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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.

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.

Here's a $40 deal for tonight: A four-course dinner at Browntrout, 4111 N. Lincoln, and conversation with Spence Farm's Marty and Kris Travis and Jennifer Olvera, author of the Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago and Sun-Times contributor.

This is a good group. The Travises are warm and chatty, as most farmers tend to be ("We always joke that the problem with farmers is they talk too much," Rob Gardner, editor of the Local Beet website, once told me). And they are a familiar topic for Olvera, who has written about their famous ramp digs in the spring and about their son Will making a name for himself with the maple syrup he taps on the property. Marty's recipe for cornbread using, naturally, his own whole-wheat flour, remains one of my favorites.

The evening begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. (Add $30 for wine pairings; copies of Food Lovers' are included in the dinner price.) Oh and, those ramps are on the menu, in pickled and vinaigrette form. Call (773) 472-4111.

For more upcoming farm dinners, check out our September calendar. And add this one to the list: 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at Blue Sky Bakery, 3720 N. Lincoln, just down the road from Browntrout. Three courses, featuring the meats of Mint Creek Farm, for $30.

[photo courtesy Sweet Spot Macarons]

Yet another food truck is in the works for Chicago, but it's keeping a narrow focus that has nothing to do with the c-word.

Sweet Spot Macarons (still in the licensing process but slated for a mid- to late-September debut) will offer only macarons, those tres chic treats that, like every other pastry, have been hailed as the new cupcake. Galit-Macaron-Small-1.jpg

The woman behind the truck is Galit Greenfield, a French Pastry School graduate who honed her skills with her catering business. Greenfield will offer six flavors initially, at $1.50 a piece -- salted caramel, pistachio, chocolate espresso, hazelnut, strawberry and passion fruit -- though the roster will likely expand. "I've been doing all kinds of experiments with crazier flavors," she says.

Choosing to build her business around the macaron was an easy decision for Greenfield. "I really think it's a superior pastry. It's so diverse. I love that it's gluten free. I love the combination of crunchy and soft, that you can change all the fillings, that it's not huge. It's very elegant and very versatile. And I'm really attracted to the chemistry behind macarons .... It's complicated. It's about your oven, it's about the temperature, your egg whites. It's a challenging pastry, and I guess I love challenges."

Follow the truck on Twitter @SweetSpotMac.

Other new or soon-to-be-operational trucks that have popped up lately include Homage Street Food, which offers an ambitious global menu, and the Lillie Q's Meat Mobile, an offshoot of the Bucktown restaurant.

Can't keep all the trucks straight? The site Food Truck Freak keeps tabs on the whole scene -- which, some will argue tonight, is hardly official.

IMG_6885.jpg [These can be yours for under $50. | Courtesy Big Star]

Want a piece of uber-hip taco/tequila bar Big Star? Or maybe just a fork?

The restaurant, along with its brethren Avec, Blackbird, Publican and Violet Hour, is collecting all their unused dishes, cutlery, glassware, appliances, furniture and more for a sidewalk sale. The goods, ranging from $1 to $50, will be for sale from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Big Star, 1531 N. Damen. We're told most items will be under $10.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward repair of the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory, which suffered major hail damage after a fierce July storm.

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Amanda Rockman, pastry chef at the Bristol, 2152 N. Damen, talks up the tart in today's Food pages, and shares a recipe for a lovely buttermilk tart with fresh cherries and a mascarpone cream one might be inclined to bathe in rather than dollop artfully on top.

Make this tart, because Rockman's spot-on suggestions yield such rewards for very little effort. I'm always on the lookout for a good crust - this one's a winner (and a reminder of why the food processor rocks).

And make this tart so you can say you did it before Rockman gets all famous. On Aug. 24, she'll make her TV debut on Bravo's "Top Chef Just Desserts," the only Chicago chef-testant in the field of 14. (The first season had Chicago's Malika Ameen bowing out under pressure.)

[photo by John J. Kim~Sun-Times]

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[photo by Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times]

For his cookbook debut, Homaro Cantu could easily have gone the shiny, coffee-table paperweight route.

Instead, Cantu, the Cheshire cat-like chef and owner of moto and iNG on West Fulton, is working on a diet book. A miracle berry diet book.

The little-known African berry temporarily re-sets your taste buds to taste sweet in even the most sour, bitter things. Cantu has been experimenting with it at moto and iNG, offering at the latter a kitchen table miracle berry menu. By the fall, he says, he's going to transition iNG to a miracle berry menu-only restaurant.

His obsession with the fruit goes back about six years, when a customer asked Cantu if he could somehow help her friend, who was in chemotherapy, taste again. What he came up with: a miracle berry-infused paper strip that allowed her to taste food as it should taste.

He still makes those strips -- about 500 "doses" weekly -- and sends them to chemo patients gratis. At home, the berry is part of his two young daughters' diets. "Every day after school, they ask for miracle berry and a lemon," Cantu says. Once while gardening, curious about how grass tastes with miracle berry, he and one of his girls tried it. Her response: "It tastes like basil."

Developing recipes for the book has been a bitch. There's a reason why cookies have sugar -- to add sweetness, but also texture, aroma and color. It took Cantu's team six weeks to figure out a sugarless cookie.

Cantu's ice cream recipe has 800 fewer calories than the average recipe, "and it's good enough to have at Ing or moto," he says.

The 150 or so recipes in the book are mostly sweet, and all require that you eat the berry (in tablet form) beforehand; its effects last for 30 to 45 minuts. Cantu says those who buy the book will get a discount on the berry tablets.

His plans for miracle berry are bigger than his backyard, and his diet book (due out next spring). The fruit and the tablets are expensive, but if he can get the prices down -- which he believes he can if the inhalable form he's developing comes to market -- Cantu says this could be the "silver bullet for obesity."

With miracle fruit in the mix, soda is merely soda water and lemon juice. Who needs sugar in it, or anything? "Why try and fight the big soda companies when we can just empower the end user to make it themselves?" Cantu wonders.


About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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

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