Food product reviews 2018: chocolate, food storage and vegan sauces

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Giving gifts can be a huge challenge. Here are a couple of products to consider for your chocoholic friends, your kitchen-neatnik pals, and your vegan-only-please circle, Or for you if the shoe fits.

American Heritage Chocolate makes old-fashioned chocolate, and the company behind it is the Mars Wrigley Confectionary Company, so you know they know what they’re doing. Yes,  delicious chocolate in grated, chunk and other forms, as well as things with chocolate in them, like hot cocoa and bark and so on. Their downloadable original recipes for both savory and sweet chocolate treats.are good to make for your holiday guests , or pass them on to your giftees so they can make the most of your gift of chocolate. The company has even established a historical research grant. Launched in 2013, the Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Chocolate History Research Grant, named after the company’s owner, awards grant funds for projects that investigate/educate the public on the history of chocolate or the chocolate making process from one or more cultural, historic or scientific perspectives. A good reason to gift friends and loved ones with chocolate, especially when it’s artisan-made and you can get 20% off (coupon on their website) from Amazon.

Wellslock single-snap storage containers. The container portions are made of a really sturdy, super clear, freezer and microwave safe plastic (but don’t put it in there empty), and their unique locking lid is leak-proof with one double-snap. Took us a bit to figure out how to get the lids off smoothly. Sometimes the closure was so firmly seated that we had to use a sharp knife to pry it open – which we were pretty sure was not the right approach. But once we figured it out, they come off pretty easily. The trick is to push/slide the lid to the opposite side once you release the double-snap closure tab. We love the sizes and shapes these come in – several interesting ones that you don’t typically find in storage containers. One configuration, for example, is perfect for holding two partially cut lemons or limes or a cut avocado, notoriously difficult-fit items. And happily, these actually are airtight. Some containers claim to be but then fail. These are great for storing food items and, really, for anything you want to be able to see into the containers to identify. No cloudy plastic to confuse the issue. The lids are made of regular somewhat cloudy plastic, but the containers themselves are almost as clear as glass, without the weight or the breakability factors. Don’t know how much scratching will happen over time with using knives and forks in the dishes. So far no sign of that. Prices start at $9.99 for a single large container and then up to $29.99 for the 22-piece set. BPA free, freezer and microwave safe. Great gift for the foodie or crafty types on your gift list.

Just Sauces. This collection comes with mayo, Ranch, Chipotle and others. These are lower-calorie, vegan options for dressing salads, fish or whatever. You’ll need to test out the flavors for yourself; opinions seem to vary widely. Our tasters thought the taste and appearance were somewhat artificial (it does contain modified food starch and canola oil – said to be genetically modified), so it doesn’t feel like a “whole food” kind of product. But then, it’s vegan. Many of us meat-poulty-fish-egg-eaters might feel that way about anything vegan. And as many Amazon reviewers complained about their purchases, our samples arrived with imminent expiration dates. This line of products is a great idea but seems not to have thoroughly overcome its birthing pains yet, so do your research.

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Cookies, food and fun at 13 Chicago holiday connections

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Carnevale Restaurant is here to get you in the holiday spirit. Mark your calendar for these fun events: Sundays, December 9 and 16, bring the family and join Mr. & Mrs. Claus and Christmas carolers for a holiday brunch buffet 10:30 – 3pm. Buffet stations include paella, meat carving, tacos, desserts & more. Adults $45, kids 5 to 12 $15 each. December 31 ring in the New Year with The Greatest Showman Celebration. $85 prix fixe menu. Reservations here (required for New Year’s Eve).

Warm Belly tin o’ cookies

Cookies? Yes! Warm Belly Bakery (West Loop and Lincoln Park) just launched its Monster cookie for the holiday. Even bigger than their regular, really big 1/4-lb cookies, the Monster is a 1/2-lb sugar cookie – made with Chef/Owner Joe Dela Pena’s secret “How’d you get it to taste like cookie dough?” recipe – with bits of Snickers®, Twix®, M&Ms® and Butterfingers®. In partnership with Big Monster Toys Company (on Racine Ave. right around the corner from WBB’s West Loop location at 1148 W. Monroe), Warm Belly is donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of all Monster cookies to help the toy company’s charitable efforts for kids at the University of Chicago’s Comer’s Children Hospital. Good reason to bust yourself on a Monster cookie this holiday. But don’t stop there. Buy a mixed dozen in a tin and try to keep from eating more than a 50-calorie bite at a time. We dare you.

More cookies! Publican Quality Meats lets you pick from a selection of chef-driven holiday cookies from the top pastry talents in the U.S. From December 10 to 24 a portion of the proceeds help local nonprofit Deborah’s Place provide interim and permanent supportive housing to women in need throughout Chicago.

Remington’s (20 N. Michigan Ave.) will host a Santa Brunch on Sunday, December 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brunch options include Prime Rib Hash with two eggs over easy, peppers, cilantro and chipotle sour cream ($16) and Lobster Deviled Eggs with three halves loaded with lobster and lobster oil ($12). To view the full menu and make a reservation visit the website or call 312-782-6000.

Smoke Daddy brunch

Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division St. and 3636 N. Clark St.) celebrates Santa Family-Style Brunch Sunday, Dec.16, 11 to 2pm. And try their holiday catering options: House-Smoked Whole Turkey (11 lb., $65; 20 lb., $9), Pulled Whole Turkey (1 lb., $16) and Glazed Ham, a bone-in, smoked ham with a sweet mojo glaze (half, $69). Sides include Cornbread Stuffing with sausage and spices ($10 per quart); Brussels Sprouts oven-roasted with a lemon butter sauce ($10 per quart); and Green Bean Casserole ($10 per quart). Desserts like Pecan Pie ($25) and Pumpkin Pie  ($19) round out the menu.  Christmas orders must be made by Wednesday, December 19. Items will be picked-up cold with re-heating instructions. Call 773-772-1697 to place an order for either location. Smoke Daddy is also offering its signature sauces and mix in gift sets ($18 or $35) that include BBQ sauces, Smokin’ Bloody Mary mix, Mojo Spice rub and a Smoke Daddy Koozie. Visit either location – Wicker Park or Wrigleyville to pick-up the sets or order online.

Tuco and Blondie (3358 N. Southport) has turned its patio into a festive Christmas tree farm with family-owned McCluskey Tree Farms now through Monday, December 25. Hours: Monday to Friday from 4 to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm. Prices range from $11 to $17 per foot depending on tree type. Saturday, December 8 from 9 to noon, meet the tree farmer Dan McCluskey and take pictures with Santa. Try a Tuco Hot Cider with apple cider, mezcal, butterscotch schnapps and agave ($8) to warm your spirit! 773-327-8226.

Bistronomic, 840 N. Wabash, celebrates Hanukkah from now through Monday, December 10 with a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $39. Choose from three select appetizers, entrees and desserts. Call 312-955-8400 or visit the website.

Chiya Chai will be at Chicago’s Christkindlmarket (50 W. Washington St.) at booth number 14 until Monday, December 24 serving their signature chai as well as Mini Chai Donuts (12 for $7); Chicken Masala and Kale Potato Savory Pies ($8.50); Apple, Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice Sweet Pies ($10); Masala Curry Fries ($5); and Chiya Chili Potatoes ($5).

Back at Chiya Chai’s home location, 2770 N. Milwaukee, look for nine-inch savory pies to-go, perfect for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Options include the Chicken Masala, Chicken Balti and Curried Kale and Potato. Pies are $20 – place your order by Thursday, December 20 and pick up at the café on Sunday, December 23. Order by calling 773-360-7541. Also consider a chai gift set for $35 (three bags of tea leaves and one bottle of concentrated chai). Pick up from 11am to 10pm any day. Call 773-360-7541 ahead to confirm availability.

Avli Taverna (1335 W. Wrightwood Ave.) Lincoln’s Park newly opened contemporary Greek restaurant, is offering a variety of Greek gift baskets perfect for the coffee lover, home chef or foodie in your life. Order by email info@avli.us either your prepared basket or your customized selections. Choose from Greek goods such as cookies, oregano, chickpeas, lentils, olive oils and sesame sticks, all also available at Avli Taverna as a part of their Agora To-Go program. Gift baskets include: Kalimera “Good Morning Basket” ($30), Deluxe version ($50). Make-Your-Own Lentil Soup Basket ($30). Make-Your-Own Yiouvetsi Basket (orzo, olive oil, tomato paste and recipe ($30), and more.

Brewpoint Coffee (124 W. Park Ave Elmhurst, IL; 617 N. York Ave., Elmhurst, IL) , a cafe and roastery, is offering a variety of gift sets including the Brewpoint Brewer Box featuring two 12-ounce coffee blends and a pour over brewer ($60-$75); the Eco-friendly Box featuring two 12-ounce coffee blends in bio-tre packaging, a metal straw and a Brewpoint tumbler ($60-75); the Female Empowerment Box featuring two 12-ounce coffee blends from women producers ($35); and the Brewpoint Flight Box featuring four of Brewpoint’s coffee blends including the Holiday Blend, Stargazer and two single origins ($65). Guests may order online at brewpointcoffee.com beginning Thursday, November 15. Call 224-254-7134.

Imperfect Produce, a delivery service that sells odd-looking but perfectly edible produce, is on a social mission to eliminate food waste, help farmers benefit from a full harvest and make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable. The produce subscription is perfect for busy families, fitness enthusiasts, young professionals, vegetarians, meal prep lovers and more in the Chicagoland area. Each customized box is filled with a variety of organic or conventional ugly fruits and vegetables priced at 30 to 50 percent below grocery rates. To check Imperfect’s delivery areas visit imperfectproduce.com/join.

Acanto Restaurant + Wine Bar, 18 S. Michigan, celebrates the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” with specials from December 16-24. Also known as “The Vigil” (or fasting day), Italians abstain from eating red meat until Christmas Day and instead, eat an abundance of seafood leading up to the holiday. Check out Chef Chris Gawronski’s specials: grilled Spanish sardines imported from Holland; clams and mussels cooked to order stuffed in ravioli that offers a true taste of the ocean; spicy swordfish puttanesca; grilled lobster paired with a sweet passito wine sauce; and the Pulpo a la Siciliana, a popular Sicilian street cart snack turned gourmet with confit potato and Meyer lemon. Something different every day until December 22 (through December 24) – Zuppa dei sette pesci, served for two, $48.

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Food and drink news at 3 Chicago restaurants

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Broken Barrel Bar, is “SURving” up weekly Monday night watch parties for Season 7 of TV’s highest rated reality show Vanderpump Rules beginning Dec 3! Chef Bryant Anderson has created food and drink specials inspired by the drama-filled show. In addition to *Half Priced Bottles of Wine and Sangria Specials, try one of these: The Pumptini vodka, lime juice, mint, cranberry $10; Vanderpump Rosé $58/bottle*, $15/glass; Tequila Katie chilled tequila, simple syrup, lime juice, served as a shot $6; Fried Goat Cheese Balls with smoked tomato sauce and rosemary-truffle honey $11; “It’s Not About the Pasta” rotating pasta topped with house smoked meats $16. A portion of proceeds from all specials will benefit Lisa Vanderpump’s rescue and adoption center, Vanderpump Dogs.
 
Christmas mania at Frosty’s pop-up bar

WeLoveFrostys.com – a pop-up Christmas bar? Yep, 809 W. Evergreen (at Halsted). Open daily 6pm to 4am – just til the end of December. With three levels, four bars and endless holiday fun, Frosty’s is the ultimate Christmas Bar with everything from elaborate decorations, life-size toy soldiers, sexy Santas and a holiday soundtrack spinning until 4 a.m., Dress up and meet beloved characters from cherished Christmas movies, visit with Santa himself, and enjoy unforgettable Christmas garb, a real Elf on the Shelf, festive tunes and serious seasonal cocktails, plus pick your shot: I’ve been Nice or I’ve been Naughty. Purchase festive snacks like Christmas cookies, holiday popcorn and Aunt Bethany’s Christmas Vacation Jell-O Mold, as a shot of course. Tickets at WeLoveFrostys.com starting at $20. Book your holiday party or event today.

 
One of a Kind Hospitality announces the year-end opening of The Old Plank, 2700 N. Milwaukee in Logan Square. Craft beer and cocktails curated by beverage director Philip Smith (The Walk In, SABA, Boleo), and a Tex-Mex driven menu, The Old Plank, in the original home of Andes Mints at Sawyer and Milwaukee Ave, pays homage to the history of Logan Square. The more-than-100-year-old space is getting new life with plenty of open seating, private booths, multiple bars and an abundance of TVs. Several garage door-style openings let fresh air in, plus a sidewalk cafe and an outdoor patio with a firepit are perfect for spring and summer. When there are no big games to watch, local DJs will set weekends to music. Slated to open before the end of the year with dinner service and weekend brunch. Open on special game days an hour early so sports fans can get settled in to watch their team. Watch for the opening.
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Late fall news at these 6 Chicago restaurants – and more

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November 20, Yūgen, the highly anticipated Japanese Restaurant helmed by Chef Mari Katsumara…announces reservations now open to book for the opening on Tuesday, November 20! Guests will be able to book online reservations via Open Table to experience the restaurant’s tasting menu focusing on contemporary Japanese cuisine. Yūgen will be open for dinner service starting five nights a week (Tuesday through Thursday from 5-9:30pm and Friday through Saturday from 5-10:30pm) More information and reservations may be found by calling (312) 265-1008 or opentable.com.

November 12 – 27, in honor of Giving Tuesday (November 27th), Bar Allegro, named one of Michigan Avenue’s “Coolest Hotel Bars in Chicago,” will be shaking up a special fall cocktail, Autunno, for Snow City Arts (SCA). SCA is a non-profit that provides art therapy and instruction to children in hospitals. Enjoy the inspired “Autunno” hand-crafted cocktail for $12. $2 from each cocktail sold will be donated to SCA on Giving Tuesday. (Note: all other signature cocktails at Bar Allegro are priced at $13). Chic, Art Deco-inspired Allegro Bar is on the second floor lobby of the Kimpton Hotel Allegro at 171 W. Randolph. SCA will also pop-up during the hotel’s daily Wine Hour (5-6PM) on Giving Tuesday to sell artwork with proceeds donated to their non-profit.

Wednesday, November 21 the Korean restaurant Passerotto, home of fun, approachable small plates from Chef Jennifer Kim, is hosting a wine bar pop-up in lieu of their regular service. Podopop – from Korean for grape (podo) and pop-up – opens to the public at 5pm featuring wines from Beaujolais made with its local grape Gamay. 5 for $15 or individual wines by the glass, in addition to Passerotto’s regular selection. On December 2 they’ll be hosting a Winter Market at the restaurant from 12-7pm. Local artists (many of whom are also members of the Passerotto team) will be popping up in the space selling a variety of handmade wearables, jewelry, sculptures, artwork, stationary, floral arrangements, beauty products and food items. Neighboring wine shop, In Fine Spirits, will also be joining in on the fun and will be selling wine and hosting vendors in their shop. A full vendor list can be found at passerottochicago.com/events. And look for the Snaggletooth pop-up in the space from 12-4pm (or until the food runs out). The Passerotto team will be offering wine, coffee and tea for sale and Coquetel Spirits will be on site selling mulled wine.

Open now! Months in the making, Chicago Indoor RazzmatazzChicago is relaunching. The R39 restaurant’s new menu features signature burgers, hand-cut fries, a variety of salads, finger foods and desserts. Top mixologist Diana Cruz is creating a range of craft cocktails to please any palate. R39’s new Chief Operating Officer, Juan Valenzuela, says, ideal combination of “…young, hip residents, nightlife and a vibrant entertainment scene” that includes DJ Monroe’s original mixes and playing in the lounge area some old-school games like giant Jenga, Connect Four & retro board games.

Football and fine Italian food, Sunday at Armand’s Victory Tap, 1416 S. Michigan. Besides the food and the games, check out their virtual tour highlighting the handsome spaces and architectural details that take the ambiance to a higher level inside Victory Tap. For a video about Chef Joe Farina’s famous dish, click Mama’s Meatballs here. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, game camaraderie and good food with friends or family.

Games and affordable menu options. When we city dwellers to head up the North Shore, we’re in for a treat when we take ourselves to Evanston to eat at The Barn Steakhouse. With the restaurant’s new daily specials menu on tap, designed by owner Amy Morton at more affordable prices, it’s a charming place to spend time with friends and family in the intimate dining room, or gathered around the outdoor firepit, or sitting around a table playing board games. Enjoy drinks and hearty dishes that make your mouth water just reading about them. Mafalda’s Lasagna (fresh mozzarella, sausage, fresh pasta), the Beef Wellington (puff pastry, beef tenderloin, mushroom duxelles) and the Chicken Pot Pie (creamy chicken velouté and flaky pastry crust). And for the first time this season, pasta to make your heart sing: Bison Bolognese (hand-dipped ricotta, red wine, warm spices, chitarra pasta) and Crab Spaghetti (jumbo lump crab, white wine, shallots, garlic, chili, Parmesan). Consider The Barn Steakhouse gift cards for the giftee who has everything – give a $100 gift card and receive an extra $20 gift card (good between January 1- March 31, 2019). Or try one of The Barn’s spectacular wine dinners. Reservations here for their December 5th dinner with Brewer-Clifton Winery.

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5 hot ways to enjoy Chicago this fall!

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From celebrating Halloween at any age, to flying the skies over Chicago, this great city has the food, the drinks and the fun to keep you hopping and happy this fall. Check out these 5 cool ways to make the most of this gorgeous time of year:

1. Halloween in Andersonville takes place Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28 with over 100 businesses participating. Trick-or-Treat on Clark Street on Saturday from 12 to 3pm. Then on Sunday 2 to 5pm, take the Andersonville Sweetish Stroll (formerly the Dessert Crawl) produced by the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce (ACC).

Halloween in Andersonville

The Trick-or-Treat on Clark Street and Costume Contest invites families to come in costume and collect candy from any business with an Orange Pumpkin sign on its storefront door. Register your costume at AlleyCat Comics (5304 N. Clark) between 11:30am and 3pm. The winner will be announced at 3:30 p.m. Gus Giordano Dance School’s Zombie Dancers will also perform “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” at the corner of Clark and Farragut at 12:40pm during the Trick-or-Treat time frame.

Additional Saturday events include the 48th Ward and Edgewater Triangle Neighborhood Association Halloween Parade. Gather at Peirce Elementary School (1423 W. Bryn Mawr) at 10am. Parade kicks off at 11am and travels north on Glenwood Avenue to Gethsemane Garden Center (5739 N. Clark) for the annual Children’s Fall Fest (11am to 4pm). List of October/Halloween events in Andersonville here.

Jake Melnicks Detroit pan pizza looks good enough to eat!

2. Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap is bringing a slice of Detroit to Chicago with its new Detroit Pan Pizza ($15.95). The fluffy squared crust with caramelized cheese is topped with mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce, shaved Parmesan, and fresh Basil; choose artisan pepperoni or spicy Italian sausage. Jake’s is celebrating Halloween all month long with their Nightmare on Superior Street Burger ($16.95). Jake’s half-pound fresh beef patty is hand-packed with habanero and cheddar. Topped with lettuce, tomato, crispy jalapeno bottle caps, pepper jack cheese, and XXX mayo, plus a dash of ghost pepper dust, this burger is not for the faint of heart.

New piano siteline at Redhead

3. The Redhead Piano Bar, 16 W. Ontario, celebrates 25 years of business with over $1 million in renovations, a new Happy Hour and specialty Cigar Program. This swanky downtown establishment, which has long been attracting tourists and locals alike for its cocktails and sing-alongs, has revamped and expanded its wine and craft cocktail list. Now, Chicago’s creative studios, Studio CM and Urban Innovators, have designed a dramatic makeover that includes a new custom walk-in Humidor with over 150 types of cigars for purchase, a year-round covered and heated outdoor smoking lounge, a repositioned piano to improve sight lines, a new state of the art sound and lighting system, and more to come. The Redhead’s new Happy Hour and Cigar Program starts November 1, 2018. Every Friday 5 – 7pm enjoy live music along with half-off bottles of wine and signature cocktails. In the piano bar enjoy a Cigar Program that features three different tiers, each of which includes a free monthly cigar, discounted merchandise, complimentary reservations to specialty events and tastings, priority seating, and more. For more information, call (312) 640-1000.

4. Roka Akor, 456 N. Clark St. invites you to brush off the day at the Roka Bar – an elegant lounge with a sultry, moody atmosphere. The happy hour menu features tasty bites and drinks at happy hour prices. Sample $5 bite choices include: Robata Grilled Shisito Peppers with Ponzu and Bonito Flakes, Wagyu Beef and Kimchi Dumplings and more. Sample $6 bites: Signature Tataki Trio: Butterfish, Tuna and Yellowtail, Lobster & Shrimp Dumplings, Prime Beef Skewers with Chili Ginger Sauce, Vegetable Tempura Roll and more. $3 for Sapporo Drafts and $5 for select wines, sakes or a Specialty Cocktail.

CHE City Lights night ABOVE the town!

5. Chicago Helicopter Experience (CHE) is offering a truly unique alternative to a night out on the town? The City Lights Experience is a truly “bucket-list” experience that takes romance and fun to new heights. Like all of CHE’s tours in their luxury helicopters, it’s just one of the many CHE tours that provide breathtaking views high above Chicago’s brilliant skyline. and offer one-of-a-kind opportunities from private tours, to group events. The City Lights Experience, besides the breathtaking sky tour, includes a $100 credit for dinner and cocktails at the incomparable hot spot The Duck Inn. Vouchers can be purchased in advance, and guests can call to schedule their experience for whenever works for them. Limited pricing per couple is now available for only $347. Come on. You know you want to!

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Fall foodie news on 5 spots in and around Chicago

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Three Embers at the Marriott

Though we generally only cover the city itself, occasionally we get an itch to mention a place or two on the outskirts. Today’s one of those days. The first two items are out there, the next three are right here in our fair town. Take your pick and enjoy.

Three Embers, Ten Marriott Dr., inside the recently transformed Lincolnshire Marriott Resort, invites guests on Wed., Oct. 17, 6-8:30pm, for bourbon flights paired with bourbon-inspired courses around its lakeside patio fire pits and fire table. Taste and learn about the bourbon, including its lineage, barrel process and more from Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve bourbon experts. $45/person (includes tax and gratuity). Reservations and more information including a sample menu can be found at Eventbrite.

Great Wolf Resorts – Chicago area Great Wolf Lodge, 1700 Nations Drive, Gurnee, IL, and all 16 other locations across North America’s largest family of indoor waterpark resorts will debut its first Junior Chef Council menu later this fall. Great Wolf’s youngest guests will enjoy an innovative and delicious menu – created by kids, for kids. The seven-person Junior Chef Council comprises the country’s top kid chefs and culinary tastemakers; the talented representatives include, among others, Chicago’s own Conrad Elliot (8) and Jed Elliot (6), sons of Chef Graham Elliot, Jed serves as the Council’s official taster, ensuring his brother and other members are delivering on the culinary goods. Read the rest here. The menu (here) features dishes like Pizza Burger with Fries, a mash-up of two culinary favorites; healthy Green Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs, with zucchini noodles, angel hair pasta and meatballs; and the playful Build Your Own Parfait dessert.The new kids’ menu will initially be featured exclusively at full-service restaurants at Great Wolf Lodges.

By the way, our family makes at least one annual visit to Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee. Fun arcade, cool water activities, and we especially love the spacious, comfortable suites. Had my granddaughter’s 11th birthday there, and it was a smashing success with everyone.

Eataly, 43 E. Ohio St, is recreating the feel of the Italian Alps in Chicago with the debut of their all-new restaurant BAITA on Friday, October 19 making the ultimate winter destination through March 2019. The new 150-seat space on the second floor will make you feel like you just came off the slopes as you grab a glass of wine and cozy up and choose from gnoccheria serving pillowy potato gnocchi imported from Italy, melted raclette and grilled cheese, and spuntini snacks (Alpine-style finger food) along with specialty cocktails, boozy hot chocolate, warming wines, and more dishes inspired by the flavors of the Italian Alps. Eataly’s Fall Wine Passport on October 26 and 27 ($48 per person) gets you wine tastings from the 20 regions of Italy with 10 different bites from BAITA’s seasonal menu. Reservations for will open for the entire season on Friday, September 28, via OpenTable.

Wood Fire 1/4 dark w/ mac’n’cheese

French Market announces Wood Fire Counter has added to its menu of wood-fired chicken and low country sides, a full roster of smoked meats including Turkey, Pork Belly, Brisket and Ribs.Time Out magazine selected Wood Fire Counter Brisket as one of the top 3 best foods at the Taste of Chicago this summer. All meats are in-house dry rubbed and smoked over three types of wood, then you customize with your choice of four hand-crafted BBQ sauces (Wood Fire Original, Spicy, Carolina Gold or Habanero).

IT’SUGAR giant peanut butter cup

IT’SUGAR, the giant worldwide specialty candy retailer, will open in Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier late September. Enjoy an environment that draws inspiration from the historic Chicago location, including vintage candy advertisements that highlight Chicago’s candy history. The new 2,000-square-foot Navy Pier location in Chicago offers everything from over-the-top indulgences to ridiculously funny specialty items like an all-marshmallow cereal box. The “Taste of Chicago Box” is a collection of candies will feature products that originated in Chicago like Tootsie Rolls®, Razzles®, Baby Ruth®, Juicy Fruit®, Charleston Chew®, Sugar Daddy®, Chuckles®, and more.

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Fall fun 2018 at 6 Chicago restaurants

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Broken Barrel Bar .jpgBroken Barrel Bar, 2548 N. Southport, the newest concept from Wine Not Hospitality, is now open in Lincoln Park. Executive Chef Bryant Anderson (think: award-winner at Chicago’s Best Wing Fest, Bacon Fest, Mac & Cheese Fest and WACO Wing Fest) introduces the chef-driven tailgate restaurant and bar in the former Crossing space. Anderson is smoking meats in a custom smoker using hickory and oak logs to elevate the flavors in his tacos, sandwiches and flatbreads. Just one example of the creative and clever menu items to try: The Hangover Sandwich – smoked brisket, fried egg, Merkts cheddar, arugula, tomato, crispy onions, toasted pretzel bun. Watch college teams University of Kansas and University of Notre Dame and of course Chicago sports on 40 flat-screen TVs. Broken Barrel Bar will also feature daily specials and local DJs on Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 10pm. Facebook and Instagram @brokenbarrelbar

Revival Food Hall is excited to announce the fourth installment of its quarterly rotating pop-up series with Pub Royale (Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants 2016, Chicago Magazine’s 50 Best Bars 2017), the Anglo-Indian-inspired pub from Heisler Hospitality, joining the all-local, chef-driven food hall from October 1st through December 28th. Known for her inventive takes on Indian fare and flavors, Pub Royale Chef Joanna Stachon heads to Revival from Wicker Park to tackle the Loop’s bustling lunch scene with an eclectic menu of the restaurant’s most popular items, such as the beloved Royale with Cheese, Gobi Manchurian and more.

Estelle’s, 2013 W. North Ave., in Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood invites you to celebrate its 19th anniversary on Friday, September 28. Starting with its half-price-everything happy hour (excluding shots and food) from 5-7pm, enjoy the new ambiance – fresh redesign features bold new wallpaper, soft, cozy lighting over the bar and tables, and refinished dark-wood, accented table tops. Other all-night specials will include $4 draft beers and $5 Jameson shots. Starting at midnight, guests will enjoy FREE baskets of fries on the 19th minute of every hour (12:19am, 1:19am, 2:19am and 3:19am) in addition to anniversary toasts at midnight and last call. Estelle’s also offers a “Beer Pairing Menu” until 3am daily. The menu features burgers and sandwiches (ranging from $8-$12) paired with craft beers (always $4 each).

Reid Bar at River Roast celebrates National Coffee Day on Saturday, September 29. Come enjoy $1 Coffees and some of Beverage Director Ken Pritz’s new $8 “Craft Coffee Libations” – items such as BULLETPROOF (coffee, coconut oil, grass-fed butter), BLACK MIRROR (cold brew coffee, old fashioned syrup, indian tonic, mint) and KICKSTARTER PUNCH (bourbon vanilla tea, peach shrub, apple cider, lemon, carbonation), among others. Come relax in Reid Bar’s speakeasy vibe that honors the historic area of River North that gained notoriety as the city’s “Red Light District” in the mid 1900s.

Weather Mark Tavern, 1503 S. Michigan. Friday Sep 28, 2018, 8:30pm – ?, and Saturday Sep 29, 2018, 12:00am. Blues and soul masters Sons of Chicago come for the first of their performances this fall – again on October 27, November 30. Come out for a great night of live music, good food, and awesome drinks.

The Barn Steakhouse, a cozy hideaway Evanston favorite since its 2016 opening, caters to diners who crave steak from the finest quality Midwestern Heritage Black Angus beef. Now the menu has expanded with nightly specials offering some moderately priced non-steak options. Wednesdays try the Crispy Chicken Paillard with baby arugula and lemon ($20.95) or the Friday special 1/2 Roasted Duck with roasted vegetables and cherry demi-glace ($33.95). Check out the full menu here.

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5 unique Chicago food and arts events for early fall

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One wonderful place to enjoy fall in Chicago – Cafe Brauer

Fall is an exciting time of year – back to school, end of summer vegetables, hardy fall plants springing up in the sun. And it is spectacular in Chicago – the gorgeous skies, the cooler temps, and the plethora of food and fun events taking place – in weather most everyone can truly appreciate! Check out these 5 fabulous fun things to do in the next several weeks. You’re sure to find something that’ll float your boat. Music, food, art, fun and, of course, adult beverages.

Sunday, September 16, 2-8pm, The Promontory, 5311 S Lake Park Ave W, hosts the 2nd Annual Jollof Wars, a festive day of authentic food and fierce competition as chefs from some of the city’s most prominent African restaurants converge in Hyde Park and go head-to-head in the battle to earn the crown of Jollof king or queen. Sold out last year, this year’s Jollof Wars will feature Afrofusion’s talented lineup of DJs along with intriguing interpretations of the flavorful rice, tomatoes and goat or beef dish by chefs from local restaurants including Goree Cuisine, Mukase, Iyanze, Kaffy’s Kitchen, Bolat African Cuisine, Gambian Chebujen and more.

Carnivale Samba Night

Wednesday, September 19, 6-10:30pm. Carnivale University Rum Cocktails and Samba Night! Reserve your tickets now for an interactive, high energy DIY mixology class. Plus, learn about the historic origins of the oldest rum in the world as you mix up three flavorful rum cocktails with a Mount Gay Master Mixologist. Ticket includes; 3 DIY Cocktails, Lite Bites and Giveaways. Registration begins at 6pm. Class 6:30-8:30pm. THEN… After your rum cocktails class, dance the night away with DJ My Boy Elroy and the high energy dancers from Samba1 Brazilian Dance Group. Drink Specials: $5 Margarita, Mojito and Sangria. Dancing in the main dining room is for everyone who wants to participate from 8:30-10:30pm.

Sunday, September 23, 12-5pm. Preview some of the art at the Beverly Area Arts Alliance walk/art show (see next item). Tours of ten artist studios will be followed by an after-party at Wild Blossom Meadery. Additional events leading up the The Walk will include Terrain Fest—in conjunction with the studio tours—from 2-4:30pm at the corner of S Hamilton Ave. and W 95th St and The Frunchroom on Tuesday, September 25 from 7:30-9pm at Beverly Arts Center.

Saturday, September 29, 12–7pm. The Alliance (Beverly Area Arts Alliance) hosts the fifth annual Beverly Art Walk, a FREE event. Stroll, view and/or purchase works by nearly 200 Beverly and Morgan Park artists and artisans shown in 60 businesses, vacant storefronts and public art spots from W. 95th St. to 111th St., S. Western Ave. to the Metra line on S. Wood St. Free trolleys available. Live music, dance, art demos, kids’ activities, food trucks and beer go along with art items ranging from paintings and photography, to pottery, sculpture, jewelry and textile art. Highlights: 4-ton sand sculpture; the Beverly Chicago Children’s Choir at 2pm; Elaine Miller’s massive billboard art pieces of natural beauty; Davis McCarty’s sculpture, “Quantum Me. Look for unique pop-up galleries everywhere.

Friday, October 12, 6-9pm. The Patio at Cafe Brauer is hosting its annual Harvest Dinner. Enjoy a memorable feast created from locally-sourced, seasonal vegetables, fruits, whole roasts, along with red and white wines and craft/bottled beers, and served outdoors under the great harvest moon. For $65/person (21+ only) choose from a selection of rich fall flavors in appetizers, entrees, roasted root vegetables and desserts. Tickets at lpzoo.org. Sample menu items: Roasted squash and pear salad, Roasted pork loin with roasted applesauce, Charred peach trifle, and many more.

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Outdoor free Japanese culture festival at NewCity September 29-30

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Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya and the Japanese Culture Center (JCC) will host the first year of this new annual Japanese Festival in Chicago on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30. The authentic Japanese festival will be held in NEWCITY Plaza in the heart of Lincoln Park. About 10,000 attendees are expected over two afternoons to celebrate the Japanese culture with authentic food, drink and performances. The 60,000 square foot outdoor event will feature more than 30 vendors and over 10 performances.
The Chicago Japanese Matsuri will offer free admission, as well as food and drink tickets for purchase. 100-percent of the proceeds will benefit the JCC and Japanese Arts Foundation (JAF). The donations will be used for the redevelopment and expansion of the JCC’s Lakeview facility. The JCC hopes to add a gallery, performance space, artist residences, studies programs, public programs and classes, and more.

All of the food at the festival will be provided by Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya. Drink options will include beer from Sapporo, sake, soda, iced tea and water. There will be sake available from 6 different breweries including Tedorigawa Brewery, which was featured in the Netflix documentary The Birth of Saké. Authentic Japanese food created by festival organizer and chef/owner Kevin Yu and his team will include the following:
  • Chicken Karaage on a Stick (Japanese fried chicken on a stick with spicy mayo sauce and seaweed powder)
  • Takoyaki on a Stick (Japanese octopus dumpling on a stick with seaweed powder, Japanese mayo and okonoimyaki sauce)
  • Potato Croquette (Japanese fried potato cake)
  • Gyoza (Japanese potstickers)
  • Pork Chashu Don (slow cooked Japanese pork over rice)
  • Gyudon (slow cooked Japanese beef over rice)
  • Japanese Chicken Wings (Japanese-style chicken wings with honey lemon dressing or Tokyo buffalo sauce)
  • Hiyashi Chuka (Japanese-style chill noodle with sesame dressing)
  • Edamame (Japanese soy bean)
  • Spinach Gomae (Japanese-style chill spinach with sesame sauce)
  • And more…
Confirmed festival performances and activities organized the by the Japanese Culture Center will include large scale Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy), Aikido (Japanese martial art), large scale Japanese ink painting demonstrations, a Japanese street fashion show, cosplay competition, Iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), Shubukai Japanese dance performances, BATSU! (Japanese comedy act), Itasha car displays and more.
To gear up for the event, Chicago Japanese Matsuri has partnered with Do312 for a $50 festival food and drink ticket giveaway. Patrons can enter at http://do312.com/chicagomatsuri.
WHEN:   Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30
               11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
WHERE: NEWCITY Plaza
                1457 N Halsted St
                Chicago, IL 60642
Garage parking available
 
COST:      Food and Drink Tickets:
                 -$2: 1 ticket
                 -$20: 12 tickets
                 -$40: 25 tickets
ABOUT KIZUKI RAMEN & IZAKAYA
Founded in 2003 in Japan, Kookai Ramen grew to over 20 locations in Tokyo and was then brought over to the United States in 2012 as Kukai Ramen & Izakaya. In order to achieve greater flexibility in entering upcoming new markets, the brand name was later changed to Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya in December 2015. For more information about the name change, visit http://www.kukai-ramen.com/chgname.html. Kizuki currently has four locations in the Pacific Northwest including three in Washington and one in Oregon. The Wicker Park restaurant is the first Midwest location for Kizuki, which aims to provide Chicagoans with a taste of authentic Japanese ramen without having to fly to Tokyo for the experience.
 
ABOUT THE JAPANESE CULTURE CENTER
The Japanese Culture Center was established in 1977 in Chicago by Aikido Shihan (Teacher of Teachers) and Zen Master Fumio Toyoda to make some of the martial arts, crafts, and philosophical riches of Japan available to the public. Today the JCC continues this tradition, offering classes in over a dozen martial and cultural arts. The Center is not a museum where lifeless objects are displayed; it is a school where living skills are passed on person to person from generation to generation. You become an active participant in arts that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
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Foodie news from 4 Chicago restaurants

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Any news is good news for foodies in this town. And sometimes it’s really exciting stuff. Check out these news bits from 4 places around town and mark your calendar to go try ’em soon.

Warm Belly Bakery opens its second Chicago location this fall. Located at 2472 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park, it expects to open the end of September with outdoor seating, window take-out service, and gourmet soft-serve ice cream. Oh, we’re putting this on our calendar for sure! Baker and co-owner Joe Dela Peña offers decadent cookies, muffins, and other pastries along with a full espresso bar that features duck fat maple lattes.

Dela Peña will create a special cookie to celebrate the opening — only available in Lincoln Park starting on opening day. Current cookie options include 70+ concoctions such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fluffernutter, the Deep Dish Cookie, and a deep-purple cookie featuring Ube, a popular yam in Filipino desserts. Cookies and ice cream, anyone?

Zoup!, brings back its popular Brewhouse Cheddar soup (mellow cheddar, pale ale, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, garnished with cheddar and scallions) and new Seasoned Bread Boules. Starting Monday September 3, the Garlic Parmesan and Olive Oil & Sea Salt Bread Boules are joined by Rosemary Provolone and Chipotle Pepper Jack. In addition to the Sourdough Bread Boule, available year-round, the new Boules are brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and special seasonings, then toasted to enhance the flavor of Zoup!’s fresh soups. Try one with Chicken Potpie or Lobster Bisque – every Boule has at least 24 grams of protein. Brewhouse Cheddar soup – try pairing it with the Olive Oil & Sea Salt Boule – rolls out the week of Sept. 3 through October 21. Check each Zoup!’s local neighborhood soup schedule for more details. Hope the weather cools down, but we would be happy eating cheddar cheese/pale ale soup in almost any weather!

Weather Mark Tavern, 1503 S. Michigan, welcomes Fall on Sunday, September 9, 7pm until whenever. Join them for the Bears Regular Season Kickoff Party. Meet the Miller Crew; win prizes, giveaways and tickets. Miller Lite Specials all night plus select $4 shots and ½ price boneless tenders.

Twain, 2445 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square is now open. The brainchild of husband and wife team Chef Tim Graham and Beverage Director and Sommelier Rebekah Graham and in partnership with restaurateur Branko Palikuca, co-owner of The Dawson, Topaz Café and Citrine Café, the restaurant is inspired by a collection of women’s club cookbooks from the 1940s on. Family recipes passed down through generations focus on approachable dishes with modern twists and fun presentations. The name pays homage to prolific author Samuel Clemens’s famous pen name, Mark Twain.

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