News & Features

BoHo Launches Brunch

April 30 2015 - 9:00 AM

Although it’s been open less than a year, River North’s Bohemian House, or BoHo,  continues to buzz and has recently launched a weekend brunch menu. We all know there are so many Chicago brunch options to choose from, but BoHo is certainly worth considering. Executive Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos and his team created a brunch menu with a twist on traditional European fare. As with the dinner menu, brunch features influences from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Austria.

BoHo brunch beverages include a custom Bow Truss Coffee blend with notes of plum, fig, bourbon, and cocoa, as well as boozy drinks. The signature morning drink is “The Pick Me Up,” a spiked iced Bow Truss coffee cocktail with rye whiskey, maple and fernet cream. Trust me, this drink packs a punch. Other options include the “Pulaski Smash” with whiskey, lemon, passion fruit, green bell pepper, and mint, classic mimosas, and more.

Bow Truss Coffee

The Pick Me Up

Pulaski Smash


When it comes to brunch food options, there’s no shortage of variety.  If it’s sweet you’re looking for, there are Bavarian Apple Pancakes with apples, cider, pecans, farmer’s cheese, and powdered sugar. These aren’t your typical fluffy flapjacks, they are more crepe-like (and are incredible!).

On the lighter side, there is house cured lox on seeded sourdough toast with soft boiled egg, cucumber, cream cheese, salmon roe, and dill (pictured top). Another option is the grilled asparagus with poached egg, radish, gem lettuce, mustard vinaigrette, and crispy chicken skin.

Grilled Asparagus

If you’re up for something heartier, try the smoked beef tongue with poached egg, mustard hollandaise, and sweet & sour cabbage, or the as-big-as-your-head open face pork schnitzel sandwich topped with horseradish cream, sauerkraut, ementaler cheese, and a fried egg. There’s also skirt steak & eggs with mushroom and pepper spatzle, sweet onions and aged gouda. (I recommend the schnitzel sandwich!).

Smoked Beef Tongue Hash

Pork Schnitzel Sandwich

Skirt Steak & Eggs

Don’t forget about enjoying fresh pastries with your coffee or for dessert! BoHo offers several options including their signature apricot kolacky, almond poppyseed cake, a chocolate-cinnamon scone, and doughnut holes with bavarian creme and raspberry jam.

BoHo is located at 11 W. Illinois St. and is open daily for dinner beginning at 5pm, and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins also are welcome.

News & Features

Cochon 555 Takes Over Chicago

April 28 2015 - 9:00 AM

On Sunday, April 26th, the 7th annual Cochon 555 took over the Windy City with five chefs cooking five pigs in a friendly competition. Chicago was the 10th and final stop on the Cochon US tour which also included NYC, Houston, Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, DC, LA, San Francisco, and Miami. It was a fantastic evening filled with notable chefs, butchers, winemakers, and distillers, at the West Loop’s Morgan Manufacturing.

This year’s competing chefs included Nathan Sears of The Radler, Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen, John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina, Chris Marchino of Spiaggia Restaurant & Lounge and Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski of TÊTE Charcuterie. The five chefs, champions of whole hog utilization, prepared a maximum of six dishes with hopes to win votes from a crowd of hungry gourmands and celebrated judges. They prepared heritage breed pigs raised on local farms including Faith’s Farm, Inc., Triple S Farms, Catalpa Grove, LaPryor Farms and Slagel Family Farm.

Ultimately, Nicole Pederson was crowned the “Princess of Porc” and will go on to compete against the other nine US winners for the title of “King or Queen of Porc” at the tour finale, Grand Cochon at Snowmass/Aspen in June.

Check out the photo recap from the main event and head on over to to learn more!

News & Features

Chicago's own Giardiniera-Off

April 27 2015 - 9:00 AM

What do you get when you put together two fun girls, about 100 random Chicagoans, a bar in Bucktown, beer, sausage, a potluck, and jars & jars of giardiniera on a cold March night? The first official Giardiniera-Off, of course!

