Wednesday Foodie Forecast: Move over Outback, Chicago gets a real taste from 'down-under'

January 20, 2010

mussels and sauvignon blanc from the town of Barwon Heads in Victoria, Australia
mussels and sauvignon blanc from the town of Barwon Heads in Victoria, Australia

Attention all Aussie-philes: "The Donald's" Chicago chef - Oz native Frank Brunacci - spearheads the Trump International Hotel & Tower's second annual "Australia Week," with activities beginning on Friday, the 22nd.‚  Brunacci, a Melbourne native, is joining forces with the Australian Government, Wine Australia and the State of Victoria, to bring a taste of "Down Under" to the Windy City.‚  It's all part of his efforts to celebrate Australia Day, the country's national holiday (Jan. 26).

Brunacci's colleague, chef Simon Bryant, will be joining him from the Hilton Adelaide.‚  The two Aussies willl collaborate on a special, six-course dinner menu served at Sixteen on Friday night. The menu is $105 per person including all of the wine pairings (exclusive of tax and gratuity).

From Saturday, January 23 through Thursday, January 28, Chefs Bryant and Brunacci's six-course menu will be available for $105 per person, or $145 with wine pairings, alongside Sixteen's regular a la carte and blind tasting menus.‚  For reservations, call 312-588-8030.

On Sunday, the 24th, the entire 16th Floor of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago will turn into an Australian marketplace as the property hosts Escape the Winter: Experience Australia. This event takes place from 1 to 5 p.m., will showcase more than 30 wines provided by Wine Australia, Coopers Beer and dozens of uniquely Australian foods for sampling, along with aboriginal art, jewelry and live music.‚  The event costs $35 per person, with proceeds benefiting Chicago's Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.‚  Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.trumpchicagohotel.com/australia. They can also be purchased the day of the event for $40 per person.

Changes are well underway at Custom House, now that Chef Aaron Deal has taken over the reigns. Since Shawn McClain parted ways with partners Sue and Peter Drohomyrecky, McClain has continued to run Spring and Green Zebra (as well open Sage in Las Vegas), while the Drohomyreckys retained Custom House - now called Custom House Tavern. The urban steakhouse has begun to give way to Deal's Charleston, South Carolina roots (he spent four years at Tristan restaurant there, before spending time in the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern in New York City). Among new items on the revamped menu: She crab soup, house-made fish charcuterie, pork cheeks with telicherry pepper pappardelle and pickled onion relish; rabbit saddle with rabbit sausage. It's about time the locals got a real taste of Low Country cuisine; we just needed an ambassador with street cred to get the ball rolling.