Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drop Kick 'Bucket' for Fried Chicken with Flash

one sixtyblue's new "Fried Chicken & Champagne" deal happens every Wednesday. (Photo: one sixtyblue)

Who needs KFC when some fabulous top local chefs are putting their own unique spin on the classic Southern staple:

The Bristol's Chris Pandel visited Charleston, S.C., earlier this year and he couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen to hook up some of the dishes he sampled while there. Right now, he's doing a country-fried quail he's dubbed "Southern finger food." First, he marinates the bird in a molasses-maple brine before rolling it around in cornmeal and deep frying it. Then he gives the side dish of okra the same cornmeal treatment. Complemented with a house-made buttermilk ranch dressing, this down-home dish is certain to satisfy. $14.

one sixtyblue just introduced a new Wednesday night deal in the Blue Bar. Get ready for Fried Chicken & Champagne, chef Michael McDonald's mouthwatering meal that's certain to become a favorite in these parts of the Randolph Street Restaurant Row. For $8, you'll get two pieces of Amish-raised chicken that's been flavored with espresso grinds and gumbo file, then fried until golden. The bird's served with hand-sliced potato wedges, Asian pear coleslaw and buttermilk drop biscuits slathered with homemade honey butter. The bubbly, however, is extra: Dom Pérignon ($25 a glass) or Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial ($8 a glass). If you're not doing champagne, they also feature a nice selection of craft beers for $4.

And Art Smith's glamorous, celebrity haven, Table Fifty-Two, has been 312DD's favorite Sunday night delight since it opened a few years ago. That's the only night they serve ginormous portions of Art's signature buttermilk fried chicken paired with mashed roasted garlic Yukon Gold potatoes for $18. That's more than enough food, trust us, but you'll definitely want to get a side or two. We recommend the three-cheese mac; braised collard greens with smoked turkey; or hand-cut fries with Manchego cheese and smoked paprika.

Fall's Best Ball Showcases Rising Star Chefs

John des Rosiers, executive chef/owner of Inovasi in Lake Bluff, is one of many rising stars set to cook at the annual "Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball." (Photo: Inovasi)

It seems like there's some chef-focused fête going on every week, where the city's anointed culinary kings and queens gather for a good cause while doling out signature bites of sweet and savory stuff.

But the Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball, now in its 21st year, is the one that started them all. In its early days, the event was a modest Sunday brunch in a court yard, but now it's a grand affair, boasting the A-Listers (Stephanie Izard, The Drunken Goat; Jimmy Bannos, Heaven on Seven; Paul Kahan, Blackbird) as well as those on the come up (John des Rosiers, Inovasi; Michael Fiorello, Mercat a la Planxa; Nick Lacasse The Drawing Room).

What we love about this event is that it caters to both the foodie and the fashionista with two parties in one: The high rollers come early for The Chef's Table ($250), a VIP, seated dining experience that's very intimate with the chefs. Immediately following is the Chef Tasting Party ($100), a walk-around cocktail event that's high energy with apps from the star chefs, deejay, open bar, casino gaming, an interactive photo booth and live music.

The Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball occurs Oct. 16 at Macy's (111 N. State St.). The Chef's Table (which includes the Chef Tasting Party) starts at 6pm; Chef Tasting Party goes down 8pm-12:30am.

Check here for tickets and the full celebrity chef lineup.

Now there's a video too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

He did it again!


Last week, the staff at Table Fifty-Two was treated to this, and now Tuesday's column from Bill Zwecker gives us yet another gem:

"Mikhail Baryshnikov, here for his Harris Theater gigs, slipped into Hub 51 in River North for some short ribs."

Too bad he's definitely gone now!

One Tweet Tells It All . . .

Koren Grieveson, chef de cuisine at avec. (Photo: Jessica Tampas Photography)

Did avec chef Koren Grieveson just let the cat out of the bag on Twitter on when Paul Kahan's new spot is opening?!

"October 18th. james beard dinner @ the publican! avec, publican, and blackbird 5 course dinner. after party @ the new restaurant!"

UPDATE: More info from publicist: "All guests attending (James Beard) event will be offered a complimentary invitation to the chef's after party at the (former) Pontiac space, offering a preview of the bar and takeout taqueria project, slated to open the end of October. The party begins at 11:30pm."

If this thing hasn't sold out yet, it will certainly now! Get more info on event here.

Who will get the bid?!


A lot of Chicagoans are waiting anxiously for Friday's announcement on which city will get the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

It happens at noon CST, and the city's official celebratory rally's going down at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St.). If you're not feeling standing around with a bunch of random folks, here's where else you can go to watch:

Cans: Doors open at 10:30am at the rowdy Bucktown bar, where you can watch the results as well as catch the Blackhawks' season opener in Finland against the Florida Panthers. Get the famous wings, chicken sandwiches or mini burgers.

Hard Rock Cafe: Nab a seat early when the doors open at 10am, and catch all the voting rounds. Also, get $5 off any bill $25 or more when you mention "2016."

Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse: The Olympic Committee Lunch Menu includes a number of items the actual Olympic committee enjoyed during their final meal in Chicago. The $20.16, three-course deal features wedge salad, Harry’s signature bone-in chicken Vesuvio and flourless chocolate truffle cake. They're also doing a signature cocktail: The Chicago Gold (Bacardi, Grand Marnier, creme de banana, orange juice) for $10. All proceeds from that cocktail go to Chicago 2016.

Lizzie McNeill's: You'll get an "all-American" lunch special, including $1 hot dogs, burgers and beef sandwiches. Also, $2 Bud Lights.

