Thursday, July 26, 2012

Freebie Alert: Three Star Chefs Let It 'Whip'

Culinary stars Andrew Brochu (from left), Heather Terhune and David Beran (David Beran photo via Time Out Chicago)

Miracle Whip—that's right, the delicious, mayo-like stuff—hooks up with three local culinary stars for a food truck event that you don't want to miss.

They've teamed up with David Beran (Next), Andrew Brochu (graham elliot) and Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen & Bar) to roll around town next week in the Miracle Whip. For three days, they'll create original recipes using Miracle Whip as the key ingredient. All dishes will be complimentary, but they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here's the schedule:

Is Grass Fed The New Black Sheep?!

Grass Fed interior (Photo: Grass Fed)

An Ultimate Insider contacted 312DD Thursday with some curious information that the newly opened Bucktown steakhouse Grass Fed may already be in trouble.

"I'm hearing the entire staff walked out, including the chef," he said.

Now, this is a restaurant that just opened on July 21. This story is starting to sound like the saga of the ill-fated Black Sheep.

Of course I made several calls to the restaurant for comment, but weirdly there was a constant busy signal, so I couldn't get through.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from owner Scott Kay:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

L20's New Burger Hits R.J. Grunts' Menu

Chef Matthew Kirkley's "Star Burger" is now on the menu at R.J. Grunts. (Photo: LEYE)

This is so wild because I was just discussing the idea of high-profile Lettuce chefs coming up with gourmet burgers just the other day!

Apparently, L20 hot shot Matthew Kirkley has collaborated with sister restaurant—and iconic burger joint—R.J. Grunts for a new gourmet burger.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tru's Levitating Dish, Monkey Business & More

This amuse of house-made potato crisp, crème fraîche and reserve Kaluga caviar from Tru really is levitating. (Photos: Tru)

When Tru Executive Chef Anthony Martin first told me about a so-called "levitating" caviar dish he recently created for the restaurant's latest menu, I gave him some serious side eye. It just didn't seem possible.

So I had to go see for myself. That dish, an amuse of house-made potato crisp, crème fraîche and reserve Kaluga caviar, miraculously and momentarily floated in the air and set the pace for the next 14 plates to come.

"It's kind of an out-of-this-world (experience)," said Martin to his astonished staff in this amazing video (set to the music of rap star Lil' Wayne) of the dish in action. Alas, he'll only divulge this little tidbit about the magic: magnets, polarity and temperature. I actually don't blame him!

The "naturally inspired" collection of "Array of River Salmon."

Martin came to Tru almost four years ago to work as a sous chef and was groomed to take over as executive chef/partner in late 2009. Previously, he worked at the three-starred Michelin rated Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.

This is a chef who is quickly coming into his own, and he credits much of that influence to the time he clocked at Robuchon. "I learned many techniques that have helped shaped my menus today," he said.

In his current and upcoming menus, Martin showcases a little gimmicky flavor as with Levitation, but his biggest goal is to wow his customers with dishes that actually taste good.

Now This Looks Really Fun . . .


This should hold us off as we continue to wait with bated breath for that still unnamed Melman tiki-lounge concept in River North.

Kitsch'n On Roscoe is doing a tiki-themed, pop-up event—for one night only—6-11pm August 2. This is part of a new series of events they're doing to promo the new private menu options.

For the occasion, they're going all out with a $25 three-course, prix-fixe menu, Polynesian-themed cocktails, exotica-type music and a decor blown out in full tiki theme. Reservations are highly recommended as space is limited.

Here's what to expect on the menu:

Get A Sneak Preview of BellyQ Saturday!

Yvonne Cadiz Kim and Bill Kim of BellyQ.

Chef Bill Kim and his wife, Yvonne Cadiz Kim, are one step closer to opening the West Loop's next sensation, Belly Q, in the old onesixty blue space.

To generate a little buzz, they're doing a complimentary tasting noon-2pm Saturday at FoodEase, in Water Tower Place. Guests will get a taste of what's to come: Asian barbecue and seasonal, locally farmed ingredients.

