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Winter Openings in Chicago Worth Celebrating

Winter Openings in Chicago Worth Celebrating

Winter may have been brutal, but it gave us some great new restaurants

Among a number of new openings this winter, IO Urban Roofscape offers thoughtful cocktails and food in a chic setting.

Winter is just refusing to let go this year. Check out some of the newcomers to the Chicago scene and let them warm you up.

IO Urban Roofscape – If you’re looking to be transported from the frigid Chicago weather, IO Urban Roofscape is the place to go. Don’t mistake it for a cookie cutter club, though; Chef Riley Huddleston has put a lot of care into his menu and beverage program. Enjoy lamb lollichops and perfectly seared scallops with one of the interesting and well-balanced chef-made cocktails.

SideDoor – If you are a proud carnivore, but not into the stuffy steakhouse scene, SideDoor is worth a look. Taking advantage of mostly unused dining rooms in Lawry’s The Prime Rib, quirky modern touches mix with the traditional décor to create a more casual atmosphere than its parent restaurant. Chef Victor Newgren takes his meat serious, offering up prime cuts charcuterie style. The house-smoked pastrami sandwich is not to be missed, and the well-curated beverage program will not leave you thirsty.

G&O – Located on the corner of Grand & Ogden as its name nods to, G&O is a cozy place to keep warm while winter sticks around. A small menu delivers a number of interesting dishes, such as grilled dill pesto lamb or scotch eggs with chorizo. Truffles, including a Left Hand Milk Stout one, make a lovely end to a meal, and small batch draft beers are a highlight of the drink menu.

Mercadito Counter – While not open quite yet, Mercadito Counter is definitely one to look forward to. Chef Patricio Sandoval is taking his creative culinary style and creating a Mexican deli. Look for traditional dishes with a fun, American twist, like the Mole Q Hot Dog and the Gordita Slider. Kegged cocktails will be a quirky addition to your meal. You will also be able to take home pre-prepared dishes like tamales and specialized meats, just like a deli.


Things to do in Chicago

Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago—the largest city in Illinois and the third largest in the United States—offers a wealth of art, music, historical, and architectural experiences. Culture lovers can stroll through Millennium Park and the Loop to view outdoor art (including the iconic “Bean”), tour world-class museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, or cruise the Chicago River to see modern landmark gems. To meet the locals, buy a ticket for a ball game catch some live blues or jazz (both of which have deep roots in Chicago) at a club or laugh at the comedy acts at Second City, where many top comedians launched their careers.

When to visit

After being cooped up all winter, Chicago is ready to party when the sun comes out (sometime during May). Summer highlights include the annual Taste of Chicago, Chicago Blues Festival, Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, and the Chicago Air and Water Show. Alternatively, fall brings fewer crowds and brisker weather, perfect for exploring neighborhoods on foot and watching the trees turn colors along the quaint neighborhood streets.

Getting around

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is your best friend when traveling around Chicago. You’ll see many references to “the Loop,” the circle elevated train tracks that define the city’s downtown area. From there, train lines (both underground and elevated) shoot out to the airport and the nearby suburbs. The CTA also has a robust network of bus lines that make all corners of the city easily accessible. The Loop itself is very walkable, and if you’re there in the dead of winter and your toes are frozen, hailing a cab is a cinch.

Traveler tips

The best place for a chargrilled Chicago hot dog after bar closing time (2am) is the Weiner’s Circle in Lincoln Park. The dog is served with a pickle, tomato wedges, chopped onions, sweet peppers, celery salt, and a side of major sass from the counterperson. If you know what’s good for you, never ever ask for ketchup—Chicago is a mustard town.


19 Dos and Don&rsquots from the Pros for a Dreamy Winter Wedding

These expert-approved winter wedding ideas will help you avoid any seasonal snafus.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: Having a winter wedding is definitely a magical and memorable experience, as seasonal dress styles and festive weather (hello, snow!) can provide you with gorgeous wedding photos you’ll remember forever and ever. Planning the perfect winter wedding𠅎ven with the help of a wedding checklist�n definitely come with some hang-ups, though, as the weather, transportation, and the venue can all have season-specific challenges you’ll definitely want to keep in mind while you’re filling that wedding binder.

To help you get past those frustrating wedding planning roadblocks, we talked to a handful of expert planners about all of the dos, don’ts, and winter wedding ideas worth paying attention to. Below are 20 helpful tips any winter bride will want to keep within reach.


THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

This article shared 786 times since Mon May 3, 2021

—Red Sauce Sundays at The Smith (thesmithrestaurant.com/location/chicago/&: The Smith—a casual American brasserie located in Chicago's River North area—distinguishes itself by, among other things, hosting "Red Sauce Sundays." Starting at 5 p.m. each week, this ultimate comfort meal features a chicken parm dinner for two (Caesar salad, chicken parm, rigatoni "a la vodka," parmesan garlic flatbread and rainbow cookies) for only $45. Plus, enjoy half-priced Chianti by the glass, carafe or big carafe.

And my review? The dinner—from beginning to end—was quite fulfilling, in more ways than one. The salad was delicious (and there are no anchovies in it, for those who might have been concerned) the rigatoni had the right amount of creaminess the chicken parm was simultaneously tender and crispy—and a little spicy and the rainbow "cookies" (which seem more like mini-cakes) exhibited a nice combination of flavors.

—Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King (www.amazon.com/Prince-Knight-Tale-Shadow-King/dp/1499811217&: Written by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, Tale of the Shadow King (which continues the Prince & Knight series)—the latest work from GLAAD's partnership with Little Bee Books—focuses on the happily married title characters as they confront the villainous Shadow King.

—Frankly Organic Vodka (franklyvodka.com/&: Don't let the phrase "organic vodka" scare you. Frankly, an award-winning brand, offers several smooth, delicious varieties—original, grapefruit, strawberry, apple and pomegranate—that liven cocktails quite well. You can have it over ice by itself as well, but there are 21 recipes (like apple sangria) at https://franklyvodka.com/recipes/.

—PATHWater (drinkpathwater.com/&: Enjoy bottled water, but hate the waste that plastic bottles create? Well, take a look at PATHWater, which offers different varieties of water (purified, sparkling and the very trendy alkaline) in recyclable and reusable aluminum bottles.

This article shared 786 times since Mon May 3, 2021

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WINDY CITY TIMES 2019 Holiday Gift Guide Part One of Two 2019-11-27
- Feel the heat We all know the polar vortex may be revisiting sooner rather than letter, so be ready with Heat Holders socks and gloves (various prices HeatHolders.com). The socks, specially developed with cashmere-like acrylic yarn, .

Five Worth Finding: TeaPotBrew, 'The GayBCs' and more 2019-10-29
- —TeaPotBrew Bakery: Nestled in the South Loop/Prairie District, this bakery 񢆊 S. Wabash St. 312-966-6001) features dozens of teas, delicious sandwiches/pastries and the friendliest staffers you'll likely to encounter. Also .

Five Worth Finding: Pride, Carol's Cookies, Kimpton Gray and more 2019-06-18
- —The Queeriodic Table: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Culture: Harriet Dyer's book (a take on the periodic table, of course) contains a glossary on current lingo and definitions a condensed timeline of queer events from 1000 B.C. .

Five Worth Finding: Emotional book, Studio Three and more 2019-03-03
- —The Truth About Aaron: This book about the late football star/convicted murdered Aaron Hernandez, written by brother Jonathan, is a warts-and-all account of the sometimes brutal childhood Aaron had. Among .

Five Worth Finding, Beverages, Auto Show and more 2019-02-04
- Sodastream Fizzi One Touch (Sodastream.com): This eco-friendly sparking-soda maker has been getting tons of positive reviews—and there are several reasons for this. It's absolutely easy to use, there's top-notch customer .

Five Worth Finding: Last-minute gifts 2018-12-19
- —tinyB Chocolate (https://www.tinybchocolate.com/): Sinful bite-sized chocolates—which are great stocking-stuffers—are the hallmark of this company. Among the cascade of flavors are dark chocolate and sprinkles Brazilian coffee .

'One of a Kind Holiday Show' through Dec. 9 2018-12-07
- Through Dec. 9, the One of a Kind Holiday Show is returning to the seventh floor of The Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza. More than 600 independent artists from across North America and beyond are .

WINDY CITY TIMES HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018 Part two 2018-12-05
- Ross examination Diana Ross puts her indelible spin on holiday classics such as "The Christmas Song," "Winter Wonderland" and the title song on the CD Wonderful Christmastime—a collection of holiday recordings from Diana Ross that were .

WINDY CITY TIMES 2018 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018-11-28
- Rebel yell As many know, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is next year, and this cool "Rebel" T-shirt—which out Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black designed—marks the occasion in .

Five Worth Finding: Haunting film, Skydeck and more 2018-11-27
- —What Haunts Us: This Emmy-nominated documentary—which examines why many boys who graduated from the Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, committed suicide after becoming adults—will haunt you. Filmmaker Paige Goldberg .

Always Andersonville Pledge Local Campaign begins holiday schedule Nov. 24 2018-11-16
- CHICAGO (November 16, 2018): Over 100 Andersonville businesses are featured in the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce's (ACC) holiday programming lineup this season with a full schedule of shopping, dining, entertainment .

Five Worth Finding: Glamping, AIDS Run & Walk, and more 2018-09-19
- —Glamping at The Gwen (https://www.thegwenchicago.com/rooms-suites/glamping/): Time is winding down to enjoy the glamping experience at the upscale River North hotel The Gwen, on the private terrace of the Gwen Lux .

Five Worth Finding: Shrimp House, Public Art, 30 Under 30 Awards 2018-06-06
- —The Original Island Shrimp House (http://www.originalislandshrimphouse.com/): Did you know that National Lobster Day is June 15? Well, one of the places where you can celebrate it is The Original Island Shrimp House in suburban Palos Park. .

Five Worth Finding, books, Phluid Project, restaurants 2018-04-11
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times - —Given Up for You: In this honest memoir from University of Wisconsin Press, Erin O. White shares her hunger for love—both religious and secular. A lesbian, she spent time with her girlfriend and in Catholic confirmation .

Five Worth Finding: The (mostly) Valentine's Day edition 2018-02-06
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times - —The Bouqs Company (Bouqs.com): This company delivers flowers fresh from eco-friendly, sustainable farms around the world to doorsteps nationwide. The Valentine's Day Bouqs are available in a variety of sizes .


