Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List. https://www.grubstreet.com/2022/06/2022-james-beard-chef-and-restaurant-award-winners-full-list.html

Spring Time Chicago: Theatre & Performing Arts 

Choose Chicago

Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater announces its 2022 Season of Excellence: The Season of Healings with four World Premiere musicals showcasing the power of healing, each featuring different journeys and a variety of genres including gospel, spiritual, soul, jazz, hip-hop, blues, the sounds of the Harlem Renaissance, and more. All performances will be held at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center. The first musical, It’s Just Like Coming to Church, will run from March 20-April 24, 2022. 

Chicago Opera Theater (COT), Chicago’s foremost producer of contemporary and re-imagined opera, proudly presents the World Premiere of the newly commissioned opera Quamino’s Map. Set in post-Revolutionary War England, the work sheds light on the oft-overlooked moment in history when London was the unlikely refuge for thousands of Black Americans who fought for their liberty on the side of the British. Quamino’s Map, the final production of the COT 2021-22 season, will be staged at the Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building for three performances only: April 23, 29 and May 1, 2022.

  • On May 29, 2022, the concert Aretha Rising will pay tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, as Maestro Speck conducts Broadway star Capathia Jenkins. The program will include Respect, Think, A Natural Woman, Chain of Fools, Amazing Grace, and many more.

Broadway in Chicago

Broadway In Chicago is proud to announce the following shows: 

  • The North American tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, winner of 10 Tony Awards –  including Best Musical, will play at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, with performances running from March 19-May 14, 2022. 
  • After taking Broadway by storm, SIX makes a triumphant return to Chicago this spring at the CIBC Theatre from March 29-July 3, 2022. From Tudor Queens to Pop Princesses, the SIX wives of Henry VIII take the mic to remix five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of 21st-century girl power!
  • THE PROM is a new musical comedy about big Broadway stars on a mission to change the world and the love they discover that unites them all, comes to the Cadillac Palace Theatre from April 19-24, 2022. 
  • Go behind the music and inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in the Tony and Grammy Award-winning true-life musical phenomenon, Jersey Boys, will play at the Cadillac Palace Theatre from May 3-8, 2022. 
  • All rise for Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork To Kill a Mockingbird, which will play from May 17-29, 2022 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre.
  • Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher and the team behind South Pacific, The King and I and 2017 Tony-winning Best Play Oslo, bring a fresh and authentic vision to this beloved theatrical masterpiece Fiddler on the Roof, from Tony winner Joseph Stein and Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Performances will run from May 17 – 22, 2022 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

All’s Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare’s vivid exploration of courtship and class comes to new life in the uniquely intimate setting of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater from April 22-May 29, 2022, staged by acclaimed director Shana Cooper. Besotted with a man who does not return her love, the intelligent, resourceful young Helena navigates the complexities of unrequited romance, courtly drama, and the meddling of elders—only to discover the reality that happy endings are never quite as simple as they seem in fairy tales.

Goodman Theater

The Tony Award winning Goodman Theatre will stage the following during the 2021/2022 season:

  • In Good Night Oscar, Emmy Award-winning actor and producer Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) stars as the irrepressible Oscar Levant. Good Night, Oscar explores the nexus of humor and heartbreak, the ever-dwindling distinction between exploitation and entertainment, and the high cost of baring one’s soul for public consumption. Playing at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, from March 12 – April 17, 2022.

Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its first performances of 2022 with a spring double-bill featuring Cathy Marston’s world premiere adaptation of Of Mice and Men (April 27-May 8, 2022), Steinbeck’s tender tale of friendship, perseverance, and sacrifice, with an original score by Academy Award®-nominated composer Thomas Newman, along with the Joffrey premiere of George Balanchine’s Serenade, the choreographer’s first ballet created in America in 1934.

Lyric Opera of chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’ new-to-Chicago production of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini will run March 12-April 10, 2022, followed by Fire Shut Up in My Bones, playing March 24-April 8, 2022, based on New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow’s widely acclaimed memoir of his traumatic youth growing up in Louisiana. With an amazing collection of talent – composer Terence Blanchard, librettist Kasi Lemmons and a top-flight cast including many of America’s most brilliant singing actors – Fire Shut Up in My Bones is an opera for today, revealing the Black experience in this country as few other operas have done. 

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

The celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre Company returns after a 20-month intermission, with the opening of the $54 million Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center, which includes the Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell, an intimate state-of-the-art 400-seat theater in the round, and is topped off by The Loft, an arts and education center for young performers 

  • The winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Porchlight’s production of Spring Awakening (April 23-May 29, 2022) tells the timeless story of youthful self-discovery and budding sexuality as seen through the eyes of three teenagers in provincial late 19th-century Germany. 
  • Additionally, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group will present the world premiere of the highly anticipated King James by ensemble member Rajiv Joseph, running from March 3-April 10, 2022. “King” LeBron James’s reign in Cleveland brings promise, prosperity and renewal to a city in desperate need of all three. It also brings together two childhood friends who communicate best when they are talking and arguing about the star player’s impact on Cleveland, from his rookie season to the city’s historic championship. Though LeBron James is never seen in the show,  King James is an intimate exploration of the symbolic place that sports and athletes occupy in our emotional lives and relationships.

Chicago Opera Theater’s world premiere of Quamino’s Map in April 2022, followed by the world premiere of new musical Skates (from May 24-August 28, 2022). Also returning to the Studebaker stage next year are performances from Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

Teatro ZinZanni is back with a brand-new show starring veteran performer, Frank Ferrante. An experience unlike any other, Teatro ZinZanni is a whirlwind of international cirque, comedy and cabaret, with world-class acrobats, musicians, divas, illusionists, madmen, and aerialists filling the intimate Spiegeltent ZaZou, a unique jewel box mirror tent located in the heart of Chicago’s Downtown Theater District. Tickets can be purchased with or without the featured four-course gourmet feast including a fabulous à la carte cocktail menu, wine & beer list, and special occasion treats. 

Windy City Playhouse

  • SONS OF HOLLYWOOD will be the Windy City Playhouse’s first production back at their flagship location (3014 W. Irving Park Rd.), running from January 26 – April 17, 2022. At the start of the 1920s when Hollywood brimmed with risqué films, enormous parties, and glamorous opening nights, silent film stars Ramon Navarro and William Haines enjoyed life as Hollywood royalty. But when the Motion Picture Production Code brings an end to the no-holds-barred attitude of Hollywood and its acceptance of its gay stars, both men are forced to grapple with their identity in a suddenly oppressive world. Audiences will find themselves immersed in the lavish and dramatic world of a film come to life with a signature 360-degree design and two types of seating: “House” (movie-theater style) and “Top Shelf” (swivel, club-style chair).

Year of Chicago Dance

In partnership with the local dance community, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Erin Harkey have just announced the designation of 2022 as the “Year of Chicago Dance”, a yearlong collaborative initiative which will activate Chicago’s dance industry to address critical issues facing dancers and showcase dance performances, social dancing, and special events for the public in dozens of venues throughout the city. 

Partners will include dance service organizations Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and See Chicago Dance — as well as Art on theMART, Night Out in the Parks at the Chicago Park District and many other presenters and funders.

Cultural Dance

Cultural dance organizations like Ensemble Español, Muntu Dance Theatre and Mandala Arts will also participate as part of the Chicago dance scene. 

Ensemble Espanol, a premier dance company originating from Albany Park gears up for it’s spring performance at Dominican University, April 23, 2022 7:30 PM.  The program includes the critically acclaimed “Danza del Fuego” (Dance of Fire) choreographed by the Ensemble’s founder, Dame Libby Komaiko, to the music of Ruiz de Luna in the Neo-Classical (Flamenco and Classical) styles. The program also features the Flamenco full company work “No Me Olvides” (No Not Forget Me) by artistic director, Irma Suarez Ruiz, along with her full company classical work, “Balle de Luis Alonso” (Dance of Luis Alonso) to the music of Geronimo Gimenez. Other highlights of the program include “Al Golpe” (To the Beat) and “Ritmo de la Tierra” (Rhythm of the Earth) choreographed by Nino de los Reyes, the first dancer to ever win a Grammy.

