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Eataly Is Hosting A James Beard-Themed Pop-Up Ahead Of Awards Season

By Sophie Lucido Johnson in Food on Apr 14, 2016 9:03PM

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Spaghetti with Clams from the special JB Menu. Photo courtesy of Eataly.

Get ready to celebrate: James Beard Eats Week is coming, and that means that this great food city is about to get a little greater. The James Beard Awards (the Oscars of the food world, with tons of Chicago nominees) is in Chicago on May 2, and along with it, there are food events galore in late April and early May.

For those unfamiliar with the man, James Beard is credited with bringing French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the '50s, emphasizing the importance of fresh, seasonal foods. Without him we'd never have "Julie and Julia," or farm-to-table pop-up restaurants.

Speaking of pop-ups, Eataly Chicago will open a special James Beard-themed restaurant (it will be called "J.B.") as part of James Beard Eats Week. The pop-up will debut on April 22, and will be open for two consecutive weekends for lunch and dinner. J.B. will be held inside of Il Salone, Eataly Chicago's private event space.

Rob Wing, Eataly Chicago's executive chef, has designed an ambitious menu with more than 20 recipes from Beard's cookbooks. A few highlights are a mackerel in escabeche starter marinated in orange juice, chilies, garlic and cilantro for $11; lamb shoulder Catalpa Farm lamb with green lentils, spinach, and lamb jus for $22; and pan-roasted pheasant breast with tarragon, carrots, and bread sauce for $23. Save room: There's a three-item dessert menu that includes a pecan pie on a chocolate shortbread crust, with malted milk gelato and toffee sauce for $7.

J.B. will be open Friday, April 22 to Sunday, April 24 and Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1. The hours are: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

This isn't Eataly Chicago's first foray into the pop-up market; they've had Il Tartufo, a pop-up truffle restaurant; Osteria Valentino, a two-day restaurant dedicated to love for Valentine's Day weekend; Ristorante Toscano, a pop-up restaurant inspired by Tuscany. They're currently running a pop-up Limoncello Bar by Pallini at Vino Libero on the second floor (through May 1); and Il Pesto, a pop-up pesto bar serving seven different types of pesto (through April 17).

Eataly Chicago is among the nearly 100 restaurants participating in James Beard Eats Week. There's also an Eats Week Kick Off Party—tickets are $100 a pop—which will include wine and cocktails, and, of course, food made by Chicago's top chefs. We'll highlight a few of the best in the coming weeks.

The big night, though, is the actual James Beard Foundation Awards, which will take place on May 2 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In case you didn't know this was a thing, it's kind of a big deal. Time magazine called the James Beard Awards "The Oscars of the food world." Nearly 2,500 of the country's top chefs, restauranteurs, and general foodies will gather to celebrate the best food in America. The full list of nominees can be almost daunting: There are awards for everything from best food photography to best food podcast, and of course coveted regional awards for best chefs (Chicagoans should watch for Best Chef: Great Lakes).

Get ready for Beard fever!