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This week in food events: Mardi Gras, blind tigers, and more (oh my)

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coffee-rubbed beef ribs (ribs and photo by Gary Wiviott)

Did you get your Baconfest Chicago 2012 tickets today? Yes? I’ll see you there! No? They’re sold out! Demand rivals Next vs. El Bulli. But Bacon Nation, do not despair! Watch the official BFC Facebook page for ticket giveaways, including your chance to enter the Amateur Bacon Cook-off. In the meantime, this week laissez les bon temps rouler, plus a chocolate fest and an intimate rib feast. After all, BBQ is chocolate for men, to paraphrase Anthony Bourdain.

Monday, February 20

We all know about speakeasies in this town, but blind tigers? Back during Prohibition, speakeasies were respectable law-breaking drinking establishments, while blind tigers were a bit seedier. They charged customers to ostensibly see a sideshow-esque animal curiosity, like a poor blind tiger (or pig, even), then gave the viewer a “complimentary” alcoholic drink, thus circumventing the Feds. The Blind Tiger with Templeton Rye at The Gage commemorates these historic, illicit drinking parlours. Admission is only five cents, but drinks are not quite free, though a special Blind Tiger elixir will set you back just five bucks. Exec Chef Dirk Flanigan will serve complimentary Prohibition inspired food: “‘Drunken Rabbit Baked Beans’ in tin bean cans, whiskey BBQ bass in sardine cans, a lavish meat carving station,” and more. No tigers or pigs, blind or sighted, will be present or harmed for this event.

Tuesday, February 21

Celebrate Mardi Gras thoughtfully with A Cajun Country Ramble, ca. 1955 at Big Jones. The centerpiece of the family-style menu is the “Sunday filé gumbo,” with alligator, crawfish, catfish, crab, sausage, ham, chicken, and other ingredients. Chef/co-owner Paul Fehribach describes its genesis on his blog: “What I’ve set out to do here is create a meal you might have encountered in a Cajun country Mardi Gras celebration back when it was still very isolated and long before the rest of the country had even heard of the word ‘Cajun,’ on the cusp of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which would bring roads and bridges to all parts of the country and would gradually lead to the absorption of such remote areas into larger society.”

Wednesday, February 22

The first in a series of Pitmaster Dinners at Barn & Company, features Mr. Low & Slow BBQ Himself, LTH Forum co-founder, the man in black—give it up for my friend—Gary Wiviott! Cumin-scented lamb ribs, “Fred Flintsone” coffee-rubbed beef ribs, house-rub-rubbed Saint Louis pork ribs, and hot jerk goat ribs will all get the legendary G Wiv treatment in this inaugural feast.

Thursday, February 23

The world premiere of The Butcher’s Karma by James Beard award-winning Michael Gebert, (aka Sky Full of Bacon) is the star of the show at Dinner and a Movie at Uncommon Ground. The three-course locally sourced meat dinner, with wine from Candid Wines, includes a Q & A with the film’s stars: Michelin award-winning chef/butcher Rob Levitt, of The Butcher & Larder, and Bartlett Durand of Black Earth Meats. The event is a teaser to the Good Food Festival next month, both presented by

Roving Café Society with WBEZ discusses Greening Humboldt Park’s Rooftops at BEZ’s West Side Community Bureau. “Last March, the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School opened its first rooftop greenhouse. They produced 400 pounds of food within its first year. The school’s urban agriculture initiative addresses health disparities associated with Humboldt Park’s food desert. [Carlos R. DeJesús, Assistant Principal and Director of the UrbanAgriculture initiative] envisions Humboldt Park’s rooftops covered with greenhouses. Come learn about this initiative and one high school’s efforts to cultivate nutrition in its community.”

Friday, February 24

The seventh annual Tickled Pink event at the River East Art Center, benefits Y-ME [National Breast Cancer Organization]. “Walk the pink carpet” and “dine on hors d’oeuvres and late night munchies” including The Purple Pig’s signature fried chorizo stuffed olives; Heaven on Seven’s special-order only mini muffalettas; and Terzo Piano’s bacon, spaghetti squash, and Aleppo pepper tarts—among others.

Saturday, February 25

The For the Love of Chocolate black tie gala at the Merchandise Mart benefits the scholarships program at The French Pastry School at the City Colleges of Chicago. The chocolate-fest features stations including Cocoa Cuisine, with sweet and savory bites from “over 50 top chefs around the country"; Sweet as Sin, a “chocolate-y River Styx into the sweetest Hades you’ll ever see"; the Confectiatory, where PolyScience and SubZero/Wolf “present mad scientists [who] will manipulate chocolate and sugar to do things you never thought possible"; the Chocolate Spa, “where you can receive chocolate massages, touch-ups on hair and make-up, and even a pair of flip-flops to relieve your aching feet"—and much, much more.

Sunday, February 26

At the Slow Food Chicago annual meeting at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, "[l]earn about Slow Food Chicago’s events and initiatives for 2012, attend a meet-and-greet with Slow Food board members, and hear from guest speaker Greg Hall of Virtue Cider.” Hall is the ciderist who was the former beerist at Goose Island.

The public is welcome at the annual Wild Game Dinner at the Harvard Sportsman Club. “Come on in for the best wild game feast in McHenry County! Regular items include: pheasant, duck, venison, turkey, [and] goose. And we’ll have more wild game surprises on the menu. Turtle soup anyone?” Why yes, please! I’ll be there—and sure to ask about any other local nutria sightings, or tastings.

Have an event recommendation? Please email me here. Thanks!

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