Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April is National Grilled Cheese Month!


April 1, of course, is April Fool's Day, but it's also the start of one of the best occasions of the year: National Grilled Cheese Month.

As a self-described grilled cheese fanatic, I'd be happy to munch my way through any of these sandwiches:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Meet the 10th Season 'Check, Please!' All-Stars


WTTW's hit citizen restaurant review show, "Check, Please!" celebrates its 10th-year anniversary by bringing back its most memorable guests.

From the President of the United States to a sex-shop owner, the show's seen quite a cast of characters during its run. Peep the lid to see who just might be on for the 10th season this fall:

Monday, March 29, 2010

STAGE BITES: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

Up-and-coming soul star Janelle Monáe performs at Schubas Tuesday.

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

Cougars! The Musical at Greenhouse Theater Center. Don't let the white hair and church clothes fool you. These grannies can git down with the best of them, sip Cosmos faster than any of those chicks on "SATC," and hunt down fresh young meat. This is obviously a comedy. 10:30pm Saturdays through May 22. Get tickets here.

Gemini Bistro: A $31 three-course, prix-fixe menu is 5-6:30pm nightly at this trendy neighborhood joint. Must-gets include the risotto with roasted mushrooms, signature burger, and Amish chicken that comes with crispy breast, braised thigh and mashed potatoes.

Liar's Club: You're certain to be revved up after the show's over around midnight, so we suggest hanging out here for a few cheap cocktails and dancing to music you haven't heard in years.

Kingston Mines: If you're in the mood for the blues, Larry McCray is the headliner Saturday. Plus, the bar's open until 5am so you can wiggle your hips until they almost fall off.

Happy Anniversary, Chicago Diner!

The pasta and vegetarian meatballs at Chicago Diner. (Photo: Chicago Diner)

Lakeview vegetarian gem Chicago Diner boasts that it's been "meat free" since opening in 1983.

They're celebrating 27 years in business with a weeklong event where prices will be rolled back to original prices.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Solstice Showcases Seafood, Local Chefs

Thankfully this little fishy won't be on the menu during the party at the Shedd. (Photo: Supreme Lobster & Seafood Co.)

Maybe this little bit of news will warm you up . . .

A collective of local all-star chefs teams up with Supreme Lobster & Seafood Co. for the Solstice at the Shedd to spotlight the Right Bite program.

Oh, How Perfectly Dandy!

HALO [FOR MEN]'s Bob Patrizi (left),'s Kelli Zink and Nick Hansen of Nicholas Joseph Custom Suits. (Photo: Marcus Riley,

Every girl loves a well-groomed guy, but not so much that we have to fight for mirror space as we're getting ready to hit the town.

We're talking about the type of man who'd attend tonight's party, The Modern Gatsby, at The Underground.

Hosted by HALO [FOR MEN], a male-oriented salon with several city locations, the party puts an updated spin on F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic novel on high society during the Roaring Twenties.

The event, of course, is also open to women (and we expect a ton of them to attend!), but geared toward guys. The highlight of the night is a midnight fashion show featuring hot spring looks from Nicholas Joseph Custom Clothing, hats from Goorin Bros. and Soulmates Chicago. Male guests will also be treated to shaves, massages and hand waxes.

Doors open at 9pm, with a hosted bar 10-11pm.

RSVP at for free admission.

There's so much more going on this weekend for the modern man—so the women who love them know where to be:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is No April Fool's Joke . . .


Now that he's not in training I wonder if he'll actually eat this stuff.

Olympic gold medalist and speedskating star Shani Davis is the guest of honor at Morton's on Wacker, which just happens to be taking place on April Fool's Day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Patti Says YOU Are Doing IT Wrong!


Oh, Patti Stanger, you never disappoint us!

The woman behind Bravo's hit reality-dating show, "Millionaire Matchmaker," gave her Top 10 Places to Find A Great Guy, and now she's got a follow up.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Phillip Foss May Be Out of His Mind . . .

Phillip Foss, executive chef at Lockwood (Photo: Lockwood)

OK, well not quite, but Lockwood's exec chef's humor is waaaaaaaaaaay out there on Twitter:

Taxi Ride Turns Scary For One Passenger . . .


Local blogger Hope Bertram had probably the scariest cab ride of her life last week after a night on the town:

STAGE BITES: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

Stone Temple Pilots play The Riv on Saturday.

