Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NY Times tours local beer hot spots


If you're a self-described "beer geek," man, do I have a story for you!

In a New York Times travel piece, local writer Ari Benderski drinks his way through Chicago's new wave of microbrews.

From standbys Hopleaf and Maproom to the hot new shiny things (State and Lake, Bar DeVille), you'll learn all you need to know whether you're a visitor or local.

John Manion on sweet street eats


New to the menu at Goose Island Clybourn is chef John Manion's fancified version of elote, the mayo-slathered, spiced corn-on-the-cob street food popular in Mexican neighborhoods.

About a decade ago, Ashland Avenue in Wicker Park was nicknamed "corn cob alley." Street vendors smeared mayo, chile, lime juice and cheese on the cob and sell to hungry passers-by—including John Manion. Now he's serving his own elote as a bound corn-mayo salad, mixed with shredded cheese, chile and lime and served alongside chile-marinated grilled quail.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Introducing Park 52's hot new exec chef!

New Park 52 Executive Chef Renee Everett (Photo: Park 52)

Hyde Park native Renee Everett takes over the helm in Park52's kitchen as its third executive chef since opening in spring 2008.

Everett began her culinary career for the Gibsons Restaurant Group (Gibsons Steakhouse, Hugo's Frog Bar, Luxbar, Quartino) and later served as sous chef at Mike Ditka's Restaurant, where she developed a fond appreciation for fish and seafood.

Everett graduated from Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago and received the Charlie Trotter Scholarship by the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. She was also formerly the press secretary for the Illinois Senate President's Chicago Office.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson tribute parties . . .


... will be on and popping all weekend, but 312DD uncovered some of the very best going down around town:


House music and hip-hop enthusiast DJ Vince Adams was up all night Tweeting about his extensive MJ record collection, so expect him to drop some rarely heard tunes during his set at Green Dolphin Street. Head here after work for Bliss Fridays, which also includes a live performance by The Soul People. 5-11pm. $5 before 8pm.

Through July 3, theWit Hotel (201 N. State St.), home to Roof and Cibo Matto, will incorporate one song per hour into their music rotation from the catalog of Jackson's work. They also have on display a portrait-size black & white photo of Michael Jackson on a table, which is draped in black cloth and located in the lobby. Surrounding the table are 20 votive candles where visitors can pay their respect. The shrine will be on display for 24 hours.

Legendary house music vocalist Byron Stingley (Ten City) was supposed to be the big headliner at tonight's show at Shrine, but now organizers have decided to dedicate a big portion of the night to The King of Pop. Tone B. Nimble spins music throughout the 1970s to present, with an extended tribute to Jackson. 9pm-2am. $20.

There's a Red Dog Reunion Party happening at Martini Ranch, which is certain to bring out some old schoolers. Deejays promise to bring you house music throughout the night, highlighting some of the very best of the MJ catalogue. Deejays Lil John, Psycho Bitch, Just Joey and Andre Harris spin. Also, drink specials and discounted food. 9pm-4am. $5.

Last night the resident deejay at Underground did 45 minutes of straight-up MJ music, and they plan on doing it again every night through Sunday. Also, on Sunday Flosstradamus performs during a new industry night. 9pm-4am Friday, Sunday; 9pm-5am Saturday. Cover varies.

An "old-skool," after-hours Chicago-style house party happens at 1635 W. Washington Blvd. Local favorites Roy Davis Jr., Bear Who?, Andre Hatchet, Julio Bishop and Charles Matlock work in their tributes to MJ, plus expect deep soul house and deep Latin beats. 10pm-6am. $10.


Long-time NYC nightlife impresario BJ Murray has always been a huge Michael Jackson fan, so look for him to dedicate a part of the night to the Man in the Mirror for his party at Prosecco. The party occurs in the lower-level La Cantinella Wine Cellar Lounge and the kitchen will be open until 11pm. 10pm-3am. No cover.


Deejay Jesse de la Pena spins an all-night set dedicated to the music of Michael Jackson and James Brown at Crocodile. 8pm-2am. No cover.

And, last year's post-Pride Boom Boom Room party at Avenue Tavern attracted more than 800 folks, so expect even more to show up as some of the city's hottest deejays spin underground house and personalized tributes to MJ. Spin stars include Diz, Lego, Just Joey, Uncle Milty and Michael Serafini. 3pm-midnight. Free.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. King of Pop!


Every club in the world will be rockin' this weekend with the hits of Michael Jackson. Rest in Peace, dude, you were a GREAT one!

Pick A Fest: Pitchfork or Lolla?

Chicago attracts fans from all over who come to see Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Festival. But now it's time to decide, which is the better festival? (Photo: Getty Images)

Our buddies over at NBCChicago.com just hooked up a poll to determine the fly-est local music festival, Pitchfork or Lollapalooza.

Check the stats, lineups, crowds, etc., then sound off on who you think is the best right here.

FYI, Lolla's winning right now!

Dig in . . .

Tortelli di Carciofi is just one of the masterpieces by Piccolo Sogno Executive Chef Tony Priolo—who's set to demo at the Taste of Chicago. (Photo: Piccolo Sogno)

. . . we're set for some well-deserved and amazing weather this weekend, so you should be fully aware of what's going down.

Get the bites, hit the benders, like tonight's annual A Midsummer Eve of the Eve hosted by HighSight. One of the summer's biggest bashes attracts a well-heeled crowd of young-ish professionals who come for the open bar, appetizers, silent auction and live music. This year, the food should be especially good as the party's being held at new American contemporary eatery Bluprint in the Merchandise Mart. Party happens 6-11pm. $50.

