Category Archives: Chi Food Events

Are the Stars Aligned… Er… Michelin Stars I mean…

Tell us what you really think of the Michelin starred restaurants on the forum! Do they deserve the star?

***Three Stars***
Alinea
Grace

**Two Stars**
Acadia
42 Grams
Oriole
Sixteen
Tru

*One Star*
Band of Bohemia
Blackbird
Boka
Dusek’s
EL Ideas
Elizabeth
Everest
Goosefoot
GreenRiver
Longman & Eagle
NAHA
Parachute
Roister
Schwa
Sepia
Smyth
Spiaggia
Topolobampo

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Foodie Event: UNICEF Taste of Tap

Who: The Unicef Tap Project is joining forces with Chicago Chefs, Dale Levitski of Sprout, Brandon Baltzley of Crux, Ryan Hutmacher of Centered Chef and the NYC-based culinary performer, Micheal Cirino of A Razor, a Shiny Knife.

What: Cooking demonstrations highlighting the use of water, cocktails, small plates and a silent auction. $50 in advance, $75 at the door.  All donations go to UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Cameroon, Mauritanea, Togo, and Vietnam.

Where: Centered Chef Studio | 177 N Ada Suite 101, | Chicago, IL 60607 |
312-226-2433 | Purchase tickets here

When: Friday March 23rd, 7-10pm

Why:  Because you want to help the 783 billion people without access to safe drinking water, you want to save the lives of children, or just because you remember the cryptosporidium outbreak of 1993. If you can’t make it Friday, make sure to donate $1 for your water at one of the participating restaurants in the city, March 19th-25th.

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Green City Market Annual Chef’s BBQ Benefit

Whoa… this summer is movin fast and I can barely keep up.  Here’s a photo from our latest dining endeavor The Green City Market Chef’s BBQ Benefit in Lincoln Park.  If you missed it this year, make sure you keep it in mind for next year!

Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio from Cafe Spiaggia

 

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Chicago Food Planet Food Tours

Every year seems to progress at a rapid rate and before you know it the summer is gone and winter has thrust its icy self upon us. For five months we had been too busy to attend one of the many tours Chicago Food Planet offers, so I was very happy that on a beautiful fall day we finally found ourself free to meander through the Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park on the Near North Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour.

It had been a difficult decision in determining which tour to attend, both the Chinatown Tour and Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour intrigued us, but since we practically live in Chinatown and have been to all of the awesome spots on their Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour we opted for the Near North tour, hoping we wouldn’t get lost in the Viagra Triangle .

Our day began when we promptly found parking on State Street and made our way towards Ashkenaz Deli where we met our group and sampled a Vienna Beef Pastrami Sandwich with a homemade Russian dressing made of beets.  Unfortunately, as we were building our own sandwich we also realized we had only paid for two hours of parking for a 3 hour tour.  We followed our guide toward our next stop, where we were excited to see my little car parked right outside. At the Tea Gschwendner we learned about the health benefits of tea and the variety of options available, warming up with a cup of our own.  My husband went to put some more time on the meter as we made our way to the next stop, The Spice House.

The Spice House

So many spices...

We are particularly fond of The Spice House.  Mostly because it was originally founded in Milwaukee and when I was living there we spent many an evening running out to get beautiful star of anise, black cardamom pods, and za’atar when we couldn’t find them anywhere else.  Needless to say everyone on the tour loved it and the interesting information our wonderful guide shared with us.

Our next stop was Old Town Oil, which reminded me of an artisanal shop in San Sebastian that we had visited this summer.  If it wasn’t for the 6 bottles of Spanish olive oil and sherry vinegar we had lugged back from Spain we would have bought some here.  Then we continued on to The Fudge Pot to sample some sweets and learn about the art of making fudge.  Our next stop was Delightful Pastries where we tried some fresh pierogies before our long walk through the neighborhoods, past a certain Playboy’s former mansion and into the Lincoln Park neighborhood where we completed our tour with deep dish pizza at Bacino’s.

We had an awesome guide that made sure we had fun on our tour and learned about the history and food of the neighborhoods.  It was an excellent excuse to travel through Chicago by foot stopping to sample various treats that I would normally pass by.  Although, the food tours are on holiday till April when the weather makes travel through the streets more bearable, we are looking forward to trying another tour next spring.

