Chicago has become such a foodie city that I don't think we even realize just how foodie we are. On recent trips to New Orleans, Montreal, New York and Lisbon, I was shocked to see that while there was good food -- even great food -- to be had, none of the cities seemed to be taking things to the creative level that we do. Take the Key Ingredient Cook-off as an example and you know exactly what I mean. Only in Chicago do the best chefs in the city challenge themselves to cook with weird key ingredients (um, pig uterus anyone?) for the creative fun of it.
Nick Bowling, associate director of the Timeline Theatre and author of one of my favorite quotes, has this to say about the Chicago theater community, which I think also applies to the foodie community. "In New York and L.A., they have to focus on the 'hit,' and that can detract from the work. In Chicago, we focus on the work, and that can make for better work." Nick will be talking about this topic and many others on the May 6 Dinner Party at City Winery with fellow guests Lin Brehmer, DJ at WXRT, and social Tribune columnist and author of CandidCandace.com, Candace Jordan. The chef, who will also join the table for the May 6 Dinner Party, is none other than Sean Pharr, Chef de Cuisine of NoMI Kitchen. Chef Pharr will be making appetizers of Duck Confit Rillette with French Prune Mustard and Country Toast and entrees of Pork Shoulder Cotechino with Good Mother Stallard Beans, Collard Greens and his Grandmother's family-famous Chow-Chow. (See what he is making in the video below to believe it with your own eyes!) Audience members who attend The Dinner Party share in the tastings of not only Chef Pharr's creations, but chocolate from Vosges and wine from City Winery.
Much like how the key ingredients are sparking creativity for the chefs in the cook-off, Chef Pharr's food on May 6th will be a jumping off point of conversation for Bowling, Jordan and Brehmer, all of whom have never met, but each is an important contributor to Chicago's cultural and celebrity scene in their own right. Audience members are not only flies on the wall in the room, but can join in the conversation via Twitter in between bites and sips of the evening's delectibles. And don't be surprised if Lin Brehmer breaks out into an impromptu "Lin's Bin" or a surprise guest from the Timeline Theatre belts into song. The sky is the limit when you bring together Chicago's most creative in food, music, entertainment and theater... and give them a little wine.
This, I believe, is the fundamental difference between Chicago and other cities. As Nick suggests, rather than go for the sure-fire blockbuster, we open ourselves up to the joy of the work, and the creative fun of doing something different. This ignites new possibilities and outcomes, and as you will see Monday night, good times and lots of laughs.
Follow Elysabeth Alfano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fearnoartchgo