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Just In Time To Fatten up For Winter

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 11, 2005 10:04PM


This constant overcast gray and slightly nippy air makes for perfect Midwestern eating weather. Hot on the heels of autumn arriving is a slew of food news guaranteed to pack fifteen pounds on you in all the wrong places:

- On Friday Rick Bayless officially stakes claim to a small parcel of the seventh floor food court at Macy Field's with the opening of Frontera Fresco (which is getting a final polish behind the screens in the photo). Expect to find Bayless-approved tortas, huaraches, quesadillas, and other recipes he learned about in Mexico or Pilsen-based carnitas shops. The Frontera-branded line of organic chips, salsas, and other products will also be available for sale.

- Large business conglomerates wanting to keep news their relocation to Chicago a secret should not talk to one Paul O'Connor. The executive director of World Business Chicago, at a City Hall news conference yesterday announcing $9.6 million in subsidies to relocate the corporate offices of Mittal Steel to Chicago, suffered from Daleyitis and spilled the beans regarding the opening of a Gatorade Sports Institute in the Reid-Murdoch building (325 N. LaSalle). Gatorade's parent company, PepsiCo, already has a Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Barrington, and its presence in River North would bring tax dollars and possible R&D jobs to the city. Gatorade spokesmen would only allow that they've been "looking" at the Reid-Murdoch building and that it isn't a done deal yet. If the premature announcement by O'Connor somehow sours the deal he may have to ask himself is it in him... to keep his mouth shut?

- From the "well, DUH!" department: The Metro Chicago Information Center, a non-profit research firm, examined race and income factors with major grocery stores and pharmacies across the city and determined that poor residents on the city's South Side lack the same availiability and access to major grocery stores than North side residents have (note: that link opens to a 41-page PDF file of the report that we're still reading). However, those same poor South Side neighborhoods are teeming with an abundance of liquor stores and fast-food restaurants. The working term to describe the disparity used in the report is "commercial desert." The main factor in the study appears to be income- more affluent South side neighborhoods tended to have better access to grocery stores that depressed neighborhoods.

The study suggests that a retailer's location- think Dominick's at one end of the spectrum and a corner grocery at the other- attracts businesses with similar consumers in a chain reaction. Since corner groceries are more convenient they can charge more, which could account for why black families spend 13.9 percent of their income on food and hispanics 16.5 percent. It's believed that this is the first study to quantify the problem across a large cross-section of the city- 75 neighborhoods in all.

This report should be all the ammunition that community groups and local politicians need to spur economic growth in their neighborhoods, but we'll take a cautious "wait-and-see" approach until then.