Parties, a parade and so much more going on this weekend . . .


The 10th annual Eli’s Cheesecake/Wright College Farmers Market occurs every Thursday in the parking lot of the school. Get your fresh produce, flowers and artisan crafts, plus free breakfast if you arrive early. If you get there around lunchtime, they're also grilling Allen Bros. steaks and produce from the market. 7am-1pm. Free. 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.

In Fine Spirits launches its weekly Eat Local/Drink Local night with a tasting from Koval Distillery Spirits, the city's first boutique organic distillery. You'll get to taste 10 spirits paired with apps. 7:30-9:30pm. $15.

Toast to even more spirits at Experience The Art of the Cocktail at Luxbar, but if you want to get in you must RSVP ASAP. They'll be pouring complimentary cocktails infused with (ri)1 whiskey. 9pm-midnight. RSVP to rsvpchicago@mirrorball.com.

OK, so we love the sound of this: Rhapsody's 5 after 5 every Thursday. All items on the lounge menu are $5 after 5pm, including Michigan duck nachos, flatbread with Taleggio cheese and the Rhapsody dry-aged burger. They're also doing $5 glasses of red, rosé or white wine, so it's an ideal spot to wind down after work. Menu's available in the bar, lounge and patio area only.


Those with children have through Sunday to take advantage of Kids' Restaurant Week, with prix-fixe menus (pay your age if you're under 11; $29 for kids and adults 12 and older) and family-friendly dining times of 5-7pm.

Maxwell's at the Club hosts an al fresco, wine-focused dinner on the terrace overlooking Chicago River. They'll have four stations set up with items like Southwestern flank steak, grilled summer veggie skewers and mini strawberry-blueberry shortcakes. All dishes are paired with seasonal wines. 6-9pm. $35.

It's time for Soul Joy, the city's grooviest party happening at the South Loop's Cuatro. Local underground spin stars Vick Lavender, Mario Romay and Celeste Alexander work the tables. You'll find only a tiny dance floor, but somehow they make it work. 6pm-2am. Free before 10pm- $5 after.


Two key happenings at the Taste of Chicago: Zagat hosts a Sweet Treat Challenge at 11am in Dominick’s Cooking Corner (near Buckingham Fountain). Four students from Washburne Culinary Institute compete to create the best Chicago-inspired dessert. The winner gets a $1,000 scholarship, compliments of Zagat. There will also be giveaways for the first 100 people seated in the audience. Judges include Executive Chef Phillip Foss of Lockwood and Marc Schulman, president of Eli's Cheesecake. And at 1pm, Eli's Cheesecake fetes its 29th birthday with a 2,000 pound cheesecake in front of Buckingham Fountain. We're hearing they'll have some "celebrity" cake cutters, and of course, everyone gets a slice.

If you've always wanted to hit a luau, here's your chance. Moonshine's hosting a special pig roast, transforming Wicker Park's urban roadhouse into a scene out of Waikiki. Yeah, that means expect lots of kitschy stuff, including hula dancers, ukulele player and too many damn Hawaiian shirts (wear the tackiest to win prizes). But you'll get over it because they're doing $5 Mai Tais and pineapple mojitos, plus pulled pork sandwiches from the prized pig. Noon-2am. Free.

All summer long—seven days a week—Theory is doing half off on appetizers. That's 5-8pm Sunday through Friday, and 5-9pm Saturday. You'll also get to take advantage of a number of daily drink specials.


Every bar and restaurant in Boystown will be crawling with people before and after the Pride parade, so you definitely won't be short on choices. But we're betting the best brunch deal's going down at minibar. The indoor/outdoor event will be out of control with unlimited mimosas and bellinis, plus an all-you-can-eat buffet. 11am-1pm. $25.

Another amazing brunch in the area happens at Angelina Ristorante, where you can get an entree and unlimited mimosas or bubbly 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 after Pride comes the party, and we love the idea of Bear Who?'s set at Forno Diablo. He'll actually be there all day, along with the drink specials, spinning deep house and hip-hop. 10am-5pm. No cover.


And Pops for Champagne is back on the chef track again for Shift Drink Mondays. Blue 13 Executive Chef Chris Curren will be behind the bar serving up his infamous Detox cocktail. We don't know what's in it, but that's the intrigue! 9pm-2am. No cover.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Have Ads Gone Completely Mad?!


Last week, Bacardi went and did this.

And now Burger King has gone a created an ad so overtly misogynistic that we're almost at a loss for words.

Here's the ad copy if you cannot read the fine print above:

"Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER. Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce."

No wonder I stopped eating fast food . . .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the 'We're in the wrong biz!' files


312DD reported on Twitter Friday that Johnny Depp took some friends (including Public Enemies co-star Marion Cotillard) to Gibsons following the premiere of the John Dillinger biopic, but we didn't get this info that Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster uncovered:

"Depp and his entourage partied and relaxed at Gibsons till about 2:30 a.m. I understand that the bill came to $4,400 and that Mohammed A. Sekhani, aka Mo, who is known as 'the waiter to the stars' because they all love to sit in his section, received a tip from Depp to the tune of $4,000."

Foster goes on to say that the tip was split among Depp's tablemates, but whatever the case, this story is awesome and sets the bar pretty high when it comes to celebrity tipping. You know how cheap some of these guys have been rumored to be!

It's gonna be a scorcher . . .


. . . and while we know you're not complaining about today's heatwave, you certainly want to be somewhere fabulous to cool off with some mighty fine drinks:

Maven's hosting Mischieve in the Garden of Agave, a sexy, offbeat party with an open bar and deejays spinning sounds you love to hear. Comped cocktails 8-10pm; RSVP to mischieve@directiontourmarketing.com for admittance. At District Bar 8pm-midnight.

