→ Start by queuing up for GRAHAMWICH, Graham Elliot Bowles’s River North sandwich-and-soda emporium opening late spring or early summer. If Xoco and Big Star are any indications, when top chefs make cheap food, it means long waits.
→ Stuck in line, you distract yourself from your belly’s crescendoing grumbles by reading MEDIUM RAW, Anthony Bourdain’s latest book, out 6/8.
→ While perusing Bourdain, you develop a hankering for pig parts and offal, but what about the perfect pairings? Head to the CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN WINE FESTIVAL (6/12- 13), where you can (but probably shouldn’t) taste more than 250 different wines. Designated drivers get in cheaper.
→ Father’s Day (6/20) is a chance to teach your kids the value of local food (and take advantage of free labor) by CATCHING PAN FISH FOR DINNER.
- Reel in a few at BUSSE LAKE in the Cook County Forest Preserve . . .
- . . . then take your creel to THE FISHGUY MARKET, where they’ll gut and fillet prizes for a couple of dollars a pound.
- Later that night, kick back and let your spawn cook up an EASY-AS-PIE RECIPE from Mr. Fishguy himself, Bill Dugan: Fry the catch, first on high then lower, in equal parts butter and olive oil with some salt, pepper, and lemon zest—not lemon juice, because citric acid can burn the fish’s flesh.
Want to reward the little darlings for a job well done? See Summer Hot List: Fun for Kids for more kid-friendly fun.
→ Watching your kids hard at work makes you want to stretch out in the grass. Add Saigon Sisters’ banh mi and Middle East Bakery & Grocery’s baba ghannouj from CHICAGO’S DOWNTOWN FARMSTAND to your picnic basket, then hop over to the Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park for the spicy international sounds of PINK MARTINI (6/23).
If one cultural evening whets your appetite for more, see Summer Hot List: A Cultural Marathon.
→ When July hits, your thoughts turn to summer’s premier food event. Forget Taste of Chicago. For craft beer, wine, and food from 80 top chefs, buy a $100 ticket to GREEN CITY MARKET CHEF’S BBQ (7/15). The lineup: Rick Bayless (near right), Paul Kahan, Mindy Segal, and Tony Mantuano (far right), to name a few.
→ Lured by the smell of Polish food and the sound of polka, you arrive at PIEROGI FEST (7/23-25) in Whiting, Indiana. Steer toward City Hall, where you’ll find fried beef pierogi at Victor’s, a favorite of Ms. Paczki’s, a.k.a. the fest’s director, Mary Lu Gregor.
→ Eating outside has progressed from a diversion to an obsession. The call of the farm moos louder. Catch a bio-diesel bus from City Provisions in Ravenswood to Faith’s Farm in Bonfield for the LIVE-TO-PLATE FARM DINNER (8/21)with Rob Levitt of Mado. Meet the animals, learn about humane butchering, then eat the animals you met in a family-style meal, all while sipping Half Acre beer. This gourmet education doesn’t come cheap—it’s $295 per person—but you’ll never eat fresher pork.
→ TASTE OF MELROSE PARK (9/3-5) out-gourmets most street fairs, so you squeeze it (and some holy snacks) into Labor Day weekend: The Sisters of St. Charles make excellent sfingi (Italian doughnut holes).
→ Technically, CHICAGO GOURMET (9/25-26) in Millennium Park is the first weekend of fall, so call it your summer swan song. Sample the works of Chicago’s culinary pantheon—featuring luminaries from Green City Market’s BBQ—for $250. Then raise a glass—or two, or three (wine is included)—to a satisfied belly and three months of ignoring your cholesterol.