Celebrate Summer with a Significant Other

Alfresco diners on a perfect night on the town.

Sometimes you want to hang out with the girls or the guys at a rowdy outdoor café, and other times you just want to chill with a sig other—on a quiet patio far away from the action.

For those rare occasions, we’ve lined up the ideal situations where you can drink and dine in relative peace, from sipping sparkling Italian vino at Prosecco to a cozy Sunday morning brunch with Bloodys at Southport & Irving.

Monday, July 23, 2012

'Top Chef' Stars To Bartend At Hotel Thrillist

Chefs Grayson Schmitz (left) and Dale Levitski

Just about every notable local bartender will be away this weekend for the annual Tales of the Cocktail down in New Orleans.

Of course you'll still be able to get a well-made cocktail around town (or maybe stick to drinking beer or wine!), but their absence leaves room for some other stars to shine behind the bar.

Specifically it's a couple of chefs you may have heard about: Top Chef alums Grayson Schmitz and Dale Levitski, who will serve as special celebrity bartenders at the Hotel Thrillist.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Important Fundraiser For MANA Line Cook

Ashley Pruneau (Photo: Facebook)

MANA Food Bar line cook Ashley Pruneau was brutally attacked with a hammer in her home earlier this month by an unknown assailant. The guy beat her around the head so badly that she required emergency surgery, but she's going to require another one. Add to that the mounting hospital bills, and she's in dire need of some assistance.

According to Eater Chicago, MANA's already set up a recovery fund, and now one of her former employers, Letizia's Fiore, is also pitching in.

How To Be A VIP at GT Fish & Oyster . . .

GT Fish & Oyster partners Kevin Boehm (left) and Giuseppe Tentori possibly discussing their next VIP customer. (Photo: GT Fish & Oyster)

If you're like me, you've seen those coveted, bronzed nameplates at GT Fish & Oyster's bar and seriously wanted to be down.

Now the secret's out in this new video on how to get one with your name brandished across it. It's not an easy task at all, but I think a 312 Dining Diva nameplate would look awesome right in front of that oyster bar!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Patrick Fahy Now At Trump's Sixteen

Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy during his days at Blackbird. (Photo: Blackbird)

This bombshell just dropped in my inbox:

Sarah Kosikowski quietly left her position as executive pastry chef at Sixteen and Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago at the end of June to work for Valrhona Chocolate.

Taking her place on July 30 will be Patrick Fahy, who was most recently at Cafe Des Architectes. He also garnered rave reviews for his work at avec, Blackbird and Publican (where he received a James Beard Foundation Award nomination in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category).

Who else is coming aboard?!

Do This: Four Fab Foodie Fetes

(Photo via San Francisco Examiner)

Here are a few heavy-hitter chef events coming up. The best part is that there's something for every budget—from $25 to $250—and you'll go home feeling satisfied:

BBQ Beasts & Blues. Three Aces' Matt Troost has gathered some of his culinary cohorts for an event to support MEMA-Music, a nonprofit organization motivating youth through music.

Who's Involved: Each chef [Troost, Mark Steuer (The Bedford), Chris Curren (Stout Barrel House & Galley), John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina)] will prepare a whole animal (think whole pig, lamb, fowl and/or goat) with accompanying side dishes. Bonus: Live music from Chicago blues artists Mississippi Gabe Carter, Matt Hendrix and Dave Herrero.

When & Where: 4-10pm Sunday, July 22 at Three Aces.

$: $25 at the door only

Best Views For Air & Water Show!

The view from above at the J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

Unobstructed, 360-degree views of the lakefront.

That's what you will get at J. Parker, the snazzy new rooftop lounge set to open July 30.

It's owned by the Boka Restaurant Group (Girl & The Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant, etc.), so expect an impressive cocktail and cuisine menu.

Should We Stop Tipping Bartenders?! Why One Writer Thinks We Should . . .