According to Delilah's, the city's first-ever absinthe tasting happens there tonight. You'll get to sample 16 different spirits available in the United States—including North Shore Distillery's Sirene. The tasting's also part of Delilah's Vincent Van Gogh bday celebration, which includes Van Gogh-related films. Deejay Mike Miller spins. 6-9pm. $20.

Settle on Red Kiva's spacious outdoor patio and enjoy a number of "adult" SnoCones. Our faves?! Mojito (Bacardi Superior Rum with muddled mint and fresh squeezed lime juice), Tropicana (Absolut Peach and Absolut Razzberry with tropical fruit syrup) and Cappuccino (Absolut Vanil with Starbucks coffee and cream liquors). $8 each.

Beer enthusiasts should head up to Affinia hotel's glamorous scenic lounge, C-View, for an all-new menu of distinctive large format beers. You'll toast to the 750ml bottles of Lindeman’s Peche Lambic ($14), Unibroue La Fin Du Monde ($23) and Unibroue Don Di Dieu ($23).

Rick Bayless, chef of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo, demos at Green City Market on Wednesday.

And Wednesday . . .

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill/Topolobampo) is the chef du jour for the Green City Market. He'll slow-cooked Goat Birria at 10:30am, and you best believe if you want a seat you should arrive early. Market opens at 7:30am. Free. Also, catch him later on Bravo's Top Chef Masters at 9pm CST.

Several award-winning chefs duke it out in the Summer Market Mystery Soiree at Calphalon Culinary Center (1000 W. Washington Blvd.). Competing chefs include Michael Taus (Duchamp), Roger Herring (Socca), Chris Pandel (Bristol), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Bill Kim (Urban Belly) and Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse). $60 ticket includes summer-styled cocktails and samples of their signature dishes. 1-3pm.

Paul McGee (Whistler) and Charles Joly (The Drawing Room) go head to head in this week's Sweet 16 of Mixology at Perennial. Celebrity judge is Vie Executive Chef Paul Virant. Appetizers and sampling of competing cocktails. 6:30-8pm. No cover.

And the second-annual Chefs on the Grill happens at The Plaza at Park Grill with a number of high-profile, downtown chefs participating in a grilling competition. Chefs include Bernie Laskowski (Park Grill), Cliff Ostrowski (China Grill), Michael Fiorello (Mercat a la Planxa), Ben Walanka and Daniel Romero (Rhapsody), Michael Cisternino (Tavern at the Park) and Dirk Flanigan (The Gage). 6-8:30pm. $55 (a portion of the proceeds benefit the Grant Park Conservancy).

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Dana is doing it big!

Reggie Brown, Obama impersonator (Photo: Reggie Brown)

Last night was the first of the Random Acts of Dana, and man we should've been there!

The boutique hotel staged Chicago native, former hotel employee and Obama impersonator, Reggie Brown, to surprise two unsuspecting guests at a kick-off party with an over-the-top random act of kindness. The first recipient was extended a private dinner for six on the hotel’s rooftop lounge, Vertigo Sky Lounge, prepared by ajasteak Executive Chef Joshua Linton.

The second random act required group participation as all attendees to the kick-off party were given a hotel room key to test on the hotel’s Nirvana Penthouse Suite. One lucky cardholder gained access to the suite for a complimentary weekend stay at his/her convenience.

Through July 1 the hotel will extend more than 3,000 random acts of kindness to guests at the hotel as well as ajasteak, Vertigo and the spa at dana.

More Grocery Bistro drama


And so the drama continues . . .

MenuPages gets an interview with the lawyer for Grocery Bistro, whose executive chef called it quits on Sunday.

As 312DD wrote Thursday, the parents of former chef Andre Christopher staged a boycott outside the restaurant, claiming their son hadn't been paid in nine weeks.

Says the lawyer: "I have no idea why the van's out there when I've made an unequivocal offer of ‘let's sit down and try to work this out.' I think it's very unfortunate because the chef was a major part of making this a good restaurant. There's no question that his cooking and his work is what's helped make the restaurant what it is."

UPDATE: The chef claims the restaurant owes his entire family money. And an Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that Christopher is set to open his own restaurant, Little Bucharest, next week.

Fifty-One comments for a freakin' burger joint?!


So this happened again.

The Chicago Tribune's Cheeseburger Bureau Chief Kevin Pang (where the hell was this title when I was working there?!) writes about another Five Guys opening and folks go absolutely bananas.

Love the way people passionately fight over their favorite burger joints in the comments section, whether its for the chains or the locals (Kuma's Corner, Twisted Spoke, Top Notch Beefburgers) . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What the hell is going on here?!


312DD got a tip from an Ultimate Insider about an apparent boycott going down Wednesday in front of West Loop newcomer Grocery Bistro.

Apparently Executive Chef Andre Christopher hasn't been paid in nine weeks, and his parents decided to stage a boycott in their van to support their son.

Says the UI: "What's up with the grocery bistro - I'm here and a huge sign - like huge is posted on a van outside saying to boycott on behalf of Chef Andre as he has not been paid in 9 wks."

That's a hell of a family stand!

Chicago’s Most Fashionable Foodie Fest

Izumi Sushi is one of the restaurants participating in Taste of Randolph Street this weekend. (Photo: Izumi)

When it comes to festivals, we're partying all summer long until Labor Day weekend.

Each festival embraces a theme, including ethnic pride, Pride, ribs (!!), getting naked wasted (!!!) and live music. But every local foodie knows that when it comes to the street foodie fest, there's none better than Taste of Randolph Street, taking place Friday through Sunday.

