Monday, August 31, 2009

Newest Old Town bar off to great start

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(Photo: Old Town Social)


We've been waiting a long time for something super hot to land in Old Town, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear Old Town Social got major props from the people who showed up on its first weekend.

The mostly neighborhood crowd loved it for its unpretentious, yet upscale neighborhood vibe. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that the menu didn't disappoint either.

Urban Daddy gets to the bottom of what's sure to keep OTS on top for months to come:

"Strong brew like Bell's Two Hearted Ale (and about 59 others) await, but first pull up to the charcuterie bar where house-made soppressata, mortadella and pepperoni flow freely from the tap (by which we mean an antique hand-cranked meat slicer). Drop by early for a quick polish at the vintage shoe-shine station before sneaking a date into one of the secluded two-person cubbyholes and making a dinner of Smoked Sausage and Waffles, Crispy Duck Wings or Scotch Woodcock (um, not what it sounds like)."

Friday, August 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Artisanal Bistro is coming to the 312!

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(Photo: www.nyc.go)


Just when other media outlets had given up hope on whether Terrance Brennan's spiffy NYC bistro Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro & Wine Bar was coming to Chicago, an Ultimate Insider dropped this in the 312DD inbox:

"NYC Artisanal is going in (the former) Brasserie Ruhlmann space. They already started construction."

A call to the Big Apple original confirmed that yes indeed, plans are underway for another location.

An opening date was not confirmed, but we're on the case . . .

Braziliance!

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Brazilian Independence Day happens on Sept. 7, and to heat up our city during the final stretch of summer, The Drawing Room's hosting a special dinner.

They're going all out down in the sexy subterranean room with a multi-course dinner paired with cachaca-infused cocktails created by award-winning mixologist Charles Joly. And after dinner, guests will be treated to an authentic Capoeira performance by Gingarte Capoeira.

Event happens 7-9pm Sept. 8. $45.


Also, look for Sonotheque's monthly Braziliance bash to amp it up for the special occasion.

Deejay Joe Bryl spins an intoxicating blend of Samba, soul and hip-hop beats to encourage uninhibited dancing all over the space. They've also collaborated with neighboring restaurant Flo for a special Brazilian menu (those dining at Flo get in Sonotheque free).

And of course, they're doing a number of Rio-themed drinks, including Cococabana (coconut rum, splash of Amaretto, Grenadine, pineapple juice with an orange slice), a signature Braziliance Mojito (muddled fresh mint, Maker's Mark bourbon, sugar and lime juice on ice) and the Ipanema Martini (tequila, coconut rum, pineapple juice and sugar).

9pm-2am Sept. 3. Free before 10pm; $5 after.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

FREEBIE FRIDAY: Mini-Keg, mini-burgers for 4!

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Small Bar's "mini" keg. (Photo: Small Bar)


This week's FREEBIE FRIDAY takes place at Small Bar, the neighborhood micro-brew sports lounge with locations in Ukrainian Village and Logan Square.

One person will get a chance to experience their great new table service mini-keg paired with 12 specialty mini burgers. Bring three friends and it's an all-out party.

Winner will be announced after noon Friday!

Toast on the town . . . for charity

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One night. 20 bars. Lots and lots of booze.

It's that time of year again for Bar AIDS, the sixth-annual event when a number of establishments all over town donate a portion of the evening's profits to AIDSCare.

The leading organization does everything it can to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS, so props go to the likes of Chaise Lounge, Fat Cat, The Village Tap and Zocalo for lending a hand.

Bar AIDS takes place tonight all over town. Get the entire list of participating bars here. No cover, but some spots may offer drink specials.

It's raining like hell, but you won't let that stop your weekend . . .

THURSDAY

You love pork as much as you love beer, so there's no excuse to miss the pig roast going down at Landmark. They're doing it up with savory pork sliders paired with beer from Three Floyds, so it's guaranteed to be a squeal. Deejay J. Rose spins. 9pm-2am. $30.

The cool, kick-off bash for the annual Bucktown Arts Fest
happens tonight at The Bristol, giving you a chance to meet participating artists. Expect the offbeat eatery to lay out delicious bites, plus two beverages are included in the ticket price. 6-10pm. $30 in advance; $40 at door.


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Kit Kat and Purgatory host tribute parties for what would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday.


FRIDAY

Still relishing in summer hours?! Grab a late lunch at Publican, in the West Loop, where the celebrated pub offers a nice menu of casual grub like a lamb pastrami sandwich, spicy pork rinds, frites with George's organic egg and Bouchot mussels. Menu available 3:30-5:30pm.

To fete what would've been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday, Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club throws a tribute bash featuring all of his celebrity "friends." Look for Liza Minnelli and Liz Taylor, plus performances by lil sis Janet and the King of Pop himself. Toast his b-day with the signature $5 Black & White Martini (VOX vodka, dark chocolate liqueur, vanilla), and of course they'll be showcasing all his videos on large screens all night. 5:30pm-2am. No cover.

SATURDAY

Glazed, our fave local donut maker, is holding a Donut Fan Appreciation Party at Green Grocer. That's right, that means you'll get these tasty organic donuts using all local and sustainable ingredients for free! 5-7pm.

Purgatory hosts a Michael Jackson tribute party on his actual birthday. Guests are encouraged to come dressed as the King of Pop for free entry, and to dance along to a night of all MJ music. Look for the Carlton Bradley Dance Crew to teach guests a few of MJ's more famous moves. 9pm-2am.

The Eat Well, Drink Well guys (English, LaSalle Power Company, Angels & Mariachis) have added Rockwood to their little empire this week. Expect the usual casual neighborhood vibe this team is known for. 11am-2am.

SUNDAY

Too bad we cannot transport ourselves to Timothy O'Toole's right now for the bottomless Mimosas and Bellinis during brunch. That'll cost you $12, plus they pair easy with super-savory dishes like the breakfast nachos (tortilla chips with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, scallions, jalapeño, and two eggs any style), a half-pound Angus burger, or corned beef hash served with two poached eggs. 10am-2pm.

Flatwater also jumps on the pig roast trend with its first-ever event offering guests all-they-can-eat Swan Creek Farm suckling pork paired with grits, grilled corn and pineapple. Microbrews also included in the deal. Starts at 5pm. $75.

