Tuesday, September 30

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Chicago Gourmet Tue Sep 30 2014

Chicago Gourmet: The Lollapalooza of Food

After my brute force strategy failed at last year's Chicago Gourmet, I approached this year's event with a game plan that involved curtailing the amount of food I shoved in my mouth. Before the event, I perused through the lineup of 12 different food pavilions, seminars, and food demos. With protractors and complex algorithms, I outlined my favorite spots and created a list of simple rules:

1. No ceviches or crudos. No lukewarm octopus tentacles bursting through a citric pool of pungent onions.
2. No donuts, cookies or cupcakes, unless I was still thinking about that donut 15 minutes later.
3. No lobster rolls. No tacos.
4. No returning on Sunday.

Of course, the minute I stepped into Millennium Park, my plan crumbled like a warm shortbread cookie infused with tangerine peels. As someone with little to no ability to delay gratification, I should've known better. There I was, bulldozing food into my mouth like I had emerged from a 30-day fast. My ego is gently whispering, "Pace yourself," while the id is frantically screaming, "Holy shit, only 30 minutes before Carla Hall comes on stage! But don't you want to eat Bistronomic's 'Kit Kat' bar? And those wild boar meatballs?" Eventually, my frontal lobes gained control, and I realized that the best plan would be to eat eye-catching dishes I hadn't tried before.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Event Mon Sep 29 2014

Win Tickets to the Beer Hoptacular!

62427012.jpgThe fifth annual Beer Hoptacular, a celebration of craft beer, craft beer and craft beer, holds court at the Aragon Ballroom (1106 W. Lawrence Ave.) on Fri., Oct. 10th and Sat., Oct. 11th. Over 60 breweries serving 150 craft beers will be in attendance, as well as fun activities (the BeerHop Derby, and the BeardHoptacular, where the best facial hair gets the spotlight).

Want to be part of the action? We're giving away two tickets to the Friday night session to our beloved Drive-Thru readers. Send us an email by Noon this Friday, Oct. 3rd with your name, phone number, and for funsies, the Name of Your Dream Craft Brew--in an era where the city's best brews have kooky names like T.V. Party, Omega Midnight, and Meat Wave, surely you, dear reader, are equally as talented and creative. The best-named beer wins the tickets.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (2)

Foodporn Fri Sep 26 2014

Friday Foodpic: Last Saturday @ Hot Doug's, 9:10am

hdlibe.jpgPicture by Cecile-Anne Sison.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Event Wed Sep 24 2014

Food, Music & Libations at Ravinia: Food Network in Concert

dsc_0870.jpgBy noon, I was already bloated. I'd eaten seven whole hot dogs, at least a dozen fried oddities, and an ugodly sugary block disguised as an ice-cream sandwich. I wandered around Ravinia grounds until I found a suitable shaded area, plopped down, released my pant buttons, and closed my eyes. Only eight and a half hours until John Mayer, and seven until Phillip Phillips (the American Idol star with an unforgivable name but irresistible face).

Ravinia in Highland Park is one of those suburban places with a curious urban presence. I've driven past the area a few times, nearly running over avid suburbanites on their $4,000 "recreational" bikes. Past concerts and events have included the One Republic, American Authors, Yo Yo Ma, Carrie Underwood, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, John Legend, and Pat Green. One of the biggest events this year was the Food Network in Concert, featuring chefs Sunny Anderson, Jeff Mauro, Marc Murphy, Geoffrey Zakarian, plus musical guests.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Beer Mon Sep 22 2014

Announcing the Gapers Block Microbrewery Crawl Oct. 11

Gapers Block Microbrewery Crawl Oct. 11 2014In the last couple of years, Chicago's craft brewing scene has exploded. To help acquaint you with the breadth of the industry, we at Gapers Block put together a "microbrewery crawl" showcasing some of the great beers being produced in the city.

The Gapers Block Microbrewery Crawl on Saturday, Oct. 11 kicks off at the new Lagunitas Brewery and travels by bus to Goose Island's brewery and new barrel house on Fulton Street. From there we'll head to the brand new BreakRoom Brewery and finish up at the Begyle Brewing, where we'll learn what "community supported beer" is -- and also enjoy freshly grilled food from Manbque.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Foodporn Fri Sep 19 2014

Friday Foodpic: Purple Cabbage

15090522247_037686e907_z.jpgPicture by Renee Rendler Kaplan from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Review Thu Sep 18 2014

Opening Today: Umami Burger

15252342126_3e63292836_z.jpgThe last time I was in California, a visit to the regional chain Umami Burger was on my vacation bucket list. Sometimes it's hard to be a food tourist, especially when it requires putting pressure on your hosts to end up in San Francisco's Marina neighborhood, a ritzy, indifferent enclave full of shops selling nothing you need or can afford. Getting past the long wait, the severe wood-paneled interior, and the order taken down on an iPad (worthy of a Liz Lemon-grade eyeroll), I brought my bags of pricey takeout to my host's car for eating while on the road that day. As the car lurched up Fillmore Street, one of the steepest streets in the city (an experience that normally would make my flat land-loving self very anxious and miserable), I chewed slowly on my burger, quietly savoring my lunch and completely unaware of my surroundings. You have no idea how good this burger is.

