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Bears Pizza.jpg [Courtesy Dough Boys]

The Bears are in the playoffs. Naturally, this excitement has spawned all sorts of blue, orange and/or oversized treats all over town.

Bleeding Heart Bakery has stocked its case this week with blue- and orange-colored cake balls (vanilla and white chocolate-flavored) for $1.50 each or 6 for $9, as well as and blue- and orange-frosted chocolate cupcakes ($2.75). And owner and Bears fan Vinny Garcia, who an employee reports has worn a Bears shirt to work every day this week, is faithfully abiding by his no-Green Bay Packers cake rule.

"Vinny refuses to do any sort of Packers orders whatsoever," says the bakery's Melinda Sterbenc. (Garcia could not come to the phone, as he was busy making a giant Bears-themed cake for a TV news crew, one of several such cakes this week.)

Apparently suffering from "When in Rome" fever, the New York-based Crumbs Bake Shop, which recently opened its first Chicago store at 303 W. Madison, also is offering a chocolate Bears cupcake with blue and orange frosting through Sunday (or until Super Bowl Sunday, depending on how the Bears fare). It's topped with a plastic Bears helmet, and costs $3.75.

At the new Dough Boys, 626 S. Racine, a 12-by-36-inch thin-crust pizza (above) can be ordered during the playoffs with "Da Bears" spelled out in meatballs (or really, any topping you like -- it's just that the meatballs "look so cool," chef Leo Spizzirri says). It serves 8 to 10 people. and costs $29.95 ($5 for each topping).

Not to be outdone, Donny's Pizzeria in Arlington Heights has what it boasts is the state's largest pizza (below) -- a 20-by-50-inch monster serving 30 to 35 people, with pepperoni slices spelling out "Da Bears."

The family-run pizzeria tinkered with the concept early this week before announcing the special on its Facebook page. That generated some chatter, which caught the attention of a local TV crew yesterday, which in turn brought out a local newspaper today, says sales and catering manager Julie Gathman.

Gathman says the restaurant thus far has had 10 orders for the pizza, which costs $98.95 (plus a $20 deposit, because of the custom box it is delivered in) and comes as one giant rectangular sheet o' pie.

"We're requesting 24 hours notice," Gathman says, "because it's 11 pounds of dough and four pounds of cheese."

4.jpg [Courtesy Donny's Pizzeria]

There are certain inalienable truths about this year's Lollapalooza:

*By day's end those Chicago Transit Authority air conditioned "cooling buses" are going to be chillier than any of those "tall boys" o' beer you're lining up for.

*The laws of supply and demand dictates that there are flasks on the market that look just like Blackberries. (Though someone should have advised the young hipster pingponging off other concertgoers on the way to Green Day not to alternately drink and scream out how she loaded the booze in to her nifty find. Unless the point is to draw the attention of security. As far as I could tell, she lucked out this time.)

*Graham Elliot, local chef to a U.S. president, has assembled a lovely lineup of local eateries serving up some fine trendy food (pork belly, anyone?) but an unscientific polls show concertgoers love their hot dogs and pizza...

6-29-10_Hein_honey_11.jpg If you've read today's story on the chef's apiary program at Heritage Prairie Farm, you can expect honey-infused menus all around town later this summer, as well as in some places you might not expect (try Playboy's headquarters).

The farm in west suburban La Fox (near Geneva/St. Charles) isn't just about honey, of course. It sells its produce at the Green City Market and at its own market on-site; throws occasional dinners on the farm; and, we just learned, holds a pizza and kickball night -- that's right, kickball! -- every Wednesday.

Individual-size pizzas, fired up in a hearth oven, are $8; side salads (which sounds so pedestrian, but are probably the best side salads you'll ever eat) are $3. Tonight's pizzas: margherita, barbecue chicken and sausage/onion/shroom.

Could you eat sausage pizza -- and only sausage pizza -- for an entire month?

Craig "Pizza Boy" Scharoff (pictured) could -- or rather, did.

4047118563_ec92df9ea5_o.jpg

Scharoff entered into a bet with his co-worker, Ron Kaplan, back in September, that he would eat sausage pizza for every meal during the month of October. It was one of those "If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life... " discussions that just took on a life of its own, Kaplan says. "After talking about it for so long, I decided to challenge Craig and everyone here egged him on ... At first, I never thought he could do it but when he ordered that Dominos very early on, I knew I was in trouble."

Kaplan laid out the specifics: sauce and other fillings optional; no pizza variations (e.g. French bread pizza, pizza-flavored Hot Pockets); no salads, side dishes or dessert, and so forth.

Kaplan, conveniently, is one of the moderators of the food chat site, LTHForum, where this whole thing has played out for the past several weeks, with photographic evidence posted by Kaplan of much of Scharoff's intake.

The payoff for all of Scharoff's effort? $2,000.

The twist: Around lunchtime today, Kaplan announced that he and Scharoff have donated the cash to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. And Kaplan is now dusting off an old treadmill to give to Scharoff.

They're at it again. LTHForum, the chat site for food lovers, doled out its awards for Great Neighborhood Restaurants last night to 18 Chicago area eateries and bakeries (see the full list here). For the first time this year, the group also recognized Great Neighborhood Resources, giving the nod to five food-related shops, including Northwestern Cutlery and the Spice House.

Picking up their awards at the dinner at Marie's, 4127 W. Lawrence:

Hoosier Mama Pie Co. owner Paula Haney, with her husband and 21-month-old twins in tow, offal-loving hubby/wife team Rob and Allison Levitt of Mado; Spice House owners Patty and Tom Erd, and Pastoral's Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller.

Dobra Bielinski of Delightful Pastries, another winner, delighted us with the news that she's opening a second bakery at 1710 N. Wells on Nov. 1. She and the Pastoral team also will have a presence at the Chicago French Market inside the Ogilvie Metra station.

This is the fifth year of the GNR awards, which began, as LTH-er David Dickson said, "with the question of, 'Where should I go eat?' " Forum members nominate and vote on places that have that certain culinary je ne sais quoi.

It was the first year I had the pleasure of chowing with LTH members at their awards dinner. Marie's is a pizza joint attached to a liquor store. It has red booths and paneled and mirrored walls. Its pizza is the stuff of dreams.

One might be inclined to judge a book by its cover and pass up Marie's, were it not for the enthusiastic eaters who make it a point to seek out these neighborhood gems. Chicago needs places like Marie's -- but it needs a forum like LTH just as much.

Thank you, GQ Magazine, for cluing me in on just what goes on in that mysterious storefront on Balmoral and Clark, but for also letting me know that within its doors I will find one of the 25 best pizzas in the United States.

For many of us who live in the neighborhood, we're surprised not only to find out that the pizza made at Great Lake is one of the best in the country, but also that it's a pizza joint. Those last two words may make the folks behind the carefully arranged wheelbarrow, a couple retro paint cans and flour sacks in the window cringe, I'm sure. But I guess I'm just one of the clueless sorts who can't figure out that a place that does not say the word "pizza" in its window or door, which has no indication to passersby that it makes pizza and that it's sole window display is something that looks like a slice of a Restoration Hardware vignette, is a pizza place.

It's not just me, though. I've walked past the place with friends and neighbors, and the "is it a bakery? a hardware store?" questions reminded me of the old, "Is it a floorwax or a dessert topping?" Saturday Night Live skit. Well, it turns out Great Lake is neither a floor wax or a dessert topping. It's a very highly regarded artisan pizza gallery, or so says GQ magazine. (Who gets local restaurant recommendations from GQ, anyway? People who get stereo-buying tips from Playboy?)

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

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

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