LUSH Interview: 10 Questions with Efrain Cuevas

April 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm (Interviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Clandestino Dining
All over Chicagoland
efrain@chefrain.com

BIO: Efrain Cuevas is one of LUSH on Halsted’s neighbors, and lives right down the street from LUSH Lady Erin, which makes him even more awesome. We first met him slangin’ BBQ with the Honky Tonk crew over the summer in various spots, and have been dying to get in on his Clandestino dinner parties ever since. Originally from Aurora, IL, Efrain has a strong background in all things food. His Mexican family’s cooking inspired him from an early age, and experience tending to–and even slaughtering–farm animals for food was part of his childhood, and it influences his cooking today. Playful and fun, but grounded in a deep respect for farmers and the sourcing of food, Efrain’s style is in tune with the current local food movement. LUSH is so happy to have collaborated with him recently, and we look forward to rockin’ it out with him this summer.

INTERVIEW: Thanks for agreeing to be a part of the Lush Wine & Spirits blog. Please answer the following questions in whatever way you see fit. We want your voice, personality, and opinions to come through!

1) What is the best thing you’ve drank in the last week? What about in the last year?
Last week was a long week, so I must admit that I most thoroughly enjoyed the trio of Heinekens on Saturday night. The best of the year though has to be those cups of Old Rip Van Winkle 107 proof bourbon. I was hanging out with my BBQ buddies and one of the guys insisted we finish the bottle before we left the building, and I happily helped.

2) What do you think is the most underrated grape varietal or region? Overrated?
I’ve tasted some wines from Oregon and Washington State in the past year that have been excellent. I don’t necessarily think they are underrated but I wouldn’t mind seeing more wines from the Pacific northwest at the wine shops. I don’t really feel that any wine is overrated per say, only that certain ones become trendy and popular for some reason or another.

3) Who are your favorite food and wine writers?
Locally, I enjoy reading Michael Nagrant’s writing about food and restaurants. He has an honest perspective and a style that’s fun to read, and I always learn something from his writings. I also enjoy following Mike Sula from the Reader. As far as wine, I’m much more of a fan of drinking it than reading about it.

4) What are your three favorite food cities?
Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The people in these 3 cities take food very seriously. In fact, I’m not sure which one of these cities would win if there was a theoretical food fist fight, but I would have to put my money on Chicago. I’ve never been to NYC and I hear it’s THE food city, but I’ll let you know after I visit.

5) Top three restaurants you revisit all the time in Chicago?
Joy Yee’s Noodle Shop in University Village, Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen, and El President Restaurant on Ashland.

6) What is your most memorable dining or drinking experience?
My favorite dining experiences have all been in Mexico in homes of family members and friends. There’s usually a pre-meal snack of pickled pork skins and jicama salad. I usually hang out in the kitchen helping with the tortillas, more as a premise to taste all the food before the meal. Finally when everyone sits down there’s always a big spread with homemade cheese, a couple salsas, giant avocados, rice, beans, squash, grilled onions, and usually something like chicken mole, pozole, pork ribs in tomatillo sauce, or my favorite – birria. And for dessert, fruit.

7) Between wine, beer, and spirits – when do you reach for each? If you HAD to do without one, which would it be?
I drink wine at dinner parties only, as a rule. Beer happens at the bar when I’m out with friends. The rest of the time I’m drinking bourbon, scotch, tequila, or brandy, depending what mood I’m in. The first to go would be beer though. I’m more of a sipper than a chugger.

8) What is the best thing about your job?
Yes, I work a helluva lot, but the best thing about my job is that it never feels like a job. There’s never a dull moment and I’m constantly challenged and inspired.

9) If you had to describe yourself as a certain wine, what would it be? (i.e. Australian Shiraz – spicy, bold, and seductive. German Riesling – sometimes sweet (but hard to predict if it will be), elegant, and requiring of patience.)
Wow it’s hard to imagine myself as fermented grape juice, so I consulted with shareaglass.com and took their Wine Personality Quiz. Apparently, I am a Pinot Noir!
You have very discerning taste, carrying into your style, relationships and fashion. Like you, the Pinot Noir grape variety is very selective in choosing the perfect conditions, but when these conditions are met, Pinot Noir grapes have and will continue to make the world’s most memorable wines. You are worldly, but you consider one place as your home. As Pinot Noir is tried and tested in a number of wine growing regions around the world, its true home is Burgundy – producing extraordinary wine that will captivate you with one taste.

10) You’re on death row (sorry). What’s your final meal?
I can’t imagine what I would crave at that very moment, but it would have to include ice cold whole milk and warm chocolate chip cookies. I’m also guessing that I would want pizza, thin cracker crust, not too much cheese, slightly sweet and spicy sauce, w/ green olives, tomatoes, and onion. Do I have to wait until I get to death row? Can I just have some cookies now?

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