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Jennifer Hudson Stars as Winnie Mandela

The Chicago actress plays the title role of Nelson Mandela's wife in a new film out this week.

September 05, 2013

Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela.

Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela and Terrance Howard as Nelson Mandela in Winnie Mandela an Image/RLJ release. 

On September 6, two-time Michigan Avenue cover star and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson takes on the title role in Winnie Mandela, a film that tells the lesser-known story of the wife of political activist Nelson Mandela. “When I read the script I fell in love with it,” Hudson says. “I was surprised by the story of Winnie Mandela; I hadn’t known anything about her outside her name [before reading the script]. It made me realize this was a story that was worth being told, so I wanted to help get it out there.”

Hudson spent four months in South Africa filming, alongside Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela. But even before shooting began, there were months of preparation for the role. “Playing a real-life character can be very intimidating,” Hudson says. “Especially someone like Winnie—those are huge shoes to fill.” The Academy Award-winning actress had to lose weight to match Winnie’s physical appearance, but even more difficult than that was mastering the prominent South African accent.

Her resulting portrayal is spot-on, giving viewers a glimpse into Winnie’s simultaneously heart-wrenching and optimistic journey with Nelson to end African apartheid. Though the film was years in the making (Hudson was first approached with the script more than three years ago), the message is a timeless one. “I want [viewers to see] how far the world has come, how far Africa has come,” she says. “It’s not just about what is going on where you live, in your neighborhood. Look around—there’s much more going on in the world.”

The actress, who rose to fame after competing on American Idol, doesn’t sing in the film but recorded its title track, “Bleed for Love.” “I pray to God I never have to choose between the two,” says Hudson of acting and singing. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like she’ll have to—Hudson has two films coming out later this fall that combine both of her loves. The first, in which she plays a heroin addict, is produced by fellow musician Alicia Keys; the second, Black Nativity will be Hudson’s first musical since Dreamgirls.

by elle eichinger

 

The Refinery Serves Up Creative Spirits

The Old Town bar/resto focuses on unique cocktails in an industrial-chic atmosphere.

September 05, 2013

The Refinery, a new bar in Old Town.

The Refinery in Old Town offers patrons handcrafted cocktails, some of which are on tap. 

New Wells Street bar/resto The Refinery is to handcrafted spirits as Old Town Pour House is to craft beers. The Refinery, which opened last month, employs an industrial-chic aesthetic reminiscent of its Old Town address, with steel details, an all-glass façade, and Chicago-style brick. The design also reflects its theme: like an old-fashioned distillery, the bar puts a heavy focus on spirits, which beverage directors Enoch Cruz and Cody Modeer use in their signature cocktails.

Even though the drinks sound familiar—The Refinery Moscow Mule and The Refinery Manhattan, for instance—unique twists like offering the Manhattan on tap and using housemade vodka in the Moscow Mule knock The Refinery’s libations a notch above the rest. On top of inventive drinks, The Refinery also boasts a well-rounded, largely Californian wine list.

On the dining side, executive chef Lawrence Letrero—with the help of pastry chef Hetty Arts—has created a menu of light American-style fare that doesn’t skimp on gourmet flavors. The grilled baby octopus is a standout, served with wood ear mushrooms, Japanese sweet potato, radish, and mint. But first, split an order of deviled eggs (adorned with truffle, bacon, and celery) to start, or skip right to Arts’ signature chocolate cassava cake: dark chocolate cremeux, cassava rochers, and marshmallow ice cream. 1209 N. Wells St., 312-854-2970 

by Elle Eichinger

 

Sararose Krenger's Ravenswood Manor

The Stix and Roses owner and designer describes a stylish day in her neighborhood.

September 04, 2013

Sararose Krenger Stix and Roses owner/founder.
Sararose Krenger is the owner of Stix and Roses and a Ravenswood Manor resident. 

Sararose Krenger, founder of the Chicago-based Stix and Roses fashion brand and boutique, wears every hat in the industry: boutique owner, stylist, designer, fashion show producer and host, and more. This week, the born-and-raised Chicagoan is jetting off to New York for fashion week, but her own fashion capital will always be the Windy City—specifically her neighborhood of Ravenswood Manor. 3854 W. Irving Park Rd. 

