Make no little plates

Make no little plates

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Smoked prime rib with black garlic butter; grilled broccoli with smoked cheddar cheese sauce; smoked twice baked potato with bacon and crème fraîche (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood,” Daniel Burnham may or may not have said, but he unquestionably lived the declaration.

As does my friend Gary Wiviott—pitmaster at Barn & Company, co-author of Low & Slow, and co-founder of LTH Forum.

Small plates have finally dropped off top menu trends, according to the National Restaurant Association. The trade-only NRA Show opens at McCormick Place Saturday.

Smoked oysters on the half shell, served with house cocktail sauce, not pictured (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)

I do still love tasting menus but there were no little plans or plates at the most recent three-course Pitmaster Dinner—the third in an ongoing series—featuring Templeton Rye, the Iowa-made small batch rye whiskey once “Al Capone’s whiskey of choice.” Gary collaborated with Templeton brand manager Michael Killmer to create paired cocktails, using smoke infused ingredients like smoked pineapple and smoked Cherry Coke syrup.

Bacon-wrapped and goat-cheese-stuffed dates with red pepper sauce (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)

Gary, the Chicago food scene’s Big Man in Black, might well be expected to summon a Smoke Monster of flavor, but he wields his power judiciously. Smoke and char join salt, pepper, and black garlic as yielding assistants in his pyromancer hands.

Prime rib, after (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
The next Pitmaster dinner on May 23 features the legendary Tex-Czech Mikeska sausage, with Tim Mikeska himself in attendance. At our dinner we had the honour of having Barry Sorkin of Smoque BBQ as guest pitmaster-in-residence.
Make no little plans, but try to make reservations: post in the thread on LTH when it’s announced, private message Gary, or email to
You may find magic to stir your blood—and blood pressure.
Smoked Cherry Coke Manhattan and Templeton Rye infused bread pudding (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)