A Look Inside Food Network Magazine's Posh Party at RPM Italian

A Look Inside Food Network Magazine's Posh Party at RPM Italian
(l-r): Yaran Noti, features editor, Food Network Magazine; Alex Guarnaschelli; Jeff Mauro; and Vicki Wellington, vice president, publisher and chief revenue officer, Food Network Magazine. Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Food Network Magazine.

Giuliana and Bill Rancic’s trendy River North, RPM Italian hotspot has been packing in Chicago’s glitterati since it opened a little over a year ago, but even with that as a given the four-abreast line snaking down Illinois St. from Dearborn to Clark early last Wednesday evening was a bit surprising.

The crowd was a divergent group.  They were young and old, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, young couples, grandmothers and grandfathers and groups of friends. Some were dressed casually, others were dressed to the nines. Many were carrying books. They came from the city, the suburbs and small towns. But despite their differences they all had one thing in common.

They were fans of The Food Network and subscribers to the Food Network Magazine.

While many food magazines and other print publications are either folding, downsizing or just treading water, Food Network Magazine, which launched in 2008, is doing just fine, thank you. With it’s circulation skyrocketing each year, at latest count nearly 2 million subscribers and ranked #4 in North America for monthly magazine newsstand sales…it’s a money making machine.  Why, you ask?

The Chicago Stormy created for this event.

The Chicago Stormy created for this event.

It seems, Food Network Magazine is doing a lot of things right. Number One, they are riding the wave of celebrity chefs–of which they have an ocean. But beyond that, they know how to market their product and treat their audience, their fans and subscribers.

When was the last time one of the publications you subscribe to invited you to a hot ticket spot owned by a popular celebrity couple and offered to pick up the tab?

That’s exactly what Food Network Magazine did for this crowd and not just this year. For the past two years the magazine has held upscale reader events in Chicago…(last year at Mercat a la Planxa).

They’ve also thrown gourmet dining events for their readers in other cities including NYC and South Beach….with more in the works.

A look inside the Chicago event…

The first 400 readers who rsvp’d to the email invite were able to indulge in three hours of unlimited food and libations at RPM, talk with Food Network stars, get their books signed and have photos taken with the Food Network celebrities.

The Stars Shine Bright…

Jeff  Mauro

Host of Sandwich King and $24 in 24, Jeff Mauro, an Elmwood Park native delighted the fans with his sense of humor and congenial personality.  Jeff still lives in Elmwood Park where he films some of his Food Network shows from his home and Chicago area restaurants. Chicago area fans were especially interested in Mauro’s favorite local sandwich spots:  For subs it’s Alpine Food Shop in Elmwood Park, three blocks from his house.  His number one spot for fried meatball sandwiches is Danny’s Deli in Melrose Park.  For BBQ pork sandwiches he recommends Smoque BBQ on Pulaski in Chicago. And for rib tips the hands-down winner is Mickey’s on Harlem in Oak Park.

Alex Guarnaschelli

Iron Chef celebrity cook Alex Guarnaschelli and I found common ground instantly when she showed me her just released book, Old-School Comfort Food and I shared my recent blog on Comfort food restaurants in Chicago.  Anyone who cooks at a restaurant called Butter, Alex’s NYC spot, knows their comfort food.

The Vibe…

RPM is an understated sophisticated see and be seen spot nestled in the trendy River Neighborhood. The black-and-gray lounge is anchored by a massive island bar. The open dining room is dressed in black and cream with white table clothes.  The RPM name comes from the heady mix of Chicago’s celebrity couple, the Ranics for the R, with the P for Chicago’s rock star chef Doug Psaltis and the M for Melmon…(RJ, Jerrod, and Molly Melmon) from Lettuce Entertainment Enterprises.

The Menu…

The guests were treated to a mix of creations inspired by Food Network Magazine recipes and the RPM menu.  Food Network Magazine’s contributions included:  Lobster Caprese, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, a melt in your mouth lobster creation, Provolone-Stuffed Pickled Peppers, Prime Beef Meatball Sliders and something simple, healthful and oh so yummy, Eggplant Parmesan Sliders.

FROM RPM came a Spicy Swordfish Crudo, House Smoked Salmon, Caviar Crostini, Speck and Tellagio Involtini, a Zucchini Fritti, Fritto Misto, Calamari, Shrimp, Lemon, Handmade Morel and Pea Mini Ravioli, Handmade Sweet Corn and Summer Truffle Agnolotti, Wood-Roasted Octopus, Chickpeas, Celery; Mini Tartufo, Hazelnut Gelato, Chocolate Shell; and Baked Cannoli.

The Drinks…

There are no bartenders at RPM only mixologists that infuse their hand-crafted Artisan Cocktails with fresh herbs from local farmer’s markets, and yummy sounding semi-exotic ingredients like kiwi or mango. For the fan event, in addition to beer and wine, Food Network Magazine created five special cocktails: Raspberry Pomegranate Splash; Maple Leaf Cocktail; the Chicago Stormy; Baileys Hazelnut Martini; and the Barista Prima Cocktail. The Chicago Stormy was specially created for this event in partnership with Diageo, one of the event sponsors. The drink, which may or may not be added to the RPM cocktail menu is a combination of Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum, lime juice, ginger beer, with a lime for garnish.

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