Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fond Farewell To Longtime Bayless Chef

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Brian Enyart (left) and Rick Bayless (Photo via Chicago Tribune)

The time has come for Topolobampo Chef de Cuisine Brian Enyart to fly the coop.

Apparently, he's been with Rick Bayless' well-oiled empire for 14 years—his entire culinary career thus far—and he wants to see what else is out there.

The Chicago Tribune reported in January that Enyart was leaving, and Thursday was the big day.

He wrote a heartfelt message on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon:

Next Week Is Gonna Be Crazy . . .

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(Photo: The Doughnut Vault)

Look for The Doughnut Vault to open April 5.

I got a sneak peek Wednesday of the tiny, tiny space that's tucked inside River North's Gilt Bar. This place is so damn small that three customers easily crowd the space. That's why owner Brendan Sodikoff added a window where customers can order from outside.

Opening April 6 is Next, Grant Achatz's mid-priced eatery in the old Fulton Lounge space. To find out how to navigate its revolutionary ticketing system, check out Chicago magazine's article here.

And by next week, the Boka Restaurant Group's latest offering, GT Fish & Oyster with chef Guiseppe Tentori engineering, should be in its groove. It opens March 31.

Bravo Stars Take Over Girl & The Goat

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"Top Chef All Stars" fan favorite winner Carla Hall, with "Real Housewives of Atlanta" Phaedra Parks (right) and "Top Chef" star Tiffany Derry (right, top). (Photos: 312 Dining Diva)

If you're a Bravo fan, the place to be Wednesday was one of the hot-ticket Top Chef finale parties happening in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York simultaneously.

The sassy channel known best for the chef-focused competition as well as the Real Housewives franchises had its party at Girl & The Goat—owned by Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

But Was She Drinking A SkinnyGirl Margarita?!

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Bethenny Frankel, a natural food chef and star of Bravo's Bethenny Ever After, was in Chicago Tuesday for a quick business trip.

She was staying at River North's Hotel Palomar, and, according to Exec Chef Heather Terhune, apparently ventured downstairs to Sable Kitchen & Bar for cocktails where she hilariously observed:

"The weirdest thing: I'm in a restaurant in Chicago with my single girlfriend & there isn't one man here. Am I in the 'Vagina Monologues?'"

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that all the guys were somewhere watching basketball or hockey . . .

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Schwa Reso System Still Frustrates Diners

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Exterior of Schwa photo via NBCChicago.com

In 2009, 312DD and NBCChicago.com teamed up to snag the first-ever look inside eccentric Wicker Park sensation Schwa.

Its focus was also on the difficult reservation system, which by now, should be better. Or that's what I thought until I got this email Tuesday from a reader:

Get Ready For Chili & Firefighters & Chefs!

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When I served as one of the judges for the Muscular Dysphoria Association's annual Firefighter Chili Cook-Off last year, it was so hot outside that we were sweating like we were in the tropics.

But things are back to normal, and it's so effing cold that today's the perfect day to chow down on chili.

What's awesome about this year's competition—in addition to the fact that I'll be in a room full of fine-ass firemen—is that 10 of them have teamed up with chefs from some of the hottest restaurants in town.

Bravo, 'Top Chef' Take Over Girl & The Goat

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(Photo: Bravo)

Scratch those plans if you wanted to stop by Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat Wednesday.

The "Top Chef" champ tweeted Tuesday that Bravo was taking over her red-hot West Loop resto for the show's finale party:

"More stressful is tomorrows bravo buyout... All bravo. 'All (Star) Top Chef' finale. Best part, Gail Simmons gonna be here!!"

How exciting. And where is MY invite?!

Tequila, Tex-Mex & Pinups in Ukrainian Village!

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Photo via WayneWallace.com

Looks like Ukrainian Village's Jam is soon getting a cool new neighbor.

Sweet Tips, a Tex-Mex tequila bar and restaurant, plans to settle in just behind the popular brunch spot some time in June.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jerry Kleiner On Fate of Red Light, Gioco

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Jerry Kleiner photo via LeShock Value.

Jerry Kleiner finally spoke Monday in a press release regarding the Crain's Chicago Business story about the closings of Gioco and Red Light:

"We are so grateful to Chicago and all of those who contributed to the success at Gioco and Red Light for 15 years. We had a very positive run at both restaurants for a long time and will keep it up with Gioco."

Friday, March 25, 2011

'Shift Drinks' Returns With Sepia, Mobile Speakeasy

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Wonder what's inside Templeton Rye's Mobile Speakeasy? We'll find out soon! (Photo: Templeton Rye)

This is such exciting news!