Something, however, happened this year. Notably absent in the food lineup is Red Light (Executive Chef Jackie Chen will still demo at the Whole Foods Culinary Pavilion) and Sushi Wabi, who've participated since the fest's inception in 1997. Oh well. Newcomers include two buzzworthy sports lounges, WestEnd and Market.

5-11pm Friday; 2-11pm Saturday, Sunday. $10 donation.

As always, there's so much more going on this weekend, so let's get right to it!


Fresh off a fabulous working weekend in Barcelona, 212's finest spin star DJ Kiss returns to show the 312 some love. She'll do a set at Manor for the weekly Outfit party. 10pm-2am. $20.

For my hottie dads out there, one event you don't want to miss is Bourbons, Burgers & Bond, happening at the Drake's Palm Court. Guests will enjoy a bourbon tasting, mini burgers and watch Casino Royale. 6-9pm. $80. Get tickets at info@chicagoculinaryadventures.com.

Even though it's all about Dad this weekend, here's an event dedicated to the working woman. The Eleanor Foundation hosts a mid-summer wine tasting at C-View. The fifth-annual party includes a selection of summer wines, appetizers and an enviable view of the city. 5:30-8:30pm. $150.

Dining With Dale Levitski continues at Relax. The season three finalist of Top Chef whips up something completely different every week; this time he's doing Lyonnaise salad, steak frites and lemon profiteroles for $30. Cocktail specials, too. 7pm; limited seating.

Underground Neo-soul band Fertile Ground performs at Shrine. Early arrival strongly recommended for this one, especially since owner Joe Russo just sent out a note announcing "a very special guest performance." Also, deejays Lee Farmer and Jesse de la Pena spin. 10pm-2am. $20.

(Photo: Glazed Donuts Catering)


Though June 29, you can be the winner of a $1,000 gift certificate from the Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse group. The trendy local chain celebrates 20 years and is giving away one gift certificate a day. Just stop in any location (also Hugo's Frog Bar, Luxbar) and fill out an e-mail card (no purchase necessary).

And who needs Dunkin Donuts when you've got Glazed, an independently owned donut operation using all local and sustainable ingredients?! This week, they've scored some amazing local strawberries, so they're whipping up strawberry-and-fresh-mint infused donuts. And, hey, a bonus: peanut butter & jelly donut (made with organic concord grape jelly and rich and crunchy peanut butter). Available Friday and Saturday at Swim Cafe and Bite Cafe. $3 each.


The Semillas Foundation, a nonprofit group helps the indigenous women of Mexico, and to raise awareness and money, they're hosting a benefit at the National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 W. 19th St.). We're excited that Rosangel tequila will be pouring copitas at the event, but we're even more thrilled about the participation of some of Chicago's hottest Latin restaurants. Cafe 28, Mundial Cocina Mestiza and Real Tenochtitlan will provide tastings. There will also be a colorful mercado featuring crafts and clothes, all handmade by women who have used Semillas funding to start small businesses or cooperatives. 4-6pm. $100.


Purgatory's Hip-Hop Brunch is still going strong with all-you-can-eat pizza and a taste of old-school beats. DJ 5/16 spins. 11am-3pm. $13.

Local deejay legend Jesse De La Pena launches a new Sunday night party at Crocodile, featuring a different theme each week. For tonight's party, it's all about the Ladies of Soul. Free pizza, too! 8pm-2am. No cover.


And Hopleaf's 7pm Beer & Cheese Tasting sold out almost immediately, but there's a rumor that owners are adding a second event. Email louise@hopleaf.com to add your name to the wait list. 9pm. $25.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bam! Emeril headlines Taste


Get your fill of the usual offerings at the Taste of Chicago (June 26-July 5), or head over to the Dominick's Cooking Corner, where some of the most celebrated chefs will be doing demonstrations.

You'll see local stars Phillip Foss (Lockwood), Jackie Shen (Red Light), Amalia Obermerer-Smith (Kuma's Corner) and Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno), plus New Orleans' culinary king Emeril Lagasse (who's scheduled to sign copies of his latest book after his demo).

Get all the details here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Giveaways galore at the dana hotel

View of dana hotel's lobby from ajasteak's sushi bar. (photo: dana hotel)

dana hotel's pulling out all the stops to celebrate its first-year anniversary with a two-week event of giveaways you don't want to miss.

Random Acts of Dana is Thursday through July 1 where the upscale boutique hotel will extend more than 3,000 random acts of kindness to guests at the hotel as well as ajasteak, Vertigo Sky Lounge and the spa at dana.

Just some of the treats you could get include overnight accommodations; dry cleaning services; in-room manicures and pedicures; massages at the spa at dana; suite upgrades; ajasteak gift cards; instructional cooking classes with Executive Chef Joshua Linton; breakfast and lunch to go; bar menu bites; cocktails at Vertigo Sky Lounge; and brunch at ajasteak.

All you have to do to win is be in the right place at the right time in the hotel . . .

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Allison and Rob Levitt of Mado. (Photo: Rob Levitt)

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

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill): "Farmers market part of Frontera Farmer Foundation benefit was the most successful we've had!"

David Beran (Alinea): "You'd be surprised how much fun you can have with a 3'x5' table and bright colors. Table top in full effect!"

Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse): "Put the rhubarb Belgian wit beer into keg today, it's so tasty I can't wait to drink it @ the Market Mystery Soiree on June 24."

Rob Levitt (Mado): "Always a happy brunch when we have both house-smoked ham and bacon on the brunch menu. Mmm...smokey pork parts."

