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Blog Tue Jun 30 2009

Minimalist Meals @ Chicago's Newest Restaurants

Today in a post on Gourmet.com, David Tamarkin points out that new Chicago restaurants like The Publican and Nightwood are taking a "less is more" approach. He predicts that the end is near for molecular gastronomy and finds the more minimalist dishes he's been tasting to be a refreshing change.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Event Tue Jun 30 2009

Bingo is the New Soup and Bread

If you liked the wildly successful Soup and Bread series at the Hideout from earlier this year, then you'll love Veggie Bingo, which brings together bingo and food--a weekly event where participants play the venerable old-school game and win locally made or grown prizes such as a jar of honey, a bar of soap...and the grand prize being a box of produce from Irv and Shelley's (whoa!). Event runs Wednesdays beginning July 8 through September 9 from 6-8pm at the Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia; cards are $1 each (six for $5) and can be purchased onsite. Hot dogs and tofu pups will be served, so all your early evening needs will be met. All proceeds benefit NeighborSpace.

Robyn Nisi

Event Mon Jun 29 2009

Base Eatin'

Join the Chicago Foodways Roundtable for a tour of (and lunch at) the Naval Culinary School at the Great Lakes Naval Station next Wednesday, July 8. You'll get a tour of the School, which runs a thirty-day training program for students that covers kitchen basics and emergency response skills. Graduates go on to cook on U.S. Navy ships, so get a whiff of their skills before they sail off into the culinary horizon. Event runs 11am-1pm. Tour is free, lunch is $4.25, and RSVP required. Parking is available, and the Base is across the street from the Metra North Chicago station (off the Kenosha Line). Call (847) 432-8255 or email to reserve your space.

Robyn Nisi

News Sat Jun 27 2009

New York ♥ Chicago Microbrews

Chicago's "new wave of microbrews" is highlighted in the travel section of this Sunday's New York Times. Metropolitan and Half Acre both get shout outs, as well as the venerable institutions where their beers are sold, such as the Hop Leaf and the Map Room.

Dana Currier / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Jun 26 2009

Perfuming Garlic and Soft Pesto

Fiocchetti with creamy pesto and garlic

I smelled roasted garlic perfuming the air on my bicycle ride home today as I passed an Italian restaurant. Perhaps the hot and balmy weather intensified the aroma. I stopped of for some garlic and went to my kitchen.

Sautéed, minced garlic goes brilliantly with pesto mixed into any kind of pasta. But I used fiocchetti - a type of pasta that, because of its small size, leaves more surface area to soak up sauce. I was fortunate that a few friends brought this pesto by for me last weekend. It was creamy and soft, with a rich oily basil flavor, which I'd been previously enjoying on bread. The pesto was, above all other ingredients, the star.

Chris Brunn

Ingredient Fri Jun 26 2009

Farewell to strawberries

fraises.jpg

You'll see strawberries at the farmers markets this weekend, but late June means the end of the season. Soon, cherries and blueberries will take their place at the farmstand table. Peaches will follow in a few weeks.

This week, I staged my own slightly boozy farewell to strawberry season by setting wild strawberries atop pastry cream that had been spiked with Cointreau, an orange-flavored liqueur. For an even simpler preparation, consider soaking sliced berries with a sprinkling of sugar and a few splashes of Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Serve atop shortcake.

I'm also a fan of The Rustic Kitchen's recipe for Strawberry Bourbon Sauce. Poured over ice cream, it's an excellent answer to our early summer heatwave.

Daniel Shumski works for an orchard and blogs at Fruit Slinger. Follow him on Twitter.

Daniel Shumski

Event Fri Jun 26 2009

BBQ Explained

If you read our recent review of new cookbook Low and Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons, in which LTH Forum founder Gary Wiviott explains the art of making the best BBQ around, you will drop your plans for this Saturday morning and head to Kendall College, where Wiviott (and food writer Colleen Rush) will walk you through the delicate process of cooking some good meat. Event is sponsored by Culinary Historians of Chicago, and begins at 10am at 900 North Branch Street; $3 admission (free for Kendall students and faculty), and there's free parking. RSVP required via email or phone (847) 432-8255.

Robyn Nisi

Feature Thu Jun 25 2009

Eating Out in the Backyard

It's economical, ecological, and environmentally-friendly. In many cases, it's downright delicious. And there is a chance that you could die. This seems to be the main thesis of the new "field-to-kitchen guide," Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States, by Joe McFarland and Gregory M. Mueller.

