The last wine at Table #5 was breathing in a glass decanter, one of those that looks like a genie bottle, but with a much wider and flatter bowl. The wine rep gave it a gentle swirl, sloshing the black-plum liquid before pouring a tasting.
"Ooooh," I said because I'm easily excited. I had only just begun the night's Rioja tasting, that famed Tempranillo-producing region in Spain, and the Maetierra Dominum QP Vintage 2006 was a great way to start. The wine was dark and rich and full. I really wanted something warm and hearty to eat with it.
"How long could you cellar this?" I asked.
He consulted another gentleman behind the table who explained, "Maybe 7-10 years. But it's not really necessary to cellar because you can drink the wine now."
It was true. The wine did not make my face shrivel up or suck all the moisture out of my mouth. Rioja is unique in that the winemakers do all they aging work for you by keeping their wines safely stored in a temperature-consistent cellar and releasing them only when they're ready to drink. Scads of other producers ship wines off to market even if they're too big and tannic and require time to smooth out the rough edges.
Located in north-central Spain, southeast of Bilbao, Rioja produces white, red, and rose (rosado). For reds, Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, Mazuelo, Matura Tinta, and of course, Tempranillo, are cultivated. For whites, there's Viura, Malvasia, and Tempranillo Blanco. There were 13 total tables at the Rioja 101 tasting, hosted by Homestead on the Roof. Most tables had a minimum of four wines and with 58 total available, the breadth and diversity of the region was represented.
A two-week long event for wine lovers is coming to Chicago. Organized by Bottlenotes, Taste Around Town runs September 15-28 and features wines from Wines of France, Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena, and Australia's purveyor of bold, rich Shiraz, Penfolds. Participating restaurants, including Bistrot Zinc, Gilt Bar, and Roka Akor, are preparing select pairing menus and tasting flights and some locations, including Hub 51 and Summer House, are curating by-the-glass lists.
A launch party, hosted by Hub 51 (51 W Hubbard), kicks off the festivities on Wednesday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. Wine-lovers can rub elbows while enjoying tastings of the featured wines and bites such as king crab California rolls, braised chicken mini-tacos, prime chuck and sirloin sliders with white cheddar, and beer-battered fish-and-chips. Tickets are $50, but Gapers Block readers get discounted tickets for $25, which can be accessed here.
Taste Around Town launch party
51 W Hubbard
If you're looking for good weekend plans, here are two great ideas: Saturday's Heritage BBQ at Goose Island's New Barrel Warehouse (605 N. Sacramento, 4pm) isn't cheap (tickets start at $125; early access VIP available), but it'll be worth it: five chefs (among them Chrissy Camba of Laughing Bird and Cary Taylor of Big Star) will compete for the heralded title of "BBQ King/Queen of Chicago" using heritage pigs. You vote while enjoying all the food and drink you can stomach.
Longman and Eagle's Block Party (Sunday, 1-10pm) is an experience to behold; incredible music from Windy City Soul Club, kids activities, buttons from Busy Beaver, and great food--elotes, ceviche, and meatballs!--for your end of summer fete-ing. Event takes place alongside L&E (2657 N. Kedzie) on Schubert from Kedzie to Troy.
You could do a lot with 15 pounds of Hormel bacon, right? The Bacon Takedown will gladly give you the pork for you to compete Sept. 14 at Lincoln Hall for the top award. Make anything you want with the bacon -- savory or sweet, even jam -- and serve up your creation to attendees (tickets are $20) who will vote for the "People's Choice" at the end of the day, with a separate group of judges awarding a winner. If you are interested in throwing your toque in the ring and competing for the glory (plus a year's supply of bacon from Hormel and cookware), email Bacon Takedown to register.
Chicago can seem like a craft beer kind of town, but with diligent searching, you can find some excellent wine purveyors throughout the city. Occasionally I'll attend multiple-course wine dinners, where I'll smell and sip the wine and pretend that I can actually discern the subtle hints of oak or raspberry. In any case, I've learned that appreciation for wine takes time and experience, and I cannot reasonably decline attempts to improve my proficiency.
Last week, I attended the Bodega Piedra Negra winemaker dinner at Geja's Café, a popular fondue restaurant near Lincoln Park. Guests tasted four wines procured from the Andes mountains, beginning with a Rosado, then a Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon, ending with a Malbec. Each was paired with an individual course, beginning with a light salad and bread and ending with a flaming chocolate fondue.
If you're tired of elbowing through the crowds at your local farmer's market, I have a very good recommendation for you: the newly opened Horner Park Farmer's Market is a wonderful addition, and located in one of the city's finest (and largest) parks. I stumbled upon it this past weekend and was impressed by the variety of vendors in attendance, among them Mint Creek Farms, M's Organic Farm, Katherine Anne confections, and Albany Park's Global Gardens, a refugee training program. The market is open Saturdays at the corner of Montrose and California (9am-1pm); you won't be disappointed.
The Chicago Culinary Museum and Chef Hall of Fame has announced their picks for the top players in the 2014 Chicago culinary scene, to be honored at a gala on Thursday, October 16 in downtown Chicago.
Chef Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat and Little Goat fame takes away the title of Chef of the Year, proclaiming, "The culinary scene in Chicago is amazing right now and I am happy just to be part of it." Other winners include Chef Gale Gand for Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef Michael Kornick for Legendary Chef, Phil Stefani as Industry Leader, and Larry Levy as Industry Legend.
The event, now in its 9th year, aims to honor Chicago's preeminent culinary talents as well as promote Chicago as top dining destination. Past inductees to the Chefs Hall of Fame range from the late Chef Charlie Trotter in 2006, Chef Rick Bayless in 2008, Chef Art Smith in 2010, and Chef Graham Elliot in 2012, among multiple others.
Tickets to the event, held on October 16 from 5:00 - 9:30 pm at the Castle on 632 North Dearborn, can be purchased in advance for $99 through August 31 (after which the price will increase) at Brown Paper Tickets. Look forward to an open bar, silent auction and raffle, awards ceremony, and--last but not least--food prepared by around 25 different local restaurants, including cuisine from past inductees.
Lollapalooza, where you wash your feet in a muddy puddle to clean them. Where the souls of crushed Budweiser cans and plastic cups line the pathways and peek from underneath bushes. Where an entire field becomes a frat party.
Most festival food consists of fried cheesy shit designed to soak up mass quantities of alcohol, but Lolla had a surprisingly good lineup of restaurants this year, including Franks 'n' Dawgs, Edzo's Burger Shop, Star of Siam, and Jeni's Splendid Ice-Cream. Graham Elliot did a fine job curating the roster for Chow Town, and there was even a farmer's market for those special attendees who wanted to rock a fresh zucchini while grooving to Grouplove.
Three Dots and a Dash turned 1 year old on July 31, and, Paul McGee and company are throwing a party tonight to celebrate. Starting at 5pm, the first 150 customers will receive free tote bags and t-shirts, and everyone after that will get temporary tattoos and sunglasses. McGee will be behind the bar, introducing five new cocktails:
Allow me to slowly rock back and forth on my lawn chair as I reminisce about outdoor concert food, and how much it sucked in the olden days--commercial food service-grade nachos and hot dogs sold for ten times their actual value to a throng of kids without access to debit cards. It was a heady time.
Things are better now, as exhibited by the "Chow Town" food court and farmers market (which I imagine will be just as pricey as an actual farmers market these days) at this weekend's Lollapalooza. A very impressive assortment of local restaurants will be in attendance, many of them going down the burger route (Edzo's, BJ's Market and Bakery, MBurger), as well as corndogs (Graham Elliot) and pulled pork (Smoke Daddy). Wow Bao, Tiparo's and Star of Siam will also make appearances. If you're of the root beer persuasion, seek out Gale Gand's inspired version of the drink, which will be sold at the festival in float form in a collaboration with Edzo's. It will be worth the price of admission alone, and make you the envy of every non-attendee (trust me).
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 Spaniards added hard-boiled eggs on top their gazpacho. This was Rick, the host of "Mexico: One Plate at a Time," the winner of "Top Chef Masters," the almost executive chef of Barack Obama, the guy whose chips and salsa you purchase en masse at Whole Foods. The white chef who cooks like a 80-year-old Mexican woman from some Yucatan village. And I was using his bathroom in the middle of his garden party.
Despite my general disdain for the concept of "celebrity chef," Bayless is an exception. That guy is good. Unlike many chefs, his extraordinary palette doesn't use profligate amounts of butter, salt, and sugar to delight to the senses. His food is the Mexican counterpart of Thai food -- curiously spiced, exceptionally balanced, and traditionally flavored. Bayless' empire speaks to his culinary prowess and business acumen, but behind all the demos and appearances and cookbooks, there is a vibrant streak of genuine passion. Only inherent love for his craft explains why he hasn't completely burnt out yet.
As Belgium, home of the Red Devils, luscious chocolates, and saison-style beer, observes its independence from the Netherlands on Monday, July 21, Maria's Package Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st St.) will celebrate by featuring beers from Belgian-style brewer Brewery Ommegang.
From 7 to 9pm, Maria's will serve the one-time, limited-release 2014 Belgian IPA along with other selections from the Cooperstown, NY-based brewer, such as Fleur de Houblon and Rare Vos, for $1 off the usual price. Other Belgian-style beers will be on special while Belgian-inspired savory pies from Pleasant House Bakery will be available for noshing.
The Taste of Chicago, which has long been a giant garbage can stuffed with barbecue sauce-smeared paper trays, begins its 34th season today at Grant Park (Jackson and Columbus). It's been scaled down considerably after many years of being a financial drain and a magnet for unfortunate incidents, and while the idea of crowds and heat is still my personal hell, one of the brighter points of this year's offerings is the Pure Leaf Celebrity Chef du Jour series, which lets chefs from restaurants that would never be seen at the Taste serve a multi-course menu to a smaller crowd with the help of students from Washburne Culinary Institute. Admission is $45 per person (drinks not included), and the event takes place in a separate, air-conditioned tent. Seats are still available for Friday's event with Paul Virant (Vie, Perennial Virant), Erling Wu-Bower and Amanda Rockman (Nico Osteria) on Saturday, and Matthias Merges (Yusho, Billy Sunday) on Sunday.
The second annual Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff is coming up this Saturday, July 12 at Schubas, and we're excited to see you all there. Come taste what five Chicago chefs do with Vienna Beef hot dogs, and vote for your favorite!
Last year's entries included an over-the-top, bacon-wrapped Sonoran dog, Asian-inspired hot dog skewers, and one topped with Flamin' Hot Cheeto-crusted onion strips. Who knows what this year will have in store?
During my culinary tour through Japan, I tried desperately to love ramen. I tried with all my might. I slurped every type of noodle and broth, but after my 20th bowl, I admitted defeat and decided to devote the rest of my tragic life to Maruchan. "What!?" some foodies cry indignantly, pointing their foie-fattened fingers at noodle pictures from some quaint Japanese ramen hut. "How can you not love that?" Because like every good American, I believe the best ramen is FREEDOM ramen.
Ramen is derived from the Chinese term, la mian, which literally translates into pulled noodles. Traditional ramen noodles have spring, chew, and a slight eggy taste. There are four types of ramen broths: shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (pork) and miso. Each region in Japan has their unique variation of ramen, but they're all fairly similar when all is said and slurped. The Japanese don't stray from the fundamentalist tree, so never expect to see duck confit or green curry in your ramen. However, I'd argue that ramen's greatest feature is how customizable it is.
My mouth was a brisket free zone. Scarred by my mother's recipe - place in glass casserole, top with Lipton's dry onion soup mix with one cup of water and bake until leather — for 40 years, no brisket passed my lips. Then I met Gary Wiviott.
It started innocently enough. Lunches with the boys at Thai grocers or Pakistani BBQ segued into parties at our respective homes. At one such event, Gary teased me with some brisket he'd cooked low and slow, as is proper.
"I don't like brisket."
"I told you, I don't do brisket."
Pushy bastard (and glad for it), it was nothing like I remembered. Gone was the bland, gritty sand like texture seared into my memory, replaced with a spicy bark of glistening smokey beef.
Ladies and gentlemen, dust off your roomiest shorts and start honing your mustard palates because it's that time of year again... the Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff is back on July 12. Join Gapers Block and fellow hot dog connoisseurs to watch six Chicago chefs battle over charcoal grills, then decide for yourself who should win top dog.
Cookoff chefs all start with Vienna Beef hot dogs, but can use them in whatever way they like. And don't expect anyone to just phone it in with relish--last year's entries included an over-the-top, bacon wrapped Sonoran dog, a Chinese five spice chili-topped dog, and a flamin' hot cheeto-laced, bacon-fried, delicious mess of a dog. We even heard a rumor that this year there will be a "contemporary" corn dog in the mix.
This Friday, Half Acre will be tapping a firkin of Strawberry Rhubarb Kölsch in the Tap Room. Bang Bang Pie will be on hand selling mini ham biscuits with rhubarb mustard and vanillla bean cheesecake topped with rhubarb compote. Sounds delicious.
Local band the Jordan Years collaborated with Gary's 18th Street Brewing to create Homemade Hustler, a session IPA named after the band's 2013 album. Each bottle has a download code for a free copy of the album, and they're celebrating with a release party at the brewery and a concert at Tonic Room on June 14.
Beermiscuous, a new "craft beer cafe" with a coffeeshop vibe and retail component, is aiming to open in Lakeview at 2812 N. Lincoln Ave. on June 28. They're currently hiring "beeristas."
If you need to get out of the city this summer, consider a short trip to a farm dinner hosted by some of the city's most well-known purveyors. Fairbury's Slagel Farms, which supplies to meats to a long list of local restaurants (Elizabeth, Girl and the Goat) has five dinners planned through October with several of its chef clients (from Three Aces, Endgrain, Owen & Engine, etc.) overseeing the menu.
Heritage Prairie Farm, which is located four miles from the end of a Metra line (bring bikes!) serves its first dinner next Thursday; the "Pig Gig" is awfully porky, but later ones (July 10th's Bastille Day event) redeem the meatness; tickets $75.
If you want to stay closer to home (or can only afford to have your car share for a few hours), the Chicago Botanic Garden (pictured) has a short but sweet little series of dinners ($220) starting in July, with participants from their Green Youth Farm giving tours of the gardens; Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead will supply the eats using ingredients from their garden, along with other local suppliers.
The last stop on the tour is Delaware, which will be represented by the Bobbie, a signature sub from the local Capriotti's chain. The Bobbie is basically a Thanksgiving leftover sub, filled with roast turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo. Sounds filling.
Stately Sandwiches creator Kelly Pratt will be hosting a "50th Sandwich Celebration" on Saturday, June 14, and following it up with a post wrapping up the project.
This past weekend saw Chicago roll out the welcoming committee (i.e., a bunch of beer-guzzling revelers) for Laguintas Brewing Co.'s new Pilsen brewery. Lagunitas' annual Beer Circus, usually held in the Lagunitas home base of Petaluma, California, made its way to Chicago for a weekend-long celebration featuring burlesque acts, carnival rides, live music, and-- of course-- beer.
Those who were able to snag tickets to the sold-out event were among the first to get a glimpse at the new brewing facility, located in an immense warehouse on Washtenaw that was previously used as set space for a few Chicago-based television shows. Now, with the title of Chicago's largest brewery under their belt, Lagunitas is set to open a taproom sometime over the next few months. In the meantime, check out their website and Facebook for news and upcoming events.
Participating gladiators included Chris Pandel from The Bristol and Balena, Dana Cree from Blackbird, Abraham Conlon from Fat Rice, Jason Hammel from Lula Cafe, Meg Galus from NoMI, and Mark Steuer from Carriage House. These renowned chefs were asked to cook with esoteric products such as chestnut and sheep's milk, and diners voted for their favorite dish in each ingredient category.
Chicago Craft Beer Week starts Thursday and continues on through May 25 with as many as 300 bars and bottle shops in the city and suburbs celebrating Chicagoland's massive selection of creative, awesome beer. Events range from the Beerfly Alleyfight, which fuses art and beer, to pub crawls to $4 beer specials.
Ina Garten, the best-selling cookbook author and star of Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa," is coming to Chicago Thursday, Nov. 6, and presale tickets are available today! Ina Garten will share her natural approach to food, entertaining tips, stories, and maybe even some recipes. The Emmy Award-winning host of the "Barefoot Contessa" television show on Food Network and a New York Times best-selling author will be joined on stage at the Auditorium Theatre with special guest host Catherine De Orio, host of WTTW's Emmy award-winning "Check, Please!"
Garten will deliver a charming insider's view of the hit TV show, now in its eleventh season, and the pleasures of good food, cooked with love and passion, engaging the audience with an interactive Q&A. Garten's eagerly-anticipated ninth cookbook, Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (due out Oct. 28) delivers her top make-ahead recipes and invaluable tips, making meal-planning easier than ever. Ina Garten's Food Network show, "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics," is now in its 11th season on Food Network and her previous eight cookbooks have all been New York Times bestsellers. Presale tickets for the event are available now by using the code INA.
Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Burger Bar are hosting their 9th Annual Burger Fest, May 12 - 16, as part of their celebration of National Burger Month.
Executive Chef Amanda Downing has created five over-the-top creations paired with fries using flavor profiles from the featured burgers. "For this year's Burger Fest menu, we inspired by recipes that we've worked on throughout the year - including top recipes from our weekly #Burgerlab night, each Saturday, at Rockit Burger Bar," explained Chef Downing.
I could smell it before I entered the UIC Forum. The intoxicatingly smoky aroma of cured pork belly, so savory and dense, even the air tasted good. Baconfest is no place for health-conscious vegetarians, nor cholesterol and fat-fearing dieters, nor devout Jews. No, it's where hearty Midwesterners gather to smother their bearded faces with porktacular deliciousness. Baconfest has come a long way since its 2009 inception with only 10 restaurants and 75 attendees -- this year boasted more than 160 restaurants with 4,500 ticketed guests. Like everyone else, I had my categorical favorites.
The coolest-sounding wine event returns to Chicago this weekend, May 2-3. Wine Riot, whose mission is to encourage more people to drink wine by celebrating it and educating them in the most non-snooty way possible, will gather wine producers and 250 wines at Union Station's Great Hall for three four-hour riots on Friday and Saturday.
You can sample wines from around the world (and keep track of those wines on Wine Riot's app), swing by the Bubbly Bar to learn about the numerous styles of sparkling wines, take Wine 101 to learn wine-tasting terms and a 20-minute Crash Course on a specific topic, such as wines from Portugal. Plus, there's a photo booth, temporary tattoos, and a DJ throughout the event. Can't make it this weekend? The Riot will return October 17-18. Tickets for each four-hour riot are $60. Sessions are Friday and Saturday, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Riesling fans, mark your calendars for Riesling Riot on June 14.
Over 160 Chicago chefs will be cooking up nearly 8,000 pounds of bacon as they prepare signature dishes for Baconfest Chicago 2014 (April 25 & 26 at UIC Forum). Dishes range from savory to the sublime, including:
The Bad Apple'sBaconnoli - Bacon, banana, and Bellwether Jersey Cow ricotta-filled canolli with bacon peanut caramel and powdered bacon sugar.
Untitled'sThe All In - Bacon dashi soup dumpling and bacon rabbit sausage with a spicy bacon mustard.
Glazed and Infused'sApple Bacon Pineapple Fritter
The Dawson'sThe Featherweight - Bacon maple donut bread pudding sandwich, with allspice confit face bacon and bourbon bacon sabayon.
Go to the Baconfest Chicago website for the entire menu.
The Saturday lunch and dinner sessions are sold out, but a limited number of VIP tickets for Friday's session are available via Eventbrite.
After attending the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo (GAFE) in Schaumburg this weekend, I finally get it. I finally understand why people enjoy being gluten-free. As I strolled through the vendor aisles -- toting my environmentally friendly bag -- a peculiar but delightful emotion coursed through my wheat-intolerant veins. It was a feeling of self-gratifying sanctimony, of clannish indignation -- and boy, did I love it! There is no sensation more pleasant than knowing (and letting others know) that whilst I cannot partake in the joyous wonder that is bread, I do have flax crackers and chocolate-coated quinoa chunks! Who needs hot dogs and Doritos when I can happily indulge in vegan soy sausages and tamari-glazed rice crackers?
On April 7, 1933, Herman Berghoff, founder of The Berghoff Restaurant, secured the first two liquor licenses issued by the City of Chicago after the repeal of Prohibition. Liquor license #1 was obtained for the Berghoff Bar and license #2 for the Berghoff Restaurant. Those original licenses are still on display inside the Berghoff Bar and have become a popular photo opp for tourists and locals.
On any Monday during the month of April, Berghoff's is inviting customers to snap a photo with the #1 liquor license and post it to either Facebook or Twitter. The first 30 people will receive a stein of Berghoff Beer for a dime.
Today from 8am to 5pm, Berman will be on hand giving demonstrations of the coffeemaker; with complementary donuts and coffee will be provided. On Saturday from 11am to 3pm, Berman teams up with Good Beer Hunting for a studio event that includes samples of Solemn Oath's new coffee milk stout, more coffee and donuts, and the opportunity to get a free "Uppers & Downers" t-shirt if you're one of the first 100 new Kickstarter backers at the event. RSVP is requested, but not required.
If you're among those who miss having breakfast at Ina's in the West Loop, you have a one-day reprieve. Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook will be hosting a special brunch with Ina Pinkney (aka The Breakfast Queen) on Sunday, March 30 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Diners are invited to come and meet "The Breakfast Queen;" Ina will be signing copies of her new book, Taste Memories.
Prairie Grass Cafe's Chef Sarah Stegner will make some of her favorite Ina recipes, including Heavenly Hots pancakes, that will be added to a featured brunch menu. Reservations are recommended.
Prairie Grass Cafe
601 Skokie Boulevard
Northbrook, IL 60062
1-847-205-4433 for reservations
Proclaiming April as "Bacon Month" in Chicago, Baconfest Chicago announced a month-long series of bacon-related programs and events that culminate in the 6th Annual Baconfest on April 25 & 26 at the UIC Forum.
Baconfest celebrates all things bacon, and participating Chicago chefs have a reputation of delivering wildly creative bacon concoctions. Baconfest attendees and a judges panel pick their favorite bacon dishes. Last year's winners of the "Golden Rasher" awards included:
Most Creative Use of Bacon for Lunch went to Lockwood Restaurant for Slow-Poached Egg with Bacon Ragout
Most Creative Use of Bacon for Dinner went to Three Aces for Wake 'n Bacon
Slow-Poached Egg with Bacon Ragout by Lockwood Restaurant
The Good Food Festival & Conference (GFFC) resembles a Whole Foods carnival, where instead of funnel cake and decrepit rides, you enjoy organic kale smoothies and baby chicken exhibits. It's a place where vegetarians are the majority, where people drop words like gluten-free, heirloom, and artisan into casual conversation. This multi-day event is organized by FamilyFarmed.org, which aims to "expand the production and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food in order to enhance the social, economic, and environmental health of our communities."
Despite my utter respect for FamilyFarmed.org, I'm somewhat ambivalent towards the concept of Good Food, defined as "delicious, healthy food produced as close to home as possible, by family farmers and producers that use sustainable, humane, and fair practices." While its inherent principles merit recognition, the movement's culture is elitist and annoyingly partisan.
As usual, Chicago chefs were well represented in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category. Dave Beran of Next, Curtis Duffy of Grace, Paul Virant of Vie and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia took four of the five spots. Meanwhile, Jimmy Bannos Jr. of the Purple Pig and David Posey of Blackbird are in the running for Rising Star Chef of the Year, and Dana Cree of Blackbird received a nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, whose roots can be traced back to 1847, returns to Navy Pier, Saturday, March 15 - Sunday, March 23. Its annual Garden Gourmet Series features some of Chicago's most popular chefs preparing recipes with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients.
As one of Mariano's Chicago Tastemakers chefs, Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ, Belly Shack and urbanbelly will kick off this year's program. Mariano's is the Garden Gourmet sponsor, as well as the presenting sponsor for the entire Chicago Flower & Garden Show.
Over 2 dozen Chicago chefs will share recipes and cooking tips during live 45- to 60-minute cooking demonstrations, as well as suggestions for growing and using sustainable foods.
Steadfast wino that I am, I don't know a ton about whiskey, except I like it in cocktails and Hot Toddies. Luckily, Fountainhead (1970 W. Montrose) has put together a series of whiskey classes, part of their "School of Spirits," running now through March.
I missed their first class earlier this month, an Introduction to American Whiskeys. It covered the basics of whiskey tasting and terminology, among other topics, and featured five tastings from different producers, like Knob Creek, Bulleit, and Koval. I did make it to the following week's class, "The Whiskeys of Heaven Hill," which featured four tastings from the Bardstown, Kentucky-based distiller, the third largest producer of American whiskey.
Over twenty students attended the sold-out class, which was held in Fountainhead's barrel room behind the bar. Sections of old whiskey barrels decorated the space above the seating area, blessing the class. The chatter of the restaurant provided a lively, if at times loud, atmosphere and reminded me of how much fun it can be to hangout at a bar with friends.
Behind every great chef is a great team, but the folks that are generally responsible for making sure your citrus glazed pork shank and mushroom sage risotto makes it to your table like the chef intended rarely get the spotlight. Not this week.
Since Monday, Chef Cleetus Friedman from Fountainhead has stepped aside and is letting his staff take center stage with the 2014 Fountainhead Kitchen Cook-Off. In a round-robin competition, 10 chefs will compete from now until Friday, presenting two different dishes per day under Friedman's tutelage. You decide the winner and the winning dish will be on the official menu for a month. Yesterday's menu included a smoked chicken taco with fried brussels sprouts and a traditional cog au vin so I have a feeling the rest of the week will be delicious. This kind of stuff doesn't happen often in Chicago, so get down there and support these guys.
Two local microbreweries have fun new projects this week.
First, DryHop Brewers launches Metal Beers & Burgers, its collaboration with Kuma's and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, this Wednesday, Feb. 5 with the release of Reverse Thunder, an 8.0% ABV imperial red, named for a song by the metal band Red Fang. The beer will be tapped at DryHop at 6pm, and will be available at DryHop, Kuma's Corner and Kuma's Too for the next month.
You may not be up for a polar bear plunge, but you might be willing to try South Water Kitchen's Outdoor Groundhog Day Lunch this Sunday, Feb. 2. The north Loop restaurant will set up tables outside on the sidewalk patio and offer a complimentary two-course lunch to anyone willing to eat it outside.
You've got your choice of two options -- a grilled tomato focaccia and goat cheese fondue sandwich paired with broccoli cheddar soup or a meatloaf sandwich with whipped potatoes, followed by a warm chocolate fudge brownie topped with salted caramel, pecans and vanilla ice cream. Non-alcoholic beverages are included (may we suggest hot coffee?)
South Water Kitchen will do three seatings, at 11am, 12:30 and 2pm. Reservations are required; call 312-236-9300. Sunday's forecast is for a high of 14°, but you better call soon anyway -- last year the event quickly sold out. South Water Kitchen is at 225 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago Restaurant Week launches Friday and for two weeks, nearly 300 restaurants in the Chicago-area will be serving prix-fixe lunch or dinner menus for a mere $22 for lunch or $33 or $44 for dinner. How's a girl to choose?
Of course, there's the big guys like Blackbird and Carriage House and Embeya and Nightwood and Sepia and on and on. But tucked in this gargantuan list are a handful of (mostly) smaller affairs and wine bars, spots where I've grabbed a cocktail or two or a glass of wine with some friends afterwork. Though Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity to check out a restaurant I've been meaning to get to, at a more reasonable price, it's also a chance to explore more of the cuisine served at a place I mostly just drink, a place I know I already like. Again, how's a girl to choose?
Baconfest Chicago announced today that general admission tickets will go on sale on Feb. 24 for $100 apiece, which gets you in the door for all the bacon goodness, drink tickets to wash it down, and a souvenir tote bag. VIP tickets, which get you in an hour before the general hoi polloi, are already on sale for $200 a pop.
The organizers also released a lineup of 160 food vendors for this year's festival, which will have three sessions over two days, April 25 and 26.
Looking for a way to combine your two loves -- beer and art -- this Saturday? Look no further! 4 Hands Brewing Co. presents Artists N' Ales: A Winter Brew Event, an exploration of artwork inspired by the aesthetics of craft beer and how it intersects with food, culture, and society. All attendees will receive a copy of the Mash Tun Journal, the world's only journal about craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, as well as pours of the ales that inspired the work and some tasty culinary delights.
Yesterday, I made a stop on my way home to pick up ingredients for one of my favorite cold winter soups, a simple black bean with a toasted cumin seed fraiche number that is easy to make (it also doubles as a great base for a plate of nachos, as most of my cooking does). If you weren't able to get out for soup makings and still want that warm, good feeling, the annual Soup and Bread series kicks off this Wednesday at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia, 5:30-8pm). Get your fill of soups made using a theme; this week's is (fittingly) "Fire and Ice," with Mana Food Bar's Jill Barron, WBEZ's Monica Eng and Louisa Chu, and Grind Cafe's Tara Swadley, among others. The soup is free, but donations are encouraged for the food-related charity of Soup and Bread's choice (a new one each week), which will be the Community Dinners program offered through Logan Square's St. Luke's Lutheran Church.
If you want to end this year in style, you still have some fine dining options:
-Topolombampo and Frontera Grill (445 N. Clark) will be serving a set menu of the year's most popular dishes complete with mariachi music.
-Girl and the Goat (809 W. Randolph) is offering a "Tour de Goat" in their private dining room ($195; email for reservations); you can also forego the eats for a special open bar with small bites and champagne at midnight (also $195).
-Red Door (2118 N. Damen) is teaming up with the folks behind Baconfest for Manhattans at Midnight, which doubles as a benefit for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Your $100 tickets gets you appetizers and an open bar from 9pm-2am with special cocktails (and a midnight toast with Manhattans).
-Dusek's (1227 W. 18th St.) offers a five-course meal with wine pairings ($75); seatings at 8:30pm and 9:30pm, followed by a dance party at Punch House.
Chicago has its fair share of "Top Chef" alums with roots planted the Midwest (Stephanie Izard, Beverly Kim, Carlos Gaytan, Dale Levitski), so I was quite cynical when Fabio Viviani -- a non-Chicagoan -- opened up a "tavern" with extremely strong reviews. After all, someone who has partnered with match.com can't possibly make good food. Fabio has ridden the "Top Chef" media hype hard, endorsing, appearing and biting every marketing bait wiggling its sparkling streamers. He holds, or has held, endorsements with multiple companies, including Domino's, Bertolli, San Pellegrino and Dr. Oetker. He owns two restaurants in California and Siena Tavern in Chicago. He's even the private chef for Captain Kirk William Shatner. Let's just respectfully acknowledge that he's now more of a businessman than a chef (which I completely understand).
Last week, Kendall College (900 N North Branch) hosted the fourth annual Chicago Food Film Festival. Each of the festival's four days had a separate theme (two on Saturday) and Friday's was the Food Porn Party. It was all about pleasure: these films featured extreme, juicy close-ups of food.
Mark Klebeck's "Old Fashioned Salted Caramels" had me salivating for the featured doughnut drizzled with caramel and sea salt. Matt Checkowski's two films, "Beer Braised Ox Cheek" and "Mixed Berries, Three Ways" were shot against a crisp black background, making the food pop with color. Strawberries shimmered like rubies and hunk of raw ox meat looked elegant.
Six of the ten films had a food pairing, including the featured food in Checkowski's films. We also tasted the Paloma cocktail from "Paloma," the Mandorlato from "That's Mandorlato!" and beer fondue from "Fondue." My favorite though, was that doughnut from "Old Fashioned Salted Caramels." It tasted like like cake and fried bread had a love child, and then decked out in caramel sauce and sea salt. The whole audience moaned while eating this, or I just did, very loudly.
At Thanksgiving, families come together to share a feast and, possibly, watch football or plan out Black Friday attack strategies. But for those stuck away from family for the holiday, it can be a lonely time indeed.
Local startup Mealsharing may have the solution. Its Happy ThanksSharing page lists dozens of people around the world -- and many right here in the city -- who are offering to open their home for people to join them this Thursday. The meal may not be turkey -- barbecue in Argentina and biryani in Hydrabad are among the options -- but hopefully the welcoming environment brings a touch of the holiday to the proceedings. To take part, register with the site and then click "Request Meal" for an invitation to the dinner you want to attend. It's free, but Mealsharing suggests guests bring a gift or offer to help cook.
Torrential rainstorms and a Bears game didn't stop Chicagoans from flocking to Frontier's 1st Annual Gumbo Cook-Off last weekend to taste gumbo from 14 different chefs - eight, professional, six, amateur -- or in other words -- a whole lot of gumbo.
From alligator gumbo to crawfish and sausage to even a gluten free version, the varieties revealed that Chicago has a sweet spot for the Cajun/Creole cuisine.
Chef Brian Jupiter from Frontier, and event host took first place by popular vote with his Gumbo "Ya-Ya", which basically stands for a gumbo with everything in it. (I was unable to unearth the recipe so you'll have to head on over to Frontier to try it.) But the amateurs stole the day with Joe Ruesewald taking second place with a smoked duck and Cajun fried pork belly gumbo and I took third with a chicken and sausage gumbo.
Says Chef Jupiter, "We decided to host this event because I'm from New Orleans. We were already hosting Saints viewing parties, and everyone else does chili cook-offs. It was just a fun event with some great chefs that showcased a dish that I've been eating my entire life."
The event was a huge success and there are plans for continuing on the healthy competition next year. Congrats to all who participated.
The good folks at the Chicago Food Film Festival (which runs Nov. 21-23) would like to set you and a friend up with tickets to their Thursday night event at Kendall College, which pays tribute to the wines of Michel Chapoutier. Food, drinks and a series of short food-focused films, among them Fac et Spera (above) will be shown. Send us an email at email@example.com by Tuesday, Nov. 19 at noon CT to be entered in the drawing. Update: Byron has won the tickets; thanks to all who entered!
If contests aren't your thing, Drive-Thru readers can get a 10% discount on tickets for any night of the festival. Use the code GapersBlock10 when ordering.
If you are like me and love to take Thanksgiving off from the routine grind--away from waiting out delays at the O'Hare Chili's, and sleeping on leather couches at your relatives' place (nice and cold!)--join me in helping to plan your local meal.
THE WHOLE (OR PART) OF THE MEAL
Order your sides and dessert from L. Woods (7110 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincolnwood). If you've ever disappeared into a delicious prime rib-laced fog at this place, you understand that their sides are unreal. Mac and cheese, candied sweet potatoes, salads, and pie are among the offerings; order by 11/25.
Feast and Imbibe will cook the whole meal for you; order by 11/20 for pre-Thanksgiving (or day-of) pickup in Evanston. Offering three separate menus (including a special Thanksgivingkkuh version to celebrate the rare holiday); $20-35 per person.
Wicker Park's Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division) will be offering smoked whole turkeys for pickup on Thanksgiving Eve ($60-85), along with cornbread stuffing and gravy.
Want something healthier? Karyn's Fresh Corner (1901 N. Halsted) offers a traditional Turkey day meal in both raw and cooked vegan versions. Order by 11/23 for 11/27 pickup;cost $45-50 per person (you can also just pick up a pie for $30).
The Chicago store is too busy for pre-ordering pies, but Hoosier Mama's new Evanston location (749 N. Chicago) can accommodate your needs (you can order online!).
Bang Bang Pie (2051 N. California) is taking orders for chocolate pecan, pumpkin and/or key lime pies, as well as apple crumble and those biscuits I like so much. Pickup 11/25-11/27.
You can order a pie from VK Urban Farms (3228 W. Carroll); for $6, they'll deliver it to you (I would like the Cardamom Cream Pumpkin Pie, please).
West Town Bakery and Diner (1916 W. Chicago) is taking orders for vegan and non-vegan versions of pie and cake, as well as bread and rolls. Order by 11/23.
EATING OFF THE GRID
Bring a talented chef into your home via Kitchensurfing to make your meal. They bring the food, prepare it in your kitchen, and present it to you and your guests as if you're dining in an upscale place--even if it's just a two-flat. GB readers get a special $75 discount to use for their first time.
Offer to host or offer to attend a Thanksgiving meal through Mealsharing, which pairs people interested in mingling with new folks under the guise (and lure) of food.
From parties and feasts to dining out to Thanksgiving, the food-centric paintings, sculptures and decorative arts make this exhibit accessible in a way you can almost, almost feel, smell, and touch. This isn't the typical one with the Monets or Rembrandts lining the walls, where you, or at least I, am often acutely aware of the historical distance separating the subject(s) of the painting from the viewer. As awe-inspiring as Rembrandt's work is, there can be a struggle at times to relate to his work, to care about the woman in that portrait, or to understand the scene of a bunch of men in puffy shirts loitering with muskets.
That's not to say people and history aren't part of Art and Appetite. Changing tastes in American culture and cuisine is at the forefront of the exhibit as the artworks stretch from the 18th through the 20th century. Gazing at the incredibly realistic painting by William Michael Harnett of a defeathered chicken hanging upside down by one scaly foot, you can't help but think of a plump, live chicken, or maybe the frozen one from the grocery store. The piece is titled For Sunday's Dinner so you intuitively know our eating habits have changed dramatically over the past one hundred years.
That's what makes this exhibit compelling: food and drink is a subject we all have some kind of relationship with, regardless of our personal tastes, politics, religion, and dietary restrictions. Looking at William J. McCloskey's Wrapped Oranges you can practically feel the weight of the orange in the in the palm of your hand and the whiff of citrus in the air. And when you spy that photograph-like painting of a dead chicken, you'll have some sort of reaction, regardless of your food preferences.
Art and Appetite runs now through January 27, 2014
Judging by the crush of beer lovers in Pilsen last weekend, the third annual Beer Hoptacular was a rousing success. The Hoptacular is a must for in-the-know beer nerds trying to get their hands on unreleased beers and meet the people behind their favorite craft brews, and this year did not disappoint.
Like St. Patty's Day and Oktoberfest, Dia de los Muertos is one of those international holidays Americans love celebrating as anything legitimizing the dissolute consumption of alcohol merits serious observance. But I celebrate Dia de los Muertos because me encanta todo de México and because I hail from Texas, the best country in the entire world. This year, I spent Dia de los Muertos shadowing Yo Soy!, an underground supper club founded by Mikey Corona and Brian Riggenbach.
Thursday night, 12 teams of Chicago Public School high school students participating in Cooking Up Change will compete to create the best school lunch. Ingenuity is tested as students operate under similar conditions as the actual school lunch program: limited food and a limited budget of $1 per meal.
So it's no secret that public school lunch programs are sorely lacking in taste and nutrition -- an issue made even more serious because 85% of Chicago public school students get most of their nutrition during the day. Cooking Up Change shines a spotlight not only in the lack of resources in CPS's lunch program, but the nation's as well. The winner of Thursday night's competition will go on to compete nationally in Washington, DC.
Presented by the non-profit Healthy Schools Campaign, Cooking Up Change will be emceed by Marion Brooks of NBC5. The judges panel is a large, eclectic group of students, chefs (Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead) and professionals (Leslie Fowler, director of the Office of Nutrition Support Services at Chicago Public Schools, and Clare Keating, vice president of marketing for Preferred Meals).
Tuesday, October 29th was Champagne Day, and I celebrated the perfect way: by tasting a bunch of French bubbly. Champagne Bureau USA gathered 36 Champagne houses with 108 different wines, all from that famed region in France at The Ivy Room, for a huge, extraordinary tasting.
I (mostly) systematically went from table to table, making it about two-thirds the way through before I was worn out. 72 was a lot of different bubbly to taste, and I didn't actually drink most of it. I spit much of it into a very shiny silver bucket, which was a weird thing to do when a posh Frenchman or woman was standing opposite you. It was either that, or get wasted before trying even a quarter of the wines.
Champagne is a wine of celebrations and special occasions to be sure, since what's more fun than bubbles at a party, but it also loves food. In fact, "This is a great food wine" was a sentence I heard a lot throughout the tasting. The representative from Besserat de Bellefon suggested asparagus as the perfect food pairing for their NV Brut. One of my favorites, Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage had a bit of sweetness and spice to it that would make it a great companion for Asian cuisine.
Many wines had toasty aromas; some skewed toward the full-bodied and creamy end of the spectrum, some were more light-bodied and steely but it was easy to picture cheeses to pair, a pastry with a flaky crust, and fried and greasy foods in particular as Champagne's high acidity and bubbles help cut through the fat. Olivia Pope might like a rich Bordeaux with her popcorn, but I prefer a refreshing, crisp sparkler with such a light buttery snack.
Champagne comes from a specific region in France that's east of Paris, and it's usually, though not always, made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Officially, only wines made there can carry "Champagne" on the label, though there are plenty of producers worldwide who make sparkling wines using the same method, the traditional method (méthode traditionnelle).
Basically, this means the secondary fermentation that creates the bubbles occurs in each bottle, as opposed to collectively in a tank prior to bottling, like with Prosecco. The traditional method is more time-consuming, which is largely why Champagne carries a higher price tag than your average bottle of wine.
Often that bottle of bubbly in the fridge was made from grapes harvested in different years because a Champagne house wants to create a specific house style that tastes and smells the same, regardless of the year is was bottled. They can do this by keeping reserve wine and blending different years together. (One rep I spoke with said his house had reserve wine dating back to 1919). These bottles won't have a date on them, or will state NV (non-vintage). A date will be on the bottle when the Champagne house declares a vintage.
For me, fundraisers kill two birds with one stone: not only can I satiate my perpetually-growling stomach with delicious delectables, but I can also enhance my spiritual wellbeing and social conscience. So naturally, I spent a wonderful evening at the Cooking Up a Cure fundraiser for the Scleroderma Foundation of Chicago (SFC), an organization that provides support programs for patients and their families, funds crucial research endeavors, and educates the public on scleroderma. Affecting one out of every 1,000 people, scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that can damage vital internal organs and cause thickening and tightening of the skin. Although the symptoms and effects of scleroderma vary dramatically, the disease is chronic, and the cure remains elusive.
Spinning Plates, which documents the life and times of three restaurants spanning the country -- among them our own Alinea -- debuts today; showtimes are at the Landmark Century Centre (2828 N. Clark). The Aviary is throwing a party in the movie's honor tonight; email them for details on a package that includes movie admission followed by special cocktails and appetizers at their bar.
Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, called the cacao plant Theobroma cacao, or "food of the gods." Aptly named, as chocolate was once considered sacred by Mesoamerican warriors and the privileged elite, who consumed this naturally-bitter substance for power and virility. But we can thank our European ancestors for modern-day chocolate, a sweet combination of cocoa, fat and sugar that American women shove into their mouths by the fistfuls.
Like many serotonin-loving humans, I cannot resist good chocolate, and last weekend's Chicago Fine Chocolate and Dessert Show was the perfect fix. The public event featured more than 30 artisanal chocolate vendors, as well as culinary presentations, demonstrations and seminars, and art displays.
Chicago has become one of the centers of the craft brewing scene. We at Gapers Block have put together a "microbrewery crawl" to showcase the great beers being produced in the area and help educate beer lovers about beer and the differences and similarities between breweries.
The Gapers Block Microbrewery Crawl on Saturday, November 2 kicks off at Lake Effect Brewing in Mayfair. We'll tour the brewery and get a little food in our system courtesy of food trucks (TBA), then travel by bus to Finch's Beer Company to see how beer makes it from tank to can. The crawl then heads up for a visit to Andersonville's great Metropolitan Brewery, and finishes at DryHop Brewers in East Lakeview, where we'll find out what makes a brewpub different from a brewery. You'll then be free to stick around and have dinner, keep drinking or make your way to the next pub.
The Threadless-sponsored contest to create a fitting, Chicago-centric bottle design for Absolut Vodka has a winner -- and while he may be based in Minneapolis, he certainly served up a vibrant, "stylized cityscape incorporating architectural and iconic elements" such as Navy Pier and the Chicago Theater. The vodka, which is flavored with rosemary, thyme and olives (no sport peppers?) is for sale at Binny's ($20), and Absolut itself is holding a series of promotional events on Oct. 24th, including a brunch event, a scavenger hunt, and a concert headlined by the Hood Internet.
The City hasn't been terribly friendly to food trucks, saddling them with onerous location restrictions and expensive certification procedures, but it's holding out an olive branch today in the form of the City of Chicago Food Truck Rally -- and you benefit.
Echoing The Reader's "Cocktail Challenge" column, participating mixologists were tasked with creating a fall drink, with a winner selected by judges Mike Sula of The Reader, cocktail consultant Todd Appel, and Catherine De Orio, the new host of "Check, Please!" (Spoiler: Jessica Tessendorf of The Barrelhouse Flat won for her sherry/aromatized wines cocktail, Spousal Privilege).
As an evident fan of Art Smith, Chicago chefs, and healthy and happy young children, I was fortunate enough to attend the Common Threads' Cookoff fundraiser this week. Common Threads is a spectacularly-successful nonprofit dedicated to educating communities, especially underprivileged kids, on healthy food choices through cooking. Held at Fulton's on the River, this year's cook-off required chefs and mixologists to create a dish either in a glass, on a bun, in a shell, or on a stick. Attendees then vote for their favorite in each category. Guests could also bid on cool auction items, including a private helicopter tour of Chicago.
How would you like to spend a day sipping cider with Paul Kahan (Publican, Avec) and Brewmaster Greg Hall at Virtue Cider Farms, after which Chef Kahan prepares you a private dinner?
Or maybe you prefer your dinner on a boat...well then, what do you say to Chef Matthias Merges (Yusho, Billy Sunday, A10) wining and dining you on a private boat ride around Lake Michigan while you discuss the finer points of sous vide?
These are just a couple of the many unbelievable, star-studded experiences available in an online auction to benefit the Green City Market. You have until October 6th to bid on the foodie fantasy items online, or you can bid in person at the A (Mostly) Veggie Affair Fundraiser this Thursday.
And if the price of the auction items makes you wince, never fear, tickets to the fundraiser are only $45 and offer a chance to hobnob with many of the same chefs and nosh on their dishes to your heart's content.
For me, Chicago Gourmet was all about drinks, mostly wine. With seminars on Bordeaux, Burgundy, and New Zealand plus a cocktail demonstration, plus the Grand Cru, I didn't see how I would have time to eat much at all.
I did eat, thankfully, arriving early enough that I enjoyed the Great Lawn of Millennium Park before the crowds swooped in. A volunteer suggested I start with the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Company Tasting Pavilion as that would get overrun first. I was thankful for his advice because with all these white tents with dozens upon dozens serving up food or wine, beer, and spirits, I hadn't a clue where to begin.
Ketchup on hot dogs, drinking wine out of Solo cups and wearing white after Labor Day are things you just don't do. While I'm guilty of the first two and will defend the former any day (don't hate Chicago, don't hate), I can still hear my grandmother's words of wisdom - "Babe, you can't wear that, it's after Labor Day."
Chicago debunked that -ism this past Sunday with the annual Chicago in White pop-up dinner - a night where people gather at a secret location dressed up in all white for a BYO "redefined foodie flash mob."
Not to be confused with Diner en Blanc, which is basically the same event, Chicago in White is the original, albeit less French version, that kicked off three years ago. (For backstory, Diner en Blanc stole the trademark from Chicago in White three years ago and has since been trying to bulldoze the real Chicago in White by holding their event right before each Chicago In White event. Scandalous!)
This is exactly how I found myself in an H&M store at Woodfield Mall, browsing the clearance racks amongst the teenagers looking for a cheap yet cute white shirt to replace my white- and gold-striped shirt. Apparently close to white wasn't white enough. Even while creating a fashion faux pas by wearing white after Labor Day, I surely couldn't create another.
On the week of Sept. 16-22, Drive-Thru writers Christina Brandon and Brandy Gonsoulin took the SNAP Challenge and used only $35 for food. Here's their experience:
My SNAP strategy was simple: I would take my $35 to a store I normally would visit, and buy food I'd normally buy. This was motivated in part by laziness. With a full-time job, I had little time and no energy to be creative with my meals. I wanted some basic ingredients I liked that could stretch over a couple days and be tossed together quickly and easily.
For me, that meant produce and pasta, but after suffering through afternoon hunger headaches and this empty-pit feeling in my stomach for two days, it was clear the biggest whole in my strategy was protein. Garbanzo beans (chick peas) were the easiest and cheapest way for me to get more sustenance out of a meal (68¢ per can for the generic brand at Walmart). I managed to stretch one can over three meals of salads made of noodles, a vegetable, and beans.
