Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

Eric Mansavage of Farmhouse (Photo: Farmhouse)

The sun will come out . . . today.

Farmhouse Executive Chef Eric Mansavage is incredibly busy these days. He recently launched a new brunch menu that has already garnered a steady stream of fans on Saturday and Sunday. The menu's seasonal, of course, keeping in line with the restaurant's philosophy of using local and fresh ingredients. Highlights include the Farm Egg Scramble, which comes with spicy breakfast potatoes, and sweet potato biscuits & gravy with venison sausage. There's also a small list of brunch cocktails, which include a signature Bloody as well as seasonal cocktails listed as "savory," "sweet" and "sour." Farmhouse is also planning an expansion to Evanston, which Mansavage will oversee when it opens in late May.

Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar this week introduced an enormous chef's bento box that should certainly leave you satisfied. It comes with 12 items, which are customized to your tastes. It's available during lunch and dinner.

Peter Balodimas steps down as Rosebud restaurant group's corporate chef to open Domestic in the just-shuttered Rosebud Trattoria.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Indulge: March 27 is 'World Whiskey Day'

GT Fish & Oyster's signature Old Money (Photo: GT Fish & Oyster)

My mouth is watering just thinking about Whiskeys of the World, a one-night only event happening at Mercadito at 7pm April 2.

Whiskey master Kyle McHugh will take guests on a tasting trip of whiskeys around the globe, and $25 gets you appetizers and plenty of booze. The event is part of a monthly educational seminar series at the cocktail-focused restaurant and lounge, and I'm certain it will fill up quickly.

In the meantime, if you need something to quench your thirst, you'll be happy to learn that March 27 is World Whiskey Day. In honor of this momentous occasion, I've gathered five of my favorite whiskey-based cocktails in the city so that you can celebrate right now.

For instance, GT Fish & Oyster's Benjamin Schiller created a version of the classic Old Money that's been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2011. It's barrel aged for three months with Benchmark bourbon, Aperol, Nux Alpina walnut liqueur and allspice.

Here are more of my faves:

It's Time Again For 'Arami Noodle Night'

(Photo: Arami)

Arami's "noodle night" happens every last Wednesday of the month, and so far it's gotten a pretty good reception from the area's foodie crowd.

March 27 marks the slick Asian spot's third installation,
and the menu will feature seven to eight ramen dishes, including staples such as the kimchi, Arami and vegan ramen. Look also for a few new creations.

What's especially cool is that diners may order half or full sizes, so it's a chance to mix it up a bit with several orders. The full sushi menu will also be available.

The staff has also put together a few new cocktails that should pair well with the dishes; shochu and whiskey drinks will be highlighted.

See the menu below:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Recently Ousted RL Bartenders Have Landed At Local Chicago To The Delight Of Their Fans

Curt Rose (left) and Russell Shulman (Photo: Jorge Gera Photography)

Expect the cocktails to be a whole lot better at Local Chicago now that two veteran bartenders have landed behind the stick.

Longtime RL drink makers Curt Rose and Russell Shulman were recently ousted from the Mag Mile social gathering spot (after 14 years!), and we're certain their fans will be happy to know that they're in a spot just a few blocks away.

West Town's Leopold Is Set For New Ownership & A Brand New Concept?!

Leopold interior (Photo: Leopold)

I received this curious email early Monday from Leopold owner Christy Agee regarding the future of her buzz-worthy, chef-driven restaurant in West Town:

"It has been our pleasure to welcome our guests into Leopold over the last 2+ years. It was an honor to work with so many talented, dedicated, creative and hard-working staff members.

"I've always said any restaurant in Chicago would be lucky to have the team that made Leopold such a success. That being said, we're looking forward to a new beginning at 1450 W. Chicago with new ownership.

"The last night of service as the Leopold you know and love will be this Saturday, March 30th."

Easter Is This Sunday . . . Here's Where To Make Brunch Reservations

Roka Akor's banana pancakes (Photo: Roka Akor)

Chocolate bunnies, Easter egg hunts or roasted leg of lamb?!

From an afternoon cruise on the Spirit of Chicago to bountiful buffets featuring Asian, Italian and French fare, we've gathered the very best Easter brunch options to share with family and friends on March 31.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Carrie Nahabedian's Second Restaurant In Final Stages; Set To Open Soon In River North

Photo via RIA of Nahabedian in front of her new restaurant, Brindille.

