Monday, December 31, 2012

Here Are Some Non-Boozy Alternatives When Drinking Around Town

A non-alcoholic Peach Melba Cooler via

I'm pretty burned out on booze after an especially lushy holiday season, so I am looking forward to taking it down a few notches in the coming weeks. I'm not a huge fan of sodas and there's only so much tea I can drink, so I sought out some tasty alternatives.

From a Caipirinha Bubbly “Champagne” at Chicago French Market to Storefront Company's delightfully refreshing Pomegranate Fizz, here are some of the best mocktails around town.

Friday, December 28, 2012

This Is The WORST Restaurant Tipper of 2012!

Restaurant receipt via The Bitchy Waiter.

You guys know how I love outing terrible tippers, and this guy right here has got to be the lowest of the low.

As you can see above, he actually subtracted his tip from the bill when his party dined at an Andersonville restaurant on Christmas.

Here's what went down, according to the server, as he explained to The Bitchy Waiter.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year 2012 Was An Incredibly Outrageous Time For Chicago's Restaurants & Bars

Left photo via Proof nightclub; right photo via Jessica Harr's Facebook page.


This year has really gone by quickly. Part of the reason is because 2012 was one of the most outrageous years to date for the dining and drinking scene.

Here's what really stuck out in my mind:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

9 Cure-All Cocktail Recipes For Your NYE Hangover

Adam Seger's Libertad Real. (Photo: Libertad)

No one wants to wake up with a massive hangover on New Year's Day, but it's inevitable.

So instead of suffering and shuffling through the day like a burnt-out zombie, whip up one of these cure-all cocktail recipes from some of Chicago's hottest culinary and bar stars.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Shutter Report: Park 52 Closes In Early 2013, Cites 'Personal Obligations'

(Photos: Park 52)

This just dropped into my inbox regarding the upcoming closing of Park 52 in Hyde Park:

The Staff Meal of All Staff Meals: The Grace Team Gets A Special Delivery From Their Friends At Next

Curtis Duffy and his team at Grace enjoying their meal. (Photo: Michael Muser)

The hard-working team at the newly opened Grace were treated to a well-deserved meal from the chefs over at Next/The Aviary Wednesday afternoon.

What did they get to eat?! No doubt the ramen was an iteration from the current Kyoto menu. No word on whether The Aviary chipped in with cocktails, but something tells me that definitely didn't happen considering this meal was right before service!

Scott Walton is Leaving Markethouse

(Photo: DoubleTree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile)

Markethouse Executive Chef Scott Walton posted this to his Facebook last night:

"Many of you know Markethouse has been my home, my life for the past 4 years. And it was a great 4 years. I'm grateful to everyone I met along the way; peers and wonderful patrons. I'm happy to announce that I am moving on to bigger and better things, a new challenge. A great challenge. New opening early spring. Details to follow! I hope to see everyone at my new place, ready to enjoy great food and good times."

Good luck to him, and we're looking forward to his next project!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Get Ready For A Second Kuma's In Chicago. . .

One of Kuma's signature burgers via The New York Times.

This is major news!

Dish reports that a second Kuma's is on its way in early 2013:

Five Top Bars Spreading The Holiday Cheer

Coq d'Or interior via Popsugar.

No holiday season is complete without at least one visit to Coq d'Or—that legendary Drake hotel bar that opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition.

We go for the well-crafted cocktails (from the Mai Tai to the Manhattan) made by old schoolers, but another appeal is this option: the twice as nice portions of the "executive" size.

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week

Dana Cree and her winning bûche de noël at Cafe Des Architectes Monday. (Photo: Sofitel Chicago)

So sweet and bittersweet . . .

Blackbird Executive Pastry Chef Dana Cree was the big-time winner at the second-annual bûche de noël contest Monday at Cafe Des Architectes. Her winning cake—which she said was based off an Austrian dessert she once made to impress Wolfgang Puck—was a hit with the official judges (including 312DD!) as well as the people's choice. It tasted like a combo of a "burnt" crème brûlée and the most decadent caramel brownie I've ever had. She beat out the likes of Balena's Amanda Rockman and Meg Gaulus of NoMI.

