Friday, August 31, 2012
This is ruthless and funny.
Oh, yeah. Here's Billy's dessert.
Chow down on some of Tavernita's small-plate dishes during "Dine Around." (Photo: Tavernita)
Here's your chance to earn a free ticket to Bon Appétit's Chicago Gourmet, happening Sept. 29-30 in Millennium Park.
All you have to do to get one is chow down at some of the 70-plus participating Dine Around restaurants Sept. 1-30. They're encouraging diners to visit up to five spots, and spend a minimum of $35 at each. Keep those receipts (!!), and redeem them at Chicago Gourmet's registration table for a general admission ticket for one day.
It sold out in less than 40 minutes when tickets went on sale Tuesday.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Props go out today to Uncle Julio's on North Avenue for the way the managers handled a situation that could have gone really bad.
Here's the account from my Facebook friend, Michelle, who details what happened to her party on a recent outing:
"Well....I had to do it. I wrote the corporate office of Uncle Julio's to complain about a waiter named Sam at the location on North Ave. here in Chicago. We have had him two times as a waiter and BOTH times, he completely ignored our table as if we were invisible. Had to keep flagging him down for everything, more chips, more salsa, drink refills. I sat for 10 minutes with a totally empty glass and finally got up, and took my glass directly to Sam and told him to give me some more ice tea! We did complain to the manager and got a new waiter, Ashley, who was GREAT. But for Sam to totally diss us twice was no accident. We asked Ashley if she would have to split her tip with Sam and she assured us that she didn't have to, so we left her a 50% tip on a $46 bill. Sorry, Sam, you missed out when you assumed that all black people don't tip and left us high and dry......... pathetic."
Here's the prompt response Michelle received from Uncle Julio's corporate office, which is located in Irving, Texas:
Are we in 2012 or back in Jim Crow days?!
I was recently told that the owner of a popular Little Italy-based restaurant gave his staff these very specific instructions of who should sit in the windows.
UN-FREAKING-believable, but all I am going to say is there were recently some major shakeups at this spot because of this prejudiced policy . . .
Photo via the Inquisitr.
So. We finally arrive at the conclusion of Mark Caro's tremendous three-part story on Charlie Trotter in the Chicago Tribune.
The iconic Lincoln Park restaurant serves its last meal August 31, and this series was the perfect sendoff, offering in-depth and sometimes brutally honest perspectives on the behind-the-scenes action.
Here are the highlights of Part 3 (also read Part 1 and Part 2):
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Sub 51's interior. (Photo: Sub 51)
This dropped in the 312DD inbox from an Ultimate Insider Wednesday evening:
"Have you heard that UG and Sub 51 are closing for renovations in the next couple months? Both are rumored to be 'expanding.' Sub is closing as soon as September and Underground is supposed to shutter in November or I believe sometime in December."
"Top Chef" winner Paul Qui.
This week was only the second-ever time Top Chef winner Paul Qui had ever been to Chicago, yet he navigated our food scene like a pro. The Austin-based chef was in town to headline the first-ever A Magnificent Taste, and it didn't hurt that he had some local colleagues as tour guides.
His friends (who are chefs at Alinea) took him to Au Cheval, Urban Belly, and Alinea, of course, but he regretted that he didn't have a chance to dine at Spiaggia this time around.
Lee Wolen, chef de cuisine at The Lobby. (Photos: Peninsula Chicago)
Ran into Lee Wolen, the incoming chef de cuisine at The Lobby at Peninsula Chicago, at A Magnificent Taste on Wednesday.
A former chef at Butter and Moto, Wolen was most recently at New York's Eleven Madison Park. He did this interview with Dish earlier in the summer, but at that point he didn't have a menu in place.
Look for contemporary American dishes with seasonal, fresh ingredients when The Lobby officially opens on Sept. 24. Highlights will include ricotta gnocchi with zucchini, olives, squash blossoms and tomatoes; grilled beef rib eye with braised short rib, baby artichokes, garlic and bone marrow; roasted Colorado lamb loin with braised shank, carrots, dates and Greek yogurt; and whole roasted chicken for two with Yukon potatoes and Cippolini onions.
If you thought Part 1 of Mark Caro's Chicago Tribune three-part series on Charlie Trotter was intense, wait until you read Part 2.
Here are the highlights:
"(The restaurant) had these high, high standards and these high disciplines, but at the end of the day there was a dog in the kitchen."—Chef Rick Tramonto
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Chicago q's BBQ flight of Kobe brisket, pulled pork and pulled chicken. (Photo: Chicago q)
What a tremendous way to celebrate a second anniversary!
