Wine Country

Wed. March 7, 2012 12:00 AM
by Rick Karlin

We may have had a relatively mild winter, but restaurants around town weren't planning for that. They've planned all sorts of events to encourage business during what is usually a slow period in the industry. Many places are offering wine dinners, a pre-set menu designed to showcase the wines of a vintner. Usually these meals are about half of what you'd pay if you ordered the meal in the restaurant on your own. Most places are able to accommodate special diets, don't hesitate to call and check. Here's a schedule of what's available.

The various Francesca locations have plenty of events planned. Buglioni Wine Dinner, March 8, 7 p.m. at Francesca's Bryn Mawr, will feature the Italian wines of Buglioni Vineyards. The evening begins with a cocktail hour featuring crostini with chicken liver pate or with ricotta and sweet tomatoes, paired with "Il Vigliacco" Brut Rose. The first course, jumbo shrimp with cannellini beans is served with "Il Intruso" Bianco Veronese. The next course features handmade pappardelle with wild mushrooms ragu and chicken breast with Valpolicella Classico. Braised short ribs with creamy white corn polenta is the entrée and it is paired with Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC. The dinner ends with a cheese tasting with fruit, nuts, sweet gorgonzola and pecorino grand cru. "L'Amarone" Amarone della Valpolicella is paired with that course. Tickets are $65 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations are required, call 773-506-9261.

Fork and Bottle Dinner at Francesca's Tavola in Arlington Heights will be an interactive dining experience and wine tasting, a more casual alternative to a wine dinner but still features delicious wines and food pairings. The evening starts with a cooking demonstration from Chef de Cuisine Gabriel Arista. He will be making grilled prawns with romesco and citrus. The dish will be paired with Caymus Conundrum. The menu will also include grilled pork tenderloin with white beans and sweet roasted tomatoes, paired with Belle Glos Meomi Pinot Noir. Halibut with caramelized cipollini onion, roasted fennel and forest mushrooms, will also be featured at the dinner. The entree will be paired with Belle Glos Clarke & Telephone. The event is $30 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations are required, call 847-394-3950.

"Wines from Hall" Wine Dinner at Francesca's Vicinato in Palos Park on March 15 will feature wine selections from Napa Valley's Hall Winery. Guest speaker, Jason Horek, a representative of the winery, will be on-site to discuss the wines and their pairings with the meal. The evening begins with seared scallop with caramelized fennel and goat cheese puree paired with Hall Sauvignon Blanc. The next course, peppered Ahi tuna with tomato compote and rosemary, pairs superbly with Hall "Darwin" Proprietary Red. Roast duck breast with black pepper gnocchi, braised duck leg, forest mushrooms and ramps is paired with Hall Merlot. The fourth course is grilled filet with potato, caramelized Brussels sprouts, garlic and sage paired with Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. The evening ends with an assortment of artisanal and homemade cookies, served with coffee. Tickets are $52 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations are required, call 708-671-1600.

Prairie Grass chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris have worked with representatives of Yalumba to present perfect food and wine pairings on Thursday, March 8. The evening will begin with a reception featuring a crab cake served with Jansz Sparkling Rose. Dinner kicks off with mushroom soup with a petite Capriole Farm goat cheese "cake" served with 2010 Yalumba 'The Strapper' GSM. The second course will feature sautéed bronzini with avocado, grapefruit and cucumber salad paired with a 2010 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier. The menu continues with braised short ribs over potato puree with root vegetables paired with 2006 Signature Cabernet Shiraz and 2009 Yalumba Cigar Cabernet. An cheese course will follow, paired with the library bottling of Yalumba Octavius Shiraz. Coffee will be served to end the meal. Tickets for this event are $92, all inclusive. To make reservations contact Evolution Wine & Spirits at 847-272-2200 for the Northbrook location or 773-772-9463 for the Chicago location. Reservations can also be made by emailing info@evolutionwines.com.

Cityscape Bar, in the Holiday inn Mart Plaza, hosts "Vino with a View", a wine sampling on Thursday, March 15. The event will highlight several Greystone Wine varietals including cabernet, chardonnay, merlot and a Markham sauvignon blanc. Antipasto, cheese and dried fruit will be served to enjoy with the wine and stunning panoramic views. All attendees will receive a "buy one get one" discount coupon for dinner in ItaliAsia Restaurant after the event or on a future night. The event is free, although space is limited. Reservations are required and may be made by e-mailing cityscape@martplaza.com.

LM Restaurant, Lincoln Square's French bistro, has just announced a new Bordeaux Menu Decouverte, available Monday through Saturday. The $45 four-course menu features cuisine from the Bordeaux region of France. Featured menu items include Kumamoto oysters, Amish chicken leg roulade, milk chocolate terrine and many more options. Available through March 30, call 773-942-7585 or check out lmrestaurant.com.

There's more than wine being offered. Francesca's at the Promenade in Bolingbrook hosts a Two Brothers Beer dinner on March 22. This four-course meal is $35 per person, excluding tax and gratuity and starts with grilled octopus paired with Two Brother's Ebel's Weiss, a German Hefeweizen. That is followed by lamb meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, an excellent partner for the Cane & Ebel red rye ale. The third course features sweet potato gnocchi with cipollini onions, pancetta and brown-butter sage paired with Resistance, an India Pale Ale. The final course features beer-braised beef ribs with parsnip puree paired with Two Brother's Northwind beer. Call 630-739-6300 for more information.

If bourbon is your drink of choice, check out the "Let Them Drink Bourbon" at Francesca's Forno in Wicker Park on March 22. The dinner celebrates small batch bourbon and features Fred Noe, great grandson of Jim Beam, introducing each of the bourbons and the tradition of small batch bourbons. The evening begins with brown sugar glazed bacon jerky paired with Moonshine. Pancetta wrapped striped bass paired with Basil Hayden bourbon follows. The next course is a hazelnut crusted pork cutlet paired with bourbon from Knob Creek. Followed by an espresso roasted rack of pork with bacon braised collard greens paired with Bookers bourbon. For the final course chocolate-bourbon pecan pie and burnt caramel gelato are paired with bourbon from Bakers. Tickets to this event are $45 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations are required, call 773-770-0184.

It's not all tasting dinners, Carnivale's Executive Chef David Dworshak will lead a sauce making demo on Saturday afternoon, March 24. The class will feature unique sauces including a barrel aged hot sauce with hiramasa ceviche, classic chimichurri with skirt steak and a dessert sauce with chocolate cake. Reservations are required, call 312-850-5005, cost is $25 per person.