Comfort Food (and Wine) in America

Presented by:
Chef Susan and Drew Goss,
Owners, West Town Tavern
and Introduced by
Nancy Ross Ryan
Food journalist, editor

West Town Tavern
1329 West Chicago Ave., Chicago

Podcast courtesy of WBEZ’s Chicago Amplified

A conversation about comfort food in America must start with the gathering of Europeans in the southeast portion of the country. There, British landowners, Scotch and Welsh sheepherders, Irish farmers and African slaves first stirred the melting pot that would become American cuisine.

When Susan and Drew Goss opened Zinfandel Restaurant in 1993, they proposed the celebration of “Ethnic American cooking” and they continue that celebration today at West Town Tavern. Their first cookbook, West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food, showcases their culinary passion.

Each American recipe supplies a bit of culinary history, answering questions like: Why did cornbread become so popular in the south, and indeed north of the Mason-Dixon Line? What makes Lemon Chess Pie, Chess Pie? Are biscuits really just for company? How did those culinary traditions fare in the face of mass transit, and women entering the workplace?

What about wine? How did we go from a country of supposed teetotalers to wine drinkers? The Gosses will be introduced by CHC member and food journalist Nancy Ross Ryan, who edited their cookbook.

Following the lecture, please enjoy a tasting of some American treasures as well as a sip or two of wine.


Restaurateurs for almost 30 years, Susan and Drew Goss were high school sweethearts from Indianapolis, who received degrees from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., trained at the New York Restaurant School and returned to Indianapolis to open a carry-out featuring gourmet foods to go that became an acclaimed white tablecloth restaurant. In 1993 the couple moved to Chicago and opened Zinfandel Restaurant, which explored Regional American cooking and featured an all-American wine and spirits list. For almost a decade now, Drew and Susan have called West Town Tavern home.

Nancy Ross Ryan has served as food editor of both, Restaurants & Institutions and Plate magazine. She is the co-author of several cookbooks including The Berghoff Family Cookbook, The Berghoff Café Cookbook, and 250 True Italian Pasta Dishes. She served as editor for the Goss’s .just-published cookbook, West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food.