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J. Rocco Opens in River North

A new restaurant offers authentic Italian fare and a host of alternative meatballs.

July 02, 2013

Opened just last month, J. Rocco Italian Table and Bar brings the idea of an authentic Italian family meal to life in River North. Chef Steve Chiappetti and owner Joseph Frasca share a Calabrian heritage, and Chiappetti is the descendent of the famous Chicago slaughter and packinghouse, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal.

Chiappetti and Frasca’s culinary history is supplemented by their partnership with Arash Amini of FarmTower Co., who installed a hydroponic garden wall so the restaurant can grow all its own herbs in-house. Chiappetti uses the herbs in delectable dishes such as the bistecca, a Borlotti bean puree with a homegrown rosemary chili oil, and the raviolinii with Italian sausage, Swiss chard, and a tomato basil sauce.

Though the other Italian fare is worth sampling, the meatballs are the main event here. The ubiquitous beef iteration is served Calabrese-style with beef au jus and the similarly classic spicy pork comes in oregano and fresh tomato, but try any of J. Rocco’s three inventive varieties for something less traditional. Comprised of smoked bacon, pinenuts, and red pepper cream, the chicken option is a treat for the senses; or dig into the shrimp meatballs with dill, curry, and a lemon butter sauce. The lamb version incorporates mint from the hydroponic garden wall, along with garlic and chili in a rich lamb reduction.

Even the cocktails are seasonal and herb-infused. Beverage director Kristianna Cross uses mint in her take on a classic Cosmopolitan, which mixes macerated mint with Mandarin vodka, cranberry juice, and ginger syrup. The signature Rocco Highball is another can’t-miss with Smooth Ambler Old Scout straight bourbon whiskey and Cross’s house-made ginger ale. 749 N. Clark St., 312-475-0271

by elle eichinger

 

Chef Will Johnson's Farmer's Market Guide

The Filini chef dishes up tips on how to find seasonal ingredients for flavorful dishes.

July 02, 2013

Filini chef Will Johnson.
Filini chef Will Johnson shares his expert tips on what to pick up at the farmer's market. 

For his menu at Aqua Tower’s Italian hotspot Filini, chef Will Johnson takes full advantage of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients during the summer months. He shops for fruits, veggies, herbs, and more at farmer’s markets like Green City Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1790 N. Clark St.), and turns them into dishes like the delicious crispy soft poached egg with truffle emulsion, root vegetables, and frisee.

When shopping for your own kitchens, though, Johnson says to allow your senses to guide you. Here, he gives us some tips on what to look for at the market, and how to turn those ingredients into sumptuous meals. 221 N. Columbus Dr., 312-477-0234

by elle eichinger

 

Chicago Creation: Raw Materials for Men

A locally-based skincare brand is specifically designed to keep men's skin healthy in the heat.

July 01, 2013

Chicago men don’t have to worry about sweat clogging their pores and ruining their complexions in the heat this summer thanks to new skincare products from Raw Materials. The Willowbrook-based brand’s summer sport pack ($32) is specially designed to keep skin healthy when temperatures rise. 

Whether it’s training for the marathon or playing in a Sport & Social league, Raw Materials was made for men with an active lifestyle. All of the brand’s products use safflower oleosomes and other natural, organic ingredients to hydrate the skin and pump it with antioxidants.

Specifically, the summer sport pack features three products—and the sport fix soap weighs in as our favorite. Despite its harsh appearance, the soap contains activated bamboo carbons that are gentle on the skin and fight both odor and skin issues. Meanwhile, extreme athletes will love the odor wipe out spray, which can be used both before and after workouts, to prevent and then neutralize odors. Finally, the face stick is an SPF 30 sunscreen perfect for beach volleyball or a walk on the lake path. Whole Foods, 30 W. Huron St., 312-932-9600

by elle eichinger

 

8 Décor Picks from Design District Shops

Our top finds from stores within the newly-launched River North Design District.

July 01, 2013

The Merchandise Mart has long been Chicago’s interior design mecca, and inevitably design vendors have spilled out onto the surrounding streets. This May, the city established the River North Design District to incorporate such nearby stores as Hydrology, Golden Triangle, nuHaus, Oscar Isberian Rugs, and more. Below, we pick a few of our favorite items from the brand-new design haven. 

by elle eichinger

 

What We're Reading

A Blackhawks baby, the Spire's second life, Mario Batali brings Eataly to Chicago....

June 28, 2013

Chicago Blackhawk Duncan Keith puts his baby in the Stanley Cup.
Chicago Blackhawk Duncan Keith and his wife Kelly-Rae sit their infant son, Colton, in the Stanley Cup after the Hawks won the trophy in game six against the Boston Bruins Monday night. 

