Dutchie Caray knows how to celebrate a birthday in style.
If you read my Wednesday "From the Farm" column in our food section, then you know the name Ann Scamerhorn, the farmer's daughter down the road that I've known since diaper days.
Last Thursday, I surprised Ann with an invitation to Dutchie's 78th birthday party, a private event hosted in Lombard, Ill., at the newly opened "Harry Caray's Restaurant" location.
If you're keeping score, this makes the third Harry Caray's Restaurant in the Chicago area, with the flagship restaurant still based downtown on Kinzie Street, just a baseball's throw from State Street.
These steakhouse restaurants, which boast unbelievably good food and reasonable prices, were the dream of late Chicago Cubs announcing legend Harry Caray, and his widow is not only keeping that dream alive, but she's also helping them to thrive.
Harry, who died at age 83 suddenly just days after suffering a massive heart attack on Valentine's Day 1998 at a restaurant near his Palm Springs home, opened the first restaurant in 1987.
The last time Ann and I spent some time with the always-smiling and ever-gracious Dutchie was in March 2003, in the greenroom of Michael Essany's show, when she was a guest on the interview couch.
Dutchie was feted by famous and everyday friends from near and far at her party, which included a custom-made 30-pound towering birthday cheesecake from Eli's, that served 150 people. (You can see the photos on my online column today posted on the Internet.)
In addition to singing "Happy Birthday," guests also joined Dutchie to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," along with Harry's voice piped over audio speakers.
As a special surprise gift, Lombard Mayor (or technically Village President) William Mueller presented Dutchie with the key to the city.
As for the guest list at the party, it included former Cubs announcer Steve Stone, Blackhawks Head Coach Denis Savard, former Chicago Bears Otis Wilson and Jim Morrissey, former Chicago Bull Norm Van Lear, former Chicago Cubs "no-hitter" (1972) pitcher Milt Pappas and a smattering of some of this season's Chicago Fire pro-soccer players, "Chicago Tribune" sports columnist Fred Mitchell, Chicago radio morning personality from The Mix 101.9 Eric Ferguson, Notre Dame and pro football great Pat Terrell and Chicago Bears' mascot Staley da Bear, among others.
For more information about Harry Caray's restaurants, visit www.harrycarays.com.
'No bill' breakfast
I'll be at the historic old one-room moviehouse in Hobart, The Art Theatre, tonight serving up pie slices at the charity screening of "The Waitress" for The Caring Place, the shelter for victims of domestic violence.
(And if you haven't already heard, area movie theater mogul Ed Prusiecki, who's closing in on age 90 and has owned The Art Theater in Hobart for 66 years, just announced his retirement.)
And tonight's pie that I'll be dishing out isn't just any pie, it's pie from Marilyn's Bakery on U.S. 6 in Hobart where, this morning, they'll be serving a free "all-organic" breakfast to guests, including free-range chicken eggs, Birky's of Kouts organic pork sausage gravy and warm biscuits, and fresh blueberry cobbler.
It's all the idea of one of the bakery's owners, Barbara Tracy, who is part of the Sustainable Table national nonprofit organization that promotes healthy-eating choices.
This group is hosting a national bus tour campaign called "Pies Across America," making stops around the country as it makes its way to New York for this year's Farm Aid Concert on Sept. 9.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219.852.4327.
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