Diner’s Notebook: January food events too tasty to pass up

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For the Sun-Times

All of the crazy New Year’s celebrations are over, but that doesn’t mean that bars and restaurants are resting on their laurels (while cleaning up all those broken glasses). There are some great dining events coming up in January — and these are three of my favorites.

Soul Food Week at Big Jones

Any event Big Jones (5347 N. Clark) puts on is sure to be a decadent culinary adventure, and when they change up their menu for an entire week, that’s worthy of headlines. To celebrate author Adrian Miller’s book “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine,” Big Jones is hosting a fancy dinner on Jan, 18 that (no surprise) sold out in about five minutes. But for those who didn’t get tickets, the entire menu at the restaurant has been revised Jan. 11–18 with new dishes inspired by the book. There’s a “shrimp shack platter” with catfish and gulf shrimp fried in corn and rice flour, Chitlins Duran simmered with onions and garlic and even a special drink — “Red Drink,” a combination of cola and hibiscus.

Big Troublesome in Little Butcher Shop

The only thing better than eating everything at Publican Quality Meats (825 W. Fulton Market) would be eating it and then washing it all down with great craft beer. On Jan. 22 you can do that, as Off Color Brewing will team up with the restaurant for a beer dinner. There will be five different beers and bites from PQM, including a Navajo Taco with braised coppa, cabbage and celery root, served on potato bread, and a rutabaga tart with rutabaga custard. The whole thing is $55 a person, and you can call (312) 496-0012 for reservations.

Spreading the Sake Love

Let’s face it: Sake is still a mystery to most American diners, even those who eat sushi like it’s candy. Worse, it can be expensive to experiment with, so it’s hard to figure out exactly what you like. Roka Akor (456 N. Clark) to the rescue. Between Jan. 12 and 16, for just $15, guests can taste through eight different sakes guided by an expert from Tenzing wine and spirits. If you’re looking to go during the dinner hour, they’ll be holding the tastings between 5 and 7 on Wednesday and Thursday night — drink some sake and stay for dinner. If you’re looking for a lunch tipple, head in on Monday, Tuesday or Friday between noon and 2.

Anthony Todd is a local freelance writer.

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