On Sept. 4, Chicago q plans to donate 10 percent of the day's proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The organization is certainly a worthy beneficiary as it is the world's largest voluntary, nonprofit health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Since 1949, LLS has awarded more than $814 million in research funding for all blood cancers.
Photo via RIA of Nahabedian's new restaurant location.
Not much has been revealed about the forthcoming French-inspired restaurant from Carrie Nahabedian (Naha), but one thing is clear: It will not be a casual sit-down spot.
In her own words, she elaborated in Chef's Journal:
Charlie Trotter's last day is Friday, but before the iconic restaurant has its final dinner service, the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro writes about the intensity in the kitchen in a three-part series.
Here are some of the best excerpts from Part 1:
"Charlie walks into the kitchen," (Homaro) Cantu recalls, "and he goes up to Graham Elliot, and he puts his hands around (Elliot's) neck, and he's like, 'Don't you know that I will (expletive) kill you right now?' And Elliot's just standing there, and tears (come) right out of his eyes."
Monday, August 27, 2012
iNG's Homaro Cantu is experimenting with the sugar-free miracle fruit again.
First, it was a "flavor tripping" cocktail menu featuring some of the classics. And on Monday, he announced on Facebook that he's working on even more "flavor tripping" treats: DOUGHNUTS.
I cannot wait to see how this turns out . . .
Revelers at the annual "Royster With The Oyster," happening right outside Shaw's Crab House under The Big White Tent. (Photo: Shaw's Crab House)
Because apparently they've managed to secure a major music star to headline the festivities for the annual Royster with the Oyster.
Lee Brice, a South Carolina-based artist, reached No. 1 in April on Billboard's country music chart with "A Woman Like You." He's set to perform 7:30-9:30pm when the block party takes place on Oct. 12 at Shaw's Crab House.
Double A bartender Paul Sauter. (Photo: Paul Sauter)
Here's your chance to get in on the hot mixology scene at one of the top bars in town.
Double A's Paul Sauter has just launched the Double A-Z Challenge on Twitter in which he'll be tasked each week to create a cocktail with a signature ingredient from a different letter of the alphabet. Twitter followers are encouraged to share their suggestions for signature ingredients of the week's letter by using the hashtag #DoubleA-Z.
Potbelly sandwiches via Serious Eats Chicago.
National Sandwich Month is coming to a close, and to celebrate, the hungry guys over at Serious Eats Chicago decided to indulge with a Potbelly sandwich binge.
That's right. They ate every last offering on the menu, from my fave A Wreck to the gooey meatball sandwich.
Which ones are the best to order or avoid?! Here's what they discovered.
Senza's gluten-free waffles are on the breakfast/brunch menu. (Photo: Senza)
Former Green Zebra chef Noah Sandoval breaks out on his own to run the kitchen at the just-opened Senza in Lakeview.
He's partnered with baker Susan McMillan for a gluten free-focused venue that's a coffeehouse by day and full-scale restaurant in the evening. The space is designed by 555 (Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, etc.), offering diners a sleek, yet modern setting.
They're doing a la carte as well as three tasting menus (basic, vegetable, grand; $65-$105) that may be complemented with wine pairings (a cocktail menu is still in the works). Highlights include the Alaskan halibut with trumpet mushrooms and Tagliatelle pasta with shaved truffle and Parmesan.
Here are the current tasting menus:
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Boka chefs John Kirchner (from left), Sarah Jordan, Carl Shelton and Giuseppe Tentori. (Photo: Boka)
I don't even want to think about fall right now, but this upcoming Boka event makes me want to fast forward to October ASAP.
That's because on Oct. 3 chef Giuseppe Tentori and head mixologist Benjamin Schiller team up with Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and Three Floyds Brewing for a dinner that will sell out as soon as tickets go on sale at noon August 28.
During a special six-course menu, only 90 guests will have the privilege of meeting the people behind the legendary Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon: Julian III, grandson to the legendary "Pappy" Van Winkle, and his son Preston. Even better is that they're bringing with them some artisan whiskeys for guests to sample, such as the coveted Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve, 20 Year.
Here's what to expect that evening:
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The "Sway Bar" cocktail of Bombay Sapphire, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and lemon. (Photo: Anthony Tahlier)
From the guys who brought us the rock-inspired Angels & Kings comes the more grown-up Chuck's Manufacturing, which is set to open in the old China Grill space in mid-September.
