It’s the moment we all have been waiting for! Well at least our stomachs anyway. The Taste of Chicago kicks off this week and Concierge Preferred has all the details to ensure a full tummy and a great time.
For those who are Taste regulars, the 35 featured restaurants will not be overwhelming but the decision of which dishes to order will be. Each vendor will serve six tasty plates which include two “taste of” sample portions. Highlights include, but certainly are not limited to, some of the best African food in Chicago from Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant to a city classic like the Original Rainbow Cone. New to the food fest, however, will food trucks. Each evening the Petrillo Music Shell will serve as a parking spot for some of the best grub available on wheels. This year’s taste also welcomes some of the city’s heaviest hitting chefs/restaurateurs as part of the Mazda6 Celebrity Chef du Jour series.
Not only will there be five star dishes but also five star entertainment from all genres. You want some soul? Try Estelle or Robin Thicke. You want some rock? There’s Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin. You want some fun? Well they’ll be there too. The taste features two concert venues, the Petrillo Music Shell and also the Bud Light Stage which will feature up and coming Chicago artists. All admission to the shows are free, with the exception of concert seating tickets priced at $25.
Admission to the Taste of Chicago is free and food and drinks can be purchased in sets of 12 for $8. For a more specific food guide, large food items are usually around 10 tickets while smaller portions go for 6. The special “taste of” plates are four tickets. Ticket sales will end at 8:30 p.m. each night.
With such a large number of attendees, there are a variety of modes of transportation to get your snack on. Via public transportation, you can take the Red or Blue Lines or bus routes #145 or #151 which all will stop close to Grant Park and The Taste of Chicago. If you are planning to take Lake Shore Drive, try the Millennium Park Garage right off Columbus Drive between Randolph and Monroe Streets. For cyclists who want to burn off the calories they plan on consuming, the Taste will have parking on the perimeters of Grant and Millennium Parks.
If it isn’t already, this weekend’s Chicago Blues Festival should be at the top of your to-do list! The largest FREE blues festival in the world will be rolling into Millennium and Grant Parks this weekend (June 6-9) and will feature feel-good music on five stages.
So join the throng of 500,000 fellow blues fan out on the lakefront, as the “Blues Capital of the World” hosts performances by blues greats James Cotton, Otis Clay, Eddie Floyd, Irma Thomas, Shemekia Copeland (pictured), and many, many more.
The family-friendly Hot Chocolate Walk for Little City will take place in Grant Park on Sunday, November 4, 2012 to support individuals with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The course will take you along Lake Michigan with breathtaking city views.
Walkers can enjoy delicious hot chocolate and chocolate fondue from Ghirardelli Chocolate Company at the post race party. All participants will receive a goodie bag with a stylish sweatshirt. By registering to walk, you will be playing a part in supporting the residents and clients of Little City with residential care, athletics, health, art and employment opportunities.
Children under the age of 12 are encouraged to take part as a junior walker. After the race, the children can enjoy the post-race activities including a large Kid Zone, magicians and face painting.
Register at www.littlecity.org/walk.
Get this on your calendars! The 2012 Chicago Blues Festival will run from June 8-10 at Grant Park and the headline performer of the fest is none other than Chicago blues maven, Mavis Staples.
Every year, thousands enjoy the celebration of blues artists, new and old, at the three-day festival and the 2012 lineup definitely has a little something for everybody with a focus on local talent and tributes to the big (and hugely original) names that have passed away.
Friday, June 8, will memorialize the life and work of Texas blues guitarist, Lightnin’ Hopkins. Come on out to the Petrillo Music Shell and witness Texas natives, Johnny Brown, Reverend KM Williams, Milton Hopkins, and Jewel Brown, play in the spirit of Lightnin’ Hopkins.
Saturday, June 9, will acknowledge a handful of legendary musicians. Floyd Taylor, a Chicago native, will play some of his father, Soul and R&B legend Johnnie Taylor’s, greatest hits, as well as some of his own. Paul Kaye will pay tribute to close friend, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, the last of the Delta Bluesmen. Pinetop Perkins, Willie Big Eyes Smith, and Mojo Buford will be remembered by family and friends in a set at the Petrillo and a long list of musicians will perform a special tribute to Hubert Sumlin, the former lead guitarist of Howlin’ Wolf and huge inspiration for such virtuosos as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards.
The ladies of blues haven’t been forgotten either. Sunday, June 10, is all about female performers, beginning with a tribute to Koko Taylor, the Queen of Blues, by Melvia “Chick” Rodgers, Jackie Scott, Deitra Farr, and Nora Jean Brusco. And the evening will culminate in Ms. Mavis Staples’ festival-closing performance. A former member of the popular group, the Staple Singers, Staples recently won a Grammy for “Best Americana Album” (produced by another proud Chicagoan, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco) and is also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
It sounds to be a jam-packed weekend filled with soulful music, great food, and have I mentioned it yet, FREE ADMISSION. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day.
Concierge Correspondent Amanda Cooper of the Blackstone Renaissance Hotel offers her picks for things to do in Chicago this weekend. From Lollapalooza in Grant Park – now in it’s 20th year – to Windy City LIVE and the Chicago Brew Bus, it’s all here in this short video clip.
If the thought of a dance lesson conjures up images of an activity planned on a cruise ship, I’m with you. Then, last Summer, I started hearing buzz about how fun the Chicago SummerDance series was. Considering it is going on year 15, clearly there are a lot of people who like to shake what mama gave them. Curious? Plan ahead before your proverbial dance card is full.
•What: Completely free, you’ll get an introductory one-hour dance lesson (everything from swing, salsa, the cha-cha, and more) by pro instructors before you are turned loose on your own to enjoy two hours of live music and dancing on the 4,900-square-foot, open-air dance floor. The floor — designed by artist Dan Peterman — has been completely renovated this year and is constructed out of 100-percent recycled materials.
