Happy Chinese New Year! Today rings in the first day of the Year of the Dragon, 4710 on the lunar calendar. The dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac, and so widely considered the luckiest that Asia sees a dragon baby boom every 12 years. I guess someone's eating their melon seeds, the symbolic New Year food for fertility. This year's menus will also highlight lobster, as the Chinese word for the crustacean literally translates to "dragon shrimp," but also vegetarian dishes, as others believe those bring the best luck. However you celebrate, you have 15 traditional days for festivities.
Perhaps celebrate untraditionally with the dish you see above, Tony's Crispy Shrimp at Lao You Ju—Tony as in Tony Hu, chef/owner and unofficial mayor of Chinatown, who created this dish of dragon-fiery shrimp—with French fries.
Monday, January 23
Drink to your health and others' with the seasonal blood orange ginger ale at Big Bowl, where they will donate up to $5,000 in ale sales to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This is the last day for their limited edition Chinese New Year menu: shrimp and chive dumplings with spicy sauce, Cantonese-style lobster, Black Dog Gelato blood orange sorbet with shortbread almond cookies, and Red Dragon cocktails—kiddie version available too. If you were born in the Year of the Dragon, you will receive one complimentary entrée, dine-in, today only.
Make long-life noodles—OK, fresh pasta and sauces—Cooking with Autre Monde at Sur La Table in Naperville with chef/owners Beth Partridge and Dan Pancake, Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia veterans. And yes, it's a myth that Marco Polo brought back pasta from China.
Tuesday, January 24
Graze U at The Hideout, a "learning event/potluck" offers five minute mini classes to "learn from various know-it-alls around the city, on topics ranging from 'How to make the most perfect pie crust' (Rachel Adams, Piebird)...to 'How to be a vegan without being an a-----e' (Sean Shatto)...and more!"
The Mexican pop-up tribute dinner at Lillie's Q is nearly sold out and will feature sous chef Jose Landa's childhood favorite dishes, often served as family meals—staff meals—as are many in American kitchens. From BBQ to Chinese, some of the best unsung cooks in American kitchens are Mexican.
Wednesday, January 25
Get buzzed at Bee Loved, the Chicago Honey Co-Op benefit Valentine's wine tasting at Feast in Bucktown. All proceeds benefit the apiary re-location. There will also bee a cocktail, InCider, made with CHC honey. Get busy and sign up now for the Febuary 4 beginner beekeeper class—they sell out fast—at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Please note the Hull-House Museum is not the Hull House Association, which recently—sadly—announced they're closing by March.
See how the sausage is made at the sausage-making demo at The Butcher & Larder. Attendees take home 1-pound of sausage each!
Thursday, January 26
The Lunar New Year culinary class at World Kitchen is currently sold out but there is a waiting list.
Friday, January 27
The 15th annual Grand Chefs Gala and Jean Banchet Awards at the Fairmont to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation features A-list chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers—all led by Curtis Duffy, this year's Chef Chair, chef/owner of the highly anticipated Grace. This year's theme is "Bienvenido a ¡Havana!" and black-tie preferred—I'm guessing slinky salsa dress optional.
Saturday, January 28
At Gumballs and Superballs at the Chicago Botanic Garden, "find out how people use parts of rainforest trees to make chewing gum and rubber. Create your own bouncing ball and flavorful gum to take home." Note to self: don't confuse the two.
Sunday, January 29
The Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown also kicks off Chicago's Chinatown centennial. Reserve by Wednesday, January 25 for the 2012 Lunar New Year Celebration dinner at Cai on Febuary 1, hosted by the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
Have an event recommendation? Please email me here. Thanks.