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Celebrating with Timpano!

It’s Timpano time again! If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know I previously featured Timpano a few times already in the course of my almost seven years here on Proud Italian Cook. I can’t help it, it’s such a celebratory meal, like making homemade ravioli.

I don’t make it that often but when I do it’s for a celebration or special occasion.

Many years ago I watched the movie Big Night, which by the way I think is one of the best “foodie” movies ever made, two brothers own a restaurant that’s not doing so well so they try and impress there guests by making a Timpano.

Stanley Tucci is in the movie and the actual Timpano recipe comes from his own personal family. To me the highlight of the movie was the Timpano scene. It will be forever embedded in my mind, here’s a You Tube clip, and the minute I saw it I knew I would be making this spectacular meal.

Making a timpano is a big event but it actually consists of very common ingredients, nothing much out of the ordinary, but the presentation is extraordinary and definitely celebration worthy!

When making Timpano you’ll find that it’s all about using the correct pan which so happens to be made of enamelware, you have to have the right size and shaped pan to hold three pounds of pasta, provolone, eggs, mini meatballs, Genoa salami, sauce and grated cheese and it has to be deep enough so you can make several layers before it gets nicely wrapped into the dough and when you finely un-mold it, there’s a nice dome like shape to it, here’s what I use. This recipe feeds at least 16 people!

I’m not going to kid you, it’s a labor of love, but isn’t that what we all do for special occasions, we go all out. What I really like about making Timpano is that everything can be prepped way ahead of time. I make all my sauce and mini meatballs a week before and stick them in the freezer until the day before, then a couple of days before the party I boil and peel my hard boiled eggs, dice up the provolone and Genoa salami, and make sure I have plenty of romano cheese grated.

Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe a little, I don’t make the heavy ragu that the original recipe calls for, I personally don’t think you need it, there’s so much meat that goes into the layers anyway, to me a nice light marinara made with olive oil, fresh basil, garlic and good San Marzano tomatoes is just right, of course I always make plenty of extra sauce because you’ll want to spoon some on each piece.

The recipe gives you the exact amounts of cheese, salami and meatballs you should use but I always throw in extra, the only thing I do exact is the hardboiled egg amount. I will post the link to the original recipe at the end of this post.

I can’t tell you how much I love this dough, it comes out perfect every time. I make it the night before, wrap it good in plastic wrap then refrigerate it, just bring it to room temperature before you start to roll it. Be patient when rolling, let it rest, then roll, it needs to be thin, you should be able to see the counter coming through the dough.

The dough circle needs to be big enough to drape the bowl like in the photo above because once you start adding all the ingredients the sides will rise up a bit, plus you need enough to be able to cover and wrap all the ingredients inside.

Then all the layering begins! See the bottom picture of the pan? look at the edge, you can see the pan design coming through, that’s how thin your dough has to be otherwise your Timpano will be too heavy and crusty and you don’t want that!

Layered up to the top, almost done with the filling!

Add the last layer of sauce and a drizzle of beaten eggs all over the top to seal everything in.

Wrap it, trim it, and stick it in the oven!

My advice is to read, read, read the recipe, I even printed it out and highlighted the important steps so I wouldn’t forget, at one point you have to take it out of the oven and put foil over the top and then back in, if you forget this step with the foil it can ruin the whole thing, my poor friend did that once, so please use a timer and pay attention when it dings.

Every oven is different but the Timpano should be golden brown with an internal temperature of 120 degrees.

When you un-mold it you can’t just cut into it, a very important step is to let it rest, I repeat, let it rest! If you don’t you’ll have a gloppy mess, and that would be so sad after all that work. Go pour some drinks and mingle with your guests, give it about an hour, believe me it will still be hot.

Then you’ll be able to cut it into sharp clean wedges for everyone, see how nice and thin that dough is?

You might wonder what to serve with Timpano, well since it’s summertime I decided to make a platter of grilled veggies and a nice big Italian salad, that’s it, that’s all you’ll need, trust me.

Cut your wedges which are nicely held together and spoon warm marinara on top, you’re ready to dig in!

If you’re lucky enough there might be a piece leftover for the next day…

We had a lot to celebrate, with a ton of hard work and endurance my daughter received her yoga teacher training certificate, it was also my sons birthday, and my niece and a good family friend just completed a triathlon. We’re very proud of them all, they work extremely hard but they sure know how to party!

Here is a link to the original recipe, within that recipe you’ll find another link to the Family Tucci ragu.


Fairbanks, Alaska

Northern lights over Fairbanks (Photo: Beth Ruggiero-York)

Fairbanks, Alaska is less than 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It’s the perfect winter escape for anyone who is, quite literally, looking to escape the real world. During the winter months, Fairbanks gets less than four hours of sunlight each day. But what that creates is an endless, epic adventure in the sky. Not only does every constellation become visible, but so does the Milky Way, as well as the Aurora Borealis. And on some nights, viewers even get to see the Milky Way and the northern lights at the same time.

Dog sledding in Fairbanks (Photo: takeshi82)

Besides the glory of the night sky, a winter trip to Fairbanks also provides a traveler with a hearty dose of adventure. Sub-zero temperatures, titanic snowstorms, and even the occasional meandering bear…if you’re looking to feel like your living inside an adventure movie, this is the trip for you.

