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All posts in Chicago

Level Two – Football inspired menu for the 2015 NFL Draft


The NFL Draft begins tomorrow in Chicago.  The last time the city hosted the NFL Draft was way back in 1963.  It’s a huge deal for football fanatics in the Chicagoland area.  The Draft itself will take place at the Auditorium Theater but for the legions of football fans who want to be a part of it, Grant Park is converting to “Draft Town” hosting a series of events starting Today, Wednesday 29th until the conclusion of the draft on May 2nd.

Draft Weekend promises to bring thousands to the city over the next few days and across the city restaurants and hotels are getting into the spirit.

Level Two the restaurant/lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Magnificent Mile is rolling out a special menu for the event that centers around beer and game-day snacks with an NFL theme and an gourmet twist. Read more…


Perry Clark Home Brings Farm-To-Table to Your Online Shopping Cart

The windy city is a wonderful city for shopping! Chicagoans should be so lucky to have it all at their fingers and now you can too. Chicago-based Perry Clark Home brings their gorgeous home goods right to your door with online shopping. I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself and with a few clicks fabulous home furnishings were just seconds away.

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

While browsing the easy-on-the-eyes website, described as an eBoutique for Inspired Living & Giving, I was drawn to the new, spring and summer line named Farm-To-Table. What I liked most about the items offered on Perry Clark was that there is something for everyone in a variety of price ranges. You don’t have to break the bank to have beautifully-crafted home goods.

I referred to the site as easy-on-the-eyes because now through April 10, Jeremiah Brent, interior designer known for his part on “The Rachel Zoe Project,” will serve as the “Master Curator” of the Farm-to-Table collection. Some of Brent’s favorite things include a Bamboo Serving Board ($24), a Farmer’s Market Tote ($64), and a forever piece, the Farmhouse Dining Table ($2,800).

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

The regal Kew Votive Candle, Set ($24), caught my eye and was well within my budget. The beautiful, Tiffany Blue votive candles were embellished with gold trim and eloquent, embossed lions on the front. I was also drawn to them because they can double as mini planters once the candles burn out. Shopping on Perry Clark Home was pleasant, efficient, and enjoyable with free shipping, returns, and gift boxing. My package arrived in a flash and I swooned over the gorgeous packaging – they were wrapped in simply, yet elegant tissue in a high-quality gift box with a gorgeous, gold-toned bow.

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Photo courtesy of Perry Clark Home

Another fact that lends the Perry Clark home collection its fabulousness is that Sheri Salata, president of the Oprah Winfrey Network, is currently a board member. Not that we needed another validating fact to share with you a few of our “favorite things” here at VODA Magazine. Happy clicking and home collecting!


A Saint Patrick’s Day Tradition in Chicago, The Dyeing of the Chicago River

Credit Choose Chicago_St Patricks Greening River Outside HRD 533

Dyeing of the Chicago River: Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us and all over the city of Chicago, local Irish-Americans and even”Irish for a Day” party-goers are gearing up for the festivities.

Irish Americans have very deep roots in Chicago.  In the history of our city over a dozen mayors have been of Irish descent.   Our south side major league ball park (Comiskey Park – Home of the Chicago White Sox) was named after its founding owner Charles Comiskey, son of Irish Immigrants. Even the cow, and suspected arsonistwho singlehandedly (single-hoofed?) was responsible for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which then ushered in the rebirth of the city into the world-class metropolis it is today was an O’Leary.    Indeed the Irish have played a huge part in shaping the culture of the city, including how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

March 14th in addition to the usual suspects: green beer, corned-beef and cabbage,  pints of Guinness and shots of Irish whiskey, we also have the strange custom of Dyeing the Chicago River green.  This started somewhat unintentionally in the early 1960’s when local plumbers used a chemical dye called fluorescein to look for signs of pollution.  The whole thing looked pretty festive and has been a yearly tradition ever since…though the local plumbers union have long since switched to something a little more environmentally friendly.

The View from the Hyatt Regency Chicago.  Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

The View from the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

Each year thousands will line up along the river the event.  A great vantage point to see the river dyeing is at the  Hyatt Regency Chicago .    This year the Hyatt Regency has The Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band’s performing traditional Irish music in the lobby throughout the day to get you into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.  Of course while you’re there you could go upstairs to BIG Bar and order Corned Beef Flatbread Pizzas along with Irish Mules and Irish Car Bombs; The view from up there is pretty good.  If you want to go traditional, head back downstairs to American Craft Kitchen & Bar and order the Oxtail Soup or Corned Beef and Cabbage; a pint obviously.  You can’t go wrong with way.

Corned Beef and Cabbage at American-Craft Kitchen Bar.  Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago

Corned Beef and Cabbage at American-Craft Kitchen Bar. Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago






Chicago 2015: The Resolution of Giving

Now that the new year is underway, everyone is looking to get a start on their resolutions.  The gyms across town are packed every night, for now.  Sales of healthy food at the supermarket is going up, for now.  You are probably even getting to work early every day, for now.  (just speculating)

If your resolution is to do some good in the world, the task of truly giving back can seem daunting.  The thing to remember is it is ok to start small, the little things add up.  The other thing to remember is that you don’t have to go it alone.  There following are just a few products/places that will donate proceeds of sales to charitable organizations both in town and across the world.  Who says you can’t enjoy a night out while making the world a better place?


Ronald_McDonald_HouseBIG Bar & Brasserie at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, (151 East Upper Wacker Drive) is donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of their “Home Sweet Home” cocktail (Absolut Mango, St. Germain, Mango Puree and sour mix) to the Ronald McDonald House near the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.   The Ronald McDonald House  provides families a place to stay while their children are getting medical treatment.  You get a delicious cocktail and keep a family together at a time of need.  Cheers to that.


purple-asparagusDMK Burger Bar with locations downtown and in the suburbs is a mainstay of quality burgers and through their “365 Days of Giving” program, are also known for their big hearts.  Each month the DMK Burger Bar teams up with a different local non-profit organizations every month to help raise funds and awareness. In January they partner with Purple Asparagus,whose mission is to educate Chicago children, families, and communities about eating what is good for the body and the planet by bringing nutritious hands-on adventures to schools, community organizations, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicagoland.


lurie-childrens-hospitalLevel Two restaurant & lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile offers guest a chance to donate to the Lurie Children’s Hospital through their is running Change for Hope campaign.   Nothing complicated about this one, guests are simply encourged to round up the change on their bill at the end of the meal.  All extra “Change for Hope” is collected and donated directly to Lurie Children’s Hospital across the street from the restaurant as a greater Room for Hope hotel-wide campaign to support Lurie patients and their families.


World_Wildlife_FundBranded Spirits’ Ice Fox Vodka  profits from the sale go in part to the World Wildlife Fund protecting the shrinking population of Artic Foxes that inspired the product.  Founded in 1961, the WWF is now the largest conservation organizations in the world, working on the restoration and preservation of endangered species and the environment.  The next time you are sitting back and enjoying a glass of this triple distilled premium all-american vodka, know you had a hand in saving a species from extinction. Definitely worth raising a glass to that.



Coral_Reef_AllianceBranded Spirits’ Motu Rum is donating a portion of profits from its sale  to the Coral Reef Alliance to help preserve the pristine coral reefs of the South Pacific.   The Coral Reef Alliance started in 1994 in Berkeley California to get the diving community involved in coral reef conservation.  Since then it has grown to a  premiere global non-profit conservation organization with initiative in reef communities around the world.  With every purchase of Motu Rum you are helping preserve this delicate ecosystem that urgently needs our help.

These are only some of the ways you can begin 2015 as your year of giving.  Even if it is limited to ordering a cocktail or picking up a bottle at the store, you are making a difference.  You shouldn’t dismiss these as trivial because again, the little things really can add up to something wonderful.  Knowing you had a hand in helping a local family stay close to their loved one at a difficult time, help keep the school kids healthy, or prevented a species in another part of the world from becoming a footnote in history, should warm your heart.  A step no matter how small makes you a part of the solution and a better tomorrow.


A Chicago Foodie NYE

Chicago NYE 2014


New Years Eve in Chicago.  Time to celebrate another year in this great city.  There are the hotel parties and nightclubs which are always fun but may not be for everyone. For the gourmand/foodie in town and looking to do something a little different we have a few suggestions

 American Comfort Fare

DMK Burger Bar – Chicago and Lombard

DMK Burger Bar

DMK Burger Bar

At DMK Burger Bar, guests have a variety of packages to choose from to satisfy a range of party appetites – ranging from the single-admission ticket for draft beers, boozy punch, house cocktails, and passed Sliders (bite sized versions of DMK’s best burgers), Fries, and Shakes all night; to The King’s Table for you and up to 14 guests and including a Double Magnum bottle of Veuve Cliquot as well as two bottles of a liquor of choice and a classic breakfast served at 1 a.m. exclusively for their table.  Packages and pricing vary by location, see DMK NYE for more details.

Howells & Hood – 435 N. Michigan Ave.

Howells & Hood is home to the largest draft beer selection in Chicago.  This year guests will get to enjoy a one-of-a-kind New Year’s Eve celebration, no ticket required. Newly appointed Executive Chef Brett Neubauer presents a four-course, prix-fixe menu for guests to enjoy gourmet twists on American classics and then stay for the celebration with a DJ at 10 p.m. Additionally, a Champagne toast is offered at midnight with complimentary late night snacks for all guests. Some notable menu items and beverage suggestions include: 

  • Australian Truffle & Foie Gras Bites featuring truffle foie gras mousse, port, and espelette pepper paired with Beer – Brasserie St. Feuillien Saison, Wine – Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, or Howells Royale cocktail (Huckleberry Jam, Rosemary Simple, Bubbles).
  • 12-oz Painted Hills 60 Day Dry-Aged Rib-Eye with Australian truffle, buttermilk mashed potatoes, charred rapini, and red wine reduction paired with Beer – Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale,  WineMitolo Shiraz Jester, or Hatting in the Hood cocktail (FEW Bourbon, House Brandied Cherries, Carpano Antica, Orange Bitters).
  • Butterscotch Bread Pudding made with Brioche bread, vanilla bean custard, rum raisin ice cream, butterscotch sauce paired with Beer –  Greenbush Distorter Porter,  Wine – Milbrandt Traditions Merlot, or a Butter Beer Cocktail (Root Beer, Butterscotch, Jameson, Horchata, Cinnamon, Egg White, Cherry)

The four-course prix-fixe menu is priced at $75 per person, or $100 with beverage pairing suggestions. Beverages served a la carte, if preferred. For more details see Howell and Hood NYE.  Reservations strongly encouraged, and can be made by calling 312.262.5310 or at www.howellsandhood.com.

Of course it doesn’t end there.  The next day Howells & Hood is hosting a New Year’s Day Hangover Brunch. guests can enjoy the following feel-good dishes:

  • Doritos Chilaquiles with short rib, nacho cheese Doritos, cotija cheese, and salsa roja
  • Doughnut French Toast with banana, caramelized pecans, and bourbon
  • Cheeseburger Strata with brioche, cheddar cheese, onion, and royale
  • Blackstrap Molasses Ham & Cheese Muffin with English muffin, Irish cheddar, and over-easy egg.

Brunch is offered from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Reservations strongly encouraged, and can be made by calling 312.262.5310 or atwww.howellsandhood.com.

Their sister location, the Old Town Pour House – 1419 N. Wells St. is also hosting a New Years Day Brunch; offered at 10:30 a.m., with similar recovery fare and some hair of the dog if so inclined.  For more information, please visit www.oldtownpourhouse.com or call 630.601.1440.

Italian Elegance

Filini Bar & Restaurant – 221 North Columbus Drive

Filini Bar and Restaurant

Filini Bar & Restaurant

Filini Bar & Restaurant you can party like Gatsby at this transformed 1920’s fete with pre-prohibition cocktails, music, and décor. Flappers and Dapper Don’s are encouraged to wear their best golden age attire and enjoy delectable Italian fare and a live DJ performance. Along with hors d’oeuvres from 9-11 p.m., open bar from 9 p.m.-midnight, and complimentary Prosecco, party favors, and dessert bar when the clock strikes midnight.


Peruvian Exotic 

Tanta – 118 W. Grand Ave.

Foodies looking to ring in the new year with more exotic fare we have Tanta,  a Chicago standout for Peruvian cuisine.  Chef Jesus Delgado present guests with à la carte menu items showcasing the flavors of the culture including:

Tanta Cebiche ValienteCebiche Valiente – Lobster, rocoto leche de tigre coral, and huacatay;





Tanta Scallops and Chupe

Chupe – Grilled jumbo sea scallops with organic quinoa chupe in a aji amarillo-crab broth and roasted sweet peppers, and quail egg;





Tanta CorderoEstofado Cordero – Grilled Australian rack of lamb with anticucho sauce, cannellini beans, cilantro, criolla salad, and aji amarillo (ingredients subject to change based upon seasonal availability).




Ring in the New Year with a champagne toast and an unforgettable meal. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 312.222.9700 or by visitingOpentable.com. For more information, please visit www.tantachicago.com.



TÊTE Charcuterie – 1114 West Randolph Street



This hot west loop Charcuterie on restaurant row is throwing an all-out NYE bash that is much a celebration of the good life inspired by their passion for good food and drink as it is a celebration of a new year with its endless possibilities.  As expected there will be an enormous buffet of appetizers and TÊTE’s out-of-this-world Charcuterie, a DJ and ice shot luge to keep the party going all night, and, at midnight, The Salsa Truck arrives on the scene to hand out tacos (included in the ticket) to satisfy those late night munchies.   For more info go to TETE or go to http://tetenye.bpt.me to get tickets.


Mediterranean Sophisticate

Travelle – 330 North Wabash Ave.



Chef Tim Graham and Pastry Chef Scott Green at Travelle are offering a gourmet New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu that is an exquisite way to bring 2014 to a close. There is a three-course menu from 5-7:30 p.m. and a five-course menu from 8-10:30 p.m.

The festivities begin with a Champagne cart at your table at the beginning of the meal.  Guest will enjoy live music along with diner.

Some of the featured dishes include:

  • Salad Lyonnaise, truffled frisee, fried egg, and bacon
  • Sunchoke Soup, hazelnut and black truffle
  • Risotto, white truffle and chive
  • Duck, crispy confit leg, truffled-potato rosti, and Cognac gastrique
  • Beef Tenderloin, with brioche, foie gras, and truffled sauce bordelaise
  • An assortment of Mini Desserts.

For reservations, please visit TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705. Like Travelle on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

New Years day Travelle will be open providing hangover relief through their travel inspired eggs Benedicts menu. Guests can select any one of the Benedictine Traveler’s line-up of six selections including:

  • English Benedict with rasher of ham and hollandaise
  • Moroccan Benedict with Merguez sausage, mint, and piquillo sauce
  • Norwegian Benedict with smoked salmon, fennel, and sauce choron
  • Florentine Benedict with spinach, artichoke, and sauce béarnaise
  • Travelle Benedict with lobster, spinach and truffled hollandaise
  • Burgundian Benedict with red wine braised short rib, crispy shallot, and sauce Dijon.

Diners can pair their favorite benedict choice with a mimosa or Bloody Mary for $29/person from 11am-3pm. For reservations, please visit TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705. Like Travelle on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.




Christmas Dinner at Travelle



The holidays are about family, friends, good will, and great food. That usually involves putting in some serious time in the kitchen.  Traditionalists however should not be quick to dismiss the idea of going out for Christmas dinner. The most compelling reason, for me at least, is simply not having spend the day cooking or the evening doing the dishes. The holiday should be about spending time with family and not stressing over dinner. Thanksgiving is somewhat obligatory, but for Christmas we have options. Travelle, located on the second floor of the Langham Hotel in Chicago, is offering a family-style dinner this Christmas Day.

Depending on how you’re feeling you could order from their “Naughty” menu, primarily rustic cuisine that focuses on (rich and substantial) meat dishes.  Notable dishes include the following:

  • Porky Bonbon with lime
  • Duck Leg Confit (duck slow cooked in its own fat) served with roasted apples and a Madeira glaze
  • Trio of Pate: Country Pate, Oxtail and Squab Terrine with foie torchon
  • Suckling Pig served with morcilla blood sausage, sweet Potato, and mustard
  • Dry Rubbed Beef Tenderloin with seared foie gras, roasted mushrooms, and kale

There is also a “Nice” menu for those getting a head start on their New Years resolutions. This menu is a lighter, healthier fare the centers around vegetable and seafood options. A few standouts in this menu are:

  • Crudité (raw veggies) with lemon aioli;
  • Lobster Bisque 
  • Grand Seafood Collection: Lobster, King Crab, Snow Crab, and Langoustine.
  • Bay Steamed Salmon with Brussels sprouts, and a cinnamon vinaigrette.

For those of us who are a little of both (and really who isn’t ?), items can be ordered from both menus.

For dessert, guests may choose from a Buche De Noel (Yule Log) selection.

Another dessert option guests can enjoy is down the hall at the Parlour at the Pavilion.  Here you can indulge in a-limited-time-only North Pole Sundae.  The great thing about the sundaes at the Parlour at the Pavilion is just about everything from the ice cream to the garnishes are made in house.

North Pole Sundae:

  • House-made Egg nog ice cream
  • House-made mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • Garnished with red and green sprinkles, candy cane, and a house-made gingerbread man

In case you’re too full from dinner you could always come back for dessert. Don’t take too long; The North Pole Sundae is only available from December 21st to January 3rd.


For Reservations or more information please go to TravelleChicago.com or call 312.923.7705


The 12 Cocktails of Christmas at Level Two


Hyatt Christmas Cocktails

The holidays are in full swing and many places are introducing seasonal flavors to their cocktail menu.  Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile Level Two restaurant and lounge has brought good tidings of holiday cheer by offering us for a limited time the “12 Cocktails of Christmas”. Read more…


Travelle & The Radler: Swine & Wine Dinner, 12/11



What is more glorious than the swine.  In the hands of Executive Chef Tim Graham of  Travelle and Chef Nathan Sears of The Radler, the simple pig is risen to a level of gastronomic masterpiece.

For ONE NIGHT ONLY two great Chicago chefs will be teaming up to put together a 5-course pork based menu that will bring a grown man to tears.  Each course will highlight a cut of the beloved beast, showcasing the Chefs individual cooking style. Read more…


“A Night at the Nutcracker” at the JW Marriott Chicago

Female ballet dancer


For the third year in a row the  JW Marriott Chicago (151 W. Adams St.) joins official partner, the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet, to ring in the magic of the holidays with “A Night at the Nutcracker” package available Friday, December 5 through Saturday, December 28.

Throughout the month of December the world-class dance company will be performing the enchanting holiday classic Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.  Guests of the JW Marriott who book the “A Night at the Nutcracker” package will receive two VIP tickets to the performance as well as many extras.

On December 6, guests were treated to a one time only special ballerina meet-and-greet after the matinee show.  Also through the 28th of December the Lobby Lounge is mixing their signature drink The Dancer’s Delight, (vanilla vodka, simple syrup, soy milk, chai tea, and amaretto)

If you have a little ballerina in the family, this could be a start of a wonderful family holiday tradition (along with the lighting of the tree at Daley Plaza and lunch at the Walnut Room)  Of course if you love the splendor of classical dance, that’s fine too.


Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

Photo Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet

The “Night at The Nutcracker Ballet” package includes:

  • Overnight stay in deluxe guest room
  • Hot chocolate nightcap in-room (spiked hot chocolate for adults also available)
  • Ballerina welcome cookies
  • Breakfast for two in-room the next day
  • Two VIP tickets to The Nutcracker (additional tickets available for purchase upon request, an over $15 savings)
  • Nutcracker “swag bag” that includes a signed pointe shoe, Nutcracker commemorative program and poster, as well as a signed photo of a dancer
  • Package rates start at $429.00 with rate code ‘ZJL’ (an over $100 savings); availability December 5-28 here
  • Reservations can be made by calling 312 660 8200 or online; 72-hour cancellation is required

Chicago, This weekend let’s talk Turkey

By now the post-thanksgiving tryptophan induced coma has worn off …hopefully.  Before we close the chapter on turkey there are a couple places worth checking out this weekend which take our holiday bird to a whole new level.

If you want to keep it traditional-ish we highly recommend

DMK Burger Bar

DMK Burger Bar opened in 2009 and since then has garnered praise and accolades from both local and national media outlets for their food.  DMK goes beyond just using 100% grass-fed beef, they also have Bison, Lamb, and Veggie (if that’s your thing)  Since we’re talking about turkey, the guys as DMK have you covered with The Gobbler Burger … this is not your traditional leftover turkey sandwich.

It starts with a turkey patty topped with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, topped with celery and cranberry relish.  A Thanksgiving feast on their fresh baked artisan buns.


DMK Gobbler Burger

DMK Gobbler Burger

The Gobbler Burger is only available until the end of the month.  With locations at Lakeview, Lomard, and Soldiers Field, chances are you don’t have to go too far to find one.  For more information go to DMK Burger Bar

If you want take a more global approach you should definitely try…

Tanta – Cocina Peruana

This restaurant on 118 W. Grand Avenue is all about sharing the culture and traditions of Peru through thoughtfully prepared dishes.  The key here is diversity … The flavors of Peru are influenced both by its geography (Peru having the Andes Mountains, Amazon Rainforest, and Pacific Ocean),and its people.  Over the last several centuries Peru has been inhabited by immigrants from England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, and African nations.  These people along with the indigenous population helped shape the culture and cuisine of Peru.

In that spirit of diversity, Chef Jesus delights us with a Peruvian interpretation on the American tradition of Thanksgiving.  Tanta’s Turkey Breast is stuffed with mushrooms, bacon and prunes, glazed cranberry aji panca sauce, and grilled seasonal vegetables.

Turkey Breast with a Peruvian twist

Turkey Breast with a Peruvian twist

This special is only offered through the weekend so if you’re in the area and want to expand your horizons, it is really worth checking out. For more information check out Tanta Chicago