Apparently, my brain has unconsciously decided to meet as many Top Chef contestants as possible, so when I was invited to spend a Sunday evening at Takito in Wicker Park, I couldn't well refuse. Despite my stubborn attempts to avoid Wicker Park and its brass-balled bicyclists, I was excited to participate in Takito's 6-month celebration, as Chef David Dworshak and Guest Chef Valerie Bolon (personal chef, Top Chef season 4, former Chopping Block School instructor) created a special menu just for the occasion.
Spinning Plates, a documentary premiering in October, takes you into the back of the house at three restaurants -- Chicago's Alinea, 165-year-old family restaurant Breitbach's Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa, and mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant La Cocina de Gabby in Tucson, Arizona -- and explores the similarities between their operations and the various challenges the owners have faced. Entertainment Weekly premiered the trailer today; below is a clip from Alinea.
Spinning Plates made the rounds at film festivals last year, and will be in theaters nationwide Oct. 25. Alinea's sister restaurant Next announced on Facebook that it will be co-hosting the premiere in Chicago, followed by "a very special few evenings at the Aviary." Stay tuned for news on those events.
The average eater of Mexican cuisine in America consumes enchiladas, burritos, or Doritos Locos tacos--with chips and guac, no less. But if you're eating Mexican food cooked by Alex Stupak (Empellón, NYC), Carlos Gaytan (Mexique, Chicago) and Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil, Mexico City), or Rick Bayless (Frontera, Chicago)--well, that's another Aztecan affair altogether.
Rarely can one see big-name chefs like Stupak and Bayless in the same room for more than an hour, so it was a real treat to attend Mod Mex, "a two-day program giving food enthusiasts a rare opportunity to explore, taste, and celebrate the evolution of Mexican cuisine." Event proceeds went to the full-tuition Frontera Scholarship, offered by the Kendall College Charitable Trust in partnership with Rick Bayless.
Thanks to the September Chicago Food Swap, I have officially restocked on canning jars and Tupperware (and lots of delicious pastries). Food swaps are like mini comic-cons for homemade enthusiasts (a.k.a. stay-at-home mamas, grandmothers, & me); each month, we gather to ogle at and exchange hand-crafted creations made with love and care. The silent auction, bartering format can intimidate even the bravest of spirits, as people bid for delicious goat cheese dips or homemade marshmallows. Will she trade these bacon cupcakes for my measly pickles, you wonder with apprehension. But once you breathe, relax, and embody the spirit of Martha Stewart, it's really a piece of cake. Speaking of indulgent desserts, my strategy involves thoroughly perusing/sampling the items, finding those that I would cry without, and locating its owner before the swap begins.
There's nothing like the scent of charcoal and burnt meat that makes my inner Texan twitch with involuntary pride. Because you see, modern BBQ has its roots in the South, where people learned to tenderize tough cuts of meat by slowly roasting them over fire. And when you grow up on Jesus and BBQ, the taste of smoky meat trumps sex, friendship, money, and basically anything important in the world. So it was no surprise that I was Person #25 in line for the Windy City BBQ Classic event at Soldier Field, quivering in fervent anticipation for an afternoon of pure bliss.
Oh, Art Smith, that Southern bananamuffin wrapped in a cheddar bacon biscuit. He can cook for as many Oprahs, Obamas, or Gagas as he wants, but for me, his sweet buttermilk roots will always be in Chicago. So when I was standing only one foot away from him at the Magnificent Taste fundraiser, my little Southern heart just melted into a thousand Paula-Deen butter droplets. (In fact, the only thing that would've made my 10-second encounter better was if it was renamed A "Fabulous" Taste).This year's Magnificent Taste benefited Art's star-studded charity: Common Threads, whose mission is "to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking."
Let me just preface by saying I'm an avid seafood fan. I've probably eaten everything taught during a marine biology class, and my favorite cocktail is the one with shrimp. I'm admittedly unfamiliar with good seafood places in Chicago, but when I was invited to the Seven Seas Charity Feast at Frontier, I knew my stomach was in for a real treat.
The charity event benefited the Chicago chapter of a national organization called Meals on Wheels (MoW). MoW Chicago in particular "funds meal deliveries for homebound seniors and Chicagoans with disabilities as well as home modifications for individuals with disabilities" through two unique programs: Home Delivered Meals (HDM) and Home Modification (HomeMod). Before the Seven Seas event, I didn't even realize that senior hunger was an issue, but according to MoW, 1 in 7 seniors are threatened by hunger. That's a lot of old, hungry people.
It's not too late to pick up a fork in celebration of Julia Child's 101th birthday: Chicago Originals' "Julia Child Restaurant Week" continues through August 31. A dozen restaurants across Chicagoland are featuring attractively-priced menu specials and prix fixe options with a nod towards French classics perfected by Julia. Be a part of the celebration at Mexique, Bistronomic, or one of the other participating restaurants-- find the full listing here. Bon appétit!
Brisket was dead to me. A staple in my home growing up, my mother routinely destroyed it by putting it in a casserole dish, covering it with Lipton's dry onion soup mix, pouring a cup of cold water over it, putting it in the oven and roasting it to within an inch of shoe leather. No doubt her purse tasted better and was easier to cut. Upon leaving home, decades passed with nary a thought.
Then I met a few guys here in Chicago that I trusted culinarily. One of them even wrote what I consider to be a BBQ bible of sorts called Low and Slow. So it was with great trepidation that when they reintroduced me to brisket (gently at first) I tried it and loved it.
Then there were the discussions about soaking your wood (do not -- it drops the temperature and creates an ashy steam) and BBQ sauce. "BBQ is about the meat, not the sauce. If you want some have it on the side."
Opening a restaurant is hard. Opening it in Chicago is even harder. Everything from storefront leasing, space build-out, attorney and architect fees and zoning, application fees, licensing and incorporation (hello Chicago!) can separate passion from reality.
And the folks behind Tuesday Night Dinner want to turn their passion into a brick-and-mortar reality.
TND productions is linking up with The Hideout this Saturday (8/17) to present TND Fest -- a fundraiser to help Tuesday Night Dinner Productions fuel the Kickstarter campaign, which is currently at $10,000, in support of their restaurant, Border Oak Cafe. The fest will include art, music, a made to order screen printing station, and street style food from the TND kitchen (available for purchase on site). For more information visit their website. Tickets are $10.
It's just a hop between Kenmore and Sheridan, but some of the best of Argyle's culinary scene having been turning out each Thursday evening this summer to sell a sampling of their food at the Argyle Night Market. And the brilliant thing is, you can find a range of options for just a few bucks each.
Lesser known spots and mainstays of the neighborhood set up tables on this bedraggled stretch of street, like Tank Noodle, with kabobs and grilled corn and Ba Le with a selection of egg rolls and their famed banh mi sandwiches. You may have trouble figuring out what's being offered where so be prepared to use your elbows to nudge your way forward and you'll discover fresh coconut water, crab rangoon, bao, smoothies, lo mein and other packaged noodles, empanadas, popcorn, pastries, and chocolates.
Vegetarian options are slim pickings, unless you're content with the aforementioned pastries and corn. But if you come early, try the fried tofu from Sun Wah BBQ. Four thick squares with your choice of sauce costs one whole dollar. When you're all full and tempted to buy more than what you can handle, shop for fresh produce and meat at one of farm stands and linger for the live music.
Argyle Night Market runs 4-8 pm every Thursday through September 19
On Argyle between Kenmore and Sheridan
My primary concern at a cocktail lab is to not out myself as a pleb. I'd like to think I know a thing or two about cocktails, but in the presence of people who know lots of things about cocktails, who create drinks for a living, who can produce a drink with egg whites where the foam is as thick as the head of a Guinness, well, I basically know nothing.
At least twenty "students" attended the Emperor's Coffee Lab at Mindy's Hot Chocolate this past Sunday. We squeezed into a few tables set with cocktail shakers, strainers, and bar spoons to learn about Mandarine Napoléon (a blend of cognac and mandarins) and how to prepare coffee drinks with it. Our host, Marc de Kuyper presented some information about the liqueur, which had been made for Napoléon Bonaparte. Then Alex McDaniel and Alex Gara (Head Barista and Bar Manager, respectively) launched into the drink-making segment. We'd be using cold-brewed coffee in the cocktails. And the Mandarine Napoleon, a striking, vibrant orange, with spices like cardamom and nutmeg was a natural partner to the coffee.
The lab began with Gara demonstrating how to prepare the Kitchen Sink cocktail, which sent a few of us nerdy types scribbling the recipe in notebooks, before we were released to make it ourselves. A small chaos broke out. Hands snatched at blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries from the glass pitchers, the stainless steel muddler was passed back and forth, voices called out again and again how much Pimm's, how much gin? Even though he insisted we didn't need to worry about discrete measurements, rather get the proportions roughly correct (3-to-1 Pimm's to gin).
That's when you realize everyone knows about as much as you do. You're all in this together. You're all in this to create and to drink.
If I could move to any neighborhood in Chicago, it'd be Andersonville. It's a little microcosm of diversity, with its Swedish roots, fabulous LGBT community, 2-kid-n'-dog families, and thriving Middle Eastern population. Where else can I finish a Turkish pide dinner with a few Toska tarts and glögg? Andersonville. Where else can I experience Lakeview without actually having to live there? Andersonville. Where else can I hit up Edgewater elotes and Argyle pho without having to drive more than five minutes? That's fucking right--Andersonville.
So when I got invited to the Taste of Andersonville, I wept in glorious happiness because not only did it give me an excuse to dine in one of my favorite neighborhoods, but also because the event is an interactive experience. You see, it's like a culinary scavenger hunt, where participants meander up and down North Clark Street for restaurants mapped on their "passports." Diners chose between three "routes": the Salt Route (vegetarian-friendly), the Pepper Route, and the Enchilada Route (a combination of the salt and pepper routes):
A great way to get to know someone is through the comfort food they crave. Whether a person reaches for gooey fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies or snacks on pickles straight from the jar, what we crave in food to find a sense of nostalgia and home can reveal a lot about our culture and self. Sharing these food loves are also a great way to break the ice and break bread with strangers, and a group of food loving folks in Logan Square are doing just that with their monthly comfort food potluck series, the third one this Sunday August 11th.
A collaborative effort between Comfort Station and local chef and food writer Hugh Amano of Food on the Dole, the series was founded on the idea of a neighborhood potluck to bring the community together to share and discuss food and food culture. The idea is simple, you bring a dish that you find comforting, whether it be a family recipe passed down through the years or something that you just love to make. As they put it best, "weʼre not looking for the next great dish. Instead, weʼre looking to meet more people in our community, and learn more about each otherʼs history and traditions."
Food truck meet art meets marketplace meets street festival at this year's 3rd annual StreetFood Artistry Event being held at the Zhou B. Art Center in Bridgeport on August 11. Booked as an "artist infusion festival," StreetFood Artistry is a nonprofit organization committed to creating opportunities for budding and established artists via fundraising.
This year, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the creation of the "Stand Out Creative" Program, which will award a grant and pro bono legal services for a deserving and emergent business. Tickets can be purchased at the event website.
August 11, 2013
Zhou B. Art Center
1029 W. 35th St.
Admission: $10 for adults; free for children under 6.
Luckily, on August 11, you can get your red hot on in style at the Chicago History Museum's first Hot Dog Fest. The Fest will celebrate this important part of Chicago history with eight different interpretations of the classic Chicago dog, plus music, games, and booze. Hear Man Bites Dogauthors Bruce Kraig and Patty Carroll expound on hot dog culture while you taste the real deal.
Put on your good eating pants on August 14th to benefit Share Our Strength at Taste of the Nation, which takes over Navy Pier's Ballroom for an evening of eating, drinking, chef-gawking, and entertainment. Enjoy small plates and drinks from an army of chefs and mixologists from the city's best places (among them avec, Girl and the Goat, Topolobampo, Trencherman, Balena, Cafe Spiaggia, endgrain, the now-open Three Dots and a Dash, and the forthcoming Honey Butter Fried Chicken and The Radler); a silent auction and DJs. Your $125 admission will go a long way.
In honor of Hot Dog Week, I went to Bull & Bear's Dog Days of Summer event to sample their neighborhood-inspired dogs, and despite my general excitement, I was admittedly apprehensive. You see, I believe Jesus himself invented the classic Chicago-style dog: a beef frankfurter nestled in a soft bun, topped with white onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes, and mustard. No fucking ketchup. There's something delightful (pornographic even) about pushing this bread-enclosed sausage into your mouth, condiments oozing down your chin like nobody's business.
Nonetheless, I couldn't very well miss an opportunity to eat hot dogs, so I made my way to River North to try Bull & Bear's creations. I ordered the "Frank Plank" (a flight of all five specialty dogs in miniature form) and a side of their Parmesan truffle fries.
The ballots are in and the first Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff was a big win! Five teams of chefs fearlessly pushed the boundaries of what the humble red hot can do, while celebrity judges and hundreds of attendees deliciously decided whose was the top dog.
The cookoff was held on July 13th outside Schuba's, where the crowd sampled hot dogs in between games of corn hole and Old Style tallboys on a perfect summer afternoon. Despite the friendly atmostphere, the competition was fierce and chefs arrived with secret ingredients and plenty of trash talk ready to go. This came as no surprise, though, because in a city of hot dog die-hards, no one is as serious as this crew.
There's something fantastically overwhelming about trade shows--the eager sales pitches, the free samples and goodies, the elaborate booths and displays. So when I was invited to the 2013 IFT Food Expo, my heart nearly collapsed with quivering excitement.
The IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) Annual Meeting & Food Expo merges the science and business of food into one giant conference, where representatives from industry, academia and the government gather to share scientific developments, innovations and trends on food. So it's not just about food items; it's also about the ingredients, the process, the legality and the engineering of food. In addition to your standard food suppliers (from foreign and domestic), there were plenty of scientists, lawmakers and engineers at the expo.
Thursday night found the penthouse of the century-old Reid Murdoch Building in River North playing host for the kickoff of CS Magazine's slickly styled restaurant issue.
Riding the ranges were Chef Jacques Torres, aka "Mr. Chocolate"; Mindy Segal (Chicago's own "Ms. Hot Chocolate"); Jared Van Camp; Chris Pandel and a formidable cast of other distinguished chefs. The evening benefited the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, a worthy cause that over the last 30 years has raised and distributed nearly $40 million to hundreds of community based agencies on the battlefront of the AIDS epidemic.
The outdoor terrace, with its table of fire, clock tower and panoramic view of the river and beyond was the perfect setting on a beautiful July evening. Best bites of the night included E+O Food & Drink's John Wayne "Duke" Formica's Seared Smoked Scallop with Celery Root Puree and Pickled Cherry Tomato finished with some kick-ass olive oil. A perfect balance of rich and smoky playing against the acid from the tomato and the peppery finishing olive oil; Embeya's Thai Dang's Escargot over Grilled Eggplant with Green Curry and Shiso; Adam Seger's science fiction meets Japanese tea ceremony inspired infused fruit cocktails (apparatus pictured at left); and the Dark Chocolate Peanut Bark and other assorted chocolates by the master himself, Jaques Torres. Quite a coup, this guy is a legend, and the quality of his chocolates, really superlative.
In all, a better than expected, well done affair. I love when my expectations are exceeded.
Grass Fed, the Bucktown restaurant that looks like it could have come out of Martha Stewart Living, is adding another twist to their menu -- a Sunday guest chef series called "Keys to the Kitchen." Every Sunday from 7-8:30 p.m., local chefs (currently unknown but we're hoping to get the scoop soon) will get the "keys" to the Grass Fed kitchen to whip up their $30 per person menus. (Price excludes tax, gratuity and beverages.)
Grass Fed is kicking off the series this Sunday with a three-course summer dinner -- Goat Cheese Ravioli with pickled cherry, a tasting of local Pork, including belly, shoulder and loin, with local peaches, pickles and onions and Housemade Churros with nutella.
Supposedly Grass Fed will reveal the chefs and their menus in advance. Don't get your hopes up that Stephanie Izard will be one of the mystery chefs -- this sounds more like an up-and-coming mystery dinner; just more reason to see what the rest of Chicago chefs who don't have restaurateurs to back them are doing.
Reservations are highly recommended. To schedule, call 773.342.6000 (a 48 hour cancellation policy is required). 1721 N. Damen Ave
Want to know what is going on in your mind grapes when you're eating? Jealousy? Envy? Science-y stuff? The UC Graham School is offering a seminar this Saturday at the Gleacher Center (10am-4pm, 450 N Cityfront Plaza Dr, admission $115) called "Food on the Brain" that examines the impact that food has on your brain, with neuroradiologist Chris Buckle and food and wine consultant Dawn Welsh at the helm.
Call it bad timing that Fish Bar (2956 N. Sheffield Ave.) would hold a crawfish boil at the same time that I was heading back to crawfish town. Maybe it was just a reminder that I was overdue for the classic Louisiana style "grill-out" -- 35-80 pounds of crawfish (or two sacks for a large group) boiled with crawfish boil seasoning, usually Zatarains, over a BTU burner in a 50 gallon boiling pot and served with the usual side of "fixings" -- boiled potatoes, corn and even onions and lemons. Not to be forgotten is the necessary dipping sauce (mayo, ketchup, hot sauce and horseradish if you like). And a crawfish boil is definitely not a crawfish boil without a cold beer in a koozie.
Some apply a boil only method, some steam finish the crawfish in an ice chest. The goal is that they should end up looking bright red and curled. (If the crawfish is flat, don't eat it -- it means it was already dead before it hit the hot water. Same goes if it is mushy, that means it was starting to decay.)
I remember the good ol' elementary school days when I used to trade my apple slices (which my mother lovingly packed) for my friend's Snicker bar or peanut butter sandwich. It was barter at its finest; none of the dollar and dime business that characterizes modern-day exchanges. It's not that I don't enjoy farmers markets or local artisan shops, but there's a certain nostalgic charm when you exchange your homemade pie for your neighbor's freshly-picked tomatoes. But with the countless legal and regulatory hurdles one must jump through to sell food products, I had given up on the barter system.
That is...until I chanced upon the Chicago Food Swap, who meet every other month (in their own words) "...to exchange homemade creations. No cash is exchanged, and no goods are sold. In a silent auction format, homemade goodies change hands and everyone goes home inspired and happy."
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Great Chefs Tasting Party, a fundraising gala for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Chicago (UCP). In case you didn't know, cerebral palsy is a "disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth...People with cerebral palsy often have other conditions related to developmental brain abnormalities, such as intellectual disabilities, vision and hearing problems, or seizures." (Mayo Clinic). UCP has been helping CP individuals and their families since 1951, providing a variety of different services including professional development and educational programs:
"We help a child with cerebral palsy use technology that lets her speak for the first time. We help a man unable to use his hands or arms learn to do his own laundry and prepare his own meals. We help a woman in a wheelchair roll down her new ramp and back into the community." (UCP website)
The organization does amazing things for the CP community, and their food lineup did not disappoint. There were nearly 40 different participants, and while I could go on and on about each, some of my favorite highlights can be found after the jump...
What's better than grilling hot dogs outside on a summer afternoon? Having some of Chicago's best chefs make hot dogs for you, as you and other hot dog enthusiasts consider which one is the most delicious over a few drinks.
Join Gapers Block for their Hot Dog Cookoff on July 13 from 2 to 7pm in the parking lot at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., and you'll get to taste new interpretations of the classic red hot. Participating chefs will all start with Vienna Beef hot dogs, but can use them in any way imaginable. Perhaps there will be hot dog sushi, or even a smoked BBQ dog. What about a corn dog cake pop? We have no idea what they'll come up with, but we have a feeling it will go beyond mustard and relish and we think you should be there to taste it.
Chicago Food Swap is an opportunity for cooks, bakers, canners and gardeners to get together and trade their homemade and/or homegrown food. Whether you're professionally trained or just an enthusiastic amateur, you're welcome to come and share what you've made, meet other like-minded foodies and trade your stuff for some of theirs through a bid-based "swapping" process.
Imbibe magazine declared May 27-June 3 Negroni Week, during which bars across the country are serving variations on that bright red cocktail and donating $1 from each one sold to charity. In Chicago, there are three official participants:
Our favorite "Iron Chef" host and food science nerd apparently has a flair for the stage in his recently announced newest venture, "Alton Brown Live! The Edible Incredible Tour." What can Alton Brown on Broadway look like, you ask? Stand-up comedy, talk show antics, multimedia lecture, live music and food experimentation... oh, and singing, because you can't call it Broadway, folks, without that.
The show is slated for one night only on Feb. 8, 2014 (yup, you read that right) at the Oriental Theater, and tickets ranging from $25-$65 go on sale June 7 starting at 10am. A special package featuring premium seating and a pre-show meet and greet with Alton Brown is also available. Visit the tour website or Broadway in Chicago for more information.
For some reason I'm calling upon old memories of Carrot Top...
For most meals, the booze has always been secondary to the entrée, but not for attendees who attend Chicago Cooks Michigan Pours dinners. Founded by three local food & wine enthusiasts, Chicago Cooks Michigan Pours is currently offering a series of Michigan wine-focused dinners, where the food menu is specifically designed to complement the alcohol, not the other way around. With nearly 103 wineries in the Michigan area (such as Leelanau, Old Mission and Lake Michigan Shore) and the fabulous foodie scene in Chicago, the founders of Chicago Cooks Michigan Pours decided to combine the best of both worlds by hosting a sequence of unique dinners highlighting award-winning wines.
I was fortunately enough to be invited to their very first dinner at Uncommon Ground, where we began the evening sipping on Chantal Tonight sparkling wine accompanied by seasonal appetizers, including minted pea soup and tempura asparagus. Guests mingled with one another and the featured winemakers on the Rooftop Farm (where little plots of radishes and lettuces were just sprouting) before heading downstairs to begin the feast. The first entrée of our three course dinner was a delectable roasted beet salad paired with Lake Michigan Shore Semi-dry Riesling from Fenn Valley Vineyards. The salad course was followed by a Mint Creek Lamb Tagine, served with a 2011 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir. The final dessert trio ("Chocolate Spoon," Michigan cherries, and spiced truffles) was complemented by an old fashioned cocktail made with Chateau Chantal Cinq a Sept Grape Brandy.
Now I'm not a wine connoisseur, but the wines were purposely and carefully chosen to highlight the fresh flavors of each course. And if you couldn't taste the difference, at least you got cheat sheets of what you were supposed to taste. Guests were provided with lengthy descriptions of each of the featured wines, including the harvest date, aging potential, and potential pairings with food. After discovering that my pinot noir boasted "aromas of violets and plums followed by fruit forward flavors of dark cherries, currants, and complementary oak," I took another sip of my drink to test my taste buds. Alas, I couldn't distinguish each flavor component, but the overall taste seemed worthy of their accolades.
Ultimately, the wine and food wouldn't have tasted as spectacular without the company. The community-style arrangement of our meal created a comforting sense of camaraderie and as the wine poured, the conversations only got louder. With the rising interest in craft beer, DIY brews, and wine fanatics, I anticipate that wine-focused dinners will quickly gain in popularity.
City life can sometimes seem like an all-in-one package: everything's right here in Chicago, and just an L ride away there's another neighborhood with some undiscovered funky gelato shop or untapped coffee roastery waiting for you to walk through the doors. But despite the city's abundance, especially in all things food-related, the grass always seems a little greener on the other side--and in the case of local Illinois farm dinners, it actually is.
Having attended numerous NRA shows (as in restaurants, not rifles) at McCormick Place over the last three decades, for me it's not about seeing the 99% of things you expect to see but more about the 1% you don't expect. My routine is to walk the entire show row by row, booth by booth over the course of two days, looking over the 1,800 exhibitors for ingenious products, new designs or clever ideas that my clients or I may need. This year, however, I did it in one day -- a personal best. Maybe there wasn't as much to grab me or maybe I'm just jaded, but here's what spoke to me this year:
Winner of the Tackiest Exhibitor Award was Honey Smoked Fish Co. with their show-your-assets, surgically-enhanced-décolletage, take-a-left-turn-at-strippers offering to enrobe you in their shitty t-shirts by helping you put them on, all the while jiggling and pressing themselves very much against you with a big hug just short of a lap dance. It's an honorable old custom to have attractive personnel man or in this case woman your booth, but even for this old horndog, it was a bit much at 10am. The only thing missing was dollar bills.
What with Chicago Craft Beer Week kicking off tomorrow and what looks to be our first string of three 70+ degree days, we didn't think you needed more excuses to find an adult beverage on the patio of your choice, until this popped up in our inbox.
Yep, you read that title correctly, a game of beer bingo is popping up in Lincoln Square starting today. All you need do is stop into one of the establishments listed below, pick up a card and play on.
• The Bad Apple, 4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
• The Grafton, 4530 N. Lincoln Ave.
• DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western Ave.
• Fountainhead, 1970 W. Montrose Ave.
• Brew Camp, 4639 N. Damen Ave.
• Bottles and Cans, 4109 N. Lincoln Ave.
Five in a row vertically, horizontally or diagonally will win you a custom pint glass with original artwork by Sarah Morton, and bragging rights that you sloshed your way through all of 60625.
Bonus: they have a handful of other prizes should someone fill out the entire card -- a "blackout" as it were. As always, first come, first served.
Check out the bingo card and more details online and support one of Chicago's best beer-friendly neighborhoods.
Pastoral, the local cathedral of fine wine and cheese, does a huge public service to the City of Chicago by finding the best small, artisanal producers all over the country and making their products available to eager foodies in a well-curated, one stop shop for all things delicious. Last Saturday, Pastoral did us one better by bringing many of their featured cheese, wine, bread, beer, confections, and charcuterie makers to Chicago for a one day tasting extravaganza and love-fest at the French Market. For cheese followers and amateur gourmands, it was a chance to meet favorite culinary superstars and to find a few new ones.
Bacon, it's like the bowl of jelly belly's, the leftover Dunkin Donuts box from the morning office meeting, everyone stops when they see it, paused in the eye-brow raised linger--is that bacon you got there?
Dogs go crazy for it. Poems are written about it.
Vegetarians even do it.
Whether it's the classic BLT or the smell of a thick slab hitting a black iron skillet, there's something about bacon that can't be denied - it has the power to control. It's no secret, Chicago loves itself some bacon. But how did we get to a place where we write comics about it, make soap out of it, put it in our chocolate?
I will find out at this weekend's sold-out Baconfest Chicago. The irony or maybe cruelty that a peso-vegetarian will be attending the one event dedicated solely for bacon lovers when the last pork I had was, well, what month is this, might have a few of you reeling. Do I have it in me to devour all that is bacon? Can my hummus and kale loving palate handle the grease? Will I be converted to a baconator? Follow me on twitter @brandygonsoulin to see how this pans out and check back for the recap next week.
If you're the kind of person who can't walk by the Whole Foods cheese counter without asking for at least twelve samples, then start mentally preparing for the High Holy Day of gourmet tastings. On April 27th, Pastoral is hosting dozens of artisanal cheese, wine, meat, bread, and confection producers from around the world at the French Market from 11-3 pm. Spend a lovely afternoon schmoozing with farmers, distillers, and chefs, sample to your heart's content, and leave with unique, hard to find gourmet treats. And if that weren't enough, it's also free. 131 N. Clinton. More information here.
There's nothing like ending a chilly day with a steaming bowl of homemade soup and a hunk of bread to sop up all of the delicious goodness. It's even better when you can support a good cause.
On Wednesday, Gapers Block served up two soups at the Hideout's Soup & Bread, Chicago's hipster soup kitchen that benefits local nonprofits. The theme of the night was Chicago vs. Chicago and donations from the volunteer-run event went to Ravenswood Community Services.
Every single Windy City-themed soup -- from Deep Dish Pizza Soup to Italian Beef Soup (with homemade giardiniera) -- was a hit to the several dozen people who attended. Not to brag, but we exhausted our massive crock of Beer Cheese soup less than 30 minutes after the doors opened.
After many email threads between Drive-Thru staff, we whipped up soups representing Chicago's immigrants with beer influences: Polish Beer Cheese made with Josephs Brau PLZNR Czech-Style Lager beer (which was the closest we could get to Polish beer at the local liquor store the night we made soup) and Pork Pozole made with 5 Rabbit's 5 Vulture roasted ancho chile ale.
Last Thursday, the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce crowned Club Lucky for a second year in a row as the Wicker Park Mixology winner at the 2nd Annual Mixiology Mash-up contest, naming "The Bohemian Tease" the official drink of Wicker Park. The contest, which kicked off last year, pitted 10 bartenders from Red Door, Club Lucky, Fatpour, Prasino and more against each other to make a signature drink that yelled Wicker Park. This year was even bigger and better at Dolphin.
There was bacon, lavender foam -- there was even a drink in a bag a la Capri Sun. But, just like last year, Club Lucky didn't disappoint both in display and presentation.
The Hideout (1354 West Wabansia) holds its Soup and Bread weekly fundraiser tonight from 5:30-8pm (or until the soup runs out). Local chefs and foodies prepare a selection of soups for your casual slurping from the bar's crock pots, with (encouraged) donations going to a local food-related charity; tonight's proceeds benefit the Ravenswood Community Services food pantry. This year each week has a theme, and tonight's is "Chicago vs. Chicago." The Drive-Thru staff will be one of the chefs, alongside the Reader 's food writer Mike Sula, Ravenswood Event Center chef Andy Kalish, Hoosier Mama baker Allison Stout, and Nikki Way and Perry Kim--so you know you'll have to show! The incredible Carrie Weston will DJ. Event is age 21+, but children can be admitted if accompanied by an adult.
Worried that attendees of April 20th's Baconfest might start to show signs of stroke or heart attack due to the high levels of fat and sodium found in the pork item at the center of the day-long food event, organizers have contracted with nearby Rush and UIC Hospitals to have a full medical staff onsite at the UIC Forum to provide immediate assistance, such as resuscitation, hydration for the food-fatigued, and glucose monitoring. "We're not going to take any chances," a spokesperson commented. The medical tent will accept several types of insurance; their services will not be included in the ticket price.
If you want to wait a few hours this Sunday before having to hightail it to Aunt Margaret's house for ham, highballs and humiliation, might I suggest the following:
Grass Fed (1721 N. Damen) has a three-course Easter lunch of lamb, salmon, chicken ($25 per person; reservations required).
Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie) is hosting an adults egg hunt (1pm, $5 admission fee per two-person team) that benefits the Comer Children's Hospital. Bring your own basket; registration required.
If you want to get all classy, Allium at the Four Seasons (120 East Delaware Place) has a rocking buffet complete with a crudo station, charcuterie, Asian fare, lotsa breakfasty stuff, lotsa other stuff and of course, candy. I want to go to there. Adults $140, kids $55. Runs 10:30am-5pm; reservations required.
Back in November, Gapers Block put together a "microbrewery crawl" to celebrate the great beers being produced in the area, taking advantage of the close proximity of so many breweries and distilleries to showcase how Chicago has become one of the centers of the craft brewing and distilling scene. It was a big hit with attendees, who clamored for another go. So next Saturday, April 6, we're doing it again.
For $45, participants will get multiple samples at each stop, and get tours of and info about some very unique and different breweries. Capacity is limited to 60 people, and last year it sold out well ahead of time. Be a part of this unique experience -- get your tickets now!
Questions? Requests? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Explore Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style home in Hyde Park MCA style with drinks, bites and acoustic jazz every Friday evening in April at the new "After Hours at Robie House" presented by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.
Soon to be featured on WTTW's "10 Buildings That Changed America," airing Sunday, May 12, the Frederick C. Robie House, located at 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave., is a world-renowned masterpiece, named by The American Association of Architects as one of the 10 most significant buildings of the 20th century. Admission is $30 for Preservation Trust Members and $35 for non-members. Advance reservations are recommended. Visit gowright.org/afterhours for tickets and further details.
Make your reservations now: the underground dining series Feast and Imbibe will be surfacing to take over the space at Jam (3057 W. Logan) for a weekend in April (12-14) for dinner service ($75 per person, $95 with wine pairings) after the Jam crew (who will be open during their normally scheduled hours, for all you french toast fans) hangs up their aprons and heads home.
The discussion of the arts is normally left to topics that have historically been, well, artistic, but the practice of being a chef as all chefs will argue has become art within itself. Not too long ago, food was a means to an end; it was neither here nor there. Today, chefs don't cook, they craft. No longer are we satisfied if food tastes good; it must also look good. A dish has composition. Dining you might say, is the new opera.
Rick Bayless spoke about this concept of food as art at Wednesday's Chicago Forward: The Future of the Arts, a panel discussion with Chicago creatives such as artist Tony Fitzpatrick, architect Jeanne Gang and cultural commissioner Michelle Boone. Bayless is well known for his craft of Mexican cuisine. He has elevated street food to art. At one point he said the word tamale with the most appropriate authenticity that I briefly wondered if his mouth and tongue had just engaged in a pas de deux. I can try to think street food when I think of tacos, but under his context, I just can't.
Advance registration for Chicago's 2013 National Restaurant Association Show, one of the nation's biggest showcases for all things food, beverage, kitchen, and lodging, is now open!
Tickets to this extravaganza of cutting-edge industry technology and culinary curiosities are priced at $49 through April 5, and $99 afterwards. The show runs from May 18-21 at the McCormick Place, with over 1,900 exhibitors, education sessions, "cheflebrity" appearances (Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Marcus Samuelsson, and more) and cooking demos lined up over the course of the four days. Additionally, Anthony Bourdain himself will be hosting "Restaurants Rock," the official after-party on Sunday, May 19 as well as a presentation and book signing on the NRA main stage on May 20.
Registration is restricted to those directly affiliated with the hospitality industry.
Fat Tuesday may have come and gone, but Wednesday's Pitmaster dinner at Barn & Company (950 W. Wrightwood, from 7-9pm) sounds like an indulgence well worth the weight (see what I did there?). Your $40 admission gets you a three-course meal of New Orleans' best dishes (po boys, gumbo, etouffee, fried green tomatoes and pecan pie to finish) paired with Jack Daniels cocktails (sazerac!).
Odd as it sounds, my chickens moved to the 'burbs last year. They cited reasons similar to many a friend finding themselves in a soon-to-be roosting situation: more family friendly environs, more space... you know you've heard it before, too. My living situation changed such that my three egg-laying gals couldn't squeeze onto the terrace at my boyfriend's apartment, but I still have many a Saturday morning where even the farmers market eggs disappoint.
The reasons for having livestock in the city are many: self-sustainability, better quality ingredients, an unending supply of perfect hostess gifts and exotic hobby bragging rights. If you are part of the masses who have been tempted to go whole hog (pun intended) on urban agriculture, who have bookmarked Williams-Sonoma's entire agrarian section, head over to the Garfield Park Conservatory this Saturday between 10am and 1pm for Chicago's first ever FREE Urban Livestock Expo. Truth be told, the folks here have a much more realistic (financially and logistically) way of bringing livestock into your very own backyard.
Check the Advocates for Urban Agriculture's website for more details.
Rib from Critics' Choice winner Barn & Co. Photo by Moshe Tamssot
Taste favored the home teams, so to speak, in the second annual Gapers Block BBQ Bowl, with Barn & Company winning the Critics' Choice award and Robinson's No.1 Ribs winning the coveted People's Pick award. Both victors happen to be within easy walking distance of Lincoln Hall, which was redolent with the smell of great barbecue on Saturday.
The competition was stiff. Rub BBQ came in second place for the Critics' Choice award for the second straight year, and tied with defending champs Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro for second place in the People's Pick, with Harmony Grill close behind. (Nobody enjoyed the ribs from PorkChop -- because they were a no-show for the competition. Hard to win if you don't show up.) With the win coming down to just a handful of votes, no doubt these fierce competitors will be upping their game for next year.
V-Day is on the horizon, and there's not better day to romance someone through their stomach. We've selected a few places that are bound to impress that special someone. All you have to do is make a reservation and show up. And don't forget the flowers.
Opt for a romantic candlelight dinner at Bucktown's quaint go-to for delicious beef sourced from Wisconsin grass-fed farms. And what's sexier than steak?
Grass Fed's $45 prix fixe menu includes salmon tartare that's so soft and buttery it melts in your mouth, crunchy brussels sprouts salad with almonds, a soothing and addictive glazed carrots soup seasoned with cardamom, and sirloin steak worthy of fist-pumps. Other options on the menu: house-made gnocchi, bone in rib eye and skillet chicken served with butternut squash puree and warm kale salad - and three dessert options, including a rum infused bread pudding that sounds orgasmic.
The menu is also available Friday and Saturday. Call 773-342-6000 for reservations. 1721 N. Damen Ave.
You just can't go wrong at Lula Café. It's cozy and intimate, and it always serves up whimsical plates of food so satisfying, you'll wonder why you'd dine anywhere else. This year they're whipping up a three-course ($45) and a five-course ($75) menu, and each come with wine pairings ($25). The three course menu includes a sea scallop and its roe, duck breast and a fruity confection by Mas Brothers Chocolate. The five course menu includes all of the above, and chilled lobster served in a buttermilk or panna cotta or custard (it's still in the works), dry aged beef carpaccio and brin d'amour cheese. The vegetarian menu will be posted on the website soon!
The two seatings for the evening are at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Call 773-489-9554 for reservations. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.
Bit of a Francophile and love Asian food? Do French-Vietnamese at Le Colonial. The ambiance is warm and beautifully decorated in a French colonial theme from the '20s; you'll forget you're in Chicago. The evening's menu ($65) includes pho with oxtail soup and rice noodles, a grilled sea scallop salad with garlic noodles, salad rolls and a seared filet mignon, followed by steamed fillets of Chilean sea bass, sautéed jumbo shrimp, and rice noodles with a choice of beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu.
Call 312-255-0088 for reservations. 937 N. Rush St.
Maple syrup maker Tim Burton (pictured, of southern Indiana's Maplewood Farm) will be teaming up with Wirtz Beverage and chef Mark Payne of deca (160 E. Pearson) for an evening of eating (a three-course "Bourbon and Burton"-themed meal) and learning about how Indiana's foodstuffs are making a comeback from author David Hoppe, who will be signing copies of his book Food for Thought: an Indiana Harvest. The February 26th meal (which starts at 7:30pm) is $59 per person with cocktail pairings, and it looks delicious: salmon, duck, and banoffee pie to finish. If you can't make this meal, consider heading down to Maplewood Farm for the National Maple Syrup Festival, which runs March 2-3 and 9-10.
For just $20 you'll get one tasting from each BBQ contestant, plus access to drink specials. We'll also have live music (TBA). Once you've made your way around the competitors, cast your vote for the "People's Pick" award at our polling booth. A panel of esteemed judges -- including Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist, Moshe Tamssot of Cookitfor.us, Juanna Rumbel of the Windy City Rollers, and Rachael Katz of Weber Grill -- will also vote for the "Critic's Choice" award. The champions will be announced at around 2:30pm.
Our first BBQ Bowl was held Feb. 4, 2012 to great acclaim -- more than 120 Chicagoans came to the Bucktown's Club Lucky the day before the Super Bowl to sample and vote on ribs from seven worthy contestants. Honky Tonk Barbecue won the first "Critic's Choice" award and Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro took home the "People's Pick." Koval Distillery was on hand to offer tastings of its locally made liquors, and up and coming soul band The Congregation provided the entertainment.
UPDATE: Harmony Grill joins the barbecue lineup, and Marko Casso will be our live entertainment! We'll also have a raffle and drink specials at the bar. All for just $20! Stay tuned for further updates.
Revolution Brewery celebrates its third birthday this Saturday with a "Crazy Party" at its brewery site (3340 N. Kedzie); your $50 ticket gets a nine-course meal with beer pairings, a souvenir glass, and a 22 oz. bottle of a special beer to take home. The evening session is sold out, but the afternoon (1-4pm) still has a few open seats left.
Eli's is making a cheesecake, natch (pictured), Baltimore's Charm City Cakes is also in on the fun (I hope you like fondant, fondant and fondant), and the post-Inauguration luncheon menu features steamed lobster, bison tenderloin, and apple pie with a sour cream ice cream. Full menu after the jump; Obama Foodorama has the recipes.
Tickets are still available for Monday night's Farm Dinner at Lula (2537 N. Kedzie). While the event is something the Logan Square restaurant has been doing for over a decade, they are bringing on some very exciting talent for this next occasion.
"Top Chef" and Aria alum Beverly Kim and husband John Clark, who briefly took over (and closed) Bonsoiree last fall, along with some out-of-towners -- Sarah and Evan Rich of San Francisco's Rich Table -- will be contributing "surprise" canapes in addition to parts of the three-course meal (the entree is roast chicken with miso, rutabaga and bacon). Tickets $45 ($25 for wine pairings). Call call 773-489-9554 to reserve.
On Monday, Jan. 14, DMK Burger Bar (2954 N. Sheffield Ave.) and Oskar Blues Brewery are teaming up for a four-course dinner benefiting the Chicago Recycling Coalition. Guests will have a spicy beet soup paired with Ten Fidy Stout; a caraway-scented pork burger, Granny Smith apple sauerkraut and potato pierogi paired with Dale's Pale Ale; an "unstuffed cabbage" burger and fries paired with Mama's Little Yella Pils; and a caramel caraway beer float made with Old Chub Scotch Ale. The dinner is $40 per person; there's an encore on Jan. 28. Reserve a spot by emailing email@example.com.
Whiskey joins art at Lillstreet Art Center this winter in an exhibition entitled Neat: The Art of the Whiskey Vessel. The exhibition celebrates the long tradition of ceramic artists who make liquor flasks, cups, bottles and jugs. If you're accustomed to drinking your poison of choice from a Solo cup or liquor store flask this should rock your mind. Chicago-based Koval Distillery will help bring out the warmth of the work with a whiskey sampling at the opening reception on February 1 from 6-9pm.
More than 14 artists will present new work for this special exhibition. "Neat" is supported in part by Koval Distillery Chicago. The exhibition is free and runs February 1 - March 1. Lillstreet Art Center, 4401 N Ravenswood.
Photos Courtesy of Lillstreet art center Artist credit (from clockwise): Jerome Murphy, Matthew Hyleck, Matthew Long, Jason Hess
The second episode of Moto and iNG chef/owner Homaro Cantu's online video series, "CookiNG Under Pressure," debuted this week. This episode focuses on Cantu's work with the miracle berry, a West African berry that messes with taste buds and makes sour things taste sweet. Moto and iNG have both featured dishes that showcase the miracle berry, and Cantu has written a new diet book, aptly named The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook, to promote its use as a means of reducing sugar content in the American diet.
This week Cantu also announced a series of cooking classes featuring the miracle berry, from Jan. 2-12 (except Jan. 4 and 10). For $100 per person, attendees attend the class and receive a signed copy of The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook and a six-course miracle berry-oriented tasting menu at iNG. Each class is limited to 30 people. Call 855-834-6464 to reserve your spot.
If you're a beer snob and for some reason you don't have New Year's Eve plans yet, Half Acre Beer Co. has a serious proposition for you.
Ring in the new year at the Half Acre Tap Room, 4255 N. Lincoln Ave., and enjoy some of the brewery's favorite short-run beers of the year on tap. At midnight, they'll be popping the tops off 48 bottles of Daisy Cutter bottle-conditioned with Champagne yeast -- the only chance you'll get to taste this extreme rarity.
What an amazing season this is. The universe basically gives us carte blanche to eat whatever we want, and I, for one, leave no potential meal untouched. However, as much as this season is about single-minded consumption (I'll admit to it!), it's also a beautiful opportunity to give something back to the community we all love so much--Chicago's food community. Our city's amazing soup kitchens and food depositories are always in need of time and help, but below is a list of other Chicago food-based programs to broaden your altruistic/activist horizons.
Should you find yourself wandering the Merchandise Mart in the next few days at the annual One of a Kind art and craft show, don't bother stopping by their over-priced cafe concessions -- make your way to the Gourmet Gallery section of merchants instead. Also known as FREE SAMPLE LAND! Now, proteins will be lacking, as will fresh produce, but if you're into dips on pretzel sticks, artisanal salsas, and sweets, you should still be able to carb up for the hike over to the Etsy section (rustic wood round cake stand on a faux-crystal base, you will be mine this year!) You could even buy gifts of packaged foods for other people...I guess. Gourmet merchants are featured from the Midwest at large, but look for some familiar local faces from the Chopping Block (booth 9036), and the Puffs of Doom team (booth 9044B), who seem to have graduated from the Nite Market in kind of a big way. Good on ya, cream puffs! And of course those sample stalwarts, Brunkow Cheese (booth 9050B) will be there, miniature grill sizzling with cubes of juusto cheese. It'll probably be busy enough no one will notice if you grab seconds. Just try not to wipe your hands on the hand-woven, limited edition screen-printed tablecloths next door.
If you're already sick of holiday-related stuff making its way into stores and your train line, head to the Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St.) tonight for Cocktails and Capone, which looks back on a time in Chicago when a good drink was hard to come by unless you knew the right guy--in this case, Al Capone, whose "business" reaped an estimated $100 million in its heyday. You'll learn about Prohibition and celebrate the 79th anniversary of its repeal (which happens to be today) with CHM's John Russick, author Deirdre Capone (Al's great niece), and the good people of Iowa-based Templeton Rye, who will be serving up Al's favorite whiskey. You can share your newfound knowledge at your next holiday event. Tickets $30-40; event runs 7:45-9pm.
Got a cool culinary concept? Think that you can do things in the kitchen that rival Graham Elliot? Have a sweet spot for Bobby Flay, Alton Brown or Giada De Laurentiis? Perhaps it's time you join the ranks of Chicago's own, Jeff Mauro, who turned a love for sandwiches into "The Sandwich King," and audition for The Food Network's "Next Food Network Star." Open call casting takes place on Nov. 28 at The Westin, 909 N. Michigan Ave., from 10am to noon
Can make it on Wednesday? Don't fret, you can still apply by submitting a home video. For more info visit the entry page for details on how to apply.
The films ranged from simple documentaries shot with basic equipment (Fish Fry Night Milwaukee) to more complex psychological films that wove together narration and animation (Bon Appetit). The sequence of movies shown on Friday was served like a full course meal, from appetizer to dessert. We started with Mickle's Pickles, a hysterical documentary about a small town pickle maker who makes national and international news after his pickle decoration goes missing, and ended with Mama Sugar's Sweet Potato Cobbler, a food-porn flick (there were groans in the audience) focused on the decadence of making a decadent double-crusted sweet potato pie.
The ultimate food porn experience is going down this weekend at the Chicago Food Film Festival. The festival organizers just added an exclusive event to the line-up: Meet n' Eat, a private dinner for 20 hosted by Kitchit at El Ideas, Chef Phillip Foss' micro restaurant.
Foss is creating an original menu for the occasion, and is serving Fries & Ice Cream, an avant garde dish to go alongside a screening of a film with the same name. Plus, foodies get a chance to have an intimate meal and conversation with George Motz, the festival director and host of Travel Channel's Burger Land.
Tickets are $165 and can be purchased here. The Meet 'n Eat begins at 6pm at El Ideas (2419 W. 14th St.).
Each food is carefully paired with a corresponding film--I'm especially looking forward to the Friday night offerings: Ron Faiola's Fish Fry Night Milwaukee, followed by shorts about Mississippi-based Mickle's Pickles, and Perogy! from Canadian filmmaker Tammy Marlowe Johnson. The evening ends with sweet potato cobbler from Hoosier Mama. Magical, am I right?
Individual event tickets are available ($45-85 range), but your $250 VIP Pass gets you all the fixins.
It was love at first sight. As love in the wee hours, in a dive bar, after many, many cheap beers so often is. The slender form, the genial and somewhat plain appearance, the intoxicating whiff of something between the familiar and exotic. Just begging to be taken home -- or better yet, undressed right there on the bar, in front of everyone. Aw yeah. The first time I ever tried a Chicago tamale I just knew: it was the start of a lifelong affair. They're as good for breakfast as for bar food, offer endless variations of flavors and fillings, and fit snugly into one of my very favorite categories of edibles: foods stuffed with other foods. And to clinch it, they're just one one little vowel sound away my last name ("tamal-uh"). Tamales and me, we're meant to be.
So when I learned last year about the Feria del Tamal y el Atole, there was no question I would be in attendance. The fair returns a week from Sunday, moving from the ChiTown Futbol indoor arena to Benito Juarez Community Academy this year -- if it's anything like last year, you'll barely notice you're in a school what with the swirling Mexican dance troupe, the crush of bodies and strollers (so many strollers! It's an emphatically all-ages festival), and tri-folded booth dividers that make the whole thing feel somewhat like the Central and South America section of a Model UN food court. Is there such a thing? (There should be.)
