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The Future of Taste


Big Chefs on the Small Screen: How Food Television Lifted Chefs to Cult Status

Northside Media Group


It was not that long ago that customers frequented restaurants and talked about how inventive the food was and never knew who was in the kitchen preparing it. Now in the age of celebrity chefs, not only do diners know chefs' names, they often follow them from restaurant to restaurant and know their personalities and food philosophy from seeing them in magazines and food shows.

Watch and listen to Star chefs share their personal stories as well as insights on being a celebrity chef within modern day food culture.

Panelists: Sara Moulton, TV Personality;  Alex Guarnaschelli, Executive Chef of Butter; Justin Warner, Owner of Brooklyn’s ‘Do or Dine’, and Dale Talde, Executive Chef/Partner of TALDE

Moderator: Sarah Zorn, Food Editor of Brooklyn Magazine and Restaurant Girl; Author of Brooklyn Chef's Table. 

Location: Wythe Hotel Screening Room presented by Miracle-Gro


Festival Planners and Panelists On What They're Most Looking Forward to During Taste Talks

Sarah Zorn

It’s hard to believe it, but after months and months of planning, Taste Talks Chicago is finally here! So provided they’re able to take a breather and simply relax and enjoy the event (yeah right!) we spoke to a trio of top staffers — as well as a few festival participants — about what they’re most looking forward to seeing (and eating) during Taste Talks this year.

Daniel Stedman, Founder of Northside Media

What panels/events/dinners are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year, and why?  

I'm really excited to see the Canadian chefs, Matty Matheson and John and Connie from Charcut, as they are all personal friends. Also really excited to hear Arlene Stein and her panel about How to Entertain. I'm not a great entertainer and frankly, I think I can learn a lot from Arlene Charles Joly, Elana Green, Andrew Zimmerman, Rachel Crowl and Matthias Merges.

What dish are you most excited to eat at the All-Star BBQ?

For the BBQ, I'm excited to see how Paul Kahan and Marc Vetri take on short ribs !!! Yow!


Dana Cree, Panelist on Free-Styling with Ice Cream Desserts

What are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year, and why?

I'm most looking forward to meeting Tim and Jeni, and seeing Jessie again. When we work so hard in our kitchens, we often don't get to spend time with the others we respect and admire in our fields, we have to stalk them on Instagram and follow their careers from afar. Taste Talks has curated an incredible group of people, and  brought me the opportunity to spend an afternoon with three people who I admire greatly.


Kelsey Kreiling, Co-Producer of Taste Talks Chicago

What panels/events/dinners are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year, and why?

I'm really excited to see what the Mother of Pearl dinner will be like. We have some incredible chefs lined up and I know they'll do something spectacular. I'm also excited to see "The Greener Path" panel on Saturday with Jessica Murnane, Amanda Cohen, Heather Crosby, Anne Owen and Chris Pappas. They all have different approaches to plant-based eating and (even as an omnivore) I love learning more about that world.

What dish are you most excited to eat at the All-Star BBQ?

Well, I know that Charcut's John and Connie DeSousa are making a Bison Heart dish that has an insane amount of prep behind it, so I'm excited to see what they're cooking up! I'm also a huge pie fan, so I'll be hanging out by the Bang Bang Pie Popup to support No Kid Hungry.


Johanna Lowe, Panelist on Learn from the Masters: Food Photography & Storytelling Techniques

What panels/events/dinners are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year (besides your own) and why?

The Chef’s Dinner, as a chance to relax, wind down after the weekend. Also Learn from the Masters: How to Entertain, because the panel is amazing and I hope to learn from them in order to bring ideas to my own business.

What dish are you most excited to eat at the All-Star BBQ?

Lee Wollen and Beth Eccles’ Grilled Fall Squash with blood Sausage and Ricotta.


Mallory Ulaszek-Tews, Co-Producer of Taste Talks Chicago

What panels/events/dinners are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year, and why? 

I am looking forward to the Small Distillers & Great Barkeep's mash up as I love a good custom cocktail. Have to admit I am most excited to see Matty Matheson's Vice Munchies screening. He seems to be the most wild and fun person and I can't wait to see the man behind the Instagram handle @mattydeathbro.

What dish are you most excited to eat at the All-Star BBQ?

I am partial to goat and lamb so definitely looking forward to what Matty and Nick Collela from Great Lakes Tattoo dream up, as well as what Jason Hammel and Paul McGee have in store for us!


