Lanterns, dragons, colorful dances, art and instrumental music – there are Chinese New Year events in the next couple of weeks that will enrich our appreciation of Chinese culture.
But do you know your zodiac animal? If you go to any of the Chinese New Year programs in Chicago, you will likely hear that 2020 is the Year of the Rat. Because different elements also take turns, you might hear that it is the metal rat. A good, easy place to find out your animal sign and more about the Chinese Zodiac is the astronomy site of Time and Date.
Now you’re ready to check out the following events to see which fits into your calendar. They are free, open to the public and in Chicago unless otherwise noted.
Chinese Fine Arts Society Chinese New Year Kickoff
On Jan 24 at noon go to the Chicago Cultural Center during the lunch hour to see lion dances, martial arts, traditional Chinese dance and hear China’s Zhejiang Shaoju Opera Theatre. The location is the Preston Bradley Hall on the third floor of the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. For more information visit ChicagoCulturalCenter/events.
Foodies, listen up. First Bites Bash, the yummy event that annually kicks off Chicago Restaurant Week. will be at the Field Museum Jan. 23, the night before Restaurant Week begins.
The event is a chance to sample dishes that will be on more than 60 Chicago Restaurant Week menus. Plus there are always wine tastings from different countries and restaurants’ specialty cocktails.
Several ticket levels are already sold out so to snag a ticket go now to firstbitesbash.com
A portion of the proceeds from First Bites Bash will go to the James Beard Foundation’s Chicago EATS Week Scholarship Fund that provides financial assistance to a Chicagoland student seeking a culinary arts career.
Celebrity chef/director/owners this year are Thai and Danielle Dang of the award winning HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen and Cà Phê Dá in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
“First Bites Bash is an amazing opportunity for Chicagoans to meet many of the most celebrated chefs in the city and to preview a range of exciting flavors that will only be found during everyone’s favorite culinary moment of the year, Chicago Restaurant Week,” said Chef Dang. “We are also very passionate about the cause it supports, which bolsters opportunities for our next generation of culinary leaders.”
Co-organizing agency Choose Chicago’s President and CEO David Whitaker pointed out that First Bites Bash celebrates Chicago as a “culinary destination.”
“The breadth of both neighborhoods and cuisines represented at this event and throughout Restaurant Week provide an unparalleled opportunity to make memorable dining a part of an amazing Chicago experience,” said Whitaker.
Chicago Restaurant Week, showcasing more than 400 restaurants actually takes place for well over a week. Going from Jan. 24 through Feb. 9, it features restaurants across Chicago neighborhoods and culinary styles.
Operating with prix fixe menus, it’s a chance to dine at upper-end restaurants for $24 at brunch or lunch and $36 or $48 for dinner. Reservations can be made at eatitupchicago.com
Enough of looking back at 2019. Instead, start putting some of the great shows, exhibitions and festivals of 2020 that you’ll want to see on the calendar. To start with, here are two biggies at McCormick Place (2301 S .King Drive) and a festival that takes place all across the city.
Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show
The Chicago Boat, RV and Sail show celebrates 90 year anniversary at McCormick Place, Jan. 8-12. Sponsored by Progressive® Insurance, the show features more than 700 of the newest power and sailboats and 100 RVs.
Along with oohing and dreaming while meandering the aisle, there are fun activities including learning to sail with the Chicago Sailing’s Sail Simulator, fishing in the Huck Finn Trout Pond, remote control sailboat racing and a chance to build a boat with aluminum foil (see if your design can hold golf balls and not sink). For more information visit www.ChicagoBoatShow.com
Chicago Restaurant Week
Chicago Restaurant Week, Jan. 24 through Feb. 9, is a chance to experience a restaurant at a favorable price. For example, The Signature Room with great views from the 95th floor of what used to be called the Hancock Building (875 N. Michigan Ave), will offer a special three course dinner (includes coffee or tea) for $48 and Lowry’s Prime Rib in the historic McCormick Mansion (100 E. Ontario), will have also have a dinner for $48.
Actually going for 17 days one week really isn’t enough to visit even a few of the 400 participating restaurants. After all, Chicago really is a foodie town with new restaurants constantly coming on the dining scene. For more information visit and restaurant choices visit Choose Chicago Restaurant Week. For participating restaurants visit Chicago Restaurant Week restaurants.
Chicago Auto Show
The Chicago Auto Show, the country’s largest display of what’s coming in design and technology, is at McCormick Place Feb. 8-17. First staged at the Chicago Coliseum in 1901, the show features everything from what was, what is, what will be and what may be categorized as science fiction in some minds.
In 2020 look for concept cars, super cars, sedans, sport utilities, hybrids, crossovers, electric vehicles, minivans, luxury cars,, sports cars, convertibles, pickups, minivans, economy vehicles, hatchbacks, sporty coupes, vans diesel vehicles and wagons. Of course there will be interactive displays, test drive opportunities and simulators.
Shopping the old fashioned way, leisurely browsing in person without worrying that the items will be gone by 8 a.m. or that the internet will be overloaded, can be a treat at museums and annual gift shows.
Listed here are two examples of excellent gift shows and really good, large museum shops. They are likely to take a while to explore and are fun excursions while filling the gift list. Continue reading “Where to find unusual gifts”
Chicago might as well be called Holiday Central given all the fun, light-filled events taking place across the city and suburbs. So, to make it easier to figure out the where and when, we are dividing up the what.
Part One listed some of the holiday shows and date specific events such as parades because shows need tickets and some events are only one day or weekend.
Part Two is about light shows in and around Chicago. Most go through Jan. 5, 2020. Lights typically are on from about 4:30 to 9 p.m. Check each event’s site for hours and dates either not on or by holiday limitations. Continue reading “Holiday Happenings Part Two”
Instead of going crazy trying to get to even a quarter of the all terrific festivals, shows and events in and around Chicago this holiday season, make a plan. Figure out which show and happening you and/or your family want to see most, put them on the calendar, then list the next couple of things you would like to do.
Because there are so many events, they are divided into two parts with shows (because they need tickets) and special events (because they may be one-time, date-specific) in Part I which is a sampler and not a complete list.
In Chicago’s western suburbs, seasonal bites, spirits and shopping the Morton Arboretum way with botanical designer showcased “tablescapes” and browsing the store, welcome the coming holiday season. The event is Nov. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. and includes a Patricia Locke Trunk Show and mixology demonstrations. Tickets are members $45.00, nonmembers $50.00.
The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Highway 53, Lisle, IL 630-446-0537.
In the northern suburbs, an annual show benefiting the Winnetka Community Housegoes the whole weekend of Nov. 8-10, 2019. But a fun preview party known for its buffet stations and open bar is Nov. 7 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.. This is when collectors and people in the know go for the first peek at exceptional jewelry, furniture and art. Tickets are $150 but $30 of the ticket price will be donated back to the North Shore Art League.
The Winnetka Community House is at 620 Lincoln Ave. Winnetka, IL , 847-446-2870 or 847-446-0537.
Downtown Chicago, Chill, an international wine and culinary event co sponsored by Luxehome and Wine Spectator Magazine, features terrific food from Chicago chefs and excellent wines from around the world. It’s held Downtown Chicago at theMART, Nov. 14 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.. Tickets are $145. Funds raised go to different charities.
the MART is at 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago.
Bring the kids to Navy Pier this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 for a free, hands-on, design-it and build-it activities from noon to 4 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation with the City of Chicago and Navy Pier, the Architectural Biennial event is geared to ages 5 through 12. Look for it in the Cultural Corner across from Ben & Jerry’s at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Learn about your wine palate knowledge, Nov. 3, beginning at 1 p.m. at Geja’s Cafe, 340 W. Armitage, Chicago. The tasting begins with eight unmarked carafes of wine. Professionals and amateurs are challenged to identify the grape, place of origin and vintage of each wine. To enter the competition, contestants pay a $30 fee and must be 21 years of age or older. To RSVP, call Geja’s Café at (773) 281-9101.
“The world of wine is incredibly diverse,” says Geja’s owner Jeff Lawler. “That is why this contest is such a challenge. It takes a wise nose and an equally sensitive palate to identify the characteristics of each individual wine.”
Held Nov 3 through Nov.10, 2019, primarily at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, the event is the first-ever festival in Chicago that is dedicated to Jewish Theatre. It overlaps the annual Alliance for Jewish Theatre Conference, hosted by ShPIeL at Victory Gardens Theater and The Theatre School at DePaul University, Nov. 3-5, 2019.
The Jewish Theatre Festival at Victory Gardens includes staged readings, solo performances, storytelling, cabaret, and comedy at Victory Gardens and features “The Ben Hecht Show” with playwright/actor James Sherman, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. For conference information visit All Jewish Theatre
Theater critics tend to return to the same places before covering a show. They are not usually the upscale places gone to for a special occasion or the newest eatery with a gourmet menu or “in” vibe. They have good food and are convenient to the venues.
Here are my recommendations based on experience for two downtown theaters ( I use theater spelled er) and two places in the northern suburbs. More areas later.
When going to the Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St. or James M Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway in Chicago venue at 24 W. Randolph St., I reserve a table in the bar at Petterinos (312-422-0150, 150 N. Dearborn St.) at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets.
The bartenders here are terrific. They serve their patrons quickly when they know they have a show. And I like the fried calamari when looking for something light and the amazing chicken pot pie when cold weather calls for a dish to warm the insides.
The restaurant is literally next door to Goodman and just a few steps across Dearborn to the Nederlander (former Oriental). I take public transportation but Petterinos has a valet service for customers who want to park there and see a show.
Downtown – Mag Mile
There are lots of places to dine on and near the Magnificent Mile. But when reviewing a show at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan Ave. in the historic Water Tower Water Works on the east side of the Water Tower campus or at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., I reserve a table at Mity-Nice Grill on the Mezzanine Level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.335.4745).
I like their veggie burger and their salads and that they bring tiny Yorkshire pudding bites to start the meal.
North Suburbs – Lincolnshire
I look forward to dining at the Three Embers Restaurant in the Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Dr., when reviewing a show at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Executive Chef Pierre Daval and Chef de Cuisine Jesus (Chuy) Medina are currently showcasing their Harvest Dinner. At Three Embers, diners get honey butter for their rolls that is a taste treat made with honey from Daval’s beehives on the property. I also love the Honey BBQ Brisket with smoked grits. But I’m thinking of trying the Sea Scallops dish with butternut squash and a maple glace when I go for the next show because squash and maple are too seasonal to pass up.
North Suburbs – Skokie
Across the road from Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, is a small strip mall that contains the popular Bonefish Grill at 9310 Skokie Blvd. Yes, you need a reservation and tell the waitperson you are going to a show.
I like the restaurant’s bread and dipping oil, its Caesar Salad and any shrimp dish with a variety of sauces.