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Festive feasts

Foodservice operators always look to impress, but during the winter holiday season the stakes are even higher, as chefs seek innovative methods to help customers celebrate with family, friends and colleagues. On the noncommercial side, operators have the difficult task of ensuring the holiday feast is not only delicious, but healthy as well. 

bellyQ, Chicago 

Toasting 2013 at bellyQ in Chicago “will be a big to-do,” promises chef Bill Kim, partner in the modern Asian barbecue eatery with basketball legend Michael Jordan and the Cornerstone Restaurant Group.

His New Year’s Eve bash, dubbed Three Bellys + One Roof, will be a sampling of signature dishes from bellyQ and his other two Chicago restaurants, Urban Belly, a noodle and dumpling spot, and belly shack, a Latin-Asian concept. An expected 300 revelers will nosh on menu bites served at stations set up in bellyQ’s dining room and open kitchen while they sip sake, champagne and cocktails and enjoy tunes spun by a DJ.

“We said, ‘Let’s just throw a gigantic party,’” says Kim, nixing a conventional, multi-seating holiday dinner menu. “People will roam around and grab whatever they want.”

From bellyQ will come the popular BBQ Korean Short Ribs and a new creation, Asian Pizzas. The latter are rice-batter pies with toppings like Chinese sausage, caramelized onions, feta cheese and spinach, baked in paella pans in the wood-burning oven.

Urban Belly signatures will include Soba Noodles with Bay Scallops, Udon Noodles with Asian Bolognese Sauce and Pork Belly Spring Rolls with Plum Sauce.

Belly shack will contribute dishes like the Belly Dog, a hot dog topped with egg noodles and pickled green papaya accompanied by togarashi-spiced fries, and its housemade soft-serve ice cream.

“We’ll also pass around Chinese steamed bun donuts for dessert,” says Kim. “This event will be like a passport through Asia to experience different flavors.” 

bellyQ Menu Sampler

  • Three Bellys + One Roof-New Year's Eve--$125 per person
  • Pork Belly Spring Rolls with Plum Sauce
  • Thai Curry Chicken Dumplings
  • Soba Noodles with Bay Scallops

Joe's Restaurant, Chicago

Reached on his mobile phone at the Santa Monica, Calif., Farmers’ Market one afternoon, chef-owner Joe Miller revealed his plans for the New Year’s Eve Around The World Party at Joe’s Restaurant. 

The four-course holiday romp through global cuisine at the California-French dining concept will include dishes from Korea, India, the Middle East, Russia, Norway and Italy as well as U.S. regions, along with international music and a bubbly toast.

The repast will begin with New Delhi’s Starlight Creamy Cauliflower Saffron Soup, garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds, lemon oil and parsley. “We want it to be colorful, hence the saffron,” Miller says. A dash of turmeric will lend “a nice, pungent background.” 

 In addition to meaty items like Muscovite’s Hearty Winter Oxtail of Beef, Tongue and Sweetbread and Red Seoul BBQ Short Ribs, he plans a vegetarian main course: Beirut’s Baklava of Crunchy Pistachios and Fresh Eggplant. This is a medley of sautéed eggplant and spinach sprinkled with pistachio-lemon shortbread crumbs and nestled between filo layers.

“We always do a dish that really highlights fresh vegetables, not just a plain old vegetable plate,” says Miller. 

The global theme is appropriate for Joe’s, given the diverse ethnicities of his staff—cooks hail from places like Japan, Holland and Germany—and Miller’s own international seasoning.

“I’ve trained and worked in France and I own another restaurant called Bar Pintxo, where we are very much into Spanish cuisine,” says Miller. “So you could say we are well represented around the world.” 

Joe's Restaurant Menu Sampler

  • New Year's Eve Around the World Party: $65 per person early seating; $95 per person late seating (after 9:00 p.m.), including dancing and complimentary Champagne
  • Sicilian Marinated Fresh Shrimp & Globe Varietal Artichoke Salad
  • Fresh Cod (flown from Norway's frigid waters) & Sauerkraut
  • Venison Carpaccio & Tart Huckleberries (from upstate New York's wilderness)

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