Category Archives: Food

What’s Up This Month: April 2014

What’s Up This Month: April 2014

With the sun starting to shine, the weather heating up, we can finally come out of hibernation! Plan your social calendar with these top picks for April:



Fondue Cooking Class at Geja’s Cafe
Time: 1 – 3 p.m.
Location: Geja’s Café (340 W. Armitage)
Cost: $25 (proceeds benefit Greater Chicago Food Depository)


To celebrate National Cheese Fondue Week, you have the pleasure of learning the decades-old artistry of Geja’s swiss fondue. Learn from the best and enjoy wine pairings, and even take home samples of the fondue!



4/11 – 4/12
Dance Shelter Performance at Stage 773
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont)
Cost: $15


In honor of Chicago Dance Month, go see the performances directed by risk-taking choreographers at Stage 773. This contemporary dance show features the work of six choreographers.



Pastoral Artisan Festival
Time: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Location: Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton – in Ogilvie Train Station)
Cost: Free


Discover new artisanal meats, cheeses, craft beers, liquors and more directly from their creators. Held at the French Market, this festival allows you to taste lots of local treats for free!



Grapes to Bottles Wine Tasting Party at Floating World Gallery
Time: 3 – 6 p.m. or 7 – 10 p.m.
Location: Floating World Gallery (1925 N. Halsted)
Cost: $38


This month’s innovative wine tasting is held at a unique gallery in Lincoln Park. Surround yourself with art at this urban loft space while tasting wines and bubbly in the social bubble wine room. Of course, the cheese plate will be a main feature.



Minds Matter Spring for the Students Gala
Time: 8 – 11 p.m.
Location: Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark)
Cost: $95


Party for a cause at the Spring for the Students Gala, benefiting Minds Matter, an organization that pairs students from low-income families with professional mentors, helping them achieve their college preparation and acceptance dreams. Money raised covers the students’ educational needs such as Kaplan prep books, summer school programs, and college application fees. The party features a DJ, open bar, appetizers and desserts as well as a silent auction and raffle.



Sign Up for Chicago Sport and Social Club Volleyball


Work on your tan all summer with your friends by joining Chicago Sport and Social Club’s volleyball leagues on North Avenue Beach. With options for all skill levels, the volleyball league is a great way to meet new friends and get some fun in after work. While there is no deadline to sign up, registration is open now and will sell out.



Baconfest Master Class at Whole Foods Lincoln Park
Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Whole Foods Lincoln Park (1550 N. Kingsbury)
Cost: $5


Join in the #BaconMonth craze at Lincoln Park’s flagship Whole Foods while Barn & Co.’s Pitmaster Gary Wiviott demonstrates new ways to enjoy bacon. The chef samples are paired with Lagunitas beer samples. Follow the link to buy tickets or call 312-587-0648 to reserve your spot.




Ravinia tickets go on sale at 5 a.m.

Time: 5 a.m.

Cost: Varies


The ultimate summer concert venue, Ravinia encourages long nights of picnicking on the lawn with friends. An easy train ride from the city, Ravinia features hundreds of concerts throughout the summer season. Some of this year’s headliners include One Republic, ZZ Top, Rufus Wainwright, and Willie Nelson. Tickets go on sale at 5 a.m. – headliners sell out quickly but many concert options are open throughout the summer.



Wine and Wildlife at Lincoln Park Zoo
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Location: Lincoln Park Zoo Regenstein Small Mammal – Reptile House
Cost: $17


Enjoy a glass of wine while learning about the zoo’s conservation efforts with rare prairie and reptile species.



4/25 – 4/27
Gilt City Warehouse Sale
Time: Shifts vary
Location: MCA Warehouse (1747 W. Hubbard)
Cost: $10 – $20


Get your high-end fashion fix at this annual warehouse sale hosted by Gilt City. Expect racks of clothing, shoes and accessories to choose from. Hint: go early before all the good stuff is gone.



Triathlon Gear Swap
Time: 2 – 5 p.m.
Location: Centered Chef (177 N. Ada Suite 101)
Cost: Free admission


Runners, bikers and swimmers alike can browse and buy used gear at the Triathlon Gear Swap. Suit up for your next race or just your summer workouts. Curious about competing in triathlons? Come early for the “Tri 101” class and meet athletes who are happy to share their tips with you.



Enjoy Chicago this April!



