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Restaurant Fri Feb 29 2008

Lunching at Winberie's

Winberie french onion soup On a recent (relatively) warm winter day, my mom and I ventured out to Oak Park to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio. When it came time for lunch, we headed to Winberie's, a bright and airy yet warm and comfortable cafe on the corner of Oak Park Ave. and Lake St.

Continue reading this entry »

Dana Currier / Comments (0)

Business Fri Feb 29 2008

Half Acre's Magliaro Talks Hops Costs

halfacrehops.jpgBeer lovers, brace yourselves: thanks to bad weather in Europe and a reduction in crops here in the States, there's a severe shortage of hops, one of the key ingredients in beer. As a result, prices have skyrocketed &mdash as much as 600 percent for rarer cultivars.

The increased costs are squeezing smaller brewers in particular. I recently spoke with Gabriel Magliaro of fledgling Half Acre Beer about the situation.

Andrew: I know your beer is contract brewed in Wisconsin; is this bill being passed on to you by the brewery, or are you purchasing ingredients directly?

Magliaro: "Yes, this bill is being passed on to us by the brewery, and we're lucky that we're contract brewed right now because they have long standing relationships and a bit more buying power than we would have on our own. We're having to buy our entire year's worth of hops now because we need to insure that we can continue to brew our beer without compromising quality. Our brewer is asking us to help them out because they can't afford to absorb this kind of spending and are forced to buy this way. We have been actively searching for hops to buy on our own with the hope of buying for our Over Ale (Half Acre's planned second offering]) and beating the price coming down from our brewer, but have been either unable to find the necessary variety of hop or completely blown out of the water when we have. The Saaz hop that we use for the lager was generally found for about $5 a pound. I was just quoted $30 a pound for hop that aims to mimic its qualities."

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Feature Fri Feb 29 2008

Eating in Tahoe

It was around 2:30 p.m. in Lake Tahoe and I was hungry. I'd been up since 4:15 a.m. in Chicago, where it was now 4:30 p.m., and only eaten a peanut butter and jelly with tomato from the Potbelly's at Midway Airport, plus maybe some peanuts on the plane. (This reminds me of the hard time I had ordering peanut butter and jelly with lettuce and tomato at a different Potbelly's another time, when someone kept asking me if I was sure that's what I wanted. Yes, it's an odd combination, especially with the lettuce, but I assure you that the tomato contributes a friendly juiciness.)

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Event Fri Feb 29 2008

Gordon Ramsay Raises Hell in LaGrange

A poster on LTH Forum wrote a summary of his recent experience as a diner at LaGrange's Cafe 36 in the presence of cameras from celeb chef Gordon Ramsay's television show "Kitchen Nightmares," which will be giving the restaurant a revamping in an upcoming episode. Cafe 36's former chef Reinhard Barthel departed last year after disputing with the owner (who was also his father) and ended up at Palermo's in Orland Park, which may be why Britain's Angriest Chef is on the case of improving the restaurant, which has received decent reviews in the past.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Thu Feb 28 2008

Sepia's Pastry Chef Shares Dessert Recipe

Kim Schwenke, pastry chef at Sepia, shares her recipe for Zebra Icebox Cake in the March issue of Food & Wine magazine. Special ingredients like Marsala and marscapone make this dessert a layered delight. The slightly ambitious recipe after the jump.


[Photo by Con Poulos Photography for Food and Wine]

Continue reading this entry »

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (0)

Restaurant Thu Feb 28 2008

Treat

treat.JPG

Years before I even lived in Logan Square, my mother and I unofficially chose Lula Cafe as our default dining option when we would meet up for the day. During a recent visit we formed impromtu brunch plans with some family and I suggested that we all head to Treat rather than wait all morning for a table for 5 at Lula's. Lula may have the best brunch that I have enjoyed in the city, but in the last few years it has become so difficult to get a table that I just don't bother during high traffic times (which is great for them!).

Next time you find yourself beginning the long wait at Lula's, consider heading a mile south on Kedzie to Treat. The owner and chef, Tamiz Haiderali, used to work at Lula's and uses equally fresh ingredients and beautiful presentations. I recently enjoyed their Mushroom, Tomato & Herb Omelet with Toast and Spicy Potatoes for $6.95 (pictured). While the staff is sometimes less than personable, their food is superb. Additionally, Treat is BYOB and they take reservations!

Treat
1616 N. Kedzie
773/772-1201

Gemma Petrie / Comments (0)

News Thu Feb 28 2008

Mmm, Midweek Links

• Time Out thinks you need to drink more. Thankfully, they've got some suggestions.

CakeSpy interviews Claudia Saraniecki of Babushka Bakery on the Northwest Side. [via]

Dish talks to Antonia Asimis, owner of Nia, coming soon to Randolph Street.

Sabo Michoacan in Rogers Park has excellent ceviche says Misty Tosh.

$10 for pumpkin? Sure, if there's pork belly in it.

MenuPages gets a look at Charlie Trotter's in New York.

Suessify your weekend at Marché.

• For the Violet Hour to be a "hidden gem," there would have to be a whole lot fewer articles about the place.

• The Stew asks, How was the coffee after Starbucks' nationwide retraining?

Eating the World hits stalwart Italian Village.

Chicago Bites compare Ethiopian Diamond and Demera.

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Blog Wed Feb 27 2008

CB&J on Sourdough

My friend asked me what I was going to order. There's nothing vegan on the menu, he told me. The CB&J on sourdough drew my eye: "house-made" cashew butter and fig jam on sourdough, pan-fried. But it's got cheese, he said. So I order without. What about the macaroni and cheese it comes with? I ask for fries.

I'd been craving Hopleaf's fries, their greasy softness and crispy ends, ever since I found that I'd be going there, and even though they would certainly seem excessive on a plate next to the house-made, wafer thin and crispy potato chips, which the sandwich comes with. My friend reflected that there weren't many vegetarian options - you might as well be vegan. Our server nodded her head with certainty after I asked for the changes, as she took to her notepad.

The bread was perfectly crispy in certain places, yet soft, and reassuringly warm and oily. Its holes emitted fig jam. I think I felt the tiny, gentle seeds of the fig, adding more texture to the viscous jam. Cashew butter made the sandwich, giving a needed gooeyness and richness, yet subtle enough to nod to the figs and sourdough.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Blog Wed Feb 27 2008

Got a craving for burek?

Evidently, David Tamarkin does, and when he gets the urge, he heads to Deta's Cafe at 7555 N. Ridge. Not that he would ever sit down at a table inside, though. He prefers his burek to go.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Random Wed Feb 27 2008

Faux-dega

Maybe a month or so ago, the Ukrainian Grocery a block from my apartment closed its doors and went out of business forever (after months of slowly selling off all their merchandise at ever-increasing "liquidation sale" reductions). This didn't seem like a huge loss to me, as Ann's Bakery is still a major provider of tin-packed Cyrillic-scribbled goods and sundries for the more Eastern-European of my fellow Ukrainian Villagers. And the Grocery, frankly, always smelled kind of like pee. Anyway, a few weeks ago lights were on in the old space and major renovations seemed to be taking place to open a new shop -- including a sign that eventually went up for "Edy's Bodega." Score! No more walking to the Windy City Market or Farmer's Pride Produce to snag some queso fresco without the big-box mark-up (ahem, Dominicks. I love you, but come on).

