News & Features

Chicago Chefs Head to South Beach

January 27 2014 - 1:00 PM

The 13th annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE is set to take place next month! This amazing four-day festival kicks off February 20-23, 2014 in sunny South Beach and showcases many of the world’s most famous chefs, as well as producers of wine and spirits. Not only is the festival a fabulous four-day affair for lovers of fine food and wine, it’s also a fundraiser with proceeds benefiting Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center. The 2013 festival included more than 65,000 attendees and brought in more than $5.1 million in ticket sales. So yea, it’s kind of a big deal.

The festival highlights a variety of nationally and internationally acclaimed chefs, through seminars, tastings, dinners, late-night parties and many more events. Some of the participating chefs include José Andrés, Rocco DiSpirito, Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse, Andrew Zimmern and many, MANY others.

Sound amazing? Here’s just a taste of what you can experience at the 2014 festival next month. You can start your day with a visit to the Grand Tasting Village featuring tasting tents and cooking demos and unlimited beer, wine, and spirits tastings (woo). Don’t forget to stop by the burger bash hosted by Rachael Ray at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, where you can sample a variety of burgers from more than 25 chefs and vote on your favorite. After you’ve had time to digest, you can start your night off by attending “The Q,” a night celebrating all things grilled, braised, and barbecued. The event features more than 40 chefs and is hosted by Michael Symon and a few of his friends, namely the 2014 Sports Illustrated models featured in the upcoming 50th Anniversary edition of the swimsuit issue! One of the late-night parties where you can end your night includes the festival’s first-ever ice cream and dessert party. Join chefs including Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and snack on treats from Chef Cindy Kruse, Lee & Marie’s Bakery, Paul Joachim and Hollis Wilder, all paired with wines and spirits from the Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida portfolio.

Even though the wine and food festival takes place in South Beach, there are several Chicago  chef’s making waves (pun intended) at this year’s event. Some of the Chicago chefs making an appearance this year include Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, Tony Mantuano, Paul Kahan, and Charlie McKenna at the following events:

  • Best of the Best (Stephanie Izard, Rick Bayless, Tony Mantuano): This event at the beautiful Fontainebleau Miami Beach gathers 50 of the nation’s top chefs to showcase gourmet food samplings paired with wines rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s scale.
  • The Q (Paul Kahan, Rick Bayless): Chef Michael Symon (and Sports Illustrated models) host more than 40 American top chefs serving their best dishes and side dishes paired with cocktails from the Moët Hennessy portfolio.
  • Swine & Wine (Charlie McKenna, Stephanie Izard): James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein joins fellow colleagues to take pig roasting to a whole new level.  The roasted meat served straight from each chef will be accompanied by savory side dishes, as well as desserts created by the Biltmore Hotel.

Tickets to many of the festival’s events are still available if you’re interested in fleeing Chicago’s harsh temperatures in favor of cocktails, gourmet bites, and beachfront views. How bad can that be?


News & Features

Chili Cook-Off for Charity

January 24 2014 - 1:43 PM

Think you got what it takes to make the best chili?  Okay, you’re not a chef, but you know a winning chili when you taste one?  Interested in doing something good for other people?  Then join hosts Amy Bennett and Todd Feinberg along with yours truly on January 26th for the First Annual Bean There or Bean Square Chili Cook-Off.

Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository – a nonprofit organization that’s been helping to serve over 150,00 meals a day through food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, educational and mobile programs.

“We are really excited,” says co-founder and co-host Amy Bennett.  “Todd (GM Bistro Campagne) and I had a long standing cook-off we participated in for years, but when the host left for L.A. we decided to carry the torch.  We have some big ideas and would like to see it grow into a larger community event in years to come.”

