Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Maki Madness and more

Ra Sushi's signature "Tootsy Maki" (Photo: Ra Sushi)

How much sushi can you stuff in your face? You've still got a few days to enter a competitive eating contest at one of the area RA Sushi locations for Maki Madness. Organized like a bracket system, competitors who demolish three uncut RA Sushi signature Tootsy Maki in the fastest amount of time advance to the next round. The rounds take place March 28 at 6pm in Glenview (2601 Aviator Lane), March 29 at 4pm in Chicago (1139 N. State St.) and April 2 at 6pm in Lombard (310 Yorktown Center). Deadline to register is March 21 and all contestants must be at least 18. Two semi-finalists will be crowned at each location and will advance to the Championship Sushi Showdown on April 9 at the State Street location. Call 312-274-0011 for more info.

Also, one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303) celebrates its 10th anniversary with a party in conjunction with Green City Market and ChicaGourmets. Chow down on special bites prepared by Executive Chef Martial Noguier, drink libations from an interactive "green" cocktail station, and check out a fashion show highlighting garments from eco-friendly boutique Pivot. A portion of proceeds benefit Growing Home, a charity providing job training and employment opportunities to homeless and low-income people. Thursday, March 27 6-9pm. 2 tickets for $160.

And finally, starting the first week in April, La Madia (59 W. Grand Ave., 312-329-0400) chefs Jonathan Fox and Gianni Zonca kick off a series of cooking classes that spotlight Italian cuisine. After demos, students get to sample their creations complemented by wine and cocktails. Each class is $25 and happens at 11am on Saturdays:

April 5: Perfect Pizzas and Tuscan Red Wines
April 12: Savory Pasta and Crisp Chardonnay
April 19: Spring Salads and Cool Cocktails
April 26: Pretty Paninis and Pinot Noir

Spring fever brings out the charity in all of us . . .


Dust off those tuxes and get ready to slip into your slinkiest gowns because charity ball season arrives with spring.

Who's got the fever for some fun festivities?! Just peruse the list and pick your party:

Blackboard Affair. This is the annual event hosted by Working In The Schools' Junior Board—better known as WITS. Party includes an open bar, dinner buffet, deejay, silent auction and raffle prizes. All proceeds from the event will benefit the more than 2,000 CPS elementary students served by WITS' tutoring programs. $85 in advance; $95 at door. Thursday, April 17, 7-10pm at Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market). Call 312-606-2030 for tickets.

CARNAVAL. For their fifth-annual event, the performing artists group Collaboration transforms a 120-year-old gothic cathedral into an artistic arena that includes gothic cathedral-inspired live rock music, theatrical interludes, interactive artistry, two floors of dancing, unlimited drinks and a Carnaval couture costume contest. The pew-less church will feature The Prairie Cartel - featuring Blake Smith of Caviar and Scott Lukas of Local H - performing as The Final Salvation; Dark Wave Disco DJs Mark Gertz and Trancid; DJ Jordan Z; DJ LA Jesus; and Collaboraction company member DJ Anacron. $20 for general admission; $75 for VIP that includes access to top floor, separate bar, catered food and special performances. Saturday, March 29 at 9pm at Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Ave. Call 312-226-9633 for tix.

GALApalooza. Taking place a day before the three-day Lollapalooza music festival, this second-annual event is in the heart of Grant Park. Last year it attracted more than 600 attendees and they're expecting more to raise funds for Parkways Foundation, the non-profit partner of the Chicago Park District. Guests enjoy cocktails and dinner in the ultra cool “Lounge Pods” for 10 instead of traditional tables. Also expect live entertainment and an appearance by Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell. Thursday, July 31. Tickets are $350 and can be had by calling 312-742-4804.

Have Mercy! Spring Gala. The Junior Board of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls hosts its annual cocktail party that includes an open bar, appetizers, karaoke, dancing and silent auction. The party occurs at The James (55 E. Ontario St.) on Saturday, April 26 8pm-midnight. Purchase tickets at for $85-$125.

Jazz for Youth. Jobs For Youth, which has placed more than 25,000 at-risk youths in jobs since 1979, will have its spring soiree at the Park West (322 W. Armitage Ave.). The party includes a lavish buffet supper, open bar, casino gaming, live and silent auctions, and live entertainment by Jimmy Damon—the only singer authorized by Frank Sinatra to sing his music during his lifetime. Party happens on Saturday, May 3 7pm-midnight. Get the $175 tickets at

Red or White Ball. The sixth-annual charity event hosted by the Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council takes place on Friday, May 30 at 8pm. Expect Chicago's movers and shakers to make an appearance at this party that includes an evening of cocktails, food, entertainment, a silent auction and raffle prizes. Event takes place at the Chicago Illuminating Company, 19 E. 21st St. A limited number of $500 VIP packages are also available: Each includes two event tickets, access for two to a private cocktail reception at 7pm with Steppenwolf ensemble members, enhanced goody bags and a one-year membership in the Auxiliary Council. Tickets, including the $135 general admission, are available by calling 312-654-5672.

Viva! This is the 11th-annual scholarship fundraiser benefiting Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. The party includes a premium open bar, gourmet Mexican buffet, live music by Angel Melendez Tropical Band, live/silent auction and $10,000 raffle. Starts at 5:30pm on Thursday, May 8. Chase North Promenade at Milennium Park, Michigan Avenue and Randolph Streets. The $100-$125 tickets can be purchased at 773-890-6817.

Deal(s) of the day . . .


It's Meet the Winemaker! night at WineStyles Belmont (1433 W. Belmont Ave., 773-549-2227). Tonight's event introduces Paul Chevalier, the national fine wine director for Shaw-Ross International Importers. He'll guide guests through a tasting of four spectacular wines from the Rhone region of France. This is your opportunity to get real with Rhone. $15 ($5 for wine club members). Space is limited, so RSVP before you go. 6-8pm.

It's also Fried Chicken Night at Paramount Room (415 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-829-6300), so Executive Chef Stephen Dunne is whipping up 1/2 Amish fried chicken that's buttermilk dipped and dredged in cornflakes and Panko breadcrumbs. It's $16.95, goes well with one of their craft beers and only offered on Wednesday.

And every Wednesday is also a chance to get the $10 Kobe burgers at Sweet and Savories (1534 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-281-6778), the sensational French-focused eatery in Lincoln Park. Pair one with a bottle of bubbly or a nice red wine.