Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicago French Market Strawberry Festival

Join the Chicago French Market noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, June 4 for its Strawberry Festival! The perfect summer kickoff, the Strawberry Festival features everything strawberry -- strawberry cakes, strawberry crepes, strawberry smoothies, strawberry rhubarb tarts with toasted streusel, strawberry frasier, strawberry paczki and chocolate covered strawberries just to name a few!

Be sure to stop by the following vendors and check out their featured strawberry sweet treats!

Bowl Square is offering their new vegetarian dish; Green Rice Noodle, delicious cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, red cabbage radishes and strawberries served with rice noodles and homemade Korean style red spice sauce and sesame oil.

Stop by Canady Le Chocolatier for chocolate dipped strawberries and finish them off with a fizzy strawberry soda at Buen Apetito or an assorted beer made with delicious berries at Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer.

Pick up farm fresh strawberries from City Fresh Market or Produce Express Co. to complete any meal, and grab dessert from Delightful Pastries featuring fresh strawberry fruit tarts, fresh strawberry paczki, chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberry preserves, made-to-order strawberry shortcakes and strawberry Grand Marnier trifles.

Flip Crêpes will feature delicious strawberry filled crepes. Make it a meal with a strawberry infused smoothie from Juice Bar or Raw.

Hungry for lunch? Grab a strawberry caprese sandwich from Fumare Meats & Deli or a strawberry garden salad from Presto Café & Grill.

Saigon Sisters will feature a strawberry ice cream and Vânille Patisserie will offer strawberry rhubarb tarts with toasted streusel and a French dessert Fraisier: fresh strawberries, vanilla bean mousseline, passion curd & banana cake.

Lavazza Espression will feature Strawberry Choco Èspessone™, a double pleasure in honor of the festival: the delicacy of Èspessone, a light mousse with a soft and velvety texture, combined with the intensity of hot chocolate. Available in four perfect combinations: strawberry, vanilla, hazelnut and coconut.

Or pick up a strawberry plant from Les Fleur to enjoy home grown strawberries all summer long!

Make sure to check out the many cheeses from Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine that pair perfectly with a sweet strawberry or strawberry preserves such as an Alpine style cheese including Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Wisconsin, Comte from France, Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont or a fresh chevre from Prairie Fruit Farm in Illinois. Take some home from National Cheese Day on June 5 along with a strawberry pie or strawberry rhubarb pie from Provo’s Village Bake Shoppe or a strawberry specialty from Sweet Miss Giving’s.

While watching cooking demos and enjoying face painting for the little ones, enjoy live music from Rob Cunningham. A Chicago Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony performer, his mix of vocal and acoustic guitar style spans across a wide range of pop, 70’s folk rock and even Broadway! The strawberries won’t be the only thing come for, kids will love meeting the strawberry mascot!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Presto Cafe and Grill is Open at Chicago French Market

SzudlerBrings Mediterranean Cuisine to Chicago

Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., 312-575-0306), located in the West Loop/Fulton River District, opened its newest vendor, Presto Café and Grill, the week of May 9. Adding to more than 25 vendors found at the market the new vendor brings Mediterranean cuisine to the Chicago French Market.Presto Café and Grill offers 10 percent off any meal after 4 p.m. and any large orders of 10 meals or more gets one meal free.

Chef Israel Szudler has knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine from his work at the Russian Wingiet Sports Institute and his catering business, Taste of Israel Catering. His Mediterranean cooking techniques can be found in menu items such as appetizers, entrees and pitas. Appetizers include Original Hummus— a blend of chickpeas and sesame paste mixed with spices and herbs topped with extra virgin olive oil, spread with homemade pita bread for $3.69, Roasted peppers salad — mix of peppers, fresh and dry province herbs, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze, topped with crumbled feta cheese for $3.99, Capri Island salad — sliced vine-ripe tomatoes with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese garnished with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil with a touch of balsamic glaze vinegar for $4.69, Mediterranean Cabbage salad — thin sliced cabbage and grated carrots with parsley, celery and secret dressing for $2.99, Original Baba Ghanoush salad — grilled eggplants mixed with light mayo, fresh garlic and lemon juice, served with homemade pita bread for $4.49 and Vegetarian Greek Dolma — grape leaves stuffed with rice, served with Labane sauce sprinkled with olive oil and herbs for $3.99.

Entrees include Chicken Shawarma — grilled and lightly seasoned thinly sliced chicken thighs with fried sweet Vidalia onions for $6.99, Chicken Kabob — a skewer of grilled tender chicken breast for $6.99, Beef Kifta Kabob — a skewer of angus ground beef and lamb with a touch of spices and herbs for $8.99, and Grilled Schnitzel — grilled, lightly marinated chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, with pesto sauce for $6.99.

More entrees include Vegetarian Kebab — a skewer of grilled and lightly marinated mix of peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, red onion and cherry tomatoes for $6.99, Beef Tenderloin Kebab — a skewer of finest beef tenderloin grilled and marinated in house secret sauce for $9.99, Moroccan Style Baked Tilapia fillet — fillet of tilapia baked with sliced vegetables with lemon sauce and herbs for $7.99, Falafel — a mixture of ground chickpeas with onions, herbs and spices made into patties lightly fried to golden perfection for $6.99. All entrees are served with Jasmine rice, fresh thinly sliced Jerusalem salad and your choice of Tahini sauce or house special tomato sauce.

Presto Café and Grill offers the Chicken Shawarma for $5.99, Chicken Kabob for $5.99, Beef Kifta Kabob for $7.99, Grilled Schnitzel for $5.99, Vegetarian Kebab for $5.99 and Beef Tenderloin Kebab for $8.99 in a pita. All pita entrees come with homemade freshly baked pita bread, a spread of hummus, fresh thinly sliced Jerusalem salad, and your choice of Tahini sauce or house special tomato sauce.

Chef Israel Szudler graduated with a master’s degree in the Culinary Arts and Economy from the Russian Culinary College in 1975. Szudler then worked four years as a chef in Russia at the Wingiet Sports Institute, before opening Taste of Israel Catering that he successfully ran for eight years. When he moved to Chicago he worked as a chef at the Russian restaurant called Kabak and then later worked as a store manager for Garden Fresh Markets. He will now be fulfilling his dream to open his own food concept of delicious, fresh and healthy Mediterranean cuisine at the Chicago French Market.

The Children's Museum in Oak Lawn to Host Cinderella Ball

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn (5100 Museum Dr. Oak Lawn, Ill.) is hosting a father-daughter Cinderella Ball from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 17 at the Beverly Country Club (87th Street & Western Avenue, Chicago, Ill.) to help foster positive relationships between fathers and their young daughters.

The cost of a ticket for a princess and her escort is $90 and $45 for each additional princess. The ticket includes dinner, a horse-drawn carriage ride, a craft, a magic show, a ballroom dancing lesson, t-shirt and commemorative photo. To purchase tickets, please visit All princesses in attendance are asked to bring a donation for the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

The Cinderella Ball is a fun-filled program designed to help fathers build foundations of self-confidence and self-worth in their daughters—helping them grow into strong, independent young women. Grandfathers, uncles or other significant male role models are welcome to attend with the princess.

About the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn
The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn’s mission is to empower and engage children, and those who love and care for them, in the joy of learning. As they EXPLORE their world with changing, hands-on exhibits and activities, they will SOAR with their newfound knowledge.

For more information on The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn visit or call 708-423-6709.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shedd Aquarium and Prairie Fire Team Up for World Ocean Day

Featuring an educational, all-inclusive four-course dinner June 8
Prairie Fire (215 N. Clinton in Chicago; 312-382-8300) is honoring World Ocean Day in cooperation with the John G. Shedd Aquarium 6 p.m. June 8. The event features presentations by Shedd Aquarium staff—Melanie Napoleon, Senior Director of Great Lakes Conservation and Brooke Havlik, Sustainable Seafood Educator—and an educational, all-inclusive four-course dinner with pairings for $100 per person.

Award-winning chefs, Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, are preparing the four-course World Ocean Day Dinner with sustainable seafood in mind. The first-course will be served family-style to include Chilled Spanish Style Mussels, Corn Meal Crusted Local Perch with arugula remoulade and balsamic reduction, Homemade Bread with early summer radishes and sweet whipped butter, paired with “The Apothecary”- Death Door Gin with fresh lemon juice, triple sec and carpano. The second-course is Wild Striped Bass with spring minestrone, pesto, croutons and shaved artisan cheese, paired with Casa Silva “Cool Coast” Sauvignon Blanc—wine from Guy Comerci (Vin Divino). The third-course is Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon with new potatoes, onions, garlic chives, asparagus and a bacon vinaigrette, paired with Morgan ‘Twelve Clones’ Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands—wine from Annica Heymann (Heritage Wine). The final dessert course is Orange Chiffon Cake with Koval Organic Orange Blossom Liqueur.

Prairie Fire supports local sustainable farms; farms highlighted for World Ocean Day are Three Sister’s Garden, Nichol’s Farm and Orchard, Kinnickinnick Farm and Brunkow Creamery.
Raffles prizes include Shedd Aquarium passes and the new sustainable seafood cookbook For Cod and Country by Chef Barton Seaver, just released May 3, 2011.

In honor of the special occasion, Prairie Fire will be making a donation to the Marine Conservation Alliance in Alaska. To make a reservation, call Prairie Fire at (312) 382-8300.

