Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pop the Cork for a NYE to Remember


It really isn't too late to get on those New Year's Eve plans.

And to get you moving in the right direction, I stopped by The U's You & Me This Morning Tuesday to offer my Top 5 Dining Picks for NYE.

Also, if you're one of those ambitious types who gathers the folks for New Year's Day brunch, Eater Chicago's got you covered with their picks on a nifty map that'll come in handy.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 10 Communal-Table Dining Spots

Diners enjoying a meal at a communal table at Telegraph. Photo via michiganavemag.com.

If you're looking to close out the year with good friends or family, check out Michigan Avenue's Top 10 list of Best Communal-Table Dining Spots in the city.

It includes the usual suspects, plus 2011 newcomers Grange Hall Burger Bar in the West Loop and hot Logan Square wine bar Telegraph.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Heats Up With Hot, Hot Openings

Chris Nugent's dish of Angus beef, heirloom carrots, goosefoot, cumin and shallot jus, served at Goosefoot. (Photo: Goosefoot)

There's been a lot of chef shuffling lately, from Ryan McCaskey's move to the South Loop with Acadia to former Les Nomades Executive Chef Chris Nugent's Goosefoot in Lincoln Square.

Find out what else is red hot in dining at DiningChicago.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where Too White Crew's Frontman Chows Down

C-Note of Too White Crew (Photo: Too White Crew)

He's a life-long Chicagoan who's performed at the Playboy Mansion as well as a number of college campuses around the country.

Yet, when it comes to good eating, Too White Crew frontman C-Note says there's no place better than home.

His talented band (and dancers better known as the Fly Girls) specializes in old-school hip hop, and they're certain to work up quite an appetite after those energetic shows. So I recently caught up with C-Note to see where he likes to get down and chow down when he's not working.

GQ Honors Aviary, Ignores Other Chicago Bars

Aviary Old Fashioned photo via slowcocktails.squarespace.com.

It's cool that Grant Achatz's The Aviary has garnered props left and right since opening earlier this year.

So, I'm not shocked at all that GQ included the molecular-minded, mixology-focused lounge in its Guide to the Next Wave of Cocktails in the January issue:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Your Xmas Dinner Is Right Here . . .


Not everyone cooks on Christmas, and just in case you're one of those folks, I have got you covered.

From the annual Feast of the Seven Fishes at Osteria via Stato to Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club's Jingle Bell Brunch featuring a sexy Santa and Hypnotiq martinis, I rap with The U's You & Me This Morning host Jeanne Sparrow about my favorite Xmas Eve and Xmas dining picks around town.

Check it out, then make your reso.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Awesome Alternative To NYE


For those so over the hectic pace of New Year's Eve, there's always Eve of the Eve, the infamous black-tie charity event happening the night before NYE at Union Station.

It's a bit pricy at $125 a ticket, so for those trying to save $$$ in the New Year, I've stumbled across the perfect party.

McGee's Tavern is known for throwing the party brunch in Lincoln Park, where guests stick around for hours after they've dined. And on New Year's Day, which falls on a Sunday this time around, it is expected to be completely off the hook.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zagat Chicago Blog Hop: My Best Night Out

My best night out in Chicago included Dough Boys in Little Italy. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

In honor of the 2012 Chicago Restaurants and Nightlife Survey, Zagat reached out to me to write a post about a special night out in Chicago.

I'm excited to be part of the first-ever Zagat Chicago Blog Hop, where a number of like-minded writers are getting in on the action.

My contribution to this project is pretty easy, even though I'm on the dining-and-drinking scene more often than many around this town. Earlier this year, I gathered 10 awesome friends for what I called One Big Night in Little Italy. We checked out about eight old-school and newcomer restaurants and bars in the Near West Side 'hood.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Exclusive Sneak Preview: Acadia's Cocktail Menu

Acadia's Amnesiac cocktail of yellow chartreuse, Amaro, orange bitters, osmanthus tea soda and house-made Absinthe ice cubes. (Photo: Michael Simon)

Acadia, the long-awaited project from acclaimed chef Ryan McCaskey, opens Dec. 21 in the South Loop.

