Hopefully you’ve heard by now that the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards  are coming to Chicago this spring, which is a HUGE deal. This is real acknowledgment of our status as a destination restaurant city. Of course, the media awards remain in NYC, but maybe next year…
Celebrity Chef Tour
There are still a few tickets left to one of the pre-award dinners , which will take place Thursday, April 16 at The Langham Chicago . It’s one of the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour dinners, and will feature the Chicago culinary stylings of Anthony Zamora (Executive Chef of The Langham Chicago); Tim Graham and Scott Green (Travelle ); Giuseppe Tentori (GT Fish and Oyster ); Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia ); Chris Pandel (The Bristol /Balena /Formento’s ) and Paul Virant (Vie /Perennial Virant ). All are past or present award-winning or nominated chefs. Tickets  for the dinner are $190; the event starts at 6:30 p.m. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to the James Beard Foundation .
Green City Market Kicks Off Outdoor Market Season
You know that spring has officially sprung when it’s farmers’ market time again! The first week of May traditionally brings the opening of many of our local farmers’ markets, including the grandmammy of them all, Chicago’s Green City Market . In honor of the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards, the GCM outdoor market season kicks off on Saturday, May 2 with a gathering of many visiting chefs hosted by the Chicago chef community, including James Beard Award winners and GCM Board members Sarah Stegner (Prairie Grass Café ), Carrie Nahabedian (Naha /Brindille ) and Bruce Sherman (North Pond ). GCM’s 15th Annual Chefs BBQ  benefit tickets will also go on sale online that day; the BBQ will be held in Lincoln Park on Thursday, July 16 this year.
Primavera Italian Style
Speaking of spring produce, I had the chance to dine recently at Piccolo Sogno Due  with Chef Tony Priolo. His new spring menu is a stunner, featuring inspired pairings of ramps, fava beans, squash blossoms, peas, arugula and the like. We ate our way through the new bar menu, which included a tender Seppia (cuttlefish) Salad with fennel, olive oil and lemon; the crispy and addictive Frittura (lightly battered calamari, shrimp and lemon); and a brightly flavored and beautifully presented Salmon Tartare. On my next visit I’ll be sure to order the Paccheri pasta with shrimp, zucchini, ramps, tomatoes and shellfish broth. Delicioso! Photo courtesy of Piccolo Sogno Due.
Artisan Food Festival
Pastoral ’s 5th Annual Artisan Producer Festival  will take place on Saturday, April 25 at the Chicago French Market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This annual event gives you the opportunity to meet artisan producers face-to-face, sample the products, and purchase said products. Many of these products are available only at the market, and the event is free to the public. A great family outing! Donations will be taken online and at the door to benefit two of our favorite food charities: Purple Asparagus  and the Greater Chicago Food Depository .
Big, Big Wine
For all of you wine aficionados, the Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour Chicago  is happening on Thursday, April 30. Held at Navy Pier , it features over 200 fine wineries from around the world, all Wine Spectator top-scoring selections. Included in the $225 ticket is a light buffet, all wines, and a souvenir Riedel tasting glass.
Southern Heritage Cookbook from Big Jones
One of my favorite Chicago restaurant chefs, Paul Fehribach of Big Jones , is coming out with his first cookbook. Like the restaurant itself, “The Big Jones Cookbook: Recipes for Savoring the Heritage of Regional Southern Cooking ” will feature heirloom Southern recipes along with Chef Fehribach’s personal anecdotes and historical culinary detail. There will be a splashy and delicious prix-fixe family-style supper at the restaurant on Wednesday, May 6 to celebrate its publication; there’s also the option of just attending the “Cake & Cocktails” portion of the event. For more detail or to make a reservation, contact the restaurant at 773-275-5725.