But I've had late-night dive bar tamales, you might protest, what more could possibly be done to make a festival out of masa and filling? So, so much more, my dear friend -- bright red chipotle chicken, venison, spinach, dessert tamales filled with strawberries and cream, patriotic tamales dosed liberally with red and green food coloring, flat open-faced tamales, tamales steamed in banana leaves rather than corn husks...over 50 variations in all -- and atole, in everything from chocolate to prune-flavored varieties. (The prune atole was particularly good last year -- warming, sweet, rich tempered with a bit of tang.) If you love a tamale anything like I do, you're probably going to want to go, and go hungry.
If James Bond were hitting the town tonight he'd probably be heading over to Roof (well, maybe Roof a couple of years ago) or the Four Seasons Hotel. But now that he's trading his classic "shaken, not stirred" for a Heineken (What! $#!@&^!!), Bond just might find it dashing to put down his steak and martini and pick up a craft beer and grass-fed hamburger.
Based on his adventures in the new Skyfall released today, you can start by hitting up Owen and Engine (2700 N. Western Ave.) for the honorary fish and chips and English Stout. If the North side and teenagers lingering the sidewalk after watching said 007 is not your thing, head over to the infamous Duke of Perth (2913 N. Clark St.) for your choice of Scottish whiskey and Lincoln Park people- watching. It's no surprise that Bond's path of resurrection leads him to Shanghai so when you're done with all things British, if you've never been to Chinatown or it's been a while, now's a good time to head to the one of many Tony Hu restaurants for some classic Shanghai-inspired cuisine and then to Ming Hin (2168 S. Archer Ave.) for the Macau Pork Belly (because, if James Bond lived in Chicago he would have been eating pork belly way before anyone knew how cool it would be and this pork belly is fried).
After you've embarked on a semi-dangerous journey of your own called Chicago traffic, end the night at Martini Ranch (311 W. Chicago Ave.) for their 007 Martini and then venture to The Matchbox (770 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for a night that just might have you back in Chinatown, because even if Heineken is trying to steal market share from the most interesting man in the world with this product placement move, introducing yourself by your last name and sipping on a martini still has its place in this town. I wonder how Bond feels about blue cheese olives, though...
What does dirty rice boudin, electric mud, sweet tea-brined quail, Big Bill Broonzy, pimento cheese, lots of bourbon, Howlin' Wolf, shrimp remoulade and Chess Records have in common? If you answered pop up dinner series Rock Your Palate, you are correct. Chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena) rocked a full on sensory pop up installment of chefs, artists and musicians hosted by Lincoln Park's Floating World Gallery, 1925 N. Halsted St., Nov. 2 and 3. The theme was food and the Blues.
Pandel rode the range on a homestyle Blues-inspired menu to go with the theme, and live music was provided by the likes of Jimmy Burns and Billy Boy Arnold. There were photographs of blues legends throughout the gallery and a good time was had by all in sweet home Chicago.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, there will be a whole pasture-raised cow roasting over an open fire, in the style of an Argentinian asado, on the patio at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St. The beef will be served a variety of ways with an array of sides by Hopleaf's chef Ben Sheagren, City Provision's Cleetus Freeman, Martin Wallner, and Nellcôte's Ray Stanis. It's all paired with Three Floyds beers -- Zombie Dust, Jinx Proof, Robert the Bruce and Alpha Klaus.
The buffet-style feast starts at noon and is $80 per person, all you can eat and all you can drink.
After you vote (polls open 6am-7pm!), you want to see the returns in style (or forget it even is going on), right? A few ideas for Tuesday night shenanigans: Avec (615 West Randolph) is hosting a five-course meal ($55) complete with wine pairings from Luis Pato, who will be in house to talk vino with diners; showing your voter receipt gets you a free glass of his sparking wine to finish the evening. WBEZ will be holding court at Schuba's, 3159 North Southport, with 312 beer specials and a champagne toast--and your voter receipt earns you a free dessert with dinner. Maria's Packaged Goods (960 West 31st Street) serves up election-themed cocktails (the "Mint Romney" apertif, etc.).
Not only does DMK Restaurants know how to make great burgers, oysters and cocktails, they also have a charitable side. With Hurricane Sandy leaving a mess on the east coast, DMK is hosting "Drink Them Dry," a fundraising event to benefit the many people left without power, water, flooded cars and even the loss of a loved one. From today until Friday, DMK is donating 20% of all beverage sales from DMK Burger, Fish Bar and Ada Street to the American Red Cross relief efforts. To add to the pot, each restaurant will be raffling off a $250 gift card good at each location. (Drawing will be held on Monday, Nov. 5).
Since it is Halloween night, why not kill two birds with one stone and hit up Ada Street; they will be showing the original Halloween at 10pm tonight, and all costumes receive half-off cocktails. Best costume wins a $100 gift card. 50% + 20% = almost 100% awesome.
In addition to Lula's transformation into the Violet Hour tomorrow night, Antique Taco will be "dressing up" as The Max (from '90s-era Saturday morning required TV viewing "Saved by the Bell"), and Scofflaw will be showing up to the party as former Logan Square bar Bonny's.
If you forgot to buy tickets for the now sold-out Microbrewery Crawl, I've got a consolation prize for you: Drive-Thru is giving away two tickets to the upcoming Beer Hoptacular, which will be setting up shop Friday and Saturday, November 9-10 at the Riverfront Theatre (650 West Chicago Ave.). Unlimited pours from over 100 brewers (among them Bell's, Half Acre, Central Waters, and Revolution), music, and food await you!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by this Friday, Nov. 2 at 9am CT to enter; your email must have "Beer Hoptacular" in the subject line. The randomly selected winner will receive a pair of tickets for the Friday night (6-9:30pm) session. Good luck!
(UPDATE, Friday afternoon: congratulations to our winner, Megan--and thanks to the others for entering!)
A coworker of mine summed it up beautifully: no relatives. No intrusive questions. No shopping. No obligatory visits full of awkward conversations.
Yes, it's Halloween. The best holiday of them all. Here's a little guide for fun things to do this weekend in celebration:
Lottie's Pub (1925 W. Cortland Ave.) sponsors a trip to Statesville Haunted Prison (register at 6pm, bus leaves at 7:30pm; $40 includes trip and house admission); Hamburger Mary's (5400 N. Clark St.) hosts the Rocky Horror Picture Show at 10pm; tickets $15.
Just stay in and watch Dateline NBC. It's scary enough.
"Who here hasn't had ceviche before?" asked the bubbly blonde behind the kitchen demo counter. A show of hands went up. "Now take that hand and slap yourself with it." So was my introduction to Nadia G, the feisty, three-finger ring wearing, looks-like-she-should-be-in-front-of-a-camera-and-not-behind-a-mixing-bowl Italian chef personality from "Bitchin' Kitchen."
Following shortly behind Bobby Flay, who was spotted in Uptown in late September, Nadia stopped by Chicago for a food and wine tasting event with Apothic Wines.
Last week, I finally got a taste of Yusho, the yakitori-inspired restaurant opened last year by former Charlie Trotter executive chef, Matthias Merges. Yusho is oddly situated on Kedzie just north of Diversey where the only thing that remotely makes sense there is the Subway and a gas station... or maybe it's a funeral home, I don't remember. It sits near the corner like a welcomed oddity, with an interior that is both warm and contemporary at the same time. I was pleased with my experience and definitely recommend going in for the chicken drummies, one of the tenderest pieces of chicken I have come across in a while with a nice citrus compliment, and a tuna "tartare" that looked tiny but was strangely bottomless. The winner for me, though, was the epitome of a meal in a soup, the Logan "Poser" Ramen -- crispy pig's tail, hen egg, cucumber and Thai chile -- the most balanced dish I've had in a while at a reasonable price.
I was, therefore, excited to see Matthias appear on Barcito's Amigos of Pintxo lineup for next Monday. Taking place every other Monday from 8 to 10pm, guest chefs step behind the tapas bar and present their signature take on the Spanish snack with a portion of sales benefiting Common Threads. Japanese street fare meeting Spanish appetizer is like a culinary dream to me -- pork belly on a stick, what more can you ask for? For $25 you get all you can eat pintxos. Doesn't look like you can reserve a spot, however, as seating is first come, first serve.
Merges will grace Barcito, 151 W. Erie St. on Monday, Oct. 22 from 8pm to 10pm.
The remaining 2012 lineup includes:
November 5: Joe Campagna, ChicagoNow.com's "Chicago Food Snob"
November 19: Chef Charlie McKenna of Lillie's Q
December 3: Heather Sperling, Editor of Tasting Table Chicago
In the last couple of years, Andersonville, Ravenswood and North Center have become one of the centers of Chicago's craft brewing scene. We at Gapers Block thought it would be fun to put together a "microbrewery crawl" to showcase the great beers being produced in the area, taking advantage of the close proximity of so many breweries and beer-oriented venues.
For $60, participants will get samples of at least one beer at each stop, and get a tour of three very different breweries. This is the first tour Metropolitan has offered since May, and we'll get one of the first tours ever at Begyle. Be a part of this unique experience -- get your tickets now!
Roughly 4,000 beer enthusiasts united in the Grand Hall for three hours of taste-tasting fall seasonal brews from all across the country and around the world. In total, there were 54 breweries, offering around 200 different brews.
There were two sessions scheduled for attendants to get their drink on. The first round was from 1 to 4pm and the second round was from 6 to 9pm. Some brave, beer-loving folks opted to do both.
Tickets were $40 and had to be purchased ahead of time. There was also an option for designated drivers to attend Chicago Beer Festival for $10. I volunteered with Eventbrite, scanning tickets, and was lucky enough to be able to enjoy all of the hoppy glory -- and silly drunken people -- all day long.
There was plenty of activity to entertain the attendees in between swigs of beer, including a DJ and a free photo booth. There was a lot of tasty bar food available for purchase, through Stefani Catering. I had a very yummy Italian sausage with peppers and onions on top.
It was easy to tell who was experienced with beer tastings by their level of preparedness. Many people wore pretzel necklaces to munch on in between different brews to cleanse their palate. One lady even adorned hers with jewels to make it fashionable as well as functional.
Though all of the brews were tasty in my opinion, there were a few that really stood out.
Destihl's Pumpkin Porter was exceptional! It was full of in your face fall flavor. Destihl is a gastro-brewpub with two locations in Illinois, pairing craft beer and artisan food.
The Widmer Brothers' SXNW (South by Northwest) brew also made for a very unique kick to my taste buds. It is an interesting combination of pecans, cocoa nibs, spice, and green chilies. It was as dark as black coffee and tasted like a spicy chocolate beverage.
There were a few different ciders to wet your whistle. I tried out Virtue Cider's Redstreak, which tasted extremely sour after drinking so many dark, rich beers.
Many familiar breweries, such as Goose Island, Bell's, Summit, Shock Top and Anchor Steam, were also on site.
Despite the cold, all in all, it was a fabulous day at Union Station -- especially after I got a few beers in me!
On Wednesday night, the sign above the bar at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., counted 9,996 bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon served. By 9pm, the bar had cracked the red plastic wax on its 10,000th.
Customers were encouraged to run through the four bottles as quickly as possible, earning raffle tickets for prizes and honors like finishing off or opening one of the bottles. Upstairs, patrons could get a free, freshly hand-dipped glass. Maker's Mark Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr. was on hand, wearing a gold plastic dollar sign "bling" necklace, to open the 10,000th bottle with Delilah's owner Mike Miller. He also presented Miller with a commemorative bottle of Maker's Mark etched with the bar's well-known "Evil Queen" sign.
Once Samuel's opened the bottle, Miler poured shots from it for everyone in the bar for a big toast, and encouraged everyone to keep drinking so as to make it to 10,001 and beyond that night.
Remember when people who visited New York made sure they bought a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery? It was one of those things you had to do. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's because you never watched Sarah Jessica Parker bite into a pink-frosted Magnolia Bakery cupcake on "Sex and the City." It's been said that cupcakes exploded after that iconic moment on television. While tourists couldn't afford a pair of Manolo Blahniks, they could afford a Magnolia Bakery cupcake, a sweet accessory topped with buttercream frosting.
Then Magnolia Bakery opened its doors on State Street, and Chicago cupcake fans finally got the chance to try the infamous pastry. Now the bakery is celebrating its first birthday Monday, Oct. 1 by launching a signature Chicago Cupcake: a white chocolate disk with the Chicago skyline floating on a lake of pale blue icing on a vanilla or chocolate cupcake.
Customers can purchase these cupcakes beginning Saturday. The store is throwing a birthday party that day with a children's icing and decorating table. On Monday it will offer its classic cupcakes for a mere dollar from noon until 2pm. Since cupcakes are still on the cool radar, considered the United States' go-to soothing treat, we predict a long line.
You have one more week to visit the Elmhurst Historical Museum (120 E Park, Elmhurst) for their Sweet Home Chicago: America's Candy Capital exhibit. Get the background on such sugar superstars as Fannie Mae, Blommer, and Brach's. Free admission, and it's a short walk from the Elmhurst stop on the Metra UP West Line.
Over at Barn & Company, pitmaster Gary Wiviott has been churning out seriously delicious barbeque for the past year and earlier this summer, he started a monthly Pitmaster Dinner series. I was invited to attend last month's Low Country Texas-themed evening, but to boast about it, as it was a one time meal, just doesn't seem fair. Instead we're sharing with you the menu for next Wednesday's Taste of Tennessee.
At $40 per person, this rings in at the deal of the month. We left our evening completely stuffed to the brim, and with take out containers that fed us for two lunches and a dinner. This is one of the rare gems where eating family style with the strangers makes perfect sense. Plus, considering the sugary libations and buckets of beer on the table throughout the meal, those strangers don't stay strangers for long.
Ever heard of Canasta Cake? In 1950s Chicago, it was a huge hit for accompanying the popular card game, and you could find it at the Fingerhut Bakery at Central and Cermak, which closed in 2000 after 100 years in business. So what do you do when the makers of a favorite food close up shop, or a beloved recipe gets lost and you can't quite figure out its ingredients? Trib columnist Monica Kass Rogers understands your pain; she created Lost Recipes Found to help readers locate the dishes of their past, like that Canasta Cake (pictured), mock apple pie, as well as an impressive archive of recipes from some of Chicago's finest (and now closed) restaurants (Ratatouille from the Bakery restaurant, whitefish from Como Inn, Marshall Fields' chicken salad). Bring your wish list this Saturday to Kendall College (900 N Branch) at 10am to hear Kass Rogers speak; admission $3 (free for Kendall students), parking is free. The event is sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Chicago.
This year "What's Happening" is, uh, happening again. The Michelin-starred restaurant is joining forces with Old Style and Windy City Soul Club to throw another free, outdoor event with beer, tasty grub and groovy tunes from 4 to 10pm on Sunday, Sept. 23 on Schubert and Kedzie avenues, adjacent to the restaurant.
This year chef Jared Wentworth (who will be the chef at the just-announced Promontory, L&E's new Hyde Park restaurant, bar and concert venue) has created a menu that includes corn pudding, wild boar sloppy and venison sausage with sauerkraut, and a pig plate with lots of barbecue fixings. Where's there's pork, there's bound to be party people.
The LTH Forum annual picnic took place Sunday -- but to call it a picnic doesn't do it justice. Yes, it was outdoors amongst friends but it was also a most kick-ass potluck extravaganza. Over 100 dishes prepared by some of Chicago's most avid gastronomes.
Included were the likes of llama sliders, dukkah, Penang Assam Laksa in aspic served in Champagne glasses, puparuol mbuttunat, pork shoulder bo ssam, and made-from-scratch veal bologna, headcheese and assorted charcuterie. With this much intriguing food around (and only so much stomach real estate) one must choose wisely. One of my many memorable moments came from corn bread crusted in a Dutch oven cooked over a wood fire. Score.
My own contribution was threefold: 1) Inspired by some ripe fennel seeds a farmer friend gifted me with that burst licorice juice when chewed, I went to Green City Market in search for complementary ingredients. The final dish became: ripe fennel seeds, Jen's tomatoes, red torpedo onion, manuri cheese, cinnamon basil, lemon, Le Puy lentils and cut semolina; 2) Gleaned from whatever else called to me while walking the market: dragon tongues, organic beans, grilled portabellas, breakfast radish and shio koji; and 3) grilled asparagus, marai sweet corn, butternut squash, caramelized cauliflower, hatch peppers, lemon verbena and yuzukosho.
Everyone sated their appetites and more than a good time was had by all.
This past weekend's chilly temperatures got me thinking about fall -- which technically begins September 22 -- and all the lovely apple-based eats it entails. The Bucktown Apple Pie Contest (October 14 at Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley Ave.) is looking for contestants; your $25 entry fee benefits the park, and your two submitted pies could win you bragging rights that last the entire fall.
Last year's Baconfest sold out faster than you can say pork belly and if you're one of the baconaholics who missed it or is salivating at the mouth for more bacon, you'll want to mark your calender for the recently announced 5th Annual Baconfest Chicago 2013 coming on Saturday, April 20th at the UIC Forum (725 West Roosevelt). Last year's fest racked in (pun intended) 3,000 guests and over 110 restaurants. A limited number of VIP tickets will be released in December and all general admission tickets will go on sale in mid-February. If you want to be the first to hear about it, sign up for their email list.
No word on participating sponsors but I think they should vie for Lipitor . . .
The 20th Century Limited ran between New York and Chicago in 16 hours.... in comfort, luxury, and speed -- spanning space and time.
The 21st Century Limited will run a brief engagement between New York and Chicago in September and October of 2012.
And with that, Alinea and New York's Eleven Madison Park last week announced "The Twenty First Century Limited," a kitchen trade between the two famed restaurants. The Tribune reports that chef Grant Achatz and the Alinea team will take over Eleven Madison Park for five nights starting Sept. 26, and chef Daniel Humm and the Eleven Madison Park crew will occupy Alinea for five nights starting Oct. 10. The teams will be doing everything possible to recreate the experience of eating at their home restaurants, right down to tableware.
Tickets to dinners at both restaurants will cost $495 each, not including tax and tip; reservations will be announced on the event's Facebook page in the coming weeks.
The third annual Bacon Takedown Chicago returns on Sept. 16, and there are still a few spots left for competitors.
Twenty contestants are each given 15 pounds of Hormel Black Label bacon to do with whatever they wish, provided it's edible and is brought to Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., at noon on Sept. 16, for judging and sampling by the public.
Gapers Block took second place in the inaugural contest in 2010 with our bacon jam recipe, while chef Rafael Lopez of Harmony Grill took first with his bacon-gruyere brandad on bacon-fat mini English muffins. In 2011, the top winners were Josh Gutzwiller and Nick Angel with bacon mac'n'cheese bites wrapped in bacon and John Ihns with "spicy belly," spicy and sweet-glazed bacon.
What will tickle the judges' and audiences' gullets this year? Time will tell -- maybe it'll be your recipe. If it is, you could take home Le Creuset or Analon cookware, Wustoff knives, Microplane graters or even a year's supply of bacon. If you think you have what it takes, email email@example.com ASAP to sign up.
And if you'd rather just eat a lot of bacon, keep your eye on the Bacon Takedown website for tickets, which will be $15.
If you've spent most of the long, hot summer indoors, make plans for the Sound Opinions End of Summer BBQ, which goes down this Wednesday evening (7-10pm) at WBEZ's studio at Navy Pier (848 E Grand). Food from Honey Butter Fried Chicken, the Butcher and Larder, Hoosier Mama Pie, and Black Dog Gelato will be on hand. Adult beverages will be provided by Virtu Cider and Maker's Mark. Tickets $35; parking $8.
Nary is there a chef nor anyone over the age of 25 who has not heard of Julia Child. This Wednesday, at Old Town Social -- in honor of what would have been the French culinary legend's 100th birthday -- executive chef Jared Van Camp is whipping up a special $30 three-course prix fixe menu* that celebrates Child's tribute to classic French cooking techniques. And what better way to celebrate a culinary legend than to adapt your menu out of their own cookbook; in this case, Child's iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Menu 1st Course
Composed Salad of Haricot Verts, Olives, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Anchovies, Bibb Lettuce and Vinaigrette (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, page 542)
"Poulets Grillés a la Diable"
--Chicken broiled with Mustard, Herbs and Breadcrumbs (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, page 265)
"Gratin Dauphinois aux Endives"
--Gratin of Sliced Potatoes and Endive (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, page 389)
"Artichauts Braisé a la Provençalé"
--Fresh Artichokes Braised with Wine, Garlic and Herbs (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, page 426)
French Strawberry Shortcake made with Rum-soaked Brioche (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, page 448)
And if you can't make it to the celebration, maybe it's time you finally pulled a Julie and Julia and took a crack at it yourself. As Julia would say: "The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. "
The 2nd annual Chicago Food Truck Social presented by Time Out Chicago, West Town Chamber of Commerce and Empty Bottle returns this year on Saturday, Aug. 25 and now Sunday, Aug. 26 from noon to 10pm, moving from its previous location to the up-and-coming Chicago Avenue Corridor between Wood and Wolcott (1800-1899 W. Chicago Ave).
There will be 14 featured food trucks per day, a live music stage presented by the Empty Bottle and over 30 retail and sponsor vendors. After the recent ruling and subsequent buzz, the conversation this time around is sure to be different.
All proceeds benefit local non-profits: the West Town Chamber of Commerce, Commercial Park Advisory Council, and Share Our Strength, a national non-profit that is attempting to end childhood hunger in America.
Tonight's Taste of the Nation charity event brings together names from Chicago's culinary top shelves (Balena, Hot Chocolate and Blackbird, to name a few) to benefit anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Event runs 6-10pm at Navy Pier Ballroom, 600 E Grand. Tickets $95.
If you're one of those who shape their food experiences around good pasta and you also have a little of a history thumb, Chicago Foodways Roundtable's next event, "The Early History of Pasta: Post-Modern Myth and Medieval Reality," might be right up your alley.
Thought pasta originated from Italy? China? Anthony Buccini wants you to rethink that as he guides you through the long complex history of the well-loved carb this Saturday, Aug. 4, at 10am at Kendall College, School of Culinary Arts (900 N. Branch St., west of Halsted Street, north of Chicago Avenue). Cost: $3, Free to Kendall students and staff. To reserve a spot call (847) 432-8255, or e mail chicago.foodways.roundtable (at) gmail (dot) com.
The now closed Terragusta, which used to have a front seat window view of their daily pasta making, has a good how-to video:
August 8th's Taste of the Nation at Navy Pier is a great fundraiser for anti-hunger charities; tickets are $95, but you can snag yourself a free pair by tweeting a picture of a participating TOTN restaurant to @TasteNationChi using the hashtag #NKHchi. The best five pics win tickets. Contest runs through Tuesday.
On the website of chef Paul Virant's Vie, the event is called the "Old Standby Beer Dinner II," but the restaurant's newsletter puts it more bluntly. Vie is holding its second annual "Shitty Beer Dinner" next Tuesday, July 31.
The $85-per-person dinner brings five Chicagoland chefs -- Johnny Anderes of Telegraph, Paul Fehribach of Big Jones, Leonard Hollander of Marion Street Cheese Market, Tara Lane of the Hull House Kitchen (formerly pastry chef at Blackbird), Justin Large of Big Star and Jared Wentworth of Longman & Eagle -- out to Western Springs to create one course that is paired with the chef's favorite crappy beer.
The Taste of Andersonville brings many of the neighborhood's best places to eat--Lady Gregory's, Premise, M. Henry and more--for an evening of sampling their eats and exploring the area. At the end, meet at Swedish Bakery for cookies. Sound good? You can pick the Salt or Pepper routes (nine restaurants each, $25), or if you're feeling adventurous and wear good shoes, do the Whole Enchilada ($40). Event is August 15; you can start eating at 4pm, which gives you plenty of time to indulge and then work it off before heading home.
Forget about hard economic times, a farmers worst nemesis is strange weather, like in the case of Seedling Fruit, who lost most of their apple production due to a mild winter and earlier than usual hot weather. Luckily, they have Girl and the Goat as a friend. In an effort to aide future production, Girl and the Goat will be hosting a dinner in their private room at 809 W. Randolph St. August 9 at 6:30pm with a menu of berries, stone fruits and peppers from the farm that celebrates the fruits Seedling does have. The dinner costs $195 per person with all food and drinks included.
To join in and support your local farmers, call 312-602-2588 for tickets.
There's National Deep Dish Pizza Day and now there's Chicago Food Truck Day. Yes, today, starting at lunch, Chicago food trucks will be rolling around and handing out free treats to the first 19 people who visit the truck in an effort to rally support for the July 19th hearing at City Hall that will determine whether Chicago food trucks can finally join the rest of the normal world and cook on board. Beyond the somewhat limited rules of the Rahm's proposal to the existing ordinance ($1,000 - $2,000 fines and GPS surveillance - did someone say Big Brother?), this is a big advancement in the back and forth battle between the city and food truck owners. The day ends at Fischman's Liquors at 4780 N Milwaukee Ave. with live music and of course, food trucks, from 5:30-9:00.
It's no secret that chefs help raise money, and Vital Bridges knows this well as they return for their eighth annual Chefs and the City on Friday, July 27 at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (160 East Pearson Street) from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The evening starts off with a VIP reception followed by a main tasting prepared by twenty-six of Chicago's most sought-after chefs including Ryan Pitts, Heather Terhune, Chris Pandel and Ryan Poli. Tickets are $400 for the VIP reception and main tasting, and if $400 is too much for your wallet, you can get into the main tasting for $250. If that's still too much, you have another opportunity to join the party and help raise funds for $50 for the end of the night dance party. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit the event page.
PS. Check out this pretty rad video (ok, maybe I just like to see Ryan Pitts doing the worm):
Proceeds from the event support Vital Bridges Center on Chronic Care, which helps people impacted by HIV/AIDS throughout Chicago-land to improve their health and build self-sufficiency by providing food, nutrition counseling, housing, care coordination and prevention services.
Andersonville Development Corporation hosts a competition Thursday night at the Neo-Futurists' theater (Ashland and Foster) to celebrate Green Week through the consumption of home-brewed beers submitted by amateur brewers. Fifteen bucks buys you beer, food, and entertainment for a good cause.
And if you really want to get into the spirit of things, there's more events [pdf]: Big Jones hosts a sustainable seafood demo tomorrow from 3-5pm with folks from the Shedd Aquarium (corner of Berwyn and Clark). Tours of Metropolitan Brewery, Koval Distillery, showings of documentaries about environmental topics that make me super sad (plastic bags, light pollution, etc.) and even crayon recycling.
Last Thursday, designers, friends and food lovers gathered on the penthouse level of the Murdoch Building together with some of the city's best known chefs in a food and design inspired event presented by Jenn-Air and CS Magazine called Chef's Table to raise money for Diffa/Chicago -- read that as an evening filled with good wine, amazingly crafted signature dishes and beautiful people. I knew that Jared Van Camp of Nelcotte, Tony Quartaro of the Bristol, and Celeste Campise of Spiaggia were among the few featuring some signature specialties -- like most who journey to Mecca, I was sure to have a religious food experience.
The event was set up similar to a Next Food Network Star tasting -- with chefs claiming a spot in one of the Jenn Air decked out kitchen spaces. I started out at Moderno, a minimal ingredient, Italian-inspired concept located in Highland Park with Chef John des Rosiers and Phil Rubino. John presented a sake-braised guanciale with summer grits and a watermelon garnish. I learned after I was two bites in that guanciale is really pork cheek, traditional to central Italian cooking. The basic texture is more gelatinous than anything, and if you're into gelatinous things you'll love this. I was good after two bites, probably because the pork cheek threw me off (I still have yet to fall in love with bone marrow as well, and there's something about finding out what you're eating after you've already taken a bite that I still haven't gotten over), but the summer grits -- made from milk (and not cream, hence the summer) - took grits to the next level. If I had a piece of crusty French bread and wasn't wearing a cocktail dress, I might have gone Louisiana on it.
Next, was the soft shell crab "panzanella" from Kevin Hickey of Four Seasons' Allium paired with the Aviation cocktail, their take on the Manhattan.
The soft shell crab nestled on bed of arugula was like summer on a plate and almost too pretty to eat. The crispy bite of the shell mixed with the tender crab reminded me of an old-school fish fry, only mine were never in a penthouse and this was better. (I would have a Manhattan later that night that paired weakly in comparison).
If you are planning to sit out the fourth of July holiday in protest of the humidity (or because it's in the middle of the week), you still have some exciting opportunities to sample the fruits of someone else's labors in front of an oppressive grill. Publican Quality Meats (825 W. Fulton Market) starts an outdoor grilling series on Sunday; chefs from PQM will be joined by John Anderes of Telegraph to create dinner (complete with cocktails, sides and dessert--seafood and vegetarian options, too) for you and your crew; event runs 3-8pm, and is expected to be under $17. If you want to go a little higher up on the scale, the Green City Market BBQ (July 12) brings a plethora of chefs together (over 100!) to Lincoln Park to grill up the season's finest; cocktails, beer and soda will be provided. Tickets $125-250; kids eat for $25.
Loving the cooler weather today? Interested in going outside again? If you are, Slow Food Chicago and Christy Webber Landscaping are teaming up for a summer solstice potluck event at Webber's headquarters, aka Rancho Verde, at 2900 W Ferdinand on Saturday night from 6-9pm. Bring a dish to share and enjoy the provided wine, cider, bread and salmon. Tickets $10-15 (kids under 12 free).
You have two opportunities to keep it real French this week. The French Pastry School hosts a three day-long seminar on cakes, cookies and scones beginning Tuesday (for $575, ouch). On a less expensive note, Multilingual Chicago hosts a seminar Wednesday evening on how to navigate French patisseries en francais, along with a pastry tasting from La Boulangerie (6-7:30pm, $30). If you want to continue the love, Alliance Francaise hosts a summer gratin how-to class on Saturday morning ($85-95).
Amateur sausage makers will unite and fight for pork supremacy this Sunday at the Chicago Sausage Experiment, which is looking for competitors and an audience. Can you make sausage? Sign up--the winner gets a free trip to NYC to visit event sponsor Brooklyn Brewery, along with other exciting trinkets (and they'll even give you $50 for ingredients!). Can you eat sausage? Then buy a $15 ticket to show up and sample the wares and have a beer. Event runs 1-4pm at Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake.
On June 28, top chefs of Chicago, gourmands, restaurateurs and maybe even you will gather on the rarely seen penthouse level of the Reid Murdoch Building (325 N. LaSalle St.) for Chef's Table -- a culinary charity event to benefit DIFFA/Chicago, a not-for-profit fundraising foundation that distributes funds to Chicago-area HIV/AIDS agencies.
This exclusive event presented by luxury design company, Jenn-Air , and produced by CS Magazine in celebration of the annual July Restaurant Issue includes some of Chicago's most talked about chefs:
Jared Van Camp of Nellcôte
Celeste Campise of Spiaggia
Jim Kilberg of Coco Pazzo
James O'Donnell of Michael Jordan's Steak House
Chris Pandel of The Bristol and Balena
Kevin Hickey of Allium
Ashlee Aubin of Wood
John Des Rosiers of Moderno
There will be specialty wine pairings by Noble Grape and an appearance of several signature cocktails by famed mixologist Adam Seger from Hum Spirits, (which if you've ever had a chance to experience a Seger cocktail you can expect it to include infused tea, flower petals of some sort and things that you never imagined could go into a drink). Word has it that Hickey from Allium will feature a Soft Shell Crab "Panzanella," an ALLIUM Aviation Cocktail and a Wild Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae and that O'Donnell from MJSH with be cooking up his signature Delmonico steak. There's more, but I can't ruin the surprise. The event goes from 6 to 9pm, with 100 percent of ticket proceeds benefiting DIFFA/Chicago. Tickets can be purchased online for $150.
Be honest, when's the last time you're going to get a chance to party at a penthouse this year with the best chefs in Chicago while benefiting a charity?
Chicago's restaurant review show "Check Please!" is hosting its first ever festival Sept. 2 at Southwest Michigan's Round Barn Winery. The fest will feature some of the city's best chefs, area farms and wineries. You could also make a weekend of it and check out the local St. Joseph's Farmers Market the day before. Tickets for the event range from $75 to $150; you can learn more about the festival at checkpleasefestivals.com.
The Lincoln Square Farmers Market opens up shop Tuesday at the municipal lot at Western and Leland, 7am-1pm (the Thursday Night Farmers Market begins June 14 in the same space). Also opening Tuesday is the Museum of Contemporary Art Farmers Market, 7am-3pm at Chicago and Mies van der Rohe. The South Loop gets into the game with the Wheeler Mansion Farmers Market, which opens Wednesday evening from 4-8pm, 2020 South Calumet. The Hyde Park Farmers Market at 53rd and Hyde Park Blvd opens Thursday, 7am-1pm.
In addition to special deals at local Dunkin' Donuts, several local bakeries and donut shops are also getting into the spirit. Dinkel's, 3329 N. Lincoln Ave., is giving away one free sour cream donut with every purchase, while supplies last. Do-Rite Donuts, 50 W. Randolph St., will be serving special donuts until 2pm. And at Fritz Pastry, 1408 W. Diversey Pkwy., donuts are just $2.
Your father was right, There's always room for pork... and fundraising.
Slow Food Chicago is firing up the spit one more time for its annual fundraiser in the name of good for you, comes-from-a-farm- and-not-a-package, food with its 4th Annual Pig Roast on June 10, from 2 to 5pm at Goose Island Beer Company, 1800 W. Fulton St.). In true definition of low and slow, pork happy chefs will be whipping up dishes that you can wash down with beer provided by Goose Island and a whiskey cocktail by Templeton Rye.
Featured chefs include:
Adrienne Lo & Abe Conlon - X-marx
Matt Troost -Three Aces
Matthew Holmes - Uncommon Ground Devon
Heather Terhune - Sable Kitchen & Bar
Mark Mendez - Vera
Andrew Hroza - Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub
Vegetarians need not feel excluded, Jon Dubois from Green Zebra will be there preparing a signature vegetarian dish. To top it off, Amy Kelsch, from La Boulangerie will feature a dessert. (Money has it that it will include bacon of some sort).
General Admission tickets are $60 (through June 8; after that date tickets will be available at the door) and Terra Madre tickets are $80 (includes ticket + $20 donation to send a delegate to Terra Madre). All proceeds benefit Slow Food Chicago, a not-for-profit organization.
I've never loved the Taste of Chicago. The last time I attended the annual eat-a-thon, I was almost knocked over by a throng of teenagers who looked like they were out for blood; I just wanted a taste portion of Robinson's Ribs. My priorities had to change.
This year's event (July 11-15) will feature a new, higher-end offering; a three-course meal (lunch and dinner) served by a new celebrity chef each day (among the chefs are Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat, Graham Elliot, and Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia). Each chef will also conduct a cooking demonstration, and one of their items will be prepared and sold by students at the Washburne Culinary Institute. The best part? Each meal will be $40. Tickets will be available soon; the line starts behind me.
Ever find yourself daydreaming what a dinner consisting of Koren Grieveson's wrapped dates (avec), Stephanie Izard's signature pork and apple ragu (Girl and the Goat), and Mindy Segal's All American Chocolate Cake (Hot Chocolate) washed down with a 3 Floyds Beer might taste like?
Wait, you should have that moment. Done? OK.
Come June 5th you may not have to imagine anymore when these award winning chefs get together for food and charity at Inspiration Kitchen (3504 W. Lake St.) to prepare an ultimate three course culinary experience with beer tastings from 3 Floyds Beer. Inspiration Kitchens assists more than 3,000 people and families affected by homelessness and poverty each year by offering skill-specific job training and employment placement. One hundred percent of the $200 ticket price will go directly to Inspiration Corporation and its programs and each guest will also receive an etching donated by critically acclaimed artist Tony Fitzpatrick.
The program begins at 7pm. and seats can be reserved by calling Evan Cauble-Johnson at 773-878-0981 x 221 or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even on a normal day, Quick Bite is one of the best deals in town. The standing special a hot dog and fries for just $1.95 (raised earlier this year from $1.75); two dogs, fries and a drink will set you back just a fiver. The shop is open from 11am till 9pm Monday through Friday, 11am to 5pm Saturday. Quick Bite is at 5155 N. Western Ave.
Last night the Garfield Park Conservatory hosted Chicago Craft Beer Week's kickoff event, Beer Under Glass. Dozens of local breweries poured tastes both inside the greenhouses and outside in the crisp evening air, and a handful of local restaurants provided snacks. At the end of the evening, food trucks were lined up outside at the end of the event to top off stomachs.
Our favorite sips, in no particular order:
Virtue Cider's Red Streak - Greg Hall's new venture, it's a perfectly crisp and dry cider
Half Acre's ChocolateCamaro milk stout - like the Left Hand favorite, but local and chocolatey
Flossmoor Station's Wallonian Saison - we're a sucker for "brewed with ginger"
5 Rabbit's 5 Lizard - a witbier brewed with spices and passion fruit
Goose Island's Scarlett - a tart n'n sassy saison/farmhouse ale made with my favorite fruit, raspberries
Uncommon Brewers' Siamese Twin - a Belgian-style double seasoned with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves
With NATO taking up every ounce of your newsfeed, I'm sure you were thinking as was I, where will all these leaders be eating? Granted, being that we are Chicago, someone's going to try to persuade one of them to forgo the fancy schmansy and get down and dirty with a Maxwell's hot dog or some deep dish pizza. Hopefully, a misguided leader won't end up on the corner of Ohio and Wabash (although it might be funny if Angela Merkel was found throwing back a Goose Island with a slice).
But not to fret, looks like Chicago is holding up its reputation for being a food mecca with its Chicago's Culinary Crossroads program which is like Restaurant Week all over again only NATO style without the prix fix menu. Earlier this month, acclaimed international chefs paired with local star chefs to kick off the festivities and collaborated on menus that reflected their nation's cuisines. Chef David Colcombe of Opus Restaurant in Birmingham, UK paired with Chef Dirk Flanigan of Henri/The Gage and Chef Jason Bangerter of LUMA in Toronto, Canada paired with Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno to name a few. If you didn't get a chance to hit up this culinary pairing, check out the menus.
From now until May 25, 200 local restaurants are serving up tasty morsels and libations inspired by the NATO nations. Cleverly enough, diners can also collect "passport" codes at each participating restaurant they visit for a chance to win a VIP weekend for two to Chicago Gourmet in September. (You have to visit three restaurants to participate to win). If you're not busy protesting or avoiding the drama by escaping to Wisconsin or the Cubs vs. Sox games, get out there and eat something different and increase your chance for a gourmet September.
To learn more about the program visit the Chicago's Culinary Crossroads website.
Don't have enough farm to table meals in your life? On May 23, Uncommon Ground on Devon will host a Slow Food farm dinner. Executive Chef Matthew Holmes will prepare a multi-course (including dessert!) spring menu, not to mention passed appetizers at the rooftop farm reception. Each course will feature a seasonal cocktail prepared with Evanston based FEW Spirits small batch liquors. Proteins will be provided by Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, along with organic ingredients supplied by Harvest Moon. Plus, not only will you enjoy a farm fresh meal, but the a portion of the dinner cost will act as a donation to Slow Food Chicago, which will be using the donation as a proceed to help send local farmers to Terra Madre in Torino, Italy.
To make your reservation, call Uncommon Ground Devon at (773) 465-9801. Reservations are $65 per person. Uncommon Ground Devon is located at 1401 W Devon Ave. Rooftop reception starts at 6pm with dinner served at 7pm.
Bottlenotes in collaboration with Cheeky Chicago is bringing its love for wine to Chicago this week and next with the Taste Around Town wine tasting event. This is your chance to turn networking into a wine lesson and try wines from different regions in either a flight or 3-course menu pairing. This year's regions are California, France, and Spain with featured wines from the Rhone Valley, Naked Grape, and the Rioja region. The event kicked off Monday and ends on May 25th. Check out the participating restaurants, which include Paris Club, Naha, deca, and Allium to name a few, and book your reservations on OpenTable.
Tickets are $45 each, and will go on sale at 11am this Sunday, May 13, at the Half Acre brewery store, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. Only 350 tickets will be sold, two per person. Expect a long line.
Also this week, Half Acre announced plans to open a taproom at the south end of its brewery in North Center. There will be 10 beers on tap, including taproom-only experimental stuff, guest-brewed beers and a rotating cask beer. The taproom is expected to open sometime in August.
To say that any trip to McCormick place isn't for the faint at heart is an understatement; it can make any well-traveled person feel like they just got out of Kansas. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but after two days at the 2012 NRA show (National Restaurant Association, not National Rifle Association), I found myself wanting to run to the first spa to get a Swedish massage and do Vinyasa yoga while eating kale.
This was my first NRA Show and the feat of getting there felt like an accomplishment in itself. I rode the coattails of the hotel shuttles even though I didn't stay at any one of them and it worked like a charm. I felt proud for finding a loophole. Once I was there, after spending an hour trying to find my pass and then find the show, I walked into restaurant vendor mania. The NRA show is a vendor carnival of sort, like Costco on steroids and it's widely for those in the food-service industry, i.e. restaurant and food-service owners. There's no logical starting point to it (just like appears to be the case with McCormick Place) so I just walked, and walked ...and walked. I ate samples of cheese, pre-packaged pastas and hot dogs. It took me 30 minutes and a tweet to find the educational sessions. I did a tequila, vodka and whiskey taste test before noon. And while I had hoped that there would be more in the way of culinary invention and presence at the NRA, admittedly, it felt like my first Taste of Chicago experience without the annoying drunk people, and the best I got was pulled pork from Joe's on Weed Street at the IWSB event and cakeballs from Bleeding Heart Bakery (yeah, fudgy, gooey cakeballs).
Virtue Cider, former Goose Island Brewmaster Greg Hall's new small-batch artisanal cider company, has slowly been releasing its first brew, Red Streak, in Chicagoland bars. Tonight at 7pm, Hall will be at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St., for a tasting party and meet'n'greet.
I tried Red Streak at Hopleaf last night, and it's a delight. Virtue calls it an English style cider, made with Redstreak bittersharp apples, and it is very dry compared to the typical commercially available hard cider -- even most of the ciders imported from merry old England. The flavor is that of a nice, crisp green apple, with peach and citrus notes and a tart finish. Champagne-like bubbles give it a rich mouthfeel. It paired nicely with my CB&J sandwich, cutting through the rich cashew butter, but was also nice and refreshing on its own.
Sometimes, the fire just dies, and if the sizzle has gone out of your restaurant adventures lately, or trying to pick up your next love interest in River North just isn't working like it used to, maybe a little scavenger hunt is what you need to bring it back.
Borrowing on the likes of social networks Foursquare and Pinterest, Dishcrawl, a foodie pub crawl of sorts who's mission is to get people out of their house and socially engaged with each other through their "progressive food adventure's" is rolling out its inaugural Chicago crawl this Saturday starting at 4:00. I'd tell you where, but that's where the progressive adventure thing comes in -- you don't know where the crawl will begin until two days before. For $59 a person you get a guided tour along with 20-100 local foodies through four culinary destinations. And as Dishcrawl has hinted, there may be a special surprise at the end. There are only 9 tickets left so get on it while you can. Who know's, this could be the next best thing since Match.com and trolleys. Visit here for more information about Chicago's upcoming Dishcrawls visit and to reserve your ticket or follow on Twitter at @DishcrawlChi.
Bacon Fest isn't the only pork-centered foodie event this April. Cochon 555, a gourmet feast that goes way beyond pork belly, returns to Chicago April 29 at the Four Seasons Hotel. Five chefs are each given a whole heritage breed pig so as to cook a nose-to-tail meal that will capture diners' hearts and be crowned Prince or Princess of Porc. Meanwhile, five winemakers offer up wines to match the culinary creations (the third five in the name).
Returning chef competitors Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat and Michael Sheerin of Three Floyds Brewpub go up against Carlos Gaytan of Mexique, Danny Grant of RIA and Jason Vincent of Nightwood. In addition, Kevin Hickey of Four Seasons' recently opened Allium will serve a whole-hog barbecue to supplement the competition dishes. Buther & Larder's Rob Levitt will do a butchery demonstration, and you can try to win Le Creuset cookware in a tasting contest with Sepia's Andrew Zimmerman.
Chase Cellars, Elk Cove, Buty, Yorba Wines and Scholium Project are the showcased wineries, but in keeping with the "more is more" theme, there will also be wines from SALDO, Cornerstone and Robert Kacher Selections, and beer from Anchor Brewing and Three Floyd's. A "Perfect Manhattan" ended by Daniel Hyatt of Alembic SF will feature Templeton Rye, Hirsch, Angel's Envy, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Hudson Whiskey's Baby Bourbon and Luxardo.
The April 29 event begins at 5pm for general admission; VIPs get in at 4pm. Tickets start at $125 and go to $250 -- and despite the price are likely to sell out. Get yours quickly.
Strangely, it's a cake--specifically, the Caramel Cake, which I first got a good look at over at Lottie and Doof a few years back. This cake makes an impressive potluck contribution with its buttermilk and caramel flavors, but it's not the prettiest-looking car at the dealership, as it were. Is it a cake? A weird meatloaf? Gravy-covered bread? Who knows until you take a bite.
So if you're looking for opportunities to make a decent-looking cake, World Kitchen sponsors a Luscious Layers baking class this Saturday morning; if cakes are not your bag, Delightful Pastries will be teaching a class on piemaking Saturday afternoon; if you'd rather eat and not do the work, the chefs of the French Pastry School host a tour of the facilities plus how-to demonstrations of candies, sorbets and other baked goods while you scarf down croissants and pastries. And if the bread isn't your thing, the Gluten- and Allergy-Free Expo runs this weekend in Lombard.
Good news for Great Plains-ers living in Chicago: later this summer, Lincoln Park will be home to an outpost of the Iowa-based Maid Rite chain, which is is known for its loose meat sandwiches (think a sloppy joe without the tomato-based sauce; add ketchup at your will). And if you want to continue the love of loose meat, the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance hosts an exploration of regional road food delights, among them the Runza, a fast food chain (for which I've professed my love before). Michael Stern of RoadFood.com, a fabulous website for feeding all of your car-based travels, will give a keynote; other programs explore other regional delicacies such as the horseshoe (an open-faced sandwich covered in fries and cheese sauce), culinary tourism, small-town cafe traditions, and supper clubs. In short, it sounds criminal to attend any of the programs on an empty stomach.
"Road Food: Exploring the Midwest One Bite at a Time" runs April 27-29 at Kendall College; admission packages run $10-85.
Tonight, Revolution Brewery (with the Chicago History Museum) hosts Punk 'n' Brew, an exploration of the connection between the famed Logan Square's brewery and their in-house playlists. A four-course meal with such names as the "Jonny [sic] Rotten Ramen" paired with their Barley Wine will be served. Event starts at 7pm at Revolution, 2323 N. Milwaukee; reservations required.
It sold out quickly after tickets went on sale earlier this year, so if you are going be among the lucky ones to attend next Saturday's Baconfest, you can use this handy navigational guide to figure out your menu for the event--I was taken by Hearty's Bacon Rice Krispies with cereal milk and Three Aces' "Shake and Bake" (I loved the commercials as a kid, weren't you?). And for those of who you can't stand the decadence, Veggie Fest Chicago is four short months away.
Half off wine nights aren't a new tactic in the restaurant industry, but offering a half off wine night and featuring a wine where half of all proceeds benefit charities is something to drink to. Rockit Bar and Grill in River North is doing this with its Monday night TasteIt events which feature tableside tastings of Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Zinfandel from OneHope Wines that benefit breast cancer, autism, and support our troops. This past Monday, Rockit held a beefed up version of its usual TasteIt event, complete with a three-course meal from Chef Amanda Downing paired with One Hope Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Continuum Vintage (we'll come back to why that's important later).
Last weekend's Good Food Festival (formerly Family Farmed Expo), which was held "[to] celebrate leaders, businesses, and individuals that sustain the burgeoning, locally-driven Good Food Movement," offered sessions and, well, good food!
Friday night's Localicious party was sponsored by City Provisions, hence the similar logo. The idea behind Localicious was to pair local restaurants with local farms/farmers. The setup was a lot like Baconfest 2011 if you happened to attend that... lots of chef/farm pairings handing out goodies around the perimeter of the room with all adult spirits in the center.