Organized by Meaghan Thomas and Dana Roeske, both of Chicago, not only because they love giardiniera, but they are also committed to getting this condiment to be as common as ketchup. Their strategy is simple; spread the giardiniera gospel, which will increase everybody’s usage. They say they will not rest until every household has a bite of this funky condiment.

For the Giardiniera-Off they organized 30 volunteers (including myself) to blind taste test 20 jars. It took about an hour and then the votes were tabulated. From best to worst this is how the jars stacked up:

1 Potbelly
2 Freddy’s Pizza
3 Ditka’s
4 Fiore’s
5 Kelsey D’s
6 Enrico Formella
7 Soluri & Sons
8 Tenuta’s
9 Marconi
10 Gio’s
11 That Pickle Guy
12 Alpino
13 Vito & Nick’s
14 J.P. Graziano’s
15 Joseph’s Finest Meats
16 Bunyon’s
17 Pete’s Fresh Market
18 Chicago Johnny’s
19 Bari
20 Al’s Beef

Surprisingly, Potbelly’s took #1, while Al’s Beef ending up at #20, although the organizers did reassure the crowd that #20 was not bad, as they had vetted hundreds of jars prior.

So is the thought of giardiniera tantalizing your taste buds? Meghan and Dana have set up a website where you can find recommendations, recipes, and more, or join their Facebook page for some additional tasty tips!

Photo courtesy of

Home Cooking

Bacon Fest - Do It Yourself

April 24 2015 - 9:00 AM
With over 4,500 attendees, 170 chef’s and $75,000 raised for the Great Chicago Food Depository, Bacon Fest 2015 is officially a wrap. I’ve rounded up 3 of my favorites from the fest and found similar recipes so that you can re-create a bit of Bacon Fest at home to impress your brunch guest; or just enjoy on your couch in your PJ’s binging on Scandal episodes. Bacon doesn’t judge.


Our first dish is from Benny’s Chop House and Chef Aaron Lindgren, Maple Crème Brûlée with Bacon-Walnut Crisp. This dish was the prefect balance between salty and sweet. To re-create this recipe for your brunch guest you will need to start with a Maple Creme Brulee recipe . Then to jazz it up you can top it with bacon crumbles and a bit of Walnut Crumble Topping similar to this one from Brown Eyed Baker. You can serve your creation in the traditional ramekin or on fun single serving spoons like Benny’s Chop House did.


Our second dish comes from the popular Avondale restaurant Honey Butter Friend Chicken and Christine Cikowski & Josh Kulp. Fried Chicken French Toast with bacon honey butter and maple bourbon syrup. Though this dish was delicious I think it might be a bit overzealous for some of us to put together on a sleepy sunday for brunch so I’ve chosen a similar dish that doesn’t include frying up chicken. This Ultimate Bacon-Maple French Toast recipe from Taste of Home can be made the night before and just thrown in the oven an hour before your guest arrive. To take this amazing recipe a step further you can jazz it up by topping it with Honey Butter or Bourbon Maple Syrup.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken – Fried Chicken French Toast – Baconfest 2015

 Our last dish comes from Stout Barrel House & Galley and Chef Michael Matthews. His Bourbon Braised Bacon Biscuit Slider consisting of a Buttermilk bacon cheddar jalapeño biscuit with bourbon braised bacon, pickled onion & zucchini, with a country style bacon gravy, topped with candied bacon & cayenne pepper was my favorite dish of the Saturday Lunch session I attended. This dish has many components and will take a little extra preparation, but many things can be prepared days in advance.


The first thing you will need for this dish is get a thick piece of bacon. This isn’t something you will really find at a conventional grocery store so you’ll have to head to a butcher, like Publican Quality Meats. Biscuits can be made 1-2 days ahead or up to a week if placed in the refrigerator, but I would suggest making them day of if you have time!

Here is a Bacon-Cheese Biscuit recipe from the Food Network that will work great, feel free to add Jalapeno’s if you want a little heat. The Pickled Onions and Zucchini add a needed acidic brightness so definitely don’t skip them. They can be made months, weeks or up to 3 hrs in advance with this recipe from the domestic queen herself, Martha Stewart. Store bought pickles could be substituted for the same affect in a pinch.