MONDAY

And Monday night revelers should slip into Spring for the weekly Fling. For $20, you'll get small plates paired with hand-crafted cocktails. 6-11pm.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Your FREE tix to hottest game in town!

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Stephanie Izard is the executive chef and co-owner of The Drunken Goat, set to open in early 2010. (Photo: Stephanie Izard)


So it happened again.

Stephanie Izard's second Wandering Goat Dinner sold out earlier this morning when the tickets went on sale. This time it happened in 90 seconds flat. Wow.

But have no fear. There's still a chance to get in on the hottest game in town if you follow her on Twitter, as she's "hiding" some free tickets at several secret locations around the city.

Good luck!

Autumn openings you don't want to miss!

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Jason Paskewitz is executive chef/partner at Gemini Bistro, set to open Sept. 9. (Photo: Gemini Bistro)


09.09.09.

Remember that date because that's when Jason Paskewitz (The Pump Room, Wave) returns prominently to the Chicago dining scene after a notable absence.

This time the quirky New York chef's taking his skills to Lincoln Park as executive chef and partner of Gemini Bistro, featuring modern-day dishes inspired by French, Italian and classic American preparations.

We've already indulged in some of the highlights from the dinner menu, including the Duck Confit Nachos (with shredded duck leg, manchego cheese and mango salsa), grilled Hangar Steak Frites (with mustard greens and poached lady apples) and the pan-seared jumbo sea scallops, so rest assured we'll be back to check out the rest.

Also promising is the brunch menu, which is always a good thing in this part of town. The stuffed vanilla brioche French toast and Cape Cod Lobster Roll are certain to be big sellers. And the Brunch Punch (made with flavored rum, fresh orange, fresh pineapple, grenadine and a dark rum floater) will make every Sunday a fun day.

The fall lineup for restaurant openings is bigger than the theater season!

Find out what's popping off here, including the first outpost of New York's Mercadito, Michael Kornick's DMK Burger Bar, former Food Network stars Hearty Boys' downscaled HEARTY and Jimmy Bannos' take on the gastropub, The Purple Pig.

Baller is 'generous with tip'

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Miami Heat star and Chicago homeboy Dwayne Wade impressed the staff at Feast Bucktown Tuesday, according to an Ultimate Insider:

"Dwayne Wade and girlfriend ate at Feast tonight and earned big props from the staff for being generous with their tip. Not huge news, but lots of notables are less generous."

That's so good to hear considering that we hear so much about other pro athletes (We're looking at you, Jordan and Pippen!) not being as generous.

But is the real story here about who that girlfriend was?! Word is that Wade is currently dating starlet Gabrielle Union, so we're on the case to see if that's who was dining with him . . . .

We also hear the baller and girlfriend also hit up Roof after dinner.

UPDATE: Feast owner Debbie Sharpe confirmed Gabrielle Union indeed dined with Wade at the popular Bucktown restaurant, and the couple left a SEVENTY PERCENT TIP.

Well done, Wade!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Let's scream . . .

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. . . for Ice Cream because today's National Banana Split Day.

Three luscious scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream surrounded by a fresh banana, plus dollops of whipped cream, nuts and chocolate sauce that's all topped off by a cherry is how you do it old school at Margie Candies (two locations in Andersonville and Bucktown).

Or for a twist on the classic calorie buster, head to Quartino, which serves it up Italian style as Coppa al Banana: caramelized banana and biscotti complemented by vanilla gelato, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and white chocolate shavings.

We cannot leave out Scooter's, the amazing custard shop in the heart of Lakeview. Their Banana Splice comes with your favorite custard flavor, plus a sliced banana, chocolate, strawberries, pineapples and nuts.

And looking forward, there's certain to be at least one Banana Split among the frozen treats at the Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival, happening on Sept. 4. A number of local micro-creameries (Homer's Ice Cream, Black Dog Gelato, Castle Rock Creamery), pastry chefs and artisans will be on hand for you to indulge in their creations.

For $25, you'll also be treated to a grand tasting of rare ice creams, experience live demos and workshops, and participate in the Great Chicago Brain Freeze—a chef competition where guests get the chance to vote for the winners and taste the results.

Event happens 6-9pm Sept. 4 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wacky, tacky email of the year!

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This right here has got to be the most bizarre email 312DD's ever received:

From: mailinglist@xxx.com

"Dear patron,

We are sorry to inform you of something that has little to do with culinary ideals and more to do with decency. It has recently been revealed that the owner of (redacted) and (redacted), (redacted), has been involved in an affair with a married mother of two, 20 years his junior. Watching her young family disintegrate has been tragic, and we urge you to make your dining plans elsewhere. While not excusing the actions of this young mother, her current situation made easy prey for a sleaze of his proportions.

Sorry for the intrusion, you will not receive further emails from this establishment."

What The (*&^%$#$%^&*&^%$# EFF?! This came from someone using the restaurant's email address!

Power to Pork for second Wandering Goat dinner

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Stephanie Izard is the executive chef and co-owner of The Drunken Goat, set to open in January 2010. (Photo: Stephanie Izard)


If you missed out on Stephanie Izard's much hyped Wandering Goat dinner that took place in July, have no fear, the second one's coming up on Sept. 2!

Word just came down that the Top Chef winner (and co-owner/chef of long-awaited The Drunken Goat) plans to pay homage to the hog at the next traveling dinner party, which will take place at a secret Chicago-area warehouse.

While listening to the casual sounds of local deejay RB, guests will enjoy the taste of Stephanie’s favorite beer from Three Floyds paired with specialties like Bacon Crisped Oysters, Bacon and Smoked Trout Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, and Aji-Braised Pork Belly.

Those interested in attending the dinner should follow Stephanie on Twitter, where she will announce the ticket sale date and time. For $65, food and drink are included (secret location will be unveiled to ticket owners a few days before the dinner by email).

The first dinner sold out in less than 10 minutes, so have that credit card at the ready!

Word to self-entitled culilary students: 'You WILL be blacklisted!'

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(Photo: Mark Mendez)


After Carnivale Executive Chef Mark Mendez ranted in an open letter to a wayward culinary student, a number of local chefs had his back, calling for an immediate blacklist of like-minded types:

Rob Levitt (Mado): "I was asked to talk to a class at Kendall a week from Monday. I am going to read this (letter) to them. Also, I think we should start a Facebook page listing the names of all the cooks/interns that have done something like this. I'll look into the legality of it. Beautifully said. In the midst of scrubbing down my kitchen tonight, I will raise a beer in your honor."