Join entrepreneurs, scholars, advocates, government officials, chefs and foodies on Saturday, April 14 at the University of Chicago Law School for a community symposium on mobile food in Chicago. The event will include a session for food vendors on understanding local legal issues, a panel discussion, and a food truck meetup. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Attendees can register here.
If you're willing to take meaty risks--veal cheeks, bone marrow, etc., the Culinary Historians of Chicago have organized a lecture that is up your alley. This Saturday, while loads of amateurs and professionals alike douse themselves with beer, head to Kendall College (900 N. Branch) for "From Haggis to Headcheese: The Fall and Rise of Odd Bits," which will take you through the origins and renaissance of delicacies of an unusual flair. At the helm will be author and chef Jennifer McLagan, whose recent book Odd Bits (Ten Speed Press 2011) is about how to cook with these forgotten corners. McLagan's previous book Fat won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year. Admission $5, $3 for students and no charge for CHC members or Kendall students and faculty. Event runs 10am-noon. Emailed RSVP requested.
I was happy I had stuck out trying to find a parking spot on Milwaukee Avenue at 6:30 on a Thursday night as I opened the door to the Jackson Junge Gallery for the Wicker Park Mixologist Mash Up event, a mixology contest hosted by the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce. The scene was hip and I was met with DJ beats and stylishly dressed people bumping elbows with cute little solo sized cups of cocktails that made a Thursday night Chamber of Commerce event look like a Saturday soiree. If this is what all art gallery and Chamber of Commerce events were like, I thought, I needed to go to more.
Participating bars Pint, The Boundary, Wicker Park Tavern, Subterranean, and Club Lucky were already busy deucing it out to top drink. I checked in, got my voting ticket, and immediately headed towards the food. In past experiences, vodka mixed with sugar on an empty stomach never quite went down right.
Albany Park-based Asian Youth Services, which provides services to community youth of all ages and backgrounds, will be the recipient of 25% of the food and beverage sales tomorrow evening from 7-10pm at Chief O'Neills, 3471 N Elston. Bulls-Knicks tickets (join the Linsanity), music from Casa de Soul, and entertainment from the kids AYS helps are on the menu.
Gapers Block presents the Chicago premiere of the documentary Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye at the Mayne Stage Theater, 1328 W. Morse Ave., on Thursday, March 22, at 8pm, followed by a Q&A with the director, Kristian Day, and a cocktail reception featuring Templeton Rye.
Filmmaker Kristian Day's documentary film chronicles the history of the infamous whiskey cookers of Carroll County from their outlaw days of Prohibition to when the liquor became legal in 2006. During the Prohibition Era, west central Iowa farmers cooked whiskey in their barns and machine sheds to supplement their income in the harsh times. The finished product was of such a high quality that it quickly made its way to speakeasies in Chicago, Kansas City, and Omaha through Italian gangster Al Capone. For almost 80 years the product was considered illegal until it was introduced in 2006 as a legal brand of top shelf liquor.
If spending the day drinking copious amounts of green Miller Light doesn't fit into your schedule next weekend, maybe a different kind of green-themed day might? Chicago's Good Food Festival (fka Family Farmed Expo) provides an opportunity to meet Midwest artisans and farmers, attend seminars on growing and making food, and get a big picture look at Chicago's local food scene.
Just like last year, Thursday and Friday's agenda is targeted for those involved in the commercial side of local food with speakers and activities focused on financing, networking and production of local food.
Now that Restaurant Week has ended, a second event approaches: Chicago Chef Week, which is scheduled for March 18-23. It's not exactly a week, but it packs a punch: a three-course lunch for $22 and three-course dinner for $39 at such places as Yusho, Grange Hall Burger Bar (get the fries!), GT Fish and Oyster, North Pond, and David Burke's Primehouse.
The WSJ has a nice tour (with pictures) of Grant Achatz's home kitchen, complete with meticulously labeled bottles of spices and a gramophone; however, the best part was his admission that his guilty pleasure foods are Little Caesar's pizza and Potbelly.
Logan Square Kitchen (2333 N Milwaukee) will be the site of a movie screening and fundraiser for the Chicago Honey Coop, which is looking for a new home. The group's apiary, which has been housed on an abandoned former industrial site in North Lawndale since 2004, must pack up and buzz off by this spring, as the land has been sold. The 2009 documentary Vanishing of the Bees, which chronicles the large impact that bees have on food production, will be shown at this weekend-long event (Friday and Saturday, 7pm; Sunday, 1pm and 4pm), with concessions by Lula Cafe and Yusho; admission $20.
What does 20 bucks get you these days anyways? Southport Grocery, 3552 N. Southport Ave., has quite the answer for that. This Friday night, from 7 to 10pm, it will get you a no-reservations good time at this unique eatery, grocer and -- for the night -- art space. Fittingly dubbed, Drink Up Art, the event will feature new creations from local artists as well as the opportunity to partake in an educational wine tasting. Finger foods will be available for purchase (a measly $5 to $8) from the grocery as well. Food, wine, art -- what more could you ask for? Drink it all up! Call 773-665-0100 for more info.
Uncommon Ground Edgewater along with the Good Food Festival present James Beard award wining video producer Michael Gebert's film, The Butcher's Karma! this Thursday night, Feb. 23. The night includes a dinner of four courses prepared by Chef Chris Spear along with drinks, the film, and a discussion to follow. Gebert's film features three local butchers (Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder, Paul Kahan of Publican Quality Meats, and Bartlett Durand of Black Earth Meats), and their mission to source locally farmed and sustainably raised meats for their businesses. Here's the preview that was posted on Gebert's blog, Sky Full of Bacon:
Tickets can be purchased here for $50 a person. Reception starts at 6:30. Uncommon Ground Edgewater is located at 1401 W. Devon Ave. (773) 465-9801
Uncommon Ground on Clark presents a tasting event this Wednesday featuring local midwestern microbrewery, New Holland Brewing. The tasting will showcase a different brew paired with thoughtfully planned dishes across 3 courses. The first course pairs the 'mad hatter' pale ale with a bartlett pear and baby arugula salad, ancho bbq beef ribs are matched with the 'sundog' amber ale, and rounding out with a sweet serving is 'the poet' oatmeal stout accompanied by a mocha chocolate pot de creme. Are you on the phone yet? Seating is limited, so hop to it. Tasting runs from 6 to 8 pm and reservations are $25 per person. Call (773) 929-3680 to reserve your seat today. Uncommon Ground on Clark is located at 3800 N Clark St.
If you missed Valentine's Day, fear not. On February 20, D.O.C Wine Bar (2602 N. Clark) is featuring a night of Spanish wines from the Rioja region (courtesy of Juan Muga of Bodegas Muga Winery)with a four-course food pairing. A highlight of the evening is Wagyu flank steak, Iberico ham and manchego croquette, and romesco matched with a red blend, Selección Especial. The dinner concludes with a sampling of Muga's Prado Enea, a red grape blend aged for a minimum total of 84 months, paired with lamb ravioli and rosemary jus. Whether you love Riojas or want to learn more about them (like how to say it), this is the event for you. Event begins 7pm; admission is $70 (excluding tip and tax). Reservations can be made at 773-883-5101.
If you can't afford a restaurant--or just want to avoid crowds--you can still celebrate V Day at home in style. Here are some simple dishes that will do the trick.
For starters, I love apple and dill in salads. The fennel in this recipe adds a lot of welcomed kick.
For the entree, I recommend Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with onion and butter, which I have made many, many times. My poor mother used to make spaghetti nearly every Sunday, which was all-day affair full of chopping and stirring; she would be furious to know that all she needed was a half hour and three ingredients. For reals. This is an amazing recipe that deserves many returns.
Cap off the evening with chili chocolate-dipped strawberries. I'm not a spice person in general, but I really like it mixed with chocolate--and this recipe takes mere minutes to prepare.
Back again after a break from the mayhem of the holidays, Dose Market is returning. The market will commence at 10am on Feb 12 with complimentary whiskey and rum cocktails from Femme du Coupe. In case that doesn't get you in the door, perhaps the coffee from Ipsento and tea by Senteamental Moods, or even a soda by Jo Snow will help perk you up. This month's market will also debut chef Theo Gilbert's Ripasso -- offering handmade pasta and takeaway meals, for two - and also introducing Pickled, a new concept on the fine art of fermentation from Mark Steuer of The Bedford. Don't forget to save room for something sweet at Bang Bang Pie, Celestial Kitchens, Defloured and Sea + Cane. Pick up a bouquet from Spout Home or a spontaneous message typed on site from the creative wordsmiths at Poems While You Wait for the perfect selection of lovely gifts. And if you aren't in the habit of embracing February's lovey dovey holiday, at least the free cocktails, swoon worthy eats and fresh fashion finds will make it go down easier, now won't it? Dose Market is held from 10am to 4pm at the River East Art Center located at 435 E Illinois. Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 for pre-ordered will-call admission; call 312-321-1001 to order.
Several Drive-Thru staffers put in major effort last night--milling our own wheat, growing and harvesting coconut milk--for tonight's Soup and Bread event at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia). We're joining Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions, Ashley Simone of Foodgasm (along with her mother Etta Worthington), and architect/jewelry designer Helen Tsatsos. Stop by between 5:30 and 7:30pm to eat, meet and greet; this evening's donations are for Teen Living Programs.
The bones have been picked, the ballots counted, and the first annual Gapers Block BBQ Bowl was a success! Honky Tonk BBQ came out on top with the judges to win the Critic's Choice award at Club Lucky on Saturday, Feb. 4, while Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro took home the People's Pick.
Restaurant week is that wonderful time in Chicago where for ten days restaurants across Chicago entice our palettes without hurting our budgets. This year's event starts February 17 and goes until the 26. Over 200 restaurants will be offering specially created prix fixe menus for you to nibble on at a price tag of $22 for lunch and starting at $33 for dinner menus, and you will want to make sure you get your reservations in quick. Some interesting highlights besides the usual this year include:
Branch 27 - an unassuming spot on Chicago Avenue near the Ukrainian Village. The Goat Cheese Empanadas with chipotle aioli, watermelon radish, and cilantro, and the Polenta with smoked mozzarella, grilled figs, and kale on the $33 prix fixe sound amazing.
Fiorentino's Cucina- the best Italian this side of Fullerton and 3 words: Butternut Squash Ravioli.
Mira Sushi - nestled right on Division and the first three star sushi in Chicago. Also has an impressive sake and wine list and the place to go for good sushi during restaurant week when you can't get into Japonais.
And if you're just trying to just get your money's worth on the northside:
Halsted's Bar and Grill - because for $33, two people, repeat two people, can chose one starter, one entrée, one dessert, plus a glass of wine or beer. Really, and there's fried green beans in the mix too!
Want to know how? I'll tell you. It's really easy. I mean, you could sneak into your special person's apartment and spell out your initials in four different kinds of rose petals, careful to avoid yellow, 'cause it means "FRIENDSHIP." Or, instead of breaking and entering--do this, a gift from me to you: expend the least amount of energy (read: make a reservation) and impress your date with a cheesy explanation of what an amuse bouche is, in hopes of scoring that kiss! Nine times out of ten...
Whether it's in Logan Square or Near North Side, here's a list of talented and savvy restaurants that are sure to impress and are prepared to help you show your significant other that you care about good food just as much as you care about him/her.
Calling all wine lovers. Slow Food Chicago presents the first ever English publication of the Slow Wine guide, 2012. An event celebrating this release will be appropriately held at one of Chicago's very own hubs of Italian fine wine and dining, Spiaggia. The night will involve a walk-around wine tasting featuring over 100 wines from 45 select Italian producers. The admission price includes a complimentary copy of the Slow Wine 2012 guide along with a commemorative wine glass to take home with you. Light food pairings will be provided and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Slow Food Chicago. This Slow Wine event will be held on Feb 2 from 6pm - 8:30pm. Spiaggia is located at 980 N Michigan Ave. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $30 for Slow food members. Tickets can be purchased here.
Super Bowl Weekend is barbecue weekend, it seems. While Gapers Block is hosting its BBQ Bowl rib competition on Saturday, Barn & Company, 950 W. Wrightwood Ave., is offering two specials for Sunday.
In the restaurant, $30 gets you a "Four Quarter Meal," with courses showing up each quarter: a cup of chili and pulled pork sliders in the first quarter, nachos and Texas smoked sausage in the second, BBQ ribs and smoked brisket in the third, and smoked hot wings in the fourth. But if you're hosting a party at your house, pitmaster Gary Wiviott has you covered. The $350 Super Bowl To Go package includes:
• 5 BBQ chickens
• 10 racks of "Chicago's Best" baby back ribs
• 60 smoked BBQ wings
• 25 Texas-style smoked sausage
• chips and guacamole
• aked beans
• mac 'n cheese
• cole slaw
"We say feeds 10 to 15, but that's if they are BBQ guys or linebackers," says Wiviott. Reserve yours on Fanfueled.com no later than Friday, Feb. 3.
Grub Street reports that chefs Philip Foss of EL Ideas and Shin Thompson of Bonsoiree will be collaborating on a small but probably insanely tasty Anti-Restaurant Week menu, which will launch February 21.
While you're there, enjoying the floats, the marching bands and the Miss Friendship Ambassador -- duh. Eat dim sum! Eat dim sum at the Phoenix. Eat dim sum to your heart's content! Dim sum is, by definition, meant to "touch the heart." In this case, it does. With deliciousness. This place is my most favorite dim sum restaurant in all of Chicago and I invite you to try to change my mind.
Try their regular menu items as well. Want to try jellyfish? They have that. Does that scare you into ordering your old standby, sweet and sour chicken? They have that too.
The Phoenix has a full bar and is open Monday thru Friday from 9am to 3pm, then 4:30pm to 10pm. They are open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 3pm and 4:30pm to 10pm. Their dim sum is now served all day.
Looking for an excuse to get the family out of the house during the chilly days of winter? This Saturday, Uncommon Ground Lakeview, 3800 N. Clark St., will host a free (yes, free) kids show featuring the former Wiggleworms program director (of the Old Town School of Folk Music), Laura Doherty. Sing along, have some food and take on this excuse to get out of the house for good eats and family fun. Laura will make it worth your while - one of her signature songs involves her accessorizing with a hot dog hat and explaining the toppings on a Chicago style hot dog. With lively entertainment and a lengthy kids menu, it just might be worth the trip out into the cold. Call 773-929-3680 for reservations (required).
This is one lecture you'll want to pay attention to. Chef Jenny Lewis and former Alliance Bakery owner Heidi Heidecker will be on hand Saturday for some sweet talk at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St. The lecture will cover baking traditions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan including classic midwestern dessert history on the likes of brownies, whoopie pies and more. Because let's be real, there's no such thing as knowing too much about a good dessert. This two hour talk (10am to noon) is hosted by Culinary Historians. Admission is $5 and you can RSVP to email@example.com.
$25 at the door or in advance will get you admission, one tasting from each BBQ contestant, and your choice of two Southern-inspired sides prepared by Club Lucky's executive chef, Alfredo Anaya. Additional sides may be purchased for $3. Club Lucky's bar will be mixing up special cocktails and dishing out beers all afternoon. And Koval Distillery will be conducting tastings of several of their best organic whiskeys.
Once you've made your way around the competitors, cast your vote for the "People's Pick" award at our polling booth. A panel of esteemed judges will also vote for the "Critic's Choice" award. This year's champions will be announced at 2pm, with a special performance by musical guest The Congregation to follow. You'll be able to get seconds of barbecue and sides until 3pm.
Club Lucky is located at 1824 W. Wabansia Ave. in Bucktown. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (or comment below) with any questions, and watch this space for updates. See you there!
While the weeklong event of affordable priced prix-fixe menus at restaurants you normally couldn't buy a side salad at begins February 17, the reservation system is open and ready for the fight (because it can be a fight to get in to some of these joints). I've already made a painfully early reservation at Naha, but hope to get a date at fellow participants Blackbird, The Florentine, Perennial, Sable, Boka, and Spiaggia. It's going to be a rough week.
"The Unique Dinner series was create to give chefs creative license to take risks that they would not otherwise take at their restaurants," said Chicago Foodies founder and editor-in-chief Josh Brusin in a press release. "We want to push the envelope of the Chicago Food scene. These events will appeal to Chicago food enthusiasts with adventurous palates and a wide appreciation for experimental cuisine."
For the inaugural event, Moto Chef-owner Homaro Cantu, Executive Pastry Chef Ben Roche and "Top Chef Texas" contestants Chris Jones and Ritchie Farina will create "16 Courses of Black," an extended exploration of how color affects our experience and enjoyment of food. Diners will experience an all-black progression of flavors, textures and ingredients, each with a wine pairing (perhaps a Cahors or Nero d'Avola?).
The event at Moto, 945 W. Fulton Market, is limited to 24 diners; tickets cost $225 per person. For reservations, email email@example.com.
Wine + Wednesday = Sold. Not only are they the perfect equation because they share the same lead letter, but the two really do go hand in hand. Let's be honest, by hump day, most of us are hankering for a drink.
WineChannel TV and Walgreens present Wine Wednesday just in time for happy hour this Wednesday, Jan. 11 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm at Walgreens' newest flagship store, 151 N. State St. WineChannel TV's at Home Dining Sommelier Jessica Altieri and local "MasterChef" Season 2 contestant Suzy Singh will talk wine, food, and perfect pairings. Can't make it "live?" No worries, you can attend from the comfort of your own home and tune in online.
Start the year off by registering for a cooking class! The World Kitchen learning series returns January 21 with a class led by Soup and Bread founder Martha Bayne; other classes include primers on curries (February 2), the origins of sweets in Chicago (February 29) and cooking with coffee (March 31). Classes are $30 each and will likely fill up fast; registration begins at noon on January 11. All events are held at the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts at 66 East Randolph.
Of all the Top Chef contestants this season, one stands out for me, and it's not out of my love for Chicago and its ilk: Sarah Grueneberg of Spiaggia. She seems a lot more earnest and unassuming than the other contestants, and while several of them have rolled their eyes at Grueneberg's Texas roots in past episodes, I think it's because she just seems so nice, which basically means people think they can steamroll her. If you feel the same way, you can tell Sarah in person January 21, when she and Spiaggia head chef Tony Mantuano hold a cooking class/demo at the restaurant (980 N Michigan). You'll get your own food and wine to chow while watching the chefs do a little in-kitchen challenge similar to the show, then learn how to make it. Cost $125; call 312-280-2750 to reserve.
Friday: Big Hugs Release Party
Half Acre Beer will celebrate the third release of its Big Hugs Imperial Stout with a release party at the Blind Robin, 853 N. Western Ave., Friday night at 8pm. The official release for the beer, available in 20oz. bombers or 64oz. growlers, is Sunday, Dec. 18 from 11am to 6pm at the brewery, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. (You might also enjoy this Chicago magazine Q&A with Half Acre's label designer, Phineas X. Jones, who also does illustration work for us here at GB.)
Saturday: Bloodshot Records Holiday Whiskey Extravaganza
OK, this is more of a music event, but there's burgers and whiskey involved. Bloodshot Records' Holiday Whiskey Extravaganza is this Saturday at Cobra Lounge, 235 N. Ashland Ave., at 9pm. Whitey Morgan & the 78s, Kurt of the Deadstring Brothers and Lydia Loveless perform, but from a culinary perspective the big news is that ManBQue will be cooking up "Bloodshot Burgers" served with a Founders beer and and a shot of Jim Beam Devils Cut whiskey. The event is also a benefit for the the Casa Catalina Basic Human Needs Center in Back of the Yards; donate food and receive a special gift from Bloodshot. The event is free with RSVP on Do312. 21+
Looking for something fun to do before you trudge off to Aunt Millie's for the holiday? S&M's Underground has spots left for meals tomorrow and Saturday; for a $55 suggested fee, you'll get home-brewed beer served with pork, duck, rabbit, and a lemon tart to finish.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) kicked off its annual holiday food drive today in hopes of collecting over 1 million pounds of food this holiday season to serve the 650,000 folks who rely on GCFD for meals throughout the year. To help inspire those of us who like a more give and take relationship, GCFD has partnered with a few local spots to encourage you to donate.
At Custom House, a recently-ish new concept on the space transformed it into a more urban tavern, with upscale precision under the helm of Chef Perry Hendrix. Bring a nonperishable can of food in when you dine and you'll receive a free appetizer or dessert, of your choice to accompany your lunch or dinner. And since their newest pastry chef studied under Mindy Segel, I suggest you opt for dessert. From December 8-December 25.
You have from now until 5pm today to get yourself over to the River East Art Center for this month's special edition of Dose Market, appropriately deemed by the Dosettes as HoliDose. Find great gifts for you and yours with 70 food and fashion vendors. Plus, make a charitable donation to Inspiration Corporation and get all your gifts perfectly wrapped by the design experts at Greer. For the foodies on your gift list, shop special edition cookies from Floriole's Sandra Holl, chocolate and confections from Truffle Truffle, barware from Dinner Party, Hoosier Mama pies, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, and so much more. While you browse, sip complimentary fizzy gin punch from Death's Door. Better hurry. You've only got a few more hours to get your HoliDose on. Tickets available at the door for $10. The River East Art Center is located at 435 E. Illinois St. (312) 321-1001
I think Thanksgiving is a bit of a throwaway holiday--it precedes a national day of shopping or not shopping, and trying to fly home to eat a predictable meal while making predictable conversation with your relatives wreaks havoc on your wallet. So why go through the trouble? Stay here and go out with your (like-minded) friends for a meal instead. Here are some ways to celebrate locally--and without mucking up a single measuring spoon.
Join Slow Food Chicago at the Logan Square Kitchen tomorrow, Nov. 15 from 6pm to 8:30pm for an apple canning workshop. The second installment of SFC's canning workshop series will teach you to prepare a curry apple chutney made from Earth First Farm organic apples. (You'll be going home with two cans full of your chutney creations - yum!) Learn to make something you can enjoy next week at the Thanksgiving table, or save it for a bright spot on an upcoming dark day of winter. The workshop will be lead by Liz David and Zvi Bar-Chaim of Scratch Homemade, who will walk you through the basics of a variety of home canning projects. Logan Square Kitchen is located at 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave. All ingredients provided by Logan Square Kitchen. Canning workshop is $40 per person ($30 for Slow Food members). Tickets can be purchased here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
When producing a film festival in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation, serving the food seen on screen is a natural. Studies have shown that pictures of beautiful food stimulate hunger and seemingly makes it taste better. Combine this premise and you have the Chicago Film Food Festival. Hosted by and benefiting the Good Food Project (a nonprofit whose mission is to create a food culture amongst school children) the event takes place November 18-20 at Kendall College.
Besides over 25 food-centric shorts being shown, at certain screenings the food being portrayed will be served at your seat, allowing you to taste what you're viewing. There are before and after parties as well. One features the Great Lowcountry Oyster Roast & "Shuck 'n Suck"; another, a farm to film to table extravaganza with a sustainable whole-hog pig pickin' via Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder fame (and the subject of one of the shorts). There'll be banana pudding and a Whiskey Bar besides. (A Saturday brunch with Doughnut Vault donuts and coffee is sold out.)
Tickets range in price from $20 to $159. Participating food sponsors over the course of the festival include Pleasant House Bakery, Hoosier Mama, Frontier, The Southern, The Doughnut Vault, Intelligentsia Coffee and Goose Island Beer (check schedule for specifics).
A love letter to buttermilk, a redneck roommate making bacon-wrapped turtle burgers, some crazy animation set to Klezmer music and a not quite subliminal plethora of extreme food porn (lotsa closeups) shall be had by all. Bring your wipes.
Logan Square Kitchen was packed this weekend with local artisans selling cream puffs, macarons, croissants, chocolates and other treats. Miss your chance to gorge yourself? Here are a few standouts worth tracking down.
This Sunday (11/13), from 12 - 4 p.m., seven independently owned businesses on Grand Avenue will be participating in a fall crawl partnership. What's that, you say? It will be an afternoon of fun, eating, drinking and wandering window shopping. (Well, they hope you do more than just window shop, but still.) Samples will be in abundance and really, what better excuse do you need to meet some neighborhood business owners and test drive the delicious products they have to offer? Participating stores include Green Grocer Chicago, Sip Coffeehouse, Pasta Puttana, Coalfire Pizza, Oggi Trattoria, Grand Noble Wine and Spirits and Kai Sushi. Begin and end at whichever business you please, just make sure you come!
Looking for some dinner plans tonight? Uncommon Ground on Devon has you covered for an evening of food and fun. Back by popular demand, the green Edgewater eatery will be hosting a fish fry this Friday night. Enjoy a fish and chips diner featuring great lakes perch. The meal includes fries, soup and salad for only $23 a person. Great Lakes Brewery Dortmunder Gold shorts ($3) and pints ($5) will also be on special. In case that's not enough for you, Uncommon Ground will also provide some entertainment with their honky tonk happy hour featuring Ryan Anderson & Friends. (Honky tonk happy hour runs from 6-8 pm in the bar with new acts every Friday night.) Uncommon Ground on Devon in Edgewater is located at 1401 W. Devon Ave. Call 773-465-9801 for reservations and more information.
After the success of Big Star's "Everything but the Kitchen Sink Sale" more of Chicago's finest chefs are teaming together to host a garage sale/ bake sale this Saturday with proceeds going to Les Dames D'Escoffier and Green City Market.
Garage sale junkies will find hidden treasures from the kitchens of Achatz, Bayless, and Trotter to name a few. Think chefs' knives, kitchen tools, sautee pans, cookbooks, aprons, and Green City Market founder Abby Mendel's cookie cutter collection. Plus tasty old fashioned baked goods will be available for purchase from Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Vanille Patisserie, Publican's Sam Radov, Mindy Segal, Gale Gand, and others.
The sale will run from 8am to 2pm at NAHA. Cash only. $5 entrance fee.
Join the creator of the Honest Meal Project blog, Dana Cox for a Fall Harvest Dinner celebration this Wednesday night (11/2). Dana will be there along with local farms to share their personal farm-to-mouth missions and insights with fellow diners. Tickets are $50 and include appetizers, a 3-course farm-to-table menu and midwestern wine. Poetry and fall inspired art will also round out the evening. Tickets can be purchased online. The dinner will take place at the Experimental Station at 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (773) 931-4905
Looking to safely purge the bodily toxins brought on by the 7,000 "fun size" Butterfingers you've eaten over the past month in anticipation of Halloween, or just want to find a way to avoid going to your parents' place for Thanksgiving? Chicago Vegan Mania is well-timed this year--head to Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (1419 W Blackhawk) this Saturday from 10am-5pm to sample vegan eats (Upton's Naturals and Chicago Diner are among the vendors in attendance), buy vegan-friendly goods from a marketplace, see cooking demos, and enjoy live entertainment. Admission is free, just like your mind.
Mark your calendar: if you like swine, you'll love Baconfest, which returns to the UIC Forum on April 14 for another year of bacony goodness (take a look at last year's chefs and menu if you don't believe me). Tickets go on sale in February.
The Hideout's very own Wednesday night soup-kitchen-party has got another reason to celebrate. Soup and Bread is hosting a publishing party for the release of Soup and Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Bowl At A Time on Wednesday, November 2nd from 7-9pm.
If you don't know, Soup & Bread hosts a weekly event where piping hot bowls of soup created by Chicago's top chefs are served to the community every Wednesday throughout the winter, as an enticement to get out of our often dreary apartments and give back to the community via soup. You go, you eat the soup, leave a little donation and the proceeds go to make more soup a la Greater Chicago Food Depository.
From the S&B website: The Soup & Bread Cookbook, inspired by author Martha Bayne's Soup & Bread series at Chicago's Hideout, aims to explore this social role of soup, in the midst of a collection of terrific, affordable recipes from food activists, chefs, and others, providing a quirky exploration of the cultural history of soup -- and its natural ally, bread -- as a tool for both building community and fostering social justice." Copies of the cookbook will be available and as always, proceeds will benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Wednesday's party will be feature:
• Soups from Longman & Eagle, West Town Tavern, Swim Cafe, the Butcher & Larder, Milk & Honey Cafe, Mana Food Bar and others.
• Brews from Revolution Brewing
• Bread from La Farine Bakery
• Music from DJ Treetop Lover
Well, most days are food day, but today is a special event across the country to learn more about a range of food-related issues relating to nutrition, politics, and anti-hunger initiatives, among others. The Center for Science in the Public Interest sponsors Food Day; locally, you can find events all over the city and suburbs-- such as a Food Safety Trivia Wheel at the Hancock Building, a Fund-a-Farmer launch party at Uncommon Ground, and a photo exhibit.
Ever wonder about the beginnings of Gourmet magazine? Well, for starters you should know that it was launched in 1941, during the heart of the Depression and World War II. Kind of amazing when you think about it, right? Learn more this weekend as historian David Strauss discusses the early years and beyond at Kendall College on Saturday. Hosted by Culinary Historians of Chicago, the cost of the lecture/event will be $3. Send an email to email@example.com to make a reservation. Kendall College is located at 900 N. Branch St. and the discussion will start at 10 a.m.
Has your Halloween costume debate been vacillating between going as a stick of Paula Deen's butter-flavored lip balm, or as Paul Kahan (carrying a food truck and tacos shouting a Palin-esque "I'm going rogue!") or a conglomeration of Next's themes thus far (imagine a 90 year old Parisian, riding a rickshaw, holding carrot sticks)?
Green City Market's Junior Board has the Sunday night party for you. They're hosting a Masquerade del Mercado at Carnivale on Sunday, October 30, replete with market bites from Carnivale, Old Town Social, Sprout, The Bedford, Cafe des Architectes, Nightwood, Leopold, MK and Vie. Plus, after a couple of practice rounds at Old Town Social, chefs will be playing DJ for the evening while libations flow, poured from Death's Door, Goose Island and Tenzing wines and mixed by the folks at Morso and Henri. All for the sweet price of $65 a person.
There will be live drawings featuring dinner packages, theater tickets and other locavore friendly finds! An online auction will begin on shortly, details yet to be released.** Proceeds from the fundraiser go to support GCM's educational programming and upcoming winter market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The party runs from 4 until 8 pm.
** The auction is open! Bid on brewing with Goose Island's head brewmaster or partying with Stephanie Izard, Jared Van Camp and others all night.
After serving as a judge and sampling over a dozen pies, I stumbled out of the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest at Holstein Park's fieldhouse like a drunken sailor, hoping the walk home would help me digest the sugary indulgences of the morning. After a long walk, a long nap, and a lot of water, I conclude that the event was lot of fun. If you're jealous that you couldn't participate in this fundraiser for the Friends of Holstein Park, you have roughly a year to perfect your recipe; I'll see you at the starting block.
Update:we have info on the winners! Dinah Grossman of Cheap Tart Bakery won the professional division, and Alison Summy took top honor among the amateurs.
Have dinner, at a bakery? Well, why the heck not?! It is a Cafe and Bakery, afterall. As an homage to our state-border neighbors to the north, Floriole Cafe and Bakery has put together a dinner menu with courses built around the culinary influences of Wisconsin and Germany. Chicago's own locally sourced Butcher and Larder will be creating a special bratwurst for the event and there will also be libations on hand from Floriole's new menu of craft brews. Come hungry, leave happy. The menu includes fried cheese curds, beer & onion braised brats, beer-cheese soup (the vegetarian option), and let's not forget dessert of apple strudel with creme fraiche ice cream. The dinner event will take place on Friday, Oct. 14. Floriole Cafe and Bakery is located at 1220 W. Webster Ave. Dinner seatings will be at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The cost of tickets is between $15-$40 (without gratuity), with full priced tickets including one drink - choose from the craft beer selection or Seedling Farm apple cider. Purchase tickets here or call (773) 883-1313 for more details.
Brother/Sister, can you spare a dime (or $200)? Two benefits this weekend may catch your eye: firstly, Meals on Wheels' Celebrity Chef Ball this Friday (Macy's on State, 8pm, tickets start at $125) brings chefs like Paul Virant and Stephanie Izard together to cook in the name of helping others eat consistently and well; a DJ-styled evening of cocktails and dancing, as well as a silent auction, follow.
On Sunday, Paul Kahan and Blackbird will host chefs from several restaurants (Town House of Chilhowie, VA; Red Medicine of Beverly Hills; and McCrady's and Husk of Charleston, SC) for a benefit dinner event for the James Beard Foundation at Blackbird at 5pm. Admission $175 for JBF members, $200 for everyone else.
The guys over at Half Acre are hosting a pop-up cheese shop in their tasting room from 3pm to 6pm this Saturday. Check out a variety of cheese from Jasper Hill Cellars (including my personal favorite Cabot Creamery) and bread from Elmore Mountain, both Vermont-based artisans. Half Acre founderGabriel Magliaro says,, "Cheese goodies will be available for purchase -- and available for accompaniment with a complimentary flight of sample sized pours, representing 4 of our particularly cheese friendly brews. In short, you buy the cheese, you get the beers." They'll be sampling:
It's no secret that their bread pudding pancakes are worth waiting for, but did you know the Southport Grocery & Cafe hosts monthly "secret" suppers? The monthly series will be held this Wednesday and Thursday, featuring a four-course menu of seasonal and local fare. You can reserve your ticket online for Wednesday here, and Thursday here. (Payment required at time of purchase, along with tax and tip.) Space is limited so don't delay! And please, let's keep this just between us. It is a "secret" after all.
Monday night, Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood favorite brunch spot, Birchwood Kitchen, will host a benefit honoring Co-Op Image. You will often find Co-Op's famous hot sauce for sale at Birchwood, but this event will celebrate what Co-Op has done beyond (and including) the "special sauce". With the success of their hot sauce and countless programs established for community youth, there will be much to celebrate. Get there early to partake in the silent auction, which is promised to include lots of great deals. Not to mention the food. Blending Birchwood classics that will feature Co-Op products, you can be sure there will be some tasty noshes at this event. And all for a good cause to boot! Suggested donation of $5. All proceeds will benefit Co-Op's hot glass art programs for youth in Humboldt Park. Birchwood Kitchen is located at 2211 W. North Ave Chicago, IL 60647. 773-276-2100.
Friday night, the Kenmore 50/50 Range will present an evening with Suzy Singh. The former MasterChef contestant will be giving out her best tips to prep you for making multiple dishes at once over the holidays. Every year your Aunt Sue makes lumpy vegan potatoes and Uncle Joe continues to insist that pizza is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, dating back to the pilgrims of course. Well that's a-okay! Singh encourages us to embrace the fact that every household has their own set of holiday traditions. Including her own. In this Kenmore Live Studio event, she'll demonstrate how to juggle making the "classics" but still give it your own flare. The event will feature Singh's twist on classic recipes, including harissa spiced brie cheese puff pastry, spice rubbed turkey, and ginger and chai spiced creme brulee. You can even start your own tradition of sorts and watch the event online! Event is free. Samples given. Kenmore Live Studio Chicago is located at 678 N. Wells Street. Starts at 7pm. 312-265-0871
The fourth annual Chicago Gourmet treated patrons this past weekend to another slightly damp, but mostly bright and temperate weekend of wine splashes, tiny bites, and of course ubiquitous bright red totes of swag.
In addition to such memorable morsels as NoMI's cheddar polenta with chard and onions (so creamily sweet and mild it almost could have been a savory dessert) and braised pig tails from the Purple Pig (fall-off-the-vertabrae-tender, topped with shredded hard-boiled egg, bathed in a fennel-dosed sauce), there were logistical improvements this year that really caught my attention. Plywood sheets replaced those perforated rubber sheets to give attendees surer footing on the wet grass; the line structure had been changed so that multiple vendors could be sampled in one trip through a pavilion, rather than a separate queue for each; a plastic plate with a notched space for your glass joined the gratis wine glass everyone received at the gates.
These seem like small things, but the overall impression I took away was that the event, potentially one of the bigger (and in the past, inflated) line items in the yearly foodie budget, seemed sort of...worth it. Case in point: a cocktail seminar not only introduced guests to the finer points of making a Manhattan, but sent everyone away with a bar set to get them started mixing drinks at home. And for the first time this year, I heard a CG patron say those two magical words that mark the end of a great meal: "I'm full."
Here are some of the sights and bites that made us feel full this year:
No, it's not a bunch of dudes sitting around playing Settlers of Catan--the Butcher and Larder is hosting chef Michael Ruhlman for a signing of his newest book Ruhlman's Twenty on October 11 (8-9pm), and also holding a Twitter-based contest to privately meet with and watch the chef make sausage and soup with the folks from Butcher and Larder before the booksigning. To win, you need to tweet B&L with an Oprah-esqe "A-Ha" moment gleaned from your cooking explorations as soon as possible (see B&L owner Rob Levitt's own discovery of vinegar in cream-based soups as an example). If you can't make Tuesday, Ruhlman will also appear for a booksigning at the Publican from 5:30-9pm the following night; the restaurant will be serving a special prix-fixe menu in his honor.
Apparently Rick Bayless is acting now! The Top Chef is going to make his acting debut starting in March at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Water Works. Grub Street Chicago by way of the Tribune reports that Rick Bayless will star in a circus show "designed for and around him," called Rick Bayless in Cascabel. Lookingglass says attendees will experience a "theatrical adventure while enjoying a sumptuous feast, world-class circus acts, and a tantalizing love story." Tickets will range from $180 to $205--too expensive for my unemployed self, and I have a feeling this will sell out.
The Chicago History Museum is partnering with Haymarket Pub and Brewery for an October 11 dinner and lecture to commemorate the upcoming 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Haymarket will pair their beers with the food, with presentations in between courses about the fire that changed the city forever. Get your tickets ($50 for CHS members, $55 for everyone else) now!
Beer Hoptacular returns to the Aragon Ballroom (1106 W. Lawrence) on November 5 for two sessions of drinking and loving drinking: Session One runs from 1-5pm; Session Two, 7-11pm. Piece, Five Rabbit, Finch's, Half Acre, Dogfish Head, Great Lakes Brewing Company and Bell's are among the breweries that will be in attendance. You can also compete in their Homebrew Challenge if you're of the homemade beer persuasion. Admission $35 per session in advance, $45 at the door.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is located at 2430 N. Cannon Dr. The Locavore Dinner starts at 6pm Wednesday, Sept. 21. For more information, call the Green City Market office at 773-880-1266. Reservation tickets available online for $30.
Were you at the Cheesemaking workshop at Family Farmed expo last March and felt like you still didn't have the tools to make your own? Were you planning on going apple picking this fall, but the thought of a bushel of apples sitting in your fridge seems slightly overwhelming? Have you felt lackluster about the whole homebrewing movement because you've really wanted to give home winemaking a try?
Angelic Organics is a farm, a classroom, an advocacy group, a community center and an overall proponent of good living for Chicagoans located in Caledonia, IL just 2 hours north of Chicago. Angelic provides 1200 families in the Chicago area with a weekly box of vegetables (CSA style), partners with local community gardens and hosts field trips for school children to teach them about a healthy food system. So where do you fit in?
Fall officially begins this Friday, which means weekend excursions turn to thoughts of apple orchard visits, complete with freshly made donuts, fudge, and cider.
The downside to a lot of these places, as you probably know, is that they're packed to the gills with folks just like yourself--city dwellers looking for some yucks in the country--so plan appropriately, or even better, go on a weekday.
Here are a few treasured places to get your season on:
Still holding on hope for a ticket to Chicago Gourmet this coming weekend? All hope is not lost! You have until Sunday (9/25) to dine at five of the participating Dine Around restaurants to be eligible for a complimentary one-day ticket. Not a bad deal, not a bad deal at all. Meal total must equal a minimum of $35 (whether from regular or prix-fixe menus). Not applicable to Hamburger Hop admission. Must present five original qualifying receipts attached to the Dine Around receipt holder - available at participating restaurants. Dine Around offer valid Aug 29 - Sept 25.
In these difficult times, animal shelters are filling up fast with surrendered or homeless pets. The volunteer arm of the city's Animal Care and Control facility is holding its annual Big Night fundraising event this Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 East Washington), which will feature vittles from a list of local talent (e.g. Koren Grieveson of Avec, Jill Barron of Mana Food Bar), a silent auction, and entertainment. Event starts at 6pm, and tickets are $90. If you can't attend, consider adopting a pet from CACC instead; they're open daily, and for $65 you can get a new furry friend (vaccinations and neutering/spaying included).
What makes the cocktails at In Fine Spirits or Longman & Eagle so good? Having a good base alcohol to work with. If you're looking to take your home bar to the next level, swing by the Independent Spirits Expo at Bottom Lounge on Wednesday, Sept. 28 between 6:30 and 9pm for a tour of artisan spirits made here and the US and a few smatterings of those abroad. Meet the retailers, brand owners, importers and others who make it possible for the little guys to compete in the big market. Check out the whole list of exhibitors here and grab your tickets here.
Even though it's blustery and Fall-like outside, Slow Food Chicago holds its annual pig roast at Goose Island (1800 W. Fulton) this Sunday. Rob Levitt of the Butcher and Larder and Nicole Pederson of C-House are among the chefs participating -- and there's even going to be vegetarian fare if swine is not your thing. Tickets are $60.
Have no plans for this long weekend? Longman and Eagle to the rescue; they're cooking up a pig roast and Windy City Soul Club provides the music for What's Happening!!, an outdoor dance party which will take place this Sunday at 6pm at L&E, 2657 N Kedzie. The event is FREE! Celebrate labor the right way.
Are you feeling a bit unsure of what to do with your Monday and Tuesday nights now that "MasterChef" is over? Never fear, the MasterChef Wrap Party is here, to tide you over for at least one more night. Local Chicagoan (and top-four "MasterChef" contestant), Suzy Singh, is hosting a "MasterChef" wrap party this Monday at the rooftop of Zed451, 739 N. Clark St.. In collaboration with Chef Patrick Quakenbush, Singh will be creating some special menu items for the night including vegetarian Indian nachos (served with papad, shaved paneer and spiced sour cream) as well as Moroccan lamb and paneer skewers (with Spiced Daal and a Mango Cucumber Relish). And as if you weren't already anxiously awaiting the five-o-clock work bell to ring, there's even a specialty cocktail drink for the night -- a spiked Bourbon Lemonade with a Garam Masala rim. Alright, and Monday night dinner plans are done. The event runs from 6pm to 10pm.
This Saturday welcomed Time Out Chicago and West Town Chamber of Commerce's Food Truck Social. I got there a little later than I originally planned, but the timing actually turned out rather perfect. It was a cool and breezy night, the ideal atmosphere to squeeze in one last street fare event before the dog days of summer are officially over for the season. Getting there later in the evening meant a surprising amount of vendors were either sold out or had already closed up shop (even though the event was still going strong for another couple of hours). To me, that just meant I had a more selective amount of options. With a playground of food trucks at my disposal, it made the decision of which one to try incredibly easy. If you were open and had a line, I was making a beeline for you.
Kristin Canty was mad. Her young son had allergies to everything--food, mold, etc. He was an asthmatic and was often sick. His doctors told Canty that the boy was "allergic to the world" and would be resigned to cautious living. Like any mother, Canty searched for remedies on her own, and came across an interesting solution; switch her son's milk from the standard grocery store brand to the raw variety. That should be an easy product to buy, right?
Chef Koren Grieveson and her portrait by Tim Anderson
All photos and video by Andrew Huff
Last Thursday, Aug. 18, the Chicago Artist's Coalition hosted a fundraiser event called "Starving Artist" -- essentially a benefit for the CAC -- where four of Chicago's top chefs were paired with four of the city's top artists to collaborate on a "unique sensory experience," inspired by each other's work. One sixtyblue pastry chef Hillary Blanchard-Rikower was paired with Lauren Brescia, avec's Koren Grieveson was paired with Tim Anderson, Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard was paired with Richard Hull and Province's Randy Zwieban was paired with Judy Ledgerwood.
Each artist's work was displayed next to the respective chef's station, where guests could sample the appetizer-sized dish prepared for the evening. The artworks and "experiences" at each chef's restaurant were offered in a silent auction, while works by CAC members graced the walls. In addition to the chefs' dishes, desserts from Alliance Bakery were served in the Bolt Gallery in back, and drinks from Koval Distillery, Tito's Vodka, Haymarket Brewery and several wineries were pouring all night. The event showcased the the CAC's new Fulton Market space to its fullest extent, both as a gallery and studio space and as an event venue.
I spoke with the chefs about what they made and what they thought of the collaboration. Over in A/C, arts editor Kelly Reaves shares interviews with the artists.
A couple spots just opened up for TONIGHT's Lagunitas dinner at Fork. The five course menu features a house-smoked salmon starter; watermelon, tomato, pesto salad; broiled garlic mussels; smoked baby back ribs with mac and cheese; and is finished with bananas foster. Check it out. Talk about well paired. And for 50 bucks, did you honestly have something better to do tonight? Dinner starts at 6pm.
You've all seen the big pink truck driving around town in a hula skirt but did you know that it's actually green, not pink? After visiting the oil spill in NOLA, Todd (of Tiki fame) decided he needed to greenify his life a bit. He converted his Tiki Transit to run on used fry oil and now, he needs to replenish his fuel line with your help.
On Friday, September 9th, Trader Todd's is hosting an oil drive party in their beer garden. If you show up with your own used cooking oil in hand, Todd will swap you for a free basket of fries. They will also have $8.99 all-you-can-eat fish fry and $3 Green Line beer. Steel drums will be ringing and mai thais flowing as Todd demos his oil conversion system from 5-8pm.
The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship kicked off a new campaign to get residents talking to their lawmakers about the importance of mobile food truck legislation reform.
Even if you see food trucks roaming around your neighborhood or downtown, their battles with the city's laws are far from over. Current requirements for mobile food trucks (e.g. trucks cannot stop within 200 feet of brick and mortar restaurants, and cannot work before 10am) are downright nonsense; proposed laws are even more baffling, and would make this growing industry obsolete in most places of the city where their business could succeed. Interested in learning more? The IJCE is holding a "strategy session" on Tuesday, August 30 from 7:00-8:30pm at the University of Chicago Law School, 6020 South University, Room V for advocates, chefs, mobile truck owners, foodies, hungry citizens and the like.
Koval Distillery is opening their doors next Thursday, Aug. 25 to host two tours of their facilities for good people like you and me, ending with a whiskey tasting complete with light snacks--all for charity. Rock for Kids will receive 100% of the $20 admission fee. The special tours will begin at 6:15pm and 8:30pm.
This Sunday, August 21, Big Star is hosting an "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" sale. Out on their sidewalk at 1531 N. Damen Ave. from noon to 4pm, Big Star and its sister restaurants (Publican, Avec, Blackbird and Violet Hour) will be selling their extra and unused plates, cutlery, beer mugs, chairs and more in order to benefit the Garfield Park Conservatory. Proceeds of the sale will help the Conservatory recover from severe damage due to a massive hail storm.
So if you've ever walked into the Publican or Blackbird and wished your dining room could look a bit more like theirs, pop by and see what you can find.
It's crunch time folks! Tonight and tomorrow on Fox, 8pm, the "MasterChef" finale week begins. With four contestants remaining, the competition is getting fierce! Want to watch the show with some friends? Stop by Sweetwater Tavern and Grille, 225 N. Michigan Ave., from 6pm to 10pm tonight and tomorrow (Aug. 15 and 16) for the official viewing party. Local Chef Suzy Singh (one of the remaining top four "MasterChef" finalists!) in collaboration with Sweetwater's Chef Jose Serrano, will create some Indian inspired special menu items for the night, including a Bombay Turkey Burger and the Curried Away Veggie Burger (both served with Indian Salad, Tandoori Masala and Curry Ketchup).
Last night's Taste of the Nation was a great opportunity to sample wares from many of the city's best restaurants for a good cause--supporting anti-hunger charities, which earned $250k from the event. While last year's TOTN at the Aragon was sweltering, this year's venue change to Navy Pier was a cool, relaxed time. Corn was a winning ingredient: of my samplings, highlights include Terzo Piano's corn and duck salad, as well as Hoosier Mama Pie Company's sweet corn pie with roasted tomatoes (which is currently on sale at their shop--get it now). The evening capped off with a prime view of the regular Wednesday night fireworks show and a rousing Journey medley by the resident cover band that rocks the Pier, which entertained guests as they left. Pics after the jump.
The Chicago Artists Coalition is pairing four of Chicago's top chefs with four equally prominent local artists for a unique event on Thursday, Aug. 18, from 7 to 10pm at the CAC's new space at 217 N. Carpenter St. Starving Artist, will showcase both culinary and visual artistry as artists and chefs collaborate to create original work inspired by each other's aesthetic.
