Thursday, November 29, 2012

Erin Hayes Bids Adieu To Perennial Virant; Joins The Cocktail Program At La Sirena Clandestina

Photo of Erin Hayes via Time Out Chicago.

It's the last week at Perennial Virant for beverage director Erin Hayes, whose last day of work is Saturday.

Next week, she'll start a new gig over at the red-hot La Sirena Clandestina, which is so poppin' right now that it was reviewed by the Chicago Tribune and Time Out Chicago within 24 hours. She'll work on the team with head bartender Justin Anderson.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shop . . . Then Drop Into One Of These Delightful In-House Dining Destinations

The Walnut Room's famous chicken pot pie. (Photo: Macy's State Street)

When you're in a zone—a shopping zone in this case—the last thing you want to do is stop and think about where you're going to grab a bite.

Lucky for you, a number of prominent retail department stores, luxury boutiques and others have taken this dilemma into account so that customers don't have to succumb to the evils of fast-food joints.

You can go the "ladies who lunch" route and check out Fred's at Barneys New York or treat some very special little girls to a day they'll never forget at American Girl Café.

Looking for more places where you can drop those bags and chow down in-house?! Here are some of my favorites around town.

Electric Diner—Au Cheval's 'Big Sister'—Opens In London In Early December

Electric Diner, Sodikoff Restaurant Group's first venue outside of Chicago, opens in London in early December. (Photos: Sodikoff Restaurant Group)

Remember way back in July when 312DD revealed that Sodikoff Restaurant Group was opening a restaurant in London?!

SRG CEO Brendan Sodikoff tells 312DD to think of Electric Diner, which debuts in the trendy Notting Hill 'hood on Dec. 3, as "Au Cheval's big sister."

According to Electric Diner's website, the menu will highlight some of Au Cheval's top sellers, including the "fried house-made bologna sandwich, roasted bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade, cheeseburger, and honey-fried chicken with chilli and sesame seeds. There's a dedicated eggs section on the menu, while deserts include toffee date cake and a pie of the day." There's also a number of classic cocktails, including a Hemingway Daiquiri, bloody Mary and Old Fashioned that have been popular at the West Loop restaurant.

Hey, if you're in London anytime soon, check it out. In the meantime, here are a couple of interior shots:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town

Happy first anniversary to The Slurping Turtle! (Photo: The Slurping Turtle)

• Chef Takashi Yagihashi celebrates the first anniversary of Slurping Turtle on Nov. 28. They are now making all of their noodles in-house for that extra homemade touch to their Japanese comfort food.

Bistronomic chef/owner Martial Noguier pays homage to his homeland by celebrating National French Toast Day. That's ummm, on Nov. 28, and he'll have as a special—for one day only—Brioche French Toast (crème brulee batter, orange candied Grand Marnier syrup). The $11 item will be available all day and night; it's usually only served during weekend brunch.

• There's a new restaurant concept coming in June 2013 from chef Chris Curren and the partners of Stout Barrel House & Galley. It'll feature wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, an on-site brewery and a large outdoor seating area at its West Loop location (840 W. Washington Blvd.). Curren will serve as executive chef at the still-unnamed spot.

• You'll find coffee craft cocktails behind the bar at Hot Chocolate, now that head bartender Alex Gara and head barista Alex McDaniel have collaborated on a few drinks. Look for tasty liquid treats like The Seraph (Benedictine, espresso, cognac, ground nutmeg, pumpkin spice) and The Siren (Rittenhouse Rye 100, espresso, dark chocolate, paprika/cayenne rum).

So Haute, So Fresh: Best Hot Cocoa Around Town

Doesn't this hot cocoa from David Burke's Primehouse look good?! (Photo: David Burke's Primehouse)

Baby, it's cold out there, which means that what you need right now is to get your mitts around a hot cup of cocoa.

But you shouldn't settle for just anyone's hot chocolate, so we sought out some of the most unique offerings around town for your drinking pleasure.

From the hot chocolate pop-up shop from David Burke's Primehouse to the boozy, avant guarde offering from The Aviary, here are the best bets.

Monday, November 19, 2012

When It Comes To Tipping, What Is The Proper Etiquette For Takeout Orders?!


So. A lively debate ensued late Friday afternoon when this question was brought up on Facebook:

Do you guys tip when you order takeout? And, if so, do you tip the full 20 percent?

Now, I'll admit . . .I wasn't too knowledgeable on this subject as I don't do takeout orders often; I get delivery service. And I tend to bypass those little tip jars at the cash registers of my local coffeehouses. Really?! A tip to pour me a cup of tea?!

But from everyday diners to those in the restaurant industry, here's what folks had to say about tipping on takeout orders:

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town

Carrie Nahabedian (Photo: Carrie Nahabedian)

There's a lot to be thankful for . . .

Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) revealed that Brindille is the name of her forthcoming French-focused restaurant. She's also shed more than 140 pounds since February. Go, Carrie!

Scott Malloy is no longer the chef at Arami. There's no word yet on what he's planning next.

Yusho's Matthias Merges is looking at a mid-December opening for Billy Sunday, his offbeat cocktail lounge in Logan Square with Alex Bachman at the helm.

Bar DeVille 'tender Seth Feldman gives us the 411 on the Ukrainian Village cocktail lounge's efforts to help fight prostate cancer in his Boozy Beggar blog. Proceeds from the Dick Cancer cocktail (rye, lemon, ginger beer, club soda and bitters with orange oil) benefit the Movember movement throughout the month.

• New Acre Executive Chef Mike Lathrop introduces a raw bar deal on Nov. 21. Get there during the week for "oyster hour" (5-7pm or 10pm-midnight) for $1 on every variety of bivalve.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Feast Your Eyes On Kitsch'n on Roscoe's Decadent 'Twinkie' Tiramisu

(Photo: Kitsch'n on Roscoe)

Have no fear, Hostess fans!

Kitsch'n on Roscoe has had the Twinkie Tiramisu on the menu for 14 years. It's $5.49, and made with fresh Twinkies, mascarpone, ricotta, chocolate and coffee liqueur.

Where To Give Back This Thanksgiving Season


Quite a few restaurants are jumping in to help those less fortunate. Here's where you can also help:

DMK Burger Bar. Each month, the Lakeview burger joint supports a well-known charity by donating a portion of the proceeds from a signature sandwich and drink. This month's organization is Meals on Wheels.

Headquarters Beercade. Through Sunday, customers are encouraged to drop off frozen turkeys to benefit the Lakeview Pantry. Last year they collected 120 turkeys and this year they're looking for kind souls like yourself to donate at least 500 birds.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Anonymous Commenter On Eater Puts The Entire Michelin Chicago Guide Drama In Perspective

(Photo: Michelin Guides)

Bravo to whomever wrote this in Eater Chicago's comments section:

"Tough times in the country brings out the real winners and the others. The griping over this announcement has me depressed about how Chicagoans look at things. We are one of only three cities in the United States that Michelin chose to be worthwhile to promote. LA and Las Vegas failed for goodness sake. While people complain about Lula (not getting a Michelin star), the Mexique chef is in tears of joy celebrating his accomplishment. Lula is packed every night and doesn't need anybody to tell Logan Square it is a good restaurant. Mexique may now become busier and remain open because of the new life. Keeping people in jobs, not to mention the achievement of a Mexican chef in Chicago. Stop the bitching. We sound like a bunch of poor losers. Don't get mad, get better!"


Big Star Named One Of 'America's Best Taco Spots' By Food & Wine Magazine. Do You Agree?!

Tacos from Big Star (Photo: Grant Kessler)

Food & Wine supposedly searched all over the country to track down the Best Taco Spots. Only one Chicago eatery made the cut, Big Star:

"'Tacos, whiskey, hillbilly music' is how star chef Paul Kahan describes the ultracasual Mexican spot he opened in Chicago's Wicker Park in 2009. Though he calls the place a dive (it's not), the classic tacos—excellent spit-roasted pork and beer-battered fish—are impressively fresh, and the beer list is one of the city's best. One way to battle the seemingly endless crowds: head over to the takeout window."

People are apparently really passionate about their tacos. Right now there are 2,405 comments disputing or agreeing with their picks . . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

M Burger Now Serves Breakfast & Do-Rite Donut Holes At Thompson Center Location

Breakfast at M Burger now includes Do-Rite Donuts. (Photo: M Burger)

Good news for those working in the Loop: The Thompson Center location of M Burger now serves breakfast.

But it's not just any breakfast; they've joined forces with Do-Rite Donuts to satisfy that sweet tooth with treats like the buttermilk Old Fashioned as well as assorted flavors of donut holes.

Tanqueray's Mixology Expert On Chicago's Vibrant Bar Scene, Cocktail Trends & More

Angus Winchester, global brand ambassador for Tanqueray. (Photo: Tanqueray)

I warmed up to Angus Winchester the moment he told me his favorite cocktail was The Negroni.

The dashing Englishman, who was in town last week for the Tanqueray Green Room Tour, serves as the well-known spirit's global brand ambassador, which means he is one hell of a cocktail expert.

Winchester has one of the greatest jobs on the planet: He travels the world sharing his vast knowledge of gin, cocktail culture and his experiences in the scene (The James Bond of Bartending?!). He's so popular, in fact, that he was named the Best International Brand Ambassador during last summer's Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. On Tuesday, the talented 'tender was named Wine Enthusiast's Mixologist/Brand Ambassador of the Year.