Chicago Blackhawk Duncan Keith has more than just a Stanley Cup win to celebrate. The defensemen and his wife Kelly-Rae welcomed a baby in May and put him in the Cup post-win. [Huffington Post]

In real estate news, plans for the once ill-fated Chicago Spire—proposed to be the tallest building in North America—may get a second life. [Wall Street Journal]

On the flip side, local structures with tons of history are being celebrated in Curbed’s first-ever Hotels Week. [Chicago Curbed]

Meanwhile, chef Mario Batali confirmed via Twitter that he’s bringing his NYC gem, Eataly, to Chicago this fall. [Grubstreet]

In honor of Chicago Pride Week, Chicagoist rounds up the top gay and lesbian nightspots. [Chicagoist]

by elle eichinger
Photography by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

 

Brunch Plans: Siena Tavern

Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani brings an Italian-inspired brunch to his River North resto.

June 28, 2013

Siena Tavern's lobster hash.
Siena Tavern’s lobster hash with poached eggs and truffle hollandaise. 

This month, River North’s Siena Tavern introduces weekend brunch to its menu. Chef/owner and past Top Chef contender Fabio Viviani weaves his signature Italian cuisine into the new menu, incorporating cultural favorites like gelato, Nutella, fresh mozzarella, and more.

The brunch menu is split into two sections: sweet and savory. Whatever you order, be sure to start with the fresh berry crostata, which comes with a unique mascarpone gelato. On the sweet side, delicious renditions of pancakes and waffles should be your pick. The pancakes are almond, served with whipped mascarpone and a delicious rhubarb jam, while the caramelized waffle is an explosion of sweetness with Nutella butter and Blis maple syrup.

Opposite the sweets, diners will find savory, flavor-packed dishes like the lobster hash with poached eggs and truffle hollandaise, or the merguez omelet with spicy lamb sausage and goat cheese. A vegetarian omelet alternative features artichokes, charred grape tomatoes, spinach, and fontina cheese, and the squash blossom and prosciutto frittata is a must if you’re looking for something spicy. Of course, many of the Italian resto’s regular menu dishes are also available during brunch, such as the antipasti, pizza bar, and housemade pastas.

To drink, bypass traditional brunch options for a beer—especially if you tend toward the savory plates. The Siena draft is brewed exclusively for the restaurant. Brunch is available Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am-3 pm. 51 W. Kinzie St., 312-595-1322

Plus, see more on Fabio Viviani's Siena Tavern>>

by elle eichinger

 

Weekend Recommender: June 27-30

Celebrate the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win and Chicago Pride, work out on the beach, more.

June 27, 2013

The Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane.
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks carries the Stanley Cup on Monday night. Kane also received the prestigious Conn Smythe Trophy. 

Carnivale Summer Pig Roast
Thursday, June 27, 5:30 pm
This summer, Fulton Market’s Carnivale is roasting a pig every Thursday, and giving each guest a taste with a complimentary suckling pork taco that’s best enjoyed alongside on-special bottles of Goose Island. The pigs come from local Maple Creek Farms, and are smoked in a Cuban smoke box to achieve their unique flavor. 702 W. Fulton St., 312-850-5005

Blackhawks Victory Parade
Friday, June 28, 11 am
The Stanley Cup returns to Chicago following the Blackhawks’ Monday night win over the Boston Bruins. The Chicago team takes their prize on a tour of the city this week, culminating in a victory parade and rally Friday morning. The parade begins at United Center (1901 W. Madison St.) and ends in Grant Park’s Hutchinson Field (south end).

Exposure 2013 from A Mind and Body Total Fitness
Saturday, June 29, 9:30-10:15 am
A Mind and Body Total Fitness founder Alex Vasileski leads the second in a series of summer workouts on Ohio Street Beach. The Saturday morning classes give fitness fanatics a full-body workout while benefiting a cause—proceeds are put toward Charity4LIFE this week. Participants are asked to bring $10 as their donation; the next workout is July 13 due to next week’s holiday weekend. Ohio Street and Lake Shore Drive

City Winery Book Signing
Sunday, June 30, 7 pm
There’s nothing better than a glass of Champagne and a good book, and that’s what you’ll get at City Winery’s reading and book signing event this weekend. Chicago authors Stacey Ballis and Jen Lancaster, and Maryland-based Sarah Pekkanen, share passages from their novels, including Lancaster’s hilarious and brand-new The Tao of Martha. $7 tickets can be purchased on citywinery.com1200 W. Randolph St., 312-733-9463

44th Annual Chicago Pride Parade
Sunday, June 30, 12 pm
The culmination of Pride Week in Chicago each year is the vibrant parade: more than 200 organizations, individuals, floats, and dancers will participate in the colorful walk. The route starts at Montrose Avenue and Broadway in Boystown and ends at Diversey Parkway and Cannon Drive. 

by elle eichinger
Photography by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

 

The Goddess and Grocer's New Smoothies

The luxe grocer partners with David Barton Gym for guilt-free summer drinks.

June 27, 2013

The Goddess and Grocer spinach, pineapple, and avocado smoothie.
One of The Goddess and Grocer's new summer smoothies: spinach, pineapple, and avocado.

This summer, The Goddess and Grocer teams up with nearby David Barton Gym on a series of smoothies that will sate your sweets cravings without sacrificing your hard-earned beach body. The eatery’s health-conscious general manager Meghan Shank sparked the collaboration and created the smoothie flavors, which are only available at the Larrabee location.

Shank concocted half a dozen flavors, each with fewer than 400 calories and packed with nutrients. Our favorite is the fiber-filled pineapple, kale, and coconut oil smoothie, a deliciously unique combination. The spinach, pineapple, and avocado concoction is also brimming with veggies, while the kiwi berry and mango ginger are fruity, tropical alternatives. For the extremely health conscious, the peach coconut smoothie contains the fewest calories at less than 120; or indulge with the creamy almond butter and jelly smoothie.

After a hard workout, we suggest grabbing a smoothie and lunch from The Goddess and Grocer for an impromptu picnic. The deli is packed with healthy options, like the California Dreaming sandwich, which features honey maple turkey, Swiss cheese, avocado, sprouts, and lemon mayonnaise on multigrain bread. 901 N. Larrabee St., 312-988-9870

by elle eichinger

 

Q&A: Wavefront's Dino Gardiakos

The event’s cofounder/talent booker brings house music back to its Chicago roots.

June 26, 2013

Wavefront Musical Festival in Chicago.
Wavefront Music Festival comes to Montrose Beach July 5, 6, and 7. 

Wavefront Music Festival rolls in for its second year next week (July 5-7), filling Montrose Beach with the fast-paced, heart-thumping beats of electronic dance music. Rather than packing the lineup with the freshest new DJs and musicians (though there are plenty of those, too), talent booker/festival cofounder Dino Gardiakos is paying homage to the genre’s heritage. House music forefathers such as Frankie Knuckles, Mike Serafini, Gene Farris, and more will perform on the new-this-year Chicago Heritage of House Stage, a nod to the city that started the music movement.

What is the history of this genre, and why do you think it first grabbed hold in Chicago?
DINO GARDIAKOS: House music originated in Chicago in the early '80s; Frankie Knuckles was one of its originators. The name was adopted from the parties he used to play at a local club called The Warehouse. The term "electronic music" came about at a later point in time, when many sub genres of house music were derived. As electronic music artists began to work with pop artists the genre grew tremendously due to the exposure of the music. This new popular EDM—Electronic Dance Music—however does not stay true to the original concept of the pioneers of house and techno; it has become more [like] pop music, while there is still an underground house/techno scene that is completely different.

With new musicians emerging on the scene constantly, why did you decide to establish the Heritage of House Stage?
DG: It's important to honor the artists who created the music that inspired the current musicians, DJs, and artists. Without these artists there would be no EDM.

Last year was Wavefront’s first year—are there any major changes from the inaugural festival to now?
DG: This year we added two more stages and tremendously enhanced the production and fan experience. For example, West Coast Nightlife giant SBE will partner its widely celebrated XIV Summer Sessions brand with our festival. [The resulting] XIV Wavefront Sessions will serve as our Sunday finale for our private cabana pass holders. We'll also increase our exposure outside of Chicago [by airing] our festival live to millions of viewers on July 6.

Who in particular are you most excited to see perform?
DG: This is a tough question. I am really excited to see Hot Natured's debut festival performance in North America. It's going to be a very special show.

Cabana passes (starting at $4,000/ day) include premium drinks and a shaded VIP space for up to 18 people; other ticket prices vary. E-mail suites@wavefrontmusicfestival.com for more information or visit wavefrontmusicfestival.com for other ticket options. 

by elle eichinger

 

2 Historic Homes on the Market Right Now

Luxe listings in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast offer unparalleled interiors and amenities.

June 26, 2013

1828 N. Cleveland Ave.
Debra Dobbs, Koenig & Strey

Tucked away on one of Lincoln Park’s most coveted blocks, 1828 N. Cleveland Avenue might seem unexceptional at first glance. But a French deco dream is hidden behind the heavy, Bronze de Franz-laden doors of this built-in-1924 abode. “This classic home was magnificently transformed into an Art Nouveau masterpiece [by the current owner],” says Debra Dobbs, the home’s listing agent. “Every element was personally chosen for this customized setting alone. The owner’s exquisite taste and love for her home is seen and felt throughout each room.”

There are five bedrooms—each featuring gorgeous built-ins—but the crown jewel of the home is the master suite on the top floor. A huge walk-in closet, gorgeous bathroom, dressing room, and terrace are all part of the layout. Listed at $5.7 million. 312-475-4533, debra@debradobbs.com

1336 N. State Pkwy. 
Janet Owen, Prudential Rubloff

Built by James Gamble Rogers in 1914, this Gold Coast home is just shy of a century old, but a recent remodel hides its old age. Modern features like a whirlpool tub, mirrored gym, and up-to-date media room can’t take away from its historic character, though—for a time the structure even served as the south addition to the once-adjacent Playboy Mansion.

Our favorite part of this home is undoubtedly its top-level garden room, naturally lit by skylights and arched glass doors that lead onto a terrace. The room serves as a bonus living space with a mini-kitchen and TV area. Additionally, the 9,000-square-foot home boasts five bedrooms—all en-suites—a wine vault, billiards room, library, and caterer’s kitchen. Listed at $7.85 million. 312-268-0700, jowen@rubloff.com

by elle eichinger

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