Timothy Cottini (Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!): "Well spoken chefs! Blacklists I am in!"

Mark Steuer (Hot Chocolate): "Kudos, I'm giving a copy to my intern ASAP. Also, Rob I'm with you on the blacklist idea."

Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge): "Mendez kicks ass! Totally on point. I've been telling people for the last few months that Mark is quietly one of the most important chefs in Chicago - from his focused cuisine to his dedication to local farmers and now to his recognition and outspokenness to a 'plague' in our industry. Bring on the Blacklist!!"

Weekend Tweet Beat

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Rodelio Aglibot of Sunda. (Photo: Rodelio Aglibot)


What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Rodelio Aglibot (Sunda): "Uuuggghhh just had some pooork dishes at the Publican........happyy happyyy happyyy! I need a smoke."

Phillip Foss (Lockwood): "Crew kicked ass last night so I'm braving the 3 block line to bring in Hot Doug's for the team."

Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat): "Finally trying Nightwood for brunch today. Sooooooo hungry can't wait! Holy crap it is a gorgeous Sunday."

Eric Jorgensen (Sushi Samba rio): "Chef de Cuisine (Dan Tucker) is at the Bears game. Let the party begin."

Debbie Sharpe (Feast): "Chef applicants forgetting to attach resumes to emails. Huh? Will they also forget to cook the food?"

Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge): "Cigar Sunday at the Peninsula hotel rocks! Hanging with wine director Mike Muser, Josh Moore from Hub 51. Good friends, good times!"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Local chef tells it like it 'tis!

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(Photo: Mark Mendez)


Carnivale Executive Chef Mark Mendez is fed up with culinary students thinking it's easy to be a chef and wrote this open letter on his Facebook blog:

"I am angry, so forgive me if I rant. You gave notice after only two weeks on the job and then didn’t show up the next day and really screwed me. I know why you quit; it was hard work, harder than you thought it was going to be. The funny thing is, you worked an easy station and never even worked on a busy night, funny right? The sad thing is you don’t even know how hard it really is, or what it truly means to be a line cook.

"It’s not all your fault; they didn’t really prepare you for this in cooking school did they? They didn’t warn you that being a great chef requires first being a great cook. They didn’t tell you about the sacrifices you have to make, the hard work, the hours, the dedication, the commitment, the lack of sleep, the constant abuse of the sous chef, they didn’t warn you. You thought you would graduate from school and be like Thomas Keller in a couple years, that’s all it should take right?

"I know, I know, learning how to use you knife, make a great stock, or learning how to properly blanch vegetables is boring, it’s cooler to work sauté station or grill. I’m too old school anyway, no immersion circulators, no foams, no cutesy plates, no pacojet, boring really. Who wants to learn how to properly sharpen a knife or butcher a fish, so boring and tedious.

"Well I need to tell you a few things. One day, just maybe, you will be a chef somewhere. You will need to train and motivate the people who work for you, guide them, lead them, teach them, and inspire them. One day you will spend more time looking at a profit and loss statement than you do your station. You will miss prepping your station, making a sauce, butchering a piece of meat, even sharpening your knife.

"You will spend time in marketing meetings, staff meetings, partners meetings, vendor meetings, all kinds of meetings. You will spend more time in the front of house than you really want to; spend time outside of the kitchen promoting your restaurant, give interviews, agonize over food and labor costs, kiss your wife goodbye while she sleeps because you have to be at the restaurant early for some insane reason, and somewhere in there make sure you are serving tasty food. You will miss weddings, birthday parties, graduations, all kinds of things. You will alienate your friends and family because you don’t write or call enough. There are no sick days, personal days, breaks, this is not like a 9 to 5 job, get over it.

"Get ready for years of sacrifice, hard work, and stress. Learn as much as you can, read everything, ask questions, write things down, save your money and eat at other restaurants, show up to work early and offer to stay late, come to work on your day off just to learn how to make pastry or hone butcher skills. Taste everything you can, over and over, and ask the chef so many questions he gets annoyed.

"Take care of yourself and sleep as much as you can and skip after work drug/liquor binging, so you wake up ready and on time. Travel and experience another culture eat their food and learn to speak their language. Learn to appreciate the time you have right now, enjoy the ride, the process, don’t be in a hurry to be a sous chef or make a lot of money, it’s not about that and it never will unless you are extremely talented and lucky.

"There is only one Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller, or Grant Achatz, and they all have worked extremely hard to get where they are and continue to do so. Enjoy all the bullshit that comes with this life, embrace it, learn to thrive on it. One day, when you are an executive chef or chef/owner, there will be an epiphany so powerful you will have to sit down. You will understand everything every chef or sous chef yelled at you, you will understand why we work why we do, you will understand why our profession is so wonderful, so unique, and it will hit you hard.

"I can’t tell when or where this will happen but I promise you it will if you work hard and keep your head down and do what your chef tells you. So keep this in mind when I give you a hard time and push you, criticize you and refuse that day off request.

"Maybe the next job you have you will suck it up instead of leaving them short a line cook on a busy night."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Punk Rock Reality Star Chef?!

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

Planet Green, the eco-conscious arm of the Discovery Channel, is developing a pilot on Michelle Garcia's punk rock pastry shop Bleeding Heart Bakery in Roscoe Village:

"Bleeding Heart is the nation's first totally organic bakery. The bakery is dedicated to delivering organic, sustainable, and delicious food but it's certainly not Betty Crocker's shop. Maintaining order among the tattooed, pierced, and sometimes unruly staff is a major challenge, to say nothing of the difficulties of starting and running a small business. Watch as the unbleached flour flies in this exciting reality series."

Grub Street has more on the story here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Glamorama's "big" surprise guest?!

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Just found out who the "big-time" guest star is going to be at Friday's highly anticipated Glamorama at Chicago Theatre.

Muppet legend Miss Piggy is definitely a style icon, so a retrospective on her impact on high fashion should definitely be the highlight of the production. Attendees will get glass-case views of The Divine Ms. Swine's couture ensembles, which include a Burberry quilted gold trench, a custom-made blue kimono by Jason Wu and a peacock feather dress by Prada.

For Friday's show, we hear she'll be wearing Marc Jacobs.