The venue, designed by 555 ((N9NE Group, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant), pays homage to partner Carrie Becker's dad's successful auto industry career. The cocktails do as well—with a few also inspired by the Flavor Factory Vodka Bar.
Here's the first look at the cocktail menu:
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Conspicuously missing from this year's lineup is Matt Maroni, who was one of the pioneers of Chicago's food truck movement. (Photo via Time Out Chicago)
This weekend marks the second-annual Food Truck Social, which is put on by Time Out Chicago and the West Town Chamber of Commerce. But in all the excitement of more participants than ever and the expected crowds of more than 20,000, I couldn't help but wonder if it's a little bittersweet for one guy.
Matt Maroni shuttered Gaztro-Wagon in late 2011 to retool his "thought processes and move forward." Considered one of the pioneers of Chicago's food truck scene when he launched the Gaztro-Wagon in 2010, Maroni also helped organize the first year of the Food Truck Social. He even featured some of the more high-profile chefs like Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Bill Kim (Urban Belly) and Justin Large (Big Star) on his truck during the two-day event.
Believe it or not, he's not even a little sad that he's not involved in the food truck movement or this weekend's event.
David Burke's new "Caesarista" at work. (Photo: Freddy Love)
From Frontier's whole smoked alligators to David Burke Primehouse's newly hired Caesarista whipping up salads with crab cake croutons or foie gras, here are the most offbeat tableside preparations around town.
Monday, August 20, 2012
There was some hardcore competition Monday night at Vertigo Sky Lounge for the first-ever Grey Goose Punch Wars, but in the end it was Blackbird's talented head mixologist Lynn House who took home first prize.
Her Diamonds and Pears punch, which included Grey Goose's La Poire pear flavored vodka, was a nod to Prince's sultry hit song, Diamonds & Pearls. The contest was done in the style of the popular Food Network show, Chopped, with a secret ingredient.
The infamous 23-layer chocolate cake at Michael Jordan's Steak House. (Photo: Michael Jordan's Steak House)
I'm a little bummed at Michael Jordan's Steak House.
Thursday, August 23 marks the Mag Mile resto's first anniversary and to celebrate they're giving every table that dines between 6-8pm a complimentary order of the signature garlic bread.
While that garlic bread is pretty damn good, to me it would have made more sense had they given each table a slice of that 23-layer chocolate cake with a glass of bubbly for every diner over 21.
(Photo: Harvest Moon Farms)
Many farms have been affected by the summer's drought, and here's a way for you to pitch in and help.
Viroqua, Wis.-based Harvest Moon Farms has been credited by those in the local bartending community as being instrumental in the craft mixology scene. They've been hit pretty hard by the drought, so they've held a number of fundraisers, including one happening Thursday at Metro.
The Last Drought Benefit will feature live music from Mr. Blotto as well as other local bands, with the show starting at 8pm (doors open at 7). For those who'd like to help even more, there's a Farm to Bar cocktail reception featuring some of Chicago's bar stars (such as Adam Seger of Hum Liqueur) at Smart Bar from 6-8pm. Those who purchase those tickets also get VIP balcony seating for the show.
A Martin Scorsese-focused menu will be featured at iNG in September. (Photo: iNG Restaurant)
You've still got a few weeks left to experience iNG's "1980s Heavy Metal" menu, which pays homage to the likes of Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple and Def Leppard.
After that, according to chef/owner Homaro Canto, the flavor-tripping, West Loop restaurant will switch over to a menu based on films by famed director/producer Martin Scorsese.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
(Photo: Longman & Eagle)
The Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle apparently failed a number of major food and health violations when inspectors last visited on August 9. The violations were listed as Risk 1, which is considered high.
Here's exactly what they found at the Logan Square eatery:
Friday, August 17, 2012
Los-Angeles based Eva Restaurant gives five percent off dinner to those who turn in their cell phones to staff before sitting down.
Would you do it?!
Next week's a big one for Beverly Kim (aria), the spunky Top Chef contestant from Season 9.
Kim and husband Johnny Clark (C-House) officially take over the reigns at Shin Thompson's Michelin-starred Bonsoiree on August 22.
According to Eater Chicago, at that point they'll introduce a 12-course "tasting menu and the restaurant's new beverage program" with "ingredients like geoduck, Wisconsin crayfish, foie gras and bat ping soo."
Here's a look at the opening menu.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Paul Qui, the newest "Top Chef" champ, headlines "A Magnificent Taste" in late August.
On August 28, there will be not two, but three Top Chef winners in Chicago. That's because Season 9 winner Paul Qui will headline the first-ever A Magnificent Taste, a culinary event kicking off MasterCard's Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival.