15274962122_4b1ffe54a7_z.jpgFast forward to nearly two years later, with today's opening of Umami Burger on a busy corner in Wicker Park, surrounded on all sides by bars and other eateries. Unlike most burger places in Chicago, Umami's stark, modern décor has no flat-screen TVs or banners proclaiming that indeed, this IS the place to watch Michigan State games each weekend. They don't have a kids menu, and the stereo blasts The Smiths as you eat. You are in a burger place whose logo, rather than the red-haired clown in the jumpsuit and a gaggle of burglars, purple creatures and oddball mayors, is a lone hamburger bun curled into a subtle, alluring smirk.

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Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Openings Wed Sep 17 2014

Home Run Inn to Open Near Wrigley in 2015

home run innHome Run Inn Pizza is probably best known to most North Siders as a frozen pizza brand, but it's long been part of the restaurant landscape on the South Side, with pizzerias in Little Village, Garfield Ridge and Beverly, as well as several south and western suburbs. Now it's trying to reel in some Cubs fans.

Home Run Inn announced today that it will open its first North Side location in the spring of next year, in time for opening day. The pizzeria will be located at 3215 N. Sheffield Ave., the former home to Leona's and more recently occupied by the apparently mediocre Lina's Chicago Kitchen. The opening date is not yet set, but in the announcement Home Run Inn promised a "pub-like atmosphere" featuring a large bar with 16 beers on tap, burgers, wings and of course pizza.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Restaurant Wed Sep 17 2014

Shana Tova from Real Urban Barbecue

I happen to be one of those annoying Southern transplants. You know the ones I'm talking about. We usually have our face scrunched up at various BBQ establishments in the City. Surely you know someone like me, we might be found going on about the food back home or claim to have BBQ sauce coursing through our veins. We know what we're talking about. Really great BBQ is not easy to find, but Real Urban Barbecue is on the job.

Highland Park native Jeff Shapiro launched Real Urban Barbecue at 610 Central Avenue in Highland Park back in November of 2010. In July of 2012 he opened the doors of their second location in Vernon Hills at 1260 S. Milwaukee Ave., which consequently, is very close to my office. I recently decided to put my BBQ grudge on the back burner and give Real Urban Barbecue a try. I was not disappointed.

While the Southerner in me is definitely excited to have a little taste of home everyday, this good little Jewish boy is also kvelling over their Rosh Hashanah catering menu. Can you believe it? Real Urban Barbecue is serving family favorites including smoked turkey, brisket, and salmon complete with sides and dessert for carryout during Rosh Hashanah. There are enough tasty options to make any BBQ aficionado moan in delight.

Real Urban Barbecue has won accolades including Chicago Magazine's "Hot List," Chicago Tribune's "Essential Barbecue Bites" and the Highland Park Patch's "Best Sandwich." I think this means you can trust them to cater your Holiday celebration next week. May you be written in the Book of Life and never want for delicious smoked brisket again! Shana Tova!

Jeremy Owens / Comments (2)

Wine Mon Sep 15 2014

Rioja 101: A Tasting

The last wine at Table #5 was breathing in a glass decanter, one of those that looks like a genie bottle, but with a much wider and flatter bowl. The wine rep gave it a gentle swirl, sloshing the black-plum liquid before pouring a tasting.

"Ooooh," I said because I'm easily excited. I had only just begun the night's Rioja tasting, that famed Tempranillo-producing region in Spain, and the Maetierra Dominum QP Vintage 2006 was a great way to start. The wine was dark and rich and full. I really wanted something warm and hearty to eat with it.

"How long could you cellar this?" I asked.

He consulted another gentleman behind the table who explained, "Maybe 7-10 years. But it's not really necessary to cellar because you can drink the wine now."

It was true. The wine did not make my face shrivel up or suck all the moisture out of my mouth. Rioja is unique in that the winemakers do all they aging work for you by keeping their wines safely stored in a temperature-consistent cellar and releasing them only when they're ready to drink. Scads of other producers ship wines off to market even if they're too big and tannic and require time to smooth out the rough edges.