Ryan Poli (Perennial): "Rolled out our new sunday supper club menu. The theme is cooking with beer. Went over very well tonight!"

Todd Stein (Cibo Matto): "Great night tonight, thankful for nice weather, a nice menu change, and the menu for Cibo is looking great!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feast on foie gras, festivals . . .


One year ago this week the Chicago City Council repealed the foie gras ban, so a number of local chefs are celebrating with specials on their menus today through June 16.

Chicago Chefs For Choice debuts the first-ever Foie Gras Fest, offering $10 signature foie gras dishes. Participating restaurants include Cafe Bernard, Cafe Matou, Carlos, Cyrano's Bistrot, David Burke's Primehouse and May Street Market.

At David Burke's Primehouse, Executive Chef Rick Gresh overachieves with way more foie gras dishes than everyone else, with 11 offerings! We especially dig the Chicago-Style "Foie Gras Dog," Mini Deep Dish Foie Gras Pizza, Beer Fried Foie, Lobster & Foie Gras Roll and Foie Gras Pierogies.

Duck delicacy not your deal?! No worries, there's so much more going down this weekend . . .


Those thumbing their noses at the bar of the moment head to long-standing places like NAHA, which offers one of the coolest lounge scenes in town. We recommend settling in for appetizers and one of their hand-crafted cocktails from the spring menu. Our faves?! Spring Ahead (Don Julio Blanco, housemade apple-celery juice, fresh lemon juice, organic agave nectar, Kubler absinthe) and a local take on the Manhattan, the Chicago (Templeton Rye-infused with fresh vanilla, Barolo Chinato, house-made brandied cherries, blood orange bitters).

Starfruit opens its second location in Lincoln Park location today, however, we're surprised that for their "grand opening" celebration they're only giving away "free toppings" with every purchase of the frozen treats. That happens all day, plus live entertainment and a deejay.


The Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council's annual Red or White Ball is the group's biggest benefit of the year and you don't want to miss it (full disclosure: 312DD is a member). This year they're moving the event to eco-chic Salvage One (1840 W. Hubbard St.), so expect it to be decked out in artistic glory. Open bar, apps, silent auction, live entertainment all for a young, hip crowd. 8pm (VIP reception starts at 7pm). $135 (VIP $250).

Limited tickets are still available for the annual Gold Coast Film Fest, taking place at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted St.). You'll see offbeat shorts by local artists, plus films by chef/owners Graham Elliot Bowles (graham elliot; currently starring on Bravo TV's Top Chef Masters) and Kevin Boehm (BOKA, Landmark, Perennial). Ticket includes two drink tickets to pre-event at Landmark and admission to film fest. Landmark's also offering attendees a three-course meal for $35. Starts at 6:30pm. $35 for tickets.


Nab a seat early for the chef demo at Green City Market as Café des Architectes' Martial Noguier hits the stage at 10:30am. He'll be whipping up a spring arborio risotto prepared with produce from the market. Market opens at 7:30am. Free.

Wells Street Art Festival happens today and tomorrow (10am-10pm), so wear comfortable shoes and get ready to fight the crowds. Expect every restaurant and bar in the area to be jam packed, particularly the usual suspects. Maybe just maybe newcomer tapas spot Eivissa will have room at the inn for sangria and bites.

Same goes for Andersonville Midsommarfest, happening in the very food frenzied 'hood. Our absolute favorite places along the way?! M Henry for brunch, In Fine Spirits for classic cocktails and La Cocina de Frida for tall pitchers of sangria on the back patio. 11am-10pm Saturday, Sunday.

Another Saturday, another tasting. Pops for Champagne explores Grand Cru terroir of Verzenay, featuring three curvees from multiple formats. 3-5pm. $20.

Vision Cellars will be onsite at Park 52, offering diners and bar patrons tastings of its 2006 pinot noir and 2007 sauvignon blanc/pinot gris blend. These wines have even been served at the White House. 6-10pm


We're excited about the new brunch cocktails at Feast Bucktown. The Moscato Mimosa and Bucktown Bloody Hell add flair to traditional mimosas and Bloody Marys, plus adult smoothies like Love Juice (made with Svedka Citron vodka, crushed strawberries and sparkling Champagne) will get your Sunday off to a great start.


And get the guys together and hang out on the patio at Motel Bar. They're showing screenings of True Romance and Fight Club, plus you'll get to choose from a number of hypermasculine cocktail specials. 8pm-2am. No cover.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Baffling chef shufflings . . .

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

Only after a couple of days after Crain's anointed District Bar with a glowing review ("Executive chef Matthew Moss' lunch starters play with sports-bar expectations by taking standards up a notch."), 312DD learns that the executive chef is outta there.

An Ultimate Insider tells us Moss abandoned ship only this week and owners have already replaced him with a new chef who's likely going to tweak the menu to his liking.

Also out this week is exec chef Andy Motto over at Old Town Brasserie, who replaced celebrated chef Roland Liccioni in December, according to the same Ultimate Insider.

They've immediately promoted one of the line chefs to the head position, but that makes three shufflings in six months and that cannot be good news . . .

UPDATE: A 312DD reader alerts: "The new Executive Chef @ District Bar is Charles Andersson. Before District, he most recently worked at Sage Grille in Highwood, and I know he was at Butter when they first opened."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tempting tunes, tastes on a Tuesday

Neo-soul star Maxwell returns with his first album in eight years. (Photo: Sony Music)

Happening tonight is Cellar Notes at NoMi, with Master Sommelier Fernando Beteta (hailed as one of America's Best Sommeliers) showcasing the best of the best. This week it's all about sparkling wines and Champagnes. 6-7:30pm. $30.

