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11-21 Chapman Testicle 7.jpg
Deep-fried turkey testicles. Don't forget the hot sauce. | photo by Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times]

Before you stuff your piehole with stuffing and pie and turkey, why not watch others stuff theirs?

At 7:30 tonight, Chicago police officers will compete in a burger-eating contest at 25 Degrees, 736 N. Clark. You pay $25 for the privilege of watching Chicago's finest eat; proceeds benefit officer Al Porrata, a cancer patient, and the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

Less altruistic, but still entertaining, is the turkey testicle eating contest at 9 p.m. Wednesday at Timothy O'Toole's, 622 N. Fairbanks, followed by a pumpkin pie eating challenge at 11 p.m. Prizes are a whole frozen turkey (good luck defrosting that) and a $25 gift certificate, respectively. While we're talking nuts, there's always the Turkey Testicle Festival in Huntley -- no eating contest here, but proceeds are donated to local charities.

If, by Friday, you haven't tired of all things resembling the Thanksgiving meal, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon, will offer a cooking class from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on what to do with those leftovers. The class is free with museum admission ($9 adults, $7 kids).


And the three Michelin stars go to ... Alinea.

Grant Achatz's Lincoln Park restaurant was the lone recipient of the travel guide's highest honor, the tire company announced Tuesday.

Charlie Trotter's and Ria in the Elysian Hotel were awarded two Michelin stars.

L2O, which earned three stars last year along with Alinea in the inaugural Chicago Michelin guide -- just as its chef, Laurent Gras, abruptly left the restaurant -- was downgraded to one star. Seventeen other Chicago area restaurants also earned one star.

Off the list entirely were Crofton on Wells and three swanky hotel restaurants -- Avenues, NoMI and Sixteen. Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel, earned two stars last year; chef Curtis Duffy left the restaurant in September to open his own restaurant, and Avenues is now closed as it regroups. Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel and Tower also saw its chef, Frank Brunacci, leave; he now runs an Australian truffle importing business with his wife. NoMI in the Park Hyatt underwent a makeover earlier this year, reopening as the slightly more casual NoMI Kitchen. Crofton on Wells, NoMI and Sixteen all earned one star last year.

New to the guide this year are moto, the taste bud-bending West Loop restaurant from chef Homaro Cantu, and Courtright's, a 16-year-old Willow Springs restaurant. Both earned one star.

"It's an incredible honor," said Bill Courtright, who runs Courtight's with his wife, Rebecca. "We built this restaurant out there in the middle of nowhere and built it because we loved the Michelin restaurants we visited in Europe. We thought you didn't necessarily have to be in the heart of the city, and if you paid attention to detail and did things right, you could make it happen anywere."

Courtright's was one of only two suburban restaurants to make the starry cut. The other is Vie in Western Springs.

The Michelin Guide got its start in 1900 as a hotel and restaurant guide for visitors to the World's Fair in Paris.

Three Michelin stars denote restaurants with "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." Two stars represents "excellent cuisine, worth a detour." One star: "a very good restaurant in its category."

In addition, there is a "Bib Gourmand" designation denoting good food and good value. Fifty-six area restaurants made that list.

Inclusion in the guide, whether with stars, a Bib Gourmand or simply as a listing, is viewed as an honor -- and a motivator. "We want two [stars]," Courtright said.

The guide goes on sale Nov. 16 for $18.99.

The full list after the jump.

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[courtesy Next]

If you didn't get to eat the opening menu at Next, you can at least attempt to cook it.

The 126-page digital cookbook, which details every course of the 1906 Paris menu at Grant Achatz's ever-evolving restaurant (which has since served Thai food and is now in "Childhood" mode), will be released on iTunes Tuesday. It includes exacting recipes, down to the gram and tenth of an ounce, for every morsel served in the Escoffier-inspired menu, more than 200 photographs and a video of that famous pressed duck course (see below).

"Paris: 1906" costs $4.99 and is available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Next co-owner Nick Kokonas says it already is ranked second among iBooks' best-selling cookbooks as a pre-order.

Production on the Thai menu iBook is nearly complete, and the Childhood iBook is in the works, he says.


The esteemed Michelin restaurant guide on Wednesday tapped 56 Chicago restaurants as offering the best bang for the buck.

Restaurants with the "Bib Gourmand" distinction -- which according to Michelin offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less -- include the popular Avec and Belly Shack, from chefs Koren Grieveson and Bill Kim; Smak-Tak, a Northwest Side Polish restaurant known for its generous servings of stick-to-the-ribs food, and the Andersonville gastropub Hopleaf.

Michelin inspectors have been eating their way around Chicago for the past year. The first Michelin Chicago guide was released last year.

On Nov. 15, the tire company will release its list of the crème de la crème of Chicago's dining scene -- restaurants who have earned Michelin stars.

For the full list of this year's Bib Gourmand picks, click here.

LUNCH BOX MEMORIES.jpg

Still waiting/hoping/trying to get a seat at Next, the shape-shifting restaurant from Grant Achatz and Co.? Oh, look at that, you missed the boat again.

Tickets for the third iteration -- which will take the theme 'Childhood' and will include a course served in vintage metal lunch boxes (the kind some of us, I'm not naming names, coveted at some point during childhood, which spawned our near-obsession with neovintage numbers such as this one) -- went on sale at midnight and were snagged by the time most of us were finishing our coffee this morning.

The first day of service for Next: Childhood is Oct. 22.

Free cupcakes. Crumbs Bake Shop is giving away 1,000 of them at noon today for the opening of its fourth Chicago location at 346 N. Clark.

The crappy weather isn't likely to impede the cupcake-crazed throngs, and it seems to be bringing out the generosity of other food folk. Rick Bayless just tweeted that all caldos at Xoco, his River North torta shop, will be $8.50 (regularly $10.50 to $12.50) at lunch today -- just whisper (or say, if you're not feeling so conspiratorial) "Twitter special, password tomatillo" to the cashier when ordering.

And the Zullo's truck is offering $1 off its calzones to anyone who knows the answer to this: "Which member of Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets, was saved by frostbite from dying in the plane crash that cost Buddy Holly's life?"

Meanwhile, a few other trucks are grounded today, among them Meatyballs Mobile and the Slide Ride, on account of the weather and maybe a few other issues. "Another day, another ticket," tweeted Phillip Foss, Meatyballs' owner, yesterday. "Food truckin in Chicago is a f'ing pain in the ass!! Considering droppin' out & focusing only on restaurant."

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[Magnolia Bakery's inviting interior. | Courtesy Magnolia Bakery]

Three glucose level-raising items in one:

The famous Magnolia Bakery opens at 10 a.m. Saturday in Block 37 on State Street. The New York bakery (now a chain) is oddly late to the party in Chicago, considering it, for better or worse, was the one who turned the cupcake into the tender, unstoppable beast it is. Crumbs, another New Yorker, was up and running in January and is expanding faster than Matt Damon a la 'The Informant' -- five Chicago stores by the end of the year; Sprinkles, from Los Angeles, opened here last summer. And then there's all those cupcake trucks. Just so you know: Magnolia sells more than just cupcakes. Remember muffins? And brownies? Ever heard of banana pudding? It will sell those, too.

Table Fifty-Two, Art Smith's civilized Southern eatery at 52 W. Elm, will be operating a walk-up sweet stand. Saturday mornings in October. Pastry chef CeCe Campise will offer just two sweets from 8 to 11 a.m. on the restaurant's front porch: jam-filled doughnuts ($3) and hummingbird cupcakes ($4). Coffee will be a buck. (Oh, by the way, Magnolia also does a hummingbird cupcake.) Let's hear it for the walk-up -- not to be confused with the pop-up.

Digressing from cupcakes, the Sweet Spot Macarons truck, which got our attention a few weeks back, is holding its launch party from 8 to 10 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Burlington Bar, 3425 W. Fullerton. A nice, quirky touch: $1 PBRs with the purchase of a macaron ($1.50 a piece, or 3-pack for $4.50). "What doesn't go well with $1 PBR?" said owner Galit Greenfield, rather rhetorically, in an e-mail. Due to Yom Kippur that weekend, Greenfield says she will officially hit the streets on Oct. 10.

Planning on tackling the sprawling Chicago Gourmet food and wine festival this weekend with handout map in hand? How quaint!

The fourth annual fest, which runs Saturday and Sunday in Millenium Park, is offering another option for those who don't fancy themselves quite so old school: a free iPhone and iPad app.

The app makes available the full schedule of seminars and book signings and which chefs are cooking in which pavilions, with accompanying maps. Users can track the fest's live Twitter and Facebook feeds. Niftiest (or most stalkerish, depending on how you see it) of all, the app includes a Friend Finder so you can easily locate other app-using 'friends' in the crowd.

Download the app here.

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The next season of Bravo's "Top Chef" is thick with Chicago talent. Six of the 29 competing chefs -- Heather Terhune (right) of Sable Kitchen & Bar, Spiaggia's Sarah Grueneberg, Chuy Valencia of Chilam Balam, moto's Richie Farina and Chris Jones and Beverly Kim of Aria -- call the Windy City home.

The Nov. 2 premiere will dovetail nicely, as it always does, with the finale of "Top Chef: Just Desserts," on which the Bristol's Amanda Rockman has thus far been rocking things out.

Stephanie Izard, she of that restaurant you may have heard of called Girl and the Goat, still claims the title of the only female "Top Chef" winner (and the only one from Chicago, if you don't count Rick Bayless, who won the first "Top Chef Masters" and is adding "thespian" to his resume.) Whether Izard will have company in these other hometown chefs remains to be seen, but they've all got the chops. Set your TiVo.

[Heather Terhune knows something, and she's not telling. | photo by Al Podgorski~Sun-Times]

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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