Shift Drinks—one of my favorite industry events—returns to its original home in the basement of Pops for Champagne.

That's when a popular local chef teams up with a renown mixologist to hook us all up with really tasty drinks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Backlash Against Pop-Up Concepts Already?!

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Just as the pop-up restaurant scene is taking off in Chicago (a slew of them are set to open this spring/summer), NY Eater reports that there is already backlash again the concept in New York, where it's been going on for a couple of years:

"The community board in Soho—the neighborhood where Michelin-starred chef John Fraser's nine-month pop-up restaurant, What Happens When, is located—is gearing up for a fight to prevent the restaurant from renewing its liquor license.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One BIG Night In Little Italy . . .

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She couldn't wait to chow down on the Butterscotch Cake Doughnuts with bacon brittle from Three Aces. (Photos: 312 Dining Diva and Freddy Love)

I got a bunch of fun, food-loving friends together over the weekend and convinced them to go with me on one journey our stomachs will never forget.

I dubbed it One BIG Night In Little Italy—a culinary-and-cocktail crawl—in which we visited several of the neighborhood's restaurants and bars to eat and drink until we passed out.

We actually only made it to seven of the eight designated spots because frankly we couldn't go on any longer.

Here's what went down . . .

The James Beard Noms Are Out . . .

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

At last year's James Beard Foundation Awards, Avenues' chef Curtis Duffy was tapped by Grant Achatz to cook for the ceremony—an honor given to a past winner who passes the baton to another worthy chef.

And today, Duffy finds himself among the Beard honoree elite, as the prestigious awards announced the nominees for 2011.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Open Apology to Bartenders . . .

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Alex Ott photo via The New York Times

Remember that New York Times article in which a "former" bartender insulted his peers by stating that they "should never be people who come up with cocktails, because they have no education" ...

Well, after being skewered here and other media outlets, he has issued an apology on Facebook:

Levitski Introduces Childhood Fave To Brunch Menu

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Sprout Executive Chef Dale Levitski (Photo: Sprout)

Though Sprout Executive Chef Dale Levitski has made it perfectly clear that children are not welcome at his brand-new Sunday brunch, his menu reflects some of his favorite childhood dishes.

At the invitation of the chef, we came for the debut and chowed down on everything that was put in front of us, including the Ligonberry French Toast made of peanut butter, bananas and 5 Spice; a Croque Madame accompanied by shallots and a potato green bean salad; and the whimsical Foie Gras Deviled Eggs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A 'Rant' From The Whistler's Bartender . . .

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Paul McGee photo via This Is A Cocktail Blog

Bartending vet Paul McGee, who can be found at The Whistler, gives some sound advice to his colleagues in a rant on his This Is A Cocktail Blog:

"Ignoring people that order a product or cocktail that isn't carried at a particular establishment is another trend that seems to be popping up, and, strangely, seems to be a policy that the staff members at these bars proudly brag about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bartenders Too Uneducated To Conceive Cocktails?!

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Alex Ott photo via The New York Times

This pretty outrageous opinion comes from Alex Ott—a former New York bartender who now considers himself more than just a mere mixologist.

He expressed those thoughts and more in a recent New York Times article that's pissed off a number of high-profile Chicago bartenders.

His exact quote:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jerry Azumah's 'Top Secret' Dinner at Next

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(Photo: Leigh Anne Marie)

Ever so often, former Bears star Jerry Azumah will let his Twitter followers know that they can ping him online with questions about football, pop culture or whatever else is on their minds.

On this particular occasion on Tuesday, I joined in on the conversation and randomly asked Azumah about his favorite cuisine. "Asian and Italian" were his answers, but he followed up with "I'll let you know about what I eat tonight. It's top secret."

I didn't think much about it, but silly me. I should have seen this coming a mile away.

Get The $225 Patty Melt For FREE!

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(Photos: David Burke's Primehouse)

Here's your chance to get your hands on the ultimate sandwich everyone's been buzzing about.

Last Friday, David Burke's Primehouse debuted a $225 Patty Melt and they managed to sell two.

But not everyone has the $$$ to splurge on such an indulgence, sooooo Executive Chef Rick Gresh has figured out a way to give one away for free.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lockwood's Greg Elliott Joins 'Chef Week'

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Greg Elliott of Lockwood Restaurant (Photo: Palmer House Hilton)

He's worked the line at Naha, served as chef de cuisine at one sixtyblue, and led his own kitchen at Napa Valley's Brannan's Grill, where he delivered approachable, seasonally driven cuisine.