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

The Twins Would Like To Say at Steppenwolf Theatre. A set of young Caribbean twins growing up in Wales set a pact to speak to no one but each other. Based on a true story that took place in the 1970s. Through April 25; this week 8 and 9:30pm Thursday, Friday. Get tickets here.

Boka: Located on the same block as the theater, this contemporary American resto is participating in Chicago Chef Week through Sunday. Three courses for $30 is the deal.

Landmark: There's always a scene at this clubby eatery, which is also part of Chicago Chef Week. Go before or after the show because the bar stays open until 2am.

Schwa's Michael Carlson, Others Up for Beard Awards

View more news videos at:

312DD and scored the first-ever television interview with Schwa's Michael Carlson in 2009.

GrubStreet lists all the Chicago-area finalists for the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, including Schwa's Michael Carlson, avec's Koren Grieveson and Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal.

Also, as we speculated last week, Rick Bayless is up for the TV Food Personality category.

The awards will be announced during a ceremony in New York on May 3. Good luck to all!

The Asian 'Meatball' Sandwich!

Belly Shack's Asian "Meatball" Sandwich jammed with lemongrass, fish sauce and mint. (Photo: Steve Dolinsky)

Today's Meatball Mondays comes to you by way of ABC's Steve "The Hungry Hound" Dolinsky—one of the first people in line when Belly Shack opened last fall.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

'Top Places to Find a Man' from the 'Millionaire Matchmaker'


Thank Goodness for Patti Stanger.

Best known as the abrasive dating expert on Bravo's "Millionaire Matchmaker," she's created the "Top 10 Places To Find A Great Guy" list, which was released Sunday on Twitter.

This makes my job easier because it is the number one question from reader emails.

So, I've taken her tips (in italics) and localized them just for you!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What if 'The Situation' was a Sommelier?!

(Photo: Meredith Gregory)

NoMI's former Master Sommelier Fernando Beteta has a new hobby during his time off.

He's developed an alter ego on Twitter by pretending "Jersey Shore" star Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino has a second career as a sommelier . . .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ballers Party Hard; Bail on $2K Tab at The Shrine

LeBron James and crew at The Shrine on Thursday. (Photo: Nolen James)


NBA superstar LeBron James rolled into The Shrine Thursday with a crew of about 20 for the Hennessey BlackOut party and apparently had way too much fun.

Will Top Chef Alum Impress the Domestic Diva?!


He made it through months of intense glares and harsh criticism from the likes of Padma, Tom and Gail to become a finalist on "Top Chef," but will Dale Levitski pass the high standards of the one and only Martha Stewart?!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bleeding Heart Bakery Strikes Back . . . Again . . .

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

From what I remember about Bleeding Heart Bakery owner Michelle Garcia, she's a fighter.

When some posters on the Chowhound message board went in hard on her Roscoe Village bakery in 2007, she immediately struck back.

Does He Have a Shot?!

(Photo: Rick Bayless)

Hold on to your seats, people.

GrubStreet reports the Beard Awards has added a Best TV Food Personality category this year.

Take Your 'Gate' To Glitter & Git Down . . .

"Will & Grace" cast (Photo: NBC Universal)

Just found out one of my favorite friends is coming to town this weekend.

He's got style, he's got savoir faire, and of course, he's impossibly cool.

Which means that he's probably going to be impossible to impress. Luckily, what's working in my favor is that he's pretty open minded, and doesn't want to only hang out in the gay bars.

That makes him the perfect Gate (Gay Date for a Straight Woman, but not this) for the second-ever Glitter party happening at Le Passage tonight.

Going down the third Thursday of each month, this Studio 54-esque bash feels almost as good as the real thing and brings back the type of crowd Le Passage was known for when it first opened 10 years ago.

Highlights of the first Glitter party included an endless parade of colorful drag queens, models sashaying around in barely there attire, DJ Zebo spinning deep disco hits, and a guy taking a bubble bath on the dance floor. Yeah, you read that right.

Now, what will they do for an encore?!

10pm-4am Thursday. Door cover varies (depending on how fierce you are on the red carpet).

More spots for a fabulous Gate. . .

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jam Starts Dinner Service in April!