During Wednesday's sneak preview of his whimsical, yet sophisticated take on items like lobster rolls, house-made salt-and-vinegar potato chips, and miniature S'mores, I also got a comprehensive sampling of bar director Michael Simon's cocktails. The drinks are equally whimsical, taking a cue from classic cocktails not typically found in most restaurants.

Simon's even gone so far as to add his own offbeat elements to these cocktails, from absinthe-infused and coconut-and-dill ice cubes to house-made tomatilla agave syrup and edible violets.

Here is Simon's opening menu:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something to Look Forward to in January

Chris Curren (left) of Blue 13 and The Bedford's Mark Steuer.

Blue 13's Executive Chef Chris Curren's hosting what he's calling a Working Chefs Dinner, in which he's showcasing toques "(who) may not always draw the headlines, (but) the consistent quality they display night after night keeps guests not only satisfied, but coming back for more."

He's gathered for the event, happening 6-9pm Jan. 9, five respected chefs and one amazing bartender who will create 10 courses in their signature styles.

Dec. 20 is National Sangria Day . . .


I've always thought of sangria as a summer sipper, but it's so damn good I don't mind drinking it 365 days a year. And since Dec. 20 is National Sangria Day, here's an excuse to drink even more at these local spots serving some of the best in the city:

At Coobah in Lakeview, you'll find a recipe that originated in the Dominican Republic. Pitchers are regularly $18, but lucky for you every Tuesday they're marked down to $6. There's also live Latin music.

Water Tower Place newcomer FOODEase serves several wines on tap, including a very special concoction of white or red sangria. They throw in a bunch of fruit, of course, so if you're shopping along the Mag Mile, stop in for a glass or two.

Get Your NYE Party On . . . For FREE


Just because that movie New Year's Eve was a bust doesn't mean yours has to be.

Over at River North sensation Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, they're assuring you'll have an over-the-top time at their first-ever Tokyo-themed bash that you may be able to attend for free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NoMi Unveils Park Chocolate Bar


In early November, Eater Chicago introduced us to Forever Yogurt's hot chocolate bar, and while that sounds super cool, it was missing one thing for boozehounds like us.

It needed a spiked element, which is why we're pretty excited about NoMi Kitchen's brand-new Park Chocolate Bar.

Top 14 Fried Chicken Spots in the City?!

Big Jones' fried chicken via Serious Eats Chicago.

I just want to send out a heartfelt THANK YOU to my pals over at Serious Eats Chicago. They just saved me from gaining 10 pounds because I had in my plans to seek out the best fried chicken spots in the city.

They selected 14 of what they believe to be the tastiest yardbird around, and I'm in absolute agreement with most of their choices (especially since I haven't even heard of a few of the places!).

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Never Too Cold For Something Frosty!

Black Dog Gelato photo via UrbanSpoon.com.

Like most summer-focused spots, Black Dog Gelato is observing winter hours. For the next few months, it's only open noon-9pm Friday-Sunday.

But in the meantime, owner Jessica Oloroso has come up with a couple of creative ways to get her addictive, hand-crafted frosty treats to her fans on the regular.

Restaurants Giving Back During Holidays


Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when folks feel the most generous. And since all that brotherly love is in the air, you can't blame restaurants and bars for getting in on the action.

If you're looking to give back or lend a helping hand to those in need, the roving underground supper club Clandestino is requesting guests to bring an unwrapped toy or winter coat for the last Eating Vincent Price dinner of the year. As always, the location is unknown until the day of the event, but it will be held in the South Loop. The BYOB event is $55 and inspired by Price's travels to Old Mexico. 6:30pm Dec. 19. You can RSVP here. Donations will benefit Family Focus.

Through Dec. 25, Custom House Tavern is holding a canned-food drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Those who bring non-perishables will receive a complimentary "thank you" lunch or dinner course during their meal.