A little taste of Hed Kandi goes a long way

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Cover illustration for Hed Kandi by Jason Brooks


Now that you've gotten over the shock that you won't be getting into any of newly crowned Top Chef Master Rick Bayless's restaurants anytime soon (opentable.com has no reasonable reservations available until well into fall), it's time to move on.

If you've got a big appetite for soulful, electronic house music, indulge in some Hed Kandi, the glamorous U.K.-based deejay collective that's on its way to new West Loop lounge Theatro tonight. Hed Kandi deejays Airloom and Funky Couture kick off the monthly residency with a blow-out bash featuring comped cocktails and light bites from Sushi X until 10pm, plus a visit from lingerie-clad football team Chicago Bliss.

Party happens 8pm-2am Thursday. Cover varies.

Benefits, beats and eats to keep you happy all weekend long:

THURSDAY

Hopefully the bad weather will hold off for the Mile-High Cocktail Club, taking place on C-View's rooftop lounge. SVEDKA Vodka created an "in-flight" cocktail menu just for the occasion, plus the "cabin crew" will serve comped appetizers from C-House. 6-9pm. Free, but RSVP necessary at Chris@expagency.com.

A number of fabulous women in media, PR, fitness, fashion and beauty (including yours truly!) will be honored during Maven's Diva Series Reunion at BOKA. This party benefits PAVE, a nonprofit focusing on the awareness of sexual violence. 8-11pm. $20 with comped appetizers and $8 specialty cocktails.

The St. Jude Summer Sipper's a favorite of the supporters of the venerable children's hospital, and tonight's event happens at Maeve in Lincoln Park. 6-9pm. The $40 ticket includes wine tastings and appetizers.

Every kid needs proper school supplies and books, and WITS is doing its part to make that happen. Their next benefit happens at WAVE, where guests will be treated to summer-focused cocktails and appetizers prepared by Executive Chef Kristine Subido. 7-10pm. One hundred percent of the $55 benefits WITS.


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"Cigar Sunday" happens this weekend on Peninsula's fabulous outdoor terrace. (Photo: Peninsula Chicago)


FRIDAY

If you don't make it to Glamorama, Chicago's top fashion event of the year, head to the after-after-party at Underground where R&B super star Ne-Yo is scheduled to make an appearance. Look for him to show up around 1am, but I wouldn't count on him singing. 10pm-4am. $20.

Here's your chance to get a taste of Frontera Grill after all! The award-winning Mexican restaurant, along with the likes of Hot Chocolate, Santorini and Bluebird, caters a benefit for StreetWise, the magazine providing an income to homeless Chicagoans. The party also includes an open bar and goes down at the Rooftop Sculpture Garden (117 N. Jefferson, fourth floor). 6-9:30pm. Get the $100 tickets here.

A Taste of Provence continues through Saturday at Kiki’s Bistro. The French-focused eatery's paying homage to Julia Child with regional wine and cuisine specials, including monkfish with Ratatouille and tomato coulis.

SUNDAY

Instead of the usual brunch, why not partake in Red Light's delicious BBQ benefit for farmers Tracey Vowell (a former Topolobampo chef) and Kathe Roybal of Three Sisters Garden?! Participating chefs include Giuseppe Tentori (BOKA) and Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris (Prairie Grass Cafe), Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Jolene Worthington (Eli's Cheesecake) and chefs from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo. Noon-3pm. $50 (tickets not available at door; must be purchased at participating restaurants).

Here's one for the cigar enthusiast: Cigar Sunday returns to the terrace at Peninsula, where you can smoke stogies, sip single-malt scotch and bond with other like-minded luxaholics. 5-10pm. No cover; RSVP required at diningpch@peninsula.com.

MONDAY

And McDonald's Filet-O-Fish will have nothing on C-House's new C-Wich, now available on the lunch menu. It's stacked with house-made crab cake between a brioche bun with coconut gribiche, and served with a side of seasonal apple slaw and tomato-corn salad. Today through Aug. 28, you can get it for $5 (regularly $15). Other $5 offerings during the promotion include C-House fries with housemade ketchup; decadent chorizo mac & cheese with local goat cheese; and white wine spritzers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

(Top Chef) Master of His Domain!

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(Photo: Rick Bayless)


Felicidades to the first-ever Top Chef Master Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo), you make Chicago proud!

While Bayless himself gushed out only two words on Twitter—"Party's starting!"—his fans had plenty to say about his big win:

asupsiri: "Rick Bayless: the Top Chef Master!! Couldn't happen to a nicer guy - and gotta love that he reps both Mexican cuisine and Chicago!!"


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The scene from Frontera Grill during the finale party—from Bayless's iPhone. (Photo: Rick Bayless)


HitnRunTony: "Fuck yeah! Chicago's own, The king of Mexican cuisine Rick Bayless is The Top Chef Master. He said it himself 'VIVA MEXICO!'"

bitchyshitty: "New food guy crush: Rick Bayless."

cacoperez: "Very good finish to Top Chef Masters. Rick Bayless was the winner. I'm finally going to try Frontera Grill in a couple of weeks."


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Bayless at celebratory party at Frontera Grill, telling guests that it took him 20 years to learn the mole recipe. (Photo: Ellen Malloy)


Mario_10: "All three Top chef masters were brilliant but Rick Bayless is 1 step ahead. Love the fact that Rick is genuine and loves da Mexican culture."

marycaryne: "Congratulations to Rick Bayless for winning Top Chef Master and $100,000 for the Frontera Farmer Foundation!!!"

TallGrassBeef: "Congratulations to our good friend Rick Bayless, the winner of Top Chef Master tonight! Way to go!"

Ladygourmet: "Yay for Rick Bayless and his victory in the Top Chef Masters competition!"

Check out the Chicago Tribune's story on Bayless's win here.

Two Chicago chefs host The Big Ten Cookout

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Julius Russell, new co-host for "The Big Ten Cookout" (Photo: Big Ten Network)


It's a touchdown for Chicago!

This fall, not one, but two local chefs have been tapped by the Big Ten Network to bring an exciting gourmet twist to the typical tailgaiting party.

Julius Russell of A Tale of Two Chefs and former Rhapsody chef Ben Walanka—who made it to the finals on FOX's Hell's Kitchen—will host The Big Ten Cookout on Saturday mornings beginning Sept. 5.


