March 2015

Finally it seems Spring is here! Or, this being Chicago, at least on the way! Besides
Creole bouillabaise, a weekend special during Lent
putting up snow boots and heavy coats for the year, there's always lots to look forward to, and we are looking forward to our best year yet. Our cookbook will be out soon on University of Chicago Press, and we'll be cooking some of the year's best holiday brunches while looking forward to ramps, morel mushrooms, local lamb, asparagus, and the full bounty of the growing season ahead!

It's easy to grow sentimental in March, even as we tire ever-so-slightly of root vegetables and grains, because our pantry is rapidly reaching its low point of the year, the last containers of 2014's preserves and pickles rapidly dwindling. While we look forward to the promise of the season ahead, it's hard not to remember what a great year 2014 was in so many ways. Enough of that, 2015 is looking downright awesome!

Our Lenten menus are out, with an increased emphasis on vegetarian and
A Soul Food Week hit, the Collard Green Sandwich, is back for Lent
seafood-based dishes for the season. Join us every Friday during Lent to enjoy Creole Bouillabaise, a delightful concoction of market Gulf fish and shrimp, Louisiana crawfish, and clams in a piquant tomato broth spiked with Herbsainte.

This weekend is the Good Food Festival and Conference at the UIC Pavilion. This annual conference of farmers, artisans, chefs, and friends has become a major annual event for everyone involved in the Good Food Movement. You can find us at Localicious, the Friday night party, and Saturday, Paul will put on a cooking demonstration at 12 noon. He's making Old Virginia Fried Steak, ca. 1824 from The Big Jones Cookbook. Before the demo, Paul has the honor of being named Good Food Chef of the Year for sustained commitment to a more sustainable and delicious food supply. A few tickets are still available for both events, look them up at the links above !

Paul is cooking at the Macy's Flower Show next Tuesday the 24th
, and will be demonstrating another recipe from the Big Jones Cookbook, Crispy Catfish a la Big Jones, a menu staple regular diners will know and love. If you're downtown, please stop by and check it out!

The Big Jones Cookbook release parties are Wednesday, May 6! It's been a long road here, and we are excited to spend a great evening with our greatest fans. Details are below, and reservations can be made at 773-275-5725. We hope to see you for dinner or cake & cocktails!

Looking a little further down the road, you might pencil these in:

Monday, May 18 will be Chefs Collaborative's third annual Chicago Trash Fish Dinner, a benefit for Chefs Collaborative and also a project to promote underutilized fish species and spare stressed populations of popular fish. So far Chef Paul is on, along with Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon and Peche in New Orleans, Nico Romo of Fish in Charleston, and Johnny Anderes of The Kitchen. More chefs will be climbing on board so stay tuned and consider attending to help promote Chefs Collaborative's mission of empowering chefs to go green and stay green.

One of Southern Cooking's foremost authors, Virginia Willis, will be joining us June 24 for a special author dinner on her new book on Southern vegetables.

This African Red Sorghum Flour Cake with Red Kola-hibiscus sorbet was inspired by African American History Month, and remains on the menu for March
The incredibly popular Brewster oat groats with crispy potted duck, nectarine jam, and huckleberries will be on the brunch menu for only a few more weeks

The Big Jones Cookbook Party!



The day is drawing near, folks! The official release party for the Big Jones Cookbook on University of Chicago Press will be Wednesday, May 6! We are planning a feast of recipes from the book, all of them Big Jones classics, some are rarities nowadays, others seasonal to early spring, and still others will be familiar from recent menus. Cocktails from the book will be paired along the way, dear friend and musical mentor to Mark and I, Paul Yamata a.k.a. DJ Pi, will prepare a special playlist for the evening, and good times will flow like a bathtub of fine punch.


After much consideration, we have decided to offer two separate tickets for the evening: one for Supper and one for "Cake and Cocktails," to accommodate different tastes and potentially tight weeknight schedules (o.k., never mind, it's actually because we really wanted to have a Cake and Cocktails party) we will offer a prix-fixe family-style supper from 6-8, and a cake and cocktail party from 8 until the wee hours. This way, if you have no interest in dessert or a bacchanalian night of drinking, you can join us for supper and bid us good night. If 6:00 is just too early, or perhaps you're vegetarian and unable to join us for dinner, you can come late and enjoy cocktails and layer cakes with us in true Southern style.