Park 52: If you're around the Hyde Park area—a stone's throw from the site of the proposed arena—a lunch viewing party kicks off at 11am with special noshes like the Ancient Greek Games Burger, a Greek turkey burger with hand-cut fries or salad; Red White and Bleu Burger, with bacon and bleu cheese; and Windy City BBQ, a half-slab of house-smoked baby back ribs and signature Park 52 sauce.

Tavern at the Park: And they're doing a number of drink and lunch deals here as well, with a portion of the proceeds from the 2016tini cocktail benefiting Chicago 2016.

Go, Chicago!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get That Sweet Tooth Ready: Andersonville Dessert Crawl Returns


Cherry cheesecake. The flakiest baklava. And, oh yeah, chewy brownies with nuts.

That's what you have to look forward to at the annual Andersonville Dessert Crawl, where you'll get to sample sweets from more than 30 spots in the area.

What's really cool about this is event is that you can do it three ways: Go the Spice Route with deals from the likes of Big Jones, M. Henry and Charlie's Ale House. How about hitting up the Sugar Route for delish bites from George's Ice Cream and Sweets, Hamburger Mary's and La Cocina de Frida. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can buy a ticket for them both.

Each route is $25 ($30 at door); $40 for both ($55 at door).

Andersonville Dessert Crawl happens 2-5pm Oct. 11. Get tickets

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hester Scores Us Free Berry Chill Again!


The Bears just scored big against the Seattle Seahawks (25-19), so you know what that means:

Wide receiver Devin Hester loves Berry Chill, and because he scored a touchdown again, they're giving away The Hester—a 5 oz. original yogurt topped with his fave flavors: mango, pineapple and Gummi Bears (In fact, every time Hester nabs a touchdown this season, you'll get his signature Berry Chill dessert the day after).

Available at all locations Monday only.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Get Ready for Belly Shack . . .

Bill Kim in the kitchen of Urban Belly.

We've been licking our chops, waiting for Belly Shack to open for months now.

But the wait is almost over, now that the sensational Bill Kim, of Urban Belly fame, is set to debut his second installation of the offbeat noodle bar some time in October.

In the meantime, we came across this video, which offers a sneak preview of what to expect of its interior. He's contracted local purveyors of retro style, Urban Remains, which has reclaimed turn-of-the-century lighting fixtures to give it an edge.

We also came across another video that gives you an idea of the sound track you'll experience when you walk in the door. The L.A.-based Italian music composer Giorgio Piovan is in charge of setting the mood, which will vary from hip-hop beats during peak hours to something a little more chilled out and globally focused at other times.

We cannot wait to see the end result!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Bar Lands in Old Bennigan's Space on Mich Ave.

(Photo: Courtesy of Urban Daddy Chicago)

Remember that old abandoned Bennigan's space on N. Michigan Avenue?!

Looks like it found a new tenant in Sweetwater Tavern and Grille, from the guys behind airplane hangar-styled The Boundary.

Says Urban Daddy:

"This spot offers the same plethora of sports-tuned flat-screens, stacked stone walls and exposed-joist ceiling ambience. But instead of a hangar, this is more of a…let's say lounge in a private airport.

"We can already imagine a crew of flight attendants gathered around a communal table, snacking on bacon-wrapped Cajun shrimp, sipping cocktails like the South Water Blue (Stoli Blueberi, lemonade, Blue Curaçao and a splash of champagne) and giggling about their next layover."

Too much of a good thing?!

(Photo: Courtesy of Urban Daddy Chicago)

The last time I hit up neighborhood brunch/lunch joint Jam, culinary king Giuseppe Tentori (Boka) and the mad eccentric Graham Elliot Bowles (graham elliot) were in the jam-packed house.

Too bad I missed out when the Chicago Reader came through, as I would've loved to have seen the look on the reviewer's face when these dishes came out:

"Early notices touted (chef Jeffrey) Mauro's sous vide malt custard French toast and eggy plates fashionably loaded with pork cheeks and belly, which gave me the impression that this was going to be the sort of brunching meant for blanketing uneasy stomachs and pounding heads. And indeed Mauro's egg sandwich, a French roll with slabs of meaty braised pork cheek covered in a lava flow of egg yolk, has a restorative quality, marred only by a cloying sweet-and-sour peach ketchup—a rare case of sugar failing to help the medicine go down.

"Buckwheat crepes stuffed with braised lamb are plated more successfully, with perfect spheres of Asian pear, but biscuits and gravy with satisfying chunks of rough-cut cotechhino sausage are nearly undone by a gray shiitake gravy that looks far less appetizing than it actually is."

This made my day!


From Bill Zwecker in Thursday's column:

"Dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov has been all over town: signing his new book Merce My Way at the Museum of Contemporary Art, dropping by the Joffrey to watch a rehearsal of 'Othello' and reconnect with old pals Ashley Wheater and Lar Lubovitch, and then dining at Art Smith and Julie Latsko's Table Fifty-Two."

Bargains Galore at the Bar, Brunch . . .

Texas de Brazil just launched a new budget-friendly bar menu in the Beijos Lounge. (Photo: Texas de Brazil)

Just in time for your fabulous fall outings, mega churrascaria Texas de Brazil launches a new bar menu in its colorful Beijos Lounge.

Instead of doing the full-on meat madness with traditional gauchos serving tableside, you can dig into an antipasto platter (with smoked salmon, olives, hearts of palm, manchego cheese, prosciutto, grilled provolone), meat sampler (chicken breast, Brazilian sausage, garlic picanha, served with chimichuri sauce and a basket of warm cheese bread) or share the Meat Sampler for Two. Prices range $8.99-$14.99.

To celebrate the new menu, 312DD's teaming up with Texas de Brazil for the next FREEBIE FRIDAY, going down Friday, Oct. 2. One lucky person following me on Twitter will win dinner for two (that's $44.99 per person!). Tax, tip and booze are on you.

Get ready for more this weekend . . .


The Loop and Gold Coast locations for McCormick & Schmick’s now offer 10 Under $10—lunch only selections featuring local ingredients and regionally inspired dishes. You can go just about every day for the sandwiches, wraps, pastas, entrée salads and a few soup/salad and soup/sandwich combos.

We still cannot believe someone became famous for writing and singing a song called Birthday Sex, yet Grey Goose Entertainment honors local singer Jeremih as a "rising icon." It's happening at Rumba in honor of the Chicago Football Classic Game. 9pm-2am. $15 in advance.


Here's another great deal for you, o' faithful readers: Mention 312 Dining Diva tonight at Nacional 27, and you'll get a comped Bacardi Dragonfruit Mojito. Of course you'll wanna stay for Nearly Free Fridays, which includes $2.27 all-you-can-eat paella and Latin apps. 5-7pm.

Continue celebrating Oktoberfest with the Prost! on Paulina pub crawl. It kicks off at 6pm at Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar with $3 drafts of Sam Adams Octoberfest, free slices of Frasca's Sam Adams Octoberfest beer-crusted pizza (one per customer) and a German Brat Pizza (woot?!) for $10. The crawl continues on to Shire Public House, Fizz and The Pony.

Help raise money for the city's neediest inner-city Catholic schools at the third-annual Big Shoulders Fund Ball at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.). Your $85 ticket ($100 at door) includes a buffet, open bar, live music and more. The Big Shoulders Fund Auxiliary Board, made up of more than 120 young professionals, hosts the event, and you can still get tickets here. 7:30-11pm.

Former Thrillist editor Dave Andrews and Chef Stephanie Izard judging last year's Rib-A-Que Smokeout at Moonshine. (Photo: Moonshine)


Socca hosts the second-annual Rib-A-Que Smokeout at Moonshine, with more than 16 local restaurants competing to see who's on top when it comes to the finger-licking grub. Judges include Stephanie Izard (Top Chef, The Drunken Goat) and 312DD. Also, specials on cocktails and beers. Noon-6pm. $25 in advance; $35 at door.

Chicago Gourmet is finally here! The two-day event also happens Sunday, and includes tastings from a number of high-profile local chefs. Get the entire list of participants here. $150 a day.

Head to the South Halsted location for Lush's annual Oktoberfest. They'll be grilling out and sampling various beers. 5-8pm. $15.


Vital Bridges, which provides meals for more than 500,000 people living with AIDS/HIV in the Chicago area, hosts the season's first Culinary Series event. The brunch at Anteprima includes passed hors d’ oeuvres, buffet, Mimosas and Grey Goose Bloody Marys. Get the $75 tickets in advance here. Noon-2pm.

And yay! More freebies! Mention 312DD for complimentary piping hot Cheddar biscuits, plus one Bloody Mary or Mimosa during brunch for the next two weeks at Red Canary. It's brand new and includes Banana Belgium Waffles (with house-made bourbon vanilla syrup), Lemon Ricotta Crepes (with fresh strawberries and blueberry compote) and a Sausage and Basil Frittata. 10am-2pm.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lights Out for Farmerie 58


Just got a tip from Urban Daddy that Farmerie 58 is no longer.

A call to the restaurant, which had a lot of drama in 2008, confirmed that the farm-centric, River North resto served its last meal last Saturday.

The only info 312DD could get for now is that there's a sign in the window stating a new concept is coming soon from Slick Design . . .

UPDATE: Slick Design, which was also behind Fuel's concept, is working on a 15,000-square-foot, two-level, clubby restaurant in the space that is expected to open this fall.

UPDATE TWO: Dish says owner Sandy Yu, who was also behind Farmerie 58, will turn the first level into a sushi bar (wasn't it already that?!), while the second floor will be reserved for "casual izakaya, i.e., Japanese small plates."

Good Girl Gone Bubbly . . .

"The Bubbly Bar" author Maria Hunt sharing bubbles with Hall & Oates legend John Oates. (Photo: Maria Hunt)

Chicago native, Northwestern grad and all-around fabulous gal Maria Hunt knows a thing or two about sparkling wines.

So much that she compiled all her knowledge in a fun new tome, The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter/Random House; $17), that's certain to be a best seller as we enter the full-on entertaining holiday season.

In it, she's assembled more than 57 recipes that make 312DD thirsty just thinking about them. From the Classics (Champagne Cocktail, French 75, Kir Royale) to Bubbletinis to a number of muddled and mixed masterpieces, you'll find drinks for every occasion.

It's available in stores now, but we'd rather schmooze with the author when she hosts a very tony cocktail party/booksigning at the tres approps Pops for Champagne.

That's 6-8pm Thursday, Oct. 1. The $25 admission fee gets you a signed copy of the book, appetizers, and of course (!!!!!) bubbly!

RSVP to to reserve your space.

Using Rick's Name in Vain?!

(Photo: Rick Bayless)

Some allegedly disgruntled former employees of Goldberg General Contracting got out of pocket Wednesday morning when they decided to protest in front of Rick Bayless's brand-new XOCO restaurant, on the corner of Clark and Illinois streets.

Brandishing signs emblazoned with Rick "Payless" Bayless at the top, the workers strategically placed their grievances against the contracting company—which was hired to build out XOCO—at the bottom.

Was this a ploy to get attention from the media?!

Yes, said XOCO spokesperson Jennifer Fite, who also reps Bayless's award-winning restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.

"This protest was not against Rick at all," she said. "They're protesting against Goldberg General Contracting, but they're just using Rick's name to draw attention to their cause. None of these people are employees of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo or XOCO."

UPDATE: 312DD had Jeff Berry, project manager of Goldberg General Contracting, take a look at the new photo posted on GrubStreet, and he had only one comment to say: "Those guys have never worked for us. I have no idea who they are."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Would You Spend $120 on an entree?!

Sprout's Satko Ibrahimovic (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

That's what Sprout executive chef/owner Satko Ibrahimovic's counting on when he opens his super high-end, all-organic resto on Oct. 3.

Blogs The Stew:

"Even in this shaky economy, the Bosnian war refugee is betting that Chicago will support a 100 percent organic, super high-end restaurant with an all-organic wine list. And he says he's willing to source every ingredient while maintaining a 20-entree, intensely complicated menu, 'with six seasonal specials a night.'"

When asked if he thought this venture was "a little ambitious," he gave an affirmative yes, adding, "'All of this food will be good for your health. No chemicals. And you would pay $300 or $400 for dinner at Alinea...Try cooking this with all organic ingredients at home. It would cost you twice as much.'"

Mmmmmm, gimme a slice!


Here's a sure sign fall is here:

The annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest is back!

That means all you amateur pastry chefs need to dust off those old recipes handed down to you by your mom or granny. It's $15 to enter the contest, and local restaurateurs/chefs like Michael Taus (Duchamp, Zealous) will be on the judging panel.

The event happens 2-5pm Oct. 18 at Holstein Park (2200 N. Oakley), with all proceeds from the contest benefiting the Friends of Holstein Park.

You'll also be entertained by bluegrass favorite Tangleweed, plus you'll get to sample each pie for only a few bucks.

It's her day!


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 tonight at the Union League Club of Chicago (65 W. Jackson Blvd.).

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.

Mayor Daley has also proclaimed today Carrie Nahabedian Day in Chicago.

The event kicks off at 5:30 tonight, and the $175 ticket benefits the Chicago Culinary Museum.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mad about Mad Men . . .

The main cast of "Mad Men." (Photo: AMC)

312DD's still on Cloud 9 after Mad Men won an Emmy for "Best Dramatic Show" for the second year in a row.

And while we couldn't find any viewing parties around town for the hit 1960s-themed show (WTF is up with that?!), we did scout out some cool spots where you can get a taste of the best of the era:

A bartender at hipster Ukrainian Village hang Bar DeVille once told me he "couldn't do anything interesting with vodka." Vodka's loss is your gain when it comes to the more interesting grains of gin, whiskey and scotch. Head to the rear speakeasy section—which is decked out massively in postmodern decor—and indulge in a Manhattan or two. There's a deejay spinning classics, but not so retro that you'll bust out in the Charleston ala Pete Campbell.

Roger Laguardia didn't open his eponymous Cuban eatery until the early 1970s, one year after he came to the United States from Cuba. But it was named in honor of Los Cubanitos ("the little Cubans"), his favorite restaurant that was founded in 1950 back in Havana. Traditional Cuban sandwiches, paella and tamales are all made to order, plus the setting is discreet enough for a secret rendezvous.

Cheese fondue was all the rage back in the early 1960s and still is at Lincoln Park's romantic Geja's Cafe. For more than 44 years, it's been known for flamenco performances, dining by candlelight and dunking meats, breads and fruit in delicious melted cheese and chocolates. Now, can't you just imagine Don Draper taking Betty here to make her forget about his latest shenanigan?!

312DD getting a drink with Don Draper. (Photo: AMC)

Speaking of randy ad men, can't you just picture the boys of Sterling Cooper wooing clients over Dover sole and Caesar salad served tableside at Nick's Fishmarket?! And let's not forget the number of Side Cars and gin martinis guaranteed to go down.

The contemporary setting of new Renaissance Hotel lounge Bar Novo is ideal for an executive on the come-up like the bright-eyed Peggy Olsen. New twists on classic cocktails such as the Cucumber Pepper Margarita, Botanical Mule and Basil Tangerine Gimlet will certainly hit the spot and give you the courage to go in and demand a raise.

And when the family's away you're kicked out of the house (Harry Crane, Don Draper!), there's no place like home like Silver Cloud, in Bucktown. The specialists in comfort fare whip up favorites like chicken pot pie, meatloaf, beef Stroganoff and pot roast to make you forget all your troubles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Honky Tonk theme for new Paul Kahan project

Paul Kahan (Photo: Battman Studios)

312DD got the scoop earlier this summer on the new taco-focused spot going into the old Pontiac Cafe.

And now, Something Glorious just gathered even more scoop on the upcoming Paul Kahan-led project:

"Something Glorious just discovered that this new space, which is on target to open in late October barring any issues, will primarily be a bar with a walk-up taqueria (no exterior door, just a window) and will feature about 10 items on the menu, according to Executive Chef Paul Kahan.

"Kahan, who embarks on a SoCal 'research and development' trip this week, said that he was inspired when he 'ate something and loved it.' The food will focus on al pastor tacos, much in the vein of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Super Rica Taqueria, of which Kahan is a big fan and says has the best tacos he's ever eaten.

"While Kahan will pull inspiration from his time working alongside Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill, he wants to experiment with 'fun food that tastes good,' like eventually having fried chicken and mole—which is something I can definitely get down with."

The Best of the West Hits Town

Deejay/producer Miguel Migs stops through Griffin Lounge for his "Get Salted Tour" Thursday.

He's known for his brooding good looks and ethereal signature sound that works best when laid down over aggressive house music. So it wasn't a surprise when San Fran native Miguel Migs became the poster boy for the Naked Music label at its height of popularity in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

You've likely heard one of Migs' deep soul-influenced remixes thumping in the club, from Britney Spears, Macy Gray and Lionel Richie, produced under Naked Music as well as his current venture, Salted Music.

You'll get a chance to see what all the fuss is about when Migs headlines the Get Salted Tour at Griffin Lounge 9pm-2am Thursday. Just Joey, John Curley and Funky Couture also spin. $5 until midnight; $10 after.

And the beat goes on . . . all weekend long:


Summer's not over, damnit! So get out your frilliest frocks and slickest slacks for the first-ever Common Threads World Cookout at Fulton's On The River. The event raises money for after-school cooking programs for disadvantaged children, and will include a walk-around tasting from chefs Stephanie Izard (Top Chef Season 4; The Drunken Goat), Paul Virant (Vie), Bill Kim (Urban Belly), Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Rodelio Abilgot (Sunda), Radhika Desai (Top Chef Season 5), Gale Gand (TRU), James Gottwald Rockit Bar & Grill, Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Toni Roberts (C-House), Jonathan Fox (La Madia), Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Dominique Tougne (Bistro 110), Greg Biggers (Fulton’s on the River), Sarah Grueneberg (Cafe Spiaggia), Robert Andrea (Jake Melnick’s), Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse), and Suzanne Imaz and Martial Noguier (Café de Architectes). Oh yeah, there's an open bar. 6:30-9:30pm. $75.

The Art of Martini sounds like a fun, interactive party that should get people talking to one another again. Guests will learn how to make five signature martinis as they socialize. It's also a fundraiser for one guy's entrance into the Chicago Marathon, so that's all good too. 6-9pm at Three Peas Art Lounge. $35.

Bar Novo—a slick lounge with an "interactive chef’s station"—quietly opens today at the Renaissance Hotel. We're looking forward to the hand-crafted cocktails, signature local beers and extensive wine list.

Indulge in an evening of "Greek Chic" at A Night in the Kouzina, happening at River East Art Center. The chef-driven event includes tastings from George Bumbaris (Prairie Grass Cafe), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), David Schneider (Taxim) and Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven). Benefits the National Hellenic Museum. 6-9pm. $85.

House-made push-ups created by Sofitel Executive Pastry Chef Suzanne Imaz will be one of the treats at the "Common Threads World Cookout." (Photo: Sofitel Chicago)


The 24th annual Berghoff Oktoberfest culminates with a performance by Modern Day Romeos. The event occurs at Federal Plaza at Dearborn and Adams, which is right down the street from Berghoff itself. 5-9pm. Free.


Yet another Chicago Gourmet Dine Around participant is Japonais, which is offering an awesome prix-fixe, three-course menu that comes with one glass of wine. $50. After your meal, head down to the sexy lower-level lounge where a deejay spins eclectic beats until 1:30am.


Gemini Bistro starts brunch service today, and we cannot wait to get our hands on the Stuffed Vanilla Brioche French Toast (drizzled with mascarpone cheese and sweet cherry jam), Cap Cod Lobster Roll, and Brunch Punch, with fresh orange, fresh pineapple, grenadine and a dark rum floater.

Samba Hour happens 4-7pm every Sunday through Thursday at Sushi Samba rio. You'll get small tasty $2, $3 and $4 bites like soy glazed edamame, spicy crunchy tuna roll, Japanese chicken wings and crispy yellowtail taquitos.


And get ready for the first-ever Flat Top Grill to serve breakfast. Located in the downtown Sullivan Center, it'll feature the same concept of filling a bowl with ingredients that the grill cooks prepare. Omelettes, egg scrambles, pancakes and French toast are offered as a base for the main breakfast dish, with fresh food line offerings fruit, chocolate chips, and an assortment of vegetables, cheeses and meats.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The O effect on Local Dining


We all know Oprah's got the golden touch when it comes to making other people big $$$.

Just look at the countless authors, talk show hosts and musicians who've benefited from an endorsement from the Big O.

The same goes for restaurateurs/chefs, such as the Mag Mile's RL, whose GM Rich Varnes tells Crain's Chicago Business the resto sees more business when she's in town taping.

For example, this week alone, RL had the pleasure of serving Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson not once, but twice. And Chris Rock, also in town to tape her show, hit up MK for dinner.

Oprah's also been instrumental, of course, in putting Art Smith of Table Fifty-Two fame on top when it comes to high-profile celebrity dining. A-Listers like Sarah Jessica Parker, Padma Lakshmi and of course President Obama and The First Lady have all been here.

Who'll be next to get the "O" treatment?! Chefs all over town had better start sending food by the truckload to the Harpo production staff stat!

Everyone Loves Chris!


Wonder what famed comic Chris Rock did to get major props from San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, who bought his dinner at MK when he stopped in on Tuesday.

Executive Chef Erick Williams said Rock, who was in town for an Oprah taping to promote his new Good Hair documentary, dined on a number of seasonal dishes, including an eggless Caesar salad; petite market salad of Hillside Orchard peaches, Black Mission figs and toasted sunflower seeds; Block Island swordfish; and grilled halibut steak with summer corn and squash.

Sounds like one helluva meal, so it must be an interesting story behind why Popovich—who was just randomly hanging out at the bar—ponied up the $$$ for Rock's entire meal.

After dinner, Rock and entourage took the party over to The Pen, where they hung out for late-night cocktails and more. Patrons and staffs at both spots had nothing but good things to say about the comedian . . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How sweet this is . . .


Through Oct. 15, Heavenly Gelato & Ice Cream in Logan Square celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with the Olympic Special—a glorious five-scoop delight of gourmet gelatos and sorbet.

Each scoop reps one Olympic ring (mixed berry, Mexican Chipotle chocolate, mango, pistachio, raspberry), and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Olympic training and travel fund of Heavenly’s owner, Larry Langowski Mendoza, a 2008 Mexican Olympian and 2012 hopeful. You'll get those five scoops for $6.75.

Also going down today (and every second Tuesday of the month thereafter), MK hosts a beer-focused event, featuring a microbrew paired with four small plates. Tonight, you'll get suds from hometown brewery Goose Island paired with their twist on frog legs and seared pork belly. 6-9pm. $25 (lounge only).

Bristol's Chris Pandel is one of three chefs serving up melon-infused goodies at Green City Market Wednesday. (Photo: The Bristol)

If you're feeling more of a wine night this evening, head to Juicy Wine Co. for a tasting featuring eight Napa Valley winemakers. Ten bucks gets you the tasting, plus small bites. 6-8pm.

If you're really hungry, make a move to Follia for contempo Italian cuisine. Each Tuesday and Wednesday, this hip West Loop eatery offers a $28 four-course, prix-fixe menu with a choice of appetizer, soup or salad, pasta, entree and dessert.

And Wednesday's Green City Market is all about Melon Fest! Tell the office you'll be late because you don't want to miss signature tastings by chefs Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge) and Chris Pandel (The Bristol). You'll also indulge in drinks from mixologists Adam Seger (Nacional 27), Alison Fisher (312 Chicago) and Josh Pearson (Sepia). Starts at 9am. Free.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dine Around deals you don't want to miss

Lockwood Executive Chef Phillip Foss (Photo: Lockwood)

The second-annual Chicago Gourmet is just around the corner, but your $$$ are a little short for the full-price ticket of $150 per day.

This year, the event's producers are giving us somewhat of a break with the chance to get a free one-day pass by participating in the Dine Around program.

All you have to do to gain access is to dine in at least five of the more than 30 restaurants participating in the program through Sept. 27 (Chicago Gourmet happens Sept. 26-27).

Yeah, we know, that sounds pretty daunting, but 312DD's picked out the Top 5 best deals so you know where to go:

Chef Kevin Hickey's menu at Seasons Restaurant at the Four Seasons is likely the best deal of the bunch, a four-course, prix-fixe feast that comes with wine pairings if you desire. The menu's seasonal and priced at $50 ($65 with the wine pairings).

If you're looking for a seafood-only menu, they've got you covered over at Hugo's Frog Bar. Three courses at $29.50 is also a helluva deal, plus you get your choice of New England clam chowder, spicy basil-crusted Norwegian salmon, sauteed frog legs and jumbo lump crab cakes.

At the Palmer House's glam Lockwood, chef Phillip Foss holds it down with stylish, seasonal fare. His special Dine Around menu includes local produce in the Kendall Farm's crème fraîche mushroom soup, Blue Hill Bay mussels, free-range chicken with summer veggies, and the spaghetti with eggplant "bolognese." Menu's $38.

West Town neighborhood gem Mexique gets props for its casual, yet upscale fare, including braised short ribs (with hibiscus flower glaze) and truffle pomme frites and a pan-seared Alaskan halibut with black bean puree gordita. If you think that's great, they top it off with a moist tres leches chocolate cake. It's $50, and also includes a glass of white or red wine.

And wow. For $50, you'll get four seasonal courses at TRU, including a selection from the signature Chef's Collection, house aperitif and dessert.

Devin Hester Scores Us Free Berry Chill!


We're still a little salty at new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for losing last night's big game against the Packers (and now word comes down that Brian Urlacher is out for the season!), but this should make the pain go away:

Bears wide receiver Devin Hester loves Berry Chill, and because he scored a touchdown last night, they're giving away The Hester—a 5 oz. original yogurt topped with his mango, pineapple and Gummi Bears.

Available at all locations today only.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

High Fashion that's Edible!

Local milliner-extraordinaire Eia Radosavljevic created edible headpieces—made from veggies and snacks!—which will be unveiled during Clandestine's monthly dinner party Friday. (Photo: Anke Loh)

It may be Fashion Week in the NYC, but here in the 312 773 it's all about the first-ever Feast and Fashion fete.

That's the deal, and thrill, for the monthly Clandestine affair, you know, those secret underground dinner parties where guests don't find out the location until the day before the event.

What we can tell you is that it's taking place in a Lincoln Park supermarket, where local designer Anke Loh should intrigue diners with her clothing paired with offbeat headpieces by milliner-extraordinaire Eia Radosavljevic that are made from veggies and snacks. Models will strut their stuff down the supermarket aisles and food-ish jewelry will adorn guests who want them.

Since it's going down in a supermarket, diners will get their grub at four different kiosks, including an heirloom tomato salad in the produce department; wild salmon tartare at the fish counter; mixed grill of local quail and artisanal sausage at the deli; and a sampling of Clandestine's award-winning, house-made frozen custards in the freezer aisle.

Additional entertainment includes DJ Moppy spinning and Yuri Lane "beatboxing" on a harmonica.

8-11pm Sept. 11. $50; BYOB (get booze on premises) and get your ticket here.


Get an early start on your Oktoberfest reveling with Clybar's new German-style Das Boot that's meant for drinking 72 ounces of suds. For $36, you'll get to fill it up with one of the seasonal beers or your fave, but it's only available daily by reservation.

In the market for new wheels?! Kia rolls into fat event space En-vent (344 N. Odgen Ave.) through Sunday for the Soul Collective party. RSVP here for tonight's event, which includes free booze, test drives and music by Moneypenny and Neon Indian. Through Sunday, the all-day parties include performances by Plain White T's, Times New Viking and The Walkmen. Follow on Twitter here to find out how to get in. Free.

These boots were meant for . . . drinking out of. (Photo: Clybar)


Raise your hand if you love freebies. The new dealio over at Nacional 27 isn't exactly free, but how can you be disappointed when they're doling out paella and tapas for $2.27?! The after-work gig happens in the lounge, where you can chow down on as much as you like from 5-7pm Fridays. And if you're not too full, hang around for Miami Nights, the sizzling South Beach party with DJ Cairo. 9:30pm-2am. No cover.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC, and Le Passage's throwing a fundraiser with proceeds going to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. One person will win a trip to New York! 10pm-4am. $10 donation.


It's the last day of National Waffle Week, so don't miss out. We suggest heading over to The Pony for their signature Saturday brunch dish: Southern fried chicken and home-style waffles, with strawberry whipped butter and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. $7.

Get an early start on celebrating Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16) with Salud's sixth-annual Tequila Festival. In addition to giveaways, they're doing $4 Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo drafts, plus you'll get to dance to a 10-piece salsa band. 8pm-3am. No cover.

Old Town Wine Crush happens Saturday and Sunday, with a Grape Stomping Competition as well as live music by Gin Blossoms, 16 Candles and soul-infused local band Jambon. $30 ($45 for premium tastings).


You can go loco over the new brunch menu at Angels & Mariachis, approps named Sombrero Sundays. Come in wearing a big-ass sombrero (you can also buy one at the bar for $20) for 50 percent off your beverage tab. Also, with a purchase of an entree, you'll get a bottomless Mimosa for $20 (Does that mean it's only ten bones with a sombrero?!). Signature dishes include the Chilaquiles (crispy corn tortillas topped with cheese, onions, sour cream and two eggs) and Huevos rancheros (tortillas with two scrambled eggs, ham, tomatoes, cheese and house-made red ranchero salsa). 11am-3pm.


And River North mainstay Zocalo celebrates its third-year anniversary and Mexican Independence Day through Sept. 17. For $30 per couple, you'll get three courses, including guacamole and chips, grilled flank steak in a pasilla broth, and a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with ground pork and beef.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

¡Qué Viva La Fiesta!


Mexican Independence Day goes down on Sept. 16, and of course Chicago's getting in on the action.

Look for the biggest celebration to happen in Pilsen as more than 25 eateries whip up their best signature bites for the second-annual Buen Provecho!

Guests will get to nosh on food from traditional Mexican spots Mundial Cocina Mestiza and Ristorante al Teatro as well as the American-fare focused Honky Tonk BBQ and Nightwood (peep the entire list of participants and get tickets here).

Buen Provecho! takes place 5:30-9:30pm Sept. 16. $25 in advance; $30 at door.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Your guide to new Bayless joint


Rick Bayless' long-awaited Xoco is finally here.

Before you head over, The Stew gives the 411 on everything you need to know:

"The menu breaks down by wood oven toasted sandwiches, panini grilled sandwiches, soups and salads. Fillings include many versions of pig — La Quercia prosciutto, braised cochinita pibil and carnitas — Gunthorp chicken, mushrooms, chorizo and more. Wood fired sandwiches come on crusty Labriola rolls with various condiments including many types of onion — pink pickled, white pickled, grilled knob onions, caramelized onions and raw.

"We’re sure they won’t mind when we say that, having eaten the churros at El Moro and Xoco recently, Bayless’ are better. They’ll be served all day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (the restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday). The breakfast menu is different, with cocoa and Intelligentsia coffees and something Bayless chef calls the 'open faced breakfast torta.' It will feature a hollowed-out crusty roll filled with beans, a poached egg, chopped Serrano peppers and queso fresco."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: 'Glambert' goes ga-ga over Sushi Samba!


Guess who showed his pretty lil' head over at Sushi Samba rio late Thursday night?!

Fabulous American Idol songbird Adam Lambert, in town for the American Idol 2009 Summer Tour at Allstate Arena, dropped by the restaurant with his parents and cousin.

Sushi Samba Chef de Cuisine Dan Tucker says the group noshed on a wide range of items from his Asian-South American fused menu, including the Rainbow Dragon Roll, Samba Rio Roll, Chilean sea bass antichuchos and Kobe beef empanadas (there was a lot more!).

The restaurant's other guests—who admired the star from afar—said "he looked extremely stylish and laughed a lot" with his dining companions. And because he stuck around for at least a few hours, said sources, it's safe to say he had a good time!

We Wanna Get High Like Peggy Olsen

Vertigo Sky Lounge's lush outdoor area is ideal for soaking up the scene this holiday weekend. (Photo: Susan Kezon)

Props to you if you recognize the Mad Men reference, but if you don't, we won't hold it against you.

For the record, our kind of high is the new Mile High Club, taking place at the Affinia Hotel's C-View, Twisted Spoke and dana hotel's Vertigo Sky Lounge.

SVEDKA Vodka's collaborated with each fabulous venue to spotlight signature sippers in September. At C-View, they're doing the Future Ex, made with SVEDKA 80 proof vodka, fresh lemon juice, house-made raspberry and thyme syrup, and garnished with a fresh raspberry.

Over at West Town's neighborhood gem Twisted Spoke, you can belly up to the bar for the CLEM_BOT (SVEDKA Clementine, pear liquor, peach puree, curry powder and orange juice with a splash of soda and garnished with a Clementine orange). And Vertigo's Mile High Club creation is the iVERTIGO—with SVEDKA Clementine, elderflower liquor and fresh muddled cucumbers.

We cannot promise you'll get the munchies after drinking 'em, but you'll certainly feel good.

Another summer bites the dust, but not before we party all weekend long!


For those of you backing the bid for Chicago to nab the 2016 Olympics, make your voice count at the local hospitality industry's rally at the downtown Hyatt (151 E. Wacker Dr.). Led by Concierge Preferred, expect more than 500 supporters to show up, including Billy Dec of Rockit fame, Tim O’Malley (Concierge Preferred), Lisa Bertomeu (Hilton Hotels) and Lori Healey of Chicago 2016. Starts at 4pm.

Tonight's the final night of the Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video, so if you kept your ticket stub for any of the movies, you'll get free entry to the closing party at Coup d'Etat. Party with local filmmakers, producers and actors until 2am. Tone B. Nimble spins. Party starts at 9pm.


Indulge in unique frozen treats at the Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival, happening at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.). A number of local micro-creameries (Homer's Ice Cream, Black Dog Gelato, Castle Rock Creamery), pastry chefs and artisans will be on hand. For $25, you'll also be treated to a grand tasting of rare ice creams, experience live demos and workshops, and participate in the Great Chicago Brain Freeze—a chef competition where guests get the chance to vote for the winners and taste the results. 6-9pm.

New Sushi Samba rio chef Dan Tucker (formerly of Alinea) fetes Brazilian Independence Day (Sept. 7) with a menu featuring his twist on traditional dishes, including Braised Pork Belly a la pancha (Feijoada broth, malagueta oil & collard green puree), Casquinha se Siri (stuffed blue crab, palmito & acai vinaigrette) and the Amazon Roll (alligator tempura, smoked soy, chiles & bacon farofa). Menu available through Sept. 7.


A little freebie goes a long way, especially when we're talking cheese. Didja know America's Finest Artisan Cheeses doles out samples every Saturday?! They're amping it up for Labor Day weekend with an all-out cookout that'll include Allen Bros. steaks, ribs, burgers and of course all the high-end cheese you can stuff in your mouth. 9am-3pm. Free.

Bash on Wabash is back for a sixth year, happening in the South Loop between 13th and 14th streets on Wabash Avenue. Expect the usual street fest antics, including food vendors, arts and crafts, and live music. 11am-10pm Saturday and Sunday. $5 donation benefits the Greater South Loop Association.


Since it's a holiday weekend, branch out a little and head somewhere you typically wouldn't. We love the idea of brunching at Pilsen's Nightwood for the sweet corn and duck confit crepes; oatmeal griddle cakes; or their twist on fried chicken and waffles (with stone fruit compote, poached eggs and whipped cream).

The idea behind this Labor Day Backyard BBQ cracks us up: It's BYOM (bring your own meat!). Hosted by The Silver Room, the daylong event happens in the store and on the back patio with deejays Shon Dervis, Alton Miller and others providing the soundtrack. There's also a bar to purchase booze and grills for your meat. 11am-8pm. Free.

The White Party happens at Clybar, with a special buffet, open bar and DJ Storm spinning the hits. $20. 7-10pm.

Put on your Sunday best for the White Shoes Party at HUB 51, which should be an interesting scene if everyone follows suit. DJ Konsept spins; drink specials include the HUB Punch, which is soooo red that it'll ruin those spanking white shoes if spilled. 9pm-2am. No cover.


And if you don't plan on laying around all day basking in the "last" day of summer, make a reservation now for Cuatro's first-ever Labor Day Boat Party. They've secured an impressive list of deejays (Vick Lavender, 33 1/3), plus a special performance by MAAD SOUL. Your ticket also includes a premium open bar and lavish buffet of empanadas, chimichurri marinated NY strip skewers and more. Boat departs from North Pier (455 E. Illinois St.) at 6:15 sharp. $65 in advance; $75 at door. Get tickets here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mad over local Mustard (Girl)

"Mustard Girl Does Dubai" (Photo: Marisa Bryce)

Who would've thought one person could hit the big time with a little condiment?!

Launched from one woman's college obsession, the distinct, tangy sweet Mustard Girl can be found at Lettuce Entertain You restaurants Hub 51 and foodlife, as well as luxbar.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Mustard Girl founder Jennifer Conner talks about how she "tweaked" an original mustard recipe to make her products all natural, gluten free, low sodium and low calorie.

The next time you're out and about, request it and see what happens. Your hot dog, burger or pumpkin pie (Connor's deal, not ours!) will never be the same again!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Old Town's Wine Crush is back!


At the top of our list of favorite things: lazy weekends, outdoor festivals and all things wine.

That's why we're especially excited about the annual Wine Crush, happening Sept. 12-13 in Old Town.

For $30 ($45 for premium tastings), guests can sample up to 50 wines, plus a number of artisan cheeses.

We're also looking forward to chef demos by Christian Phernotten (Old Town Brasserie), Othon Angel (Adobo Grill) and Dino Lubbat (Dinotto Ristorante).

A hilarious highlight of Wine Crush is the Grape Stomping Competition, as teams of two dance around in mounds of the divine grape to win a bottle of vino from one of the participating wineries.

And, of course, being a street festival, live music is always a big attraction. This year's entertainment includes Gin Blossoms, 16 Candles and the soul-infused local band Jambon.

A portion of the proceeds benefit the Old Town Merchants & Residents Association and Chicago 2016.

Pizza, pizza now thin, thin . . .


Is Chicago's famed deep-dish pizza passé?!

More thin-crust pizza joints are springing up around town, joining stalwarts like Spacca Napoli and Piece, according to MSNBC:

"As with many higher-end restaurants, the thin-crust pizzerias make a point of using (and telling you that they use) fresh, local, even artisanal ingredients. Spacca Napoli, for example, has its mozzarella delivered weekly from Italy. Great Lake makes its own.

"It also seems the thin-crust pizzas offer something that has long been associated with some of the city's finest restaurants and famed chefs such as Charlie Trotter, Jean Joho and Grant Achatz, but not pizzerias: the artistry of the chef, er, pizza maker."