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And A Merry Fondue To You

4 Jan

We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We celebrated with my family in Chicago for Christmas and then headed east to Vermont to have another Christmas and New Years celebration with my husband’s family. All in all, it was very delicious, special and fun to eat amazing food with the people I love most in this world.

Cheese and Seafood Fondue at our New Year's Eve dinner in Vermont

My in-laws have a long tradition of breaking out the fondue pots during special events and holidays, and that is exactly what we did on New Year’s Eve. We had three variations, one cheese fondue, a seafood/broth fondue and of course for dessert, a chocolate fondue.

I’ve had cheese fondue before, but cooking seafood in the broth fondue was new to me. It was amazing. Here’s the recipe and tips for throwing your own fondue party. I know, 1970’s, but I think it’s on the rise and will be a dinner party trend in 2012!

Get a fondue pot, a spirit lamp, a few long-stemmed forks. I love this one from Le Cruset!

For the seafood fondue, rub the interior of the pot with a clove of garlic.

Add boiling broth (I recommend vegetable as it won’t interfere with the flavor) and keep a top on until you’re ready to start dipping.

Have enough seafood (I recomend scallops and raw shrimp) for your guests. You may also want to blanch the seafood to ensure it’s cooked in the fondue, or else make sure you leave it in long enough to cook well.

Have some sauces on hand, such as a mustard mayonnaise, cocktail sauce and a Thai sesame sauce) to dip the cooked seafood into.

Voila!

For cheese fondue, add about four cups of diced cheese (of your choice) as well as a cup of dry white wine and about 1/4 cup of Kirsch brandy. Cook in a pot on the stove until it’s all melted. I would also add a teaspoon of sage, a nice aromatic flavor that accompanies the cheese.

Once melted, add to a fondue pot (which, similar to the seafood fondue, should be rubbed with garlic). Have bread, veggies on hand to dip and enjoy!

Make sure you have some nice white wine and Champage. Both go great with these fondue dished.

Enjoy!!

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The Michelin Guide Chicago 2012 and Michelin Star Restaurants

15 Nov

Grant Achatz remains king as Alinea is awarded the sole dignity of having three Michelin stars in Chicago, while last year’s co-champion, L20, fell down to one star with the transition of their executive chef. There were a few other fluxes in this year’s Michelin star ranking from last year; a total of 21 Chicago restaurants were awarded the honors versus 23 in 2011. Next was not included and it’s unclear if that was a result of not being able to experience the restaurant or due to when it opened.

I am thrilled to see some of the standouts from my year  in dining were included, among them Schwa and Tru. With last year’s arrival of Chicago Michelin Guide, it showcased what we in our fair city have known for a long time, we have tasty food and restaurants. I appreciate that the Michelin Guide continues to push and excel our Chefs, but with the Chicago charm I wouldn’t trade for the world. Sappy? Sure. But I’m not wrong.

And now, I present the 2012 Michele star restaurants in Chicago:

Three stars:

  • Alinea

Two stars:

  • Charlie Trotter’s
  • RIA

One star:

  • Blackbird
  • Boka
  • Bonsoiree
  • Courtright’s (new in 2012)
  • Everest
  • Graham Elliot
  • L2O
  • Longman & Eagle
  • Moto (new in 2012)
  • NAHA
  • Schwa
  • Seasons
  • Sepia
  • Spiaggia
  • Takashi
  • Topolobampo
  • Tru
  • Vie

Due Lire Serves up a Delicious Wine Dinner

1 Oct
Massimo Di Vuolo behind the bar at Due Lire

Massimo Di Vuolo behind the bar at Due Lire

Since I had my son, getting out to restaurants has become harder and harder. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I still make a great effort to eat out three or four times a month, but when we do go out to a restaurant, we’ve started staying closer to the neighborhood. One of our absolute favorite staples is Due Lire. The genius behind owner, Massimo Di Vuolo and chef, Kevin Abshire, is one of those rare dynamics that is few and far between. Massimo brings forth his hospitality experience and expertise and Chef Kevin has developed a reintroduction to fine Italian dining. My husband and I may have become creatures of habit, but dear lord do Massimo and Chef Kevin make it easy to come to Due Lire time and time again.

This past Thursday, Due Lire hosted their first (of many, rumor has it!) wine dinners. I will save the suspense. It was amazing. Each course was thoughtfully created and expertly executed and the wine pairings were perfection. Oh, and it was only $65 a person, including tax and gratuity. It was also one of those great neighborhood experiences where people shared tables and got to mix and mingle with each other.

