Friday, May 31, 2013

So Very, Very Hot Right Now.

Benjamin Schiller's "Ghost Sign" of tequila, Pimm's, kumquat and lemon (Photo: Homestead)

Homestead is back!

West Town's only rooftop restaurant returns May 31 with the exciting team of chef Chris Curren (Blue 13, Stout Barrel House & Galley) and beverage director Benjamin Schiller (Boka, Girl & The Goat, GT Fish & Oyster). What's even more exciting is that we've got the first-ever look at the drinks menu.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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

Barrelhouse Flat's top level (Photos: Barrelhouse Flat)

Diana Ross says there's a cure for this.

BIG swingin' props go out to the talented bar staffs at The Aviary and Barrelhouse Flat, which were the only Chicago spots to make Esquire's annual Best Bars In America list. The section comes out in the June/July issue and here's what they had to say:

On Aviary, which clocked in at #12: "... if you're willing to put aside your 'This ain't a bar' instincts, an evening at the Aviary can be a blast. The drinks are fascinating and delicious. At the end of the evening, you feel as if you've had a fun night at a top restaurant, only to get this buzzed at one of them would cost you ten times more."

And Barrelhouse Flat, which came in at #13: "... this one specializes not in new drinks with a farm-to-table ethos or in updates on the classics wherein the update consists mostly of replacing tried-and-true ingredients with hit-or-miss ones made in the basement, but in simply making the many classic drinks on its enticing list as good as possible, with minimal ego."


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blackbird Chief Mixologist Lynn House Set To Leave In June; Heads to Bourbon Country


Well, here's a bombshell you didn't see coming: Blackbird's chief mixologist Lynn House is leaving her prestigious post on June 15.

The award-winning bartender, who has worked at the hot West Loop restaurant for more than three years, will join the Bardstown, Ky.,-based Heaven Hill Distilleries as the first-ever national brand ambassador for PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur (one of the company's brands).

House told 312DD over the weekend that she will continue to be based in Chicago, but her new duties of brand awareness and schmoozing with big wigs will take her all over the country.

Tippling Tuesday: It's National Negroni Week!

Barrel-aged Negroni photo via

Through June 3, a few Chicago restaurants and bars are taking part in National Negroni Week, sponsored by Imbibe magazine.

It's not only an opportunity to indulge in the classic Italian cocktail (made with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth), but for every Negroni sold, $1 goes to the venue's favorite charity. More than 70 restaurants and bars across the country are participating, but here's where you can join in on the fun in Chicago:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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

Giuseppe Tentori, partner/executive chef at BOKA. (Photo: BOKA)

The wind will blow you away!

Boka executive chef Giuseppe Tentori (also of GT Fish & Oyster fame) has teamed up with chefs Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse) and Cleetus Friedman (Fountainhead) for the second-annual CigarBQue. The event takes place at 6:30pm June 21 and it's exactly what you think: people chowing down on chef-driven BBQ dishes and smoking cigars. The trio's invited a bunch of colleagues to help them whip up vittles, including the likes of Matt Troost (Three Aces), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven), Mike and Patrick Sheerin (Trenchermen), Rey Villalobos (Table Fifty-Two), David Blonsky (Bull & Bear/Public House), Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen & Bar), Chris Macchia (Coco Pazzo) and Willie Wagner (Honky Tonk BBQ). Mixologists Thaddeus Dynakowski (Northside Bar and Grill), Ben Schiller (Berkshire Room) and Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen & Bar) will be serving up cocktails, which are included in the $150 ticket price. A portion of the evening's proceeds will be donated to the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. Get those tickets right here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 25 Is 'National Wine Day'; Where To Drink & Be Merry in the City

Photo via Uptown Magazine

All my favorite winos should be very happy with this news.

May 25 falls on a Saturday this year and that also happens to be National Wine Day. And because this weekend's all about celebrating Memorial Day, there will certainly be a lot of wine pouring going down.

If you're out and about, these spots rule, in my book:

Bar Pastoral. An extension of Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, Bar Pastoral is a great choice for those seeking smaller, boutique wines. Diners may choose their selections from the retail shop and consume in the restaurant.

Scott Harris Expands His Empire To River North With Outposts of Davanti Enoteca, Glazed & Infused

Scott Harris photo via

Centro. J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar. Osteria Via Stato. RPM Italian. Siena Tavern.