It's crunch time folks. We're down to the final six contestants on Fox's "MasterChef." And one of those contestants is Chicago native Suzy Singh. With the finale fast approaching on August 16th, you'll want to get your "MasterChef" fix in while you still can. Monday and Tuesday night (Aug. 8 and 9), you can catch Singh in person for a viewing party at Benchmark. Singh has collaborated with Benchmark's Chef Geoff Silverwood to create some special menu items for the night including butter chicken tacos and paneer tacos topped with sauteed spinach, both served with apricot chutney and a spicy mango pickle. Is this making you hungry yet? Do yourself a favor, head over to Benchmark on Monday or Tuesday night for some good eats, some nail biting TV, and a chance to meet and mingle with Singh herself. Your taste buds will thank you. Benchmark is located at 1510 N Wells. Event is from 6pm to 9pm -- the show airs at 8pm.
There are plenty of arts events tonight, but this First Friday also includes some culinary artisans. Counter Culture Coffee, 177 N. Ada, hosts an evening coffee (of course) beer from Strange Pelican and 5 Rabbit, and ice cream from Sweet Ape. And OK, also some art by Matthew Gasawy, Bird Wizards, Leanne Bazetta, Tyler Kaschke and Daniel Giles. Swing by between 6:30 and 10:30pm; more details on Facebook.
If you're getting thirsty, there are plenty of events coming up that can help you. Here are just a couple of beverage events during August.
Espresso & Pulled Pork
The Chicago Home Barista group is hosting a get-together this Saturday, Aug. 6 at Ipsento, 2035 N. Western Ave., starting at 5pm. There's no cost to attend, but you'll be expected to contribute a side dish or something. Sign up and RSVP here.
Oak Park Micro Brew Review
This fourth annual event boasts being the largest zero-waste beer festival in Illinois. I don't know how much competition they have for that title, but with more than 90 beers from more than 30 breweries available to try, it's certainly the largest festival this month. It'll feature the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild's "Replicale" project, in which 15 or more Illinois brewers all brew the same style beer in order to "showcase the nuances in brewing technique and system design." It's being held in downtown Oak Park on Marion Street between Lake Street and North Boulevard from 3pm to 7pm on Saturday, Aug. 20. Standard tickets are $35 online, $45 at the door; see event website for more details and other ticket options.
Belgian Fest 2011
Goose Island hosts its annual festival of locally brewed Belgian-style ales at its Clybourne brewpub, 1800 N. Clybourn Ave., on Sunday, Aug. 28 from noon to 4pm. Sample beers from more than a dozen breweries and talk with the brewers. Tickets are $25, with proceeds benefiting Growing Power.
The Chicago Rabbinical Council hosts a two-part event this Sunday on the more exotic side of Kosher foods, with a morning lecture on the Kosher process, and an evening meal of prepared delicacies of elk, quail, red deer, blue marlin, pacific hamachi, tambaqui, and much, much more. That's some serious meat! Admission is $250 per person for the program and dinner. Contact the CRC at (773) 465-3900 for more information and to RSVP.
So we just stumbled home from the Green City Market Chefs' BBQ and read Louisa Chu's lament about not attending tonight because it's just too darn hot out. Too hot? Too hot? Louisa, we have three words for you: you're a wuss.
Meet Sprinkles cupcakes founder Candace Nelson. Whether you're a fan of her delicious cupcakes, or a fan of her judging on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars, here's a chance for you to meet the pastry queen in the flesh. She'll be at the Chicago location Thur - Sat this weekend.
Thursday, July 21 (10am-12pm)
Friday, July 22 (2-4pm)
Saturday, July 23 (3-5pm)
Feeling the heat? Cool off with these refreshing tastings at Green Grocer Chicago this week. Tuesday night (7/19, 5pm-7pm) stop by and sip some samples of (FREE) organic beer from Peak Organic Brewing Co, coming to you all the way from Portland, Maine. They have a new Summer Session Ale, along with more classic IPA and Amber ales to choose from. And c'mon, free beer always tastes better too, right? Wednesday night (7/20, 5pm-7pm), my personal favorite, Co-Op Hot Sauce will be in the house. Sample any or all of their varieties and be sure to take home a bottle for yourself. Salsa picante, jalapeno, carrot habanero and poblano will all pack some heat in your mouth to help get your mind off the gruesome heat outside. And your purchase will support a great cause - the very best kind of investment.
Taste of the Nation, which I photographed last year (above) in a sweat-drenched Aragon Ballroom filled with most of the city's best chefs dishing out their wares, comes back Wednesday, August 10 to the Navy Pier Ballroom (600 East Grand, 7-10pm) for an evening of eating and drinking in the name of helping out anti-hunger charities. Admission starts at $95 per person.
Not sure what to eat this weekend while rocking out at Pitchfork? Never fear, The Chicago Diner is near. The "Meat Free since '83" mainstay will be offering meatless gyros, karma burgers, philly steak, corn dogs and refreshing beverages in Union Park all weekend long. Don't forget to save room for their delicious vegan baked goods! Ha. Appetite demolished! You may now commence rocking out. No seriously, because there are scads of people waiting in line after you.
Gaztro Wagon and Half Acre will be teaming up this Friday night at Logan Square Kitchen (2333 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for an evening of food and brew: Daisy Cutter, paired with beer-battered trout; Gossamer with mussels; and Over Ale with smoked pork shoulder. You're welcome to bring your own home-brewed delicacies if you're of that persuasion; otherwise, a cash bar for more beer will be on standby. Tickets are $30; event runs 7-10pm.
Threadcakes, the contest in which Threadless shirt lovers make a cake-y likeness of their favorite shirt design in order to win cash, Threadless gift cards and a year's supply of cake mix, runs until August 15. If you can stand the heat and the kitchen this week, perhaps you should haul out your ingredients from the cupboard--and consider my killer design suggestion.
Picture is of second place winner last year in the 3D category, Neli Josefsen.
To celebrate their 84th birthday of selling you sodas, candy, porn mags and more candy, the fine folks at 7-11 will be giving away free 7.11oz slurpees at all of their locations ALL DAY TODAY. In fact, it already started, people. A few locations may even be holding special slurpee drinking competitions for even better prizes.
If you're still scrambling for Fourth of July plans and finding out that all of your friends rented a lake house without you, never fear. We've got a few local options that may have your outbound friends changing their plans.
Longman & Eagle is hosting roasting a whole Slagel Farm hog, Cuban style, on their patio for the stragglers left in the city. They'll be serving corn on the cob, bacon, spring onion potato salad, baked beans & coleslaw for $20 a person, excluding beverages (though I'm sure Jared will have something delightfully patriotic up his sleeve). Begins Monday at 5pm.
If you're feeling brave to face the crowds at the Lake, Oak Street Beach Restaurant is also roasting a hog and serving sugarcane-melon margaritas, all-you-can style for $30. Monday 2-6pm.
Bangers & Lace is hosting its own backyard barbeque, all weekend long. Friday through Monday, they'll have horseshoe pits and $1 hot dogs, plus a fine selection of American beers. Come Monday, they will host a horseshoe tournament with prizes including the B&L Beer of the Month Club. Friday through Monday, 12pm-5pm.
Mucca Pazza, a self-described "circus marching band" will play playing down at Millennium Park as part of the Downtown Sound Series at 6:30pm Monday. But before you hit the bandshell, stop by eno wine room at the Fairmont on Michigan and grab a grownup Popsicle-- a winesicle! They're currently serving Sagiovesicles and Sauvignon Blancsicles for $3.
And if you need a picnic-to-go for the Mucca Pazza show, stop off first at Fox and Obel for their old-fashioned 3 course 4th of July prix fixe: iceberg wedge salad, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and apple pie. $15.99 per person. Available after 5pm.
Were you planning on hitting up the Low and Glen Hansard show tonight at Millennium Park? I have two tips for you.
1. Arrive early cause that Iron & Wine show got a little nuts post 5:30pm.
2. Stay late and pop over to the newest pop-up in the basement of the Gage and Henri, named "Downstairs." After 9pm, Chef Dirk Flanigan will be cooking up free BBQ bites you and to drink, they'll be serving Death's Door cocktails for $6, and beers for $3. Want to go? RSVP via email.
OK, this is a development in the food truck universe that I can totally get behind. Starting Thursday June 30th, Ethyl's Beer and Wine Dive will be hosting at least seven (seven!!) area trucks in their West Loop parking lot for what they're calling Truckin' Thursdays a patio smorgasbord collaboration with Chicago Food Trucks. This seems like food truck nirvana to me -- you'll know exactly where they'll be, they're not going anywhere for at least a couple hours, and there are plenty of beverage options available nearby. (If you're not into whatever the trucks of the evening have to offer, Ethyl's full menu will be available as well.) Genius.
If this isn't enough food truck action for you, a food truck festival is apparently happening this Sunday in Evanston, featuring empanadas, cupcakes, and Zumba (not from a truck).
Iron Street Farm, the new, green-ified headquarters of Growing Power Chicago (3333 S. Iron, near US Cellular Field), hosts an open house and solstice celebration tonight from 5-9pm; for a suggested $20 entry, you'll get tours of the new facility (formerly an abandoned industrial site), which will serve as an educational center, job training site, and an R&D site for entrepreneurs. Food and beer provided by Lakefront Brewery, Piece Pizza, Signature Room, Publican, Blackbird and Bleeding Heart Bakery. RSVP requested.
If you know a teenager or what to get one out of your house for a few hours, Evanston culinary center, Now We're Cookin' is starting a cooking/science course. Think last week's Top Chef episode. Beginning the last week of June, chefs are teaming up with Nutrition/Science Instructor Dr. S. Peszek and the staff of Northwestern's Equinox program to deliver the first ever culinary science program called Culinary Science: Eat to Live, Live to Eat
The new 3 week course brings high school students from across the country together to combine classroom and science lab work. There will also be a competitive team cooking challenge!
To sign your kid or the kid you know up, click here for registration information or call 847-570-4140.
The Illinois Science Council is hosting a very popular "Chemistry of" series to give you a molecular-level look at your favorite drinks and snacks. The individual beer and chocolate sessions are filled, but a few tickets are left for the Chemistry of Whiskey program, which will be held at the Koval Distillery (5121 N Ravenswood) next Thursday, June 9; tickets are $15.
So Summer is coming, right? Neither Old Man Winter nor his bratty daughter, Little Lady Spring will ruin farm dinner season for me this year.
Delicatessen, caterer, and all around sustainable advocate, City Provisions is starting their outdoor dinner season on June 25 at Dietzler Farms in Elkhorn, Wisconsin along with Half Acre Beer Company.
Visit their farm dinners page on the City Provisions site for more information about how you can take part in this amazing food adventure.
I took the tour at Dietzler Farms with City Provisions last year and had a fabulous time. If I may, let me set the scene in pictures...
Chicago Craft Beer Week is finally here (do you have your passport, by the way?) and that means more awesome daily events then your liver can reasonably be expected to handle. One you should save room for though-- remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint-- is Friday's double-event at Co-Prosperity Sphere and Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar, sponsored by a true craft beer trifecta: Three Floyds, Half Acre and Dogfish Head. "Over a dozen styles of beer (4 from Half Acre, 4-5 from Three Floyd's and a few from Dogfish Head) will be available on draft for imbibing at a simultaneous sweet party at the Co-Prosperity Sphere. The event at the Co-Prosperity Sphere takes place from 8pm to 11pm. Admission is $10 which entitles you to complementary beer. There are no online or presale admission tickets." Happy Friday, everyone.
What did you have for breakfast? Hen eggs? Quail eggs, perhaps? Longman & Eagle and Swan Creek Farms are giving two lucky diners the chance to enjoy a very special brunch; a peacock egg omelette made with porcini mushrooms, ground ramp greens, summer truffle, confited duck leg, Rupert raw cows milk cheese, and clover. This main course will be paired with Werp farm green salad, peacock egg-battered cardamom and vanilla French toast, and a cocktail made with peacock egg whites.
Chicago Craft Beer Week kicks off next Thursday and, based on the schedule, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild who organized the week have outdone themselves this year.
But first thing's first: you'll need your passport. No, not your actual passport (unless you're, you know, a foreigner). This passport, issued by Beer Week organizers, is a handy dandy, pocket-sized book that contains all the need-to-know info about the week's events, participating venues and other bits of relevant what-have-you. It's also your all-access pass into the actual events, so it's très nécessaire. Yours can be had here for the reasonable sum of $10 starting today on the CCBW website.
As I said up top, the schedule is insane, featuring anywhere from six to twelve events every day, many of which are free to passport holders. Some of the best are highlighted after the jump.
Two years ago I attended my first GCM BBQ. It was rainy, but swarms of Chicago foodies headed out to Lincoln Park to be served by their favorite chefs. I have seared in my mind Paul Kahan's blood sausage corn dog paired with a glass of watermelon-jalapeno agua fresca. Since then, I haven't had any meal that has left such an impression as that one little two bite hot dog and swig of juice did.
Point of the story is, for 100 bucks on July 21st you can get small bites from practically every privately-owned restaurant in Chicago, served by the hard working back of the house folks that we rarely get to see. By the end of the evening, you'll realize that you've sampled over 100 dishes from all over Chicago, while sipping on Koval cocktails, Half Acre, Goose Island and Piece brews, and are adequately smashed and delightfully full. Curious about which chefs you may see? These folks all buy from GCM and are likely to be in their whites that night.
Tickets for the best outdoor food events just went on sale this week so grab 'em while they're hot folks.
The Chicago History Museum is hosting a week of educational events as a companion for the larger Chicago Craft Beer Week, which begins next Thursday. Tours of dive bars, Irish pubs, German bars, and samplings of IPA--complete with an educational lecture/discussion component, because no one learns better than when they're drunk or buzzed--are on the tab. If you like beer, but like learning more, Admission $25-65.
Not everyone can make it to the Kentucky Derby this year, or any year quite frankly.
However you can still participate in all the fun and shenanigans by scouring the city looking for good food and a Mint Julep, if you're so inclined.
This Saturday, May 7 head over to The Southern for Hot Browns, ham biscuits,and chocolate-bourbon pecan pie; Chicago Q serves up Derby pie and deviled eggs; Table 52 will sweeten your heart with Kentucky burgoo and bourbon-pecan pie. You can also stroll, drive or CTA hoof it over to Old Town Social, wear seersucker or a Derby hat will earn you the chance to win a $250 gift card.
Your opportunity to drink globally without leaving your back yard happens Friday, May 20th, at the MCA, as Bottlenotes hosts their 3rd annual Around the World in 80 Sips. Wines from heavy-hitters like France, Chile, Italy, and New Zealand will be available, as well as places you might not normally think of like Lebanon and other emerging wine regions. Artisanal cheeses, charcuterie (so hot right now), and other noshes will be available to balance out the vino.
It starts at 8pm and is $75 for regular and $125 for if-you're-feelin'-fancy VIP tickets, but lucky for you, GB readers get a $15 discount when you enter code GB15.
Tickets sold out early last year, so get clickin'.
--Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago IL 60611
What may be a dreary sight to some of you raised my spirits immensely this morning on my walk to the bus.
This picture was taken at 6:05 this morning where Wisconsin Ave dead ends into Clark and despite the bare trees, ominous grey sky and poorly reviving grass, those little tents you see are true signs of spring. Green City Market moved outdoors today, which tells me if the farmers are willing to stand outside come what may, we should be too. These folks know a lot more about weather than I do.
This week, you should look for radishes, spring greens, possibly asparagus and rhubarb and winter staples of baked goods, local meats and cheeses and preserved goods. GCM will be open every Wednesday and Saturday from May through October, 7 am to 1 pm. At 10:30 GCM has rounded up an all-star cast of chefs for free cooking demos every market. The full schedule is available here.
Despite all of the issues with "golden ticket" sales (along with the usual dose of haterade), this year's DarkLord Day went off with nary an issue and few complaints from the folks over on the Beer Advocate forums.
Thankfully I was one of the lucky 6000 with a ticket and was able to attend. A few photos from the event below.
If you feel so inclined to see Prince William and Kate Middleton get married live tomorrow at the painful hour of 5am, you can venture out to Lockwood at the Palmer House Hilton, who will air the wedding and serve tea, champagne and breakfast ($45; reservations required); if you can't bring yourself to show, you can find plenty of related events elsewhere (and at more reasonable hours).
Their 4th annual symposium, "Foodways of the Great Depression" will teach you first-hand how Midwesterners survived the hard times of the Great Depression with lectures and tastings, including an 8-cent Relief dinner, holiday celebrations, newsreels, Prohibition's end, and many other topics in our culinary history.
For more information and to see more interesting images like the above Crown of Frankfurters by Catherine Lambrecht or to register, click here.
Not permanently, of course. Chef Gilbert Langlois isn't giving over the reins to his slate, or North Center's best Southern-style fried chicken (seriously -- how do they do it?!), quite that easily. Chalkboard restaurant is being taken over only for the evening of Tuesday, May 10 (a night when the restaurant is usually closed), with a customized menu built on the combined know-how of guests Peter Klein of Seedling Farms and Gale Gand of Tru. Namely, fruit. The proposed menu includes an apple pie soup (inspired by Schwa, apparently), blueberry pasta with duck ragout, and a cider-brined pork with smoked mustard spaetzle. And, of course, desserts by Gand.
Despite living only blocks from Chalkboard, I've eaten there just once. The fried chicken really did floor me, as did an Asian-inflected duck with dried plums, and a scallop appetizer that combined olives and vanilla in a way that not only made sense, but made a lot of what I've seen on Top Chef in recent years sort of relatable (not to mention the Vosges d'Oliva bar, which I think has been discontinued in favor of a different white chocolate combo). The service was surprisingly inattentive for an early evening meal in a nearly-empty dining room, though, and while the wall-mounted chalkboard provides a tidy conceptual framework for the restaurant's often-changing menu, it was also incredibly hard to read from where we were sitting and a printed version didn't seem to be available. A takeover evening, which if the Facebook photos (like the one above) are to be believed, are ROCKIN', might be the right way to get off on the right foot with Chalkboard -- or if your experience was similar to mine, get your foot back in the door.
The price for the takeover menu on May 10 is $65 per person for 6 courses, first seating will be at 6:30 p.m., and reservations can be made online or by phone at 773.477.7144. Chalkboard, 4343 N. Lincoln Avenue.
Rub elbows and green thumbs with the swells this Thursday night at Growing Home's Ninth Annual Benefit Gala--on us! Gapers Block is giving away tickets for you and a friend (a $250 value!) to attend the event, which will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center (cocktails at 5:30pm; dinner at 6:30pm) and features food from Inspiration Kitchens, Vie and Sweet Miss Givings! Enter today by emailing us with your name and telephone number, along with the name of your favorite CSA or farmers market in Chicago, by 11:59pm tomorrow (Wednesday). We will select a winner and notify you via email. Bon appetit and good luck! UPDATE: We picked a winner! Congrats to John!
Wine Lovers rejoice! Hooray! Second Glass is bringing the Wine Riot US tour to Chicago at the Great Hall at Union Station on May 21st, 1-5pm and 7-11pm. Wine Riot is a huge, festive and interactive wine event in five cities across the US, all with the goal of getting people to drink more wine.
Wine Riot's goal is to get people to discover new wines while participating in a not-so-typical expo style wine tasting. Second Glass has also developed an iPhone app that lets visitors quickly and easily remember every wine they try. The app has every wine name and image pre-loaded so all visitors need to do is mark "like it" or "love it" on their phone and BOOM! It's saved forever. Brilliant!
The event also features food from local restaurants, DJ, lounge and photo booth with fun props.
Prices for the Wine Riot are $50. For ticket and more information visit the Chicago event page.
For one week only at DMK Burger Bar: the Holy Guac-aioli Burger.
Created by C-CAP* student Zorai Arroyo, and perfected in DMK's kitchen with the help of chef Chef Joe Scott, this tongue-twister of a burger features a grass-fed beef patty, chorizo, chipotle aioli, guacamole, pickled onions and Jack cheese. It's only $10, and only available until April 30. All proceeds go to C-CAP. Sorry, no picture of the burger, but aren't the chefs cute?
--DMK Burger Bar, 2954 N. Sheffield
*Oh, you want to know what C-CAP is? It stands for Careers through Culinary Arts Program, and is a national nonprofit that works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Like you needed a reason to get a burger at DMK.
Before you decide there's no way you'd ever miss rocking out to Wedding Banned, try this on for size:
Your day will start out aboard a bio-diesel bus where beer and small bites will be passed around as you learn about the day's selected brewery. Once you arrive at the farm you'll enjoy a full tour by the farmer followed by a five course dinner (see ya, meat on a stick!) paired with more beer from the brewery (see ya, watered down fest sangria!). In true summer fashion, you'll end the day with a bonfire before you head back on the bus with your new friends and a full belly (see ya, Speedo!).
Heather Shouse traveled the country eating street food, all so you could know where to go next time you're in the mood for street meat or Korean tacos or trailer-fried doughnuts. Her book, Food Trucks: Dispatches & Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels, surveys the food truck culture in LA, Portland, Austin, New York, DC and other hot spots both well known and less so. Chicago is in there too, of course, with the acknowledgment that current regulations mean that most of our local trucks violate her own rule that all the trucks included in the book make their food on the truck. "Hopefully by the time you read this you can add these to that list," she optimistically writes.
The book saw its official release Tuesday, and the regulations still stand. But the turnout for Shouse's book signing and "food truck summit" at Goose Island's Clybourn brewpub was strong despite the rain, and the enthusiasm for the clutch of trucks crowded into the parking lot showed that Chicago is ready whenever the City gets around to making it easier to eat curbside.
Earth Day formally the day on which we all make "personal, organizational and corporate pledges to live and act sustainably" is this Friday, April 22nd. In the last few years the culinary world has taken huge strides to be leaders in the sustainability movement. From sourcing local ingredients, building energy efficient kitchens and LEED certified restaurants, and focusing on seasonal dishes chefs have in Chicago have been leading the pack and deserve a little celebration for their efforts on Earth Day.
Thursday, April 21st: uncommon ground on Clark Street is hosting a four course dinner with pairings featuring Michigan's Seedling Fruit Farm and wines from Von Beaumont distributing of Downers Grove. The first course begins with blue point oysters with five citrus mignonette paired with m lawrence "sex" brut rose. Tickets are $40, excluding tax and tip. Reservations required: 773.929.3680. More details here.
Friday, April 22nd: Province and City Provisions are joining forces to create a soiree in celebration of local foods and spirits. Chef Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions and Chef Randy Zweiban of Province have cooked up a multi-course seasonal, sustainable finger food menu highlighting local farms paired with cocktail creations from Death's Door Spirits. Tickets are $55. Reservations required: firstname.lastname@example.org or 773.293.2489.
These are just a few options but this Earth Day, consider supporting your favorite "earth-friendly" restaurant (Chicago Tribune has a helpful list here). You as a consumer hold the power to keep the movement toward sustainability and green-based responsibility. Vote with your dollar.
Not that you'd know from yesterday, but it's springtime in Chicago, and I think we can all agree that the warm weather brings a welcome return to one of the best things about this city: outdoor dining. And what better way to enjoy this Sunday's hopeful high of 60 than with some roasted pig at Logan Square's El Cid (#2)?
Every 3rd Sunday afternoon through September, hit up the patio behind El Cid for pulled pork tortas, tacos and burritos, along with rotating drink specials. Don't feel like pork? Their regular menu of tasty and affordable Mexican favorites will of course be available as well. And as the season progresses, there will be live entertainment. What a way to spend a lazy Sunday.
--this Sunday from 2-5pm - El Cid #2, 2645 N. Kedzie Blvd.
If you can, imagine a place where you're surrounded by all things pork.
Well that was reality at the sold-out Baconfest Chicago at UIC Forum yesterday.
The food, vendors, and all the other Bacon Nation-ers were amazingly hospitable. Kudos to all who attended!
I didn't get a chance (boohoo) to try all the food (56 restaurants and many vendors in all). But I did sample goodies from 694 Wine & Spirits, Lillie's Q, iNG, Longman & Eagle, and Terzo Piano just to name a few. I also drank, yes you heard right, drank bacon-esque beverages.
I left the event with a stuffed tummy and stuffed goody bag. I walked away with a Peace, Love, Bacon t-shirt and water bottle courtesy of the Illinois Pork producers.
For larger image views to salivate over and to get you geared up for next year, I've added my pics to our Flickr pool. If you were there, add yours.
Logan Hardware (2410 W Fullerton) is sponsoring a vegan bakesale benefit for tsunami/earthquake victims in Japan this Saturday, noon-5pm. If you like to bake and want to contribute a treat or two, they have an online signup form.
For the third time in as many years, Gapers Block Drive-Thru is contributing our talents to Soup & Bread at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.,, along with Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, aka the Hearty Boys; Kathryn Frazier from Biz3 and Matt Yaseko from Billions. Tomorrow, April 5, starting at 5:30pm, you can sample as many of our soups as you'd like for free -- though it'd be nice if you made a donation, since this week we'll be supporting domestic violence agency and food pantry Between Friends. Be sure to come early, the soup often runs out by 7!
It's opening day for the Cubs today and Chicago's sweetheart, Stephanie Izard, will be there to cheer on her home team as they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. This morning, Izard announced that she's bringing along her pet goat, Padma, who Izard says was the inspiration behind her award-winning restaurant, Girl and the Goat. "I thought today would be the perfect day to introduce Padma to Chicago. And, we're hoping her visit to Wrigley Field will finally reverse the curse," Izard said over the phone as Padma bleated in the background. The game starts at 1:20. Check here for tickets and information.
Dog whisperer Doug Sohn will be talking to the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago this Sunday (10:30am, 7574 Lincoln Avenue in Skokie) about the journey of his business and how he keeps churning out quality food. Maybe he'll bring samples?
I watched Baby Boom, one of my favorite '80s films, this past week. Diane Keaton plays a successful New York businesswoman on the verge of becoming a partner at her firm when she inherits custody of a toddler whose parents died in a car accident. Her white-collar career aspirations fall apart as her investment in parenting increases (the movie is a terrible stereotype about women not being able to balance career aspirations and family, etc.), and in a game-changing moment, Keaton's character moves to Vermont and begins a popular gourmet baby food enterprise using the loads of apple trees growing in her backyard. In the end, Keaton shacks up with Sam Shepard and everything makes sense, so if you need to throw a curve in your life, why not start your home orchard? It could change your life. Slow Food Chicago is hosting an afternoon-long seminar on how to select and graft plants on Saturday, April 9; admission $25-35, and trees will be available onsite for purchase.
If you're going to Baconfest or even if you're not, Bacon Noir, a short film produced by Chicago Reader and directed by Ky Dickens will whet your pork appetite. The film stars chefs Stephanie Izard, Rick Gresh, Patrick Sheerin, and Chris Pandel, with the larger-than-life Bacon Prophet played by Second City writer and performer Tim Mason! Also featured in this tribute to the grit and belly of Chicago's urban landscape is Hey Champ's Singer/Guitarist, Saam Hagshenas and street artist CZR PRZ. It's based on the principles of the Bacon Manifesto.
If you like baking cookies and want to take your talents to South Beach, Pastry Chicago is holding its fourth annual Cookie Baking Competition on April 16 at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods; while the prizes haven't been announced, you can bet they'll rock, as Kitchen-Aid is a sponsor. Register by April 11 (only 25 spots to fill!).
Can you stomach another week of special prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at some of the city's nicest restaurants? It's like being stuck at Ikea on a Saturday! Avec, Boka, Blackbird, Hearty, and Prairie Fire are among the restaurants participating in Chicago Chefs Week, which runs through Saturday. Lunch menus are at $22; dinner $33.
Outstanding in the Field announced their 2011 season last week and tickets go on sale this coming Sunday.
My 2010 best meal was at a 100 person long table, perfectly situated under two bent willow trees at Kinnikinnick Farm on a sunny warm evening in August. We made the trek up to Caledonia, Illinois, just 2.5 hours from Chicago smack in the middle of Lollapalooza as the haze from the Lady Gaga concert the night before wore off. After taking the road where the blacktop ended, just like in the country songs, we saw a big chalkboard with an arrow pointing right and took the turn. Parking in a grassy field next to a big red silo, we strolled over to the house where our fellow diners were sipping on Golden Jet (Goose Island/Publican brew) and a Summer Punch by the folks from Death's Door Spirits.
Outstanding in the Field (OITF) sets off in May on a grand tour of farm dinners across the US. As a guest, you receive a fine meal made from ingredients grown on the soil you're sitting on, composed by a local renowned chef, and paired with local drinks and favorite vineyards of the OITF staff.
Ensuring that I won't need to book a last minute ticket back home to New York for Passover this year, the Downtown Seder is an event planned and produced by New York-based CityWinery founder Michael Dorf. The premier Chicago Downtown Seder event will feature performances from Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza with master flamenco guitarist Javier Rubial, New York comedienne Judy Gold (currently appearing in "Love, Loss and What I Wore" Off-Broadway), and renowned Anshe Emet Cantor Alberto Mizrahi aka "The Jewish Pavarotti".
A reading of the Haggadah will complement a traditional kosher meal. Well, traditional if Executive Chef Laura Frankel for Spertus Kosher Catering, and cuisine by Wolfgang Puck are part of your standard Pesach fare. Only 400 tickets are available, priced at $118 and $500, with tables of eight available for $1800 and $3600. For tickets and more information, please visit www.citywinery.com/seder. All proceeds for the event will benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Two questions remain:
Will Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel be asked to read the questions of the Wicked Child? and
Will they leave the Cultural Center's massive doors leading out onto Washington St open for Elijah?
Chicago Honey Coop wants to help you become the beekeeper you always wanted to be. On a dreary day like today, why not start planning for all the awesome gifts of homemade honey you can give to others? Or to yourself? Haul out your Ren Faire garb and get your meade cup cleaned and at the ready; CHC's Beginning Beekeeping Class is Saturday, May 14 (10am-3pm) at Hull House; for $65, you'll learn the ins and outs--hive management and maintenance, and how to keep healthy bees. The second stage of the class ($78) is May 21 at CHC's apiary; you'll get hands-on time with the equipment. Both events culminate with a pot luck lunch. Register soon--before you have to transfer to Grover Cleveland.
March 14 has a lot of spiritual significance for mathematicians--and as it, happens, lovers of food. Pi, a constant represented by 3.14, is the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius (I don't know what it means, either)--is a day for science folk and food lovers to rejoice in the coming of spring, donuts in the breakroom, or, even better--special deals on pi(e)-shaped foods.
Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618.5 West Chicago) is celebrating its second birthday today--and to show their love of 3.14, they're open 11am-7pm today for walk-in service; in addition, they'll be borrowing the Gaztro-Wagon for a day of mobile pie love all over the city.
Because no birthday can truly be confined to only one day, Hoosier Mama and Drive-Thru will be teaming up this Saturday, March 19 at noon for a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt! Teams of 1-3 people will be given a list of tasks to complete in the area (which can be reached by foot or quick bus ride) over the course of three hours; all you need is a digital/phone camera and sleuthing skills. The winning team gets a YEAR of free pie (i.e. one pie each month for 12 months)--and HMPC will donate $100 to the charity of the winning team's choice. Think of all the summer barbecues, office gatherings, birthday parties and holidays that you will be the unsung hero over when you roll in with a Hoosier Mama pie. Can you smell the victory? Register by calling HMPC at 312-243-4846.
One of my favorite things about going up to northern Wisconsin in the summers of my childhood was that my mom, a Chicago south-sider, had made almost identical pilgrimages with her family a generation earlier. Granted, the drive from Chicago was much longer than from central Wisconsin where I grew up, the medical technology for removing an errant fishing lure from someone's face was slightly more primitive, and the drone of Jet-Skis was still a nuisance of the future for my mom -- but there's something decidedly timeless about the Northwoods. Few northern institutions epitomize that time warp more than Wisconsin supper clubs -- many of which were started in the 1930s and '40s, and still exist, still serve ice cream drinks from the bar (Pink Squirrel, what up!) and oyster crackers with the near-mandatory bowl of soup, and still advertise their whereabouts on wooden planks nailed to the trees along windy, pine-shaded roads. And if this description was not romantic enough for you, some dear soul has gone and made a whole documentary film about the phenomena.
Chicago documentary filmmaker Holly De Ruyter is exploring the history and enduring present of Wisconsin supper clubs in her new film, Old Fashioned. (Like the drink! Get it?) And she's fundraising the old-fashioned way as well, by throwing a party this Saturday at Will's Northwoods Inn to kick up some cash and unveil the film's trailer. Full details are in Slowdown and on Facebook, but a $15 suggested donation will get you two drink tickets, plus the cheese, sausage and raffle largess Will's is known for, and ice cream drinks! Do you know how hard it is to get a bartender to make you an ice cream drink these days? Bartenders HATE making ice cream drinks! Haaaaaaaate. But mostly because getting the ice cream and the flavoring are just so far outside the normal orbit of the bar -- so they can't hate on it if it's the focal point of the event, right? Here's hoping... If you're into the supper club nostalgia, or just are dying to know what exactly a Pink Squirrel is, this event is not to be missed.
Between underground dinners, food trucks, and community kitchens, some chefs can be as elusive as unicorns. Combining all three early next month: Glimpse.
A collaborative effort between Logan Square Kitchen, Hum Spirits, Gaztro Wagon, and Fritz Pastry, Glimpse is a pop-up restaurant happening April 6-9 only.The menu will be family-style dinner service and is divided into five courses: fish, veggie, meat, cheese, and dessert; diners must choose 5 courses at $10 each, minimum. A drink tasting menu will also be available for $5/course, $10/drink a la carte, or $10/bottle of wine. Take a peek at the menu here.
In this new age of social media, reservations will be take via Twitter. You follow @Glimpse_Chi, they in turn follow you; you direct message them for reservations and they will confirm. Seating is limited, but if your party is large enough, there will be one chef's table available each night.
In a Chicago winter, chili cook-offs are a dime a dozen -- but shouldn't those dimes go to a good cause? The Heat It Up contest (which has got to be the last of the season) is a fundraiser for the Glenwood Sunday Market, an organic, local, sustainable, nonprofit market in Rogers Park.
Chicago's very own swarming of locavores and farmers unite March 17-19 for the Family Farmed Expo at the UIC Forum to help consumers learn more about good food and where to find it, to help restaurants connect with farmers and to help chefs connect with you. This three day extravaganza is a trade show, conference, and all around local foodie fest open to anyone who may be interested.
Thursday and Friday's programming is target more towards financiers, producers and purchasers of local products on a commercial level, but Saturday is your best bet for the common folk like us. Starting at 9 am they'll have workshops on how to raise your own bees and chickens, how to preserve local food (think canning, freezing, drying), how and where to get involved in the local food scene and more. Here's the full list.
Stephanie Izzard kicks off a round of chef demos target to teach us what to do with that beef heart and fennel root that you pick up at your farmers market. These local agriculture-supporting chefs have been paired with a family farm, who will provide the ingredients. Chef's include Bill Kim (Urban Belly/Belly Shack), Paul Virant (Vie), Chris Pandel (the Bristol).
Tickets for the event are $10 for the exhibits and chef demos only, $25 to gain access to the workshops if you buy your tickets online in advance. Plus, if you're a dedicated locavore and looking for a party to eat, drink, and listen locally on Friday night, Localicious will feature about 20 restaurants, wineries, distilleries and breweries for a mere $75 a ticket.
Maple syrup's all the rage these days -- especially the urban kind. Learn about its humble roots (hardy har) and the time-consuming-yet-remarkably-simple syrup-making process at the park district's free Maple Syrup Festival, March 26 and 27.
Friday, March 11, founders of Alinea and all-around culinary superstars, Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, will be on hand at Kendall College for a signing of their book, Life, On the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat. Below is the schedule:
Wood-Mode Auditorium at Kendall College
The event costs $45 to attend and includes beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres and a signed book. RSVP today to email@example.com or call 312-752-2196.
Yeah, a strolling group of beer lovers will be traipsing about Logan Square tomorrow night for a tour of six (oy, six!) the neighborhood's finest draught houses. The free event, organized by the Logan Square Draught Beer Preservation Society, starts at 6pm at Humboldt Liquors (3017 West Armitage) and ends at 10pm at Weegee's (3659 West Armitage). You'll be home in time to watch the 11pm Oprah rebroadcast on TV, so it's really a win-win for you.
A week or so ago, Drive Thru got an invitation to try Mercadito's "Tacos for Strength," a promotion where 5% of the taco profits (priced at $12 for three lunch tacos, or $16 for four dinner tacos) goes to support the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. So, it's like eating out, so that others can eat. That's kind of a nice idea, especially at a place, like Mercadito, where the scene otherwise seems to be the main draw. I'd never been to the River North space until today to sample this month's "strength-y" tacos, created by Jimmy Bannoses (Banni?) Sr. and Jr., of Heaven on Seven and The Purple Pig, respectively. If you haven't been, I think it's safe to say that Mercadito is not the kind of restaurant you'd go to for lunch if you have a big, stressful afternoon meeting ahead of you. It's much more the kind of place you might go to for lunch after, perhaps, closing a big deal in the morning and breaking out the margarita mix is all you have scheduled for the rest of the day. The space is colorful and urban, with theater-style colored lighting and graffiti-style wall murals -- but the tacos have a nice, old-school style to them.
With his new Next and Aviary opening soon and a memoir out next week, Grant Achatz and his partner, Nick Kokonas, have been very visible lately. The pair appeared onstage at the Tribune's Chicago Live! at the Chicago Theater for a conversation with Rick Kogan and Chris Borelli last night, which you can hear here, and next Thursday, March 3, they'll be doing a book signing and discussion of Life, On the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat at 6pm in the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library.
If you're really lucky, you could get into an exclusive event after the talk at the library: Achatz announced on Facebook that 100 lucky people will get the chance to buy $75 tickets to an afterparty at Thomas Masters Gallery, where guests will receive a signed copy of the book, Laurent Perrier champagne, small bites by Curtis Duffy of Avenues "and a few surprises." Proceeds will benefit the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Achatz received treatment for his tongue cancer.
Now that the election is behind us, we can start looking ahead at Mayor-elect Emanuel's plans for food-related issues in the city--from resolving the Neanderthal food truck drama to improving access to healthy food in underserved areas. Interested in reading more? We've got the details after the jump.
On the Groundhog Day Blizzard of February 1, I got home at 5pm from a long commute full of whistling wind and poor visibility only to do one of the dumbest things that I've ever conceived: I voluntarily went out again, back into the hurricane of razor blade-like snow and ice. Why? Oxtail ravioli with wild mushroom, brussels sprouts, and lobster glacage.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository's 86 Hunger series was happening that night at Boka, and even though everything seemed to be closed or closing because of the weather, the event was still on and ready to serve food from several different chefs (the ravioli's creator, Ryan Poli of Perennial; Stephanie Izard from Girl and the Goat; and Boka's own Giuseppe Tentori). Even though I looked like a shellshocked Yeti when I arrived, I had a wonderful time and ate some incredible dishes. As I ate Tentori's delicious version of a venison loin, I looked outside through the restaurant's large windows at the mess unfolding on Halsted, wondering if CTA's buses were going to abandon ship, leaving me to sleep in a booth in the restaurant. I found the dessert from Boka's Kady Yon, a milk chocolate semifreddo with pistachios and kumquats, to be the perfect way to start another long commute home.
The event continues on this Wednesday night, with Heaven on Seven at the helm. Tickets $150.
We've seen pop-up restaurants, pop-up dinner parties and now we've got a pop-up farmers market. This Saturday, Feb. 19, Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Andersonville is hosting a farmers market from 9am to 1pm.
Did you know? This Saturday, February 5th, is World Nutella Day, and Multilingual Chicago just happens to be throwing a bit of a party to celebrate! There will be Nutella-inspired pastries from local bakeries, crepes from La Boulangerie, hot beverages from Café Mustache and Urban Burger Bar. And for those into learning Nutella's language of origin, there will be free Italian classes for adults and children.
--This Saturday, 1-5pm, Multilingual Chicago, 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave, Ste. C
Every year, West Town-based Redmoon Theater proves it can throw a party on the grandest scale with its fundraiser, Spectacle Lunatique. The event showcases the company's signature magic and puppetry. And this year on Saturday, March 12th, Redmoon--with the help of some of the city's most respected chefs--will stimulate party-goers' taste buds as well. Schwa's Michael Carlson, Girl and the Goat's Stephanie Izard and Blackbird's Paul Kahan are some of the culinary luminaries contributing food to the event. Expect dessert from Black Dog Gelato's Jessica Oloroso and drinks from The Drawing Room's Charles Joly, among others. Spectacle Lunatique will be held at Redmoon Central (1463 W. Hubbard). Individual tickets for the main program, which includes the food tastings and begins at 6:30pm, start at $175. Or attend the After Party at 10:30pm for drinks, dessert and dancing. Individual After Party tickets are $50.
Looking to start a business selling your homemade cookies? Jam? Lamb roast? Picked herring? If you need some high-end, artful photography of your creations, head to Logan Square Kitchen (2333 N. Milwaukee) tomorrow to meet with Grant Kessler, who will be working there out of a Pop-Up Photo Studio. A 45-minute-long session begins at $125; you'll get 1-4 images of your product for advertisements, websites, etc. To earn money, you need to spend money, right?
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has launched its second annual 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni & Cheese Blog. Today, Day 1: Macaroni and Blue Cheese with Figs and Rosemary.
But if you don't want to support the state of Wisconsin this weekend, for whatever reason, Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park (100 S. Marion Street) is right there with you: you can order any of their cheese flights for brunch this Sunday, except their Wisconsin cheese flight.
Perhaps to go along with the upcoming bone-chilling temps, there are many beer dinners and events coming up in the next couple of weeks. Here, we present you with some highlights:
Lincoln Station, 2432 N. Lincoln, 773-472-8100
January 19 (that's tonight!), 7:30 - Great Lakes Brewing Company dinner, featuring 4 courses (pork belly, smoked salmon, chicken adobo, chocolate mousse) - $40
The Long Room, 1612 W. Irving Park, 773-455-6500
January 20, 7pm - 11th Anniversary Celebration featuring Goose Island Brewmaster Gregory Hall, who brings with him Bourbon County Stout Vertical; samplings of 2008, 2009, 2010 Bourbon County Stout also available for purchase (note: I did this last year and it was fantastic)
Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield, 773-281-4989
January 20, 7pm - New Belgium / Allagash Collaboration: Vrienden tapping
January 27, 7pm - Half Acre: Double Daisy Cutter, Thunder & Son tapping
January 29 - 11:30am - 2nd Annual Two Brothers Brewery Tour - brunch buffet @ Sheffield's, bus leaves 1:30pm, tour starts 3pm, back at Sheffield's 5pm. $45
Table Fifty-Two, 52 W. Elm, 312-573-4000
February 2, 8pm - 3 Floyd's Beer Dinner - Art Smith brings you 5 southern-styled courses + dessert, paired with Munster's favorite brews
Blokes & Birds, 3343 N. Clark, 773-472-5252
February 9, 7pm - Lagunitas beer dinner with 7 courses (English fare, natch) - $60
The start of the "reasonable prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus at normally pricier places" season begins today with the launch of Chicago Originals, which runs through January 29. Participating restaurants (including Kiki's Bistro, Cyrano's and Le Titi de Paris) will offer two to four course-long meals for $29.11.
Around 25 types of chicken wings to be exact and you can try every single one of them.
Sound too good to be true? Well thank your lucky stars, because it's not. It's the Chicago WingFest -- now in its twelfth year -- and you're invited.
This year's event will take place at the Bailey Auditorium, 1340 W. Washington, on Feb. 27 from 1pm to 6pm.
So, what does this most awesome of events entail?
Around 25 local eateries will be submitting their best wings into two of four categories: mild, hot, BBQ and exotic. You can check out the ever growing list of participating restaurants here.
For only $24 a general admission ticket gets you all the wings your heart desires, a raffle ticket and live music from Cadillac Dave and His Chicago Red Hots. Upgrade to the $50 VIP ticket and you'll also enjoy a drink package, parking pass, goody bag and access to the VIP area.
If you're really lucky you just might get plucked from the crowd to be one of 10 judges per category judging on appearance, aroma and taste in a double blind test.
The best part of all this (and you thought it couldn't get any better) is that part of the proceeds will go to Chicago Neighbors United, an organization that provides educational scholarships to inner city youth.
Click here to buy your tickets before they sell out (and make sure you're 21 or older)!
Since opening in July, Lillie's Q has made quite an impression among Chicagoans as they voted the tri tip sandwich one of the best of 2010, and after trying this past week I can confirm it lives up to the hype. Now Chef Charlie McKenna is kind enough to offer us the whole hog -- competition BBQ style.
For $325, six to eight people can act as judges, as Chef McKenna will prep and present a 25-30 pound locally sourced hog. He'll start with his 15 ingredient "Carolina Dirt" rub (which should be noted is on the fries) and then smoke the hog for 10 hours.
Chef McKenna will present everything tableside before returning to the kitchen to cut the different parts of the hog and then re-presenting the cut meat. If you have questions feel free to ask! Chef McKenna will do a little Q&A while presenting.
It's officially comfort food season in Chicago, and food that is hot and hearty is in high demand for denizens of the Second City. Next week, starting January 17th, Rockit Bar and Grill in River North will be hosting their third annual Chilifest, a celebration of all things related to the most comforting of comfort foods, chili.
Chilifest runs the 17th through the 21st, with turkey chili, chili mac, vegan chili, and chili cheese fries offered on the menu every day during the fest. Each day there will be a specialty chili offered in addition to those choices. Those chilis include...
Mark your calendars and make your reservations now - Chicago Restaurant Week is coming back, February 18-27 (because "Chicago Restaurant 9 Day Period" was too much of a mouthful). As in the past, diners can opt for a prix-fixe lunch ($22) or dinner ($33) at any number of Chicago eating establishments, both new and old. Dining options, including each restaurant's official menu, are available on the website, as well as reservations -- be aware, this is a popular and well-known event at this point, and tables will fill up. So if you really REALLY have you eye on eating at Blackbird, think it and your schedule over now before it's too late.
This year, the event organizers are sweetening the deal by giving away $100 dining gift cards, one every day until the end of Restaurant Week on February 28 (visit their Facebook site and hit "Like" to be automatically entered), as well as providing menu updates, recipes and interviews on their blog. Eat it up, Chicago, indeed.
The Chicago Food Depository's 86 Hunger Series, which starts tomorrow night, is a great opportunity to sample food from some of the city's finest chefs and benefit a cause so vital in these difficult economic times. Tomorrow night's event at Naha will be a collaboration with Prairie Grass; further events are scheduled for January 27 (at Custom House), February 1 (at Boka) and 23 (at Heaven on Seven). Tickets for all events are $150.
The third season of Soup and Bread, the wintertime weekly soup eating party at the Hideout, starts this Wednesday (5:30-7:30pm, 1354 West Wabansia) with an all-star lineup of food and and foodertainment: soup from six chefs (among them are from Swim Cafe, Bigbite Catering and Celestial Kitchens), pie from my beloved Hoosier Mama, and music from the finest DJ in all of Chicago, Mary Nisi of Toast and Jam (I'm biased because we have the same parents and she has keys to my house!). This week's proceeds benefit the Casa Catalina Basic Human Needs Center. If you can't make it, fear not; the series runs through April 13.
The Chicago History Museum is hosting a guided tour of dive bars several times this month. If you'd like to (re)visit these heartwarming and positive places, spaces are still available for the January 30 tour; tickets are $25-30.
I don't know what they mean by "one amazing prize," but it could be on par with Oprah's VW bugs/bees..if you're planning to visit the Publican this Saturday between 1:30-3:30pm, bring a donation for the Greater Chicago Food Depository and you will be entered into a one prize only drawing. Free food? First choice reservations for a lifetime? The mind boggles.
'Tis the season of Christmas cookies -- at home, in the office, at parties. It's hard to resist them, but sometimes we all just crave something just a little less waist-expanding.
For the Healthy Schools Campaign's 2010 Cooking Up Change gala, culinary students at Simeon Career Academy created a cookie that we won't feel guilty about popping in our already-full bellies this holiday season. The event, a cook-off, challenges students to create a healthy lunch or a healthy cookie using using the same nutrition requirements, ingredients, and budget constraints that schools have to contend with. Below is the recipe for Simeon Career Academy's winning dessert, Thyme-Scented Lemon Cookies:
Tuesday, December 21, Chalkboard Restaurant will allow Chef Michael Sheerin from Blackbird and soon, The Trenchman, to take over it's kitchen, menu and of course, chalkboard, as part of the second annual chef takeover. Sheerin's menu will feature delectable items such as sweetbread bacon with graham cracker and pickled golden raisin and scotch quail egg with cauliflower and caviar.