Well imagine my surprise walking out of said apartment this morning and landing in the midst of a movie set. Apparently Edy's is not the newest one-stop-shop on Chicago Avenue, but rather a working set of the long-rumored film Humboldt Park, which finally started shooting last week...though apparently not all filming is taking place in Humboldt Park proper. The film's stars include John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Freddy Rodriguez, and Alfred Molina. Filming is set to continue at the Edy's location through Saturday, according to a flyer taped to my building door this morning. I'd trade cheap cheese for a chance to bump into a movie star -- as long as it doesn't make me miss my bus. And I can only hope Michael Mann decides the Edy's Bodega space is the perfect double for a speakeasy in Public Enemies... I would flat-out give up dairy to see Johnny Depp on my stoop. (Well, for at least a few days.)

Andie Cavedo / Comments (0)

Drink Wed Feb 27 2008

North Shore Distillery Tasting @ Binny's South Loop

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For those of you who have yet to try the fabulous spirits created by the local North Shore Distillery, Binny's South Loop will be hosting a free tasting this Friday from 5pm -8pm.

(Their website mentions that they will be adding a brandy to their artisan collection soon!)

Gemma Petrie / Comments (0)

Restaurant Wed Feb 27 2008

Gourmet Magazine: Chicago

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The March issue of Gourmet Magazine highlights Chicago's Prosecco in their monthly restaurant roundup. "Thirty varieties [of prosecco] are on offer; a minurature flute starts each dinner; and the drink finds its way into chef Mark Sparacino's creamy gold-leaf risotto."

Prosecco is currently participating in the Chicago Restaurant Week, offering a $32 prix-fixe dinner menu.

Prosecco
710 N. Wells
312/ 951-9500

Gemma Petrie / Comments (0)

Resource Tue Feb 26 2008

Talkin' Chicken Wings

LTH Forum has a spirited, ongoing (since 2005) debate on where to find the city's best chicken wings, with Evanston's Buffalo Joe's getting a lot of attention. Also discussed in the thread: the upcoming opening of Wingstop in Evanston, sauce recipes and cooking tips for your own chicken wing feast, and a bevy of heated, spicy opinions.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Openings Tue Feb 26 2008

More Groceries for Wicker Park's Six Corners

Opened about three weeks ago, one block off the North, Damen and Milwaukee intersection, W Crossings (2045 W. North Ave.) is a hybrid of liquor store and natural food conscious mini-mart. You'll find liquor, wine, and beer, including a few of Goose Island's reserve brews. With bananas, apples, oranges, cantaloupe and pineapple, they are no match for the produce selection at nearby specialty grocer and wine/beer shop Olivia's Market (2014 W. Wabansia Ave.), but I hear vegetables like spinach, onions, and tomatoes will be arriving soon. W Crossings has many quick pick offerings, including Amy's frozen pizzas, natural peanut butter, natural cereals, vegan cookies, soy milk and canned soups. Open until midnight weekdays, and 1 a.m. weekends.

Other immediately nearby small business grocery options include the 24-hour Wicker Park Food Mart (1571 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for typical convenience items, granola, cookies, crackers, nuts, raisins, juice, soy milk and dried beans. Goddess and Grocer (1646 N. Damen Ave.) offers an ample wine selection, plus plenty of specialty foods to go with. Crespos (2157 W. North Ave.) sells beer, wine, liquor, and the occasional food item. The Wicker Park Blue Line concession stand reliably sells bananas and small snacks and drinks. Evergreen Pantry (1339 N. Damen Ave.) offers more convenience items.

Chris Brunn / Comments (0)

Restaurant Mon Feb 25 2008

Wanting More from La Cocina de Frida

La Cocina de Frida guacamole Like other reviewers, I'm still holding out hope for Andersonville's newest Mexican restaurant. When I ate there the other night, I was not wowed by the food, but the fact that the kitchen is still working off a provisional menu gives me reason to believe that the dishes are still being refined, and that, once the kinks are worked out, La Cocina de Frida will offer a much more satisfying dining experience.

Continue reading this entry »

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Review Mon Feb 25 2008

Best in the City?

best breakfasts in America," and Chicago is represented by the original Lou Mitchell's on West Jackson.

It’s not because the hostesses ply those waiting for a booth with warm homemade doughnut holes. And it’s definitely not the gratis stewed prunes that appear on the table just after you sit down. No, what elevates this Greek-run West Loop diner above the rest is its authenticity, evident in the faithful execution of founder Uncle Lou’s simple cooking. Long before culinary integrity became a restaurant-industry branding tool, Lou Mitchell’s was baking its own bread and using only double-yolk eggs for its masterfully prepared omelets—which are served right in the skillets in which they were cooked.

I gotta admit, Lou Mitchell's is very good. But the best in Chicago? I suppose that depends on what you're after for breakfast (note that it's not the best brunch in America). Someone really into pancakes might go for Original Pancake House first; others might favor the cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather or the gritty atmosphere of the White Palace Grill. I personally am a big fan of Wishbone's biscuits and gravy (though for my waistline, maybe I shouldn't be.)

So, what's your vote for the best breakfast in Chicago?

Andrew Huff / Comments (3)

Restaurant Sun Feb 24 2008

Chicago Bang Bang!

Just when you start to think that Chicago might actually lose its reputation as a city run by mobsters, something very questionable happens involving an Italian restaraunt, gunshots, and $15,000 worth of windows.

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (0)

Recipe Sun Feb 24 2008

Weekly Recipe Roundup

I'm an avowed menu planner, which until now has meant curling up on the couch with some of my favorite cookbooks and the latest issues of Cooking Light, Gourmet and Everyday Food to select what's for dinner for the next two weeks.

I'm not abandoning my cookbooks and magazines entirely, but I've expanded my menu search to include Chicago's many excellent food blogs. Here's the first in what will be a weekly roundup of recipes recommended by, and in some cases created by, Chicago food bloggers. A general observation: it's February in Chicago, which means lots of the recipes I found featured pasta, bread, cheese or some combination thereof. I say, embrace it; spring is right around the corner.

Continue reading this entry »

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

News Sat Feb 23 2008

Golden Clog Awards: Chicago Wins!

Tony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman's "Golden Clog Award" winners have been announced, and both Chicago nominees have walked away with the shoes!

Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Avec won The Chef's Chef, for "the chef who continues to make the kind of food other chefs like, while flying largely under the national radar," beating out Scott Bryan of Veritas in New York and Mark Vetri of Osteria and Vetri in Philadelphia.

Mike Nagrant of Hungry Mag won The Steingarten, for "the writer or blogger who actually gets it." He beat out Bill Buford, author of the best-seller Heat, and Pim of popular foodblog Chez Pim. Not even Nagrant expected it.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Random Sat Feb 23 2008

Farm Fresh Saturday Morning

eggs.jpgLocal food is a lot harder to come by in the winter, so I was both surprised and psyched when my parents showed up at my place Friday evening with a dozen beautifully speckled brown chicken eggs, freshly layed that morning.

They were visiting from my hometown in Northwest Indiana, where many small farmers continue to hold out against rapid residential and commercial development. Mom's coworker, an accountant by day, is helping to maintain her aging parents' farm, which in part means collecting the eggs laid each morning by their flock of hens.

My husband and I relished our breakfast this morning: hash browns, maple sausages, toast, and good, old-fashioned, sunnyside-up eggs, with the sweetest whites and creamiest yolks we've ever tasted.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Recipe Sat Feb 23 2008

Souffizzled

Last Sunday, I attempted something I've never attempted before: making souffles. I went and bought six ramekins and stocked up on all the goodies, including a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate.

I whisked, melted, whipped and folded my way through the recipe. Thinking they looked pretty good, I put my six sugar-coated ramekins in the oven. Over-eager, I kept peaking through the oven door every five minutes expecting to see six beautifully-risen chocolate souffles.

Except they never rose.