Also going down tonight, Volo's doing a taste of the Southern Rhone with vineyard owner Sophie Autran. You'll get several hand-picked wines by the glass, by the flight ($15), The Southern Rhone Wine Experience (tasting of all seven wines for $28) with suggested food pairings a la carte, or a five-course tasting menu ($40). Arrive at 7pm for a complimentary glass of wine.

Over at Warehouse District hot spot Moto, pastry chef Ben Roche recently launched a nifty dessert tasting menu in the lounge. The four-course, seasonal menu changes often and offers items like a rum-rootbeer slushy coated with frozen vanilla cream, liquid-center corn sponge cake with blackberry "drupelets," and a hot and cold chocolate mousse with smoked ice cream. Offered daily.

Tomorrow and beyond . . .

Since the so-called Media & VIP Taste of Chicago Preview gets rammed by party crashers every year, someone finally got a clue and opened it to the public. For the first time ever Wednesday, the city's officially opening it to the public to get a mini taste of six restaurants that'll be featured in the foodie feast happening June 26-July 5. Among the dishes to be expected tomorrow include gator sausage on a stick, Spanish-style steak, Indian samosas and barbecued beef brisket sandwiches. 11am-2pm. Items $2-$5; cash only. Daley Plaza.

It's a girlfight over at Perennial as the Sweet 16 of Mixology series continues Wednesday. Brice McCoy (Province) competes against Jennifer Contraveos (The Crafted Cocktail). Guests get to sample and vote for the best cocktail; celebrity judge for this round is Graham Elliot Bowles of graham elliot. 6:30-8pm. Free.

David Burke’s Primehouse holds its first-ever beer-focused dinner, also on Wednesday. Executive Chef Rick Gresh whips up a four-course feast paired with New Belgium Brewing Co. beer. Event also includes a reception in The James lobby bar. Starts at 6pm. $75.

If the weather will finally effing warm up, we can enjoy the summer's best roses in all their glory. In the meantime, head to Webster's Wine Bar for Roses from Around the World, also on Wednesday. They'll sample classic, lean Southern French roses as well as fuller styles from the rest of Europe and the new world. 7:30pm. $30; reservations required.

And reserve your tickets now to The Music Experience with Maxwell, happening at the DuSable Museum (740 E. 56th Pl.). The Neo-sou star returns with BLACKsummers' night—his first album in eight years and you can be one of the first people in the world to hear it first. Yes, he'll be there, but he won't be performing. Instead, he'll grace his fans with interviews and autographs. 7-9:30pm June 18. $20.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

John des Rosiers of Inovasi. (Photo: Inovasi)

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

Grant Achatz (Alinea): "Can texture effect flavor perception? Dessert-y texture? (creamy?) Savory texture? Crunchy? I am not sure, but I think it makes sense."

John des Rosiers (Inovasi): "New experiment of wet/dry/salt block aging of Tallgrass NY (strip) came out perfect. Best of both techniques! Juicy, moist and rich!"

Phillip Foss (Lockwood): "Blown away last night by Schwa. Does any chef march to the beat of his own drum like Michael Carlson? It's like you're eating in his home."

Troy Graves (Eve): "Got a goat in late last night from George, and Andy Mize just arrived with a cow. That's a whole ton of butchering!"

Mike Sheerin (Blackbird): "Hand-rolled corn dogs with cornichon emulsion tonights amuse...booyah."

Giuseppe Tentori (Boka): "Making home made bigoli pasta with lobster and spinach basil pesto."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Where would 'Housewives' hang in Chicago?!

Can an upcoming Chicago version of Bravo TV's blockbuster measure up to the glamorous "Real Housewives of New York?!" (Photo: Bravo TV)

Everyone's getting excited about the possibility of a Real Housewives of Chicago happening here, and one socialite claims she's already been contacted by the independent production company looking to produce their own version of the hit reality television series.

If it does actually go down, 312DD's more excited about where they're going to do all the usual drinking and dining they seem to indulge in on the shows.

Since they'd likely go with more established, jetsetting types for the show, we'd figure ground zero would be somewhere in the downtown area. River North, Streeterville, West Loop and definitely Gold Coast, but don't be surprised if they'd throw in a few places in Bucktown and Lakeview for the "hip factor."

Since this show's about powerful women doing powerful things, they'd have to make a stop at NAHA, the sophisticated contemporary American spot owned by award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian.

Pops for Champagne, with its extensive list of bubbly and sparkling wines, is certain to be another draw for this cast of cultured characters.

When these ladies go on the prowl, expect them to hang out at the usual Gold Coast suspects (Tavern on Rush, Gibsons, Whiskey Bar), but also the latest hot spots as well.

We see them settling into one of the plushy booths at Roof, the city's newest rooftop bar on the 27th floor of theWit hotel. Or even Market, the upscale West Loop sports bar co-owned by White Sox GM Kenny Williams.

And just to make it look as though they're in touch with what's really hot in the city, they'll have to do at least one episode in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area. We'd put big bucks on them hitting The Violet Hour and The Bristol.

What other spots do you think they'll end up in around town?!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Michael Carlson's first TV interview!

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

Marcus Riley of NBC-Chicago's entertainment showcase 24/7 snags an interview with the elusive Schwa chef/owner Michael Carlson on why it's so damn hard to get a reservation.

Peep the video here, with a cameo by 312 Dining Diva, who scored her first reservation here after a year-long wait.

Booze, Brunch and The Bombshell


After Josephine Baker and long before J.Lo, there was Iris Chacon—an exotic beauty known for her provocative performances, flamboyant style and curvaceous figure.

