Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mint Juleps, Margaritas, Moles . . . Olé!

Woodford Reserve's $1,000 Mint Julep, only at the Kentucky Derby (Photo: Woodford Reserve)

Some serious high rollers will get to indulge in the Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby.

That's cool because Chicago's so hot this weekend with the openings of Loft Six Ten, Market and Rockit Wrigleyville, there will be plenty of options for Derby—and Cinco de Mayo—parties right here at home.

Here’s where else you need to be:


AIDSCARE's annual Dining Out for Life happens today, and all you have to do is dine out at one of the participating restaurants to help out those in need, including Club Lucky, Broadway Cellars, Angelina Ristorante, Blackbird and La Creperie. Each spot will donate a percentage of the night's $$$ to the cause.

An early-1990s R&B heartthrob is back with a new record and new attitude. Uptown Magazine and Hidden Beach Recording host a party for the triumphant return of Al B. Sure. If you don't know who he is, you'd better ask somebody. Party happens at Griffin Lounge 9pm-2am, with a preview from his new album, Honey I'm Home. Free with RSVP:


Get ready for Battle of the Belgians at Jake Melnick's. The private dining room will be converted into a "battlefield" with three pairing stations of Belgian-style ales and dishes like five-spice ribs, BBQ Mussels and dark chocolate crème brûlée. 7-10pm. $25.

Or, if you're in the mood for vino, head to Enclave for the Wines of the World Tasting. Party promises generous pours of wines from all over the globe, plus heavy appetizers and an after-party all for $20 ($30 at door). 7-9pm.

The Metroboard of the Chicago Urban League hosts a Spring Fling First Fridays at Hotel Sax (333 N. Dearborn St.). Watch these young professionals loosen up on the dance floor to hip-hop, soul and R&B jams by deejays Mark Fullaflava and Timbuck 2. 9pm-2am. $20.



Apparently, not everyone's interested in Derby and Cinco de Mayo mayhem. For mommies-to-be and nursing moms, a special pre-Mother's Day brunch happens at hip, Middle Eastern-focused Turquoise. Hosted by trendy maternity boutique Kickin', the event includes a fashion show and exotic brunch bites. 9:30-11am. $24. RSVP to Kickin' at 773-281-6577.

The first-ever Mole de Mayo festival happens in Pilsen at the El Zocalo outdoor plaza (18th and Paulina Streets). The event includes traditional mariachi performances, beer garden and open-air market, but the highlight should be the mole cook-off where amateur cooks go head to head with chefs from area restaurants (Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Fig Catering, Zocalo). Judges for the contest include Check, Please! host Alpana Singh and 312DD! 11am-7pm. Cannot believe the daylong fest's only $1!

Do Derby Day at In Fine Spirits, which sounds like a blast for its free-spirited take on the event. Wear the most outrageous hat you can find to win a free Mint Julep or take your chances by picking your horse to win prizes every time you buy a drink. You'll also get to pick your poison for your Mint Julep with bourbon, brandy, gin or whiskey. 3pm-2am. No cover.

Or, make your way to a more traditional Derby deal benefiting local charity Equestrian Connection, over at The Pony. Your ticket includes an open bar and a Southern spread of fried chicken and biscuits. $5 traditional Mint Juleps will also be on sale. Derby wear encouraged. 1:30-5:30pm. $40.

Too bad Cuatro has such a tiny dance floor because you'll want to stay swirling around to the sounds of Mark Grant and Mario Romay. Groove Parlor's deep soul and house music party also includes a performance by vocalist Russoul. Get there early because this thing will get packed early. 10pm-2am. $5.


And fashionable French-American bistro La Tache's back with a new look and menu. Of course we're especially excited about the brunch at the Andersonville staple, with updated classics like the Croque Madame, crab cake Benedict, and signature burger with balsamic onions, gruyere and truffle aioli. 11am-3pm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kahan in People's 100 Most Beautiful issue!

Paul Kahan (Photo: Battman Studios)

While we've been waiting with baited breath on whether Blackbird exec chef/owner Paul Kahan will snag a James Beard award for Outstanding Chef next week, he just surprised us all and scooped up yet another honor.

He's in the current People (2009's Top 100 Beautiful)—which is one of their top selling issues every year!

Read MenuPage's recent interview with the culinary king here.

Sneak peek party for Celebrity Chef Ball


They're already drumming up support for the annual Celebrity Chef Ball, the biggest event of the year for Meals on Wheels Chicago.

You won't find any chefs dancing under the disco ball, but they will be serving signature dishes, desserts and drinks at this party raising funds to support those in need. Last year saw the likes of super star chefs Bill Kim (Urban Belly), Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi), Paul Kahan (Blackbird) and David Burke (Primehouse). We're hoping for a repeat.

Tonight, Meals on Wheels Chicago hosts a sneak-peek party at Rockit Bar and Grill that will possibly let us know who's participating this year. The event includes cocktails and passed appetizers, and for those who buy a ticket for the Oct. 16 Chicago Celebrity Chef Ball at the door get in free. 6-8pm. $20 donation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Billy Dec updates blog on Rockit Wrigleyville opening

Brad Young (from left), Billy Dec and Arturo Gomez of Rockit Ranch Productions (Photo: Rockit Ranch Productions)

312DD told you earlier this morning Rockit Wrigleyville was debuting tonight, and now Rockit prez Billy Dec just updated his blog with confirmation:

"Proud to announce we are opening our second rockit bar and grill across the street from wrigley field tonight! The staff is so great and training went so well that we found ourselves ready earlier than thought- so opening early- at least most of it- saving sidewalk café for may 6th. It is a beautiful restaurant w/ the same menu as the one in river north that helped us earn the 'best restaurant' award at the 2008 rna awards (and of course the same burger that got 'best burger' in the country on good morning america!)."

Not the "quiet" opening they had hoped for tonight. I wonder why . . . hmmmmmm

UPDATE: is all over this story, too!

Chelsea Girls to rock LaSalle Power Co.

Which one's the Playboy model?! (Photo: Chelsea Girls)

How fitting that new rock-focused LaSalle Power Co. charges into its first official weekend with shows from the country's hottest all-girl cover band?!