About Chef Sarah Stegner
Two-time James Beard award-winner, Sarah Stegner, is co-chef and co-owner of Prairie Fire and Prairie Grass Cafe. This Evanston, Ill. native grew up in a family devoted to food, thus setting the foundation for her passionate and successful career as one of America’s most respected chefs. Stegner graduated with a chef’s certificate from the Glencoe, Ill. Dumas Pere Cooking School.

She went on to build her prestige reputation at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago, establishing her friendship with now business partner, Chef George Bumbaris. Even through her impressive award-wining history, Stegner remains modest and passionate about using the best seasonal ingredients to be found. Stegner is co-founder of Chicago’s Green City Market—a weekly venue for Midwest sustainable farmers.

About Chef George Bumbaris
George Bumbaris, co-chef and co-owner of Prairie Fire and Prairie Grass Cafe (along with Stegner), became instantly hooked the first time he experimented in the kitchen. After completing his studies at the Glencoe, Ill. Dumas Pere Cooking School, Bumbaris began a 21-year journey at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago.

Among his many accomplishments, Bumbaris took first-place in the Bucouse D’or American Culinary Gold Cup and first-place for the United States in the 26th Prix Culinaire International Pierre Taittinger. His skills were highly reflected in reviews as he worked his way up to executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago. Bumbaris was thrilled to start a new chapter at Prairie Fire and Prairie Grass Cafe, developing a menu that is fun and accessible.

About Prairie Fire
Prairie Fire (215 N. Clinton in Chicago; 312-382-8300) brings the world of fine-dining to an accessible level of casual dining, using the freshest of ingredients to reflect the season. Prairie Fire supports Chicago’s Green City Market and local sustainable farms.

Serving innovative American comfort food, Prairie Fire takes pride in their homemade products including handcrafted sausages, salad dressings, ice cream and desserts. Prairie Fire is located two blocks from the Ogilvie Metra terminal and just steps from the CTA Clinton St. Station. Special offerings include valet service and private space for special events. Prairie Fire serves lunch Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Monday - Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, please call (312) 382-8300 or visit

About The John G. Shedd Aquarium
The John G. Shedd Aquarium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public education and conservation, is one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums. The facility houses over 32,000 aquatic animals, representing some 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals from waters around the word. Since its opening in 1930, the Aquarium’s mission has been to enhance public understanding of aquatic life and connect guests to the natural world, inspiring them to protect and preserve the planet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

James Beard Awards 2011 Winners Announced, Richard Melman Outstanding Restaurateur

Winners were announced yesterday at the annual 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation's most prestigious recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries.  

Richard Melman, founder and chairman of Chicago's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc., brought home the James Beard Foundation award for outstanding restaurateur in the nation. Melman, a well known Chicago-based restaurateur whose company owns more than 30 restaurants here and across the country, was the lone local restaurant-related winner out of 10 area nominees.

Michael Gebert and Julia Thiel of the Chicago Reader took home a James Beard Foundation Journalism award winning in the multimedia food feature category for their "Key Ingredient" blog. That category was announced Friday at a lavish dinner exclusive to working media.

Chicago eateries and chefs shutout.

Hopeful Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat, a finalist in the best new restaurant category, was beat out by Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen in New York which focuses on local, organic and seasonal foods.

Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, & others), a 2004 James Beard winner for best chef in the Midwest, lost his bid for outstanding chef to Jose Andres of Minibar in Washington, D.C.

Colleague Patrick Fahy, also of Blackbird, and Mindy Segal of Mindy's HotChocolate, who was also nominated in the same category in 2007, lost the outstanding pastry chef award to  Angela Pinkerton of New York's Eleven Madison Park.

Multi award winner Rick Bayless' Topolobampo lost the outstanding service award to Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York. Bayless won a James Beard award for best chef in the Midwest in 1991 and chef of the year in 1995. He was also named humanitarian of the year in 1998 by the James Beard Foundation.

Four of the five nominees for best chef in the Great Lakes region were from the Chicago area,  Michael Carlson of Schwa, Curtis Duffy of Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel, Bruce Sherman of North Pond and Paul Virant of Vie. The award went to Alex Young of Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich.

 Highlights from this year's list of winners include:

Outstanding Chef: Jose Andres (minibar, Washington, D.C.)
Outstanding Restaurant: Eleven Madison Park (NYC, Owner: Danny Meyer)
Rising Star Chef: Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon, Portland, OR)
Best New Restaurant: ABC Kitchen (NYC, Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Owner: Phil Suarez)
In addition, special achievement award honorees included:

Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America: Jonathan Gold (Writer, LA Weekly, Los Angeles); Lee Jones (Farmer/ Owner, Chef's Garden, Huron, OH); Charles Phan (Chef/Owner, The Slanted Door, San Francisco, CA); Frank Stitt (Chef/Owner, Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL); Nick Valenti (CEO, Patina Restaurant Group, New York, NY)
America's Classics: Chef Vola's (Owners:  Louise Esposito, Michael Esposito, Michael Esposito, Jr., Louis Esposito, Atlantic City, NJ); Crook's Corner (Owner:  Gene Hamer, Chapel Hill, NC); Noriega Restaurant and Hotel (Owners:  Linda Elizalde McCoy and Rochelle Ladd, Bakersfield, CA); Le Veau d'Or (Owner:  Robert Treboux, New York, NY); Watt's Tea Shop (President and CEO:  Sam Watts, Milwaukee, WI)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Kevin Zraly (Wine Educator and Author, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course)
Humanitarian of the Year: FareStart (Founder:  David Lee)

Highlights from the Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards announced on Friday, May 6, 2011, at the Awards dinner at Espace included:

Cookbook of the Year: Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press)
Cookbook Hall of Fame:  On Food and Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
Publication of the Year: Edible Communities
M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly, "A Movable Beast"
Audio Webcast or Radio Show:  CBC Ideas: "Pasta: The Long and Short of It" Host: Megan Williams, Area: Canada and Online, Producers: Susan Mahoney and Megan Williams
Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location: Top Chef: Season 7, Host: Padma Lakshmi, Network: Bravo, Producers: Tom Colicchio, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, and Dave Serwatka
Television Program, On Location: Avec Eric, Host: Eric Ripert, Network: PBS, Online Producers: Justin Barocas, Heather Brown, and Geoffrey Drummond
TV Food Personality/Host: Alton Brown, Show: Good Eats, Network: Food Network
Food Section of a General Interest Publication: San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonne and Miriam Morgan
Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review: Patric Kuh, Los Angeles, "Animal Magnetism," "Making Their Move," "Time for a Redo?"
Group Food Blog: Grub Street New York,, Daniel Maurer, Jenny Miller, and Alan Sytsma
Individual Food Blog: Politics of the Plate,, Barry Estabrook

Visit for more information.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Supports Diners with Special Dietary Needs

Restaurant Honors National Celiac Awareness Month by Making the Best in Steakhouse Dining Appropriate for all Diets

May is designated National Celiac Awareness Month, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (25 E. Ohio St., Chicago; (312) 329-9463 and 960 Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire, Ill.; (847) 793-0333) wants those who have celiac disease (CD) to enjoy a meal out without the concern over their dietary restrictions.  This is a great time for diners who are simply considering a gluten-free lifestyle to let someone else do the cooking.   

“As the executive chef of Fleming’s, I take our guests’ dietary needs as seriously as they do,” says Fleming’s Executive Chef Russell Skall.  “This is why we have such an extensive gluten-free menu without a lot of substitutions required.  We want our guests to experience what eating at Fleming’s is all about by enjoying all of the great flavors offered with our appetizers, salads, entrees, sides and tempting desserts.  Because we make everything from scratch, our chefs can ensure that every meal is the best it can be,” he adds.

Fleming’s offers guests a gluten-free menu which is also available online. Upon arrival at the restaurant, guests are advised to tell their servers that they are ordering gluten-free.   

Numerous appetizers can be ordered as they are indicated on the menu, such as the shrimp cocktail, butternut squash soup, cream of asparagus soup and lobster bisque.  Other dishes can be customized for a gluten free experience.  Appetizers like the tenderloin carpaccio, wicked Cajun barbeque shrimp and seared ahi tuna can be ordered without croutons, bread or mustard sauces to make the dish gluten-free. Most salads may be ordered without croutons; while others such as the lobster Cobb and filet mignon Cobb can be made gluten-free by removing the puff pastry and substituting the dressing (all salad dressings are gluten-free except the red onion balsamic dressing).

Dinner entrees like Australian lobster, tuna mignon, Alaskan king crab and any of the meat selections can be ordered as is for a gluten-free meal.  Other seafood dishes like the barbeque Scottish salmon filet and the seared scallops can be adjusted for guests with a gluten-free diet. 

No meal is complete without sides, so Fleming’s ensures there is a selection of side items for everyone.  On the dinner menu, gluten-free sides include baked potato, Fleming’s potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, sautéed mushrooms and grilled asparagus. Fleming’s even satisfies every sweet tooth with several gluten-free deserts: crème brûlée, mixed berries with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream with raspberry or fudge sauce. 

About Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar The nationally acclaimed Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar offers the best in steakhouse dining – Prime meats and chops, fresh fish and poultry, generous salads and side orders—with a unique wine list known as the Fleming’s 100, which features over 100 wines served by the glass.  Fleming’s was launched in Newport Beach, California in 1998 by successful restaurant industry veterans Paul Fleming and Bill Allen.  Today there are 64 restaurants nationwide.  Fleming’s is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including Wine Enthusiast’s annual Award of Distinction and Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence.

For more information about Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and the Fleming’s 100, please visit