East Village breakfast/brunch hang Jam now serves dinner. (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)

It's already mad crazy over at Jam for brunch and lunch, so expect the craziness to hit an all-time high when the Ukrainian Village spot starts serving dinner April 7.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grahamwich Location Finally Revealed . . .

(Photo: Graham Elliot)

Chef Graham Elliot Bowles finally revealed the location to his highly anticipated sandwich/shakes/fries spot, Grahamwich, on Tuesday:

EXCLUSIVE: The Real Deal on The Shady Lady

Blue 13's Chris Curren will consult on The Shady Lady's menu. (Photo: Blue 13)

Here's a follow up to the story 312DD exclusively reported about the shuttering of River North Irish pub Garrett Ripley's.

Turns out the guys behind the popular spot are out and some legendary nightlife guys are in on what's soon to be known as The Shady Lady.

Top 10 Wine Ordering Faux Pas . . .


Remember the recent story on 312DD about the guy who accidentally ordered a $6,000 bottle of wine?!

He may have been able to avoid that embarrassing situation had the Chicago Tribune's Bill Daley had these Top 10 nifty restaurant wine ordering no-no's handy, particularly this one:

Monday, March 15, 2010

STAGE BITES: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

"Celia The Musical" runs at the Athenaeum Theatre March 18-21.

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

Celia The Musical at Athenaeum Theatre. Cuba's most sensational star—also known as The Queen of Salsa—is celebrated in this electrifying musical of her life. Only six performances: 7:30pm Thursday, Friday; 5 and 9pm Saturday; 3 and 7pm Sunday. Get tickets here.

404 Wine Bar: Work your magic and claim seats near the fireplace, then settle in for a couple of small plates (grilled flatbread with caramelized onions, beef tenderloin carpaccio) and one large plate of hearty veal osso buco ravioli. They also have an amazing wine list of bountiful choices you won't find at many venues.

Fritz Pastry: We could easily lose ourselves in this Euro-inspired sweet shop specializing in local and sustainably raised ingredients. Fritz closes every day at 7pm, so hit it up pre-show for beautiful bites of gingerbread poundcake, brown apple butter cake, chocolate-black pepper cookies or a variety of macarons. They're a little more expensive than your average bakery, but it's well worth it.

Harmony Grill: Surprisingly the menu will get you in the mood for the show with spicy, Latin-influenced items like the Chipotle hummus, potato & cheese empanadas, catfish tacos and a vegan burrito stuffed with grilled tofu, hummus, spinach, red peppers and black beans.

The Shady Lady Takes Over Garrett Ripley's

Garrett Ripley's closes Wednesday to make way for punk-rock bar The Shady Lady.

Just got a tip that rowdy Irish tavern Garrett Ripley's last day is Wednesday—on St. Patrick's Day.

The owners have decided to transform it into punk-rock bar The Shady Lady, which is scheduled to open April 1.

We cannot wait to see what that fun decor will look like!

Little Balls of Delight in Your Mouth!

The tangy beef and pork meatballs from Salute. (Photo: Salute)

It's Meatball Mondays, so you know what that means: time to introduce you to yet another cool spot where you can dig into some little balls of pleasure.

This week's highlight is Salute Wine Bar & Café, in the Gold Coast. The tiny Italian wine bar is an unassuming place to unwind after shopping at nearby upscale retail boutiques and department stores.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And He Didn't Cuss Out Anyone!

Gordon Ramsay with Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat outside of BOKA Sunday. (Photo: Kevin Boehm)

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who was in town introducing his small kitchen appliance lines at the International Housewares Show Sunday, made the local restaurant rounds as well.

Le Passage general manager Joel Barnes excitedly tweeted Saturday that the "Hell's Kitchen" star dined drama free at the bar's adjacent The Drawing Room:

Way to Represent Your Former Team, Man!


Sooooooo, a former Bears player went all faux Julius Peppers over the weekend at Underground, only to flake out when the bill arrived.

A source tells 312DD that this unidentified ex-baller racked up thousands of dollars in bottle service, however, when the bill came he vehemently disputed it until some of the charges were dropped.

But it doesn't end there.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Tricks Beyond Their Trades . . .

Double A's general manager Victor DeLeon (Photo: Victor DeLeon)

Chefs Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse) and Graham Elliot Bowles (graham elliot) have been known to play a mean guitar. The Drawing Room's award-winning master mixologist Charles Joly used to gig in a drunk punk band.

