Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Top Chef 4:' Week 3

Stephanie Izard's Mixed Fruit with Oatmeal-Pine Nut Crumble (Photo: Bravo)

Hometown hero and Top Chef contestant Stephanie Izard posted this recipe for Mixed Fruit with Oatmeal-Pine Nut Crumble on the Bravo web site. Also, she didn't get sent packing her knives tonight!

And our own Rick Bayeless, of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo (449 N. Clark St., 312-661-0381‎) fame, blogs on Bravo with his thoughts on the show.

The Wild Brunch

“The King” French toast, available only at Rockit Bar & Grill.
(Photo: Rockit Bar & Grill)

Music is the key at these Sunday brunch spots where the eats deliciously match the beats:

At Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000), you’ll get classic acoustic rock by some local artists playing everything from the Rolling Stones, Beatles and early Sheryl Crow. You’ll definitely want to pair that with their newest brunch offering—The King—an ultimate French toast dish that’s the perfect tribute to Elvis. You’ll want a little less conversation at the table as you dig into decadent bites of the thick-cut French toast swirling with a peanut butter reduction, freshly sliced bananas, whipped cream and toasted peanuts. That’s $12, and do yourself a favor and pair it with the Mimosa Kit, which comes with a bottle of bubbly as well as a selection of freshly squeezed juices like mango, orange and pineapple. Get that for $30 or go all out with a premium bottle of Champagne for $50. 11am-4pm.

Cuatro’s (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856) sexy Bossa Nova Brunch is probably the hottest thing going on in the South Loop on Sundays. Latin band Bossa Tres spills the sounds as customers nosh on South American favorites like the coconut-milk pancakes studded with fresh pineapple, mango and toasted pecans for $7 or the slow-roasted pork empanadas for $8. Indulge in the Forbidden Fruit Sangria, which is infused with a dozen tropical fruits, for $10, to wash it all down. 10am-3pm.

And it’s time to get the blues at Junior’s Sports Lounge (724 W. Maxwell St., 312-421-2277), starting Sunday, March 30 and throughout the summer. Two Maxwell Street institutions—Fruteland Jackson and Fernando Jones—kick off the series throughout March. I’ve seen Fernando play before and he does it all—with the harmonica, vocals and guitar. He’s also good about getting the crowd involved, so don’t be surprised when he pulls you onstage to play the harmonica with him! Junior’s serves an all-American brunch to go with the blues, including a breakfast burrito, make-your-own omelet station and a build-your-own-breakfast sandwich station. Prices are only $7-$8. 12:30-2:30pm.

Have a Hearty good time

Steve McDonagh (left) and partner Dan Smith on the set with guests at HBTV. (Photo:

Food Network stars Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh—better known as The Hearty Boys—launched HBTV (3819 N. Broadway, 773-244-9866) back in December, but last night the two dining dynamos hosted a media event to demonstrate its unique concept.

What sets HBTV apart from other private-dining venues is that it's truly an interactive experience. In this very intimate and contemporary space that accommodates 10 to 75 (depending if you're having a sit-down dinner or reception), guests get a custom-designed menu, cocktails and a show.

Now, the show is where things get really interesting as they've got a mock kitchen set up as though they're taping one of their Food Network segments. The Hearty Boys host, of course, and bring several of the guests up to join in on the fun of creating interesting dishes, like the savory bread pudding they whipped up last night. This is all taped professionally and every attendee gets a copy of the DVD as a souvenir.

But HBTV doesn't come cheap. It's $125 a head, but think of it this way: You'd probably spend that much—or more—for dinner and a show. At least this way, you're getting a piece of the action.

Do a good deed tonight

Last week, I did a story on the primo charity black-tie and cocktail parties happening this season.

I'm sure you'll all be attending most of these events, but if you actually want to get involved with something, you can do something about it tonight. If you're between the ages of 25-40, the Lookingglass Theatre Junior Board wants you to be a part of the planning committee for their annual Madhatters Ball, which is happening at Underground (56 W. Illinois St., 312-644-7600) on May 10.

To find out how you can help, they're having a reception tonight at Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) 6-7pm. Cocktails and appetizers provided. RSVP here; space is limited.

Also happening tonight is Dollars For Doggies, hosted by Chicago Canine Rescue, at Krem (1750 N. Clark St., 312-932-1750). They're having a suggested donation at the door and a Pimp Your Pooch Booth where you can purchase your pet an American Apparel doggie sweater. 7-10pm.

You have got to be kidding me!

Thrillist Chicago today writes about the Bottomless Bacon Baskets at Whiskey Road (1935 N. Damen Ave., 773-315-2540). Did someone order the angioplasty?!

Celebrity chef spotted

"Iron Chef" Michael Symon

I've never caught an episode of Food Network's "Iron Chef," but if local culinary king Dirk Flanigan, exec chef at The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-2979), takes time out of his busy schedule to send me a giddy email letting me know that he just had dinner at his restaurant with current Iron Chef Michael Symon and hot restaurateur/chef Paul Kahan (Avec, Blackbird), then it must be a biiiiiig deal.

Deal(s) of the day . . .


Tonight, Quartino (626 N. State St., 312-698-5000) launches its monthly wine-tasting event where guests get to sample a variety of vino. But the best part of this party is that you get to take a bottle home! The featured winery is Azienda Agricola Gomba Boschetti Barolo from Piedmont, Italy. It's $30 for four wines, appetizers and the take-home bottle ($45 for Barolo). 7-9pm.

And another wine event happens at Webster's Wine Bar (1480 W. Webster Ave., 773-868-0608). They're featuring 25-30 reds from Austria, Germany and Switzerland paired with appetizers, music and mingling. Tasting begins with a brief presentation by sommelier Jeremy Quinn. Reservations required. 7-9pm. $30.