Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
After their inaugural year, the organizers of the Porky?s Rib Fest hope that their event becomes an oft-circled event on the calendars of barbecue-loving Chicagoans. If this year?s vendor lineup is any indication, they?re already well on their way. Recruited from both inside and outside of Chicago, the award-winning roster includes vendors with decades of combined grilling experience. Hailing from the Lone Star State, Texas Thunder BBQ is a perennial favorite at rib fests around the country. On the hometown front, cooks from Berwyn?s Chicago BBQ Company sling their signature brand of slow-smoked meats. The lineup even includes an international representative: based out of Sydney, Australia, the meat masters of Aussom Aussie tempt taste buds at home and abroad with unexpected flavors such as fruit-based sauces.
Aside from chowing on an international buffet of barbecue, attendees can enjoy a continuous stream of live music emanating from Toyota Park?s expansive amphitheater. Acts have included '70s mainstays, a contestant from a televised music competition, as well as bands covering the iconic catalogs of KISS, Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Buffett. Elsewhere, adults drool over the impressive rides on display at an onsite car show, and kids cash in tickets to climb aboard more than 30 carnival rides. A fireworks show will leave the sky more colorful than that summer when it got all those tattoos.
The Southside Polish Fest is said to be the largest of its kind in the country, an honor it has earned by attracting not just the local Polish community, but by welcoming Chicagoans of all ethnicities. Whether familiar with the culture or not, revelers can immerse themselves in it by sampling traditional foods and beers and by taking in the live performances scheduled to fill all three days of the festival. This entertainment includes polka bands, Polish musicians, traditional dancers, the unceasing movement of the sun, and even a pierogi-eating contest. Kids will be drawn to the 25 carnival rides, which riders can enjoy by purchasing wristbands good for either 4-hour blocks or all three days of the festival.
At Mega Beer Fest, an unsuspecting arena becomes the epicenter of a flood of craft beers and saucy barbecue. The fest assembles craft beers from 75 breweries from across the nation and combines them with Porky's Rib Fest, which features barbecue slow-roasted in styles ranging from luscious Texan brisket to Australian barbecue basted in a fruit-based sauce. As guests savor each bubbly beverage, they can also enjoy live entertainment including fireworks, a carnival, and live music, some of which may be played on xylophones created after mass consumption of ribs.