Sunday, May 24, 2009

David Burke's Primehouse serves up $5 burgers

Now that Memorial Day is over, barbecue season is in full swing and chefs all around the city are gearing up to celebrate. Executive Chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse is already ahead of the game with his weeklong offering of $5 “Burkers” during lunch (Monday, May 25-Friday, May 30). The limited menu will include specialty selections like the restaurant’s signature 40-day dry aged burger, the Sam Adams Summer Ale-battered chicken burger, crab cake sliders ($8) and the foot-long black pepper Benton bacon burger ($12).

You can also opt to customize your burger with unique toppings like angry shrimp, lobster slaw and fried egg. For an extra six or seven bucks, you can choose from side dishes like truffle-asiago fries, tempura beans and salt n’ vinegar chips.

And because burgers just wouldn’t be the same without an ice-cold beer, Primehouse is offering a line of $4 brews from Sam Adams, including the Summer Ale, Boston Lager, Brown Ale and Honey Porter. Signature tipples like the love n’ lime wine spritzer and creamy Kentucky bourbon-vanilla milkshake will also be available, $9 and $5 respectively. To finish the all-American meal, Pastry Chef Jove Hubbard will serve up slices of his indulgent fried cherry pie and root beer floats.

David Burke’s Primehouse
616 N. Rush (at The James Hotel)
(312) 660-6000

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Adventures with asparagus

Looks like we're not the only ones with asparagus on the brain this month. The Brits are all over the gorgeous green, too, check out the BBC's Adventures with asparagus video for tips and recipes.

Springtime Spears: Asparagus is back and it's sprouting up at these local spots.

It's the season for all things green, and there's a reason why asparagus tops the list of our favorite farm-fresh picks each year. Its vibrant green stalks (or white, if you're into that sort of thing) are great for snacking raw, drizzling with olive oil, tossing in a salad, blending into a soup and (our personal favorite) wrapping in bacon. In fact, the possibilities for asparagus are almost endless, but the spears themselves aren't. They'll only be around for the next month or two, so get over to these venues before you miss out.

We wouldn't normally think of calling this Michigan Avenue restaurant "budget-friendly." But NoMI's $25 prix-fixe lunch is helping to change that. The value-minded three-course meal kicks off spring with a chilled asparagus soup, topped with toasted brioche and vanilla creme fraiche. For the main course, you can have your pick of the flat-iron steak sandwich, ricotta gnocchi, the ikebana sushi platter or NoMI's fresh catch of the day. Desserts include seasonal sorbets, peaches-and-cream ice cream bars and chocolate-raspberry savarin. If a $25 lunch is still enough to make you wince, try the asparagus soup a la carte for $12.

Arrowhead Restaurant and Bar
It's one thing to offer a seasonal asparagus dish, but its entirely another to give the perennial plant its very own menu. That's exactly what Arrowhead has in store for its first annual Asparagus Fest. Throughout the month of May, guests will have the chance to sample a lineup of unique dishes like asparagus and shrimp risotto, polenta and gruyere timbale with asparagus-morel sauce and asparagus soup with white truffle crouton. You can also get the stuff coated in tempura with bearnaise sauce or wrapped in prosciutto. For the main course, Arrowhead is featuring a pork tenderloin and asparagus roulade, served with potato-asparagus hash and apple cider reduction sauce, along with an Alaskan halibut and asparagus-mushroom ragout in red wine sauce. Prices range from $4-$21.

Nettelhorst French Market
If you like your asparagus in the raw, or are just looking to save some dough by preparing it yourself, then hike it over to the French Market. This little spot, located in the Nettelhorst School parking lot, brings together an eclectic bunch of farmers, bakers, fromaggiers, florists and other artisans every Saturday (through November 1) from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. But before you get too caught up in nibbling on scones, coconut macaroons and giant chocolate cupcakes, pay a visit to the produce guy. Not only will he keep you on the right track, he'll sell you a full bundle of the freshest white or green stalks in the city for about $4.