5 Ways to Ensure St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans

5 Ways to Ensure St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans


St. Patrick’s Day is one of Chicago’s favorite holidays – so big in fact, that the city drops 45 pounds of vegetable dye to color the Chicago River the honorary emerald green. With crowds spilling out into the streets, St. Patrick’s Day is one big party you do not want to miss. Here are the top 5 things you need to do to make your holiday complete:



1. Toast your friends with a green drink in hand

In true Irish fashion, St. Patrick’s Day should be enjoyed with a drink (or many). Join your friends early in the day (by 10 a.m. is recommended) and enjoy some breakfast favorites along with these themed drinks:


Green Jell-O Shots (make the night before)

Green Jell-O Shots









  • (4)  0.3 oz. packages lime Jell-O (sugar-free is better so your friends don’t have a sugar crash)
  • 6 cups chilled vodka
  • 2 cups boiling water

Pour the gelatin mix into a large bowl. Add the 2 cups boiling water, stir until completely dissolved. Stir in the 6 cups chilled vodka. Arrange 1 or 1.5 oz. plastic shot glasses on a tray. Use a liquid measuring cup with a spout or a funnel to carefully pour the mixture into the shot glasses. Chill in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning!


Irish Coffee

In a mug, drop in 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour 1.5 oz. Irish whiskey over the sugar. Fill the remainder of the glass with coffee, stirring as you go. Top with fresh whipped cream and optionally, shavings or sprinkles of chocolate.



2. Head to the river to see the green dye (but don’t fall in!)

After your morning breakfast and drinks, gather up your crew and head to the river. The 50-year old tradition of dyeing the river green draws approximately 40,000 people, as it’s definitely a sight to see! The best places to see the green river are over the bridges between Columbus and Wacker Drive. The riverwalk between Michigan Ave and Columbus is one of the best viewing spots. The dyeing begins at 10:45 a.m. and is visible for about 5 hours, so catch it while it lasts.

This year, the polar vortex weather has called into question whether the frozen river can actually be dyed green. According to the parade coordinator, if there’s a will, there’s a way! The plan is to send a large tugboat through the river to break up the ice. Even if there are chunks of ice floating on the surface, the river can still be dyed. This may be the first time in the history of the tradition that weather has impeded the process. No matter what happens, St. Patrick’s celebrations will carry on.



3. Feast on corned beef and cabbage

After you’ve had your fill of the green river, head to River North to continue your spirited adventures. Most bars and restaurants will have food and drink specials, and the trick is finding a place to convene that isn’t already spilling out into the streets. I can’t go a year without tasting corned beef and cabbage, and as luck would have it, many restaurants are serving this year!

  • Green Door Chicago (678 N. Orleans) – Serving up corned beef and cabbage and offering prizes for the best outfit
  • Rockit Bar and Grill (22 W. Hubbard) – St. Pat’s Burger topped with corned beef, bacon, sauerkraut, 1000 Island dressing on a pretzel bun, also serving Guinness Potato Cheddar Soup
  • Harry Caray’s (33 W. Kinzie) – Everything from Beer Cheddar Soup to a Corned Beef Sandwich to Fish & Chips



4. Take part in a mid-afternoon dance party

Once you’ve refueled, heat things up with a dance party – the following bars are hosting music all afternoon:

  • The Grid (351 W. Hubbard) – 4 DJs all day, live band The Hot Sauce Committee playing 1 – 4 p.m., Irish stilt walkers, bagpipers and more
  • Timothy O’Tooles (622 N. Fairbanks) – Events will feature beer chugging contests, bagpipers and an Irish-inspired menu all day
  • D4 Pub (345 E. Ohio) – Celebrate in heated outdoor tents, with a $10 cover you will receive a t-shirt and party favors



5. Find a leprechaun

You will see many a St. Paddy’s fan dressed up – in the bars, on the streets, and maybe even swimming in the river. If you see your favorite leprechaun costume, take a picture and post it to Instagram – make sure to tag thechicagolifestyle!

Are You a Foodie? Experience these 11 Foodie Adventures in Chicago

Are You a Foodie? Experience these 11 Foodie Adventures in Chicago


Chicago features some of the finest food in the world, and offers many experiences beyond your typical lunch or dinner. Expand your gastronomic boundaries with these 11 foodie experiences in (and around) Chicago this spring. Learn to assemble the perfect cheese platter, join a Secret Supper club, learn to butcher a hog and more. Experiences are listed in order of cost (low to high). Bon appétit!