The menu started out with the antipasto, of fresh figs, citrus whipped mascarpone, honeycomb and brioche toast. This was all paired with a cataratto bianco blend from Tasca D’Almerita Leone Igt, 2009. The unoaked and vibrant flavors picked up on the citrus in the mascarpone. A sweep and delightfully light first course.

The primo course was straccetti al ragu’ di faraona, which was homemade rag-shaped pasta, guinea hen ragu’, porcini and fresh pomegranate. This was paired with Tenuta di Fessina Erse Etna Rossa, a level red that picked up the rich guinea hen and porcini. The homemade pasta was divine and held court among the other savory flavors.

Next up was tonno alla scapece, seared ahi tuna loin, scapece style zucchini, and a petite fennel salad. This was paired with a crisp Tasca d’Almerita le Rose di Regaleali. The crisp rose paired with the superbly prepared tuna was an amazing combination. The only thing that didn’t coordinate with this course was the crisp fall weather, but when planning for an event in September, you never know what it’ll be like outside!

The dessert course was poached pear, fried dunbarton blue pastry cream with a pistachio brittle. This was accompanied with a glass of Tasca d’Almerita Lamuri Nero d’Avola, a robust and juicy Italian red. The blue cheese pastry with the pears (poached in simple syrup) was perfect. I love sweet and savory together and the blue pastry was a well matched blend of those flavors.

Congratulations to the entire team at Due Lire (Massimo, Kevin, Kelly, Cyndi, and everyone else)- I know that it was a lot of work to put this first event together, but they really nailed it and everyone (literately, EVERYONE) was buzzing about when the next dinner would be. Whenever it is, I’ll be there. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be there in a week or two regardless. And so should you.

 

 

Tru was Truly Sublime

16 Aug
Tru Menu

Our menu from Tru, signed by Chef Anthony Miller

It’s important that I write this review now so I don’t forget a single moment from our dinner at Tru. To say it was amazing wouldn’t begin to do it justice. But let start at the beginning.

On August 11, Ian and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We’ve been married as long as we were in college. It’s not a Things Remembered milestone, but one that we were eager to celebrate. As you know, going out to dinner with a one and a half year old is not an easy task. Ian and I are able to sneak away sometimes for a dinner out in the square, but for our anniversary, we wanted to go beyond our comfort zone and do something special.

My friend, Jeffrey Ward, had been over in July and was telling me about how amazing Tru’s new Chef Anthony Martin was and I was sold.

I booked us a hotel room at the Sofitel and made reservations for Tru. The reservation was at 8:45, which was much later than we normally eat, but again, we were breaking all the rules (how dangerously we live!). I will add, on a side note, that before our dinner, we did something that was so fun and another highlight of our evening. We put on the plush bathrobes, opened the bottle of Veuve Clicquot and watch Bridesmaids in bed. It was bliss! But I digress…

We dressed up for dinner, I put on serious heels and Ian was dapper in his jacket and slacks. When we arrived at the meal, we were greeted with a glass of complimentary Champagne. Perfect.

We were going to order the Grand Collection, but Chef surprised us and brought us the Chef Collection as his treat. Along with the wine accompaniments. All 15 courses.

The first show-stopper was the suspended foie gras. The food was of course amazing; the buttery foie gras with the reinvented texture and the candied pecans. But what truly brought the dish to life was the impeccable pairing from Tru’s wine director and Sommelier, Chad Ellegood.  Ellegood brought out the 2007 Bonny Doon Le Vol Des Anges Roussanne Arroyo Seco. It was delicate enough to partner the heaviness of the foie gras, but substantial enough to enhance the flavor.  When people disregard how wine can compliment a meal, I want them to experience what we did with this bite and sip. It was incredible.

The halibut was another example of Chef Anthony’s ability to simply create a perfect dish. It didn’t have dry-ice or impeccable plating, but it was perfect. Poached in butter (when can you go wrong with that) it was hands-down the most perfectly cooked fish I’ve ever had.

And then the cheese cart. Any civilized meal should have a cheese cart. The one objection I had to this was that after Ian and I ate our cheese, at an admittedly quick pace!- one of the servers pointed out how fast we ate it. Not nice. But we were quick to forgive when the desserts came, one, by one, by one.  The natural cherries with black truffles and honeycrisp apple beignet were the things dreams are made of. If I could, I’d eat them, each, everyday for the rest of my life.

After our almost four hour Tru-athon was over, Ian and I made our way back to the hotel, full bellies and full hearts. In addition to the food, the experience was perfection. The service was the standard to which all other restaurants should aspire, and most importantly, it gave me and my husband a chance to really enjoy each other’s company.
Bravo to Tru, to Chef Anthony Martin and Chad Ellegood. The experience was absolutely amazing and it will go down as one of the greatest meals.