The L.A.-based Chelsea Girls, which makes its base at The Roxy Theatre, is comprised of drummer Samantha Maloney (Hole, Motley Crue, Eagles of Death Metal and Peaches), bassist Corey Parks (Nashville Pussy), lead guitarist Allison Robertson (founding member of The Donnas) and lead vocalist Tuesdae (world-famous deejay and Playboy model).

Look for them to perform classic and contemporary rock hits Saturday for the public at 9pm. No cover.

This thing will sell out for sure . . .


Elusive French-trained chef Eric Aubriot's been hiding out over at Taste Food and Wine in Rogers Park for about a year now focusing on pairing fine wines with gourmet bites.

So when we came across this cool—and dirt cheap!—event happening this weekend, we had to post it immediately before it sells out:

Aubriot's doing a cooking demo pairing flat iron steaks with wines. It's only $15, which is a bargain to get to hang out with this talented chef who was nominated twice for the James Beard Rising Star award, opened three Chicago restaurants (one of which was named one of Esquire's Best New Restaurants in 1999 and 2001) and worked under some of the most famous master chefs in the world.

The event happens 2-4pm on May 3. Space is limited, so RSVP ASAP.

EXCLUSIVE: Rockit Wrigleyville opens today!

Rockit's tribute to Elvis, "The King French Toast," should likely be on the brunch menu at the new Wrigleyville location. (Photo: Rockit Bar & Grill)

They tried to keep it a secret since day one, but 312DD wasn't having any of that.

Rockit Wrigleyville opens quietly today in the old Tuscany space.

And while we're told the menu and setting resemble the original River North location, here are some comments from a couple of Ultimate Insiders who've actually already seen it:

"I stopped in Rockit Wrigleyville yesterday... it looked pretty sweet at entry; met (manager) Dan Russo briefly. I'll check it out Wed."

"I went on Saturday because I was strolling down Clark that night and there were like 5 people in there and I'm thinking wtf? No one is in Rockit on a beautiful night? They weren't open yet, but whispered to come back on Tuesday!"

We cannot wait to check it out! Next Cubs home game is Thursday . . .

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mavens of mixology


The Wall Street Journal chronicles the history of women behind the bar:

"One of the great legends of how the cocktail came to be credits a colonial barmaid, one Elizabeth 'Betty' Flanagan. James Fenimore Cooper's 1821 novel 'The Spy' tells of how Betty, having been brought up on liquor, 'was peculiarly well qualified by education' to create the first cocktail. With such a worthy accomplishment attributed to a woman bartender, one would think that female mixers would have proliferated."

Weekend Tweet Beat

Rick Bayless is chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Grant Achatz (Alinea): "We've cooked for Ferrán Adrià, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. But Alice (Waters) comes tomorrow and has me the most uptight of all. I really want her to like it."

Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven): "Going to a farm in Holland, Mich., to learn how to make cheese."

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill): We're finalizing the logo for XOCO—new place opening in July next to Frontera/Topolo."

Efrain Cuevas (Clandestino Supper Club): "Gonna go enjoy some BBQ with the Honky Tonk BBQ peeps."

Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse): "What a tough life us chefs have. Just tasted 3 killer caviars, now we have 10 beers to taste to pick 3, home made kimchi and pickled ramps."

Koren Grieveson (avec): "Love Spinach! (from the set of Iron Chef against Cat Cora)."

Ryan Poli (Perennial): "Going crazy trying to change the dinner menu and open the patio at Perennial today."

Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge): "Thanks to David Paiser of the Elysian for introducing me to Chef Alice Waters at The Publican last night. She's amazing!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

The party's over . . .

Ben Walanka, executive sous chef at Rhapsody (Photo: FOX)

Our hometown hero Ben Walanka (Rhapsody's colorful exec sous chef)—who we've been following on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen since season five of the chef competition began—got the boot off the show Thursday. Of course, he represented us well and went out with grace.

From his Facebook page:

"Well, what a ride!!!! I really want to thank all of you that supported my efforts in Hells Kitchen and for all of your inspiring messages and comments along the way. That was easily the most trying experience of my life, but I come away from it knowing that I gave 100% and have no regrets........other than acting like the most arrogant person that ever chopped an onion. :-) Thanks again to all of you!!!!"

If you need to get caught up on episodes, check here. Hell's Kitchen airs at 8pm CST Thursdays on FOX.

Why David Burke Rules


The Wall Street Journal examines how super chef David Burke is so successful in a down economy:

"His promotions have included $20.09 three-course meals with items such as oysters and lobster at many of his upscale restaurants, including two in Manhattan (where, without discounts, entrees run $29 to $44), and $5 burgers and milkshakes at his Chicago steakhouse (where a 14-ounce sirloin is $48 on the regular menu). On one menu, he crossed out prices of wine and listed new prices with the term 'sale'—a rarely seen word in fancy restaurants."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tony Romo spotted around town . . .

Romo’s Eastern Illinois University teammate Paul Massat (from left), Romo, Fifty/50 co-owner Scott Weiner, Fifty/50 manager Eddie Mahoney (Photo: Fifty/50)

Stella's Column had the scoop:

"The NFL's Tony Romo and the Rockies' Glendon Rusch were spotted at the Fifty/50 . . ."

But 312DD has the pics to prove he was there hanging last weekend with about five college and high school buddies.

While he was in town, Romo also attended a Blackhawks game Saturday with girlfriend Jessica Simpson.

Who knows who'll hit the Fifty/50 this weekend!

It's a Heatwave!


There's just no excuse not to be walking around with a smile on your face this weekend. We've got 80 degrees coming our way, so get out and enjoy!


If you're female and swingin' single, make an excuse to be in the Gold Coast this evening. Producers from ABC's The Bachelor will be holding an open call at the Talbott Hotel. Grab after-work cocktails or cuisine at the hotel's Italian-focused eatery, BICE Bistro, or make your way across the street for vino and comfort fare at Feast Gold Coast. Some of the most eligible men in town are certain to be milling around. 5-9pm.

The Tour de France wine-tasting series at Bistro 110 kicks off with vino from the Provence region of Southeastern France. Highlights include a number of fine wines paired with pissaladière (Provençal pizza), ratatouille (roasted chicken with honey lavender lemon glaze) and sardines a l’escabeche. 6-8:30pm. $25. Reservations recommended for this open house-style event.