The prix-fixe menu is $70 and reservations can be made now at ChalkboardRestaurant.com or by calling 773.477.7144. Last year's event sold out quickly so if you want to attend make that reservation now (see awesome food pic to understand why)!
"Biologists, physiologists, anatomists think that the pleasure center of the body is...elsewhere. But clearly they have never eaten at Hot Chocolate or Blackbird or had a really good glass of wine. Otherwise they would know that the center of pleasure in the body is between the mandibles -- and not between anything else."
In November NPR commentator Gwen Macsai introduced three Chicago culinary personalities -- Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate, Paul Kahan of Blackbird, and master sommelier Alpana Singh -- at a Chicago Humanities Festival panel, "The Perfect Meal." Watch them discuss what makes a meal perfect, whether it's food and drink that "satisfies the desire of the moment" or "communicating and connecting with the people you're with" or all of the above.
I'm not sure yet where I'll be watching the ball drop this December 31st, and if you're not either, we've got a round-up of some good options here in the city. Some are nice sit-down dinner affairs with beverage pairings, and others are open bars that happen to have food. Not everyone has announced their parties yet though, so if we missed something or it was announced justnow, feel free to post it in the comments.
Ever stared at a bottle of wine on a store shelf, wondering if it's worth the money? Or looked longingly at a new beer, wishing you could try before you buy so you're not stuck with five more bottles of something that tastes, well, like college?
Check out the Holiday Wine and Beer Festival at Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park on Thursday, December 9, where you can try over 300 wines, beers and spirits. For free. Everything poured at the event will be on sale for at least 10% off, and when you buy six or more bottles (mix or match, even) you'll get an additional 10% off. Plus you can enter raffles for items like a PS3, a serrano ham, large-format wine bottles, and autographed celebrity cookbooks. The event runs from 4 to 8 p.m., and the store's located at 1550 N. Kingsbury. That's right by the North and Clybourn Red Line stop, so -- duh, and please -- use public transportation.
Only a handful of seats are available for tomorrow night's free showing of Forks Over Knives, a documentary about healthy eating that features Cook County Chief Medical Officer Terry Mason. You may be still full from the office's holiday fondue and pork skin party, but the screening will be a compelling look at how our nation has become so obese (and what we can do to get out of it). Dr. Mason will be present for a post-film panel discussion. Event starts at 7pm at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren.
Ah, the ever-growing holiday to-do list: Take a crash course in wine, beer and cheese pairing from Chicago's beloved Master Sommelier. Taste artisanal cheese, chocolate and charcuterie items, and meet the people who made them. Sample over 40 different wines, beers and spirits from 12 vendors. Eat a bunch of appetizers. Get discounts on your holiday shopping. Raise money for Aspire of Illinois, a nonprofit that provides services for people with developmental disabilities.
Now do all of these things at once by attending the Taste of Marion Street Cheese Market on Tuesday, December 14 from 5-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 -- 10%of which goes directly to Aspire -- and include a commemorative tasting glass. For tickets, call (708) 725-7200.
Have you been dying to share your drink recipes with a wider audience? Think your Dirty Frenchman (wine and olive juice) or Yeast Infection (rum and milk)* needs to bless the gullets of other Chicagoans? Consider entering Prairie Fire's first-ever bartender contest, where you can submit your drinks and photos for a chance to guest-bartend at the restaurant. The only stipulation: you must use a local ingredient in the beverage. Upload your drinks to the Prairie Fire Facebook page between now and December 10.
The top two mixologists, chosen by the restaurant and cocktail master Adam Seger, will compete on December 14 for tips, which will be donated to hunger-fighting nonprofit Share Our Strength -- whoever earns the most will appear December 22 with Prairie Fire chefs and co-owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris at a Green City Market demonstration.
*Thanks, Home Movies. I knew my obsessive watching of you would come in handy some day.
Maybe I've seen a very telling movie on this topic, but if you're interested in participating in 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, the Food Network reality show that pairs friends, relatives and lovers together to run a restaurant of their own to see what hilarities or disappointments ensue, you're in luck. The show will be casting for fresh meat next Friday, December 10 at the Affinia Hotel (166 East Superior) from 10am-1pm. Bring your completed application from their website.
There's no guarantee of the sexy part, but if you bring two cans of food to the Engine 98 fire station at Chicago and Michigan Avenue today from 11:30am-1:30pm, you'll get one of Vienna Beef's finest in return. Ugh, that sounded so dirty...and yet so accurate.
Everyone likes care packages full of cookies -- especially soldiers who won't make it home for the holidays. "Baking for the Troops," sponsored by Kenmore Live Studio, will send up to 250,000 cookies to deployed troops this holiday season.
Food Network personality Sunny Anderson -- who grew up as an Army brat and served in the Air Force for four years -- is the head chef of the program, which kicks off in Chicago on Thursday, December 2. Visit the Kenmore Live Studio kitchen, 678 N. Wells, between 12 and 6 p.m. to sample cookies, decorate holiday ornaments, and write personalized thank-you messages to overseas troops. (Anderson will only be at the kitchen from 12 to 1 p.m., so if you want to meet her, be prompt.)
If you can't make it to the kickoff event, check out Kenmore's Facebook page any time in December. You can ask the company to bake and ship a dozen cookies on your behalf. Once Kenmore has sent a quarter-million cookies, they'll donate $50,000 to Heroes at Home, an organization that provides support for military families stateside.
If you weren't able to get to the screening of Kings of Pastry earlier this year, you have a second chance: the documentary, which features the French Pastry School's Jacquy Pfeiffer, returns to the Siskel for daily showings between December 3-9.
Not that you need kickbacks for contributing to a food drive. But if you bring a non-perishable food item or cash donation to the Merchandise Mart on Tuesday, November 23, you'll be rewarded with a free slice of Eli's Cheesecake and a sample of Argo Tea.
"Sharing It Day" runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Mart's South Lobby, and benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Items most needed include rice, pasta, pasta sauce and macaroni and cheese; peanut butter and jelly; whole-grain cereal and shelf-stable milk; beans; and canned meat, stew, soup, vegetables and fruit.
The most important meal I've had this year was a box lunch from Sopraffina. No, it didn't earn a Michelin star or introduce me to sea urchin. Those are fun, exciting moments in eating this year that have been only subtly underscored by something much more serious, something which makes me uncomfortable and is much easier not to think about. So, like most people, I usually don't. But it was something that was staring me in the face in the form of a roast beef and provolone sandwich, nestled in a cardboard box resting on my knees during the lunch break at Wednesday's State of the Plate conference on sustainable meat production, the new (hopefully annual) forum put together by the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-Op: Where does our food come from, and what power can we possibly have over it?
It's not like these questions are groundbreaking in and of themselves. I've read The Omnivore's Dilemna and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I've skimmed through Fast Food Nation. I've seen clips of Food, Inc. CAFOs bad, local food good, organic labels confusing. It's frightening, and depressing. But there's something very different about encountering this information on my couch or in front of my TV in my spare time, and sitting in a room with people whose daily lives are very much affected by these issues. At State of the Plate, I was literally surrounded, with chefs and culinary students on one side, and sustainable ranchers and food scientists on the other. And through their words, in the form of several panels and a keynote from Robert Kenner, director of Food, Inc. it also seems that there may be a glimmer of hope in the dark night of American eating.
Pastry Chicago is hosting its annual Gingerbread House Contest on December 4; if you want to be part of the action and compete (winners will be awarded gift certificates and Kitchenaid products), the entry deadline is November 30. This year's theme is Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures, which means I hope you have a lot of graham crackers.
McDonald's has a treat for you, if you've got some free time Tuesday.
The Oak Brook-based fast food giant is introducing its new McCafe Caramel Mocha with a scavenger hunt. Find one of three special game cups hidden around the city and you'll win a $1000 gift card. Follow @McD_Chicago and/or @McDonalds on Twitter for clues to the cups' whereabouts. Find the cup and and get it back to the finish line by the deadline and you win. (Full details and rules here.)
Whether you play or not, you can get a free sample of the caramel mocha at the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, 600 N. Clark St., between 7am and 11am.
Holiday warming is coming early this year. Andersonville Chamber of Commerce will host this years first ever St. Morten's Glöggfest. For those of us with -son, -strom, and -quist suffixes, you know how it goes. As soon as it's cold enough to don a Nordic sweater, suddenly you become overwhelmingly thirsty. You need something warm, soothing, and potent.
As a Swede who's mother lives far away, Simon's Tavern gladly fills the spot. Their homemade glögg, a Nordic mulled wine, enforced by vodka or aquavit speckled with raisins and almonds, is as authentic as you can get.
We're getting to sample Simon's early this year at St. Morten's Glöggfest (this Saturday from 7-10pm at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark). For $30, you get three cups of glögg, Swedish treats from Svea, music by Daphne Willis and a silent auction with wares of the neighborhood. And just in case three glasses won't do the trick, the after party continues across the street at Simon's afterward. Tickets available in advance here, $30 each.
Okay, my puns are totally stupid. But it's true: my boss, friends and lovers will be getting a gift that I recently rediscovered this summer at the Logan Square Farmers Market: a jar of Rare Bird Preserves. I'm crushing on the Pluot Orange Cardamom and Lemon Apple Cinnamon varieties these days, as it's a nice departure from the normal jellied junk I put on my toast. Rare Bird will be holding a tasting tomorrow at Provenance, 2528 N California, from Noon-3pm.
Monday, November 22, Brand BBQ Market is teaming up with the organization for men who love to grill, Man B Que, to create a Pre-Thanksgiving Feast. The dinner costs $45 per person and includes a starter, main course and dessert. The menu will feature the "Leftovers" Thanksgiving burger, a sage stuffing stuffed burger, smoked turkey breast and cranberry relish (this sounds ridiculous) and sides that include smoky green bean casserole, green onion mashed potatoes and bourbon smoked candied pecans. Brand BBQ is BYOB so registered guests will get suggested beer pairings for dinner.
To make a reservation call Brand BBQ at 773.687.8148
Forkable Blog and theWit Hotel's Phoenix Lounge present a complimentary menu sampling on Thursday, November 18 from 6 pm to 8 pm. The new Phoenix Lounge will welcome a limited number of guests to sample a menu of hand crafted cocktails and Mediterranean-inspired small plates while enjoying live musical performances from local and emerging artists. Guests must RSVP through the Forkable Blog to secure a spot.
The Phoenix Lounge
201 N.State St. Chicago
With the Michelin Guide Chicago's publication the talk of the town, both the New York Times and Chicago Tribune thought next week would be a good time for a live event with some of the city's most prominent chefs. They're booked on consecutive nights, so if you haven't gotten enough Michelin talk in print, you can fill your evenings with even more, live.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, the Tribune's "Chicago Live!" stage show at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., will revolve around food. Kevin Pang will interview Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret; chefs Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard and Graham Elliot talk, no doubt, about the guide's picks in Chicago, and Hot Doug's Doug Sohn will discuss "the state of the hot dog" with Bill Daley. Tickets are $25 through TicketMaster or the Chicago Theatre box office.
Then on Friday, Nov. 18, the New York Times brings its TimesTalks series to the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St., where chefs Rick Bayless, Art Smith and Charlie Trotter talk with Frank Bruni and wine and food festival organizer Lee Brian Schrager. The Michelin Guide isn't explicitly a topic, but given its timeliness and Bayless' lackluster opinion of the guide, it's hard to imagine it won't be brought up. Tickets for this show are also $25.
Tickets to both shows will most likely sell out, so get yours soon.
Starting this Wednesday, if you take a half-day at the office, you can get a late-lunch tour with three local chefs. Between 2:30 and 5:30pm, Flight Chicago will take you to three restaurants where you'll meet the chef, get to scope out the kitchen and all that happens behind the scenes, and end with a bite and some booze, and of course a Q&A with the chef. The tab for your VIP tour? $125. Not bad when you consider where they're taking you: There's the West Town Flight, which features Branch 27, Green Zebra, and Mexique on Wednesdays; the Bucktown Flight, which takes you to the Bristol, Spring, and Feast on Thursdays; and the West Loop Flight, where you check out Sepia, Province, and Carnivale on Tuesdays.
Book online with Flight Chicago, flights are available through November and December.
Ladies and gentlemen: there's a new dinner series in town. "A Spirited Dinner" series begins this Thursday night at Bridgeport brunch favorite Nana, and is sponsored by local liquor lovers Koval Distillery and Michigan's Seedling Orchard. Nana's executive chef Guy Meikle is designing a special menu featuring the sponsors spirits and fruits, and Leanne Strickler is creating coordinating cocktails. Reservations are recommended and can be made via firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-929-2486.
On Monday, Nov. 15, from 6 to 8pm, we'll have the back two-thirds of the Violet Hour, where complementary food and drinks will be served. Jen-Luc Naret, head of Michelin Guide, will be on hand to answer any questions about the guide -- short of revealing which restaurants received stars, that is. There will also be a way for you to sign up to receive a free copy of the Chicago guide when it comes out.
Only 150 tickets will be available for this event, and entry will be first come, first served at the door. Get your tickets now!Update: tickets are sold out.
If so, you'll want to mark down November 11th on your calendar. Tony Mantuano's Terzo Piano in the Art Institute is teaming up with the folks at Goose Island for a reason-for-the-season fete celebrating the release of FairytAle, Goose Island's one-night only pumpkin ale.
For $70, you'll be treated to a reception featuring FairytAle paired with hors d'oeuvres such as pumpkin soup with toasted almonds, Spaghetti squash flatbread with California burrata, Aleppo pepper, brown butter, kalamatas and basil and Smoked Rushing Waters trout with apple, pickled Michigan ramps and parsley. Stay for the four-course dinner matching some of Mantuano and Chef di Cucina Meg Colleran Sahs' finest creations with Goose Island's best:
* First course: Seared Taylor bay scallops, Matilda broth, tarragon, hazelnuts paired with Matilda
* Second course: Braised Pinn Oak Farms lamb shoulder, Anson Mills polenta, salsify and sorrel, lamb sauce paired with Pere Jacques
* Third course: Zingerman's Lincoln Log goat's milk cheese, Heritage Prairie Farm honey paired with Sofie
* Fourth course: Beer-imisu paired with Bourbon County Coffee Stout.
Art indeed. Stuff and then frame yourself.
Where: Terzo Piano, 159 East Monroe, Chicago , IL . Third-floor of the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
When: Thursday, November 11, 2010, reception and hors d'oeuvres begin at 6:30 p.m. and seated dinner begins at 7:15 p.m.
Cost: $70 per person plus tax and gratuity
Reservation: Guests may call 312.443.8650 for reservations.
Local distillery Koval will be launching their newest whiskey, Lion's Pride, this Saturday at where else but Delilah's. This new spirit is named after the distiller's son, Lion, and is the first legal whiskey distilled in Chicago since Prohibition. The whiskey is aged in new American Oak barrels.
Four varieties of Lion's Pride will be released: Oat, Rye, Dark Oat, and Dark Rye. The tasting is from 7-9pm, and the first two bottles of whiskey will be auctioned off to benefit local charities.
--Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave. - Saturday, Nov. 6
The newest iteration of the daily-deal phenomenon is My Drink On, a group-couponing site offering drink deals for Chicago bars.
Tomorrow, November 4, MDO hosts its 8pm-1am launch party at Rebel Bar & Grill (3462 N. Clark St.). Rebel is also the location of its very first featured deal: $40 worth of drinks for $20. For celebration's sake, buying the deal is not required for the complimentary cocktail reception (8-10pm).
On December 5 The Publican will play host to their first beer and truffle dinner. Paul Kahan teamed up with North Coast Beer Director Michael McAvena, Master Brewer Mark Ruedrich and Owner Doug Moody to create a perfect menu for the evening. The menu will feature beers to compliment American and European black and white truffles (um, yum). A tentative menu has been posted here and I can only hope that the "Brother Thelonious," a dry aged duck breast and sausage, dried apricot and black truffles, will be make it to the final menu. Tickets are $125 and call 312.733.9555 to make reservations.
This week is the 5th annual World Vegan Week, a campaign started by In Defense of Animals. For the next several days you can eat like Lea Michele and Alicia Silverstone, even if you aren't equipped to cook that way. Local restaurants Drew's Eatery, New York Deli, Clark St Dog and Ian's Pizza have teamed with Mercy for Animals, and are offering special vegan menu items for the week.
I love Halloween. So much that I decorate my house with pumpkins and orange lights, wear socks emblazoned with witches and skulls (it's not because I'm punk rock!), and have already started in on the Brach's Harvest Mix and fun-size candy bars. If you're not like me but still want to celebrate the 'ween, the Logan Square Kitchen will be holding a Halloween Pastry Market this Saturday and Sunday (10am-3pm at 2333 N. Milwaukee) to sell goods made by local talent such as Fritz Pastry, TinyCakes, Nice Cream, and Sweet Miss Givings. Vegan and gluten-free wares, too! Admission $1; kids free. RSVP requested for planning purposes only.
Colder weather, darker mornings, the return of squash... It's fall, people, which is just a hop, skip and a snow drift away from being holiday season. If you're looking to combine a night out with your annual philanthropy, consider the six upcoming "86 Hunger" dinners coming to the calendar this fall and winter. The Greater Chicago Food Depository's annual dinner series turns over proceeds from each dinner to their network of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters -- all of which have seen an increase in use of 64% over the past three years. Here's the dining schedule:
I mean, if you're going to shell out $150 (the going rate for an individual ticket to any of the dinners) at Spiaggia anyway, may as well make it for a good cause, right? Boka will probably put extra gold leaf on your food for being such a good citizen! (No guarantees...) Information on each dinner, including location, time and menu, as well as tickets are available online. (The menu for Sunday's West Town Tavern dinner is up now! Drool!) For more information about the Greater Chicago Food Depository, call 773-247-FOOD.
Daily, subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics and hormones. Mutilation. Overcrowded, filthy living conditions. Poorly handled waste. Potentially lethal food. No, it's not a prison or work camp. It's the modern meat industry.
The daylong seminar will include keynote speeches by Kenner and Bauccio, roundtable discussions, Q&As, a screening of Food Inc., and -- most enticingly -- a tasting of local and sustainable meats. Several FamilyFarmed.org producers will be in attendance to sample their wares, including Dietzler Farms, American Grassfed, Creekstone, Black Earth Meats and Organic Prairie. Tickets are $50, and include breakfast, a boxed lunch, and the afternoon tasting, as well as access to all events, discussions, panels and screenings.
Note to self: put down the brownie and pick up a padded bra.
Anyway, if you think you've got the body and the brains (current St. Pauli Girl Katarina Van Derham speaks five languages and has formal beer training) then head to Tilted Kilt, 17 N. Wabash, at 7pm tomorrow and enter the St. Pauli Girl costume contest. Not only will the winner receive a $250 prize, she'll also have a lot of pride to go home with (seriously, did you see Van Derham?).
The St. Pauli Girl will also be making additional appearances throughout the night at 8pm at Boss Bar, 420 N. Clark St. and at 9pm at Finley Dunne's, 3458 N. Lincoln.
And hey, if you don't just happen to have a cute beer maid outfit lying around you can still head over to any one of the locations for a signed Van Derham poster - you know, so you can stare at it everyday and wonder why you never got that beer education (or those damn long legs).
We are giving away two tickets for next Thursday night's Taste of Fooditude event at Architectural Artifacts (4325 N Ravenswood). If you want to get your tween more interested in nutrition and cooking (or you are a tween interested in nutrition and cooking, in which case why aren't you reading The Hunger Games right now?), this is the event for you. Food, entertainment, cooking demos, and a silent auction are on the menu.
Iliana Regan, aka the Pierogi Goddess, is adding a new line to her ever-evolving food business, One Sister Inc.: mushroom expeditions.
On Oct. 16, Regan will take a bus full of guests to her secret mushroom treasure troves to forage for hen of the woods, a type of mushroom available in the fall. Guests will have breakfast at Regan's home in Andersonville, then board the bus to travel to her first hidden location. After a morning of foraging, she'll serve lunch in a garden to fortify everyone for the afternoon hunt, which promises to be fruitful: Last year, she found a 15-pound hen of the woods mushroom in the same spot.
This Friday, October 1, is International Sake Day, and here's a list of some sake hot spots around the city to help you celebrate the Japanese rice beverage (also known as "the drink of the gods"):
It might be hard to get into Chizakaya, since it just opened a few weeks ago and it's getting a lot of buzz, but, considering izakaya means "sake house," you're going to get a pretty large selection of the stuff.
If you want sake without the sushi, try Mana Food Bar (1742 W. Division St.). This small-plates vegetarian joint offers a selection of sake cocktails, including the refreshing-sounding coconut water and fresh lime, and the cucumber sakerita.
Staying on Division, the newly opened Makisu (1725 W. Division St.) has a huge selection of sake on its menu, with more than 20 different kinds and some unfiltered, sweeter sakes like Summer Snow -- which you can also find at Sunda (110 W. Illinois St.) in River North.
For a total experience of Japan (or at least how I imagine it), go to Murasaki Lounge (211 E. Ontario), which has an extensive sake menu -- and there's a karaoke room in the back.
Or you could always get a big bottle of sake from Binny's, a six-pack of Sapporo, and a few pairs of chopsticks and sake bomb deep into the night.
When I moved to Chicago three years ago I was introduced to the world of craft beer. Living in Minneapolis I didn't have the interest, or funds, to drink good beer and I didn't realize what I had been missing until I moved to Chicago.
Last weekend I went to the Chicago Food Film Festival and watched a great documentary called "Beer Wars." The movie opened my eyes to the struggles that craft breweries experience. In 2005 the big three breweries (Anheuser Busch, Miller and Coors) controlled 85 percent of the market share, leaving the nearly 1,400 craft breweries to compete for the remaining 15 percent.
I always love to see the little guys succeed and during the movie I found myself cheering for the craft breweries throughout the country. I left the festival thinking of all the great places to get craft beer in Chicago and immediately made a list of my favorites.
In an effort to help the little guys come ahead and, hopefully someday, take over the big guys, I'm going to share my favorite places to go for delicious craft beer.
Renowned chef, restaurateur and author Thomas Keller was in town last week to help demystify the Michelin guide, the respected directory to restaurants around the world, which will publish its first Chicago edition this November. Michelin announced in July that it would be coming to Chicago at a chic reception presided over by Guide Director Jean-Luc Naret and at which Mayor Daley spoke. Naret returned to Chicago on Friday for a private, informal Q & A at Kendall College with Chef Keller and Kendall School of Culinary Arts Dean Christopher Koetke to address the workings of the guide.
The three men spoke for an hour in front of an audience of about 75 people, mainly culinary students. Keller stole the show, with attendees most interested in hearing from the only American chef with two three-star restaurants, Per Se in New York City and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, California.
Long before he had any restaurants, Keller explained that he most wanted to emulate restaurants with three Michelin stars. These restaurants, he said, "have set the bar my entire life." The Michelin director calls each chef awarded stars to deliver the news the day before a guide launches, and Keller shared with candor and humor the stories of his first and second three-star calls.
The Good Food Project -- a nonprofit that teaches children to thoughtfully taste and speak critically about food -- will set up shop at the Chicago French Market on Saturday, October 2. Kids who participate in the GFP's signature apple tasting event will be among the first in the Chicagoland area to try the SweeTango, a new apple cultivar in its second year of release (and the subject of some serious controversy). The tasting workshop runs from 11 a.m. to 11:45, and from 11:45 to 1 p.m., kids will learn how to make an apple slinky to take home.
Another food festival is behind us, and after the double-whammy of food coma and hangover has cleared (and nooooo, it didn't take a full 24 hours, some of us just have day jobs, jeeeez), it's time to look back on some of the highlights (and disappointments) of this year's Chicago Gourmet. The prevailing complaint, echoed in both the fog of overheard conversation as well as in the specific comments of my new coffee-line friends Aaron and Mary Beth: not enough food! As with years past, the booze outweighed the bites, which can get dangerous when we're talking consumption by actual weight. As new friend Mary Beth noted, "A lot of old ladies in the bathroom seemed like they were really having a hard time with that much alcohol." Yikes, not good for the old ladies (a not-insignificant demographic for C.G.), and not particularly more good for the folks who shelled out upwards of $90 for an extended meal. More thoughts on the ups, downs, and possible old-lady pleasing next steps for Chicago Gourmet...
Tonight C-House will host a private dinner party benefiting Friends of the Fisherman, a Louisiana Fisherman organization. C-House's Marcus Sammuelson and Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano will be cooking up their favorite home cooked dishes from their latest cookbooks and dinner will be served with select craft beers from Goose Island. Both chef's will be available to sign their cookbooks after the event.
Tickets are $125 and seating is limited. While it's a lot of money, I am sure the food will be amazing. I've personally met both chefs at different events and they are as kind and gracious as can be! To make a reservation for tonight call 312-523-0923.
Proving the old adage that the third time is, indeed, the charm, Chicago Gourmet seems to have finally hit its stride. The balance between food and drink, while still topped towards the latter, feels a bit more equitable this year -- possibly based on the organizing decision to group most of the liquid suppliers in the middle of the festival, and leaving the solid foods on the edges. And for the first time, I left the Pritzker Pavilion well before the end of the day feeling, well, full. This year's Chicago Gourmet feels not unlike a food-themed amusement park: excitement is high, even though lines are long. Twenty minutes of standing around may result in a bite that's consumed in 30 seconds or less. But at least you get to revel in some Goose Island and pork belly at the bottom. Plenty of plush seating has been added this year in various formations so you can ease off your slowly-expanding ankles as your salt intake increases throughout the day. Seriously, it's a nice addition.
More thoughts on the highlights on this year's fest as it draws to a close tomorrow. In the meantime, some tips for any attendees venturing out tomorrow:
Arrive on time, if not early. Lines stretched all the way down to Michigan Avenue just to enter the event this morning, and formed rapidly in front of the tasting and sipping stations inside. They only got longer as the day went on.
It may seem tempting to follow the smell of burning charcoal and dive headlong into the Allen Brothers tasting pavilion that's closest to the entrance. Don't do it -- grab a pour of wine (or an entire bottle of Stella, Leffe or Hoegaarden, with complimentary branded glassware!) first, and sip while you wait to make your way down to the chefs. This is actually a good practice to observe before getting into just about any food line.
If you're going in a group, make it work for you. Split up to gather multiple plates for your entire party and halve the time it takes to try two separate dishes. The hunter-nester division also works well, where one member of your group sets up camp at a table or cushy bench and the other reels in the goods. (This seems to be particularly popular with the stroller-pushing set.)
If the weather's anything like today, bring along some fingerless gloves. Just in case. You won't feel cold, based on the amount of alcohol available to you. But losing a plate due to stiff fingers would be a darn shame.
If you're getting a little wobbly after hitting up the center aisle of the festival, head to the Labriola Bakery station. They've got bread. Lots and lots of bread. Served with meatballs, pasta, or a caprese-style tomato and mozz slice. Or served with...more bread. It's great bread, and a wise idea.
If you've learned valuable lessons from Day 1, please post them in the comments. (And remember, we want to see your photos in the GB Flickr pool.) See you back there tomorrow!
Or sweet teeth. You'd better have more than one if you're going to survive the Andersonville Dessert Crawl, a 24-stop tour of the neighborhood's restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops on Sunday, October 3. Choose from the Sugar Route, the Spice Route, or hit up both with the Everything Nice Route.
Pick up your passport at the Swedish American Museum at 2 p.m., then take the next three hours to stuff your face with sweets from Terry's Toffee, In Fine Spirits, Big Jones, Ceres' Table, The Coffee Studio, and more. Advance tickets are $25 for one route, or $40 for both routes; for more info, call (773) 728-7552 or click here for tickets and a full listing of participating venues.
Chicago's other taste festival returns this weekend to the green pasture of the Prtizker Pavilion, where Chicago Gourmet will be setting up camp for its third annual appearance. Tickets are sold out at this point for everything but the Hamburger Hop event taking place tomorrow night ($75 for beer, wine and many many burgers), although I did notice that the Illinois Restaurant Association's event page allows you the option of transferring tickets -- should, say, your friend with a two-day Grand Cru pass suddenly meet with an unfortunate, unseasonal icy patch on their way down their apartment stairs... Those Dine Around receipts will also get you in, if you had the forethought, appetite and budget to participate.
The set-up of the event seems to be in keeping with the past two years--attendees will be able to explore culinary groupings (organized this year by category, Mediterranean, Gastropub, French, Asian, Dessert, etc., instead of a randomized association understood only by the event organizers) featuring bites from chefs all over town, watch cooking demonstrations in the stage area that's usually restricted only to the performers and roadies, allow Alpana Singh and lots of other local celebs to discuss everything from wine pairings to sustainable seafood without the pesky distancing effect of your TV screen or an annoyed dining room of hungry people willing you to get out of the damn kitchen, my hollendaise is growing a skin back there. And of course drink lots and lots of booze in tiny cups. Seriously. Lots.
Attracting a major sponsor in Bon Appetit magazine seems to be helping the festival firm its offerings up across the board, providing a financial as well as physical center for the event (the publication has its own pavilion tent, where the wares of the other sponsors can be sampled, and executive chef Cat Cora will presumably be hanging out between cooking demonstrations). Other major sponsors, Allen Brothers Steaks and the awesomely named Supreme Lobster & Seafood Company will also host dedicated tasting areas where the goods will be, unsurprisingly, steak- and seafood-oriented. And for the first time ever, attendees will be able to purchase food to take home. Not that this will curb the line of guests chugging their last dregs of wine before the security guards will allow them to hobble out towards Michigan Avenue. But it's surely one of the most sensible business evolutions in the Chicago Gourmet model -- extending the experience, building those chef- or brand- (or...chef-brand) relationships, and probably encouraging people to come back for more next year. We'll see. (If it's all floral honeys and dipping sauces, I'll be way less excited to pull out my wallet.)
Check back for insights and reflections over the next couple days. And if you've already got your ticket in hand and are trying to figure out which pair of eating pants offers the most style, be sure to post any of your photos to the GB Flickr pool.
Squeeze another item onto your calendar, and put on the elastic-waist pants: yet another delicious and cheap food-related event on Saturday, Sept. 25: free Capannari's ice cream at the Chicago French Market. Ambassadors from the Cooking Channel's new ice cream truck will be giving away free scoops of the Mount Prospect company's ice cream, along with Cooking Channel apparel, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Flavors include 10-Year Aged Madagascar Vanilla, Chocolate Mint Mousse, Black Forest Licorice, and -- if you're lucky -- the Chocolate-Hazelnut Ganache that earned kudos from Bon Appetit.
"I do enjoy a cold one now and then," says Erin Kearns, a chair of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Festiv-ale. The Greater Illinois chapter's fourth annual "celebration of beer" on Friday, September 24, will bring together beer lovers like Kearns and supporters of the foundation (a cross section that probably overlaps quite a bit). This year's Festiv-ale has 11 vendors showcasing their wares, including local breweries Piece, Walter Payton's Roundhouse, Flossmoor Station, Half Acre, and Brickstone.
For $50, you can get into the main event at the Ravenswood Event Center (4011 N. Ravenswood Ave), which includes unlimited tastes from all 11 breweries and food from Pompei, Wow Bao, and Cabot Creamery. The VIP section, which you can get into for an additional $25, includes a separate tasting area, a gift bag with goodies like Two Brothers beer and Qdoba gift certificates, and private bathrooms--"always a plus at a beer tasting!" says Kearns.
Oh, and there'll be food. Lots of food, from vendors like Soul Veg, Upton's Naturals, Raw Creations, and the city's vegan and vegetarian mainstay, Chicago Diner. The mania takes over the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse on October 9.
Many know that Logan Square has, in the recent past, been a heavily Hispanic neighborhood. Tacos, burritos, and enchiladas can be found on every other block. But what about arepas? Pupusas? Jibaritos? Looking to educate and expand cultural horizons, Multilingual Chicago is hosting the Logan Square Latino Culinary Tour this Saturday, September 25, at 11am. On the tour not only will you get to sample these items and more, you'll also get a brief Spanish lesson so you can properly pronounce and order them in their native language.
Growing Home, a nonprofit that provides job training for homeless and low-income Chicagoans in organic agriculture, will host an Employment Training Program Showcase on Saturday, September 25.
The showcase will be at the Wood Street Urban Farm, located at 5814 S. Wood, and will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission includes refreshments made from the farm's seasonal organic produce; access to the farm stand; tours of the farm; and workshops on brewing compost tea, keeping produce fresh, growing garlic, building an urban root cellar, and growing an indoor salad garden.
Suggested donation is $5, or a big wad of the used plastic grocery bags you've got stuffed under your sink; Growing Home can re-use them at the farm stand.
I'm not an artist, nor would I ever claim to be. Sober. I would never claim to be an artist, sober. Get a few glasses of wine in me and I may think I'm the next Mondrian. I am assuming this is the basic idea behind Bottles and Brushes, a company that invites you to lose the structure and just paint! With events set up around the city, Bottles and Brushes wants you to gather a group of friends and come paint. Offering different themes for different events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. They even offer private and corporate parties for a fairly reasonable cost (as little as $35 a person). Check out their list of upcoming events here.
The gilded palace on State and Monroe was feted yesterday afternoon in honor of its 140th birthday. A lunchtime celebration blocked off Monroe from State to Wabash, resplendent with a marching band, an enthusiastic crowd and a slew of dignitaries on hand to celebrate. Emcee Bill Kurtis did the honors of overseeing the event, introducing speakers such as Mayor Daley, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, Thor Equities CEO Joseph Sitt, and Palmer House General Manager Dean Lane.
Mayor Daley speaks at the Palmer House 140th Birthday Celebration
Although it was the Palmer House's day, Mayor Daley was the focus of most of the attention, drawing immense praise from Sitt for "welcoming this Brooklyn boy into Chicago," and even drawing plaudits from his oft-time City Council nemesis Ald. Reilly. When General Manager Dean Lane unveiled the plaque marking the Palmer House an official City landmark, Monroe St became awash in celebration and confetti.
Mayor Daley, Palmer House General Manager Dean Lane, Ald. Brendan Reilly, Ald. Emma Mitts landmark the Palmer House
Most fun of all though, everyone was invited into the lobby of the grand dame for some champagne and delicious three-layer vanilla and chocolate cake... in the shape of the Palmer House itself!
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the day Miguel Hidalgo, priest, academic and revolutionary, called on his Mexican compatriots to rise up against their Spanish colonizers. It's a historic day, to be sure, one deserving of serious reflection and oration -- as well as celebration.
For those of you who have yet to know the true pleasures of the margarita, make today the day you vow to cast off your sour mix and unfetter yourselves from the inhumanity that is frozen-margaritas-in-a-bucket! Join us in our ongoing quest for the best margarita in Chicago!
And, though we can't be together, know that today we raise a well-balanced margarita in salute to Mexico's Bicentennial!
Traditional buffalo wings are a lot of things; they're spicy, they're greasy, they're sloppy, and more often than not they're cheap, so nobody really minds that they're spicy, greasy, and sloppy, especially since they're being soaked in blue cheese dressing. Despite (or perhaps because of) being a no-frills food, people love wings, so one might wonder what would happen if wings were actually prepared with a little more sophistication.
Enter Rockit Bar & Grill's Second Annual WingIT, a week-long celebration of wings where a different specialty gourmet wing is prepared each night. Rockit's WingIT menu includes sauce and dipping side variations inspired by Executive Chef James Gottwald's favorite taste profiles and pairings, as well as his signature Jumbo Chicken Wings.
I love punny sandwich names as much as the next person, but the Happy Bodega food truck has taken it to a...level. Some kind of level. Celebrating Entourage's arrival in syndication (bye-bye, sex scenes), Happy Bodega is giving away free food this Friday, September 17 -- with sandwich names like the "Hug It Out Ham Baguette" (ham and gruyere) and the "The Veg-'E' Baguette"(brie, tomato, and basil) -- oh, it's "E" because there's a character called "E"!
The truck will be parked in the Loop (Jackson and Wells) from 11am-3pm, and in Wicker Park (Damen and Milwaukee) from 6-10pm. It's probably as close to Jeremy Piven as you're ever gonna get. CORRECTION: The Happy Bodega truck will be in Wicker Park (Damen and Milwaukee) from 6-10pm this Friday, Sept. 17, and in the Loop at Jackson and Wells for lunch from 11am-3pm on Oct. 1.
As we reported last week, today, restaurants are giving away free desserts from 1-3pm or for every two diners at your table, in honor of the latest addition to the Top Chef family, Just Desserts. You can find the participating restaurants by checking out Open Table, or go to their Facebook page and click around on the interactive map. Either way - find a free dessert and check out Top Chef Just Desserts after the season finale of Top Chef tonight. Oh, and you should probably root for Malika Ameen as she is representing Chicago!
Some last-minute cancellations means there are a few seats open for the second night of Baconfest Chicago's satellite dinner at Chalkboard, tonight at 6:30pm. The four-course dinner costs $45 per person plus tax and tip, and features bacon in every course -- plus drinks by Templeton Rye and Bisol Jeio. RSVP to email@example.com if you're interested.
Within the last month or so, there have been numerous posters appearing in the windows of various establishments along Taylor St. and its environs, exclaiming that "Frank Balestri's 4th Annual Sopressata Contest" is coming up towards the end of September. A little internet research revealed the full scoop on Balestri's annual event, and maybe even more importantly, came courtesy of a website that should be a requisite bookmark for anyone who ever needs to access the internet at any point in time...ever. That site would be www.sopressata.org, where the home page states "we support the nationwide homemade sopressata making community." This, folks, is why the internet is a great good thing.
As it turns out, Chicago cop Balestri is a bit of a sopressata kingmaker, and every fall, he holds a sopressata contest in which people from all over Chicagoland and beyond come to partake in the festivities. It all happens on a Sunday afternoon in the western suburb of Countryside at the Park Place of Countryside Banquet Hall. Beginning at 3pm, entry is just $10 (of which a portion is donated to the Italian American War Veterans Post) and includes dinner, a cash bar, and of course, being present for the awarding of best homemade sopressata. Will Sharon Gilberto maintain the throne? Find out!
Park Place of Countryside Banquet Hall is located at 6240 Joliet Road, Countryside, IL 60525. Call (708) 588-1756 for further details.
OpenTable and the new "Top Chef" spin-off series "Just Desserts" are promo-partnering to give you a free dessert on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Check out OpenTable for the list of 100 eligible Chicagoland restaurants and the fine print (it's actually a dessert to split, and you have to order an entree... but still! Mostly free dessert!) and to set up a reservation. Ironically, or not, Stephanie Izard's restaurant is not on the list. But plenty of others are. Celebrate the "Top Chef" Emmy win, and make Gail Simmons proud!
Tickets, which are $40 in advance or $50 at the door, include beer, food, and coffee (natch) -- all unlimited. Come hungry. And thirsty. And bring your wallet: the silent auction will feature limited-edition large format beers, gift certificates, a ski trip, and more.
West Town auction house Wright puts 309 lots up for bidding next Tuesday, September 14 at its Post War + Contemporary Art sale, including a number of food-inspired works that may be of interest to folks with some extra cash.
One of the sale's big ticket items is a linoleum cut print by Wayne Thiebaud, an artist who has made a distinguished career of painting pastries. Nevermind that this Boston cream pie (that is actually cake) lacks the traditional chocolate frosting; Thiebaud's Boston Cremes (1970) has an estimate of $18,000-$25,000.
If you're interested in seeing your favorite locally made product--or selling your own wares--on the shelves of Whole Foods, they want your business. Come to the South Loop store (1101 S Canal) on Thursday, September 23 for Project: Local, a meet-and-greet with WF brass who will give you guidance on how to bring your stuff to their shelves. Event runs 5-8pm.
While you could shell out 150 bucks on a one day pass you may want to consider making better use of your hard earned cash by dining out at specified restaurants between Aug. 30 and Sept. 26 to earn a free ticket to the event. All you need to do is order from the prix-fixe menu at any five participating Dine Around restaurants, save the receipts, and present them in a special receipt holder (available at any one of the restaurants) at registration.
So, we missed the first, August 16 installment of Whole Foods Market's Beer vs. Wine Trilogy, in which sommeliers and cicerones (who knew that was the word for a beer expert? Not me!) bring out the big guns to see which of their chosen beverages tastes the best with food. Part 2, on Sunday, August 29, takes place at the Center on Halsted, above the Halsted & Waveland Whole Foods. Taking advantage of the city's new street-food trend, it pairs beer and wine with grub from local street vendors.
The third and final, "most epic," according to the release, event happens on Sunday, September 12, at the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. The two drinks will battle it out over dishes from some of Chicago's top restaurants including Hot Chocolate, DMK Burger Bar, and Kuma's Corner.
Ultimately, there's no overall winner -- it will depend on what tastes best to you. But still, it would be nice to settle once and for all whether burgers go best with wine or beer. My tastebuds are still unclear.
Previously run by Maria Marszewski since 1986, and now run by her sons Ed and Mike, Maria's has undergone a bit of a face lift while still keeping that package store charm.
With some new furnishings (including beer bottle chandeliers and butcher's block tables), a bit of rearrangement, and a dash of local art, Maria's is looking to be less of an "old man dive bar" and more of a community bar.
The bar will have ten beers on tap, and about 100 other micro and specialty brews available as well.
Swing by on Friday (27 August) between 7pm and 2am for the grand opening!
Gapers Block's Andrew Huff and Cinnamon Cooper will be turning 15 pounds of Hormel's Black Label bacon into 15 pints of tasty Bacon Jam for the attendees of The Bacon Takedown to sample and vote on. Come join us on Sept. 11 at 1:30pm at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. And while the recipe doesn't appear in Cinnamon's cookbook Everything Cast-Iron Cookbook, we can promise we'll be making this bacon in several cast-iron pans.
4. Beginning at 10am, on opening day only, a name will be drawn every nine minutes to win a free burger meal weekly for one year.
5. At 9pm one winner will be chosen to win a free burger meal weekly for life.
6. In addition, for the first nine days of operation any guest who is "dressed to the nines" in formal wear (a tuxedo or evening gown) will receive a free meal (entree, side and drink). Business wear is not eligible.
7. We're not done yet. The restaurant's nine signature burgers will be featured, one a day, for the first nine days the restaurant is open. Trying to watch your waistline? Three of the nine are signature Lean and Green burgers: Islander (Ahi tuna), Yin & Yang (edamame), and Town & Country (turkey).
8. Wonder how they taste? To make sure their menu is up to par, Tom and Eddie's served entrees to 1,200 taste testers over the course of eight weeks using the kitchens of the Culinary Arts Program at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
9. Still picky? The "Me, Myself and I" burger allows customers to create their very own sandwich from a menu of 41 different items including cheeses, toppings, sauces and rolls.
The Chicago Food Film Festival, a weekend-long celebration of food on film (September 24-25 at the MCA Warehouse, 1747 W. Hubbard), kicks off with Eat Your Fill, a documentary about a man's mission to eat every deep fried or be-sticked item at the Wisconsin State Fair, to Celeriac, a short-form thriller (no joke). Documentaries about farmstands, soda making, oysters, and raising grass-fed beef are also on the schedule, along with food; each night of the festival features dishes paired with the night's cinematic offerings. Eats from DMK Burger Bar accompanies Saturday night's showing of an abbreviated version of Hamburger America. Tickets for both nights start at $25.
The last time you were presented with 15 pounds of bacon to transform into your own culinary masterpiece you were living on a private island in the middle of the Pacific, your bank account balance was an infinite number not yet in existence, and you had your own crew of miniature robots at your beck and call. And then your roommate rudely woke you up to tell you that you slept past your alarm and were late for work yet again.
Now is your chance to live out at least some of your dreams when the Bacon Takedown makes it's way to Chicago this September.
Chicago TomatoFest 2010 is in full swing, and starting tomorrow, BLTs will become philanthropic. The Old School BLT Bonanza is a sandwich-based fundraiser for PreSERVE, a collaboration between Slow Food Chicago, NeighborSpace, Chicago Honey Coop, and the North Lawndale Greening Committee that operates a community garden at 12th and Central Park. The once-vacant lot is now producing sweet potatoes, crowder peas and black-eyed peas; organizers are raising funds to purchase tools, build a storage shed, create informational signage, and erect low fences.
Dine at restaurants like Uncommon Ground, City Provisions, Custom House Tavern, and Osteria Via Stato, and order a BLT made with locally produced heirloom tomatoes and heritage pork. For each sandwich ordered, participating restaurants will donate 50 cents to the PreSERVE garden project. The fundraiser runs through September 19.
Staking their claim in the former Pili Pili and Aigre Doux space, the folks over at Gilt Bar at 230 W. Kinzie are hoping for some staying power with their mix of dark decor, classic drinks, and simple, yet elegant menu.
Join them Tuesday, August 24th when they team up with local beermasters Goose Island for a 4-course fixed price food-and-beer pairing, all for just $60.
You've been looking longingly at shiny new pencils and today's version of the trapper keeper, but it's time to smarten up, grown up style. Ian's Pizza in Wrigleyville & Sheffield's Bar are hooking up to host their second annual Pizza and Beer School. Your class schedule is as follows:
Mac n' Cheese pizza with Lagunitas Czech Style Pils
Dimo Florentine pizza (feta, chopped tomato, & spinach) with Ommegang Hennepin Saison
Sheffield's BBQ pizza with Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale
S'more pizza with New Holland Dragon's Milk and Framboise half & half
Get schooled Wednesday, August 25th at 7:00 pm ready with $30, an empty stomach and summer-lulled mind.
258 N. Sheffield Ave
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773.716.7200.
Sap up the few remaining days before vacations end and the sun goes down after lunchtime (it's coming, folks) with the Chicago History Museum this Thursday (6:45-10pm) for a trolley tour of some of the city's pubs along the lake and river; admission $25-30. If you're looking for something more concrete (heh) the same night, join Sean Parnell of the Chicago Bar Project for a trolley tour of several west side pubs; you'll get a copy of his book along with a primer on local bar history.
South Loop punk rock bastion and bar food standard-bearer Reggie's Rock Club is throwing a Sunday shindig for all White Sox and pork lovers. This coming Sunday, August 15th, Reggie's will be throwing an all-you-can-eat pig roast for only $10. If you love the White Sox- no matter what happens the next two evenings against the Minnesota Twins- and would like to see them play the Detroit Tigers the same afternoon, Reggie's is offering a deal for just $20 where you can chow down on some pig AND get a ticket to the game. Hell, the Reggie's Party Bus will even provide transportation to-and-fro the ballpark. The Party Bus leaves Reggie's at 12:30pm. Pig Roast to follow completion of game. Call the good folks there for more details at (312) 949-0120.
Organic, locavore neighborhood grocery store Green Grocer, 1402 W. Grand Ave., is hosting a BBQ to share their fare on Sunday, August 15th. Drop by between noon and 4pm and savor Mint Creek lamb and South Pork Ranch burgers and pork chops fresh off the grill, fresh fruit from Seedling Fruits and quench your thirst with Goose Island and Two Brothers.
Suggested donation of $5 is requested to help GG and their farms cover costs. [via]
The menu is a traditional Indian "thali," a selection of vegetarian dishes each in its own bowl, arranged on a tray. The food is prepared by Karma Kitchen's volunteer staff, and is free, but only in a sense -- your meal is paid for by the diners before you. You're then expected to pay for the meal of the people who take your place. From the site:
Run by volunteers, our meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance.
Back in 2008, Sarah Kavage began thinking about her relationship to food, the food's relationship to commodity trading and the commodity trading's relationship to Chicago. As Chicagoans, we're located smack in the middle of the US grain belt and if you stand at Lasalle and Jackson and look up, you'll see a statue of Ceres, the goddess of grain, announcing your arrival the grain world's epicenter. That brought a Seattle-based artist and urban planner Sarah Kavage and her project, "Industrial Harvest" to Chicago. Her goal is to take one unit of financially exchange traded wheat out of the system to 'de-commoditize' the commodity and use it for it's original purpose: feeding people.
After a busy summer of trading wheat at the CME and learning how futures contracts are exchanged, tracking how the contracts are delivered from grain elevators and then ground into flour, she has had her hands in every bushel (and now bag) along the food chain. In June, Sarah bought 1,000 bushels of commodity wheat from an Indiana grain elevator and had it trucked to a family owned mill to be ground into flour. These days, she has been handing it out at farmers markets, baking breads with culinary school students and giving it away to organizations who focus on providing food to hungry Chicagoans.