How would you describe the style of Ravenswood Manor residents, and which neighborhood do you see as the most fashionable?
SARAROSE KRENGER: Ravenswood Manor is very earthy and bohemian in a way; it [has] a very peaceful and serene fashion. As far as which area has the most fashionable residents, I really love that there is so much diversity in Chicago. Every neighborhood has its own special style, from the glamorous streets of Michigan and Oak in the Gold Coast, to the artisans of Wicker Park and Bucktown, to the Indian flair on Devon Street.

Where do you go to prep for fashion shows or other glamorous events?
SK: For brows and facials I see Alina Lazarvitch, owner of Arch Angel (49 E. Oak St., 312-642-2677) and Tao of Brow (67 E. Oak St., 312-867-1330); Alina has taken care of my skin and brows for the past 13 years. My favorite makeup artist and hair stylist for events is Michelle Shaughnessy. For haircuts, I see Irene at Asha Aveda (601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg, 847-592-5000)—she is a hair goddess and so sweet—and for color, I see Breanne, also at Asha Aveda. And I always make sure my insides are [cared for too] with regular detoxes with Karyn Calabrese, owner of Karyn’s Raw, Cooked, and Green.

Besides your own line, who are some of your favorite local designers for a gala ensemble?
SK: We have some pretty amazing, young, fresh talent here. If I was not wearing my own [designs], I love the design aesthetics of Rachel Frank, Anastasia Chatzka (1001 N. Damen Ave., 586-610-4096), and GOCA

Any other favorite labels?
SK: For high-end couture, I am a Prada (30 E. Oak St., 312-951-1113), Badgley Mischka (available at Macy’s, 111 N. State St., 312-781-1000), and Balmain (available at Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900) girl!

Where in your neighborhood do you like to grab a quick lunch?
SK: I love Umi Sushi (2845 W. Irving Park Rd., 773-463-7299). I eat there so much [that] they actually have a roll named after me—the Styxx Roll! Mediterranean Grill (4609 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-293-4491) in Lincoln Square is another favorite, and Marmalade (1969 W. Montrose Ave., 773-883-9000) is the only place I will eat brunch.

by elle eichinger

 

E3 VIP Upgrades Chicago Bears Tailgates

The new service provides an upscale way to have fun before home football games.

September 04, 2013

As the weather cools and the leaves begin to change, the city’s focus turns to football—especially for Chicagoan Richard Carrier, CEO and founder of luxury tailgating service, E3 VIP. Carrier has transformed the previously lowbrow practice of tailgating into an exclusive experience with lots of luxe amenities. The new service is available this year at eight Bears home games at Soldier Field, and Northwestern’s game against Ohio State at the university’s Ryan Field.

Out of context, one would never guess that E3 VIP’s tailgates take place in a dressed-up stadium parking lot. E3 VIP puts plush carpeting over roughly 2,000 square feet of space, and sets up velvet rope barriers and a lounge area with couches and TVs. Guests are treated to premium drinks including liquor and beers like Stella Artois and 312, gourmet bites, and freshly roasted meat off a charcoal grill. An exclusive wait staff caters to guests’ needs, and a live DJ provides entertainment. For those chilly, late-in-the-season games, warm up inside the E3 MXR-SkyBox, a custom motor coach that feels like a luxury lounge.

Since founding E3 VIP, Carrier has taken the service—quite literally—on the road, providing an upgraded tailgating atmosphere at national events like The Masters, Kentucky Derby, and even the Super Bowl. The first available tailgate in Chicago is this weekend, Sunday, September 8 (12 p.m.); for tickets ($250 for VIP Tailgate or $395 for VIP Tailgate plus a game ticket), call 877-243-3334 x 107 or visit e3vip.com/rsvp.php

by elle eichinger

 

Rosh Hashanah at Joe’s; Gourmet Grilled Cheese for Charity

Luxe dishes for the Jewish New Year, Little Market Brasserie launches Melts for Meals....

September 03, 2013

Chandra Ram's grilled cheese for Melts for Meals.

Chandra Ram creates a Southern-style grilled cheese for Little Market Brasserie’s Melts for Meals. 