Your perfect date night happens at Broadway Cellars, in Edgewater. The romantic, wine-charged restaurant offers three courses every Thursday for $23, plus for an additional $7 you'll get three-ounce wine pairings.

At Matisse Tavern & Grill, they're doing an Uncork Spring soiree featuring wines from around the world. Get ready for bubbly from Champagne, rosé from California, Malbec from Argentina . . . you get the idea. Party happens on the patio and includes appetizers. You'll also be able to order featured wines by the glass for $5. 7-9pm. Free.

Chicago's roving scotch ambassador makes his way to Sullivan's Steakhouse tonight. It won't cost you a thing to sample cocktails by Chivas 18. Just look for the well-dressed dude—or better yet, he'll find you! 6-8pm.


The Cheeseburger Show's already collected a rabid fan following, so tonight they're hosting The Cheeseburger Show Tweetup, at Sheffield's. Get there early for a seat, so you can stuff as many cheeseburger sliders in two hours as you'd like. 8-10pm. No cover.

Yoga enthusiasts, get ready for beer and heavy breathing. Start at Logan Square's Stellaria Natural Health (2519 N. California, 2nd floor) for a 90-minute class, then head across the street to Provenance Food & Wine. In honor of Earth Day, they've picked some pretty good local and organic beers for sampling. 7:30-9:30pm. $30.

"The Cheeseburger Show" checks out the best burgers in town every week. We're hoping they make it to The Bristol for this burger and fries combo one day.


Trailblazing chef-tress Alice Waters makes an appearance at Green City Market to sign copies of The Edible Schoolyard. This is one not to be missed as Waters' influence on the organic movement gets props for turning chefs as well as children onto healthier cuisine. That event is free and happens 10:30-11:30am in the eco-parking lot at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.).

Hard-cord beer enthusiasts don't play when it comes to Dark Lord Day—the event hosted by Indiana-based Three Floyds Brewery. So in order for participants to fully enjoy themselves, the folks behind Lush Wine and Spirits have charted a big bus for a boozy field trip to the annual event. Guests will get brunch from Twisted Spoke on the bus. Meet at Lush at 11am, and the bus leaves Munster, Ind., at 7pm. $30; reserve your seat at We likey.

This sounds like an ideal afternoon: The Fries & Champagne Party. Over at The Wine Consortium (110 E. 23rd St., 773-575-5410), you'll get bubbly paired with fries with an international focus, including the Netherlands (fries with tartar sauce), New Zealand (fries with tomato sauce), Philippines (fries with barbecue sauce) and France (fries with Bearnaise). A portion of the proceeds go to PAWS Chicago. 4-6pm. $25.

Sultry soul superstar Robin Thicke hosts an after-party at Rednofive, immediately following his show at the Arie Crown Theater. 10pm-5am. $20.


Le Lan's delightful Asian brunch is turning out to be one of the hottest a la carte deals this spring. That's because you cannot go wrong with choices like buttermilk pancakes with Malaysian-style bananas, Asian Five Spice Brioche French Toast with Thai basil, or the signature omelet with house lemongrass sausage, jumbo crab and curry potatoes. Also: Get a Blood Orange Mimosa on the house when you mention you read about 'em here. 10am-2pm. All items under $15.

And, if you're still at a loss of what to wear this season, you might want to check out Akira's Casablanca-inspired show happening at a New York-styled warehouse at 114 S. Racine St. Romance, intrigue and danger are the theme of the show, where guests will enjoy cocktails and passed appetizers. After party: Victor Hotel. 5:30pm-midnight. Mandatory RSVP to for this free event.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We've got the Whole World . . .


. . . in our hands, so let's take the next 24 hours and give props to Mother Earth, on Earth Day:

Local rockers Maggie Speaks kick off their Listen Green Tour with a special performance at Hard Rock Cafe. Not that they'll be preaching to the audience, but their mission is to raise money for the environmental charity Keep Chicago Beautiful, which has been around since 1987. And the best part about this event?! 100 percent of the $10 tix goes to the charity. Doors open at 8pm; show starts at 9.

If you're looking to get into something right after work, head to West Loop wine shop Just Grapes for a comp tasting. They'll be sampling selections of biodynamic and organic wines, plus you'll get 50 percent off 50 wines. 4-6pm.

Lumen celebrates Earth Day with Earth Dance, with deejay Avi Sic behind the 'tables. Joining her is Hey Champ, a three-piece band that just returned from touring with hip-hop star Lupe Fiasco. 10pm-2am. For reduced cover, email

North Shore Distillery teams up with eco-friendly Province for a cocktail party, featuring new spring drinks and dishes. 6-8pm. $25 (reservations highly recommended).

And the North Center's sola also hooks up a special dinner for Earth Day. The $30 prix-fixe dinner includes a salad of spicy greens, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, and Hawaiian sweet potatoes paired with house-made miso crème fraîche and beet vanilla syrup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Big props for Carrie!


NAHA executive chef/owner Carrie Nahabedian's the first woman to be inducted in the Chicago Culinary Museum and Chefs Hall of Fame. The esteemed chef will be formally honored during an event this fall.

As the newest and fourth inductee, she'll be rolling with local rock star chefs Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter's), Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven) and Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo), who've been honored in previous years.

With almost 25 years experience as a skilled and critically acclaimed chef, Nahabedian's culinary style combines her Armenian roots and California lifestyle she enjoyed during her years as the executive chef for the Four Seasons. And at NAHA, her menus are built on local foods and rely on fresh produce, meats and cheeses from the Green City Market. Last year she was awarded Best Chef Great Lakes by the James Beard Foundation.

Congrats, Carrie!

Monday, April 20, 2009

R&B hottie hits Redno after show


Ummm, just got word that mega soul superstar Robin Thicke will host an after-party at Rednofive following his concert at Arie Crown Theater.

Party happens 10pm-5am Saturday, but who knows when he'll show up . . . $20.

Brunch & Books . . .


How sweet is this?!

Gale Gand, celeb pastry chef and co-owner of Tru, hosts a brunch and booksigning event for her new tome, Gale Gand's Brunch!, at edgy Bucktown eatery, The Bristol.

We randomly stumbled upon the brunch info during a long overdue outing to Bristol over the weekend, where we checked in on executive chef Chris Pandel's wild interpretations on wild game, including braised goat pasta, goat brain ravioli and duck fat fries.

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups, from "Gale Gand's Brunch!" (Photo: David Peterman)

Don't expect dishes that way out there for Gand's brunch; he'll be working in several of the items from her book like the Baked Eggs in Ham Cups. That event happens noon-2pm on May 17. $37. Reservations highly recommended.

Someone needs anger management . . .


So. Over the weekend, 312DD posted this little Twitter status update:

"I hate to be a bit of a b*tch, but if you refuse to follow ANYONE on Twitter, you don't deserve any props from me. Yeah, I said it!"

And less than 30 minutes later got this totally unexpected comment on my Facebook page from the irascible executive chef Graham Elliot Bowles:

"Wow, looks like someone needs get a grip and find some new shit worry about!"

Seriously?! Is this how a highly regarded chef acts? This is a guy we've been tracking since he opened his eponymous, cutting-edge eatery in River North last year around this time. So, what is really going on here?

Took at look at his Twitter account and indeed he is not following anyone, so maybe, just maybe there's a bit of a guilty conscience there . . .

Is someone so vain he thought that Tweet was about him?!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal. (Photo: Mindy Segal)

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Grant Achatz (Alinea): "Done working at 3am. Flight to London for Rest. Mag World's 50 Best in 4 hours, trying to stay up.....tough."

Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven): "Last day at Murrays cheese boot camp I'm in cheese coma,the vodka and wine didn't help."

Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse): "I'm putting the 25 gallons of shandy brew into 2nd fermentation. It's tasting really good. Ready to drink in 3 weeks!"

Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat): "Getting ready for the Scottsdale Food and Wine Fest today....I hear it is a bit of a drunk fest, should be entertaining!"

John Manion (Goose Island): "Being driven to drink by the song 'Sonidito' by Echesero. (It is the song that sounds like an alarm clock). Anyone lucky enough to work in a kitchen where La Ley is played all day will feel my pain."

Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate): "Time to make the doughnuts and.....seeing stars! Three to be exact! Way to go Hot Chocolate."

Debra Sharpe (Feast): "A truly fantastic night at Feast Gold Coast with new chef and new menu."

Cary Taylor (Chaise): "200 covers despite the rain. Patio was full all day!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Alice Waters in Chicago!

Alice Waters hits Green City Market later this month.

Trailblazing chef-tress Alice Waters makes an appearance at Green City Market to sign copies of The Edible Schoolyard. This is one not to be missed as Waters' influence on the organic movement gets props for turning chefs as well as children onto healthier cuisine. That event is free and happens 10:30-11:30am Saturday, April 25 in the eco-parking lot at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.).

Also coming up:

Drinking wine out of a paper bag?! Really? That's what's up over at BIN 36, where guests will get to sample a number of signature vino and vittles. To add a little edge to this blind-tasting party, Wine Director Brian Duncan's serving the wine in brown paper bags to test guests' skills. 6-8pm April 22. $25.

312 Chicago Executive Chef Luca Corazzina (Photo: 312 Chicago)

Gather the girls and head to 312 Chicago for Kimpton's annual Dress For Success fundraiser, which helps disadvantaged women achieve economic independence by providing them with professional attire and career development tools. It's also a chance to meet the restaurant's hot new chef, Luca Corazzina (the former chef at Vivo), and sample dishes from his home-style Italian menu. $25 ($35 at door) ticket includes two drinks and appetizers. 5:30-7:30pm April 23.

And Le Colonial wants to get you into summer party planning mode with an interactive cocktail class. Learn from expert mixologist Nikki how to wow your guests and shake up summertime sippers sangria, mojitos and more. Event also includes appetizers and a gift bag. 3-5pm May 16. $50

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Billionaire balllin' on a beer budget


We're all short on stacks these days—especially with the tax man cometh this week—so 312DD's looking out for you with dynamite drinking and dining deals all weekend long:


Long-time party-thrower Lincoln Park Young Professionals hosts its infamous Billionaire bash, this time at the Blackstone Hotel (636 S. Michigan Ave.). Event includes tours of the hotel's $139 mil renovation, appetizers from the highly regarded Mercat a la Planxa, $1 million diamond fashion show, high-end cocktails and more. You get all these golden goodies for $25 if you buy your ticket here. 6-8pm.

Speaking of luxe livin', Barneys New York officially debuts today in its new home, and to celebrate the grand occasion they're doing an open house. Enjoy comp bubbly and donuts 10am-7pm as you check out the multi-level venue. Also, try to get over to Fred's at Barneys New York for a luscious lunch of artisan pizzas, pastas or sandwiches.

We can never get enough of good ole 1980s music, so we're all about Landmark's free wine-tasting party pairing the best of the best. Hope they pull out some Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins and Thomas Dolby! 6:30-8pm.

Don't sleep on the deals going down at Crimson Lounge. Every Thursday you get $3 sparkling wine, draft beers and house wine. And if you're hungry, you'll also get 50 percent off a small plate gourmet menu by Bin 36. Deejays Funky Couture, Mwelwa and Lego spin. 9pm-2am. No cover.

If you're craving some late-night fixins, head over to 44th Ward Dinner Party for Photo Club. Here, you'll get complimentary gourmet grilled cheese (after midnight) and A:M vodka (10-11pm). New Wave party starts at 10pm. Free.

Steam up the dance floor at Coco Restaurant & Lounge, as Planeta Azul performs live. Luciano Antonio leads a dynamic group of musicians accompanied by samba dancers. 10pm-2am. No cover and free parking.


Fine art and boutique wines merge at The Poison Cup, a new vino venue in Lincoln Park. Tonight and tomorrow they're doing Wines of the World tastings. 4-6pm. Free.

Bargain bubbles are on at Crimson Lounge, Pops for Champagne and Angelina Ristorante.

Head to LaSalle Power Co. for a sneak-peek party of this massive new venue from the guys behind Bar Celona. Sample the menu and get comped at the bar as deejays Hey Champ and White Shadow spin. 7-9pm.