Hungry for more than a cold brew and the standard festival band? Along with merchants, local restaurants and live entertainment this year's Retro on Roscoe street festival (2000 - 2300 W. Roscoe) will feature the annual Windy City Chili Cook-Off showcasing the entries of 25 cooks. On both Aug. 7 and 8 a $5 donation lets festival goers sample chili across three entry categories: chili, chili verde and salsa. See a detailed schedule of the cook-off here.
Join drinking enthusiast and author Sean Parnell Thursday, August 19 (6-10pm) for a crawl around historic pubs of the West Side. A former betting parlor, a bar mentioned in a Nelson Algren story, and the city's first beer bar are some of the stops. Trolley transportation is provided and you'll get a copy of Parnell's book Historic Bars of Chicago. Tickets $30 each, $50 for two.
Flirty Cupcakes normally cruises the streets of Chicago delivering treats from a van called "Big Blue" and letting customers know where to find 'em by updating their Facebook and Twitter feeds. But on Tuesday, August 10 you won't need to check their Twitter feed to find them, head on over to Shoreline's Navy Pier (Ogden slip) dock and get ready for one sweet night!
The Flirty Cupcakes Cruise is being held on Tuesday, August 10 at 7 pm and you're invited! For $30 dollars you'll sample Flirty Cupcakes minis, drink champagne (there's also a cash bar), and enjoy a gorgeous cruise on Lake Michigan.
There are only 80 tickets available, so don't wait to snap up these tickets!
And if you want something savory prior indulging on the Flirty Cruise, Harry Caray's Tavern on Navy Pier is offering ticket holders a 10% discount on dinner before the cruise!
I had the "Curious George" last week and it was phe-nom-nom-nom-enal!
Didn't you read something recently about the Chicago French Pastry School? Oh you did, and you were so so so intrigued, but not quite ready to fork over a pile of dough to go and learn how to make dough at the school? An intermediary experience is now available! Or rather will be, September 15, when the documentary Kings of Pastry opens September 15. The doc, from the production company that brought Stonewall Uprising out earlier this summer, follows Chicago French Pastry School co-founder Jacquy Pfeiffer as he returns to his homeland to vie for a title at the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France -- a never-before-filmed competition to determine the best craftsmen in French pastry. Did someone say "sugar sculpture"? (The LA Times gave the doc a nice review following its showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June.)
This week is National Farmers Market Week and in Chicago, we're celebrating by hunting for a Master of the Market.
Three renowned Chicago chefs will compete in the Country Chef Challenge Thursday, August 5th at the Daley Plaza Farmers Market starting at 11 am. Chefs Tony Priolo of Picolo Sogno, Patrick Fahy of Blackbird and Ivan Yuen of Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula Hotel will hit the market, shop for produce and make their winning dish from fine Midwest goods, in hopes of earning the title Master of Market. The chefs will select the goods with agile discretion and then demonstrate their breakneck cooking skills as they are only allowed 30 minutes for drafting and shopping a menu and 30 minutes of prep all in the midst Daley Plaza.
Schedule of Events
11:30 Chefs begin shop the Midwest's finest produce at Daley Plaza Farmers Market
12:00 Culinary frenzy begins
12:30 Knives down, plates are presented to judges; judges taste, deliberate, discuss, decide
1:00 Master of Market is announced
Country Financial is giving away 500 canvas market bags before and after the event and has further details on their website.
In preparation for next Thursday's Taste of the Nation, Matt Maroni of Gaztro-Wagon will have a participating guest chef from ToTN each day on board with him through next Thursday, selling his naanwich magic, along with a giveaway for free tickets to ToTN! As of a few minutes ago, Gaztro-Wagon (along with today's chef, Philip Foss of Lockwood) was scouting out places near Jackson and LaSalle--when you find the truck, say the code word "Aragon" and perhaps you'll be the lucky winner.
I don't have a particularly sophisticated wine palate, and I envy those who can taste the subtle differences between a 2002 and a 2006 cabernet sauvignon ("it was a good year!"). So when I walked into the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's July 27 Twilight on the Rooftop event, I was ready to learn. Held at the James Hotel downtown, the dance company's third annual fundraiser offered tastes from 13 Napa and Sonoma wineries--including some wines that are only available in limited amounts.
Like the 2005 Corison Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, for example: the winemaker, Cathy Corison (one of the first female vintners in Napa), only made about 300 cases. Squeezed from 40-year-old vines, the saleswoman at the table explained, it's hard to make much more than that because old vines don't yield a lot of fruit.
The Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival kicks off tonight in Logan Square (Gapers Block is a sponsor!). If you head that way, take a moment to celebrate the combined arts of food and entrepreneurship at Logan Square Kitchen's pop-up restaurant. Located in the middle of the action at 2333 N. Milwaukee, LSK's incubator space will host Chef Bill Kim and Chef Jason Hammel for two days only of urban picnic fare and coffee and doughnuts, respectively all priced between $2-5. Follow the menu details (and voluteering needs) over at their Twitter feed. Time Out also has the full menu on hand. The goods will be cash only, served from 11am to 5pm.
The pop-up food will be designed for optimal portability, since seating is limited. So if you need a place to camp out for a bit, head just to new neighbor Cafe Mustache, which just opened this past Monday and will be featuring both Arts Festival art and music, at 2313 N. Milwaukee.
Have you been bit by the locavore bug? Are you shopping at Green City and scorning avocados at your Dominick's? Or maybe you haven't yet been sipping on the Kool-aid but want to know what all this fuss is about? Fresh, the movie, wants to take on the same enemies as Food Inc, but takes a different, breathe-in-the-country-air approach. Champions of the fight are highlighted in their element: you meet the farmers on homesteads and urban agriculturists fighting the good fight day in and day out. Check the NYTimes' sniffoutwhen fresh air blew into the Big Apple.
Fresh starts a weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., July 30; see the full schedule on the film center's website. At the 5:45pm screening on July 31, The Talking Farm will lead a post-film discussion. Tickets available here.
Located kitty-corner from the Green City Market at Clark and Lincoln, Perennial has first dibs on the freshest local fare all summer long. To show off this good fortune, the restaurant is hosting a free monthly event through September featuring cocktails made with ingredients purchased at the market.
I attended the July event last Wednesday, which set up a friendly competition between Benjamin Schiller, head mixologist at Boka Restaurant Group, and Danny Shapiro, head bartender at Perennial. Whose cocktail was the (market) freshest? Find out after the jump.
If eating a slowly roasted pig isn't gluttonous enough for you, try eating one that's basted in beer and bacon fat. Oh, and I forgot to mention the "weave of hickory-smoked bacon on its back." You can stuff yourself and come back for more at Paddy Long's all-you-can-eat pig roast, every Friday and Saturday starting today through the end of the summer. $22 (but plenty of places offer a $10-off deal); no reservations necessary (but to ensure a spot, you can book online); Paddy Long's, 1028 W. Diversey Pkwy, 7-9pm.
Photo courtesy of baconfestchicago.com.
No plans for this Saturday night? Why not beat the heat with something chilly, delicious...and free!
The new Kenmore Live Studio in River North is hosting a preview event for the upcoming Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival. Local ice cream makers ("micro-creameries") will be on hand to show off their flavors, and Chicago baking celeb Michelle Garcia (Bleeding Heart Bakery) will be giving a baking demonstration in the studio. Additionally, live music will be provided by Liquid Soul.
The event lasts from 7:00-9:00 p.m. this Saturday, July 17. The baking demo will begin at 7:30. For more information, visit facebook.com/kenmore or call (312) 265-0871. The Kenmore Live Studio is located at 678 N. Wells.
To honor the peasants who stormed the Bastille in 1789, the Alliance Francaise will hold a Bastille Day celebration tonight along with the French American Chamber of Commerce. Crepes, raffles, singing, and more crepes are on the menu. Event runs 6-8pm at 54 West Chicago; admission is $15 for members of the sponsoring organizations, $20 for non-members
Kuma's Corner (2900 W Belmont) hosts its fifth annual Neighborhood Block Party this Saturday starting at 11:30am. A long list of metal and rock bands, food (although none of it from Kuma's regular menu, FYI) and the familiar feeling of standing outside of Kuma's for several hours (although this time it's not for your table to be readied) are on the bill.
Avery New World Porter
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
Cerise by Founder's
Dark Horse Amber Ale
Eel River Certified Organic Porter
Fort Collins Chocolate Stout
Goose Island Summertime Ale
Harpoon Summer Beer
Iron City Lager
Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam
Krankshaft by Metropolitan
Louie's Demise by MKE Brewing Co
Moose Drool by Big Sky
New Belgium Springboard
Ommegang Hennepin Ale
Pullchain Pale Ale by MKE Brewing Co
Red's Rye by Founder's
Summer Shandy by Leinenkugel
The Poet by New Holland
Unibroue La Fin du Monde
Victory Brewing Golden Monkey Ale
Xingu Black Lager
Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Ziedler-brau by MKE Brewing Co
Last weekend an organic and sustainable farm that provides local CSA shares was hit by a tornado. Genesis Growers is seeking volunteers who are willing to pack a lunch and head to the farm for a half-day of weeding by hand. If you can help volunteers will meet at Southport Grocery and Cafe (3552 N Southport, Chicago) at 8am on Saturday. The only tools you need are two hands and a big heart.
When I think of Austria and picnics, I think of Julie Andrews and the von Trapp children skipping merrily through the Alps with baskets full of, oh, I don't know, sheep's milk cheese, sausages and berries. For whatever reason, my mind doesn't drift to dreamy Vienna. But with its pocket parks and coffee house culture, it's actually no stretch to imagine a perfectly lovely Viennese picnic.
Perhaps that's the theory behind Julius Meinl's Summer Picnic July 22 at the Southport location, which will feature All-American menu with Viennese touches created by Chef Jeff Adamek, who recently created several new farm-fresh dishes for Meinl's daily menu. For $40 per person ($20 per child), picnic-goers will feast on smoked chicken with sausages, summer vegetable succotash, house made pickles, a sampling of Midwestern cheeses with apricot vanilla jelly, roasted corn with smoked paprika, lime and cilantro, grilled peach salad, potato salad with bacon, mini sandwiches, and something called "bruschetta bowls" that sound so creative, I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a knock-off version for my next potluck.
To commemorate tomorrow's five-year anniversary of the passing of weight-challenged (but still totally suave) R&B crooner Luther Vandross, Wiener and Still Champion (802 Dempster, Evanston) will be offering their rendition of his favorite treat, the Luther Burger--a bacon cheeseburger wrapped in a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Rumor has it that Vandross himself invented this delight after running out of hamburger buns.
Rock Bottom Brewery in Warrenville (28256 Diehl Road) will host the unveiling of a malt liquor made from popcorn on Saturday, July 10; they've provided a sneak peak of what's to come. Tickets are $15 and include a souvenir glass and tastings from Goose Island and Flossmoor.
As the city gears up for its annual summer gut-bust at Taste of Chicago, the list of food vendors at this year's Lollapalooza has been revealed to up the ante on Taste. The lineup is being curated by master chef Graham Elliot Bowles, and with numerous local restaurants participating, it's a bit of a foodie's dream. Finally, one can chow down on a Kuma's burger while listening to Soundgarden dig into the back catalog for "Flower." Or nosh on some Trotter's to Go while being whisked away by Grizzly Bear.
Mark your calendars for June 29: the Fulton River District and Blommer Chocolate Company will be holding an outdoor showing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the superior Gene Wilder version) at dusk (~8:45pm) at Fulton River Park (601 West Kinzie). The exciting part? They will be giving out 1,000 chocolate bars beforehand, some of which will have Golden Tickets (wow! really!) for gift certificates at restaurants (among them Province, Alinea and Prairie Fire) and other fun prizes. Get there early.
UPDATE: Alinea will no longer be giving out gift certificates, however Carnivale and the Chicago French Market will be.
Now that one game has ended, a new one emerges: bingo. The creators of the wonderful Soup and Bread series at the Hideout have gone on summer break, but in its place, Veggie Bingo begins tomorrow night. Event begins at 6pm at the Hideout, 1357 West Wabansia; cards are $1 each (or 6 for $5); proceeds benefit local community gardens. Look at these people playing bingo! Join them!
The name Beer Hoptacular conjures a carnival of beer -- an apt description of the two-day event that drew several thousand craft brew lovers to the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown last Friday and Saturday. Breweries included local legend Goose Island and new(er) kid on the block Half Acre, as well as Sam Adams, New Belgium, Bell's and 31 others sampling more than 100 beers. The mood was festive, but a crowd of beer-swilling frat boys this was not: As Flossmoor Station's head brewer Bryan Shimkos put it, the crowd was a nice blend of savvy beer drinkers and home brewers, and people who wanted to try more unusual beers "without having to pay $8 a bottle and then not like it."
I'm the kind of person who handles hard liquor better than beer, so I knew I'd need a strategy to guide my evening, one that didn't include sampling every beer. I decided to focus on fruit-forward beers, skipping roasty stouts and hoppy IPAs in favor of beers that hinted at summer's farmers market bounty.
Regardless which side of the "Foie Gras Wars" you find yourself on, there's no denying its foodie appeal. And after all the controversy a little fatty duck liver caused here in the Windy City, what better place for the first American Foie Gras Museum to make its debut?
Starting tomorrow, June 11, the Foie Gras Museum will open at Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar as a part of Chicago Foie Gras week, which continues through June 19.
In addition to the museum display and a variety of available foie gras dishes ($12), the Foie-Fest will play host to guest chefs throughout the week, and to Mark Caro, author of The Foie Gras Wars, on June 15, beginning at 6pm.
To reserve a spot, call 312-467-0546 or email email@example.com.
If you are one of the lucky few who won't be chained to a work desk tomorrow afternoon, you might want to consider heading to Logan Square. Longman & Eagle began lunch service this week and they are celebrating on Friday, June 4 with free shots of whiskey and beers from 11 am to 3 pm.
Longman & Eagle
2657 North Kedzie Avenue
Right now, I am sitting at Paddy Long's, eating curry chips and watching the Blackhawks game (they just tied the game up, 2-2). I found myself here because it's close to my apartment, they serve Kilkenny (hello, memories from Dublin 2008) and they have TVs. What I didn't expect, however, was the great food and the big sign telling me that on Saturdays (6 p.m.) and Sundays (2 p.m.) they have beer and bacon tastings.
It looks like you have to reserve your spot, so stop in or call if you're planning on coming. I know I'll be spending a Sunday afternoon here soon.
Paddy Long's claims to be the "home of beer and bacon." They've sold me on the beer, I'll let you know about the bacon.
Figuratively, at least. Patrón Tequila is sponsoring a culinary tour to benefit the St. Bernard Project which is still helping people rebuild their homes near New Orleans 5 years after Katrina hit. For $15,000 and some volunteer labor, they're able to rebuild and repair homes. To help them rebuild more homes, Patrón helped them create the Patrón Tequila Epicurean Express. They're arriving in a handful of cities for two nights. The first night is a cocktail party that takes place in a refurbished 1920's rail car. There are unlimited Patrón cocktails, a presentation about the St. Bernard Project from one of the founders, a silent auction, and more. The minimum donation is $50 for what stands to be a feel-good evening, in more ways than one.
The second evening is a sit-down four-course dinner for 20 people. There will be cocktails, dinner, dessert, and a presentation by the founders of the St. Bernard Project and you'll have the opportunity to meet the celebrity chefs who will be cooking your food. The pricetag is $500, but all of the funds are going to fund the organization's efforts to rebuild homes and in the wake of the oil spill in the gulf provide assistance and mental health services to fishermen.
The Chicago events take place June 2-3 and the celebrity chefs are Chef Mark Sparacino of Prosecco and Chef Charlie Trotter, which makes your $500 price tag seem like not such a bad deal after all, eh?
This year the Sweets and Snacks Expo featured hundreds of booths dedicated to chocolate, with over thirty exhibits dedicated to natural and/or organic chocolate. Luckily for me, there were plenty of samples to go around.
Chuao (Chew-Wow) Chocolatier makes bonbons, truffles, hot chocolate and chocolate bars. Everything is made with Venezuelan chocolate and blended natural ingredients. I tried the new Honeycomb bar and was pleasantly surprised by the smooth finish with the snap of the caramelized honey layered throughout. The bars are widely available everywhere from Dean & Deluca to Walmart.
Dove Chocolate featured a wine and chocolate pairing. The idea is to be able to pair affordable wines such as Red Rock Merlot, Mirassou Pinot Noir, Gallo Sonoma Cabernet Sauvigion and McWilliams Shiraz with Dove's Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Smooth Peanut Butter any night of the week. The best part of the tasting was how fruit forward the Red Rock Merlot tasted when paired with the Dark Chocolate, and the idea of entertaining without having to visit numerous specialty shops.
This week, Chicago is a one-stop shop for folks in food-related industries. On Saturday, the National Restaurant Assocation, Hotel-Motel (NRA) Show, the restaurant and hotel industry's largest trade show, opened at McCormick Place. It was joined today by the National Confectioners Associaton's Sweets & Snacks Expo, the largest trade show in the Americas dedicated to candy and snacks.
Over 480 manufacturers with more than 2,000 new confections and snacks will greet visitors to the Sweets & Snacks Expo in the West Building of McCormick Place until Thursday. Big companies like Mars will reveal new varieties of classic products like Pretzel M&Ms and Truffle Crisp 3 Musketeers, while lesser-known manufacturers like Flamous will try to become, well, famous, with unique products like Falafel Chips.
...like this guysays he is, then take your appetite over to Kendall College, whose Dining Room (900 North Branch) has started a monthly dining series to celebrate the Mexican Bicentennial. Kendall's staff is partnering with the Mexican Consulate and tourism bureau to create authentic menus that at Kendall's completely affordable prices (all are way under $100 for a five-course meal) are better than the price of buying that plane ticket to Cozumel. The first event begins May 27 and runs through November.
On Thursday, June 17, 2010 the first annual El Coto De Rioja Chicago Paella Parade will kick off on the rooftop of Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park. Join the Socialites Network of Chicago and the Lincoln Park Young Professionals as they celebrate the cuisine of Spain with El Coto de Rioja Wines. Watch as Chicago chefs and restaurateurs showcase their Paella-making skills. Live music will be provided by Shana Patrone with Bongo Drums DJ Ray and emceed by Fox- Chicago Sports' own Lou Canellis. Enter to win one of several raffle prizes provided by Paul Stuart, Mike George Fitness System, Blue Star Jets, Pratesi Linens and Natural Beauty Med Spa.
Tickets are $30 before June 17 and $40 at the door. For more information, contact Lincoln Park Young Professionals at LPYP@Juno.com or 312-642-5097.
Even though they likely needed down coats and mugs of hot coffee to make it through the cold morning, the Green City Market opened outdoors this morning. Other Farmers Markets opening through Sunday (and their forecast):
Thursday (52/71, Thunderstorms):
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, 7am-3pm
Saturday (48/66, Overcast):
Lincoln Park, Armitage and Orchard, 7am-1pm
61st St. Farmers Market, 6100 S. Blackstone , 9am-2pm
Division Street, 50 W. Division, 7am-1pm
Beverly, 9500 S. Longwood Dr., 7am-1pm
Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis have dominated the music scene in Chicago with their criticism and wit for over twenty years. It's about time they branched off into food. The Sound Opinions duo is co-hosting Eat the Beat, an event that brings two of life's greatest things together - food and music. Eat the Beat will be held at the Blackbird (619 W. Randolph) on Thursday, May 27 to benefit Chicago Public Radio. Blackbird's executive chef Paul Kahan, who also works for the Publican, and Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal are preparing a multi-course dinner inspired by Kot and DeRogatis's musical choices for the night. Lush Wine and Spirits will be providing excellent wine pairings for each dish. No word on what the menu is yet, but I'll venture a guess that it's going to be heavily influenced by rock and roll.
Tickets for the event are $175 which covers you and a guest plus gratuity. All proceeds go to benefit Chicago Public Radio and Sound Opinions and a portion of your admission is tax deductible. Music, food, and a tax write-off? What a deal. Tickets can be purchased here. Dinner starts at 7 pm. Bring your opinions and appetite.
If you're walking down Michigan Ave on Thursday or Friday, don't be surprised when you see an 18-wheeler semi-truck parked outside the Tribune Tower. This truck belongs to Bravo's Top Chef: The Tour 3, a nationwide event bringing your favorite chef'testants and winners from seasons past to your hometown!
This year, season 6 chef'testants Mike Isabella and Kevin Gillespie will be coming to Chicago to serve up a good time! As if you needed an excuse to duck out of work early - this Tour comes complete with food samplings, cooking tips, hole-in-one golfing, and a Quickfire Challenge (or two)! The chefs will host three live shows starting each day at 10:30am, noon, and 1:30pm and each show is an hour long. Space is limited, so seating is on a first come, first served basis. For more details about The Tour, visit www.bravotv.com/thetour.
The James Beard Awards recently honored the nation's foodies (including several Chicagoans); now it's you're chance to meet one of the winners: Randall Grahm of Santa Cruz's Bonny Doon Vineyard is hosting a Tweet Tasting this Thursday evening at Morton's on Wacker (65 E. Wacker).
From 5:30pm to 7pm, guests will get a chance to try several wine and cheese pairings, and hear detailed descriptions of the wines from the celebrated vintner himself. Tickets are $30; if you're more interested in following the event than attending it, tweet will be tagged with "#mortons."
In addition to his Beard Award in the Beverage Cookbook category (for his book, "Been Doon So Long"), Grahm was inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame this year.
312-201-0464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets
Two Brother Brewing Company is at it again. Hosting this year's For The Love of Hops Festival 2010 June 12 at their brewery in Warrenville, they're celebrating that delicious bittering agent during the second annual release of their Hop Juice Double IPA!
There will be guest beers from around the country. Four bands (TBA) will be playing during the day, admission is free, and 50 percent of sponsorship funds will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. You can find out more at the event website here!
For the fourth year running, we made a spring pilgrimage to Munster, Indiana to wait in line with thousands of other beer enthusiasts to buy bottles of Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout at the 3 Floyds brewery.
Every year the crowd grows substantially and the process of securing a limited number of bottles become slightly more complicated. Ticketing servers crash, legal parking is nearly impossible to come by, and finding the end of the mammoth line becomes surprisingly difficult. To be sure, 3 Floyds has created demand for an unnecessarily exclusive product and elicited plenty of complaints along the way, but at the end of the day 3 Floyds makes a damn good beer and throws a damn good party.
Growing Home is holding its eighth-annual benefit dinner on June 3rd. The evening will feature local and sustainable treats from area chefs and caterers, including a cocktail hour with an open wine bar and hors d'oeuvres, and then a seated, three-course meal. Frances Moore Lappé, author of the influential and best-selling Diet for a Small Planet, will give the keynote address. The dinner, which costs $125 per person, isn't cheap but it helps fund Growing Home's job training programs for homeless and low-income individuals in its organic-produce business. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the web site.
Scrape your change bucket for next Wednesday, April 28. Baskin-Robbins is bringing back its annual 31 Cent Scoop Night. From 5 to 10 p.m., at local Baskin-Robbins, customers can scoop up one (or two or three) 2.5 oz of their favorite flavor for 31 cents. In addition, Baskin-Robbins will be making a $100,000 donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and inviting local Chicagoland firehouses to highlight their own fund raising efforts while interacting with their communities.
Looking for a locally made gift for your Mom this Mother's Day? Or just want to expand your kitchen cabinet past its stock of IKEA & Crate and Barrel wares? Well you are in luck. This weekend from 11AM-5PM, CircaCeramics is opening their studio at 3759 N. Ravenswood to sell off lots and lots of their work. I bought a chicago flag mug from their booth at the Wells Street Art Fair last summer and it was quickly become one of my favorites.
Leslie Cooperband of Prairie Fruits Farm will be holding a (free!) cheese tasting at Pastoral's French Market location (131 North Clinton) tonight from 6-7pm. Leslie will also be talking shop about cheesemaking beginning at 5:30pm.
So you've heard of wine and cheese pairings, and maybe even wine and chocolate pairings. But tequila and chocolate? Not so much.
Chicago's own fine chocolate emporium, Vosges Haut Chocolate, has teamed up with Corzo tequilas to show the world that blue agave and cacao are a match made in heaven.
Vosges' Armitage flagship has a liquor licencse, and has been offering wine and beer tastings for some time, as well as selling bottles of wine. This new relationship with Cruz will bring a tequila pairing to their summer menu, and the shop will offer appropriate chocolate bars along with bottles of each mark of the fine tequila-silver, reposado, and añejo.
If you'd like to take part in this celebration of two of the New World's greatest culinary treasures, you needn't wait any longer. Tonight, Vosges Lincoln Park hosts a special ticketed event where the public will be able to try lots of delicious confections (along with complementing tequilas) first-hand.
951 W. Armitage. Tickets are $40; call 773.296.9866 to reserve your spot.
Before you head home for eleventh hour tax preparation, stop at the Hideout for the final Soup and Bread to close out this winter season. They'll have pie, too--and "Hot" Doug Sohn, the nicest guy in the restaurant biz (IMHO), will be making an appearance. Before you get all weepy about the end of this era, never fear--Soup and Bread will hang up its ladel but will return for Veggie Bingo, which begins this summer.
Last night, Time Out Chicago held their 2010 Eat Out awards ceremony, honoring restaurants in two ways: Critics' Picks, and Readers' Choice. The ceremony was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art and was something of a who's-who of Windy City restauranteurs.
The Critics' Picks were a melange of special categories honoring restaurants, foods, chefs, and designers that Time Out's restaurant critics felt deserved some celebrating. Erwin Drechsler of Erwin on North Halsted recieved a lifetime achievement award, handed out by Chicago celeb chef Paul Kahan, who had some celebrating of his own to do later in the evening.
The main event was the Readers' Picks, which were voted on by an estimated 8000 Time Out readers. I present the winners to you below (along with some thoughts of my own and comments on the evening), but I highly enocourage you to check out all the nominees and winners.
Smokey, savory, salted debauchery with a couple hundred of my best friends...
That's right, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to BFC2010. That's Baconfest Chicago 2010 for the uninitiated. Taking over the Stan Mansion (2409 N. Kedzie) in Logan Square, even on the approach from the corner of Kedzie and Fullerton, one could smell a hint of smoky pork goodness on the breeze that only became stronger as one grew closer to the Stan Mansion.
Join Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control for Ham-Bingo tonight at Hamburger Mary's (5400 North Clark) from 8-10pm for a bingo benefit for the animals at CACC.Drink specials, prizes and the letter O are on the menu--fun, right? Cards are $5 for one or five for $20. Come help out some great animals (and while you're at it, adopt one at the CACC facility, 2741 South Western).
So I am a bad Catholic--I don't even ascribe to the population that quietly crowds into churches twice a year in exchange for scarfing down a ham/turkey later on at Grandma's house--but I think I would be very good at being Jewish, as I like their philosophies--and their food. Passover, the holiday that celebrates the escape of the Jewish from enslavement in Egypt, is today. Matzoh (unleavened bread that kicks major ass), gefilte fish (similar to a meatloaf--but of fish), and Charoses (a spread of apples, spices and wine) are a few of the dishes that highlight the holiday.
Cover Lay Down has a nice rundown of Passover-inspired tunes to keep you going today (and for tomorrow's Bedikat Chametz observance).
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which ends today, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is the dinner menu from Boka, 1729 North Halsted:
Appetizer choices include pink peppercorn seared bigeye tuna with cauliflower fondant and Asian pear, or diver sea scallops with Buddha's Hand lemon, braised radish, cockscomb and sunchoke sauce.
Entree selections are Angus tenderloin and short rib with semolina-mushroom galette, saffron-scented cabbage and celery root coulis; and herb-crusted whitefish with lobster agnolotti, trumpet royale mushrooms, boniato and kohlrabi.
Dessert will be a flourless chocolate-espresso cake with malted meringue, pretzels and Guinness ice cream.
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is from Piccolo Sogno, 464 North Halsted:
A first course choice of insalata di pere or the zuppa del giorno. Entrees: battuta di pollo (flattened wood-grilled chicken) or panino di porchetta, followed by biscotti di Piccolo Sogno for dessert.
Starters: insalata di pere and ravioli Piccolo Sogno. Entrees: Porchetta alla Romana and a wood-grilled polletto alla griglia. Dessert: Tortino di Gianduja (a warm hazelnut-chocolate cake) or panna cotta allo zafferano, a saffron-vanilla custard with fresh berries and caramel sauce.
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is from Prairie Fire, 215 North Clinton:
Starters: a farm salad of Three Sisters Garden greens, shaved Parmesan, roasted vegetables, apples and herb vinaigrette. Entrees include a local omelette made with farm eggs, cheddar and Slagel Family Farm ham, a sirloin burger topped with mild blue cheese and served with potato wedges and a thick-sliced grilled tomato. Rich double chocolate cookies and double layer spice cake with cream cheese icing are the dessert choices.
Starters: La Quercia prosciutto and Capriole Farm goat cheese pizza with pea shoot tendrils, crisp apple and sherry-honey vinaigrette, or shrimp rolls with spicy dipping sauce. Entrees: Tallgrass Beef slow-braised barbecue brisket, housemade Italian sausage over creamy local polenta or sautéed Lake Superior whitefish with roasted portobello mushrooms and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Prairie Fire's signature double chocolate cake is for dessert.
In honor of Women's History Month, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs hosted a discussion panel of women business owners at the Chicago Downtown Farmstand last night. These purveyors of local products spoke about how they started their businesses and their experiences as women business owners in the Chicago area.
(Nicole Bergere of Nicole's Divine Crackers)
Nicole Bergere: Nicole's Divine Crackers
Nicole Bergere started her bakery 25 years ago after working in costume and clothing design. Her first loaves were baked in Rogers Park, and with the help of her friend "Little Grace," she soon landed her first big account -- Neiman Marcus. Bergere's company now produces crackers, breads, sweets and sauces for an international market and supplies some of Chicago's top hotels like the Four Seasons, Trump Towers and the Peninsula. She cautioned artisanal business owners seeking to expand to oversee everything and to be careful not to grow too quickly. "There's nothing like having your own business," said Bergere, who is now in her eighties. "All the headaches and all the awards" are yours. "If you believe in yourself, you'll be a success."
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is the menu from Eve, 840 North Wabash:
Starters: Baby spinach salad with white asparagus, eggs, almonds and buttermilk-Parmesan dressing or puree of spring pea soup with pickled ginger-whipped ricotta. Entrees: Smoked salmon bucatini with watercress, capers and Meyer lemon brown butter; dukkah-crusted lamb burger with dried apricot, feta, avocado and harissa mayonnaise; or truffled risotto with Grana Padano and celery root salad.
Starters: Selection of smoked Loch Duart salmon with mushroom conserva and Meyer lemon-caper aïoli; puree of spring pea soup; or warm frisée salad with crispy pork belly, crab fritter, fried egg and rémoulade. Entrees: Cider-brined pork shoulder with mascarpone polenta, crispy kale and peppered maple jus; Rushing Waters trout with caraway-creamed leeks, pickled cauliflower and pumpernickel croutons; or truffled parsnip agnolotti with root vegetable confit and watercress bisque. Desserts are the same as on the lunch menu.
Desserts for lunch or dinner are a chocolate-peanut butter pot de crème with peanut brittle, or a Meyer lemon basil cake with vanilla bean ice cream and basil anglaise.
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is the dinner menu from Hearty, 3819 North Broadway:
Choice of winter salad with fennel, celery root, Granny Smith apple, red onion, blue cheese and shallot-honey vinaigrette; artichoke fritters with lemon cream; or the soup of the day.
Southern fried chicken with bourbon mashed sweet potatoes and creamed collard greens; pulled braised short rib beefaroni with elbow macaroni, oven-roasted butternut squash, grape tomatoes and shallots in Merlot reduction; and foil-wrapped campfire fish with market vegetables, herb butter and housemade potato chips.
S'mores with chewy graham crackers and chile sauce; cornmeal-based Indian pudding made with molasses and spiced maple sour cream; and caramelized pear upside-down cake with cardamom whipped cream.
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is Blackbird, 619 West Randolph:
A condensed version of the prix fixe lunch deal Blackbird offers regularly, albeit at the reduced price of $20. Dishes TBD.
Starters: Endive salad with baby lettuces, potato, basil, Dijon, pancetta and a poached egg; Blue Hill Bouchot mussels soup with whitefish, saffron, garlic and basil; and a charcuterie plate of boudin blanc and veal pancetta with almond yogurt, smoked almonds and lobster roe vinaigrette.
Entrees: crispy black bass with green papaya, dandelion greens, walnuts and charred beef vinaigrette; roasted Colorado lamb saddle with white asparagus, vermouth, fromage blanc and spring pea falafel; and Parmesan pasta with cured egg yolk and crispy radishes.
Dessert: Satsuma chiboust with Campari, pineapple, semolina and Zingerman's Creamery cream cheese ice cream; and Manjari chocolate pavé with tonka bean ice cream and candied cocoa nibs.
Throughout Chicago Chef Week, which runs through Sunday, we will be bringing you a menu from one of the participating restaurants for you to enjoy. Today's spotlight is Big Jones, 5347 North Clark:
Cheddar-herb croquettes with Green Goddess dressing and fried sage, crawfish boudin fritters with frisée and cayenne mayonnaise. Gumbo ya-ya, blackened Gunthorp Farms chicken and cornbread salad, and egg, corn tortilla, chile and cheese casserole. Crispy rice calas with bitter chocolate sauce, frozen Asian pear and coconut salad, and bourbon-raisin bread pudding with crème anglaise, salted caramel and cinnamon toast croutons.
Andouille sausage with pimiento cheese, pickled Laughing Bird shrimp and sesame crackers, or Living Waters Farms lettuces with fennel, celery, blood orange and hearts of palm. Mint Creek Farm lamb daube with carrots, roasted shallots and rosehip puree; Anson Mills farro piccolo with roasted parsnips, asparagus, smoked mushrooms and Medjool dates; and blackened Mississippi catfish with coconut sticky rice, radish-pea shoot salad and green curry broth.
Hoosier Mama Pie Company celebrates its first birthday this week with a few new changes to their operation--and a scavenger hunt. Firstly, they've extended their operating hours on Fridays to close at 9pm, which will be good news to the huge line of pie-seekers that snaked out the door the last time I visited. They will also be starting pie "flights" on Fridays only, where you can select three mini-pieces from a special menu. And as an added treat, sugar cream pies are on sale this week ( a 9" for $15, and 6" for $5).
And finally, Saturday's scavenger hunt will put pie lovers to an amazing test. Participants (teams of 1-3) will compete (puzzles, games, and something involving a digital camera) for a year's supply of pie (say it with me!). Must register in advance by phone. Event begins at noon, 1618 West Chicago.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF Tap Project® returns to Chicago next week during World Water Week (March 21-27). To help bring clean drinking water to children around the world, the Tap Project invites diners to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy free at participating restaurants. The project is in its fourth year and has netted almost $1.5 million. Funds raised this year will go mainly to support Haiti, Central African Republic, Guatemala, Togo and Vietnam. Visit the Tap Project web site for a complete list of participating Chicago restaurants.
The Tap Project kicks off this Friday with a cocktail and four-course dinner party at River North's Sunda (110 W. Illinois St.). Tickets for the dinner are $100 per person and include cocktails and hors d' oeuvres, a four-course family-style menu, open bar including cocktails by Grey Goose Vodka, sake, wine and champagne, tax and gratuity. Cocktail hour starts at at 7:00 pm followed by dinner at 8:00 pm. Festivities continue from 10:00 pm to midnight at Underground (56 W. Illinois St.). For tickets, email email@example.com.
For the beer lovers in Chicago, today represents a pretty good day. Two Brothers Brewing Company is releasing not just one, but two new beers that have been aged in French oak fermentation tanks (called "foudres"): an IPA and a Session Ale.
According to Two Brothers the Resistance IPA is 6.9% alcohol by volume (abv) and clocks in at a whopping 70 international bitterness units (IBU). For comparison's sake, Budweiser clocks in somewhere around 10-12 IBUs and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale (a pretty hoppy ale in its own right) charts at 37 IBUs by their own reckoning. According to Two Brothers, the Resistance IPA is:
"Complex aromas of oak, honeyed malt sweetness, and piney citrus hops leads to a full hoppy middle and a finish that's crisp, oaky and pleasantly lingering."
Their other offering, the Long Haul Session Ale, is a light 4.2% abv and 27 IBUs, and is described as:
"An incredibly drinkable ale, light in body but full of flavor. Oaky notes blend with the complex balance of malt and hops. This is a beer you can enjoy for the long haul."
Both are being released on March 15, 2010, and will be available year round in both six-pack and on draught in and round Chicagoland.
Am I in Camelot? Should I click my ruby slippers and chant a mantra? Today's opening panel discussions at the Family Farmed Expo at the UIC Forum make me wonder just that. Smart, innovative, inspirational, common sense, these describe my thoughts listening today. After the last decade who couldn't be accused of being a bit cynical, and it's not as if that's going away anytime soon.
Or is it?
To hear the song of solid innovative good old American know how is refreshing music to my ears. Hospitals in the Bronx that write a "prescription" to a fruit stand for an apple that you can go pick up for free. Or funding a micro loan of sorts, $10,000 paid back $1,000 a year over 10 years that allows smaller business' a chance to get off the ground without crippling debt and the lender a guaranteed stipend from the government as reward.
Searching for and finding available buildings/spaces and incorporating a community renewal model that takes into consideration the total individual. A place to buy wholesome food, work out and get screened for diabetes while your children play in playlots designed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or are minded by daycare personnel. Taking a more preventative stance as opposed to reactionary. Way cheaper too. And a source of jobs.
Building human capital. Grassroot support and investing in a maybe not quite as bleak future. If this appeals to you, I'd suggest checking out the Expo taking place through Saturday.
If that's not enough then there's the Localicious party taking place Friday night. Twenty-five of Chicago's most far-thinking food operators, be they restaurant, caterer, farm, dairy, brewer or distiller that have embraced the local sustainable movement.
Food for the mind and food for the soul.
Family Farmed Expo and "Localicious"
UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd.
The Illinois Science Council set up some sweet, Chicago-area, deals to help remind us of an important constant in our lives...pi. Pi (as if you don't remember) is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi is normally abbreviated to 3.14 although it continues on indefinitely. Don't worry, you won't have to recite any numbers to celebrate Pi Day on Sunday, March 14, but do bring your appetite to one of the following participating bakeries or restaurants.
Technically, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2. But if you were too busy last Tuesday to whip up a batch of Green Eggs and Ham, despair not: Julius Meinl on 4363 N. Lincoln Ave. is hosting a whimsical family-style feast to celebrate the Good Doctor this Saturday, March 13, at 6 p.m.
Get your Green Eggs and Ham in the form of a green deviled egg with prosciutto. Try the Hook Nook Dogs, Nurnberger sausage with house made baked beans and smoked cheddar cheese. Have your fill of Roast Beast, whole roasted chicken stuffed with parmesan risotto. And don't forget to save room for dessert: Pink Yink Ink Drinks, Sneetch Treats, and Valley of Vung's Chocolate Rocks. (Use your imagine, as Dr. Seuss would have it, or be a big snore and visit Meinl's web site.)
The Lincoln Park/De Paul Neighborhood Choir of Chicago Children's Choir will perform -- and rumor as it the Cat in the Hat might make an appearance! Reserve tickets ($40 for adults, $20 for kids ages 12 and under) by calling 773-868-1876 opt. 5.
"It has a hearty peanut flavor and a crazy texture, like pumpkin pie filling only ... if, you know, pumpkin pie was made from sweet potato and peanuts
That may not sound like a comment, but I have to say that after dishing up soup to several people who seemed either confused or intrigued, I was able to watch them take a taste, furrow their brows, and then nod. There were even a couple of people who came up to say they were really impressed with how good it was. (Thank you highly to them!)
But we're delighted to mention that there has been so much demand (on the part of soup-makers) that they've decided to extend the Soup and Bread event for two more weeks. And it's not just amateur soup-ists any more. Although this week's line-up sounds great. Paul Kahan is going to be making soup on March 17th. A crazy troupe of LTH'ers will be taking over on March 24th. And the world renowned "Hot Doug" Sohn is going to be cranking out something tasty on April 7th (my guess is that it will contain some sort of sausage).
And we also have to take a moment to thank all the generous eaters who have helped to raise more than $3,000 for area charities and food banks. Your evenings spent eating tasty soups is making it possible for those less fortunate to do so as well.
This week, the Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign launches a national effort to increase awareness of what's served in school cafeterias and to secure more funding for the Child Nutrition Act. The program, called Cooking Up Change, kicks off tomorrow with local students from Tilden Career Community High School going to Washington, DC, to serve a healthy meal to members of Congress. The Tilden students won last year's Cooking Up Change cooking contest with a meal of chicken-vegetable jambalaya with jalapeno cornbread and cucumber salad. You can go to the HSC's web site and click on a button to urge your elected leaders to eat a school lunch on March 2. Photo courtesy of Fed Up: School Lunch Project
If you don't know a school kid who is subjected to the salty, processed foods schools around the country serve up every day, you can get a good glimpse at the meals through the Fed Up: School Lunch Project blog, an anonymous diary by a public school teacher.
Mindy Segal's Wicker Park eatery Hot Chocolate celebrates its fifth birthday tonight with a benefit fundraiser for Share Our Strength. Segal will be sharing cooking duties with a bevy of fellow chefs, among them Superstar Rick Bayless, mk's Michael Kornick, and Great Lake's Nick Lessins. Craft beers from Piece, the newly opened Revolution Brewery, Half Acre and Three Floyds add to the fun as well. Whoa! Cocktails at 6:30pm, dinner an hour later. Tickets $150.
As you may know, another week of fine dining at low prices at selected restaurants has begun--Chicago Restaurant Week, which offers prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus at places such as Naha, Boka, and the Gage (through February 28). But before you rush off to make reservations, the AV Club has a nice breakdown of which places are worth the scarlet letter of being the discount diner in the joint (The Lobby, Pane Caldo) and which ones are clearly not worth the effort, and in some cases, are actually making money off your visit.
My recommendation is to hit up Naha; I loved my meal so much that I left my digital camera in the taxi while heading back to work. That's how good it was.
World-famous cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufman, who has carved the likenesses of Katie Couric, Jay Leno and Brett Favre, will be in Niles on Saturday and Sunday. As part of an opening celebration for a new Meijer store, Kaufman will carve the Niles city skyline out of two 150-pound Wisconsin cheddar wheels. Shoppers, and cheese-scultpure afficionados, can watch her work from 10am to 5pm both days, at Meijer, 9000 Golf Road.
A film festival in Beloit, Wisconsin (home of my alma mater) is playing Fish Fry Night, a documentary about the culture of, well, what a lot of folks up north eat on Fridays. The screening is scheduled for this Friday at 5pm, just in time to head to any nearby restaurant afterwards for a plate of the fried good stuff. Because taking the afternoon off for a trip up a merciless I-90 sounds awful, viewing the trailer is completely awesome and sufficient for satisfying your fish fry fantasies:
From what I gather, finding a Sconnie-style fish fry in Chicago is a little difficult. Your thoughts?
I can think of nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of mussels, a glass of delicious beer and crispy french fries. Fans of Goose Island beer are specifically in luck because Bistro 110 is hosting a Beer and Mussels Tasting event this Thursday from 6:30-8:30PM for only $25 per person. This event includes 6 different Goose Island beers, including my favorites Matilda and Snow Wit paired with 6 different preparation of mussels. Goose Island Brewmaster, Greg Hall will also be on hand at the event. Reservations are recommended but not required.
Tired of garish pink hearts, half-withered red roses and chubby cherubs with odd smiles? Yes, I'm talking about Valentine's Day. You can't win--if you lack a mate, you are bound to feel lonelier (and you just survived Christmas!), and if you do have a mate, you end up being accused of either high degree of predictability (candle-lit dinners, boxed chocolates, the said roses) or offending noncompliance with the expectations.
Thankfully, this year, it's not just Valentine's Day that falls on the 14th. It's also the Lunar New Year. Why not ditch the V-Day? Head out to Chinatown, watch the lions dance, get your ear drums blown out by hundreds of firecrackers, and of course, have some tasty dim sum? While you are at it, don't forget to pick up some fa gao (steamed cake that brings prosperity) or nian gao (steamed sweet rice cake traditionally eaten on New Year's Day) from one of the many bakeries there.
Although we're in high season of many restaurant weeks, a one-night-stand will be hitting the city tomorrow that is worth considering: Schubas will be hosting a four-course Bourbon Dinner featuring dishes made with Jim Beam (I'm sure you're familiar with his work). The menu looks intriguing (and booze-soaked): braised pork, lentil cassoulet, and osso bucco paired with (naturally) the devil's water. JB's "Bourbon Professor" Steve Cole will be on hand to chat and to grade your assignments. Admission is $60; event begins at 7:30pm.
Did you know today is National Pie Day? Well, it is! Don't worry if you don't have time to bake a pie or run out and buy one, the American Pie Council will be handing out Bonert's pies in downtown Chicago and surrounding areas.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting a couple of breakfasts with the animals this winter. On Valentine's Day, diners can enjoy breakfast with lions and tigers in the Kovler Lion House. The morning is the cats' most active time of day. Diners will get an early peek at the animals as the zoo's manager of carnivores talks about wild cats and answers questions about the behaviors on display. In March, the zoo will open the Regenstein Center for African Apes early, for another breakfast and talk. Like the big cats, the apes are most active early in the day, so the assistant curator of primates will be on hand to offer insight into ape behavior.
The feast with the felines is on Feb. 14 at 9:30am. Tickets, which must be purchased by Feb. 11, are $65 for zoo members and $75 for nonmembers. Breakfast with the apes is on March 14 at 9am. Tickets are $65 for zoo members and $75 for nonmembers.
Dine out next week at participating Chicago-area restaurants and help victims of Haiti's catastrophic earthquake.
From Jan. 18 to 24, a bunch of local restaurants will offer diners the opportunity to contribute to Haitian relief efforts by adding $1 to their check. At the end of the week, the total amount donated will be forwarded to Heartland Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit sending a team to Haiti next week to participate in on-the-ground assessments and in planning emergency responses with governmental, international, and community groups. The group will focus on immediate protection services, short and long-term psychosocial services, and health care.
Goose Island Clybourn
Old Town Social
Prairie Grass Cafe
UPDATE: Grub Street Chicago has a list of other restaurants raising money for Haiti relief.
If you're the type of person who spends hours online reading recipes and then partial hours sniffing produce in Whole Foods before coming home to create complicated, multicourse meals; and you're also the type of person who wouldn't mind a little friendly "encouragement" from Gordon Ramsay (on national TV), then clear your weekend schedule. Ramsay and Fox are searching for amateur chefs, passionate foodies and accomplished dinner party hosts or hostesses for a U.S. version of Ramsay's cooking-competition "MasterChef." And they're bringing their search to Chicago: On Sunday from 11am to 4pm at Sur La Table in Naperville, casting directors will interview hopeful amateur chefs, who must bring a photo of themselves, a dish (which they'll have five minutes to "plate") and a photo of the dish. Applications and information about casting are available here.
I know that it is only January 11th but drugstores and supermarkets have already created a pink and red-filled aisle in anticipation for Valentine's Day. For many singles in the city, this "Hallmark Holiday" is anticipated with dread. However, Blue Sky Inn, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization established to provide educational, cultural and recreational activities to at-risk youth in Chicago, is eager to give you an event to look forward to. Blue Sky Inn is throwing two Singles Dinner Parties. On Saturday, February 13th and Sunday, February 14th at 7 pm, Blue Sky will be hosting dinner parties just for single folks.
The City's World KItchen learning series kicks off a new year tonight with Rice 101, where you will learn to choose and cook different types of rices. The spring session also boasts a lot of other very cool-sounding classes, such as cooking with cinnamon (January 28), winter greens (February 27) and learning how to make tapas (March 25). All classes are held at the Gallery 37 for the Arts (66 E. Randolph). Tonight's class runs 6-8:30pm and costs $30; pre-registration required.
City Provisions, a catering and event company, hosts monthly events designed to showcase local food and beverage providers. During growing season, they're called Farm Dinners, but now that the harvest is over, it's time for their Supper Clubs.