Neither ticket includes the price of the book, since many of you have already pre-ordered. Books will be for sale and I'll be on duty, Sharpie in hand, ready to personalize and sign your copy. If you've pre-ordered the book and specified shipment, it should ship by mid-April and arrive at your door even before the party. If you specified in-store pickup, it will be ready and waiting for you at the party. Our staff will be sure to coordinate this with you when we take your reservation.


The lowdown: Supper from 6-8, $45 includes tax and gratuity. Cake and cocktails 8-10, $25 includes tax and gratuity. If you desire to party late with us, after 10 p.m. we will offer cash bar, and the kitchen will continue to offer cake and small bites on the house.


It's been more than two years since I began work on this book, and nearly eight years since Mark and I embarked on the project that didn't yet have a name that would in time be called Big Jones. It's been a long and wonderful journey to get here where we are now, and Mark and I offer our sincerest thanks for your support and friendship over these years. We've made a lot of mistakes and fortunately gotten many more things right. That you have seen the good in what we do means the world to us.


For reservations, call 773-275-5725


6:00 Punch Time and 6:30 Dinner Service

  • Chatham artillery punch
  • Benne oyster stew with Evalon croutons
  • Crawfish boudin fritters with hog cracklin
  • Goat cheese and potato croquettes with homemade mayonnaise
  • Awendaw spoonbread
  • Rhubarb julep
  • Duet of duck with bourbon jiblet jus
  • Chicken fried morel mushrooms with creamy grits and sawmill gravy
  • Sauteed ramp greens with benne
  • Grilled asparagus with homemade cottage cheese and lemon

$45 per person includes tax and gratuity

Cake & Cocktails

8:00-10:00 p.m.

  • Sweet Leaf
  • Blue Yodel No. 1
  • Brandy Fix
  • The Consummation
  • Huckleberry jelly roll cake
  • Sea Island benne cake
  • Coconut cake
  • Red velvet cake
  • Black walnut sorghum pie
  • Buttermilk pie

$25 per person includes tax and gratuity

For reservations, call 773-275-5725  


The Big Jones Classic, Duet of Duck with Bourbon Giblet Jus



Our March Whiskey of the Month:
Old Forester Original Batch 1870

We're pleased to announce Old Forester 1870 as our March Whiskey of the Month! Distilled, aged, and bottled under the watchful eye of Master Distiller Chris Morris, Old Forester 1870 is produced according to the original process laid out by George Garvin Brown, who produced the first bottled bourbon on Louisville's famous Whiskey Row in 1870, at 322 West Main Street.


There are a lot of very pretty, elegant whiskeys coming out of Kentucky these days, but when we think of classic Kentucky bourbon, this one nails it exactly - gorgeous rusty amber in the glass, but with a big nose reminiscent of pipe tobacco, aged leather, and the dark, musky air of an old rickhouse. It's a mouthful, with spicebox and biscuit flavors dominating, and a spritely nature reminiscent of fresh squeezed citrus juice. Ultimately refreshing to drink, with a finish of sweet tea and orange peel. Come on in and give it a try!




It's free to join the Big Jones Bourbon Society, just ask your server or bartender to sign up on your next visit. You'll receive a passport to forty of our more than sixty whiskeys. On each visit, members are welcome to one complimentary pour of the Whiskey of the Month (WOM) which will usually (but not always) be a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey. Big Jones Bourbon Society members will also receive invitations to members-only events such as whiskey tastings and whiskey socials. Ages 21 and up. 


Of course you're welcome to enjoy any whiskey on our list at any time. We'll mark off your passport as you taste each of the forty whiskeys, and once you've tasted them all, you will earn the distinction of Master Taster, and win tickets for two to a one-of-a-kind all-out whiskey dinner. As the ranks of Master Tasters grows, we will host a series of dinners for Master Tasters.