Kate Bernot, Moderator of In Cider Spirit

What panels/events/dinners are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks this year (besides your own) and why?

I'm very much looking forward to the photography and storytelling panel featuring Huge Galdones, Johanna Lowe and Ellen Malloy. As a journalist, it's my job to tell food and beverage stories in a compelling way, and these three are masters of it. Hopefully I can pick up some of their secrets. I'm also excited for the Small Distillers and Barkeeps panel featuring Rhine Hall, Letherbee and Chicago Distilling. Those three make some of the tastiest spirits in town and are also all wonderful, entertaining people who are working to advance Chicago's reputation as one of the best drinking cities in the country. 

What dish are you most excited to eat at the All-Star BBQ?

The entire menu makes my mouth water; it's great to see such a variety of ingredients and chefs. I'll stand in line for hours for Paul Kahan short ribs, as well as anything Paul McGee whips up. Will I still save room for Mindy Segal's s'mores? Yes. Yes I will. 

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.  

Kick Off Your Taste Talks Chicago Weekend with Our Mother of Pearl Dinner!

Sarah Zorn

What better way to kick off a food-fueled weekend than taking part in an oyster and sparkling wine feast? At Taste Talks Chicago’s Mother of Pearl event, you’ll enjoy an elegant Island Creek Oyster cocktail hour, followed by a delectable sit down dinner, complete with wine pairings at Kinmont!

Here’s a spotlight on the talented chefs who’ll be taking charge of each course!

DUNCAN BIDDULPH | Kinmont Restaurant

The executive chef at the sprawling, 6,200-square foot Kinmont, a sustainable fish restaurant, the native Chicagoan earned his stripes under Jason Hammel of Lula Café.



Drawing on his own Portuguese heritage, as well as the strong Southeast Asian presence in his native town of Lowell, MA, Conlon is the chef-owner at this exciting Chicago restaurant, known for fusion dishes such as linguica sausage with chili cabbage and olives.



Currently a free agent since leaving Nightwood (which was named a Michelin Bib Gourmand twice during his tenure) Vincent’s racked up enough awards for a lifetime, including Best New Chef from Food & Wine, and Cochon 555’s King of Porc.



Zeeshan Shah (who help opened The Bristol, The Custom House and Old Town Social), and Yoshi Yamada (formerly of Babbo, and founder of Dadar Station) are the co-owners of this quirky pop-up specializing in Indian-ish food, such as 7 spice smoked brisket haleem, and bakra belly sausage with mixed dry fruit.



Norgeira dishes up Cajun comfort food at this Logan Square cocktail bar, including biscuits with pepper jelly, chicken and andouille gumbo, roast pork po boys, and housemade hot dogs with red beans and chow chow.



Although they first met at the Culinary Institute of America, Jennifer (Pickle) and Justin (Chub) went on to hone their skills separately at places like Chez Panisse, The National, Le Bernardin and Prune. They eventually joined forces for this pop-up, where they create collaborative and eclectic dinner menus with a side of southern charm.



Reunited (for one night, at least) with Jason Vincent, the current pastry chef at Nightwood will finish the night of right with her micro-seasonal sweets, such as apple pie with marcona almonds, peach cake with bourbon caramel, or sweet corn panna cotta with blueberries.

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.  

Visiting Chefs to Descend on Chicago this Weekend

Sarah Zorn



Need even further proof that Taste Talks Chicago is going to be a can’t-miss event? How about all of the heavyweight industry insiders, who are travelling from far outside of the city, just so they can participate? Here’s the skinny on the six terrific chefs who’ll be making the pilgrimage to Chicago this weekend!

Marc Vetri (Vetri Family): The pride and joy of Philly’s restaurant scene, the prolific Vetri (Osteria, Alla Spina, Vetri Ristorante), will examine the Evolution of the Farm Dinner in City Dining during Taste Talks, and accompany curator Paul Kahan during the All-Star BBQ, to prepare smoked short ribs with spicy pickles.

Matty Matheson (Parts & Labor): Born in New Brunswick and raised in Ontario, this ragin’ Canadian went on to open the Toronto hotspot, Parts & Labor, and co-found the roving pop-up dinner party, called Group of 7 Chefs. Join him at Taste Talks for a screening of Keep It Canada presented by Munchies, where he dons cowboy duds and chows down on junk food at the rodeo, and during the All-Star BBQ, when he’ll dish up grilled goat with burnt cabbage kimchi.

Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy): New York City’s queen of green cuisine is pulling double duty at Taste Talks Chicago, participating in the panel The Greener Path: Food and Drink for a Plant Based Diet, and manning a grill alongside Mindy Segal and Theresa Suratt at the All-Star BBQ, for a tasty, inventive take on that campfire favorite, s’mores.

Jeni Britton Bauer (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams): Who better to headline the workshop, Free-Styling with Ice Cream Desserts than the reliably creative Bauer, founder of Ohio favorite Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams? Her best-selling flavors extend way beyond vanilla, including saison with sunflower seeds and golden flax, Yazoo Sue with rosemary bar nuts, and sweet cream biscuits and peach jam. 

John Jackson and Connie DeSousa (Charcut): Oh Canada! The team behind Calgary’s awesome Charcut Roast House will also be in attendance, strutting their stuff at the exciting All-Star BBQ. And don’t expect anything as pedestrian as burgers or chicken; instead, the talented pair will plate up juicy bison heart with hunks of Alberta pork kielbasa.

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.  



Spotlight on Wholesome Wave

Sarah Zorn

Working together, environmentally conscious restaurateurs, such as Paul Kahan and Marc Vetri, and purveyors like Dave Cleverdon, of Kinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia, are paving the way in farm-to-table dining. But just as integral to the local/sustainable food cycle are innovators like Michael Nischan, the CEO of Wholesome Wave, which seeks to make fresh fruits and vegetables affordable and available to low-income families, improving health outcomes, generating additional revenue for small and mid-sized farm businesses, and bolstering local and regional economies.

Working collaboratively with farmers, farmers markets, community leaders, healthcare providers, nonprofits and government entities, Wholesome Wave has established a list of initiatives, including a Double Value Coupon Program, which doubles the value of consumers’ federal nutrition benefits when spent at farmers markets, a Fruit And Vegetable Prescription Program, providing families affected by diet-related diseases with a prescription for fruits and vegetables, to be spent at participating farmers markets and retail outlets, Healthy Food Commerce Investments, which improves the supply chain for local food by working with food hubs, to structure investments and enter large wholesale markets, and an Innovations Lab, which identifies breakthrough ideas, tests them in the field, and creates cutting edge solutions that lead to the creation of a vibrant, just and sustainable food system. And so far, Wholesome Wave has been able to implement these programs throughout 25 States and Washington D.C., working with more than 3,500 farmers, 73 community-based partners and 350 markets, as well as various hospitals and community health centers.

That’s why we’re honored to have Nischan join us during Taste Talks Chicago, along with Kahan, Vetri and Cleverdon, to discuss The Evolution of the Farm Dinner in City Dining, and why (thanks to organizations like Wholesome Wave), you no longer have to be wealthy to eat healthy!

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.  

Small Distillers + Great Barkeeps

Sarah Zorn

In case you hadn’t noticed a running theme in our line-up of workshops and panels — including In Cider Spirit and The Wildest Brews in Town — Chicago has a seriously happening home-brewed scene. And during Small Distillers + Great Barkeeps, three fantastic local booze businesses will gather for a spirited discussion (get it?), including Rhine Hall, Chicago Distilling Company and Letherbee (yep, they produce that infamous, bitter wormwood-based beverage, Malort).   

So in order to get you in the spirit (sorry, couldn’t help it), we’re sharing these two terrific cocktail recipes from Rhine Hall!

Rhine Hall Old Fashioned

2 oz Rhine Hall Apple Brandy

1/4 oz 100% Pure Maple Syrup

3 dashes of Angostura bitters

stir & serve over ice


Saint Fetz

1.5 oz Rhine Hall Grappa

1/4 oz Campari

1/4 oz St. Germaine

1/4 oz fresh lemon juice


serve over ice


Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

How We Eat Meat Now

Sarah Zorn



Veggies are trending in a big way right now (to the delight of increasingly health-conscious diners), but that doesn’t mean that chefs and restaurants have turned their backs on meat. What it does mean is that they’re more diligent than ever about where and how they source it from, which is only one of the themes we’ll explore in our upcoming Taste Talks panel, How We Eat Meat Now. And to get a little additional, advance insight, we went straight to the source ourselves, chatting about the changing face of the meat industry with David Flom, co-owner of the venerable steakhouse, Chicago Cut!

Veggie-forward dining is definitely a thing at restaurants nowadays (in fact, there's another Taste Talks panel devoted to it). But what major trends are we seeing in the world of meat?

