Saturday, February 28, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Paul Virant, executive chef/owner of Vie in Western Springs. (Photo: Paul Virant)

Bar owner Brian Galati (Feb. 22) heats things up in Lakeview with his tropical island themed Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort. And keep your eye out this summer for his next new spot, Draft Tavern and Urban Grille, in Jefferson Park.

Zach Friedlander (Feb. 24) keeps the drinks flowing in West Town as mixologist for the cool, yet sophisticated rock bar Relax Lounge.

Sarah Stegner (Feb. 25) makes the classics classy with her market fresh takes on the tried-and-true traditionals as executive chef and co-owner of Prairie Grass Café.

And Paul Virant (Feb. 25) is the man behind Western Spring’s Vie, serving seasonal contemporary American cuisine at the first restaurant in the area to serve alcohol since prohibition.--Served deliciously by Suzy M.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

The Chicago Free Press awarded Jim Lasky's Chaise Lounge the "Golden Spoon." He's shown here with wife, Mary. (Photo: Jim Lasky)

Michael Artel (Executive Chef/Cafe Med by Bice): "Had no clue, it is National Pancake Week!"

James R. Lasky (Restaurateur): "Thrilled, Chaise Lounge won a Golden Spoon for Top Restaurant."

Mark Mendez (Executive Chef/Carnivale): "Wants to do Latino version of Ratatouille, and call it Sofrito."

Carrie Nahabedian (Chef/Owner Naha): "Doing a soup benefit on Sunday at Custom House to benefit the Greater Food Depository...only $15..come out and support the cause! 1-4pm."

Salad Spinners: "The HOT ROLLS are coming soon."

Sarah Stegner (Executive Chef/Prairie Grass Cafe): "Working on menu idea for Sunday breakfast."

It's Getting Hot: 'Hell's Kitchen," Restaurant Week

Ben Walanka, executive sous chef at Rhapsody, is the only Chicago chef competing on Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen." (Photo: Ben Walanka)

It's been a busy month for local restaurants, particularly this week, with Chicago Restaurant Week, Chicago Chef Week and National Pancake Week all happening at the same time.

Throw in appearances by rock star spinner DJ Kiss and mega-R&B singer Ne-Yo, and let's just say our city is on fi-yah:


Bravo's crowned a new "Top Chef," but the competition's still hot and heavy on Gordon Ramsay's mad intense chef-competition "Hell's Kitchen," which is on at 8pm tonight on FOX. You can catch Chicago's own Ben Walanka, who's the exec sous chef at Rhapsody, busting his ass as one of the show's top contestants. Or, you can check him out at the restaurant, where he's there every night.

Cellar Rat's doing yet another freebie, y'all, so I'd get in on that reservation ASAP. This time they're offering guests Thai cuisine and wine pairings. 5-8pm. Reservations highly recommended.

Did you hold onto your "Slumdog Millionaire" ticket stub?! If yes, bring it into hot Indian eatery Marigold for 15 percent off your bill until March 22 (Friday, Saturday excluded). Limit one ticket stub per table.

The MidWasteland joins forces with Pivot (1101 W. Fulton Market, 312-243-4754) for the launch of the Original Eco vintage launch party. Sip vintage-inspired cocktails as you rifle through loads and loads of retro and contemporary clothing. Also: 30% off new Pivot merchandise with the purchase of any vintage item on the night of the event. 6-9pm. Free.

Full Force is back at Sonotheque, this time featuring a free party with pioneering hip-hop jazz DJ Greyboy. That's 9pm-2am, but head next door to Relax Lounge first for Dine With Dale. The "Top Chef" alum whips up a $30, three-course dinner that includes buttermilk oysters, grilled Mahi Mahi and panna cotta. Also get 20 percent off on cocktails, wine and sparkling wine. That's 7-9pm.


Get a sugar high right after work with the cocktail-inspired, "happy hour" cupcakes at More. They're passing out complimentary treats every Friday 5-7pm in flavors like margarita, piña colada, Cuba libre and mojito. Or, you can also indulge in assorted Champagne-inspired cupcakes—in Bellini, Kir Royale and mimosa.

More offers cocktail-inspired cupcakes every Friday after work. (Photo: More)

The Make-A-Wish Foundation's annual Wish Ball is a big deal to a lot of folks (last year they had Ellen DeGeneres and raised more than $1 mil in one night!), so if you want to know who's hosting this year, try to get to the pre-party happening at Rockit Bar & Grill. Party includes food and cocktails. 6-8pm. $30 in advance; $35 at door.


It's the last evening to TOAST on The Magnificent Mile, the month-long, Moët & Chandon-sponsored event celebrating Michigan Avenue and all its luxury shops, night spots and restaurants. Peep all the events happening right here, which include 6:30pm fireworks at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River (with viewing at 401 N. Michigan Ave.), Bistro & Bubbles at Bistro 110 and 25 percent off Moët & Chandon bottles at China Grill.


Purgatory Pizza's all-you-can-eat pizza brunch is finally under way at the new-ish Wrigleyville spot. Local MCs, beer and pizza—all for $13. Phillip Morris hosts with friends each week. 11am-3pm.

And soup's on at Custom House, as local chefs go head to head with their signature hot sippers. Participants include Giuseppe Tentori (BOKA/Perennial), Bill Kim (Urban Belly) and Carrie Nahabedian (Naha); ABC-7’s lifestyle reporter and “Hungry Hound” Steve Dolinsky serves as one of the judges. Guests get sample sizes of all entries, plus discounted cocktails, wine and beer. All proceeds benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. 1-4pm. $15.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Florence does Oprah!


Look who just updated his Facebook Status:

(Celebrity Chef/Food Network star) Tyler Florence: "I'm heading to Chicago to shoot Oprah's show on Friday."

It'll be interesting to see where he'll go to chow down after the taping, but he's gotten at least one invite from a Chicago chef:

Roger Herring: "Tyler don't forget about socca? The pizzettes from Art (Smith)'s house last year!"

Ne-Yo in Chicago?!


Super-aggressive club promoters Outfit claim that mega-R&B star Ne-Yo is the first guest of honor at their new Friday-night party at Lumen.

You know how these things go, but we'll be watching to see if Ne-Yo will actually show up after his Year of The Gentleman Tour at Chicago Theater.

That party's 9pm-2am.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stack 'em up high!


Noooooo one can make pancakes like my momma, but you'll get a close second during National Pancake Week running through Friday as restaurants in the city celebrate:

It's hard as hell to get into Wicker Park mainstay Bongo Room on weekends, but you always get a lucky break during the week. Sneak in for lunch and order the White Chocolate & Caramel Covered Pretzel Pancakes (crushed pretzel coated pancakes topped with warm white chocolate cream and topped with buttery caramel) or Lemon Ricotta Pancakes topped with crushed ginger snap and brown sugar butter.

