Monday, April 30, 2012

Vince Vaughn, Joan Cusack Hit Up Next


A loyal 312DD follower spotted two A-List celebs Sunday at Next:

"In case you didn't already know, Joan Cusack, her husband, her 2 sons, and 2 other boys (all in the 12-14 age range) dined at the Kitchen Table at Next last night. Vince Vaughn, his wife, and another couple were in the dining room.

"When the Cusack clan was leaving, they stopped by Vince's table for hugs. She introduced her sons to him as 'Vince Vaughn from wedding crashers!' They were uninterested as they were all busy playing with the blow-up rubber gloves used to wave goodbye at the end of service. Nobody else bothered either of them or asked for pictures."

Awesome! But I wonder just how much those Cusack kids liked the food . . .

Kristine Subido Debuts Pecking Order at Dose Market

Kristine Subido
(Photo: Wave Restaurant)

I'm hearing really great things about the Filipino-style chicken from Kristine Subido, the executive chef at Wave who's set to open Pecking Order: A Chicken House in Uptown in early summer.

The secret recipe for Subido's chicken was passed down to her through generations, and it'll be served roasted, grilled or fried after being marinated overnight in bright, punchy flavors of soy, vinegar, sugar and garlic. It'll also come with banana ketchup or gravy dipping sauces.

If you're excited as I am to get your claws on some before the summer, here's where you can be one of the first people to get a sneak preview:

Get Excited About New Bayless Cookbook

(Photo: W. W. Norton & Company)

What fun must it be to tinker around behind the bar at Frontera Grill these days.

Rick Bayless, his wife, Deanna, and mixologist Jordan Johnston are working on the upcoming Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks cookbook (due out November), and the super chef gleefully tweeted the below photo on some of the cocktails' yummy house-made ingredients:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Notes From . . .

Master Mixologist Bridget Albert's "Smoking Jacket" cocktail was served at The Gage. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva/Additional Photos: Illinois Restaurant Association/Chicago Gourmet)

. . . Chicago's Culinary Crossroads Trolley Tour Kickoff.

• To celebrate the nations represented during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, the Illinois Restaurant Association hosts the first-ever Chicago's Culinary Crossroads May 1-25.

• The dine-around initiative includes more than 200 restaurants throughout Chicagoland that will feature special tasting menus, desserts, wine selections and cocktail creations inspired by the NATO nations.

• A select group of food journalists were invited to the Chicago's Culinary Crossroads Trolley Tour Kickoff and visited Mexique, Piccolo Sogno and The Gage.

• Chefs Carlos Gayta (Mexique), Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno) and Dirk Flanigan (The Gage) were gracious hosts at each location.

A South Loop Bodega With Flavor

(Photos: 312 Dining Diva)

It's still very much a work in progress, but chef Efrain Cuevas—best known for putting on the monthly Clandestino Chicago Supper Club—is on his way to having a very cool bodega in the South Loop.

He took over the BYOB East Coast Pantry a few weeks ago, but look for him to change the name really soon. For now, however, he's completely revamped the menu, adding his own gourmet spin to the sandwiches.

What are some of the favorites?!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Little Goat Set To Open in the Fall

(Photo: Stephanie Izard)

It's been quiet on the homefront of Little Goat, Stephanie Izard's high-concept diner going into the former space for Red Light.

Originally scheduled to open this spring, and then in the summer, it is now set to open in mid-September.

That means you're just going to have to wait a little longer . . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hot Doug's Caters Doggie Benefit at Double Door

Hot Doug's photo via Complex

If you're a dog lover like Alpana Singh (The Boarding House), you'll want to get tickets for the Trio Animal Foundation's Rockin' For Rescue event taking place May 19 at Double Door.