Here's a guy who barely drinks, yet believes that tipping your local bartender is a waste of $$$. He thinks you should be tipping instead your mail carrier, bus driver, pilot . . . basically anyone other than a bartender.

More of his thoughts on the subject:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bourdain Impresses Staff at El Ideas


The Layover host Anthony Bourdain may have canceled one appearance while he's in town, but he most certainly showed up for his reservation Tuesday at the innovative BYOB El Ideas in West Pilsen.

The ecstatic owner/chef, Phillip Foss, had this to write about the experience:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who Made The Cut This Month?!

Trenchermen's main bar is ideal for eating, drinking and hooking up. (Photo: Trenchermen)

It's been a busy summer for new local drinking establishments, and there's no sign of a slowdown any time soon.

So now, I'm keeping track each month of what's going down for an international audience at World's Best Bars. See which fabulous watering holes made the cut in July right here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Southern Mac 'n' Cheese Store Shutters

Signature Mac 'n' Cheese dishes from Southern. (Photo: Southern Mac & Cheese Store)

Over the weekend, the Southern Mac 'n' Cheese Store quietly closed.

Here's what general manager Evan Traub had to say about it:

Adam Seger 'Pops Up' at Lush Again!

Mixologist Adam Seger. (Photo: Tuan Bui)

Master mixologist Adam Seger's "pop-up gastropub" was so popular when he did it at Lush Wine & Spirits back in May that he's returned for an encore this weekend.

This time, he's teamed up with Tim Graham (former exec chef at Paris Club, according to GrubStreet Chicago) for an event in the West Town Lush location.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Best-Ever Review of Alinea, The 'Steak House'


I thought this was a joke at first, but it's not.

A site called praises the Michelin-starred, gastronomy-focused Alinea as an "enormous place to loosen up" for some "grilled pork chops, ribs, fish, steaks and burgers."

Here's more of this fascinating read:

Shin Thompson's Swan Song at Bonsoiree

Chef Shin Thompson's photo via ElIdeas.

It's been a good run for Michelin-starred chef Shin Thompson, but soon it'll be time for him to take his final bow at Bonsoiree before chef Beverly Kim (Aria) and her husband take over.

Before Thompson takes off—sometime in mid-August—he'll do a final series of his infamous "underground" suppers on the following consecutive Saturdays: July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4 and August 11.

The six-course dinners are $105 per person; with wine pairings, an additional $65 (The restaurant is also BYOB).

Here's what to expect:

Freebie Alert: Pump Room!


This should be a welcome and refreshing sight to see at the beach!

Look for complimentary, handcrafted Pump Room popsicles at the lakefront every weekend beginning Saturday, July 14 and ending August 5.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Goodbye, Rhapsody. Hello, Tesori.

This just dropped in the inbox:


Some Stuff To Get EXCITED About . . .

A mysterious image from La Sirena Clandestina's interior. (Photo: La Sirena Clandestina)

There's so much going on right now that it'll make your head spin.

Allow me to get you up to speed . . .

John Manion's working overtime to open the Argentinean-focused La Sirena Clandestina in the West Loop in early August. As I wrote back in March, he's secured Poi Dog Pondering's Frank Orrall to act as music curator.

Another great contributor to La Sirena will be San Diego native Justin Anderson, who's set to create an all-Latin-inspired cocktail menu. Formerly of The Bedford and Branch 27, he's planning extremely approachable elixirs for the first few months.

"We want to make this experience fun and approachable for those coming in dining," Anderson said. "Six months from now, I'd like to be more technical with the cocktails."

One thing you can expect right out of the gate is a permanent section on the menu that he's calling "Latin Classicos." That's where he'll put his spin on the daiquiri, caipirinha, Pisco sour and mojito. He'll also include Fernet Branca & sugar cane Coca Cola, which he said is the unofficial national drink of Argentina. Look also for every wine to complement each dish.