Well, this very welcome news comes courtesy of Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) regarding her second restaurant, a Parisian-inspired 50 seater that will also be located in River North:

"We are 'moving in' to Brindille! Chairs, tables and more. Putting in the final touches."

Looking forward to seeing Brindille when it opens this spring.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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

Rick Gresh of David Burke's Primehouse (Photo: David Burke's Primehouse)

Where the hell is spring?!

• The Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council's annual Red or White Ball is one of the best young professional charity events of the year, particularly because it attracts a lot of creative types. In 2011, they added a chef component to the VIP portion of the event, and this year's lineup looks pretty impressive. Set to serve are Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse), Thomas Elliott Bowman and Ben Roche (Baume & Brix), Puje Dorlig (Jellyfish), Mark Payne (Deca Restaurant + Bar) and Jean Tippenhauer (Fred's at Barneys New York). The main event takes place at Venue One (1044 W. Randolph St.) with the after-party happening at NellcĂ´te. 7pm (VIP reception), 8pm April 5. Get the tickets right here.

Robert DeNiro's glamorous Nobu restaurant that he owns with chef Nobu Matsuhisa is apparently on its way to the West Loop.

Speed Rack returns to Chicago, and it's a great opportunity to see the city's most talented female bartenders compete against one another in various cocktail challenges. Proceeds from the event benefit breast cancer research and it's a strong turnout from Chicago's mixology community. Some of the competitors include the likes of Annemarie Sagoi (Big Star/The Charleston), Cristiana DeLucca (The Drawing Room) and Jess Keene (Barrelhouse Flat). Star-tenders Paul McGee (Bub City/Three Dots and a Dash), Lynn House (Blackbird) and Peter Vestinos (BellyQ) will serve as judges. 3-7pm March 24 at Cobra Lounge. $20 in advance by purchasing tickets here; $25 at door. Admission price include an open bar and appetizers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The 2013 James Beard Nominees Are In . . .

Chef Curtis Duffy and his team at Grace are one of the James Beard nominees for 2013. (Photo: Michael Muser)

The nominees for the 2013 James Beard Awards have been released.

Chicago's representing our vibrant dining scene well this year, with One Off Hospitality (avec, Blackbird, Violet Hour, etc.) leading the pack with four noms and West Loop newcomer Grace in the running for Best New Restaurant.

Here is how Chicago fared:

Get Ready: Perennial Virant Launches Breakfast

Perennial Virant's biscuits and gravy with Gunthorp Farms chicken sausage and sunny side up eggs. (Photo: Perennial Virant)

Well, this makes sense for Perennial Virant, especially when Green City Market opens its outdoor event directly across the street in the spring.

Beginning April 1, the award-winning restaurant on the first floor of the Lincoln Hotel will start serving breakfast 6:30-10:30am Monday through Friday. Wednesdays should be especially busy with the pre- and post-Green City Market crowds.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Erling Wu-Bower Talks His Heritage, New Menus & First-Ever Cocktail Program At Avec

Erling Wu-Bower photo via Time Out Chicago.

Since taking over as chef de cuisine at avec last summer, Erling Wu-Bower has been pretty consistent with changing the menu on a regular basis. He works with his team of chefs and cooks to come up with at least three to five dishes every other week to keep the menu fresh and the staff inspired.

"The restaurant's menu does not just reflect my thoughts," Wu-Bower says. "The more people contributing helps the menu stay creative."

It's nice to know that a place as busy as the Mediterranean-focused avec (it's open daily at 3:30pm and stays open late) doesn't rely on its popularity and the fact that diners don't mind ordering the same items every visit.

Wu-Bower gets his creative juices flowing by reading online menus and a set of recipe books meant for the avec staff. It also helps that he brings a diverse ethnic background to the table; he's half Chinese, half Creole.

Hubbard Inn Has Been Sold

Hubbard Inn's interior (Photo: Hubbard Inn)

I received a tip earlier this week regarding the fate of ambitious River North cocktail lounge Hubbard Inn.

Apparently there are rumors that the team behind the bar as well as Barn & Company, Black Bull, English and LaSalle Power Co. sold everything last month.

"This is not true," says one of the principals, David Mitria.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Freebie Alert: M Burger!

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

This is the kind of news we LOVE.

To celebrate its third birthday, all M Burger locations (Loop, River North, Streeterville, Water Tower Place Mall) will generously give you a special gift.

