Category Archives: Special Events

JV does STL

On July 15, JV was invited to take part in the Share Our Strength – No Kid Hungry charity dinner in St. Louis, MO. The event was hosted by Chef Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe, and JV was among six guest chefs (including Stephanie Izard, Gerard Craft, Kevin Willmann, Michael Paley and Bob Zugmaier) who contributed to the meal, all with the common goal to help end childhood hunger.


(L-R) Gerard Craft, JV, Stephanie Izard, Kevin Willmann, Kevin Nashan and Michael Paley. *Photography by: Jennifer Silverberg / Feast Magazine*

JV prepared the first course — a dish of Dungeness crab, cucumber, preserved habanero, green coriander and lime, which was paired with Sterling Organic Sauvignon Blanc, Medocino 2009.


*Photography by: Jennifer Silverberg*

The event was a total success — raising $60K — which was two times the goal amount.


*Photography by: Jennifer Silverberg*

Aside from the evening’s fantastic turnout, JV couldn’t get over how impressed he was with the overall vibe and culinary scene in St. Louis. “It’s a charming city with serious food,” he said. “Plus, Nashan was an ideal host; they put us up in the Four Seasons, took our keys so we wouldn’t have to drive anywhere, and showed us the best food the city had to offer, including our welcome meal catered by Pappy’s Smokehouse … awesome St. Louis style ribs, kinda sweet and tangy.”

In JV’s words, St. Louis is the type of place that could be home. “It’s kind of like Northern mentality meets Southern hospitality; everyone’s an extremely hard worker but they’re also super gracious, always smiling, look you in the eye and say ‘nice to meet you’ … they have this totally kill-you-with-kindness kind of attitude. Not to mention, there is some insane cooking talent there, including the kids on the line. ”


*Photography by: Jennifer Silverberg*

All in all, while it’s easy to get caught up eating at the same restaurants over and over again (especially when living in a huge food city like Chicago), consider making the drive to St. Louis the next time you need a weekend getaway. If JV’s first-hand experience can tell us anything, both the food and dining experience will be unforgettable.


Want to see more from the Share Our Strength dinner? Check out additional photos here!


Go Pig or Go Home

This weekend, JV and our sous chef, Ben, are headed to Philadelphia to partake in COCHON EPIC No.2 —  an ‘expression’ of Cochon 555 that showcases a one-time-only event, never to be replicated. Last year’s EPIC was held at the James Beard House in NYC and featured a pork-centric dinner paired with vintage Champagnes for 80 guests. This year, the event will be held on Sunday, July 28, at the Ritz-Carlton in Philly, where 20 local chefs will team up to prepare six whole heritage breed pigs (that’s more than 1500 pounds of pork!) from local farms to create a mouth-watering feast.

And unlike Cochon 555, EPIC is not a competition, but rather “a celebration of all the chefs, farmers and pork-enthusiasts Philly has to offer,” — per their website. Sounds pretty awesome, right? The good news is, if you’re lucky enough to be in the Philly area and are interested in stuffing your face with delicious pork for an evening, tickets are still available here.


Credit: Cochon555

JV was invited to participate as a National Chef, along with Matt Jennings of Farmstead in Providence, and Todd Mussman of Muss & Turners and Local Three in Atlanta. They will be preparing a collaborative menu to build enthusiasm for Cochon Heritage BBQ, a new Cochon event designed to feature the utilization of whole heritage breed pigs in BBQ communities across the nation. In preparation for the event, JV decided to spit-roast what’s called a “saddle-cut” of pork, meaning the loin, rib and belly are completely connected. Whoa.


Though cooking time was a bit of a guessing game, JV’s two main concerns were as follows: don’t burn the place down, and second, don’t break the spit; keep in mind — that’s nearly 100 pounds of pork hanging on for dear life!