But what most people come out saying is that they formed some of their closest bonds during their time in Alaska. After all, when it’s dark and below zero outside, everyone needs to count on each other. During the hours of daylight you do have, popular attractions include dog sledding and sightseeing.


Share All sharing options for: Five Fun Meal Kits to Try in Chicago

Vietnamese hotspot HaiSous has new meal kits to try. HaiSous [Official Photo]

More diners are leaning on meal kits during the pandemic as an alternative to traditional takeout. This give consumers more flexibility, allowing them to enjoy a properly heated meal at the end of a long day. Restaurant owners were initially apprehensive about the format for a few reasons. There’s a feeling that consumers wouldn’t take to doing any kitchen work, even something as simple as zapping food in a microwave.

Instagram has alleviated that concern, showing happy customers posting jubilant photos of their plating techniques. Beyond that, meal kits provide a cost-effective way to feed a family.

The following is a list of some of the more notable meal kits available in Chicago. Be sure to act fast: Many have limited availability. This list will be periodically updated.

Know of a worthy kit to be added to the list? Email [email protected] with suggestions using the subject line “Meal Kits.”

April 8

Logan Square: Neighborhood beacon Lula Cafe is offering a DIY pasta yia yia kit with everything needed to make the hit feta and cinnamon bucatini dish at home. The kit is designed to serve two. Order via Tock.

Pilsen: Decorated Vietnamese restaurant HaiSous is on a meal kit roll with two new submissions. A chicken pho kit for two includes broth, pulled chicken, rice noodles, a Vietnamese herb mix, and toppings like pickled onion, hoisin, and sambal. Home cooks looking to stretch themselves can make their own fried fish wraps with the fried whole fluke kit, which includes bib lettuce, herbs, nước chấm dipping sauce, chili sauce, fried shallots, rice noodles.

West Town: Pastry chef Genie Kwon has rapidly accumulated a following at Kasama, the Filipino restaurant and bakery she operates with husband Tim Flores. Now her many fans can order her signature chocolate chip cookie dough as a slice-and-bake kit that also includes parchment paper to line baking sheets. Order via Tock.

Wicker Park: Vietnamese restaurant Phodega is offering pho kits so customers can assemble ingredients at home. Each kit for two comes with chicken or beef broth, noodles, meat, and veggies. Order via Cash Drop.

Hinsdale: Altamura Pizza, located in the western suburbs of Chicago, specializes in take-and-bake pizzas with crusts made from imported Italian dough, according to the Tribune. Menu options include both red and white pizzas, such as Ortolana (eggplant, yellow peppers, red onions, capers, provola) and Verdura Bianca con Salsiccia (kale, Italian sausage, whole milk mozzarella). Place orders online.

March 10

Lincoln Park: Alinea, the world famous three-Michelin star restaurant, has introduced a line of bake-at-home pot pies that staff are shipping across the continental U.S. Customers can choose among a pilcrow poultry pie with bordelaise, lobster pot pie with herb velouté, or beef short rib pot pie with wild mushroom sauce, or just order a package of all three. Pies are delivered within one to three days after purchasing and will be sent via UPS Two-Day service. Order via Tock.

Old Town/Wrigleyville: Pizza spot Happy Camper has dessert kits for those who’d rather just skip right to the sweets. A DIY dessert pizza kit includes pizza dough, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, Nutella, graham cracker, and instructions. There’s also a kit of six or 12 cookie dough balls designed for at-home baking. Order via DoorDash.

South Loop: Manny’s, Chicago’s longtime Jewish deli icon, is getting into the spirit of the season with a St. Patrick’s Day “Lucky Kit” that serves four to six. It includes two pounds of deli-sliced corned beef, eight potato pancakes, two pounds of rye bread, 10 slices of boiled cabbage, a bottle of mustard and two whole kosher pickles (for diners to fight over or begrudgingly share). Items are also available a la carte. Order via Tock or Dwell Social

South Loop: Italian restaurant Victory Tap has two crowd-pleasing kits for dinner at home. Options include a pizza kit with dough and sauce for two 12-inch pies, plus cheese and optional pepperoni, and a ravioli kit (12) with a choice of meat filling, cheese filling, or half of each. Order via Delivery First.

Ukrainian Village: Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar is selling a “We Got This” oyster kit featuring two-dozen Chesapeake Bay oysters with beet cocktail sauce, giardinera, and lemon. Newbies could opt for the “Starter Pack,” which also includes an oyster knife, shucking glove, and towel. Order via Tock.

Evanston: Suburban restaurant Oceanique features a steak-focused meal kit with an uncooked 7 to 8-ounce Prime filet mignon (marinated in black pepper and garlic). Prepared sides include a beet salad, basil whipped potatoes, and a chocolate pot de creme (hazelnuts, caramel butterscotch). Order via Tock.

March 3

THE LOOP — Downtown bakery Sugar Bliss offers a fun culinary distraction with its Let’s Decorate Cupcakes At Home Kit. The box includes nine chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, a selection of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry frosting, a variety of sprinkles, and a handy piping bag. Order via Tock.