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A Day at Chicago Gourmet

Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park

Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park

Last Sunday I spent five hours at the third annual Chicago Gourmet.  Yes, I spent five hours wining and dining under the beautiful blue sky at Millennium Park.  The event is a veritable culmination of the absolute best the city has to offer and further exemplifies Chicago as a true culinary destination.  Chefs, sommeliers, wineries, foodies and beyond venture into the city for this grand three-day event that allows you to try a little of everything!

A friend and I met up outside the large white registration tent a half an hour early and positioned ourselves in the already growing line.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but past the registration tent I began to realize this was no small operation.  As we walked past the most recent winner of Top Chef Masters, I couldn’t help but realize that Chicago Gourmet is kind of a big deal.  We selected a glass of wine, and then made our way to one of the five different tasting pavilions where we lined up to sample each presenter’s dish.  There was a pavilion for every palate each with different themes(i.e. meat, seafood, mediterranean/gastropub, latin & asian, and dessert). Some of our sampling included octopus from Avli, a black cod salad from C-House, and a roasted sea bream from The Gage/Henri.  After an array of tastings we weren’t ready for dessert so we ventured into Specialty Food Pavilion and satisfied our curiosity for a few new products.  Upon our exit we found that the pavilion presenters had changed and the number of people in line had expanded since our earlier tasting experience.  Since we were still quite full, we opted for some beer and wine tasting to complete our afternoon.

The Gage’s Sea Bream atop a seared slice of pumpkin

I had a great time at my first Chicago Gourmet.  However, I wish I had properly prepared myself the night before by printing out the schedule and highlighting my main interests.  Looking back, I realized I missed out on the cooking demonstrations and food and wine seminars in my desire to try as many dishes as possible. But its okay because next year I’ll be back with a different game plan!

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Maxwell Street Market: Tires, Tacos and Fashion Bras

Maxwell Street Market Tires

Tires at Maxwell Street Market

I usually curse silently at the pedestrians crossing between me and I-290 on my way home from Whole Foods on Sunday, but this time I was one of them.  My apologies to the Land Rover, Mercury Mariner and Honda Civic that I held up yesterday and to whomever beeped in disgust as I casually walked in front of them during a green light. I would have never seen the light turn red, had some distant voice not shouted, “Alright guys, hurry up.”  Its funny how things change once you’re on the otherside.

Every Sunday on Des Plaines and Roosevelt vendors line the street with tents, tables and a variety of eclectic goods from tires to “fashion bras” for the Maxwell Street Market.  This diverse market is well over 100 years old and although its size has dwindled since UIC’s expansion in 1994, it has continued to survive as one of the best places in the city to find a bargain, a taco, and if you’re lucky some of soulful chicago blues that originated here.

Best Churros in Chicago

Maxwell Street Churros

With the hot sun beating down on us, we weren’t that hungry when we entered the market.  But after passing a tableful of wrenches and plants we found ourselves facing a large blue van advertising “recien hechos”(recently made) churros.  My lack of hunger has never turned away a churro, so we ventured up and obtained the freshest churro I have ever encountered.  Passing a table of belts, we found ourselves at a white tent with a menu scrawled out in permanent marker fastened to its side.  Taco Bernardo’s exotic menu intrigued us, and so we bravely ordered tacos we had never tried before (i.e. beef head and chicharron in a green chile sauce). Sweaty and full, we got up from our table under the white tent and turned to our right, only to find ourselves head to head with with Mama Lula and her Pupusa’s from El Salvador.  As I watched her fold shredded meat into some dough and place it on a griddle, I knew this was something I could not pass up.  We tried a cheese pupusa and were advised to add pickled cabbage and a delicious red hot sauce to it.

Salvadoran Pupusa

Mama Lula's Pupusas

I think I was in love with it before the first bite,  but that could be because I operate on the premise that cuisines from all cultures are united by meat or vegetable wrapped in a dough of sorts (i.e. dumplings, empanadas, corndogs, samosas, sambosas, even the french have beef en croute).  Satisfied and still full, we meandered away from Mama Lula and her tables, heading deeper into a colorful crowd of people and tents.  We walked further into the vast market passing a vendor selling camo and boots, next a table of power tools, and a tableful of jeans.  Across from them was another vendor selling herbs to cure every malady, chili peppers and cinnamon sticks as tall as I am.  In the shade nearby, a young girl had a few chihuahua pups for sale and on one of the side roads you could find perfumes, tires, bras and panties.  Everything you could ever need was here, and I’m sure better priced than the Target or Dominicks up the street (i.e $6 for a case of bananas, kiwis, or strawberries).  As the hot sun beat down on my pasty white, unsuntan-lotioned skin I knew I was in desperate need of shade.  Although, the bbq ribs looked appealing, G was in the mood for more tacos, so we stopped at Tito’s Tacos to sample a few more and to get some shade under their big blue tent.

eye ball, goat and pork tacos

Eye Ball, Goat Barbacoa and Al Pastor Tacos

The operation these cooks run is amazing.  G and I were sweating just sitting there, but these guys were cooking in front of  a griddle in the sweltering heat with hungry market-goers circling them, waiting for a seat to open… and they do this every Sunday!  The al pastor taco was the best we have had in some time, and when we got up to leave a mild disagreement between patrons erupted over who was next to sit and eat.  As we made our way back towards Roosevelt, we stopped at one last stand to try an incredible chicken and green chile tamale, that was made even better by the avocado and tomatillo sauces placed on the tables under the tent.  Full from our fruitful taco tasting, we headed towards Roosevelt when I began to hear the sound of a bass guitar amist the car horns, police sirens and the bustle of the market. I couldn’t help but be drawn to the music. So I followed the sound towards Weinberg Hoisery on Roosevelt. Shaded by a rainbow umbrella we found Mr. James Washington playing his red bass guitar.  His case was open with a few bucks and change scattered about, and while market patrons walked past barely giving notice to the soulful music that played on the road next to them, Mr. Washington’s powerful bass reverberated off the concrete around him.  Beside him a younger guitarist sang the blues, while their only listener, a man with a cane and a hat, set up a chair next to them.  Mr. Washington is the last of many blues artists to grace the Maxwell Street Market.  So if you hear an electric bass guitar in the distance make sure to stop by to listen to a legend and a sound that is slowly going extinct.

Once a center for blues in Chicago, the Maxwell Street Market has now become better known for the Mexican street food and delicious ribs vendors selling a sample of their culture in a bite of their food.  The market has become a constant reminder that Chicago is an evolving melting-pot that even relocation could not destroy.  A place where we all mix, regardless of age, regardless of color to support our local vendors and a tradition that continues to live on with the support of each generation.

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A Clandestine Event

Alexis Nido-Russo Painting

There is something to be said about a complete dining experience, especially one filled with mystery, intrigue, great art and a killer DJ.  Last Saturday I had one of the best dining experiences of my life at an underground supper club in Chicago.

Our mystery dinner began a few months earlier when we booked a date and a clue online (i.e. Saturday June 5th near Chinatown).  We didn’t hear or see anything about it again until the week prior to the event when Efrain, the founder and chef, sent our menu and location.  We arrived at our newly disclosed point of interest at 7:00pm sharp.  G had accused me of navigating incorrectly to our secret dinner locale, so I was more than happy to hop out of the car and into a nondescript three flat near Chinatown.  Upon our arrival, there was no secret handshake or password to be whispered to a gatekeeper.  We were simply greeted, checked off the list, and told to sit whereever we pleased.  We took a moment to mill about the room taking in the art hung on the white walls.  Local artist Alexis Nido-Russo was sharing her work with us tonight and dining at the table next to us.

Diners began to arrive steadily after 7 and soon our table was full of old friends or couples, strangers, eager to share their past experiences with the supper club and excited about the Strawberry and Herb Feast to come.  While we got to know our neighbors, DJ Moppy was mixing in the background.  Our first sampling was a tasty and interesting, bacon wrapped strawberry amuse.   Most meals are BYOB but on this occasion libations were served as well.  Now I’m no drinker, so when a shot of tequila in rhurbarb sorbet came with our next dish of lake trout gravlax placed on a totopo,  I knew I was in trouble.  Shortly thereafter, I began to rhythmically twist my arugula and garlic pesto pasta around my fork to the beats of DJ Moppy’s mixes.  Our next dish was a beautiful strawberry and spinach salad with a strawberry mint mimosa. However, my favorite dish of the evening was the grilled walleye with pistachio oregano butter, peas and mashed potatoes. I don’t even like mashed potatoes… In fact I have not placed them on my plate at any Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner since the year 2000.  But these potatoes tasted so good with the walleye and peas that I may have to give mashed potatoes another shot.