• Speaking of red-hot pastry chefs, Trenchermen is hosting an all-star event with Dana Cree, plus chefs from the likes of Momofuku Milk Bar and Noma. It's $100 per person, happens on Jan. 3 and also includes wine pairings from Alpana Singh (The Boarding House) and cocktails from Jenny Kessler of Masa Azul.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who Dat?!

(Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

This talented, award-winning pastry chef sported some mighty funky-looking socks Monday at the Cafe Des Architectes' benefit for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Can you guess who she is?!

We're Digging On This Delightful Holiday Treat From West Town Tavern

West Town Tavern's holiday ice cream sandwich is a work of art. (Photo: West Town Tavern)

I'm a sucker for a great ice cream sandwich, so I couldn't resist this latest offering from West Town Tavern.

They've combined two festive favorites of the season—Christmas cookies and candy cane ice cream—to create this delight that should please young and old. To make it, they've folded crushed peppermint candy into their rich vanilla bean ice cream and put between sugar cookies with a hint of lemon zest. It's then drizzled with berry and chocolate sauces.

Fitness Experts' Sound Advice on Dining & Drinking During the Holidays

Shred415 instructor Mark Beier. (Photo: Shred415)

You're pretty disciplined with diet and exercise most of the time, which may tempt you to slack off during the holiday season. But a few fitness experts around town advise that while it's okay to treat yourself occasionally, don't allow the indulgence to completely throw you off your plan.

Further, recommends Flywheel Chicago instructor Antonia DeSantis, eating healthier on your own when you're not at holiday gatherings is more important than ever.

"Make sure you are eating extra clean when you aren't celebrating," DeSantis says. "Your daily food intake should remain healthy to offset the heavier foods at the parties."

That's some pretty solid advice! Here are some additional tips from DeSantis as well as other fitness experts on what to eat and where they enjoy wining and dining in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Add Charlie Trotter's Latest Antic To Most Outrageous Things To Happen in 2012

Photo via the Inquisitr.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing the incredibly outrageous moments in Chicago's bars and restaurants in 2012.

Who knew there would be a late and juicy entry so close to the end of the year?!

According to Chicagoist:

The Twelve Drinks of Christmas . . .

Benjamin Schiller's Sowing Wind Punch for Boka. (Photo: NOLET's Silver Dry Gin)

Well, this makes sense.

We sought out 12 of the most creative holiday cocktails around town . . . so you can make them at home:

Benny's Chop House's The Snow Leopard

Blackbird's The Maiden and the Huntsman

Boka's Sowing Wind Punch

David Burke's Primehouse's Passion Berry Cobbler

The Gage's Christmas Manhattan

Grass Fed's Hot Buttered Pecan Rum

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week

Your first look at Bub City, which houses Paul McGee's Three Dots and a Dash on the lower level. (Photo: Bub City)

Raise your glass . . .

• Can you believe Quartino's been around for seven years?! It feels like it just opened a few years ago. To celebrate, chef/partner John Coletta's doing $7 specials of all the food on the menu, plus two wines by the bottle. But you'll have to wait; the deal only happens on Jan. 7. That's perfect timing because right after the holidays, we'll all be trying to save those $$$.

Three Dots and a Dash maestro Paul McGee previews the cocktail list of what to expect when the subterranean spot has its soft open this weekend. We're really excited about the frozen Mexican Firing Squad special of Corozon blanco tequila, pomegranate, lime and angostura.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Alpana Singh's Boarding House Has An Opening Date

Master Sommelier Alpana Singh

For those dreaming of the day they can finally get their mitts on The Boarding House's signature pork tots, the wine-focused restaurant finally has an opening date: Dec. 20.

Owned in part by master sommelier Alpana Singh, the restaurant has been one of the hotly anticipated openings of the season.

According to Singh, the restaurant will "soft open (Dec. 13) with the Bar & Cellar. (It) will be available without reservations."