You won't find anything over $10 on the menu at SmallBar, one of the favorites in Wicker Park. Cheeseburgers and sandwiches, plus $2 Schlitz, $4 Allagash White and $5 Half Acre Lager.


Skip brunch (or go later!) and head to the Green City Market early for samples of locally sourced bacon and eggs. Chef Justin Hall of FIG Catering demos. Get there early! Demo at 11am, but market's open 8am-1pm. Free.

Pops for Champagne's weekly bubbly bath this time features several offerings from Grand Marques. Guests will get to sample Grand Millésime 1999, Grand Rosé and Grande Réserve. 3-5pm. $20.


One of the best brunch deals happens at Angelina Ristorante, in Lakeview, where you can get an entree and unlimited mimosas for $20. Choose from the breakfast croissant (Canadian bacon, scrambled egg and smoked mozzarella, with home fries), Fritatta di Giorno (Italian-style baked omelet served with roasted potatoes and toast) or B.L.T. Club (toasted brioche, smoked bacon, baby arugula, tomato and pesto mayo). 10am-2pm.

And Bistro 110 just updated its Family & Friends Sunday and Monday night dinner menu for spring. Get lighter dishes like homestyle crepes or a trio of skewers (chicken, shrimp and vegetable brochette) for $15; pair with 10-ounce carafes of wine for $10. Offered through June.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dine with Art Smith—on NBC—for free!


Those of you pissed because of how hard it is to get a primo reso at Art Smith's glorious, down-home haunt Table Fifty-Two will be happy to know he's expanding into the space next door sometime this spring or summer. Hopefully, that'll make getting in easier!

In the meantime, we've come across something even cooler: a free lunch with Chicago's top adopted toque himself, hosted by on April 27.

Getting in is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is sign onto and answer a series of locally focused questions. Then you just might be one of the lucky 160 winners of the "golden lunch ticket" to enjoy what's certain to be a marvelous meal featuring Smith's signature dishes.

Winners will be notified of the secret location on the day of the event.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

District Bar soft opens Wednesday

District's semi-private VIP room. (Photo: The District)

Looks like District Bar is finally making its presence known.

Maven's hosting a "private" sneak-peek party Wednesday at this long-awaited River North spot that wants to be it all: speakeasy (enter through a faux bookcase), sports bar (40 flat screens tuned into the games) and hip dining eatery (menu items like soft-shell crab "BLT," a deconstructed gyro with lamb carpaccio, and grilled proscuitto flatbread are mighty intriguing).

Decide for yourself at the Haute Pursuit party, which includes cocktails and samplings from the menu. 6-8:30pm $20 (members); $30 (non-members). Proceeds benefit PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment).

EXCLUSIVE: Spiaggia buys dinner for ENTIRE dining room!

(Photo: Jeff Kauck)

We should've all been at Spiaggia last night . . .

This just dropped in my mailbag:

"On a rainy Chicago evening, something extraordinary happened to a collection of restaurant patrons. Last night (April 13) the nearly full Spiaggia restaurant celebrated its 25th birthday by surprising guests and buying their dinner. Sixty guests composed of regular clientele, friends and Spiaggia newcomers received a message of thanks for their support and patronage in lieu of a bill at Chicago’s only four-star Italian restaurant, among them a 96-year-old woman who has frequented Spiaggia for 25 years.

"James Beard award-winning chef/owner Tony Mantuano shared Spiaggia’s birthday with other milestone occasions of guests in attendance, including 40th and 60th birthday parties and a wedding anniversary."

The comped dinners marked the launch of a series of surprise gifts that will be offered at Spiaggia thoughout the year. Expect these type of generous surprises to happen on the 13th and 25th days of the month—13 symbolizing Spiaggia’s actual birthday and 25 to commemorate 25 years of service.

Who knows?! You may be next!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Stephanie Izard of The Drunken Goat (Photo: Stephanie Izard)

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Grant Achatz (Alinea): “42 preordered Tour menus tonight about 50% covers. Check average w/wine+tax+tip will be $500/pp.”

Curtis Duffy (Avenues: “Just finished a great meal at The Bristol with great friend (chef) Phillip Foss (Lockwood)!”

Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat): "Heading to Walla Walla, Wash., today to make The Drunken Goat wines (red and white blends) for the new restaurant!"

Mark Mendez (Carnivale): "Brainstorming asparagus dishes, most of what I think of has been done, even though I know it tastes good."

Giuseppe Tentori (Boka): "Thinking about peas, morels, and pig tail or feet."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Hunt . . .


. . . is on for colorful eggs and Easter brunches this weekend, but also for the hot hangouts:


New York's top turntable temptress DJ Kiss (Goldbar NYC; Studio 54 Vegas) is back in the Chi, this time spinning her special brand of mixes at The Outfit's weekly Manor party. 9pm-2am (she goes on at 11pm). Cover varies.

Deep house maestro Miguel Migs (a.k.a. Petalpusher) takes the reigns at Crescendo for a party that's perfect for the bottle-service crowd. 9pm-2am. Cover varies.

Fashion fiends, get ready. Julia Failey's at Pivot (1101 W. Fulton Market, 312-243-4754), showcasing her jewelry collection along with the store's 50-plus, sexy, eco-friendly frocks. Her line's also 20 percent off today. Guests will also indulge in organic wine and snacks from Green Grocer and Bleeding Heart Bakery. 5:30-8:30pm. No cover.

Mark Caparone of Caparone Vineyards in Paso Robles, Calif., hosts a special tasting at Red & White. The small family winery has been making wines—with an emphasis on Italian reds—for 30 years, so this should be a good one. 6:30-8pm. Free.


Tonight's debut of Infinity Presents...Bliss should get your Good Friday off to an amazing start with DJ Vince Adams at the helm. Happening at Green Dolphin Street, the after-work party includes live music, comedy and more. Of course, DJ VA throws down soul, hip-hop and house as he always does. Time to scrub da ground! 5-11pm.

New York spin siren DJ Kiss spins at Manor Thursday. (Photo: DJ Kiss)

Another great bet on Good Friday is the deal at Nacional 27, where guests get a comped Ahi tuna and watermelon ceviche appetizer with dinner. And if you join the restaurant's Facebook group, you'll also be treated to a free mini mojito (print out invite). 5-8pm. No cover.

