Want to break bread (or more likely pork) with some of the most interesting current writers on food and the world around it? You'll have several chances later this month at a few notable Chicago restaurants.
First up is Michael Ruhlman, the Cleveland-based author who's a model for aspiring food writers seeking to have an impact beyond pieces like "Ten Negroni Slushies You Must Guzzle Now." Books like The French Laundry Cookbook (which he wrote much of, though it's credited to Thomas Keller) and The Soul of a Chef helped spark our collective cultural interest in chefs, books like Charcuterie (which has a new edition) sparked a DIY cured-meats craze, and his other new book, Schmaltz, not only pays tribute to chicken fat as a miraculous substance, but blazed an e-book-to-dead-tree-book path that other top authors will doubtless follow.
Ruhlman will be here Tuesday, September 17, for two events at Chris Pandel's restaurants: from noon to 2 PM at Balena, he'll do a Q&A hosted by Chandra Ram of Plate, for which tickets are $25 (which includes nosh). That evening from 6:30 to 9:30 PM, he'll be the guest at a cocktail reception and five-course dinner at the Bristol; tickets, which include a signed copy of the revised Charcuterie, are $89, with a $29 drink-pairing option. Call 773-862-5555 for reservations.
Next up is author Lolis Eric Elie, whose tales of his native New Orleans led to HBO's series Treme; he'll be the guest for a cookbook dinner at Big Jones to celebrate the Treme-themed book Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. But Elie is no stranger to Chicago's food culture, either; his book Smokestack Lightning is an important source of history and folklore about Chicago's south-side barbecue scene (and one I drew on in making this video). Chef Paul Fehribach will serve a dinner from recipes in the book on Monday, September 30 starting at 6:30 PM; it's $60, with books for sale and signing. Call 773-275-5725 for reservations.
Finally, in a city with lots of chefs who are heavily involved with many causes—especially when they involve better food and school-age kids—one group, Pilot Light, stands out because it was founded by chefs Paul Kahan and Matthias Merges. Not surprisingly, they can draw plenty of others when it comes time to have a fund-raiser. The Pilot Light Back to School Block Party will be Friday, October 4, beginning at 6 PM, at and around Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market.
It's pricey—$175—but includes food and drink from the likes of Lula Cafe, Hoosier Mama, Lillie's Q, and others—as well as Kahan and Merges. There's also a DJ and silent and live auctions, and it all goes to support having culinary education and nutrition integrated into the curricula of schools (such as demonstrating cultural diversity through food in social studies classes). Get tickets here.