Dinner & a Show: Thursday 2/11 | Bleader

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Show: Nicole Mitchell The excellent Chicago composer and flutist Nicole Mitchell will premiere her latest suite, Mother Earth, in a free concert with her long-running Black Earth Ensemble. The group will be joined by Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda. He plays a customized arpa llanero—an instrument traditionally used for Colombian joropo music, indigenous to the plains of Colombia and Venezuela—that's fitted with two pickups, one for the upper register and one for the lower, to help him articulate distinct simultaneous melody and bass lines.

6:30pm, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., 312-744-6630, free

Dinner: Crofton on Wells Chef-proprietor Suzy Crofton presents a well-balanced and innovative menu in a small, urbane setting. Subdued music playing in the background of the minimally decorated room keeps the conversation level down and the focus on the food.

535 N. Wells, 312-755-1790

Show: Devin Hoff "During his years in the Bay Area, bassist Devin Hoff developed into a key player not only in jazz and improvised-music groups around the country—among his notable collaborators are clarinetist Ben Goldberg and trumpeter Steven Bernstein—but also in adventurous rock bands like Xiu Xiu and Carla Bozulich's Evangelista," writes Peter Margasak. "He's probably best known for his ongoing work with guitarist Nels Cline, but no matter what the project he's functioned as a rhythmic and harmonic anchor, getting the job done forcefully and without fuss."

10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $8 suggested donation.

Dinner: Kuma's Corner Besides the burgers, there's also a make-your-own mac 'n' cheese option, appetizers like the mussels cooked in Allagash white ale with garlic and chiles, and an excellent beer list. "Next time I'm trying the Slayer: a pile of fries topped with a half-pound burger plus chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, onions, jack cheese, 'and anger,'" writes Martha Bayne.

2900 W. Belmont Ave., 773-604-8769

The Firemens Ball
  • The Firemen's Ball

Show: The Firemen's Ball Milos Forman's 1967 film of little people confronting little disasters, as the annual ball of a small Czech town goes hopelessly wrong. With Loves of a Blonde, it's the best work Forman's done, rooted in a social reality that has eluded him in his American projects, and directed with a nonlinear suppleness that suggests the formal achievement of Jacques Tati.

6:15pm, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Ave., 312-663-5554

Dinner: Chicago Curry House An efficient way to sample the rest of the Nepalese offerings is by way of two thali samplers, one vegetarian, the other featuring bone-in goat and chicken curries.

899 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-362-9999

Performing Arts

Show: The Cabinet Redmoon's usual color-saturated palette has been replaced by somber sepias and grays for this stunning production, a remount of the company's 2005 hit based on the classic German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. "This is one nightmare that shouldn't be missed," writes Kerry Reid.

$15-$25 8pm, Redmoon Theater, 1463 W. Hubbard St., 312-850-8440

Dinner: Branch 27 Ronin chef and Mas veteran John Manion, the young restaurant's second chef, is "not coddling anybody—roasting goat legs, compounding butter with bone marrow, and daring diners to look whole grilled sardines right in the eye," writes Mike Sula. "He offsets the funk of those humble fish—now superstars of the sustainable-seafood movement—with a sweet, tart escabeche and peppery arugula."

1371 W. Chicago Ave., 312-850-2700

Show: Decline of Ballooning and Madame X Paints Haydn Red If you think brainy, cryptic, nonlinear performance pieces can’t provide satisfying entertainment, rush to this exquisite double bill and prepare to be proved wrong.

7pm, Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., 773-539-7838

Dinner: Taqueria Traspasada The ambience is pure taco shack — plastic booths, bright lights, video games, and dirt-cheap prices — but the spicy marinated tacos al pastor, homemade orchata, and roasted-pepper salsa are out of this world.

3144 N. California Ave., 773-539-4533


Show: "From Blog to Book" Robyn Okrant talks about how her blog livingoprah.com became her book Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk. See our July 2008 story.

5:30pm, Northwestern University, University Hall, 1897 Sheridan Rd., free

Dinner: Bistro Bordeaux "I’m a sucker for picture-perfect French bistros, and Pascal Berthoumieux’s Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston fits the bill with its light mustard walls covered with small framed posters, butcher-paper-topped tables, dark wood bar towards the back, and servers in black vests and long white aprons," writes Anne Spiselman. "Even better, 26-year-old executive chef Frank Mnuk (Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Eleven Madison Park in New York, NoMi) has mastered the art of French cooking."

618 Church St., 847-424-1483

Show: Wells Tower discusses his debut story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, in a chat with arts journalist Victoria Lautman.

6pm, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., 312-747-4050, free

Dinner: Cafecito The best damn Cuban sandwiches in town.

26 E. Congress Pkwy., 312- 922-2233

Show: James Kennedy reads from his novel The Order of Odd-Fish; his 400-page fantasy is the sort of young adult fiction that adults of all ages can get lost in.

6:30pm, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th St., 773-684-1300, free

Dinner: La Petite Folie Michael and Mary Mastricola, both former U. of C. students and longtime Hyde Park residents, decamped to Paris in the mid-90s so Mary could attend the Cordon Bleu cooking school, then returned to Chicago to open this charming restaurant serving spectacular baguettes and a wide range of French classics.

1504 E. 55th St., 773-493-1394