I never like to miss a food event, and this one seemed like not one to be missed!  UNICEF’s Taste of Tap event took place on March 23 at the Centered Chef. Celebrity chefs Sprout’s Dale Levitski and Centered Chef’s Ryan Hutmacher and A Razor, A Shiny Knife showed off culinary skills and UNICEF-inspired dishes- all of which benefitted UNICEF’s save-saving water programs.

Taste of Tap is a celebration of World Water Week (March 19-25) and UNICEF’s Tap Project, a fund-raising campaign aimed at granting clean water to the 900 million people around the world who currently lack access to it. The core of the project works on a simple concept: restaurants asking their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free during the week. 

The event raised over $7,000 for water sanitation programs.

Chicken Potsticker with Orange Gastrique by Ryan Hutmacher, Centered Chef.

Seaweed soup from Sprout by Chef Dale Levitski.

Chocolate Guinness Beer Cake with Bailey’s Whipped Crème Topping by Vanessa Moses, The Cooking Chicks Chicago.

Photo credit: Braxton Black

For more on the Tap Project.

Girls Gone Grand

It’s always amazing when the universe puts us all in sync and we can manage a grand girl’s night out!  This one was hosted by Grand Marnier at the Angels and Kings Suite at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, and beautifully catered by Rachel Schwanz (I like to call her the Schwanz-a-razzi) and Entertaining Company.  Chef James De Marte got deliciously creative with these dishes.

Fried Chicken and Waffles – Grand Marnier Fried Chicken Bite, Smoked Bacon Shard and Waffle Finger with Grand Marnier Syrup.  The bacon shard was super-crisped.

Croquettes – Sweet Plantains, Manchego, Grand Marnier and Roasted Garlic Aïoli.

Braised Short Rib with Grand Marnier Roasted Red Pepper Compote and Wonton Crisp.

Yellow Fin Tuna Ceviche – Grand Marnier, Lime, Serrano Chile and Avocado and Handmade Tortilla Cup

Grand Marnier Braised Pork Flatiron – Honey Reduction, Celery Root Puree and Rosemary Potato Crisp.

The suite was decadent and gorgeous, with sweeping views of the Chicago Skyline.  I especially love their gun artwork collection/installation, these were skinned in designer labels such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.  The Grand Marnier French Margaritas battled my favorite ones from Big Star.  They were just the right amount of sour and the Grand Marnier flavor was perfect, served in a cool red Grand Marnier ball.  All the food was made with Grand Marnier as an ingredient.  We did a shot-ski to that!  And we may have crashed a party afterwards – but what happens during girl’s night ….

The girls in this photo will remain nameless …

Recipe for a great Margarita – The French Margarita with Grand Marnier

1.5 oz. Grand Marnier

.75 oz. Tequila

1.5 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

1.5 oz. Simple Syrup

Last Minute Hors d’oeuvre for NYE

Need a quick last minute appetizer for New Year’s Eve?  Stop by Whole Foods for mini potatoes, creme fraiche, caviar and chives.  Clean and roast the potatoes until done.  Let cool, slice in half, top with a touch of creme fraiche, caviar and chives.  Don’t forget to chill the champagne.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams for all my friends in 2012!

Shell Shocked

The old school Oysters Rockefeller with a twist of charred lemon and 12 month Manchego.  One of my favorite dishes from the Common Threads Cook-Off at Fulton’s On The River on September 15.  Foodies took over and picked winners from different culinary challenge categories.  Chef David Blonsky from Public House won with this dish for the “On a Shell” category.

For more about Common Threads – www.commonthreads.org and for more info on the event check out grubstreet’s post http://bit.ly/qYaHhL.