The Puerto Rican provocateur's the subject of the MCA's latest UBS 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work exhibition you can check out at this month's First Fridays after-work event. Created by Chicago artist Edra Soto, The Chacon-Soto Show explores her impact on U.S. feminist issues. It's on display through June 28.

Your First Fridays ticket include museum admission, live entertainment, complimentary Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. 6-10pm. $16 ($8 for MCA members). 220 E. Chicago Ave.

Other exciting events you don't want to miss:


Everyone's talking about the new Whole Foods store in Lincoln Park, so if you haven't been, there's still room for the Chef's Table Supper Club tonight. The series occurs every other Thursday with a three-course meal and a glass of wine. The chef's selection is created with the freshest, seasonal ingredients the store has available. Registration required. 6:30pm. $42/person; $75/couple. 1550 N. Kingsbury St., 312-587-0648.

For something less formal, but just as tasty, grab a seat at one sixtyblue's bar for Burgers, Beer and Beats. Every Thursday, the West Loop eatery offers a rotating lineup of $4 craft brews paired with juicy $4 burgers. 6-10pm.

First Thursday Tastings happens at Fion Wine Bar with Unibroue beers (Ephremere, La Fin Du Monde, Maudite, Don De Dieu, Chambly Noire) and gourmet cheese pairings. 7-9pm. Free.

Grab dinner at North Center faves Brownstone or sola, then indulge in the third-annual Bubbles & Berries happening at the nearby Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro. Champagne, sparkling wine and moscatos will be paired with seasonal berries and a chocolate fountain. 7-9pm. $15 in advance; $20 at the door.

At The Bar returns to The Drawing Room, with executive chef Nick Lacasse and chief mixologist Charles Joly whipping up a fabulous three-course meal paired with market-fresh cocktails for only eight lucky diners. 6:30pm. $45 (reservations required).

You might have better luck getting in Chiquiteo: A Tapas Tour, a dining crawl happening at Lincoln Square's hottest spots. On-site registration starts at 6pm at Fiddlehead Cafe, then you can make your way to the other participants (Provenance Food and Wine, The Book Cellar, Café Selmarie, Bistro Campagne) for tapas and Spanish wine. 6:30-9:30pm. $35. Reservation required.


The Museum of Science and Industry launches its first-ever Smart Home farmers market with a special cooking presentation at 11:30am by chefs Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh (HBTV) of The Hearty Boys fame. They'll be cooking up a delicious brunch-time dish of Orange Blossom pancakes with mascarpone and fresh berries. For the kick off, guests will also enjoy music, food vendors and treats cooked in a solar oven. The farmers market happens on the first and third Fridays of the month through Oct. 16. 7am-2pm.

If you're over the usual hip-hop and pop in the clubs, make your way to Sonotheque for Free Da Funk, a night of amazing throwback tracks. Deejay Joe Bryl will be digging in his crates for the best in soul, funk, R&B and disco accompanied by rare Blaxplotation films. 9pm-2am. No cover. $5 drink specials.


If you ever wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, this may be your chance: The World’s Biggest Bar Crawl happens in Lincoln Park and it's looking to beat NYC's record of 3,163 crawlers in March. Oh, we can easily beat that! Just show up and make it out to at least eight of the bars on the crawl, including Soiree, Glascott's, Toasted Ox and Grand Central. Participants get drink and food specials at each location, plus a portion of the proceeds benefits Children's Heart Foundation. $15.

If you're looking for a laid-back afternoon diversion, head to Lockwood inside the Palmer House Hilton. They're hosting a free wine-tasting event, and all those sampled will be available by the bottle at a reduced price for the evening. 3-5pm. Free.


You know how they say don't go grocery shopping if you're hungry?! Grab brunch first at the South Loop Whole Foods Market, then go get your goodies. Choose from a rotating menu of French toast, veggie-friendly dishes, eggs and pancakes for $5, plus you can order a Mimosa for an extra $5. Noon-2pm. 1101 S. Canal St.

Fashion-forward folks looking for next season's styles should head to Bar DeVille to check out Chicago-based clothing line Imaginary People. You'll get to check out the entire line—in all sizes—and if they don't have an item or color, you can also order. Free booze always makes shopping fun! Noon-6pm.


And, Monday-night obsession Rehab moves from Evil Olive to Debonair Social Club. Expect good energy level at this industry-dominated party that includes free drinks (9-10pm), drink specials and guest deejays. 9pm-2am. Free.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

She Wang Dang Doodled into our Hearts!

NBC Chicago's footage of a recent interview and performance with legendary blues queen Koko Taylor, who passed away today . . .

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

Super Chef is #$%^&*&^%$!?#@!

Dennis Ongkiko, composer of "Super Chef." (Photo: Kevin Boehm)

I hope she can take a joke.

Of course I'm referring to celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who's lampooned ''Weird Al'' Yankovic-style in the song Super Chef, which is featured in mockumentary The Golden Spoon.

The film, which will be featured in the upcoming June 12 Gold Coast Film Fest, is about a fictional "James Beard-like" awards ceremony and was shot by local hot shot restaurateur Kevin Boehm (BOKA, Landmark, Perennial).

Dennis Ongkiko (brother of Old Oak Tap owner Chris Ongkiko) wrote the song and stars in the movie.

Check the lyrics:

"My stock is on the rise. I've got the critics on their knees with open mouths between my thighs . . . . better make your reservation, summer menu's on fiyah!