The world of meat has always been about quality and that is a trend that is timeless. People want to see the best quality in meat that has ever been produced and that is why selecting USDA Prime, which only 3% of the world’s meat receives this honor, is something that we purchase exclusively. When people have quality meat, there is no need to dilute it with other flavors. By using simple ingredients like sea salt and pepper, the true flavor of the steak is able to come out and people are tasting something they might have ever had before.

How do you go about sourcing your meat at Chicago Cut?

We source from well known experienced ranchers that have produced USDA Prime beef for very long periods of time. We want the ranchers that are on 3rd or 4th generations of raising cattle in the highest level possible. 

What are some specific topics you hope to address during your "How We Eat Meat Now" panel?

We would like to talk about the different things we look at when we butcher and dry age our meats. We want to address to qualities of the meat/cut that make it the best- fat content, marbling, etc. We also find it interesting which cuts are selected by women and others that are selected by men.  We would also like to talk about preparation during the Taste Talks panel.

Most of us are familiar with buzzwords like "hormone-free" or "grass-fed," but what should people really look for when shopping for meat at home?

USDA PRIME-the highest grade of beef in USA. You can have any of the other buzzwords you want, but isn't it about grade first?

What do you consider to be some of the most over and underrated cuts of meat?

Top Sirloin is the most overrated.  Skirt steak is the most underrated.


Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Pat Sheerin to Dish Up a Five-Course Meal During Dinner Lab

Sarah Zorn

After a day of food-focused workshops and panel discussions, such as Free-Styling with Ice Cream Desserts, The Evolution of the Farm Dinner in City Dining and How We Eat Meat Now, you’re bound to be seriously hungry. So you won’t want to miss this one-night-only collaboration between Taste Talks and Dinner Lab; a social dining experiment that unites undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners who are looking for something different from the conventional restaurant experience. Pat Sheerin, of the critically-acclaimed Trencherman, has devised a delectable 5-course meal to be prepared and served in an undisclosed location, so buy those tickets and secure your spot at our communal tables now!


                                                          ALBACORE TUNA

                             pickled beets, sprouted lentils, lentil hozon, horseradish


                                                   PASTRAMI DUCK HEART

                                               duck liver, turnips, chicken skin


                                                          SMOKED COD

                            squash, cerignola olives, capers & preserved lemon


                                            PORK NECK CALDO GALLEGO

                                                  wild garbanzo, kale, biga


                                                 YOUNG GRASSHOPPER

                     chocolate crémeux,  mint ice cream,  cocoa nib,  branca menta


Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

The Greener Path: Food and Drink for a Plant Based Diet

Sarah Zorn

Dirt Candy's Spinach Millle Feuille, via

Dirt Candy's Spinach Millle Feuille, via

After decades of having to subsist on salads, side dishes, and uninspired pastas, vegetarians are relishing a golden age of exciting, produce-focused menus at restaurants. And during the Taste Talks Chicago panel, "The Greener Path: Food and Drink for a Plant Based Diet," One Part Plant’s Jessica Murnane will chat with chefs and industry folk at the forefront of the meat-free renaissance, about the brave new world of veggie-forward dining!

What do you think makes the subject of your panel particularly relevant right now?

So many people are really taking a closer look to the food they're eating these days. Whether it's for dietary, environmental, or just straight-up wanting to feel and look better, people care more than ever about having access to clean and green plates of food. And these aren't just people in NYC and LA (Hi, Chicago!) Restaurants and chefs everywhere are having to adapt to the evolving dining habits of their customers.

How has the face of vegetarian cuisine changed in the last five years or so?

You can actually get a vegetarian option at most great restaurants, for starters. It used to be the sad side salad or something that came with roasted red peppers and hummus. Now chefs are really challenging themselves and making dishes that even carnivores can get down with.

What are some specific questions/topics/you hope to explore on your panel?

I'm so lucky to moderate this panel full of bad asses. They all have pretty big opinions and strong voices in their industries. I really want to dig into the pricing of vegetable-focused dining ($10 for a green juice?!), the organic debate, the evolution of the "v" word, and where this healthy eating movement is headed (it hasn't really hit most of the U.S. quite yet). And there will be a few surprise questions and games too. Look out!

What do you think makes each of your panelists uniquely equipped to address the subject at hand?

Again, they're bad asses. Amanda Cohen has been dominating the veg-scene in NYC for years with Dirt Candy. She's pretty vocal about the industry. Anne Owen quit her lucrative career as a magazine publisher in Miami to open Owen & Alchemy, a juice bar in Chicago. Clearly, there's a pretty good story to share here. Heather Crosby's entire life was changed by consuming more plant-based foods and her new book, YumUniverse, is just so impressive. And Chris Pappas has opened one of the most popular restaurants, The Winchester, in Chicago for veg-heads...that isn't even a veggie restaurant. I've got lots of questions for him!

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Check out the Menu for Chicago's All-Star BBQ

Sarah Zorn

If you’ve seen the list of incredible names of participants in this year’s All-Star BBQ, you know that it’s going to be a very big deal. And while you obviously don't need any extra incentive to purchase tickets ($40 for dishes from 10 celebrity chef duos!) we thought we’d up the ante even further, by releasing the official menu for the big day!

             PAUL KAHAN | One Off Hospitality & MARC VETRI | Vetri Family

                            SMOKED SHORT RIBS I with Spicy Pickles


        MATTY MATHESON | Parts & Labour & NICK COLELLA | Great Lakes Tattoo

                           ROASTED GOAT I with naan, garnishes and sauce


                JOHN JACKSON & CONNIE DE SOUSA | Charcut Roast House

                            BISON HEART AND ALBERTA PORK KIELBASA 


RICK BAYLESS | Frontera Grill, Topolobampo Xoco & GREG GUNTHORP | Gunthorp Farms


      STEPHANIE IZARD | Girl & The Goat, Little Goat & JOHN LAFFLER | Off Color Brewing

                                           SMOKED GOAT TACOS


MINDY SEGAL | Hot Chocolate, AMANDA COHEN | Dirt Candy NYC & TEREASA SURATT | Camp Wandawega


         EDWARD KIM | Ruxbin, Mott Street & RODERICK MARKUS | Rare Tea Cellars


                 DOUG PSALTIS | Bub City & ALESSANDRO BELLINI |Viola


                LEE WOLEN | Boka & BETH ECCLES | Eccles Family Farms

                  GRILLED FALL SQUASH I Blood Sausage and Ricotta



             LAMB AND PANCETTA PITA | smoked fig, queso fresco, chile crema


Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.



Learn From the Masters: Food Photography and Storytelling Techniques

Sarah Zorn

Photo by Huge Galdones

Photo by Huge Galdones

Whether you’re a budding professional food photographer, or simply determined to take drool worthy snaps of your dinner on your Smartphone, a lot more goes in to constructing an awesome portrait than point and click. That’s why we’ve recruited talented food and lifestyle shooter, Huge Galdones, top Chicago stylist, Johanna Lowe, and co-founder of Morsel, Ellen Malloy, for the workshop "Learn from the Masters: Food Photography and Storytelling Techniques," to share tips and tricks that will help you construct a better narrative through taste. And here’s just a few to get you started!

                                                    Huge Galdones

For the budding food photographer:

-Keep learning; whether it’s through reading, flipping through food mags, staging with a photographer or just plain trial and error.

-Invest in a high quality lens; actual glass will depend on your shooting style (macro vs. lifestyle).

-Try lighting your food from behind instead of head on.

-When you shoot, always ask yourself “Would I eat it?"

For the Smartphone photographer:

-Turn off your flash.

-Composition, composition, composition; avoid bull’s-eye photography (with the whole dish smack dab in the middle of the frame). Look into the rule of thirds and the golden triangle as starters.

-Point of view: i.e., if you want to include a lot of elements in frame, shoot overhead. If you want to showcase a particular food element, get in close.

-Don’t be ‘that guy/gal’ who takes forever to take a food picture, or who disrupts other guests.


                                                       Johanna Lowe

-Consider the personality and mood of your food…is it game day or date night or Saturday brunch? Whatever it might be, construct your lighting and scene with this in mind, but beware of cliché.

-What is the hero in the dish? Try to emphasize the main player...for instance, if it’s cheese, decide if it should it be melty or bubbly or pulling and focus on that, but do it with subtlety.

-Simplicity is always better.

-Simplicity is always harder.

-Listen to your food stylist.


Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.


The Art of Salted & Dried Charcuterie

Sarah Zorn



Since charcuterie has become a mainstay on most Chicago menus, we’ve assembled a panel of experts, to share their techniques for making (and ideas on pairing) their special, artisanal meats. But before you join Missy Corey of PQM, Chris Marchino from Spiaggia, and Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi for “The Art of Salted & Dried Charcuterie,” learn to tell your galantines from terrines with this indispensable guide!


A preparation of boned meat or whole poultry that is stuffed or rolled, cooked, then glazed with gelatin and served cold.


Seasoned ground meat, fish or vegetable preparations with a paste consistency. Pâtés are made in various spreadable textures and are served hot or cold as an hors d’oeuvre or a first course.


Traditionally refers to pâté baked in long, loaf-shaped earthenware dishes, and named after the French word terre, meaning “earth.”


An airy mixture usually containing eggs and cream, that can be sweet or savory (using meat, fish, and/or vegetables). It is much lighter and spongier in texture than a pâté.


Poitrine is a breast of meat or poultry, but when the word is modified, it refers to bacon. Poitrine demi-sel is an unsmoked slab bacon; poitrine fumée is smoked slab bacon; poitrine roulée is rolled bacon. 


A highly spiced spread of meat or poultry (commonly pork, goose, duck, fish or rabbit), first cooked in seasoned fat and then minced or pounded into a paste. After the rillettes are made, they are commonly placed in a ramekin and sealed with a thin layer of fat.


A large air-dried sausage, such as salami. Variations include saucisson à l’ail, garlic sausage; saucisson d’Arles, a dried salami-style sausage of pork, beef and seasonings; saucisson de campagne, any country-style sausage; saucisson de Lyon, air-dried pork sausage; saucisson de Morteau, plump smoked pork sausage; and saucisson en croûte, sausage cooked in a pastry crust.

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.


Ten Years Later: Building Restaurants That Last

Sarah Zorn



We’re intimately familiar with how tough it is to make it in NYC’s intensely saturated, cutthroat, and prohibitively expensive dining scene, and the increasingly food-obsessed Chicago is no different. Which is why we’ve gathered some of the city’s most seminal chefs, restaurateurs and industry folk together for Ten Years Later: Building Restaurants that Last, including Donnie Madia of One Off Hospitality, Jason Hammel from Lula Cafe, Michael Nahabedian of NAHA, and Paul Virant from Vie, to discuss how they’ve maintained their proven customer base, all while continuing to build buzz and push the limits, after a decade or more of success. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s kept these acclaimed eateries far in front of the pack.

Blackbird: Opened in December 1997, Blackbird is one of Chicago’s most respected modern fine-dining establishments. It’s helmed by Executive Chef Paul Kahan, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2013 and Best Chef of the Midwest in 2004. Together with Chef de Cuisine Perry Hendrix and Pastry Chef Dana Cree, Kahan crafts elegant and imaginative Midwestern cuisine, showcasing farm-fresh ingredients. Managing partner and owner, Donnie Madia, also helped craft Blackbird’s unique interiors, earning a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design and Best Restaurant Design Graphics in 2002.

Lula Café: Lula Cafe opened in a small storefront on Kedzie Boulevard in September 1999, with a four burner home stove and a dented collection of thrifted pots and pans. Today, stretching three storefronts, it’s the founding member of the nationally recognized Logan Square culinary community, and a celebrated forerunner of the ‘farm to table’ movement in Chicago. Lula has been featured on NPR’s “This American Life,” in The New York Times, and in Chicago press, named an LTH Forum Great Neighborhood Restaurant, a Michelin Bib Gourmande, and a member of the “Eater Essential 38.”

NAHA: After departing her position as Executive Chef of the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Carrie Nahabedian returned to her native Chicago to open NAHA in 2000, along with her cousin, Michael Nahabedian, which highlights their Armenian roots. The duo has since garnered a James Beard Award as well as four consecutive Michelin stars, and went on top open Brindille in the spring of 2013, as a nod to their favorite local spots in Paris.

Vie: “Tastes of the seasons, preserved,” is the kitchen staff’s mantra at Vie. Chef Paul Virant, formerly of local favorites Charlie Trotter, Ambria, Everest and Blackbird, is committed to supporting local farmers and artisans at the 10-year-old restaurant, which has been deemed one of the Top 40 Restaurants in the USA by Gayot Restaurant Guide, a Top 25 Farm to Table Restaurant by Best Life Magazine, and received Three Stars by critic Phil Vettel, in the Chicago Tribune.

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Photo Slideshow of Taste Talks Brooklyn 2014

Sarah Zorn

An intermittent threat (and eventual, full-on downpour) of rain last Saturday wasn’t enough to keep food enthusiasts away from our second, fantastically exciting installment of Taste Talks Brooklyn. In fact, each and every panel and workshop, from “The Future of Food Magazines,” to Phil Ward of Death and Co’s tequila and mezcal symposium, played to packed, standing room-only houses, and our first Future Food Expo was an unmitigated success, granting both established and up-and-coming innovators—such as Farm to People, Picnicked, Drizly and Poached—a magnificent showcase for their game-changing products and services. 

And there are simply no words for the array of astonishing dishes proffered during Mother of Pearl, Dinner Lab, and that utterly righteous All-Star BBQ. Which is why we’re just going to ply you with pictures instead! So feast your eyes on a few drool-worthy outtakes, from Taste Talks Brooklyn: 2014!

To view slideshow, click here: 

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

The Wildest Brews in Town

Sarah Zorn

Ready to take your knowledge of suds to the next level? Join Michael Kiser, editor of Good Beer Hunting, as he forgoes the standard roster of lagers, ales and IPA’s for a lively discussion (and sampling!) of a few more decidedly creative and unexpected brews, during his upcoming Taste Talks Chicago panel, The Wildest Brews in Town. Together with John Laffler of Off Color, Ryan Burk from Virtue Cider, and Tim Faith of Goose Island, he'll boldly explore the brave new world of progressive, fermented beverages!

What got you interested in unusual beers?

Unlike cider or wine, beer is much more about the recipe — bringing together ingredients that take you on a journey and combine in new and interesting ways. Flavor, aroma and even visual appeal are wildly variable. For that reason, beer seems to inspire some pretty radical exploration amongst brewers, and it's always fascinating to try their latest experiments, even when they fail. So when it comes to unusual beers, I'm always excited about the potential for surprise, as much as I am in learning more about the brewer's intent, because each ambitious beer provides the industry with new knowledge and experience that might make the next attempt a real winner. 

Some of your favorites on the market right now and why?

While pumpkin beers have received their fair share of scorn as they become more popular and move the season earlier and earlier, I still relish in the release of Southern Tier's "Pumpking" every year. But "wild" beers aren't always about exotic ingredients. Sometimes it's a process or yeast concoction that makes a world of difference. Side Project in St. Louis, for example, makes some of the most ambitious barrel-fermented saisons on the planet right now, blending art and science in ways that not even Cory King, its brewer, fully understands yet. I also love some of the beers that Forbidden Root, a Chicago start-up I've been working with, are making — herbal and botanic beers that evoke some of America's colonial days of brewing with ingredients like honeybush, lemon myrtle, chestnuts, and plenty of spices and extracts. And of course, this year, I've been neck-deep in coffee beer exploration as part of my "Uppers & Downers" series with Intelligentsia, encouraging home brewers and commercial breweries to follow me on a journey into new and exciting ways of making beer with the world's best coffees. There's a ton of great work being done at this intersection! In our recent contest, we had a Brett Saison Ale with coffee, some IPAs, a Belgian golden, and even some Cascara beers that blew our minds.

What topics will you be exploring during your panel?

When talking about wild or extreme beers, it's easy to get distracted by the ingredients themselves. We'll go there for sure, it's fascinating stuff, but we'll also dig into the motivations, processes, and collaboration that's at the heart of many of these beers. It's takes a special kind of person to do it well, and this panel brings together some of the best.  

What should people should look for (or look out for) in the world of funky beers?

If you can think of it, chances are someone's tried to make a beer with it. So set your expectations aside because the world of extreme beers is by definition without barriers, and many of them seem intimidating. But the beer world is amazing at sharing tasting notes and experiences, so if there's a beer you're curious about, or want to try, chance are someone has already started the conversation online and this can be invaluable in helping navigate your options. And the more you learn about what you're tasting, the more you'll enjoy it, I promise! 

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here

Chatting with Matty Matheson of Parts & Labour

Sarah Zorn

Taste Talks Brooklyn may be over (sad!) but that means that it’s Chicago’s time to shine. And our fantastic, confirmed lineup of participants are bound to represent the Windy City (and beyond) in a big way, such as acclaimed Canadian Matty Matheson. Executive chef of Toronto’s Parts & Labor, and co-founder of Group of 7 Chefs (which hosts thematic, monthly dinners at various Toronto venues), and Northern Alliance (where chefs from across the U.S. and Canada come together to host fundraising dinners for charitable food and supplier organizations), Matheson will pull double-duty at Taste Talks Chicago this October.  He stars in Vice's series, Keep It Canada, and Taste Talks is thrilled to premiere the first episode that follows Matheson around Prince Edward Island. The Keep It Canada screening presented by Munchies is at Open Secret Studios at 2pm on Saturday.  Matheson is also joining the always exciting All-Star BBQ, grilling a large format, roasted goat in Palmer Square. So we took a moment to chat with Matheson, about how he ended up getting involved with the festival, the future of brick-and-mortar restaurants, and why he’s especially proud to rep Canada (in Chicago).

How did you end up getting involved in the Taste Talks Chicago event?

I got an email about the event and couldn't say no. It's an exciting event to be a part of, and a great opportunity to hang with some of America’s (and now Canada’s!) finest.

What especially excites you about Toronto's dining scene?

I feel Toronto is doing a great job of raising the bar. There are so many amazing restaurants opening and so many more holding strong. There’s a lot of young talent in the city right now. Its so great having chefs from all around the world talking about the Toronto scene. The future is very bright and exciting for the city I love.

Any thoughts on what you might make during the All-Star BBQ?

I'd love to cook some goats!

In addition to running a traditional restaurant, you also founded a monthly pop-up series called The Group of 7 Chefs. With the advent of pop-ups, underground dining clubs and the like, do you think it's becoming less and less necessary for chefs to have a brick-and-mortar to make a name or career for themselves?

If you are making tasty, exciting food people will come. And pop-ups provide a great opportunity for chefs to experiment. For example, Lee Tiernan just blew Copenhagen up with his Black Axe Mangal Kebab Shop. It was in this rad bar called Bakken in the meatpacking district, and he just crushed the game for a few weeks. It was the best pop-up I've seen. Sometime people miss the mark. And Lee killed the fucking game.

Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here

Taste Talks Brooklyn Kicks off Tonight!!

Sarah Zorn

With Taste Talks just HOURS away, we thought we’d kick off the long weekend of festivities the only way we knew how—by consuming lots of intensely delicious food and drink! That’s why a number of Northside family and friends gathered at the Diesel 101 pop-up shop the other night, for a menu of small plates curated by our talented host, the delightful Jeremy Spector of the East Village’s Brindle Room (you might have also seen him kicking butt on The Food Network’sChopped), as well as stiff cocktails, and a live DJ set from Cassie Ramone of The Vivian Girls.

To read more, click here: 

Taste Talks Food & Drink returns to Brooklyn September 12-14, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Join Andy Ricker, Jordana Rothman, ” the Franks,” and Gabe Stulman In a Discussion About Whether or Not Brooklyn Is the Next Manhattan In the Food World

Sarah Zorn

No one needs to tell us that Brooklyn has always had a truly notable, totally unique, and incomparably diverse dining scene, but after years of playing second fiddle to Manhattan, interest in borough-wide eats has exponentially increased, to a point where “Brooklyn” is essentially a worldwide brand (hence the perhaps apocryphally popular Parisian expression, Très Brooklyn).

So what, precisely, comes next, now that pioneering restaurateurs who helped shape neighborhoods are now faced being forced out by rising rents? As Brooklyn restaurants change and mature, do Manhattan restaurants change too, and is one borough leading the way stylistically? Is there a way to encourage meaningful, organic restaurant growth in a neighborhood without irreparably jacking up the barrier to entry? And have we finally reached a saturation point in Brooklyn???

To read more,  click here: 

Taste Talks Food & Drink returns to Brooklyn September 12-14, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Don’t Miss the Big Green Egg ® BBQ Throwdown During This Sunday’s Taste Talks All Star BBQ

Sarah Zorn

As if this weekend’s All-Star BBQ didn’t promise to be awesome enough, we’ve got another bit of fabulous programming to add into the mix; a no-holds-barred BBQ Throwdown sponsored by the Big Green Egg ® ! Three different chefs will face off during each of the All-Star BBQ sessions this Sunday, tasked with making a winning dish using a top-secret protein, prepared on a Big Green Egg ®  (domed, combination cookers/grills/smokers, fired by wood or natural charcoal). The first 100 attendees to grab a tasting token at the Throwdown booth will be able to test our talented chef’s off-the-cuff creations, and vote who will walk away with the title, as well as their very own Big Green Egg ® 

To read more, click here: 

Taste Talks Food & Drink returns to Brooklyn September 12-14, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.