•Where: Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park (601 S. Michigan Ave.).
•When: Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. and each Sunday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m., weather permitting. Get the latest updates on Facebook at Chicago SummerDance and on Twitter at SummerDance2011. Weather announcements will be available on the SummerDance Hotline at 312-742-4007. With each week being a different style of dance, plan ahead by checking out the full program at the Chicago SummerDance website.
Do you like to get down with your downward dog? Even if you’re a yoga newbie, grab your mat and head on over to Butler Field in Grant Park on Tuesday, July 19, for an evening of free yoga and tunes from local DJ Lady D. The festivities are a part of a seven-city national tour called the Wanderlust Yoga in the City Festival. Considering the temps are brutal this week, it’s a good thing the sponsor of the event is SmartWater!
The evening of zen begins at 5 p.m. and a 90-minute class led by Moksha Yoga Center’s Rich Logan will begin at 6 p.m. As an added convenience, there will be changing facilities available so you don’t have to trek back to the hotel to slip into your yoga gear. While the event is totally free, be sure to register in advance on the Wanderlust Yoga event website. Namaste!
The longest-running admission-free jazz festival in the country, the Chicago Jazz Festival launches its 32nd edition on the lakefront this week. It features the mix of local stars and national names – including vocalists Kurt Elling and Rene Marie, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, smooth-jazz hero Nick Colionne, pianists Ramsey Lewis and Brad Mehldau, saxophonist Henry Threadgill, and flutist-composer Nicole Mitchell (this year’s artist-in-residence) – that has made the event an adventurous jewel in the city’s culture crown.
This year’s festival gets underway Thursday at noon with afternoon programming at the city’s gleaming Pritzker Pavilion, followed by Friday’s split-venue schedule: six afternoon sets at the Chicago Cultural Center (Randolph and Michigan), followed by a full slate at Pritzker that evening. There’s even jazz that’s technically not part of the festival, when the piano icon Ahmad Jamal – who came to prominence in Chicago in the late 1950s – performs with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra on Thursday evening at Pritzker. (The Jamal concert is presented through the Made In Chicago series at Millennium Park.)
On Saturday, the Jazz Festival returns to its traditional stomping grounds in Grant Park, with four stages, a midway filled with diversions and comestibles, and an art show leading from Jackson Blvd. to Buckingham Fountain. This year marks the return of the “Young Lions” stage, dedicated to high-school and college bands, and the debut of a new “smooth-jazz” stage. It all adds up to 18 different performances Saturday and again Sunday, warmed by typically gorgeous late-summer weather (that’s the forecast), and splayed against unbeatable backdrops – the lake by day, the skyline by night. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a better way to mark the unofficial beginning of autumn (Labor Day weekend).
The Chicago Jazz Festival, presented by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and programmed in its entirety by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, takes place September 2-5, from noon till 9:30 each day, at numerous locations. All programs are free of charge. The complete schedule can be accessed here.
The 14th annual Chicago SummerDance series sails into its final weekend for 2010 with a typical slate of terpsichorean variety, featuring music and instruction that spans the new world – from the tango of Argentina to traditional Caribbean salsa to some good old-fashioned American pop music of two generations.
SummerDance, run by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, each year offers an extraordinary schedule of dance parties — four times each week, a total of more than 40 programs. Every program comprises a one-hour group lesson (conducted by dance professionals) and then two hours of live music allowing participants to put those lessons into effect. It all takes place outdoors, on a mammoth 4600 square-foot dance floor constructed of recycled materials, at the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park (601 S. Michigan Ave. at Harrison). And all events are free.
The festival’s final week begins the way it started, with tango: lessons taught by the American Tango Institute followed by the Argentina Tango On Stage Ensemble, playing music of tango’s “golden age.” Friday The Ragtops offer an evening of 50s and 60s oldies. Friday, it’s traditional salsa courtesy of Nabori, following salsa and merengue lessons from May I Have This Dance; Sunday afternoon closes the summer in high style with lessons in jitterbug and East Coast Swing conducted by the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, with music from the Sam Burckhardt Nonet (as good for pure listening as they are for dancing).
Sure, you can dance all year long. But this week is the last time you can do it under the stars.
Thursday through Saturday, the lessons start at 6, and the band takes over from 7:30-9:30. Sunday afternoon, lessons start at 4, with the music for dancing from 5 till 7.
The summer season for the Grant Park Music Festival may be complete, but there is still some picnic time to be had. Millennium and Grant Parks have become one of the main attractions of downtown Chicago, and there is no better way to experience them than a sunny lunch or an outdoor dinner listening to the cicadas.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite picnics are charcuterie—a variety of cured meats, cheese, fresh breads, and a little vino. I don’t always have time to amass these items from my favorite stores, so you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble on Pastoral, an artisinal shop with all of my favorite things.
On Lake street, around the corner from the parks, Pastoral serves up creative sandwiches, beautiful charcuterie, and chewy fresh breads. It might as well be heaven on Lake street. With a wide selection of beer and wine, they really do have everything you could hope for.
For the extra-fancy folks out there, Pastoral does exceptional pre-packed picnics as well. You can order during the day, and pick up a package of pate, cheese, mats, bread, olives, and cornichons! They have many options to choose from; just look at their menu.
I encourage you all to seize what is left of this all-too-short summer and enjoy some casual outdoor dining. If you don’t feel like planning it all yourself, you can’t do better than Pastoral for your grub.
Pastoral is located at 53 East Lake Street, but also has locations in Lakeview and the French Market in Ogilvie.