And now that Davanti Enoteca enters the fray in River North it's like the area's suddenly Little Italy 2.0!

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Tales of the Cocktail' Announces Finalists for 'Spirited Awards'; Chicago Represents

Charles Joly of the Aviary (Photo: Charles Joly)

Chicago strikes it big at Tales of the Cocktail, which announced Friday finalists for the seventh-annual Spirited Awards. It recognizes the year's best bars, bartenders, writers, experts and more at what's considered the largest gathering of bartenders in the world.

Tales takes place July 17-21 and we couldn't be prouder of the Windy City representation! Making the finals are the Aviary's Charles Joly ("American Bartender of the Year"), Barrelhouse Flat ("Best American Cocktail Bar"), Bridget Albert ("Best Bar Mentor") and Sable Kitchen and Bar ("Best High Volume Cocktail Bar" and "World’s Best Hotel Bar").

Thursday, May 16, 2013

So Very, Very Hot Right Now.

Embeya's boozy new snow cone (Photo: Danielle Pizzutillo/Embeya)

Since the next several days are certain to be scorchers, I'm tripling up on the boozy coverage for the weekend. All the patios will be open and there's plenty of fun to be had.

I'm especially excited about Embeya's latest offering: hand-crafted, boozy snow cones. Created by beverage director Danielle Pizzutillo, flavors include bourbon with falernum and citrus; gin with ginger and lime; and rum with cherry.

Lillie's Q Set To Re-Open in Mid-June

Charlie McKenna's succulent baby back ribs. (Photo: Lillie's Q)

What a sigh of relief!

I just got word that Lillie's Q, which shuttered in March due to a fire, is reopening in its original Bucktown location in mid-June.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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

Andrew Brochu (Photo via

Put on those sexy sunglasses.

• No big shocker here. Andrew Brochu has left the sports-oriented Monarch to return to his fine-dining roots with the Alinea restaurant group. He's joined Aviary's culinary team, as noted on its facebook page Wednesday afternoon.

• More great news, but this time from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE). Paul McGee's long-awaited tiki lounge, Three Dots and a Dash, is set to open in early June, according to partner R.J. Melman.

Indulge In National BBQ Month at a Number of Lip-Smacking Spots Around Town

BBQ at Smoke Daddy (Photo: Smoke Daddy)

When popular Bucktown BBQ restaurant Lillie’s Q suddenly shuttered indefinitely in early 2013 due to a fire, we poured out a little BBQ sauce in its honor.

Though it attracted a trendy crowd, the spot took the art of barbecuing quite serious and also developed a loyal following for its extensive bourbon selection. Thankfully owner Charlie McKenna continues to operate a satellite store for Lillie’s Q in the Chicago French Market, but it’s just not the same energy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tippling Tuesdays: Exploring Chicago's 'Bourbon Trail'


A number of popular watering holes have gotten together to host the city's first-ever Chicago's Bourbon Trail.

During each trolley stop, guests will indulge in a bourbon and barrel-aged beer. Fountainhead is one of the eager participants, and expect 10 bourbon flights, including Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project and a special bourbon barrel-aged beer tapping.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Gatsby-Themed Pub Crawl To Remember

Party people at Billy Sunday (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

The fourth remake of "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, pulled in more than $50 million on opening weekend. That's a sure sign that people are still fascinated with the glamorous world created by famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A big part of that appeal was the flamboyant styles and excessive partying on the part of Fitzgerald's complicated characters. And in the spirit of one of his greatest works, I decided to gather some friends for a Gatsby-themed cocktail pub crawl to some of Chicago's most popular haunts.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

So Very, Very Hot Right Now.

Image of doughnuts in martini glass via

Doughnut Vault continues to be red hot, and when it first opened, I was invited to an event where Moet paired its various bubblies with a variety of the sweet bites. I tried to talk DV owner Brendan Sodikoff into doing it again, but he said it just wasn't something he could do considering that the shop shared kitchen space with the very busy Gilt Bar.

So imagine how excited I was when I found out that Kitsch'n on Roscoe was doing a midnight pop-up featuring doughnuts paired with cocktails.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

UPDATED: Socca Partner/Chef Roger Herring Opts Out Of Lakeview Restaurant

The interior of Socca (Photos: Socca)

Roger Herring, partner/chef of Socca, announced Wednesday that he was leaving the popular Wrigleyville restaurant.

