Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Colony earns $25k Grant and Announces World Premiere at The Victory Gardens Biograph Studio Theater

“This is a turning point for The New Colony,” Associate Artistic Director Evan Linder told the company at last night’s meeting. “Not only can we pay for the rest of our season, but our design budgets can finally be fully funded.” Everything changed for The New Colony this previous Tuesday, December 16th, when they received a call from Chase Bank.

The New Colony had spent the last ten days competing in the social media grant program Chasegiving. Campaigning for votes over Facebook, the top 100 charities with the most votes would be awarded $25,000 from Chase and entry into Round 2. Just hours before the call came, Artistic Director Andrew Hobgood and Executive Director Gary Tiedemann had been making even further cuts to the company’s budget. “This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” said Hobgood. “All of our production budgets have suffered from the financial constraints inherent in a company’s start-up years. Finally, our designers get to really show us what they can do. And there’s no better show for which we should amp up our production budgets than 11:11.”

At the same time that the company was cutting budgets and running a campaign for Chasegiving, The New Colony was also in the final leg of talks to produce 11:11, written by Tara Sissom and FRAT’s Evan Linder, at the new Victory Gardens Biograph Studio Theater. “Victory Gardens is the Godfather of theatrical world premieres in Chicago,” commented Hobgood. “I had always hoped for a New Colony show to open at The Biograph, but to have this opportunity arrive in only our second season is mind-blowing.”

11:11 tells the story of the first day at Camp Methuselah Pines and the team of young, Christian camp counselors who unknowingly drug themselves. As the evening unravels, secrets are shared, temptations explored, and a group of friends realize they don't have the same understanding of the same God. Inspired by the experiences of the playwrights and ensemble, 11:11 asks an age-old question of a new generation: why are we willing to fight for something we cannot see or define? Eat s'mores, make 'God's Eyes' and feel the infectious joy of summer camp during February in Chicago.

“Honestly, Chasegiving and 11:11 at the Biograph are the perfect way to end an already incredible year for The New Colony,” Linder pointed out at the company meeting.

11:11 is directed by Meg Johns, Written by Evan Linder and Tara Sissom, Produced by Samuel Snowden and Sponsored in part by Victory Gardens’ Fresh Squeezed. Featuring Caitlin Chuckta, Tim Cunningham, Sarah Gitenstein, Evan Linder, Wes Needham, Whit Nelson, Tara Sissom, Kevin Stangler and Maari Suorsa.

11:11 premieres on Monday, February 8 with an additional Press Opening Thursday, February 11th at 8:00PM. 11:11 will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00PM at The Victory Gardens Biograph Studio Theater through March 13.

For more information visit The New Colony at or call (773) 413-0862.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Award-Winning Crowne Plaza Rebrands to a Doubletree by Hilton

Committed to providing their valued customers with an excellent hotel experience, the Crowne Plaza Chicago - North Shore (510 E. Route 83, Mundelein; 847-970-6900) has rebranded to a Doubletree by Hilton.

Rebranding supports the hotel ownership's quest to continually seek new opportunities to enhance their award-winning levels of service. The hotel was ranked in the top 10% of Crowne Plazas located throughout North America. The hotel is also home to the popular and critically-acclaimed Pan-Asian restaurant and lounge, Karma.

All 183 guests rooms have received upgrades such as new Serta Pillow Top Mattresses, Sweet Dreams Bedding Down Comforters with Duvet Covers, Wolfgang Puck coffee service, and Neutrogena Body and Bath products. The hotel's fitness center has been completely renovated and new state-of-the-art Precor fitness equipment has been installed. Last but not least, the Hilton Doubletree's signature cookie, Walnut Chocolate Chip, will be a warm and welcoming addition at each guests' check-in.

The hotel's ownership and on-site team remains the same, dedicated to ensuring a quality hotel experience you can rely on. They welcome the opportunity to talk with you about the many new benefits the rebranding provides. Please contact Tim Herzog, General Manager, or the Director of Sales, Lesley Boyer, at 847.949.5100, or visit for a tour at 510 E. IL Route 83, Mundelein, IL 60060. Follow the hotel on Twitter here.

Local, Farm-Fresh Specials This Weekend from Glen Prairie

Have you made your weekend plans yet? Glen Ellyn's locavore haven Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd.; 630-613-1250) offers weekend specials using ingredients sourced from area farmers and ranchers. Chef Daniel Ovanin's creations are offered after 5 p.m. Dec. 18 and 19.

The specials include Grilled Center Cut Pork Chop, served with apple compote with caramelized onion and fennel, whipped potatoes and green beans ($20), and Seared Sea Scallops, served with carrot and ginger puree, confit fingerling potatoes and caramelized beets ($24).

Reservations are recommended. For more information, call (630) 613-1250 or visit Follow Glen Prairie on Twitter: @GlenPrairie.

Birch River Grill's Weekly Prix Fixe Menu

Where can you get a three-course prix fixe meal for less than $25? Birch River Grill in Arlington Heights (75 W. Algonquin Rd.; 847-427-4242), that's where. Offered after 5 p.m. now through Wednesday, Dec. 23, treat yourself to three courses for just $22, crafted by executive chef John Ayaleanos.

The meal kicks off with a choice of appetizers: Red Grape and Pecan Salad, mixed greens, apple cider vinaigrette, toasted pecans, red grapes and crumbled bleu cheese, or Granny Apple & Onion Soup, melted Wisconsin provolone and Swiss cheese crust, with baked apple crisps. Then, indulge in Rushing Waters Rainbow River Trout, with wild mushroom ragout, roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and lemon caper jus. Berry Sorbet is served with fresh berries for dessert.

It's the perfect dinner to enjoy after a day of last-minute Christmas shopping. Reservation are recommended, and can be made by calling (847) 427-4242 or visiting Follow Birch River Grill on Twitter: @BirchRiverGrill.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas at Karma

Head to Karma in Mundelein for your holiday gathering, and try the special Christmas dishes Dec. 24 and 25, offered during the restaurant’s regular hours. The appetizer special is Black Dragon Soup, shrimp shu mai with shiitake mushrooms, chives and roasted red peppers ($7). Enjoy the salad special, a Fresh Crab and Avocado Salad with curry vinaigrette ($11). Entrée features include Hoisin and Plum Glazed Rack of Lamb, crispy asparagus and an edamame cake ($28); Emperor’s Meal, wok seared scallops, shrimp, salmon and striped bass, presented with Forbidden rice and rainbow straw vegetables ($26); or Wok Seared Chili Crusted Tilapia over gingered purple potatoes and baby vegetables ($22). The regular menu is also available.

Celebrate the New Year with Karma’s special three-course menu, offered 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Dec; 31. For starters, enjoy Carrot Ginger Dressed Field Greens, followed by an intermezzo of Tangerine Sorbet. For the price of one of the following entrees, enjoy all three courses: Grilled Marinated Lamb Chops, purple plum chutney, anise sweet potatoes and wilted Swiss chard ($36); 24 oz. Porterhouse, Thai basil wasabi mashed potatoes, wok tossed Brussels sprouts and Shanghai sauce ($40); Fried Whole Fish with chilies and garlic, with sweet potato straws, over steamed baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and Napa cabbage ($32); or Five Spice Chicken, Jasmine rice, baby vegetables and crispy onions ($28). Karma’s regular menu is also available.

To make a reservation, call (847) 970-6900 or visit Follow Karma on Twitter: @KarmaMundelein.

Celebrate the Holidays at Glen Prairie

Christmas at Glen Prairie
Celebrate Christmas at Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250), which offers a special three-course prix fixe Christmas menu in addition to the restaurant’s regular menu, noon until 9 p.m. Dec. 24 and 25. The menu features Roasted Winter Squash and Chestnut Soup, Iowa Farmed Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus, baked potato and roasted carrots, and classic Red Velvet Cake. The Christmas meal is $30 for adults, and $14 for children 12 and under. Reservations are recommended.

New Year’s Eve
Ring in 2010 at Glen Prairie and enjoy the special New Year’s Eve menu 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Dec. 31. The three-course prix fixe meal is $36 and reservations are recommended.

Enjoy the appetizer, Baby Greens Salad, blood orange supremes, toasted hazelnuts, Mindoro bleu cheese and Champagne vinaigrette, Surf and Turf, seared sea scallops, braised Iowa farmed short ribs, confit fingerling potatoes, sautéed wild mushrooms and baby carrots, served with a glass of Champagne, and Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake, with chocolate ganache. The regular menu is also available.

Add an overnight stay at the adjacent Crowne Plaza Glen Ellyn-Lombard for a New Years Eve getaway for $69.00 plus tax. Call (630) 629-6000 to make a reservation. Follow Glen Prairie on Twitter: @GlenPrairie.

Photo: Getty Images

Deck the Halls at Dine

Deck the halls this Christmas at the West Loop's neighborhood spot Dine (733 W. Madison; 312-602-2100). Dine's Christmas dinner is a special $46 three-course prix fixe menu offered 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Dec. 25. Start with a Roasted Butternut Bisque with brioche crostini. Then choose between Arugula and Roasted Beets with pecorino Romano, hearts of palm and lemon vinaigrette, or Wild Mushroom and Watercress, puff shell and Malbec reduction vinaigrette. Enjoy the main dish of Herb Roasted Turkey, corn bread stuffing, sage pan sauce and choice of whipped potatoes or ginger sweet potatoes, or Pan Seared New York Strip, Cherve sorrel potato croquettes and raspberry demi. Enjoy Bread Pudding and banana brulee for dessert.

Spend New Year’s Eve at Dine with a four-course prix fixe menu for $56 offered 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Dec. 31. Start with either Caprese Salad, fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction and basil oil, or Mixed Greens and Roasted Pears, with orange supremes and mustard tarragon vinaigrette. The appetizer is Fennel and Lamb Lollipops, with julienne apples, celery root and Malbec vinaigrette. Entrees choices include Pan Seared Scallops and Short Ribs with roasted poblano noodles, chanterelle mushrooms and fingerling potatoes, or Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and veal demi. Dessert is Crème Caramel, served with fresh mixed berries.

To make a reservation, call (312) 602-2100 or visit Follow Dine on Twitter: @dinerestaurant.

Birch River Grill for the Holidays

Home for the holidays? Try Birch River Grill (75 W. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-427-4242) for the holidays. Celebrate Christmas Day with a family-friendly feast at the American restaurant, noon until 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 25, and enjoy a three-course menu for just $29.95 per person. Start with Yukon Gold Potato and Charred Leek Chowder with peppered bacon garnish. For the main course, enjoy 12 oz. Roast Prime Rib of Beef, horseradish cream, golden potato rosti and lemon broccoli crown. Dessert is a sweet treat with Triple Chocolate Mousse, milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate, with mango and cherry drizzle.

Younger family members can enjoy the Kid’s Menu, a three-course meal of Tricolor Tortilla Chips with cheese sauce dip; Sliced Turkey Breast with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans; and One Scoop Ice Cream Sundae. The kids menu is $12.95 for children ages 5-12, and complimentary for children under five.

Ring in 2010 at Birch River Grill, which features a special three-course menu for the celebration, offered from noon until 10 p.m. Dec. 31 and just $38.95. Begin with the appetizer, Lobster Bisque, crème fraiche and cilantro oil. Indulge in the Surf & Turf entrée, Filet Mignon, horseradish butter, sweet potato crush and roasted walnut butter Brussels sprouts; and Jumbo Shrimp, roasted fennel ragout, blood orange cream and micro greens with citrus. For dessert, enjoy Triple Chocolate Mousse, a sinfully sweet mix of milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate, topped with a mango and cherry drizzle. Raise your glass to toast the New Year with a complimentary glass of Champagne with the meal.

To make a reservation, call (847) 427-4242 or visit

Thursday, December 10, 2009

There's no place like Restaurant Michael for the holidays

Celebrate Christmas Eve at Restaurant Michael
Restaurant Michael features holiday favorites with a Christmas Eve Four-Course Prix Fixe Dinner featuring “greatest hits” selections from past years’ menus. Guests have a choice of four dishes for each course plus Michael’s signature Gougeres cheese puffs to start the meal and ending on a sweet note with Michael’s handmade Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles. The prix fixe Christmas Eve menu is $49 per person and children 10 and under are half-price with half size portions. The special menu runs 4:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24. Complimentary valet service is also available on Christmas Eve.

Restaurant Michael is closed Christmas Day, but open regular business hours for the remainder of the Christmas week. Restaurant Michael is also open regular business hours during the weeks of both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

New Year’s Eve at Restaurant Michael
Ring in the New Year at Restaurant Michael with four and five course menus. Early seatings are every 30 minutes between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 when guests enjoy a luxurious Four-Course Menu complete with an appetizer, fish, entrée and dessert course. Early seatings are $69 per guest and include a complimentary glass of Tattinger Champagne with dessert.

Later seatings are every 30 minutes after 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. and these guests enjoy a Five-Course Menu with an appetizer, fish, entrée and dessert course, plus a special truffle course. This five-course menu is $79 per guest and also includes a complimentary glass of Tattinger Champagne with dessert, plus party favors for the midnight celebration.

Dance 2009 away with Live Music at Restaurant Michael, featuring a two-piece band from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Complimentary valet service is also available.

Welcome 2010 New Year’s Day at Restaurant Michael
For the first time ever, celebrate New Year’s Day with Restaurant Michael, featuring a Three-Course Prix Fixe menu with a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert, plus a special course of Potato Truffle Soup to kick off the meal. Reservations are accepted beginning at 3 p.m. for an early dinner and continue every half hour until 7 p.m. The Jan. 1 menu is $49 per person. Children 10 and under are half-price with half size portions.

Having a Holiday at Home?
For guests choosing to celebrate the holidays at home, be sure to contact Restaurant Michael to prepare readymade items especially for those holiday gatherings without putting in the effort. Although guests may select any menu item, Chef Michael Lachowicz suggests the Whole, Brown Sugar Brined, Organic Ready-to-Roast Turkey ($3/lb.); Michael’s Fully Cooked, Prime Beef Short Ribs ($14/lb.); Ready-to-Roast Marinated Prime Chateaubriand of Beef Tenderloin with Sauce ($17/lb.); House Cured and Smoked Wild Alaskan King Salmon ($14/lb.); Country Style Pate or Duck Liver Mousse with garnishes ($9/lb.); Potato and Black Truffle Soup ($18/quart); Brown Sugar Roasted Butternut Squash Soup ($12/quart); Creamy Mashed Potatoes ($3/serving); Restaurant Michael’s Siganture Gougeres, warm cheese puffs ($12/dozen); or Grand Marnier Valrhona Chocolate Truffles ($1.25/piece).

All orders can be made by contacting Michael Lachowicz directly at (847) 404-6916 or All items are available the same day as ordered.

About Restaurant Michael
Restaurant Michael, located at 64 Green Bay Rd in Winnetka, Ill. 60093, serves classic haute cuisine in a contemporary presentation with French country flair. The restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. -10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. -11:30 p.m.; and Sunday 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. The restaurant is open for lunch Fridays 11a.m. -2 p.m. Complimentary parking is available. All major cards are accepted. For more information or to make a reservation, call (847) 441-3100 or visit

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New features at 2010 O'Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels, Mar. 5-7

The 48th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels has a new spring date, March 5-7, 2010, and a new location at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill.). This year’s show, presented by Denny Guest's South Oak Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep and produced by Championship Auto Shows, Inc., also promises several new car features. The show is open Friday, March 5, 3 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 6, 10 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 7, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Admission is $16 per person, $5 for children ages 6-12. Children five and under have no fee.

“We feel the show is more accessible with the move to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont,” says Pete Toundas, president of Championship Auto Shows. “The Rosemont venue provides us with more space that we are excited to utilize with new special exhibit features this year.”

Celebrating its 48th year in showcasing the country’s best custom and restored cars, trucks and motorcycles, the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels show is the oldest and largest enthusiast event in Chicago. The move to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center enables the show to continue to grow having 550,000 square feet of exhibition space. The show also has more exhibits, vendors, displays and events, including a live charity auction featuring auto and music memorabilia and showcases.

New Features at O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels
The O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels is a weekend to remember with new features like Drag City USA presenting a unique exhibit of nostalgic dragsters from The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla., including Garlits’ personal collection of “swamp rats;” Connie Kalitta’s “Bounty Hunter;” and Don Prudhomme’s 1970 Wynn’s Winder known as “The Snake” which some may remember as a Hot Wheels car. New this year is the Tuner Galleria featuring a collection of the finest European modern muscle and sport compacts paired with live entertainment. Formerly a show in itself, the popular Chevy VetteFest also is a new addition where the ultimate in original and restored Corvettes and Chevrolets compete for the Gold Spinner and Triple Crown Awards.

Back by Popular Demand
Returning this year are popular exhibits including Cycle Rama, featuring more than 100 of the nation’s best custom built choppers; and MotoRama, showcasing traditional rods and customs including cars from the well-known “VooDoo Larry.”

Celebrity appearances are always a popular feature at the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels. Joining the line up this year includes Chip Foose, legendary auto designer and star of “Overhaulin,” who appears at the show on Saturday, March 6. More auto industry celebrities are also expected at this year’s event.

Throughout the weekend, cars compete for the prestigious Legend Cup, sponsored by CleanTools. This award is given to the winning vehicle which best represents a combination of style, quality and craftsmanship during the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels weekend. The winner of the CleanTools Legend Cup is awarded a beautiful perennial cup and presented with a check for $5,000.

O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels also hopes to combine the worlds of auto and art with the Chicago Brushmasters Pinstripers Art Auction. This live charity auction features several hundred professionally decorated pieces from artists around the country. Proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House.

Committed to educating future generations about the automotive industry, the 5th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels Student Day is held Friday, March 5 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Participating students visit the show floor to see the vehicles and speak with sponsors and exhibitors before the event opens to the public, as well as earn complimentary access to all parts of the three-day show.

“Championship Auto Shows is committed to providing the best experience possible at the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels show,” says Toundas, “We are confident the new features this year will please our guests new and old, and the show will continue to be Chicago’s largest auto enthusiast event.”

About O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels
The 48th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels, presented by Denny Guest's South Oak Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep is produced by Championship Auto Shows, Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich. Part of the International Show Car Association custom car competition, the show takes place March 5-7, 2010 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill.). The event hours are Friday, 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Discount pre-sale tickets can be purchased at O’Reilly Auto Parts. For more information, visit

Monday, December 7, 2009

Karma's New Hot Treats and Prixe Fixe Menu

December is here, which means Karma (510 E. Route 83, Mundelein; 847-970-6900) offers signature Winter Warmers and a new Prix Fixe Menu.

Indulge in Karma’s signature Winter Warmers, hot liquor drinks, offered starting Dec. 1 for just $8.25 each. Try Karma Hot Cocoa, Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur, Peppermint Schnapps and hot chocolate; the Nutty Irishman, Frangelico Liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream and coffee; and Cream De Mint, white crème de menthe, Baileys Irish Cream and coffee.

Enjoy Karma’s $20 three-course prix fixe menus, offered after 5 p.m. daily for the month of December. Begin with a choice of two starters including Miso Soup, tofu and roasted nori; or Karma House Salad, crisp lettuce, Napa cabbage, cucumber, daikon and carrot ginger dressing. The entrée choices include Chinese Chopped Chicken Salad, mixed greens, Asian pear, daikon, cucumber, candied cashews, crispy wonton and yuzu and tamari vinaigrette; Asian BBQ Salmon, forbidden rice, sweet potato crisps, wok tossed spinach, Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms; or Jumbo Thai Vegetarian Spring Roll, carrots, Napa cabbage, marinated tofu and sweet chili sauce. For dessert, enjoy a Trio of Sorbet or Ice Cream with fresh berries.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (847) 970-6900 or visit

Three Courses for $20 at Glen Prairie

Throughout the month of December, Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250) offers a three course prix fixe meal available after 5 p.m. for just $20 per person. Crafted by executive chef Daniel Ovanin, these seasonal specials feature locally-sourced ingredients.

For the appetizer, try the Baby Wedge, applewood smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes, red onion and crumbled bleu cheese dressing. Entrée selections include a choice of either Simply Grilled Atlantic Salmon, shoestring potatoes, whole grain mustard, fennel and blood orange salad; or Maple Leaf Farms Duck Leg Confit, white bean cassoulet, smoked sausage and maple gastrique. Indulge in a choice of Daily Sorbet for dessert.

To make a reservation, call (630) 613-1250 or visit

Beat the Cold with Dine's Winter Warmers

Temperatures are dropping, which means Winter Warmers are back at the West Loop's neighborhood eatery Dine (733 W. Madison St., Chicago; 312-602-2100). Offered all winter long, these sweet treats, made with Intelligentsia Coffee, will warm you up while the weather outside is frightful.

Sip Irish Coffee, Jameson Irish Whiskey, sugar cubes, flavored whipped cream and green crème de menthe ($7); Keoke Coffee, Christian Brothers Brandy, Kahlua and dark crème de cacao ($7.25); Mint Lily, Peppermint Schnapps and Baileys Irish Cream ($7); Black Forest, Chambord, white crème de cacao, vodka and steam half n half with chocolate syrup ($7); Flavored Cappuccinos, Dine’s cappuccinos flavored with either raspberry (Chambord) or almond (Amaretto), topped with flavored heavy crème ($7.25); or Gaelic Coffee, Dewars Whisky with coffee, topped with flavored heavy crème ($6.50).

Try one of these coffee creations at your next Happy Hour. For more information or to make a reservation, call (312) 602-2100 or visit
Photo: ImageBank

Birch River Grill's December Dining Deals

Dining out in December gets delicious with Birch River Grill's (75 W. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-427-4242) new Winter Menu Items and December Prix Fixe Menu.

New Winter Selections
Appetizers include Deep Fried Cornmeal Dusted Pickle Chips, with buttermilk ranch dipping sauce ($5), and Poached Pear and Brie, cranberry vinaigrette, toasted walnuts, brie cheese, mixed greens and poached pear ($10). New sandwiches include Blackened and Grilled Mahi Mahi, cilantro lime mayo, shredded leaf lettuce, tomato and avocado ($10); or the Grilled Skirt Steak Sandwich, grilled red onion, horseradish sauce, beefsteak tomato and shredded lettuce ($12). The new entrees feature Smoked Turkey Pot Pie, peas, corn, thyme cream and smoked turkey breast chunks ($12); Linguine and Meatballs, marina la rustica, linguine pasta and Nonna Valenti’s meatballs ($12); Porcini Sachettis, crispy shiitake mushrooms, brown butter cream, chives and shaved grana padano ($13); and Seared Parmesan Crusted Wahoo, garlic butter glazed green beans and macaroni and cheese ($18).

Sweet selections include White Chocolate Cranberry Orange Cheesecake, cranberry orange coulis, orange zest and white chocolate shavings ($6), or Spiced Thai Chai Custard, with whipped cream, spiced candied pecans and cinnamon dust ($6).

These menu items are available now through March 2010.

December Prix Fixe Menu
Throughout the entire month of December, Birch River Grill offers a three-course prix fixe deal for just $20 per person, featuring seasonal, contemporary American fare, served in the restaurant’s rustic setting. Begin with a choice of appetizer, either BRG Salad, baby greens, shredded Michigan carrots, beefsteak tomato wedges and seedless cucumber slices; Granny Apple Onion Soup, paprika Parmesan croutons, Wisconsin Swiss and provolone cheese; or the Soup of the Day. Entrée selections include Grilled Ribeye Filet, cheddar cheese grits, Kentucky whiskey sauce and Broccolini; Herb Rubbed Salmon, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, sautéed green beans and lemon caper vinaigrette; or Tricolor Cheese Tortellini, Alfredo sauce and shredded Parmesan. For dessert, satisfy the sweet tooth with Berry Sorbet, served with fresh berries.

Don't miss these dining deals that won't break the bank! For more information or to make a reservation, call (847) 427-4242 or visit

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chicago French Market opens in West Loop

It isn't everyday that you get to experience history being made. I can't help but think that the opening of Chicagos French Market (131 N. Clinton St.) in our fair city's growing West Loop neighborhood was an historic event. A who's who of Chicago and Paris was in attendance, including the Parisian owners, the Bensidoun family, the vice mayor of Naby le Sec (France) Jean-Paul LeFevre, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th Ward), all kinds of politicos, and Robert Wislow, Chairman and CEO and Camille Julmy, vice chairman of U.S. Equities (the developer) and a plethora of other executives from the company. Every Chicago television station was represented and hordes of media as well as Chicago V.I.P. dignitaries were there. A personal note of thanks for the Bensidoun family for extending an invitation to both Lee and I.

Here's why you'll want to run, not walk, there ASAP! One-stop shopping! Whether you're picking up dinner, lunch, breakfast, a snack, food for the office or home, or holiday gifts, you'll be able to find the freshest locally grown, artisan-made produce, meats, fish and seafood, breads, chocolates, and patisseries under one roof, 12-months a year, six days a week (closed on Sundays). Much of the produce is organically certified.

The Chicago French Market is our first year round market, boasting 15,000 sq. ft. of European-inspired shops. It's an exciting destination for locals and anyone traveling to Chicago for business or pleasure.

We are so excited about this for many reasons. Our office at Kurman Communications is two blocks from the French Market. We plan to shop there often. We suggest that you do, too. The re-development of the West Loop has been happening for years but this block seemed to miss out, until now. Clearly, it's a destination with which to be reckoned.

It will serve as the anchor for the MetraMarket, conveniently located just north of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, the new hub of Chicago's West Loop. Lucky us and Chicago commuters, Espression by Lavazza Italian cafe finds its newest home here. Kurman handled the introduction of Espression with their first location in the Drake Hotel. This key location is a welcome addition, with their fabulous coffee creations, grab-and-go, and gelato.

World travelers will recognize the French Market as its owners, the Bensidoun family of Paris, operate 95 open-air and indoor markets throughout the U.S. and France, including 13 seasonal markets in the Chicago area and one of the largest certified organic markets in Europe.

We've always been a big fan of markets: Green City Market, Seattle's Pikes Place, New York's Grand Central Market and San Francisco's Ferry Building have been among our favorites for years. We know that Chicago's French Market will play a starring role on our destination list and look forward to showing off our neighborhood to everyone that's willing to let us brag. Thanks Chicago's French Market. We look forward to being one of your soon to be many glowing fans.

Have Brunch with Santa at Birch River Grill

Looking for a day the whole family can enjoy together? Have brunch with the man in red at Birch River Grill (75 W. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-427-4242), which proudly partners with Metropolis Performing Arts Centre (111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; 847-577-2121) to offer “Brunch with Santa” and a showing of Metropolis’s retelling of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” one of the most popular and enduring stories of the holiday season.

This special one-day-only package begins with brunch at Birch River Grill from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. The menu includes a Full Breakfast Buffet, Asian Breakfast Buffet and an Omelet Station and features a Kid’s Buffet, with Mac & Cheese, Chicken Tenders, Pizza, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Fruit Cups, Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Yogurt.

The ticket price, including brunch, is $40 for adults; $17 for kids 15 and under; and $10 for children four and under. Brunch without tickets is $21.95 for adults, $6.95 for kids 12 and under, and complimentary for children four and under.

Don't be a Scrooge- bring your Christmas wish list and prepare for a day of Christmas cheer. For more information, call (847) 427-4242 or visit

Photo: Getty Images

Crowne Plaza Glen Ellyn-Lombard Awarded "Renovation of the Year"

Recently, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) awarded the Crowne Plaza Glen Ellyn-Lombard (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn, Ill.; 630-629-6000), with the “Renovation of the Year” award. The prestigious award, presented at the 2009 IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference Nov. 11, 2009 at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center, honored the Crowne Plaza’s exemplary renovation, noting the improvements in the guest rooms, commercial areas and hotel exteriors.

The completely redesigned 148,000 sq. ft. Crowne Plaza features sustainability programs like guest recycling, low-emissive windows to reduce energy loss, energy-reducing multistage boilers, hybrid guest transportation and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures. The 119 guestrooms include high-speed wireless Internet access, bathrooms with granite countertops and tub surrounds, electronic laptop-sized safes and the Crowne Plaza Sleep Amenity program.

Talk about an eventful fall! This award comes on the heels of the “2009 Green Initiative Award” from the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau, and The Glen Ellyn Architectural Review Commission’s “Traveling Trophy Award,” both presented to the Crowne Plaza in October.

Leslie Colman, senior vice president of F&F Realty, Ltd., which owns and operates the hotel and its adjacent local farm-sourced restaurant, Glen Prairie, accepted the award on behalf of the company.

“The team at the Crowne Plaza Glen Ellyn-Lombard is thrilled and honored to accept this esteemed award from IHG,” said Colman upon acceptance. “Environmentally-aware practices and sustainable operations are held in extremely high regard at our hotel and conference center. We look forward to the continuing use of our ‘green’ practices and providing the best experience possible for our guests.”

Additionally, the hotel’s restaurant Glen Prairie offers locally-sourced, trans fat free fare and supports sustainable farming practices, including this weekend's specials.

The Crowne Plaza is owned by Glen Ellyn Hospitality, LLC, and managed by F & F Realty. For more information or to book a reservation, please call (630) 629-6000 or visit

Kick Off December with Weekend Dining Deals

It's already Thursday, which means it's time to make weekend plans. As Chicago embraces winter, head indoors this weekend for dining deals from Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250), crafted by executive chef Daniel Ovanin. Ovanin used ingredients sourced from area farmers and ranchers to create these specials, available after 5 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5.

Try Fried Cheese Ravioli, an appetizer of buttermilk-breaded mozzarella, Romano and ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli, served with butternut squash puree ($7). Also try Colorado Rack of Lamb Chops, with roasted fingerling potatoes, baby carrots and minted au jus ($22), or Seared Miller Farms Chicken, with wild mushroom and truffle risotto and natural jus ($20).

Glen Prairie's regular menu is also available. For more information or to make a reservation, call (630) 630-1250 or visit

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Where to get “The Good Stuff” this week

There are plenty of opportunities this week to enjoy Al Capone’s favorite Prohibition Era whiskey, Templeton Rye. Start by attending River North’s “Jingle and Mingle” holiday celebration Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The James Hotel (55 E. Ontario St.). Enjoy music from a pianist from The Redhead Piano Bar and Dickens-era carolers as well as three separate classic cocktail bars featuring Templeton Rye favorites. Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the door and can be purchased at

The End of the Noble Experiment
Congress repealed the Prohibition Act on December 5, 1933. Templeton Rye and several Chicago area bars are celebrating Repeal Day with special events and classic TR cocktails.

In Fine Spirits (5420 N. Clark St., 773-334-9463) is hosting Templeton Rye and celebrating the 76th Anniversary of Prohibition Repeal Day from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. Enjoy specials on Templeton Rye Prohibition cocktails including The Capone, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Corpse Reviver No. 2, Old Tom Collins, Clover Club and Sidebar.

Calling all flappers, ladies and gents! Join Fion Wine & Spirits (426 W. Diversey Pkwy; 773-549-5400) for its 2nd annual celebration of the Repeal Prohibition 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. The $40 “Noble Experiment” package includes domestic bottles, call drinks, Segrura Viudas Cava, Prohibiton Era cocktails including the Templeton Rye Old Fashioned, plus Planter’s Punch and passed appetizers. Tickets are just $35 if guests wear a Prohibition Era costume. Templeton Rye is also giving away TR flasks and t-shirts. Call (773) 868-8073 for details.

Suburbanites can also celebrate Repeal Day with the Walnut SpeakEasy (214 Walnut Ave., Elgin, Ill.; 847-695-2420) Saturday, Dec. 5 until 2 a.m. Enjoy free live jazz, complimentary shoe shines and Templeton Rye cocktail specials while celebrating the end of the “Noble Experiment.” Guests are encouraged to don flapper dresses and gangster suits to join the celebration. Cash prizes are awarded to the best dressed. Templeton Rye also has special giveaways and promotions.

Iowa Spirits Night
Colleen Graham, author of the Cocktails Guide for the New York Times’ and S&C Graham Foto Design are hosting an evening of Iowa Spirits on Thursday, Dec. 3 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the S&C Studios (220 Main St., Cedar Falls, Iowa). The open house event brings together parties from Iowa’s distilled spirits industry including Templeton Rye whiskey from Templeton, Iowa and Clearheart Spirits of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Enjoy complimentary libations while viewing artwork from several talented local artists. Visit for more information.

Give the gift of Rye this Holiday Season
Templeton Rye makes the perfect holiday gift for a special loved one. Since supply is limited, be sure to visit to see where to find “The Good Stuff.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Be Naughty or Nice This Holiday Season

“Helping others is always a good way to celebrate the holidays, bringing cheer and making you feel good,” says Dr. Sandy Goldberg, founder of A Silver Lining Foundation (ASLF). The organization’s Auxiliary Board sponsors its second annual “Naughty or Nice” party from 8:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 at Zella, (1983 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago; 773-549-2910).

The event raises money to fund no cost mammograms for uninsured and underinsured individuals, and raises awareness of the need for early detection of breast cancer.

“A Silver Lining Foundation’s Auxiliary Board happily hosts our second annual holiday party to provide a potentially life-saving mammograms and related outreach and resource services for uninsured and underinsured individuals,” says Dr. Goldberg. “By celebrating the holidays and enjoying time with friends at Zella, we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in someone’s life. In this season of giving, what better gift is there?”

Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at the door or in advance at

Admission includes all-you-can-drink cocktails, wine (house brands) and domestic beers.

There will also be raffle with a variety of prizes, including sports tickets, and restaurant and spa deals.

For more information on ASLF, visit

Alicia's Final Post

By: Alicia Schindle

I've been working as an intern at Kurman Communications for the past few months as you have seen some of my Got Buzz postings. For my final post, I decided to do a top five gems of information I've learned list since I'm a sucker for rating things: movies, lists, places, food. I have way too many mental list countdowns as well: five weeks until Christmas, three days until I see my dog, two hours until lunch at La Madia with Kurman staff. I thought it would only be appropriate to continue this in my final posting. The following is a taste of what I experienced and learned during my internship. So here it is folds, the highly anticipated top five list, the top gems of information I've learned here:

5. Be persistent. Persistence was one quality that was essential to get this internship, was an attribute that was critical to my success during my internship, and a trait that will be fundamental for a promising future. First, if I wasn't persistent about working in a field that I was passionate about, I probably would be doing a mindless data entry job. After diligently looking, inquiring, interviewing, and following up, it was as important to continue my persistence while interning. Every day I expected more out of myself and I continued to seek out constant challenges in my eagerness to learn.

4. Social media is here to stay folks! Yes, I have a Facebook page, a professional profile on LinkedIn, a Twitter account and I read blogs, so I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the concept of social media before my time at Kurman, but was I wrong. I expected to improve my writing skills and learn more about the professional workforce. What I didn't know was how much I would learn about social media. At Kurman Communications there is a strategy behind their use of these tools and their ability to utilize this technology was beyond my knowledge. I knew there was lot of behind the scenes work that goes into generating buzz, including understanding the methodology, analyzing communications and marketing option, identifying and engaging communicators from all walks of life with the primary goal of getting noticed. I also knew public relations was and has always been a strategic marketing function in motion, I just hadn't realized how integrated social networking had become as a platform. As I started tweeting, posting and updating information on Facebook and to the KCI blog, Got Buzz, I quickly learned how social media has broadened the opportunities for Kurman's clients to get noticed.

3. Details, details, and did I mention details? At Kurman, I learned the art and importance of editing and searching for those little details. With every piece I wrote, re-wrote and wrote again, I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Even what may have seemed like the tiniest of details, an extra space after a period, adding a retweet button to a blog post, or capitalizing the first and second letter of a word was the difference between work that was fine and work that was great. I learned that although something may have made sense to me, there's always another way for a thought to be expressed and a lot of communication lies in the small details and phrases. I learned that effective communication is key to success and my supervisors and, even the company president, Cindy, brought light to really thing about the details and then re-thinking the details.

2. Media are people too. Corresponding with media can be a bit daunting and frightening at first, but I learned that the best way to deal with this fear is head on. It's like when as a little kid you were scared to jump off the high dive, and the longer you stood up there and looked down the more scared you became. Your big sister was always in the pool screaming to "JUMP! The longer you stand there, the more difficult it gets!" And just like the high dive, the longer you look at the phone thing about the reporter hanging up on you, or laughing in your face, the scarier the call becomes and takes on a life of its own. Instead of staring at the phone, I picked it up and made my first call, and I realized, it was just like calling up a friend to tell them about something really cool (because our clients are cool and fun to talk about).

1. You CAN and should love your job! You spend more time at work than you do with your family and most friends. Fortunate for me, I really found I enjoyed and loved the work I was doing. I also respected and had of lot fun with those I worked with at Kurman. My colleagues were always very supportive and helpful in explaining, as well as, outlining tasks.

My advice for any intern is to ask questions and get involved in the organization. You won't learn anything by only doing what you're told. I have already have many doors opened for me and have had the opportunity to work with some of the brightest and most creative mind in PR. With the completion of my fourth internship, I am armed with the tools for a promising future and I'm excited about the opportunities and challenges that are ahead. I look forward to my future in PR and know that thanks to Kurman Communications, I will be taking a rocking portfolio and resume with me.

As they say, where one door closes another opens!

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Legendary Auto Show Moving from McCormick Place after 47 years

On the heels of the announcement that two major trade shows are leaving Chicago, Championship Auto Shows, Inc. reveals it too is moving its annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels show from Chicago’s McCormick Place for the first time since its 47-year history. When the 2010 show rolls into town March 5-7, muscle car enthusiasts will flock to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill.).

“The good news is, we aren’t leaving the Chicago area,” says president of Championship Auto Shows, Inc., Pete Toundas. “The Rosemont venue provides us with more space and accessibility that we are excited to utilize with new exhibit features this year.”

The O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels, presented by Denny Guest’s South Oak Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep is the oldest and largest auto enthusiast event in the Chicago area. Like the other events that have decided to leave, the show producers acknowledge increasing cost and customer convenience are major factors in making the decision to move the show.

Toundas also acknowledges that moving to Rosemont, Ill. is easier on the customers attending the show, providing affordable and convenient valet and garage parking. Since the show began at McCormick Place more than four decades ago, Toundas has seen the price of parking skyrocket, especially in recent years.

Along with the location, the show is also changing its date. Historically, the show has been in late January, one to two weeks within the new car show. This year, the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels takes place in early March, when guests can expect better weather than previous years.

“Championship Auto Shows is committed to providing the best experience possible for guests of the show,” says Toundas. “With the move of the show to Rosemont in the spring, we feel the show has more to offer and can continue to be Chicago’s largest auto enthusiast event.”

Historically the show has drawn thousands of auto enthusiasts from across Illinois and the United States showcasing some of the country’s most unique muscle cars, trucks and motorcycles. Last year, the show boasted the legendary George Barris who designed the original Batmobile and other famous television cars. This year, the show is happy to have Chip Foose, legendary auto designer and star of “Overhaulin” as well as a number of new show features.

About O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels
The 48th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels, presented by Denny Guest's South Oak Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep is produced by Championship Auto Shows, Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich. Part of the International Show Car Association custom car competition, the show takes place March 5-7, 2010 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill.). The event hours are Friday, 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Discount pre-sale tickets can be purchased at O’Reilly Auto Parts. For more information, visit


Editor’s Note: To set up an interview with Pete Toundas about the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels and his decision to move the show, please contact Stephanie DeMeester at Kurman Communications, Inc. at (312) 651-9000, via cell at (317) 340-0605 or via e-mail at

Fresh Weekend Deals at Glen Prairie

Stop by Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn, Ill.) after 5 p.m. today, Nov. 20 and tomorrow, Nov. 21 for farm-fresh weekend specials, created by executive chef Daniel Ovanin, featuring ingredients sourced from areas farmers and ranchers.

Specials include Iowa Farmed Beef "Sheperd's Pie," braised pot roast, carrots, onion, celery, truffle whipped potatoes and two year Laack Bros. cheddar ($19), as well as the Sage and Apple Seared Miller Farms Chicken, warm salad of wild rice, Michigan apples, dried cherries and cranberries, green beans and an apples glaze ($20).

These specials are offered in addition to Glen Prairie's regular menu. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling Glen Prairie at (630) 613-1250 or visiting

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Tis the Season for Giving

Celebrate the holiday season with StreetWise at the second annual holiday fundraiser from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 at Praha Boutique (3849 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, Ill., 773-549-1227). The fundraiser includes gourmet passed appetizers, which guests can enjoy while shopping at the European-inspired, affordable boutique. Fifteen percent of all proceeds from the event will be donated to StreetWise.

Praha is full of antiques, gifts, home goods and goodies like fragrant bath products for customers to peruse. With the owners taking regular trips to Europe, scouring the markets of tiny country towns, beautiful one-of-a-kind items can always be found in the store.

About StreetWise:
Since 1992, StreetWise has provided employment and opportunities for Chicago's homeless. Since its first edition, StreetWise has relied on the support of the community's businesses, philanthropic organizations and volunteers. StreetWise acts as a bridge to full-time employment and self-sufficiency to its thousands of vendors while continuing to expand awareness of homeless issues to a diverse Chicagoland readership.

For more information or to make a contribution, please contact Bruce Crane at (312) 829-2526. Donations can also be made online at StreetWise is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Contributions are tax deductible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jingle & Mingle at The James Hotel

There’s no better time to celebrate the holidays than at “River North’s Jingle & Mingle Holiday Party,” hosted by the River North Business Association (RNBA) from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 at The James Hotel (55 E. Ontario St., Chicago; 312-337-1000).

The holiday celebration features a live pianist from The Redhead Piano Bar, as well as Dickens-era carolers and a classic cocktail bar presented by Templeton Rye whiskey. Tickets for the event are $40 in advance and $50 at the door, and can be purchased by calling the RNBA office at (312) 645-1047 or visiting The event is open to the public.

There will be opportunities to win a variety of prizes, including weekend packages featuring tickets to the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks, and event passes and hotel stays. Passed appetizers and an open bar are included in the price of admission. “River North’s Jingle & Mingle Holiday Party” sponsors include: The Redhead Piano Bar, The James Hotel, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc., Erie-LaSalle Body Shop and Car Care Center, Templeton Rye whiskey, KaBloom Flowers, Goose Island Brewery and Kurman Communications, Inc.

About River North Business Association:
The River North Business Association was founded in 1981 and quickly became a force in the community, representing businesses and providing member services to help them succeed. The RNBA hopes to preserve a community environment that will provide a high quality of life for all who live, work and visit River North. For more information on the participating businesses and their discount offers, visit or call (312) 645-1047.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekend Eats from Glen Prairie

Need weekend plans without breaking the budget? Look no further than Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250) a local farm sourced restaurant featuring contemporary American cuisine from chef Daniel Ovanin. This weekend only (Nov. 13 and 14), chef Ovanin has prepared weekend specials, offered in addition to the restaurant's regular menu.

Start with the appetizer, Seared Colorado Lamb Chops, shaved fennel and Michigan Apple salad and Port reduction ($11). Entree specials include Glazed Pork Loin Medallions, raspberry whole grain mustard glaze, whipped potatoes and caramelized Brussels sprouts ($20), and Butternut Squash Ravioli, sauteed wild mushrooms, caramelized leeks and truffle cream sauce ($19).

Reservations are recommended at Glen Prairie. Call (630) 613-1250 or visit for more information.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

News Update from PRIDE Travel

PRIDE Travel Receives 2009 Gold Davey Award
At the 2009 Davey Awards, the International Academy of Visual Arts recognized PRIDE Travel with its highest award, a Gold Davey, for the independent in-house production of the "Amazing Thailand" commercial which promotes Thailand as a travel destination. The commercial was produced in-house by PRIDE Travel's owner and CEO, Marc R. Kassouf, using only a standard PC and old fashioned trial and error. Kassouf initiated the project in order to promote the destination with a short commercial video at trade shows and events, as well as to add it to other similar destination videos.

With more than 4,000 entries from around the world, the Davey Awards honor the finest creative work from the best small firms, agencies and companies worldwide. The Davey Awards are judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 200+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media.

The "Amazing Thailand” commercial is available for online viewing on YouTube.

PRIDE Travel Organizes Wedding Cruise for Celebrity Music Artists
Musical artists Jason and deMarco retained PRIDE Travel to organize and coordinate a cruise in celebration of their wedding. The couple will be sailing with family, friends and fans on a seven night Carnival's Conquest round trip from Galveston, Texas near the newly-wed's home, with stops in Freeport Bahamas, Nassau Bahamas and Key West, Fla. May 2010.

A special cruise group has been setup by PRIDE Travel with Carnival Cruises, with limited space available for fans to book and sail with the artists. Those booking through PRIDE Travel will receive special amenities limited to the Jason and deMarco wedding group.

PRIDE Travel Owner and CEO Named Co-Chair of International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association's Diversity Committee
Further deepening ties and contributions by PRIDE Travel's owners and employees to the Diversity Committee of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), Kassouf was appointed co-chair to the organization. In his continuing duties as member of the committee, Kassouf now takes on additional strategic and administrative roles to help facilitate the production of plans and processes to fulfill the committee's mission as tasked by the board of directors of IGLTA.

PRIDE Travel has been an active member and supporter of IGLTA, attending conferences and events. To support the conference and fundraising efforts, PRIDE Travel donated a seven night accommodations package to one of more than 5000 resorts worldwide. The donation was the second highest grossing silent auction item at the May 2009 conference, with all proceeds benefiting IGLTA directly to continue its mission.

PRIDE Travel LGBT Leisure Travel Sales Ahead of National Community Marketing Inc Average
In contrast to trends released from Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI), PRIDE Travel sales to LGBT leisure is up slightly for the year ending 2009 according to S. Nathan DePetris, COO and Owner of PRIDE Travel.

"We have seen growth not only in number of LGBT leisure clients booking trips," noted DePetris, "but also in the length of travel, with more clients traveling further and for longer periods."

PRIDE Travel Finds New Exciting Destination for Clients to Explore
Participants in the Seoul Tourism Organization sponsored and hosted event return home with a fresh perspective on the fascinating culture, attractions and exotic cuisine that form the facets of Korea. The familiarization tour included five fast-paced full days split between Gwangju, Korea's southern culinary capital, and Seoul, Korea's cultural and thriving metropolitan heart.

PRIDE Travel owner and COO S. Nathan DePetris participated by special invitation of the Seoul Tourism Organization, joining delegates from U.S. tour operators, journalists, travel writers, food critics and renowned chefs and foodies. All participants in this tour returned home with a strong desire to share the many fascinating facets that Korea has to offer leisure travelers, culinary foodies and convention goers in the North American market. PRIDE Travel looks forward to its part in exposing the many facets to its clients and sharing the great potential of this marvelous destination.

To learn more about PRIDE Travel, press here or visit

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Glen Prairie Thanks Veterans with a Dining Discount

Happy Veteran's Day! Celebrate at Glen Prairie (1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250), where men and women of our armed services, plus their guests, receive a 15% food discount today, Veteran's Day, upon presentment of a military or veteran's ID or DD214.

Hurry in for dinner and try one of Glen Prairie's signature seasonal dishes from chef Daniel Ovanin. For more information or to make a reservation, call (630) 613-1250 or visit

Friday, November 6, 2009

The New Colony's "Calls to Blood" Extends Performance Schedule through Nov. 28

The New Colony's "Calls to Blood" extended performance schedule to run through Nov. 28 after moving the production to the much larger cabaret space of the Royal George Theatre, which they moved to on Oct. 29 to accommodate the over whelming demand for tickets. The show premiered Oct. 12 and runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays.

"We always hoped for this situation, but the outpouring of interest and word of mouth for this show has taken us completely by surprise," comments Artistic Director Andrew Hobgood at Sunday's company meeting.

After only a short number of performances, The New Colony finds themselves in the delightful position of maxing out the capacity of their venue. Over the course of a week, the production team began transitioning the production to the new venue while still performing in the Gallery of the Royal George Theatre.

"Over a four-week run, less than 1,000 people would be able to see this show in the Royal George's Gallery," explains Hobgood. "Moving the production to the Cabaret space will make the show available to more people.

"Calls to Blood" tells the darkly comic tragedy of the perfect American couple and their seemingly impenetrable happiness - even as they struggle to conceive the child they want so desperately. But in trying to find a solution to this continual failure, they unearth the one truth that can destroy everything upon which their perfect lives have been built.

Here's what the press has been saying:

Chicago Tribune Recommended and Critic's Pick
"Four young performers in sync with one another, wholly able to replicate the casual jokes and hidden terror that fill the yuppie life in Chicago as it is lived, and, in the case of an arresting young actress named Sarah Gitenstein, wholly willing to dig deep and howl out her wounded innards with sufficient force to jolt you out of your uncomfortable seat."

"On the face of it, such dramas seem easy to do and, indeed, many small companies attempt them. But "Calls to Blood" and New Colony know how to heed that call much clearer than most. Andrew Hobgood's savvy production is quite the riveting show."
-- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

"... the New Colony's fierce production transcends the scenario's slick contours. As Alison, Gitenstein brings a breathtaking passion to the stage; torn apart by what she learns, Gitenstein manages to lift the play from its true-story origins to true art."
-- John Beer, TimeOut Chicago

Reader Recommended
"The play shouldn't work, but Asmus pack his seemingly incompatible scenes with accurate, telling observations of human behavior, and director Andrew Hobgood's pitch-perfect cast articulate them with graceful precision. Against all odds, nearly everything in this New Colony premiere rings poignantly true."
-- Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader

"Gut-wrenching! While establishing a couple's perfect relation only to rip it apart isn't new ground, this flawless execution is beyond rare."
" will floor you."
-- John Biederman, Centerstage Chicago

"Calls to Blood" premiered 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 with an additional press opening Thursday, Oct. 15. "Calls to Blood" runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre through Nov 28.

Show passes at $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $15 for students/industry. Visit to access the ePaybill for "Calls to Blood," Passes are on sale online through TickerMaster or by calling the Royal George Bow Office at (312) 988-9000. All passes to The New Colony productions allow the purchaser to see the show for which the pass was purchased for an unlimited number of times.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Erie-LaSalle Body Shop celebrates 75 years as Chicago's premier car collision repair shop

As owner Bob Gottfred leads a tour of the basement at Erie-LaSalle Body Shop, he reveals a wall that survived the Great Chicago Fire. You can still see some black charring on the basement ceiling beams. "You know, the basement used to be the first floor. When they rebuilt after the fire, the city was one level higher." It's just one more reminder that in Chicago, a business celebrating its 75th anniversary is as meaningful as it is rare.

Erie-LaSalle Body Shop (146 W. Erie, Chicago, IL; 312-337-3903) is a Chicago institution for many reasons. Originally a blacksmith shop, it was transformed into a car repair shop by Gottfred's stepfather, Ivan Goodmonson, in 1934. In 1976, when Goodmonson retired, he asked his stepson to take over the business. With a degree in finance from Arizona State University and a background in the restaurant industry, Gottfred took over and has run the body shop with an executive's eye. Over the past several years his two grown sons, Jim and Jay, have joined him in running the business and their responsibilities have increased as they've gained experience.

As it has done for 75 years, Erie-LaSalle continues to offer top-quality service to customers from all over the Chicago metro area. The shop boasts a team of 25 professional technicians, many of whom have been on board for decades-a testament to their skill and experience as much as to the profoundly decent way Gottfred treats them. They're a team that has succeeded for so long because they've mastered the fundamentals of good business: they're honest, prompt, courteous and deliver a high quality of service.

Gottfred describes their mission: "We take a negative event-a car collision-and give our customers a pleasant, straightforward experience that minimizes the disruption in their lives. We pick up the damaged car and arrange for a car rental. We repair the car, constantly keeping our customer updated as to the status. Finally, we deliver the car to the customer when it's ready. It can't get any easier than that."

A tour of the body shop also reveals how professional and intricate collision repair has become. Erie-LaSalle employees are clearly a team of professionals trained to use complex equipment and technology. They must know, in detail, how a wide range of cars are manufactured so they can repair them to factory specifications. "There are changes every day in this business," says Jay Gottfred. "Vehicles get more complicated; technology is added; new metals are substituted; different paints are used. Our profession is as much a science as it is an art."

It has also become a complex business involving many people-customers, insurance companies, parts suppliers. Insurance companies are a major source of referral business. "Since we want to be part of their network, we must adhere to their pricing guidelines. We also work very hard to maintain our excellent professional reputation. Great service, promptness and competitive pricing are important keys to our success."

Most car owners don't pay much attention to what goes on behind the scenes in collision repair, so they don't necessarily understand how much attention Erie-LaSalle pays to professionalism and efficiency. "Technical training is a must if we are to repair cars quickly and correctly," says Jim Gottfred. "Speed is crucial. We have customers who operate their business from their car and so we must get them up and running as soon as possible."

For Erie-LaSalle, training is a way of life. The shop regularly hosts evening classes offered by two of the pre-eminent automotive training organizations: I-CAR (the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair) and ASA (the Automotive Service Association). The classes are led by certified instructors and are attended by both Erie-LaSalle technicians and professionals from other collision repair shops and insurance companies. "Hosting the classes reinforces our commitment to having a highly skilled team and an efficiently-run business," says Bob Gottfred. "It's not only a good way to network, but it's a convenient way for our professionals to stay current in their knowledge and skills." Our customers are really the beneficiaries of our training."

I-CAR was founded in 1979 and provides an ever-changing curriculum for collision repair professionals. Erie-LaSalle has earned the I-CAR Gold Class Professional designation, the highest accreditation for a collision repair shop. The entire Erie-LaSalle team of repair professionals has earned the Platinum Individual designation, the highest level for individuals.

With a company history spanning 75 years, there are just too many stories and memories to pick a single most memorable one. Gottfred likes to talk about a recent project to totally re-paint a Land Rover SUV. "It was quite an interesting test of our abilities. An owner of a new Land Rover contacted us to see if we would totally repaint the black SUV, transforming the color to a one-of a kind matte satin black. We agreed to take on the challenge and soon we were drop-shipped a crate of aftermarket parts from England."

Erie-LaSalle installed side rocker pieces, a wing in back and new bumpers. They ordered and applied a special paint, working closely with DuPont. "The project was fun and turned out amazing," says Gottfred. "When we were done, we parked the Land Rover in front of Martini Park (a lounge across the street). The people went wild."

Erie-LaSalle has seen more than a few cars of the rich and famous come through its doors. Probably the first true celeb was Ralph Capone, Al's brother. The roster of big names goes on and on: former Today Show host Dave Garroway, Cubs luminary Ernie Banks, news anchor Ron Majors, former Bears quarterback Vince Evans and NBA star Antwon Walker.

What are the most difficult cars to repair? Limousines, says Gottfred. "Parts are hard to come by and you have to use your imagination to construct stretch panels and door panels."

The 75th anniversary is an exciting yet humbling milestone for Erie LaSalle. "We all feel very lucky and very fortunate. Personally, I pinch myself everyday. To live in wonderful River North, working with my sons and my longtime team members is like a dream come true." Gottfred's enthusiasm for his business is matched by his friendly demeanor and gift of gab. He has been keenly involved in the well-being of his community, as demonstrated by his years of service on the executive board of the River North Business Association.

The future holds interesting possibilities. Erie-LaSalle is looking to expand if the right deal comes along. Jim and Jay are taking on greater responsibilities, and they recognize the opportunities and challenges in front of them. "It's a never ending process, looking for better ways to do things, becoming faster without diminishing the quality of our service," says Bob Gottfred. "It's a challenging, competitive business and we're glad to be among the survivors."

But the word "survivor" would be an understatement-Erie-LaSalle is one of Chicago's great small-business success stories. It easily serves as a role model, showing aspiring entrepreneurs the right way to build a business and keep it thriving for years and years.

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