I'm not sure where I failed. Were my stiff peaks not stiff enough? Did I fold with too much fury? Or maybe souffles really are as hard to master as I've been lead to believe.

I'm determined to master the souffle. Maybe it was the recipe that let me down -- or maybe it was my lack of souffle skillz. Either way, check back later for a second souffle attempt.

[Photo from Cooking Light]

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (5)

Openings Sat Feb 23 2008

Vegan Fast Food arriving Wicker Park & Lake View

An all vegan fast food restaurant on the South Side (Mount Greenwood neighborhood) that's known for its vegan takes on gyros, Italian beef, buffalo wings, chili cheese fries and dogs, will soon open its much anticipated North Side location in Wicker Park, at 1300 N. Milwaukee. I rode my bicycle past Veggie Bite's soon-to-be second location yesterday morning, their name and logo prominently and repeatedly displayed in papered windows. (I had long wondered if they would take the iconic one-story building left by Burger King's departure ages ago, on the corner of Milwaukee and Honore, a block south of North and Damen.) Columbia College's Chronicle talks about the restaurant, the differing reactions to its original location, and how they're going for a mainstream eco-friendly appeal with their new Wicker Park address.

Meanwhile, Chicago-area Chicago Soydairy wants you to buy a slice of the vegan pizza that has their new vegan cheese, from the Whole Foods in Lake View at 3640 N. Halsted. Their main product, Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, seems to hold a solid reputation as the vegan ice cream served at several area restaurants, and according to Soydairy, the new cheese melts and tastes great.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Openings Fri Feb 22 2008

Peeling Back the Window Paper

Open:

Noble Tree Coffee & Tea opens today at 2444 N. Clark St. It's owned by Phil Tadros of Dollop, so expect free wifi, quality coffee and Hoosier Mama pies.

• After being closed for a month due to the Montrose Hole, Scot's reopens tonight. Nice write-up on the TOC blog of a benefit for the bar's employees.

• Lalibela, an Ethiopean restaurant at 5631 N. Ashland Ave., opened this past week. Reviews on Yelp so far are positive.

• Further south in Andersonville, Dish reports that pizzeria-grocery Great Lake, 1477 W. Balmoral (next to La Tache), opened Wednesday.

• Also via Dish, Tallulah, an American bistro in the former She She space, 4539 N. Lincoln Ave., has opened ahead of schedule last weekend.

• Union Pizzeria, 1245 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, opened last week. It's owned by Campagnola's Steve Schwartz, so expect gourmet pizzas, small plates and seasonal ingredients. Here's an early review on LTH Forum.

Coming Soon:

• Aberdeen,1856 W. North Ave., aims to open March 8 in the former Celebrity space.

• Further north on Western, "Kan Pou: Cooking and Baking with spices in the Thai style" says the sign on the former El Palmar space, 4256 N. Western. No word on the opening.

• Yet a little further north, the former Thai Nippon space, 4825-B N. Western, is papered over, and a hand-drawn sign on the door says "Snow Spice Thai" is coming soon.

312 Dining Diva has some news on the Chicago outpost (739 N. Clark St.) of suburban hotspot ZED451. The website says March, but expect mid-April.

• It's April for C House, too.

• Again with the April: that's when to expect Gaylord India Restaurant to reopen in its new spot at 100 E. Walton.

• Lincoln Park pizza and pasta joint O'Famé's new Lincoln Square/St. Ben's location, 4159 N. Western, looks nearly open -- the paper is literally peeling off the windows -- but a call to the original turned up no answers. Could be weeks, could be months.

• In Andersonville, Big Jones, in the old Augie's space, has filed its liquor license application and its walls are framed in. Baby steps.

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Event Fri Feb 22 2008

Chicago Restaurant Week Starts Today

I hope you remembered to make reservations at one of the many impressive restaurants participating in Chicago Restaurant Week, which starts today for a one-week run of affordable prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at typically not-so-affordable places (Naha, I'm looking at you).

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Business Fri Feb 22 2008

Departures: The Cheese Stands Alone

The Reader reports that Lincoln Square fromagerie The Cheese Stands Alone will be closing its doors by the end of this weekend. Owner Matt Parker cites slow business as the culprit, but hopes to reopen the store in another location soon.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Feature Fri Feb 22 2008

Eating on Devon: Translate that Menu Without Ordering Something by Accident

Three years ago I moved to "Little India," the neighborhood along Devon Avenue extending from Damen to California. Almost all of the restaurants and grocery stores along this strip are Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghani, etc. It's been wonderful, but its also been intimidating. All those menu items, all the vague and short translations, all the potential that I'd never remember the name of things I really liked.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (4)

News Thu Feb 21 2008

I Feel an Energizing Jolt of Tired, Old-School Sexism

Frat boys, mark your calendars: Crains reports that Playboy will burst on the energy drink market with their new line of ginseng- and guarana-packed energy drinks to be sold later this year.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Blog Wed Feb 20 2008

Is This Anthropology?

For the past few days, I've been seeing links to this blog/web site called Stuff White People Like. It's funny, and also obnoxious. The food entries are hilarious--and, for some white people, like those portrayed in Amy Sedaris's book about whipped-topping huffers and cheese-ball makers, spot on. Among the foodie stuff white people dig: expensive sandwiches (In most cities, if you need to find a cache of white people, get yourself to a sandwich shop); kitchen gadgets (everything in their culture tells them that they need to have a nice kitchen and that they need to cook with organic, fresh ingredients to make delicious, complicated food); and being the only white people in an ethnic restaurant (if there is a table occupied entirely by white people, it is deemed unacceptable). Could this blogger be the new Claude Levi-Strauss?

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

News Wed Feb 20 2008

Who Will Win the Golden Clog?

goldenclog.jpgAuthor Michael Ruhlman and chef/author/TV guy Tony Bourdain have created the Golden Clog Awards, a goofy but fun series of awards named mostly for various TV celebrity chefs. The nominees have been announced, and two Chicagoans are among them: Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec) for "Chef's Chef" and Hungry Mag's Michael Nagrant for The Steingarten ("for the writer or blogger who actually GETS it").

Bourdain handicaps the nominees on Eater [part one, part two]

The awards will be presented at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival this weekend -- cross your fingers for the home team!

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

News Wed Feb 20 2008

Mmm, Midweek Links

• Schwa has reopened, and reports are trickling in. Reservations remain difficult, mostly due to a full voicemail box, but you may be surprised to get a call back from Chef Michael Carlson himself. The Stew's Chris Borrelli went last Friday and was surprised to find the restaurant empty. Chris LaMorte has a review and some tips on the BYOB dilemma. (Related: Michale Nagrant's take on LaMorte's post, and some heated discussion of Phil Vettel and Monica Eng's interview with Carlson over on LTH Forum.)

• Lots of "Top Chef: Chicago" news, too. The Stew learns about some locations and challenges, while The Watcher has a load of video clips. Not to be outdone, Chicagoist offers up video profiles of the three Chicago-connected competitors, Valerie Bolon, Dale Talde and Stephanie Izard. The new season debuts March 12.

• The Sun-Times dug through its archives on its 60th anniversary and came up with an interesting food snapshot of the city through the decades.

• Mike Sula follows up his Omnivorous column on Korean soup at Chodang Korean Village with some supplements on the Food Chain -- video from Chodang's kitchen and a visit to H Mart for green tofu.

• Also in the Sun-Times, Chuck Sudo visits BJ's Market & Bakery in Chatham.

Chicago Bites bag on La Madia.

Joelen's Culinary Adventures take her to Ethiopian Diamond and Kukulu Market, an Ethiopian grocery across from the restaurant.

GrubHub has gone green. A Fresh Squeeze has more details.