Farmerie 58
When it comes to seasonal ingredients, it only makes sense for a farm-focused restaurant to already be a step above the rest. So we weren't surprised when we noticed an asparagus soup on Farmerie 58's new spring menu, and we weren't disappointed, either. The $8 dish, served with sauteed spring peas and creme fraiche, makes for the perfect perennial appetizer or figure-friendly meal. We recommend following up with something light, like the restaurant's seafood salad, a mix of scallops, crab, shrimp, mixed greens and honey-lime dressing, $12.

Carnivale is all about asparagus this month, and to prove it, the restaurant will feature the green in a special salad from Monday, May 18-Sunday, May 24. In addition to the main ingredient, the farm-fresh dish will bring together jonah crab and green-garlic jalapeno dressing, $12. Other farm-inspired dishes include a white gazpacho (marcona almonds, blue marble yogurt, grapes, extra virgin olive oil), wild salmon (roasted mushrooms, leeks, aji rocoto cream) and panna cotta (yogurt lemon custard, quince, cheese empanada), $7-$28.

Tapas Valencia
This recently opened South Loop spot boasts a brand-new lunch menu, complete with our favorite seasonal spear. The menu, featuring salads, entrees and hot and cold tapas, makes good use of asparagus in its pisto manchego with sauteed vegetables, $5.25. But we think the green really makes a statement in the esparragos con salmon, crisp asparagus spears wrapped in smoked salmon and served on dill sour cream toast points with mixed baby greens, $9.25.

Asparagus is always in vogue at this Japanese restaurant, where it makes appearances in a number of signature maki rolls like the regionally inspired Chicago Bulls and the student-friendly UIC. The first showcases asparagus in a spicy mix of tuna, fresh yellowtail, sliced jalapeno, avocado and tobiko, $15. The second, designed with the college crowd in mind, brings together spicy tuna, crab, avocado and asparagus, and then deep-fries it for an extra crunch, $10. There's also a little something simple here for the vegetarians with the broiled asparagus roll, $4. But our personal favorite is the asparagus beef; the pan-fried perennial gets wrapped in a slice of beef and served with Kohan's sweet teriyaki sauce, $8.

This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo: Chilled asparagus soup, courtesy of NoMI.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Where to Shop for Passover Seder: Hosting the family this year? Stock up at these Chicago kosher-friendly spots.

It's crunch-time. Passover is just days away, and you're anxiously waiting to play gracious host to the entire family. You've stocked up on matzo, you've memorized your bubbe's brisket recipe, you've busted out the good china and you've even gone through the trouble of shining each delicate piece. In your intoxicating cleaning frenzy, you realize you forgot a couple of key ingredients (not to mention that you already drank most of that wine you bought specifically for seder). Luckily, these nearby shops have plenty of Passover goods to save your tokhes.

Stock up on the wine at Hungarian Kosher Foods
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better selection of kosher wines anywhere in the nation. This 25,000 square-foot specialty market does, after all, stock the largest inventory of the stuff (bottles can also be purchased online at If you're strapped for time, Hungarian Kosher Foods also serves as a great one-stop shop with its abundance of kosher meats, fish, produce, pastries and candies. But let's get back to the wine; in honor of Passover, the shop is offering a huge sale on over 60 bottles (some even as low as $4.99) from a wide spectrum of regions including Israel, Chile, France, Spain, Hungary, Argentina, California, Australia and New York.

Grab a quick bite at Good Morgan Fish
This kosher fish market, located in Rogers Park, has been a staple in Chicago's Jewish community for more than 40 years (it wasn't always Good Morgan, but it was always about fish). The popular pick here is whitefish, which is offered in a variety of preparations including grilled, fried and fresh. You'll also find plenty of trout, chub, cod, salmon and snapper. Good Morgan also offers a selection of kosher soups, sandwiches and salads, so you can grab a quick bite during your Passover shopping spree.

Find the best brisket at Ebner's Kosher Meat Market
Also located in Rogers Park is Ebner's Kosher Meat Market. The place has been around since 1966, which may explain why most of the customers here are on a first-name basis with Ebner's staff. But don't let the old timers throw you off, newcomers are just as welcome and it won't take long for the jovial employees to warm up. In fact, buying meat from Ebner's may just be a guise for some quality socializing, though the product is just as good as its suppliers, so stock up before you get too carried away in conversation.

Don't skip out on the sweet stuff at Illinois Nut & Candy
If Hungarian Kosher Foods is the Midwest's Mecca for wine, then Illinois Nut & Candy is its kosher-candy counterpart. The shop offers over 45 different varieties of Passover candy samplers, including chocolates, mint bark, chocolate rum raisins, peppermint patties and ju ju fruits. If you're looking for something truly unique, check out the "perfect Passover plate" (a large round disc designed to look like a traditional Passover plate), made entirely of chocolate. The staff recommends using it as a sweet centerpiece, in which case, we recommend getting two (trust us, the temptation is enough to make you meshuge). Note: Illinois Nut & Candy will be closed April 8-18 in honor of the holiday, so get there soon.

Find a floral centerpiece at Angel Gardens Florist
If you'd rather play it safe and not be at risk of devouring your own centerpiece, we recommend a good old-fashioned floral arrangement. This place specializes in bouquets for just about every occasion you can possibly fathom, and Passover is right at the top of that list. Angel Gardens traditional arrangements include everything from a vibrant yellow Sunshine Express bouquet neatly displayed in a simple clear vase, to the more colorful (think pinks, lavenders and whites) Touch of Butterflies, thoughtfully bunched in a rustic wicker basket. Simple potted displays like the White Garden (which, incidentally, is mostly green) make for humble centerpieces, while more extravagant arrangements like the Incredible Iris (standing firmly in a clear tall vase) are sure to spark a reaction from your guests (though probably not as much as a chocolate plate would).

Take it easy with Fox & Obel's catering menu
Fox & Obel's Passover catering menu will be available from April 6-12 and includes traditional dinner choices like matzo ball soup ($8 per quart) and gefilte fish with fresh beet and horseradish puree ($28 per half-dozen). Desserts offer plenty of Passover-friendly sweets like flourless chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate glaze ($20 serves 8-10) and chocolate-dipped strawberries ($18 per half-dozen). Complete Passover dinners ($200 for 6, $400 for 12) including matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, apple cider-braised beef brisket, whole rotisserie chicken, charoset, apple-walnut matzo kugel and steamed asparagus with lemon zest and pine nuts will also be available. Ritual seder plates (included in the complete dinner) with maror (grated fresh horseradish), chazeret (lettuce) charoset (made with honey, apples, walnuts, raisins and red wine), karpas (parsley), z'roa (roasted lamb shank bone) and beitzah (hardboiled egg) can be purchased a la carte for $12.


This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo courtesy of Illinois Nut & Candy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Easter Dessert Recipes: Check out these favorite holiday recipes from local pastry chefs.

Rhubarb Almond Crumble
Toni Roberts, C-House
When Executive Pastry Chef Toni Roberts thinks of spring, she thinks of rhubarb. Growing up, the succulent stalks were a staple on her family's Easter table. She loves this recipe because it's simple to prepare and makes the perfect dessert for welcoming the season. Roberts notes that the Moscato wine can be left out of the recipe, but says that it really enhances the flavor of the rhubarb. And, the rest of the bottle can be an excellent accompaniment to enjoy as a nice treat with the finished crumble.

2 1/2 lbs rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice (zest and reserve for crumble)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup Moscato

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine rhubarb, sugars, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and Moscato. Pour over rhubarb mixture and combine.

4. Fill either a 9” x 9” pan or ramekins with the filling. If using ramekins, leave an inch of space between the filling and the rim.

1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup (3 oz) sliced almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
8 oz cold butter, cubed
1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low until the butter is smaller than peas.

2. Sprinkle generously over the top of the rhubarb filling. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the tops are golden brown, 30-45 minutes, depending on pan or ramekins used.

3. Allow to cool a bit. Serve with vanilla or almond ice cream.

Brown Butter Carrot Cake
Stephanie Prida, one sixtyblue
When it comes to Easter Sunday, pastry chef Stephanie Prida of one sixtyblue likes to stick with the classics. "This one is a little more special," says Prida of her indulgent dessert, "because it incorporates brown butter and it gives the cake a more toasty flavor." She notes that the brown butter adds a moist consistency, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill carrot cake. And of course, it wouldn't be carrot cake without the classic cream-cheese frosting. If you're not up to the challenge, you can grab a $7 slice of the stuff during one sixtyblue's Easter brunch.

1/2 pound butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp B. Powder
1 tsp B. soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla paste
2 cup carrots, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Brown butter over low heat and strain. Next, sift the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

2. In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment combine the sugars, add eggs and vanilla one at a time. Add sifted dry ingredients. Slowly stream in brown butter. Add grated carrots last.

3. Bake in mini loaf pans for 15 minutes.

115 grams butter 225 grams powdered sugar 4 grams vanilla extract 1 vanilla bean 170 grams cream cheese

1. Cream butter and vanilla bean.

2. Add sifted powder sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and cream cheese and beat until mixture is white and fluffy (no cream cheese lumps).

Lavender Scented Panna Cotta
Anna Jarosz, Birch River Grill
You won't need to worry about preheating or over-baking anything with Anna Jarosz's sweet Easter treat. The Birch River Grill pastry chef welcomes spring to the suburbs with fresh lavender and citrus elements, while adding a light sweetness and a clean, refreshing bite to the dessert.

2 sheets gelatin
1 tsp. dried lavender flower
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Bloom gelatin. Steep the rest of the ingredients, except buttermilk, together for half an hour.

2. Strain all ingredients from step 2. Add gelatin. Add buttermilk and whisk together

3. Place in ramekin and let set in cooler for 1-2 hours.

1/4 cup apricot puree
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 sheet gelatin

1. Bloom gelatin. In a sauce pot heat the other ingredients. Add steps 1 and 2 all together.

2. Spoon over cooled panna cotta and place in cooler to set.

Hawaiian Sweet Potato & Golden Beet Tart with Creme Fraiche
Carol Wallack and Gerardo Villagomez, sola
Pastry novices may tremble in their non-slip kitchen-safe shoes over this one, but any skilled hand will appreciate the complexity of this Easter treat, created by sola executive chef and owner Carol Wallack and pastry chef Gerardo Villagomez. "I'm always the one who steers towards the savory dessert," says Wallack. And this alternative is no exception with its unique combination of sweet potatoes, golden beets and miso. "I absolutely love it. The beets are local and sweet from Werp Farms in Michigan. They are slow roasted and then candied a little bit more. We use Hawaiian sweet potatoes a lot here at sola and they are the perfect accent. Gerardo makes the creme fraiche in house, and folds in miso for a slightly savory finish."

16 oz. each, Hawaiian sweet potatoes, and golden beets, 1/4-inch dice

For each vegetable:
1 quart water
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick of lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves

1. Combine water, sugar, vanilla bean, salt, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in two separate pots. Boil sweet potatoes and beets separately in mixtures until tender (about 10 minutes each). Drain both, saving liquid from beets. Let vegetables rest in refrigerator for 24 hours.

10 oz cream
5 oz buttermilk
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 oz white miso

1. Pour cream and buttermilk into a container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 48 hours. Whisk, and then cool.

2. Once cooled, whip together with ginger powder, sugar, vanilla and white miso.

1 cup liquid from the beet confit
2 oz. white miso

1. Boil together and reduce by half.

1.4 oz butter, softened
1.6 oz powdered sugar
1.7 oz honey
1.7 oz almond flour
1 oz egg whites
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1. Combine butter, powdered sugar, and honey with a paddle in the mixer. Add whites. Incorporate the dry ingredients.

2. Roll out dough, cut out circles. Bake flat on a silpat until golden, about 12-15 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove from oven, wait about 20 seconds and lift to lay over a small bowl to get a formed shape of the bowl. Let cool.

3. To plate: put a spoon of miso creme fraiche inside the cookie bowl. Spoon beets and sweet potatoes in and add another spoon of the creme fraiche on top. Ladle a spoonful of sauce onto plate around the "bowl." Garnish with a piece of mint and crushed almonds.

Hot Cross Buns
Jove Hubbard, David Burke's Primehouse
Executive pastry chef Jove Hubbard finds his favorite Easter treat in family tradition. "My mother always makes these on Easter," says Hubbard. "She loves to bake, and this reminds me of growing up."

1 cup warm milk (105°–115°F.)
two 1/4-ounce packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 tsp superfine granulated sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. In a small bowl stir together milk, yeast, and 1 tsp granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.

2. In a large bowl sift together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cut butter into bits and with your fingertips or a pastry blender, blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Lightly beat 1 whole egg with egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixture, apricots, raisins, and zests. Stir mixture until a dough is formed.

4. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

5. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

6. Butter 2 large baking sheets. On a floured surface with floured hands, knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 400°F. While buns are rising, lightly beat remaining egg with superfine sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush buns with egg glaze. Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

8. Mix the lemon juice and powdered sugar. Place in a piping bag and pipe crosses onto the buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This article was first published on Centerstage.

Elegance on an Electric Burner

I have a tendency of forgetting the usuals-- things like names, birthdays and anniversaries. Things everybody forgets from time to time. But it's become a real issue since I've been pregnant and my poor husband gets the worst of it. It's now as bad as forgetting my next sentence, what I did last weekend or having the gas turned on in our new apartment.

We managed to endure an entire month in this place without cooking gas, which, at least for my chef-in-training husband, was no easy feat. Personally, I was delighted with the challenge of preparing all my meals without the convenience of heat. But you can only eat so many raw vegetables before you get the urge to kill someone with a carrot. So after about a week, I resorted to a tiny electric burner.

Now we were living luxuriously on pastas, boiled potatoes and soups. Chad still wasn't pleased. He had just started his baking class and reminded me every day just how helpful it would be if he could use the oven. After a few more weeks of blatant reminders and bland foods, I made amends. First, I hassled the folks at the gas company until they finally approved me for gas (I still don't understand why this is such a grueling process-- seriously people, it's cooking gas!) and then I whipped up a batch of no-bake cookies on that itty bitty electric burner for my patient hubby.

Now I realize that we're still technically newlyweds, but not once have I impressed my husband in the kitchen. Like I've said before, I'm barely even allowed in that room when he's home. And when I mentioned the term "no-bake" cookies, he looked utterly confused and severely skeptical. But after one bite (OK, maybe it was more like three), he was a believer-- not in my cooking abilities, mind you, but in this seemingly ridiculous dessert recipe. Oh, and he never brought up the gas issue again.

No-bake cookie recipe
Courtesy of


* 2 cups white sugar
* 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/2 cup margarine
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 pinch salt
* 3 cups quick cooking oats
* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, margarine, milk, and salt to a rapid boil for 1 minute.
2. Add quick cooking oats, peanut butter, and vanilla; mix well.
3. Working quickly, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper, and let cool.

***Note: I recommend using a candy thermometer until it reaches 210/120, as the boil time on these cookies means everything. Too long and you've got dry crumbles, not long enough and you end up with a big pile of chocolate goop.

This article was first published on
Photo: flickr / fatalysis

Eat Your Words: It's not a joke; you really can consume the creations at the Edible Books Festival.

As a culture, we're obsessed with food—preparing it, sharing it, smelling it and most of all, eating it. French gastronome and author Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) put it best in his celebrated book, The Physiology of Taste, when he wrote, "Gourmandise is an impassioned, rational and habitual preference for all objects that flatter the sense of taste." And sometimes, those objects just happen to be books.

But we're not talking about your average paperback or hardcover bestsellers here. No, the objects in question are showcased annually at the International Edible Books Festival and are handmade from edible mediums like seaweed, filo dough, cake, spam, hot dogs, fondant and rice paper. And with today's innovative culinary techniques and resources like edible ink and play-dough, this palate-pleasing literature is looking (and tasting) better than ever.

The festival has become a worldwide trend thanks to its founders, librarian Judith A. Hoffberg and artist Beatrice Coron. The first International Edible Books Festival was held in 2000 and the event has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, reaching numerous countries. To date, these include Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia and, of course, the United States of America, where our very own Columbia College will host its 10th Annual Edible Books fest this year on Wednesday, April 1. The "foolish" date isn't just a coincidence, either; it happens to be the birthday of Brillat-Savarin.

This year's festival will feature work from culinary artists, literature-loving chefs and plenty of bibliophiles. The two-hour event will take place at the Columbia College Library (600 S. Michigan, third floor) with book judging at 6 p.m., followed by book eating at 7 p.m. Everyone in the community is invited to participate, bearing in mind one golden rule: the artwork must be edible and book-related (registration deadline is Friday, March 27).

If you're at a loss for words (pun intended), check out the photo gallery on the International Edible Books Festival website, where you'll find plenty of inspirational pieces from past events. Some of our favorites include literary puns like the "Tequila Mockingbird," portraying a faux dead bird floating in a glass of tequila, and the more literal "Book of Pi," featuring a rectangular slab of pie with number cutouts in its crust.

Perhaps eating a book isn't quite what the French gourmand had in mind when he constructed his own popular work on good eating. But surely his sense of taste would've been at least mildly flattered by a palm-size chapbook made from fresh snap peas, or a crunchy graham-cracker novel bound together by strings of bright red licorice. And if we truly are what we eat, according to Brillat-Savarin, then what better to be than a literary work of art?

If you're interested in participating as a bookmaker, you can register at book& or by calling (312) 369-6630. Entries must be dropped off on the day of the event between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Columbia College Library. Admission is $10 per person (free for those who enter an edible book) and $5 for Friends of the Library. Tickets are available at the door (cash and check only); all proceeds will benefit the college's Center for Book and Paper Arts' Equipment Fund.

This article was first published on Centerstage.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kringle love

As a chef-in-training, it takes a lot to please my husband's palate. He comes home from culinary school each day with a newfound appreciation of some peculiar French cooking method that I'm pretty sure isn't even practiced in France anymore. Dining out together has become more of an educational session than a pleasurable date, and there is always a dish that would've been perfect "if they'd just added a little salt." Nothing is ever, ever, spot on.

Unlike me, however, he's usually a little more forgiving with pastries. Perhaps it has something to do with baking being just a mere elective in his culinary curriculum. Whatever it is, I know that I can always make him smile with just the right amount of sugar (pun intended). And just last week I discovered a dessert that nearly burst his pastry lovin' heart with joy. Danish kringles.

Little did I know that he'd express such excitement when the FedEx man dropped off a pizza-sized box with the words "Racine Danish Kringle" printed on top. He ran upstairs, tore off the packaging and dove right in. In fact, he was in such a rush to taste the delicate cherry-filled pastry, that I don't even think he noticed its festive heart-shape, or the miniature box of Valentine chocolates that he immediately flung to the side.

After finishing half of the kringle, he explained that its one of his all-time favorite pastries. Apparently it had been a long while since he'd eaten one. Dessert diva that I am, the love-inspired treat was admittedly my first kringle experience. Aside from its perfectly flaky dough, my favorite part was the pale pink icing (more for its color than flavor). The cherry filling was just enough to satisfy a sugar craving without being overtly sweet, and the filling to dough ratio couldn't have been better (no sticky stuff oozing out the sides with this one). I was happy to learn that kringles can be refrozen and enjoyed again later, but quickly realized that, at least in this household, they are to be enjoyed immediately.

This article was first published on

Gluten-free goodies: These Chicago-area spots go against the grain by providing gluten-free fare.

Today, going gluten-free is as much a health trend for fitness junkies as it is a necessity for those with wheat allergies and Celiac Disease. But cutting gluten from your diet isn't easy when the bulk of our foods are made with wheat, rye, barley and oats. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to your favorite gluten-fueled foods, and we've got a list of the spots that serve them.

World-renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson offers a special C-Bar menu that can be prepared gluten-free upon request. The seafood menu includes dishes like octopus with blood orange and pancetta, cobia with preserved mushroom and tuna with pine nuts and toasted rice vinaigrette. You can also choose from a selection of shrimp, oysters, clams and mussels with the fanciful selection of C-House Towers, or keep it simple with a plate of chilled lobster.

Deerfields Bakery
Baking without gluten is a matter of taste at Deerfields Bakery. The suburban sweet shop offers an extensive list of cookies, cakes and brownies for those in search of a serious sugar fix. You'll find three different categories of cookies here, including one for Chips (chocolate chips), one for Dream cookies and another for Buttons. The Buttons (including sugar, lemon, ginger and snickers) are the most basic cookie and have a somewhat chewy texture, while the Dreams have a brownie-like consistency and are loaded with everything your little pastry-lovin' heart could possibly desire. As for the Chips, well, Deerfields has found seven different ways to make them shine by pairing them with ingredients like tart cherries, dried cranberries, gluten-free oats, pecans and quinoa. For those without a sweet tooth, the bakery offers rice bran artisan rolls.

