On Thursday, January 24 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 Choose Chicago and hosted by Chef Dirk Flanigan. Over 1200 people attended this spectacular evening and 100% of net proceeds benefited the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. During a brief presentation in the middle of the event the sponsors presented Bear Necessities with a check for $15,000.
Chicago Restaurant Week is a celebration of Chicago's finest culinary talents. The 10-day experience begins February 1 and runs through February 10 with more than 250 participating restaurants featuring prix fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $33 and $44, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity. Online reservations are now available at www.eatitupchicago.com.
"Chicago is a renowned culinary destination and hotbed for top chefs," said Don Welsh, Choose Chicago President and CEO. "The First Bites Bash is a great opportunity to indulge in what Chicago's chefs are serving up for the sixth annual Chicago Restaurant Week. This innovative event has certainly become a recipe for success that foodies from across the region enjoy."
On Thursday, January 24, 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. 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:
For desserts, there were spectacular offerings from nine restaurants. This was another tough choice, but my top three were:
Chef Dirk Flanigan, named a Best Chefs Great Lakes Semi-Finalist by the James Beard Foundation Awards, a StarChefs "Rising Star" and garnered Chicago magazine's "Best Restaurants" title for Henri, has been an avid supporter of Chicago Restaurant Week since its inception in 2007. "The First Bites Bash is one of the best culinary gatherings in the city," said Flanigan. "It brings together a group of great friends who happen to be among the best chefs in Chicago."
Flanigan's personal connection to cancer marks a meaningful connection to the beneficiary of this year's kick-off event. "After dealing with cancer in my family, I can't think of anything more trying and scary. Bear Necessities shines light on people when it feels like the darkest of times," said Flanigan.
"We are so thrilled to be chosen as the beneficiary of Choose Chicago's First Bites Bash!" said Kathleen A. Casey, CEO& Founder, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. "Being headquartered in Chicago it's heartwarming to work with other organizations to help children right here in our backyard battling cancer. Childhood cancer is the number ONE death by disease in our country yet it's one of the most underserved diseases as well. Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation is committed to eliminating pediatric cancer and to provide hope and support to those who are touched by it. Together we can make a difference, so our heartfelt thanks to Choose Chicago and all of the participants for helping us help kids with cancer."
First Bites Bash is supported by: American Express, Blue Moon, NBC5 Chicago, Peroni, Tasting Table and Time Out Chicago magazine.
Follow them on Twitter @ChooseChicago and join the conversations #firstbitesbash and #chicagorestaurantweek.
All photos used here are (c) Chuck Janda with Oscar Einzig