Get up and groove with Mandala Arts, the South Loop neighborhood’s cultural gem, specializing in South Asian dance and offering a variety of dance classes year around. Their newest offering, Seniors Dance & Movement, is a virtual fitness class for all with simple and energizing stretches. Dance and movement are set to nostalgic Bollywood grooves. Inspired by iconic South Asian folk and classical dance traditions and designed to keep bodies and minds limber and uplifted. Movements can be done from a seated or standing position.

Chicago Museums: Springtime 2022

Museums & Art Exhibitions for Springtime Chicago

The American Writers Museum reopened May 14, 2021 with a new exhibit Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable (May 2021- May 2022), chronicling the life of the well-known writer of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man, who was also a screenplay writer, a friend to Walt Disney, an amateur painter, and so much more. 

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago has a full Winter/Spring 2022 schedule, featuring the exhibits:

  • Subscribe: Artists and Alternative Magazines, 1970-1995 (Until May 2, 2022) – Beginning in the early 1970s—as underrepresented groups were demanding new forms of visibility following the emergence of political movements such as Black Power and the Stonewall Rebellion—a handful of British and American photo-driven alternative magazines came on the scene. The Face, i-D, Rags, Out/Look, and other new publications amplified marginalized voices, especially those of queer makers and makers of color, and made room for those makers to question who and what was accepted as mainstream. This exhibition brings together over 130 magazines as well as photographs and time-based media works that evidence how these publications, by prizing formal experimentation and generating new affiliations across identities, challenged mainstream definitions of culture and belonging
  • Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty (Until June 13, 2022) – Artist, designer, and writer William Morris (1838–1896) founded Morris & Co. 160 years ago, in 1861. The company quickly became regarded for its handmade wallpapers, textiles, and furniture and its style became synonymous with the British Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. Morris and his collaborators—which included his wife Jane Burden Morris, younger daughter May, artisan and designer John Henry Dearle, as well as artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rosetti—considered themselves design reformers. Accordingly, they experimented with dye recipes based on natural materials, revived hand-printing methods for fabrics and wallpapers, and reintroduced hand weaving for woven wool and silk textiles as well as pictorial tapestries. Although Morris & Co. closed its doors in 1940, the company’s aesthetic vision remains potent to this day through the continued reimagining and reworking of the textile and wallpaper designs. This exhibition explores that longevity, highlighting Morris & Co’s design tenets and favored techniques as well as Chicago area sites where the work of Morris and his contemporaries appeared. 
  • The Golden Age of Kabuki Prints (Until April 10, 2022; April 16- June 26, 2022) – The drama of Kabuki theater was most successfully conveyed in the prints of the Katsukawa School of artists because they captured the individual characteristics of each actor. Kabuki actors were the celebrities of their time, and prints depicting them found an eager audience in their fans. Founded by Katsukawa Shunshō (1726–1792), the Katsukawa school included several prominent artists, all of whom created portraits of actors performing in popular Kabuki plays in Edo, though almost all of these prints show the actors in a realistic setting—on the street or under a flowering tree—rather than on a stage. The best-known artists of the school, in addition to Shunshō, were Katsukawa Shunkō (1743–1812) and Shun’ei (1762–1819). This exhibition includes examples by all three of these artists and is drawn from the more than 700 Katsukawa School prints in the Art Institute’s collection.
  • Life and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt (Opening February 11, 2022) – The transformed space explores aspects of life and the afterlife in the Nile Valley with the first new installation of works from the museum’s historic collection of ancient Egyptian art in a quarter-century. Striking artifacts—displayed along one wall of the gallery in a series of innovative cases that promote viewing from multiple vantage points—provide insight into the beliefs and practices of this illustrious North African culture.
  • Mel Bochner Drawings: A Retrospective (April 23 – August 22, 2022) – Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly six decades, Mel Bochner has been at the forefront of Conceptual Art, producing thought-provoking work in nearly every medium: drawing, painting, prints, photography, sculpture, books, and installations. This exhibition is the first to use drawing as its principle organizing focus, foregrounding the importance of this body of work within the artist’s practice from its beginnings in the 1960s through the present. The show demonstrates Bochner’s pioneering role in redefining the traditional boundaries of drawing and illuminates the artist’s evolving ideas about seriality, temporality, and the slippage between word and image.
  • CEZANNE (May 15 – September 5, 2022) – This exhibition is the first major retrospective of the artist Paul Cezanne (French, 1839–1906)’s work in the United States in more than 25 years and the first exhibition on Cezanne organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in more than 70 years. Planned in coordination with Tate Modern, the ambitious project explores Cezanne’s work across media and genres with 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings, and two complete sketchbooks. This outstanding array encompasses the range of Cezanne’s signature subjects and series—little-known early allegorical paintings, Impressionist landscapes, paintings of Montagne Sainte Victoire, portraits, and bather scenes—and includes both well-known works and rarely seen compositions from public and private collections in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center’s new exhibitions include: 

  • The Great Chicago Fire in Focus (Until Spring 2022) – Following the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871, commercial photographers descended on the city to record its devastation but the paper-based prints offered for sale by the photographers lost much of the negative’s sharpness. For over fifty years, historian and photographic collector David R. Phillips sought and discovered the long-forgotten glass plate negatives that photographers inserted into their cameras 150 years ago. When combined with today’s digital reproduction technologies, these rescued 1870s glass negatives provide detailed imagery of the Chicago Fire’s devastation with a dramatic clarity never before possible.

Chicago History Museum’s newest permanent exhibition, City on Fire: Chicago 1871, guides visitors through the crucial events and conditions before, during and after the fire which overwhelmed Chicago for three days, submerging a city built of wood and causing severe destruction and homelessness and inflaming tensions against the immigrant Irish O’Leary family. This family-friendly exhibition features more than 100 artifacts from the Chicago History Museum’s collection, interactive and multimedia elements, and personal stories from survivors of the fire. 

  • The Chicago History Museum’s Jaffee History Trail is now open. The interpretive path through the park space around the Museum incorporates features such as a fire relic from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Couch Tomb, a reminder that the area was once a Chicago city cemetery. Developed in partnership with the Chicago Park District and support of neighborhood groups, the Jaffee History Trail creates a new destination at Lincoln Park’s southwestern corner.  The new landscaping includes approximately 150 young trees and large beds of native plants, which will attract birds and other pollinators. 

DuSable Museum of African American History is exhibiting the Un(re)solved installation, a multiplatform experience examining a federal effort to grapple with America’s legacy of racist killings. Who are the men, women, and children whose cases were reexamined under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act? In the Un(re)solved installation, explore a living quilt and use augmented reality to bring the stories woven throughout, to life. Offered in partnership with Frontline PBS. Learn more here.

  • In Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories, opening May 2022, guests are invited to experience stories told by Native American and Indigenous people of self-determination, resilience, continuity and the future. Visitors will learn about the historical significance of items in the Field’s collection, like traditional regalia and pottery, and immerse themselves in works by contemporary Native artists, including Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) raised beadwork from Karen Ann Hoffman of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and flute music from Frank Waln of the Sicangu Lakota. They will also dive deeply into current issues, like threats to Native land and the rights of tribal nations to govern themselves.

Greektown

Greektown Chicago presents a new outdoor art exhibit Hello Helios: The warming suns of Chicago’s Greektown with 24 vibrant three-dimensional artworks lining Halsted Street from Monroe to Van Buren Streets  through spring 2022. Painted by a diverse group of Chicago artists and named for Helios, the god of the sun in Greek mythology, the 24 sun sculpture editions celebrate the sun and light up the start of summer in Chicago. Many works in the exhibit draw inspiration from related mythologies, including those in the Greek, Aztec, Yoruba, Japanese and Native American cultures. 

Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago will house Frida: Immersive Dream (February 24 – May 28, 2022), which explores the Mexico-born artist’s work with 500,000 cubic feet of monumental large-scale projections animating Frida Kahlo’s oeuvre, accompanied by a ravishing musical score. 