Continue reading this entry »

Andie Cavedo / Comments (2)

Business Wed Jun 24 2009

Organic, Except When It's Not

Chicago filmmaker and environmentalist Dorothee Royal-Hedinger is traveling the country examining the sustainable food movement with OrganicNation.tv. She's been home for a bit, and decided to check out Doc's Juice and Smoothies, a Bucktown spot that touts its organic ingredients. Only they might not be organic, as Royal-Hedinger and partner Mark Andrew Boyer discovered.

However, as we were leaving, Dorothee asked the barista if the drinks were indeed organic, and she replied, "No, but they're all-natural."

Since leaving the store, we've made numerous attempts to contact Doc's owners or managers to clear up the discrepancy, but our emails bounce back and none of the listed phone numbers appear to be in service. I'm not sure why Doc's is so blatantly false advertising (even the URL is docsorganic.com), but I do know that I probably wouldn't have forked over seven bucks for a drink had I known that it contained conventional ingredients.

So, the question is, should Doc's change its name? Are they "greenwashing" their product, making customers believe they're getting one thing when it's actually something else? What do you think?

Andrew Huff

Blog Wed Jun 24 2009

A Forkable Wedding

Excited to tie the knot, but not to break the bank? Andrea, of the Chicago food blog Forkable, recently catered her own wedding. Ambitious? Yes. Impossible to do well? No, according to Andrea. She is kindly chronicling her experience in a series of blog posts that aim to help other couples follow her lead. Her wise advice, "When confronted with a $6,000 quote for catering, don't cut your guest list in half; cut your caterer!"

Post 1: Save Money: Cater Your Own Wedding
Post 2: The Basics
Post 3: A Disclaimer
Post 4: Begin Planning
Post 5: 3-6 Month Check List
Post 6: Full Bar vs. Wine and Beer
Post 7: 2 Month Check List

Check Forkable over the next few weeks for the remainder of the posts in this series.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Event Tue Jun 23 2009

GB Discount for Bottlenotes' "Around the World in 80 Sips"

80sips2009.pngThis Friday, June 26, from 7pm to 10pm, Chicago-based Bottlenotes is hosting "Around the World in 80 Sips," an exploration of more than 80 wines from, as the name implies, all around the world, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.. It's an opportunity to try wines from less well-known regions like China and Lebanon alongside the more established wine spots. An assortment of artisanal cheeses and food from local restaurants will help soak up some of that wine.


Tickets are $50 in advance
, $75 at the door, but Gapers Block readers can get an exclusive $10 discount by using the code GAPERSBLOCK at checkout. Cheers!

Andrew Huff

Event Tue Jun 23 2009

But What I Really Want to Do is Produce

The Food Network will hold an open casting call for Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star on Sunday, July 12 at the Affinia Hotel, 166 East Superior, from 10am-4pm. Bring two pictures of yourself, your resume and a completed application. Email them with questions, as all my answers these days seem to be mumbled nonsense. Grgrhrrr.

Robyn Nisi

Drink Mon Jun 22 2009

The Great Absinthe Crusade

When you talk to distiller T.A. Breaux about his product, after a while you get the vague sense that he's talking like a parent (or teacher) who has to patiently (very patiently) explain the same fact to a child (or student) over and over again until said person finally gets it.

But that's because Breaux distills absinthe, one of the most misunderstood spirits on the market.

Continue reading this entry »

Jill Jaracz / Comments (8)

Recipe Mon Jun 22 2009

For a Peanut Butter Lover

I came across this amazing peanut butter cookie recipe a few weeks ago while on the hunt for something new, and these don't disappoint: the recipe, which yields only a few dozen (or did I eat all the dough before it had a chance to hit the oven?) is a heavenly glob of sugared peanut butter--crispy, chewy, fluffy, transcendent. The crisscrossing of the cookie surface in this recipe is meant to be a skull and crossbones-esqe warning to outsiders, as in "get off my cookies, or I'll cut you." I was going to take a picture of the baked product, but I just didn't have enough restraint to grab my camera. Step one is admitting you have a problem, folks.

Recipe after the jump!

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi

Column Fri Jun 19 2009

Mad for Mofongo

I have no qualms saying how much I love to eat pork products. I do. I think pigs are delicious animals. But, even I have my limits as to how much pig fat I will eat in one sitting.

For example, I was recently trying to figure out what the quintessential dish was for a number of cuisines. And I looked up Puerto Rican food and Mofongo seemed to win. I began to compare recipes and noticed that they all involved the same basic things. Cutting green plantains into chunks, deep frying it in lots of pig fat until the starchy fruit soaked up the pork fat, and then blending or mashing that with garlic, salt, and other spices, along with pork rinds. This mash was then formed into balls or patties and used as the starchy base for a number of different types of dishes.

