You have to hand it to the Illinois Restaurant Association. Not only do they take constructive criticism, they act upon it. A few years ago, I was fairly critical of Chicago Gourmet, after a weekend spent waiting in lines longer than an NFL rap sheet due in part, no doubt, to a Groupon that flooded the event with discount price party crashers. Add to that the lopsided number of liquor and wine tents vs. actual food vendors, and you had half the crowd smashed by 2 p.m. The secondary tent just west of Millennium Park wasn’t much better, at least in terms of hearing the cooking demos, as the sound ricocheted everywhere, making it impossible to hear the folks up on stage. My how times have changed.
This past weekend’s event – under some of the warmest, most pleasant late September weather I can ever recall – was improved by at least 1000%. Let’s start with the food. Yes, there were still lines, but guests had so many more choices this year: new BBQ pavilions featuring three restaurants at a time, in long blocks, switching out every few hours. You could line up and get brisket from Bub City or a “BBQ Sundae” from Chicago q but still have plenty of time to walk over to another pavilion where another trio of restaurants where serving up something sweet (dessert pavilion) or savory. Read More
There are no vitamin C deficiencies this week, but a small, Lake Mills, Wisconsin brewery called Tyranena is using a little humor to create a slightly bitter IPA they’re calling scurvy. Since it contains orange peels – one of the remedies for said affliction – they’re hoping that if you have a pirate in the family, who has perhaps spent several months at sea, this little beer just might do the trick. Cheers. It’s a seasonal, however, so it might not be on the shelves at The Hopleaf this late in the year.
How time flies, especially if you’re shucking. This Friday, Shaw’s Crab House kicks off it’s 30 year anniversary celebration with yet another Oyster Fest Block Party. As usual, there will be live music, Goose Island beers, a boat load of fresh seafood and tons of oysters (approx. 15,000) from both coasts. A lively Oyster Slurp Off will pit finalists head-to-head to see who takes home a $1,000 prize. All of the action begins on Friday at 3 p.m. The event lasts until 10 p.m. and takes place at 560 W. Grand (at the River). Tickets are available for $25 at www.oysterfestchicago.com. Use the code LOBSTER.
Despite the fact those relentless summer weekend festivals are pretty much over, there’s still plenty of eating, drinking and live music going on this weekend in Chicago. WXRT is teaming up with Goose Island tomorrow for the 312 Urban Block Party. The event happens at Fulton and Wood (main stage is on the corner of Walnut and Wood) and costs just $10 to get in. I’m a fairly big fan of Cayucas, which goes on early, at 4:15 p.m., but there are several other bands, plus a half-dozen food trucks confirmed for the event, which runs from 4 – 10 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – Damn that Jessica Koslow. The diminutive chef/owner of the quirky Sqirl in Silver Lake has officially made the process of ordering a simple breakfast fraught with potential heartache. No doubt, if you happen to scan the narrow, rectangular menu in her corner store/cafe/hipster hideout, you’ll be racked with such 1st World problems as “should I order the avocado toast?” versus “what if you get the crispy rice bowl and I’ll get the burnt brioche toast slathered with ricotta and jam?”
Spending two years in oak, along with some Michigan cherries, Goose Island’s Madame Rose is truly a unique brew. This week, The Hopleaf’s Michael Roper urges you to go out and find some, before it’s all gone. Better yet, pick up a few extra bottles and cellar them for awhile; it will only improve with age. Cheers.