• Chicago Foodies suggest you try cooking with a tagine.

MenuPages gives the White Palace Grill its close-up.

Lychee bubble tea cupcakes... weird, but worth a try?

• And speaking of unusual, how 'bout a round lasagna?

Wow, that's some cake. There's a lucky teenager out there somewhere.

The Beer Bistro wants you to join them in a polar bear plunge March 2. [via]

Happy first birthday to My Vegetable Blog! We're practically the same age!

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Event Wed Feb 20 2008

Dine Out for a Good Cause

Plan to eat out on Tuesday, March 11, 2008. In fact, at participating Chicago restaurants, check your guilty conscience at the door and splurge that night, when a portion of your tab will help support 80 community organizations benefitting from the 5th Annual Share a Meal with Community Shares.

Places like Atlas Cafe and Agami Sushi are donating up to 30 percent of their proceeds that day to organizations like Voices for Illinois Children, Mikva Challenge, and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Diners also can up the ante by designating a portion of their bills to a specific member charity of Community Shares of Illinois.

Restaurateurs can still register as participants, so encourage your favorite spot to sign up today.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Restaurant Tue Feb 19 2008

Noodles & Co. opens in the Loop

When Noodles & Company first opened in the Loop nearly two weeks ago, I excitedly went for lunch, but the line told me to come back later when it buckled at the door, even as a friendly employee handed me a menu and engaged me to ask questions about it. Today, there was nearly no line, minutes before noon. Before I ordered, I asked the cashier if the Indonesian Peanut Sauté was vegan. "Let me check for you," she said as she turned to consult a nearby sheet. Yes, it's vegan, she told me. I asked her for it with tofu while noticing her co-worker using a scale in the background to measure vegetables. With a number card so they could bring me my food, I took a seat on a wooden counter among wooden tables and booths, over carpeting and under framed photos of farm stands and another of people eating. The setting is a hybrid of fast food and sit down. You order and pre-pay at a register but are served with metal flatware and ceramic bowls. "Need anything else," the person who delivered my food asked. The bus person thanked me as I left. Service was great, and my food tasty. The rice noodles were bunched up and sticky with savory peanut sauce. They were steamy, despite one cold carrot sliver among otherwise hot vegetables and cubes of tofu. One broccoli floret tasted especially full of flavor, like citrus, perhaps from my squeezing of lime. I'm curious to go back soon and see what the Sriracha hot chili sauce on the table does for their Bangkok curry and Japanese pan noodles. 180 N. Michigan Ave.

Chris Brunn / Comments (0)

News Tue Feb 19 2008

Ben & Jerry Back Obama

The Washington Post's campaign blog is reporting that Ben & Jerry have decided to support Obama, now that their guy Edwards is out of the race. In more food-related detail, the blog says: "As part of the event, Ben & Jerry and [Vermont Sen. Patrick] Leahy rode in customized Honda Elements they dubbed 'ObamaMobiles,' to American Flatbread, a Vermont-based artisan pizza company. " Not sure if there's a pizza named after Obama. But, food blog Serious Eats says the Obama ice-cream flavor is called Cherries for Change. This is good news and, more importantly, a good pick-me-up for those suffering from Obama Comedown Syndrome.

Lori Barrett / Comments (0)

Restaurant Tue Feb 19 2008

The Original PapaNicholas Cafe

I finally had the chance to stop in The Original PapaNicholas Café, "Chicago's #1 whole bean coffee roaster," and I was presently surprised. Located in the former spot of Frappe Coffee Lounge, this Portage Park coffee shop has everything you would expect from a coffee shop in this day and age, free Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions all in a comfy contemporary space. The Batavia-based company has been roasting coffee in Chicago for years, selling a variety of blends in area grocery stores such as Treasure Island, Sunset Foods and Jewel. This is their first stand-alone café; a few mini cafes have been in area Jewel stores in the suburbs.

The café has an impressive and affordable menu, standards of muffins and scones, deli sandwiches and grilled paninis -- the Grilled Chicken and Apple sounds interesting. One of the more attention-grabbing items PapaNicholas Café offers is Nick's 96, 96 ounces of coffee to go -- most likely a big container of coffee intended for the office, but I could see some monkey trying to drink it all himself.

The Original PapaNicholas Café
4431 N. Milwaukee Ave.
773-282-9682
Monday through Thursday 5:30am to 9pm
Friday 5:30am to 10pm
Saturday 7am to 10pm
Sunday 7am to 9pm

Christian Scheuer / Comments (0)

Restaurant Tue Feb 19 2008

Artopolis

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On a recent chilly evening I meet my friend my Margaret at Artopolis in Greektown to see her off before she moved to D.C. Conveniently located just a few blocks from the blue line, we enjoyed a warming meal of soup and "Artopitas" (variations on the traditional Greek spanakopita). For dessert we tried their raspberry and mango yogurt mousse (mango pictured). I'm not crazy about super sweet desserts, but the yogurt in this mousse provided a nice tartness to mellow the sugar. The soup, sweets and coffee at Artopolis make excellent complements to a snowy evening and good conversation.

Artopolis
306 S. Halsted
312/559-9000

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Random Tue Feb 19 2008

National Sticky Bun Day Approaches

As I said in this week's feature about celebrating national food holidays Chicago-style, this Thursday is National Sticky Bun Day. To commemorate, Bleeding Heart Bakery let us know that they will be selling organic Brioche Sticky Buns in some exciting flavors--walnut, pecan, cheddar apple, or cinnamon. A half-dozen will cost $18.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

News Mon Feb 18 2008

Where's the Beef? (in two parts)

Part A: The USDA announced the biggest meat recall in American history earlier today after discovering that California-based beef producers Hallmark/Westland did not follow proper protocol in the slaughtering of injured cows. The precautionary recall of 37 million pounds of beef covers sales from as far back as February 2006. Before you throw out that steak in the cooler, note that there's been no evidence of human illness, and the questionable meat would not have been sold in retail stores but rather to other food manufacturers. Yay! Yay?

Part B: Crains reports that Northfield-based Kraft Foods is trying to retool their Oscar Meyer frank recipe in order to make it (literally) a "beefier" competitor to rival Sara Lee's Ball Park Franks. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that R&D meeting!

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Review Sun Feb 17 2008

Asian Excursion

Saturday evening, on their way home from their weekly Thai grocery shopping excursion to Lawrence and Broadway, our married friends Steve and Pat popped by for a visit. It didn't take long before our conversation turned to food, and before we knew it - despite that Pat was still finishing her bubble tea - we were all piling into their car for an impromptu excursion to Super H Mart in Naperville.

Super H Mart was a blast - a kimchi bar! pea shoots! mangosteen! five-dollar-per-pound beef tenderloin! However, the authentic Chinese dinner we ate at Tong's Village (1239 E. Ogden Ave., in Naperville, in the very same strip mall as Super H Mart), made battling the traffic on I-290 well worth it.

Continue reading this entry »

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Publication Sat Feb 16 2008

New York Hearts Rick Bayless

In this week's New York Times Magazine, Rick Bayless reveals the quirks of his home and daily routine. Bet you didn't know that he often gets mistaken for Eric Clapton or that he has thousands of dollars worth of microgreens growing in his basement...

Dana Currier / Comments (0)

Random Sat Feb 16 2008

Hooked Up?

Hook%20and%20Go%20Graphic%202006.pngWell, dear readers, we finally did it: today my husband and I signed a lease for a beautiful, affordable apartment with free laundry, great closet space, a fireplace, a deck for our grill, and - drumroll, please, my fellow foodies - an outstanding eat-in kitchen featuring a five-burner range (!)

We will miss one thing about our current place: it's a five-minute walk from two full-service grocery stores, which is great since we don't have a car. The new place isn't as conveniently located. So today I put on my board shorts and surfed the World Wide Web in search of the ultimate granny cart. The Hook and Go looks like the perfect solution, especially since I already have a healthy supply of reusable bags. Before I plunk down sixty bucks, though, I'm wondering if anyone has tried it. Is it durable enough to stand up to Chicago's sometimes icy, often cracked and bumpy neighborhood sidewalks?

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (2)

Feature Fri Feb 15 2008

Every Day is a Food Holiday

Valentine's Day gives us all a solid opportunity to take on a box of chocolates. As we gear up for Thanksgiving, we mentally assemble a plate of turkey. But when is a good time to eat gumdrops? Empanadas? Surf and turf? National food holidays, as silly as they seem, serve as an eating schedule of sorts, and can settle the problem of having too many options for dinner. Let's review the upcoming week of food holidays to get some variety in our eating, and take some trips to places in the city to stay on target.

February 16: National Almond Day

What better way to celebrate this low-calorie protein source by throwing it into a dessert? Marche's Gateau cerise aux amandes is a delish sour cherry almond cake with Balaton cherries and cinnamon stick ice cream.

February 17: National Indian Pudding Day
Those of us who flock to the restaurants on Devon Avenue may think their rosewater- and cardamom-infused rice pudding is Indian Pudding, but we would be very wrong. Indian Pudding is a mushy custard made with molasses, spices, and cornmeal (aka "indian meal"). You could make it on your own; however, Crofton on Wells also makes a sleek, modern version of the dessert (Chicago Bites reviewed it as part of a recent visit).

February 18: National Drink Wine Day
I'm sure to a lot of people this holiday is EVERY day. GB contributor Sean Ludford of BevX is the place to go for this resource. Read some of their newest wine reviews to get some suggestions to celebrate.

February 19: National Chocolate Mint Day
Hello, Frangos! I defer to fellow GB Staffer Bobbi Bowers on this one, as she recently reviewed the Frango Cookbook: Simple Recipes and Sweet Ideas, which features such decadent sweets like the Flourless Frango Chocolate Cake. Yum-o!

February 20: National Margarita Day

This is where I get foggy. The last time I drank a margarita was in college at a sports bar called the Pitchers Mound which was located in a strip mall next to a Shopko. Eh, I miss Shopko. Anyway, I turned to Citysearch's Best Margaritas in Chicago list from last year, which hails Old Town's Salpicon as the city's best margarita makers.

February 21: National Sticky Bun Day
I usually stay away from vegan bakeries (I'm more of a Dolly Madison person if you get what I mean), but Bleeding Heart Bakery's pecan sticky bun is out of this world. Go see them at their Damen and Belmont location.

February 22: National Cherry Pie Day

Today is George Washington's 276th birthday, and even though there is no evidence that he chopped down a cherry tree and "could not tell a lie" when asked if he was the culprit, the cherry is symbolic of the country's first president. I know that I cannot tell a lie when it comes to brunch food: I get the savory, eggs and bacony meal but I always want the sweet dish on the menu. This weekend I will be living free (like George wanted!) and celebrating this holiday early by ordering Lula Cafe's vanilla custard stuffed brioche french toast with chocolate, goat's milk creme fraiche, and dried cherry chutney. I will then struggle home to watch old episodes of Arrested Development. Ah, the weekend.

February 23: National Banana Bread Day

I'm a big fan of banana bread, as it is a great way to use dying bananas and seems like a healthy alternative to the sweets I normally want to eat. While I am very happy with my mother's amazing recipe that can move mountains and possibly create peace in the Middle East, I highly recommend the moist, sweet banana bread at Logan Square/Avondale's Golden Rise Bakery, which is a tasty (and much-needed) addition to the neighborhood.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Resource Fri Feb 15 2008

Top Chef Chicago Spoilers

Can't wait the 27 days left until the season premiere of Top Chef? The Stew posted some spoilers yesterday regarding some of the Quickfire Challenges and which hometown celebs will be making cameos.

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Restaurant Thu Feb 14 2008

Food & Wine's Favorite New Chicago Restaurants

Ambitious chefs are upping the culinary ante in Chicago--and people are taking notice. In the latest issue of Food & Wine, Heather Shouse (editor of Time Out Chicago's "Eat Out/Drink Up" section) suggests adding these new Chicago restaurants to your "must try" list.

Sepia
Brasserie Ruhlmann
• Cafe 103
• Coalfire Pizza
The Drawing Room
• Old Town Brasserie
• Pasticceria Natalina
• Sol de Mexico
Table Fifty-Two
• Violet Hour (technically a bar, but praised for its innovative bar food menu)

Also, keep an eye-out for new spots from these culinary heavy-hitters:
• Marcus Samuelsson's C-House (coming March '08)
• Laurent Gras' L.20 (formerly Ambria, coming April '08)
• Terrance Brennan's Artisanal Bistro & Wine Bar (coming September '08)

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (0)

Blog Thu Feb 14 2008

When Incorrect is Fun: Trying Faluda

If we draw a line between the correct foods and the wrong foods, faluda is going to be on the wrong side. And it'll stand there proudly.

Faluda

Faluda is a Pakistani dessert/refreshment resembling a sundae. At Sabri Nehari, a Pakistani restaurant on Devon where I encountered the dessert, it's served in tall, fluted glasses. On the bottom are a few dumpling-like things that I couldn't figure out what, and a handful of bright green and orange jello cubes. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, strands of thin rice noodles (which give the dessert its name) and basil seeds sit atop, and the whole thing is swimming in sweet, pink rose syrup. The disco-like colors are obviously unnatural, yet oddly captivating: In this age of all-natural eating, it's almost novel to see so much food coloring in a single dessert. The colors, though, aren't the only stamp of evil; faluda is unabashedly sweet, too.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (0)

Foodporn Thu Feb 14 2008

Bleeding Heart Photography

Foodporn lovers, take note: Bleeding Heart Bakery has its own flickr account, loaded with photos of its tasty treats.

bleedingheartbakery_sid_gun.jpg

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Restaurant Thu Feb 14 2008

The World's Most Romantic Restaurants

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Concierge has an article up on their picks for the world's most romantic restaurants. Each location has a compelling photo that, romanticism aside, fuels some serious travel fantasies. Dubrovnik, Croatia is definitely still on my list.

-via yumsugar

Gemma Petrie / Comments (0)

Blog Thu Feb 14 2008

The Dark Side to Valentine's Day

We might be thinking that Valentine's Day is an excuse to go whole hog and get some of the good stuff, but there's a seedy underbelly to this holiday's culinary symbols, a world that doesn't understand truffles infused with curry or rolled in imported cashews. This world will be waiting for you tomorrow in the 50% discount aisle at Target. It will be low-grade chocolate, bad uses of stuffed animals with food, strange lollipops and more, more, more gummi products (that's so 1980s). Serious Eats reports.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

News Wed Feb 13 2008

Mmm, Midweek Links

• Schwa reopens tonight, and the Tribune has a look at its last 48 hours open, when Carlson and crew served the biggest chefs in the world and then abruptly closed, and some insight into the restaurant's return.

Are restaurants really recycling?

Starbucks will offer a couple hours of free wifi with purchase soon; in the meantime, they're going to close all its stores for a few hours on Feb. 27 to refresh barista's memories on how to make a decent espresso. (

• Nagrant thinks Sola's new monthly prix-fixe is a much better deal than Restaurant Week.

In praise of expensive chickens.

The Violet Hour and NYC's Death & Co. have organized a little bartender exchange. Considering Death & Co.'s recent near-death experience, this might be the ticket to help keep interest up while liquor license litigation lingers.