David Burke's Primehouse offers a number of sweet and savory options especially for the occasion. For breakfast, indulge in the decadent PB & J Half Dollar Stacks with strawberry syrup or the Chocolate Pancakes with bananas and dried cherry syrup. And during lunch, the unique savory takes include Steak & Egg Pancakes (with mushroom, caramelized onion and spinach), Lobster Pancakes (with truffle butter and chili threads) or Pepper Salmon & Corn Pancakes with preserved onion and caviar crema.

Iconic breakfast joint Ina's, in the West Loop, knows a little something about pancakes, too. Owner Ina Pinkney's been cooking her version of traditional breakfast favorites for more than 30 years, and her Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes are not to be missed—especially when you toss in fresh bananas or blueberries.

Southern-style stacks can be found at Sweet Maple Cafe, in Little Italy. Their Apple Spice Pancakes are certainly filling, and go down good with a side order of bone-in ham or turkey sausage.

And we cannot make this list without Wishbone, with locations in the West Loop and Lakeview. The Fruit Pancakes should start off any day with a smile. Choose from seasonal fresh mango, peach, blueberry, banana or strawberry.

More cheers for beer


My fellow craft beer buds, you don't want to miss these events:

Doesn't the thought of a Stouts & Porters Tasting make your mouth water?! They may still have a few seats left for tonight's event at Bluebird, which includes a dozen global beers from St. Amroise Oatmeal Stout (Montreal) to Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout (Warrenville, Ill.). Twenty-five bucks also gets you brats and snacks. Reservations required. 7:30pm.

Sheffield’s beer school is in session, this time pairing suds with slices from Ian's Pizza. Their wacky mac 'n' cheese pizza, plus those topped with S'Mores, BBQ chicken and a salad (?!) will be artfully complemented with selections from beer expert Phil Kuhl. $25. Reservations required. Wednesday.

Or for a less-structured event Wednesday, head to West Loop hang The Beer Bistro for $2 cans of Hamm’s, PBR, Schlitz, Old Style or Point. OK, so those aren't nowhere near craft beers, but they'll perfectly pair with the beer-battered chicken fingers, BLT Club or one of their specialty pizzas. Happens every week.

Annual schmoozefest Wine, Beer & Art Party, hosted by 20/30 Club of Chicago, happens at Mars Gallery (1139 W. Fulton Market). Get ready for a well-picked selection of beer and wine. All proceeds benefit Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Horizons For Youth, HFS Chicago Scholars and MGR Foundation. 7-11pm Feb. 27. $35 in advance; $40 at door.

The Publican premieres the Monthly Beer Dinner Series on March 1 with the debut of Executive Chef Paul Kahan's Banana 7-Inch, a banana beer he created with Three Floyds. The four-course dinner is served family style, and reservations are highly recommended. $45 for dinner (additional $20 for beer pairings). 5-10pm.

And a special Unibroue Beer Dinner occurs at C-House with commentary by the brewer's own culinary attaché Jim Javenkoski. He'll guide guests through the five-course menu paired with the Belgian-inspired ales. Just tell us when the suckling pig arrives piping hot with the White Ale with Fruit and Spices. That's 6-8pm March 5. $40 (reservations required).

Let the Good Times Roll!

The Krewe of Isis on the Mardi Gras Parade route in New Orleans. (Photo:

Today's the today for your Fat Tuesday parties, and 312DD's got your list right here.

Also, peep Dining Chicago's video feature on new-ish Cajun-themed spot YATS in the West Loop.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chicago Restaurant Week: 'Jai Ho' joints


For those craving authentic Indian cuisine on the cheap after the big "Slumdog Millionaire" blowout, here's where to go during Chicago Restaurant Week for the deals:

India House Restaurant

Indian Garden Restaurant

Klay Oven

Coming our way this week!


New York mix minx DJ Kiss just updated her Facebook Status:

"Just finished spinning a crazy Oscar party for Madonna and Demi Moore!"

No wonder 312DD couldn't get her on the phone all weekend! We.Cannot.Wait until she plays Sub 51 on Thursday. They're also doing half-priced bottles on Snow Queen vodka, so that should be another incentive to be there!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Cafe Med by Bice executive chef Michael Artel (Photo: Michael Artel)

Ajasteak: "Enjoying RESTAURANT WEEK so much that we're extending our lunch menu full time! 3 course pre-fixe menu $22."

Michael Artel (Chef/Cafe Med by Bice): "Back @ work. Come in and eat."

The Bleeding Heart: "Freakin awesome Valentine's Day. Thank you so much to all our customers! New cupcake flavors this week, we'll keep you posted!"

Kevin Boehm (Partner/Boka): "Ready for Chicago Chef Week."

Graham Elliot Bowles (Chef/Owner graham elliot): "Dined at The Bristol last night, wondering why it took me so long to get there."

Stephanie Izard (Owner/Chef The Drunken Goat): "Hanging at south beach food and wine fest! good times!"

Joncarl Lachman (Chef/HB Home Bistro): "Making zwaardvis met zuurkool (swordfish with braised cabbage, duck sausage, mashed potatoes, parsley)."

Paul Virant (Owner/Chef Vie) "Going to Chalkboard tonight with wife and friends."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Birthday Boy Marc Brooks just added a Shrimp & Grits dish to the menu at Park 52. (Photo: Marc Brooks)

Haaaaaaappppppy Biiiirthday!

Park 52’s Marc Brooks (Feb. 15) brings a little more pizzazz to the Hyde Park ‘hood with some much needed casual, yet sophisticated American bistro cuisine.

Janine MacLachlan (Feb. 16) is a one-woman show as the instructor and principal of Saturday cooking classes at the Rustic Kitchen. She’s turned an 1881 farmhouse into the prime location for teaching seasonal garden-grown recipes in Saginaw, Mich.—only a short drive from the city.

Mix mistress Valerie Scheinpflug (Feb. 16) holds nothing back as the one and only DJ Psycho Bitch. She’s been mixing tracks around Chicago for two decades as a master of the underground music scene. Help celebrate her birthday bash at Scarlet in Lakeview. That's 8pm-3am Saturday.

Eric Williams (Feb. 17) is best known as the owner of hipster jewelry shop The Silver Room in Wicker Park. And those really in the know likely go check him out when he's spinning his cool brand of hip-hop soul over at Sonotheque. He also does a monthly, booze-soaked, after-hours party at TSR on Saturdays.—Served deliciously by Suzy M.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The most decadent Sliders . . . ever

Three variations of foie gras torchon as Sliders, created by Phillip Foss of Lockwood (Photo: Lockwood)

This right here is why we love Phillip Foss, exec chef at Lockwood.

In his blog, The Pinkled Tongue, Foss describes his decadent gourmet Sliders:

"We practiced this a few weeks ago for a tasting menu and was posted onto the blog thereafter… Foie Sliders, Version 1

To keep it from being way too expensive in the current climate, the truffles have been removed. On the bright side, we are serving each Slider in a different style:

1 - Tokai gelee with persimmons compote

2 - Port gelee with fig compote

3 - Pear Cognac (Belle de Brillet) gelee with quince compote… the pear gelee would make a great jello shot for a Harvard frat party!