Rioja 101

rsz_686px-localizacipctc3pctb3n_de_la_riojasvg.pngLocated in north-central Spain, southeast of Bilbao, Rioja produces white, red, and rose (rosado). For reds, Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, Mazuelo, Matura Tinta, and of course, Tempranillo, are cultivated. For whites, there's Viura, Malvasia, and Tempranillo Blanco. There were 13 total tables at the Rioja 101 tasting, hosted by Homestead on the Roof. Most tables had a minimum of four wines and with 58 total available, the breadth and diversity of the region was represented.

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Christina Brandon / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Sep 12 2014

Friday Foodpic: Sweet Mandy B's

14986971319_c1c09d16ca_z.jpgPic by yours truly from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Review Thu Sep 11 2014

¡Vamos de tapeo! Tapas in the Suburbs

dsc_2587.jpgOakbrook Center doesn't exactly conjure up images of glitzy city life or classy fine dining, but El Tapeo (originating from the Spanish term "Vamos de tapeo") recently opened in hotel Le Méridien, and I was eager to eat anywhere but the Cheesecake Factory.

Executed by Chef Franco Diaz (The Drake Hotel, Peninsula Hotel Chicago), the restaurant's menu consists of mostly tapas, sprinkled with a few larger entrees that can also be easily shared. My party and I began with the Selección de Embutidos (selection of shaved ibérico, serrano, chorizo, and fuet), followed by Carne Asada (waygu skirt steak, arugula, manchego and piquillo pepper), and Cordero (grilled adobo lamb loin shops). Our vegetable tapas included patatas bravas and setas (wild mushrooms). We finished with a roasted pineapple empanada and a dense chocolate tart topped with chocolate croquants.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Wine Mon Sep 08 2014

Wine Tastings Around Town


A two-week long event for wine lovers is coming to Chicago. Organized by Bottlenotes, Taste Around Town runs September 15-28 and features wines from Wines of France, Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena, and Australia's purveyor of bold, rich Shiraz, Penfolds. Participating restaurants, including Bistrot Zinc, Gilt Bar, and Roka Akor, are preparing select pairing menus and tasting flights and some locations, including Hub 51 and Summer House, are curating by-the-glass lists.

A launch party, hosted by Hub 51 (51 W Hubbard), kicks off the festivities on Wednesday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. Wine-lovers can rub elbows while enjoying tastings of the featured wines and bites such as king crab California rolls, braised chicken mini-tacos, prime chuck and sirloin sliders with white cheddar, and beer-battered fish-and-chips. Tickets are $50, but Gapers Block readers get discounted tickets for $25, which can be accessed here.

Taste Around Town launch party
Hub 51
51 W Hubbard

Photo via JolienS

Christina Brandon / Comments (0)

TV Fri Sep 05 2014

Upcoming Food Shows You Must Watch

top-chef-season-12-boston-supertease.jpgFall is just a leaf drop away, which means it's time to whip out the light jackets, delicately sip pumpkin lattes, and binge watch food TV. Here are some upcoming shows you are obligated to watch:
mind oa chef.jpgMind of a Chef (premieres Sept 6 on PBS)
"Magnus Nilsson and Top Chef Edward Lee explore places and cook awesome stuff" is probably the worst description of this show, but that's exactly what these featured chefs do. Past season chefs have included David Chang and Sean Brock, and Mind of Chef won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Television Program in 2013. Plus, Bourdain is the Executive Producer, speaking of which:

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Review Fri Sep 05 2014

Parachute Brings Korean-American to Avondale

If you jump, it's a good thing to have a parachute, which is a fitting name for one of Chicago's newest restaurant openings of the same moniker, fitting because the story leading up to it isn't without a bit of turbulence.

Parachute is the first ground-up project from husband-and-wife team Beverly Kim and John Clark, and the second venture for the couple as independent proprietors following in the footsteps of Bonsoiree, the Logan Square spot that they took over (and abruptly closed) after Kim's departure from Aria. Coming off a popular reality television show without a restaurant deal (Top Chef fans will recall that Kim was only a few episodes away from winning the show's ninth season) and then taking over a Michelin-starred restaurant can't be an easy follow-up. So, if there were a story of a restaurant that symbolized the American way of not giving up on dreams, Parachute might be a good example, as they opened earlier this summer with the help of bank and family loans, as well as a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $20,000.

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Brandy Gonsoulin / Comments (0)

Event Mon Jul 21 2014

A Garden Party at Rick Bayless' House

By Judy Wu

I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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Fri Oct 3 2014
Friends of the Craft @ St. Matthias

Fri Oct 3 2014
Taste Talks Kicks Off in Chicago

Sun Oct 5 2014
Friends of the Grape @ St. Matthias

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi,
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