For a unique after-hours outing, head to the Loop’s Medieval Torture Museum, the largest interactive historical museum in the U.S. Visitors are transported back in time hundreds of years to one of the darkest periods in history. Guests can explore immersive, hands-on recreations of torture chambers from the Middle Ages, made up of a unique collection of hundreds of objects. A self-guided audio tour introduces the museum’s collection and characters, while the Ghost Hunting Experience lets guests “capture” restless spirits.

Caroline Kent

Museum of Contemporary Art

Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art has a busy Winter/Spring 2022 schedule, featuring the exhibits: 

  • Bani Abidi: The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared (Until June 5, 2022) –  Pakistani artist Bani Abidi (b. 1971, lives and works in Karachi and Berlin) critiques those who hold power—and the many ways they wield it. Abidi is a master storyteller, using humor and absurdism to take on issues of militarism and nationalism as well as memory, belonging, and self-determination. Like an archeologist of urban life, Abidi intermingles fact with fiction in stories that navigate the intersection of personal and political drama. This major survey, developed in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation, explores more than two decades of Abidi’s practice and features video, photography, sound installations, and new work, as well as work from the MCA Collection.
  • Chicago Works: Caroline Kent (Until June 12, 2022) – How does language structure our world? Who gets to be inside or outside a language? What would it mean to invent a new mode of communication? And what social conditions make creating a new language necessary?
  • These are questions that Chicago artist Caroline Kent (American, b. 1975) explores through paintings, drawings, sculpture, and performance works that speak in an abstract visual vocabulary she developed over years of practice. In this Chicago Works exhibition, Kent encourages visitors to engage with her invented language of abstraction—one that defies easy interpretation or translation.
  • Alfredo Jaar: The Structure of Images (Until July 3, 2022) – In our image-saturated and media-obsessed world, what stories remain untold? Employing images, lights, and mirrors, Alfredo Jaar (Chilean, b. 1956) asks us to acknowledge subjects who are often under-recognized. Projects range in scope and subject: as one artwork focuses on an Ethiopian refugee amid the Eastern Sudan crisis, another observes remarkable but overlooked women including human rights lawyer Shada Nasser, author and activist Nawal El Saadawi, and politician Camila Vallejo. Featuring a selection of key works and installations that span three decades, The Structure of Images showcases Jaar’s critical approach to addressing injustice in our world.
  • Based on a True Story . . . (February 12-August 14, 2022) – In Based on a True Story . . ., 19 artists play with fact, fiction, and the grey areas in between. Drawn primarily from the MCA Collection, their artworks wrestle with our understanding of truth and belief by exploring fiction: Some artists craft an identity or personal memoir. Others stage complex urban landscapes that confuse our perception of the world. Still, others challenge the way the past is portrayed by historians and institutions like museums. Based on a True Story . . . invites visitors to question how we see truth—and how fiction can help us imagine new realities.
  • Coming in Spring 2022, MCA will present the first career-spanning retrospective of the internationally renowned Chicagoan Nick Cave in an exhibition titled NICK CAVE: FOROTHERMORE (May 14–Oct 2, 2022). Highlights of the exhibition will include never-before-seen works, including a continuation of the artist’s popular Soundsuits series with the premiere of Soundsuits 9:29 and a mesmerizing, site-specific installation, Spinner Forest, composed of thousands of kinetic spinners that will hang in the museum’s two-story atrium and fourth-floor lobby.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) at Columbia College Chicago is featuring:

  • From March 3-June 26, 2022, MoCP at Columbia College Chicago presents Beautiful Diaspora / You Are Not the Lesser Part, a free exhibit featuring 15 artists from around the globe whose works showcase diversity both in front of and behind the camera, as well as challenge notions of global segregation. Organized by Asha Iman Veal, MoCP’s Associate Curator, this thought-provoking collection challenges the audience to reflect on the parallel experiences and relationships between global artists of color and diverse Black artists. The exhibition features work by Xyza Cruz Bacani (Philippines), Widline Cadet (US), Jessica Chou (US), duo Amy Sanchez Arteaga and Misael Diaz (US), Işıl Eğrikavuk (Turkey/Germany), Citlali Fabián (Mexico), Sunil Gupta (Canada/UK), Kelvin Haizel (Ghana), David Heo (US), Damon Locks (US), Johny Pitts (UK), Farah Salem (Kuwait/US), Ngadi Smart (Ivory Coast/UK), Tintin Wulia (Australia), and the debut of Abena Appiah (UK).

Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) is bringing its experiential museum to Chicago this coming summer 2022. Located at The Shops at Tribune Tower at 435 N Michigan Ave, the one-of-its-kind space will span 13,544 square feet and encompass retail, entertainment, and a cafe and bar. Plans include the rollout of new features and attractions specifically designed for Chicago including the Sprink-L, a Chicago-inspired CTA “L”; a giant dessert-themed putt putt course with a pink Chicago dog ice cream treat; and a 3,500-square-foot speakeasy accessible to the general public.

At the reopened Museum of Illusions Chicago, guests can enjoy more than 80 visual and educational exhibits featuring holograms, stereograms, optical illusions, and immersive rooms that are designed to tease the senses and trick the mind. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced along with temperature checks, reduced capacity, timed-ticketing and increased sanitation and cleaning. 

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry Chicago (MSI)’s popular Boeing 727, which made history during the early age of jet travel, reopened to the public with a new Take Flight exhibit that celebrates the historic United Airlines plane and explores how the airline industry connects people. The project involved restoring and highlighting the plane’s interior and creating brand-new interactives to bring flying to life. The plane’s fuselage bears the name of Captain William Norwood, the first African-American pilot for United, whose story is featured in the exhibit. A 150-foot display takes guests on a behind-the-scenes journey from aircraft assembly to takeoff, showcasing the variety of careers and people working in aviation. This spectacular wall reveals the complex systems that help people build new planes, manage airport operations and track flights and passengers all around the world.

New attractions coming to MSI for Winter/Spring 2022 include: 

  • Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition (January 17 – April 17, 2022) – The longest-running exhibit of African-American art in the nation—hosted at MSI since  1970—showcases nearly 200 works by professional and student artists. The annual Black Creativity program also features an Innovator Gallery of African-American leaders  who are transforming Chicago; educational workshops for students; family events; and the Black Creativity Gala. A special exhibit, Black Creativity: Architecture, explores the impact of Black architects throughout history, from ancient buildings to modern skyscrapers. 
  • The Art of the Brick (February 10 – September 5, 2022) – Designed to inspire ingenuity and creativity, The Art of the Brick is the world’s largest and most elaborate display of LEGO art featuring more than 100

  • Coal Mine and U-505 Submarine, two guest favorites, will reopen to the public in February 2022 after pandemic-related closures. The Coal Mine takes guests down a mineshaft, along the rails and through a true-to-life coal mine with an engaging tour of mining history and innovations. The U-505 On-board Tour is an interactive walk through history, from the cramped quarters to the feel of battle. 

The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation has a slate of new events for the Winter/Spring season, including free readings, talks, exhibitions, and more. On February 5, 2022, the Foundation will kick off a new partnership with Poetry Ireland with COMMONground, the first in a series of transatlantic events. The reading and conversation with acclaimed Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa and award-winning American poet Teri Ellen Cross Davis, moderated by Erin Fornoff, probes concepts of struggle, motherhood, and the complexities of honoring the past while raising the future.

  • For And Nor But Or Yet So, Bob Faust’s installation honoring poet Patricia Smith, is extended until March 13, 2022. The installation can be viewed on the exterior of the Poetry Foundation building, which will reopen to the public in April 2022 for in-person events. 

Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, the newest special exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center running through May 8, 2022, explores the June 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn as the flashpoint that ignited the modern gay rights movement in the United States. Blending together historic images and artifacts of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, the 85 items on display in Rise Up include posters from Harvey Milk’s campaign for public office in San Francisco, a rainbow flag in its original colors signed by its creator Gilbert Baker, and early LGBTQ magazines and publications.

  • Opening January 27, 2022 (Holocaust Remembrance Day), visitors can experience the virtual reality exhibition The Journey Back: A VR Experience, which applies cutting-edge technology to engage visitors on a journey as they walk through concentration camps with Holocaust Survivors who experienced them. The exhibition is a global game-changer, revolutionizing the field of Holocaust memory through innovative technology and transportive storytelling. In this exhibit, the participant controls their own 360-degree experience as they walk with Survivors Fritzie Fritzshall and George Brent through their childhood homes and current day Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee.

The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art presents Bob Thompson: This House is Mine, running from February 15-May 15, 2022, the first museum exhibition dedicated to this visionary painter in more than twenty years. Through more than 85 paintings and works on paper, the exhibition traces Thompson’s brief but prolific transatlantic career, examining both his formal inventiveness and his engagement with themes of collectivity, jazz, love, bearing witness, struggle and justice.

What’s Happening Springtime Chicago

The stages of Chicago’s theaters are once again lighting up after more than a year of darkness with myriad new performances that capture Chicago’s creative spirit, including the North American tours of Come From Away, Hadestown, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, SIX, To Kill a Mockingbird and others. The recently reopened Steppenwolf Theatre Company now has a new $54 million arts and education center that includes a theatre-in-the-round is hosting the world-premiere of King James, an intimate exploration of the place that sports and athletes (think “King” LeBron James) occupy in our emotional lives and relationships.

More Chicago Theater Offerings

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Erin Harkey have just announced the designation of 2022 as the “Year of Chicago Dance”, a yearlong collaborative initiative which will activate Chicago’s dance industry to address critical issues facing dancers and showcase dance performances, social dancing, and special events for the public in dozens of venues throughout the city. 

The Arts in the City

At the Art Institute of Chicago, a groundbreaking exhibit on Life and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt will be followed by the first major retrospective of French artist Paul CEZANNE to be exhibited in the U.S. in over 25 years. The Museum of Contemporary Art will present the first career-spanning retrospective of the internationally renowned Chicagoan Nick Cave in an exhibition titled NICK CAVE: FOROTHERMORE while the blockbuster immersive arts venue Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago will house Frida: Immersive Dream, an exploration of the Mexico-born artist’s work with 500,000 cubic feet of monumental large-scale projections animating Kahlo’s oeuvre, accompanied by a ravishing musical score. 

With careful COVID-19 protocols and social distancing in place, hybrid and live events will return to the city with the 

Chicago Restaurant Week will follow soon after in late March/early April, celebrating the city’s award-winning culinary scene with special prix fixe lunch and dinner menus (ranging from $25-$55) available via dine-in or takeout/delivery options. At long last EXPO Chicago, the international exhibition of contemporary and modern art, will return to Navy Pier in early April.

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new for Winter/Spring 2022! Visit www.ChooseChicago.com for more information.

Chicago Accolades!

The Langham Chicago
  • The Michelin Guide celebrated Chicago’s resilient culinary scene by granting three new restaurants Michelin stars, including: 
  • Ever (West Loop – Two Star), where Chef Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser preside over a bespoke room in which fine dining enchants palates with complex flavors, stirring textures and visual fireworks;  
  • Moody Tongue (South Loop – Two Star), Jared Wentworth’s seasonal, ingredient-driven tasting menu concept housed in the Moody Tongue brewery building;
  • Porto (Bucktown – One Star), where Chef Marcos Campos’ style is anchored by his Spanish heritage and explores the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal through its conservas, seafood and specialty rice dishes.

Chicago’s New Accomodations

Canopy by Hilton Central Loop, located directly across the street from Willis Tower, in the epicenter of Chicago’s financial district, features a total of 215 total guest rooms (192 regular rooms and 23 suites). Famous attractions such as The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and Chicago Riverwalk are less than 10 minutes away.

Open all day, the onsite Depot 226, a Bistro, market and coffee shop, offers a stylish, retro space that is inviting and comfortable and perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even a casual dinner. 

The Chicago Hotel Collection welcomed a new location in Millennium Park this summer featuring 4-Star all-suite accommodations with full kitchens, perfect for business, leisure, extended stays, corporate relocations, or large groups/families.

Guests will have access to an expert Concierge Team and receive an incredible daily amenity package featuring 3 drinks per night, free Wi-Fi, use of Peloton Bikes on-site with reservation, early check-in/late check-out, booking credits to use for their next stay when booked direct and a complimentary 1-year Club 1 Hotels membership. Another outpost, the Magnificent Mile Hotel & Suites, opened December 2021, just 350 feet from Michigan Avenue.

The LaSalle Hotel, Autograph Collection, situated in the heart of the Financial District, offers a sophisticated and tailored experience for business and leisure travelers.

Experience fine dining at Grill on 21, an elevated and modern take on the classic American grill concept featuring a focus on quality and sustainability. An expansive gym offers premiere TechnoGym equipment as well as Peloton bikes. World-class accommodations include spacious rooms averaging 430 square feet, oversized Calacatta marble bathrooms with luxurious walk-in showers, and a window-side marble top dining table. The hotel is projected to open in March 2022. 

Pendry Hotels & Resorts announced its further U.S. expansion with the renovation of the Art Deco Chicago landmark, the Carbide & Carbon Building (and former St. Jane Hotel), as Pendry Chicago in spring 2021.

Featuring 364 redesigned guestrooms and suites in a contemporary palette awash in warm minimal tones and comfortable finishes, the Pendry Chicago also features public spaces thoughtfully designed by Alessandro Munge’s Studio Munge. The hotel’s signature restaurant and bar concept, Venteux, is helmed by Executive Chef-Partner Donald Young (Temporis, Les Nomades, Bistrot Saveurs), Chicago’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, and overseen by hospitality and nightlife pioneer, Andy Masi, and his Clique Hospitality group. In addition, the hotel features a lobby bar and lounge, a spectacular rooftop lounge, 12,000 square feet of meetings and event space, curated fitness and wellness programming, and an extensive art collection.

The St. Regis Chicago is set to debut in 2022 as the 50th St. Regis globally. 

Through architectural ingenuity and a shimmering homage to sky and water, the 101-story St. Regis Chicago, designed by award-winning architect Jeanne Gang, has changed Chicago’s iconic skyline. It is now the third tallest building in Chicago, the 10th tallest in the United States, and the tallest building in the world designed by a female. The tower’s crystalline form was inspired by the facets of a shimmering gem and the building is coated in six varying shades of blue-green glass to reflect the changing colors of Lake Michigan. The Hotel will comprise the first 11 floors of the building, featuring 192 luxurious guest rooms, multiple signature dining options, a 12,000 square foot, world-class St. Regis Spa, a fitness center, indoor pool and outdoor sunken terrace with scenic views, a 5,000 square foot ballroom and 3,000 square feet of executive and pre-function space and the St. Regis Signature Butler Service. The Hotel’s backyard is a six-acre wide open botanical green space featuring a children’s play park, dog park, and attractive ornamental and water gardens.

Chicago Restaurant Week

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Chicago Restaurant Week (March 25-April 10, 2022), a celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene bringing together hundreds of the area’s top restaurants across more than thirty Chicago neighborhoods. This year there are 50+ women- and minority-owned restaurants participating (many for the first time) from neighborhoods as far ranging as South Shore and Bronzeville. Diners can enjoy special prix fixe menus from restaurants throughout Chicago and nearby suburbs, with multi-course meals available at $25 for brunch or lunch, and $39 and/or $55 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, gratuity, and delivery fees). This year, diners will continue to have the flexibility to experience Chicago Restaurant Week through dine-in or takeout/delivery options.

Chicago Restaurants & Dining

Adalina

Opened last summer in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, Adalina serves a modern and engaging Italian menu by Michelin-starred chef Soo Ahn, previously with Band of Bohemia. Adalina’s menu creates a balance between Northern and Southern cuisines; guests can expect house-made extruded and stuffed pastas, imported meats and cheeses, and hand-selected beef and seafood selections.

Alla Vita

Opened in September 2021 in the West Loop neighborhood, Alla Vita (which means “to life” in Italian) is the newest concept from Executive Chef Lee Wolen and Boka Restaurant Group, serving a casual, family-style menu of fresh, delicious Italian food made simply with the best ingredients.

