Food Fun Friday: Valentine's Weekend Edition

Food Fun Friday: Valentine's Weekend Edition
Courtesy of the Chicago Reader

This week seems to have flown by. I had a great dinner at Benny’s Chop House and their wine list is really great. Their red wines have lots of age and character. If you didn’t read my earlier post this week on my Triathlon Challenge, please check it out. I’ll be updating my training next week and a new 20 Questions will be out as well.

Most importantly lots of Valentine’s Weekend and Day events in the second half of this post and don’t forget Dose Market is at the River East Art Center for those last minute unique gifts.

Have a great and hopefully romantic weekend!

Texas de Brazil celebrates Brazil’s biggest holiday with a festive Carnival party and Caipirinha mixology competition featuring Chicago’s top mixologists on Tuesday, February 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. The evening, sponsored by Leblon Cachaca, spotlights Chicago’s most distinguished mixologists including Josh Pearson (Sepia), Pete Gugni (The Bedford), and Benjamin Newby (The Underground). These bar masters will create their spin on Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha cocktail, with proceeds from the event benefitting the winner’s charity of choice. In addition to tasty cocktails, guests will enjoy Texas de Brazil’s premier grilled meats and other Brazilian fare amidst a truly “Carnival” atmosphere featuring festive décor throughout the restaurant’s second floor space. Tickets – $30/guest – can be purchased here and include a Caipirinha sampling by each mixologist and plentiful hors d’oeuvres. For more information or phone reservations for the event, call Texas de Brazil at 312.670.1006.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (25 E. Ohio St., Chicago, IL 06011; 312-329-9463) will host a Silver Oak Wine Dinner with special guest, artist Thomas Arvid 6:30 p.m. February 10. Arvid will unveil three new paintings at the dinner, which features wines from Silver Oak Vineyards. Tom Johnson, from Silver Oak also will be at the event to speak about the wines.

The Silver Oak Wine Dinner with Thomas Arvid is $150 per person, excluding tax and gratuity, for five courses and four wine pairings. Reservations for the Silver Oak Wine Dinner with Thomas Arvid at Fleming's are required and may be made by calling 312-329-9463.

The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.) invites Chicagoans and whiskey-lovers alike to encounter the country's only Blind Tiger, an illicit evening of entertainment designed by Spirits Director Clint Rogers in partnership with Templeton Rye Head Brand Ambassador Michael Kilmer. From 7 p.m. to midnight on Monday, February 20, revelers who pay an admittance fee of five cents will be ushered to the restaurant's underground private dining room, where they will witness the rare spectacle and captivating entertainment.

RSVPs are encouraged and must be made through the Blind Tiger Facebook page, but admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited. Should the event reach capacity, the special Blind Tiger elixir will also be available to those on the wait list in small batches ($5 per cocktail) upstairs at The Gage bar. For more information, call (312) 372-4243.

On Tuesday, February 21, SUSHISAMBA rio will host a special Carnaval festivity to mark Rio de Janeiro’s most extravagant celebration. In addition to the delectable menu specials, revelers will enjoy live performances by shimmering samba dancers dressed in elaborate garb, the beats of booming batucada drummers and the spin sounds of a dj! What’s more, SUSHISAMBA rio will broadcast a live feed of the celebration in Rio de Janeiro, bringing the energy and excitement of the world’s largest party straight to the Windy City. 

SUSHISAMBA rio offers inventive fare that unites bold Brazilian flavors, precise Japanese technique and traditional Peruvian culinary traditions on one plate. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at 312.595.2300. All major credit cards are accepted. Please visit for more information.

Butcher Classes Anyone?

Chef Allen Sternweiler encourages Chicagoans to embrace their inner chef and fulfill their New Year's resolution to "learn something new" by announcing Butcher & the Burger's first butchery classes of 2012. Butcher & the Burger'searly 2012 class schedule, with each event beginning at 7:30 p.m., is as follows: Throughout the month of February, Butcher & the Burger will offer a series of Surf & Turf classes, which include: On February 6, as a pre-Valentine's Day "how to" guide, Chef Al will showcase techniques for buying, preparing and cooking the ultimate beef tenderloin and lobster pairing dinner. ($125 per person

  • As a special exception to the Monday night class schedule, the restaurant will welcome couples to attend a Valentine's Day class on Tuesday, February 14, when they will get hands-on with cuts of tenderloin and live Maine lobster inside Chef Al's prep kitchen, following his expert instructions. This class will begin with complimentary Champagne and chocolates and end with a romantic meal showcasing the evening's work inside the Butcher & the Burger dining room. ($225 per couple)
  • Celebrity Chef Govind Armstrong will join Chef Al for the final installment of the restaurant's Surf & Turf series on February 20, presenting an innovative approach to pairing unique seafoods with rare animal proteins. The duo will educate and demonstrate methods of matching proteins and serve attendees a three-course meal illustrating their teachings. All guests who attend this class will depart with a vintage Butcher & the Burger cooler, packed with ingredients showcased throughout the evening so they can test their newfound skills at home. ($225 per person)
  • As a continuation of the spirited holiday, Chef Al will lead a Mardi Gras Fish Monger Class on March 5, designed to help students learn how to select, prepare and cook various preparations of fish confidently in their kitchens, understand sustainable fishing practices, and identify which fish is the best nutritional fit for their families. Chef Al will teach the group how to make his blackened catfish and invite them to taste several fish preparations at the end of the evening. ($100 per student)
  • Advanced registration is required and can be made by calling General Manager Preston Owen directly at (773) 697-3735. Space is limited. All classes are BYOB, and confirmed attendees will receive pairing suggestions in advance. For more information or to view the complete schedule online, visit Details on future classes are forthcoming, and all new class offerings will be posted to the restaurant's website at least two months in advance. Private (two-person maximum) and semi-private (six-person maximum) classes are also available upon request, based on availability.

Markethouse Heartland Cooking Series

Chef Scott Walton of Markethouse Restaurant and Bar (611 N Fairbanks) will launch a new Heartland 101 Chef Series in the new year. Offered twice a month on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., guests will enjoy an informative evening with demonstrations of five themed courses by Chef Scott. Held in the restaurant, each class is $45 per person and limited to 40 guests. Reservations, along with a credit card to reserve the seat, are required and may be made by calling 312.224.2200. Following is the Heartland 101 Chef Series schedule:

  • Wednesday, February 22: Pork. Take this basic dinner staple to the next level as Chef Scott demos five pig-focused courses, along with specific cooking techniques
  • Wednesday, March 14: St. Patrick’s Day. Get in the Irish spirit with Chef Scott’s unique variation on corned beef and potatoes. Green cocktails included.
  • Wednesday, March 28: Spring Lamb. Impress your Easter brunch guests with Chef Walton’s take on lamb. Master cooking techniques and Easter sides using local ingredients

Architecture and Food Combine

Next month, Roka Akor, in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, invites steak, sushi and architecture enthusiasts alike to an exclusive lunch experience celebrating the venue's masterfully designed construction. On Sunday, February 26 at 1 p.m., guests will be welcomed into Roka Akor's contemporary dining room, which was designed with careful consideration of the aesthetic flavors of the restaurant. Once diners are seated, Dwayne MacEwen, president and creative director of DMAC Architecture and Roka Akor's Executive Chef Ce Bian, will lead an engaging discussion about the collaborative effort that went into creating Roka Akor's dining room as well as the Sake and Shochu Lounge. After their presentation, the hosts will join the group for a prix fixe lunch menu. Lunch will be served with soda, tea and a signature non-alcoholic beverage.

Immediately following lunch, guests will be taken on a tour of the restaurant, during which MacEwen will point out the custom crafted details that define Roka Akor's unique setting. The "Appetite for Design" lunch costs $55 for CAF members and $65 for non-members, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Space is limited to 50 attendees and advance reservations are required by visiting

Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St) and Double A guests will be able to mix and mingle or spice up their love life this Valentine’s Day with the five-course sharing menu or the intimate cooking demonstration hosted by Chef Patricio Sandoval. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 312.329.9555.

  • Single and Ready to Mingle: Those who’ve sworn off the holiday of love can still party with friends and enjoy the five-course sharing menu of guacamoles, botanas, ceviches and desserts on Tuesday, February 14 at both Mercadito and Double A. For the bachelors eyeing a group of single gals, just ask your server and Mercadito will send a special admirer note with a tray of shots to future Valentines from across the dining room. $55 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.
  • Spice up your Love Life: Couples can join the party on Valentine’s Day or celebrate a day early with Chef Patricio’s decadent four-course Valentine’s Day menu with paired cocktails. Learn how to prepare the following menu of his romance-inspired recipes. The Valentine’s Day Cooking Demo will take place on Monday, February 13 at 7 p.m. $75 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.

Katherine Duncan, founder and confectionista of Katherine Anne Confections, a locally-focused chocolatier, will be hosting a February Truffle Making Party—just in time for Valentine’s Day! Katherine opens her kitchen and recipe book to the public as she demystifies the art of making truffles. Instead of buying your Valentine another box of chocolates, make this year something special by creating your own unique, delicious truffles! Sunday, February 12 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Katherine Anne Confections, 2745 W. Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647
$50, includes wine, light appetizers and truffles! Reservations are required and space is limited, so sign up today!

Terzo Piano is offering an exclusive four-course, prix-fixe Valentine’s Day menu with two available seating times on Saturday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 6:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. The four-courses include wine pairings with the first, second and fourth. The price is $110 per person (non-museum members) and $100 per person (museum members). Price includes the four-course dinner with wine pairings, and tax and gratuity are not included. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 312.443.8650.

Love is literally in the air, thanks to the aerial wine artists at Texas de Brazil this Valentine’s Day. Chicago’s premier Brazilian steakhouse celebrates the day of love with dinner and a show. As a sweet treat, Texas de Brazil will partner with one lucky lover boy to make his date’s wishes come true. Prior to Valentine’s Day, Texas de Brazil will run a contest, calling all those who are love-struck to enter to win an over-the-top proposal. The winner will be assisted by the restaurant’s aerial wine artists in executing an over-the-top marriage proposal. E-mail entries will be accepted until February 7 atpublicrelations@texasdebrazil.comand should explain why the entrant deserves a high-flying proposal.

For all diners, the restaurant will offer its indulgent menu featuring a gourmet salad area containing more than 60 items, a fresh sushi bar, and full meat service cooked in the traditional Brazilian “Churrascaria” style ($46.99 per person). Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 312.670.1006.

Indulge in a romantic meal for Valentine’s Day at Sepia restaurant, recently honored for a second consecutive year with a star from the prestigious Michelin Guide. In the chic candlelight of Sepia’s stylish dining room, couples will enjoy Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s tempting four-course prix-fixe menu, expertly paired with wines by Wine Director Arthur Hon. End the night with a sumptuous sweet treat created by Pastry Chef Cindy Schuman. The special Valentine’s Day menu will be available only on Tuesday, February 14, 2012. The cost per person is $80, plus $55 for optional wine pairings, exclusive of tax and gratuity. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (312) 441-1920.

This year, Gaslight, a Four Corners tavern in Lincoln Park, is allowing couples to enjoy an exquisite prix fixe meal, complete with wine pairings, for well under $100 total. The ticket price is $40 per person, with tickets sold only in advance on . Diners must email to reserve a time for dinner. Gaslight is located at 2426 N Racine in Chicago (one block north of Fullerton).

mk's friendly environment, knowledgeable staff and romantic ambiance make it a special place where many couples have met, married and celebrated anniversaries over the past 13 years. If there's an engaging question to be asked or a special anniversary to celebrate, let mk's staff know and they'll make sure love is in the air! $79 per person - For reservations, please call 312.482.9179. For media inquiries, please contact Allison Clark, 908.304.5213,

ENO Wine Room at the InterContinental Hotel
On Monday, February 13 at 7 p.m., guests can join Wine Manager Shara Bauer as she welcomes Sweet Margy Kaye of Sweet Margy Confection Diva to ENO Wine Room (505 N Michigan) for a festive and interactive way for couples and friends to celebrate Valentine’s Day. On this special night, guests can sign up to learn how to make mouth-watering English-style toffees from Chicago’s finest confectioner while enjoying a selection of fine wines including Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne, 2000 Ramos Pinto Porto and Kracher Chardonnay #10 Trockenbeeren Auslese. Cost is $35/person and reservations can be made by calling (312) 321-8738.

C-House Valentine’s Day special tasting menu is $55 per person, includes a glass of sparkling wine, and is available Feb. 10 – 12 and Feb. 14. A vegetarian tasting-menu is also available. After dinner, sweethearts are encouraged to get extra cozy at C-View, the indoor lounge on the hotel’s 29th floor, offering gorgeous views of the Windy City and specialty cocktails ($12 each) on Feb. 10 – 11, and 17 – 18. C-House is located at 166 East Superior Street, at the Affinia Chicago hotel. For more information and to make reservations at C-House, call (312) 523-0923 or visit

Since everyone should spend Valentine's Day eating food they truly love, Custom House Tavern is encouraging diners to skip the standard prix fixe holiday menus and instead create their own Custom-Made Tasting Menu. For $55, guests can choose their own four-course tasting menu, selecting each course from house favorites and special seasonal offerings from Executive Chef Perry Hendrix and Chef de Cuisine Zach Millican's a la carte menu.

The Custom-Made Tasting Menu to celebrate Valentine's Day will be available from Saturday, February 11 through Tuesday, February 14. The regular a la carte menu will also be available (some a la carte menu items may not be available for the tasting menu). Reservations are highly recommended. Please call (312) 523-0200.

At Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St) and Double A, the intimate lounge located below the River North hotspot, guests will be able to mix and mingle or spice up their love life this Valentine’s Day with the five-course sharing menu or the intimate cooking demonstration hosted by Chef Patricio Sandoval. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 312.329.9555.

  • Single and Ready to Mingle:Those who’ve sworn off the holiday of love can still party with friends and enjoy the five-course sharing menu of guacamoles, botanas, ceviches and desserts on Tuesday, February 14 at both Mercadito and Double A. For the bachelors eyeing a group of single gals, just ask your server and Mercadito will send a special admirer note with a tray of shots to future Valentines from across the dining room.$55 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.
  • Spice up your Love Life:Couples can join the party on Valentine’s Day or celebrate a day early with Chef Patricio’s decadent four-course Valentine’s Day menu with paired cocktails. Learn how to prepare the following menu of his romance-inspired recipes. The Valentine’s Day Cooking Demo will take place on Monday, February 13 at 7 p.m.$75 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar will celebrate the passion this year with three evenings of luxe specials and a unique Valentine gift for couples dining on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, February 12th through the 14th. To give guests another reason to celebrate, Fleming's is offering each couple dining February 12th through February 14th a complimentary $25 Fleming's Dining Card to use toward a future rendezvous with their sweetheart. Reservations advised and may be made by visiting The Valentine's menu is available at two Chicago-area Fleming's locations, 25 E. Ohio St., Chicago, 312/329-9463 and Lincolnshire, 960 Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire, 847/793-0333.

This Valentine's Day, The Florentine (151 W. Adams) invites hopeless romantics to savor flavorful fare while cozying up in a lush dining room for a gastronomical celebration of amore. From Saturday, February 11 through Tuesday, February 14, Executive Chef Todd Stein will present his seasonal a la carte menu - featuring favorites such as Bucatini Carbonara with pancetta, cracked pepper, pecorino and duck egg ($14 half order, $26 full order), Crispy Duck with Tuscan kale, roasted carrots, pistachios and cerignola olives ($32) and Chicken with romesco, grilled green onion, and crispy potato ($26). Reservations for Valentine's Day are highly recommended and can be made by calling (312) 660-8866 or by visiting the restaurant's website.

Sofitel Chicago Water Tower(20 E. Chestnut St.) and its restaurant Café des Architectes invite guests to partake in a romantic excursion that caters to all of the senses.

  • Magnifique Romance - In this room package, guests will enjoy luxurious overnight accommodations with a romantic gift of chocolate or flowers upon arrival. Guests will also receive a bottle of champagne delivered to their room at any time they choose. Daily in-room breakfast and a late checkout time until 4:00 p.m. allows couples to relax at their leisure. Rates for the package start at $245 a night for double occupancy. For more information or to book the Magnifique Romancepackage, please call (312) 324-4000.
  • Magnifique Degustation - For gourmands, Chef Greg Biggers and Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy have created a Magnifique Degustation menu at Café des Architectes. This four-course prix fixe is $79 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity) and is available Tuesday, February 14 in addition to the regular dinner menu. For those looking to celebrate February 11-13, a number of à la carte Valentine’s specials will be available in addition to the regular dinner menu. For more information or to make a reservation at Café des Architectes, please call (312) 324-4063.

Rebar - Trump From Thursday, February 9 through Tuesday, February 14, couples looking to spice up their romance can enjoy a uniquely themed sushi and cocktail package at Rebar, Trump Hotel’s chic mezzanine-level lounge that offers intimate seating and picture-perfect views of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue. In addition to its signature menu, the lounge will also present a "Two of Hearts" special Valentine's Day weekend package that offers unique ingredients for a sweet celebration with a touch of aphrodisiac-fueled heat. Guests who purchase the package will receive one Two Hearts Tartare roll. The roll will be served alongside a special Sweetie Spice cocktail. The "Two of Hearts" package costs $45 per couple inclusive of tax (includes one Two Hearts Tartare roll and one Sweetie Spice cocktail). The special Valentine's Day themed offerings can also be purchased a la carte, with offerings priced at $30 for the Two Hearts Tartare roll and $17 for the Sweetie Spice cocktail. Rebar is open on Valentine's Day from 4 p.m. to midnight. For more information or to make reservations, please call (312) 588-8034.

Logan Square Kitchen presents its 3rd Annual Valentine’s Day Pastry Market—a delicious event that gives attendees a taste of some the best sustainable, small-batch, pastry, cake, ice cream, handmade confections and culinary gift items available in Chicago. Logan Square Kitchen is committed to showcasing the best and newest local, small-batch food artisans in the area—and this unique event is no different! Many of the artisans found here are not widely available outside the LSK and local Markets. Admission is $1 for adults, kids are free. Saturday, February 11 and Sunday, February 12, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Logan Square Kitchen, 2333 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647, 773-342-2333

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at Joe also contributes to Chicago.

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