1. Watch Local Chefs Demonstrate their Talents at the Green City Market



Do you want free food samples? From some of Chicago’s best chefs? Held indoors at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon) October through April, the Green City Market hosts local chefs each week on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. They set up a mini kitchen with all the ingredients to demonstrate the creation of some of their favorite dishes, and share those samples with the audience. You can learn the insider secrets that make up the menus of your favorite restaurants. Last year I had the opportunity to see Chef Heather Terhune of Sable give a demonstration, and I benefited from the tasting of cheddar grits topped with grilled pork belly and a maple gastrique.


Upcoming chef demonstrations include:

  • March 15: Leonard Hollander of Marion St. Cheese Market
  • March 29: Heather Terhune of Sable
  • April 5: Peter Klein of Seedling
  • April 19: Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice



2. Shop Kitchen Gadgetry at Northwestern Cutlery


Looking for a hard-to-find kitchen gadget or a unique gift? Shop where the chefs go for their kitchen supplies – at Northwestern Cutlery (810 W. Lake). The company has been sharpening knives for over 50 years and sells many items to fill out your kitchen supply. Bring your knives for sharpening while you browse this warehouse store in the West Loop for items such as:

  • Rice cube sushi former
  • Double-handled cheese knife
  • Lattice-dough cutter
  • Chicago-style deep dish pizza pan
  • Zucchini/carrot ribbon curler



3. Pair Beer and Bacon for a 5-Course Tasting at Paddy Long’s



Can’t get enough bacon? Appreciate craft beer? Pair the two at Paddy Long’s (1028 W. Diversey) infamous beer and bacon tasting. Sign up with a group of friends and compete for who can down the most bacon (many of their menu items feature bacon as well). Each slice is served with a description – different cuts, different curing styles, and different toppers such as brown sugar – and the seasonal beers that best complement the tastes. Paddy Long’s features a selection of their 18 beers on tap, which rotate frequently.

Most tastings are Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, and spots fill up quickly. Tickets are $36.



4. Assemble the Perfect Cheese Platter with Pastoral



Want to know how to select the perfect cheeses for your next cocktail party? Pastoral, one of Chicago’s finest cheese, bread and wine shops, is hosting “Cheese 101” at their Lakeview location (2947 N. Broadway). On Saturday, March 29 from 12 – 1 p.m. the master cheese mongers will give a thorough introduction to different varieties of cheese, giving you the know-how to select a well-rounded sampling next time you shop. Tickets, $45 include a glass of wine or beer, with additional drinks available for purchase.



5. Explore Bucktown’s Favorite Tastes, Architecture, and Hotspots with Chicago Food Planet


Chicago Food Planet has been hosting walking tours since 2006, highlighting Bucktown, Old Town and Chinatown’s delicious treats. Part neighborhood tour and part food sampling, Chicago Food Planet tours are led by knowledgeable guides adding local flavor and tidbits to your repertoire.


I had the pleasure of taking this tour and was turned on to restaurants I had never visited before, which are now some of my favorites in the neighborhood. Start your tour with the iconic Chicago-style hot dog at George’s (and show your trivia knowledge of all the original toppings), the newest deli recipes from local artisan shop Goddess & Grocer, a falafel pita sandwich from Sultan’s Market, pizza and beer samples from Piece, fully customizable liquid-nitrogen frozen ice cream from iCream, and more.


Since the tours are on foot, they begin in April, and are held Tuesday-Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $47 and include all food. You will definitely not leave hungry!



6. Sneak into a Secret Supper with Dishcrawl


Secure your spot in Chicago’s first Secret Supper, where you’ll meet with other mysterious guests at an undisclosed location on Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. Held in cities around the country, Secret Suppers bring together a roster of in-the-know guests to be served by a chef creating a unique menu in a secret location. The event is hosted by Dishcrawl, an organization that brings together friends and strangers alike for progressive dinners, chef encounters and more. With rotating upcoming public events, the Secret Suppers take a special spin on the concept by keeping the menu and location hidden for an air of surprise. Tickets, $89 plus optional wine pairings, will sell out very quickly. This will definitely be an experience you can brag about to your friends!



7. Speak Italian while Savoring Umbria’s Finest Delights


Known for its restaurants, markets, Nutella and Coffee bars and much more, Eataly (43 E. Ohio) also features a cooking school, La Scuola. During a 90-minute demonstration, Eataly’s chefs will take you on a voyage through Umbria, featuring regional ingredients and the basic language related to the culture and gastronomy.


Your menu will feature Insalata di Zucca (Butternut Squash Salad), Strangozzi con Burro al Tartufo (Strangozzi with Truffle Butter), Porchetta con Lenticchie (Roasted Umbrian Pork with Lentils), along with a two glasses of wine (red and white).