Fishbar gets into the holiday spirit by supporting Toys for Tots through Dec. 22. The Lakeview seafood restaurant will give a side of tater tots to those who donate an unwrapped toy in its original packaging. No stuffed animals accepted.

Duffy Reveals Name For West Loop Resto

(Photo: Curtis Duffy)

Way back in July, Curtis Duffy made a shocking announcement that he was leaving his post as chef de cuisine at the now-shuttered Avenues at the Peninsula Chicago to open his own restaurant.

At that time, and the months following, he only disclosed a few details about his new project, including that it would open next spring in the West Loop. He also told the Chicago Tribune he's aiming for "food that will be more refined. We're going to pull back just a bit and push forward at the same time. We want to have a bit more control with the food, and push forward in terms of flavor combination."

He's had us waiting on pins and needles for all these months without even giving a hint of the name or exact location.

But now that's about to change.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When You Need To Get Away


You love your family like a fat kid loves Krispy Kreme, but you can handle only so much of them on Christmas.

So just in case you need something stronger than that home-made spiked egg nog or box wine, I've compiled a list of bars open Dec. 25:

Butch McGuire's: You'll still be in the Christmas spirit at this long-time Division Street watering hole that takes the holiday pretty serious. It's all decked out in seasonal splendor, with tinsel and trains choo-chooing all over the space. Surprisingly, the spot is full around 6pm, likely with those like-minded folks trying to escape. And touristy types.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Art Smith, Stephanie Izard Make PeekScore's Top 20 List of Celeb Chefs


When it comes to clout on the web for celebrity chefs, only two Chicago-based stars cracked the Top 20, according to PeekScore.

Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat) and Art Smith Table Fifty-Two) got the props for their high web presence.

Woman Used Match.com For Free Dinner Dates

Is she in it for the dude or the free dinner and drinks?! (Photo via thedish.restaurant.com.

She's supposedly in a serious, committed relationship now, but when Abbie Boudreau was single, she deliberately used Match.com to use well-to-do dudes for expensive free dinners. Boudreau claims she saved $1,200 a month from going on these dates.

She told her story to Good Morning America, and I really hope other women don't do this.

It's just not cool.

WhiskeyFest Tickets Selling Out Fast!


Uh, oh.

Just got this message from the folks who put on the annual WhiskeyFest at the downtown Hyatt:

"Chicago VIP tickets SOLD OUT this morning! Regular tickets are still available (for now). Buy them while you can!"

Ummmm, the event doesn't even happen until March 23. I suggest you get on this one ASAP. Get them right here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuman's Staff Told To Look For New Jobs

Tuman's photo via Time Out.

Everyone's favorite dive bar may be on everyone's shit list now that word is out about what's going on over at the temporarily shuttered spot in Ukrainian Village.

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that the new owners of Tuman's told all the employees "to look for other jobs."

Says my source: "A guy I play football with is friends with [redacted], one of the (now former) employees there. He says that they told him the day they closed for renovations to look for another job."


The new owners have only been in place for a few months and are already making enemies . . .

Lillie's Q, Roots Pizza Team Up For Awesome Collaboration

Roots sausage pizza photo via Freddy Love; Lillie's Q ribs photo from Lillie's Q.

Hey, kids! Christmas came early this year!

That's because on Dec. 15 Roots Handmade Pizza will introduce Lillie's Q BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza. Woot?!

The ingredients on this masterpiece are off the hook: Lillie's Q's award-winning pulled pork is smoked over peach wood for eight hours, then Lillie's Q's Hot Smoky sauce is folded under the cheese with Lillie's Q's Carolina Dirt rub and a bit of coleslaw sprinkled on top. Get the 12-inch pie for $22; 16 inches is $27.

Want a free taste?!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Negroni: 'A Top Food Trend of 2011!'

Barrel-aged Negroni photo via starchefs.com.

