Posts Tagged Chicago Sun Times

Today is Ground Hog Day and also national Ground Hog Job Shadow Day; we will be out at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences with legenday broadcaster and cattle rancher. Bill Kurtis

Stella Foster

Stella’s column

February 2, 2006



TODAY IS GROUND HOG DAY — and “Ground Hog Job Shadow Day,” where thousands of high school students from around the country visit businesses to observe us working stiffs.

TOP BROADCAST documentarian Bill Kurtis visits the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, the only public school in the state to be located on a farm, with five cows and a real ground hog in residence. Kurtis is also owner of a cattle ranch and head of the Tall Grass Beef Co. (And that’s no bull!) Eli’s Cheesecake king Marc Schulman, a staunch supporter of the high school, and Jill Wine-Banks, head of the Education to Careers Office of the Chicago Public Schools, will also be on hand.

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Passion to the Core–Sun Times feature on Peter Klein and Seedling Orchard

This summer we were fortunate to have Peter Klein of Michigan’s Seedling Orchard be our guest speak for our Summer Entrepreneurship Program with Wright College and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Klein has made a very successful conversion from marketing executive to orchard owner. Check out his web site at www.seedlingfruit. com.

Congrats, Peter!


Passion, to the core


September 21,





Peter Klein’s “office” is just as he likes — it’s outdoors; it’s like a giant fresh bowl of fruit boasting red raspberries, pears, plums, peaches and apples; it’s visited by friendly and loyal customers, and it’s appropriately casual permitting his attire of khaki Bermudas, mules and a T-shirt emblazoned with “irresistible.”

Klein, who resides in Roscoe Village, is the gentle mastermind of Seedling Orchard in South Haven, Mich., and the congenial entrepreneur who hauls his vine-ripe, ready-to-eat fruit to many Chicago area farmers markets from Memorial Day through Labor Day and into December.

From January through March, he becomes CEO extraordinaire planning for the next season’s harvest, purchasing 250 new fruit trees annually, and overseeing www.seedlingfruit. com, Seedling’s Web site.

Fruit is more than Klein’s business — it’s his passion.

His voice croons as he discusses apples, his pride and joy. He’s ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic, that his Jersey Mac, Paula Red, Red Cort, Gala, Senshu and Honey Crisp varieties are early this season.

Early on Saturday mornings, he’s at renowned Green City Market on the edge of Lincoln Park chatting with his customers — neighborhood residents with their dogs in tow and pastry chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants including Charlie Trotter’s — about the varieties of gorgeous fruit neatly arrayed in front of him. He willingly slices samples, bags the chosen fruits, notices but ignores the poachers who help themselves to “free” handfuls of raspberries, and answers question after question.

What’s he most frequently asked? Klein runs his hand through his curly light hair; his devilish blue eyes twinkle as he answers, “At other markets, the No. 1 question is ‘How much?’ Here [at Green City], the most common question is ‘Is it sweet?’ ”

The 40-year-old owner of 83 acres of fruit trees (including 2,745 apple trees and 1,692 peach trees) has a pat answer to the “Is it sweet?” question. “If it’s a Seedling fruit, it’s sweet,” he says, no ifs, ands or buts. And this year, despite the lack of rain in Michigan, his fruit is sweeter than ever.

Klein, with 14 years of food marketing experience, bought the 100-year-old orchard two years ago after learning that his favorite fruit vendors were retiring and selling their orchard.

Though initially thinking his decision was “insane,” Klein jumped into the orchard business head first. Seedling developed The Science of Sweetness to ensure the sweetest fruit available. Seedling fertilizes the soil to feed the trees and heavily trims branches that allow the trees to put energy into fruit development and allows more sun to shine on the fruit. “Those huge peaches are the result,” says a proud Klein.

Klein demonstrates a refractometer, an instrument used in the wine industry to measure a fruit’s BRIX index (the sweetness of its juice).

“Sugar in fruit only develops on the trees. Fruit never gets sweeter after it’s picked,” instructs Klein. What’s the perfect BRIX level? “We don’t know yet, but we tingle when we hit 16 percent for apples and 20 percent for pears, but each fruit and each variety will be different,” explains Klein. He’s pumped that his early apples measure 16 percent, up 2 percent from last year’s harvest.

It’s the sweetness and ripeness of Seedling fruit and Klein’s business sense, charm and charisma that have made pastry chefs his devoted customers. “He’s the best!” exclaims Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate. “I use his peaches, apricots, everything.” After hearing Klein’s seconds-only sales pitch about his golden pears, Segal responds, “I’ll take some for my pear tartlets!”

