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100 Chicago Chefs! Share Our Strength Taste of Nations

Skinny chefs. Fat chefs. Tattooed chefs. Bandana-ed chefs. Young serious chefs. Young fun looking chefs. Established boss looking chefs.  There were legions of mixologists in black chef coats crafting all kinds of boutique cocktails! There were smooth talking suited Front of House guys and there was an army of Back of House waiter types from Navy Pier keeping all plates and glasses cleared.

Taste of Nations brings together the best chefs and foodies in the city to raise money for the No Kid Hungry Campaign of the organization Share our Strength. It was a spectacular night at Navy Pier.

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The $125 ticket was worth it with by first smell that greeted me on the walk to the Grand Ballroom at the end of Navy Pier.  If you had me at the smell you won me with the first station of ….Oysters!  Note shucking chef and Front of House suited guy in the photo below.

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The event was very swanky with lots of Beautiful People.  I was determined not to be distracted by all that.  There were countless small plates of deliciousness to be consumed for my beloved blog.  I put a fork, a Perrier and a pile of cocktail napkins in my purse and hit it.   Being a savvy (and focused) foodie I crossed the ballroom to the further and less crowded side of the room.  I was impressed with the massive and well sponsored set up of the event – excellent!

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That’s lobster salad from Benny’s Steak House (it’s newer at Wacker and Grand) The chefs were cute and the salad was made with a new favorite word pairing of mine;  beef mayo. Nice first bite.

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I headed outside for the Lake Michigan views and the fire of BBQ.  Old school bread and pickle and the bark on this generous portion of meat made me cry just a little bit.  www.bubcitychicago.com   Remember Lady Gaga’s raw meat dress? Well, the VIP Chef After Party was at Bub City and I was very seriously considering doing something similar outside their smoker later in the evening but with cooked meat and sauce as  coverage. Of course I am a lady so I didn’t but with meat this good I gave it serious thought.

There were a few BBQ places at the event.  One had a ….boring…. presentation.   ‘Oh, cold BBQ sandwiches that’s easy’  said my Snotty Inner Self. Until I tasted them.  Holy – Forget Smoque – deliciousness!   This chef won Memphis in May and named his restaurant after his  maternal grandmother so I will visit Lillie Q at North and Damen and they can pelt my Snotty Inner Self with small delicious BBQ sandwiches.  http://lilliesq.com/

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It’s a Bacon Taco. There’s a Western Michigan minor league baseball team that serves a taco with a shell made of bacon (it’s on CNBC)  and I was thinking of driving there to try it but then I had this bite of bacon taco-y goodness. Have a great season, White Caps, I am all set on Bacon Tacos.

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Three hunky chef types from MK assembling blue crab with truffled oil toast point bites. Delish, swanky ingredients and chef-y eye candy.

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This nice lady from Embeya served grilled head on prawns. So good! There were a few all-lady-chef teams working their tables and I liked their style – special shout out to the Girl and Goat ladies who all look like the We Can Do It WWII poster only cuter and more badass!  Second shout out to Hoosier Mama Pie Company with pink. chef coats and a cute farm stand bakery presentation

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Dear Everyone Who Works in the Kitchen at Paris Club (formerly Brasserie Jo) You are invited to sleep over if you make this for breakfast. Champagne’s chilling – thanks!  MD

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Old Town Social brings a vegetable! Can we all just agree kale is oddly trendy right now? Can we also agree it needs bacon to be delish? We can not agree because this was summer perfect heirloom tomatoes with whipped Burrata cheese covered in … terrifically delicious …kale salad. I stand corrected.  See you at Whole Foods, Kale.

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Giant tub of perfectly spicy excellent Ahi tuna – check.
Endless crispy delicious sesame cups – check.
Chef with awesome name? Chao Worachai Thapthimkuna? check
Shout out to Union Sushi & Japanese BBQ for generous portions of fishy goodness www.eatatunion.com

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How much pressure must it be to work at the Signature Room at 95th Floor? Everyone is there for a special occasion! I wonder what the policy is if the lady turns down the proposal – does he just stay on his knee talking her into it? Or have they developed an elegant out of some kind? I say serve up this grilled octopus with smoky vegetable salad.

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Truffle perfect ravioli! If Bill and Guiliana need a nanny for Duke they can pay me in RPM dollars.

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This very pretty chef from somewhere in the Rick Bayless empire had a silver bowl full of beautiful blackberries and a pot of melted chocolate and she put them on this plate with this perfect little bit of chocolate cake. After the first bite all other details have been lost. Thank you! Thank you!

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There were lots of seasonal ingredients; heirloom tomatoes, corn, zucchini but the winner in seasonal ingredients was this corn pudding from Café Architects. So smooth and smooth and smooth. The phrase mouth feel was invented for little cups of goodness like this. And chef liked my suggestion of creating a spoon made of bacon!  www.cafesdesarchitectes.com  The Sofitel chef has a non-French sense of humor! Merci!

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Isn’t this display beautiful? It’s from Tru. This lovely bit of constructed nature had two very welcoming, snazzy dudes on either side of it . As a woman on an eating mission I had to ask …is there any food here… ?

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Why, yes, in Tru style there were little bits of a ‘cracker’ made of mushroom with an edible flower type item nestled in some kind of spread of deliciousness. It was so tasty and clever I missed some of the description… but I did find out the Tru no longer serves the three types of caviar in crystal staircases. Instead I learned – via the chef’s phone photo – there are bowls of caviar served on coral reef tower.  The theory being the bowls can be used for sharing.  It’s a stunning presentation but…who shares caviar? A quick check of www.trurestaurant.com shows that vodka and I have a date at Tru to try all the different caviars!

 

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Best bite – I went old school. Runner up is the green goddess dressed BLT bite from http://sundaydinnerclub.com/ – had I been familiar with their concept I would have been pestering them for an invite to their next pop up dinner event but I was distracted by the BLT – not the first or last time that ‘s gonna  happen.
Above is the Celebrity Cruise Lines -promoting their I can attest to delish food on board –  Kobe beef Chicago hot dog with perfect poppy bun, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized deliciousness on top. I spent a very special few minutes enjoying this goodness and a few shameful ones devising a way to put a few in my purse. Weiner Circle, I am cheating on you with an upgrade!

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So that I could give my hog-y best to all 100 chefs I didn’t really drink but the concoctions were crazy awesome!  What is bergam? I need to find out! If you would like a post of just Taste of Nations Cocktails leave a demanding comment and I will abide if there is interest.  Meantime – how cute is that Absolut bottle? I want matching shoes.

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Speaking of cute Absolut items -I give you – this lady and her fascinator . She’s serving Absolut Tune – it’s sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and vodka blend with 14% alcohol – Happy New Year!  Who cares what year it is if you are ringing it in with that!

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How do you pick which chef to photograph? The Andersonville chef with the shrimp Cajan gazpacho? the tattoo-ed guy with the chicken gizzards? Four Seasons Irish guy with the lamb sausage? The dude from Spiaggia with the grilled octopus that made we want to take up spear fishing and fire building? Again I went old school – the Italian artist from Vie with the little veal meatballs. Perfecto. That reminds me – get ready ,Taylor Street, I am working Little Italy Fest next week and getting paid in meatballs!                      www.uvalittleitaly.com/festa-italiana/

Thank you, Chefs!!  If you would like to learn more about Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry or their next event – sign up

http://ce.strength.org/getinvolved

If you would like to read about my recent visit to The Aviary – just enter your email to receive posts to your inbox every Tuesday and Friday – food, travel and tall tales – you’ll always know what’s the Mary Delia!

Innovative New Gastronomy – Chicago’s ING Dinner

or the Restaurant ING in Chicago.

Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune says ‘Homaro Cantu is a chef defined and limited by his excesses. At Moto, Cantu’s science-based culinary sleight-of-hand never fails to dazzle even the most jaded diner’

Moto is the fancier restaurant so I, of course, was at Chef Cantu’s more casual (lower priced!) ING. This kind of molecular gastronomy is food as theater. The presentation and clever interpretations are half (two thirds?) of the enjoyment.

Grapefruit, Elderflower and Ginger & the color matched my dining companions outfit!

Grapefruit juice, Elderflower liquor and ginger – very refreshing and the color matched my dining companions outfit! How could a girl ask for more?

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Trevor was the server, maître’d and charming master of ceremonies for the evening. With hipster vest and cool dude-hairdo he kept up the pace as we had him explain every element of each of the eight crazy & clever courses.  He even had the ‘food miles’  – that’s how far away the ingredient travelled to the plate which is very important in new locovore-mania.   The micro-cilantro was organic with 152 feet of food miles – from the garden of Restaurant Moto next door!

Note – occasionally I will slip in a KC – a “kind of” criticism or a “kindly conceived” criticism.  What do I know about new gastronomy?  Not enough to criticize harshly but they present and I eat therefore I feel compelled to ‘feedback’ if you will.

The bowl alone!  It's crab salad...deconstructed!

Som Tom Green Papaya-Crab-Lime          The bowl alone!  It’s crab salad…deconstructed!

This first course of crab salad. Note my beaker of Ginger/Elderflower/Grapefruit pinkness is almost gone!  The artful splashes of white are lychee fruit foam.  We were instructed to eat half the dish then to take a Miracle Berry which is harvested in Africa and when allowed to melt on the tongue it changes how you perceive the next bites — it makes sour sweeter!  And it works!   They serve the Miracle Berry on a small plate with a wedge of lemon so you have the lemon before and after consuming the Miracle Berry so you can taste the immediate effects!

KC – can we beef up the crab portions? Pun intended.  I would have loved to have seen some lumps.

The fanciest corn salad ever!  Those yellow blobs tasted like just delicious butteryness.

Elotes! The fanciest corn salad ever! Those yellow pillow-y blobs tasted like just delicious butteryness.  You know that butter smell of movie popcorn these little piles of love captured that in silky smooth taste.

Little tiny squares of FALAFAL.  Perfect, Tiny. Squares.  The highest calling for a chickpea!

Little tiny squares of FALAFAL. Perfect, Tiny. Squares. The highest calling for a chickpea!

KC – these should be sold by the dozen so I can pop them in my mouth while I watch sporting events. Or the guy who makes them can come live at my house for a few weeks and his only job is to make tiny, perfect squares of falafel.

The theme of all the courses was 'street food' so these were tiny, short rib baby tacos.  More tiny deliciousness.

The theme of all the courses was ‘street food’ so these were baby tacos made with pig face and cotija crema. Tiny deliciousness of yes, pig face.  More pork jowls, please.

Deconstructed lobster roll. The glorious perfect fish bit is bottom right and the blue squares are potato salad. I could have licked every plate!

The vegetable sticky rice coming our of carryout box is one of the most delicious blackened things ever created! Amazing

The vegetable sticky rice coming our of the carryout box is one of the most delicious blackened things ever created! Amazing

Deconstructed street meat.  Who knew?

Deconstructed street meat. Fancy Korean BBQ. Who knew?

There were wine and beer pairings that did not rock my palate so I left them off the radar.

There were courses of desert – delicious flecks of flavored shaved ice and a far afield cannoli that I thought could have been actually a little more constructed but overall it was a wonderful night of gastronomy-y food!

As a enthusiastic home chef and sometime caterer I can make my way around the kitchen but I have no earthly idea how these heavenly plates came to be so thank you to iNG!   Special thank you to Groupon, too!

Next up we went to Grant Achatz The Aviary  for drinks….

Male Intruder Part II – OMD!

Despite my long standoff with the overbearing rules of my beloved Lake Shore Drive high rise I don’t always lock the door to my apartment when I step out during the day. Keys are bulky. There are 400 units in my building. What are the chances I will get burglarized? There’s a doorman and cameras – it’s safe. And if Fate catches up with me and I do get robbed …what are they going to take? Bongo my stuffed monkey? My uniform polos? My vast collection of $1 wine glasses. It’s fine unlocked…..most of the time.

I went out one evening to a happy hour charity event and it just happened to be near a great blues club so I had expected to be home by 8PM but it was closer to midnight. I had left a light on and came in and checked email and had a snack. I was just about to splash water to wash my face when I thought something doesn’t seem right so I snaked my way around the wall from the bathroom to the bedroom and what should my wondering eyes should appear but a man….in my bed!

There are so many scenarios where this would be a sexy surprise or a romantic maneuver gone awry since the man was very much sound asleep. But nope. I squealed and in a blink assessed that the sleeping man was much smaller than me and not menacing since he wasn’t conscious. In. My. Bed. I have spent the better part of last decade in fancy resorts and hotels so my tastes in sheets and comforters runs high end. Despite the fact that I can literally sleep anywhere – which I attribute to a childhood spent living in a household of nine where every other member was five plus years old than me. And my Bath and Body Works consumption means the bedroom smells delish.

Who the hell is this person? In. My. Bed.

I follow up my squeal with a tougher bark and a hard swift foot to the middle of the unknown male drunk lump. In. My. Bed.

I move the sheets with my kicking foot and I recognize my small, old, FURRY, does-his-laundry-in-denim overalls-with-no-shirt- so-full-chest/back-hair- is-displayed, gay neighbor. Ok the situation has gone from scary to something less than scary. He is not moving and I am out of plans to get him to move. I go to the hallway and call the Buiding Nazis at the Front Desk. I explain the situation and they send a maintenance man. By man I mean a kid who is smaller than me although probably the same size as neighborly sleeping beauty. Maintenance doesn’t speak English and I don’t know how to say ‘intruder’ in Polish.

What’s the next move?

Of course I have checked Chicago’s Finest off my dating wish list. And yes he’s Irish. There’s an O in the last name and everything. He works overnights in my district so I send him a text. He calls in thinking mine is a party call and with one teary sniffle I have my own personal police department on the way.

SIX CPD show up. They are unclear if I am the victim or the perp of this crime scene. That gets cleared up when they flashlight their way into the bedroom and rouse my intruder. It was my choice to arrest him or not. (For being drunk and sleepy…would rather not throw a stone in that glass house – thank you very much)

Finally, let me just vaguely suggest that CPD showed excellent concern for my peace of mind for the rest of the night and offered to … ahhhh .. ‘help change the sheets’ Full service – I like it!

BONUS Male Intruder III

I bought a new dishwasher. The young, fit, cute, tall guy who delivered it says “Listen they give me 90 minutes to install but I can get it done in 15 if you want to spend the time…..otherwise….”
I told him just the dishes were dirty but thanks!

Male Intruder Part I – OMD!

In the busiest time of my travel adventures I could be gone for as long as up to six weeks of working everyday so I created a few rituals to ease back into life in Chicago. Try to get the bags unpacked, laundry done and a workout in within 24 hours of landing at home. For years due to scheduling I would go from a cold SB city to a warm weather singles cruise and I would find myself washing my SB Day of Game uniform sometime around St Patrick’s Day. Luckily, I live in high rise with 15 washers!
Another welcome home treat would be pizza night and Pajama Monday. Pajama Monday should be self-explanatory but- Pajama Monday is when the rest of the world is having a work day weekday and you wear your pajamas all day, catch up on the mail and tackle that full DVR. Since the kitchen is empty in order to have sustenance on Pajama Monday without leaving the house you need a food that is delish repetitively and at all times of day – pizza.

Honestly pizza night is the best coming home from the road treat. I live alone and very much desire that my pants fit so pizza is normally not allowed. One particular night there was an incident that has come to be called – The Pizza Guy Story.

I came home from Ohare and dumped the mail on the floor and the entire contents of the purse on the dining room table. If there were a movie about my life the Chanel Bag would be a character in it. After a long haul the inner holdings of my constant companion need to be categorized – grat envelopes, receipts, forgotten snacks wrapped in cocktail napkins, hotel keys I didn’t return….ect. Generally the pizza call – Dominos pepperoni and black olives- would have been made from the cab. The Building Nazis would be advised of pizza arrival as I refused their assistance with my bags in my long standing stand off against the doormen in my building.

So on this one particular night I had changed into loungewear – pajama shorts and a very oversized tshirt and the pizza guy knocked on the door. I opened the door, said hello then walked over to the kitchen table to get cash. When I turned around what did my wondering eyes see but two pizza guy balls staring back at me! And he was still holding the pizza in one hand and the two liter of Diet Coke in the other. Now let’s be technical for one second. There is no way I opened the door and didn’t notice the man didn’t have pants on! It would seem physically impossible he got his pants off in my 20 second walk from the door to the dining room. For the record his pants were buttoned but unzipped and the smallest part of him was thinking about getting excited about the situations. Finally and most insultingly the pizza man attached to the peek a boo penis looked… well ….bored. He looked at me then looked at his winky then looked back at me with….. the vaguest of shrugs.

My response? With a shout of ‘gimmie my pizza” I put my right hand full on the middle of his chest and gave a shove while my left grabbed the pie. Pajama Monday menu saved. I did not pay for the pizza.

This Friday – Male Intruder Part II

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Fort Lauderdale – MD Style

Looking at the world through Flamingo glasses

Looking at the world through Flamingo glasses

Sunrise Fort Lauderdale Beach

Sunrise Fort Lauderdale Beach

Ditch your flip flops for a walk on the beach

Art deco buiding with six floors with three units per floor – along the Intercoastal

Grab 7-11 coffee and hop in for a ride

Grab 7-11 coffee and hop in for a ride

Hit the links

Hit the links

Wear hot pink!

Wear hot pink!

Tennis anyone?

Tennis anyone?

Nature walk

Nature walk watching for manatees — its fun!

Pose with your dad- dressed as a lawn care workers!

Pose with your dad- dressed to hide from the sun!

Stand Up Paddle Board in the canals - it's the Venice of America

Stand Up Paddle the canals – it’s the Venice of America

Paddle board obstacles

Get under a bridge – I dare ya!

Take a beach break

Get to the beach and hit the sand

Get that noodle and really take a break

Noodle float and see where you land!

You earned it!

You earned it!