One of the cocktails I've been immensely obsessed with for the past two years is the classic Italian Negroni, so I was thrilled to find out it was named one of HuffPo's Top Food Trends of 2011:

"Campari declared 2011 to be the Year of the Negroni and it looks like its marketing actually worked. This simple cocktail only has three ingredients—Campari, gin and sweet vermouth—and was everyone's drink-of-choice this year. As is the case with many classic cocktails, there are always twists, which explains why restaurants have secret Negroni menus. The website Food Republic devoted a full week of coverage to pay homage to the cocktail."

Yay! Long live the Negroni! But . . . don't trust just anyone's, which I learned the hard way this year venturing out to many restaurants and bars in the city. Some were not balanced (It's imperative that all three components flow smoother than an ocean). Others were shaken, not stirred (That is blasphemy, according to bartenders). And a few tried way too hard by adding ingredients that had no place in this cocktail (olives, chocolate, vodka, cranberries, WTF).

Overall, I've had some great Negroni experiences, and here are my favorite places to sip them in the city:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Be Merry & Munch at These Holiday Brunches


Power shopping is serious business during the holiday season, but before you head out on your mission make sure you fill up with a nourishing good meal.

And if you're braving the weekend crowds, you'll want to check out one of these great brunches. From $15 bottomless Bloody Marys and Mimosas at 25 Degrees to Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club's annual Jingle Bell Brunch, here's what is going down:

Savor These Seasonal Sippers . . .

Nolet's Silver Raspberry Mint Fizz is a great cocktail to make for guests during the holiday season. (Photo: Nolet's Silver Gin)

Let's be real. One of the best things about the holiday season is hanging out with friends and family for cocktails you'd only drink this time of year.

Hot Toddies. Champagne Cocktails. Hot Buttered Rum. And, of course, there’s the infamous Spiked Eggnog.

But how about some new twists to these traditional elixirs? This month on DiningChicago.com, I check out some sensational seasonal sippers you can make at home or order at the likes of Balsan, one sixty-blue or Roka Akor.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cheers To 'Repeal Day!'


Just in case you were unsure about where you're partying for Repeal Day on Monday, a handful of some of Chicago's most colorful mixologists are throwing a party at Salud that you don't want to miss.

The event starts with welcome punches by Bols Genever and Plantation Rum, and then it gets really decadent.

Chefs Continue 'Downscale' Dining Trend

Spiaggia Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg and her Italian-accented falafel at Falafill. (Photos: jamco)

Last week was a big one for three very prominent chefs who opened some of this season's most highly anticipated restaurants.

Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano's casual Italian eatery Bar Toma opened on the Mag Mile. Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi fame debuted Japanese noodle shop Slurping Turtle in River North. And Bon Appetit's Restaurateur of the Year 2007 Laurent Tourondel swung open the doors to BLT American Brasserie in River North over the weekend.

What the three chefs have in common is a break from their more pricier ventures for more budget-conscious restaurants that most people can afford. Prices range $7-$30 at each spot.

Even Spiaggia's Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg (who's competing on the current season of Top Chef) is getting in on the trend by teaming up with Falafill in Lakeview.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And Her Favorite Cocktail Is . . .

(Photo: Stephanie Izard)

"When I first sipped it, I thought I was drinking an 'old lady' drink, but now I know I was just getting exposed to what a great cocktail is supposed to be—and moving past my vodka-tonic phase," says Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat) about her favorite cocktail.

Find out what it is and where she likes to drink it in this interview I had with her in Michigan Avenue magazine.

West Town's 'Dining Around' Coming Soon

Arami interior photo via metromix.com.

The deadest time of the year for restaurants is in January, so Leopold owner Christy Agee came up with a great idea to generate extra $$$ for the spots in West Town.

She's partnered with West Town Chicago Chamber of Commerce to launch the area's first-ever Dining Around event, which will spotlight chef-driven destinations such as Arami, Branch 27, Ruxbin and West Town Tavern. The restaurant that I'm also hoping will get onboard for this project is long-time Italian favorite, A Tavola, which is owned by chef Dan Bocik. It's been around since 1995.