We’ll see how this dish goes, but I could see how the amount of steps involved in the preparation could complicate our kitchen’s service… worst case scenario would be that we will serve it in only one preparation.

Besides for that, the torchon is time consuming but surely worthwhile. Frustratingly, whoever cut out the discs of foie gras for this photo didn’t put the ring mold in hot water first, hence the jagged edges. As this was for the server’s training and the picture still gets the point across, I let it slide… no pun intended."

Let's Stimulate the City!


So, so, so much going on the next few days, so let's get right to it.

This weekend we've got Oscars parties, Chicago Restaurant Week and the debut of Chicago Chef Week.

Up next: You don't want to miss the first-ever Chilifest, happening at Rockit Bar & Grill, plus Mardi Gras madness on Fat Tuesday.

In the meantime, get ready to rumble . . .


Give it up for the man who made Cubs' games more than just another day at the ballpark. It's time for the Annual Toast to Harry Caray, now in its 11th year at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse. The theme of this year’s tribute is 101, marking 101 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. No matter where you are in the world, lift your glass at 7pm. The first 101 fans to arrive for the toast at any of the Harry Caray locations (also Lombard, Rosemont, Wrigleyville) get a complimentary replica pair of Harry’s signature glasses and "Cubs Fan, Bud Man" hat. Also, 101 cent Buds throughout the day for all.

It's time for the annual SMACKDOWN mac and cheese cook-off, happening at Goose Island. A number of local high-profile chefs go head to head with their best recipes, including Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Stephanie Izard ("Top Chef," The Drunken Goat), John Chiakulas (Mity Nice, Foodlife), Amalia Obermeier-Smith (Kuma’s Corner), Chris Pandel (The Bristol) and Roger Herring (Socca). Proceeds benefit Organic School Project, an initiative in the Chicago Public Schools teaching children about more mindful food and lifestyle choices. 6-10pm. $75 in advance; $100 at door.

SUB 51, the lower-level party spot of HUB 51, is doing its part to encourage you to get out and about with the brand-new Snow Queen Thursdays. Guests get half off on bottles of Snow Queen vodka, as deejays spin the usual hip-hop, rock and pop beats. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Could you possibly resist this deal at Cafe Selmarie?! Tonight's $20 prix-fixe menu includes soup, lobster ravioli, ruby red trout and a choice of dessert from the in-house bakery. Best deal of the day!

One of my fave house deejays of all time, Mark Grant, spins alongside Craig Alexander at new Wicker Park sensation Crocodile for the weekly US party. As always, there's free pizza when you order beer. 9pm-2am. Free to get in.

The "Annual Toast to Harry Caray" happens everywhere Thursday at 7pm.


Dunlays on the Square, the popular neighborhood wine bar, is now embracing beer. Choose from more than 30 brands, as well as five different flights. Each beer flight features three, five ounce pours, and Dunlays rotates them, highlighting seasonal and styles of beer. Flights are $6-$16.

Indulge in a little bit of culture with SENstudio, an art show by local artist Cleveland Dean at Par Lounge. Check out his style during the wine reception (7-10pm), and stay for DJ Marcus. Also, $4 sangria, $5 Bacardi cocktails, $5 vodka drinks. 6pm-2am. Free.


Vermilion, the hip Indian restaurant in River North, throws a—you guessed it!—Slumdog Millionaire bash. The pre-Oscar party includes a troupe of Bollywood dancers who'll teach you the "Jai Ho" moves, spicy specialty cocktails (Pani Puri margarita, blood orange chili Caipirinha, garam masala Bloody Mary) and "street" Bombay cuisine (Kabab platter, Chaat platter, Dhaba Thali, Mithai). Deejays spin after 9pm. $15 after 9:30pm.


Chicago's Twitterati community convenes for Brunch and Tweets! , starting at Yolk and ending up at the Art Institute of Chicago. It's a BYOB event, so bring your bottle as well as biz cards. Art Institute is free all month! 11am-4pm. RSVP at to reserve your spot.


Now here's a novel idea! Lush Wine & Spirits launches its first-ever Lush Reads ~ Book Club, for those book—and wine enthusiasts. Taking place every six weeks at the Roscoe Village location, they're starting with Making Sense of Wine by Matt Kramer, a great philosophical and practical introduction to wine. 6:30-8pm. Your $10 cover includes light bites, wine and a spirited discussion. Reservations recommended.


Rockit's trio of Chicago Firehouse, Rockit Rockshrimp and Four Alarm Chili. (Photo: Rockit Bar & Grill)

Get ready for Chilifest, happening only at Rockit Bar and Grill Feb. 23-27.

They're doing a different chili every day (we're digging on the Rockit Rockshrimp and Big Bubba’s Buffalo Barn Burner), but the added bonus for this first-ever event is that they're giving a free bowl to members of the Chicago Fire Department (show a valid badge and identification).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get ready for Mardi Gras!


Count on us to be right in the middle of the action when Division Street turns into a full-on Bourbon Street scene on Fat Tuesday (Feb. 24).

This first-ever, three-bar pub crawl stumbles through Bootleggers, The Original Mother’s and Shenannigans with live music, $5 Hurricane refills, dancing and more. Starts at 6pm. $10.

If that's too rambunctious for your tastes, check the list for more jump offs:

Carnivale throws a three-day celebration, mixing it up with a different theme each night. Festivities begin Sunday with family night complete with face painters, balloon cartoonists, stilt walkers, and free masks and beads. Mojito Monday keeps it going with a masquerade ball and drinks themed from around the globe, including a Mexican version with hibiscus-infused Gran Centenario tequila. And, as a grand finale, the Fat Tuesday bash offers live music, samba dancers, tableside mojito cart and Carnivale-inspired menu by chef Mark Mendez. 5-10pm

Get your dance on at Crobar's version of the New Orleans French Quarter. The Debonair Masquerade Ball boasts a live Louisiana brass band along with deejays Tony Arzadon and Tomeeo keeping the beats flowing. They’ll provide beads and masks, and when you need a break from the excitement, check out your fortune with tarot card readings. Don’t forget to RSVP for free admission and your first Hurricane on the house before midnight. Saturday 10pm-5am.

Heaven on Seven amps up their 24/7 Cajun flair with live music and a special themed menu. This time around, the spotlight is on the King Cakes—flown in straight from New Orleans. Find a prize in this traditional dish and you could be the lucky winner of some pretty sweet give-aways. They’ll be celebrating all weekend through Fat Tuesday. 11am-10pm.

For a well-paired brew with your Cajun celebration, head to Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap for the all-you-can-eat-and-drink beer tasting event. Cajun-inspired dishes will be paired with Louisiana microbrew, Abita, and set up in stations with information about each pairing. They’ll also feature Blue Plate Special, playing Creole-Zydeco to get you outta your seat. Beer pairing 6:30-9pm/$30. Live music 7-11pm Tuesday.

