big night out

Top Chefs Come Together for 11th Annual Big Night Out

It’s 6:00 pm. It’s starting. But nobody’s going in quite yet.

The white, infectiously happy puppy has the spotlight. We all start to pull out our phones and take photos from multiple angles. These puppies are after all the red carpet, special guests of the night. And just like America’s sweetheart, we are captivated and can’t help but support them. They are the reason we are all here. Here at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602), for the 11th Annual Big Night Out on Thursday, October 8, 2015.

Big Night Out is the largest fundraiser event for Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control (FCACC), a Chicago non-profit organization that saves over 20,000 animals that came into custody of Chicago Animal Care and Control (ACC). Through FCACC, Chicagoans and area residents can foster or adopt pets who need it the most.

Everything is dog themed. It’s not a Cosmo anymore. It’s a Cosmopoodleton. It’s not just a bicycle, it’s a St. Germain bicycle.

We all start to slowly move around the Cultural Center. There are top chefs from iconic restaurants. Big Night Out started from one of those chefs’ visions’. Chef Jackie Shen of The Stray Dog started Big Night Out and still remains an integral part of the event.

The Auction:

This year’s big live auction package includes a weekend getaway to Michigan including a private in-home dinner party for you and nine guests prepared specially by Chef Jackie Shen.

The auction items included, “Sit. Stay. Play,” which had Blackhawks memorabilia and “Well Groomed,” which included a Helen Ficalora necklace. Other items included a two-night stay at the Drake Hotel.

Doggie Bag Needed:

While everything was dog themed, we were missing one thing, a doggie bag.

The food was irresistible and there was just too much to try it all.

“Do a lap, see what you like,” one veteran attendee informed me, “But don’t waste your calories on this one,” she smiled putting down her sandwich.

The food included fall-inspired dishes from some of the most venerable Chicago restaurants.

“You have to try the lobster bisque!” one man raved.

“Acadia is one of  the most expensive restaurants in Chicago. It’s easily a thousand bucks a meal,” he said leading me to their table.

He waited as I tasted Chef Ryan McCaskey’s lobster bisque. It tasted like Halloween for adults. It’s so sweet, but it had buttery undertones.

Big Night Out Big Night Out

Acadia (1639 S. Wabash Ave.) was one of many first-time supporters to participate in Big Night Out. Others included Vanille, Rosebud, and Raw Bar.

Although everyone agreed at our table that the lobster bisque was exceptional, I was still holding out for Taco in a Bag (4603 N. Lincoln Ave.). It didn’t need avocados. It had a perfect Chipotle sauce. What I loved most was that I looked classy chowing down on my taco neatly packaged in a bag as everyone swirled elegant pasta dishes and lobster bisque.

Top Chicago Chefs:

I spoke with Laura Piper, the Executive Chef at One North Kitchen & Bar (1 N. Upper Wacker Dr  #250)  She is good friends with the owner of Taco in a Bag and agreed that his tacos were really good.

I immediately warmed up to her.

“What inspired this dish?” I asked, tasting the sliced pear in her amuse bouche.

“Fall, and I really like Robiola cheese,” Chef Piper smiled, “Our food is every man type of food,” she paused,  “or every woman—if you will.”

Another favorite of the evening were the Common Tacos from Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St.). Corporate Chef Aldo Ayala is originally from Mexico, where he had six dogs.

“I really love dogs,” Chef Ayala said.

Since moving to New York, and then opening up three restaurants in Chicago, he added, “I have to travel a lot like every week or every other week.”

At this time, he doesn’t have any pets, but he is happy to support animals in creative ways such as in this setting.

Live Entertainment:

The night was complete with SMK Photobooth, which included dog themed props and zebra glasses. As one of the first people to try the photo booth, I was instantly photo-boomed.

Other entertainment included the lively violinists from Cover Girl, a group of women who use the entire event space to entertain guests individually, yet as one with their purple electric guitars and pop and rock renditions of popular songs.

Donate to Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control:

There’s still time to help puppies and cats by donating or learning more about adopting a pet. Please visit FCACC for more information.

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