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Ben Walanka, new co-host for "The Big Ten Cookout" (Photo: Big Ten Network)


Each week, the chefs join different tailgaters and taste their dishes and then try to enhance and introduce them to clever ways to better feed their teams.

I'm not much of a football fan, but I'll certainly tune it to see what they whip up!

Check your local listings for channels/schedule.

Radhika rocks Kit Kat for Top Chef parties

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(Photo: Radhika Desai)


Look for a familiar face at Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club during the next Top Chef season, beginning tonight.

Radhika Desai, former chef at Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge, competed last season when the show took place in New York.

She'll host weekly viewing parties at the offbeat Lakeview eatery that'll include cocktail demos, Q&As and the show on five large screens with sound. For the season premiere, she'll shake up The Slumdog, that's made with Goslings Rum, pineapple juice, fresh mint and candied ginger. Of course, Kit Kat's offering free samples of the cocktail, plus half-price martinis and buy-one-get-one entrees.

Premiere night includes Radhika's demo (8-9pm), followed by the premiere of Top Chef: Las Vegas (8-9pm), Top Chef Masters Finale (9-10pm) and finally the Q&A (10pm).

Also look forward to special guest appearances at upcoming viewing parties by former Top Chef contenders Jill Snyder, Lauren Hope and Ariane Duarte.

Mr. Skin party doesn't disappoint

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For those of you who missed Mr. Skin's 10th anniversary party Tuesday at Roof, here's a highlight. (Photo: floozefactor/Flickr)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New night spots for West Town, River North

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Clutch's huge outdoor patio is only a stone's throw from long-time West Town favorite Twisted Spoke—which boasts an awesome rooftop lounge. (Photo: Courtesy of Urban Daddy Chicago)


Urban Daddy discovers an abandoned West Town auto repair shop that's been transformed into neighborhood hang Clutch—destined to become famous for its deep-fried hot dogs:

"There's The Ripper—the aforementioned deep-fried dog, slathered with tangy mustard-onion relish—and the Clutcheasy, a third-pound burger that's completely enveloped with a half-pound of crusty cheese."

Also in nightlife news, 312DD had the scoop on Cuvee way back in December, when an Ultimate Insider revealed that Latin-laced club Buzz was closing in favor of a more mainstream spot from the guys behind Enclave.

But what we didn't know was the bar's concept. Metromix reports it's a "super-exclusive spot for the city's elite and in-town celebs to sip from a list of worldly sparkling wines and champagne cocktails." Also, "There is not currently a guest list in place and the door policy and cover charge parameters are still up in the air at this point." WTF?!

On its first weekend, they did manage to attract reality "stars" Khloe and Kortney Kardashian, and a bonified celebrity, Vince Vaughan.

We will see how long the "super exclusive" concept lasts before the reality of the recession sets in . . . Oh, and let's not forget the fact that they've got heavy-duty competition right across the street from the already established after-hours VIP lounge RiNo.

BBQ, Beer & Beats

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Summer's winding down, but it's never too late to take a barbecue grilling class. Smoke Daddy's hosting one on its patio, which includes a half-slab of Baby Back ribs, roasted peppers, grilled steak fries, two Coronas and a bottle of Smoke Daddy sauce to take home. Starts at 8pm tonight. $30.

Head to the Warehouse District's Bottom Lounge for the free tastings by McAuslan Brewing, Quebec's foremost micro-brewery. Guests will sample the likes of St-Ambroise Pale Ale, as well as St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, The Great St-Ambroise Pumpkin Ale and the award-winning St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (back on draft in Chicago following a 10-year hiatus). 6-10pm tonight. Free.

If you'd rather sip cocktails, Brasserie JO is your spot tonight. They're continuing the Summer Spirits Class with a lesson on French liqueurs that includes tastings and passed appetizers. You'll sample the Martini JO, Summer Thyme, La Violette and Kir Royal Alsace. 6:30-7:30pm. Reservations required; $1.01.

If you get off from work early, treat yourself to one of the Roman-style pizzas at Pizzeria Via Stato, in River North. We prefer to sit on the patio watching the bustling State Street action, while chowing down on pies made with housemade sausage, hand-pulled mozzarella or seasonal vegetable toppings. They're all half-price 2:30-4:30pm Monday-Friday.

More scrumptious Italian fare's on special at Follia, where guests get to enjoy a $28 four-course prix-fixe menu offered every Tuesday and Wednesday. You'll get your choice of appetizer, soup or salad, pasta, entree and dessert.

And Blue 13's final Summer Rock 'N' Roll Dinner happens Wednesday. The theme, The Bands That Shaped The '90s, includes music from Nirvana, Soul Coughing, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam complementing each course. Dinner starts promptly at 7:15pm and reservations are required. $50.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zagat interviews Greg Hall

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Greg Hall (left) with Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement. (Photo: Greg Hall)


Goose Island head honcho Greg Hall talks to Zagat about the ascendance of U.S. brewers, as well as his role in New York’s Craft Beer Week, for which he's organizing a multi-course beer dinner:

"When I try to match up beer and food, the first, and really only, rule is to match flavor intensity. There’s no 'ales with meat,' 'lagers with fish' or silly rules like that. A well-seasoned dish deserves a flavorful beer and a more delicate dish really works better with a more mild-flavored beer. The difference between beer and wine – and I’d like to clarify that I’m not an anti-wine guy – is that wine is for little flavors that sometimes you have to hunt for.

"Beer is full of big, aggressive flavors, and because of that I think that beer works especially well with cuisines that have really assertive flavors. You always think of spicy cuisines, like Mexican, Southeast Asian and Indian, as being beer food, and they absolutely are. Beer has a little bit more residual sugar that really absorbs the heat and allows the flavor of the spice to come through instead of just the heat of the spice."

BLT Bonanza is something to squeal about!

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We cannot hide our glee that BLT Bonanza is finally upon us.

Through Sept. 20, as part of the annual Tomatofest, some of your favorite restaurants will feature their versions of the delicious old-school sandwich, but the twist is that they're doing them up with heirloom tomatoes and pigs.

Need an idea for lunch today? Head over to Blackbird for a sandwich at the bar, where chef de cuisine Mike Sheerin whips up mounds of cured bacon and juicy tomatoes.

Sixteen's Frank Brunacci's behind the creative BLT that's made with Slagel farm pork belly and Nichols Farm heirloom tomatoes on grilled French boule. And you'll find two different BLTs on the menu at Cafe Spiaggia. For lunch, indulge in a "PLT" pizza, with house-made pork pancetta from Becker Lane Farms (Iowa) and Nichols Farm heirloom tomatoes; dinner time will offer a grilled crostini with Nichols Farm heirloom tomatoes, house-made lamb pancetta, Capriole goat cheese and arugula.

Other participants include The Signature Room at the 95th, Green Grocer (offering City Provisions' BLTs to go), Carnivale, Webster's Wine Bar, Osteria Via Stato, The Gage, Publican, avec, Socca, Lockwood and more coming soon.

Mado makes Bon Appetit's Top 10 List

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Allison and Rob Levitt of Mado. (Photo: Rob Levitt)


Wicker Park's edgy Mado is the only Chicago restaurant to make Bon Appetit's list of best new restos of the year:

"Husband and wife Rob and Allie Levitt are fanatical about local and sustainable ingredients.

"A chalkboard in the dining room lists all the farms that the restaurant works with, and every two weeks Rob receives a 180-pound pig from Slagel Family Farm, butchers it himself, and uses every bit in dishes like ciccioli (pork cracklin's), charcuterie, and the restaurant's signature porchetta (spit-roasted pork loin and belly)."

Here's also a recipe for Mado's Clam and Calamari Seafood Stew with Salsa Verde.

Weekend Tweet Beat

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Michelle Garcia (left) of Bleeding Heart Bakery and her mom, Sharon (Photo: Bill Lambert/Erickson Design)


What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

David Beran (Alinea): "Drove a Maserati tonight... I'm in love! Elegant, well mannered and powerful. Enamored, to say the least."

Phillip Foss (Lockwood): "Daughter wanted me to give her doll boobies. Tried explaining, she insisted, I obliged and am now in need of a shrink."

Michelle Garcia (Bleeding Heart): "Hhmmm, what a day. Wow. Weddings..farmers markets..green music fest...crazy deliveries during the air show...I need a nap."

Troy Graves (Eve): "Planned on making fried chicken for dinner but power went out. Went to Urban Belly instead. Wonderfully delicious."

Rob Levitt (Mado): "Pretty cool when wood-roasted pig head with pickled white peaches and wild amaranth out-sells the green salad."

Stephen McDonagh (HEARTY): "California Pinot Noir and Fudgesicles, 'cause that's how we roll."

Ina Pinkney (Ina's): "Love hate relationship with Air/Water Show."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Loop's sexiest breakfast/lunch spot

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(Photo: Protein Bar)


The next time I head over to Protein Bar, I'll make sure my lipgloss is poppin' and butter's whipped.

That's because the slick, health-focused eatery (directly across from Willis Sears Tower) attracts a steady crowd of Chicago's sexiest singles for breakfast and lunch.

They're coming for an amped-up menu of signature smoothies, sandwiches, salads, soups and non-alcoholic sippers certain to keep them in tip-top shape. And the best part is that every item on the menu's labeled with nutritional info (calories, protein, fiber, sugar, saturated fat).

Our favorites?! We sampled a number of the signature smoothies—which can easily substitute a meal—and absolutely fell for Oak Street Peach (vanilla protein, milk, fresh peaches, agave nectar), Wrigley Peeled (chocolate protein, milk, all-natural peanut butter, banana) and the BGT (Bucktown Green Tea made with vanilla protein, milk, green tea extract).

And then there were the signature bowls. The Peachy Keen-wah, warm quinoa with fresh peaches, certainly caught our eye and didn't disappoint. It's certain to be a hit when colder weather rolls around. Ditto for the One El of An Oatmeal (steel-cut oatmeal with chocolate protein!) and Quinoa Feel It (warm quinoa with fresh blueberries, almonds).

Oh, and we couldn't find anything on the menu more than 500 calories. No wonder this is the land of the beautiful people!

The most useful Tweeter on Twitter

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avec. Tango Sur. Piece. Bristol. Hot Doug's.

Instead of pulling your hair out of frustration at the idea of waiting and waiting and waiting for a table at one of Chicago's busiest restaurants or bars, check in with Wait Watcher on Twitter before you head over.

Created by the A.V. Club (the arts-and-entertainment section of The Onion), the very useful service tracks waiting times at the most popular spots in town.

So check in with Wait Watcher before your next trip to Kuma's Corner for one of their famous burgers. Who knows. Your next wait for a table just might be only five minutes!

Send tips via text/call to 620-CHI-WAIT.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Phil Vettel chimes in on Bayless 'brouhaha'

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(Photo: Rick Bayless)


Noted Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel backs up Rick Bayless' credibility as an authority on Mexican cuisine—in response to Teresa Puente's controversial story on ChicagoNow.com:

" . . . much the way Arun Sampanthavivat demonstrated that Thai food could be elegant and refined and worth top dollar, Rick and Deann raised the bar on Mexican cuisine—exposing diners to a complexly seasoned cuisine that was a world apart from Tex-Mex gutbusters and street food—and persuaded a region that it was more than Third World grub. And they did it in the purest, most elemental way, but gambling their livelihoods that fine-dining Mexican would find an audience."

He goes on to flip the script, using prominent local Latin-American chef Abraham Aguirre as an excellent example:

"Is Harry Caray's less of an Italian steakhouse because for most of its life the head chef's name was Abraham Aguirre? Worse, when Aguirre left Harry's, he went to another Italian restaurant—The Grotto, in Oak Brook. Who the hell told Abraham Aguirre that he could cook Italian? Oh, wait—we did. By loving his food."

312DD's two cents: The acclaimed Ethiopian-born chef Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, C-House) is considered an authority on not only Northern African cuisine, but Swedish fare as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Tallulah gets new owner

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(Photo: Tallulah)


Lincoln Square eatery Tallulah was SOLD two days ago to Stephan Outrequin, a newcomer on Chicago's restaurant scene.

He'll keep it running under its current concept of forward American cuisine until October (that means lobster Deviled eggs stay on menu, yay!), when it'll be re-branded as French contemporary-focused LM Restaurant.

Its sister restaurant, the celebrated Eve in the Gold Coast, remains under Matt Fisher's ownership with Troy Graves as executive chef.

But 'he isn't even Mexican' . . .

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Rick Bayless is chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.


