Fly with the Culture Vultures

A karaoke microphone
Photo: istockphoto

1. Admire portrait vessels by the Moche civilization in the Native American gallery of the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave., 312-443-3600). “They are extraordinarily vivid and lifelike.” —Anthony Freud, general director of the Lyric Opera

2. Sing your guts out at Lincoln Karaoke (5526 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-895-2299) and Hidden Cove (5338 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-275-6711). —Joe Swanberg, filmmaker

3. Drink glogg at Simon’s Tavern (5210 N. Clark St., 773-878-0894). —Kirby Kerr, co-owner of Rotofugi toy store and gallery

4. Get a deep-tissue massage at Chicago Sweatlodge (3500 N. Cicero Ave., 773-202-1777). —Nick Cave, professor of fashion design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

5. Visit the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave., 312-746-5100). “My kids and I used our iPhones and tried to record the sound of plants, which was a really funny challenge.” —Heidi Reitmaier, director of education at the Museum of Contemporary Art

6. Order the burger and fries at Rootstock (954 N. California Ave., 773-292-1616) in Humboldt Park. —Carlos Rolon, the artist known as Dzine

7. Catch the Hypocrites’ remount of The Mikado ( “It’s absurd, silly fun that they make totally accessible. Family, kids, anyone can go.” —Allison Hendrix, associate artistic director at Kokandy Productions

8. See The Way of the Shovel at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave., 312-280-2660). —Laura Letinsky, photographer

9. Commune with fellow Blackhawks fans. “There’s something about knowing that, no matter how crappy the weather is, you’re gonna be with 20,000 people like you, screaming your heads off.” —Jim Coudal, founder of the creative agency Coudal Partners


Cook All Day Long

Stephanie Izard’s Never-Ending-Chicago-Winter Stew
Photo: Dan Goldberg

“It’s always nice to spend a cold winter day slow-cooking an afternoon supper.”
—Stephanie Izard, chef at Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St., 312-492-6262)

Stephanie Izard’s Never-Ending-Chicago-Winter Stew

3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
3 lb. Beef (chuck), cubed
  Salt and pepper
1 Small onion, diced small
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 Pear, peeled, cored, and diced
1 Pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced small
½ cup Red wine
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
¾ cup Fish sauce
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. Sambal (Asian chili paste)
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
16 oz. can Diced tomato
1 qt. Chicken stock
2 cups Apple cider

In a 5 qt. soup pot, heat 1 Tbsp. oil over high heat. Season half the beef with salt and pepper and add to the pot; brown and remove. Repeat with other half of the meat; set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium; cook the onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add fruit and wine and reduce liquid by half. Add remaining ingredients, including the browned beef. Bring to boil and lower heat. Cover and simmer for 2½ hours. Goes great with pasta, rice, or a giant hunk of bread. Serves 8.


Demolish That Foodie Checklist

Consider yourself a devoted follower of the city’s latest dining crazes? Add these five items to your list of must-eats:

Bang Bang Pie Shop’s Biscuit Sandwich

Bang Bang Pie Shop’s Biscuit Sandwich

Photo: Courtesy of Bang Bang Pie Shop

The popular bakery and café is now stuffing its legendary sour cream biscuits with candied bacon, smoky ham, creamy grits . . .
2051 N. California Ave., 773-276-8888

Dillman’s Pastrami on Rye

Dillman’s Pastrami on Rye

Photo: Kari Skaflen

Crazy-thick, spicy, succulent, house-cured hot pastrami piled between two slices of soft rye will clog your arteries and melt your heart.
354 W. Hubbard St., 312-988-0078

Honey Butter’s Fried Chicken

Honey Butter’s Fried Chicken

Photo: Anna Knott

The juicy and crispy main attraction at HBFC entered a crowded field in September and instantly became the city’s best (see our review).
3361 N. Elston Ave., 773-478-4000

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Photo: Jeni’s Splendid Art and Design

The latest gourmet scoops purveyor on the scene is known for its inventive flavor combos. Middle West Whiskey Eggnog, anyone?
3404 N. Southport Ave., 773-348-7139

Longman & Eagle’s Doughnut

Longman & Eagle’s Doughnut

Photo: Clayton Hauck

The Logan Square resto-bar-B&B recently added ever-changing oversize doughnuts to its Sunday morning menu. Prepare to wait in line.
2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-276-7110

Beatrix’s Chocolate-Chip Cookie
Photo: Ratko Radojcic

BONUS! The chocolate-chip cookie at Beatrix. 519 N. Clark St., 312-284-1377


Pick Your Poison

Billy Sunday’s Box Lunch

Drink of the Season No. 1: Milk Punch

Billy Sunday’s Box Lunch

Photo: Matthias Merges

Make It

4 cups Whole milk
1 cup Half-and-half
1 ½ cups Brandy
1 cup Powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract
  Freshly grated nutmeg

In a pitcher, whisk together milk, half-and-half, brandy, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Freeze until slushy—at least 3 hours but not longer than 12. Stir to break up the ice before serving and pour into chilled glasses. Garnish with grated nutmeg. Serves 8.

Order It
Alex Bachman at Billy Sunday (3143 W. Logan Blvd., 773-661-2485) calls his twist on milk punch the Box Lunch and makes it with goat’s milk, génépi (a liqueur similar to absinthe), palo cortado (sherry), and oatmeal spices.

Recommended pairing: brownies


Sable’s Red Skull

Drink of the Season No. 2: Boulevardier

Sable’s Red Skull

Photo: Ratko Radojcic

Make It

2 oz. Rye or bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet vermouth

Stir ingredients together in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass or serve over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange zest. Serves 1.

Order It
Mike Ryan at Sable Kitchen & Bar (505 N. State St., 312-755-9704) makes a version of a boulevardier called the Red Skull. He combines Ardbeg (a 10-year-old single-malt scotch), amaro (the Italian digestif), and Cocchi rosa (a fancy substitute for vermouth).

Recommended pairing: elk jerky


Hit the Museums

Catch these three new major exhibits:

1. Seasonal nuances of the sky projected onto a domed screen. Winter Sky Live at the Adler Planetarium.
Through Jan. 5

2. Mickey Mouse in the house. Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Through May 4

3. Revisit the mega-event that gave the world Juicy Fruit gum and the Ferris wheel. Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair at the Field Museum.
Through Sept. 7


Ride in Style

A Pullman Rail Journeys train
Photo: Courtesy of Pullman Rail Journeys

Earlier this year, the Old Town School of Folk Music forged a partnership with Pullman Rail Journeys to offer live music aboard luxuriously refurbished 1940s train cars that make a 19-hour trip from Chicago to New Orleans. In December, the service makes four trips to NOLA—on December 13, 20, 27, and 31. But only the New Year’s Eve trip features music from the Pickin’ Bubs, a rollicking country-and-blues string ensemble. Coming in April 2014: a new route from Chicago to New York City with tunes from the Jazz Age through the swing era.

‘Dollface’ by Renee Rosen

Cozy Up with a Good Book

Buy a copy of Dollface, the new novel by local author Renee Rosen about Chicago in the Roaring Twenties. Take it to the Grafton (4530 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-271-9000) in Lincoln Square. Grab a warming beverage and a seat on the sofa in front of the toasty fireplace. Don’t live near there? You’ll also find inviting hearths at Owen & Engine (2700 N. Western Ave., 773-235-2930) and D.O.C. Wine Bar (2602 N. Clark St., 773-883-5101).




Do Good, Feel Good

Volunteer opportunities that let you bring your kids can be hard to find. These four rise to the top:

Chicago Cares

Families with children eight and up can cook for low-income seniors, maintain community gardens, or work on other projects that tackle education, health and wellness, and homelessness.

The Honeycomb Project

Catering specifically to families, this group builds projects that can involve young volunteers—for example, making sleeping mats from plastic bags or helping construct a nature trail along the Chicago River.

More Than Milk

This mom-powered organization partners with seven nonprofits at a time to address youth education and the needs of low-income families.

PAWS Chicago

Kids 12 and older (and their parents) can volunteer in the adoption center and Pet Food Bank of this no-kill animal shelter.


Fan the Flames

Illustration by Serge Bloch
Illustration: Serge Bloch

Has your fireplace devolved into a place where you store books? This winter, become a master fire starter with these tips from Jack Foss, the owner of Lumberjacks Firewood (5013 Sunnyside Rd., Woodstock, 815-337-1451):

1. Get kiln-dried wood, which will be bone-dry and free of bugs and pests.

2. Light small balls of newspaper first; this will feed the kindling, which will burn just long enough to get the big logs going.

3. Don’t smother the kindling with larger logs. Make sure there is enough space for air and fire to surround every piece of wood.

4. Avoid fire pucks, which are usually made of wax and sawdust. Once those go out, they’re done. Kindling turns to hot ash and keeps the fire burning.

5. Opt for hardwoods, such as oak or hickory, if you want a fire that lasts for hours. Maple and birch, which are softer, burn out quickly.


Catch Up on Bestsellers

Chicago polled three city bookstores for their top-selling fiction and nonfiction titles of 2013.

The Book Cellar

4736 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-293-2665

‘Tenth of December: Stories’ by George Saunders

Tenth of December: Stories by Chicago novelist George Saunders

Photography: Courtesy of vendors
‘The Center Holds’ by Jonathan Alter

The Center Holds by political columnist Jonathan Alter


City Lit Books

2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., 773-235-2523

‘Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls’ by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by humorist David Sedaris

‘How Music Works’ by David Byrne

How Music Works by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne


Women & Children First

5233 N. Clark St., 773-769-9299

‘Claire of the Sea Light’ by Edwidge Danticat

Claire of the Sea Light by Haitian-Miamian Edwidge Danticat

‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg


Amuse the Kids with a Puzzle

Fill in the blanks and create a one-of-a-kind disaster survival kit.

Type of liquid
Nonperishable food
Name of neighbor
Weird disease
Body part
City name
Verb ending in -ing
When the snowfall turns from             white Christmas to            -pocalypse, you’ll want to be prepared. FEMA (the Federal Emergency             Management Agency) recommends that you             two kits of disaster supplies—one to keep in your car, the other for            . Here, we’ll focus on items to keep in your            : one gallon of             per day for at least three days and at least a            -day supply of nonperishable foods like            . You will need a radio, whether            powered or             cranked, a map of            , and a wrench to keep your pipes from            . A flashlight will come in handy, especially if your family needs to            . In case of            , you will want a first-aid            , and you’d be wise to keep a whistle or air horn to protect you from            . The air could be            , so buy a             mask, and in case you need shelter from            , you might consider plastic sheeting and a roll of duct            . Oh, and don’t forget the             opener! You don’t want to get            . And one last thing: If you are            , you will remember your             phone and a charger, so you can call FEMA and get their             so you know where to             the bill.

Note: FEMA’s actual disaster survival kit for the home: Water (one gallon per day for at least three days); food (at least a three-day supply of nonperishable items); battery-powered or hand-cranked radio; NOAA weather radio with tone alert; flashlight; first-aid kit; whistle or air horn to signal for help; dust mask to filter contaminated air; plastic sheeting and duct tape for makeshift shelters; wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (don't let your pipes freeze!); manual can opener for food; local street map; cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger.


Throw Your Own Indie Movie Fest

Mike McNamara, the programming director of the Midwest Independent Film Festival, picks five movies with local ties (all available through Netflix):

1. The Kings of Summer (2013).
Tender coming-of-age story with Joliet-born actor Nick Offerman and his wife, Megan Mullally (Will & Grace).

2. Liberal Arts (2012).
Illinois native Richard Jenkins stars in a charming Midwestern rom-com.

3. Undefeated (2011).
Originally from Rockford, Daniel Lindsay codirected this Oscar-winning documentary about an underdog high-school football team.

4. The Last Rites of Joe May (2011).
Watch tough-guy actor Dennis Farina in his last film, shot in Chicago.

5. Feed the Fish (2009).
Tony Shalhoub stars as a children’s book author battling writer’s block during winter in Wisconsin, where the movie was filmed.


Make Your Own Tiki Hut

Inside Three Dots and a Dash
Photography: (interior) Anjali Pinto; (all others) courtesy of vendors

Turn your living room into a tropical fantasyland with these tips from Paul McGee, the bartending whiz and partner at Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark St.; 312-610-4220), a new Polynesian-themed bar in River North. (McGee also gives pointers on how to maintain a healthy beard, below.)

1. Dress your dining room table or home bar in natural raffia. Get a table skirt at Myriah’s Polynesian Bazaar ($14;

2. Decorate with tiki heads. The ones at Three Dots were scavenged from the old Chicago outpost of Trader Vic’s, but you can find similar items on eBay (; search for “tiki statue” or “tiki totem.” London-based Cheeky Tiki also has a nice selection of wooden masks (from $105;

3. Buy hanging lamps made from fishing buoys from faux-Polynesian decor specialist Oceanic Arts ($106 for a 10-inch buoy with net, $139 for a 12-incher; 562-698-6960,

Greenery from Silk Plants Direct and lights from Oriental Trading Company
Photography: Courtesy of vendors

Other tips:

Add greenery. McGee recommends Silk Plants Direct (, which carries a nice selection of fake banana trees.

Hang festive lights, such as this tribal set from Oriental Trading Company ($8.50;


Picture Yourself at the Beach

Painkiller No. 3 cocktail
Photo: Anjali Pinto

Paul McGee, the mixologist at Three Dots and a Dash, makes his own syrups and liqueurs. But you can buy specialty ingredients—for this recipe and most any tiki drink—at B.G. Reynolds’ Hand-Crafted Syrups (

Painkiller No. 3

1 oz. Appleton Estate 12-year-old rum
1 oz. Appleton Estate V/X rum
¾ oz. Heavy cream
¾ oz. Pineapple juice
¾ oz. Passion fruit syrup
¾ oz. Coconut liqueur

Pulse in a blender with crushed ice for 2 to 3 seconds, until just incorporated and frothy. Garnish with grated nutmeg. Serves 1.


Grow a Scarf

Paul McGee
Photo: Anjali Pinto

Famous beard sporter Paul McGee recommends a daily regimen of two-in-one shampoo and conditioner for facial hair care. “My beard looks full, and the skin underneath feels good,” he says. “I also make sure to cut my hair every two weeks. Keeping my neck and sideburns fresh and clean gives me more license to have a gnarly beard.”





Knit a Scarf

Yarn and knitting needles
Photo: Ratko Radojcic

When it comes to staying warm, more is more—and what could be warmer than a megascarf? Nina Rubin, the owner of Nina (1655 W. Division St., 773-486-8996), a yarn shop in Wicker Park, sized up the job of making one that measures 10 inches wide by 100 inches long: You’ll need size 17 needles and seven skeins of bulky yarn; the supplies will cost about $100. In 10 to 12 hours, you’ll have a friend for even the chilliest of days.


Succeed at Making Beer

Photo: istockphoto

According to Tim Marshall, head brewer at Solemn Oath (1661 Quincy Ave., Naperville, 630-995-3062), bad batches usually stem from one of these frequently committed mistakes:

1. Not cleaning the equipment well enough. “The perfect environment to grow yeast is also the perfect environment to grow bacteria. Make sure every single item is perfectly clean or the final product will taste horrible.”

2. Getting too fancy. “Just because you see crazy flavor combinations in the craft beer store doesn’t mean you should try mixing a whole bunch of ingredients yourself. Start out simple.”

3. Rushing the final stage. “After the beer has fermented, it rests in what is called the conditioning stage. This is when all of the odd flavors created during fermentation go away. Taste the beer every now and then and wait for it to tell you when it’s ready to be enjoyed.”


Write the Next Big Thing in Young Adult Fiction

Twilight. The Hunger Games. Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Could you write a YA blockbuster? Chicago asked Evanston resident Kat Falls—whose latest tween novel, Inhuman, just came out—to share her tricks of the trade.

1. Create a main character whom teens like and can relate to, meaning the character and the reader share a common desire—such as for acceptance, freedom, or love.

2. Pick a theme that will resonate with young readers. “Crime doesn’t pay” may work for adults, but teens are searching for their place in the world—for example, deciding when to stand up for themselves or dealing with the pressure to fit in with a crowd.

3. Make the protagonist a few years older than your target reader—13-year-olds want to read about 16-year-olds, who are going through things they see coming on their horizon.

4. Write as if you are speaking out loud to a teen. What doesn’t work is a voice that is too earnest. That said, don’t go overboard on the snark and cynicism. Teens still have their lives ahead of them and want to hold on to their hope for the future.


Become a Sports Nut

Professional athletes, sports fans, and a costumed mascot
Photography: (Cutler) John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune; (Briggs) Nuccio Dinuzzo/Chicago Tribune; (James, Rose, Jenkins, Kane) Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune; (Willie) Cal Sports Media/AP; (Collins) Charles Rex Arbogast/AP; (Bears fan, top) Paul Spinelli/AP; (Bears fan on bottom, Okafor, and Alexander) Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune; (Packers fan) David Drapkin/AP; (Paul) Mark J. Terrill/AP

Study this handy guide to the 10 must-watch games of the city’s winter teams—pro, college, and even high school—and get tickets if you can. (None of these games are sold out—yet. If they are by the time you go to buy, try StubHub.) Come spring, you’ll be able to hold your own at any sports bar.


Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
December 5 at 8:30 p.m., United Center
Arguably the most important, most hyped Bulls home game of the season. The questions at play: Are the Bulls, up against the two-time defending NBA champs, good enough for a realistic shot at the title? Can Derrick Rose dominate once again on a surgically repaired knee? Will LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, outshine D-Rose in front of his hometown fans? Scalpers will have a field day.

Chicago Elite Classic
December 7 at 11 a.m., UIC Pavilion
This year, Chicago is fielding two seniors among the top five basketball recruits nationwide according to the respected ESPN ranking: Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander. These two phenoms play in different CPS conferences, so your best chance to see them under the same roof is at this new event, which pits seven Chicago teams against seven powerhouses from around the country.

Chicago Bears vs. Dallas Cowboys
December 9 at 7:40 p.m., Soldier Field
The Bears were thrilling and confounding fans even before they lost their best players on offense and defense—QB Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs—to injury in the game against Washington in October. Cutler could be up to full speed by this highly anticipated contest in prime time, one that could make or break the team’s chances of getting to the playoffs in January.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. DePaul Blue Demons
December 27 at 8 p.m., Welsh-Ryan Arena
While not the most riveting crosstown rivalry, this North Side–North Shore matchup introduces NCAA basketball lovers to Chris Collins, Northwestern’s new coach. Before his stellar career playing and assistant coaching at Duke University, Collins was a high-school legend at Glenbrook North. Will the son of former Bulls coach Doug Collins bring his magic to Evanston?;

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
December 29 at noon, Soldier Field
What’s on every Chicago sports fan’s bucket list? A Bears-Packers game in late December, preferably played in a blizzard. The Bears have struggled against Green Bay but snapped its six-game losing streak to the Packers in a thrilling backup QB battle in November. Which just shows that the NFL can be wildly unpredictable. The regular-season finale is officially up for grabs.


Northwestern Wildcats vs. University of Illinois Fighting Illini
January 12 at 6:30 p.m., Welsh-Ryan Arena
Local hoops junkies love this game: a battle between teams from the same state and conference and stocked with players born and bred in Illinois who have known each other for years. Illinois holds a commanding 130-to-38 lead in all-time wins (the rivalry dates back to 1908), but the series has gotten more competitive—exciting, even—especially in the past two years.;

Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers
January 24 at 7 p.m., United Center
The Clippers are the hot team in the West, and this fall NBA general managers voted L.A.’s Chris Paul the best point guard in the league by a wide margin over Derrick Rose—70 to 20 percent. Look for Rose to try to prove them 100 percent wrong. Plus, this is your only chance to see the Clippers live in Chicago.


DePaul Blue Demons vs. Creighton Bluejays
February 9 at noon, McGrath-Phillips Arena
The DePaul women’s team is a perennial contender and is this year’s favorite in the revamped Big East conference, which saw Notre Dame, Louisville, and UConn head elsewhere. In this new world order, a preseason coaches’ poll picked Creighton to finish second behind the Blue Demons. Watch two teams that reliably make it to the NCAA tournament face off at one of the most intimate basketball venues in town.


Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
March 1 at 7 p.m., Soldier Field
Setting aside the unlikely chance that the Bears will host an NFC title game at Soldier Field, this should be the hands-down most memorable event of the season: The defending Stanley Cup champs take on one of the elite teams of the National Hockey League, playing in Chicago’s biggest and best outdoor venue.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
March 16 at 6:30 p.m., United Center
Now that the NHL has realigned the league, moving Detroit to the East, the Blackhawks and Red Wings won’t see as much of each other as they used to. So this is the only regular-season home game between these bitter and long-standing rivals. Adding to the intensity will be the memory of what happened during the playoffs last year, when the Blackhawks staged that improbable comeback to bounce Detroit from the Western Conference semifinals.