Continue reading this entry »

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

Feature Fri Jun 19 2009

Time To Shop? Go To HarvesTime

HarvesTime Foods could be one of the best kept secrets on the north side. It's like the Millennium Falcon. From the outside it doesn't look like much. The awning is torn and a bit sun-faded. The LCD sign's functionality is sometimes spotty. The building is coated in a stark whitewash in a neighborhood where one side of the street is rundown and the other is neo-gentrified. So at first glance, purchasing even canned food from this market may make you cringe a bit and wonder if you're taking your life into your own hands.

Continue reading this entry »

Cliff Etters / Comments (11)

Event Thu Jun 18 2009

Feed Your Ears

Tomorrow night, at 7pm at an undisclosed location somewhere near Pilsen, fine dining and music criticism come together to create a themed menu and perhaps, if their on-air banter is any indication, a Desert Island Pantry list of dessert toppings. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions have teamed up with Chef Efrain Cuevas's community dining project Clandestino for a meal and Candid Wine pairings based on five selected albums, including selections from Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, Curtis Mayfield, Common, and Mavis Staples. Why exactly Naked Raygun goes so well with fennel and herb crusted hanger steak, braised marrow, potato terrine, oyster mushroom ragout -- I guess you'll have to try it to find out. The inspiring albums will, of course, supply the soundtrack for the evening.

Spots still seem to be available (click to RSVP) -- $250 covers the meal and gratuity for one guest, and a portion of the total is tax deductible. Exactly how much, and exactly where the event will take place will be announced this week via email to registrants.

Andie Cavedo

Event Thu Jun 18 2009

Chowing and Plowing



After a big meal, guilt can set in. "Why did I do this to my precious body?" you may say to yourself. "I didn't need to eat three Monte Cristos." Then you have a solution: exercise. Now. So you pay the bill, stumble out of the diner into the cruel summer heat and start running down the street in your determination to work off the six thousand calories you just ate, only to end up a crumpled, cramping and dehydrated version of yourself minutes later. Did you just barf onto your neighbor's rose garden? Tsk tsk.

Rather than schedule your exercise for those crazy moments, you can combine your love of eating with exercise. And if you're looking to lay off the meaty battered sandwiches, August 15th's Veggie Bike and Dine, sponsored by Active Transportation Alliance will give you an opportunity to sample some of the city's tastiest vegan fare from places like Chicago Diner and Trotters to Go. Registration is now open; tickets are $50, which includes food.

If you're interested in exploring other food genres, Fork in the Road will begin offering guided bike and eating tours within the city, starting with this Sunday's "International BBQ" tour, which will explore Korean, Indian, Chinese and American takes on the dish. The newly formed business will also be offering bike tours in Asian, Vegetarian, Latin American and local fare throughout the fall; tickets are $50-60.

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Wed Jun 17 2009

Puns on Buns

Frankophiles? Franks for a franc? Cheap haute dogs? Whatever the pun, the deal's a good one: Brasserie JO, 59 W. Hubbard, is selling "French style" hot dogs -- on a baguette with mustard (presumably Dijon) -- for just a dollar between 5pm and 7pm every day in July. Why? Because July is National Hot Dog Month, and hey, why not?

It's worth noting that this is apparently not the prototypical French hot dog. According to Wikipedia's entry on hot dog variants, if you order one in France you'll get a grilled dog topped with melted cheese (usually gruyere) on a baguette, possibly with Ketcepes, a mushroom-based catsup. Sounds like it'd go well with a little wine.

Andrew Huff

News Tue Jun 16 2009

The Missing Joys of Street Food

I know many people have asked me, and I've wondered myself, why Chicago doesn't have hot dog, pretzel, elotes, knish, etc. carts hanging out on downtown streets like New York and many other cities do. Despite what Hollywood would have you think, there are no folks in business wear standing on street corners to get their dog fix on.

Claire Bushey wrote a great piece for The Reader called Legalize It that explains a bit of the history of the fight to license food cats and what many vendors are getting together to organize.

The restaurant owners in predominantly Latino neighborhoods (where you're most likely to see the carts) are uncomfortable, and reasonably so, with having a cart parked outside their business selling the same food (probably for less) than what can be purchased inside. But there are many areas of the city where the ratio of potential eaters to restaurants is much greater. The city cites concerns for health reasons, which is understandable, but those are things that can obviously be relegated and inspected.

