The 7th annual Chicago Restaurant Week is underway. The name is a bit misleading, since it’s now a two week event; it’s meant to promote the local restaurant industry during what is, traditionally, one of the slowest times of the year. The annual event encourages diners to try new restaurants in the Chicago area for a fraction of the cost of a typical three course meal. Diners are given the opportunity to choose from special prix-fixe menus starting at $22 for lunch and $33/$44 for dinner (tax, tip, gratuity NOT included) at more than 300 participating restaurants. Reservations are not required but are encouraged. For more information and to make a reservation, visit eatItUpChicago.com. The promotion ends February 6. Get out there and support the local food scene, and don’t be a Groupon-style diner – buy some booze while you’re at it.
We’re heading into the home stretch. There are two tickets up for grabs for my first culinary tour, taking place March 8 – 11 in New Orleans. We’ve got 22 people signed up (it’s sold out) and two of those slots could be yours. The fine folks at Raved (the app) have purchased two of those seats. All you need to do is download the free app, then rave places you think are great, and adding a good tip or a nice pic wouldn’t hurt. On February 9th, we’re going to choose a winner, and they’ll be notified on February 13th. All you’ll have to do is get to New Orleans, and everything else will be taken care of. By everything, I mean a couple of cocktail classes (Swizzle Stick, SoBou), a cooking class from one of John Besh’s chefs, a jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace, a cocktail session at Cure, a meet-and-greet with a special guest, dinner at Cochon, dinner at Casamento’s, lunch at Galatoire’s, beignets and cafe au lair at Cafe du Monde and an only-with-Steve experience, at a plantation 45 minutes outside of town, where we’ll get a boat tour of the river delta, followed by a traditional cookout featuring jambalaya, crawfish and plenty of Dixies or Abitas. This is truly a magnificent introduction to the foodways of New Orleans, and it can be yours, if you just start adding a “#raveNOLA” to all of your posts. Good luck!
If there ever was a good week for something brutally dark and rich and comforting to help get through the dark days of winter, this would be it. While Chicago suffers yet another bone-chilling, snow-covered few days (high of 10 today, folks), Roper picked an apropos brew this week. It’s Obsidian Stout from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, and if you’re looking for something to go with that cassoulet or slowly-braised beef, this is it. Cheers.
Vancouver, BC – Jackie Kai Ellis looks more like a runway model or an interior designer than she does a pastry chef, but you realize the North Vancouver native knows her Plugra when she starts talking about croissants and caneles. She studied Fine Arts in Toronto and had a decent job, but chased her love of pastry to a school in Paris in 2011, and hasn’t looked back, opening Beaucoup Bakery here in the South Granville neighborhood just a little over a year ago. “It’s funny, because I got a C in French,” she said, over a plate of almond croissants dusted in powdered sugar and as flaky as a Valley Girl. “But after three months of intense study there, I was able to learn so much from the MOFs [Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, or craftsmen] and I wanted to bring that back home.” Read More
Vancouver, BC – In the midst of a dine around last night during the annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival, I had a preview of the next phase in bitters. As you probably know, the cocktail culture in 2014 is all about fresh juices, esoteric (some would say terroir) spirits and of course, bitters. But in the heart of Vancouver, there is a husband-wife team dedicated to new, ground-breaking bitters like I’ve never seen. Fortunately, I had a chance to taste some of their hard work, as a sort of preview of what Chicago drinkers can expect this year, thanks to the fact they’re close to getting a Midwest distributor. Read More
Richmond, BC – Say all you want about the San Gabriel Valley outside of L.A. and Flushing, Queens; for my money, I’m heading back to Vancouver (well, the suburb of Richmond, actually) the next time I’m jones-ing for some xiao long bao. These prized soup dumplings, beloved in Shanghai, are typically supposed to contain juicy broth and a toothsome ball of ground pork with minced ginger and garlic. They’re supposed to be housed in a dumpling wrapper that’s been steamed, and is just thick enough to hold in the broth but isn’t too thick that it overwhelms the filling. Read More