. . . laments Mexican-American writer Teresa Puente on ChicagoNow.com over Rick Bayless (of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo fame) getting all the props for Mexican cuisine:

"Something just bugged me that a white guy was gaining so much fame for his Mexican cuisine. I'm sure his love of Mexico is genuine and he does good charity work. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, and he is a great chef. But why does the media make him the spokesman for Mexican food in the United States?"

She brings up an interesting point. Controversial and unpopular, yet this is one of those issues that writers don't usually bring out into the light . . .

First look at new Lyric Opera of Chicago eateries

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Florian Opera Bistro's opulent decor includes a magnificent vintage costume from Lyric's collection. (Photo: balloggphoto.com/Lyric Opera of Chicago)


When ticketholders arrive on opening night of the 55th season of Lyric Opera Chicago, they'll be greeted by two newcomers: Florian Opera Bistro and The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room.

Florian Opera Bistro, located on the third level of the building, is the more casual of the two though it's decked out in Euro-inspired decor, including the centerpiece of a magnificent vintage costume from Lyric's collection.

The à la carte menu offers budget-conscious fare such as open-faced sandwiches (turkey with pickle, asparagus, and cherry tomato; smoked salmon with celery root and cranberries), hearty soups and salads. And the best part about it is that most items are around $7 and the average meal is about $14 per person.


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Jules Guerin's famed fire curtain makes a statement in The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room. (Photo: balloggphoto.com/Lyric Opera of Chicago)


For a more formal feast before performances, guests can head to the street-level Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room, which occupies a space that once housed a bank.

Filled with Art Deco motifs—including the famous fire curtain designed by Jules Guerin—the elegant dining room complements the upscale $28 three-course, prix-fixe menu served here. Expect seasonal entrees from Jewell Events Catering like hoisin-glazed salmon with Asian rice noodles and sliced bistro steak with chive mashed potatoes drizzled with Cabernet sauce.

Only Lyric Opera ticketholders will be able to dine at both restaurants for dinner as well as matinee shows. The Pedersen Room, however, is reservation only at all times.

Official opening date is Sept. 30, before that evening’s performance of Tosca.

Piece, Love & Rock ‘n’ Roll . . .

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Party like it's (Woodstock) 1969!


This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair—better known as Woodstock.

Of course there'll be celebrations nationwide, including right here at home. Bucktown's grooviest pizza parlor, Piece, gets in on the action with a free, daylong event that includes drink specials, live band karaoke and 1960s music (think Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly & the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, The Who, Jefferson Airplane).

And if you really want to get down, dress up in your hottest hippie threads. Now, can you dig it?!

Party kicks off at 11am and ends when The Man shuts it down.

Here's where else you'll want to be this weekend . . .

THURSDAY

Do your part in making sure no child goes hungry by attending the annual Taste of the Nation, which benefits Share Our Strength, at Ravenswood Billboard Factory (4025 N. Ravenswood Ave.). Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal chairs this worthy cause, and she's recruited almost every celeb chef and mixologist in town. Look for appetizers provided by Michael Sheerin (Blackbird), Shawn McClain (Spring), Kristine Subido (Wave), Bill Kim (Urban Belly) and others. 6pm-midnight. $175 (general admission); $225 (VIP).

Likely one of the cheapest River North hotel restos around, Elate opened quietly this week in the stylish new boutique Hotel Felix. No item's over $12, and the sandwich-dominated menu includes a grilled skirt steak baguette and vegetarian black bean burger.

Blackbird's snappy $22 three-course, prix-fixe lunch menu's a big hit with those who work in the West Loop area, but it hasn't been updated in a while. We're excited about some new additions, particularly a grilled Tasmanian sea trout and a dessert of dark chocolate financiers with apricots, sassafras and bourbon ice cream. You're certain to go back to the office with a little buzz.

FRIDAY

We're beginning to think Juicy Wine Co. owner Rodney Alex lies in bed awake every night coming up with quirky new events for every week. This time it's Juicy Jams, which includes deejays cranking out the rarest of grooves and his staff pouring $5 glasses of homemade sangria and $6 hand-picked wines. Deejays Aaron Dae and Derek Foreal spin. 9pm-2am. No cover.


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C-House chefs Toni Roberts (left) and Seth Siegel-Gardner. (Photo: C-House)


SATURDAY

While some local chefs get all the glory, others are undiscovered gems. One such unsung culinary star is Toni Roberts, the pastry chef at C-House. She's a genius at making every sweet treat under the sun, but we go absolutely mad over her handmade peanut brittle, berry roll-ups and salted fudge brownies. Catch her 10:30am demo at Green City Market. Free.

Believe it or not this is a helluva deal: The University Village location for Lush Wine & Spirits hooks up a family-style lobster feast served with crustacean-friendly vino. 6-8pm. RSVP mandatory. $85.

SUNDAY

This underground brunch's been going on for a few months now, but Empty Bottle fans have always been in the loop. At the Mixtape Sunday Brunch, diners can order items from the adjacent Bite Cafe and chow down as they listen to others' iPod playlists and mix CDs. The menu's a la carte and dirt cheap, with $5 bloody Marys and Mimosas. BYO iPod. Noon-3pm.

Mixologist face-off! Sepia’s Josh Pearson and Sepia alum Peter Vestinos go head to head with their interpretations of classic and contemporary cocktails. Go retro with Pearson's classic rye drinks (Morning Glory, Brooklyn) or keep it new school with Vestinos' versions made with tequila (Lost Afternoon, The Junta Starter). All bar tips benefit the Mae Tao Clinic. 6-10pm.

MONDAY

And yet another restaurant throws a Burger Fest. This time it's Park Grill showcasing a special menu of burgers, including a Peppercorn-Crusted American Kobe Burger, Wild Alaskan Salmon Burger and Grilled Turkey Burger with Guava BBQ Sauce. The week-long event happens today through Sunday, Aug. 23; prices range $12-$16.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

He loves Chicago!

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Fabio Viviani, who was the fan favorite on the fifth season of "Top Chef," headlines Chicago Gourmet this fall.


If you missed your chance to meet Top Chef super star Fabio Viviani when he was in town a few weeks ago, no worries. He'll be back.

Just found out the charming Italian-born cuisine king returns to headline events during Chicago Gourmet, now in its second year. He's scheduled to do a cooking demo as well as a booksigning for his new Café Firenze Cookbook.