Kate Neumann, pastry chef for mk restaurant, is enthralled by the sweetness of Klein’s products, especially his blueberries and apricots. “It’s like he has this magical parcel of land that has honey in the soil,” says Neumann who used Seedling strawberries, red raspberries, plums, peaches and apricots on mk’s Summer menu.

She will feature Seedling apples in a Roasted Caramel Apple with Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Creamy Caramel Sauce on the restaurant’s Fall menu.

Klein, who has purchased a cider mill to produce what he calls “varietal” cider (cider made from several varieties of apples), enjoys creating recipes at home on his rare Sundays off though he admits, “I have less fruit at home than you would think. I keep forgetting to bring it home! My wife, Stephanie, says she’s like the shoemaker’s wife.”

The father of daughters Mikaela, 7, and Olivia, 5, explains that one of his tasks is to produce goodies from the blemished fruit he doesn’t sell. “So I’ll take a bucket of blemished peaches and cook them down for 12 to 14 hours to make fruit leather.”

His other suggestions for using good fruit before it goes bad include:


  • Make a simple sauce; whirl the fruit and use the sauce for desserts.
  • Make jellies and jams.
  • Churn it or mix it into sorbets or ice creams.
  • Make tarts, turnovers or pies
  • Prepare fruit juice or fruit smoothies.
  • Dry into chips.
  • Make a fruit salsa.
  • Make fruit-flavored butters or cream cheeses for bagels, breads, and scones.
  • Freeze it until you decide how to use it.

What does the Deerfield native think people should know about apples? “Most people think there are baking apples or eating apples. I think every apple is good for baking and good for eating.”

A customer with a Yorkie peeking from her market basket holds up a perfectly shaped apple and interrupts to ask, “Are these sweet or tart?” It’s the moment Mr. Apple lives for.

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Eli’s Cheesecake Festival highlighted as a top culinary pick for the weekend by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times

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Taste: Alligator, Goat, Plenty of Cheesecake–in the Sun Times and then South Side Tee-ball at the White House

We were delighted that the Chicago Sun Times on Sunday highlighted our Taste of Chicago & Eli’s Cheesecake 25th Birthday Cake with Mayor Daley.

The Mayor had a busy weekend as he went from Taste of Chicago on Saturday to the White House on Sunday to see a Chicago team from the South Side Little League tee-ball team play on the South Lawn. Congratulations to President Bush for his vision in creating the Helping America’s Youth Initiative. The Chicago team is called the “Memphis Red Sox” after one of the teams in original Negro League and was the first Chicago team to play in this program which debuted at the White House in 2001.

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Eli’s Cheesecake honored to be a “Best Bite at the Taste of Chicago” by Pat Bruno in the Sun Times


I have studied the Taste of Chicago menu, and here are my four-star food choices, the restaurants I plan to take a bite out of during my visits to Taste. (Booth number in parentheses)

· The jerk chicken at Maxine’s Jamaican Cuisine (16)

· The bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut at Polka Sausage & Deli (13)

· The barbecue pulled turkey at Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs (19)

· The BBQ chicken pizza at Bacino’s Pizza (8)

· The combo beef and sausage sandwich at Buona Beef (22)

· The turtle cheesecake at Eli’s Cheesecake (18)

· The lemon Italian ice at Franco’s Ristorante (34)

· The wild boar sausage at Grizzly’s Lodge (1)

· The grilled chopped lime chicken salad at The Grill on the Alley (51)

· The curry goat with rice and peas at Maxine’s Jamaican Cuisine (16).

· The sesame beef on a stick at The Noodle Vietnamese Cuisine (15)

At the Buckingham Fountain restaurant pavilion, I will get a sample of the Wagyu (Kobe) strip steak with mashed potatoes served by the Saloon Steakhouse (June 24); the fricassee chicken with Dijon mustard served by Cyrano’s Bistrot (June 26), and the Gigi salad served by the Palm (June 28).

Pat Bruno

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Restaurants hoping for a Sugar High—Eli’s Cheesecake Featured in Sun Times Article on the National Restaurant Association Show

Restaurants hoping for a sugar high

May 23, 2005


went through a low-cal craze in the ’80s, and we’ve experienced the low-carb kick in the years since 2000.

Well, we are now ready to embrace our sweet tooth again: After decades relegated to the back page of the menu, it looks like desserts are back.

That was especially evident Sunday during the annual National Restaurant Association show taking place through Tuesday at McCormick Place.

Lined against the walls of the building were cases and cases — measured in yards, not feet — of sugary goods.

That’s no accident. The rise in desserts comes as more Americans kick their dieting and return to sensible eating habits — even if that means a sweet treat now and again.