With the likes of Tuesday Night Dinner, Savory Spice Shop, and the Grain-Free Goodie Company participating as contestants, BTBS is already shaping up to be a successful community event.  Participants may join as a contestant or a taster, and the only rule for this year’s contest; bring your own crockpot.  Other than that, anything from vegan chilies to red-in-the-face-can’t-talk-can’t-breathe chillies are welcomed and encouraged.  Check out details below.  Prizes for this year’s cook-off are the following:

1st Place:

Four Pack Spice Set from Savory Spice Shop
Half Acre Growler
Chili Cook-Off Apron
Pepper Scepter
Bragging Rights
2nd Place:
The Silver Spoon
Chili Cook-Off Apron
6-pack of beer
3rd Place:
The Bronze Spoon
Chili Cook Off Apron
1pm – 5pM
Location: Secret Location in Lincoln Squareinfo given in RSVP confirmation
Contestants enter chili by 1pm
RSVP as a Taster or Contestant by 01/19/14 to
Suggested Donation of $10, all proceeds will benefit The Greater Chicago Food Depository



Loop Gains Pearl of an Oyster Bar

January 22 2014 - 9:00 AM

Quality oyster bars aren’t exactly easy to come by in Chicago. There’s GT Fish & Oyster and…well, can you think of anywhere else? The Loop isn’t exactly short of places you can grab a pricey drink with mediocre food, so Pearl Tavern decided to join the game offering something totally new for the area.

Walk into Pearl Tavern and you might think you’ve been transported to River North, or maybe even the East Coast. Former Hubbard Inn owner Adolfo Garcia said he envisioned his new restaurant as a great place to get seafood, not some fancy upscale restaurant with overpriced food. I’ll admit that’s exactly what you get. Drinks are certainly upscale – yet totally worth it and delicious. My favorite is The Angry Mermaid, a mezcal based drink with habanero syrup and a torched habanero pepper to garnish the drink.

While there are highs and lows with food, the highs definitely lie with the fresh seafood. Oysters are prepared simply and all taste fresh, while the big eye tuna is another top item from the raw bar. While some kinks need to be worked out (over-seasoned swordfish and one note desserts), fair prices and a range of menu items make it more than worth checking out.

Stop by this week for free oysters. Yup, you read that right. Oh, and I’ll have one Angry Mermaid, please. Or five…

Pearl Tavern
180 N. Wacker Dr.

News & Features

2014 Chicago Restaurant Week Picks

January 06 2014 - 2:21 PM

This year’s Chicago Restaurant Week begins slightly earlier than in years past and has actually been extended to 14 days! From January 24-February 6,2014, Chicagoans can dine at a variety of downtown and suburban restaurants for $22 prix-fixe lunches and $33 or $44 prix-fixe dinners. If you’re into the Chicago food scene as much as I am, you know it’s vital to make those Restaurant Week reservations as early as possible. While many restaurants still have yet to post their menus for the week(s), there are several places that are worth noting.

Here are three suggestions for both lunch and dinner during the 2014 Chicago Restaurant Week! Be sure to check in toward the end of January as more restaurants begin adding their Restaurant Week menus. Keep in mind lunches tend to be better deals compared to dinner, as many restaurants offer their regular menus (and you save $11 or $22 off the price of dinner).


1) Blackbird:Chef Paul Kahan’s West Loop restaurant was voted one of Chicago’s top 5 restaurants by Gourmet Magazine not to mention it has a Michelin star.

Dish We’re Most Excited About:Wood-Grilled Sturgeon with Roasted Leeks, Potatoes, Caviar

2) GT Fish & Oyster: This River North seafood mecca offers a nice escape from the harsh Chicago winter. The fresh seafood, combined with the nautically-themed restaurant, makes for a lovely weekday or weekend lunch.

Dish We’re Most Excited About:  Lobster Roll (obvi)

3) Travelle: located on the second floor of The Langham hotel, this Mediterranean restaurant offers fine dining in a beautiful space, overlooking the Chicago river.

Dish We’re Most Excited About: Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank


1) Cichetti: Chef Michael Sherrin of Trencherman heads up the kitchen at this newly-opened Venetian small plates spot.

Dish We’re Most Excited About: Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shank

2) David Burke’s Primehouse: Steakhouses are always a great bet during Restaurant Week, especially when you can score an appetizer, filet and dessert for under $50. Primehouse’s dry-aged steaks are worth considering for a Restaurant Week lunch or dinner.

Dish We’re Most Excited About: Classic Filet Mignon

3) Embeya: This stunning Asian fusion restaurant in the West Loop always offers a three-course lunch for $21, so skip that. Instead, head over for their prix-fixe dinner which is served family style. This is bound to be one of the best deals during Restaurant Week.

Dish We’re Most Excited About: Thit Heo Kho (braised pork belly)

What restaurants are you looking forward to trying during 2014 Chicago Restaurant Week? Let us know in the comments!