To make the creamy Country Bacon Gravy I can’t think of a better recipe than one from Southern Chef Paula Dean. Last but definitely not least you will want to top your creation with some sweet crunch Candied Bacon. If you have never made this delicious treat before it’s bound to become a brunch staple. It is very easy to make and a great change of pace from traditional fried bacon.

News & Features

Baconfest 2015: Dessert Edition

April 23 2015 - 9:00 AM

I was thrilled to attend Baconfest, held on Saturday, April 18, at UIC Forum. I went to the Saturday lunch session with a few of my friends, and quickly decided that I wanted to focus on the dessert options. It’s no secret that I have a massive sweet tooth (I did go to Donut Fest, after all), and the combination of sweet and salty is always a favorite of mine. While I certainly sampled virtually all of the 70ish bacon dishes at my session, I decided to rank my top  five favorite dessert options. The list (in no particular order) is as follows:

1. Chocolate Chip and Bacon Cookie – Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

When I saw Mindy’s Hot Chocolate listed as a vendor, I knew magic would happen. Mindy Segal, the namesake of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, recently published an entire cookbook dedicated to cookies, called Cookie Love. My favorite desserts are cookies in any form, and I knew Mindy’s would likely nail it. Despite the fact that this was one of the last desserts I tried, I was not about to let my bacon-coma stop me from trying it.

And, they were amazing. They were giving away bite-sized portions of the cookies, and I probably had about five. When I decided that wasn’t enough, I started sending my friends over to grab me more cookies. I love crunchy cookies with a soft center, and these were perfect. I am already in the process of adding Segal’s cookbook to my Amazon shopping cart, as I am fairly convinced she can do no wrong when it comes to desserts.

*Quick note: this was not even the featured dish from Mindy’s, it just stole the show for me! I love cookies!

2. Bacon, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, and Salted Pistachio Parfait – Bacaro

I love dark chocolate, and I love pistachios. To take those two ingredients and add in a hint of bacon bits as well as a rich vanilla mousse was a wonderful combination. Again, I had about three of these. This is exactly why I loved BaconFest- none of the chefs were judging you if you kept coming back for more. This dish was sweet but not overwhelming, meaning it didn’t set you further into a Bacon Daze. It was light enough to really enjoy the flavors and how well they blended together.

3. Bacon S’mores – Kaiser Tiger

This dessert option was quite straightforward, but it was incredibly delicious. I didn’t see a campfire by the chef’s table, but the bacon marshmallow was perfectly roasted. S’mores are already an amazingly underrated dessert option to begin with, and adding bacon to the mix knocked it out of the park. I think this would be easy to replicate over your traditional campfire, but the chefs at Kaiser Tiger made it into a delicious art form. Like many of the dishes I sampled, it was almost too adorable to eat. Almost.

4. Maple Glazed Pineapple and Bacon Donut – Firecakes

Firecakes has a very special place in my heart. They were my top pick at this year’s Donut Fest, and their pineapple and bacon donut at this event was incredible as well. I think Firecakes makes some of the best donuts in the city, and their quality is always consistent no matter what flavor you get. The combination of maple, pineapple, and bacon was delicious in this doughnut. Bonus points: the portion was pretty close to a regular-sized doughnut. Yes, please.

5.  Fried Chicken French Toast – Honey Butter Fried Chicken

The great thing about this dish is that it could be a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert dish. It’s a well-known fact that Honey Butter has some of the best fried chicken in the city, and their french toast is quite phenomenal as well. It was served with a maple bourbon syrup and bacon honey butter. I somehow managed to eat the entire thing in one bite, and the flavors were perfect together. The honey butter, which is good on its own, was insanely delicious with the addition of bacon. I think that’s actually true for everything on this list – the desserts would be good on their own, but the addition of bacon is what sets it apart.

And that, fellow Chicagoans, is exactly why we all need to continue going to Baconfest year after year. As someone who doesn’t eat bacon too much (I’m thinking I should change that), this event is well-worth the rising cholesterol. ‘Murica.