If you want to see more street vendors near where you live or work, contact the Chicago Worker's Collaborative to lend your support. And a call to your alderman certainly couldn't hurt.

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (2)

Random Tue Jun 16 2009

Have Your Cake & Wear It Too

threadcakes.pngThreadless.com's shirts are so cute, sometimes you just want to eat them up. In fact, many people have -- by turning their favorite designs into cakes.

It's not just for fun, either -- it could be for profit, too, if you enter the Threadcakes contest this summer. From June 15 (ie, yesterday) until August 3, you can submit photos of your own Threadless shirt-based cake to the contest for a chance to win a Threadless 12-Month Club membership, "tons" of Guittard chocolate and a Charm City Cakes prize pack. There are two categories -- 2D (just the design on the cake) and 3D (the design is the cake) -- and you can submit as many cakes as you want. So read the rules, sign up and get to baking!

Andrew Huff

Review Mon Jun 15 2009

Don't You Forget About Me, Says Lula

Even though fans of Lula Cafe are heading down to the restaurant's newest southward incarnation, Pilsen's Nightwood, DT staffer Andie and I sat down to dinner tonight at Lula for a bite of what made this restaurant so good in the first place, and weren't disappointed.

IMG_0834 We started off with a spinach salad with baby fennel, egg, grilled spring onions, and romesco; the dish was a bit small for the $10 cost, but the tradeoff of quality ingredients was obvious. Lula's gone a bit crazy with plating sauces in a bold, paint stroke-like motion at the base of dishes--the look of both the salad and seafood appetizer that we ordered reminded me of a very cool t-shirt that I used to wear in the 80s. But I liked the 80s, right?

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (4)

Openings Sun Jun 14 2009

Pilsen Farmers Market - Opening Day

pilsenradish.jpg

The Pilsen Farmers Market opened for its second season this Sunday. Several new vendors have joined the market, nearly doubling the size from last year.

Pilsenmushrooms.jpg

In addition to excellent produce and flowers, vendors also sell honey, handmade clothing, sandwiches from Simone's restaurant, pasta sauces and cured olives.

Pilsensauce.jpg

The Pilsen Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it is located in the Chicago Community Bank parking lot at Halsted and 18th. The market runs through September 27th.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Restaurant Sat Jun 13 2009

Aromatic Heaven in May Street Market

Last week, my husband and I went to the May Street Market to take advantage of the Yelp Eats' prix fixe menu--a three-course meal for $25. As is often the case with these promos, we had to ask for the "Yelp menu," but our waiter was gracious when asked. The selection was intriguing: choosing one each from the two appetizers, four entrees and two desserts was a marginally agonizing affair though we did come out of it in one piece. I chose yellow corn veloute, smoked spring chicken and ice cream flight, my hubby fried green tomato, smoked scallops and cupcake flight.

They were all very tasty, but what stood out was the use of aromatics, unexpected and delightful. Almost every dish had a hidden perfumy surprise or two. My corn veloute (cream corn soup) was scented with orange rind, while the asparagus that came with the smoked chicken had sneaky bits of fresh mint that provided a nice contrast to the earthy, green sweetness of the asparagus. (I took mental note to steal that technique.) The refreshing mint paired surprisingly well with the meaty mushrooms (porcini?) in the same dish. Mint and mushrooms--who knew? My husband's smoked scallops sat on a bed of curried couscous, which, in itself, isn't anything new, but a little drizzle of orange-based sauce lifted the couscous to an aromatic heaven. Desserts didn't disappoint, either; my husband's cupcake flight included one that paired lavender cake with earl grey (I think) butter cream. Yum.

It was early on a Tuesday, so we shared the roomy "bistro" area with only a handful of other groups. Late afternoon sun cast a nice, warm glow on our table by the windows, while the bar sank in comforting semidarkness in the back. Toward the end of our meal, as the afternoon sun gave way to growing cloud cover, staff dimmed the lights and distributed votive candles. We watched the flickering dance of the tiny flame for a while after the meal, sipping coffee. It was a thoroughly relaxing evening with great food--we'll definitely be back.

If you missed the Yelp Eats, don't despair: May Street Market has practically extended the deal. $25 three-course dinner is available Monday through Wednesday for the time being (our waiter didn't know how long). According to him, these three days of the week will also be BYOB nights, meaning no cork fee for wines you bring in.

May Street Market
1132 W. Grand Avenue
312-421-5547

Yu Kizawa

Ingredient Fri Jun 12 2009

Strawberries

strawberry.jpgEleven months out of the year, eating a strawberry most likely means eating a berry grown in California. Those berries are raised not just for flavor, but also for appearance and durability -- their ability to survive a cross-country trip to the supermarket and still look good.