Vera Introduces The 'Otro Bar' & More

Vera's new lobster paella dish. (Photos: Vera)

Vera owner and wine director Liz Mendez recently returned from Spain, where much of her excursion focused on the Castilla y Leon region.

She tells 312DD that during the trip she saw various aspects of cuisine, wine, cocktails and service that inspired her to make some menu changes at the West Loop hot spot she owns with her husband, Executive Chef Mark Mendez.

The most significant change, she says, is the new Otro Bar, which used to be called the Cheese Bar.

"Otro Bar at Vera will still feature artisanal cheeses from around the world and Jamon Iberico sliced to order, now available by the half and full order," she says. "Guests will also enjoy the bounty of the season from fresh salads, marinated vegetables, fresh fruit in sweet and savory forms, as well as classic snacks such as marinated olives and boquerones (anchovies)."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Get Cooking With Culinary Classes . . .

Rosebud on Taylor chef Michael Ponzio instructs in the art of Italian cooking. (Photo: Rosebud on Taylor)

If you're planning to entertain at home this season, the last thing you want to do is put out platters of cheese and fruit with a side of some old-fashioned punch you found in a magazine. Instead, get some inspiration from a number of hot spots ready to spice up your summer soiree.

From Italian-focused classes with Rosebud on Taylor chef Michael Ponzio to whipping up refreshing, classic cocktails at Filini, I've got you covered in my latest story in

Burger Bar's 'Beer and BBQ Bash' Returns

Burger Bar's "Beer and BBQ Bash" includes a number of unique craft beers paired with regional barbecue. (Photo: Burger Bar)

I don't typically write about beer- or wine-focused dinners because frankly they're a bit boring.

But I'll give exception to the one coming up soon at Burger Bar because it's more of an interactive experience that allows guests to walk around to several stations with tastings along the way. It's also a chance to mingle, make new friends and actually have some fun.

Chef/owner John McLean tells us: "With our Brew Club at nearly 500 members, turnout for our beer dinners kept on growing exponentially every month. It occurred to us that we could serve more guests if we loosened up the program, set up food stations and beer stations, and encouraged guests to roam, taste, drink."

The last one attracted more than 150 beer enthusiasts, and with the summer edition expanding to the outdoor patio, they're expecting even more.

The event happens at 7pm July 24, with McLean pairing Ommegang Brewery with 'cue from Chicago, New Orleans, the Carolinas, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City. See the menu below for the BBQ and beer pairings:

Monday, July 9, 2012

What The Fashionable Foodie Wears When She's Out On The Town

BCBG Max Azria/Farmhouse/Audarshia image via Refinery 29.

Many props go out to Refinery 29, who not only featured 312DD in a fashionable foodie feature, but a few of her fab colleagues, too!

Find out what I love to wear—plus my hot new restaurant pick of the summer—as well as Heather Sperling (The Tasting Table), Kiki Luthringshausen (Beauty & Her Feast) and Amanda Puck (Foodarazzi).

Fun stuff!

Jeff Pikus Upgraded at Sodikoff Restaurant Group

Sodikoff Restaurant Group chef/partner Jeff Pikus. (Photo: Maude's Liquor Bar)

There's been a lot of chef shufflings in recent weeks, which is probably why this one went completely under the radar: The mad-talented Jeff Pikus is no longer at Maude's Liquor Bar.

He tweeted that update in late June—which was spotted by an eagle-eyed Ultimate Insider—and has pretty much been on the road ever since.

What has he been up to?!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Your VIP Tickets to Green City Market's 'Chefs BBQ'

The cocktails you'll get to sip at the annual "Green City Market Chef's BBQ." (Photo: Wirtz Beverage Illinois)

Play your cards right and you'll be sipping cocktails alongside some of the best chefs and mixologists in the city at the annual Green City Market Chef's BBQ.

That's because I've got a pair of red-hot VIP tickets to the event, which happens 5:30-8pm July 12 for one lucky winner. (Entry for VIP guests begins at 4:30pm.)

Here's how you can get your hands on them: