Madridfusión: it’s where food trends come to life. Celebrating its tenth year, the recent gathering — held at the Palacio Municipal de Congresos — featured three chef-filled days replete with presentations, mad scientist-worthy cooking demos and interviews with food industry vets. Add to that the upper-level booths, proffering food, wine and cooking-related miscellania. It all occurs in tandem with Gastrofestival, a two-week extravaganza offering special food-based programming citywide at Madrid’s tapas restaurants, museums, markets and shops.
Those feeling particularly posh opted to stay at the palatial Hotel Ritz Madrid, where gracious service gives way to views of Retiro Park. But those in search of an edgier experience chose the architecturally driven — if off-the-beaten-path — Hotel Silken Puerta America Madrid. Its 13 floors, each designed in wildly creative fashion by a different architect, have a trippy feel and plenty of curb appeal.
Handcrafted cocktails aren’t exactly new to Chicago — look to The Violet Hour for proof of that. However, it’s safe to say Grant Achatz‘s soon-to-debut Aviary in the West Loop will ratchet things up further, what with its cocktail kitchen serving experimental, tincture-meets-classic cocktails, approachably hip, no-reservations vibe and potables that surprisingly top out at under $20. (Mind you, there’s no actual “bar” and labels can’t be “called.”) Future plans for Aviary include a haute, basement-level den that is said to be the antithesis of the main lounge. With room for only 20 guests, the exclusive space will serve luxuries like caviar by the ounce and a foie gras terrine.
Just in time for a much-needed winter relief, Chicago Restaurant Week hits February 18-27 — yes, it’s longer than seven days — giving diners access to over 200 prix-fixe menus priced at $22 during lunch and usually $33 or $44 during dinner, plus drinks, tax and gratuity. We think it’s a pretty sweet deal.
You’ve got to love a place that’s been open mere months and closes for a mini-facelift, New York-based culinary research and menu revamp, all the while riding on rave reviews. But that’s Ria for you. Celebrate its reopening early on January 22 with a luxurious wine dinner highlighting six boutique California producers: Failla Wines, Anomaly Vineyards, Realm Cellars, D.R. Stevens, Chase Family Cellars and Fischer Vineyards.
The event kicks off at 4 p.m. in the Elysian hotel’s grand ballroom with passed hors d’oeuvres and an informal wine tasting. Come 6 p.m., the soirée moves into Ria’s dining room for a six-course meal comprised of dishes from the yet-to-be-unveiled winter menu and, naturally, more specialty sips. Producers will be seated among diners and will elaborate on pours between courses and stay to talk post-dessert with those so inclined.
Participants for the tasting only may reserve advance tickets for $50, while the entire evening costs $250 per person, in addition to tax and service. Ria, 11 E. Walton St., 3rd Fl., 312-880-4400.
It’s official: the holidays are here. The year is coming to an end. And many people are hoping like nobody’s business for a festive break from the norm. Relief has arrived in the form of celebratory dinners and gatherings throughout Chicago.
Take avec, for example. Despite never taking reservations, it’s not only taking them for New Year’s Eve but also serving patrons in $50 fixed price fashion (with wine for $25 more). Call for menu details and to secure your table. Meanwhile, Cibo Matto is saying “sayonara” to 2010 from 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. with a modern Italian, four-course spread featuring the likes of saffron pappardelle; Sicilian escarole salad with eggplant-ricotta involtini, walnut pesto and apple saba; and goat cheese gnocchi with oxtail ragu, toasted pistachios and pomegranate syrup ($99 per person). Over at One sixtyblue, there’s a lavish, five-course tasting menu replacing its regular offerings — think house-made saffron linguine with Parmesan and shaved white Alba truffles or wood-grilled beef tenderloin with crispy potato noodles and Périgord black truffle sauce. This luxury will set you back $95, plus another $45 when paired with wine.