Now, our short local strawberry season is here. Local strawberries usually arrive at the beginning of June. By the end of the month, they're on their way out.

This is shaping up to be a pretty good year for strawberry flavor, so local, peak-season berries probably won't need much help. But if you're looking for something more, here are three quick strawberry serving ideas:

Turn them into strawberry cheesecake bites. Take a strawberry, spread a bit of cream cheese onto it and dip in graham cracker crumbs. Consume.

For a salad, toss sliced strawberries into spinach. A balsamic vinaigrette goes well with this. (That's 1 part vinegar to 3 or 4 parts olive oil.) Consider adding some poppy seeds and briefly sauteed minced onions to the vinaigrette.

Finally, for a dead-simple serving idea, you can't beat berries with sour cream and brown sugar.

Daniel Shumski works for an orchard and writes Fruit Slinger, a blog about the farm and farmers markets. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Daniel Shumski

Interview Fri Jun 12 2009

Those Who Make Ribs Vegan

Dan and Russ of Upton's in their factory

If you're headed to Ribfest Chicago this weekend, perhaps you're curious about the fake meat that's in Delicious Cafe's vegan ribs. Upton's Naturals is a local business specializing in seitan. They are making the seitan, portioning it into ribs just for Delicious, and packing it into buckets with a sauce developed by Delicious Cafe. The ribs come ready for Delicious to grill at Ribfest Chicago.

I sat down with the owners of Upton's, Dan Staackmann and Russ Calderwood, in their factory in Skokie's South-East Industrial District. How did they design the seitan for the fake ribs?

Russ: "We have our base recipe that we use as a jumping off point whenever we launch a new product. And then we just worked with [Delicious Cafe] as far as the size and texture and presentation that they wanted."

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (4)

Feature Thu Jun 11 2009

An Interview: Great Chefs Cook Vegan

Linda Long wanted to convince some of the best chefs to contribute to a vegan cookbook. If top professionals in the culinary world would endorse vegan cooking, it would be hard to argue against vegan food as legitimate cuisine. Twenty-five of the highest awarded chefs signed on, each contributing a three or four course vegan meal. The book includes chefs Charlie Trotter, Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller, each many time winners of the James Beard Award, the so-called Oscar of the culinary industry. Long photographed the book, Great Chefs Cook Vegan, inside the chefs' kitchens.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (4)

News Thu Jun 11 2009

National School Lunch Program

As Congress prepares to debate the reauthorization of the school lunch standards set out in the Child Nutrition Act, the Tribune's Monica Eng shares an inside look at CPS lunch offerings.

Many of us have memories of "pizza boats" and "walking tacos" from our school days, but if you need a refresher a few sites have started cataloguing differences between school lunches around the world. The U.S. lunches sure aren't pretty (or nutritious).

On May 5th, a healthy meal created by Chicago high school students was served on Capital Hill. Yu Kizawa wrote about the effort by The Healthy Schools Campaign in a recent Gapers Block Drive-Thru article.

According to The Healthy Schools Campaign, more than 30 million students in the United States eat school lunch every day. Through their website, you can urge your legislators to reauthorized a well-funded Child Nutrition Act that will help future students avoid the unhealthy and unappetizing school lunches many of us experienced. To learn more about the childhood obesity epidemic and how it is affecting our nation, visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Gemma Petrie

Openings Wed Jun 10 2009

New Starfruit Cafe Opening

Starfruit, the frozen kefir cafe, is opening a second location in Lincoln Park on Thursday. The grand-opening will have a live DJ and activities for kids served along with the kefir smoothies and parfaits. And, on Thursday only, each kefir purchase comes with a free topping. For Chicago parents facing a day with bored kids at home waiting for their teachers to finish filling out report cards, a little face-painting and frozen-treat outing might soothe a lot of pre-report card angst. The cafe is at 2142 N Halsted Street.

Lori Barrett

Restaurant Wed Jun 10 2009

La Tache Update

Andersonville's La Tache underwent a makeover recently and reopened as La Tache Bistro and Bar. The restaurant's logo and overall design concept has changed, but the food is pretty much the same. On a recent Monday night, a $20 prix fixé menu was offered, featuring standard French fare: steak frites, bouillebaisse, crème brulée. These dishes are what La Tache continues to do best. More exotic dishes, like the walleye with pappardelle in an orange-flavored broth, were less impressive. Nevertheless, this little neighborhood bistro still oozes charm, and because of its location just off Clark on Balmoral, the outdoor sidewalk dining area is relatively quiet and serene, perfect for a warm late spring evening.