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

Charles Joly of Aviary.

Bring on the sunshine . . .

• Beer enthusiasts should get excited about this: Aviary's Charles Joly has collaborated with Evil Twin Brewing and Against the Grain Brewery to create a porter using grilled corn husks. Check out the video.

American Junkie is set to open Wednesday, March 20. In addition to acquiring former City Tavern/Sepia chef Kendal Duque as head chef, the River North-based restaurant has also recently tapped Bob Zrenner (Hubbard Inn/Black Bull Tapas) and Tony Potempa (Boarding House) to join the team. Zrenner will serve as #2 in the kitchen, while Potempa will head the cocktail program, which will focus on lighter, California-inspired cocktails. There will also be two cocktails on tap at all times.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Shamrock 'Shake,' Jameson Cocktails & More Part of St. Patrick's Day Celebrations This Weekend

The line outside of Celtic Crossings in 2011. (Photo: Celtic Crossings)

Last year was absolutely insane on St. Patrick's Day in Chicago for a number of reasons. The Irish-themed holiday fell on a Saturday. It was sunny and almost 80 degrees. Everyone was in a great mood.

Even if we don't get similar weather this time around, everyone should still be in a great mood because there's just so much cool stuff going on. From specially designed cocktails and magically delicious cupcakes to authentic Irish restaurants and bars where you can get your Shamrock "shake" on, we've got you covered this week.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

'Taste of Chicago' Kicks Off First-Ever 'Craft of the Cocktail' Event With Blackbird's Lynn House


If you're one of those people who abandoned the Taste of Chicago years ago, you've got a good reason to go back when the food festival returns to Grant Park this summer.

Blackbird chief mixologist Lynn House wrote this on her Facebook wall over the weekend:

"After 30 plus years, the Taste of Chicago is including the Craft of the Cocktail on its Celebrity Chef Mainstage. Guess who will be whipping up libations? Super psyched and honored!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Go For The Food, Stay For 'March Madness' At These Chef-Driven Sports Bars Around Town

Old Town Social's in-house charcuterie program of lonza, mortadella, toscano, spicy coppa, summer sausage and lamb. (Photo: Old Town Social)

There's certainly no shortage of sports bars in Chicago, but when it comes to them serving up great fare the list gets so much shorter. We know you came for the games, monster-sized screens and seemingly endless choices for beer, but you can get that anywhere.

And please, let's just get beyond those wings and things. You've grown up and deserve to treat yourself to something better such as house-made charcuterie and smoked Louisiana alligator ribs.

Check out these all-star sports bars that actually serve good food.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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

Mercat a la Planxa's Jose Garces (Photo: Mercat a la Planxa)

It's cold outside, but these people are hot hot hot . . .

Jose Garces was in town Tuesday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Mercat a la Planxa. Though he's not the day-to-day chef (that honor belongs to chef de cuisine Cory Morris), Garces' recognition is what brings faces into the Spanish-influenced place. Look for the "Iron Chef" winner to spend more time in his hometown of Chicago because he's scouting for a location for a new restaurant. He won't disclose the concept yet, but he promises that it'll be heavily inspired by one of his existing seven spots in Philly. We're looking forward to that!

Miae Liam is out at Japonais and has taken long-time Mirai Sushi chef Jun Ichikawa with her to open a Gold Coast restaurant.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Le Bar Wants You To Take A Trip To Normandy For A Bit Of Nightlife & Noshes

The vibrant Le Bar interior (Photo: Sofitel Chicago)

Hey, anything to get out of the snow and into something hot.

It's the last stop on Le Bar's wonderful little tour of France, and it's happening in the sexy, northwestern region of Normandy.

As part of the event, which happens 5-10pm March 7, Le Bar spotlights some homegrown favorites, including the apple brandy Calvados in the night's signature cocktail (also made with simple syrup, lemon juice, apple juice, bitters, splash of ginger ale and fresh mint).

Calvados will also make an appearance in one of the event's appetizers, seared scallops with bacon and parsnip. There will also be glasses of apple cider and baked Camembert with grilled bread, dried fruit and walnuts.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Alpana Singh Repping Chicago For Food & Wine's 'Sommeliers of the Year 2013' Honors

Master Sommelier Alpana Singh

Congrats to The Boarding House's Alpana Singh for being the only Chicagoan named to Food & Wine's annual Sommeliers of the Year list. Here's why she won, according to the mag: