All posts by Barbara Payne, Editor

5 Chicago restaurants – Spring is here 2018

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What a view from Cafe Brauer

We’ve been saying “It’s spring” for too long. This time, it seems to have actually arrived. Not only is our fair city simply glowing with beautiful flowers and leaf buds, but outdoor spaces are opening everywhere – including a favorite of ours in Lincoln Park Zoo, The Patio at Cafe Brauer. It’s time to dig out your spring duds, bring a light jacket and get out there to enjoy some of the city’s great restaurant options. Here are a few more:

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Dos Toros announces the opening of its newest location at 300 S Wacker Drive, the 16th location overall, and second in Chicago for this SF Bay Area-inspired taqueria. Close to the Willis Tower and sitting on the Chicago river waterfront, this location provides an elevated (and scenic) fast-casual experience for taco and burrito lovers. Relax in the updated Dos Toros aesthetic of Heath tile, lighter wood finishes, abundant potted succulents, and rustic black & white photography inspired by the original California Dos Toros taquerias. Guests also enjoy cashless check-out and the brand-new “market vegetables” option that features a fresh mix of Butternut Squash, Tuscan Kale, Cremini mushrooms, and Shishito peppers sauteed in coconut oil.
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Epic Burger, with locations around Chicago, announces its 10th birthday celebration on Tuesday, May 22. Come enjoy 10 CENT BURGERS*** (single-patty beef burgers, while supplies last) and a special Epic Birthday Cake Shake featuring a Sweet Mandy B’s mini-burger cupcake shake-topper. Home of “A More Mindful Burger,” Epic Burger provides Chicagoans with sustainably sourced meats and produce, Halal certified beef and chicken, a revolutionary plant-based Beyond Burger, and more.
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***Available in-store only, 11am-9pm while supplies last, one per person, The $.10 Epic Birthday Burger includes the basic build-your-own toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, Epic Sauce) — additional toppings like premium Wisconsin cheeses, fresh avocado, nitrate-free bacon, or an organic fried egg, available at extra cost.***
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  • Lincoln Park bakery, Sweet Mandy B’s teams up for the special Epic Birthday Cake Shake. Comprised of birthday cake ice cream, strawberries and organic milk, topped with whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a so-cute-you-die mini burger cupcake, it’s  priced at $10 (in honor of turning 10!).
  • While you’re there on this one day only (5/22), Epic Burger will accept cash donations benefitting Growing Home, Chicago’s leading expert in farm-based training for people with employment barriers.
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Mother’s Day banana pancakes

Bistronomic840 N. Wabash, the contemporary bistro rooted in French culture in Chicago’s Gold Coast, will offer a special three-course, prix fixe brunch menu on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 13, for $42 per person or $56 per person with bottomless mimosas (for 1.5 hours) plus tax and gratuity. A $20 two-course menu will be available for children under the age of 10.

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Look for Paris-inspired dishes like Eggs Benedict with artisanal smoked salmon, poached eggs and lemon hollandaise; Asparagus & Seasonal Mushroom Omelette with farm eggs, capriole goat cheese and port wine reduction; Flat Iron Steak & Two Eggs with duck fat new potatoes, roasted garlic purée and a red wine reduction; andHomemade Pancakes with buttermilk and strawberry-rhubarb marmalade. For the full menu and reservations, visit Bistronomic’s website or call 312-944-8400.
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Intercontinental Hotel’s Hall of Lions

InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, 505 N. Michigan, honors Chicago and its landmark property by hosting “Uncork the Archives,”  a monthly series of tours combining history, wine, and live music. The next installment is Wednesday, May 30, 6-8pm, and offers a sommelier-hosted tasting featuring wine, cheese and chocolate from ENO Wine Bar. Hillary Marzec, an expert guide and founder of Inside Chicago Walking Tours, leads guests on a tour highlighting the hidden secrets, famous guests, and historical and architectural features. Afterwars, continue the party back at ENO, with live jazz and swing music entertainment and a complimentary glass of wine. www.icchicagohotel.com $48/ticket here.

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Pinot in the City features Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley, Oregon

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Enjoy wonderful Willamette Valley Pinot wines

We attended a trade event last year that featured winemakers and owners from a bunch of Willamette (pronounced “Will-AM-it-dammit”) Valley wineries and, I gotta tell ya, we never saw a bunch of winemakers enjoying themselves like this group. They told good stories about the challenges and joys of growing grapes in the Valley, while sipping their own wines in a light-hearted approach to educating attendees.

This year members of the public are invited to taste and learn more about the wines of seventy different wineries from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They’ll be barreling into Chicago for Pinot in the City, a showcase of some of the world’s most exciting Pinot noirs. Owners and winemakers will be pouring a selection of wines, including library and current releases, paired with delicious Pinot noir-friendly small bites.

Day/date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Time: 6:30 – 9:00pm (VIP access* AT 5:30 P.M.)
Location: Morgan Manufacturing, 401 N. Morgan St.
What: Come taste the wines that are putting the Willamette Valley in the news and mingle with the people who are making it happen. Sip Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, sparkling wines and more,  representing some of the best wines Oregon has to offer.

Buy tickets here*VIP tickets give you early access at 5:30 p.m. and more time with the winemakers. More info, including list of wineries, here.

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5 more Chicago culinary news notes

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Spring keeps poking up its lovely head and then pulling it back down again. But, hey, this is Chicago and we know exactly how to handle those crazy fickle ups and downs. We go out to eat and drink! And our beloved Chicago culinary industry is always there to give us more reasons to do so. Here are 5 ideas for your consideration:

  1. minigrow28 S. Wabash. Opening March 20, this one-of-a-kind, fast-gourmet dining experience elevates everyday eating. From the creators of Philadelphia-based honeygrow, purveyors of wholesome stir-fries and salads, minigrow brings consciously sourced, chef-driven food to the heart of The Loop.  Custom mazemen noodle and salad bowls, cold-pressed juices and chocolate chip cookies made in-house daily, and more.
  2. Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille, 5 Oakbrook Court, Oak Brook, introduced three new cocktails this year. The place is on the outskirts of Chicago but worth a visit if you’re into intriguing cocktail combos. Check out these unique drink ideas if you’re heading out west soon:
    • The Jameson Mocha Old Fashioned ($15) mixes Jameson’s Caskmates Irish Whiskey with  housemade coffee syrup and Bittermens mole bitters for a slight caffeine hit and a definite buzz – a great way to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.
    • The PassionNut for Port ($15) mixes Fonseca Bin27 Port with DonQ Coconut Rum, Passion Fruit puree and fresh pressed lemon juice for a fresh and robust tropical escape. Pair it with Perry’s Beef & Bleu ($13.95) for a mouthwatering balance of sweet and savory.
    • The Rosé Collins ($15) is a wine-based cocktail that mixes Botanist Gin with rosé wine and fresh lemon juice. Try it with Perry’s Bacon Wrapped Scallops ($19.95).
  3. SAVE THE DATE! WhiskyX at the United Club in Soldiers’ Field – April 27, 2018. Music, food and many new and venerable brands of bourbon, Scotch whisky and more. This spring some of Chicago’s most beloved chefs will serve whiskey-inspired and infused dishes for VIP ticket holders. Several of the city’s favorite food trucks will be on-site selling food throughout the event as well. An  “early bird special” ticket (20% discount) on sale only between March 6 and 13. Beat the sell out and buy now.
  4. Osteria Via Stato, 620 N. State St., invites you to enjoy Chef David DiGregorio’s array of springtime brunch delights on Easter Sunday, or Pasqua as it is known in Italy, 10:30am to 3pm. Omelet station,  and a bounty of Italian-inspired offerings like ciabatta ‘French’ toast; house-made sausage & vegetable strata; and a Ricotta Doughnut station where the tender-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside treats will be handmade-to-order. For the kids, an Easter Candy table will be set up. $54.95++ per adult, children aged 10 and under are $19.95 and children aged five and under eat free. Reserve at 312-642-8450.
  5. Through March 31, snack madly with Garrett Popcorn Shops® and their new, limited-time, handcrafted Hickory Smoked Bacon CheeseCorn, both in shops and online at GarrettPopcorn.com.  Garrett Chef David Funaro  created this gourmet flavor by infusing signature Garrett CheeseCorn with juicy, hickory-smoked bacon flavor. Watching basketball with a gang? Try Baller Bundles – scoops and empty bags for filling and sharing in either Garrett Mix® or Hickory Smoked Bacon CheeseCorn, online only at www.garrettpopcorn.com through March.
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5++ March events on Chicago culinary scene – starting today!

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Ridiculous that we had 55 degrees in February, right? Hey, but at least it wasn’t 70-something, which has happened in recent years. Anyway, it does awaken one’s awareness that spring – that elusive day that happens just before the mercury starts climbing into the 80s and 90s – will eventually arrive. So let’s see a little of what’s going on in Chicago’s culinary scene as March marches in.
  1. Marchesa, 535 N. Wells St., invites you to the Oscars today, Sunday March 4, for a la carte dinner service, wines, cocktails and champagne, music by DJ Madrid during commercial breaks and of course the Academy Awards on large screen TVs with volume. PLUS, they’re serving complimentary award-worthy snacks such as Peruvian Potato Chips with black truffle dip, Black Truffle Popcorn with grated parmigiano-reggiano, and Duck Fat Popcorn with orange zest. Num! Reserve a table in the Main Dining Room where the screening is being held. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for red carpet and the show starts at 7pm. For diehards, DJ Madrid takes it downstairs to the Cave until 1:30am.
  2. Beer lovers unite! Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap41 E. Superior, hosts a kick-off party on Thursday March 8 at 7 pm to celebrate Cigar City Brewing’s Chicago release. The event will feature four Cigar City drafts along with the Oskar Blues: Dales Pale Ale and Perrin Black on draft. The Cigar City drafts will be: Jai Alai, Guayabera, Cafe Con Leche, and North South IPA (Perrin/Cigar City collaboration). Down some brews and some of Jake’s fabulous fried foodstuffs! And even more! Devour the March Mania Burger ($15.95) and get a mystery beer for just a buck! The March Mania Burger is a hand-packed fresh beef patty is grilled to order and topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, a fried egg and mayo. And that’s not all! Instead of a bun, the burger is packed between two grilled cheese sandwiches and served with hand-cut fries. The burger and beer special will be available all month long in March. Consider their St. Patty’s Day famous Pre-Soak Breakfast on Saturday, March 17th from 8-11AM. The breakfast is $3.17 per person and includes a buffet featuring: Corned Beef & Hash, Breakfast Sausage, Hash Browns, Pancakes with Whiskey Syrup, Scrambled Eggs, Emerald Fruit Salad, and Grilled Irish Soda Bread. Drink specials to wash it down include Green Beer Pints ($5) and Irish Whiskey Cocktails ($4).
  3. Osteria via Stato (which means Italian tavern), 620 N. State St., is throwing a fun wine-and-bites party on Saturday afternoon, March 10, from 3 to 4:30 pm. 20 wines for $25 parties always sell out so click here for reservations.  Taste 20 different wines, all paired with an array of Chef David DiGregorio’s passed small bites for only $25++. Wine representatives will be on hand to answer all your vino-related questions.
  4. St. Patty’s Day brings a boatload of fun and food and frolicking around Chicago.
    • Cupitol Coffee + Eatery, 455 E. Illinois, Chicago (also 812 Grove St., Evanston). Enjoy housemade Corned Beef Hash and Eggs all day on Saturday, March 17 for $11 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, March 17 from 7 to 10.
    • Smoke Daddy BBQ, 1804 W. Division, features all through March its signature Smoked Corned Beef Sandwich made with thin-sliced smoked corned beef, housemade coleslaw and melted Swiss cheese served on toasted rye for $11. On Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 Smoke Daddy BBQ will also feature Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale and Guinness pints. Smoke Daddy BBQ is open Mondaythrough Thursday 11 to 11, Friday 11 to 12, Saturday 10 to 12 and Sunday 10 to 10. 773-772-6656.
    • Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar, 3358 N. Paulina, features Guinness Pizza made with a Guinness crust, Irish cheddar cheese sauce, corned beef, potatoes and caramelized onions topped with a hot honey mustard drizzle for $14 on Saturday, March 17. Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar is open on Saturday, March 17 from 10 to 11.
    • Dunlays on Clark, 2600 N. Clark St., will host a children’s St. Patrick’s Day children’s event on Wednesday, March 14 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Families are encouraged to bring their children in for dinner, St. Patrick’s Day-themed crafts and face painting. On Saturday, March 17 Dunlays on Clark will offer Shepherd’s Pie and Corned Beef Hash for $14. Additionally, they will offer a special on Guinness and Jameson shots in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Open Saturday, March 17 from 10 to 11.
    • Harvest, in the Chicago Marriott Downtown Mag Mile, 540 N. Michigan Ave.,invites guests to enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day buffet on Saturday, March 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. featuring Corned Short Ribs, Beer Braised Cabbage, Roasted Carrots, Fingerling Potatoes and Stout Cake with Irish Coffee Ice Cream. The buffet is available for $25 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Additionally, the hotel’s Rush Bar will offer $8 Irish Whiskey Sours and $6 Guinness pints on Saturday, March 17 from 11:30 to 11.
  5. Cochon555 invites local chefs to cook one whole heritage breed pig raised by a family farm. On April 8, 4 to 7:30pm at the Hilton Chicago Downtown, chefs will compete: Mario Garcia of Kitty O’Sheas, Cory Morris of Boleo at the Kimpton Gray Hotel, Ryan Burns of The Blanchard, Andres Padillaof of Topolobampo, and Carlos Gaytan of Mexique. One week ahead, each chef receives a 200-pound heritage breed pig sustainably sourced from 1936 Meadowbrook Farm, 3 Winds Farm, Catalpa Grove Farm, Meadowlark Farm, and Faith’s Farm, Inc. to create a maximum of 6 dishes for competition. With dozens of bites from iconic local chefs, boutique distillers, and artisan winemakers, the event is akin to an epic tasting menu of heritage breed pork with endless beverage pairings taken standing up. For details on the Cochon555 movement, view a video. Purchase tickets at http://cochon555.com/us-tour/2018-chicago/
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5 Chicago restaurants – Super Bowl and Valentine’s 2018 +1 new opening!

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Chicago is a marvelous place to eat out any time, but some places go out of their way to offer specials for specific occasions. Too bad about the Bears, but you can still enjoy Super Bowl goodies in places around Chicago. And of course, it’s not too early to plan your Valentine’s Day – or anti-Valentine’s Day – celebration. And then, imagine this: a very large authentic Italian eatery opening up just down the street from – you guessed it – Eataly!
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 Ella Elli (1349 W. Cornelia Ave) in Lakeview  offers a chic alternative to the Super Bowl. No TVs on Super Bowl Sunday but you can have flights of rosé wines, rosé cocktails and frosé! Regular brunch menu from 10am to 2:30pm and dinner from 4 to 10pm. The “Super Bites” menu includes Shrimp Avocado Salad, pink shrimp with diced avocado, red onion and cilantro in a grapefruit-honey vinaigrette with crispy pita chips ($9); French Onion Dip and Chips, creamy onion dip with crispy pancetta and housemade potato chips ($6); Prosciutto Meatballs, fontina-stuffed beef and prosciutto meatballs simmered in a spicy tomato basil sauce over creamy polenta ($8); Potato Croquettes, three crispy parmesan potatoes with spicy Calabrian-Chile aioli and cilantro ($6); and Nduja-Stuffed Dates, over Gorgonzola fondue and topped with Marcona almonds ($7).
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Smoke Daddy smoked wings

Smoke Daddy (1804 W Division St.) in Wicker Park welcomes Super Bowl fans  for the game from 4 to 9pm for an all-you-can-eat pig roast buffet and build-your-own chili bar – all for $20 per person (plus tax and gratuity)! Price also includes one Lagunitas pint. Reservations are strongly recommended; call 773.772.6656. OR pick your favorites from their popular catering menu for any Super Bowl party. Options include their signature wings ($30 feeds 10, $55 feeds 20), BBQ sliders ($40 feeds 10, $75 feeds 20), mac and cheese ($25 feeds 10, $45 feeds 20) and more. A la carte options include pulled pork ($16 per lb.), St. Louis-style ribs ($20 per lb.) and BBQ beans ($14 per lb.). Orders must be made by January 31 via email (catering@4srg.com) or phone (773.772.6656).

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STK Chicago, 9 W. Kinzie St., revs up the winter with fun specials like Game Day at STK. The Bears may be done, but you can still celebrate Super Bowl on Feb. 4 with $3 beers and $5 bites, plus a special half-time performance. Office Hours – Every Sunday thru Thurs 5 to 7pm, STK Chicago’s own take on happy hour gets you specific menu items like $5 cocktails and $7 small plates like Lil’ BRGs, Tuna Tartare, Crispy Rock Shrimp and more. Then consider Wine Down Wednesdays – half off bottles of wine every Wednesday.
ETA Restaurant avocado toast

ETA Restaurant + Bar, located inside Loews Chicago Hotel at 455 N. Park Dr., has lots of winter fun specials. Snow Days – warm up at ETA every time it snows in Chicago. $1 off Local Stops and Exotic Locations cocktails for every inch of snow predicted in the forecast (maximum 10 inches) that day by www.weather.com for zip code 60611. $10 off your cocktail! Chicago Restaurant Week, ETA Restaurant + Bar will be participating for the first time  this year – special prix-fixe menu for lunch ($22++) or dinner ($33++). Game Day Specials, February 4. Sit down in front of the 7’ by 12’ TV screen in the hotel lobby to enjoy the Big Game, and chow down on menu items like ETA Burger (double patty, gouda, crispy onions, and tomato jam, $17), the Brat in a Blanket (with hot pepper jam, $10), and Chicken Wings (choice of bacon-buffalo sauce or garlic-parmesan sauce, $14), plus snacks and beer specials. Pro- or Anti-Valentine’s Day weekend! February 14-17 – enjoy the 4 Cs of Valentine’s Day (hint: Cupid isn’t one of them!): [fried] Chicken, Champagne, Cake, and Comfort. Whether you’re pro- or anti-Valentine’s Day, you can enjoy 3 days of special deals at ETA. From February 14-17, buckets of Hot Sauce Fried Chicken are only $39 each – a whole bird (8 pieces) served with buttermilk biscuits and house-made jam ($39). Champagne – splits of JP Chenet, Rosé Dry are $15. Chocolate Stout Cake – Nutella ganache, chocolate pretzels, and cherries ($9) makes the perfect dessert to enjoy with friends in the Comfort of ETA’s cozy ambiance.

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Cupitol Coffee + Eatery, 455 E. Illinois St. (and 812 Grove St. Evanston) will donate all hot and iced latte proceeds to Open Heart Magic, a Chicago-based, non-profit that uses the therapeutic power of magic and laughter to energize seriously ill children. Additionally, they will also offer Chocolate Dipped Strawberries at each location two for $2. Cupitol lattes feature a specialty espresso blend imported exclusively from Europe that’s based on 100% Arabica beans. Lattes include theChai, Mocha, Nutella, Vanilla, Caramel and Hazelnut Latte. Drink ’em regular or dairy-free with coconut or almond milk. But the menu also features full breakfast, lunch and dinner options plus pastries from the in-house bakery. Both  locations open on Valentine’s Day from 7am to 9pm.
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Coming soon! Sapori Antichi Bar Italiano, 22 W. Ohio, opens its authentic Northern Italian full-service restaurant and bar in March 2018. It’s just down the street from Eataly Chicago, in the former Rev Burger space. With 2,300 square feet to accommodate 50-60 guests, the new 100% Italian – from kitchen equipment to tiles – restaurant will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a full bar, say founders Michael and Mary Meranda. Look for Italian dishes like Tigelle, an Italian small, round, thickish flat bread and Gnocco Fritto, an Italian bread typically sliced into diamond shapes and then fried. Meet friends and relax at the espresso and breakfast bar and the chef’s table where you might even get tastes not yet on the menu. We can always hope that the prices will be a bit less daunting than some of those at Eataly!
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Late December restaurant news in Chicago

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Love to learn about the specials some of our Chicago restaurants put together for the holidays. Fun. Festive. Food and drink to celebrate with. Check out these news bytes about 6 of them. And Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, etc. etc.

  1. Naoki Fried ChickenDecember 22nd & 23rd only. Naoki’s savory Japanese-style fried chicken, prepared by half or whole bird and served with Yuzo coleslaw, Roasted sweet potatoes and Teriyaki & Toban Jan dipping sauces. Available dine in or carry-out. To place an order or make a reservation, call 773-868-0002.
  2. Texas de Brazil, 210 E. Illinois, will open early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (11am to 9pm) with their full rodizio-style menu available all day, as well as Horseradish Crusted Ribeye (a special holiday item). Pricing for Chicago here and Schaumburg here. Closed on Christmas Day, but open regular hours with the regular menu on New Year’s Day.
  3. The Shelby, 2759 W. Augusta Blvd. (their website isn’t up yet but Google has reviews)  opened December 19. Open 5pm weeknights, and 11am Saturday and Sunday. Casual restaurant/bar with a hearty beer program, a full bar, and Chef (formerly with Haywood Tavern, Bite Cafe, Longman & Eagle, and Spiaggia) Rodney Staton-created snacks, salads, and a load-your-own burger and baked potato program.  Enjoy their no-bull approach to food, drink, socializing, and service in soulful, well-worn surroundings (denim upholstery, dark wood carpentry, whitewashed brick walls, and canary yellow stools), and with a soundtrack influenced by the Memphis music scene: Stax records artists, Sun records’ Big Star, Isaac Hayes, and The Grifters, to name a few.
  4. ENO Wine Room, 505 N. Michigan in the InterContinental Hotel, will be popping bubbles every hour to ring in 2018. Learn about ENO’s New Year’s Eve celebration here. If you’d rather celebrate at home, ENO’s General Manager and champagne expert, Amanda Herrell, suggests breaking out the bubbly bar yourself! Her beverage and food pairing recommendations include: Don’t feel pressured to serve only champagne! Other good dry bubbles: Crémant de Bourgogne, Cava, and Franciacorta. Sweeter  tasty bubbles: Lambrusco, Brachetto, and Moscato d’Asti. Pair them well! With dry bubbles, stick with rich triple cream cheese. The rich and decadent flavors will be complemented by the bubbles. For the sweeter bubbly drinks, indulge in foie gras mousse. The effervescence combined richness and the berry flavor of the wine will mesh well with the savory dish.
  5. Celebrate the New Year at Ceres Table, 3124 N. Broadway. Sunday, December 31 | 5:00pm – 11:00pm (reservation times) A special four-course, regional Italian meal, presented by Executive Chef Steven O’Neill. For $55/person (*Special: reservations before 6:30pm and after 10:30pm, only $45/person) guests will enjoy their choice of one dish per course from the complete menu.
  6. Lowcountry, 1132 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago’s premier boil-in-a-bag seafood destination announces a second location opening in the South Loop early 2018. At Lowcountry South Loop, the magic four steps remain the same: choose your protein, like snow crab legs, head-on shrimp, mussels and more, then choose a sauce, a spice level, and add-ons like corn, sausage, and potatoes. New boil combinations launch upon opening, and now you can get pre-set seafood bags built for one, two, three, or four people filled with a variety of shellfish and add-ons. Love the music on their website!
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Mago Grill & Cantina rings in Hanukkah & holidays with Mexican flair

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The holidays for many ethnic groups are fast approaching. and Mago Grill & Cantina has the perfect addition to any celebration table. Mago is featuring a full size (9”) Eggnog Tres Leches and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Flan inspired by Chef Juan’s late grandmother’s holiday recipes, both $35, through December 31. They are both available with just 24-hour notice at any Mago Grill & Cantina location (Chicago, Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook or South Barrington). Perfect for those last-minute Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas dessert needs!

Mago Grill & Cantina fabulous holiday desserts

You might be surprised to learn there is a large Mexican-Jewish community in Chicago that draws influences from both cuisines. To honor this group, Mago decided to combine traditional Hanukkah dishes with a Latin flare, thus culinarily fusing Mexican and Jewish culture. Hanukkah Menu Items  available only 12/12/17 – 12/20/17)

Playing off the traditional Hanukkah short rib meal, Mago will offer a limited-time Beef Short Rib entrée for $26 (Pulque braised, fork tender beef short rib served with Mole de Manzana, or Apple Mole and cilantro potato latkes). Or try Roasted Half Chicken for $20 (wild mushroom huitlacoche cream, roasted Yukon gold potatoes).

Honoring the Jewish tradition of eating apples with honey during Rosh HaShanah, Guava and Apple Crisp dessert for $8 (Baked granny smith apples with guava topped with a cinnamon crumble). Apples in the cocktail line: La Manzanita cocktail for $13 (Apple & cinnamon infused Patron Blanco Tequila, apple cider, fresh lime juice).

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Celebrate the season at a few of these 13 Chicago restaurants

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Chicago holiday restaurant delights

Chicago is a magnificent place to celebrate the holiday season – the lights downtown alone are magical. Not surprisingly, then, that  around this time of year you can find a sleighload of restaurants that offer special featured food items, family brunches with Santa, Christmas Eve brunch, prix fixe menus and more. Take a gander at these and make your reservations now.

