Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Blackstone Hotel gets hip with upscale Spanish eatery

First it was the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St.) to update its fuddy duddy image with the more contemporary dining option Lockwood. Now comes the historic Blackstone Hotel (638 S. Michigan Ave.) that's teaming up with restaurateur Peter Karpinski of the Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group for Mercat a la Planxa, a modern Catalan tapas restaurant and bar, scheduled to open in early 2008.

They've gotten local star chef Jose Garces to work Mercat's kitchen, which will crank out tasty tapas like cut-to-order charcuterie, Pulpo con Patatas (Spanish octopus, confit potato and smoked paprika), Confit de Bacalao (black cod confit, haricot vert salad, morcilla-potatoes, orange-saffron emulsion), Mar i Muntanya (slowed-cooked short ribs and diver scallops, shaved Parmesan artichokes) and Buitfarra con Judias (Catalan sausage with rosemary-thyme white beans and carrot escabeche).

At the bar, a tempting array of seasonally inspired sangrias, Spanish-styled cocktails and martinis will be available. Guests can also choose from Mercat’s extensive collection of Spanish cavas, wines, ciders and beer. A carefully selected wine list will feature 40 Spanish wines available by the bottle or by glass.

Rick Bayless at Green City Market

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Make arrangements now to attend the demonstration by celebrity chef Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo), whose appearance at Wednesday's Green City Market is certain to be off the hook. The event starts at 10:30am, and doors open at 7am, so I'm sure that's when the crowds will start forming for this one.

While you're there, take advantage of the city's only winter farmers' market, where you can shop for poultry, veggies, fruit and other locally grown and sustainable foods.

Green City Market occurs every Wednesday and Saturday (7am-noon) through Dec. 22 at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's North Gallery at 2430 N. Cannon Dr. Free.

BYOB, baby

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With so many Italian options around town, it's difficult to choose only one, but this friendly Uptown restaurant is one to consider for a BYOB outing.

Consider Caro Mio (1827 W. Wilson Ave., 773-275-5000) when you've got a large group and need a family-style situation. Portions are hearty, traditional and almost everything is made on premises. You'll get gleeful over traditional Italian fare like the homemade meatballs, Italian sausage and pastas like the tri-colored rotolo (baked tri-colored pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese), Agnelotti Rossini (half-moon pastas stuffed with ricotta cheese in a delicious creamy tomato sauce with prosciutto and peas) or the risotto Milanese seasoned with saffron.

Oh, and there's no corkage fee.

Deal of the day ...

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A trio of Adobo Grill’s famous moles

Starting today and every Tuesday thereafter, you’ll want to get to Wicker Park’s Adobo Grill (2005 W. Division St., 773-252-9990) for the “Two-Course Tuesday Tasting Menu” for only $20. Diners get to mix and match any item from the dinner menu, and can choose between an appetizer, entrĂ©e or dessert.

If I were you, I’d go for the entrees that usually range from $18.95-$25.99 like the roasted beef tenderloin with roasted Yukon gold potatoes, wood-oven roasted tilapia with wild mushrooms or the shrimp marinated in chipotle. You just can’t miss—especially since you also get to choose an appetizer or dessert.

Also, on tap for Tuesdays is the $2 Sloppy Joes and $2 cans over at Silver Cloud (1700 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-6212). It’s the perfect deal for those fans of F/X’s “Nip/Tuck,” which they’ll be showing on the multiple plasmas in the dining room.