The event takes place at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.) with the Austin-based chef hooking up guests with signature, seasonal bites. Joining him will be Anthony Martin (Tru), Arnie Tellez (Shaw's Crab House), Doug Psaltis (RPM Italian), Lee Wolen (The Peninsula Chicago), Patricio Sandoval (Mercadito), Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse), Nathan Huntington (Argent Restaurant & Raw Bar), Ryan Poli (Tavernita), Joseph Rosetti (Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse), Federico Comacchio (Phil Stefani's 437 Rush) and Paul Katz (Sweetwater Tavern and Grille).
This dropped in my inbox last night:
"(Redacted) put in the back of a squad car for shooting fireworks off on (Redacted) Avenue for the second night this week at 10:30 at night on a Wednesday. And we are talking about huge fireworks, not little ones."
This is one of the biggest chefs in the city, by the way. In fact, this particular culinary star has a Michelin star . . .
UPDATE: Whoops. Eater Chicago let the cat out the bag.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Illustration via John Ueland/Crain's Chicago Business
If you cannot see the names, go here.
The coolest tribute I've seen thus far . . .
Former Japonais chef Gene Kato is moonlighting at Red Violet. (Photo via Time Out Chicago)
A recent dinner at one of my all-time favorites in the city brought an unexpected joy: the Red Curry Biscuit at Blackbird.
Chef David Posey pairs it with roasted lobster, but on this particular evening, we were only interested in that biscuit. You know how spots like Balena and Vera are now charging $3-$7 for bread service?! Yeah, it was that good.
The biscuit was infused with just enough curry to give it kick, but still maintained that familiar buttermilk flavor.
Here are some other cool things chefs are doing around town:
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
We all scream for Chi-Scream's ice cream sandwiches. (Photo: Chi-Scream)
You know what?!
Those sweet rides rolling around town (Chi-Scream, More Cupcakes, Star Fruit, for example) can serve as the perfect pickup when you're feeling sluggish mid-afternoon.
Don't sleep on it!
Monday, August 13, 2012
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will rock the 54th annual "Chicago Air & Water Show" this weekend.
If you're not lucky enough to have friends with a rooftop or a boat this weekend, there are several places happy to take you in if you're looking for sweet seats to view the Chicago Air & Water Show.
Of course it's gonna cost you . . .
At Castaways Bar & Grill, right off North Avenue Beach, they're doing limited seating Friday through Sunday. If you want to take advantage of Friday's practice runs during lunchtime, it'll cost you $100 for food and an open bar. That's 9am-3pm. Saturday and Sunday's festivities cost $160 per person for food, open bar and an extra hour (until 4pm). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for resos.
Dion Antic (Photo: Dion Antic)
Long-time dining and nightlife impresario Dion Antic has been very busy as of late.
His Melt Sandwich Shoppe in Bucktown continues to flourish, he's set to star on History Channel's Picked Off on Wednesday, and is also opening an antiques store called Roadtrip on same day.
But he's most excited about his latest collaboration with the Bob San owners on a new Japanese-style tapas bar named Canto. It's set to open August 23.
"Chicago doesn't have a really cool sake and karaoke bar," Antic tells 312DD in an exclusive interview. "I'm bringing something to this part of Wicker Park that's grown up with no PBR, no Jameson and a state-of-the-art karaoke system."
Friday, August 10, 2012
The Gage, Henri Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan with mixologist Clint Rogers. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)
Well, that was quick.
Talented mixologist Clint Rogers is already out at Hot Chocolate only after leaving the top post at The Gage/Henri in early June.
"It just wasn't a good fit," he told 312DD Thursday about his less than two-month stint at the Bucktown powerhouse. He returned to The Gage and Henri about a week ago.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Charlie McKenna's succulent St. Louis-style ribs. (Photo: Lillie's Q)
Everyone on the local BBQ scene (yes, there is such a thing!) knows that Gary Wiviott is obsessed with all things grill related. Hey, he actually wrote a book about it, and these days he serves as the official "pitmaster" at Barn & Company in Lincoln Park.
So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's gathered some like-minded individuals to take part in the first-ever Windy City Rib Classic, kicking off at 10am Sunday.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The Porthole by Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail. (Photo: Crucial Detail)
Grant Achatz is like Oprah. I am dead serious.
At 5:58pm Tuesday, the super chef tweeted that "The Porthole by @MartinKastner /Crucial Detail is available on kickstarter."