Also scheduled to appear during the event, occurring Sept. 26-27, are a number of Chicago's most elite chefs, including the likes of Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo), John Hogan (Tavern at the Park/Keefer's), Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), Martial Noguier (Cafe des Architectes) and Michael Altenberg (Bistro Campagne).

Want a free, one-day pass to Chicago Gourmet?! Check out the Dine Around Deal for the scoop!

Get a lil Miami Spice in your life . . . for FREE!

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The "rio" bar at SushiSamba rio (Photo: SushiSamba)


For this week's FREEBIE FRIDAY, we're doing it up BIG.

SushiSamba rio's offering the Miami Spice Menu throughout August, and you'll have a chance to indulge for free if you're following me on Twitter.

The vibrant Asian- and Latin-influenced eatery is in the heart of River North's action, plus we've never had a bad meal here yet.

We're particularly excited about this fabulous new five-course feast, which includes Almond & White Asparagus Gazpacho, an Organic Goat Cheese Salad and Japanese Mustard-Miso Marinated Beef Tenderloin.

And, oh hell. We're in such a great mood today, we're going to give away not one, but TWO dinners to two winners plus a guest (tax, tip and alcoholic beverages not included).

So, if you're already following at Twitter, you're in the running to win, but if you're not, you're gonna miss out . . .

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More, more, more . . . chef shufflings!

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Mark Kasper is the new executive chef at Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club. (Photo: Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club)


An invite just landed in my inbox about a special tasting by Mark Kasper, who replaces Matt Stovey as executive chef at Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club.

Kasper's background includes some impressive stints at Aria and Sixteen, so it should come as no surprise that he completely overhauled the menu at the quirky Lakeview mainstay.

Highlights of the dinner menu include the Sofia Loren (hand-stuffed eggplant ravioli, in a parmesan Sicilian red sauce and aged parmesan regiano) and Charro (8oz prime marinated skirt steak, with chimichurri accompanied by fajita style pomme frites), but we were a little perplexed at the description of the Frank Sinatra entree. Hand-picked seasonal vegetables marinated in red wine sounds just fine, but what is up with the hummus glaze, falafel and tabbouleh?!

Would've expected a nice New York strip or pasta to honor the legendary crooner, but we'll check it out anyway.


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New Frasca executive chef Jack Tapp has added a breakfast pizza to the menu. (Photo: Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar)


Another newly installed chef is Noah Sandoval, who now calls Green Zebra home (under Chef de Cuisine Molly Kipp) after overseeing the kitchen at Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge for only a couple of months.

The question is, will he be bringing his signature venison carpaccio to the West Town restaurant best known for upscale vegetarian cuisine?!

And in mid-July, Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar acquired Jack Tapp as its chef. New to the Chicago dining scene, Tapp is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and worked previously in the kitchens of Brasserie Dietrichs (Louisville), Stokes Adobe (Monterey, Calif.) and Cafe Lurcat (Naples, Fla.).

For now, Tapp's only released a new brunch menu that includes a breakfast pizza (with three easy eggs, sausage and cheese atop house-made crust), eggs Florentine (toasted brioche, smoked turkey, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce) and the Lincoln Avenue Omelet, made with goat cheese, asparagus, roasted red peppers and artichokes.

How did we miss this?!

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Lindsay Lohan (left) and Samantha Ronson


Soooo, the Sun-Times' Bill Zwecker filed this report Monday about Lindsay Lohan's antics when she was in town for Lolla with her girl Samantha Ronson:

"Lindsay Lohan did make it back to town to help on-again (for now!) galpal Samantha Ronson toast her recent 32nd birthday over Lollapalooza weekend.

Ronson, of course, was here for her regular DJ-ing gig at the Hotel Sax's Crimson Lounge but reportedly had no idea Lohan was going to surprise her. LiLo arrived with little sis Ali Lohan in tow and proceeded to hit all of Our Town's hotspots this weekend. ...The fun quotient got amped up around 1:30 a.m. Saturday as the party moved on to Ronson's post-birthday bash at Angels & Kings. ... As the night wound down, both Lohan sisters were spotted at the Music Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel, catching the Virgins' show from backstage."

Crimson Lounge, Angels & Kings, Music Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel.

ALL 21+ spots. Ali Lohan is fifteen.

Someone please explain why and how she got in.

UPDATE: Publicist for Crimson writes: "Ali did not hit any of the hot spots. I was with them. She came to dinner and drank a sprite and ate Nachos. Between dinner, Lindsay, Ali and her assistant stopped by the music lounge at the Hard Rock.

She DID NOT come to Crimson or Angels & Kings. She went and watched movies in the Chairman's Suite at the Hotel Sax with Lindsay's Assistant. Lindsay came to Crimson and Angels with Annabelle Dexter Jones (Sam's step sister)."

If this statement is indeed true, someone needs to get Zwecker to issue a retraction STAT before these spots get in hot water with the city!

A feast of fashions

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Randy Zweiban's glorious West Loop gem Province boasts a strong organic and local program, so it's no surprise its stylish setting was selected by the Chicago Fashion Foundation for the launch of The Moda Series.

The event showcases the amazing talents of Chicago's top fashion designers, and tonight guests will get to meet Nora Del Busto, winner of the first CFF scholarship award and designer for Macy's Fashion Incubator. Of course, guests will be able to check out her latest collection as they nosh on locally sourced appetizers and hand-crafted cocktails from Province. The $10 suggested donation benefits the scholarship fund for Chicago-area college students majoring in fashion-related studies. 6-8pm.

And for those who like to get down . . .

Incidentally, that's the title of the most popular album by Marques Wyatt, a Los Angeles-based deejay/producer considered the head honcho of house music on the West Coast. He spins a rare set tonight at Griffin Lounge for one of the city's top industry parties. Resident deejay Just Joey also performs. 9pm-2am. $10.

Also, the guys over at LUSH, in University Village, rescheduled the gaucho event from last week, so that's great news if you love mounds of meat. For twenty-five bucks you get to chow down on all the grilled meat you can swallow that's paired with wine. Starts at 6pm Wednesday.

And the Sweet Sixteen of Mixology returns for its bi-weekly turn at Perennial. Bartenders Zach Friedlander (Relax Lounge) and Lynn House (Graham Elliot) face off with signature sippers made with produce from Green City Market. Drinks, appetizers comped. 6:30-8pm Wednesday. Free.