The top sommelier/restaurateur serves as emcee for this benefit aiming to raise $$$ to help provide medical care and rehabilitation for animals in shelters. It's an annual event, and especially exciting this year is that Hot Doug's is doing all the catering—which means this is your chance to get his signature encased meats without standing in those long-ass lines.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blackbird Debuts First-Ever Dessert Cocktail Menu

Blackbird mixologist Lynn House with The Violet Hour's Toby Maloney. (Photo: Speedrack)

Lynn House, the mega-talented mixologist at Blackbird, has taken the cocktail program to new heights since coming aboard in 2010.

And as she celebrates her second anniversary in May, she has some exciting projects on the horizon.

When chef/owner Paul Kahan hits up New York to find out if he'll snag a James Beard award for Outstanding Chef, House will also be there working with him at the annual gala. As Kahan cooks at one table, House will be slinging her signature Celluloid Breeze—the one she created for the Sundance Channel's Beyond the Bar Series. Assisting her will be Blackbird owners Donnie Madia, Rick Diarmat and Eduard Seitan.

Equally exciting is the restaurant's first-ever dessert cocktail menu, which debuts Tuesday.

"A little over a week ago, Paul had a chat with me about an experience he had while in Nashville. His 'bartendress' had crafted some wonderful after dinner libations, and it got him thinking that including after dinner 'tails would be a wonderful addition to the current cocktail program," House told 312DD exclusively. "I have been tinkering in my home bar for the past week, and have created five dessert libations. The goal was to make them clean, balanced, seasonal, unique and complementary to our phenomenal desserts, created by Bryce Caron."

Peep House's dessert cocktail menu below, with her tasting notes:

First Look at Boarding House Dishes

The Boarding House's lobster poutine. (Photo: The Boarding House)

On the same day Alpana Singh announced former Bistronomic chef Christian Gosselin as executive chef at The Boarding House, she released photos of two of his dishes.

According to Eater Chicago, the menu will "feature smaller plates ($6 to $12), medium plates ($12 to $18) and entrees ($22 to $30) with dishes like lobster poutine with a sauce Armoricaine; and shredded duck confit hash with red-wine-poached eggs, sauce Béarnaise and diced potatoes."

See another photo below of Gosselin's version of Deviled eggs:

Trenchermen Set To Open In May

Trenchermen chefs Patrick Sheerin (left) and Michael Sheerin. (Photo: via Grubstreet Chicago)

Here's a sign that the Sheerin Brothers are finally set to open their long-awaited Trenchermen in Bucktown.

312DD received over the weekend this invite for an "exclusive preview for friends and neighbors" at the restaurant.

It's gonna cost you though. VIP tix are $95 and general admission is $75. You'll at least get a menu tasting, cocktails and music by top Chicago deejay Madrid. It all goes down 6-9pm May 17.

Lupe Fiasco: Rap Star and Food Blogger?!


Yet another hip-hop star is getting into the dining game, but Chicago native Lupe Fiasco is penning his fondness for food instead of jumping into the restaurant biz.

On his current Australian tour, Fiasco's teaming up with the Food Republic for Lupe Fiasco Does Food Down Under Blog. It's actually pretty well written and in his latest entry, he gushes about Sydney's seafood:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rachael Lowe Is Out At Trump

Photo of Rachael Lowe via

Late last week, 312DD was alerted to the unfortunate news that Trump Chicago parted ways with its rising-star sommelier Rachael Lowe.

After contacting Trump, here's what they had to say:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Kim Kardashian Causes Stir At Gibsons


Seriously, if you don't want people to bother you, don't hit up one of Chicago's most popular freaking restaurants.

Kim Kardashian, in town with sister Khloe for an appearance at Woodfield Mall, had dinner at Gibsons Thursday with Scottie and Larsa Pippen.

According to my Ultimate Insider, the crowd was thick when the trio showed up around 11pm and they were excited to see the celebrities—particularly Kardashian.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Notes From . . .

(Photos: Onasis Odelmo for Storefront Company)

... The Exhibition A Series launch party hosted by fashion designer Cynthia Rowley at Storefront Company.