"I made the 86 board at Socca. Next chapter...different book!" he wrote on Facebook. " was time to go. Sign a lease or go! I didn't sign."

Here's a statement from Socca's management team on the future of the restaurant:

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

Paul Kahan at the James Beard Foundation awards ceremony Monday. (Photo: Kent Miller/James Beard Foundation)

The sun is shining bright like a diamond.

James Beard's newly minted Most Outstanding Chef Paul Kahan has an event coming up that you don't want to miss if you're a pork fiend. The Blackbird executive chef has teamed up with Mercat a la Planxa's Jose Garces and Cory Morris for a five-course Iberico pork dinner. Expect different preparations, including olive oil-poached pork loin, roasted pork collar and bacon-fat ganache paired with maple-sherry ice cream. It's $125 and reservations are required by calling Mercat a la Planxa. The event takes place 7pm May 18, beginning with a sangria reception.

Jason Vincent (Nightwood), Ryan Poli (Little Market Brasserie), Chris Pandel (Balena) and brothers Michael and Patrick Sheerin (Trenchermen) are helping to raise funds for the Special Olympics Chicago during an after-work charity event. Sip & Savor is hosted by the associate board of Special Olympics Chicago and will feature food from these fine gentlemen. The event takes place 6-9pm May 9 at 1420 S. Michigan Ave. It's $55 in advance; $65 at the door. Get the tickets right here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tippling Tuesdays: Cereal Milk Cocktail Trend, Vertigo's New Bartender Booth

PDT's Milk Punch whiskey cocktail via Serious Eats

Tippling Tuesdays differs from Thirsty Thursdays in that it goes deeper into the spirits and cocktail culture.

Admit it. You've sipped some cereal milk in your lifetime. Whether it was after a tasty bowlful of Kellogg's Fruit Loops or Post's Honey Bunches of Oats, you just wanted to savor that goodness all the way down to the last drop. And leave it to bartenders to make one of our guilty childhood pleasures into an adult beverage.

The Savoy's head bartender Deidre Darling got the idea from NYC hot spots PDT and Momofuku Milk Bar, which have been doing them for a few months.

The seafood-focused restaurant and lounge in Wicker Park only offers the booze-infused delights during brunch, and we're getting giddy just thinking about them. Darling's created three: Pebbles Loves Bam Bam (Cocoa Pebbles, Plantation rum, mole bitters), Magically Delicious (Lucky Charms, Powers Irish Whiskey) and This Morning's Milk (cereal box surprise). Make a note that Savoy is open for brunch 10am-2pm Friday-Sunday.

The retro-themed arcade lounge Headquarters Beercade also features a cereal milk cocktail on its menu. Cereal Killer is made with house-infused Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Old Overholt Rye Whiskey and walnut bitters.

Monday, May 6, 2013

West Loopers Win Big At James Beard Awards

The Aviary team includes owner Grant Achatz (center) and beverage director Charles Joly (second to left). (Photos: Kent Miller/James Beard Foundation)

Monday night at the James Beard Foundation Awards solidified that the West Loop is Chicago's hottest dining and drinking neighborhood.

Grant Achatz and his team at Aviary beat Chicago's venerable Violet Hour as well as two prominent New York cocktail lounges to win Outstanding Bar Program.

Here's Your Exclusive, First Look At The City's Hottest New Outdoor Lounge: The Dec

(Photos: Ritz-Carlton Chicago)

Let's just get this out of the way: dec Rooftop Lounge + Bar has nothing to do with local restaurateur Billy Dec (Rockit Bar & Grill, Sunda).

It's instead the sleek new outdoor component to deca Restaurant + Bar in the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The lounge is located on the 12th floor, seats 57, and accommodates 100 guests for light bites, craft cocktails and draught beers from a number of craft breweries.

Here are a few more highlights you'll need to know before dec opens in mid-May:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

So Very, Very Hot Right Now.

Glazed and Infused teams up with Taco Joint for Margarita doughnuts (Photo: Taco Joint)

Whether bourbon or tequila is your spirit of choice, this weekend is your weekend.

A number of restaurants and drinking spots celebrate the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo with drink and food specials, but we're completely obsessed with Glazed and Infused and Taco Joint's collaboration.

The hot pastry shop and Mexican street food-style spot team up for mini margarita doughnuts (three for $6; six for $10) that feature tequila, fresh lime zest and sea salt. They'll be sold at only Taco Joint's Lincoln Park location May 3-5.