Upcoming Events: Chef Swaps and Smorgasbords

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The Swedish invented the smörgåsbord, and they don't mess around -- and certainly not at Christmas. On Friday, December 9, IKEA will be hosting a traditional Swedish julbord, the Christmas version of a smorgasbord, or buffet-style feast. From 6 to 8:30 p.m., the julbord (literally meaning "Yule table") meal will feature Swedish Christmas favorites like smoked salmon, meatballs, potatoes, cabbage, rice pudding and more. And in true, low-priced IKEA fashion, it's only $9.99 for adults and $2.49 for kids.

A feast of a different kind will take place next Sunday, December 4, as Randy Rucker kicks off a duo of UMAMI dinners at Kata Robata. A second dinner is planned for December 18. Each will feature a multi-course tasting menu of Japanese and other "ultra-exotic ingredients" prepared by Kata Robata's executive chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi, chef de cuisine Mark Gabriel Medina and mixologist David Long Wong, along with Rucker and pastry chef Chris Leung, both of the upcoming restaurant conāt. The December 4 dinner is $125 a person, while the December 18 dinner is $225 a person; call 713-526-8858 for reservations.

Two more dynamic chef-driven dinners will take place Thursday, December 1, and Friday, December 2, as executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Four Seasons and chef Adam Dorris of Stella Sola will join forces -- and swap restaurants -- for Quattro's fifth Guest Chef Series dinner. The first dinner will begin at Stella Sola, the second at Quattro; both will feature a wholly different four-course, Italian-inspired menu for $58 a person (plus tax and tip). Call 713-276-4700 for reservations.

You can count me among the very few Houstonians who don't like James Coney Island's chili (unless it's on a hot dog). But there'll be another option come December: New Mexico-style green chili (above). The chili comes with chunks of pork and cilantro in addition to the green chiles and will be available at all JCI locations throughout the month for $3.39 or $4.69 a bowl.

Two big book signings are coming up in the next week, meaning you'll get a chance to visit with chefs Lidia Bastianich and Tyson Cole.

Bastianich will be at the HoustonPBS Private Wine Reception on Monday, November 28, at the Whole Foods on Waugh from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. You'll be sampling wines from Bastianich Vineyards and listening to Lidia's cooking tips, with the book signing following afterward. Tickets are $30 per person and seating is limited.

Cole will be doing a similar event at Leibman's (14529 Memorial Drive) on Wednesday, November 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. His recently released cookbook, Uchi the Cookbook, will be on sale, and guests will also get to sample appetizers prepared from the book itself. The event is free.

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