"I'm doing my best 'cause I'm a Super Chef, Food Network called, they're gonna give me a show. My rave reviews are harder than habachi . . . "

Listen to Super Chef here as he really gets down 'n' dirty, and yes, he gets in a dig on Rachael Ray!


Kids' Restaurant Week returns


312DD typically isn't a kid-friendly site, but we've gotten many requests from those with little ones about special deals.

MenuPages writes that the second-annual Kids' Restaurant Week happens June 20-28 "with prix-fixe menus (pay your age if you're under 11; $29 for kids and adults 12 and older) and family-friendly dining times of 5-7pm."

Just some of the participants include 312 Chicago, Coco Pazzo Cafe, Duchamp, Osteria Via Stato, Landmark and Aigre Doux.

I spy a trend. Next year it'll be Doggy Dining Week . . .

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Speidi snubbed at Alinea?!

Spencer and Heidi Pratt of "reality fame."

Speidi—the terrible twosome newlywed "reality stars" known as Spencer and Heidi Prattthink they're famous and run with the A-List crowd, but not in our town.

An Ultimate Insider writes to 312DD that the last time they were here, one place they couldn't pull any of their bullsh*t was none other than Alinea:

"Believe what you see. They really are douchebags. Came in to the restaurant once without a reservation (you know....that fancy place in Lincoln Park that starts with an 'A'), and were promptly turned away in hilarious fashion (considering no one there had any idea who they were) and when they finally came back (having made a reso like everyone else that time) they lived up to every concievable horror one might dream them to embody. Hilarious, and certainly a low point for that establishment's clientele."

Tickets are going fast!

"Top Chef" stars Stephanie Izard and Dale Levitski at last year's Green City Market Summer BBQ Festival. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

This year's Green City Market Summer BBQ Festival is bigger than ever with more than 50 of Chicago's chefs participating (that means more food!) in Lincoln Park.

Just found out they've sold more than half the tickets, so if you plan on going, you need to act now here because you won't be able to buy them at the door.

The grand outdoor chowdown happens 6-8pm July 16 (rain or shine), with the likes of John Caputo (A Mano), Paul Kahan (Blackbird, avec, Publican), Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), Christophe David (NoMi) and others whipping up signature BBQ bites. You'll also get Goose Island beer, cocktails and wine. Tickets are $60.

Word on the return of fave alfresco spots . . .

Cedar Hotel opens this summer by the team behind RiNO and Manor. (Photo: flickr.com/jnicholl81)

It's June 2, and it's COLD.

Here's something to warm you up—even though these spots won't be opening until later in the summer:

On the Gold Coast, Cedar Hotel takes over the entire outdoor chilling space once known as Melvin B's and Cactus. It's now under the ownership of the guys behind RiNO and Manor, and anticipates opening by the end of the month.

312DD got a little more information about the venue once known as Pontiac Cafe (1531 N. Damen Ave.), now owned by the team behind award-winning ventures Blackbird, avec, Publican, Danny's and The Violet Hour. The still unnamed bar, which is incidentally directly across the street from The Violet Hour, will keep its massive outdoor patio that made it the most popular summer hangout in the Wicker Park 'hood. An Ultimate Insider tells us to expect it to be a cross between Danny's (homey, hipster vibe) and The Violet Hour (post-modern mixology program) with tacos on the menu. Opening unknown, but they're shooting for this summer.

And Life's Too Short, which shuttered its nautical-themed dive in 2004 at Elston and Division streets, is looking to make a comeback under the same name and new ownership. No word on whether they'll return to their original concept of live reggae under the stars, but that would certainly be a winner. We're hearing it might open later this summer.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Introducing: FREEBIE FRIDAY!


If you've been following 312DD on Twitter for awhile, you already know I'm always cooking up kooky ideas to get people to join.

This week I'm introducing FREEBIE FRIDAY (happens every other Friday!), when one fellow Tweep wins a cool dining- or drinking-related prize.

The inaugural FREEBIE FRIDAY prize is Champagne Table, happening every Wednesday in Trump Hotel's exclusive VIP area in Rebar. One lucky person will win a reservation for two.

Sommelier Steven Lee hosts the event with hors d'oeuvres and a wide selection of bubbles from a monthly featured Champagne house, all the while learning about the wines and enjoying amazing views of the Chicago River. Space is limited to 16 guests each week; reservations highly recommended. 5:30-7pm. $25 per person.

Champagne Table lineup for the rest of the year:

June – Perrier-Jouët
July – Sparkling wine vs. Champagne
August – Blanc de Blanc vs. Brut
September – Grower Champagne
October – Rosé Champagne: in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
November – Laurent Perrier
December – Tête de Cuvée or “Head of the Class”

Follow 312 Dining Diva here!

NOTE: Must be a Chicago-area resident to participate. Winners announced 5pm Fridays.

Weekend Tweet Beat

Cibo Matto's Todd Stein (Photo: Todd Stein)

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

Paul Kahan (Blackbird): "Doing r and d at May Fest. Yummy herring sand. With hoffbrau. I almost feel German. Prost."

Michelle Garcia (Bleeding Heart Bakery): "Great Smash Cake opening! Thank you to everyone that came out!"

Bill Kim (Urban Belly): “Picked up delicious organic pea shoots from Three Sisters Farm at the Green City Market today-adds a taste of summer to our Thai Basil rice.”

Ryan Poli (Perennial): "Excited about tomorrow's Sunday Supper Club at Perennial. This week's theme Italian!"

Debbie Sharpe (Feast): "Dinner at Veerasway followed by Mary Poppins. Love me some flyaway curry."

Todd Stein (Cibo Matto): “It is a beautiful Chicago night, roof is alive, and people are enjoying.”