Now Greg Elliott's charged with bringing his version of farm-to-table cooking to Lockwood's kitchen, where he's been since December.

At the Palmer House Hilton's resto, he's doing sensational dishes like a Tallgrass New York strip with duck fat-poached fingerling potatoes, Le Quebecois veal tenderloin with heirloom red brick beans, and a pan-roasted skatewing accompanied by local pumpkin and warm ham hock vinaigrette.

This is something to get excited about! And if you haven't yet dined at Lockwood since Elliott took over, now is the time with the second-annual Chicago Chef Week happening March 20-26.

Monday, March 14, 2011

'Red or White Ball' Snags One Red-Hot Chef

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Kith & Kin Executive Chef Andrew Brochu (Photo via StarChefs.com)

Andrew Brochu has been having one hell of a time since taking over executive chef duties at Kith & Kin last fall.

Mega star Matt Damon and his filming crew ate damn near everything on the menu at the seafood-focused resto last December. They also gave the chef and his crew a thrill when they hung out a little.

In January, Brochu and his team won the prestigious Jean Banchet award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant.

And in April, he's set to be one of three high-profile chefs serving the VIPs during an exclusive cocktail reception at the Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council's annual Red or White Ball at Salvage One (1840 W. Hubbard St.).

'Top Chef' Star Gives Props To Chicago

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(Photo: Bravo)

CityBuzz recently interviewed the very fabulous Bravo "Top Chef" judge Gail Simmons on her favorite Chicago restaurants, and boy did she gush!

She's apparently a huge fan of everything Paul Kahan and Bill Kim, and makes a point of hitting up their restaurants whenever she's in town.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Someone Bought The $225 Patty Melt!

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(Photo: David Burke's Primehouse)

Two diners, at separate tables, actually splurged over the weekend on Primehouse's brand-new, budget-busting burger.

Executive Chef Rick Gresh put the $225 Patty Melt on the menu Friday (and it's sold ONLY on Fridays), and at least one of the customers ordered it as an appetizer, according to a Primehouse staffer.

"He even ordered a steak as an entree," she said.

Wow. That must've been one hell of a tip!

Blackbird's Lynn House a 'Tales' Finalist

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Blackbird's star mixologist Lynn House in action. (Photo: Lynn House)

Blackbird's tireless head mixologist Lynn House continues to collect accolades on a very high level.

This time the mega props come from Tales of the Cocktail, which announced Friday the 10 finalists for the event's annual Official Cocktail Competition.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ryan Poli On Way To Super Stardom?!

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He's got A-Lister looks, a bad-boy personality and gorgeous media celebrity girlfriend.

So it was only a matter of time until Ryan Poli hit the big time.

The talented toque—who just recently left his post at Perennial and will oversee the upcoming Tavernita in Chicago and Miami—will be one of four chefs competing on Bravo's newest reality show, Rocco's Dinner Party, that's set to air this summer.

Freebies . . . on Friday . . .

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The $9.95 "Just Bring Me Lunch!" deal is new at Pizzeria Via Stato. (Photo: Pizzeria Via Stato)

Low on cash, but got an appetite for the good life?! Every Friday, 312DD features the best bargain bets around town:

Wild Card Deals are back and bigger than ever every Sunday at Cafe Selmarie through the winter. That means you draw a card from your server for different discounts, including half price on beer or wine; free desserts or half off on a second entree.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Bedford, Southern Mac Truck Team Up

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(Photo: Mark Steuer)

As we continue to wait for chef Mark Steuer to open The Bedford in the Wicker Park 'hood, here's something to keep us occupied in the meantime.

Apparently, he's teamed up with The Southern's mac 'n' cheese truck to give us a preview of what to expect when his resto opens in April.

Feast Your Eyes . . .

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. . . on the world's most expensive patty melt!

Just when I had thought I'd seen it all, David Burke's Primehouse Executive Chef Rick Gresh has created the most luxurious sandwich sold in Chicago.

Chicago's Got Burger Fever!

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(Photo: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises)

Holy Moly Hamburgers!

This is the scene outside the Streeterville location for M Burger right NOW as folks wait outside patiently for the deal of the day.

Thursday is the venue's first-year anniversary and they're celebrating by offering every guest a free burger—of any size or price—with a purchase.

There's still time to get down there. It goes on until 7pm . . .

Everyone's Italian This St. Paddy's Day . . .

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While the Irish will be bedazzled in green come March 17, the Italians will also be feting a very important milestone on that day: the 150th anniversary of Italy.

