Fat Thursday or Tłusty Czwartek. Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. No matter what you call them, Chicago is the only city in the world that widely celebrates Pączki/Paczki Day on both days. A pączek is the jelly doughnut's Polish cousin with a richer, eggy pastry, but only modestly filled. Paczki (POONCH-kee) can be found here year-round, but some bakeries only offer old world fillings like prune or rose hip jam this Thursday and/or Tuesday, along with new world favorites like strawberries and cream. And in our world, there's even a paczki-eating contest that still needs eaters on Saturday.
Wednesday, February 15
The Journey of a Sweet Leaf: In Search of Plant Originated Sweeteners at the Garfield Park Conservatory will be led by "plant taxonomist and economic botanist, Dr. D. Doel Soejarto ("Doel"), who is best known for his more than 40 years of plant exploration work, covering more than 20 countries." The workshop is held in conjunction with the Conservatory's Tropical Treat Nights.
Thursday, February 16
Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art opens at the Smart Museum of Art at U of C (University of Chicago) "presenting the work of more than thirty artists and artist groups who have transformed the shared meal into a compelling artistic medium." This is a fascinating, complex, interactive exhibit, including a food truck serving Iraqui cuisine "on limited-edition, paper reproductions of china found in Saddam Hussein's palaces"—and that's just one taste, if you will. You can even sign up and possibly join the Feast yourself.
Friday, February 17
Dining with Pullman, departing from Union Station, on special Pullman cars has nearly sold out for the three-day only series. Only two tickets are currently available for Friday night dinner. Sign up for information on the next dining event here. Dress code business casual, and I'd do vintage for sure.
Saturday, February 18
The Endangered Art of French Hospitality, with French Pastry School chef/co-founder Jacquy Pfeiffer, at Kendall College, "will discuss how the gastronomic meal of the French has evolved over the centuries and how something as fundamental as eating in the company of others has come to be labeled 'a cultural practice in urgent need of safeguarding.'” This event will be recorded for WBEZ's Chicago Amplified.
The third annual Paczki Eating Contest at Bennison's Bakery still needs participants: "Everyone gets a free Paczki Contest t-shirt and a $50 Bennison's gift card, the winning team of two gets to split $300 in cash between them! If you want to sign up or just want more info, email bennisonsbakery (at) gmail (dot) com!" Oh I'm so very tempted....
Have an event recommendation? Please email me here. Thanks.