Mardi Gras Masquerade's the theme for Kit Kat’s Fat Tuesday set. In addition to their New Orleans-style menu, they’ll have masks, beads and performances throughout the evening by Kit Kat Diva Traci Ross. Half-price martinis and $5.50 Cruzan rum cocktails should keep the party going. 5:30pm-2am Tuesday.

Marche will bring diners a taste of the Bayou with Creole-inspired dishes created by chef Cory Peterson. The a la carte menu includes items like alligator soup ($12) and blackened rock shrimp risotto with bacon and scallions (14). Offered Friday through Fat Tuesday. 5:30-10pm

And celebrate Mardi Gras season Brazilian style at Texas de Brazil for a week-long kick-off to Carnival. The sword-wielding gauchos will be making the rounds with extra specialty recipes, including Carnival’s signature dish, Brazilian Feijoada (includes several kinds of meats cooked with beans and served with white rice). Also, check out the Carnival Shot Block for a little post-meal treat. This wooden tray holds four different shots inspired by the Carnival season ($44.99). Feb. 19-23.--Served deliciously by Suzy M.

Rock chef opens Feast with a bang


She's served as private chef for the likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart, but Tuesday Debra Sharpe (Feast, Goddess & Grocer) was in the spotlight with an event for the Australian Red Cross to raise money for the bushfire victims.

Held in conjunction with the grand opening for the new Gold Coast location for Feast, the benefit raised a nice chunk of cash to help the Aussies.

The second Feast is completely different from the original, more family-friendly spot, offering a beer-focused menu, as noted by Urban Daddy:

"On a Friday night before hitting the bars, you'll slip in for a casual dinner—one of the rock-solid burgers, paired with a cold Fat Tire or a get-this-party-started scotch (or both). Post-bar, you'll wind things down in the lounge with Brisket Sliders, or maybe a simple prosciutto pizza for two."

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Jon Young's Volo, in Roscoe Village, offers $10 on wine flights during "Flight Night" every Wednesday. (Photo: Jon Young)

Fernando Beteta (Wine Director NoMI/Park Hyatt Chicago): "Now Master Sommelier! Thank you all for believing in me and giving me strength!"

Graham Elliott Bowles (Owner/Executive Chef): “Devising menu for metropolis coffee dinner being held at graham elliot (wed, march 25th). four courses/four coffees/$49.”

Marc Brooks (Owner/Park 52: "Pleased with Park 52's new Shrimp & Grits dish."

Hunter Cannon (Bar Owner): “Looking for good acoustic group for Thursdays (at Faith & Whiskey).”

Curtis Duffy (Executive Chef/Avenues): "Focusing on Spring Menu Flavors!"

Stephanie Izard (Executive Chef/The Drunken Goat): "Getting ready for Smackdown at Goose Island tomorrow at 7pm. Come taste over 15 mac n' cheeses from Chicago chefs and vote for your fav!"

Mark Mendez (Executive Chef/Carnivale): "Making cochinita pibil for casa nobles teqila dinner tomorrow."

Debra Sharpe (Restaurateur): "So proud we raised a lot of money for the Australian Red Cross bushfire victims appeal at the new Feast in the Gold Coast."

Jon Young (Managing Partner): "All about Flight Night at Volo tonight!”

The Oscars are here!


You know you cannot wait to make your cattiest remarks as celebrities make their way down the Red Carpet right before the Academy Awards, happening Sunday, Feb. 22. But what good is it if you're watching them alone?!

Head out to one of these parties and get in the spirit with movie-themed cocktails, large screens and the chance to hang with some of the most glamorous people in town:

Watch the festivities on several flat screen monitors at the bustling bar of neighborhood favorite Brasserie JO. Bonus: Guests will be treated to complimentary passed tarte flambées.

Upscale sports lounge Bull & Bear jumps into the mix with a party that includes a prize for the "best-dressed couple." 7pm-2am. No cover.

Movie critic Richard Roeper skips Tinseltown for this Chi-Town shindig happening at Hub 51. The party should bring out some interesting media personalities, plus there's an open bar, contests and lavish buffets. A portion of the proceeds go to Columbia College Chicago's Film Scholarship Fund. Doors open at 6pm. $125.

For a pre-Oscar party, make your way to May Street Market for the event supporting ACCESS Christian Academy for Children with Disabilities. Mingle while munching on light appetizers by executive chef Alex Chesnick. 5-8pm. $60 in advance; $75 at door.

We're loving the flick-focused goodies over at Rendez-Vous Bar & Lounge in the Conrad Hilton, which will also have screens tuned into the action. Indulge in the decadent Godiva’s Milk and Golden Gate Cookies, a tribute to "Milk" with Godiva white chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka and cream (and golden gate cookies!); Button Cakes ("Curious Case of Benjamin Button"); and The Millionaire Mojito ("SlumDog Millionaire"), which adds bubbly to the tasty Latin libation.

And they're rolling out the Red Carpet for yet another benefit at the brand-new Tapas Valencia in the South Loop. Hosted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Associate Board, the "Dark Night"-themed party includes passed tapas, specialty cocktails and a silent auction. Of course, you'll be able to catch the awards show on several televisions. Doors open at 5:30pm. $50 in advance; $55 at door.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hail to the Chef . . .

Randy Zweiban, chef/owner of Province in the West Loop. (Photo: Laurie Proffitt Photography)

The second-annual Chicago Restaurant Week kicks off Feb. 20, but there's yet another dining-related extravanganza certain to drive foodies in a frenzy.

The first-ever Chicago Chef Week, happening Feb. 22-27, showcases some of the most recognized culinary stars in the city, such as Paul Virant (2007 Food & Wine Best New Chef, Vie), Shawn McClain (2006 James Beard Best Chef Midwest, Spring) and Randy Zweiban [Best New Restaurant (Nacional 27), Chicago Magazine, 1998], now owner/chef of Province.

Each restaurant offers a three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu for $32, and Blackbird, Hub 51, Province and Sepia will also have a three-course, prix fixe lunch menu for $22.

Here's the list of participants:

Adobo Grill (Freddy Sanchez)
Blackbird (Paul Kahan, Michael Sheerin) lunch only
Boka (Giuseppe Tentori)
Green Zebra (Shawn McClain)
Hub 51 (Michael Belivich)
Landmark Grill & Lounge (Kurt Guzowski)
Lockwood (Phillip Foss)
Mado (Rob Levitt)
Old Town Brasserie (Andy Motto)
Perennial (Ryan Poli)
Province (Randy Zweiban)
Sepia (Kendal Duque)
Sola (Carol Wallack)
Spring (Shawn McClain)
Topaz (Giuseppe Scurato)
Vermilion (Maneet Chauhan)
Vie (Paul Virant)
Vinci (Paul LoDuca)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, you dirty dog!


Juicy Wine Co.'s new Wednesday night affair is their best by far, featuring the Pornographic Chili Dogs:

"They're the biggest, meatiest, sexiest chili dogs you've ever fantasized about. It all starts with mouthwatering, smoked hot links from Austin, Texas. We drape those squealin'-hot Texas 'dogs in heavenly beef brisket chili straight from everyone's favorite BBQ, Smoque. We top that with mounds of aged Wisconsin cheddar. Add Juicy's own tangy, apple cider vinegar slaw and truffle lavender* honey mustard sauce and you've got yourself a freaking awesome Pornographic Chili Dog. And we'll be servin' 'em up every Wednesday, 6pm to midnight."

Oh, and this too:

"We'll be tapping a fresh kegger of Three Floyds on the back porch, every week. Quench your thirst and sooth your strained vocal chords with $4-dolla-no-holla pints of Three Floyds brew, all night long.

Seeing as we're a wine bar and all, we'll also be pouring $5 glasses of delicious reds and refreshing whites, hand-picked by (owner) Roland Alexander, his bad self."

'Hell's Kitchen' hopeful is a local


It's like Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" is the unfortunate-looking stepchild when compared with "Top Chef."

Both are reality chef-driven shows, but "Top Chef" always gets props from the critics for putting on up-and-coming culinary stars, while "Hell's Kitchen" is generally mocked because of its foul-mouthed host in Ramsay.

But in its current fifth season, the show is stepping it up with some serious competition, including our very own Ben Walanka, a sous chef at Rhapsody and the Chicago Symphony Center.

Ben Walanka's signature dish on Hell's Kitchen: Peking Duck Breast and Golden Beets with Baby Bok Choy, Tri-Colored Baby Carrots and Fig Molasses. (Photo: Ben Walanka)

During the premiere episode a few weeks back, Walanka sweated with the other 15 contestants as Ramsay tasted their "signature dishes" to see who really had the chops to win the position as executive chef of the Borgata Resort in Atlantic City as well as a $250,000 cash prize. His perfectly executed Pan-Seared Peking Duck Breast impressed Ramsay, who admitted that Walanka's creation was "by far the best dish on the men's team."

Thursday marks the third episode, and we found at least one viewing party if you'd like to cheer Walanka on—with him.

In fact, it comes directly from his Facebook status:

Ben Walanka: "Wants to know who's coming to Kirkwood on Thursday to watch 'Hell's Kitchen' with me!"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Get your $$$ in advance . . .


NYC's Guest of a Guest blogs about bar ATMs ripping off vulnerable clugoers with fees upwards of $6.95.

We've seen that phenom lately in many a Chicago spot as some people are trying to make money any way they can. Also, mandatory coat checks ($3-$5) and washroom attendants giving you the sideeye if you tip less than $2.

Seriously, WTF?!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome Home, First Couple!


The Obamas are in the best place in the world to celebrate Valentine's DaySweet Home, Chicago!

So, of course, everyone's speculated where they'd end up on the most romantic night of the year. Turns out they're spending the entire weekend at their Hyde Park home, but if they had decided to venture out (UPDATE: They hit up Art Smith's Table Fifty-Two!), where would they go?!

Spiaggia, their favorite standby?! If they headed to this superb Italian eatery, they would've certainly nabbed seats overlooking the Mag Mile and Lake Michigan.

Or perhaps Le Colonial, whose romantic terrace perched over bustling Rush Street is the place to be when you're in amour.

Let's not forget Vivo, the West Loop hot spot with a private room elevator shaft that's seen the likes of Michael Jordan and Oprah.

Newcomer Eve is pretty much a long shot, but it would have been nice to see this progressive American restaurant in the Gold Coast get the spotlight.

Bucktown's Cafe Matou doesn't have a private dining room, but its delectable mod French cuisine and vino would have certainly made them feel as though they were the only couple in the place.

And no list would be complete without The Signature Room—offering the most spectacular view in the city from the 95th floor of the Hancock Building.

Someone's Having a Birthday!


February may be known as the month for flowers and chocolate but don't forget the birthday boy!

Giancarlo Turano II (Feb. 9) of Turano Baking Co. gets his own birthday shout-out this week as one of the very few February babies (where are the rest of you hiding?!). His family has been feeding our beloved carb cravings for nearly half a century with their artisan-style breads and pastries. You'll find their products at most grocery stores as well as a number of local restaurants and bars.

Have a February birthday? This Valentine's Day, Richard's Bar makes sure that all you February birthday babies get the love you deserve.

After all, this month isn't just about the chocolate and romance, it's about celebrating you. And this is a birthday event so forget the hearts and flowers and start thinking more along the lines of cake balls. 8pm-3am. No cover.
--Suzy M.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Your shot at the big time?!


This just dropped in the inbox:

"The National Restaurant Association is working with a national food channel production team to develop a short-list of casting prospects of first-time restaurant owners.

Are you opening your very first restaurant but you lack any real restaurant experience? Would you welcome the advice of a professional restaurant consultant? If this is you, we want you to star in an episode of a exciting new TV series for a major food network. In every episode of this captivating and very real one-hour series, the restaurant coach host provides first-time restaurant owners with the tools to open and run a successful business. We are looking for compelling characters with good personal stories and high stakes. Restaurant must be opening in November 2008-September 2009.

First-time owner casting prospects can be new to the restaurant world or a person who's been in the restaurant industry for years but never owned a restaurant. E-mail the individual(s) name, contact details and a brief bio to by 3pm CST, Friday, Feb. 13."

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

The Drawing Room's award-winning mixologist Charles Joly is shaking up something special for Valentine's Day.

Kevin Boehm (Partner Boka/Landmark/Perennial): "Excited about Chicago Chef Week."

Charles Joly (Mixologist/The Drawing Room: "Making lots and lots of marshmallows today . . . (for) Valentine's Day: Corzo Reposado & Grand Marnier infused marshmallows ...nothing's more romantic than gelatin and tequila."

Madrid Perry (Deejay): "Preparing for C'est Dommage (at Sushi Samba)!"

Azimio Rashad a.k.a. "Z" (Mixologist/Manor): Akira Lingerie Fashion Show at Manor tonight."

Debra Sharpe (Restaurateur): "Opening the new Feast in the Gold Coast with a fundraiser next Tuesday for the victims of the Victorian bushfires."

A Weekend with Edge


We've got you covered for Valentine's Day singles bashes, but there's so much more heating up the city in the next few days:


We need more parties like this! Burlesque phenom Angela Eve headlines the The Elysian Ball with multi-disciplinary artist and designer Christophe Gauspohl. They've transformed massive art space Xchange West (344 N. Ogden Ave.) into a modern speakeasy concept, showcasing a variety of erotic-based performances, interactive installations, fashion exhibits, video art and more. Guests are encouraged to dress in black tie or creative gear. Ticket price includes complimentary cocktails, but you can also BYOB. 8pm-1:30am. And if you're still standing at the end of the night, get to the after party at the Flat Iron Building (1565 N. Milwaukee Ave.), where you'll get to meet the performers. That's 2-4am. $35; $60 VIP.

