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Feature Fri Mar 30 2007

Ham and Lamb Week: Foodie Fun for Easter and Passover

For both Jews and Christians, it's a big week for a big meal. Whether you're hiding the afikomen or stashing plastic eggs, we've got plenty of ideas for Chicago folk to dine out or in on the holiday.

If you must dine out for one of these holidays, get on the stick and make reservations now. Easter Sunday brunches are booked up notoriously early. Your Mother in Law spent three days shopping for a new hat and if she doesn't get to wear it, it will be all your fault.

This one is available on eBay if you'd like a bonnet for yourself.

Easter Brunch

Any Easter Brunch venue will undoubtedly be swimming with kids tugging at their formal frocks and reeling on sugar highs, so it's best to just get in the spirit of things. Suck down your free Mimosa and have your picture taken with the giant bunny. Tip your servers generously. It's the worst day of the year for a waiter and it's everything they can do to stay cheerful. Smile and throw them a Hamilton up front to keep the Bloody Marys flowing.

The Ritz Carlton Dining Room
160 E. Pearson
$95 adults, $30 kids


The Ritz Carlton is a stately spot to celebrate with an enormous buffet and classy presentations. It's decidedly more civilized than your average sprawling spread and the atmosphere may inspire rowdy tots to use their inside voices. The little ones will probably enjoy the special childrens' buffet, but grown ups should give it the once over too to make sure they're not missing out on something good. For kids, the best bet is the first seating at 11am, but you'll want to arrive early for the 9am egg hunt. Additional seatings are at 2pm and 5pm.

The Conrad
521 N. Rush St.
$75 adults, $25 kids

I have it on good authority, from the Easter Bunny's publicist, that he will in fact be making an appearance at The Conrad's brunch between 11am and 3pm. He plans to oversee an egg hunt and assist the young-uns with their choices on the special kids menu. Grown ups can enjoy a full selection of elegant chow and cocktails as well.

shop1bin36.jpgBin 36
339 N. Dearborn
$38 adults, $18 kids

Sure there's the big buffet of brunch goodies and a design your own omelet station, but even better is the buffet o' booze at Bin 36. If you prefer to get your fruit servings from wine, this savvy spot offers Bloody Mary and Mimosa flights to compliment your plate of yummies. Junior foodies can get in on the fun with juice and milk flights too.

Cater Your Seder; Get Easter Delivered

Most folks prefer to celebrate Passover in the home, but the formal seder is quite an undertaking for a single cook. No need to fret, have the full kosher kit and kaboodle prepped for you to reheat and plate on your own fancy dishes. Hosting Easter is easy as pie if all you have to do is make a phone call. You can even stash the delivery containers and pass it off as your own handiwork, if you like. Cleaning your place is work enough, let these folks do the cooking for you. All require advance notice and order cut offs are rapidly approaching, especially for Passover, so call now. Seriously.

flavors.bmpFlavors at Northshore Cookery
Port Clinton Square
Highland Park

Folks in the north 'burbs can order all of the traditional dishes and trimmings by the quart or pound from Flavors. Get just the amount you need for your gathering and call ahead for easy curbside pick-up. Inventive Passover offerings include Roast Chicken Roulade with Apricot Mazo Stuffing and Mushroom-Potato Kugel, as well as the traditional Chicken Mazo Soup and Haroset.

Start your Easter morning with a Crab and Asparagus Strata or serve up a fancy dinner with Brown Sugar Glazed Ham and Herbed Leg of Lamb with Mint Chutney. Desserts and wine are also available. They'll even dye a dozen eggs for you and arrange them in a basket with a bow for eight bucks. Get the whole thing delivered for just $10 to most homes in the area.


Fox & Obel
401 E. Illinois St.

So busy that you can't even make decisions on what to order? No worries! Get a complete Passover dinner for 12 from Fox and Obel for $350. No need to hunt down a lamb bone or horseradish root, they'll even fix up a traditional Seder Plate for just $12. Mazo Ball Soup, Cider Braised Beef Brisket, Haroset, Kugel and lots more with a minimum of fuss.

You can also have a full Easter brunch or dinner delivered to you in the city for a small fee. Start your Sunday with a Poached Norwegian Salmon Tray and a Tuscan Frittata or show off a Hardwood Spit-Roasted Leg of Colorado Lamb and Spring Vegetable Soccotash for dinner.