You'd be surprised how much talent runs deep in Chicago's kitchens and bars that goes beyond chosen professions.

Down in Double A, the dapper Victor DeLeon holds down the fort of the city's sexiest tequila lounge. The native New Yorker runs this spot on the level of any well-heeled Manhattan watering hole, but it's his personal style and presence that really got our attention.

Chances are, if DeLeon's decked out in suit, tie and shirt, he's wearing custom-made threads from his line, Niformis (soon to be changed to Victor DeLeon). For eight years, he's dressed New York's movers and shakers, and he would love to do the same for Chicago.

Though Double A doesn't enforce a strict dress code, he'd like to see male patrons step up their wardrobe game.

"Women's fashion in Chicago is on par with New York and Europe, but the men are a few years away," he says. "It looks a little off when women come into Double A well dressed and the guys with them are wearing sneakers or (ill-fitting) jeans."

Niformis' ties start at $125; shirts $350 and suits $2,400.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do You Have the Luck of the Irish?!


Your St. Paddy's Day partying starts Thursday night when She-Nannigan’s House of Beer joins forces with WXRT-FM to host a lively affair.

Division Street bars are known to kick it up a notch St. Patrick's Day weekend, and this particular bar gets to choose one lucky person who will dye the Chicago River green!

All you have to do to qualify is register early at WXRT-FM or in person at the bar by 9pm. The party also includes live music from the Big Shoulders Brass Band and drink specials ($3.50 Miller Lite drafts and Green draft beers). 9-11pm Thursday. No cover.

Everyone's Irish all weekend long all over town:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who's Gonna Be Top Chef Master?!


Bravo's second season of "Top Chef Master" doesn't jump off until April 10, but our buds at Dining Chicago want to get everyone excited about the hometown heroes participating in it now.

The Chicago Chef Contest pits the five local contestants (technically three because two only own restos here) against one another. And if you pick the correct winner, you have a chance of winning some really cool prizes yourself.

The local boys are:

* Graham Elliot Bowles of Graham Elliot in River North.

* David Burke of David Burke's Primehouse in River North. (He's also a New Yorker.)

* Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia on the Magnificent Mile.

* Marcus Samuelsson of C-House in Streeterville. (He's also a New Yorker.)

* Rick Tramonto of Tru in Streeterville.

The grand prize winner of the Chicago Chef Contest will host a segment on Dining Chicago TV. Runners-up get gift certificates to some of the city's hottest restaurants, including Angelina's Ristorante, Cafe des Architectes, Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse and Sepia.

'One Sassy Piece of Theater . . .'

Maggie Graham in "The Legend of Ginger Bred; A Story of Sex, Salvation and Baked Goods" at Gorilla Tango Theatre. (Photo: Cock & Bull Theatre)

Cock & Bull Theatre's first-ever production, The Legend of Ginger Bred; A Story of Sex, Salvation and Baked Goods, didn't make this week's STAGE BITES because we only found out about it through Bill Daley's writeup on The Stew.

But we couldn't possibly pass up what he's calling "one sassy piece of theater" as it combines burlesque, baked goods, a full bar and a band called The Sunday Brunch.

The limited-run show debuts at 9:30pm Thursday. Performances are also at 10pm March 12, 13, 18 (at 9:30pm), 19, 20. Get tickets here.

It's a bit risque—the protagonist is a porn star—so you've got to be at least 18 to attend.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Wobbly Tables' are a Pain in the Ass . . .

This table looks pretty sturdy—thank God!

. . . and can easily ruin your dining experience.

That's one of 10 annoying restaurant design flaws Chicago Tribune resto critic Phil Vettel explores this week in The Stew.

He also gripes about too-close banquette tables (It's like the couple next to me are part of my date), toilet fixtures that look like modern art (How do I work this thing?) and hard, uncomfortable seats (I can't fully appreciate the food when my kiester's numb).

As always, when Vettel writes one of these types of stories, the gold is in the comments section. Pure comedy, I tell you, like these two right here:

"My biggest issue with restaurant design: why do they put floors in that get slippery when they are wet? Smooth tile may look nice but it's a safety hazard. Was once at a restaurant and someone spilled tea on the tile floor; two servers fell in a matter of minutes before they could get it cleaned up. Did the designers not think that floors in a a restaurant would get wet sometimes?"