• Founded by the Barrington-born Rowley and her husband, Bill Powers, Exhibition A is a members-only website that sells exclusive editions of artwork by top contemporary artists. They work with artists whose work is exhibited at well-respected galleries and sought after by serious collectors to create editions of their work at affordable prices.

• Chicago artist Gary Weidner was chosen by Exhibition A to feature a limited run of his "Flowers" series, which includes the 30-foot mural at Storefront.

Bobby Flay Hits Up Girl & The Goat

Photo via

Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat got a major player in the culinary world Wednesday with a visit from celebrity chef Bobby Flay. He tweeted, of course, about his awesome experience:

"Had an amazing dinner last night at Girl and the Goat in ChiTown. Gorgeous place, amazing food. Pork shank was off the chain."

It really is that good!

Where To Celebrate 'Earth Day'

Magnolia Bakery's special "Earth Day" cupcakes. (Photo: Magnolia Bakery)

We can help preserve our great planet by doing the smallest things, from using eco-friendly lights and grocery bags to riding bikes and observing Meatless Monday.

But April 22 is Earth Day, and a few spots around town plan to do it up big:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last Call for the West Loop's Sushi Wabi


While the West Loop's Randolph Street strip is gearing up for a busy summer with the arrivals of Belly Q, G.E.B., RM Champagne Salon and a couple other restaurants, there will be one spot sorely missed: Sushi Wabi.

312DD just got a tip that the stylish sushi spot will have its final service on April 21.

?uestlove Loves Chicago . . .


I've been wondering when I'd have the chance to jet off to Philly for ?uestlove's famous fried chicken.

But now I don't have to. According to Eater Chicago, the famed drummer for The Roots and the Jimmy Fallon Show has teamed up with our very own Graham Elliot to launch "?uest Loves Food" POWERED BY Chef Graham Elliot in May:

A Recipe For . . .

(Photo: Dan Dry)

. . . Skillet-Seared Mussels with Bay, Roasted Garlic and Chilies at West Town Tavern.

When it comes to comfort fare, this Near West Side restaurant is exceptional. You won't find kitschy cuisine on the seasonal and ingredient-driven menu engineered by chef Susan Goss, who runs the well-respected spot with husband, Drew.

After almost 10 years (they celebrate in May), they've maintained a steady crowd beyond neighborhood folks coming for the popular Fried Chicken Night (Mondays), Wagyu Beef Burger Night (Tuesdays) and Taco Thursdays.

The Gosses celebrate the restaurant's first 10 years with Champagne & Fried Chicken every Monday through May 28. The heaping of yardbird is $16.95, but for an extra $10, you'll get a glass of the Grande Cuvée from Compte Audoin de Dampierre, which originates from a small house based in the village of Chenay.

Or if you really want to do it up, tickets are still available for the annual Girl Food Dinner on April 22. Joining Susan Goss in creating a signature dish paired with wine are Nicole Pederson (C-House), Priscila Satkoff (¡Salpicón! Restaurant), Jackie Shen (Argent) and Jesse Oloroso (Black Dog Gelato).

While you're there, pick up a copy of the couple's cookbook, West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food, which contains more than 100 original recipes.

Here's one to get you started: Skillet-Seared Mussels with Bay, Roasted Garlic and Chilies:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pops For Champagne On The First 30 Years


Nightlife vet Tom Verhey talks about the first 30 years of Pops For Champagne with Eater Chicago:

"... we've never really altered from our original concept of being a Champagne bar. Effervescence and excellence has always been our main focus. We've been tempted to get into more food and into other elements, but overall it's been a single bullet aimed at the Champagne respect and interest that we have. I think it carries over to the public also when you have a single direction and people can wrap themselves around the concept easier. It seems over the years people have respected us for doing that and it's paid off."

Frankie's Debuts Signature Prosecco


Here's a good reason for a toast:

Frankie's Scaloppine introduces Frankie's Take the Fizz, a new prosecco that's only available at the Mag Mile resto or in Padua, Italy. The light, sparkling wine originates from the Veneto region and is aged in stainless steel barrels, creating an ideal aging environment for young grapes.