Chef/Owner Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y., Somerset) debuted his newest concept, Apolonia in the South Loop in April 2021. Named after Gillanders’ grandmother, Apolonia offers seasonal, seafood-centric coastal European and Mediterranean fare. Pastry chef Tatum Sinclair has developed a collection of noteworthy items such as a savory black truffle puff bread, and a signature pistachio gelato. Sommelier Jelena Prodan has created a distinct beverage program with wines thoughtfully sourced from all around the globe, an expansive by-the-glass selection, and an exciting, one-of-a-kind vermouth program with custom-blended Apolonia vermouth on tap. 

In partnership with the famous Gibsons Restaurant Group. Chef José Andrés debuted Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar in December 2021 inside Bank of America’s new Chicago headquarters, near the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Bazaar Meat celebrates all things carnivorous, including personalized tasting menus featuring expertly dry-aged Wagyu and the like hand-selected from more than 400 cuts of meat, while Bar Mar is a true celebration of the bounty of the sea, with modern takes on iconic seafood classics like fried calamari and lobster rolls.

Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room boutique, has partnered with global hospitality design trailblazer Cecilia Cuff of The Nascent Group on his newest venture: Bronzeville Winery. Opening in 2022, guests of the winery will enjoy a rotating wine list with selections from around the world highlighting African American-owned labels paired with an ever-changing seasonal menu that pays homage to the flavors of the African diaspora, paired with wine, craft cocktails and beer for every palate. The team’s goal in the design of the Winery is to encourage guests to spend time, to socialize and network in the space. To that end, the decor will feature a revolving art collection, and a state-of-the-art sound system will pipe in a well-curated playlist and live music. Programming will feature wine talks, art openings, and cultural events; the space will also be available for private events.

Esmé Chicago opened August 2021 in Lincoln Square, from Chef Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo. This fine-dining concept is also mission-driven and community-focused as they partner with local artists on collaborative tasting menus.

Gordon Ramsay Burger, a new concept from celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, opened in a 5,000 square foot space in the city’s River North neighborhood in December 2021. The Chicago location, equipped with an island bar and seating for 120, will be the second Gordon Ramsay Burger location in the U.S – and the chef’s first restaurant in Chicago. Alongside elevated, butter-based burgers (blending different cuts of meat to impart a bolder flavor), the developing menu also plans to include milkshakes, fries, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. There are also ketchup-laden hot dogs on the menu (a bold choice for a Chicago audience).

Hinoki Sushiko from Chef Otto Phan & Chef Gustavo Barahona, opened April 2021. This two-story space in the Elston corridor offers two types of chef-driven experiences under one roof: a 50-seat izakaya-style downstairs lounge serves traditional Japanese comfort food with a modern take, along with craft cocktails and Sake and a 40-person upstairs dining room (and 8-seat sushi counter) for Edomae-style Omakase dining serving a 15 piece meal.

Kitchen United MIX, a to-go food hall, is opening a second Chicago location in the former Wells St. Market.  Kitchen United MIX, the future of takeout & delivery, is the nation’s first “Multi-Restaurant Ordering” to-go experience, the only destination that allows foodie fans who love variety to order meals from 10+ restaurants, all on the same bill. They have locations around the nation, including one in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.  The new 10,500 square-foot facility houses local, regional and national restaurant brands, including Hawaiian Bros, Greenleaf, Siri Indian Express, Trejo’s Tacos, Dog Haus, Plant B and more. 

Black owned Kitchen + Kocktails, which made its debut last summer 2021, has taken the city by storm. From flavored fried chicken and lobster tails, to shrimp and grits and southern classics with a twist, this is a great addition to the River North culinary scene. 

KOVAL Distillery opened its hotly anticipated tasting room last fall on Chicago’s Malt Row, named for the bevy of breweries in the Ravenswood neighborhood. The sun-filled tasting room, outfitted with a marble bar and leather sofas, seats 96. French doors open to an ivy-covered outdoor patio that accommodates up to 30 people. Guests can sample flights of whiskey and gin, or try cocktails made with KOVAL spirits and paired with small bites.

DineAmic Hospitality reinvented its popular, decade-old concept Public House, as Radio Room last summer, an American restaurant sports bar and music lounge set. The 10,000-square-foot space can seat 300 guests at full capacity in four unique spaces and becomes a go-to for everything from game day to late-night jam sessions.

A 15-foot stage is backlit with a wall of smart marquee bulbs that strobe and dance with the music during late-night live performances or laid-back sets at brunch, and the design theme juxtaposes vintage kitsch with today’s tech. At The Studio, an intimate private event and daytime dining space inspired by a real-life recording studio, guests can partake in blue-tooth headphone karaoke that only their party can hear. Meanwhile, nostalgia reigns in The Deck, a 10-by-10-foot space housing the Pop-A-Shot Shot Bar, where guests can shoot baskets and sip throwback shooters like Flaming Doctor Peppers and Pickle-backs. Chef Nolan Narut, former Executive Chef of Ella Elli and Stefani Prime, hits all the right notes with a menu inspired by American Southern comfort food from culinary cities like Nashville and Charleston but made with fresh, local ingredients.

Joe Flamm, the South Side Chicago native, Spiaggia alum and Season 15 winner of Top Chef, debuted Rose Mary in April 2021, inspired by his Italian heritage and the bold, bright flavors of Croatian cuisine.

The space, located in the historic Fulton Market District and named for Flamm’s grandmothers, as well as the herb rosemary which grows natively along the Italian and Croatian coastlines, offers a seasonal menu of rustic yet refined dishes that encapsulate what Flamm has coined “Adriatic drinking food.” Designed by award-winning Los Angeles-based firm Studio UNLTD, the dynamic interior with whitewashed brick walls, honey-colored oak millwork, and pale stone surfaces—all accented by moments of red clay and deep, azure blue tilework—reflects the utilitarian yet celebratory spirit of traditional family-run, age-old taverns in Croatia known as konobas. Rose Mary has also taken second place in TimeOut’s list of The 21 best new restaurants in the world right now.

In Summer 2021, José Andrés, chef, restaurateur and founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, and his ThinkFoodGroup — opened Jaleo, in River North, bringing alive the spirit and flavors of modern-day Spain through an impressive assortment of tapas, paellas, sangrias, Spanish wines and sherries, all within a festive, casual atmosphere. In fall, he opened Pigtail, an intimate, speakeasy-style bar on the lower level of Jaleo, taking its name from the ibérico pork which infuses almost every dish on the menu (Pig), and the bespoke cocktails (tail). 

Time Out Market Chicago is excited to add to its carefully curated showcase of delicious cuisine with Lil Amaru set to open late January 2022 . A spinoff of its sister restaurant Amaru, located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Lil Amaru will feature globally inspired Latin Street Food and Tacos.  

Opened this past April 2021 in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Tree House is a flourishing, nature-inspired, chef-driven bar and restaurant serving up elevated renditions of comfort food and bar classics, including three distinct styles of pizza. Marco Colin (The Publican, Soho House, Alinea), executive chef at La Luna Chicago, will take on the additional role of executive chef at Tree House with a high quality, ingredient-focused approach to modern Italian fare. The kitchen’s two ovens, a custom-built, wood-burning brick oven and traditional deck oven, serve up Tree House’s three styles of pizza. The bar program pairs well with chef Colin’s playful menus, featuring an array of vibrant cocktails curated for celebrating, such as Negronis, spritzers and frozen cocktails. In full capacity, the restaurant holds 200-seats, glistening with a disco ball fixture overhead and an aesthetic enlivened through fixtures like tree-inspired installations made by local artists, sprawling greenery, exposed concrete and bright colors and patterns.

New York food hall Urbanspace will open two Chicago locations, the city’s first new food hall since the pandemic. Urbanspace West Washington recently opened while a second 12,000 square foot location, inside Willis Tower, is projected to open in Winter 2022. 

This spring, Chicago’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Donald Young (Temporis, Les Nomades, Bistrot Saveurs) debuted  Venteux, a lively French brasserie featuring a swanky oyster and Champagne bar located in the new Pendry Chicago. As Executive Chef-Partner, Young opened the high-energy brasserie in partnership with acclaimed national entertainment maverick and restaurant operator, Clique Hospitality (Pendry Hotels & Resorts, MGM Resorts International, Blackstone Group). Located at 230 North Michigan Avenue within the city’s historic 1920s art deco landmark Carbide & Carbon Building, Venteux commissioned world-renowned design firm Studio Munge to create a luxurious ambiance that invites guests in to get wrapped up in comforting French fare imbued with Young’s signature creativity.

Cover photo courtesy Christopher|F Photography featured on Choose Chicago.

Murder and Mayhem Down on the Farm: The Belle Gunness Story

Terri Schlichenmeyer, a book reviewer who works with more than 220 newspapers and magazines around the U.S. and Canada and is a contributor to WebbWeekly, had this to say about my book:

“Speaking of wild women, you’ll be riveted by “America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness” by Jane Simon Ammeson (Red Lightning Books, $20.00). More than a century has gone since Belle Gunness killed her first victim and she didn’t stop there. Belle went on to kill at least thirteen more people over the course of just over twenty years. Money was involved, of course, and she had a little bit of help now and then, but what’s creepiest about Belle are the circumstances of her death. And now you’ve gotta read the book…”

Chicago’s New Year’s Eve Blast: Fireworks, Fun, and Safety

 Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Arena Partners, Choose Chicago, and Navy Pier joined together in welcoming the New Year with a 1.5-mile-long midnight fireworks display along the lakefront and Chicago River.

These will be the largest fireworks display the City’s ever had and will be accompanied by a live simulcast from WGN. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still threatening the health and safety of Chicago residents, the City has introduced health guidelines that will encourage visitors and residents alike to celebrate safely.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to welcome back our New Year’s Eve fireworks and hope to continue this tradition into the future,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Importantly, the display can be viewed outdoors where the spread of COVID-19 is less likely, so our residents and visitors should feel comfortable while masking up and social distancing or even watching safely from home. I look forward to welcoming a happy new year.

Promptly at midnight, a fireworks display choreographed to a special music soundtrack will light up the sky synchronized across eight separate launch sites along the Chicago River and in Lake Michigan near Navy Pier. The display will be free to view, courtesy of the City, Choose Chicago, and participating partners from across the hospitality community. A website has been created to provide details about the event including locations where people can view the fireworks. WGN-TV will be broadcasting live starting at 11:00 pm and showcase the Midnight Fireworks and accompanying music soundtrack. Viewers are encouraged to watch the show from the safety of their homes.

The Chicago Department of Public Health encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are by far the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus. Even if you are vaccinated, consider a COVID-19 test (either through a healthcare provider or at home) before gathering, and encourage guests to do the same before indoor holiday gatherings. Tests can help protect unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease. As a reminder, the mask mandate for Chicago and Illinois remains in effect and a mask is required at all public indoor settings across the city. Many venues will also require proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test for entry. Effective Monday, January 3, 2022, any individual 5 years of age or older will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink are being served. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, are sick, or experiencing any COVID- or flu-like symptoms; you should not attend any gatherings for New Year’s Eve, even if you are vaccinated. For more information on how to stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19, visit chicago.gov/covid.

“This will be the largest fireworks display in the City’s history and one of the largest anywhere in the world,” said Arena Partners CEO, John Murray, who is producing the event again this year after a 2-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. “It is so great that the City is open again and welcoming people back to our fantastic hotels, restaurants, and cultural institutions.”

Event partners are located in close proximity to the display launch points, offering guests beautiful views and plenty of entertainment options. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry at a variety of partner venues and events. The fireworks will also be broadcast live on WGN-TV.

“Navy Pier is incredibly excited to host the return of its iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks show to ring in a new year with the city of Chicago,” said Marilynn Gardner, President and CEO of Navy Pier. “We look forward to welcoming guests to celebrate safely at Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s most treasured and important civic institutions.”

“As any Chicagoan knows, this is a city of big thinking and big plans and New Year’s Eve 2021 will be big,” said Glenn Eden, Chair of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to be working with this outstanding team to welcome 2022 and ring in the new year with our residents and visitors.” 

The event is made possible by support from the City of Chicago and partners from the hospitality industry, which employs more than 90,000 workers. 

Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.

         Once Abra Berens, the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.

         Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titled Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.

         Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.

         Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored  Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.

         “We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”

         Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.

         “But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist.  “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”

         And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers  including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.  

         We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock.  When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”

         “The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.

         Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com

         Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”

         And she takes things very seriously.

         “Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”

         With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.

The following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
  • 1/4 cup Tajín Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
  • 1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.

Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.

Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.

Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the

chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.

To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.

Tajín Oil

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tajín

In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
  • 4 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
  • 2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
  • 4 ounces ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.

Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.

Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.

Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.

Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad

For the spoon pudding:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the salad:

  • About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt

4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

To make the spoon pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.

Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago, Winter 2021

I love Chicago no matter the time of year, but this time of year with all the holiday lights and decorations, the streets and trees dusted with snow, it all takes on such a magical glow. That’s why I was happy when my friend Katie Papadopoulos of Choose Chicago sent me a list–and it’s a long one–of all the special ways to enjoy the city this season.

Visit the traditional Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) for a mug of glühwein and that perfect handcrafted gift. Lace up your skates and zip around The Peninsula Sky Rink (the only hotel skating rink in Chicago) followed by a traditional Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20 foot Christmas tree. Marvel at the thousands of twinkling lights on display at ZooLights and Illumination at The Morton Arboretum or the dozens of festively decorated trees at the MSI’s Christmas Around the World display.  Or head over to Navy Pier’s new “Light Up the Lake, an indoor, temperature controlled experience featuring large-scale light-sculpture displays, a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Winterland at Gallagher Way will extend its festivities beyond the holiday season with ice bumper cars, skating lessons and curling lessons running through January/February 2022 and the popular Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon will return with a fun new collaboration with the blockbuster art experience Immersive Van Gogh, projecting visuals of sunflowers and starry night brush strokes onto the ice. 

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new in Chicago this holiday season! 

Visit the below links for more information regarding: 

Holiday Attractions & Programming

Attractions:

The holiday season kicks off in Chicago on November 20 with the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, returning  for the annual Tree-Lighting Parade down North Michigan Avenue with Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® Resorts in Florida. The event-filled day begins at 11:00 AM. starting at Lights Festival Lane (401 North Michigan Avenue) with a festive thoroughfare of booths and family activities, including photos with Santa Claus. The parade of fabulous floats, giant helium balloons, exciting marching bands, celebrities, musical performances, Santa Claus, and more begin at 5:30 PM., helping illuminate the more than 200 trees along The Magnificent Mile. 

The City of Chicago’s 108th Christmas Tree lighting in Millennium Park will return November 19, 2021 and shine through the holiday season until January 9, 2022. The festivities begin with a pre-show by DJ Selah Say (5:30-6:00 PM), performances by Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, the cast of Chicago Opera Theater, a youth dance ensemble from the Kenwood School of Ballet and special guests Dreezy Claus and Sister Claus (6:00-6:30 PM), the tree-lighting and fireworks (6:30 PM) and a post-lighting concert featuring  DJ Selah Say, Cirque du Soleil, Chicago Soul Spectacular and singer-songwriter Brian McKnight (6:35-7:45 PM).

Bring the holiday season onto the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan with a series of brunch, lunch and dinner cruises from City Cruises by Hornblower celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Prices range from $60 – $300 and include 2-3 hours of buffet or plated dinner service, spectacular views of the city skyline and local landmarks, onboard entertainment, festive decor, open bar for select cruises or the ability to upgrade your drink menu with creative cocktails, wine and beer. 

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light Exhibits return to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) from November 17, 2021-January 3, 2022, an annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree and now has expanded to feature a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. This year, MSI is celebrating the golden age of travel with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight’s 727, which have been newly reimagined. Entrance to the exhibits is included in the regular cost of entry with museum admission ($21.95 for anyone Age 12+, $12.95 for any child 3-11) but those who wish to take a picture with Santa in his photo studio inside the Holiday Store must buy a special timed-entry ticket. 