One-half of the award-winning Masters at Work team Little Louie Vega spins a rare set at Crescendo. We love him best for his ground-breaking Nuyorican Soul style, which cranked out hit after hit in the mid- to late-1990s. But look for the hard-working Vega, who hails from Spanish Harlem, to spin classic sounds as well as new flavor. 9pm-2am. $20.

It's time for Spark Ventures' annual wine tasting bash, so hopefully tix are still left. The walkaround event happens at Hafele (154 W. Hubbard St.), with more than 15 wines to sample and paired with light appetizers. The nonprofit Chicago-based Spark Ventures helps vulnerable children around the world. 5:30-8:30pm. $85.


You cannot get any sexier than this: Underground unveils The St. Germain Cocktail tonight. So instead of doing the typical bottle service, indulge in this experience that includes the decadent liqueur by the carafe for $75 (serves six). Do it on the rocks, and for an additional $50, they'll throw in a bottle of bubbly. 10pm-4am.

Valentine's Day weekend wouldn't be the same without a party from HotHouse. They're transforming the upper level of Fizz into HotLoft, featuring global music by deejays Seth Hitsky and Vanessa Beck. The first 50 guests get a free glass of bubbly and handmade candles. 8pm-3am. $5.

Underground unveils The St. Germain Cocktail this weekend. (Photo: Underground)


Yet another sultry set happens at Sinha Elegant Cuisine, with authentic, all-you-can-eat Brazilian cuisine and live Latin music. It's BYOB, so bring your best bottle of bubbly. Stick around for the dance party led by one of the top Brazilian dancers in the city. 6:30pm. $30.

If you're looking for a new friend instead of a new love, head to Bon V for the casting party for season two of Paris Hilton's "MY New BFF." Even though the ditzy heiress will likely not be there, she'll have her scouts from MTV looking for the best candidates. Oh, and fellas, a ton of single women have already RSVPed, so it's something to think about if you're rolling solo. 9pm-3am. $20.


Servers in skimpy Catholic school uniforms. Bottomless Bloody Marys. And pancakes twice the size of your head. That's the theme for the indulgent new Sunday School brunch service at ajasteak on the first floor of the dana hotel. Now that's the perfect way to start off the week! 10am-3pm. Everything's a la carte.


Do some good in the Wicker Park 'hood by helping Between Boutique Café & Lounge pick out its new spring wine list. Hosted by Heritage Wine, the event includes a number of promising vino paired with sweet and savory bites by Executive Chef Radhika Desai, who was also a contestant on the current season of "Top Chef." 6-8pm. Free.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bleeding Heart Bakery: 'We're All Good!'

Michelle Garcia of Bleeding Heart Bakery (Photo: Bleeding Heart Bakery)

One day after Bleeding Heart Bakery owner Michelle Garcia sent this out about her shop's shuttering, she's back in business:

"After a re-inspection this morning, not one problem could be found and we are opening for business in about 1 hour!

THANK YOU so much for everyone's outcry of support and for your continued loyal business. We wish you an amazing Valentines Day! (yes, we will have a 'Kitchen Sink' cookie special for the weekend, just seems fitting).

Kitchen Sink Cookie - Oatmeal cookie with flax, dried fruits, and chocolate. $2.50 on special!"

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

The NRA's executive chef John Abels is up for grabs at Maven's "Share the Love Date Auction" tonight at Martini Park. (Photo: John Abels)

John Abels (Executive Chef/National Restaurant Association): "TONIGHT is the night......Maven's Share the Love Date Auction at Martini Park."

Yogi Jones (Mascot/Berry Chill): "Excited for the return of Pink Guava and Peach Mango (frozen yogurt) this Thursday!"

Joncarl Lachman (Executive Chef/HB Home Bistro): "Thinking this feels like a good day to do alot of braising."

Edwin Rios a.k.a. DJ Bear Who?: "Gathering the beats for a beat down at Evil Olive tonight."

Joe Shanahan (Owner/Smart Bar): "Getting ready for the return of Frankie Knuckles in Smartbar tonight. it has been 27 years since he has played the club!! It is going to incredible."

For all the single ladies (and lads!)

(Photo: NBC)

Why should couples have all the fun on V-Day?!

Instead of hibernating with mushy movies and music while everyone else is out wining and dining, get your butt out there in the mix.

So many spots cater to singles this year, so grab your pals and go:

Angelina Ristorante hosts a Singles in the City feast on Friday. Guests won’t have to worry about being in a sea of couples because this five-course, family-style dinner encourages friends and family to get together. For $40 each, you’ll get your choice of five dishes and a drink with dinner. Four-person minimum table. 5-11pm.

Cobra Lounge celebrates all weekend with St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Friday's event features a naughty burlesque show with Miss Maya Sinstress and Kendra James followed by a virtual freak show with The Reverend B. Dangerous. And in case that isn’t enough, metal band Skank will be performing live to keep you pumped. If that’s not quite your scene, round two will be on Saturday night with The Chamber Strings headlining. 9pm-2am. No cover.

An all-girls party happens at The Fifty/50 with Valentine's Day pampering for all. Love Soiree includes three hours of complimentary manicures and massages during dinner. Just sit back and feel the love while you enjoy your meal and then sip on Skyy Cherry Bomb shots and martini drink specials until 3am. Party starts at 9pm Saturday. No cover with RSVP to

J Bar pokes fun at love by encouraging guests to poke pins in party-favor "voodoo dolls." While DJ Rock City spins, the hilarious "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" plays on several plasma screens. Bartenders serve specialty themed cocktails, including the Love Him or Leave Him Cosmo (of course there's Effen black cherry vodka!). 8pm-3am Saturday. No cover.

Indulge a sweet tooth at Jake Melnick’s, where ladies will be given comped hand-made chocolate bon bons as reps from Magic Hat Brewery will be stirring things up with sexy party favors. Of course, you'll find specials on signature beers, including Founders Double Chocolate Breakfast Stout, which should pair perfectly with those bon bons. 9pm-2am Saturday. No cover.

Passion and Spice: Singles Night Out happens at Le Bar with a number of specialty cocktails and the opportunity to meet your match before the big day. Mixologist DJ (Daniel) Love has concocted a trio of treats to set it off right: Passion and Spice (depicts the heat felt when two lovers first meet through the spice of the cayenne pepper and Agave nectar), Aphrodite’s Chalice (represents the "getting to know you" phase of a relationship with rosé champagne, Hendrick’s Gin, raspberries, egg whites, simple syrup) and Cupid’s Arrow (rosé champagne, lychee puree, lemon, Veev, simple syrup; served in champagne glass). 7pm-2am Friday. No cover.

Pull out your boas and pearls for a Roaring Twenties-style set at The Lodge. The two-hour party will be complete with era dancers, Beefeater gin cocktails, bubbly, themed food and a Speakeasy atmosphere. 6-8pm Saturday. $30.