Because City Provisions is turning their event space into a deli (to open this winter), their monthly gatherings will be held at various venues around the city. Supper Club season kicks off on January 12 with a cocktail party at Architectural Artifacts (4235 N. Ravenswood). Starting at 7 PM, the event will feature Wisconsin's Death Door Spirits, heavy finger foods from City Provisions, and desserts from Floriole Bakery. All Supper Club events cost $75--and that covers everything, including food, drinks, tax, tip, and entertainment.
Join the Culinary Historians of Chicago this Saturday for a lecture about the culinary travels of Elsie Henderson, a former chef for an uber-wealthy family who owned Frank Lloyd Wright's Pennsylvania masterpiece Fallingwater. Henderson went on to cook for other families, including the Mellons, Shrivers and Heinzes (I imagine ketchup was a key ingredient), and wrote about her experiences in "The Fallingwater Cookbook." Saturday's lecture, hosted by Henderson's co-author Suzanne Martinson, will give background about the book and its recipes. "The View from the Kitchen: an Upstairs-Downstairs Look at Frank Lloyd Wright's Most Famous House" runs 10am-noon at the Chicago History Museum,1600 N. Clark. Admission starts at $3. Brangelina not included.
Chefs Rob and Allie Leavitt of Mado Restaurant announced today a series of butchering and charcuterie classes for January. After quickly selling out three pig butchering demonstrations in November and early December, the new pigcentric series includes sessions on creating patés and terrines (January 17), fresh sausages (January 24) and testa (or preparations of pig's head; January 31). The series kicks off with a pig butchering demonstration on January 10. All classes take place on Sundays from noon to 2:00pm. Cost is $50 per person per class to participate, and class size is limited to 12 people. Email or call the restaurant at 773-342-2340 to sign up. Mado is located at 1647 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Don't want to pay Xoco prices for Mexican street food by Rick Bayless? Then visit Mariano Park this Thursday, Friday or Saturday night to enjoy free Bayless-created tortas and tacos. Chef has teamed up with Ketel One Vodka to design the Chicago menu for the Ketel One Canteen, a national project to promote responsible drinking this holiday season.
Enjoy complimentary Black Bean and Caramelized Onion and Beef Tortas, Black Bean and Chorizo Tortas, Roasted Poblano Potato Tacos and Pork Tinga Tacos. The Canteen will also offer bottles of water and free rides home. Sound too good to be true? Bayless will not be at the Canteen, but there will likely be lines as if he were there. The Ketel One Canteen will be in Mariano Park (Bellevue Pl. and Rush St.) this Thursday-Saturday, December 10-12, from midnight to 2am.
They'll be taping an episode on the history of Italian beef in Chicago, profiling both Al's and Mr. Beef and and their decades-long rivalry. The show will culminate in a blind taste test by a panel of five guest judges, and a winner will be declared for that day.
That's where you come in. The producers are looking for as many people as possible to be an Italian beef partisans. They'll be shooting at the original Al's, 1079 W. Taylor St., this Friday, Dec. 11, starting at 11:30am till probably around 1 or 2pm, and at Mr. Beef, 666 N. Orleans St., on Saturday, Dec. 12 starting at 11am. Finally, on Sunday they'll filming the judged showdown at The Green Door Tavern, 678 N. Orleans St., starting around 2pm, and they'll want fans of both places there to support their favorite. If you're passionate about your beef, it looks like your weekend has been planned for you.
Tomorrow kicks off this season's series of winter farmer's markets, held in churches all around the city. A portion of the proceeds go to Faith In Place, an organization that supports farmers who face unexpected crises that limit their ability to work and threaten their well-being. Tomorrow's market will be held in the First Evangelical Free Church at 5255 N. Ashland Ave. Check out the full schedule here.
I love the holiday season - it's such a happy time of year and there are always so many fun, festive things going on. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is go to the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza. Modeled after the famous Christkindlsmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany (it began in 1545!), the Market features traditional German food, handmade crafts and beautiful lights. You can even go inside a heated tent and watch video from the magical event in Nuremberg.
Join Andrea of the food blog Forkable for a day of holiday cookie baking! The event will take place this Saturday, Dec. 5 from noon 4pm at Andrea's Chicago home. The event is $40 per participant and space is limited. Class fee includes ingredients, instruction, apron and cooking equipment use. All participants will be sent home with a bag of their fresh baked goods. Register through Brown Paper Tickets.
Food bloggers come together and donate items or services as prizes. On December 14th, the raffle opens and those interested in bidding on prizes can purchase raffle tickets for $10 a piece. All of the money will be donated to the UN World Food Programme.
For more information on this fundraising event, including how to donate items to the raffle, visit Chez Pim.
Why be nice when you can be naughty every day of the work week at the Holiday Sweets Fest at the Farmstand. Located at 66 E. Randoph St., the Farmstand is featuring holiday goodies from local bakeries and confectioners starting on Tuesday, December 1 until Wednesday, December 23. Each featured company will showcase their treats from noon to 2pm on a select day.
Advent begins tomorrow, and nobody knows how to celebrate the countdown to Christmas like the Germans. Chicago's Christkindlmarket opened this past week in Daley Plaza, and, as always, plenty of good food is for sale: typical German fare such as wursts and pretzels as well as roasted nuts and hot chocolate. But for a real traditional Advent treat, try the stollen at the booth run by Dinkel's Bakery. The dough for this rich pastry, which is studded with fruit and nuts, is sometimes folded over from both sides to resemble the swaddling clothes the baby Jesus was wrapped in before he was laid in the manger.
If you haven't gotten the wine you'll be serving (or bringing to) Thanksgiving dinner, hit up Randolph Wine Cellars (1415 W. Randolph) this evening. They've extended their daily Happy Hour tasting to 5:30-8 PM, and they'll be showcasing some Thanksgiving-friendly wines in a variety of price ranges. Best of all, the tasting is free.
L2O (2300 N. Lincoln) is hosting a three course plus dessert dinner at 6:30pm on Thursday the 19th of November. Presented by ChicaGourmets!, diners can experience James Beard nominee Laurent Gras' offerings paired with fine sake selections.
Dinner is $112 per person, all inclusive. Reservations can be made here for this and other ChicaGourmets! events.
Rick Bayless never rests. He just topped several other master chefs on Bravo's competition, then opened a new street-food restaurant. Next up: He's hitting the stage with local ensemble 500 Clown for The Madam Barker Holiday Variety Show at Prop Thtr. The burlesque show, which runs for the three Fridays from November 27th to December 11th, will feature Bayless in the last two shows. Along with the holiday-themed music, dancing, magic and comedy, Bayless will be on stage creating edible concoctions.
Tickets are $10, available at the door only, so expect the same sorts of lines you find at other Bayless businesses around town--though the 11pm start time might cull the crowd a bit.
Are you looking for a great bakery for your holiday pies? Do you want to sample the goods before you commit? Want to support a great organization for Chicago's homeless and at-risk youth. Well you are in lucky. Blue Sky Bakery & Cafe is hosting a pie tasting on November 21st and 22nd from 10AM-3PM. $5 gets you a sample of pumpkin, apple and chocolate pecan pie with plenty of hot coffee, cider or tea to wash it down with. Orders for whole pies may be placed with 48 hours notice by calling the bakery at (773) 478-2233 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices range from $14 (pumpkin) to $20 (apple or chocolate pecan). A pumpkin cheesecake pie with gingersnap crust is also available for $24. Click through to learn more about Blue Sky Inn.
Drinking and shopping goes together like peanut butter and chocolate, right? The Chicago Chapter of the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC) certainly thinks so, and to that end, they've paired with twelve boutiques in the West Loop for an evening of shopping and cocktails tomorrow night from 5-9 PM. Each boutique will feature a different classic cocktail (for ages 21+), where you can sip and learn about the drink's history, and shop from unique clothing and accessory lines. LUPEC will also collect donations to benefit Greenhouse Shelter.
Big Bowl (60 E Ohio) is hosting a Thai Luncheon at 12:30pm on Saturday November 14th. Writer and cook Nancy McDermott will be taking diners through a culinary tour of Thailand focusing on various regions and techniques.
Presented by ChicaGourmets! and Big Bowl, you can make reservations here for this and other ChicaGourmets! events.
Just a few last thoughts on eating Halloween this year, before the candy corn goes totally stale... Intrepid DT Editor Robyn Nisi clued me into dinner at Lula Café for what has become an annual tradition -- dressing up the entire establishment as another restaurant. This year, Lula briefly closed for zombification on Halloween, only to re-open to immediately lengthy lines as a spooky version of Hot Doug's -- real-life Doug Sohn included, chained to a desk at the front of the line to take orders. The illusion was so complete I had to ask our slightly decaying waitress if the entire Hot Doug's crew had been locked in the walk-in and forced to whip up a service of specialty dogs (or pay the price! or something...). But the entire menu was planned and executed in-house, with Doug's approval before he agreed to lend his name and t-shirts to the staff.
Istanbul Restaurant (3613 N. Broadway) is hosting a Turkish Feast tomorrow night. The reception starts at 6:30pm with dinner served at 7pm.
Owner-Chef Yasar Demir is presenting each course with a wine pairing. Starters of hummus, baba ghanoush, and ezme are paired with a 2008 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Reisling, and an entree of chicken shish kebab or beef kebab are being served with 2006 Zwei.1 Zweigelt.
This dinner is presented by ChicaGourmets!, and you can find a PDF of the event menu and more information here.
The dinner is $39 all inclusive, and is limited to 40 diners.
Come out to the LooseLeaf Lounge on Friday, November 20 at 7pm to 9:30pm for the Cob Connection Benefit -- don't miss this opportunity to support urban farming and a locally-owned business! The Cob Connection explores systematic quality of housing and food by integrating community involvement, social responsibility, and environmentalism into training programs in urban agriculture.
A ticket will give you your choice of sandwich (with a side of chips or veggies), salad, tea or coffee, dessert, plus one raffle ticket. All fresh greens are supplied by Cob Connection and dessert is provided by The Chicago Diner. Additional raffle tickets will be available for purchase.
Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. To purchase tickets in advance email Lester@LooseLeafLounge.com or call (773) 809-5371. Better yet, why not swing by the LooseLeaf Lounge at 2915 North Broadway in Lakeview to register in person --and grab a cup of tea while you're at it!
City Provisions, Chicago's green, locally-focused catering company, is kicking off the return of its monthly Supper Club on Nov. 16 at 7pm with Koval Distillery, the first boutique distillery located in Chicago.
The dinner will consist of five courses, paired with cocktails mixed by Ultimate Elixir's mixologist, Anige Jackson, and will be held at West Loop Studio, a historic top-floor loft at 17 N. Elizabeth St.
The dinner will consist of five courses, paired with cocktails featuring Koval's spirits. The price is an all-inclusive $75 per person.
I had the opportunity to attend one of the monthly Supper Club events and can assure you it's something you won't want to miss. What more can you want than good drinks, good company and extraordinary food?
I'm the kind of person that doesn't mind a bit of seasonality in my drinks. A little pumpkin in my beer, a little mulled spice in my wine...but easy on the apple pie, okay Leinenkugels? So I gladly accepted an invitation to Stoli's new Gala Applik launch party, the Moscova Affair, earlier this fall at Manor. I am not generally a vodka-drinker, nor a club-goer, so arrived thirsty, slightly early, and with all the scattered nervousness of a kid on the first day of class. With corset- and leather-clad servers and an Adam and Eve-themed silent circus tableau by San Francisco's Vau de Vire Society that more than lived up to the smoke-swilling lush-lipped ad campaign Stoli has plastered over CTA bus stops for months, I felt appropriately out of my element. At least the place was lousy with vodka, featuring at least five different suggested mixers for the new apple-infused Stoli blend, which I was expecting to taste more like Apple Pucker but has actually a mild, almost perfumey character. Applik and ginger ale was probably the best of the combinations I tried, though the signature "Applik Temptress" featured sour mix and a dash of bitters. Vanity Fair suggests a sangria-like white wine and fruit cocktail called, appropriately or not, the Rio 2016. Ouch. And, mmmmm!
I don't know that there's anything particularly seasonal about champagne, unless you feel the end of Daylight Savings Time should be celebrated with bubbles. But I still stopped by Pol Roger's Jazz Celebration last night at Pops for Champagne, an institution that I've been meaning to try for years. The White Foil Reserve Brut was the drink of the night, comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and fermented early in its life to a precise 46 F degrees, a process apparently distinctive to Pol Roger. A bottle of the White Foil retails for about $60, according to our pourer, though Pops has several other Pol Roger varieties on their menu as well, starting in more like the $115 range and rising steadily from there. The Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1998 is aged in the deepest, coldest cellars in Pol Roger's operation, and has a dense, almost edible quality to it, with bubbles so fine you barely notice them and a mouth-feel much more like wine than champagne. My favorite was the Brut Blanc de Blancs 1999, which was both demi-sec and a bit tart, I thought the most interesting in terms of flavor of the bunch.
In other drinking news, C-House, in the Affinia Hotel, continues its prix-fixe Goose Island beer menu through the end of this week, and more paper seems to peel back every day from the windows of Lush Wine and Spirits' new location on Chicago Avenue. Whatever causes you to raise a glass this fall, be it circus folks, or grain alcohol, or the pleasing pop of a champagne cork, there are plenty of places and things to drink this time of year.
Join Today's Chicago Woman (TCW) magazine at The Chopping Block in the Merchandise Mart on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 6pm to 9pm for "The Taste of TCW" cooking competition. This cuisine and culinary challenge won't only be tasty, all the proceeds will benefit the TCW Foundation, a charity that raises money for varies organizations dedicated to helping women and children.
The challengers are Radhika Desai, Season 5 contestant on Bravo TV's "Top Chef"; Elaina Vazquez, owner of Boutique Bites; and Jennifer Gavin from Fox TV's "Hell's Kitchen" and owner of Catered Excellence. Rocking the judge's panel will be Shelley Young of the Chopping Block and Chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass and Prairie Fire. The emcee for this delightful evening will be Steve Dolinksky, "The Hungry Hound" from ABC 7.
Tickets are $75, which includes the cuisine and culinary challenge plus hors d'oeuvres from the participating chef's favorite recipes, beer and wine, and signature cocktails from Sundas's mixologist, Sherrie Geslack. Raffle tickets will be available for purchase. Visit Today's Chicago Woman magazine to reserve your tickets.
Food chat site LTHForum's annual Great Neighborhood Restaurant awards were presented Monday night in a ceremony at past winner Marie's Pizza & Liquors, adding 23 new venues to its excellent list of winners. For the first time the awards have been expanded to include non-restaurants (referred to as Great Neighborhood Resources), in acknowledgment that there are so many important places in Chicagoland that don't necessarily serve food but provide ingredients, equipment or otherwise support restaurants and home cooks.
The GNR awards have always been an excellent avenue for recognition of restaurants that aren't necessarily new or trendy, places that are simply making great food and contributing to the culinary wealth of the city. For smaller spots, the awards provide a much-appreciated boost. Winner Juan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza said, "Sometimes you're about to hang the towel, and somebody comes in and says 'Hey, we like your food.' And we say 'You do?' And that keeps us going."
Several of the nominees attended the ceremony, including Delightful Pastries owners Dobra Bielinski and Stasia Hawyrszczuk, who took the opportunity to announce that they will soon be opening a new store at 1710 Wells St., in addition to being part of the French Market, which officially opens Nov. 17. "I think it's an excellent idea to have farmers markets like they do in France: all year round, not just three months out of the year," Bielinksi said.
As a surprise, the owners of Marie's Pizza turned the tables on LTHForum and awarded the site its own "Favorite Foodies Award." Said Marie's' Nadine Karavides, "You can pass it amongst yourselves like the Stanley Cup."
Below are the 2009 award winners, in alphabetical order, with links to either the business' website or the LTH Forum nomination thread.
Looking for something to do with the kiddies during the daylight hours of Halloween? Green City Market is hosting at Halloween Party during their last outdoor market of the season on Saturday, Oct. 31. The market will then move indoors at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum Wednesdays and Saturdays from Nov. 7 through Dec. 23, followed by twice monthly markets during the winter.
Just because it's cold out doesn't mean you can't smoke a mean rack of ribs. Gary Wiviott, LTH Forum founder and author of Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons, is teaching a rib class at Backyard Barbecue Store, 1147 Greenleaf Ave. in Wilmette, this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1pm. Learn how to do ribs the right way on both a Weber smoker and a Big Green Egg, and how to make his basic Wiviott Rub (which is also now available at the Spice House), Tangy 7-Pepper Barbecue Sauce and Lexington Red Slaw. The class costs $50; call 847-251-2272 to sign up.
And if you're really ambitious, you can test your newfound skills in the Backyard Barbecue Store's third annual Ribfest on Sunday, Oct. 18.
On any given day, you never know what you'll find when you open up your inbox. Color me surprised, then, when I opened my e-mail to discover an invitation to represent Gapers Block as a judge in a semi-final for DeKuyper's Mix Master Bartender Contest.
Not one to say no to the difficult task of judging cocktails, I joined the judges panel, and on September 30th at Martini Park, we sent one lucky bartender on his way to the Chicago final.
Contestants had to create a shot or drink that had no more than three ingredients, one of which had to be a DeKuyper product. It had to be a drink that was fairly simple to prepare, so no mashing or muddling, and no energy drinks. We judged the entries on taste, appearance, creativity of name, simplicity, and originality.
This year, 35 percent more Chicagoans are turning to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and its network of pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. Now, more than ever, it's important to support this incredible organization so they can help feed those in need.
Beginning Oct. 21, six local restaurants will play host to the Food Depository's inaugural "86 Hunger" dinner series, an event that will unite chefs and guests together in an effort to ending hunger in out community. Each dinner in the series will provide guests with an intimate dining experience at some of the most prominent restaurants in Chicago.
Tickets for individual dinners (schedule below) are $150, and all proceeds benefit the Food Depository. Information and tickets are available here.
Oct. 21: Frontera Grill, Chef Rick Bayless
Oct. 26: Red Light, Chef Jackie Shen
Oct. 28: Custom House, Chef Aaron Deal
Nov. 8: West Town Tavern, Chef Susan and Drew Goss
Nov. 10: BOKA, Chef Giuseppe Tentori
Nov. 18: Restaurant Michael, Chef Michael Lachowicz
The Frontera Grill dinner includes a visit to Chef Rick Bayless' home garden, as well as a live cooking demonstration in the restaurant's test kitchen. VIP tickets for the Frontera Grill dinner are $1,250 and include entry to four other dinners. Chefs and restaurants are donating their time and labor for the dinners, which will include approximately 100 attendees each.
On Saturday Chicago gets an opportunity to look a little deeper into the vegan world. A new festival called VeganMania brings local vegan-friendly restaurants together with animal-free clothing vendors, no-kill animal shelters, live music, and makers of meat and cheese alternatives just in time to help with Thanksgiving plans with any vegan friends. The famed Soul Vegetarian and Chicago Diner will serve food alongside newer restaurants like Delicious Cafe. I'm particularly curious about the high fashion vegan winter coats expected from Vaute Couture. The day also includes live music and speakers, including Dr. Michael Greger of the Human Society of the United States.
In a prepared statement, organizer John Beske said, "We're excited to prove to the world that Chicago's reputation as Hog Butcher To The World no longer accurately describes our progressive and compassionate city."
The festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m at Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 W. Blackhawk. Free admission and free samples. El: Blue Line to Division. Bus: Ashland 9, Milwaukee 56, Division 70, North 72.
Andrea, of local food blog Forkable, just launched a redesigned of her site. She is celebrating in style by throwing a launch party this Thursday, October 8 from 7 pm to 10 pm at Archie's Tavern (2600 W. Iowa). Sip a $2 whiskey or beer and enjoy some free, homemade Forkable favorites like jalapeno poppers, cheesy onion casserole and bbq seitan while you meet the author.
Last spring one of Chicago's favorite culinary landmarks, Club Lago, was forced to close after a 50-foot chimney collapsed onto its building. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 7 the family-owned restaurant will host a grand re-opening party after being closed for six months.
The party will begin at 5 p.m., reservations are recommended.
331 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60610
On Sunday, October 11th the Andersonville Development Corporation is hosting its 4th Annual Dessert Crawl. Participants will pick up their Dessert Crawl Passport at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark) and will be allowed to sample tasting portions at over two dozen participating restaurants. Participating restaurants include: Ann Sather, Big Jones, Fireside, La Cocina de Frida and many more. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 online for each of the routes (decide between sweet or savory) or $40 for both. For more information call 773-728-7552.
When I first heard about Taste of Chicago many years ago, I envisioned it as big block party where you could just meander from fancy restaurant to restaurant and sample their best dishes. Probably on tiny forks. And that it would all be free. Obviously, neither the real Taste or its younger, more upscale cousin Chicago Gourmet quite achieve that dream. But in its second year, Chicago Gourmet seems to better evoke the feeling of that festival in my head than the Taste has ever managed. With an improved lay-out and better selection of food (even though drink was still more heavily represented), the Pritzker Pavilion was transformed into an open pasture for gourmet grazing, from the tone set by the complimentary wine glass at the door to the security check for pilfered booze on the way out.
More thoughts on this year's event after the jump.
Hosting the event was Studio 312's Jimmy Carrane, whose running commentary kept the evening moving at a fast pace. Goose Island Brewery is sponsoring this year's series, and their 2009 Matilda was used by each of the three competing chefs; if this had been an episode of Iron Chef it would have been the "theme ingredient."
For its Fourth Annual Author Event, the Women's Board of the Chicago Regional Office of the American Cancer Society, has delved into the world of food by presenting an evening with celebrated Chicago pastry chef and Food Network star Gale Gand. Gand will be demonstrating from and signing her latest book Gale Gand's Brunch! at a special event on October 28.
The event will take place at Macy's Narcissus Room (111 S. State St., 7th floor) beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and book signing. At 6:30 Gand will conduct a demonstration and tasting in Macy's Culinary Studio.
Tickets for the event cost $95, with a limit of 150 guests. For more information or to make reservations contact Dawn.Kobel@cancer.org, or call at 312-279-7264
Although whisky and whiskey fans may not get a catchy tune like the po-ta-to/po-tah-to people, they do have a chance to debate the proper spelling tomorrow night at The Great Whisk(e)y Debate. This free event (for ages 21+) features whisk(e)y professors from Canadian Club, Knob Creek, and Laphroig who will talk about the merits of each of their whiskies during this interactive (i.e.--tasting) event. Even if you're not the biggest whisky buff, I'd recommend going--these are three really good and varied whiskies, and this is a good opportunity to learn about and taste the differences to see what style (or styles) you like best.
You can now purchase your tickets for Baconfest Chicago's Pro Bacon Cookoff at Publican next month. The event features 10 chefs, each cooking one bacon-filled dish, each paired with a beer by Chef Paul Kahan and Beverage Director Michael McAvena. Attendees will also receive a bacon gift bag, and a portion of the $75 ticket price goes to charity.
The event will be held from noon to 2pm Oct. 24 The Publican, 837 W. Fulton Market. Baconfest itself is still on, but is postponed until April... something. Stay tuned for more details about that.
A few weeks ago, I made it over the Chicago Luxury Ice Cream festival. Normally I reserve the word for luxury when it involves Donald Trump and fur rugs, and it seems odd to think of luxurious ice cream, but whatever it was, it was great. The event has plans to return next year as a multi-day event. A range of local and regional ice cream makers, among them Black Dog Gelato (pictured) and Nice Cream (excellent stuff) served up flavors like red pepper, chocolate sheep's milk, and blackberry pie (not together, ech) and to the hundreds of attendees. The lines were long, but spirits and glucose levels were high. Just where they should always be.
Looking for something to do on Saturday afternoon? Have a friend with celiac disease but want to make her a batch of cookies? You are in luck. This Saturday at 1PM, the Whole Foods at Halsted/Waveland is hosting a free gluten-free cookies baking class. Chef Susan of Cardamon Kitchen is going to demonstrate how to bake chocolate chip and sugar cookies, gluten-free. You need to register in advance to reserve your spot by calling 773-472-0400 or online.
Any plans for Mexican Independence Day? Head to Pilsen to take part in the second annual Buen Provecho restaurant tour. Over 25 local restaurants, cafes and bakeries will be sharing their favorite dishes as they celebrate the vibrant Pilsen community. Participating restaurants include old favorites like Neuvo Leon, Los Comales and Birreria Reyes de Ocotlan as well as newer additions to the neighborhood like Nightwood, Ristorante al Teatro and Simone's. The event runs from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm and tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the event. All proceeds benefit the Eighteenth Street Development Corporation, a a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. For a complete list of restaurants and to buy tickets online, visit the ESDC website.
The 7th Annual Old Town Wine Crush is this Saturday and Sunday on Wells between North and Schiller. The Wine Crush features live music, the opportunity to sample over 50 wines from around the world, food vendors and a Grape Stomping Competition. The festival runs from 11AM to 10PM on Saturday, 11AM to 6PM on Sunday and tickets are between $30 and $45 depending on the amount of wine that you want to sample.
If you love food and don't have plans this Sunday, whip up your favorite dish and bring it to LTH Forum's Picnic, which will be going on at Labagh Woods (near Foster and Cicero). Eating begins mid-morning and runs until early evening; please RSVP on the LTH site (and indicate your type of dish). You. Should. Go.
Even though Labor Day has come and gone, marking the (unofficial) end of summer, the stands at many of Chicago's farmers markets are looking more lush than they have all season. Squash and apples are starting to appear, and the peaches and berries are still abundant. The Andersonville Farmer's Market, which started just this year, has been so successful than it has extended its run through October 7th. Today's market will be held, as usual, from 4 to 8 pm. Starting next week, the market will run from 3 to 7 pm. Come on up to Clark & Berwyn to take advantage of the early fall harvest.
Trying to incorporate more local foods into your diet but you just can't give up avocados, bananas and lemons? Enjoy shopping at the farmer's markets but don't know what to make with that random vegetable you threw in your basket? Have you heard about "eating local" but don't really know what that means? Well, you are in luck. Green City Market's annual localvore challenge is fast approaching. This year's challenge will be from September 9th through the 23rd. Visit GCM's webpage here or go to the informational tent at the market on Wednesday or Saturday to learn more about the challenge and to sign up to participate. GCM has prepared a "localvore kit" to help you with the challenge. There is also a list of the many Chicago area restaurants which will be participating in the challenge.
Mangi's Fast Foods in North Center was one of the 44 Chicagoland restaurants participating in Kronos Foods' Free Gyros Day today. It happens to be the closest one to the Gapers Block office, so I printed out my coupon and headed down.
I was a little worried about whether I'd score free gyros after reading on Twitter about at least one Loop location running out before noon. Fortunately, Mangi's is remote enough that I needn't worry; I only waited about 20 minutes for my order. Still, at 12:30pm the line stretched out the door and to the alley, prompting more than one person to compare it to Hot Doug's -- probably the only time in Mangi's existence that's happened. I asked the cashier if they'd gotten many orders for anything other than gyros today. "Not much," she replied. "We've sold a lot of fries and drinks!"
The gyros were as good as ever, though not quite as crispy as I personally like. I figure that's a symptom of how quickly Mangi's was going through cones to gyro meat.
Did you manage to get a free gyros? What was the scene like where you went?
On Thursday evening, the National Honey Board invited a group of writers to look "Beyond the Bottle and Explore the Bounty of Honey" with a honey tasting and specially-created dinner by Chef Randy Zweiban at Province. It was an enjoyable evening that combined education about honey production, varieties and environmental concerns with an interesting and inspiring range of cocktails, appetizers and dinner courses that highlighted the wide range of uses for honey in cooking.
The weekly Re-Thinking Soup series starts up again today (not exactly soup season, but "Late Summer Minestrone" is on the menu) at UIC's Jane Addams Hull-House Dining Hall (800 S. Halsted) from noon to 1:30pm. Kicking off this year's series is a lecture and discussion facilitated by Joshua Viertel, Slow Food USA's newly (and first-ever) elected President.
Last Saturday I participated in the Active Transportation Alliance and Neighbor Space's Veggie Bike and Dine, an all-day ride that took me and 50 other riders through a heap of northside neighborhoods starting from Rogers Park and ending in Old Town and studded with food stops from a range of restaurants and visits to a few community gardens. Along the way I gathered some new restaurant recommendations.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to watch 25 talented high school seniors compete in the 16th annual Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Chicago Cooking Competition for Scholarships. C-CAP was founded in 1990 and works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
A new documentary on the C-CAP program will be screening this weekend in Chicago. Pressure Cooker is an award-winning film that follows three seniors at Philadelphia's Frankford High School who find inspiration and professional skills through C-CAP.
The film screens at the Gene Siskel Film Center starting this weekend:
Friday, August 21, 6:00 pm
Saturday, August 22, 3:00 pm
Tuesday, August 25, 6:15 pm.
Chicago representatives of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Nicola Copeland and Anthony McPhee -- along with mentor and instructor Wilma Stephenson, featured in the film, will be present on Friday for audience discussion.
Seventeen new cheftestants roll the dice on culinary fame in Las Vegas as the new season of Top Chef starts tonight (8pm on Bravo). And with the success of our fair city's chefs in recent seasons, as well as in this summer's amuse bouche show Top Chef Masters, one would expect a strong showing from Chicago again this season. In reality, one would be dead wrong. Nary a Chicagoan in sight. Not even an Illinois resident. The closest we get is Eve Aronoff from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She's the sole representative of the entire Midwest region! The hell?!
If lack of a home team doesn't dissuade you from watching, you might want to check out the weekly viewing party at the Kit Kat Club, hosted by former cheftestant Radhika Desai. No cover, and each week will start with a cocktail demonstration and end with a Q and A session.
Registration starts next Wednesday for the fall session of the city-sponsored World Kitchen cooking class series. Among the lineup are Cardamon Kitchen (Sep 12), which will teach you how to cook with Indian spices; Freeze with Ease (Sep 19), which will help you figure out the best way to not turn your freezer into a graveyard of ice-coated chunks of something-or-another; and Curds and Whey (Oct 3), where you'll learn how to make cheese. All classes are held at the Gallery 37 Center for Arts at 66 East Randolph, admission is $30, and registration is required.
Tonight's Taste of the Nation charity event brings together names from Chicago's culinary top shelf (Shawn McClain, Mindy Segal, Paul Kahan) to benefit anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Event runs 6-10pm at Ravenswood Billboard Factory, 4025 North Ravenswood. Tickets $175-250.
When the cattle call went out soliciting interest in covering this event, it spoke to me. Déjà chef if you will. The comparisons with my professional life were too many to say no to and is how I found myself at the Country Chef's Challenge at Daley Plaza this Thursday, Aug. 6.
The three chef contestants had 30 minutes and $50 to shop the Farmers Market, with an additional 30 minutes to create a dish with their selected ingredients. The results were scored by a panel of judges, the winner claiming bragging rights as "Master of the Market."
Having competed in (and won) numerous similar events, I was intrigued by seeing it as an observer instead of a participant. Highly skilled chef's going "mano a mano" in public, preparing mystery food against the clock, "Iron Chef" style. A daunting task under the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances.
NYT writer and food journalist Jennifer 8. Lee will be in town August 16, talking about her new book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles at St. Therese School, 247 W. 23rd St from 1-3pm. Lecture is free but reservations are required; email or call (312) 949-1000.
In fact, even Child's alma mater, Le Cordon Bleu, is getting in on the act: tomorrow, Aug. 6, at 1pm Chicago time, "Top Chef" winner and Cordon Bleu grad Stephanie Izard will be demonstrating how to make beef Bourguignon and chocolate chiffon pie on live streaming video. You're invited to follow @LCBSchools on Twitter and use the hashtag #LCBJulia to participate in the conversation.
Veggie Fest hits Naperville this weekend with live music and a schedule packed full of food demonstrations like those from Karyn's and Chicago Diner. The food court includes Upton's Naturals and Dakshin Indian - among many other veg-friendly vendors. Shuttles ($3) run to and from the Lisle Metra station, paired with two outbound trains and two inbounds later in the day to get those from the city back. Free admission. Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 4S175 N Naperville Wheaton Rd, Naperville.
On Sunday (August 9th), Carrotmob Chicago, a group of consumers who band together to spend money at socially responisble businesses, is putting its buying power behind Fox & Obel. The mob (along with a colossal carrot, according to the web site) plans a "buycott" or reverse boycott from noon until 6pm. They're encouraging local consumers to visit Fox & Obel for their food needs, and the store, in return, will use part of the proceeds to continue to reduce its carbon footprint (going above and beyond the organics, recycling and LED lights they already have in place). If helping the environment doesn't satisfy your good-deed need, the Greater Chicago Food Depository will also be on site collecting food donations.
Last summer was all about the vertical garden. This summer, vegetables are dancing on the ceiling. Or pretending to. The Lay's Potato Chip "Closer than You Think" campaign, which aims to convince us that Lay's makes chips from potatoes grown on local farms, has hit the streets of Chicago, with a display of spuds growing from the ceiling in the CTA tunnel under Jackson Street. The potato patch will be on display through Sunday.
You may have passed City Farm, the vegetable farm near the edge of Cabrini-Green at Division and Clybourn. This Sunday, August 2, you'll be able to tour the farm and chat with grower Tim Wilson. It is part of an urban agriculture field day promoted by Angelic Organics Learning Center. The event runs 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and also includes a tour of Chicago Honey Co-op, where the tours kick off. You'd provide your own transportation to both locations. Free to members of the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT); $10 for non-members payable the day of. RSVP required to craft (at) learngrowconnect.org.
On Chicago Public Radio's eight-forty-eight, South Side reporter Natalie Moore reports on this past weekend's "farmers market," held by Wal-Mart in Chatham. According to her report, the retail giant sold an impressive four days' worth of produce in just three hours. I briefly considered going to the Saturday event to see what it's like, but instead visited my sister-in-law (the allure of their new cats were too big). Thank God CPR was there.
Moore also interviews Rhymefest, a Chicago-based hiphop musician on the possible role of Wal-Mart in the South Side. His take on the proposed Wal-Mart, as a savior in food desert, is an interesting contrast to that of a woman quoted in the earlier piece, who says the characterization of the neighborhood as food desert is an offensive misnomer.
WTTW is sponsoring a free showing of the upcoming movie Julie and Julia on Thursday, August 6 at the AMC Loews Theater, 600 North Michigan. Tickets (obtained from WTTW) are required for admission to avoid the herds of food historians and Meryl Streep fans who will be all over this like lemon on chicken.
Summer drinking usually conjures Pinot Grigios and piña coladas, or mint juleps and margaritas. Good drinks to sip standing on dry grass, or out of plastic cups pintucked after multiple pours. Drinks that might look good sporting thick sprigs of herbs or little paper umbrellas. Throwing its hat into the summer drinking ring this past week is Rosangel, Gran Centenario's venture into flavored tequila. The company unveiled the blend of award-winning Resposado and hibiscus flowers at Nacional 27 last week, accompanied by vegetable empanadas, plantain croquettes, and a watermelon and tuna ceviche that paired wonderfully with the strong, sweet tequila. Rosangel is aged in barrels previously used for port, which gives the liquor the pink hue so nicely accentuated in its packaging, an art deco design that recalls a vintage perfume bottle--an effect heightened by the floral notes of the hisbiscus addition. One whiff of the fumes coming off the drink will dispel any notions that it could be a girly tequila, however. This stuff will put hair on your dainty, effeminate chest.
On hand to help guide the tasting were Nacional's own Adam Seger and Jane Lopes, sometime bartendress at the Violet Hour. Jane's drink recipe for a Jalisco Blinker is below. Sweet, tart, and flowery, it could be the perfect new addition to your summer drinking palette (and presumably would work with any sweeter tequila as well).
If you're heading to the Pierogi Fest in Whiting, IN this weekend, why not make that 20 mile journey on a bike with fellow food lovers? Meet at Buckingham Fountain Saturday at 9am for a leisurely-paced trek; details here.
(20 wine samples/$20) + commentary by Alpana Singh + tray-passed h'ors d'oeuvres = A DEAL
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this equation, but it seems to be completely valid. Osteria Via Stato's hosting a wine-tasting event called "20 Wines for $20" on Wednesday, August 12, from 5:30-7 PM. During this event, Chicago's well-known Master Sommelier and host of Check Please! Alpana Singh will talk about the 20 fruit-forward Italian wines available for sampling. H'ors d'oeuvres by Executive Chef David DiGregorio will complement the wine, and other wine experts and importers will be on hand to discuss the evening's offerings.
Not surprisingly, space is limited, so if you want to get in on this deal, call Allison Gallese at 312-642-8450 to make a reservation.
Tribune reports that Wal-Mart is bringing a "farmers market" to Southside neighborhood of Chatham, with the hope that the gesture will create more favorable climate to the recently stalled plan for the second store within the city limits.
The "farmers market" will be held this Saturday, July 25, from 10 am to 2 pm, at 83rd and Stewart, where the new store is proposed. Interestingly, neither the Trib story nor the chain's flyer for the event lists any details on who is going to be selling what, come Saturday. A "farmers market" without any identifiable farmers??? I briefly tried to get an answer for this, but quickly gave up when the only phone number provided turned out to be a generic customer service phone number. (This is why I'm not making my living as a journalist.)
Although this show is less about food and more about successfully overcoming Gordon Ramsay's endless stream of verbal abuse, a new season of Hell's Kitchen will premiere tonight at 7pm on Fox, with two contestants hailing from Chicago: Lovely, an executive chef of a children's camp, and Tony, the culinary store manager. Good f**ing luck to you.
Perhaps milking the PR boost of being crowned one of America's healthiest fast-food restaurants, Chipotle is sponsoring a free showing of Food, Inc. this Thursday at Landmark Century Centre theater (Diversey and Clark) at 7:30pm. Get there early for a seat, and please...skip the popcorn.
Didn't get your fill of inebriation and nationalism last weekend? Well, thank goodness for France, as you can try again with a couple of Bastille Day celebrations this weekend. On Saturday the 11th, Pops for Champagne is holding their Bastille Day Celebration (details in Slowdown). For members of the Third Estate who don't feel like spending money to celebrate La Fête Nationale, Lush Wine & Spirits will be holding free tastings at both of their locations. On Saturday, they'll be sampling various French wines and cider all day, with more wine tastings from 2-5 on Saturday; on Tuesday the 14th (Bastille Day proper) from 5-8, you can taste French wines from regions other than Bordeaux and Burgundy.
This Saturday, July 11, your bicycle is your best drinking buddy. The day kicks off at 9am with the Tour de Fat, New Belgium Brewery's annual Fat Tire-fueled day of bikes and the brewer's art, over in Palmer Square Park. $5 Fat Tires and plenty of bike- and environment-related fun should keep you busy for most of the morning.
From there, ride north on Kedzie and then east a bit on Belmont to Kuma's Corner, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary with a block party featuring free food and a performance by awesome Baltimore band CLUTCH. It starts at noon, but you may actually want to hold off till after this next stop if you want to catch the band.
Down at Soldier Field, Alefest gives you the opportunity to sample up to 20 beers from the dozens offered by more than 50 craft breweries for just $40 -- and you get to keep the glass! Afterward you can take a nice, leisurely ride on the Lakefront Path toward wherever home is... or to wherever food to sober you up might be.
Beer dinners, where restauranteurs bring in a microbrewer to put together a multi-course meal to go especially with a list of beers, have become quite the popular event in Chicacgo--so popular, you might not be able to get a place at the table for some of them.
However, this is your lucky week. Hopleaf's still got space at their beer dinner taking place tomorrow night. For $75 you can get a 7-course meal designed by Chef Ben Sheagren, which will feature beer from Lost Abbey out of San Marcos, California. Tomme Arthur, brewmaster from Lost Abbey will be on hand to talk you through their Belgian-style beers.
The event kicks off with a reception at 6:30, followed by dinner at 7:00. E-mail Louise at Hopleaf to reserve your spot.
Many people celebrate Independence Day with cold beers and fireworks... The Fifty/50, for reasons known only to itself and its PR team, has decided to up the ante by celebrating the entire week leading up to Independence Day with that most storied American beer-product (beloved by NASCAR enthusiasts and hipsters alike!), the 40 ounce malt liquor. I strolled over for a sip of Colt45 earlier this week, served appropriately in a brown paper bag. I find Colt to be one of the better malt liquors out there, certainly putting King Cobra to shame, and $5 a bottle just seemed too good to pass up. But 40 ounces of just about anything gets difficult to drink down to the last dregs... And through, hrmm, experimentation conducted with the utmost scientific rigor, I can categorically tell you that two 40s is too many. (On a Monday night at any rate.)
If you'd like to try your hand at the Fifty/50's week o' 40s -- no frat-party inspired duct tape required -- the party continues with hip hop, Cubs viewing (it is the Fifty/50, after all), an Olde English all-day party on the 4th, followed by a Schlitz hangover brunch on the 5th. I would advise steering clear of the Cheesy Cheese Balls on the menu -- never has a bar food been so structurally off-base, falling apart into clumpy half-melted strings as soon as you pick it up. People who have had a 40 and a half cannot gracefully contend with that kind of mess. But there's plenty of other good-looking grease on the menu to keep you properly fortified against all that barley. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, let's hear it for those amber waves of grain.
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.
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.
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.
This 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We'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.
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?
I strolled through the Chicago Turkish Festival at Daley Plaza yesterday, and spotted groceries, tiny cups of Turkish coffee, prepared food for lunch, and charming tables to sit at and enjoy. Groceries at one vendor included dried red lentils, bulgar, dried beans, large metal cans of olive oil, and small packs of nuts and seeds. Looking for a change to your usual lunch spot? Prepared food - at least the veg options - include baklava that would go brilliantly with the coffee, eggplant salad, hummus and pita, and perhaps dolma. Each of this festival's small tables has an ornate round metal top that appears to have been set upon its wooden base, as if the top was simply a large tray. The festival runs through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 50 W. Washington.
The Shedd Aquarium has been urging area diners to consider sustainability when choosing their sushi or fish dinners. The aquarium maintains lists of good seafood bets, and has a printable card available on its web site. This weekend the aquarium, along with Purple Asparagus, is taking it a step further with a sustainable-sushi making class for adults and children. Sunday afternoon from 4pm to 6pm in the Lobster Lab, families can prepare rolls using sustainable fish and talk with aquarium experts about the ways different fish are caught or farmed. The class is $20 for adults and $5 per child. For reservations contact Melissa Graham at Purple Asparagus (773-991-1920 or email@example.com).
On Saturday June, 20th, new nightclub District will be hosting a benefit for Chicago's Jobs For Youth, a non-profit organization that helps young men and women from low-income families enter the job market and the economic mainstream.
Tickets are $95, and include an "open bar, lavish buffet supper, live and silent auction, and entertainment" which promises to be fire breathers, aerial and ground contortionists and more.
Sunday's Cochon 555 event, a fundraiser at the Drake Hotel for the Farms for City Kids organization, will bring five of the city's best chefs (among them Graham Elliott Bowles, Chris Pandel of the Bristol) to each cook a heritage pig in its entirety and pair them with five locally made wines for your enjoyment. A panel of judges will bestow the "Prince of Porc" title to the best chef. Awww. Event runs 5-7:30pm; tickets are $125 (use the promo code "heritage" for a $20 discount).
This week, many Chicago restaurants may have a little extra going on in their wine offerings thanks to Riesling Week. While it may not be much more than a PR move to train the spotlight on German, Austrian and Alsatian wines just when spring is beckoning oenophiles towards Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon blancs, and everyone else towards Memorial Day Miller Lites, Riesling Week couldn't have come at a better time. The first few perfect days of spring, a participating restaurant on my way home from work...patio seating. Sold.
Located in the Affinia hotel, C-House specializes in imaginative seafood and features a nicely tiered menu of bites from the bar, appetizers, entrees, and sides -- all of which work in endless combinations to appease big and little hungers, sushi-enthusiasts and anti-raw stalwarts alike. And many of which work really nicely with the sweetness of their featured Riesling flight. Our server noted that rather than pairing each wine with a course, the chef rather intended all three to be tasted with everything we ate to see how the different flavors played off each other with each individual sip. It certainly took the concern out of ordering. We tried various combinations of bites and apps, standouts being the crab salad (wrapped up in paper thin slices of apple to create something resembling more of a candy than a summer salad), lobster club sandwich, and the seemingly grilled and freeze-dried corn kernels that accompany the very popular yellowtail fish tacos.
The wines were a relatively dry 2006 Keller Riesling Trocken from Rheinhessen, Germany; a sticky sweet 2007 Monchoff, Robert Eymael, also German and with a sweet and tart punch that made me think of mead; and a 2004 Schloss Lieser, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spatlese, which was the most balanced of the three, though try ordering another one of those after you've had a few. A classic, dessert-friendly Riesling which went really nicely with the tartness of the fish tacos' pickled onions, the buttery richness of the lobster and yellowtail, and the sweetness of the crab salad. Bites at C-House start at $4, and the wine flight runs $22 through the end of this week. Zum Wohl!
To show their appreciation for winning the NBC Golden Local award for the best beef sandwich in Chicago, Al's Beef will be selling their signature regular beef sandwich for $1.00 today (but their disclaimer says peppers and cheese are extra). You're welcome.
I've been going to the National Restaurant Association show on and off for over 25 years. The first thing I noticed at this year's event is that it seemed emptier by comparison to years gone by, and I imagine that the economy must have something to do with the lack of attendees. The aisles are usually packed and chaotic, as opposed to just occasionally crowded.
This Wednesday, May 20, local chefs will unite at Goose Island Clybourn to prepare a special dinner to benefit Swan Creek Farm's George Rasmussen, who lost his truck, trailer, generator and a substantial amount of food in a fire on April 24 while delivering his quality, artisanal meats to Chicago restaurants.
The family-style dinner will be held at Goose Island Clybourn's Siebel Hall at 7 p.m. and will be a nose-to-tail, farm-to-table meal with Goose Island beer pairings. The meal will feature dishes from John Manion of Goose Island Clybourn; Chris Pandel from The Bristol; Rob and Allie Levitt from Mado; and Mindy Segal and Mark Steuer from HotChocolate.
The evening will include a silent auction for a barbecue extravaganza in which Chefs Paul Kahan, Koren Grieveson, Mike Sheerin, Tim Dahl and Brian Duncan are all donating their cooking skills to make a dinner for 15 people. Bidding for the barbecue package will only be available at the beer dinner.
As if this event wasn't awesome enough, in addition, that night organizers will launch an online auction where guests can bid on opportunities to have individual chefs come to their homes and cook them a beer dinner. Participating chefs include Food & Wine's 2007 Best New Chef Paul Virant of Vie; Dirk Flanigan of The Gage; Troy Graves of Eve; Suzy Crofton of Crofton on Wells; Cary Taylor of Chaise Lounge; Ryan Poli of Perennial; Randy Zweiban of Province; Food & Wine's 2008 Best New Chef Koren Grieveson of avec; Food & Wine's 2008 Best New Chef Giuseppe Tentori of BOKA; Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno; Rick Gresh of David Burke's Primehouse; Carol Wallack of Sola; Gil Langlois of Chalkboard; and "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard, who will be the chef of the forthcoming Drunken Goat. The online auction kicks off at the May 20 event and will continue until Thursday, May 28; the online auction link will be available shortly.
Tickets for the May 20 beer dinner cost $100, inclusive, and proceeds will benefit Rasmussen. To purchase a ticket, call (312) 915-0071.
It's officially farmers market season for the Loop office crowd. The Federal Plaza market kicked off bright and early this morning at Adams and Dearborn, and Daley Plaza will follow suit on Thursday, just a few blocks north at Dearborn and Washington. (Markets at the Prudential Plaza and Sears Tower will begin June 9 and 18, respectively.)
As a regular at both the Federal and Daley plaza markets, I'm glad to see my favorites are still making the trek. I picked up potted basil, thyme, oregano and parsley plants for my container garden from my friends at Nichols Farm, and plan to buy my tomato plants at Daley Plaza on Thursday (a gal can only schlep so much home at one time on the El.) Smits Farms was there, with its no-fuss spread of fresh-cut herbs, and the Misericordia Hearts and Flour Bakery was on hand with yummy samples and delicious baked goods for sale to benefit people with developmental disabilities. Lehman's Orchard offered its usual piles of dried fruits and nuts, while mushroom and pickle lovers alike hovered around the Rivery Valley Kitchens tent, and the man with the natty hat from Kress Apiary sampled honey - minus his usual box of live bees.
Some new vendors to get excited about: Elena's Cucina, a family owned and operated deli out of Roselle, IL, which is selling several varieties of focaccia that would make a fast and delicious summer dinner with a side salad an