Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shrimp and Grits Throwdown Hits Town!


Just in time for Lenten season, three local chefs plan to face off in an epic Shrimp and Grits throwdown to find out who makes this Southern dish best.

A challenge came about on Twitter in January, and Supreme Lobster's Carl Galvan helped get Paul Fehribach (Big Jones), David Carrier (Kith and Kin) and Cary Taylor (The Southern) on board.

"All these guys do really good shrimp and grits, but in their own way," says Galvan. "And you know that when these chefs get together it's going to be all about bourbon, beer and people getting hammered."

Galvan says the event is in the beginning stages right now, but hopes it will take place some time in March or early April. It will also be open to the public.

Taylor, from The Southern, says he has a great chance of winning the challenge because he's using all sustainable and organic ingredients.

"I use really good grits from Three Sisters Farms in Kankakee, plus you've got a Southern boy cooking it," he says. "I've been cooking like this all my life."

But he's got some stiff competition coming as Kith and Kin's Carrier promises to bring it.

"I definitely belong in the fight," Carrier says about his signature dish that includes grits from Anson Mills and a housemade shrimp broth. "I'm going to make what we're already serving at the restaurant and we're not going to add any additional ingredients."

Just tell me where I need to be with a plate, knife and fork!

Sweet Treats and Inexpensive Eats . . .


If you've been together for a long time—or just getting into a new relationship—the last thing you want to do is go overboard on Valentine's Day.

I'm not gonna get all preachy, but as long as you're enjoying each other's company it really shouldn't matter what you're doing.

For example, a great interactive event this weekend happens at Delilah’s, in Lincoln Park. They're hosting the annual Vintage Beer Festival where you'll sample more than 100 craft beers from the likes of Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Harvey’s Elizabethan and Skull Splitter, plus regional faves Three Floyds, Goose Island, Two Brothers and Bell’s & Lakefront Brewing. Reps will be on hand to discuss the brews.

If you didn't know anything about craft beers, you will by the time you leave. Noon-5pm Saturday. $20 per person.

So much more going on this weekend where you won't have to spend a lot of $$$:


TOAST on The Magnificent Mile, an annual celebration featuring the area's top spots and sponsored by Moët & Chandon, continues throughout the month. When it comes to timeless romance, you can never go wrong in the exotic upstairs lounge at Le Colonial, which is doing a $15 special on Moët Bellinis (lychee, mango, guava) and Moët & Chandon Imperial by the glass.

If you can manage to snag one of those sweet sofas in the front of the bar at Tavern on Rush, we suggest going for their Sweet and Savory special for the month. They're pairing Moët with raspberry crème brûlée, shortbread almond cookies, strawberry cheesecake, and a selection of artisan cheeses, fresh fruit and French bread. Available for $16.95 through the month except Valentine's Day.

Speaking of French, you're certain to sweep her off her feet at cozy Bistro 110 as they're also in on the Moët special. Share a trio of hand-crafted Moët & Chandon Impérial champagne cocktails paired with three petite dessert creations for $16.95.


Even more budget bites with bubbly can be had at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, which is doing a three-tier "sweet display" served tableside for two. Each person gets a glass of Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial, plus chocolate-dipped strawberries, fresh fruit kabobs with Grand Marnier topping and additional chocolate desserts. Available Fridays, Saturdays in February. $45 per couple.

Upscale Greek resto Taxim's featuring dishes made with aphrodisiac ingredients on Friday and Saturday. Special menu items include Nistísimo tahinópsomo me amygdalógalo (toasted tahini bread, Kalamáta figs, almond milk ice; $6); Kremidákia kai xirinó me méli (smoked pork belly, caramelized pearl and cipollini onions, Attikí honey; $8); and Païdákia me pligoúri (wood-grilled rack of lamb, olive and bulgur wheat pilaf, toasted almonds, fresh oregano and pine nut skordaliá; $28).

Take a date to Stone Lotus for the second-annual Love at First Bite event, which is raising money for the American Red Cross in its efforts to help rebuild Haiti. Your $20 ticket includes sweets from local artisans, plus comped cocktails. 11pm-4am.


You typically won't get "movie and dinner" recs from me, but I'll make an exception when it comes to ShowPlace Icon Theatre in the South Loop. This weekend they're showing a number of romantic movies, including "Avatar 3D," "Dear John" and "Valentine's Day." After the movie, head to the adjacent Lobby Bar and sit in the window for one of the best skyline views in the city. Full bar, flatbread pizzas, appetizers in a jazzy space.

One of Roscoe Village's best date night spots, Volo is doing a special three-course, prix-fixe menu Saturday and Sunday for $41 per person. This is a pretty intimate wine bar too, so if you just want to gaze in each other's eyes over glasses of vino, there's always room at the bar.


We're getting really good feedback about brunch at The Southern, which just opened last week. Highlights include the spicy cheese grits, morning tacos (fresh avocado, black bean puree, toasted cumin, scrambled eggs, chipotle salsa) and the chicken and biscuits—buttermilk-soaked half chicken, Tasso ham and rosemary gravy. All items are under $14. 11am-5pm.

And is there anything sexier than Samba?! Brazilian brunch spot Sinha still has reservations available 2, 3:30 and 5:30pm, where you'll get authentic South American cuisine in this cozy, two-level BYOB venue. After dinner, get ready to dance it all off on the dance floor! $30 per person.