Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Next Iron Chef?!

Jose Garces of Mercat a la Planxa (Photo: Mercat a la Planxa)

We've got our fingers crossed tightly for Philly-based chef Jose Garces—who's also behind the Blackstone Hotel's hot Spanish property Mercat a la Planxa—to pull a victory over New York pastry chef Jehangir Mehta to become the Next Iron Chef.

The finals go down 9pm Sunday on Food Network, and you bet we'll be watching (even though the Bears will take down play the Philly Eagles at the same time).

312DD had the chance to hang out with Garces at Mercat a la Planxa earlier this week during the first-ever Olive Oil from Spain tasting where he created six dishes (and a cocktail!) with three unique varietals.

As the master of Latin cuisine, it's no surprise that Garces uses his Chicago trips to check out the competition around town. He usually makes his way to family-owned restaurants in Pilsen, but on this trip, he checked out Paul Kahan's much talked about Big Star in Wicker Park.

No word yet on how they measured up . . .

Bright Lights, Tasty Bites at Mag Mile Fest


For Chicago, the official start of the holiday shopping season happens once the first float makes its way down the street for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

With weather sunny and in the mid-50s on Saturday, those checking out the festivities will catch a lucky break. Get excited also about the newest component of the festival, the culinary pavilion featuring some of the area's most popular restaurants. From 11am to 4pm on the hour, five executive chefs will demo signature bites, and the first 100 guests will get a sample.

Indulge in dishes from Cliff Ostrowski (China Grill), who's set to prepare tempura sashimi with hot mustard champagne sauce at 11am. Tavern on Rush chef John Gatsos makes a classic Day After Thanksgiving sandwich at noon. At 1pm, you'll find The Saloon Steakhouse's James Day getting the crowd all worked up over his veal Involtini with chestnut and Applewood bacon stuffing and cranberry demi glace. Scott Walton of Markethouse whips up butterscotch bread pudding at 2pm. And the Signature Room's Patrick Sheerin will make roasted squash soup at 3pm.

The culinary festival goes down at the foot of the Hancock Building on Delaware Street. It's also free!

'Tis the season to get out and about all weekend long . . .


Bistro 110 celebrates the release of the new Beaujolais with an after-work tasting event. You'll get to sample six wines paired with Charcuterie, cheese and additional light bites. 6-8:30pm. $25.

The Last Call For Fall event benefits the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Young professionals will be mingling, drinking and eating for a good cause at District Bar. Get tix here. 6:30-9:30pm. $35 in advance; $40 at door.

November is Movember, which raises money for men's health awareness, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. You'll get to bid on hot bachelorettes and bachelors tonight at Basil Leaf Café, plus there's a raffle. Event includes appetizers and a cash bar. 8pm-2am. $20.

If you're looking to get into something completely different tonight, head to The Silver Room for a unique spoken-word set. Twenty random people will be selected to tell their stories. 8-10pm. $5 donation.

This is just way too much machismo in one night. Brew & View's doing a triple threat movie-a-thon: The Hangover, Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. You'll also get $3 drafts of MGD, High Life and Miller Lite. Starts at 6:30pm. $5.

Juicy Wine Co. owner Rodney Alex (at top) hosts "The Breakfast Club" every Saturday.(Photo: Rodney Alex)


Through Sunday, mention Week To Give Back at The Drawing Room for special deals. Ten bucks from your meal will be donated to the LUNGevity Foundation, plus you'll also receive a special dessert flight for the table. Now, that's sweet!


If you've got a big group and you're hungry after the Lights Fest, head over to Osteria Via Stato for a special family-style meal. For $38.95 per person ($19 for kids), get appetizers, two pasta dishes, a main course and side dishes. The Italian Dinner Party antipasti is $19.95 per person ($10 for kids), and add a pasta dish to your Italian Dinner Party antipasti for $24.95 per person ($12 children).

Juicy Wine Co. continues its weekly Breakfast Club with DJ LA*Jesus spinning classic 1980s hits. They're also hooking up late-night munchies like the Dirty Bird Bubble Bath brunch combo of fried chicken and waffles paired with champagne; and Swan Creek soft scrambled eggs with shaved summer truffles paired with Benton's smoked country bacon. OMG, soooo yummy! 11pm-2am. No cover.


New Lincoln Square eatery LM Le Restaurant puts the smack down with a French-focused brunch of a la carte items like banana- and pecan-topped buttermilk pancakes; the signature LM omelet with Camembert cheese, caramelized shallots and spinach; and brioche French toast with roasted pears and crème chantilly. Each guest also gets a complimentary croissant. 9am-2pm Saturday and Sunday.

And if you love chili, you don't want to miss Moonshine's first-ever Warm Up & Bear Down Chili Cook-Off. Sixteen contestants, both pro and amateurs, will compete for a grand prize of $1,000 in cold hard cash. Confirmed participants include Moonshine, Luxbar, Socca, Division Street Ale House and Timothy O’Tooles. The Bears will be playing the Philly Eagles, so expect the parking lot to be transformed into one big tailgating event. It's $10 or donate a winter coat for 1st Ward Ald. Manny Flores's annual Coats for Needy Families Drive. 3-7pm.