What on earth is The Porthole?! Apparently a ton of people immediately saw that tweet and went to that link because in less than 15 minutes, more than $20,000 was raised for The Aviary-endorsed product that's one of the showpieces of the cocktail lounge.
The iconic Whitney Houston would have turned 49 on August 9, and to celebrate her most glorious days, Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club is having a party!
The popular Lakeview spot is dedicating the night to the diva who brought us hot charttoppers like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "How Will I Know" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Of course, that means there will be over-the-top performances by Kit Kat's own "diva" Aurora Sexton, who will sing Whitney's best ballads and pop hits. The party takes place 5:30pm-2am.
Don't let 'em fool you because apparently there is a such thing as a free lunch.
The new French-focused Maison celebrates what would have been Napoleon Bonaparte's 243rd birthday on August 15.
If you're one of the first lucky 100 lunch guests, here's what you will get:
(Photo: Stephanie Izard)
Stephanie Izard's Little Goat diner concept—which is directly across the street from big sis Girl & The Goat—was supposed to open in mid-September, according to the chef.
But now comes word from Eater Chicago that it's now scheduled to debut in October. Izard also revealed to the site some additional details about the restaurant, including that "the 8,200-square-foot diner will seat 120 people and will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. In the morning, a coffee bar will sell artisan bread baked in house and at night that space will convert into a bar selling local craft brews."
(Photo: 312 Dining Diva)
I had a cocktail last week at the bar in Michael Jordan's Steak House before dinner and got this bill that automatically calculated recommended gratuity.
I thought it was a pretty clever tactic that made its point without embarrassing the customer. Perhaps more restaurants should think about doing the same . . .
Monday, August 6, 2012
Just got word from Sodikoff Restaurant Group top gun Brendan Sodikoff that Bavette's Bar & Boeuf is finally opening this week in River North. That's the team's fifth project, which promises a "traditional American steakhouse with a European influence," an extensive scotch-based program and an adjacent burger bar.
But here's the best part of the news: During the soft-opening phase (Tuesday-Thursday), 100 percent of the profits (minus tips, of course!) will benefit Heshima Kenya, which assists unaccompanied refugee children and youth living in Nairobi.
Michael Jordan's grilled Maine lobster with lobster creamed corn and watercress salad. (Photo: Michael Jordan's Steak House)
I'm always a sucker for a big hunk of meat—particularly when we're talking about lobster. So I cannot help but be psyched by the newest offering at Michael Jordan's Steak House where you can get a lobster prix-fixe dinner for $49.
Thankfully, it's not just big 'ol chunks of crustacean; the menu is very well thought out and doesn't overdo the theme. You'll start with the sweet corn lobster bisque that's decadently poured over lobster hush puppies in a vanilla bean aioli.
And then there's the main event of grilled Maine lobster that comes with lobster creamed corn and watercress salad. For an extra twenty bucks, you can add a juicy filet, but believe me when I tell you that's going to be too much food. The deal continues through August 31.
Check out even more deals . . . and steals happening throughout the month:
Thursday, August 2, 2012
From left: Liz Grossman, Chris LaMorte, Kelli Zink, Steve Dolinsky and Heather Sperling.
Eating out can be hazardous to your health—when you're a professional food & drink writer. I've seen my weight go up and down 10 pounds to 15 pounds to 20 pounds for the last several years because of the rich foods and beverages I must consume in order to do my job effectively.
I've always, however, taken fitness very serious and maintained a regular workout regime. I've always indulged in the very power-driven Forrest yoga and as well as cycling in the city, but only recently did I take up Flywheel in River North.
The intense, indoor cycling experience takes the usual spinning class to the next level, offering high-tech bikes, stadium seating, light weight training, and extreme climbs and descents. Classes average 45 to 60 minutes, and immediately after you're rewarded with a complimentary piece of fresh fruit, which certainly holds off your appetite for a couple of hours.
The hard work has paid off (Forrest yoga+cycling+Flywheel) and I now approach food and drinks more responsibly when I dine out. My routine satisfies my lifestyle and work schedule, but everyone's different.
Here's what some of my colleagues do in order to stay in phenomenal shape . . .
Ashley Pruneau (Photo: Facebook)
Thus far, $9,200 has been raised for Ashley Pruneau, the MANA Food Bar line cook who was brutally attacked by a stranger in early July.
The goal is to collect $20,000, so a number of prominent restaurants have collaborated to throw another benefit to help pay for her mounting medical bills. The event happens 7pm-2am August 8 at Darkroom with a $15 donation at the door.
Food and wine will be included in the ticket price. Who's participating?