Valet parking is free, in case you wanted to ogle their other gourmet goodies or select a few wines to complement your feast.

Whole Foods Lakeview
3300 N. Ashland Ave.

Each location has different offerings for the Spring holidays, but the Lakeview store has very reasonably priced packages and a relatively painless parking garage. Get Crème Brûlée French Toast, Vanilla-Infused Fruit Salad and Quiche Lorraine that serves 4-6 for just $69.99. Jews and Christians alike might enjoy the Herb Roasted Lamb Dinner with Mint Fruit Chutney, Julienne Vegetable Medley, Dauphinoise Potatoes and Spring Berry Salad at $99.99. It may not be fully Kosher, but you can be sure that its mostly organic and free of nitrates and additives.

Sisters are Doin' It for Themselves; Cookin' the Whole Thing

OK, maybe you're not "comin' out of the kitchen," you're heading back in there. But it's by choice, dammit! You like to cook and actually enjoy planning everything from the menu to the music. Good for you! Bon Appetit and Gourmet team up at to give you plenty of recipes and tips on decor, activities, and cocktails. As an added benefit, you can always escape to the kitchen to check on a dish if you're family starts to drive you crazy. Stash a bottle of bubbly in the fridge just for you and your favorite sibling to hit if Grandma suggests you get a perm.

Mark Bittman's Sophisticated Seder

The Minimalist himself has a traditional menu with a few modern twists to keep a gourmand happy. Best of all, he provides a three-day time line to help you organize your shopping and preparations. Round it out with some Kosher wines that actually taste like wine, or keep it old school with Manischewitz or Mogan David.

Colin Cowie's Easter Brunch

Yes, he plans parties for Oprah and the like, but this fancy pants menu doesn't require a celebrity paycheck. Follow Colin's guide for organizing an egg hunt, arranging a whimsical table with green apple place cards, and whipping up a variety of Champagne cocktails.

Be a Hero with Your Hostess

Getting off easy this year? You lucky dog. You've been invited as a guest to a formal seder or an elegant Easter dinner and you don't even have to do the dishes. Get in good with your host with a simple gift of wine or a deluxe bunny basket. Grandma always did like you best.

Kosher Wine Flight

traditional_productsmanisch.jpegKosher wine is decidedly less crappy than it used to be. Some terrific wineries are now offering reds and whites that are flash pasturized instead of boiled that preserve more of the traditional wine flavors and let observant Jews enjoy a nice glass on the holidays. The traditonal passover ceremony involves four glasses of wine plus one for Elijah. Perhaps you can organize a four wine flight of Kosher vino for the table as your contribution to the meal? Best to check with your hosts regarding ample glassware, though. You can even begin the evening with a Kosher offering of real Champagne. Laurent Perrier and Nicolas Feuillatte both have a lovely kosher non-vintage Brut, but they can be difficult to find. Even more tasty is the Laurent Perrier Brut Rose NV. Try the Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the Chateau Giscours Kosher Margaux for still wine options. If you are a non-Jewish guest headed to a more Orthodox home, best to make sure the wine you bring is labeled mevushal. These are certified to a higher level of Kosher and acceptable for non-Jews to handle and serve.

Bleeding Heart Bakery
2018 W. Chicago Ave.

If you're headed to a vegan home for the holiday, why not bring along a socially responsible treat? The Bleeding Heart Bakery has 75-cent Pate de Fruits in Passionfruit, Raspberry and Plum for an inexpensive gift. Or pre-order a vegan cake decorated like a lamb to make a fun centerpiece for the dessert table.

235_191_largehatbox.jpgVosges Chocolate
520 N. Michigan Ave. or 951 W. Armitage

Mom's are guaranteed to fawn all over the gorgeous Easter Hatbox from Vosges. This Easter basket extraordinaire features 18 Wink of the Rabbit caramels, a half pound of toffee and two Exotic Bunnies in their signature Red Fire and Barcelona flavors. Better yet, you know Mom will share so the whole family can enjoy a piece and pat you on the back for your thoughtfulness. At $77, it doesn't come cheap, but she did raise you and do your laundry for 18 years. If you still live at home, better order two.

Bless you and L'Chaim. May you all enjoy a gathering of friends, family and fabulous food.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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