My Sunday with Oprah, Elton and Billy

My Sunday with Oprah, Elton and Billy

Hey O, where can I get a good bowl of Pho in town?

Just to be clear, you did not stumble upon a new entertainment/gossip blog here on I’ll never give Perez Hilton a run for his money. But I did have a chance to take in the official Chicago premiere of “Billy Elliot” last night at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in the Loop. Honestly, I was more interested in where we were going to eat before/after the show. But when we arrived at 5:30 p.m. we were greeted by a press melee in front of the theater, on Randolph Street:

Excuse me, is this the line for Garrett’s Popcorn?

It was a serious scrum. People screaming, waving posters.. tiny digital cameras perched above everyone’s head, trying to capture the moment. Then, once inside, a local who’s who of media and entertainment: the GMs of NBC and ABC affiliate (my boss), chef Rick Bayless, Jesse Jackson, you get the idea. But once Oprah and Elton John were escorted to their primo seats in the middle of the theater (led by a number of fit gentlemen and trailed by as many bespoke handlers) everyone stopped what they were doing, whipped out their iPhones, Blackberrys and other paraphernalia, and just started shooting photos like crazy. Now I know what it feels like when Lindsay Lohan stumbles out of her car - blinding flashes and gawkers galore. Fortunately, the house had it timed so that as soon as they took their seats, the house lights dimmed and the show started immediately.

OMG, is that Rick Bayless in front of Oprah?

But enough with the celebrity and entertainment drivel. I can’t go one day without mentioning something food or drink-related, so let me just pass along two great experiences I had over the weekend: the first, a lunch, which came from Veerasway on West Randolph. I had to use up a Groupon that was about to expire, so I went with a friend and just couldn’t stop eating the lamb rogan josh. Topped with crispy fried onions, this hearty, cardamom-creamy stew, flecked with fresh cilantro, is even better with a side of goat cheese-stuffed naan.

After lunch, I was doing some shooting for an upcoming story at The Exchange‚ Bar, in Wicker Park. I think of this place as kind of a less formal Violet Hour, but more sophisticated than the slacker-hipster-DJ vibe at The Whistler in Logan Square. In addition to their wonderfully original cocktails, they also have two punch bowls on their menu (for parties of 4-6). ‚ We tried one with Death’s Door Gin, ginger liqueur, honey syrup and bitters. The Exchange is owned by the same folks behind Small Bar, so the attention to great products is paramount. This would be a great place to hit before a night out, or conversely, a chill lounge to sip some great liquor for a nightcap.

Anyone thirsty? Not at The Exchange Bar (photo by Steve Dolinsky)