He smothered the pork in a delicious rub of spices, brown sugar and garlic (see recipe below), and let it go for a good three hours, all while feeding and maintaining the fire with a combination of apple and cherry wood (for flavor/smoke) and white oak wood (for heat). The end result? You’ll have to watch the video to find out ;)

EPIC Pork Rub Recipe:


For every pound of pork use …

  • 1 T. coriander seed
  • 1 T. dill seed
  • 1 T. fennel seed
  • 1 T. whole juniper
  • 1 T. whole allspice
  • 1 T. whole clove
  • 1 T. mustard seed
  • 2 T. black pepper corn
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced


Crush spices together using a mortar and pestle, and then combine them with the salt, sugar and garlic. Rub this mixture on the pork and let sit for 2 days. Try using this rub on a pork loin that’s roasted in a hot oven, about 450 degrees F.

2013 Green City Market Chef BBQ

Last week we were serving up some classic childhood snacks (with a twist, of course) at the Green City Market Chef BBQ Benefit in Lincoln Park. JV was handing out mini, brown paper bags filled with “Cracker-Jacks” and crispy pig ears, while our pastry chef, Sarah, was cooling guests down with her grownup cucumber-gin and black raspberry push-pops.


“As you can see, this is a very technical dish (:: insert sarcasm ::)  … ” — JV


Technical or not — guests couldn’t resist the sweet ‘n salty combination of caramel popcorn and pig ears tossed with peanuts, green coriander and maple habanero sauce.




And just in case you missed us, try making your own at home — just follow our recipe below for the caramel corn, and then add some salted peanuts and crispy bacon for the full effect :)

Caramel Corn Recipe – Yields ~8 servings


  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 c. brown sugar; packed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 cups popcorn; popped

:: METHOD ::

First, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Then, combine butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Then, pour this mixture over the popcorn and stir until evenly coated. Bake on a large pan for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. When finished, spread popcorn on waxed paper to dry. Be sure to store in an airtight container to retain its freshness!

See you at next year’s BBQ!

Thank You

“If you will it, dude, it is no dream.”

Today I was announced as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2013 … holy shit.

This is a moment that I’ve wondered (read: obsessed) about for close to 15 years. I can probably count on one hand the number of days over those 15 years that I haven’t thought about BNC. It is a short, distinct list, compiled by a group that has a bird’s-eye view of the American culinary landscape. And it is, as Mike Sheerin puts it, “good company to be in.”

No part of what got us here has been easy. This past year, starting with the preparation for Cochon 555 (which eventually became our bitch), hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been easy.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone at Nightwood. Thanks for making this possible. You all are the reason that the restaurant works. You guys are the heart and soul of the place. You guys are the brains and the brawn. You guys are amazing.

I can’t imagine any of this coming to be without the amazing men and women in the kitchen that I have the absolute pleasure of working with everyday. Ben, Shae, Ron, Dan, Colin, Danielle, Alex, Pedro, Mollie, Martin, Dweezil, Sarah, Smelly, Coronado, Alemi, and Katie. You guys are true professionals who know how to not take yourself too seriously. I love you guys and owe you so much. Thank you.

Thank you to John, Anna, and all of the front of the house who put up with me obsessing over this for two years … sorry, won’t happen again ;)

To Jason and Lea, Matt and Kevin — thank you for giving our “style” time to work itself out (honestly, I still don’t know what it is). I realize that the growing pains were deep, and your patience didn’t go unnoticed.

I want to say thank you to all of our past and future co-workers, even the complete boneheads (you know who you are). You all contributed to making Nightwood what it is today, and what it will eventually become … all of the stones in a path are important.

Thank you to all of the farmers who make what we do possible. Stop being late.

To the stages who never showed up. Thank you. Without you, we are, thankfully, without you.

Thanks to Rob and Allie, Jenn and David, J.P., Paul, Paul, Steph, Abra, Huston, Mike Motobike, Yoni and Jenny, Dunc, Hunter, Brady and Heather, Pandel, Mike and Pat, Poli, Thai, G.E., Merlin, Korin, Team Sawyer, Steve D., Gregger, Roberto, and all of the Chicago (and beyond) cheffy community for the love, support, and advice … I owe every one of you a lifetime of debt. Thank you.

To all of our regulars and wonderful customers, (well, maybe not the guy who got drunk and screamed at me for his soup being tepid. Danny Devito impersonator, no kidding.) — you guys are the most important part of the restaurant. Without you we have nothing. Thank you and see you soon!

To all of the chefs and business owners that I’ve worked for, and, am still learning from; to all of my friends … thank you. See, I’m not a total fuck-up!

To my parents and my pain-in-the-ass sister … I don’t know where to start. You never gave up on me. You never made me feel like I should give up on myself. I love you.

To my daughter … Daddy did something to make you proud of him.

To my wife. You’re the most wonderful woman in the world. You are absolutely nuts, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ve had a crazy journey so far, and I think it’s about to get crazier. I can’t picture running toward that without your hand in mine. You’re my best friend, the love of my life, my teammate, my partner. I love you so much.

Sorry for rambling. Lotta love these days. This is crazy!!!!

Also, if you feel the need to make fun of me for this post, whiskey would be appreciated  ;)



Chicago Chef Week 2013

While you may have spent the weekend drinking green beer and eating corned beef sandwiches in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this week is all about celebrating great Chicago chefs. We hope you’ll join us for our 3-course dinner menu at $44/person.


Chicago Chef Week 2013 begins today, March 18, and ends Friday, March 22. Please call the restaurant at (312) 526.3385 or make your online reservation here.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Valentine’s Day 2013

Is it just us, or did February come out of nowhere? It seems like we were just making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions, and now, Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. If this holiday is catching you off-guard and you’re still looking for a unique – and romantic – way to celebrate, consider joining us for a decadent and comforting 4-course meal on Thursday, February 14th at $60/person:


While space is limited, we do have a few tables available at this time. Please call the restaurant ASAP at 312.526.3385 to book your reservation or to be placed on a waiting list. With a menu this good looking (fish in butter poached lobster sauce? pan-seared steak? hot fudge sundae?) — it’s definitely worth waiting for.

Private Events at Nightwood

When the weather is this cold (and snowy) in Chicago, few things are more comforting than staying inside, and of course — eating. The good news is, you can partake in both of these activities at Nightwood by celebrating your next special occasion with us. Whether you’re getting married and want a unique dining reception, or a close friend is leaving town and you want to throw them a great going-away party, setting up a private event at Nightwood is easy and promises a memorable experience for you and your guests.

There are three main areas of the restaurant available for use, the first (and most popular) is the downstairs Wine Cellar. This cozy, candle-lit space provides a warm and inviting atmosphere — perfect for private dinner parties, seating anywhere from 8 to 45 guests.



We also have the upstairs dining room available for luncheons (12:30-4:00 p.m.) during the week. This bright open space is a wonderful setting for baby/bridal showers, your next company event, or even a daytime wedding rehearsal.



Lastly, consider using our covered outdoor patio —  weather permitting. This is a nice option for those seeking something a bit more casual and laid-back, not to mention closer to nature :)


As far as pricing goes, here’s our basic structure:

  • Four-course family style dinner begins at $65/person
  • Three-course individually plated dinner begins at $55/person
  • Brunch and luncheon prices are TBD according to party size and begin at $35/person.
  • A room charge is applied to the total bill if the minimum sales amount for private events isn’t met. (*Click here for more information.)
  • A service charge of 20% will be available to the bill, pre-tax. Sales tax of 10.25% will be levied on the total bill.

Now, let’s talk food. We offer a variety of menu options (from family style to individually plated), and we’re always willing to accommodate guests with dietary/allergy restrictions. Because we are a true farm-to-table restaurant and buy directly from local farms, keep in mind that our menus are subject to change due to the whims of nature. Rest assured that the style and quality of our cuisine remains constant: simple, honest, handcrafted, and delicious. Here’s a sample menu from a private dinner hosted in October 2012:


If any of this sounds appealing to you, be sure to call the restaurant (312.526.3385) to speak with our wonderful Events Coordinator, Anna Heerwagen. She will happily answer any questions you may have regarding pricing, alcohol/beverage options, seating arrangements, menu customizations, transportation, etc. You can also e-mail her at In the meantime, check out our downloadable PDF, including a wealth of information that’ll surely put you one step closer to hosting your next special event with us.

We look forward to seeing you soon!