Christkindlmarket, the beloved annual holiday tradition returns for its 25th season this year in Daley Plaza (November 19-December 24, 2021). Modeled after the 16th century holiday markets in Germany, this Christmas bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightfully warm beverages, charming musical performances and charming holiday vibes that the entire family can enjoy. Enjoy a mug of glühwein (traditional hot spiced wine), snack on  currywurst, schnitzel and pretzels and shop for the perfect handmade gift. Another Christkindlmarket will take place at Wrigleyville (November 19-December 31, 2021).

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is thrilled to announce a new winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, debuting for its inaugural winter season starting November 20-February 2022. Completely transforming the hotel’s lounge, Fairmont Lodge celebrates the winter season with cozy décor, fire pits, festive programming, overnight packages and more.  Chef William Schultz completes the experience with a seasonal menu of wintery-themed bites like Sweet and Savory Fondue and S’mores, Oaxaca Spiced Short Ribs and more. Signature hand-crafted cocktails include a Flaming Eggnog made tableside and Oh So Delish Hot Chocolate, both served in a Lodge-themed collector cup. Cozy up to one of Fairmont Lodge’s nine indoor fire pit tables (every Wednesday-Sunday), enjoy weekly Thursday Happy Hours in December and check the calendar for special events. 

The ninth annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns as a walking experience from November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Visitors can explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound, and see returning favorites and surprising new sights, including a special Human+Nature display and an experience featuring 150 colorful lanterns. Along the one-mile, paved walking path filled with festive music and lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter, guests can warm up by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Advance purchase is recommended as many nights will sell out.

  • IllumiBrew returns for two nights (November 18 and 19), a special event where an ages 21+ crowd can sample seasonal beers, ciders, and meads from popular Chicagoland breweries stationed along the Illumination trail; each tasting ticket includes fifteen 3 oz beer samples and a souvenir light up tasting glass. 

Navy Pier’s “Light Up the Lake will open on November 26, 2021 and run through January 2, 2022. This indoor, temperature controlled experience will feature large-scale light-sculpture displays (more than 600,000 twinkling lights), a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Every ticket also comes with a free ride on the Centennial Wheel. Light Up the Lake will also offer sit-down dining with holiday-themed eats, signature cocktails, and seasonal brews.

Santa Baby Bar, opening November 17, 2021, returns for the holiday season with a multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top Christmas experience. All guests must reserve online, for no more than six people, and all tables are limited to no more than ninety minute intervals. 

Returning for its ninth season, The Peninsula Sky Rink (2,100 sq ft) is the only hotel skating rink in Chicago, located above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue. Surrounded by Chicago’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights, the rink is tucked into a pine tree winter wonderland and bathed in festive music and snowflake lighting. The skating rink’s outdoor menu features a selection of hot beverages and snacks including hot chocolate, hot cider, and other treats, and is available for groups to rent or for private events. All monies collected include skate rental ($20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under) and are donated to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Winterland at Gallagher Way (November 19, 2021 – February 20, 2022)  will include a ceremonial tree lighting (November 29, 2021), ice skating on an 8,000 square-foot ice rink,Santa’s Workshop, wreath making workshops (December 4-5, 2021), holiday movie screenings (Thursdays in December 2021) and special programming at Hotel Zachary (weekends in November-December, 2021). New to this year’s transformation will be a special celebration of Hanukkah (December 5, 2021), ice bumper cars and skating lessons (January 2022) and curling lessons (February 2022). 

The popular Winter Wonderland returns to The Godfrey Hotel’s I|O Rooftop Lounge. The heated, clear-dome igloos on the rooftop’s outdoor portico will make guests feel like they are in their own personal snow globe. Order a hot cocktail and s’mores to roast over the outdoor firepits and enjoy winter in Chicago under the city lights. 

  • Minimum required to reserve one of the smaller (6-person) igloos is one bottle while the minimum for a larger igloo is $500. Due to extremely high demand igloos are only available for a two-hour window and fully close by 11PM (8PM on Sundays). 

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition, is back and better than ever (from November 19, 2021-January 2, 2022) with a new Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the heart of the zoo, a new holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, and an exciting new light show on the South Lawn. Also new this year: sensory-friendly visit times and an impressive 18-foot holiday tree sure to inspire festive oohs and aahs. Tickets are $5 per person (free admission on Mondays and Tuesdays).

Holiday Meals:

Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can enjoy Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20-foot Christmas tree; the menu features a traditional English tea menu, including a variety of finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with house made preserves, Devonshire clotted cream, seasonal pastries with choux, chocolate, and winter fruit creations. (Vegan and gluten-free options are available). Festive Afternoon Tea is offered through January 9, 2022.

  • Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (December 24-25, 2021) with a Christmas Eve prix-fixe dinner in The Lobby featuring Wagyu, Maine Lobster, Scallops and Peking Duck followed by a lush dessert buffet. A trio band will provide the entertainment and dinner is priced at $205 per person, with an option to add wine pairings for $65 per person. Or they can join for brunch in The Lobby on Christmas Day with an American four-course menu featuring à la carte options combined with buffet items served from a carving, seafood, cheese and charcuterie station and a decadent dessert buffet. A string quartet will provide the entertainment as well as a balloon artist and magician to entertain children. Brunch seatings (10:00 AM to 5:00PM) are priced at $275 per adult, $75 per child (five to 12 years).
  • Ring in 2022, Peninsula-style at The Lobby’s New Year’s Eve Gala (December 31, 2021), where a five-course prix-fixe dinner and dancing will be accompanied by a live band. The 21+ event is black tie optional and is priced at $205 per person with an additional $95 for wine pairings. Z Bar will also be ringing in 2022 with a ticketed soirée starting at 8:00 pm with an open bar, abundant passed hors d’oeuvres, DJ-ed entertainment and a Champagne toast at midnight. The party concludes at 1:00 am. Tickets for this 21+ event are $195 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. 

The Langham Chicago’s Holiday Afternoon Tea will return in partnership with Veuve Clicquot from November 17, 2021-January 9, 2022, where delicate pastries and savory petite sandwiches will be joined by Langham’s proprietary tea blends, seasonally-inspired treats and a special course from Veuve Clicquot.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Travelle at The Langham will serve a Christmas Eve Entrée Special (priced at $82 per person) on December 24, 2021 from 5:00-10:00 PM; the menu will include a truffled chicken “pot pie” for two adorned with herb-roasted chicken, truffled confit thighs, black trumpets, and Caroline ruby sweet potatoes.
  • On December 25, 2021 Travelle will serve a Christmas Day Brunch (11:00AM – 3:00PM) with a variety of breakfast favorites, omelets made to order, artisanal cheese and cured meats, exquisite sushi and seafood options, and heavenly pastries. (The buffet is $195 per adult and $60 for children 5-12 years of age, and prepayment and reservations are required through the Travelle Tock.)
  • Or there is a six course Christmas Day Prix Fixe Dinner ($165 per adult) from 5:00-10:00 PM featuring a Royal Kaluga Caviar Amuse, Beet Root Panna Cotta Salad and Wild Mushroom Risotto appetizer, followed by a Roasted Prime Filet entrée and dessert service of Mont Blanc and Petit fours by Chef Nitin.
  • Ring in the New Year at Travelle at The Langham with a New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Dinner on December 31, 2021 (5:00-10:00 PM) with a seven-course prix fixe menu featuring dishes including Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Hudson Valley Foie Gras appetizer, and Grilled Australian Wagyu NY Strip. To finish off a magnificent dining experience, guests can enjoy an indulgent dessert with Intermezzo featuring lemon with Grand Marnier and an extravagant Chocolate Experience with Manjari mousse, praline cremeux, and hazelnut ice cream. A splendid wine collection will also be available à la carte. Reservations must be made in advance through the Travelle Tock and prepayment is required at $190 per adult.