The class is held on Thursday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $95 and you can register through the link above. The next Italian language class features the Lombardia region, and will be held on Wednesday, April 30.



8. Eat Seasonally with Custom Cocktail Pairings at The Drawing Room


Situated in a secluded location in the Gold Coast, The Drawing Room (937 N. Rush) serves up award-winning meals and equally impressive cocktails. Their menu, changed seasonally, currently features winter flavors such as Winter Squash Crepes with red quinoa, parmesan mornay, charred scallion and crispy sage, and Braised Short Rib Risotto with red wine braised short rib, maitake mushroom, and blue cheese espuma. The richly combined flavors are matched with unique hand-crafted drinks. As the drink menu offers some incredible options, it is best to ask your waiter and Master Bartender to devise the perfect pairing for your meal, and even for each course. This will round out your experience in the subterranean lounge space.


The drink menu currently features concoctions such as:

  • Orange is the New Black: Cointreau Noir, St. Elizabeth Allspice, North Shore Sirene, fresh sour
  • Return of the Mac: Macallan 12, Cointreau, habanero shrub, maple
  • Casa de Martin: Remy Martin VSOP, Galliano Ristretto, xocolatl mole bitters, maple



9. Butcher a Hog at Butcher and the Burger


Meat lovers only – if you want the full experience on how your meat is prepared, reserve a spot in one of Butcher and the Burger’s (1021 W. Armitage) hog butchery classes. Chef Al will show you how to prepare the animal for cooking. Classes are BYOB and feature a full meal, so come hungry!


Upcoming classes are on March 13th and 27th at 6:30 p.m. Call 773-697-3735 to make your reservations.



10. Enjoy a Farm to Table Dinner Under the Stars at the Botanic Garden


For the fifth year, the Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL) hosts three farm-to-table dinners, bringing together farmers, chefs, winemakers and more to serve you a locally-grown meal. You will be seated within a vine-covered trellis in the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden while learning about how the food is planted, organically grown and harvested.


Award-winning Chef Cleetus Friedman orchestrates the multi-course meal. Tickets, $220, feature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a tour of the garden, and the multi-course meal, as well as support to the Green Youth Farm program, providing students with opportunities to learn about organic farming. Make your reservations now for this exclusive dinner, held on three dates in 2014: July 16, August 13 and September 3, from 5 – 8 p.m.



11. Create Your Signature Wine Label at City Winery



Looking for an even more exclusive experience? You could create your very own wine blend, in your very own oak barrel, with your very own label. Right in Chicago’s West Loop, you could be sampling and serving your own wine. This special program is offered by City Winery (1200 W. Randolph) with customized consultations throughout. You will select which varietal of grapes and vineyard you prefer, and will have the opportunity to get hands-on during the crushing and maceration process after the grapes have been harvested.


Based on your specifications, the wine will be aged 6 – 24 months, with visits at your preferred frequency. Once your wine has reached its desired age, you will have the option to blend with other City Wineries, or maintain your own varietal selection. Then comes the fully-customized bottle and label design. The in-house designer will craft the perfect label for your personal brand, and the result will garnish 250 bottles for you to enjoy.   



Have you tried any of these experiences in Chicago? Leave a comment and let us know how they were!


Check the Events Calendar page to keep track of these events and more.

Taste Test: Fried Chicken, Sage Butter Pasta, Caramel Bread Pudding and More…

Taste Test: Fried Chicken, Sage Butter Pasta, Caramel Bread Pudding and More…

I love that Chicago is one of the best cities to eat in. Any style, flavors or price tag you’re looking for, it’s all here. I had the pleasure of dining at several food establishments lately and will tempt your taste buds with my thoughts and imageries here…


And – lucky for you – many Chicago Restaurant Week locations are extending their special menus through February 13 or even the end of February! Check out my Twitter feed for the listings.



Nico Osteria (1015 N. Rush)

I have been dying to try this Gold Coast newcomer to see what all the raving is about! Now I understand – Nico Osteria checks off all the boxes that comprise a great dining experience. Located adjacent to the Thompson Hotel, the restaurant boasts a fun atmosphere, an open view to the food prep area and a look out to the snowy passers-by. Greeted with warm service by each staffer, all of our needs were attended to. Most notable was our waitress, Lynn, whom we were so pleased is a true foodie. You can tell true foodie passion when you ask what to order – the taste descriptions and suggestions were spot-on.