Fewer people dieting

According to the NPD Group, a national research firm specializing in people’s eating habits, about 20 percent of Americans were on a diet toward the end of 2004. That’s down from highs of nearly 30 percent in the earlier months of the year.

Even Chicago’s famed Eli’s Cheesecake is putting a new face on some of its original products. This year, in honor of its 25th anniversary, the firm has re-introduced three of its cheesecakes — Hawaiian (pineapple coconut), cinnamon raisin and cherry vanilla — and added a modern look to them.

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Bill Zwecker in the Sun Times highlights Dick Durbin’s Visit to Eli’s Cheesecake World

Reports of housewife, Vader romance wrong

May 23, 2005


SEEN ON SCENE: Sen. Dick Durbin toured Eli’s Cheesecake World Friday and checked out the 2,500-pound cheesecake Eli’s is baking for the upcoming 25th anniversary Taste of Chicago — before joining his Illinois colleague Sen. Barack Obama for a town hall meeting with Veterans Secretary Jim Nicholson and military vets at Wright College.

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Eli’s the Place for Steak get three stars from Pat Bruno in the Chicago Sun Times

When you have been around for almost 40 years, you don’t get reviewed very
often. Today Pat Bruno wrote the following review for Eli’s the Place for Steak
in the Chicago Sun Times. We certainly agree with him that “we need restaurants
like this that offer comfort without getting cute.”



April 22, 2005



I can’t imagine how much more there is to say or write about Eli’s the Place
for Steak. Well, now that this venerable Chicago steakhouse is about to go away,
that the building that housed the restaurant for all these years is being
wrecked by that big iron ball, I felt I should write about it one more time, and
to bid it a fond farewell before the closing scheduled for sometime this

Few restaurants survive as long as Eli’s has. What makes a restaurant stick?
Consistency is one thing. The ability to please customers day in and day out,
year in and year out. It’s a lot harder to make it work than one might

Over the years, Eli’s has been a consistently good place to dine. It never
went over the top or got too crazy.

There is the ongoing sushi craze, which for makes a steakhouse seem like a
fish out of water. Then there are all of those restaurants that are wannabe
nightclubs (and vice versa), magnets for the young and eclectic, where it’s as
much about fashion as it is about food.

That’s fine. I would be the first to admit that with so many new restaurants
popping up, Eli’s fell off my culinary radar screen. I knew it was still viable,
but I never got around to going there a whole lot.

So it was off to Eli’s. I needed a fix, and I felt a need to give it my kind
of sendoff. And, not so surprisingly, I had a great time. No surprise, because I
know that owner Marc Schulman not only knows how to fashion great cheesecakes,
but takes pride in the legacy of the place and the name on the sign over the

The Eli’s story can be traced back to 1940 when Eli Schulman opened Eli’s
Ogden Huddle on Chicago’s West Side. He soon followed with Eli’s Stage
Delicatessen on Oak Street and Eli’s the Place for Steak in 1966. It was there
that Eli created his now famous cheesecake, which made its debut on July 4,
1980, at the first Taste of Chicago.

In the scheme of things, and the way restaurant pricing has been escalating,
Eli’s is a good deal. For example, consider this from the prix-fixe part of the
menu: Soup (chicken and matzo ball) or salad (mixed greens with balsamic
dressing). Choice of entree: strip loin stir fry or oven roasted salmon or
chicken Vesuvio. Dessert is cheesecake. The price is $25. Another prix-fixe deal
offers similar choices, with the entrees being filet mignon or boneless ribeye.
The price is $39.

OK, so these deals are for the early birds (5-6:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-6
p.m. Friday-Saturday), but if you are off to a play or a movie, it’s a good

Steaks and meat are the foundation of the menu — filet, T-bone, bone-in rib
chop, Wagyu, New York strip, double-cut pork chop, rack of lamb. But there is
more. When was the last time you saw chateaubriand for two on a menu? Or calves’
liver with sauteed onions? And, that Chicago classic, shrimp de Jonghe?

Eli’s is still working with that classy old supper house tradition that
requires some type of relish tray up front. Shortly after the bread basket
appeared, a freebie plate filled with velvety chicken liver pate, cucumbers and
carrots hit the table. Openers included a fine-tasting maple-cured gravlax of
salmon with potato pancake, homemade apple sauce and orange-honey creme fraiche.
Fine eating from one end of the plate to the other, the gravlax marvelously
flavorful, and the citrus-flavored creme fraiche an excellent complement to the

Fine chicken soup here. Deep chicken flavor in the broth that was riddled
with chunks of carrots. The matzo ball (bigger than a golf ball) hulking in the
soup was as light as a feather.

