For me, fundraisers kill two birds with one stone: not only can I satiate my perpetually-growling stomach with delicious delectables, but I can also enhance my spiritual wellbeing and social conscience. So naturally, I spent a wonderful evening at the Cooking Up a Cure fundraiser for the Scleroderma Foundation of Chicago (SFC), an organization that provides support programs for patients and their families, funds crucial research endeavors, and educates the public on scleroderma. Affecting one out of every 1,000 people, scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that can damage vital internal organs and cause thickening and tightening of the skin. Although the symptoms and effects of scleroderma vary dramatically, the disease is chronic, and the cure remains elusive.
Located at the beautiful Salvage One, this year’s charity event boasted more than 25+ restaurants and sponsors, including avec, Smoque BBQ, and Two Brothers Brewing Co. As with most food-related events, I try to gorge my face sample everything but always have a few categorical favorites:
Desserts that left me want for naught
• Floriole: panna cotta, a gelatinous cup of perfectly-sweetened wonder
• Katherine Anne Confections: boozed up pecan pie truffle
The holy-shit dish that restored my faith in mankind:
• Hopleaf: Brioche bismark stuffed with charred scallion cream cheese custard and concord grape jelly, maple sugar, poppy seeds
Salads far beyond rabbit food for hopeless dieters:
• Province: brussels sprout vegetable salad with apple cider vinaigrette
• TWO: Smoked whitefish salad, lemon aioli, black pepper croutons, arugula
Dishes that intimidated me at first but tasted utterly spectacular:
• David Burke’s Primehouse: braised beef dumpling
• Takito Kitchen: chicken and pork terrine, mole poblano, escabeche (Mexican pickles)
• Two Brothers Brewing Co: Vegetable and goat coconut curry
• Avec: chicken liver crostini with grapes, pickled fennel and min
• Brown Trout: chicken liver pate crostini, golden raisin mustard, olive ciabatta
Other notables included Old Town Social (antipasti “salad” with salumi, provolone, green olives, and peppers), Smoque (pork carnitas tacos with blueberry jam), Bittersweet: cashew chocolate bites; fruit and greek yogurt pastries), FIG Catering (pumpkin curry with spiced brown rice, braised short ribs and polenta, Beurrage Croissant Bread pudding), and Fountainhead (albondigas with smoked chipotle sauce).
In addition to the exclusive tastings and amazing raffle prizes, fundraisers are prime opportunities for people-watching: chefs scurrying about and saving dishes for one another, the tipsy 23-something popping down chocolate truffles like painkillers, the foodie balancing three plates of assorted pastries. And of course, underdressed media folks like me. I could yap on and on about interesting/disturbing conversations I overheard or how spectacular the venue was, but I’ll admit—the food was the highlight of my night. Overall, the gala reminded me that in addition to having the world’s best dog, Chicago is filled with amazing charities and equally amazing people who support them.