As part of the local festivities, 18 local restos will get the Ospitalit√† Italiana Seal – Italian Retaurants in the World—an honor recognizing their authenticity and culinary contributions to Italian culture—during a special dinner at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (1431 W. Taylor St.).

It's not an easy task to get the honor. To qualify, each restaurant must employ at least one staff member who can speak to guests in Italian; the menus must be written in proper Italian; at least 20 percent of wines offered must be DOP-certified (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or "Protected Denomination of Origin"); and the head chef must meet requirements of experience and proficiency in Italian cooking.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Emeril Crowns Twin Anchors An 'Original'

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Emeril Lagasse on Wednesday taping "The Originals" at Twin Anchors.

I'm gonna keep this short and sweet.

Famed chef and television personality Emeril Lagasse was in town Wednesday afternoon taping his new restaurant-focused show for The Cooking Channel.

You'll Stay Skinny With These Boozy Sippers!

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Clockwise from top: Le Colonial's Guava Bellini, Ha Long Fizz, Mekong Sunset and Le Coco Tropique. (Photo: Le Colonial)

So, I've pretty much made it clear that my "go to" cocktail is a classic Champagne Cocktail—a drink that every bartender should have memorized.

I love them so much, but the problem is that after three or four or five of them, you've almost surpassed your caloric intake for the day. That's why I've been lucky enough to be introduced to my favorite new cocktails at Le Colonial's sexy Gold Coast upstairs lounge.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Latest From Old Town Social Team

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Old Town Social Executive Chef Jared Van Camp (Photo: Old Town Social)

More info is finally trickling out about the Old Town Social team taking over the old Marche space at 833 W. Randolph St.—which 312DD was the first to tell you about last summer.

Apparently, there's still no name for the venue, but we can tell you that they're calling their concept "rock 'n' roll bohemian chic fused with 'sprezzatura,'" or a studied spontaneity.

OK.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mario Batali Ate His Way Through Town

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Eccentric New York celeb chef Mario Batali was in town over the weekend for the Home and Housewares Show, and he took advantage of the opportunity and chowed down every chance he got.

Lucky for us, he documented his grubfest on Twitter, and here are some of his best moments:

'GATG' Gets a Little Sister!

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(Photo: Chuck Hodes for Bravo)

Sunday night we told you exclusively about Brendan Sodikoff's forthcoming Ox Diner, set to open late summer in the West Loop.

Now, super duper chef Stephanie Izard—who'll compete on "Top Chef All Stars" on Wednesday—has revealed to Eater plans to open the Little Goat diner in the fall.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Get Ready For Brendan Sodikoff's Ox Diner

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Photo via Flickr

It's been a busy year for Brendan Sodikoff, and it's only March!

In early January he opened the instant French hit Maude's Liquor Bar in the West Loop. Up next is Doughnut Vault, which is set to open soon in his first restaurant, Gilt Bar.

Now comes word from Sodikoff about his fourth project, which will also hit the West Loop.

Starting Week Off On Great Note!

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Bridget Albert, Director of Mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits. (Photo: Bridget Albert)

This is the type of news that should put a smile on everyone's face:

Bridget Albert—the star mixologist who helped usher in the current cocktail revolution in Chicago—has just been named official mixologist for Redbook.

Look for her original, market-fresh recipes in the magazine's new lifestyle section that will be viewed by more than three million readers.

Albert's rockin' recipe for The Buckcherry is the type of yummy stuff she'll be serving up in upcoming months:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bad News For Lady Gregory . . .

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Kyle McHugh of Lady Gregory (Photo: Kyle McHugh)

Just as excitement hit for the upcoming Lady Gregory project set to open in Andersonville in April, it was hit with some very bad luck Thursday.

According to an Ultimate Insider, a fire raced through the venue destroying the entire bar and dining room.

"It won't open for a few months now," he said.

Lady G.'s beverage director Kyle McHugh checked out the scene Friday morning and had this to say: "Just visited the fire scene. It's bad. Brand new hand-made bar, new coolers, taps - gone. Thankful kitchen and all in basement ok."

We'll keep you posted on its progress . . .

Free Burgers at M Burger!

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M Burger's signature double-stack burger. (Photo: M Burger)

This is the kind of news we LOVE.

To celebrates its first birthday, the original M Burger in Streeterville will generously give you a gift.

Freebies . . . on Friday . . .

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It's "Oyster Fest" at Tavern on Rush through March 13.