To start us off right, my Dad (my wonderful dining partner) called over the sommelier to figure out which varietal would pair best with our planned menu. We began our meal with the Grilled Octopus Fettuna, a bruschetta of sorts topped with a tasty combo of caramelized shallots, white beans and olives. The pasta menu looked so good that we had to order two – the Fontina Scarpinocc and the Rigatoni with Ragu. For the first – imagine the swirl of sage, cinnamon, almonds and butter – such a delightful combination delicately topped with diced butternut squash. Don’t shy away from the butter – it really brought out the flavor! For the Rigatoni – true comfort food that warms you up on a night like these. Because Nico’s true passion is seafood, we ordered the Salt Crusted Branzino, which was a nice, light fish topped with the unique flavors of white clamshell mushrooms and zante currants – adding a refreshingly unexpected sweetness.


From start to finish, Nico Osteria provided a great experience, and I can’t wait to go back!


Nico Osteria Cocktail Lounge

If you venture just past the restaurant entrance and deeper into the Thompson Hotel you’ll come across a cocktail lounge bustling with Saturday-night vibe. Upon entering, let your eyes flow up past the wall of liquor to the wall of plants, adding greenery and character to this indoor space. There is a lounge niche to the back, and veering left into the Thompson Hotel lobby you can take the stairs up, past the rustic antler chandelier, to the upstairs bar, which has a great view of the mixings below. Over the sounds of cocktails being shaken and fancy people chit-chatting, you can order off their cocktail menu. For an after dinner drink, I selected the “Gilder,” a mix of vanilla, lemon and blood orange that turned out pink and frothy but was quite delicious and surprisingly not too sweet. Come check out this new spot after your dinner at Nico Osteria or when passing down Rush Street.



Nia Mediterranean (803 W. Randolph) – Participant in Chicago Restaurant Week

One of the cornerstones of the West Loop’s Restaurant Row, Nia provides a fresh look at Mediterranean comfort food. For my first voyage on Chicago Restaurant Week, we opted for lunch and beat the crowds, resulting in dedicated and personalized service. Pulled in by the prix fixe menu (on which everything sounds delicious), I was pleasantly surprised to learn that their prix fixe menu is a regular fixture to provide their guests with a wide variety of Mediterranean tastes. With the option of six tapas or eight tapas, we obviously chose eight. The part that’s both the most fun but also the hardest is narrowing it down to just one choice per category! Read on for my favorites…


Of course, saganaki was one of my favorites. The classic savory Greek cheese, often lit up in flames, adds a special touch to a meal out. Served with a squeeze of lemon, so good! The wild mushroom risotto was a warm and nutty winter favorite, with each type of mushroom adding its own uniqueness to the flavor. For our seafood course, we chose the crab cakes topped with an artful drizzle of yellow saffron aioli. The perfect little bite-sized crab cakes were just the right texture and perfect for sharing. After much debate over the meat course, the lamb and feta meatballs came out a winner. Served with a pomodoro sauce and of course more cheese, the meatballs were a satisfying finale to our savory tapas. To quench the inevitable sweet tooth, order the bread pudding. Served warm, topped with caramel and vanilla ice cream, this is the most delightful bread pudding you will ever have.


With great options for sharing among large and small groups alike, check out Nia for their tasty tapas in the West Loop!


Pump Room (1301 N. State) – Participant in Chicago Restaurant Week

Nestled inside the Public Hotel, the Pump Room greets you with lovely décor and smiling faces. Taking you back to the old school Hollywood glamour, the space carries a beautiful esthetic – a series of round booths topped with unique round lanterns. In the downstairs area (near the restrooms), the walls are lined with black and white photos of fabulous guests from the past. People-watch the patrons to see who is the most fancy, chic or even famous. Not to be overshadowed by the décor, the food presented a wide range of flavors, textures and even temperatures.


As the Pump Room was participating in Chicago Restaurant Week, we opted to choose our meals from the special menu. Each of the first course options was a refreshing taste to kick off the meal. We tried the carrot and avocado salad, which was tossed with sprouts, a bright vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of sour cream. The salmon and rice sushi was a crispy little bite of deliciousness with multiple textures and flavors. For my entrée I ordered the fried chicken with spinach and buttery hot sauce. So yummy! The chicken was perfectly done with a light, crispy shell, mounted atop sautéed spinach as the green contrast to the spicy sauce below. Each bite was better than the last. Until….we received dessert! Cooling down our palates with a cup of ice cream, we were surprised to find all the little treats at the bottom of the cup – popcorn, candied peanuts and a layer of hot fudge. This was a great closeout to a beautiful meal. Looking forward to checking out the Pump Room’s other spots including the Library Bar and the coffee shop.