That's the 100-seat, first floor bar and the intimate, 75-seat subterranean cellar lounge. In both areas, guests can experience Singh's 20 wine selections by the glass as well as craft cocktails and beers alongside a modest menu by Executive Chef Christian Gosselin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stephanie Izard's 'Little Goat Bread' Opens Inside Little Goat On Dec. 13 in the West Loop

Chef Stephanie Izard of the Goat empire. (Photo: Girl & the Goat)

Fans of the highly personable Stephanie Izard are going to have to wait until the end of the month to finally check out contemporary diner concept Little Goat, but they'll get a sneak preview when Little Goat Bread opens Thursday.

Here are some facts about the venue within a venue:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Is This The Best Grilled Cheese in Chicago?! Food & Wine Says Yes . . .

grahamwich's grilled cheese. (Photo: grahamwich)

A chilly day like today is ideal for chowing down on a luscious grilled cheese bubbling with brie, cheddar or pepper jack, and according to Food & Wine, the best spot to snap one up in Chicago is grahamwich:

Friday, December 7, 2012

There’s Something About Sherry . . .

A flight of sherries at Vera. (Photo: Vera)

Sherry's no longer exiled to the back of menus as wine directors and bartenders have given the Spanish fortified wine new life.

From BIN 36 to Vera, several Chicago bars and restaurants put sherry back in the spotlight this season . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Acadia's Ryan McCaskey Insists That He Has No Plans To Open Additional Venues

Ryan McCaskey, owner/chef of Acadia (Photo: Anthony Tahlier for Acadia)

According to Acadia publicist Jenn Galdes, this is not true:

"(Ryan) McCaskey's long-term goal is to make Acadia the cornerstone of his restaurant empire and branch out into more casual endeavors. 'I want to open up a bar and a more casual spot. A dingy clubby little restaurant. I want to open a breakfast/lunch place. Right now I'm kind of in the mood to open up a killer bar with family meal food,' he says."

Apparently the quote originated in a mock article posted on Eater Chicago on Monday. A candidate for the open editor position submitted the story following a "mock" interview with the chef/owner, and for some odd reason, they decided to publish it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Spread Joy & Cheer To Those Less Fortunate At These Restaurant And Bar Holiday Events


From BIN 36's annual Bubble Bath sparkling wine party to the food drive at Publican, here's where you can spread a little joy:

• A number of the city's top pastry chefs compete in the annual Holiday Rock & Roll benefit at Cafe des Architectes. The likes of Dana Cree (Blackbird), Meg Gaulus (NoMI) and Amanda Rockman (Balena) will present their modern interpretations of the Bûche de Noël, a traditional French holiday dessert. Yours truly will serve as one of the media judges. There will also be savory appetizers, punch bowl cocktails and plenty of holiday jingles from Rod Tuffcurls and The Bench Press. Proceeds from the $35 ticket benefit Share Our Strength. 6-8pm Dec. 10.

• Indulge in three hours of all the sparkling wine you can gulp down at BIN 36's annual Bubble Bath. In addition to more than 75 bubblies, you'll get appetizers and enough desserts to send you into sugar shock. A portion of the proceeds—as well as retail sales through Dec. 31—benefit Lincoln Park Zoo. 6-9pm Dec. 12. Get the $48 tickets right here.

• The decadent turtle pie at Joe's Stone Crab is the December feature for the Pie It Forward program. Order a slice and $1 benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town

Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay of the Tippling Bros. (Photo: Mercadito Hospitality)

Countdown to Christmas cocktails . . . and more:

Little Market Brasserie's set to open later this month, and we're especially excited about its innovative new beverage program. Of course that program's from the dynamic duo The Tippling Bros.—who are also behind the cocktails at Mercadito and Tavernita. At LMB, they're doing what they've dubbed as "charged cocktails" with five different charger (or soda) flavors made from fresh juices, exotic teas, fruit peels, flowers and herbs. The flavors will be Meyer lemon sour, hibiscus vanilla, smoked salted cream soda, cornflower yuzu and blood orange cinnamon, and they may be combined with the guest's spirit of choice (e.g. gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey). The cocktails will be priced $10-$14. On the menu also will be a number of stirred or shaken specialties such as a Champagne Cobbler, Ginger Smash, and Bengal Sidecar of chai-infused cognac, curacao, lemon, blood orange, and a Bengali Tiger IPA Float.