"How could everyone have missed the most obvious problem of all (especially in trendy new restaurants)? Too often the interior consists of all hard surfaces with nothing to absorb the noise. It gets deafeningly loud every evening at dinner simply because there is nothing to absorb the shouting of everyone all at once. Put up some drapes or ceiling tiles!"

My biggest gripe? The lighting in the ladies' room. I can always tell a man designed that most important room for women because the lights are practically nonexistent. How are we supposed to re-touch our makeup/hair if we can barely see?!

Monday, March 8, 2010

'I Crashed Pamela Anderson's VIP Table at Crobar'


I love a good and funny celebrity story, and this one's no exception.

A long-time friend randomly checked out Crobar Saturday night without knowing that it was also a party for bombshell former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson.

They made their way to the VIP section, and he says that he saw "a really hot blonde, I mean really hot," and then he looked again and realized who it was.

He says Anderson was tiny in person and had a very large entourage. Even though the club was packed, he adds, no one was bothering her or even gawking in her direction. So, around 3am her party left, making way for my boy to move in on her table.

"We had to do a double take because she had left a full bottle of Cîroc Ultra Premium Grape Vodka," he says gleefully. "We polished that right off and then got up outta there!"

EXCLUSIVE: Sneak Peek of the M Burger!

M Burger's signature double-stack burger. (Photo: M Burger)

312DD finally got to actually taste the burger we've been braying about since we were the first to deliver you the scoop back in the fall.

That'll be M Burger, the casual sandwich shop adjacent to its four-star sister TRU, which opens to the public Thursday. It's owned by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and partner Scott Barton told us that the "M" pays homage to the Mag Mile.

They were open Monday for a select few during lunch rush, offering folks who work in the area first shot for the test drive. The full menu was available, but I was highly encouraged to order a few items that will only be on a "secret menu." You'll need to put on your list to remember the Hurt Burger (a spicy sandwich with BBQ sauce, Pepper Jack cheese and jalapeños) and the ultra-creamy Caramel Shake.

The rest of the menu is pretty standard fare, most notably the signature M Burger (drizzled with a tangy secret sauce and bits of bacon), Nurse Betty (veggie sandwich named after a popular Northwestern Memorial Hospital nurse) and fried chicken sandwich. The most expensive burgers on the menu were the Hurt and M—when you ordered it double stacked at $4.79.

M Burger's tiny, with only a few counter seats on the wall and a few more with a good view of the famous TRU kitchen. That's why it'll be a big relief when it gets warmer, as they'll have 40 sidewalk seats.

Two big events are coming up that should excite folks: When the iPad launches at the Michigan Avenue Apple Store at 11am April 3, look for M Burger to extend its hours to midnight the previous night to take advantage of the expected crowds (regular hours will be 11am-7pm).

And look for them to also offer a special minty chocolate Leprechaun Shake on St. Patrick's Day only. Hopefully it'll taste a helluva lot better than that whipped cream Shamrock Shake nonsense McDonald's is trying to pass off to us this year!

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

The cast of "The Breakfast Club Musical." (Photo: Nancy Fast)

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

The Breakfast Club Musical at Studio Be Theatre. The touching Oscars tribute to iconic teen angst filmmaker/director John Hughes demonstrates just how important his movies were. That's why we're especially excited about this production of one of his best works about an unfortunate group of teenage misfits forced to spend one fateful Saturday together. 8pm Thursdays (through April 29). Get tickets here.

DMK Burger Bar: Two grass-fed patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a flour top bun is The DMK, which was just launched at the Lakeview hot spot. Or, you can go for The #4, its popular burger with roasted hatch green chile, fried farm egg, Sonoma jack cheese and smoked bacon.

Matilda's: Why, aren't you lucky?! Every Thursday they're doing $5 appetizers, which includes favorites like the Onion Ring Stack (comes with ranch, BBQ and buffalo dipping sauces); wraps stuffed with bacon, sliced pear and crumbled bleu cheese; and a broiled tomato marinated in balsamic vinegar, topped with basil, red pepper flakes and mozzarella cheese. Also, $3 Point Pale Ale drafts.

DMK's "The #4" Burger. (Photo: DMK Burger Bar)

Chrisette Michele at House of Blues. The smoky voiced chanteuse blends soul, funk, gospel and R&B in a style similar to her predecessors Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and India.Aria. Opening acts Laura Izibor, Lem Payne. 8:30pm Wednesday. Get tickets here.