Watch List: Upcoming Restaurant Openings


Leghorn Chicken


In the spirit of fried chicken, get into Leghorn Chicken as soon as it opens its doors. Their luscious but simple menu serves up fried chicken on a buttermilk biscuit accompanied by toppers such as fried green tomatoes and housemade ranch. With some of their guiding principles in contrast with Chick-fil-A’s philosophies, Leghorn Chicken provides a breath of fresh air to the city.




Opening soon next to Bub City in River North, Bottlefork is slowly leaking photos of house cocktails, smoked meats and scratch-made desserts, but won’t give any concrete details. Watch for more info!


What’s Up This Month: February 2014

What’s Up This Month: February 2014

Chicago Theatre Week

Top picks from Chicago actor Eli Branson:

Sure–you could escape the cold with another night out at the movies, but why not spend an evening with some real, LIVE actors and take advantage of Chicago Theatre Week!  From February 11th-16th tickets are discounted at most participating theatres for as low as $15-$30 (some places less!).

Best bets: These selections are based TOTALLY on what l think are must-sees, but since this is Chicago theatre, I guarantee any show you pick will be worth the (discounted!) price of admission.

  • From White Plains (Broken Nose Theatre @ The Greenhouse Theatre Center)  – coming off an incredible, GLAAD Award-winning off-Broadway run Michael Perlman’s play about bullying makes its Chicago Debut with the tagline “Just because it gets better doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”  What happens when the nasty, thoughtless words we’ve said as children come back to haunt us in adulthood? Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Improv All Stars (UP Comedy Club) – Maybe it’s all the “30 Rock” binge-watching I’ve indulged in, but a night of improv (with a “Suggested R” rating) directed by living-legend Mick Napier sounds like the perfect respite from our endless winter. $15 tickets here.
  • Tribes (Steppenwolf) – This story of a deaf man’s quest to find an identity outside his family unit is sparking a vibrant dialog about representations of disability in the theatre (as well as bowling-over critics).  See a show in the birthplace of Gary Sinise for only $30! Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Hedda Gabler (Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe) – The Practically Perfect Kate Fry leads Broadway-bound director Kimberly Senior’s new production; wallow in the winter-time blues with this haunting domestic drama—maybe you won’t leave humming any tunes, but it’s sure to be a knock-out.  Tickets (with discount code) here.
  • Rough Crossing (First Folio Theatre, Oakbrook, IL) – this rollicking Tom Stoppard comedy is sure to be hilarious in a new treatment by First Folio Theatre.  Performances take place in the historic and gorgeous Mayslake Peabody Estate, so if you’re looking to see something outside the “blackbox” (HA!), take 290 West for a night in one of the most immersive theatre spaces in the area. Tickets (with discount code) here.

For a full listing of participating shows and theatres, go here:


Culture & Entertainment

  • Listen to the classical works of Stravinsky and Ravel at Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “after dark” 21+ event, POST, on Friday, February 28 at 8 p.m. Discounted tickets ($35) provide admission to the entire performance and the after-concert lounge. Sip a cocktail while mingling with CSO’s musicians and composers. Also watch for the April POST event featuring Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” set
  • Sing along to Texas-born Pat Green’s performance at Joe’s on Weed, Friday, February 7 at 8:30 p.m. He puts on a great show and has the crowd singing along. Known for collaborations with the likes of Willie Nelson and Brad Paisley, Pat Green has been selling out his latest shows performing his soulful country music. Tickets $28


Food & Drinks

  • Learn how to make dumplings with Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ on-site (1400 W. Randolph) at on Saturday, February 1 at 11 a.m. For $37, learn the art of dumplings through various flavors: beef and cheddar, pork and cilantro, and buffalo chicken and blue cheese (just in time to impress your friends at your Super Bowl party!)
  • Make Whoopie Pies at deca restaurant (160 E. Pearson) to sweeten your February. Classes offered at 6 p.m. February 14 and 15, $40 per couple. The hands-on class will be supplemented by hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Call 312-573-5160 for reservations
  • Take part in 2 Sparrows’ monthly beer pairing dinner (533 W. Diversey) on Friday, February 7 at 7 p.m. Chef Gregory Ellis will take you through four courses on his German menu, including cassoulet and German chocolate cake, all paired with Metropolitan Brewing beers. Tickets are $55 for all food and drinks, and they have limited reservations available
  • Brave Navy Pier to attend the 2nd annual Chicago Cider Summit. Cider-lovers rejoice at the thought of samples from over 90 ciders around the world, with food pairings. $25 advance tickets will get you 8 tastings and a souvenir glass, with the option to purchase additional tastings. The event is on Saturday, February 8 with two sessions – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 4 – 8 p.m.
  • Join wine enthusiasts nationwide for a virtual toast to Silver Oak’s 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  At City Winery (1200 W. Randolph), you can take part in a 20-year Silver Oak “release day” tradition and be the first to taste the newly released wine at 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 1. For $50, there will be several tastings with complementary appetizers and an etched wine glass to take home