Chicago was one of several cities on the tour he visited to conduct a number of cocktail seminars and bartender evaluations. A few hours were also set aside to hang with several of us food & drink writers at some of his favorite bars in town.

He took us to The Aviary, Sable Kitchen & Bar and Violet Hour, which he believes have some of the city's best gin cocktails. We sipped a number of classics, including the Aviation, Bee's Knees, Gimlet, and, of course, the Negroni.

During our little cocktail pub crawl, he answered a few burning questions:

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town

"No Reservations" star Anthony Bourdain is coming to Chicago!

It's a very busy week. Check it out . . .

• Tickets go on sale at 10am Nov. 16 for Good vs. Evil: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert. The event happens at the Auditorium Theatre on May 9, 2013, and this thing WILL sell out immediately, so you should jump on it. The Bristol's Chris Pandel will serve some of his signature bites as part of the program.

Eater Chicago takes a look at the good, bad and ugly of the Michelin Chicago stars for 2013, including the snubbing of Paul Virant (Perennial Virant, Vie) and Bruce Sherman (North Pond).

• The Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence nominees are in. Most interesting is that mixologist Paul McGee got a nod for Three Dots and a Dash, which hasn't opened yet. The awards will be presented on Feb. 8, 2013, at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual Grand Chefs Gala.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel Believes Blackbird Deserves Two Michelin Stars, Plus More Predictions

Blackbird exterior via Taste with the Eyes.

"I've argued for two years that Blackbird's one-star rating is too low; perhaps this will be the year Blackbird moves up," Vettel writes about the venerable West Loop hot spot.

The 2013 edition of the Michelin Chicago guide comes out Nov. 14, so we will just have to wait and see, but these predictions are always fun to read.

Will.I.Am, Russell Simmons, Obama Staffers Party Into Wee Hours On Election Night at Primebar


Too bad I couldn't get a photo!

President Obama campaign staffers and a host of celebs that included Russell Simmons, Will.I.Am and former Destiny's Child star Michelle Williams partied hard at Primebar following the president's election night speech at McCormick Place.

Celebrity DJ Cassidy spun the tunes as the likes of Valerie Jarrett and Obama's former right hand man, Reggie Love, finally got the opportunity to blow off some steam on the dance floor. The party went until 3:30am as guests celebrated with champagne and hors d'ouevres.

The Prez and First Lady were nowhere in sight . . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Charlie Trotter’s, Glazed & Infused Pastry Vet Christine McCabe Breaks Out On Her Own

Pastry photos via InterUrban

Our friends at Urban Daddy Chicago have uncovered a secret walk-up window café located in a Lincoln Park alley from a Trotter's pastry alum.

Christine McCabe was also the opening chef for the Glazed and Infused doughnut shop, but you won't find any of those on her new menu at Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop. Instead, you'll find tasty items like vanilla-cranberry scones, fruit-infused granola bars, red velvet "cake bites," and cupcakes in every flavor.

Michelin Guide Reveals Chicago's 2013 Bib Gourmands

Au Cheval made Michelin's Bib Gourmand list along with 19 new restaurants. (Photo: Au Cheval)

Eater Chicago has the scoop on Michelin Chicago's 2013 Bib Gourmands (defined as two courses and wine or dessert for $40 a head), which includes 19 new restaurants.

New to the list include Au Cheval, City Tavern and Storefront Company. I'm a little shocked, however, that City Tavern made the list, considering the fact the South Loop restaurant recently experienced some turmoil with the dismissal of chef Kendal Duque . . .

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town

Tru partner/executive chef Anthony Martin (Photo: Anthony Martin)

All is right in the universe . . .

• Peep a host of hot new fall dishes from Tru's Anthony Martin on YouTube.

• Indulge in chef-driven fried chicken from the likes of Bill Kim (bellyQ), Takashi Yagihashi (Slurping Turtle) and Matthias Merges (Yusho).

• The U.S. Bartenders Guild of Illinois' Hurricane Sandy benefit at Salud Monday raised $8,011.92. WOW. The money will go to the U.S. Bartenders Guild of New York, who will put the money to good use.

GT Fish & Oyster's Giuseppe Tentori launches brunch on Nov. 17 with tasty items like Biscuits and Lobster Gravy and crab Benedict. We're also looking forward to the French toast from his talented pastry chef, Sarah Jordan. It'll be crafted with key lime, grapefruit and mascarpone.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sunday Dinners Are The New Brunch

Vera's lobster paella is only available on Sunday. (Photo: Vera)

I am so over brunch.

It should be stress free, yet the long waits, screaming babies, and impatient and sometimes rude crowds can ruin what should have been a pleasant outing.