SUB 51 goes Hollywood this weekend with the smooth stylings of DJ Morse Code. He rocked the house during his performance back in February, so this is something to definitely check out. 10pm-2am. No cover.


Yet another L.A. deejay spins this weekend. They're hosting Rick Rude (Hyde, L.A.; Body English, Las Vegas) over at Lumen. Expect mashups and the usual shenanigans, but Genuine Entertainment's parties are fun and full of pretty peeps (and we don't mean those Easter candies!). 9pm-3am. $20.

And can you believe Sound-Bar's been around for five effing years?! Tonight, the club celebrates with a live performance by Euro dance sensation Erika ("Relations," "I Don't Know," "Ditto"). Get there early for the comped cocktail reception (10-11:30pm), and extend that service until 1am for $35. 9pm-5am.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It ain't happening, folks . . .

(Photo: Hot Doug Drop)

Sorry I got everyone all worked up about the possibility of Hot Doug's being delivered to the Loop.

Owner Doug Sohn has sadly shut down the idea, according to Drive-Thru.

At least for the time being . . .

Get it together, please . . .


West Loop newcomer The Grocery Bistro, a casual concept by chef Andre Christopher (Japonais, Pops for Champagne, one sixtyblue), is catching heat from Zagat's commenters:

"The decor sums it up - cute on the surface, but upon closer inspection cheap and not very well put together. Menu was blue cheese heavy and fresh veg light. Staff was easy on the eyes but sloppy with the service. Will not return. Bummer."

"Tried to make reservations last week and couldn't get a call back - left multiple messages. Won't try again."

Dude, this is your wake-up call. Answer it!

Ben's still in!

Ben Walanka, executive sous chef at Rhapsody (Photo: FOX)

So, we haven't checked in lately with our hometown hero Ben Walanka, Rhapsody's colorful exec sous chef who's still holding it down on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.

If you need to get caught up on episodes, check here. The next show airs at 8pm CST on FOX, so you'll be all caught up just in time!

Eight for Easter Brunch

C-House chefs Toni Roberts and Seth Siegel-Gardner are whipping up something special for their "Bossa Nova"-themed Easter Brunch. (Photo: C-House)

With so many incredible brunches happening around town, it's almost impossible to make a choice for Easter—happening on Sunday.

You've got the info on all the great buffet deals (which is great when you've got a fam to feed), but what if you just want to indulge in some truly creative options prepared by our local culinary geniuses?!

Check the list for the best chef-driven brunches in the city:

ajasteak's Sunday School features female servers in plaid Catholic school skirts and pigtails, but don't let that distract you from the main event: the 16-inch pancakes in lemon poppy seed, milk chocolate caramelized banana or spiced apple with hot caramel. Chef Josh Linton's also whipping up indulgent egg dishes, plus roasted wild salmon BLT and a generous Wagyu beef stew. 11am-3pm. $9-$22 for entrees.

312DD had the scoop on Radhika Desai's forthcoming move to New York. The executive chef at Between Boutique Café & Lounge is serving one last Easter brunch before she takes off in May. You don't want to miss the Back-to-Basics Sunday Brunch with all sustainable ingredients and organic produce like Duck Confit Eggs Benedict and Ginger Pancakes with cinnamon maple syrup. $8-$12. Or, for $15, go for the all-you-can-eat buffet filled with exotic items like bacon and cilantro muffins, cardomom rice pudding, and paneer and egg samosas. 10am-2pm.

Just last night, the one and only Charlie Trotter made an appearance at The Bristol, so Executive Chef Chris Pandel must be doing something right. For Easter, he's doing a two-course menu for $21 (includes coffee or tea), featuring Bristol's fantastic burger, a duck confit Reuben and housemade maple sage sausage. 10am-5pm.

Over at Cafe des Architectes, chef Martial Noguier's doing a three-course treat for $45. Choose from entrees: braised lamb shank with English peas; Swan Creek Farm chicken with poached baby leeks and served in a cast iron skillet; and Arctic char with spring onions and pancetta. 11:30am-5pm.

Bristol Burger with Cheddar and Pickles. (Photo: Neil Burger)

C-House’s weekly Brazilian Bossa Nova Brunch gets an Easter twist as chef Seth Siegel-Gardner introduces specials like C-Monkey Bread, the C-House version of the classic loaf. Festive Green Eggs and Lamb will also be served, and pastry chef Toni Roberts hooks up house-made PEEPS for dessert! 10am-3pm. A la carte; prices range $12-$15.

If you're rolling like a rock star, why not treat yourself to chef Laurent Gras' $90 three-course, prix-fixe feast at L2O?! Dishes include Asparagus, Truffle vinaigrette, Olive; Lamb, Rosemary Crumble, Zucchini; and Caramel, “Egg,” Chocolate. 4-10pm.

Michael McDonald's Easter Brunch at one sixtyblue is also three courses, but this one will only cost ya $35. You'll get made-to-order Belgian waffles for kids, plus a tropical fruit salad with “Angel Food” croutons; slow-cooked pork belly with buttermilk biscuits and spicy sausage gravy; and farfalle pasta with spring morels, pea shoots and fava beans. Also, the cocktails: 160 Smokey Mary (kissed with a drop of liquid smoke) and a Champagne Cosmo ($9 each). 11am-2:30pm.

We've never seen so much hype over a brunch than at Paul Kahan's new Sunday sensation over at The Publican. Where do we start?! The surprisingly good Beer Mimosa (with fresh-squeezed OJ and 1809 Berliner Weisse), red wine-poached egg with La Quercia prosciutto, or the smoked ham chop with Bird Mill grits and poached egg. No matter what you do, you cannot go wrong here. 10am-2pm. $3-$18.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bravo to three top Chicago chefs!

Graham Elliot Bowles (Photo: GEB)

More great news for Chicago today!

Graham Elliot Bowles (graham elliot), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill) and Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) will soon go head-to-head on Bravo's new chef-centric show Top Chef Masters, premiering June 10.

Hot Doug's deliveries to the Loop?!


Yes, you read that right, but Hot Doug's owner Doug Sohn is pretty pissed because this is not his operation and he believes drama will soon ensue for his North Side operation.