Volunteer & Charity

  • Follow your passion and give back to the city by finding the right volunteer opportunities for you at the Chicago Volunteer Expo. On Sunday, February 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon) hosts over 75 non-profit organizations showcasing opportunities for you to get involved. In the past I’ve found it difficult to find  volunteering events in the city, so I’m looking forward to seeing the great work we can take part in all over the city
  • Go all-out fancy for Snowball, the Saturday, February 8 gala benefiting the Pediatric and Adolescent HIV/AIDS Programs at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Complete with live music and a silent auction, Snowball is the annual charity event for Chicago’s young professionals. Tickets, $140+, provide entry to the event with food and drink features from around the city, and proceeds support access to high-quality healthcare for children with HIV/AIDS. Held in Union Station’s Great Hall, expect a night of dancing and mingling with the city’s finest
  • Bring your dogs to the party at PAWS Chicago’s Animal Magnetism gala, Friday, February 28 at Galleria Marchetti (825 W. Erie). Enjoy a night of drinks, dancing and live auction to better the lives of endangered animals throughout Chicago. Advance tickets $125/person and $25/pet
  • Take your charity work to the road by racing in Chiditarod, Chicago’s fourth annual costumed shopping cart relay race fundraiser. Join together with your team to race a shopping cart around the city in one of the largest mobile food drives benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Trade your ball gown for a crazy costume and expect a day of chaos, fun and laughter. Registration is open now ($55-70 per team) for the Saturday, March 1 event. Over 80,000 pounds have been donated to date, how much can you contribute?


Happy February!

Staycationing in Chicago

Staycationing in Chicago

Not jetting to the Caribbean this month? Neither am I. Now that Chiberia is over, here are my top picks for “staycationing” in Chicago.


If you wish you were in Costa Rica:

  • Visit the Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N. Stockton) and enter a heated tropical paradise. Walking through the orchids, ferns and koi fish ponds takes you on a little journey to the rainforest. Admission is free, open 9 – 5 every day


If you wish you were in Colorado:

  • Trek through the snow on snow shoes or cross country skis at Northerly Island (1521 S. Linn White Dr.). Go after a fresh snow fall, rentals are only $5 and parking is only $2. Low price for some winter action and a gorgeous view of the city skyline. Open select weekends until February 16


If you wish you were in Hawaii:

  • Order yourself a Mai Tai or choose from a wide assortment of Tiki cocktails at Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark). Inspired by WWII Morse code signaling “V for victory,” the historical Tiki cocktails welcomed home Allied soldiers, and now they can welcome you too, out of the frosty winter weather. To find the clandestine entrance, wrap around to the back of the building, down an alley and through a blue door. Open till 3 a.m. on Saturdays, you can get tropical all night long


If you wish you were in Memphis:

  • Jive to live music at B.L.U.E.S. (2519 N. Halsted) featuring blues acts nearly every night of the week. Typical cover is $5-10 – not bad for live music in the city! Bonus points if you get to know the band


If you wish you were in Cuba:

  • “Taste the Forbidden” at 90 Miles, (2540 W. Armitage and 3101 N. Clybourn) the best Cuban café in the city. Great atmosphere and super friendly service enhance your experience, and the menu is fantastic – my favorites include Rabo Encendido (oxtail) and Ropa Vieja (slow-cooked shredded beef). Check their website for daily specials such as live flamenco and pig roasts (and every day is BYOB)


If you wish you were in France:

  • Travel to the southern Rhone valley through a tasting of the region’s Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre wines. Visit the WineBar at Plum Market Old Town (1233 N. Wells) on Thursday, January 30 at 6:30 p.m. for a French wine tour tasting – tickets $20


What are your favorite hidden vacation spots in Chicago?