Adobo Grill
Craving Mexican? Head over to Adobo Grill in Wicker Park, where the only "special request" you'll need to make is for salt on the rim on your margarita glass. The restaurant's gluten-free menu features favorites like fresh guacamole (prepared tableside and served with jicama chips), chicken tamales steamed and served in a corn husk and cheese-stuffed quesadillas. For dinner, try the butternut squash and wild mushroom enchiladas with green mole or the popular chipotle-glazed grilled chicken. For dessert, we recommend another round from Adobo's intoxicating drink list, but if you've got a hankering for something sweet, try the gluten-free vanilla flan or chocolate tamales.

Da Luciano
Gluten-free Italian food...could it be true? Better yet, could it be good? At this family-owned and operated River Grove restaurant, the answer is yes, on both counts. After discovering that four of her children had Celiac Disease (gluten-intolerance), founder Rosalia Libreri found a way to craft an entire menu to meet the standards of the American Celiac Disease Alliance. Thanks to Libreri, the restaurant now offers a separate gluten-free menu with authentic pasta dishes like lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and puttanesca with capers, olives and anchovies. Da Luciano's also offers a selection of celiac-safe personal pizzas and appetizers like baked clams, bruschetta and garlic bread. Desserts include classic choices like homemade cannolis, tiramisu and spumoni ice cream.

This 1940s-themed dinner club comes complete with jazz music, vintage prints, sleek circular banquettes and an entire gluten-free menu. Sandwiches like the Portobello mushroom with goat cheese, peppercorn tenderloin steak and turkey burger are all served on gluten-free buns, while entrees include meaty dishes like lamb chops, prime rib and New York strip. You can even wash it all down with gluten-free Redbridge beer or Chopin vodka. If you've still got room, try the flourless chocolate cake or hot fudge peanut sundae.

Weber Grill
Weber Grill claims that "great grilled food can also be gluten-free," and the restaurant proves it with dishes like the black and blue burger, Midwestern-style barbecue pork ribs and New York strip. The special menu also highlights filling side dishes like baked or mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, au gratin and fire-roasted corn on the cob. And the atmosphere is just as inspiring as the menu with a ringside view of the restaurant's open kitchen, where you can watch a team of chefs prepare your meal on authentic Weber kettles.

David Burke's PrimehouseLinkThis downtown restaurant offers a slew of gluten-free items, but it's the Kobe beef sashimi that catches all eyes and appetites. The thin slice of beef is served sashimi-style on a Himalayan pink salt tile (the same tiles used in the restaurant's in-house dry aging room) with mushroom chips and truffle mayonnaise. Typically, the dish is served with a side of toast, but gluten-sensitive guests can request a no-toast option or substitute a small veggie side. For dessert, choose from executive pastry chef Jove T. Hubbard's unique selection of ice cream and sorbet flavors like Angry Mango, bubble gum cotton candy, bourbon and pink grapefruit.

This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo: Kumamoto with honeydew granite at C-House.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Peanut butter cookies for pregnant ladies

Since I've been pregnant, eating has become one of the dullest aspects of my day. Mornings and afternoons are filled with bowls of dry Cheerios and plates of saltine crackers. Evenings are spent as far away as possible from the potent aromas of my husband's cooking in our minuscule kitchen.

Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, smells strong. And none of it smells good.

I'm longing for the second trimester, as that's supposedly the magical moment when the appetite for tasteful foods returns and bursts of energy suddenly make you want to run in the streets singing victory. Although running isn't recommended for pregnant ladies. Nor is strutting about in heels (as you can see, it's not just my meals that have lost their pizzazz, but my wardrobe is suffering as well).

There are, however, still a few pleasures left in my otherwise drab diet. You see, while I've lost my appetite for all that is savory and nutritious, I've gained quite the penchant for peanut butter cookies. But it's not as much of a random pregnancy craving, as it is an old-school comfort food. And if there's anything pregnant ladies need, it's comfort. Fortunately that comfort is just down the street from my apartment at Metropolis Coffee Company and it only costs $1.75.

This article was first published on
Photo: WayOutTexas / flickr.

Chicago restaurant week 2009

Chicago's second annual Restaurant Week is coming up soon (February 20-27), which means 130 top restaurants in the city will be providing special prix-fixe menus at a reduced price ($22 for lunch and $32 for dinner). Since you have just seven days to feast, it's vital to pick the spots with the sweetest deals. And it's just as crucial to get your reservations in before herds of famished foodies take over. We recommend trying these restaurants first.

It's all about dinnertime at Dine, where you can choose between the restaurant's signature "not so much of a wedge" salad or spice-rubbed prime tenderloin with golden beet vinaigrette and brussel sprout-horseradish salad. And that's just the first course. For entrees, Dine is offering a choice of garlic-rubbed bone-in ribeye with creamed spinach or a slow-dried Rummo pasta with chili flakes, pan-roasted grape tomatoes and baby arugula. For dessert, try the ricotta cheesecake with Bing cherry-zinfandel gelato, seasonal creme brulee with crisp sugar crust or a daily selection of ice cream and sorbet.

Park Grill
After you've spent the day gallivanting around Millennium Park, you can fill up at the popular Park Grill for lunch or dinner. The early menu features dishes like roasted pepper and fennel soup, crisp striped bass, chicken pot pie and lemon thyme panna cotta for dessert. Head over later in the evening and you'll be graced with choices like Kampachi crudo with pickled radishes and hand-cut pappardelle pasta with slow-cooked rabbi ragout.

Farmerie 58
This brand-new restaurant didn't waste any time before diving in with the big boys. And it's holding its own with plenty of prix-fixe choices for both lunch and dinner. During lunch, you can begin with your pick of chopped house salad, arugula salad, butternut squash veloute or lobster bisque. The second course boasts plenty of meaty selections with a bistro burger, amish chicken sandwich with wilted spinach-parmesan fondue, pan-roasted salmon BLT and wild boar pasta with basil and pecorino cheese. If you've managed to save room for dessert, Farmerie 58 is offering a sweet array of chocolate tarts, white chocolate bread pudding and ginger creme brulee. Dinner brings out many of the same sweet selections, with the addition of crab saffron fondue, pork chops with cranberry stuffing, short ribs with veggies and country-fried eggplant with goat cheese and lemon-herb salad.

Restaurant Week is the perfect time to take advantage of the city's most posh spots, like NoMI in the Park Hyatt hotel. The restaurant is offering a decadent lunch menu with soup selections like pumpkin-coconut and chicken-apple, entrees like gnocchi with brown butter and black trumpets, crab cakes with whole grain mustard and fennel and desserts like chocolate-caramel brownie macaroons, carrot cake with maple-orange sauce and jam-filled pistachio nougat tarts.

David Burke's Primehouse
Head downtown to this popular steakhouse and you won't be sorry. The lunch special includes appetizers like Kobe beef sashimi and surf and turf dumplings. Entrees feature hearty selections with chicken, salmon and steak, including the restaurant's signature 40-day dray aged steak burger. David Burke's dinner menu lists many of the same choices, with the addition of a bone-in filet mignon and the popular "angry lobster."

Let this Latin-fueled restaurant lead the way with its bounty of festive choices. To start, choose from soup with pork, chiles and hominy, empanadas with spinach, butternut squash and Parmesan cheese or arugula salad with blood orange, olives and Manchego cheese. Entrees include beef tenderloin with peppers, Arctic char with black bean puree and pinon with plantains, vegetable picadillo and mozzarella. Bring it all to a sweet finish with plantain bread pudding, coconut flan or seasonal housemade ice cream. And since you're saving money on the meal, go ahead and splurge on one of the restaurant's signature raspberry mojitos.

one sixtyblue
one sixtyblue is celebrating all the foodie action with a dinner-only menu, featuring a number of appetizer, entrée and dessert choices. To start, choose from leek gnocchi, bibb lettuce salad or house-cured king salmon and follow up with a selection of free-range chicken breast, blue crab ravioli, hanger steak or winter vegetable tagine. Desserts selections showcase the restaurants sweet skills with choices like chocolate panna cotta, sticky toffee date cake and seasonal sorbet with vanilla bean shortbread.

For a list of all participating restaurants, and to make reservations, visit the Restaurant Week website.

This article was first published on Centerstage.