• Meantime, The Food Chain recommends you bypass the Slutty Bull (which is not served at the Violet Hour.)

• And seriously, how do you determine your Scotch tastes like urine? [via]

• It's sad that a bar is best known not for its cocktails but for a sultry version of the Statue of Liberty, but you take what you can get in Hoffman Estates. (Also, is that the best shot of Lady Liberty Metromix could muster?)

Be choosy about your chocolate this Valentine's Day. From Vosges, perhaps. Or Bleeding Heart Bakery's organic chocolate handgun.

Joelen certainly has some serious chocolate mojo.

• Centerstage would like you to consider some of the erotic foods beyond chocolate... uni and oysters, for instance.

• Mmm, sandwiches. Chicago MenuPages' users meditate on stuff between bread, while Time Out's Scott Smith dismisses Esquire's "best sandwiches in America" list as old news, Chicago-wise. Meanwhile Chuck Sudo likes Bagel Art's Fat Frank. (I'd opt for Chicago Bagel Authority's Bowler's Bagel. Steamed is better.)

• Blue Kitchen is on a slow-cooking kick, with recipes for oven braised beef stew and Moroccan braised beef.

• Follow up that meaty dish with a decadent limoncello tiramisu.

• And for the morning after, coffee and cinnamon rolls.

Thinking of Drinking profiled former Drive-Thru contributor Tim Lacey, beverage manager for the Spring Restaurant Group.

• A little Blackbird foodporn.

• Not sure if it's worth driving to Naperville for dinner, but Macarena Tapas sounds great.

It's a good time of year for smoking meat outdoors. Yes, really.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Restaurant Tue Feb 12 2008

Nothin' Says Lovin' Like a Sack of Sliders

Hey guys, does the thought of making Valentine's Day plans leave you flustered? Does your dream date involve sharing intimate conversation over candlelight in the most romantic of settings? Then you should "wow" your lady this Valentine's Day with a romantic dinner for 2 at White Castle. Reservations are required, so call 708-458-4450 ext. 516 to reserve your spot at the White Castle nearest you.

Hey, if it was good enough for Harold and Kumar, it's good enough for your lady. And who knows, she may enjoy it so much that she'll forget about the fact that you didn't propose to her.

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (0)

Ingredient Mon Feb 11 2008

Buy Chai

I just filed this under "Buy Based on Brand Loyalty:" The Spice House has just released a finely powdered Chai spice blend that can be whisked into hot milky tea. Sounds like a great alternative to ubiquitous Oregon Chai concentrate, which needs to be refrigerated once opened.

Bonus: you can also blend Spice House's version - a mix of sugar, cardamom, cloves, China cinnamon, vanilla, and Tellicherry black pepper - into whipped cream, cookies, cake or anything else that would taste nice with a little spice. Personally, I can't wait to whip up a batch of Chai ice cream.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Blog Mon Feb 11 2008

Peer Pressure: Close the Door

If you frequent the type of busy fast food spot that draws long lines, particularly at lunch in the Loop, you may notice a bit of a draft on frigid days. A line extends out the door, which someone holds open to keep the line intact. Let the door shut, even if it means breaking the continuity of the line, and even if it's only one door of a double-door vestibule. Your previously cold neighbor will thank you, even if they don't say so. If you agree that this is a sensible thing to do, tap your knowledge of peer pressure from grammar school, put on a smile, and kindly ask the person next to you to close that door, also. Say you helped make Chicago a little greener, too.

Chris Brunn / Comments (0)

Event Mon Feb 11 2008

Calling All Soaks: Night of the Living Ales is March 1

Mark your calendars, ale fans: the Chicago Beer Society's Night of the Living Ales IV will be held March 1 at Goose Island (3535 N. Clark) and will be a celebration (and competition) of locally brewed ales. The ticket price ($35 for CBS members, $40 nonmembers) includes a tasting glass, a load of samples, and appetizers. Take CTA or a cab, folks. You'll be in it to win it and therefore in no shape to drive home afterwards.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Drink Mon Feb 11 2008

Cheaper bubbles this week at Randolph Wine Cellars

randvday.jpg
Most wine shops are charging a premium this week for sparkling wines, but Randolph Cellars is offering 10% off all the bubbles in house through Saturday. Use the extra couple of bucks to buy your sweetie some truffles or a decent card. Cue the Barry White...

Christine Blumer / Comments (0)

Event Mon Feb 11 2008

Alton Brown Brings the Zingers to MSI

Tickets went on sale today at 9:30am for Alton Brown's March 15 appearance at the Museum of Science and Industry. Brown, host of the Food Network programs "Iron Chef" and "Good Eats," will be giving a zany lecture about food and its connections to science, followed by a Q&A and book signing session. Event begins at 11am. Tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for kids ages 3-11.

(And speaking of Alton Brown...)

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Random Mon Feb 11 2008

Food Fights

In some parts of Europe, people throw oranges at one another in various Lenten celebrations. I got to witness the Shrove Tuesday festival in Binche, Belgium, a few years ago, where local men dressed in bright costumes toss oranges at one another and people foolish enough to be standing around. I made it out alive, thanks to a friend's husband who blocked most of the flying fruit.

In the Piedmont region in Italy, in a town called Ivrea, the start of Lent is marked by a Battle of the Oranges, where all are welcome to join in the giant food fight that now has established teams and rules.

And, in Chicago ... there isn't any orange tossing. But you can celebrate the Battle of the Oranges at Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar. From the 24th through March 1, Frasca's menu features orange-theme menu items, like a blood-orange and shaved onion salad, and duck and asparagus in an orange-taragon sauce. Just wait until you leave the restaurant to throw fruit at your dining companions.

Lori Barrett / Comments (0)

News Sun Feb 10 2008

They Should Really Call it Brunch

A story in today's Tribune talks of the precious real estate and tight scheduling in 17 Chicago Public School buildings that results in lunch being served around 9am daily, with the next opportunity for students to eat being when school is over in the late afternoon. While the government mandates that schools serve lunch between 10am and 2pm, CPS received a waiver from the State Board of Education to serve lunch at such abnormally early hours at these schools. The students technically are not allowed to have food with them outside of their early lunch period, but the rule is reportedly unenforced so that students can scarf down food while changing classes.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Random Sat Feb 09 2008

Taking Comfort in Carbs

Looking for an apartment in Chicago in February is the kind of cold cruelty that can only be remedied by eating inappropriate amounts of carbs - which is exactly what I did today.

In the midst of apartment-hunting this morning, just after being told by a leasing agent that finding what we want will be "like searching for a needle in a haystick," my husband, Brian, and I sought our first dose of doughy comfort. Clarke's Diner on Belmont was just a few doors down from where we were, and unlike most other brunch spots in the area, had no wait. We grabbed a booth, and I ordered a multi-grain waffle with fruit, while Brian chose the classic skillet with side of pancakes. He was a little disappointed in his choice, but admitted it was his fault: he forgot to order his potatoes extra-crispy. We both agreed my perfectly crisp, slightly cinnamony and nutty-tasting waffle, generously accompanied by a cup of yogurt and fruit salad of grapes, two types of melon, blueberries, strawberries, and oranges, was perfect.

Continue reading this entry »

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Feature Fri Feb 08 2008

Happy Birthday to Us!

We can hardly believe it. Drive Thru turned 1 this week!

We've taken some time to look back at what we've blogged about in the past year and have come up with a condensed list of our favorite news, recipes, ideas, rants, and general observations. Consider this the birthday edition of "Mmm, Midweek Links."