Dana Currier

News Wed Jun 10 2009

Ribfest Chicago gets Vegan Ribs

Ribfest Chicago is expected to draw 50 thousand people to Chicago's North Side this weekend - people who will consume some 65,000 pounds of ribs. But not all those ribs will come from animals.

Kevin Porter and Chelsea Waldrop are the married couple that runs Delicious Cafe (previous review) in the St. Ben's neighborhood. Starting Friday, they'll be at Ribfest Chicago, introducing the carnivorous crowd to vegan ribs.

I sat down with Chelsea and Kevin to find out how they got into Ribfest Chicago, how you design a vegan rib, and why they're going to be there. You can listen to a recording of the interview here on Vocalo.org.

Ribfest Chicago runs this Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. It includes 25 bands and can be found at the intersection of Lincoln, Irving Park and Damen.

Chris Brunn / Comments (3)

Random Wed Jun 10 2009

When the PersonalSilverware Becomes Political



Having difficulty organizing your kitchen cutlery because your roommates aren't putting things back in the right place? Take it from this Northwestern student's attempt to draw parallels between sloppy housekeeping and, um, racially motivated dorm room assignments(?).

And if you're looking for tips on how to organize your utensil drawer, we've got resources and a referral to a local de-clutter/organizational consultant.

Robyn Nisi

News Tue Jun 09 2009

The Amuse-Bouche of the Taste

Although it's an event that needs little advertising, the City is throwing a Taste of Chicago Preview at Daley Plaza from 11am-2pm tomorrow, where you can buy $2 "Taste Portions" of several foods that will be on sale when the monster hits town on June 26.

Robyn Nisi

Event Mon Jun 08 2009

Our Growing Home Photo Contest Winner Announced

Congratulations to Whitney, our winner of the Growing Home Photo Contest. Her lovely picture of produce bought from Growing Home at the Green City Market won her two tickets to Growing Home's annual benefit event, which will be held at the Chicago Cultural Center this Thursday (tickets still available!).

More farmers markets in the city are opening this week:

Tuesday: MCA/Streeterville (at van der Rohe/Chicago), Lincoln Square (at Western/Leland), Prudential Plaza (at Lake/Beaubien).

Wednesday: Pullman (at Arcade Park, 111th and Cottage Grove), South Shore (at 70th and Jeffrey).

Saturday: North Center (at Lincoln/Damen), Printers Row (at Polk/Dearborn), Southport (at Southport/Grace)

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Fri Jun 05 2009

Big Portions, Big Prizes

Everyone knows that when you go to Gibson's, you should expect a meal of unbelievable proportions. Huge steaks, massive potatoes, and a dessert that can probably be shared by your entire table, and maybe even the next one over.

So when a big restaurant has a big anniversary to celebrate, they're going to do it up right.

Gibson's is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and you get to party with them for 20 days in June.

From June 10-29, the restaurant will give away one gift certificate a day worth $1,000. On the 30th, they're going all out with a $25,000 raffle and a rollback menu. One lucky prize winner will receive (pick your jaw up from the table after you've read this):

  • 20 $200 Gift Cards

  • 20 WR's Chicago Cuts (22 Ounce Bone-In Ribeye Steaks)

  • 20 Bottles of Gibsons Reserve Cabernet

  • 20 Australian Cold Water Lobster Tails (12 Ounce Tails)

You can enter the raffle at any of the Gibson Restaurant Group restaurants, and no purchase is necessary.

The rollback menu means you can get a steak for 1989 prices. That's right. A Filet Mignon for $14, a Porterhouse for $24. Dinner's already sold out, but you might still be able to nab a table for lunch.

Jill Jaracz

Event Fri Jun 05 2009

Picture, 1000 Words...You Get It

A gentle reminder to upload a picture that creatively displays your dedication to locally grown or organic produce to the Drive-Thru Flickr Group by Sunday at noon CDT and you could win a pair of tickets to Growing Home's Annual Benefit (valued at $250), courtesy of the Drive-Thru Photo Contest.

Robyn Nisi

Feature Fri Jun 05 2009

Local, Sustainable Deli Coming to Ravenswood

A couple of months ago, I enjoyed one of the very best dining experiences of my life at City Provisions (check out the post), Chicago's green, locally-focused catering company and monthly supper club. At the dinner, I had the opportunity to speak with the owner/chef of the company, Cleetus Friedman, and he told me of his hopes to open an organic deli within the next five years. Little did he know that in just two months his plan to open a deli would be underway.