A salad of note is the Bibb lettuce affair. Tender leaves of lettuce were
arranged with chips of smoked bacon and one of the classiest dressings of all
time — green goddess. Nice going. My alternate choice would be the Iceberg
wedge with Russian dressing. A couple of very good entrees crossed our table one
night. The bone-in rib chop “Cowboy Max.” Excellent steak (Eli’s uses Allen
Brothers for its steaks, one of the best purveyors of beef around). Rich, deep
flavor, buttery and beautiful.

Right up there with the steak for delicious enjoyment was the double-cut
organic chop. The menu states that the chop gets a brown sugar brining, a
technique that jump-starts the flavor of the pork but doesn’t overwhelm it with
sweetness. A honey-mustard and tamarind glaze gave the chop another kick of

Unless Schulman finds a new location for Eli’s, I figured that this would be
my last chance to have the whitefish the way it is done here. Nothing special,
mind you, just broiled and served with a properly tangy lemon sauce and crispy
capers. I am not a big whitefish fan, but I am good to go with this version.

A la carte on the veggies and potatoes. Skip the creamed spinach with leeks;
it is overdone flavor-wise. Don’t skip the pan-roasted bok choy — it’s
wonderful. On the spud end of things, the “famous” hand-cut cottage fries are a
must. These are potatoes that actually taste like potatoes. The equally famous
potato pancake is another delicious option.

Cheesecake is just about it for dessert. But the choices and flavor
combinations are amazing. Bailey’s, tiramisu, pineapple upside down, turtle,
apple Bavarian and lots more. Turtle is the way to go — gooey, rich, lush,

I am giving Eli’s 2-1/2 stars for its food, and a half star for being Eli’s
and giving us some good food and good times for all these years.

Pat Bruno is a local free-lance writer, critic and author.







215 E. Chicago; (312) 642-1393




Appetizers, $8-$12; entrees, $18-$39; desserts, $6.59-$8.



Lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Dinner, 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday;
5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.



Garage adjacent with validation for reduced price. Wheelchair accessible.



Salmon gravlax, chicken and matzo ball soup, bone-in rib chop, double-cut
pork chop, cheesecake (any flavor will do it).



Sturdy yet creative menu with a lot of new ideas fashioned by chef
Michael Tsonton. Starched tablecloths and napkins, casually comfortable,
pleasantly quiet. If a new location is found for Eli’s, I might suggest that it
be cloned. We need restaurants like this that offer comfort without getting

Pat Pourri

April 22, 2005




Salad days: Green goddess
dressing is a mixture of mayonnaise, anchovies, tarragon vinegar, parsley,
scallions and garlic. It was created in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the
1920s. The hotel chef named the dressing after English actor George Arliss
(above), who was staying at the hotel while appearing in the play “The Green
Goddess.” Arliss, so the story goes, had a robust appetite that was made more
robust by San Francisco’s great weather.

Saucy selection: One of
the more interesting aspects of Eli’s menu is the sauce and salt options that
you can pair with the steak of your choice. The sauce choices range from five
peppercorn to classic Hollandaise. The salt selection is all part of the gourmet
salt trend. Pick from an exotic range that goes from fleur de sel to Maldon
English Crystal Sea Salt. It’s all about flavor, but frankly, a great steak can
make it on its own

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Stella Foster reports in the Chicago Sun Times on State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka’s wager of Eli’s Cheesecake

Stella’s column

April 7, 2005


JUDY, JUDY, JUDY: Our feisty state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka
made a bet with the North Carolina state treasurer, Richard Moore, on the
outcome of Monday’s NCAA basketball championship in which our awesome Illini
team lost to North Carolina 75-70.

If I lose, I will pay him one Eli’s cheesecake , one bushel
of southern Illinois peaches and one dozen Parky’s Chicago hot dogs,” Topinka
told this reporter. “If he loses, he pays me one eastern North Carolina barbecue
dinner consisting of chopped pork barbecue in a vinegar-based sauce and a couple
of dozen hush puppies.”

Pay the piper, Judy, it ain’t like you bet the farm . . . or the State of
Illinois Building!

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Check out which stars got Eli’s Cheesecake for the holidays–from Bill Zwecker in the Sun Times

December 22, 2004




FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Former Chicagoans are getting a taste of home –
thanks to folks like Joe Mantegna and Second City’s favorite ‘den
mother,’ Joyce Sloane, who have shipped Eli’s cheesecakes to Gary
Sinise, William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Dennis Franz, Richard Kind, Jim
Belushi, George Wendt, Fred Willard, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch
and Nia

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