Continue reading this entry »

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (0)

Restaurant Fri Feb 08 2008

Col-Pop

Thumbnail image for col-pop copy.jpg

Serious Eats has a very thorough report on an ingenious new contraption. BBQ Chicken, a South Korean fried chicken chain, has started selling the Col-Pop. This beverage container has a snack tray built right into the top (see Serious Eats' cut-away image) - making your cola and popcorn chicken stop even more convenient. BBQ Chicken is currently only located in a few East coast cities, but I bet other fast food establishments will not be far behind with similar offerings.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (2)

Publication Fri Feb 08 2008

Readers' Choice Vote

Time Out Chicago's annual Eat Out Awards are coming out soon, and the Readers' Choice nominees are now up. Vote early and... well, you know.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Business Thu Feb 07 2008

Arnolds Farm

As many of you know finding good quality meets can be tough, especially when trying to avoid the pitfalls of "factory farming". I just recently placed my first order with Tom Arnold from Arnold's Farm. Tom makes delivers with some regularity to the Chicago area, if not in the city itself.

I'll let the website do most of the talking but I can safely say this is some of the best beef I've had in ages. Most of what I bought was grass finished beef and the taste was amazing. Slightly gamy with a deep crimson color and gorgeous marbling. I also purchased some whole chickens and various other cuts which I have yet to dig into, but just by the color I can tell the chicken is going to be delicious. The breast meat and skin are a nice dark tan/red, not the pasty white you normally find with mass production birds. Tom allows his chickens to follow the grazing rotation of the cows and therefor they only feed on bugs, grass and other critters as they are intended to.

So forget the jokers at Whole Foods and the Stupidmarket, and support a local farmer! We live in a great city, please use these resources we have available.

Helge Pedersen / Comments (1)

Drink Thu Feb 07 2008

Ring in the Chinese New Year with Tsingtao Beer!

Five weeks have expired since the ringing in of the New Year and by now all of those pesky resolutions have long been annihilated. Fortunately, you now have a “do over” as we kick-off the Chinese New Year today, beginning a 15 day celebration to commemorate the “Year of the Rat.”

While China is out of reach for most (regardless of how deep you have dug that hole on the beach), you can bring a bit of China to your Chicago celebrations with Tsingtao Beer. Tsingtao is the number one Chinese beer in America as well as being the top branded Chinese export product -- period. It's a refreshing international Pilsner style beer that is available in many Chicago retailers, bars and restaurants. The brand has planned several events commemorating the holiday this week; a listing follows after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Sean Ludford / Comments (0)

News Thu Feb 07 2008

Best Chicago Neighborhood Dining?

According to the readers of the Tribune, the best neighborhood dining can be found not in the city, but in Forest Park. "But back to Forest Park -- and in particular Madison Street -- which packs 30 or so restaurants and bars in less than one mile. That means there's at least one place to eat or drink every 200 feet." It's also apparently good for shopping.

At least the runners up are both in Chicago proper. Lincoln Square was second, and Logan Square was a distant third (placing, perhaps, on the strength of Lula Cafe supporters alone.) The Trib certainly knows its audience, which is primarily suburban, and these results confirm it.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Restaurant Thu Feb 07 2008

Strip Mall Gem

Strip mall fare usually falls along the taste spectrum somewhere between "bland but edible" and "foul." About a year ago, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised to discover a definite exception to the rule, La Gondola, a family owned and operated Italian restaurant all but hidden away in the Jewel Plaza at Ashland and Wellington.

La Gondola's handful of tables are consistently filled with regulars who will tell you that a reservation is a must on Friday and Saturday nights. The atmosphere is cozy, if a little cramped, as a carry-out line often fills the tiny waiting area. But everyone's in it together at La Gondola, where the chef has been known to man the register in a pinch on busy nights.

The service is good and the atmosphere genial, but they come for the food.

Continue reading this entry »

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Restaurant Wed Feb 06 2008

Nudes @ Swirl Wine Bar

My friend's sweetie's first solo exhibition opened at Swirl Wine Bar tonight with an artist's reception. The complimentary Cabernet was quite good, but I was hungry. The small veggie pizza on the menu looked good, just without the goat cheese, which seemed like enough of a change to make it vegan. The crust was thin and crispy with a thick tomato sauce and the fragrance of caramelized onions. Slices of eggplant, roasted red pepper and onion covered the slices. James F. Hajicek's paintings of nudes and street scenes show through March 1. 111 W. Hubbard St.

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Resource Wed Feb 06 2008

Mmm, Midweek Links

Fat/Shrove Tuesday is over, meaning our day of eating paczki is over. LTH Forum holds a celebration of the Polish filled donut, and Chicago Foodies waxes poetic on their flavorful glory.

•Chicago Gluttons gives Ferris Bueller-style props to Smoque BBQ.

•The staff of Time Out Chicago gets drunk Carnival-style in their breakroom, but still has enough focus to review the liquor. And all the rest of us working stiffs get is free coffee and the occasional donut.

•The localvore doesn't have to hibernate because it's winter: Vital Information reports that if you're willing to trek out west to the Geneva Winter Market each Thursday, you won't be disappointed.

•When at the All-Candy Expo this past fall, I had the unfortunate experience of sampling RJ's Natural Licorice. Apparently I was not alone in my opinion.

•The Tribune reports the re-emergence of heart-shaped Krispy Kremes for Valentine's Day. Drugs sell themselves, people. The decoration isn't necessary.

•If you ever owned a nice, cuddly guinea pig as a pet, don't read this.

•No wetnaps required: a Superbowl treat of buffalo wing and guacamole sushi.

•The Lunar Chinese New Year is coming, which means that the tasty food specials follow.

•As the temperatures take a dive outside, why not cozy up to a warm, comforting Sloppy Joe's? Dejamo's Distracted reviews the loose meat wonder at Ricobene's and seeks out the best online recipe.

•Vegan baked goods get props at Bake and Destroy.

•The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence were awarded at the Grand Chefs Gala this past Friday, with Paul Virant of Western Springs' Vie taking the honor of Top Celebrity Chef. Alinea, Lula Cafe and Blackbird were also among the award recipients.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Random Wed Feb 06 2008

Weird Al is the New R. Kelly

I came across "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," Weird Al's homage to R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet," and had a laugh that made all the snow outside and the fearful commute home seem not that important. Enjoy.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Restaurant Wed Feb 06 2008

Frozen Yogurt for a Frozen City

wowbao.jpgMaybe it's adherence to the weather predictions of rogue Brookfield Zoo groundhog Cloudy (take that, Punxsutawney Phil!), or obeisance to the marketing whims of the great fro-yo juggernaut that is Pinkberry. Whatever the source of inspiration, local lunch fave Wow Bao recently added frozen yogurt to their menu, branching out from their previous dessert selection of sesame clusters and honeyed pistachio pieces. You can now get a cup of icy goodness...topped in sesame clusters and honeyed pistachio pieces! Yogurt flavors range from plain to pomegranate-hibiscus and ginger, and fresh fruit toppings are available in addition to the crunchy snacks. While the current ice monsoon may not be totally conducive to the enjoyment of frozen yummies, when it warms up, rest assured Wow Bao will be there for you.

Andie Cavedo / Comments (0)

Restaurant Tue Feb 05 2008

Glenn's Diner Reopens

Montrose Avenue all tucked in for the nightMontrose Avenue reopened for traffic on Friday, but that doesn't mean the knot of businesses around the Montrose Brown Line stop have all returned to normal.