Continue reading this entry »

Kaitlin Olson

Restaurant Wed Jun 03 2009

Wicker Park's Vietnamese Sandwiches

Bon BonBon Bon is a fun Wicker Park storefront cafe serving Vietnamese sandwiches. Its shelves and cooler are lined with treats and snacks like Pocky and red bean rice cakes. I took the portobello sandwich, well-seasoned, with pickled daikon, cucumber, carrot match sticks, and cilantro. I passed on the mayo. It comes on a baguette that has a nice chew inside yet a good crunch on the outside.

"I used to say I wish I didn't have to go to Argyle to eat these Vietnamese sandwiches," a friend told me, "and now I don't have to." Although she'd like to see Bon Bon do a tofu sandwich. (Apparently, the ones on Argyle are great.)

Imagine a sandwich shop with colorful chairs and walls, a nice wood floor, swivel lounging chairs, a sofa at a coffee table, and still plenty of tables to eat your sandwiches. This is the type of place I could see myself pulling out my laptop and hanging out, using the Wi-Fi for a few hours. Their coffee is strong - at least when I ordered it black - with solid chicory tones. They have receptacles to separate recycling from garbage.

Bon Bon, 2333 W. North Ave., (773) 278-5800

Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Event Wed Jun 03 2009

Picnics & Pies

Blue Sky Inn is holding its annual fund-raiser at Lush Wine & Spirits (the one at 1257 S Halsted) on Saturday. The bakery and nonprofit, which offers job training for at-risk and homeless youth, will auction off picnic baskets prepared by celebrity chefs, including Charlie Trotter, Ina Pinkney and Rick Bayless. But the highlight of the afternoon will likely be the amateur pie-baking contest, with catergories like best crust, best crumble and most creative, to be judged by Frank Sennett, the editor-in-chief of Time Out Chicago, and Paula Haney, from the Hoosier Mama Pie Company. And one lucky raffle winner. Kids activities and wine tastings are also scheduled. The event begins at noon and ends at 5pm; admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door for everyone over the age of 12.

Lori Barrett

Interview Wed Jun 03 2009

"Rad" at The Green City Market

This past Saturday I caught Bravo Channel's Top Chef Tour at the Chicago Green City Market. On hand were Antonia Lofaso and Radhika "Rad" Desai, both Cheftestants from Top Chef's Season Four and Season Five respectively. Over the course of 4 sessions on Saturday, both demonstrated their skills and amused the crowd with anecdotes from the show, dishing out answers to the audiences questions like "Are Hosea and Leah still together?" (The answer is yes), and "Is Toby truly that way in real life?" (Off camera, he's supposedly much nicer and very much the family man).

After the second session I had about five minutes with Wicker Park's Radhika Desai, who I found to be wonderfully charming and very funny.

So what's new for you?

"I left Between... it was a friendly separation,but I just felt like I needed to move on. I'm also doing private dinners and catering, and a lot of charity stuff. I'm not sure if you've heard of Deborah's Place?

It's a foundation for homeless women and children, and I donated a dinner where I went to someone's house and cooked. We raised $8000 for the charity! So I'm using my pseudo-fame to give back to the community rather than just being a consumer.

In the meantime I'm working on my own place.

Continue reading this entry »

Cliff Etters / Comments (1)

Drink Wed Jun 03 2009

Buckets of Champagne Springtime

l-p1.jpgThe recession's obviously not hitting everyone (those lucky people), because Laurent-Perrier Champagne's winter holiday partnership with Baccarat crystal went so well that the two have teamed up again to bring you yet another exclusive opportunity.

This time the two companies are celebrating spring, with two different types of packaging. The first, available only at Fox & Obel (and F&O is one of the few places in the country that will have this), is a bottle of Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Rosé Brut with a large Baccarat crystal vase. It retails for $1200.

l-p2.jpgThe second item contains a smaller vase along with a bottle of the Rosé. It's available at both Fox & Obel and Urban Harvest for $225.

Maybe you aren't into crystal or vases, but you do like the bubbly. On its own, the Rosé itself is really quite delicious and is only $100 a bottle.

Jill Jaracz

News Wed Jun 03 2009

Free Food (Some of Which Will Cost You)

If your stomach grumbles at the sound of the word "free," you've got a couple good opportunities to fill up on the cheap this week and next -- provided you've got a little cash.