James Beard Taste America Stops in Chicago: The James Beard Foundation kicks off its coast-to-coast Taste America traveling food festival on September 20 and 21 in Chicago. Sepia chef Andrew Zimmerman and Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais co-host the main event, A Journey Through the Great Lakes benefit dinner. The dinner is preceded by a Violet Hour-curated cocktail reception and followed by an After Dark party. Purchase $75-$350 tickets at tasteamerica.myshopify.com. 500 W. Jackson Ave.

Rosh Hashanah at Joe’s: Celebrate the Jewish New Year this week with a Rosh Hashanah meal at River North destination Joe’s Stone Crab. Served from 4-10 p.m. on September 4 and 5, the meal features an array of traditional dishes such as Challah with apples and honey, and a homemade Gefilte fish with red beet horseradish. A choice of entrees includes a delicious wild Alaskan halibut en pappillote with ginger-glazed carrots and fingerling potatoes. $46/person; call Joe’s at 312-379-5637 to make reservations. 60 E. Grand Ave.

Longman & Eagle Opens a Donut Shop: Longman & Eagle’s recently opened Off Site Bar (dubbed the OSB) now has an addition of its own: the Sunday Donut Shop pop-up. Sous chef Vincent Knittel and head pastry chef Jeremy Brutzkus started serving donuts last month, the flavors of which change weekly. Need proof that the sweet treats are worth your caloric indulgence? Brutzkus recently won the Cooking Channel’s Donut Showdown. 2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-276-7110

Little Market Brasserie’s launches Melts for Meals: Chandra Ram, editor of Plate magazine and board president for Meals on Wheels Chicago, created Little Market’s inaugural Melts for Meals sandwich—grilled cheese served Southern-style with pimento cheese, tomatoes, and arugula. Starting in September and continuing for the next six months, Little Mark Brasserie is inviting a guest chef to create his or her gourmet take on the classic grilled cheese. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Meals on Wheels’ mission to deliver food to the disabled and housebound senior citizens of Chicago. Up next, look for sandwiches from Sepia’s Andrew Zimmerman, Mercat a la Planxa’s Cory Morris, and more. 10 E. Delaware St., 312-640-8141

by elle eichinger

 

Lester Lampert's Made-with-Love Jewels

The Oak Street jeweler shares his love story and wants to hear yours.

September 03, 2013

Lester Lampert Love Bracelet.

Jeweler Lester Lampert custom designed this ring for his wife Maureen’s 40th birthday; it contains forty 40-point diamonds.

Famed Oak Street jeweler Lester Lampert didn’t propose to wife Maureen with the type of immaculate diamond you might image. Rather than get Maureen a 2-karat ring, he got her one with two actual carrots—a real diamond came later, of course. Now, 51 years (and lots of custom jewelry) later, the golden couple is celebrating others like themselves with the Lester Lampert Love Story promotion. Through October 15, 2013, couples can share their own story for the chance to win the ULLtimate $2,500 Lester Lampert gift card.

Though Lester Lampert has produced countless collections of jewelry, the brand thrives on creating truly custom pieces. In fact, some of their most impressive custom work is currently on permanent display at the Field Museum, and incorporates rare gems and ornate designs by both Lester and his son David.

The Lamperts clearly have an eye for fine jewelry, but they never lose sight of what it represents—love. “I have never seen a gem as fine as my wife,” Lester gushes. His wife adds: “Had I known how wonderful my life was to be, I would have married him sooner.” See the rest of the Lampert’s love story, and share your own, at lesterlampert.com. 57 E. Oak St., 312-944-6888

by elle eichinger

 

What We’re Reading

Donuts for every coworker, a Dexter actress' artsy photo shoot, Wright's mile-high tower…

August 30, 2013

Dexter TV Show actress, Aimee Garcia.

Actress Aimee Garcia of Dexter models her favorite looks for Refinery29. 

Chicago actress Aimee Garcia of Dexter shows off four styles in an artfully arranged lookbook. [Refinery29]

Smithsonian Magazine takes a look at a booming Chicago right before the Great Fire through an interactive map. Compare yesterday to today with a viewfinder, or swap maps to get a bigger picture. [Smithsonian Magazine]

Gizmodo predicts the world would be very different had eight particular structures been built. In a show of his architectural influence, three of them are Frank Lloyd Wright designs, two of which were slated for Chicago. [Gizmodo]

Donut shops have been getting a lot of attention following this summer’s cronut obsession, but Grid takes things even further by matching donut stores to types of coworkers. Which of these eight should you bring your officemates? [Chicago Grid]

A pair of NYC filmmakers got in just the right cab on a recent trip to Chicago—now they’re returning to film a documentary about its driver’s fascinating life. [Huffington Post]

A group of instructors from the Old Town School of Folk Music and their band received top honors with the John Lennon Song of the Year award. Listen to the renowned tune here. [Chicagoist]

by elle eichinger
Photography by Julia Stotz, courtesy of Refinery29

 

4 Picks for Labor Day Dining

Indulge in American cuisine all weekend long at these local spots.

August 30, 2013

by elle eichinger

 

Weekend Recommender: August 29-September 1

Spend the holiday weekend celebrating summer, fall fashion, and jazz greats.

August 29, 2013

Jazz musician Charles Lloyd.

Jazz musician Charles Lloyd performs as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival this weekend. 

ROOF on theWit Runway
Thursday, August 29, 8 p.m.
In conjunction with the Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, The Shops at North Bridge sends looks down ROOF on theWit’s sky-high runway for a special installation of ROOF’s runway series. The show begins at dusk, but head to the rooftop bar early and enjoy bites from its delicious summer menu while you still can. Call ROOF at 312-239-9501 or visit roofonthewit.com to make reservations. 201 N. State St.

White HOT Night at Sullivan’s Steakhouse
Friday, August 30, 6 p.m.
Don your summer whites—it’s not quite Labor Day after all—for Sullivan’s Hamptons-style send-off to summer party. Refreshing cocktails like the Summer Sparkler will accompany a menu of blanc dishes: bubbling crab and fondue with smoked gouda on baguette, white chocolate cheesecake, and more. Flights of wine (white, of course) and live music round the evening out. Visit facebook.com/sullyschicago or call Sullivan’s at 312-527-3510 to make reservations (recommended). 415 N. Dearborn St.

Chicago Jazz Festival
Thursday, August 29-Sunday, September 1
The Jazz Institute of Chicago programs the 35th Annual Jazz Festival, Chicago’s go-to Labor Day weekend event. Performances take place at various venues all weekend long, but the headliners performing at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park include Charles Lloyd and Friends, Jason Moran and the Fats Waller Dance Party, and Donald Harrison and the Congo Square Nation. Visit jazzinchicago.org for a full schedule of events. 201 E. Randolph St.

Plus, see six more Chicago jazz musicians to watch>>

by elle eichinger

 

CH Distillery Bottles Spirits at the Bar

The new West Loop spot offers a cocktail bar overlooking its own functioning distillery.

August 29, 2013

Tremaine Atkinson and Mark Lucas bring an entirely new concept to Chicago’s drinking scene with CH Distillery—the city’s first cocktail bar that lets drinkers see spirits being made while they're imbibing them. This means that CH Distillery, which opened just last week, is a full-service grain-to-bottle-to-glass operation.

“Chicago deserves premium local spirits,” Lucas says. “Distilled from Illinois grain, made the right way, no shortcuts.” Lucas and Atkinson have succeeded in their vision, with a distillery that boasts an authentic industrial feel and a 48-seat bar. Using CH’s own vodka, gin, rum, whisky, and infused spirits, consulting mixologist Kyle Davidson created a menu of signature cocktails. The Baron Takes Tea is one such libation, made with Earl Grey-infused gin, lemon, simple syrup, egg whites, and soda.

But vodka is where CH Distillery really excels. “We opened CH out of a love for premium vodka,” Lucas admits, so be sure to try it unadorned. Available in a shot or in a larger carafe serving, the Traditional includes ice-cold vodka served alongside rye bread and pickles. It’s how Lucas himself likes his cocktails: “Vodka on the rocks. No fruit.”

Executive chef JP Doiron and consulting chef Jesse Katzman, both formerly of Avec, developed a menu of Eastern European-inspired small plates to accompany the drinks. Try the shiitake pate or whitefish spread to share, or start with traditional or red caviar. 564 W. Randolph St., 312-707-8780

by Elle Eichinger
Photography by Arnold Klein

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