Taste the Future of Seafood May 18

April 30th, 2015

One of the most inspiring aspects of cooking in Chicago, and the United States, today is the many chances I’ve had to make common cause with chefs who are actively changing cuisine for the better. By better, I mean taking it to a new level of consciousness. By “consciousness” I mean an awareness of the consequences of our actions and buying decisions and how they impact the future in which our children and grandchildren will live. For seven years, I’ve been a member of Chefs Collaborative, and have had the chance to meet revolutionary chefs who understand our food system is broken and aren’t waiting for anyone else to change it – we are making change every day.

A few years ago, the seafood industry and its customers (including chefs) were shocked by a UN report that estimated the world’s oceans could be completely depleted of fish within 40 years, a truly apocalyptic projection. While most grocery stores, restaurants, and chefs shook their heads at the possibility, some of us heard a call to action and did the only thing we know how to do: step up to make the change we want to see. If the world’s oceanic fish species are in danger of disappearing, they will not do so on our watch.

One of the major challenges the oceans face is the relentless targeting of a few popular species, which are often actually called “target species” in the business. Boats go out looking for tuna, swordfish, cod, yellowtail, or what not, and with modern technology have gotten very good at finding the fish and bringing them in, causing their numbers to plummet and threaten those species’ survival. At the same time, nets and lines often catch “non-target” species, which are not considered marketable and thus considered “trash fish.” Millions of tons of fish are brought on boats every year only to be trashed in pursuit of an ever-dwindling number of popular fish. Our taste for cod threatens not only cod, but dozens of other species which are sacrificed in pursuit of cod.

One of the best tools we have to fight – and beat – overfishing is to utilize these species that are being discarded in pursuit of a few popular targets. The funny thing is, tastes change and it is largely driven by tastemakers, which includes chefs. Redfish was once considered garbage until Paul Prudhomme popularized it in the 1980’s, and even lobster and crawfish were once just fed to slaves and indentured servants, so abundant the wealthy couldn’t even imagine they were worth anything. But guess what? They are all delicious. And so, on May 18 at The Kitchen, 316 North Clark Street, I will join six wonderful chefs I admire deeply to bring you a taste of seven fish species you may not have tried, but are just as delicious as any.

The Trash Fish Dinners by Chefs Collaborative serve two purposes – one, we promote these non-target species (also called by-catch) so that we can learn to cook with them, inspire other chefs to cook with them, and show you how tasty they are. This helps fishermen by better utilizing, and helping to market, every fish they catch rather than selling a few out of the bunch and trashing the rest. Additionally, Trash Fish dinners help raise funds for Chefs Collaborative‘s mission to empower chefs with just this kind of information to do their part to change the seafood industry and save the oceans’ fish.

The future of seafood should look to the lessons of the farm-to-table movement: as some chefs led, and others caught on, to eaters’ growing desire for fresh local market-driven food, we learned to change our menus seasonally to the extent that now, many of us even change our menus daily as the availability of produce from small, local farms drives our cooking. The same can and should go with seafood: just as we no longer look for asparagus year-round or every day, we shouldn’t look for or expect salmon, or cod, or tuna every day. The principal is somewhat different, but given that up to one-third of caught fish are discarded, we can better utilize our natural resources and reduce the overall volume taken from the sea when we learn to cook “at the market” and utilize everything available. This means shopping off the beaten path.

May 18, join us for a delicious taste of the future:

Johnny Anderes, The Kitchen

Paul Fehribach, Big Jones

Brian Huston, Boltwood

Nicole Pederson, Found

Nico Romo, Fish, Charleston

Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon, Butcher, and Peche, New Orleans

Paul Virant, Vie, Perennial Virant, Vistro

We’re cooking up these fish you might not have tried. Join us and taste the possibilities:

Triple tail
Bluefish
Sow Hake
Triggerfish
Asian Carp
Dogfish
Asian Carp

If we are successful, this dinner will be the beginning of the end of the term “trash fish” and begin a new chapter in our relationship with the seas, in which we view every gift of the ocean for what they are – delicious and nutritious food upon which civilization can stand anew, in which species such as bluefin tuna, red snapper, and yellowtail can take a break from runaway demand as we learn to cook and enjoy our abundant stocks of fish such as the ones we are preparing for dinner.

Take a look again at that roster of chefs. I’m humbled that these proven badasses are eager to share this story with you, but I’m not surprised. These chefs care and time and again, they’ve put their precious time and resources on the line to make a difference. Please join us as we plot a new course for the future of seafood.

Tickets are available here. The dinner will sell out quickly, so get your tickets now!

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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 me, Paul Yamada 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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