Rockford Restaurant Tour June 4

Tour includes Basil Café, Der Rathskeller, Maria’s and J. Richard’s Mayflower

Cooking with the Best Chefs, a culinary organization that has produced nearly 4,000 cooking classes with more than 400 of the Chicago and Rockford area’s best chefs, will sponsor its first Rockford Restaurant Tour, Sunday, June 4, and feature two of the Rockford area’s oldest and two of its newest restaurants. The event is open to the public with advanced registration by May 28.

The first stop on the tour is 1:30 p.m. at Basil Café, in Loves Park, where Executive Chef Chris Mallars will prepare a tasting of five hors d’oeuvres, including Spanish Chocolate Prawns, sauteed shrimp in a spicy chocolate sauce; Bruschetta with plum tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic and homemade balsamic vinaigrette; Crab Cakes with Lemon Beurre Blanc; Portabello Marsala, portabello mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with Marsala wine, served with a balsamic reduction; and Smoked Salmon Fume, with capers, red onion and sliced egg.

The group will then depart via a first-class coach to Der Rathskeller Restaurant in Rockford, for a tasting from Chef and Owner Mike DuPre, of Beef Rouladen, tender beef rolled with onions, pickles, bacon, and mustard; Kasespäetzle, tiny dumplings with bacon, Emmenthaler cheese, butter, and chives; and Jaeger Schnitzel, pork cutlets marinated in white wine and spices, grilled and served with a creamy mushroom sauce; and Lyonnaise Potatoes, onions and potatoes fried in a cast iron skillet.

The third stop will be at Maria’s Italian Café, where Chef and Partner Joe Cason and his family will prepare Veal and Beef Tortellini, and Shells Florentine, pasta stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, served with Maria’s Meatball and Special Sauce.

The final stop will be at J. Richard’s Mayflower, where Executive Chef Kosta Demopoulos will prepare a tasting of three Greek desserts, including Homemade Baklava, many layers of butter-drenched phyllo pastry, spices, chopped walnuts and almonds, with a spiced honey-lemon syrup; Nougatina, egg whites, almonds, custard filling, whipped cream and flavored liqueur.

The group will stop at each restaurant for about one hour and return to Basil Café about 6 p.m. Seats are limited. Advance registration and payment is available on a first-come, first-reserve basis. The event is open to the public. Non-members are $90 per person, and members $75 per person. Annual membership is $25 per household. All food, transportation and a portfolio with recipes, are included. A cash bar will be available at each location. The chef and restaurant owner will be presented to the group to discuss some of the dishes served at each location.

Best Chefs sponsors new demonstration classes every three months on Wednesday evenings, and kids and hands-on classes Saturday mornings, at Basil Café, 6500 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park. Each class is about two hours and is taught by a different professional chef. Recipes and hearty samples of each dish are provided.

All classes and events are open to the public with advanced registration. Cost is $35 per person for the public and $25 for members. Annual membership is $25 per household. Call (630) 980-6800 for more info and to register, or visit

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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