Turn old sorrows into a reason to party by checking into Rednofive’s Heartbreak Hotel. Revelers will be rocking to love-ballad remixes from guest DJ Rock Tee alongside resident favorites. Redno also offers special "love potions" to encourage extra mingling, including their potent version of the French Kiss Martini. 10pm-5am Saturday.

Looking for some old-school action? Silver Cloud hosts a Valentine’s Prom Night with a four-course dinner package and a half bottle of wine. You might want to skip the flashy dress and tux, but be prepared for a complimentary prom photo to take home as a souvenir. 6-11pm Saturday. $29.95 each.

Slip up to Sushi Samba's Sugarcane Lounge for C’est Dommage. Happening on Feb. 13, the masquerade bash includes a photobooth, complimentary masks and themed drinks. $10 gets you free passed appetizers and a hosted open bar (8-9pm). A portion of the proceeds benefit Howard Brown. 8pm-1am Friday.

Timothy O’Toole’s hosts a Nuts and Bolts mingler for singles. Each guy gets a “nut” and each girl receives a “bolt.” Only one matching set will exist in all the pieces, so there will have to be a lot of mixing and matching to find the "parts" that fit. Could this be some sort of sexy innuendo?! The winning “Nut and Bolt” pair will each be rewarded a $25 gift certificate. 9pm-3am Saturday. No cover.
--Suzy M. contributing

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bleeding Heart Bakery responds to shuttering

Michelle Garcia of Bleeding Heart Bakery (Photo: Bleeding Heart Bakery)

The Stew and other food-focused blogs wrote about the health department's temporary shuttering of Bleeding Heart Bakery.

But this afternoon, owner Michelle Garcia released this statement:

"It was reported yesterday, 2/9/09, that the Chicago Health Department conducted a routine inspection of Bleeding Heart Bakery, resulting in its closing due to clogged sinks, no manager on duty and overflowing garbage in the alley. The blogs, internet and news has run am muck with the story and many speculations and slanderous comments have been made.

We are writing this statement to put a stop to the rumors and to state our side of the story, which not one reporting agency, besides the Booster, has bothered to ask.

On Sunday night, after service, our kitchen sink became clogged, once noticed in the morning, the sink was covered and not used. The hand sink near by was affected and was also closed. These are two of 6 sinks we have in the bakery, three of which are hand sinks. This in no way said that we were not either washing our hands (as there is a sink 15 feet away for that) or our dishes. We were not actually open and no food could have in anyway been affected. Drano (yes, I know...bad) had already been purchased and cleared the drain in minutes. Problem solved before 11am.

We get our trash serviced every Monday by Waste Management. They usually come around 10 am which they did yesterday. As our inspection was between 8 and 9, the garbage was not emptied yet. We pay for this service and they come faithfully every week.

There were two members of the staff present both of which had their sanitation license, they were not asked for it. However, the bakery was cited for not having a staff member with their sanitation license present. The owner, Michelle recently had surgery and had to run out for 1 hour to a post op appointment. This one hour just happened to be the hour the health department showed up. Interesting.

We have always prided ourselves on our cleanliness and have supported an open kitchen from the very beginning to prove we have nothing to hide.

We apologize for any problems this may cause people, we have already gone back to the city and will be re-inspected within 48 hours, which is routine procedure. We will be open for business this weekend or sooner, without a doubt, and we will be celebrating another wonderful Valentines Day."

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Paul Virant, the acclaimed chef of Vie in Western Springs, is scouting spaces for a new downtown venture today. (Photo: Paul Virant)

Gregory Hall (Owner/Brewmaster Goose Island): "Thirsty for old Goose Island favorite Lincoln Park Lager, to be tapped on Abe's birthday, only at 1800 Clybourn."

James R. Lasky (Restaurateur): "Stoked for 63 degrees. Chaise will have a few outside tables ready for those who dare!"

John Ross (Owner/The Bristol): "Me and the redhead are reworking the drink menu to get our fabulous guests drinks faster....times are tough they need drinks (now)."

Paul Virant (Owner/Chef Vie): "Going to check out a restaurant space downtown (Tuesday) am."

Props for new Pilsen bar

(Photo: Simone's Bar)

We haven't hung out in Pilsen in years, but Thrillist's take on newcomer Simone's Bar makes it tempting:

"Further in's 'Simone's Lab,' a 1,000 sq ft bar-within-a-bar, event space, and art gallery, housed in a former mechanic's shop sporting graffiti-scrawled chemistry desk tabletops, dusty lab equipment displayed in lofted cases, random machine parts, and church pews (the only non-reclaimed thing is your jaunty soul).

Booze includes 40+ brews, from cheap staples ($2.50 PBR tall boys) to micros (Founders' Dirty Bastard, New Holland Dragon's Milk, etc) . . . "

Monday, February 9, 2009

'Swoon' on the sweetest day

Philip Foss of Lockwood. (Photo: Philip Foss)

They heat up the kitchens and now they're heating up your computer screen.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, our friends over at CitySearch have rounded up the sexiest chefs in town.

Of particular note: Michael McDonald (onesixty blue), Chad Starling (Le Lan), Philip Foss (Lockwood), and the lone female on the list—Radhika Desai (Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge).

We have some thoughts on who else should've made the cut, like . . .

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Marc Brooks of Park 52. (Photo: Marc Brooks)

Manolis D. Alpogianis (Partner/America's Dog): "The best stimulus package for Chicago is nice weather."

Marc Brooks (owner/Park 52): "Wondering why my friend Patrice Miner is talking about Houston's spinach dip and not Park 52's."

Michigan Avenue: "Looking forward to the Obamas coming back to town next weekend ! Any guesses on where they will go?"

Gregory Hall (Owner/Brewmaster Goose Island): "Can't wait for Chicago Art Brigade Valentine Market at Goose Island on Feb 11."

Julius Spates (Deejay): "Ready for the 3Degrees party at US @ Crocodile Lounge on Thursday & Jack @ Zentra on Friday!"

Rick Tramonto (Chef/Owner Tru): "Making a Tropical Fruit Salad with Vinaigrette Noodles for South Beach Food & Wine Festival."

More props for local restaurants and chefs

The Publican is Chicago's only eatery up for Bravo's "A-List Restaurant." (Photo: Bob Briskey Photography)

Chicagoans represent in two categories in Bravo's annual A-List Awards, which selects the country's top tastemakers:

A-List Chef: Guiseppe Trentori (BOKA); Koren Grieveson (avec); Grant Achatz (Alinea)

A-List Restaurant: The Publican

Vote now!

Friday, February 6, 2009

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Faith & Whiskey/Bon V partner Hunter Cannon with adorable friend. (Photo: Hunter Cannon)

Todd Appel (Mixologist/Crimson Lounge): "Back from lunch with a friend...had an amazing BACK day at the gym...finally in a good mood. (Celebrity deejay) Samantha Ronson tonight at CRIMSON. Maybe LiLo (Lindsay Lohan).off the hook anyway."