Curtis Duffy, Michael Muser and the team at Grace have to be ecstatic and anxious at the same time. The long-awaited, fine-dining restaurant finally has an opening date: Dec. 11.

• Save Chrissy Camba! The Bar Pastoral exec chef was sent packing her knives on "Top Chef" last week, but here's a way to bring her back on the show. Don't forget that she was the only Chicago chef on this season!

• Speaking of "Top Chef" contestants, former fiery contender Heather Terhune of Sable Kitchen & Bar has teamed up with Falafill to create an exclusive Mediterranean treat, the December Chefs for Charity Wrap. For every wrap purchased, $1 will be donated to Purple Asparagus, a charity dedicated to nutritional education for families.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

All About The Bubbly: Champagne Cocktails And Where To Drink Sparkling Wine Around Town

(Photo: Freddy Love)

'Tis the season to indulge in sparkling wine.

To be honest, drinking Champagne is somewhat of a national pasttime for many of you glamorous types, but it just feels a little more special during the holidays.

For those who enjoy the classic Champagne cocktail, we asked several of Chicago's top mixologists to add sexy new twists such as Blackbird's Lynn House and The Maiden and the Huntsman. It's a fascinating concoction of Campo de Encanto Pisco, Pernod absinthe and house-made pear/caraway nectar that's topped with sparkling wine.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sneak Previews Of Two New Menus You Don't Want To Miss: Roka Akor, Municipal Bar + Dining Co.

Roka Akor's robata grilled Alaskan halibut with chile miso butter. (Photo: Roka Akor)

Here's a first look at two menus you'll crave this season: the six-course winter kaiseki from Roka Akor and a sampling of what to expect at Municipal Bar + Dining Company when it opens Dec. 15.

Roka Akor Executive Chef Ce Bian unveils the traditional multi-course Japanese menu Wednesday. It's $85 per person and highlights some tasty seasonal, exotic and local ingredients:

First course: oyster trio of Kumamoto with ponzu mignonette, fresh chive, lime; Hama Hama tempura with chile ginger, parsley puree, shaved vegetables; roasted oyster with yuzu koshu soy butter

Second course: flame-seared uni nigiri; truffled hotate nigiri; chef's special sashimi selection

Third course: gobo soup with root vegetables

Fourth course: robata-grilled Alaskan halibut with chile miso butter, parsnip chips and micro green salad

Fifth course: robata-grilled Wagyu confit short rib with truffle maitake mushroom; robata-grilled sweet potato with ginger teriyaki sauce

Dessert: apple tartare with fig puree and sancho pepper cream; toasted rice ice cream

If Roka Akor's menu is a little too out there for you, Municipal Bar + Dining Co.'s might be more up your alley. Executive Chef Jeffery Arasi once cooked for the Queen of England (at The Savoy Hotel in London), but don't expect any fussy fixin's at this upscale sports lounge. Just so you know, I'm particularly excited about the braised lamb shank that comes with truffled white corn grits.

Here's a sampling of what to expect when it opens later this month:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vegan 'Yelper' Unleashes Fury On Next Restaurant's 2013 Season Of Menus


A little dramatic much?!

Next exec chef Dave Beran recently unveiled to GrubStreet Chicago of what to expect for the 2013 season of menus.

The "Hunt," which launches in early January, focuses on wild game as well as various kinds of plants and vegetables native to the Midwest. Following that will be "Vegan," which Beran says "showcases the flavors of vegetables."

As you can see above, the Yelper, vegan Howard F., didn't like the idea of an all-vegan feast following a game-heavy theme.