RIVER NORTH — Travelle, the restaurant inside the Langham hotel, has three pasta kits for diners to purchase. There’s kabocha gnocchi, lobster risotto, and reginette pasta with pork ragu. Order via Tock.

RIVER NORTH — Siena Tavern’s retail arm, Siena Scratch Kitchen, has a few fun pizza and pasta kits in store. Pizza kits include dough, mozzarella, pomodoro or parmesan cream sauce, and burnt pepperoni or truffle mushroom topping. Pasta kits are all about options: customers can choose among gnocchi, orecchiette, spaghetti, gemelli, or chitarra sauce options like parmesan cream, vodka sauce, pomodoro, chili and lemon cream, or spicy lobster cream and a bottle of red or white house wine.

RIVER NORTH — Japanese restaurant Sushi-san from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has launched a DIY kit for two that gives diners a chance to test their skills at maki, uramaki, and futomaki. Kits feature Spanish bluefin tuna, Japanese hamachi, and Atlantic salmon, along with vegetables, garnishes, and sauces, a makisu (a bamboo mat for rolling maki), and an instructional video from chef Kaze Chan. Orders must be placed by 5 p.m. the day before pickup. Order via Tock.

RIVER NORTH — Indo-Latin fusion restaurant Vermilion features a pair of cook-at-home seasoning kits to spruce up dinner at home. The Lobster Portuguese and Tandoori Steak kits come with the necessary seasonings and easy cooking instructions — patrons need only provide the protein.

WEST LOOP — Jinsei Motto, the sushi spot inside CH Distillery, opts for a DIY sushi experience with its hand roll kits. Each kit comes with spicy tuna, spicy tako (octopus), spicy shrimp, salmon, avocado, cucumber, rice, and seaweed for wrapping. Order via Tock.

February 24

AROUND TOWN — Chicago-based app Chowbus, which delivers food and groceries from local Asian restaurants, has launched a meal kit collaboration with Asian sauce and spice-pack company Omsom, according to a rep. Options include Korean spicy bulgogi (pork or chicken), Chinese shrimp mala salad, and Chinese chicken and cucumber salad. Kits include an Omsom starter pack, meal ingredients, and a recipe designed to be completed in 30 minutes. Order via Chowbus’ new grocery service.

LINCOLN PARK — Quality Crab & Oyster Bah is selling a playful New Orleans-style seafood boil kit that includes jumbo shrimp, andouille sausage, red potatoes, and corn on the cob. The whole thing takes about 45 minutes to boil in the oven and feeds two to three people. Order via Tock.

LOGAN SQUARE — Modern Mexican restaurant Dos Urban Cantina has a sizable selection of kits and heat-at-home options. Taco kits for two or four are available with carnitas, carne asada, Baja-style fish, chicken verde, or grilled vegetables other items include pozole kits with neatly packaged garnishes, several frozen vegan soups, and tamal azteca, described as “Mexican lasagna” (corn tortillas, black beans, poblanos, tomato sauce, Chihuahua cheese).

PORTAGE PARK — The team at Community Tavern has created a wine dinner-inspired meal kit for one, two, or four featuring a bottle of Donna Laura ‘Ali’ Rosso 2018. The three-course kits include duck prosciutto panzanella, tagliatelle with pork shoulder ragout, and brie cheesecake items come cold with instructions for reheating and assembly. Order via Upserve.

RIVER NORTH — Upscale downtown restaurant RPM Italian has a special meal kit and cooking class lined up: diners can learn how to make short rib lasagna for two with chef Chef Christian Fantoni at 7 p.m. on March 12. The meal also includes an Italian salad with salumi and pepperoncini, truffled garlic bread, chocolate budino, and a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Order via Tock.

THE LOOP — The Palm takes aim at steak fans with a selection of DIY kits. Customers can choose among two 18-ounce Prime rib-eyes, 9-ounce center-cut filets, or 14-ounce Prime New York strips, all accompanied by au gratin potatoes and asparagus. Each comes with cooking instructions.

February 17

AROUND TOWN — Filipino-American pop-up Boonie Foods has a fun pair of meal kits that come with an instructional cooking video from founder and chef Joseph Fontelera (Arami). Current options include adobo tuyo (caramelized pork belly over rice) and pinakbet (sautéed mixed vegetables with shrimp paste). Staff will delivery kits of pre-measured ingredients to buyers. Order online through the Boonie Foods website.

ANDERSONVILLE — Bongo Room is selling bake-at-home brunch kits that include a “reconstructed” biscuits and gravy pot pie, breakfast strata, and breakfast bread pudding that serve two to four. Patrons can pick up kits at the Andersonville restaurant on weekends and must place orders 24 hours in advance for the strata and bread pudding. Order online through the Bongo Room website.

EDGEWATER — Sauce and Bread Kitchen gets into the kit game with several fun options including a ramen kit for two that includes tonkotsu or vegetarian broth, fresh noodles, smoked ham, an egg (for poaching in the stock) and other toppings. There’s also a grits kit (3-Sisters Farm grits, pimiento cheese spread, hot sauce, chicken stock) and a “Foccacia-yeah” pizza kit (pre-prepared dough, ragu, Tempesta nduja, chilis, queso). Order online via Square.