Hunter Cannon (Owner Bon V/Faith & Whiskey): "Faith & Whiskey tonight."

Darryl Hervy (Universal Music Group): "Getting ready for tonight's India.Arie event at Checkerboard Lounge. 8:P.M. doors."

Le Colonial: "Has a few spots left for the Feb 28th cooking class."

Mark Liberson (Partner/Hydrate): "Going to Manny's for lunch- haven't been in years! If you haven't been you need to go. Incredible deli!"

mk: "Oh boy... we're on 'Check, Please!' tonight at 8p & 11p. We'll be working so tweet to let us know how we look please!"

What would Alpana drink . . . at Schwa?!


Mistress of merlot, meritage and all types of vino Alpana Singh doles out advice to a reader dining at BYOB sensation Schwa for the first time:

"I find that when it comes to avant garde food, sommeliers can get really creative and utilize unknown grapes and regions and they can also reach into their bag of tricks and pull non wine items such as beer, sake, cocktails or add liqueurs, bitters and other aromatics to wine to make them more complimentary to the dishes.

"It's hard to pinpoint a style of wine that would pair well across the board with avant garde gastronomy but overall I would say that the wine must have a high degree of acidity in order to keep the pairing clean and not overwhelming. I would stay away from heavy, oaky and buttery whites and over ripe, extracted and alcoholic reds since they tend to mask the intricate flavors and textures of food."

Food porn.


The provocative flyer for ajasteak's new brunch menu just dropped in the inbox.

At 312DD, we actually prefer our eggs scrambled, but that's besides the point!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Todd Stein, executive chef of the soon-to-be opened theWit Hotel hot spots Cibo Matto, State and Lake, and Roof. (Photo: Todd Stein)

Todd Appel (Mixologist/Crimson Lounge): "Thinking about juleps."

Jesse De La Pena (Deejay): "Spinning at Jbar tonite 610 N. Rush St. no cover 21+ 9pm-1am. Stop by."

Caroline Hamilton (Mixologist/MK: "Working on a new 10 cane cocktail at MK tonight. Who wants to come be my taste tester?"

Charles Joly (Mixologist/The Drawing Room): "Getting ready for our first At the Bar dinner!"

Mark Liberson (Partner/Hydrate): "Hopes you help support the Red Cross Thursday at hydrate- "flirting for disaster" begins at 6 p.m."

Todd Stein (Executive Chef/Cibo Matto, State and Lake, Roof): "Happy to be in Chicago today."

It's a Heatwave!


OK, not really, but hey it's close enough at a record 50 degrees this weekend. But let's not get carried away and try to do alfresco, OK?!

And you have absolutely no excuse to stay indoors . . .


Head to Edgewater for the $23 prix-fixe deal at Broadway Cellars. For an additional $5, they'll throw in three ounce wine pairings. That's every Thursday.

Get a jumpstart on your Valentine's Day festivities with a Wines for your Valentine tasting at WineStyles. Sample various vino (including sparkling!) that should get your sig other in the mood for amour. 6-8pm. Free.

Simply sexy sounds will be the focus during Funk Du Monde, featuring offbeat DJ Madrid & Friends. Held at Cat's Meow, get ready for exotic beats and $5 Effen cocktails. 9pm-2am. No cover.


The annual Starlight Children's Foundation's Dream Date returns to the Park West. This is the premier live auction event with packages presented by Chicago's most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. Also, open bar, buffet, live entertainment. Sells out every year, so you may or may not get tix. Doors open at 6pm. $55 in advance; $65 at door. Get 'em here.

Specials galore at Between—the restaurant where "Top Chef: New York" contestant Radhika Desai is the queen of cuisine. Indulge in the $30 trio special, which includes three sharing plates (offered from 6-7pm) or a $5 Hot Buttered Rum Pot for two served with tea cookies, $25 single-malt scotch flights and $30 tequila flights.

Whimsical deejay/emcee Biz "Just a Friend" Markie rocks Rednofive at 11pm. $20.


Head to Pops for Champagne for a special Egly-Ouriet Champagne tasting. You'll get to sample three cuvées from this house that was one of the first grower champagnes to be distributed in the United States. 3-5pm. $20.

We've got the vegans covered too this weekend with an event happening at Trotter's To Go. Chef Charlie Trotter will sample dishes from Linda Long's Great Chefs Cook Vegan! cookbook. They'll pair each bite with wines. 2:30-3:30pm. Free.

It's the perfect evening to TOAST on The Magnificent Mile, the month-long, Moët & Chandon-sponsored event celebrating Michigan Avenue and all its luxury shops, night spots and restaurants. Peep all the events happening right here, which include 6:30pm fireworks at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River (with viewing at 401 N. Michigan Ave.), Bistro & Bubbles at Bistro 110 and 25 percent off Moët & Chandon bottles all month at China Grill.

Choco-holics, please remain calm. The French Pastry School is hosting its annual fundraiser For the Love of Chocolate, where everything in the room is made of chocolate (just try not to eat the servers and bartenders!). Several rooms feature spectacular sweets in every type, so you can go completely nuts. 6:30-10pm. Get the $95 tix here. 226 W. Jackson Blvd., 312-726-2419, ext. 211.


Sushi Samba has changed its brunch program so many times that it makes our heads spin. This time, they've managed to get it right with a $16 deal that includes three cocktails. Sunday Funday dishes: South American frittata, Doce de Leite French Toast, raw bar selection and Sunday Morning Sushi.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sweets 'n' suds!


Those looking for unconventional Valentine's Day deals should check out Urban Daddy's roundup of beer and chocolate pairings.

Our picks?! We're digging on Mexican fave Negra Modelo paired with chocolate mousse at Chocolate Grape and the five-course feast teaming up East Coast brewery Dogfish Head with dishes like braised brisket with cocoa bibs at In Fine Spirits Lounge.

Certain to make everyone happy!

Polls now open . . .


. . . for the Chicago Reader's annual Best of Chicago issue. Be sure to get your votes in for the Food & Drink category here.

What they're saying on Facebook . . .

Steven Lee (left), wine director for Sixteen, with the acclaimed Schwa owner/chef Michael Carlson. (Photo: Steven Lee)

Rodney Alex (Partner/Juicy Wine Co.): "Wondering will his voice hold up for rock band tonite (Wednesday) at juicy."

Jesse De La Pena (Deejay): Looking forward to a double dose of Cuatro this week (Weds After Work) & the First Friday Party.. Plus Debonair (Weds after 11pm) all no cover.. 21+.

Gregory Hall (Owner/Brewmaster Goose Island Pubs): "Headed to NYC for gastropub tour."

Steven Lee (Wine Director/Sixteen): "Just finished up at Hot Doug's. Foie gras, truffle and encased meat, yum."

Matthew Mccahill (GM/Crimson Lounge): "Sorry but Friday with SamRon at Crimson is SOLD OUT."

David Sabatis (Deejay): "Getting some Open Bar @ Brando's on Thurs night."