Trout Gravalax on Totopos

This experience completely changed my mind on communal dining and at the end of the night I almost didn’t want to leave.  I enjoyed getting Karlisa’s opinion on my crooked and often blurry food photos and discussing traveling, Berkshire pork, and Indian food with Anne.  This experience made me realize that I should be asking more from my usual restaurants… more mystery, more fun, and more seasonal ingredients!

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Other Food Photos from the Evening:

Walleye and Mashed Potato

Strawberry Shortcake

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Images from the Green City Market

Green City Market Radish

Genesis Growers Radish, Spinach and Lettuce

I love the farmers market.  There… I’ve said it.  My first memory of a farmers market stems from the small local market in West Allis, Wisconsin.  Although, we had our own cherry trees, raspberry bushes and vegetable garden in our backyard, every summer my mother would take me and my brothers to pick pints of pickles and tomatoes from local farmers, which she would use to can pickles and salsa all summer long.  And even though my most vivid memory of the market is of my brother getting stung by a bee, it was here that I began to realize the importance of the farmers and where our food comes from.

The second farmers market that played a significant role in my life, as well as many other UW-Madison students, was the Dane County Farmers Market.  Every Saturday students from all over campus flocked to the capital for one of the largest farmers market in the country. Going from tent to tent we would select tomatoes, honey or cheese curds from farmers or producers who were passionate about their vegetables, bee hives, or dairy farm.

Tiny Green's Radish and Onion

It was here that a squeaky cheese curd made an impression on me.  Its almost impossible to find a squeaky cheese curd in a big box grocery store, and why is this? Because the squeak is an indicator of freshness that is lost in the time it takes to go from the farm to your grocer’s refrigerator.  This was an epiphany for me, a poor college kid whose only sustenance was the processed foods of her dorm.  I vowed that once I had the money and kitchen to do so, I was going organic, sustainable or the next closest thing.  It took several more years and a bout of professional school until the final realization of my goal.  I shopped predominately at Whole Foods for the past three years. And oh the price I paid for going organic, but I wanted to support a corporation that promoted both farmers and the environment.  But when I moved to Chicago last summer, I found that there were few other places that I would rather be than the Green City Market in Lincoln Park.

Beckerlane Pork

Beckerlane Organic Pork

The 12 year old market is a model for the sustainable food movement where local farmers and artisans share their craft every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 Am to 1 Pm from May to October.  This market is a constant reminder that we as consumers have other options than our big box grocer.  We can go straight to our farmers where their produce will always be ripe, seasonal and maybe even less expensive.  Here all your questions about what is laid before you are easily answered.  Where was this grown?  When was it picked?  What is in season now?  When was this beef slaughtered?  How are the lives of your hens?  Do your pigs live a happy life?  How long are these eggs good for? What is a CSA?  Here you can find the pork they serve at Publican, the beef they serve at The Four Seasons Hotel, or produce used at Frontera Grill. The market operates on the premise that you should, “know your food.  know your farmer”, a motto that challenges Chicago to become more aware of where our food actually comes from.

Chives Radishes and Rhubarb

King's Hill Farm Radish, Chive and Rhubarb

The market’s influences can be seen all over the faces of the patrons roaming through the grass, passing and stopping at each tent.  We want to know our food!  We want to know our farmer!  We are here because sustainable practices and preservation of the environment are important to us, and we know what we do here has an impact elsewhere.  With a look of content I wander the market knowing that my tiny purchases here show my support of local farmers, my daily attempt to save the earth, and my appreciation for farms that truly do have happy cows, pigs and chickens. After perusing around the market we found ourselves with bags full of spring garlic, micro greens, potatoes, Berkshire pork, goat cheese, a fig tree, and a few too many plants.  When we went home, I put on my green gardening gloves, pulled out some potting soil and began to plant the lavender, chives, fig tree, sage, and grape tomato from the market.  You see I have my own makeshift farm on my balcony. Hungry from all the planting, I went inside to see G had created a Green City Omelette.

Green City Omelette

Our Homage to the Green City Market

Our omelette consisted of sauteed spring garlic, Fromage a Trois goat cheese from Capriole, inc. topped with onion micro greens from Tiny Greens and  green garlic.  And the eggs we used were from TJ’s Free Range Poultry.  We liked it so much, we decided to make another!

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