Sauce and Bread Kitchen’s Foccacia-yea pizza kit Sauce and Bread Kitchen [Official Photo]

FULTON MARKET — El Che Bar has launched a monthly subscription box (starting at $70 per month) for meat fans. It features a rotating selection of USDA-prime, dry-aged cuts including center-cut filets, beef ribeyes, tira de asado short ribs, and more, along with deluxe add-ons like sauces and sides. All boxes come with recipes and tips. Order online via Table22.

LINCOLN PARK — Old Pueblo Cantina features take-and-bake versions of its signature cheese crisps, with several kits that include ingredients and instructions. Customers can choose varieties like Queso (longhorn cheddar, chihuahua, cotija) and spicy chorizo (longhorn cheddar, chihuahua, chorizo, escabeche, cotija). There’s also a simple taco kit and a choice of protein (steak, chicken, ground beef, sweet potato, al pastor, or crispy rock shrimp) to go with rice, beans, esquites, guacamole, and six flour tortillas. Order via Toast.

LOGAN SQUARE — Chicagoans can try and replicate Middle Brow Bungalow’s critically acclaimed pizzas at home with a selection of a la carte kits. Customers can order dough balls (each is enough for a 12-inch pie) with an added “base kit” (two pizzas worth of semolina, 00 flour for stretching), along with 8 ounces of red sauce, and cheeses including fresh mozzarella and parmesan. Toppings are also in the mix, with options like white anchovies, uncured pepperoni, and La Quercia prosciutto. Cooking instructions and tips are available online and kit items are sold via Toast. Cooked, heated pizzas are also available.

RIVER NORTH — Osteria Via Stato has created two pasta kits along with straightforward recipes from chef David DiGregorio for diners to cook and eat at home. Patrons can try ricotta cavatelli with mushrooms and brown butter (pre-cooked ricotta cavatelli, wild mushrooms, parmesan broth, pecorino) and penne with pulled chicken (pre-cooked penne, fresh mozzarella, tomato cream sauce, basil). Order via Tock.

RIVER NORTH — New York export the Smith has expanded its collection of “heat and eat” items to the Chicago market. Menu items include a rosemary chicken dinner for two (kale and quinoa salad, spinach, potatoes, chocolate chip cookies) and braised beef short ribs for two (caesar salad, burrata, grits, Brussels sprouts, chocolate chip cookies). A la carte items like crab cakes and macaroni and cheese are also available. Order through the Smith at Home website.

WICKER PARK — Taquizo has a five different taco kits that all include corn tortillas made on-site, limes, and onion with cilantro or habanero-pickled onion packed separately. Customers can choose from barbacoa, carne asada, cochinita pibil, al pastor, and chicken with mole from chef Yanitzin Sanchez (Mas, Sabor Saveur, Mercado Cocina). Order via Toast.

WICKER PARK — Tortello offers a number of pasta kits for two perfectly suited to an easy meal. Options include a “handmade with love” tortelli meal kit (Puglian burrata, sage, toasted hazelnuts, balsamic, aged parmigiano), a ragout meal kit (one pound of pasta, Slagel Farms beef ragu, parmigiano), and more. Order via Tock.

February 10

FULTON MARKET — What’s more romantic than a TV dinner? Marvin’s Fuel & Food is leaning into nostalgia with a set of three heat and serve dinners inspired by the meals found in a supermarket’s frozen section. They’ve got meatloaf, enchiladas, and lasagna. This fun idea is available for pickup.

GOLD COAST — Somerset, the glitzy restaurant inside the Viceroy Hotel Chicago helmed by chef Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y.), aims to give Valentine’s Day diners an approachable DIY meal with a selection of a la carte kits for two. Items include a version of Gillanders’ famed lobster dumplings with kosho butter sauce and tobiko soft herbs a risotto kit with wild mushroom mix, herb tea, and grated cheese and braised short rib with crispy potatoes. Each kit comes with a handy recipe card. Order via Tock.

LINCOLN PARK — Diners looking for a unique option for the heart-themed holiday can impress with an at-home Valentine’s Weekend Home Fondue Experience from Geja’s Cafe. Patrons can choose from 16 protein packages like Prince Geja’s Combination (beef tenderloin, chicken, white shrimp, scallops, lobster tail), while the restaurant provides the necessary fondue equipment. Kits also come with Swiss gruyere fondue breads, fruits, and vegetables for dipping and a dark Belgium chocolate fondue for dessert. Meals are individually portioned.

LINCOLN PARK — Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ sister spots Summer House Santa Monica and Stella Barra Pizzeria are offering a do-it-yourself date night kit for two ($65.95). It includes a Summer House salad with 11 topping options, a build-your-own pizza kit (dough, mozzarella, marinara, flour, pepperoni, shaved mushrooms), and two sugar cookies with sprinkles and pre-prepped piping bags of royal icing.

LOGAN SQUARE — Flat & Point offers its four-course Valentine’s Day menu for couples ($100-$145) two ways: as a cold kit or a hot meal. Those who opt for the kit will get simple cooking instructions along with everything needed for dishes including beet and bacon salad, goat cheese mezzaluna with winter pesto, and smoked pork shank cassoulet. Order via Tock.

LOGAN SQUARE — The team at Table, Donkey, and Stick know love may be best expressed through gooey cheese, and is thus featuring a Valentine’s Day Raclette Feast for two ($85). Kits include a cheese and charcuterie plate, marinated beets and chocolate (honey, juniper, elderflower), and traditional Raclette melting cheese with instructions for proper melting and the usual fixings of fingerling potato, pearl onion, and gherkins.

NORTH CENTER — Italian restaurant Tuscan Hen aims to provide some at-home V-Day fun with a live virtual cooking class scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday. The class comes with a meal kit for two ($65) that includes bruschetta with goat cheese and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, ricotta gnocchi with pesto and shrimp, and mini chocolate raspberry cake wiht Chambord whipped cream. Order via Square.

RIVER NORTH — GT Prime Steakhouse embraces V-Day tradition with a meal for two ($135). Patrons can expect a pair of 6-ounce filets mignons with red wine bordelaise, creamed spinach, “French-style” mashed potatoes, focaccia, and a dark chocolate hazelnut tart. Kits include cooking and reheating instructions. Order via Tock.

WEST LOOP — Downtown sushi palace Momotaro proffers a pair of Valentine’s Day kits for two that both come with reheating instructions. The Cupid’s Plate ($140) includes hamachi crudo, citrus-sancho glazed chicken wings with gyoza filling, and wasabi-crusted Kakuni beef short ribs (kabocha puree, maitake). The Fishing for Love dinner ($95) features 12 pieces of nigiri, a Momomaki roll (spicy octopus, big eye tuna), and a negi hamachi roll (yellowtail, Tokyo scallion). Order via Tock.


Illinois Hosting February Events To Celebrate Black Businesses In Honor Of Black History Month

CHICAGO (CBS) — The State of Illinois is hosting a series of events to celebrate Black History Month, and celebrate contributions Black businesses have made to the state’s economy.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Department of Central Management Services are teaming up with the Chicago Urban League and other community groups to host several programs focused on boosting Black- and minority-owned businesses.

“National Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us to seek a deeper understanding of Black history and experiences, laying the groundwork for more progress toward equity and freedom the rest of the year,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement.

During February, the state will host a series of events on topics including: COVID-19 relief, access to capital, branding, grant applications, and a special panel focused on diversifying international trade.

Central Management Service’s Business Enterprise Program (BEP) also will participate in several events and offer training and technical assistance to business owners to assist them with certification options.

Upcoming events being hosted by DCEO, CMS, and its partners include the following.


Winter Solstice Traditions: Rituals for a Simple Celebration

Early nightfall. Crisp mornings. The sharp silhouette of leaf-bare branches. Orion marching across the evening sky. These are some familiar signs of winter. We often speak of turning inward during these darker months, becoming quiet and introspective, staying home more often, sleeping longer. Yet there’s another side to winter that contrasts with our natural inclination to rest and contemplate—a side that insists we shop til we drop, eat and drink more than we care to, and rush around busy airports. Regardless of our spiritual or cultural heritage, if we live in North America today there’s a good chance we find ourselves caught up, perhaps involuntarily or out of habit, in a commercial swirl known as “the holidays” that leaves us depleted in more ways than one.

Perhaps this year, with some preparation and planning, we can plant the seeds for a more intuitive, simpler, and natural holiday season. Winter solstice, which takes place in late December, can be a profound way to tune into the magic and beauty of the season. For people throughout the ages—from the ancient Egyptians and Celts to the Hopi—midwinter has been a significant time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. Creating a meaningful celebration of winter solstice, either in place of or in addition to other holiday activities, can help us cultivate a deeper connection to nature and family and all the things that matter most to us. Winter can become a time of feeding the spirit and nurturing the soul, not just emptying our bank account and fraying our nerves.

Pre-Christmas celebrations

While we don’t know how long people have been celebrating the solstice, we know that ancient cultures built huge stone structures designed to align perfectly with the sun at specific times, such as dawn or high noon. And some ancient peoples performed sacred rituals and made offerings when the sun dipped below the horizon to ensure its daily return, especially during the darkest days.

Many of the traditions now associated with Christmas are believed to have originated centuries earlier with nature-based communities and indigenous peoples. For example, the idea of Santa Claus may have come from the story of the first shamans who were said to climb high into the upper worlds and return with gifts of wisdom and prophecies, postulates Tony Van Renterghem in When Santa Was a Shaman (Llewellyn, 1995). The word “yule” may derive from an Anglo-Saxon term that means “wheel,” and in pagan Scandinavia, village people sat around bonfires of burning yule logs throughout the night while drinking mead and listening to the stories of minstrel-poets.

Richard Heinberg, author of Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony (Quest Books, 1993) describes the solstices as “times of danger and opportunity times for special alertness and aliveness.” In Iran, families often kept fires burning all night to assist the battle between the light and dark forces. In ancient Rome, where it was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, masters even celebrated as equals with their slaves. Throughout history, celebrating the solstice has been a way to renew our connection with each other and with the numinous through acts of goodwill, special rituals, and heightened awareness.

Make your own rituals

“Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.

In Celebrate the Solstice, Heinberg writes that “wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle, and what kinds of action (or restraint of action) are appropriate for that phase.” Attuning our senses to the subtle changes and cycles of the seasons might help us attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in ourselves. By performing simple rituals with personal meaning to celebrate the solstice, these rituals will serve as touchstones to help us cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and appreciation that will carry us through the holiday season with more ease.

A good starting point might be to make a promise this winter to spend more time listening, watching, and honoring the slower, quieter rhythm of the season. On the solstice, visit a place outdoors that’s special to you—a trail you can walk or a field you can lie down in, a hillside or mountain perch that provides the perfect view, or even the roof of your apartment building or a quiet place on the edge of your yard. Consider watching the sun rise or set from your little patch of the world. Write a poem. Make a list of loving wishes for friends, family, coworkers—even people you don’t know that well. Build a shrine of nature’s found objects. Light a candle. Reflect on your aspirations for the coming months. Throw the I Ching. Say a prayer. Sing an original song.

Sharing food, an important part of any celebration, is particularly meaningful during the solstice, as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. Maybe you’d like to prepare a simple meal from organic winter vegetables to share with friends or family, or cook a dinner to enjoy in the welcome solitude of your own company.

Silence is another beautiful way to celebrate the shortest day of midwinter. Reflect the stillness of the day by cultivating stillness in yourself. Consider honoring the threshold of solstice with an hour of intentional silence for you and your household.

New traditions

Creating a new tradition that brings more peace and heart to your holidays could also bring you closer to family and friends. Sharing a ritual founded on love of nature, on respect for the always renewing cycles of life, and on faith in the future has a way of bringing out the best in people. If you’d like to start your own, consider these suggestions found at CircleSanctuary.org. You might make a wreath with evergreens collected by loved ones on a walk through the woods. Evergreens, it’s said, symbolize the continuity of life, protection, and prosperity. Or build a circle of candlelight, one for each participant, and then blow them out and sit together in the darkness for a few moments offering gratitude before lighting one central, larger candle to symbolize your unity over the coming year. Ring a collection of bells at sunrise and sunset or offer seeds to winter birds and other outdoor creatures.

If you have children in your life, you might organize some special activities to share with them, such as identifying winter plants and animals with a field guide on a short walk or drawing pictures of winter scenes in your neighborhood. Try writing an acrostic poem in which you use “solstice” as the root word and use each of its letters as the beginning of a line in the poem. Or watch together from a warm window as the sun sets and give thanks for both the darkness and the light.


Giardiniera (the Americanized pronunciation is something like jar-dinyair) is an Italian word that means roughly “from the garden.” It is a condiment made from fresh vegetables, chopped into small bits and used to top sandwiches and other foods. Technically it is a relish, but it is not at all like an American sweet pickle relish. And there are two basic versions: Italian-style, packed in vinegar, and Chicago-style packed in oil.

There is no single recipe for giardiniera. The exact ingredients and method vary from house to house and bottler to bottler, and it can be made from mild to hot with infinite grades in between.

In Chicago giardinera is extremely popular and can be found in all the hundreds of restaurants that serve Italian Beef Sandwiches and Italian Sausage Sandwiches where it is practically a required topping. It is in every grocery, and a jar of giardiniera can be found in the door of every Italian American fridge in Chicago.

In New Orleans it is used to top muffuletta sandwiches and on nachos at sports stadia. It can also be used on meatball sandwiches, mortadella, bologna, and practically any other sandwich. Some folks serve it straight with antipasto, straight as a salad, on a salad, in soups or in sauces. Rachael Ray puts it on pasta, and I know of people who use it on scrambled eggs.

There are basically two styles. This recipe is the Italian fresh from the garden version which is a simple jar of chopped fresh veggies with oil, vinegar, and salt. The other style is the shelf stable version like the process used for commercial giardiniera. It is made by salting the veggies aggressively overnight, rinsing, soaking in vinegar, rinsing, packing in oil with oregano, and sterile bottling with heat.

Think of giardiniera as more of a topping than a relish. Relish is too confining a term for this adaptable condiment. Below is my homemade recipe, heavily influenced by a recipe taught to me by my sister-in-law Theresa Tortorello. She is an accomplished Italian American home cook who learned her recipes at the aprons of her immigrant family’s women. She makes a large quantity of her Italian-style giardiniera in August using the bounty of her garden.

A popular commercial Chicago brand, Dell’Alpe, is simply serrano peppers, celery, green olives, and spices. First they pickle everything in salt and vinegar, drain, submerge the pickled veggies in oil, and heat pasteurize to prevent botulism. The people who make Marconi brand and the giardiniera for the Portillos restaurants, famous for Chicago Hot Dogs and Italian Beef Sandwiches, use the same ingredients but they add cauliflower and carrots. Pagliaci adds capers. Some kick it up with hot peppers.

Theresa and I like lotsa stuff in it. I add onions, garlic, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, and fennel bulbs. You can increase or decrease ingredients to your taste. If you can’t find fennel bulbs, skip them. Want more garlic, go for it. Love pain, add Scotch bonnets. I recommend you start with my recipe and then, after aging it a few days, you can add more ingredients if you wish. My recipe is more Italian-style. It uses vinegar to make sure it is low enough in pH (acidic) to discourage microbial growth. It can be stored in the fridge for several weeks. Packing in oil is risky because botulism loves this environment, and scrubbing the veggies is just not good enough to pasteurize them .