Want a taste?!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get Ready For The 'WTF' Dinner

Diners from a recent Clandestino event. (Photo: Clandestino)

A dinner that starts with coffee and ends with soup?!

That's what's up with WTF?, the latest pop-up dining experience from Clandestino, which is collaborating with Moto's Ben Roche and iNG's Thomas Bowman for a six-course "backwards" extravaganza.

Here's the menu:

Freebie Alert: Big Bricks!

Baby back ribs photo via

Cubs fans get all the perks!

This time it's at Big Bricks, which will be giving away a free appetizer to those with same-day ticket stubs from the game.

Big Star, Mercadito Collaborate . . . Finally!

Mercadito's signature fish tacos. (Photo: Mercadito)

Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Michael Kornick (Ada Street/DMK Burger Bar/MK) and Giuseppe Tentori (Boka/GT Fish & Oyster) each created a signature taco for Mercadito's monthly program for Share Our Strength, and now it's time to get ready for another hot chef.

Big Star's Justin Large is up next, for the entire month of May, with Taco de Ostiones, fried oyster tacos with spicy radish slaw. As executive chef of Bucktown's most popular spot for tacos and whiskey, Large is certain not to disappoint.

Hot Chocolate To Close For Renovations

(Photo: Hot Chocolate)

Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate fame sent her fans into a frenzy Monday when she posted the above photo of a ladder leading up to the restaurant's rooftop.

"No, rooftop seating isn't going in up there," she told 312DD. "I'm just installing a new air conditioner. I wish it was that exciting!"

The air-conditioning system was the first of many changes to come to the iconic Bucktown bakery and eatery, which has been open for more than 10 years. Hot Chocolate will close April 22, and Segal plans to reopen around May 8—right before Mother's Day weekend.

We're looking forward to the new look!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Notes From . . .


. . . Le Mysterieux Festin at Henri.

Henri/The Gage Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan teamed up with the restaurants' mixologist, Clint Rogers, and Wirtz Beverage's Eric Hay for Le Mysterieux Festin, or "a mystery dinner." The first-ever event attracted more than 70 diners.

• The unique concept involved five top local bartenders choosing from 100 "mystery" ingredients and creating a cocktail to match one of the five courses for the dinner. They had no idea of any of the ingredients the chef used for each course.

Was It A Hoax?


Late Wednesday afternoon, Chef Paul Kahan sent out this outrageous tweet:

"Come get fresh whale veal at Publican Quality Meats! It's amazing. Only $49.95 per pound!"

And if you thought it was crazy as hell like we did, you might be on to something. Our friends at Eater Chicago called up PQM Thursday to inquire about that alleged $49.95 whale veal, and had this to say:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Said What Now?!


Chef Paul Kahan is a pretty low-key guy, but today he gets props for the most outrageous quote of the week:

"Come get fresh whale veal at Publican Quality Meats! It's amazing. Only $49.95 per pound!"

He's not kidding, y'all . . .

A Recipe For . . .


... Crispy Black-Eyed Peas at Ada Street.

Los Angeles native Zoe Schor cultivated her culinary skills with some of the best names in the biz: Thomas Keller (Bouchon), Tom Colicchio (Craft) and Todd English (Beso). As chef of Bucktown newcomer Ada Street—owned by powerhouse duo Michael Kornick and David Morton—she's bringing everything she's learned, but making certain she keeps dishes as uncomplicated as possible.

"My appreciation for food and wine comes from a childhood of learning that if it's easy, it isn’t necessarily good, but that good doesn't necessarily mean complicated," says Schor. "Simple pleasures are often the best."

Take, for example, her signature Crispy Black-Eyed Peas appetizer. She's elevated the Southern favorite, yet keeps its preparation and ingredients basic.

Here is the recipe:

Why Is This Show On Television?!