Best Bets: January 2014 (Part 2)

Best Bets: January 2014 (Part 2)

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Take advantage of Chicago’s upcoming events and offerings this month:


  • Have a laugh as Chicago’s improv theater ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont) sets up a 1920s speakeasy-themed weekend (January 16 – 18) in honor of Prohibition. Shows are supplemented by live jazz music, prohibition-style cocktails and even a password to enter. Guests wearing costumes will receive $5 off their tickets
  • Only here for 8 weeks, The Phantom of the Opera opens at the Cadillac Palace Theater (151 W. Randolph) on January 9 – buy tickets to the world-renowned production before they sell out
  • Get dressed up and head to Art Institute After Dark for a 21+ museum party featuring a DJ, appetizers and a cash bar. This is your last chance to see the “Art and Appetite” exhibit before it closes. Friday, January 17, 9 p.m. – 12 a.m. Tickets $25. Enter through the Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe


  • The 5th annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Fest kicks off January 10 and features three weeks of concerts around town at Concord Music Hall, Tonic Room, City Winery and Evanston’s SPACE. Most notable is Rusted Root playing at Concord Music Hall on January 25 with Donna the Buffalo
  • If you can’t get enough drama, follow the trials and tribulations of Bravo’s chosen “Chicago socialite go-getters” on 100 Days of Summer. Tuesday’s premiere (9 p.m.) illustrated that they think we all must die after those 100 days are up. Prove them wrong!


  • If you’ve ever dreamed of being a chef, check out Le Cordon Bleu’s open house and cooking demo day this Saturday, January 11 at 10:30. Tour their industrial kitchens and pick up chef tips along the way. RSVP in the link above to reserve your spot (free)
  • Indoor foodie festival “The Nosh” sets up each Sunday with the Logan Square Farmer’s Market at 2755 N. Milwaukee from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Taste local artisanal food from multiple vendors sampling bites of Chicago


  • Take advantage of the last few days of Chicago Park District’s Free Fitness Week – sign up for free classes and swim lessons and work out at a number of Chicago-area gyms for free, only until January 12. Low-cost enrollment options are available after the free week is up
  • Drop in on a number of boutique workout classes for free this month, thanks to Nike Training Club Lincoln Park. With the close of their Armitage storefront last month, they’ve opened a window to give fans a chance to take advantage of free workouts around the city. Pick up your NTC Club Card at Nike Chicago or Nike Running Bucktown for access to studios such as Barre Bee Fit, Flywheel and Shred415
  • Fulfill your Bears-fan dream of running through Soldier Field by signing up for May 24′s Soldier Field 10 Mile race. Sign up by January 19 to save $20 off your registration fee

Best Bets: January 2014

Best Bets: January 2014


  • For the hardcore Cubbies fans: the 2014 Cubs Convention runs from January 17 – 19 to kick off the hundred year anniversary of Wrigley Field. Events include coach and player appearances, autograph signings and a preview of the centennial celebrations coming up this season
    • Date: Friday, January 17 – Sunday, January 19
    • Location: 301 East North Water Street
    • Cost: $60 for 3-day pass
  • Explore Chicago’s hidden pedways connecting 5 miles’ worth of buildings downtown. Tour options include history, brunch and pub crawls (times and pricing vary)


  • Indulge in a new dining experience during Chicago Restaurant Week. Held from January 24 – February 6, nearly 250 Chicago-area restaurants offer $22 lunch menus and $33 or $44 dinner menus. Make your reservations fast as they fill up quickly
    • Best bets (based on available published menus). Note that I am not vegetarian and my tastes swing to the meat-lovers side of the fence. Most of these restaurants offer vegetarian options as well:
      • Bar Pastoral – tempt your taste buds with braised pork belly and finish it off with salted caramel cheesecake
      • Café des Architects – I was sold when I saw braised short ribs. Take note that you can supplement any course with shaved French truffles
      • Howells & Hood – four words: truffle lobster pot pie. You can balance it out with the kale superfood salad
      • Mon Ami Gabi – $33 for all the classics – escargots, beef bourguignon and crème brulee
      • Table 52 – fried green tomatoes to start, then wash down your buttermilk fried chicken with an oatmeal cookie sandwich with buttercream icing


  • HIIT (high intensity interval training) class as part of Lululemon’s “Resolution Wednesdays” series this month
    • Date: Wednesday, January 22 at 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
    • Location: Lululemon – 2104 N. Halsted
    • Cost: Free
  • Ski the slopes at Devil’s Head Ski Resort – an hour and a half drive just across the Wisconsin border is a fun weekend day trip for skiers of all levels. While the “mountain” descriptor might be a bit of a stretch, it’s the best way to enjoy the snow this season


  • My favorite Showtime escape, Shameless, returns for its fourth season on Sunday, January 12 at 8 p.m. CT. Watch as actors Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy survive Chicago’s south side


Go have fun this month – stay warm!