On Thursday, February 2 I had the great good fortune to be invited to attend the “First Bites Bash” as kick off for the upcoming Chicago Restaurant Week. The event was presented by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) and United Airlines and hosted by Chicago restauranteur and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. Over 1000 people attended this spectacular evening and 100% of net proceeds benefited the Greater Chicago Food Depository. During a brief presentation in the middle of the event the sponsors presented the food depository with a check for $40,000 to help end hunger in the Chicago community.
Inside the magnificent Great Hall of Chicago Union Station guests were invited to indulge in savory and sweet tastings from over 50 of Chicago’s best chefs and restaurants. Take a look at the menu to see what amazing offerings were presented. Although it is extremely difficult to pick out favorites, I must admit that a few of the tastes did stand out to me. My top five savory picks of the nearly 40 that I sampled were:
Goat Chili – Girl & The Goat
Seared Duck Breast with Sweet Potato Dumplings – Park Grill
Ahi Tuna & Watermelon Ceviche – Nacional 27
Grilled & Chilled Shrimp Cocktail – Catch 35
Hamachi Crudo – Quay Restaurant & Bar
For desserts, there were spectacular offerings from eleven restaurants. This was another tough choice, but my top three were:
White Chocolate & Hazelnut Mousse – Metropolitan Club
Thyme Panna Cotta – Henri
Dark Chocolate Terrine – The Berghoff
“The First Bites Bash is not only an opportunity to indulge in what Chicago’s best chefs are serving up for the fifth annual Chicago Restaurant Week, it is also a celebration of Chicago as a culinary mecca,” said Don Welsh, CCTB president and CEO. “The overwhelming commitment to Chicago Restaurant Week from some of the country’s most well-known chefs and restaurants speaks volumes about Chicago’s growing appeal as a global dining destination.”
First Bites Bash, presented by United Airlines showcased several of Izard’s peers who represent the “Who’s Who” of Chicago’s culinary elite. Critically acclaimed chefs with James Beard nominations, Michelin Guide stars, Top Chef titles and more will join the celebration, including David Burke with David Burke’s Primehouse; Tony Mantuano with Spiaggia and Bar Toma; Tony Priolo with Piccolo Sogno, and more.
“Chicago has a great chef community which truly supports each other and the city itself,” said Izard. “It’s great to all come together for the First Bites Bash to help out the Greater Chicago Food Depository and all they do for those in the area and support an organization that has such a powerful impact on the city.”
Chicago Restaurant Week is a celebration of Chicago’s finest culinary talents. The 10-day experience begins February 17 and runs through February 26 with more than 200 participating restaurants featuring prix fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $33 and $44, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity. Online reservations are available now at www.eatitupchicago.com.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community. The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 69 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of 145,000 meals every day. The Food Depository’s programs and services for children, older adults and the unemployed and underemployed address the root causes of hunger. For more information, log onto chicagosfoodbank.org or call 773-247-FOOD.
All photos used here and in the attached gallery are (c) Donna Binbek Photography