That's why we're all about Sunday dinners. By evening, people are calm and back to being civilized. Plus, it's an opportunity to catch some of the best deals of the week.

From Brasserie 54 by LM's new $25 prix-fixe French meal to Vera's lobster paella for two, we've gathered a host of fabulous feasts you don't want to pass up.

Jimmy Bannos Jr. Gets Big Honor From Food & Wine


So this is pretty sweet.

The Purple Pig's Jimmy Bannos Jr. is the only Chicago chef to be honored in Food & Wine's newest cookbook, America's Greatest New Cooks.

The tome features 12 up-and-coming culinary stars from around the country, with 100 recipes and photos of dishes from red-hot Mexican cuisine to ingredient-obsessed Italian food. The book is $32.95 and is available for sale right here.

Here's the cover:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Animal Tots, Foot-Long Grilled Cheese Highlights Of Menu At West Loop Newcomer Park Tavern

Park Tavern's foot-long grilled cheese (Photo: Park Tavern)


Just in time for late fall, Park Tavern opens with a menu that's ideal for cold-weather noshing.

The sports bar upgrades typical pub grub with twists on classics such as Animal Tots (pulled pork, cheese curds, grain mustard, fried egg, and Bell’s Kalamazoo gravy over tater tots) and a foot-long grilled cheese of cheddar, chihuahua, pepper jack, candied Applewood bacon and chipotle spread that's topped with two fried eggs on a baguette. More exciting offerings include the Little Jar of Jam (bacon jam, pickled cherries, brie and garlic toast), jalapeño-bacon mac, bacon doughnuts and an Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

One Good Turn Deserves Another?! Not For One Server Who Left A $5 Tip On $147 Comped Bill

Storefront's dining room (Photo: Storefront Company)

I was pretty bummed when I heard this story because I have always witnessed service industry folks having each others' backs:

According to one of Storefront Company's owners, a group of four women had brunch Sunday at the Bucktown restaurant and were visibly upset about how long they had to wait for their food.

To smooth matters over, their server extended an apology and a comped fruit platter. Apparently that wasn't enough because they complained to the manager on duty after their meal—with one of the diners making it known that she was a server herself . . . at Sunda.

Chicago Bartenders Raise $$$ For Hurricane Sandy Victims; Restaurants Also Pitch In With Fundraisers


The duo behind monthly industry night Party Rock Cocktail Crew celebrates its first-year anniversary at Salud with a blow-out bash featuring an all-star cast of cocktailists.

But what's particularly cool is that organizers Daniel de Oliveira (Olmeca Altos) and Sergio Serna (The Drawing Room) are using this grand opportunity to raise money for a great cause.

They've gathered the likes of Charles Joly (The Aviary), Lynn House (Blackbird), Paul McGee (Three Dots and a Dash), Josh Pearson (Sepia) and other members of the U.S. Bartenders Guild of Illinois to serve as guest bartenders to raise money for those suffering from Hurricane Sandy. One hundred percent of tips and donations will go to the U.S. Bartenders Guild of New York, which will make certain the money goes to good use.

The party happens 8pm-2am Monday, Nov. 5 with two different bartenders working each hour. There will also be complimentary food, shots, punch and beer sponsored by Becherovka and Altos Tequila.

Raffle tickets will be sold for a chance to win gift cards for Mercadito, Bangers & Lace, The Gage, GT Fish and Oyster, Farmhouse, 2 Sparrows and The Anthem as well as a St. Germain bike. There will also be a live auction for an in-home, 10-person single malt scotch tasting party (1am-2am). DJ Konsept spins; there's a $20 suggested donation at the door.

Here are additional hurricane relief events happening around town until the end of November:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Feast Your Eyes On 312DD's Signature Taco For Mercadito And Share Our Strength

The 312DD "Taco For Strength" is spiced up with Jamaican Jerk Braised Flank Steak. (Photos: Mercadito)

It's so chilly out there that I decided to warm everyone up with a Caribbean-influenced taco and tippler during November.

I teamed up with Mercadito's talented chef Patricio Sandoval and beverage partners Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci (of the Tippling Bros.) for the Tacos For Strength campaign to benefit Share Our Strength.

Since the campaign launched in 2011, it's seen much success with high-profile chefs like Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat, Little Goat), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka, GT Fish & Oyster) and Wylie Dufresne (wd~50) contributing a signature taco, and they've raised $4,000 for the organization to help end childhood hunger. So I'm pretty honored and humbled to participate.

My spicy contribution is the Jamaican Jerk Flank Steak Taco that's amped up with Peruvian white corn-leek fondue, cauliflower purée and crispy plantains. It's $16.50 for dinner (four per order) and $12.50 for lunch (three per order), and five percent of sales will be donated to Share Our Strength.

But wait . . . there's more!