a tech millionaire endorsed by Donald Trump, about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter.

“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he whaled on me once or twice … He got on me and I think he hit me … This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

A Fox News TV team corroborated Jacobs' report.

Reactions immediately split along Republican/everyone else lines:

The Montana donnybrook quickly became a Rorschach Test that highlighted the divide within the conservative media between the serious and unserious outlets. It also showcased how many prominent figures on the right reflexively rally behind Republican politicians, whether the president or a House candidate, even when they are very clearly in the wrong. This is part of a growing tribalism that contributes to the polarization of our political system.

Laura Ingraham aggressively questioned the Fox reporter on her radio show: “You can’t body-slam someone by holding both hands on the neck. That’s impossible…Didn’t he grab him near the neck and throw him down? Just asking.” Acuna held firm: “I saw both his hands go up not around his neck in a strangling type of way, but more just on each side of his neck, just grabbed him. I guess it could have been on his clothes, I don’t know. I can’t say that for sure. But he grabbed him and slammed him down. … He had one hand on each side of his neck.”

And while the news division at Fox covered the story seriously and showed integrity, at least one commentator said on the air that the reporter had it coming.

And then there was this gem, demonstrating what happens when a media outlet becomes a monopoly in a market:

The Montana NBC Affiliate reportedly refused to cover the Gianforte story at all on Wednesday night, a shocking blackout. Irate sources inside 30 Rock appear to have called up New York Magazine’s Yashar Ali to complain: “KECI news director Julie Weindel was called by NBC News to see if KECI would cover the story or had any footage of the Gianforte incident that NBC News and its affiliates could use. … She was unyielding in her refusal to share any footage she may have had access to, or run a report on the story. … Weindel said that they weren’t covering the story, though it was running in outlets across the country at the time, explaining, ‘The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.’ Weindel then added, ‘You are on your own for this.’ … The station was acquired, last month, by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting.”

Here’s why that’s a big deal: Sinclair Broadcasting just struck a deal with Tribune Media to buy dozens of local TV stations. “Already, Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. If the $3.9 billion deal gets regulatory approval, Sinclair would have 7 of every 10 Americans in its potential audience,” Margaret Sullivan explained in a column last weekend. “Sinclair would have 215 stations, including ones in big markets such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, instead of the 173 it has now. There’s no reason to think that the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, will stand in the way. Already, his commission has reinstated a regulatory loophole — closed under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler — that allows a single corporation to own more stations than the current 39 percent nationwide cap…"

Meanwhile, the president appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way at a photo-op yesterday.

Who said Donald Trump would spread poison to everything he touched? Oh right. Everyone paying attention.

Scott Adams on the Comey firing

I was waiting with bated breath to see how Scott Adams would spin last night's Watergate moment into yet another example of the masterful persuasion techniques of President Trump. Like Baghdad Bob standing on the hotel roof, he did not disappoint:

Democrats and the Opposition Media reflexively oppose almost everything President Trump does. This time he gave them something they wanted, badly, but not for the reason they wanted. That’s a trigger. It forces anti-Trumpers to act angry in public that he did the thing they wanted him to do. And they are.

Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.

Except, Democrats didn't want Comey fired. We were pissed off at him, sure, and had a lot of criticism for him, sure. But all of that was subordinate to the institutional integrity of the FBI.

Later Adams invents "the media" "turning on" Comey after the firing. I don't know what media he's seeing, but in the MSM (New York TimesWashington Post, etc.) I'm seeing the opposite.

Adams' credibility on Trump suffers every time he spins his "master persuader" crap, but I still read his blog for entertainment value. I am curious, however, when Adams will stop pointing out cognitive dissonance in everyone else and recognize it in himself. Even if Trump has unusually powerful persuasion skills, he can still be incompetent and unfit for office. And Occam's Razor suggests, given the evidence so far, that Comey's firing was less about persuasion and more about Trump being an amateur.

We'll see. Adams did predict Trump's win, after all. Let's see what he thinks after more of Trump's corruption, incompetence, and destruction of American institutions comes to light.

Last chance to see

If you're in the Chicago area, today is your last chance to see the Apollo Chorus "American Masters" concert.

We're performing Jeff Beal's "Salvage Men," with Beal himself in attendance (and playing flugelhorn on his "Poor in Sprit" later in the concert). Tickets are still available, $35 at the door ($15 for students), this afternoon at 3pm at Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston.