Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So New. . . So Fresh . . . And They're Next!

Cristina DeLucca of The Drawing Room (Photo: Audarshia Townsend)

Something to look forward to in '11:

Three new hot cocktail recipes from some of the city's up-and-coming bar stars . . .

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Chef Out At L2O; Bite's Renovation

L2O's main dining room. (Photo: L2O)

You know I couldn't leave 2010 without a big bang for you, right?!

L20 has been working hard to get its groove back since chef Laurent Gras left in early November.

His replacement, Francis Brennan (who opened the restaurant as sous chef, left, then came back in October), is hoping to take the seafood-focused spot to the next level. But it looks like Brennan will have a few challenges as his right-hand guy, Nathan Huntington, resigned this week, according to an Ultimate Insider.

His only message in a text message: "I am no longer with L2O."

This Is The Face of a Cyber Content Stealer

Rod Kelly of (Photo:

Ever hear of slut shaming?!

Well, I've just created a new term: Cyber Content Stealing Shaming.

That's what we're now going to refer to those who recklessly gank hard-working journalists' work and attempt to pass it off as their own content on their faux blogs.

Don't Let Holiday Hangover Knock You Out


That's right, take on the day after New Year's Eve like the strong woman (or man) that you are and keep the party going. It's Saturday night, for crying out loud.

Because it's New Year's Day, most places will be closed, but I've rounded up some gems so you can celebrate in style.

Kitsch'n on Roscoe, for instance, opens at 10am for its annual New Year's Day Hangover Brunch. The best part of the deal is that you can show up in your jammies, so there's no excuse why you shouldn't go.

If the Bayou Crab Cake Benedict, fried chicken & waffles and signature Eggs in the Basket don't get you back to normal, the deluxe Mimosas and Chipotle Bloody Marys certainly will. It's available until 4pm.

There's even more on tap for the first day of the year:

Monday, December 27, 2010

They Rocked 2010!

Head Bartender Mike Ryan of Kimpton's Sable Kitchen & Bar. (Photo: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants)

Find out which restaurants and cocktail bars came out on top this year and what's in store for 2011 in the Huffington Post's "Best Of" roundup . . .

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rating The New Year's Eve Guides . . .


If you're like me, you're so overwhelmed with all the New Year's Eve offerings that you're tempted to curl up with a good bottle of bubbly and do the countdown with Dick Clark (and Ryan Seacrest . . .boooo).

But before we throw in the towel, let's rifle through what everyone is recommending. It's such a night with so much pressure and expectations and $$$ that you want to make sure you get it right.

Therefore we decided to break down some of the best—and worst—guides, rating them so that you can make the best decision:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Glad To Hear She's STILL Eating!

(Photo: via Zimbio)

Jennifer Hudson's as thin as a pin these days, but it's good to hear that she's still enjoying herself when dining out.

The songstress and movie star checked out David Burke's Primehouse Tuesday, and here's how she and husband, David Otunga, got down, according to my source:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dashing To The Dives . . .


Saturday's Christmas, and by the end of the night you're going to need to get away from the folks.

Here's your easy escape plan, a list of several bars open on Christmas night.

Happy Eggnogging!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bite Cafe Closes For Renovation


Longman & Eagle was an instant success when it opened earlier this year, so naturally folks are looking to see what the owners will do next.

The next big thing will come almost one year to the date when partner Bruce Finkelman shutters Ukrainian Village's Bite Cafe for a few weeks in January for a quickie renovation.

Friday, December 17, 2010

MeatyBalls Delivered to 312DD!

Chef Phillip Foss and his Meatyballs Mobile truck. (Photo: The Pickled Tongue)

It was a really good thing that we were paying attention to Twitter Thursday morning.

That's when Phillip Foss of the Meatyballs Mobile tweeted that he'd make special stops along his regular route to deliver his signature meatball sandwiches.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Whether You're Good or You're Bad . . .

Chandra Lee Schwartz (left) and Jackie Burns, Glinda and Elphaba respectively, perform in "Wicked." (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Stars of the hit musical Wicked square off against one another to see who can make magic in the kitchen.

That'll happen 6-9pm Sunday at Kenmore Live Studio when Chandra Lee Schwartz and Jackie Burns (who portray "Glinda" and "Elphaba" respectively) whip up some healthy treats with ingredients provided by Whole Food Markets.

It's a Wrap For Glazed Donuts

Maple Bacon-infused donuts from Glazed. Now I need a donut fix! (Photo: Glazed Donuts Catering)

Glazed owners Kristen Anderson and Betsy Yagunic are finally calling it quits, but one wonders if it has to do with the city cracking down on similar operations, which forced them to go underground earlier this year.

But all is not lost.

Longman & Eagle Gets Another Big Honor

(Photo: Longman & Eagle)

Praise upon praise has been heaped upon Logan Square hot spot Longman & Eagle, so it's no surprise that GQ's Alan Richman has named it to his annual Best New Restaurants in America list.

This time, it was the only Chicago resto to get that honor, and it came in at # 10. Richman calls it a "neo flophouse" and had this to say about it:

Epic Executive Chef Is OUT

(Photo: Epic)

"Stephen Wambach is no longer part of the company," confirmed the employee on the phone when I called Wednesday morning.

That would be the award-winning chef of Epic, which just had a lavish bash sponsored by Esquire exactly one week ago to celebrate the fact that it had been named one of the Best New Restaurants of the Year.

The Le Passage Reunion is Thursday

(Photo: via Planet 99)

But check this out: It's not going down at Le Passage.

Instead, the lively bash that's expected to draw hundreds of the old regulars (deejays, promoters, patrons) who frequented the spot for years on Thursdays is taking place in the upstairs lounge at Le Colonial—located directly above the venue.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WHO Is Impersonating Chef Bill Kim?!


I'm still trying to get to the bottom of this matter, but someone is running around impersonating Belly Shack/Urban Belly owner/chef Bill Kim by calling up random restaurants.

The First Grahamwich Review Is In . . .

The tofu veggie wrap at grahamwich. (Photos: Kelli Zink)

CelebTV's Kelli Zink is known for breaking news as an entertainment reporter, but this time she beat all the food writers to the punch with the scoop on the highly anticipated grahamwich (a.k.a. G'wich) from its rockin' namesake chef Graham Elliot.

But because she's a notorious vegetarian (actually occasional pescatarian), she only got the vegetarian wrap during a sneak-preview lunch event Tuesday. (Grahamwich opens Dec. 15 for lunch.)

Her review in less than 140 characters:

Do The Black Truffle Shuffle All Winter

Winter black truffles imported from Provence, France, for Rare Tea Cellar. (Photo: Rodrick Markus/Rare Tea Cellar)

I became obsessed with black truffles this season after my first trip to Kith & Kin when exec chef Andrew Brochu shaved some onto several of our dishes, including a creamy, handmade pasta.

After that experience, my mouth watered for more and more and more, so you could imagine my delight when I found out Perennial's Ryan Poli had plans to do a Black Truffle Tasting Menu.

Through February, the exec chef of the popular Lincoln Park resto offers a budget-friendly feast of dishes that creatively showcases the truffle in all its glory. For $58, you get four courses and for an additional fee you can pair them with vino.

What Has Laurent Gras Been Up To?!

(Photo: Laurent Gras)

What has former L2O executive chef/partner Laurent Gras been up to since leaving Chicago in November?

He's been cooking a lot at home in New York, according to his blog, as he works on opening another restaurant.

It appears that he misses being in a professional kitchen but at the same time he's relishing in the solitude:

Eve Closes in the New Year

(Photo: Eve)

Add Eve to the growing list of restos (also Spring, Sola) set to close right after New Year's Eve.

That's a damn shame because we'll certainly miss the signature lobster sausage made famous by its chef Troy Graves. Most of all, we'll miss the Friday-Sunday brunch where you can get bottomless Mimomas for $22 paired with entrees like the lamb burger, lobster Benedict, or chicken and waffles.

No word yet on where Graves will end up next, but he's so talented that we don't expect him to be out of the kitchen for long . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Get Sneak Peak of Sheerin's The Trencherman at Chalkboard

Chalkboard owner/chef Gilbert Langlois (left) with chefs Roxanne Spruance and Michael Sheerin (Photo: Chalkboard)

The first-ever Chalkboard Guest Chef Takeover was so successful with wd~50's Roxanne Spruance last month that they've decided to do it again.

It goes down at 6:30pm Dec. 21, and this time Blackbird chef Michael Sheerin headlines the special dinner. But what makes this one even more exciting is that he's planning to give guests a sneak preview of the menu from his upcoming restaurant, The Trencherman.

Here's the menu for the night:


(Photo: grahamwich)

I get almost daily inquiries about when grahamwich will finally open its doors.

So I'm happy to report that it will be this week, according to the man himself.

Here's more on what's happening at the space from GrubStreet, which has been obsessively following the story:

Perfect Day To Indulge . . .


The official start of winter is still more than a week again, but you couldn't tell that by looking outside.

Instead of complaining about it, let's just embrace it by indulging in wintertime faves like hot chocolate. Today, by the way, is National Hot Chocolate Day!

If you're in the Loop, The Gage and sister resto Henri offer Trinkschokolade, a European-style hot chocolate made with famed Julius Meinl chocolate and steamed milk.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fashionista Fa-La-Laaaa . . .

(Photo: Victoria Olivares)

This is how they set it off for the season at Perennial.

Her name is Veronica, and she is fierce!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tempers Reach Boiling Point on 'Top Chef: All Stars'

Dale Levitski, executive chef of Sprout. (Photo: Sprout)

Wednesday's episode of Top Chef: All Stars, "Night at the Museum," was more of a nightmare for the cheftestants, according to Chicago's only participant Dale Levitski of Sprout.

Here's a recap of what went down, but here's his colorful version:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sneak Preview of GT Fish & Oyster

(Photo: Victoria Olivares)

Two of my friends braved The Hawk during lunch Tuesday to check out Guiseppe Tentori's sneak preview of GT Fish & Oyster at Grand and Wells streets.

Tentori—who's also exec chef at Boka—gave guests a taste of what's certain to be a signature item at the River North spot, the Lobster Roll. He teamed up with the Gaztro-wagon in front of the space.

Their review in less than 140 characters:

The Best Things TOC Ate All Year

(Photo: via Suckfist)

Looks like the food crew from Time Out chowed down well every chance they got in 2010.

Here's their annual 100 best things we ate (and drank) list, and if you want to duplicate what they did, the team graciously created an ambitious wish list.

Several yummy-sounding dishes and drinks we'll be checking out soon:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Battle of the Local Empires . . .

Rob Katz (from left), Giuseppe Tentori, Stephanie Izard, Ryan Poli and Kevin Boehm of the Boka Restaurant Group (Photo: Boka Restaurant Group)

Time for a year-end poll!

This time it's all about the shot callers, the trendsetters, the culinary collectives responsible for putting Chicago on the map with their various restaurant ventures.

You cannot pick up a restaurant section without reading something cool about what one of these guys is doing, and their names in the food community are just as valued as Tom Ford, Michael Kors and Louis Vuitton in the fashion industry.

But when it comes to the battle of the local restaurant empires, who comes out on top?! Here's your chance to decide (see the poll at bottom of page):

Matt Damon Cheers on Patriots at Jake Melnick's


This just dropped into the inbox:

"Matt Damon, who is currently shooting the movie Contagion in Chicago, relaxed at Jake Melnicks for a night of beer and Monday Night Football! Damon and some of the crew from the movie (about 16 people) shared appetizers and watched Damon's hometown team, the Patriots, play the Jets. Matt sampled a few craft brews before settling into the Lagunitas Farmhouse Saisson. The server said Damon was very gracious and the group left the server a great tip!"

Great to hear he's a nice, normal guy who tips well!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Gifts For Your Favorite Foodie

(Photo: à la card)

Christmas is right around the corner, and you've been pulling out your hair over what you're going to get your favorite foodie friend or family member.

Since gift cards seem so impersonal (though they're good for those who don't dine often at home), here are some pretty cool items to consider:

Curtis Duffy Hits The Big Time

Curtis Duffy, chef de cuisine at Avenues at the Peninsula. (Photo: Peninsula Chicago)

Just a friendly reminder:

Avenues, the sensational progressive American restaurant in the Peninsula, is closed for the first two weeks of January. That sucks, but now word just came that its phenom chef Curtis Duffy won't be around for the last weekend that month either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Benjamin Newby Is On Fire!

Award-winning cocktail The Bombay General from The Underground's Benjamin Newby. (Photos: Rockit Ranch Productions)

So, Thursday night at Underground during the third-annual Modern Man Fashion Show, we had the opportunity to sample the entire fall cocktail menu. Yes, the whole damn thing.

Created by operating partner/GM Benjamin Newby, the menu consists of 10 sensational sippers guaranteed to be a hit with cocktail connoisseurs. In fact, one of the drinks was such a hit that it won GQ's America's Choice Cocktail Competition.

Reality Rules This Weekend

Chef Graham Elliott will make an appearance during "MasterChef" tryouts this weekend. (Photo: Graham Elliot)

OK, so my little guilty pleasure is hitting Boys Town this weekend.

Mike Ruiz, the sexy photographer on hit LOGO reality series The A-List: New York, hosts a party Saturday at Spin.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

?uestlove Behind The Decks At UG


Fresh off multi-Grammy noms for How I Got Over (Def Jam), The Roots perform at House of Blues Saturday.

But if you're like me, and sick of the attitudes and drama over at the live music River North venue, wait a few hours and head to Underground for the official after party.

Our 'Top Chef All Star' Is Still Cooking . . .

(Photo: Bravo)


Sprout Executive Chef Dale Levitski made it through the first episode of Bravo's Top Chef All Stars, and man was it a nail-biter!

Here's a recap of what went down Wednesday, but we were particularly interested in Levitski's point of view of the premiere episode:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Culinary Cutie Hits The Catwalk

Chef Ryan Poli of Perennial. (Photo: Perennial)

I promised I wouldn't make any "Zoolander" jokes, so here goes:

Perennial's very social Executive Chef Ryan Poli leaves his kitchen for one night only to walk the catwalk at Underground Thursday.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Beginning . . . And The End . . .

The first season of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" ends on Dec. 5, which is also the 77th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. (Photo: HBO)

. . . of Prohibition comes to a head on its 77th anniversary Dec. 5. That's when the first season of HBO's highly acclaimed 1920s era series "Boardwalk Empire" ends on what's expected to be an explosive cliffhanger until next season.

There will certainly be parties to fete both occasions, such as the one happening at Faith & Whiskey. It kicks off at 6:30pm Dec. 3, with a Prohibition-themed video power hour at 8, which showcases video clips of "Boardwalk Empire," "The Untouchables," "Miller's Crossing," "Legends Of The Fall" and "The Public Enemy."

The Prohibition Repeal Party is hosted by Canadian Club and includes tastings of Canadian Club Sherry Cask, Canadian Club Classic and Club Canadian Club. Revelers—who are encouraged to dress in period clothing—will also be able to toast with $5 Canadian Club shots and cocktails.

Root On Our Very Own 'All Star Top Chef'


Awesome Sprout Executive Chef Dale Levitski is the only local culinary star competing on Bravo's "Top Chef All Stars" when it debuts Wednesday.

In season three, the mad talented cheftestant came in second place, so this is another chance for him to claim the big prize against some of the series' heaviest hitters of all time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And Now For Your Listening Pleasure . . .

DJ Madrid spins every Thursday at Le Colonial. (Photo: Madrid)

We're officially in the thick of it . . . the holiday season, that is.

To keep you in great spirits, Le Colonial's super star spinmaster Madrid has put together this awesome holiday mix for your listening pleasure.

It's filled with classics mashed up with contemporary hits, so if you're looking to jam out during dinner or over drinks with friends, you might want to put this on.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Celebs, Chefs Serve Kids Pre-Holiday Dinner

Bears defensive tackle Israel Idonije serving an early Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday to some very excited kids. (Photos: 312 Dining Diva)

I wonder who was most excited about the pre-Thanksgiving dinner served Tuesday to the 150 resident kids at the Mercy Homes on the West Side:

The kids themselves . . . executives and the culinary team from Trump Chicago's Sixteen restaurant . . . or some very high-profile local celebs?!

We're gonna go with the celebs—who consisted of first season "The Apprentice" winner Bill Rancic, motivational speaker Chris Gardner (the movie, "Pursuit of Happyness," was based on his life), Chicago Bears' tight end Greg Olson, running back Matt Forte and defensive tackle Israel Idonije—who eagerly jumped in to serve the kids as soon as they arrived.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fade To Black . . .


. . . on Wednesday.

That's the most awesome-est party night of the year, officially kicking the holiday season in full swing:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Charles Joly Is 'On The Rocks' Winner!

(Photos: Martin Furrer)

Girl & The Goat's Stephanie Izard won "Top Chef" in 2008.

Frontera Grill's Rick Bayless took home the title of the first-ever "Top Chef Master" in 2009.

And Charles Joly of The Drawing Room proved once again in 2010 that Chicago is no flyover state when it comes to fine dining and nightlife.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Oprah Tweets One Of Her 'Favorite' New Restos


It's kinda poetic that on the same day Oprah unleashed her final "Favorite Things" show she tweeted excitedly—for the first time ever—about one of her favorite new restaurants:

"I don't get out much... but just left new restaurant, Chicago Cut... Phenom!! Food is Great!"

The last time I checked, more than 100 followers retweeted her praises. Let's just see if we can get a reso by the end of the year now . . .

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Come Root On A Local Hero!


Sooooooo, if you're around the Gold Coast Saturday around midnight, you've got to stop in The Drawing Room to cheer on hot shot mixologist Charles Joly.

The late-night resto and bar will be airing the finale of NBC's "On The Rocks," and he's one of three finalists.

Talk About An Awkward Situation . . .


Brunch at Fred's at Barneys New York Sunday just had to be quite awkward for former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers (now CEO of Johnson Publishing Company), who found herself only a few feet away from the notorious "White House Party Crashers."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harry Caray's Tavern To Close Next Week

(Photo: Harry Caray's Wrigleyville)

The landlord of the building occupying Harry Caray's Tavern in Wrigleyville is so unreasonable that the revered resto and bar is pulling out next week, according to accounts from CBS-2.

In a Chicago Tribune story, Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group chief executive officer Grant DePorter compared the relationship with the building owner to "a bad marriage."

This just plain sucks.

How They Celebrated On Their Big Day

The Alinea staff (Photo: Grant Achatz)

The hard-working staff of Alinea worked their asses off to get those three coveted Michelin stars, so we weren't surprised to see this tweet from Grant Achatz hours after the announcement:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Here We Go Again . . .


Strange things are going on at Ole Hardwood. I've certainly have never seen such a strategy. . .

Thanks to the tipster who sent in this photo.

UPDATE: Looks like their executive chef has said sayonara.

Chicago's Cocktail Queens . . .

DeJorn Huffman of Sable Kitchen & Bar. (Photo: Bols Genever)

. . . have beaten the odds and conquered a male-dominated industry.

Big props go to Bridget Albert, DeJorn Huffman (Kimpton's Sable Kitchen & Bar), Lynn House (Blackbird) and Debbi Peek (The Bristol), who have changed the way people see women bartenders.

Check out the story right here, which also includes tasty cocktail recipes you can make at home.

Laurent Gras Speaks Out On Michelin Stars!


Well, at least on his blog.

The acclaimed French-born chef—who received three Michelin stars Tuesday for his work with L2O (the only other three star went to Alinea)—wrote: