The Big Jones Cookbook Release Party!

March 17th, 2015

Cookbook cover finalized - quarter size (896x1280)

The day is drawing near, folks! The official release party for the Big Jones Cookbook on University of Chicago Press will be Wednesday, May 6! We are planning a feast of recipes from the book, all of them Big Jones classics, some are rarities nowadays, others seasonal to early spring, and still others will be familiar from recent menus. Cocktails from the book will be paired along the way, dear friend and musical mentor to Mark and I, Paul Yamata a.k.a. DJ Pi, will prepare a special playlist for the evening, and good times will flow like a bathtub of fine punch.

After much consideration, we have decided to offer two separate tickets for the evening: one for Supper and one for “Cake and Cocktails,” to accommodate different tastes and potentially tight weeknight schedules (o.k., never mind, it’s actually because we really wanted to have a Cake and Cocktails party) we will offer a prix-fixe family-style supper from 6-8, and a cake and cocktail party from 8 until the wee hours. This way, if you have no interest in dessert or a bacchanalian night of drinking, you can join us for supper and bid us good night. If 6:00 is just too early, or perhaps you’re vegetarian and unable to join us for dinner, you can come late and enjoy cocktails and layer cakes with us in true Southern style.

Neither ticket includes the price of the book, since many of you have already pre-ordered. Books will be for sale and I’ll be on duty, Sharpie in hand, ready to personalize and sign your copy. If you’ve pre-ordered the book and specified shipment, it should ship by mid-April and arrive at your door even before the party. If you specified in-store pickup, it will be ready and waiting for you at the party. Our staff will be sure to coordinate this with you when we take your reservation.

The lowdown: Supper from 6-8, $45 includes tax and gratuity. Cake and cocktails 8-10, $25 includes tax and gratuity. If you desire to party late with us, after 10 p.m. we will offer cash bar, and the kitchen will continue to offer cake and small bites on the house.

It’s been more than two years since I began work on this book, and nearly eight years since Mark and I embarked on the project that didn’t yet have a name that would in time be called Big Jones. It’s been a long and wonderful journey to get here where we are now, and Mark and I offer our sincerest thanks for your support and friendship over these years. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and fortunately gotten many more things right. That you have seen the good in what we do means the world to us.

Reservations can be made by calling 773-275-5725. We hope to see you May 6!

Supper

6:00 Punch Time and 6:30 Dinner Service

  • Chatham artillery punch
  • Benne oyster stew with Evalon croutons
  • Crawfish boudin fritters with hog cracklin
  • Goat cheese and potato croquettes with homemade mayonnaise
  • Awendaw spoonbread
  • Rhubarb julep
  • Duet of duck with bourbon jiblet jus
  • Chicken fried morel mushrooms with creamy grits and sawmill gravy
  • Sauteed ramp greens with benne
  • Grilled asparagus with homemade cottage cheese and lemon

$45 per person includes tax and gratuity

Cake & Cocktails

8:00-10:00 p.m.

  • Sweet Leaf
  • Blue Yodel No. 1
  • Brandy Fix
  • The Consummation
  • Huckleberry jelly roll cake
  • Sea Island benne cake
  • Coconut cake
  • Red velvet cake
  • Black walnut sorghum pie
  • Buttermilk pie

$25 per person includes tax and gratuity

Reservations can be made by calling 773-275-5725

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Edna Lewis Dinner Recap

March 5th, 2015

I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Chef Joe Randall and the Edna Lewis Foundation for letting Big Jones host a fundraising dinner this past Tuesday. I’ve written many times about Edna Lewis, including in my upcoming cookbook, and the influence she has had on me as a chef and as a human being. It was truly an honor to be in the company of such great chefs and great minds. Most of all, I’d like to thank the many wonderful people that bought tickets, came to the event, participated in the conversation, and made the evening as special as it truly was. To date, one of the days I’m most proud of as a chef.

This is the first of what I hope will be many Edna Lewis Foundation events in Chicago. We have a wealth of culinary talent here and I’m looking to do my part to make sure everyone is included at the dinner table.

The menu, what a great evening!

The menu, what a great evening!

We had a full house and a delightful mix of people who contributed to excellent conversation over the evening

We had a full house and a delightful mix of people who contributed to excellent conversation over the evening

Chef Jennifer Booker's beautiful cookbook on display. Of course lucky guests got to have her sign it for them!

Chef Jennifer Booker’s beautiful cookbook on display. Of course lucky guests got to have her sign it for them!

Chef Timothy Dean sears off stuffed chicken thighs, while stagier Dorian Hight looks on and learns

Chef Timothy Dean sears off stuffed chicken thighs, while stagier Dorian Hight looks on and learns

Chef Dean on the plate up, adding hot jus to his dish on the way to the table

Chef Dean on the plate up, adding hot jus to his dish on the way to the table

Chef Dean's stuffed chicken thigh with country ham, sweetbreads, and collards was stunning, and delicious

Chef Dean’s stuffed chicken thigh with country ham, sweetbreads, and collards was stunning, and delicious

Chef Jennifer Booker's fried Mississippi catfish with southern-style hoe cake, pickled onions, and red hot pepper relish was a great start to the night

Chef Jennifer Booker’s fried Mississippi catfish with southern-style hoe cake, pickled onions, and red hot pepper relish was a great start to the night

Chef Booker on the plate up, with me on the assist

Chef Booker on the plate up, with me on the assist

Chef Joe Randall working the room like a pro

Chef Joe Randall working the room like a pro

Beverage service was excellent, with cocktails and pairings by Kelly Stepto-Royston of Atwood

Beverage service was excellent, with cocktails and pairings by Kelly Stepto-Royston of Atwood

Chef Randall with John and Nancy Ross Ryan before dinner

Chef Randall with John and Nancy Ross Ryan before dinner

Chef Randall chats up Doctor Bruce Kraig and guests

Chef Randall chats up Doctor Bruce Kraig and guests

I'm all smiles when I get to hang out with Donna Battle Pierce

I’m all smiles when I get to hang out with Donna Battle Pierce

Chef Kristopher Murray, Executive director of Washburne Culinary Institute, brought a brigade of students with him, who collaborated on this gem of a dish:m pulled pork and crispy belly with Eashburne cha-cha relish and sweet potato dauphinoise

Chef Kristopher Murray, Executive director of Washburne Culinary Institute, brought a brigade of students with him, who collaborated on this gem of a dish:m pulled pork and crispy belly with Eashburne cha-cha relish and sweet potato dauphinoise

Chef Dwight Evans' dish, under construction with assist by students from Washburne

Chef Dwight Evans’ dish, under construction with assist by students from Washburne

Chef Brian Jupiter deep in thought, it's Game time!

Chef Brian Jupiter deep in thought, it’s Game time!

Chef Brian Jupiter on the plate up, with Chef Kristopher Murray

Chef Brian Jupiter on the plate up, with Chef Kristopher Murray

Chef Evans on the plate up, demoing one for the students who will help plate for the guests

Chef Evans on the plate up, demoing one for the students who will help plate for the guests

Chef Evans' Compressed oxtail was as beautiful as it was delicious. What technique!

Chef Evans’ Compressed oxtail was as beautiful as it was delicious. What technique!

Chefs Dwight Evans, Jennifer Booker, and Timothy Dean sayin' cheese!

Chefs Dwight Evans, Jennifer Booker, and Timothy Dean sayin’ cheese!

Chef Randall with Dwight Evans and guest, and Chef Cliff Rome, whose peach cobbler was a magnificent closer for the evening

Chef Randall with Dwight Evans and guest, and Chef Cliff Rome, whose peach cobbler was a magnificent closer for the evening

Left to right: Brian Jupiter, Kristopher Murray, Timothy Dean, Jennifer Booker, Dwight Evans, Cliff Rome. Major good feelings from working with these folks!

Left to right: Brian Jupiter, Kristopher Murray, Timothy Dean, Jennifer Booker, Dwight Evans, Cliff Rome. Major good feelings from working with these folks!

More photos are forthcoming on the foundation’s web site, plus video from the event. Here are some of our favorite shots so far.

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Old Forester 1870 is our March Whiskey of the Month!

March 4th, 2015

1870_originalbatch

We’re pleased to announce Old Forester 1870 as our March Whiskey of the Month! Distilled, aged, and bottled under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Chris Morris, Old Forester 1870 is produced according to the original process laid out by George Garvin Brown, who produced the first bottled bourbon on Louisville’s famous Whiskey Row in 1870, at 322 West Main Street.

There are a lot of very pretty, elegant whiskies coming out of Kentucky these days, but when we think of classic kentucky bourbon, this style nails it exactly – pretty in the glass, but with a big nose reminiscent of pipe tobacco, aged leather, and the dark, musky air of the rickhouse. It’s a mouthful, with spicebox and biscuit flavors dominating, and a spritely nature reminiscent of fresh squeezed citrus juice. Ultimately refreshing to drink, with a finish of sweet tea and orange peel. Come on in and give it a try!

Bring your Bourbon Society passport in for a complimentary pour anytime during October!

***

It’s free to join the Big Jones Bourbon Society, just ask your server or bartender to sign up on your next visit. You’ll receive a passport to forty of our more than sixty whiskeys. On each visit, members are welcome to one complimentary pour of the Whiskey of the Month (WOM) which will usually (but not always) be a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Big Jones Bourbon Society members will also receive invitations to members-only events such as whiskey tastings and whiskey socials.

Of course you’re welcome to enjoy any whiskey on our list at any time. We’ll mark off your passport as you taste each of the forty whiskeys, and once you’ve tasted them all, you will earn the distinction of Master Taster, and win tickets for two to a one-of-a-kind all-out whiskey dinner. As the ranks of Master Tasters grows, we will host a series of dinners for Master Tasters.

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A Special Dinner for the Edna Lewis Foundation

February 16th, 2015

Tuesday, March 3 we will have the distinctive pleasure of welcoming Chef Joe Randall and six guest chefs plus a guest barkeep for an epic feast to celebrate the legacy of Edna Lewis, one of America’s greatest chefs, and to raise funds for the Edna Lewis Foundation. The Foundation is a fledgling 501(c)(3) organization started in 2013 with the mission “To honor, cultivate, and preserve, the rich African-American culinary history by offering a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and promote a deeper understanding of Southern culinary culture and heritage.” We couldn’t agree with more with that spirit and are donating Big Jones’ space time, and labor for the event so that 100% of your ticket price can go toward forwarding that mission. Event registration is on the foundation’s web site here.

In the interest of advancing the Edna Lewis Foundation’s mission of preserving the richness of African American culinary history, and stated goal of advancing African American talent in the culinary field, six African American chefs and a barkeep will be present to cook for you. If you take a look at the menu, maybe you’ll be left asking yourself the same question I’ve asked myself many times…

A few years ago, I was at a food & wine event in a major Southern city and the hotel had the standard welcome package available with information about area attractions, hotels, and of course, restaurants. On the back page was a photo montage of fifty of the top chefs in town. Three of them were African American, this in a city which is almost one-third African American. It wasn’t the first time I had the thought, but my gut was hit hard by the question, “why is the face of Southern food so white?”

The reality of American culinary history is that Southern cuisine was invented, cultivated, and evolved into one of the world’s great regional cuisines in and by the hands of highly skilled women and men of African descent. Throughout the formative eras of Southern cuisine, whether you were in the White House, or a plantation Big House or city merchant’s home, I can assure you the white folks were not doing the cooking, and the lady of the house wasn’t about to risk a bit of sweat on her brow to even venture into the kitchen. There was some direction from management, but the fields and kitchens were the domain of African Americans. They were the great minds and hands behind the evolution of our beloved Southern cooking, and their voice is needed today more than ever.

As we are now in the midst of African American History Month, I think it’s a great time to contemplate this little-talked about part of American history. As with the genesis of blues music, rock and roll, funk, dance pop, and hip hop and many other parts of American culture that we revere, the creating was done by black folks. Certainly with cooking, it was always a laborer’s role and chefs were rarely famous until the television blast Julia Child across the airwaves in the 1960’s. A generation later, our career is considered a prestigious one and slowly but surely, the face you’re most likely to see at the top of the kitchen hierarchy is is white. Through the work of these chefs presenting dinner and some discussion before and after, we hope to come to a greater understanding of what is happening in the culinary field and how to achieve a balance of opportunity so that everyone has a chance to contribute to the future of cuisine. We are sure to find that the African American voice, when heard, is what American cuisine needs to find its heart and soul.

For event registration and tickets, visit www.ednalewisfoundation.org

Tuesday, March 3 2015

Cocktail Reception 6:00 p.m.

Guinea hen in aspic, cornmeal crisps with creamy shad roe dip, savory benne crackers with shrimp paste and pickled fennel

Beverage Pairings by Kelly Stepto-Royston, Atwood Restaurant, TBA

Dinner 7:00 p.m.

Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, Your Resident Gourmet, Atlanta, Author, Field Peas to Foie Gras
Deep-fried Mississippi catfish with Southern-style hoecakes, pickled onions, and red hot pepper relish

Chef Timothy Dean, Timothy Dean Burger Bar, Washington, DC
Rosemary roasted chicken leg stuffed with collard greens, mirepoix of country ham and sweetbreads, with essence of jalapeno cheese grits

Chef Kristopher Murray and Washburne Culinary Institute
J.D. pulled pork and crisp pork belly, sweet potato cake with Washburne cha-cha relish

Chef Brian Jupiter, Executive Chef, Corporate Chef, Pioneer Tavern Group
Warm butterbean and crawfish salad, watercress, wild boar bacon vinaigrette

Chef Dwight Evans, Executive Chef, Covenant Village
Compressed grassfed oxtail, morel demi, celeriac puree, roasted pomme de terre

Chef Cliff Rome, Chef/Owner, Rome’s Joy Catering
Uncle Billy’s bourbon peach cobber: Cinnamon & bourbon glazed peaches with hand-rolled butter crust and vanilla bean gelato

$125 per person

for event registration and tickets, visit www.ednalewisfoundation.org

edna lewis headshot011 Edna Lewis (660x1024)

 

 

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Soul Food Week, and dinner with the Soul Food Scholar, January 11-18, 2015

January 4th, 2015

We’re excited to announce our first-ever Soul Food Week, eight days dedicated to a uniquely American cuisine that will feature delicious down-home cooking in honor of one of the pillars of African American foodways, one of monumental importance we feel is the most under-rated cuisine in America.

Soul Food Week was conceived last summer, after our our July Newsletter in which we spotlighted Adrian Miller’s brilliant book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, sparked some emails. A long-time regular customer commented that they once called asking if we had soul food, and we said we don’t have soul food but since we’re Southern, they’d probably find something they’d like. They they came in, and became fans, and thanked us for the link to Miller’s book. Another customer suggested that we do a Soul Food Week, like a popup, because it’s hard to find good soul food in Chicago so why not hook her (and her friends and family) up? That suggestion was hard to resist.

What is the difference between soul food and Southern food? I’d suggest coming to the special dinner we’re doing with Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller on January 18th to find out the answer to that question. It may surprise you.

Over the last few years such iconic soul food restaurants as Army and Lou’s, Edna’s, and Izola’s have closed, while others such as Pearl’s Place and Lem’s Barbecue continue to thrive, and still others struggle. That’s the restaurant business. But there have been reports from around the country of the difficulties soul food restaurants face to survive in a rapidly changing restaurant landscape. To that reality, the last chapter of Miller’s book is titled “Whither Soul Food?” and I felt a calling to explore the questions he asks in that chapter. During and after our author dinner with Adrian on the 18th, expect some deep discussion on that very question.

To the comment that it’s hard to find good soul food in Chicago: it certainly is on the North Side, so here we are, but there continue to be great spots around the city, so we’ll also look to highlight African American-owned soul food restaurants in Chicago so you’ll be able to further explore the soul food tradition around the city. With the abundance of ethnic cuisines in Chicago, I think our soul food restaurants remain easily the most underrated category, and by introducing our North Side clientele to soul food in our little shop, it is my sincerest hope that we may begin to change that and soul food can take its rightful seat at the table with these many other world cuisines.

So, come by and enjoy delicious soul food, and get tipped off to other great soul food spots around town that are under the radar. For some of you, it will be a chance to enjoy a cuisine you know and love, but I suspect for much of our North Side clientele, it will be a fresh and new discovery, and that’s what we’re looking to provide. Please join us any time during Soul Food Week, and take a gander at the special dinner we are offering with the Soul Food Scholar on Sunday the 18th.

Lots of you regulars are also fans of our music selection, and I personally am curating a playlist of old and new soul music to set the mood, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Erykah Badu with all of our favorite Chicago, Detroit, and Memphis artists in between.

The menus are linked below, please check them out. We are crazy excited about this and hope you’ll join us for our first Soul Food Week.

Soul Food Scholar Author Dinner Jan 18

Lunch Soul Food Week

Dinner Soul Food Week

And just for fun, here’s the special dinner we’re doing on the 18th. Please call 773-275-5725 for reservations.

Soul Food

The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine

With Adrian Miller, The Soul Food Scholar

Sunday, January 18, 2015

5:30 reception

Hibiscus Aid Rum Coolers
Cognac and Sweet Tea Cocktails

Nanticoke Catfish Bites
Hot Water Cornbread with Honey and Homemade Cherry Bomb Hot Sauce
Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Memphis-style Sauce

6:30 dinner

Corn Flake Fried Chicken

Chitlins Duran, Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Purple Hulls Peas with Boiled and Buttered Rice

Nyesha Arrington’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Johnetta’s Mixed Greens

Momma Cherri’s Candied Carrots

Minnie Utsey’s “Never Fail” Cornbread

Hot Banana Pudding with Meringue

 

Thirty dollars per person plus tax and gratuity

For reservations, call 773-275-5725

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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