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.
- "Like" Prairie Fire on Facebook. Do so here.
- Watch the above video and draw inspiration—or go to your favorite bar and conduct your own research there...
- Create a cocktail. Do so using at least one local ingredient, like Dan Sviland does with Hum in the above video.
- 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.
- Upload the picture to the Prairie Fire Facebook page.
- With the picture, include a short intro to the cocktail, as well as a recipe to its construction.
- 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.
- The two winners will then both be invited for dinner for 4 on Dec. 14...
- 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.
- Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris will create food to pair with each cocktail, which will be served during the duel.
- 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.
- 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:
- Prairie Chefs blog