Photos by Ben Collins-Sussman and Anne Petersen for Baconfest, used with permission.

Home Cooking

Best Chicago Cooking Classes

April 21 2015 - 1:00 AM

As a fervent cook and baker, most people wouldn’t suspect me to attend any of the pricey classes that so many novices succumb to. These classes have been a common gift recently, and I don’t think it’s beneath me to take a tutorial for a foray I’ve never explored. The classes I had a chance to take were all particularly challenging subjects at the time: pasta, bread and croissants.

Here’s a bit about my experience at each place and why you should check out each of these classes.


1) Cooking Fools, 1916 W. North Ave.
Cooking Fools is a charming storefront that graces a streets of Wicker Park. It’s a bit hidden by the market at the front of the store and a lesser known spot for classes. It’s just as pricey as the heavy hitters, but you may be able to find a good deal for the classes. The pasta making class is most popular by far.

What I Liked: The big class with tons of space made this less intimidating. The teachers were great, and they made sure to walk around to watch and see if you got the technique. After the class, making pasta on my own seemed like a piece of cake.

What Needed Improvement: When it came time to make the pasta, everything was thrown into one pot, so you couldn’t taste your own. This was by far my biggest gripe of the class. I also felt our pasta was a bit overdone and not al dente enough.


croissants2) Sur La Table, 900 N. Michigan Ave.
This high end kitchen store does offer cooking classes as select locations. The space is pretty small for how big the store is. I opted for the croissant class, and it is definitely one to do in a class for the first time, as there is a ton of technique involved.

What I Liked: I felt like I learned a ton, and we really went through every step of the process, which is hard when it comes to croissants. There were helpers around the kitchen to stop by and look at our dough, clean up the space and answer any questions.

What Needed Improvement: I didn’t feel like the class was structured in the best way, as you have to go through the same steps multiple times to make different types of croissants as a group. While the teacher was knowledgeable, she wasn’t the best teacher and wasn’t always able to explain why some croissants didn’t turn out as they should have. The teachers were fast to admit that the 3 hour class wasn’t really enough to make croissants, and we didn’t allow the dough to proof quite long enough. As a result, the croissants weren’t nearly as flaky as they should have been.


3) The Chopping Block, Various Locations
This was definitely my favorite of the three classes. The Chopping Block is known for its cooking classes, and for good reason. The space is huge, and they have multiple kitchens and teachers. There is also a wide variety of classes, from bread basics to full meals.

What I Liked: Bread making can take a while, and I appreciated that we were welcomed inside with homemade biscuits with an orange honey butter. It made the wait much more bearable. The teacher was full of energy and clearly an expert on bread making. There was plenty of time for questions as well as eating the bread that my individual group made.


Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout Tasting at Jerry's - April 21st

April 18 2015 - 1:56 AM

Yet another barrel of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout will mysteriously emerge from the Grand Rapids cave for a tasting event, this one at Jerry’s in Andersonville on Tuesday, April 21st.  As the tasting will overlap with a Blackhawks game, Jerry’s has created a themed event (with a really long title which you can find in the link) that’s purely Canadian:  hockey on t.v. and maple-syrup-barreled beer.  Okay, so Canadian Breakfast Stout is a work of American ingenuity and a brainchild of our craft beer revolution.  But the revered brew is borne of maple syrup, and no one knows the sweet, sticky condiment better than the Canadians.  The syrup is featured in at least one of the evening’s dishes as well, a Monte Cristo sandwich.  Other menu items include a buffalo fried chicken sandwich with a hot pepper sauce aged in KBS barrels (KBS is, of course, CBS’s beer cousin).  Jerry’s will feature several other Founders beers on tap as well.

As for obtaining CBS that night, well, it’s going to be kind of a process, and not a cheap one.   At 7p.m. that evening, the bar will begin selling tickets, one per person for $11 a piece, which gets the holder an 8 oz. CBS pour.  Orders of CBS will be filled beginning at 8:30.  Any leftovers will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. As a side note, clearly, prices for tappings of specialty beers have skyrocketed.  Last week Bourbon County Stout 2010 was on tap for $12 at a bar which will remain unnamed.  And that was for a 12 oz. pour.  Eight ounces of CBS for $11 is indeed a hefty toll.  But it’s a marvelous beer which you’ll never find in bottles or, most likely, ever again at any location in Chicago or elsewhere.  Founders only brews it occasionally, and only about a dozen or so bars in Chicago received barrels of the current batch.  So, if CBS is on your beer bucket list, clear your schedule for Tuesday and have your money ready.