A company called Hot Doug Dropoff created the concept, delivering orders to the Loop, and Drive-Thru gets to the bottom of it . . .

Now, whose downtown addy can 312DD use tomorrow so we can order a dozen?!

We're #1 . . . AGAIN!


How about some good news today, people?!

The results are in and just named our effing amazing town the best city to live in:

"World-class cultural fixtures like the Art Institute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago International Film Festival and a vibrant theater scene are complemented by popular festivals like Jazz Fest, Blues Fest and the recently revitalized Lollapalooza, Outdoor Film Festival, and Second City, which happens to be the source of 39% of the U.S.’s greatest comedians (a scientifically calculated fact!).

"Chicago possesses one of the world’s most vibrant, diverse and innovative restaurant scenes, from culinary luminaries like Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz and Rick Bayless to an astounding variety of hole-in-the-wall neighborhood joints to Chicago’s signature greasy trinity of deep dish pizza, Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs."

Yeah, baby! We knew it all along . . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Drive-Thru checks out Branch 27

Roasted chicken and mussels dishes at Branch 27. (Photo: Peter Riskind)

Gapers Block reviews new West Town hot spot Branch 27:

"Exposed brick, muted olive and moss tones, and an over-arching skylight set the scene for a simple and well-executed menu with only a few demure points of whimsy (I'm not sure exactly what a mozzarella egg roll is...and our waitress steered us towards the more conventional but very well-flavored and crunchy chicken wings with a sauce that smelled like heat but tasted like sweetness with just a hint of chili).

"The restaurant describes its menu as 'familiar,' which seems to mean not just familiar home-cooking, like pan-fried perch or a highly recommended roasted half-chicken, but some familiar stars of contemporary American menus, like tuna tartar, scallops with pumpkin ravioli, and mussels and fries."

Weekend Tweet Beat . . .

Curtis Duffy of Avenues (Photo: Avenues)

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Grant Achatz (Alinea): "Finalized dish: salmiak, kola nut, beet, buttermilk. Why don't ppl. like beets? It's sweet -earthy. Or black licorice? The combo is solid."

Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven): “Just got home from teaching a great cooking class; both my children helped me pull it off they were great!”

Curtis Duffy (Avenues): “Getting ready to kick the (rowdy) table of 8 out of the restaurant!”

Tim Graham (Tru): “Lamb legs are here, and my hands smell like ramps. Ah, spring is somewhere.”

Troy Graves (Eve): “Buying a whole cow is a big investment, but it pays off in the end. I am gonna serve the best burgers in Chicago.”

Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse): I'm thinking it’s time to brew a proper saison this weekend, along with a pilsner. How much beer at the house too much? Currently 40 gallons.”

Paul Kahan: “Got amazing almost live wild shrimp from Jim Galle's new business today. Served tonight at the Publican. Blackbird and avec soon.

Erick Williams (MK): “Just butchered the annual Passover lamb with Michael Kornick. Very inspired and I owe it to the lamb ribs for lunch! I feel some great spring lamb additions coming.”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: She's packing her knives—and bags!

(Photo: Between Boutique Café and Lounge)

Late last night, 312DD got word from an Ultimate Insider that "Top Chef" Season 5 contestant Radhika Desai's leaving Between Boutique Café and Lounge in late May to move to New York.

No word on where she'll end up yet, but this story is developing . . .

Friday, April 3, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Kwesi Dei is the VIP host at Manor, Stay and RiNO (Photo: Kwesi Dei)

Supermodel by day and VIP host for Manor, Rino and Stay at night, Kwesi Dei (4/4) is the man you should be schmoozing if you want the best seats in the house.

Deejay Jernell Geronimo (4/2) spins infectious mashups at Manor (Tuesday, Thursday), Y Bar (Wednesday), Crescendo (Friday, Saturday). He's also been voted one of Chicago's top turntablists year after year.

Season 3 "Top Chef" finalist Dale Levitski (4/3) is still working to open his West Loop spot Town and Country, but in the meantime, you can catch him at Relax on Thursdays, where he's whipping up memorable three-course feasts paired with specialty cocktails.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

High-Tech tasting from farm to table

Phillip Foss, executive chef at Lockwood (Photo: Lockwood)

He's the guy who brought us the infamous Lobster Haute Dog and Foie Gras Sliders, so it shouldn't come as a surprise Phillip Foss's delving deep into technology for his latest project.

Lockwood's executive chef has partnered with Ohio farmer Lee Jones to raise awareness of sustainable produce through a live, digital tasting at the restaurant. Guests will connect to farmer Jones via live Internet video conferencing in order to gain a better understanding of how sustainable agriculture is farmed; how that produce made its way onto the evening's menu; and will have the opportunity to garnish their own dishes with produce highlighted throughout the conversation.

The event benefits Veggie U, a non-profit organization of the Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef's Garden providing children with an understanding of sustainable agriculture. 6-9pm April 21. $95.

Master in his Domain

Fernando Betata, Master Sommelier at NoMI (Photo: NoMI)

There's only about 100 Master Sommeliers in the United States, and NoMI's own Fernando Betata recently joined the ranks of this exclusive club.

The Master Sommelier diploma's the highest distinction a professional attains in fine wine and beverage service, so you can imagine it doesn't come easy. But if you're game, Betata's willing to test your skills to see just how much you know about wine.

Tonight's event at NoMI includes a blind tasting, appetizers and wine. Do it if you dare. 5:30-7pm. $30.

Here's where else you need to be:


Two weekly events at one sixtyblue should certainly grab your attention. A seasonal, three-course prix-fixe menu happens Monday-Thursday, with executive chef Michael McDonald hooking up dishes like chicken chorizo gumbo, seared filet of salmon, or chicken and biscuits. Or, head to the bar on Fridays for hand-battered Alaskan codfish paired with hand-cut fries and homemade tartar sauce. That's $10.

A former neighborhood library has been transformed into Branch 27, in West Town, officially opening tonight. It should give long-time neighborhood fave West Town Tavern a run for its money as its interpretations on classic American fare are spot on. We're still craving the well-brined boneless roasted chicken with brussels sprouts with chunks of bacon!