  1. Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, 41 E. Superior, invites you to indulge in The 12 Wings of Christmas (LOL!).  Now through December 12, Jake Melnick’s is offerings a different special wing of the day to get in the holiday spirit. Chef Nick Santangelo has come up with some interesting flavor combinations such as Apricot Siracha, Aaron’s Coconut Red Curry and Grilled Maple Mustard wings ($13.95). You get a punch card with your first wing order – get the card punched for 4 out of the 12 days and get a $50 gift card. Check out the rest of Jake’s fun and funky wing flavors here.
  2. Shaw’s Crab House, 21 E. Hubbard, can make your holiday meals easier with their own dishes for your table. Choose from a variety of sides, appetizers, soup, salads, sushi and desserts – all Shaw’s classics – now available for pickup or delivery during regular business hours. Order at least 24 hours in advance for appetizers and sides and 48 hours for desserts.For more information or to order items, 312.527.2722. Also, Santa is coming for brunch, pictures and visit to Shaw’s Chicago for Christmas Eve brunch starting at 9am. $75 adults, $20 kids.
  3. Ella Elli, 1349 W. Cornelia Ave., will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for Christmas Eve brunch on Sunday, December 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can enjoy items such as the Bakery Board with fresh a croissant, housemade everything bagel, local pastries, preserves and seasoned whipped butter ($10); Stuffed Brioche French Toast with chocolate, berries and cardamom powdered sugar ($12); and Prosciutto Flatbread with farm eggs, arugula and crispy potatoes ($14). Drinks including Mimosa Bottle Service with a bottle of Caposaldo Prosecco and a trio of fresh juices ($42); and Rose Sangria with Rose, Pampelmousse, Lime Cordial and fresh fruit ($10) will also be available. Reservations are recommended 773-935-3552.
  4. Tuco and Blondie (3358 N. Southport Ave) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Mexifun” menu items available include the El Sombrero Benedict with chorizo, poached eggs, black beans, hollandaise and pico de gallo ($13); and Chilaquiles with roasted chicken, over easy eggs, salsa verde, Chihuahua cheese, sour cream and pico de gallo ($12). Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 773-327-8226.
  5. Crosby’s Kitchen (3455 N. Southport Ave) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for Christmas Eve brunch on Sunday, December 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Crosby’s Kitchen will offer menu favorites including the Chicken Chili Benedict with black bean chili, cornbread, poached eggs, cheddar cheese and scallions ($12); Crosby’s Omelet with mozzarella, bacon, wild mushrooms and spinach hollandaise ($11); and the Chicken Dip Sandwich with rotisserie chicken, jack cheese, mayo, tomato, onion, arugula and chicken au jus ($12). Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 773-883-2525.
  6. Dunlays on Clark (2600 N. Clark St) and Dunlays on the Square (3137 W. Logan Blvd) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Guests can enjoy brunch menu classics such as French Toast with crunchy French bread dipped in eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and orange liqueur ($9); and the Dunz Omelet with sundried tomato, basil pesto and smoked provolone cheese ($10). Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling Dunlays on Clark at 773-883-6000 and Dunlays on the Square at 773-227-2400.
  7. Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar (3358 N. Paulina St) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Guests can enjoy menu favorites including Breakfast Pizza with three over easy eggs, sausage, bacon and cheese atop housemade crust ($14); and the Roscoe St. Omelet with three eggs, mozzarella, provolone, Italian sausage, bacon and caramelized onion. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 773-248-5222.
  8. Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division St) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Guests can enjoy house specialties including the Pulled Pork Benedict with pulled pork and chipotle hollandaise served with fresh fruit or hash browns ($12); and the Fried Egg Sandwich with two eggs over easy, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo on rye bread ($10). Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 773-772-6656.
  9. Remington’s (20 N. Michigan) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Christmas Eve from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Remington’s will offer classic American menu favorites include The Remington 18-oz dry aged prime bone in strip; Short Rib with roasted heirloom carrots and braised cipolinni onion; and the Chicken Dip Sandwich with rotisserie chicken, jack cheese, mayo, tomato, onion, arugula and chicken au jus. The last dinner reservation is at 7 p.m. and can be made by calling 312-782-6000.
  10. The Windsor (160 E. Huron St) will be open for a pre-Christmas brunch on Friday, December 22 and Saturday, December 23 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Guests can enjoy classic menu items including The Windsor Club with ham, turkey, bacon, truffle aioli, tomato and basil ($13); and signature Monkey Bread with cream cheese frosting ($10). Reservations are recommended 312.943.7777.The Windsor is also hosting a Santa Brunch on Sunday, December 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop in after holiday shopping to enjoy a delicious brunch and watch as kids visit Santa and receive a festive gift bag. The visit with Santa is free and parents are encouraged to bring their camera for the perfect holiday photo.
  11. The Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division St.), BBQ in Wicker Park is offering holiday catering. House-Smoked Whole Turkey (11 lb., $65; 20 lb., $90), Pulled Whole Turkey (1 lb., $16) and Glazed Ham, a partial bone-in, smoked ham with a sweet mojo glaze (half., $69; whole $129). Sides such as Cornbread Stuffing with sausage and spices ($10 per quart); Brussels Sprouts oven-roasted with a lemon butter sauce ($10 per quart); Green Bean Casserole ($10 per quart); and desserts such as Apple Pie ($22) and Pumpkin Pie ($20) are available. Items will be picked up cold with re-heating instructions.
  12. Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash), the contemporary French bistro, will offer brunch and a three-course prix fixe dinner menu on Christmas Eve (10am to 2:30pm; 5 to 10pm) and on Christmas Day (noon to 8pm). Brunch favorites include Quiche Lorraine ($13.95); Brioche crème brulee French Toast ($11.95); and Croque Madame with handcut French fries ($14.95). Bottomless mimosas ($18.95 for 1.5 hours) when you purchase a brunch entrée or sandwich.Dinner both evenings is $70 per adult ($20 for a two-course children’s menu) plus tax and gratuity. The three-course prix fixe dinners include vegetarian options and feature produce from the Green City Market. Cauliflower Velouté with glazed chestnut, Everton cheese, truffle oil and brown butter; Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maine lobster, baby broccoli, star anise and tarragon lobster emulsion; Prime Beef Short Ribs with butternut squash pureé, glazed cranberry, French beans, almond and Aigre Doux sauce; Winter Wild Mushroom Ravioli with seasonal mushrooms, roasted hazelnut, Jerusalem artichoke pureé and leek nage; Baked Alaska with poached pear, brioche, and bittersweet chocolate sauce, and more. To view the full menu, visit the website. Reservations are recommended and can be made on OpenTable.
  13. Harvest, inside The Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile (540 N. Michigan), is offering a festive menu on Christmas Day from noon to 8pm. The menu includes Slow Roasted Prime Rib, House-Smoked Ham, Housemade Sausage, Sage Cornbread Stuffing, Cheese and Charcuterie, Shrimp Cocktail, Miniature Sweets and more. $40 per person and $20 for kids 10 and under, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are recommended (312) 836-6334.
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5 cool December-in-Chicago happenings

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We hate to admit it, but for many of us the holidays are an official excuse to overindulge ourselves – in sweets, in over-the-top decor, in food and wine. And why not? That’s why New Year’s comes right after the holidays, right? So we can make resolutions to lose the weight, get back in shape, forego ice cream or booze or whatever our particular downfalls might be.  So here are a few ideas to get you started overindulging – and one for helping save the farmers while you eat healthy.
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  1. Naha quiche

    Cocoa + Co., 1651 N. Wells St., debuts a new savory café menu in partnership with Michelin-starred Naha’s Pastry Chef Craig Harzewski. The Old Town café just started offering a rotating selection of flavors to reflect the season: Empanadas ($5.50) – Duck, squash and cannelloni bean or Ratatouille; Quiche Tart ($5.75) with bacon and chard or without bacon; Gluten Free Baked Oats ($4.50) – apples, raisins and house-made plum preserves. Also, Chef Harzewski will now be crafting Coca + Co.’s signature items like Apricot Oat Cookies, Salted Big Chip Cookies, Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel Brownies and more.

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2. Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, is sporting a giant gingerbread hotel with city skyline, as well as extravagant décor for the holiday. The gingerbread hotel stands over six feet tall and took three pastry chefs more than 270 hours to create using 380 pounds of flour, 280 pounds of powdered sugar. Celebrating the building’s 90th anniversary, Executive Chef Mario Garcia this year added to the Chicago skyline display that includes gingerbread replicas of famous landmarks like the John Hancock, Willis Tower, The Bean and more. Watch a time-lapse video here. And check out the hotel’s iconic decorations – the 24 ft. Christmas tree with thousands of metallic ornaments, 2000 inches of decorated garland, a 30”-diameter Poinsettia kissing ball, and 60-foot wreaths throughout the hotel. 60 FEET!? Wow.

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3. Maggiano’s, 516 N. Clark St., is now offering its Holiday Lunch Family Style. Enjoy the riches of Maggiano’s menu while you celebrate the holidays together. Check out their lunch menu – warm and comforting food without the hassles of cooking and serving yourself. Family style lunch only available November 27th to December 29th, Monday-Friday 11am – 3pm. $19.95 per person, $12.95 for kids ages 5-12.

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Peninsula chocolate bar

The Peninsula Chicago and Executive Pastry Chef Dimitri Fayard present ‘Chocolate at The Pen,’ Chicago’s premier chocolate bar in The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago, accompanied by live jazz music by Stephanie Browning. Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 10:30pm. Pick from a selection of one- and two-bite elegant chocolate desserts and petite chocolate delicacies or a hot chocolate station. Call for reservations 312.573.6695 or e-mail diningPCH@peninsula.com.

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5, Imperfect. One in five fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. don’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocery stores, usually causing them to go to waste on the farm. The curvy carrot, the miniature cherry and the oddly-shaped orange are all delicious and nutritious, but are often left to rot in fields or sent to the local landfill.

Why? To eliminate food waste, help farmers benefit from a full harvest and make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable. 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, grown regionally and shipped from Imperfect’s Northlake, IL distribution center. Choose boxes for singles or families, and customize the mix of fruits and veggies in your box each week. Chicago residents can sign up for the new delivery service, that launches Monday, December 4.
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3 Saturday/weekend fun events at Chicago restaurants

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Fizz Eatery & Soda Fountain in Belmont Heights (out west near Oak Park) this Saturday, 11/11 honors National Sundae Day with “buy one, get one free house sundaes” from 10 to 3pm. Banana Split ($7.50), Turtle Sundaes with Wisconsin-made ice cream ($4.95-$6.15), or Build Your Own Sundaes (2 or 3 scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, a cherry, and your choice of 2 toppings ($4.95-$6.15). Kids 12 and under who come in to celebrate National Sundae Day will be entered to win an ice cream social for up to 12 people!
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Chicago Brewseum Hot Dog Fest. An intimate, low- to no-wait beer event – only 300 tickets will be sold. Saturday November 18, 1 to 5pm at Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Dr.  It’s all about Chicago, hotdogs, beer and fun! Support the The Chicago Brewseum, a non-profit organization aiming to build the country’s first museum dedicated to telling the story of beer. What you get: A welcome beer courtesy of Old Style; 3 oz tastings of all the specialty beers; a Chicago style hot dog courtesy of Ball Park (vegetarian/vegan option available); access to the newly reopened Theater on the Lake; outdoor games (weather permitting); vinyl spins courtesy of DJ Charlie;  hot dog themed art for purchase; access to the secret and illicit speakeasy.  Tickets from $25 to $100.
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Hot toddies and deep-fried Oreos at Jake Melnick’s

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival returns November 17 and one of the best places to warm up and enjoy special food & beverage offerings is Jake Melnick’s. Consider this: a Hot Toddy made with either Spiked Hot Chocolate and/or Irish Coffee PLUS incredible, batter-dipped, deep-fried Oreos for $15. Get ’em while they’re hot – special price only on November 17 + 18, 2017.

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