I hope to see you that evening at Jerry’s for some great beer and Blackhawks hockey, ay.  I’m an Islanders fan but enjoying a tasty glass of CBS will be my goal for the evening.  Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

Jerry’s Andersonville

5419 N. Clark Street


– M. Sheppard

New pizza pub rebrands Wrigley

April 17 2015 - 9:49 AM

Not many people over the age of 24 are excited about visiting Wrigleyville; it has a reputation for being a bit run-down and over-intoxicated. Adolfo Garcia and Carmen Rossi are looking to change that with the opening of their new Pizza Pub and Live Music venue in the heart of it all.

“For the first time in almost a century, Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs are undergoing major changes and reform. The popular stretch of Clark Street is also going through modernization for a full rebrand and buildout. We are excited to be a part of the neighborhood’s transformation and to introduce this craft pizza pub concept.” – Garcia said in a release.

HVAC or Heating and Cooling Pub has a vintage motorcycle theme and a warm industrial interior, while photos of concerts from Chicago Photographer Paul Natkin fill the walls to the second level. The newly renovated space, that once held the Wild Hare and more recently Flacos Tacos, now features a music stage viewable from the main floor or the lofted 2nd floor gallery which boast its own bar, tufted bench seating and balconet windows to enjoy those warm summer breezes.

Heating&Cooling_print0041 (1) Heating&Cooling_print0145 Heating&Cooling_web0134

They boast over 80 Beers, mostly craft cans, though many were not available in the upstairs level when I visited. Their menu has a small selection of appetizers, salads and basic pizzas but the real star are their specialty pies.  They offer up 9 specialty pizzas, the crust is thin with a bit of chew. I wish the crust had a bit more favor on its own, but the innovative toppings made up for it. My favorites of the few we sampled were:

Baked Potato ($18/$24) garlic, potato, bacon, cheese and a sour cream drizzle; comforting and hearty
Californication ($20/$26) topped with fresh lettuce and avocado makes this pizza a bit tricky to eat, but the great fresh flavor is perfect for summer
The Boss ($18/$24) topped with fried calamari and giardiniera, this za is spicy
Graceland “The Pulled Pork” ($18/$24) sweet and delicious, a great addition to any pizza party

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If you aren’t convinced yet, here are 3 reasons to add HVAC to your summer list:

– They offer a PB&J for $8,  (P)izza slice, PBR Tallboy (B)eer, and (J)amo shot (not valid on Game Days)

– Free live music every Thursday starting at 9pm

– Walk up pizza window inside, in case you need something to soak up all that craft beer goodness

Live Music Schedule

Live Music Schedule

Photos Courtesey of HVAC


News & Features

Remembering Chef Homaro Cantu

April 15 2015 - 10:40 AM

I met Homaro Cantu in 2008 at the Museum of Natural History. He was setting fire to a baked Alaska with a flamethrower. Actually his pastry chef, at that time Ben Roche, was setting the fire and Omar was mugging for the crowd as they chanted – “Fire! It’s BURNING!” Needless to say he made an impression.

If there’s one thing you can say about the man or his restaurants, Moto/ING/Berrista, it is that they made an impression. He had a whimsical way of looking at food that was always pushing a concept or a new technique. He was at the forefront of the molecular gastronomy movement, incorporating technology and science not only into his menu but also into his restaurant supply chain and management.

The first time I had a conversation with Omar was shortly after I came up with The Unique Dinner Series. The goal of the series was to give chefs a night to do something really different. The first chef I called on was Cantu. He’s already doing something really different. I wanted to push him. My idea was to do a Wednesday night tasting menu of dishes that went too far. Thinking that after several years of pushing boundaries, Cantu might really have some out-there courses. He looked at me like I was crazy and said that there weren’t that many dishes he could think of that turned off diners. I realized how foolish that question must have seemed.