I haven't stepped foot inside The Wiener's Circle since the obnoxious cashier on the other side of the glass leaned across and screamed at my friend: "Do you suck c*ck with those glasses on?!"

The room, which was full of drunken, late-night revelers, erupted in laughter, much to my friend and her fiance's chagrin.

I know that part of the so-called appeal of this Lincoln Park greasy spoon is its crude, rude and raunchy crew members, but it really bothers me that it's now on national display. With TruTV giving The Wiener's Circle a weekly reality show, it feels as though it's gotten worse just to play to the cameras.

The restaurant's owned by two white guys (Barry and Larry), who appear occasionally on the show, but what makes it wild, weird and provocative are the out-of-control antics from the all-black staff, which consists of several women and one man.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get Your Grub On . . . For A Good Cause

Here's the scene at last year's bustling "Red or White Ball." (Photo: Steppenwolf's Auxiliary Council)

Two tasty events benefiting great causes are coming your way.

The Steppenwolf's Auxiliary Council hosts the annual Red or White Ball at Architectural Artifacts (4325 N. Ravenswood Ave.) Friday.

Guests who spring for the VIP reception (7:30-8:30pm) get to sample signature bites from the likes of Jean Tippenhauer (Fred's at Barney's New York), Tim Graham (Paris Club), Moosah Reaume (The Pump Room) and Kate Milashus (ZED 451). Barrelhouse Flat owner/mixologist Stephen Cole will be on hand to pour cocktails.

Crofton on Wells Closes To Re-Concept

(Photo: Crofton on Wells)

For more than 10 years, Suzy Crofton's River North spot, Crofton on Wells, shined as one of Chicago's top places for contemporary American fare.

She received accolades from the likes of Esquire and Food & Wine, plus a glowing three-star review from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune. In 2011, the restaurant also garnered a Michelin star (only to lose it in 2012).

So it was pretty shocking to find out that Crofton decided to pull the plug on her operation Saturday. According to Eater Chicago, her reason was simple: Business "has been painfully slow."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coupons On A First Date . . . Yea or Nay?!


People pretty much went apeshit on a Facebook friend's status:

LADIES, would you be offended if a man pulled out a coupon or Groupon to pay for the meal on the first date?

In less than half an hour after posting, he got almost 100 responses.

Here are some gems:

Smart Bar Dissed By Complex Magazine

The dance floor action at Smart Bar. (Photo: Smart Bar)

What a strange little article to recently appear in Complex.

It featured what they consider to be the 25 Douchiest Bars in Chicago, weirdly placing legendary dance club Smart Bar on the list at #3.

Here's what they wrote:

Freebie Alert: Cafe Selmarie!

Cafe Selmarie's Strawberry Roulade (Photo: Cafe Selmarie)

This is pretty exciting, especially for those who get off early on Fridays:

Lincoln Square's Cafe Selmarie is giving away free dessert to those who stop in between 4 and 6pm for dinner.

The spot is legendary for its bakery, so consider this an amazing deal!

How to Get a Drink at a Busy Bar . . .


The last time we visited the bar at Sable Kitchen & Bar, it was about five people deep. It was a Saturday night, with about five guys 'tending, and everyone wanted one of their signature, hand-crafted cocktails.

We, of course, had no problem waiting, but some folks were impatient as hell. That's why I'm pretty excited that I came across this article from Art of Manliness on "how to get a drink at a busy bar."

Best advice:

• Always, always, tip.

• Know what you’re going to order before you start yelling for service.

• Don’t stand at the server station.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Clandestino Chef Unveils New Gourmet Sandwich Menu


In March, 312DD told you exclusively about Efrain Cuevas' quest to open a gourmet sandwich shop in the downtown area.

As you can see, the chef/owner of Clandestino Supper Club is well on his way to something quite spectacular with items made from all-natural ingredients as well as sauces and flatbreads made from scratch. In addition to gourmet paninis and gluten-free wraps, he's planning a menu of focaccia pizzas, smoothies and fresh salads.

