Chicago Gourmet festival flavors Chicago this weekend

In Chicago this weekend with an empty stomach? Then head to the third annual Chicago Gourmet festival. Hosted by “Bon Appétit” magazine, Chicago Gourmet compiles the best and brightest in Chi-town cuisine.

Event presenters include Frontera Grill’s Rick Bayless, chocolate guy Jacques Torres and former “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” food guy Ted Allen, who is now something called a “food and wine ambassador” for Robert Mondavi wines. And subjects to be covered included gourmet guacamole, great steak and eggs dishes and fall foods. The fest also features live cooking demonstrations from the likes of Carlos Guytan, or Mexique and Bruce Sherman of North Pond Restaurant.

And on both days, master sommeliers will be on hand for Grand Cru Tasting events. Plus there’s a separate “Hamburger Hop” burger showdown scheduled for Friday. Cost for Chicago Gourmet is somewhat steep: $250 for the weekend or $150 for the day (the Grand Cru event and Hamburger Hop are priced separately) — but foodies will find it worthwhile.

For the full schedule of events and payment details, go to

Bayless hits O’Hare with two new restaurants

Dining at Chicago’s O’Hare airport just got bumped up a notch or two: master Mexican food chef Rick Bayless announced he’s opening two new restaurants in Windy City’s major airport this fall.

The restaurants will feature Bayless’s signature Mexican cuisine, and will be located in terminals 1 and 3 — not a bad way to kill a an hour or so while on an endless layover.

Bayless owns several restaurants in the Chicago area, including the much-lauded Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and most recently, Xoco, which opened in September 2009 in the city’s River North neighborhood. Bayless is a highly respected chef who competed against Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America” in 2005, and most recently caught national attention when he competed and won Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters.”

[Image credit, Getty Images]

Make your reservations now for Chicago Restaurant Week

Ah, Chicago Restaurant Week. One of the few things that will get city residents out of their apartments when the temperature dips into the negative double-digits. From February 19 to 26, over 100 restaurants in the city and suburbs will be offering special prix fixe menus at $22 for lunch and $32 for dinner.

Known as one of the best times to try a new or normally too expensive restaurant at an affordable price, Restaurant Week is also often a time when the chefs try a few more daring dishes to spice up the usual menu. And some of the city’s most celebrated chefs and restaurants are participating. Among them are Topolobampo (owned by celeb-chef Rick Bayless), NoMi, Carnivale, and Blue 13, where the lobster pizza is to-die-for. At several of these places, it would be darn near impossible to get a three-course meal for under $60 per person, let alone a mere $32.

Most of the restaurants participating already have their menus up and are taking reservations. Many are also offering drink specials along with dinner, so you can use the money you save to enjoy a few more glasses of wine.

Last year, the city extended Restaurant Week into March, but don’t count on it happening again. You can view the full list of participating restaurants here.