But he didn’t shut me down. He considered it and mentioned one dish where everything was dyed black. He said the color confused people, that they didn’t know what something was going to taste like, and it wasn’t pleasant to watch someone chew mouthfuls of black food. I jumped at that, “How about we do a tasting menu of all black food?” He looked at me like I was crazy again and cautioned, “We don’t do discounts.”  I reassured him, “We don’t either.”

That’s how 16-Courses of Black started. I was really inspired by his accessibility, indulgence and willingness to do something different. He was so positive and interested. Most importantly, he was collaborative. I spent one afternoon ideating with his staff on possible courses and saw how well they all worked together. This left an impression.

Over the following years I’ve had the pleasure of working with Cantu on a reprise of the Black dinner, with 13 Courses of White last year with Richie Farina at the helm, and at ING working with Trevor Rose Hamblin and David McGowan on new cocktails and Nate Park on his Lifetime of Guilty Pleasures. Trevor, Richie and Nate are examples of many people that share Cantu’s enthusiasm and understanding of the need for a sense of earnestness and humor, both in the process and on the plate. I can see his influence very clearly.

We’ve worked with Moto on a collaboration dinner with Chef Aduriz from Mugaritz. I watched Cantu engaging people at the launch of his Future Food TV show and even attended his staff holiday party one year where he had a pile of pizza and a gigantic black truffle that he would shave over everything. His curiosity, excitement and intensity had an infectious affect on everyone: his audience, his peers and his employees.

Most importantly, Cantu was always a big-picture guy. He’s lauded for his enthusiasm around miracle berries (they trick your tongue into tasting bitter as sweet). He once handed me a doughnut and said, “Taste that. We’re going to eliminate diabetes.”

He’ll be missed.


Carton Brewing Double IPA - East Meets West

April 09 2015 - 12:23 AM

Excellent!   I recently opened up an east coast treat, Carton Brewing’s 077XX Double IPA.  This is the first among a passel of East Coast beers that Josh gave me.  It’s also my first ever New Jersey beer!   It makes me want to say, “Bruuuuuce!”, and go hang out on a boardwalk, eating a gigantic, floppy slice of pizza.   Although my long-standing favorite beer is Dogfish Head 90, over the years my palate has decidedly shifted toward west coat IPA’s, with their mammoth bitterness and delectable tropical flavors and aromas.   Apparently, Carton, which hails from Atlantic Highlands, NJ, shares my love for such west coast goodness, as its offering here pays serious homage to IPA’s from the Pacific motherland.  But this beer carries a bit of a twist.

Carton’s 077XX smells much like its west coast inspirations, owing a lot to the Port Brewing family of beers.  There’s not much malt on the nose, which is dominated by citrus aromas such as tangerines and mangoes. I didn’t get a ton of grapefruit out of it.  Rather, much sweeter tropical fruits waft from the glass.  After generating a massive white head, the beer settles into its burnt orange color.  The mouthfeel is quite thick and almost chewy.  An enormous malt presence provides this with serious density without seeming unwieldy.  This brew substantially replicates the west coat taste profile.  Your palate is met with the resinous bitterness of a Pizza Port beer, which coats and quickly overwhelms your tongue, like a relentless shark dragging it off a paddleboard into the deep.  As for that twist I mentioned, it’s a slightly dirtier hop finish than the bright, acidic one you get from west coast varietals.  Carton’s website mentions that it adds “our water” to the wort, and perhaps it’s indeed that Jersey water which provides the beer’s gritty finish.

To my knowledge, Carton’s not yet available in the Chicago market but  if you’re traveling out east or have a friend out there who wishes to trade beers with you, this beer’s worth asking for.  According to their website, Carton makes a full range of beers, from country ales, to sours to session ales.  Perhaps they’ll soon leverage that broad lineup to make a foray into the increasingly crowded Chicago market.

Until then, Bruuuuuuuuuce!

– M. Sheppard