HUB 51: They've added yummy new items to the menu at everyone's favorite yuppie watering hole, including the $28 lobster tacos filled with 8 oz. lobster tail and Mexican beans. And if you're in need of cocktails after the show, you'll only need one of these. The HUB Punch Part Trois is quite a potent concoction of Grey Goose La Poire, Chambord and cranberry juice.

Le Colonial: Wednesday night is "date night" at the Gold Coast's most romantic resto. Head upstairs for a tasting menu for two, which includes two appetizers, two tasting portion entrees, dessert and two glasses of wine. Menu changes weekly; $25 per person.

Mercadito/Double A: Speaking of tacos, this jumpin', upscale Mexican spot has become the place to be on Hump Day—even though you won't find any deals on the menu. Plus, lower-level sensation Double A recently expanded its hours, so you can head down for drinks earlier at 6pm. Recommendations include Shuga Daddy (rum, Champagne, orange bitters, rosemary, kumquat) and Caipisutra (leblon cachaca, pineapple, grapefruit, garam masala). Deejay spins after 9pm.

The interior of lower-level lounge Double A. (Photo: Double A)

The Long Red Road at Goodman Theatre. Directed by Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, this dramatic production is about a guy who returns home—an Indian reservation in South Dakota—to face hidden family secrets. 7:30pm Tuesday-Thursday; 8pm Friday; 2, 8pm Saturday; 2, 7:30pm Sunday (through March 21). Get tickets here.

Bar Novo: There's so much good stuff on the menu at this colorful after-work hotel bar that it's really hard to choose! Since everything's pretty light, you can order a few items, so go for the smoked prime rib nachos, mini Cuban sandwiches and crispy calamari.

State and Lake: Braised shortrib is on the menu, and you can get it in two forms: as an entree accompanied by mac 'n' cheese or as an appetizer in the Deviled eggs. Also, the hearty burger, topped with Havarti cheese, is not to be missed. It's so big you can share, plus it comes with a plateful of crispy hand-cut fries.

The Chicago Oscar Parties You Missed!

Aurora Sexton as exotic warrior princess Neytiri from "Avatar" at Kit Kat. (Photo: Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club)

Some of Chicago's most stylish set were on the scene for Oscar fun Sunday night.

It was more kitschy than couture at Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club, where the venue was decked out in "Avatar" splendor.

Too bad the film didn't win the biggest awards of the night for Best Director and Best Film. Oops.

Karen Kovach (left), Michelle Reed and Becky Harris at The Drake. (Photo: Becky Harris)

Over at The Drake, a cheap, yet chic affair was in progress, benefiting Project Save The World.

Guests were greeted with a glass of complimentary champagne at the door, and hopefully they arrived early for a space because this thing sold out.

Amanda Puck (left) and Kimberly Burt of Moët & Chandon at the Gene Siskel Film Center. (Photo: Amanda Puck)

And Chicago's most prominent benefit was held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Loop. Sponsored by Moët & Chandon and hosted by glamorous girl-about-town Amanda Puck (in Sofia Vintage!), this was definitely the hottest ticket Sunday night.

The event was the city's official Oscar party and raised money for the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Our friends at showcase even more folks out on the town here.

These Meatballs Are Insanity!

(Photo: Osteria Via Stato)

I almost never turn down an invitation for dinner at Osteria Via Stato because that means yet another chance to chow down on their amazing Mini Veal Meatballs.

Simply dressed in a spicy tomato sauce, they're a signature staple on the appetizer menu, so yes, you're expected to share! $6.95.

Yet another reason why we need The Meatball Shop in Chicago!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Julius Peppers' Signing Bonus?!


In the twilight hours after he signed a six-year, $92.5 million contract with the Chicago Bears, defensive end Julius Peppers partied like a rock star, according to an Ultimate Insider:

"Julius Peppers (newly signed Bear today) is partying (at 2:42am Saturday) at Crescendo. Has bought 20 btls."

Whether he bought bottles of bubbly or hard-core booze at the after-hours River North hot spot wasn't clear, but you get the idea. He was partying his ass off.

We found out that Peppers is no stranger to the high-rolling lifestyle. In February 2009, he donated $100,000 to a scholarship program that supports African-American students at his alma mater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He was also referenced in Nelly's song, "Heart of a Champion," and made a cameo appearance in Nelly's monster hit video, "Hot In Herre."

I'm sure as hell it was hot in Crescendo!

UPDATE: It was indeed champagne. And he bought all 25 tables in the club a bottle. Wow.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oh wow. Now there is video!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Anthony Bourdain Show Auction Just Announced!


This just in:

Premium pit seats for Anthony Bourdain's one-night show at the Chicago Theatre have just been put on auction.

The famed chef, author of Kitchen Confidential and host of The Travel Channel's "No Reservations" will be in town April 24, but we're not exactly sure what he'll be doing on stage. Cooking? Singing? Playing the trombone?!

Whatever the case, Bourdain's quite the entertainer, and you'll have an up-close look of what he's really like if you're one of the lucky people to nab seats. Winners will also get to meet him backstage.

The special auction seats go on sale at Ticketmaster on March 8 (bidding ends March 19).

Good luck!

Where's Our DJ Ruth Flowers?!

(Photo: Dlisted)

On Friday morning, the fabulous Dlisted introduced us to DJ Ruth Flowers, a 69-year-old European who's considered "the grandmother of Paris nightlife."

From what we understand girlfriend's quite fierce behind the turntables, and she's coming out with her first techno single this spring.

Just one question: Where's our DJ Ruth Flowers?! Do we have anyone out there like her this awesome spinning in Chicago nightclubs?

That would be a really cool thing!

Lady Gaga's Monster Tribute B-Day Ball


The biggest question here is: What do you wear to such an outrageous affair?!

Luckily Lady Gaga's birthday isn't until March 28, so you've got plenty of time to shop for the perfect, appropriately crazy outfit if you plan on attending the party in her honor at Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club.

Just don't try to outshine Sunny D-Lite, the New York diva being flown in from New York for the special occasion. She'll perform all of Gaga's biggest hits, and of course she'll be dressed in costumes so over the top that you're certain to be at a loss for words.

Several large screens will be tuned in to Gaga's videos throughout the evening, and you'll get to indulge in $5 signature cocktails Gaga Ooh La La (Effen Vodka, Hpnotiq liqueur and a splash of pineapple juice garnished with rock candy and a glowing disco stick), Bad Romance (Effen Vodka, Apple Pucker liqueur, melon liqueur and a splash of pineapple juice adorned with a wedding ring) and Poker Face (Effen Raspberry Vodka, Chambord, St. Germain liqueur and champagne crowned with a poker playing card).

The party takes place 5:30pm-2am March 28; no cover.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just How Bad Will It Get This Year?!


Kitsch'n River North, which also houses The Fifth, has officially closed, according to an Ultimate Insider who stopped by Thursday evening.

"I was actually told that it's been closed since last week," he said. "I was going to try to stop by, but it was locked up tighter than Cook County Jail."

He added that Hubie Greenwald, who owns Motel Bar next door, will be taking it over with a new concept.

On Wednesday, 312DD exclusively reported that A Mano's last day is Saturday and now this.

Looks like 2010 is off to an unfortunate start . . .

Chicagoans Looooove Bacon!


Bacon Fest Chicago sold out 10 minutes after the tickets went on sale at noon Thursday. We're talking more than 300 tickets here, people.

Taking place April 10 at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square, the event will include 24 local chefs hooking up their best bacon-focused bites. Some of the chefs participating are Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Jimmy Bannos Jr. (The Purple Pig) and Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen and Bar). We're also hoping David Burke’s Primehouse chef Rick Gresh demos his bacon fat-infused votive.

The $45 ticket also includes a BFC’s Guide to Bacon Souvenir Program and samples from a wide assortment of bacon-vendors who will be selling gourmet smoked bacon, bacon-flavored lip balm, bacon-infused cupcakes, bacon t-shirts, bacon jewelry and bacon-flavored toilet paper.

OK, I made that last one up.

Doing Hard Time for Burgers & Fries

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Massive burgers, hand-cut fries and heavy metal music complement the prison theme at Lockdown Bar & Grill.

We take a camera inside this boisterous new Ukrainian Village venue, which offers 10-ounce burgers with names like Straight Jacket, Electric Chair, The Big House and Ponzi Scheme.

Now, that's a sentence we don't mind serving!

The Bad Girls Club (of Cuisine & Cocktails)!

Toni Roberts, executive pastry chef at C-House (Photo: Kevin Weinstein Photography, Inc.)

March is Women’s History Month, so it's a fine time to give props to some very well-deserving people on the local restaurant front.

Everyone knows Stephanie Izard, the talented, award-winning chef behind Girl & The Goat, set to open early this spring with a heavily meat-focused concept paired with booze and brews.

But she's not the only "bad girl" making waves in the cuisine scene.

C-House's Executive Pastry Chef Toni Roberts also belongs in the Bad Girls Club for her unique spin on sweets. She has a knack for updating classic desserts, especially those from our childhood.

I could just dedicate a week exploring her menu, from the seasonal Sweet Potato Donuts (filled with sweet cream ice cream, salted candied pecans and cajeta) to the Candy Bar, where you can choose from a number of decadent desserts. Highly recommended are the Pistachio Brittle, Salted Fudge Brownies, Rum Raisin Clusters and Sour Candied Citrus. Get a selection of five ($9), nine ($16) or 12 ($20).

Carol Wallack of Sola (Photo: Sola)

More gastro girls inducted into the club:


Avec's Chef de Cuisine Koren Grieveson grew up in Angola, served in the U.S. Army and rides a Harley. Her fearless approach shows in her menu with dishes like the whole-roasted fish paired with house-cured bacon, wood-oven roasted smelts in a spinach-horseradish vinaigrette, and a roasted lima bean puree crostini with fried orange slices.

Karyn Calabrese's been on the scene for a very long time, most notably for spreading the good word about the wonders of raw and vegetarian lifestyles. Her latest project, Karyn's on Green, dips way on the side of hardcore carnivores—and we absolutely love it. Don't miss the BBQ Bacon Meatloaf with horseradish roasted fingerlings and Crispy Chicken Legs dressed in a Kentucky bourbon sauce and sweet potato hash. Oh, and make sure you don't leave without getting an ice-cream cookie in peanut butter, oatmeal or coconut. Yum.

Wife-and-husband team Allison and Rob Leavitt are behind Wicker Park's offal paradise Mado. Their offbeat Sunday family dinners have drawn their own cult crowd, with the next one happening March 28. In the meantime, you can get your fix at tonight's Food Frenzy hosted by Little City Foundation. They'll be one of several local restaurants featured at the event. 6:30-9:30pm at Loft on Lake (1366 W. Lake St.). $75.

Burger queen—and avid surfer—Carol Wallack cranks out her signature bite on Thursdays at Sola as part of Burgers, Beer & Bacon night. Her Wagyu "Kobe" Burger comes with house-made bacon, caramelized onions and melted Cambazola cheese on a chewy pretzel roll. Pair it with a local craft beer, which changes each month.

Lynn House of graham elliot (Photo: graham elliot)


You know you're a bad ass when you can impress shock pop icon Lady Gaga. But that's our Debra Sharpe, who's made a successful career of catering to rock stars as well as neighborhood folks with Bucktown's Goddess and Grocer (also in the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park). Top of the list are the Panko-Crusted Chicken, Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes and Mustard-Crusted Beef Tenderloin.

If you want a classic cocktail like the Moscow Mule, Sazerac or Manhattan, make your way to In Fine Spirits Lounge and let rising star mixologist Anne Carlson-Tye make it for you. She's also studying to become a Master Sommelier, so she can also help you pick the perfect vino.


The awesome, award-winning mixologist Lynn House of graham elliot brings the drama from her theater background into her hand-crafted cocktails. She's won several awards, including one for her signature London Calling cocktail that's her spin on the classic Pimm's Cup with Plymouth Gin.


This month, watch Amanda Downing get her shine on at Rockit Bar & Grill Wrigleyville during the Tasteit events every Monday. They're featuring all women winemakers in March, and this talented chef de cuisine has teamed up with Executive Chef James Gottwald for pair-able, share-able dishes. Highlights of the menu include Almond-Crusted Tilapia, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza, Lobster Burger and Sweet Potato Fries. All wines by the glass and bottle are half off.


And since it's still too cold to venture out in search of various street food carts, Kristine Subido's bringing it to you every Wednesday at Wave. Each month her menu travels to a different country showcasing fabulous fare; order three bites and specialty cocktail or beer for $10. India is featured in March, and look for delights from China in April.