Low on cash, but got an appetite for the good life?! Every Friday, 312DD features the best bargain bets around town:

Don't you always feel less guilty about pigging out after a great workout?! Burn some calories first at the brand-new 6pm Friday spin class at Go Cycle, then chill out with a great deal at next-door neighbor Old Town Social. Pick up a certificate at the studio for a comp glass of Prosecco or pint of Three Floyds Pride beer as well as a half-price appetizer. Fridays only; first-time Go Cycle students get first class free.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bistronomic Is #Winning!

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Photos of Chef Martial Noguier and Bistronomic interior via galdonesphotography.com.

A funny thing happened Wednesday during my first visit to Bistronomic, the new casually cool French eatery owned by chef Martial Nogiuer.

The place was bustling, diners appeared to be animated and elated with their entree selections, and the bar area was scattered with sophisticated European types dining on smaller plates of sardines and pate.

But there was one customer who was not happy—or impressed—with any of this and it was pretty funny to watch it all go down from my perch at the bar.

'Spectacle' Includes Elusive Schwa Chef

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Chef Michael Carlson of Schwa. (Photo via The Stew)

"I literally had to camp out and go in there at times when I knew he'd be there," Redmoon Theater's Sean Kaplan confessed to Eater on how he snagged Schwa's elusive chef/owner Michael Carlson for his annual event.

"When I met him he was one of the most friendly, genuine guys I had (ever) met. I told him what the mission was and he said he doesn't do benefits, but he liked what I proposed and said he was a fan of Redmoon."

That's freaking HUGE that they got Carlson to serve food at Spectacle Lunatique (6:30pm March 12) for the VIP portion of the event. It'll also include top chefs Paul Kahan (Blackbird), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia), Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Jimmy Bannos, Jr. (The Purple Pig), Bill Kim (Belly Shack/Urban Belly), Randy Zweiban (Province), Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) and Jessie Oloroso (Black Dog Gelato) as well as mixologist Charles Joly (The Drawing Room).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Last Hurrah For Art Smith's 'World Festival'

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It had a good run, but now it's time for a change.

Common Threads' World Festival—the gourmet grubout staffed by some of the most recognized names in the culinary world—will be no longer following its final event on March 7 at Soldier Field.

And to no one's surprise, this final blowout will go out with a significant bang, as founder Art Smith of Table Fifty-Two has gathered the likes of Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Michelle Bernstein (Michy's), Anita Lo (Annisa), Bill Kim (Urban Belly/Belly Shack) and Chris Pandel (The Bristol) to serve as his celebrity chef hosts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lushing Out with LUPEC

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Sonja Kassebaum of North Shore Distilleries (Photo: Sonja Kassebaum)

To kick off Women's History Month, 312DD kicked it Monday with the Chicago chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails—better known as LUPEC—at Bar DeVille.

This sounds so prim and proper, doesn't it?!

I was so effing prepared to munch on miniature cucumber sandwiches and sip Champagne-gin cocktails as we politely discussed current events and the state of cocktails. But I was briskly told that this was not that kind of party.

I was first introduced to the members, some of whom I knew and some of whom I had heard about but had never met. Most were bar-industry vets with long resumes, such as Lynn House, who works at Blackbird and is also the chapter's president; Debbi Peek (The Bristol); Logan Lavachek (Double A, Sepia); Leanne Strickler (Nana); and Sonja Kassebaum (North Shore Distilleries). (Missing in action was Bridget Albert of Southern Wine & Spirits.)

The Bedford's Location Revealed

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(Photo: Mark Steuer)

Sooooo, information is slowly leaking out about Mark Steuer's new Wicker Park project, The Bedford, which we were the first to tell you about in January.

The location is at 1612 W. Division St., in an old bank building, and it's set to open in mid-April. From what we understand, it's well on its way to being finished and if all goes well with the city, they should be opening on time.

Bartenders On 'Savory' Cocktail Trend

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Adam Seger and his savory Mojitonico cocktail. (Photos: Adam Seger)

Local bar stars balked at the idea of Austin's trendy new Duck Fat Sazerac, but how do they feel about other savory cocktails?!

We talked to several of them and got their thoughts on "smoked" drinks, herb-infused elixirs and more . . .

What's Next For The Rockit Guys?!

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Rockit Ranch Productions partners Brad Young (from left), Billy Dec and Arturo Gomez. (Photo: Rockit Ranch Productions)

Some of the principles of Rockit Ranch Productions were in New York City Monday, and they were eating as though their lives depended on it.

Billy Dec—who was accompanied by partners Arturo Gomez and Aeron Lancero—tweeted that the crew was on a mission to dine at 14 restaurants in 14 hours.