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.”