Whuh? Yes, there's a little money being exchanged before you get your freebie on a couple of these. Today from 11am to 2pm, are Potbelly Sandwich Works locations are giving away a free bag of Zapp's chips with every sandwich purchase, in honor of Zapp's being their new chip supplier. And starting at 2pm, you can wash the Crawtater chip flavor out of your mouth with a free iced coffee from Au Bon Pain, no purchase necessary.

donutday.jpgThen on Friday, June 5, the 470 Chicagoland Dunkin' Donuts stores will give a free donut with any beverage purchase in honor of National Donut Day -- which was started in 1938 by the Salvation Army right here in Chicago.

And next week, on June 11, Panera Bread will be giving away free samples of its new summer salads: Chopped Cobb Salad, Strawberry Poppyseed or Fuji Apple Chicken Salad all day. [via]

Andrew Huff

Ingredient Tue Jun 02 2009

Rhubarbilicious

Rhubarb in cake batterMy mother's preferences dictated a lot of what I would or wouldn't eat as a kid. She wasn't really into chocolate, so I'm not really into chocolate. She loved gumdrops and ice cream--I was an easy convert. I remember asking her once about rhubarb, and she said it was "too tart," which was enough information for me to overlook it on menus. However, I wanted to start exploring new foods, and landed on this winner of a cake ingredient. Yeah, rhubarb's tart. But if you add sugar, eggs and some butter to it, rhubarb is a nice treat (although it's not the most nutritious vegetable out there, but if you're cooking with fats and carbs, you have different priorities).

I made a Rhubarb Almond Cake last night. I had some dry roasted almonds that were approaching staleness, so I emptied the bag onto a cookie sheet and toasted them for about 10 minutes in a 350° F oven.

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Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Openings Tue Jun 02 2009

Smash Cake Grand-Opening

cupcake.jpgSmash Cake, the bakery named for a birthday cake meant for a one-year old to smash, had its grand-opening party on Saturday. The space has been open for about a month, offering cupcakes kids can decorate themselves, sandwiches, soup, coffee, tea and juice. As with sister store Bleeding Heart Bakery, everything is organic, and the store sells not only foodstuffs, but a lifestyle as well. At Smash Cake, there are homemade aprons covered with little skulls and crossbones for kids to wear as they decorate their cupcakes or take part in crafts activities. Similar aprons are available, in children's or grown-up sizes and fabrics, from designer Kerry Vitali. Her cards are displayed, as are the cards of other local designers and printers, along with sample party invitations, so you can plan and prepare for an indie kiddie party in one stop. Artwork is for sale as well. Currently one wall is covered with paintings by Derek Erdman, featuring bright images of neckties, ice-cream cones and school buses.

Continue reading this entry »

Lori Barrett / Comments (2)

Event Mon Jun 01 2009

Win Tickets to Growing Home's Upcoming Benefit

growinghome.jpgWe're holding yet another awesome contest! You and a friend can roam among the swanks at Growing Home's 7th annual benefit, which will be held Thursday, June 11 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Growing Home is a nonprofit that provides job training for people of low income through its farm sites on the south side and in suburban Marseilles. Growing Home sells its organic produce through several farmers markets and via CSA memberships.

You will receive two tickets (valued at $250) to the event, which will feature foods by Monogramme Events & Catering, The Balanced Kitchen, vegan chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel, Meatloaf Bakery, Nia Mediterranean Tapas, Bistro Campagne, Charlie Trotter's, and Vie Restaurant. Rick Bayless will be giving the keynote address. Good grief! All that culinary promise is overwhelming, right?

So this is where you come in. Because Growing Home is devoted to growing produce that in turn supports community development, you need to show us your dedication to the cause. So we're holding a photo submission contest, where you submit a photo demonstrating your commitment to organic and/or local produce to the GB Drive-Thru Flickr Group. Tag your photo submission "growinghome" and you're all set. We'll be accepting submissions until Sunday, June 7th at noon CDT that shows us your love for produce. One tagged submission per user, please. Bonus points will be awarded for creativity. Aren't they always?

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Mon Jun 01 2009

Spacca Napoli Now Open Mondays

Starting tonight, Spacca Napoli is open for dinner on Monday nights from 5pm to 9pm, which means you can now enjoy their Neapolitan style pizza any night of the week. They're still closed for lunch on Mondays and Tuesday, however.

Andrew Huff

Chef Mon Jun 01 2009

Eat at Doug's!

If you love amazing food, my friend, then you must eat at Hot Doug's before you die. Anthony Bourdain says so in Men's Health. Congrats to Doug Sohn for making the list alongside restaurants like The French Laundry, Katz's Deli and El Bulli.

Cinnamon Cooper / Comments (3)

GB store

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...
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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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