Next Opening in Chicago

by Jennifer Olvera


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.

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Chicago Chef Week Begins March 20

Sepia is one of dozens of restaurants with special Chicago Chef Week menus.

by Jennifer Olvera


Chicagoans: they love their food. Having just wrapped up Chicago Restaurant Week, Chicago Chef Week — slated for March 20-26 — is soon to follow. With it comes an endless array of $22 three-course lunches and $33 three-course dinners, plus beverages, taxes and gratuity, at many of the city’s hottest tables. Some restaurants serve a special menu only at lunch or dinner, and some Chicago restaurants will offer both.


At Sepia, both meals will be served, with offerings such as English pea soup with Parmigiano custard; grilled rainbow trout with citrus, fennel and black olives; and sweet cornmeal financier with basil-goat cheese ice cream and apricot-date chutney during lunch. Meanwhile, at Nightwood, expect a divine-sounding dinner of fried artichokes with lemons and aioli; chili-laced rigatoni with almonds, ricotta and mint and toffee-rum bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Other participating restaurants range from avec and Blackbird to Sola, Sable Kitchen & Bar, The Bristol and One sixtyblue. For a full list of hot-spots, visit www.chicagochefweek.com.

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Chicago’s Ria Hosting Wine-Centric Fête

Ria's plush dining room will host a boutique wine dinner showcasing its new menu. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Parinejad.)

by Jennifer Olvera


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.


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Chicago Ushers in 2011 With Festive Food

Cibo Matto is one of many Chicago restaurants rolling out the red carpet for New Year's Eve. (Photo courtesy of theWit Hotel.)

by Jennifer Olvera


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.

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Bird is the Word: Thanksgiving, Chicago-Style

Eve is one of several dining rooms carving an atypical Thanksgiving meal. Photo courtesy of stevenjohnsonphotography.com.

by Jennifer Olvera


It wouldn’t really be Thanksgiving without the bird. However, there’s no need to settle for a staid approach — or do any of the heavy lifting yourself. This year, some Chicago restaurants are dishing up unique feasts, ones that require no fuss on your part but offer plenty of full-flavor surprises.


Big Jones, for example, will serve a festive, southern-style feast, complete with pimento cheese, okra and pickled green tomato starter; cornbread muffins and Sally Lunn bread with house-churned butter alongside house Concord grape and hot pepper jellies; a choice of appetizers, including butternut squash gnocchi with fried sage, roasted pears and mushroom jus; Vidalia onion and goat cheese pie with herb purée; a Waldorf salad with Redcort apples; and deep-fried Gunthorp Farms turkey with onion-thyme dressing. Needless to say, you can expect other comfort-driven, updated sides ($46 adults, $20 children under 12).

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