Speaking of classics, pioneering West Loop eatery Vivo is working hard to re-invent itself. Each week, Taste for Charity raises money for a different cause. This week, your $10 donation goes to breast cancer research. Resident wine specialist Erik Hampe pours six wines paired with apps. 5-8pm.

Ask for the Spring Sampler Menu by name at Red Light, another West Loop gem. Executive chef Jackie Chen put together this menu that includes signature dishes like Black Tie Shrimp and lobster rolls as well as a daily chef's preparation of fish. $20.09 through April 30. Sunday-Thursday for dinner only.

Ambrosia, created by Le Bar mixologist Daniel (DJ) Love (Photo: Sofitel)


Rampfest has managed to gather some of the city's most fabulous chefs to create signature dishes with ramps, a native wild leek. Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave.). 7-9:30pm. $90.

Treat yourself to Ambrosia, created by mixologist Daniel (DJ) Love of Sofitel's Le Bar. Made with Pernod Absinthe, gooseberry juice, cognac, St. Germain and Martini & Rossi, the decadent drink just won the World Cocktail Competition’s State Finals. Get over there and get one before he competes for the nationals in San Fran on May 10.


Green City Market kicks off April with a Bacon & Eggs-themed month—complete with chef demos and special events at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.). At 9am, chef Mike Cisternino (Tavern at the Park) is first with an organic zucchini & mint frittata wrapped with speck ham and served with a fresh cherry tomato sauce. Also, make sure your face is in the place by 10am for Beard-nominated Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) and 11am for Sam Burman (bluprint). And if you have kids, bring them for the first-ever Green City Market Easter Egg Hunt, happening at noon. Prizes include special treats from the farmers and producers at the market. Free, but RSVP required; send email to

If you're still pissed over the outcome of Season 5's "Top Chef," you don't want to miss this showdown, happening at The Chopping Block. "Top Chef" finalists Carla "Hootie Hoo!" Hall and Stefan "The Arrogant Finnish" Richter go head to head. 6-9pm. $150.

In Fine Spirits fetes its first anniversary with a tasting event, where guests sample New World wines, cocktails, artisanal beers and appetizers. 3-5:30pm. $35.


The Diva Brunch has nothing to do with 312DD, but it's one of the wildest we've seen in a long time. The Scooty & JoJo Show hosts this weekly event at The Spot, featuring drag queens and kings. Of course, your favorite brunch items will be on the menu, but just gimme those Bellinis and Mimosas. 11am-2pm.

And the Chicago Defender Charities throws a birthday party for hip-hop star/deejay Biz Markie. Interesting, but it's obvious they're trying to draw a younger crowd with it happening at Victor Hotel. Also, Slick Rick performs. 8pm-2am. Call 312-225-2400 for ticket price; we couldn't find it anywhere.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Top local chefs hit NRA in May

Gale Gand, executive pastry chef/partner of Tru and host of Food Network's "Sweet Dreams"

They're whizzes in the kitchen, so if you'd like to learn the secrets of top culinary kings and queens, head to the Celebrity Book Signings & NRA Show Bookstore in May.

As part of the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (May 16-19), local and national chefs will make appearances throughout the event, including:

Stephanie Izard, May 16 at 11am: The Season Four winner of Bravo's "Top Chef" and owner/chef of The Drunken Goat (opening fall 2009), Izard will be signing Top Chef: The Cookbook. She'll also hold a culinary showcase in the NRA Show Culinary Scene later at 3:30pm.

Rick Bayless, May 16 at 2pm: Award-winning chef/restaurateur, cookbook author and host of Mexico—One Plate at a Time on PBS, Bayless is behind Frontera Grill and Tobolobampo. He also authored Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, One Plate and Mexican Everyday. Check him out also in the NRA Show Culinary Scene at 12:30pm.

Daniel Boulud, May 17 at 12:30pm: Boulud is chef-owner of The Dinex Group, made up of Feast & Fêtes catering company and nine award-winning restaurants, including the renowned DANIEL and the Feast & catering company. He also wrote six books, including Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine, Café Boulud Cookbook, Letters to a Young Chef, Daniel Boulud Cooking in New York City and Daniel's Dish: Entertaining at Home with a Four Star Chef. He'll also participate in the NRA Show General Session and Keynote Executive Panel at 2pm.

Marcus Samuelsson, May 17, 1:30pm: He's the exec chef at NYC's Aquavit and Riingo, and Chicago's C-House, host of Inner Chef on the Discovery Home Channel, and corporate chef of Townhouse Restaurant Group. He authored En Smakreasa, Aquavit, Street Food and The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa. Samuelsson will also hold a culinary showcase in the NRA Show Culinary Scene at 12:30pm.

Art Smith, May 18 at noon: Chef/owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and Art and Soul in Washington, D.C., Smith wrote Back to the Family: Food Tastes Better Shared with the Ones You Love, Kitchen Life and Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family.

Takashi Yagahashi, May 18 at 2pm: Renowned chef and restaurateur, Yagahashi owns Takashi Restaurant in Chicago and operates Noodles at Macys on State Street. His first book, Takashi's Noodles, will be available at the 2009 NRA Show. Also, look for him in the NRA Show Culinary Scene at 12:30pm.

Gale Gand, May 19 at 1pm: Gand is executive pastry chef/partner at Tru and host of Food Network's Sweet Dreams. She'll sign copies of her new book, Gale Gand's Brunch!: Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal, Chocolate and Vanilla and Gale Gand’s Just a Bite.

BIN 36 introduces $9 lunch

Popular wine-focused eatery BIN 36 celebrates 10 years with the $9 lunch in April (Photo: BIN 36)

When you work in the downtown area, pickings are slim on the cheap side unless you're willing to go fast food.

That's why 312DD's particularly excited about the brand-new lunch deal at BIN 36.

Starting today—and for the rest of the month—the wine-focused favorite's celebrating its 10-year anniversary by offering a $9 lunch deal. Choose one of their hand-crafted sandwiches/salads and soft drink (no wine, boo!), which includes grilled cheese (cheddar, Swiss and goat cheese with white truffle oil, caramelized onions & toasted pine nuts on sourdough), wood-grilled burger, classic hot corned beef and a classic Cobb salad.

With this hookup, we could go every day!

Or, if you're looking to mix it up every now and then, check out even more deals at Blackbird and Eve.