Thursday, December 23, 2010

Win Dinner for 4 at Alinea

Earl Grey, lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate
or,  as they say at Alinea, dessert, via Penelope's Loom's stream.

There's the foodie community, and then there's those who blog about it. And those who blog about it hold one blogger in fairly high esteem—for most of us, her blog attempts to accomplish the impossible. That blogger is Carol Blymire, and her blog is Alinea at Home. You heard of it? Thought so. Her mission is pretty simple, "I'm cooking my way through the Alinea cookbook. Because I can. I think."

And when one thinks they can pull this off, and blogs about it? Yeah, they start turning a head or two. And she has a loyal following, it's pretty safe to say.

Which is why she's teamed up with Share Our Strength to help raise money to fight childhood hunger through the holiday season. And in her own signature way, she's built milestone incentives to keep the gifting momentum on the up:

$2,500 -- I will cook something from the Noma cookbook. [Sourcing the ingredients for this has been FUN.
$5,000 -- I will go Christmas caroling at The White House. [I hope I don't set off the Dork Alarm.
$7,500 -- I will do a row of somersaults in front of the Capitol Building. [Wonder if I can get one of my favorite Senators to join me?
$10,000 (our goal, by January 16) -- I will dance along with the Wii videogame The Michael Jackson Experience.
And then there's the last milestone, if the drive raises over $10k... Alinea.

Just watch that video, no matter how much you know or don't know about Alinea, and you'll understand how out of this world the place is—unless you're on of the few who have actually experienced it. There's nothing like it. Period.

And Grant Achatz and Nick Kokanas of Alinea have stepped up and are allowing Carol to give away dinner for four at Alinea, for any of us, as long as we've donated at through the drive, at any amount. Are you letting that sink in? Donate any amount through this drive, and you'll have the chance to eat the dinner of a lifetime—for free.

Now Carol is writing from D.C., and her readers are following her from all over the world, and that's great news for the fundraising potential of this drive for Share Our Strength—but it's us living here in Chicago who should truly appreciate the magnitude of this potential prize. We live here and hear about the place non-stop. We live here, and short of a Christmas miracle, just can't afford the place. And those of us who live here and can afford the place? Well, then there's the reservation problem. They're next to impossible to come by. So, Chicago, here's your chance.

Let's throw some weight behind this and win one for the home team, huh? There isn't a person I know who can't afford even $1 to fight childhood hunger, especially at the prospect of eating dinner at Alinea with three of his or her friends.

Here's Carol's original post, announcing the fundraiser. And here's the official donation page—remember, only donations made here will be eligible for the Alinea dinner, and the dozens of other prizes Carol is giving away.

Best of luck to everyone, and let us know how if you've given so we can give your due props via twitter!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amateur Bartender Contest is on at Prairie Fire!

We realize that most people in Chicago associate Taste of the Nation to one thing—the event. But Taste of the Nation is only one small arm of its far-reaching parent, Share Our Strength. That's why, with our integration of social media this past year and our many relationships in this city, we've started thinking more and more about opportunities to keep the Taste alliances alive, even when the event is a distant thought.

That's why we've teamed up with Green City Market lynchpin and Chef Sarah Stegner and her team at Prairie Fire in the West Loop. The restaurant opened last year to great praise, and for some time now has been hosting guest bartenders on Tuesday nights to raise money—the tips—for the guest of honor's charity of choice. On most nights, for just two hours of bartending, a charity will see something close to $1,500. And all at no cost to the charity itself.

Dan Sviland's Rhubarb Rita via R.I.A.

And it all starts TODAY. To participate is simple, if not more fun you'll have with a contest than ever before, as it calls for bit of creative thought with booze. It's an amateur mixology competition, held in two rounds! We'll lay out most of the details below, but read Sarah's blog for more here.

  1. "Like" Prairie Fire on Facebook. Do so here.
  2. Watch the above video and draw inspiration—or go to your favorite bar and conduct your own research there...
  3. Create a cocktail. Do so using at least one local ingredient, like Dan Sviland does with Hum in the above video.
  4. Take a picture of the drink. Get up close to it and really be sure the photograph is as flattering to your drink as can be—the judges won't be tasting the drink, so this is a crucial component.
  5. Upload the picture to the Prairie Fire Facebook page.
  6. With the picture, include a short intro to the cocktail, as well as a recipe to its construction.
  7. Then, just sit back and wait—along with guest judge and Chicago mixologist Adam Seger, we'll choose TWO winners after the Dec. 10 deadline.
  8. The two winners will then both be invited for dinner for 4 on Dec. 14...
  9. Which is when they'll also invite all of their friends to watch them duel behind the bar at Prairie Fire from 6-8pm, making their winning cocktails.
  10. Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris will create food to pair with each cocktail, which will be served during the duel.
  11. At the end of the duel, whomever has raised the most tips will be the winner—and the tips from each bartender will go to Share Our Strength.
  12. And in the theme of the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm adding a twelfth step, just because I can—It's December 1 and I'm listening to Christmas music. Give me a break!

And on top of all of this, the ultimate winner will appear with Sarah and George at Green City Market on Dec. 22 for a live demo—plus be invited to sling drinks behind the bar all by his or herself, for a charity of his or her own choosing.

If I were entering this competition, I'd be thinking of a way to show the judges something that'll separate me from all of the other entries. Green City Market might be limited this time of year, but what's at the market that I can feature as a my local ingredient that you don't often see at a restaurant? And they're letting me use local as anything regional to Chicago, not just from Illinois itself. So what spirits and products are coming from Indiana and Wisconsin and Michigan and the other states?

The Bee's Knees, also from Dan Sviland via R.I.A.

And dates to keep in mind: The deadline to submit my drink's picture and recipe on Facebook is Dec. 10. If I'm one of the two winners, I need to be free on Dec. 14 for the duel at Prairie Fire from 6-8pm (really, everyone should plan on coming and help raise money for us!). And then, I need to be free on Dec. 22 to demo with Sarah and George at Green City Market.

We can't wait to follow along with the fun on their Facebook page, and we'll be sure to post entries on twitter and so on. Getting in touch with people who like food and drink is crucial to the No Kid Hungry Campaign—you're the ones who are in the best position to help us end childhood hunger by 2015. And rather lose your attention with constant nagging, we hope this is one way that might keep you engaged in the battle!

Best of luck to our participants, and we can't wait to see everyone at Prairie Fire December 14th!!

Some people to follow as the contest goes on:

- Sarah Stegner on twitter and Facebook
- Daniel Sviland on twitter and Facebook
- Prairie Chefs blog
- Adam Seger on twitter and Facebook
- Ellen Malloy on twitter and Facebook