Chicago Restaurant Week

The 7th Annual Chicago Restaurant Week has officially arrived—this year with an extended 14-day duration to celebrate our rich, local culinary scene. With nearly 300 participating restaurants, it’s guaranteed to make mouths water and appease the hunger of foodies across the city. Lunch menus are priced at $22 and dinner courses are either $33 or $44—a sensible deal considering the eminence of the included establishments. Here are our top three picks for where to bring your appetite these next two weeks. READ MORE

Off the Beaten Path: Chavas Tacos

Everyone loves tacos. If you live in Chicago, it’s probably a weekly indulgence. Sure, there has recently been a boom, with more upscale and refined taco joints popping up around town, complete with patios and deliciously complex margaritas. These places also feature notoriously long lines on weekends and warm nights. Sometimes, waiting over an hour for chips and guacamole, no matter how good it is, can be a bit much. READ MORE

Hog Heaven

It isn’t normal for a man to walk into the ballroom of the Four Seasons. This occasion is generally reserved for socially pious affairs, where ascots are abound and cleverly matched with cufflinks and monogrammed, custom-made shirts. I found myself bucking convention by attending Cochon 555, a pig-cooking competition comprised of many of the best chefs in the city.

The first sense to be overtaken was smell – the glorious, wonderfully wafting scent of cooking pork. I once cooked an entire pig at my apartment, a serious undertaking, and in the end worth it. Having done that, I fully understand how complex and intricate the process is: what these chefs do is nothing short of art. READ MORE

15 American-Made Artisan Foods You Have to Try

America. Home to the blockbuster, the mega mall and the double wide parking stall. We invented BIG, but we are also remarkably good at small. From stone ground chocolate to small batch tonic, here is what this country’s artisan foodies are doing really well right now. READ MORE

The Butcher Shop

Step inside Publican Quality Meats and your first inclination might be to buy specialty groceries, eat fantastic sandwiches and drink delicious beer. And yet, PQM is so much more than that. Like many, I have limited knowledge of what a butcher actually does. They break down thousands of pounds of animals, using a bunch of cool knives. In the case of PQM, it turns out, they also use a bandsaw. Yes, a bandsaw. “It’s pretty cool,” laughs Cosmo, the head butcher. It’s one of many machines lining the walls of the basement, a dizzying place with several talented butchers slicing away. From the outside, you’d never expect such a complex operation. “We wanted to be a full animal butcher shop,” Cosmo continues. For those of you who are unaware, most butcher shops receive a half or a quarter of an animal—it’s easier to break down and most don’t have a need for every pound. This is not the case at PQM: “Nothing goes to waste. All the bones we make stock out of, the fat we render down and use to for our fryers.” READ MORE

Mantry

It’s a pretty standard rule of thumb that every closet needs a few staples, those easy standouts that you can throw on and look sharp. A go-anywhere blazer, a well-tailored suit, a good pair of boots. Well, the same goes for your kitchen. Enter Mantry—the modern man’s pantry—a food-of-the-month club that brings small-batch, American-made artisanal products to your doorstep in reusable wooden crates that are nailed shut for that extra hint of authenticity. So, the next time you need to throw something together for impromptu guests, you’ll have something interesting to build on. READ MORE

On the Road to SXSW

Yesterday, at lunch, our group broke up into two camps, with Grant, Ryan and Dan choosing Checker’s and Gino, Gordon and I choosing the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell. The Checker’s crew, without anyone else’s consent, decided to make a pit stop in New Orleans—this surreptitious call will go down as one of the best tour decisions ever. Between emails and writing, I’d barely paid attention to where we were, and twice asked what state we were in. When I saw a sign that read New Orleans 23 Miles, I said, “Whoa, we’re right outside of New Orleans…” Dan turned his head, smiled and said, “That’s where we’re going.” READ MORE

A Piece of Belgium

After my recent visit to Brimfield, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to take advantage of one of my favorite restaurants in the city: Hopleaf. Located at 5148 N. Clark, the place is hardly a secret. In fact, most Fridays and Saturdays you’ll find the place packed to the gills with folks drinking some of the most rare draft selections and enjoying traditional Belgian fare. Thankfully, Hopleaf expanded into the adjoining space last year, and getting a table on busy nights is a bit easier—although the original dining room with wood-burning fireplace certainly creates an ideal ambiance for long dinners and exotic beers. READ MORE

The Breakfast Skillet

Every now and then, a little disorientation can lead to great discoveries. On a recent trip to Boston, I had such an epiphany. A Saturday morning brunch epiphany that came in a cast iron skillet, aptly named “The Hot Mess.” And though it’s likely such skillets are available in breakfast joints across the nation, I have to say this one was different. Perhaps it was the quality of the ingredients, the perfect execution, or my devastating hunger, but this was different. After several days of sober retrospection, I decided that my theory held. A well-made, piping hot, smartly-sized breakfast skillet is the perfect breakfast. READ MORE

Know What You’re Talking About: The Big Game

Once a year, avid football fans freak out and cheer on two teams. Two teams who have successfully made it through 16 weeks of brutally torn ligaments, broken bones and 320-pound linemen trying to kill anyone they can get their hands on. In other words, come Sunday, the most crazy and monstrously strong dudes in America will hold nothing back.

If you haven’t noticed, this quick tidbit is not about how this is the first time two brothers have faced off as coaches in a Super Bowl. This post is not about Ray Lewis’ final game. The inevitable Hall of Fame middle linebacker, revered team captain and acquitted murder suspect—yes, that’s true—will attempt to go out on the highest note possible. Now, there’s a chance some of you couldn’t care less. You may only go to Super Bowl parties for beer and food. Which is fine, but since the official beer/pizza sponsors are both big names that we don’t typically endorse, I’m here to give you some options, below. READ MORE