Private experiences with Santa, dinner packages and private events offered by Swissôtel Chicago for the 2021 holiday season include: 

  • Holiday Tradition Package: Stop by Santa’s Presidential Pad with up  to 15 guests to visit the man of the season and overindulge in unlimited Swiss hot cocoa, champagne and holiday treats including Candied Orange SnoBall Cookies, Reindeer Chow, Eggnog Truffles and more. The experience also includes cookie decorating, crafts with Make to Celebrate, face painting and letter writing, complete with a visit to Santa’s Post Office. $50 of  the total price will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Available to book every Saturday and Sunday for $600/hour from December 4 – December 19, 2021; 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.
  • Family Dinner Package: Gather with six or more loved ones for an over-the-top holiday dinner in  the Santa Suite, Duplex Suite, Vitality Suite or Chef’s Table Virtual Suite. Enjoy a 4-course  holiday-inspired menu by Chef Dan McGee, with menu items including Roast Chicken with red  cabbage, spätzle, raclette cheese, chicken jus, Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shanks with a  pomegranate bordelaise, Chocolate Peppermint Cake and more. Holiday crafts are available  upon request. Dinners are available to book daily beginning November 20-December 26, 2021 at $150 per adult and $50 per child.  
  • VIP Reception in Santa Suite: Whether it’s a  corporate holiday party or family reunion, the Santa Suite can fit up to 50 people for private  events beginning November 20-December 26, 2021. Work with the events team to curate an  experience with festive cocktails and a menu featuring Chilled Potato Soup & Caviar Shooter,  Smoked Duck Breast Marmalade, Curry Chicken Salad Sliders, Pecan & Roasted White Chocolate Tarts and more.  

Hotel Packages:

© 2018 Galdones Photography

A series of Yuletide specials this holiday season at The Langham Chicago (available November 19, 2021 – January, 2, 2022) include Oh Christmas Tree (including luxurious one-bedroom suite accommodations with a decorated Christmas tree in-room, deconstructed champagne cocktails inspired by the season; and bespoke cheese and charcuterie; rates beginning at $1,100) and Dive into the Season (including lavish guest room accommodations, $100 food and beverage credit for poolside snacks and beverages, two hours of exclusive access to Chuan Spa’s indoor pool and holiday-themed floats; rates begin at $825.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Or splurge on A Signature Christmas in a 2,400 sq. ft. suite with floor-to-ceiling windows featuring panoramic views of Chicago, a four-course, in-residence dinner prepared by Executive Chef Damion Henry, in-suite dining entertainment, Club Lounge access and a custom-designed holiday tree set in the parlor. (Rates start at $13,525.)

At The Peninsula Chicago, holiday packages like the Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package and Merry and Bright Couple’s Holiday Package include such amenities as an in-room holiday tree or Menorah, holiday welcome amenity or bottle of wine/Champagne upon arrival, access to library of holiday themed movies, books and games for the kids or a $100 gift card to the nearby Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue store, daily Peninsula breakfast and daily valet parking. Rates start at $1,250, packages available from November 26-December 31, 2021.

  • For six days, The Peninsula Chicago is offering special pricing for a Cyber sale commencing Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 2021) through Travel Tuesday (November 30, 2021) for 20% off rooms and suites on stays from December 1, 2021 – April 30, 2022. and special pricing on gift cards. The offers will only be available on the hotel’s website, or by calling the hotel directly.

For the eighth consecutive year, Swissôtel Chicagos Presidential Suite will be transformed into Santa’s home-away-from-the-Pole for the holiday season, welcoming Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Santa Suite offers sweeping views of the city, and is filled with 17 Christmas trees, festive decor, games and holiday craft kits for the kids, cookie decorating stations, “Letter to Santa” packs, and more. Book the Holiday Penthouse Hideaway (starting November 20 through December 26, 2021, from $1,500 per night). 

  • For a slightly more competitive price-point, consider a stay in an Elf Decorated Holiday Room featuring a Christmas tree and holiday room decor as well as a complimentary holiday amenity (Rates begin at $329 per night.)

Theatrical Performances:

A&A Ballet’s “The Art Deco Nutcracker” set in 1920s America and featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, will play at the Athenaeum Theater on December 4, 2021. 

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a must-see Chicago holiday tradition now in its fifth decade and enjoyed by nearly two million theatergoers, is back playing at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, from November 20 – December 31, 2021.

A Christmas Symphony Tour, a new Christmas tradition by the world’s biggest-selling soprano and GRAMMY® Award-nominated artist, Sarah Brightman, will play at the Auditorium Theatre on December 10, 2021.

“Home Alone” in Concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the beloved holiday favorite will return to the big screen at Symphony Center; John Williams’ delightful, Academy Award-nominated score will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardi Muti, from November 26-28, 2021.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s The Christmas Tour brings the GRAMMY®- and Tony®-Award Winning vocalist, songwriter, author and actor to Chicago for a one-night holiday season concert at the CIBC Theatre on December 4, 2021. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagined classic The Nutcracker follows young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World’s Fair; this annual holiday tradition celebrating the magic of the season and the rich cultural heritage of Chicago returns to the Joffrey Ballet from December 4-26, 2021. 

“’Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil i is the exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic as only Cirque du Soleil can imagine a vibrant acrobatic spectacle about the joy of sharing and friendship at the The Chicago Theatre, playing from November 26-December 5, 2021

Tune in tomorrow at noon to Hoosier History Live to hear about my new book America’s Femme Fatale about serial killer Belle Gunness

If you have time, tune in tomorrow Saturday, October 23rd when I talk to host Nelson Price of Hoosier History Live about my new book America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness. The show airs live from noon to 1 p.m. ET each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis. Or you can stream audio live from anywhere during the show.

Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) Now Helps Visitors Explore Chicago

The Tale of The Bean

Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made of brilliantly polished stainless-steel plates, now does more than just reflect the Chicago skyline and clouds above and the perfect Instagram backdrop for selfies on the ground. The sculpture, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, now is also an AI powered chat bot capable of answering questions about the city.

It all began when Covid hit and the constant stream of visitors stopped. The Bean, which is decidedly not good at knitting or baking bread, became focused on moving beyond being the most beautiful gigantic drop of mercury-looking statuary–though we must say it did a great job at that. Eager to be a vital part of the visitor experience, The Bean worked hard at becoming a digital communicator—wanting to interact with the millions of visitors who come to Millennium Park each year.  

When my fans come back, thought The Bean, I want to be ready. There were a few bad moments particularly when The Bean learned about other non-Bean art and culture for humans to enjoy in the city. This was a tough realization at first and The Bean did have an existential crisis but thankfully it was quickly dealt with after a few counseling sessions. Another glitch was that The Bean learned more than The Bean really wanted to know about intense fan rivalry between the Cubs and the Sox and how it splits the city into two regions: North of The Bean and South of The Bean. Being wise, The Bean refuses to say which team it likes best and denies reports that it was seen in Wrigleyville wearing a Cubs hat.

“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, Executive Director of Millennium Park Foundation. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”

Call it The Bean Knows All. Want to know where to get your favorite style of pizza? What’s happening in the city? Head to explorewiththebean.com to ask The Bean about anything from neighborhood restaurants to what events are happening next weekend as well as the latest in child-friendly activities, things to do, museum exhibits, and more.

Turning this 66-feet long by 33-feet high sculpture, one of the largest of its kind in the world, into an AI powered chat bot called for team work. A partnership was developed between Choose Chicago and Northwestern University Medill School’s Knight Lab, a diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces says Glenn Eden, Board Chair of Choose Chicago, the official organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination.

“Our team of students was thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the design questions involved in making a conversational system that works well for visitors to Chicago,” said Joe Germuska, Executive Director of Knight Lab. “And if, in the future, The Bean needs us for new projects, we’re ready to help.”

The Bean Ups Its Game

Now that it’s also an AI powered chat bot, The Bean isn’t going to just sit back and relax. That’s not Bean-like. Instead, it wants to make even more friends and provide more information and so is continuously working to take its knowledge base to the next level. And by the way, The Bean loves when people take photos of it or pose with The Bean for selfies. But though The Bean thrives on attention, its goal is not to be The Bean-all when it comes to Chicago.

Instead, The Bean loves to share all that Chicago has to offer. All you have to do is ask.

Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.

Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south.

Photos are courtesy of Choose Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.