Glenn's Diner, one of several restaurants and bars closed by the Montrose Hole, reopened today, and the neighborhood welcomed them back with a packed lunch service. Subway and Beans & Bagels returned last week, the latter having used the closure as an opportunity to do a little clean-up and remodeling. Other spots remain closed, including El Torito, Scot's and Roong Petch remained closed, with little activity inside. The water main break severely damaged the foundation of the building housing El Torito, so it's uninhabitable until the city inspects and approves the repairs -- a delay that may close the restaurant for good.

[photo by TheeErin]

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Drink Tue Feb 05 2008

Does a 64 Calorie Beer Still Taste Like Beer?

Be prepared to find out. Miller Brewing Company is launching a new low-cal brew--Miller Genuine Draft Light 64--in several Midwestern states (including Illinois) in March. MGD Light 64 will be the lowest calorie beer on the market from a major brewer (both national and regional).

According to the Miller Brewing Company website, MGD Light 64 has 64 calories and 2.4 grams of carbohydrates per 12 ounce serving. By comparison, per 12 oz., Bud Light has 110 calories and 6.6g carbs; Coors Light has 102 cal. and 5.0g carbs; Heineken Light has 99 cal. and 6.8g carbs; Amstel Light has 95 cal. and 5.0g carbs; and Michelob Ultra has 95 cal. and 2.6g carbs.

And for some reason I can't help but think that this beer will be targeted towards women...

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (0)

Event Tue Feb 05 2008

Paczki Day

Today's the last day to get your paczki from Dinkel's on Lincoln. The fried pillows of sugar, fat and fruit are the traditional Polish food consumed in the few days before the beginning of Lent. Still sticking to the New Year's diet? Check out Joelen's Paczki Palooza and live vicariously through her.

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (1)

Restaurant Mon Feb 04 2008

Pho 777

pho777.jpgHaving moved to Chicago from South Florida, my experience with Vietnamese food was very limited. In the year that I have lived here so far I have taken every opportunity to stuff my face at any Asian establishment anyone recommends and Pho 777 on Argyle was the first one in a very long line.

There is one very simple reason I keep returning to 777. Stock, plain and simple.

Continue reading this entry »

Helge Pedersen / Comments (3)

Ingredient Mon Feb 04 2008

Searching for Tofu Nirvana

Fried tofu with pork and black bean sauce. Spicy lime and herbed tofu in lettuce cups. Wheat-berry salad with grilled tofu. Those are just some of the tofu recipes on Epicurious, and are probably quite typical of American culinary relationship with the now-ubiquitous ex-exotica. Most often, Tofu in America is fried in oil, marinated in vinaigrette, spiced up with garlic and chili, and enveloped in thick dressing. There’s even a whole line of tofu pre-flavored in the pouch. As one reviewer on Epicurious aptly put it, the consensus is that a “plain tofu [...] would make [us] fall asleep on the kitchen table." To prevent that boring substance from putting us to sleep, the logic follows, we have to spice it up.

This doesn't have to be so. A good tofu can be a delight in itself, without all the spices, oil and marinade. Die-hard tofu eaters know that subtle but full flavor of soy--and the pleasingly creamy texture that accompanies it--is nothing but boring.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Business Mon Feb 04 2008

Localvore Valentine

For Valentine's Day this year, my husband and I are developing a menu we can cook at home, based on foods we can purchase at independent, Chicago-owned stores. Though not all of our food will be grown or raised locally, we (heart) local businesses, and our menu shows it.

Mussels and seared Ahi tuna will come from Dirk's Fish. We'll stop at Dinkel's Bakery for a nice crusty bread to sop up the garlicky broth leftover from mussels. And the chocolate needed for dessert will come from none other than Vosges. I also noticed Intelligentsia is selling a Valentine's Day-themed coffee, Eros' Blend - a nice morning-after pick-me-up.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (0)

Event Mon Feb 04 2008

Fat Tuesday Approaches

Most people resolve that Monday is the big day to start a diet; according to a study, by the following day, 31% of eager dieters have ditched their plans and returned to a steady diet of grape soda and cheez-its. This week is no exception to the time-honored tradition of ditched diets; Fat Tuesday, the day of excessive consumption that precedes Ash Wednesday (and the start of Lent, the saddest 40 days of any Catholic kid's life) is tomorrow. 312 Dining Diva and Metromix have nice summaries of local celebrations, from free beignets at Brasserie Jo to zydeco bands at Heaven on Seven.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Feature Fri Feb 01 2008

No Restrictions

Article by Chris Brunn.

Good restaurants should be able to take care of you. Even us vegans. Some chefs have told me that they enjoy a challenge. If you have dietary restrictions, you shouldn't have to limit yourself to places that cater specifically to you. In other words, vegans shouldn't be stuck going to just the places that call out items as "vegan" on their menus. With sufficient notice &mdash sometimes a day, other times a week &mdash upscale spots should be able to make something really special.

Friends and I were searching a restaurant for a special dinner for my sweetie's birthday. Our criteria: upscale and elegant with great service, ten minutes by taxi cab to Redmoon (1463 W. Hubbard) for a show after dinner, availability for ten at 6 p.m. on a Friday night ten days out and more than willing to serve at least two of us an all vegan dinner and everyone else all vegetarian without egg.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Store Fri Feb 01 2008

Baggu Bags

Baggu.jpg

I make every effort to remember to bring my own bags when I grocery shop these days. The Whole Foods reusable grocery bag that I got for free at Pitchfork last year has seen better days and I decided it was time to buy a replacement.

I wanted something sturdy, simple and advertisement-free. I found several great options online and eventually ordered three bags from Baggu. While many companies strive to perfectly emulate a disposable plastic bag, the big draw for me to the Baggu bags was the strap length. The bags can be carried in your hand or easily slung over a shoulder. I don't have a vehicle, so I am always walking or on public transportation. The longer straps made Baggu an excellent choice for me.

The bags are made of rip-stop nylon, can hold up to 25 pounds, fold up into a tiny square pouch, have a gusseted bottom and come in 9 colors -- You can even send a well-used Baggu bag back to the company where they will recycle it and give you a small credit towards a new bag. The bags are $8 for one, $22 for three, and $38 for six. While that may seem like a lot of money compared to other options, it has been worth it for me to finally find a sturdy, versatile bag that I never forget to bring with me.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (8)

Publication Fri Feb 01 2008

Chicago Mag Dishes on Sixteen's First Day

Sixteen.jpgChicago Magazine's Dish has a review of the first breakfast service at Sixteen, the restaurant located on the 16th floor of the just-opened Trump Hotel. The reviewer makes it seem decent, but not overwhelmingly delicious (although she does note that she ordered a rather "boring" breakfast).

Sixteen is currently only serving breakfast but will open for dinner beginning next week on Feb 6.

Photo by Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (0)

Restaurant Fri Feb 01 2008

Edgewater Lounge

Plantains @ Edgewater Lounge The Edgewater Lounge is known as more of a summer spot. Its location at Ashland and Bryn Mawr features a sidewalk patio in the warmer months, and while the view isn't great (four lanes of speeding traffic on Ashland, a gas station and Jiffy Lube across the street), the atmosphere is festive and friendly, and the patio is often packed in the evenings. On a recent frigid Saturday night, however, there was plenty of seating indoors.

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Dana Currier / Comments (0)

Event Mon Jul 21 2014

A Garden Party at Rick Bayless' House

By Judy Wu

I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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Events

Fri Oct 31 2014
Boneshaker @ Redmoon Theater

Fri Oct 31 2014
Haunted Punch House

Fri Oct 31 2014
Moonlight Manor @ Moonlight Studios

Fri Oct 31 2014
The Trip to Italy @ Film Center

Sun Nov 2 2014
Illinois BBQ Alliance's Autumn Smoke @ Joe's Bar

Thu Nov 6 2014
Lincoln Square Wine Stroll


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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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