No word still on a name or location, but he promises to reveal all soon . . .

April 6 Is National Caramel Popcorn Day

Salted Caramel's signature Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn. (Photo: Salted Caramel)

This is one "holiday" you don't wanna pass up, so we're glad our friends at Foodimentary were on top of it.

One of the best spots to indulge in this favorite food is at the brand-new Salted Caramel shop, which just opened in Andersonville.

West Town Getting Exciting New Restaurant?!

(Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

The venue formerly occupied by Natalino's at 1523 W. Chicago Ave. is getting a new tenant this spring.

Eater Chicago had a few more details a couple weeks back, but not much else either.

We'll let you know more as soon as there's an update, but we're certainly going to miss their risotto . . .

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Recipe For . . .


. . . Crab Fondue.

Attempted to get into Old Town Pour House last weekend, but with the line down the street, there was no way we were waiting 35 to 45 minutes.

Soooo, we hit up chef Paul Katz (who works for parent company Bottleneck Management), who gave us a recipe for one of the more popular appetizers on the menu, the Crab Fondue.

This will suffice for now, but we still need to get in there to see what all the fuss is all about!

Here's the recipe:

Bottomless Mimosa Brunches Will Have You Bouncing Around Like The Easter Bunny

Mimosas photo via

Remember when Easter used to be all about you, with the Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets and new Easter dress clothes?!

You can somewhat return to the good ole days with this roundup of bottomless mimosa brunches happening on Easter Sunday:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cheers To A Collection of Cocktails Paired With Cuisine

Carol Donovan's "French Citrus" cocktail is meant to complement Hearty's shrimp 'n' grits dish. (Photo: Hearty)

We're deep into spring mode . . . which is supposed to mean lighter cocktails and cuisine. But that's not always the case as I found when I interviewed several of the city's top 'tenders for my latest spirits story.

As they go about creating their menus, they're more concerned with what's in season, with rhubarb and sage leading the way, and what pairs well with their chefs' dishes. And gin, surprisingly, appears to be big as the weather heats up at spots like Balena, Three Aces and Yusho.

Find out what these guys are shaking up—and stirring—at

Monday, April 2, 2012

This Is What A Carnivore's Dream Looks Like

Tavern on Rush's 'Tavern Kobe Club' via Krebs' Foodspotting page.

Tavern on Rush just introduced a bunch of new items for its spring menu, and it's quite impressive.

Especially of note is the massive Tavern Kobe Club of two Kobe patties, three decks of white Sourdough, bacon, lettuce, tomato and horseradish mayo. For some reason, that little ditty from the spot with the Golden Arches is playing in my head, but you'll pay $19.95 for this burger.

Peep the new items below:

It's A Wrap, For Paul Virant . . .

(Photos: Jamco Creative)

Award-winning chef Paul Virant (Perennial Virant, Vie) teams up with Falafill for his very own signature wrap.

With proceeds benefiting the Frontera Farmer Foundation, the wrap consists of organic black bean falafel (his own recipe), spicy mayo, pickled peppers, pea shoots, cilantro, and lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

In keeping with an organic theme, the black beans and pea shoots come from Three Sisters Garden, a small farm located in Kankakee. The peppers are made in Virant's kitchen at Perennial Virant.

It's available only in April for $6.50.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Important Stuff Happening In April

Chuy Valencia photo via the Chicago Reader.

Chicago's dining scene never slows down, as evidenced by some very cool events happening in April:

Former Top Chef Texas contestant Chuy Valencia, who formerly was a partner in Lakeview spot Chilam Balam, is writing a cookbook and needs your help. He's testing recipes for M.E.A.L.S.: Menus, Entrees, Anecdotes, Lies and Some truth to protect the innocent and equally evil and needs guinea pigs. The event happens April 2 at a private home, and you can possibly get an invite by tweeting him @chuyvalencia.