Midwest Clambake

11 Jun
Painting of Clams by Mary E. Whelan

Painting of Clams by Mary E. Whelan

Who says you can’t have a true New England clambake in the Midwest? We did just that and it was a wonderful evening. With 12 dear friends in attendance, we sipped on Dark and Stormies, enjoyed couture deviled eggs and had a feast of clams, mussels and lobster out on the deck. Here are some photo highlights and recipes from the night.

 

The Dark and Stormy Bar

The Dark and Stormy Bar

Dark and Stormy:
This is a New England staple, and its namesake creates the portrait of a cold and rainy night on Martha’s Vineyard. To make this refreshing cocktail you only need a few things.

Ingredients:

  1. 3 ounces  of Black-strap run (Goslings is typical)
  2. 5 ounces of Ginger beer (not ginger ale)
  3. Ice
  4. ¼ Lime
  5. 1 sprig of Mint

Directions:

  • Mix the run and ginger beer together and pour over a tall glass full of ice
  • Add the lime and twist the sprig of mint into the cocktail
  • I recommend drinking out of a mason jar with a straw
  • Enjoy!
Clambake Cheese Platter

Clambake Cheese Platter

 

Catherine Merritt Clambake

Catherine Merritt Clambake

New England Clambake
This recipe is inspired by Ina Garten’s Kitchen Clambake recipe. I was unsure of how to cook everything and after reading her recipe, I realized it’s quite easy. So I added my own ingredients and such, but used her recipe as the model.

Ingredients: (for 8-12)

  1. 8 dozen clams
  2. 4 pound of mussels
  3. 4 1.5 lb lobsters
  4. 5 pounds of red potatoes
  5. 5 ears of corn cut into 2” slices
  6. 1 pound chorizo
  7. 3 sweet onions diced
  8. 4 leeks sliced thin (only white parts)
  9. 1 shallot diced
  10. 5 garlic cloves
  11. 4 cups of dry white wine
  12. 1 stick of butter
  13. Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Place pot on a burner at high heat
  • Add the stick of butter into a large pot for the bake
  • Once it melts, add the garlic, onions, shallotts and leeks, stir until well cooked (about 15 minutes)
  • Add in this order:  potatoes, corn, chorizo, clams, mussels lobsters
  • Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce heat and cook on medium high for another 15 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when the clams are open and the potatoes are tender
  • Serve on large platters and don’t forget graveyard bowls for the shells
  • Enjoy!
Clambake

Clambake

 

Lobsters

Lobsters

This Foodie Went To BlogHer Food ’11

23 May
Downtown Atlanta

Downtown Atlanta

Last week I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer Food 2011 in Atlanta. One of the great things about my job is that it affords me the opportunity to experience and learn new things all. the. time. It’s one of the many reasons I love it. Anyway- BlogHer Food was not my first blogger conference, but it was my first food blogger one and it was pretty interesting.

Networking at BlogHer Food 2011

Networking at BlogHer Food 2011

So from the perspective of someone who LOVES food and loves food blogs- I was in awe. I was surrounded by the authors of words I’ve been reading for years and it was a pleasure and honor to be among them. The conference was made up of a decent mix of well established bloggers and newbies to the world. At the very least, this allowed for good discussion at various vantage points.

The conference’s breakout sessions were modeled much in the way a blog post is- interesting perspective and insights with lots of space for comments. One of the most interesting sessions I attended was Recipe Writing: Copyright, Credit and Etiquette, paneled by Dianne Jacob, David Leite, and Liza Barry-Kessler.  The blurry lines of recipe copyright laws makes for a lot of confusion about adapted recipes versus inspired-by recipes or about stealing recipes outright. The rule of thumb I took from it was to source it, including a link, author and if the recipe is in a book, link to the book’s sale page on Amazon.  If you have any question about whether or not you should source a recipe- the answer is YES! Better safe than sorry.

While to content of the conference was engaging, though I didn’t always agree with it, being able to meet lots of new and old writers was a treat indeed. I got to chat with Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and I’m hoping he comes out for an event in the fall (I told him he needs to meet and eat at Hot Doug’s!).  David Lebovitz was there and absolutely hilarious in all of his matter-of-fact glory.

Roast Beef Crostinis

Roast Beef Crostinis

The food at the conference was good; way better than normal hotel conference food. I loved that they had vegan and glutton free options. The real deliciousness came when we ventured into Buckhead to sample Top Chef All Stars’ Richard Blais’ Flip Burger. Outstanding! I had the butchers cut burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions and it was outstanding. The sides were equally amazing; we got to sample the fries, vodka infused onion rings, Brussel sprouts and fried pickles. Heaven.

I opted to stay at the Ellis Hotel instead of the Westin and their Terrace restaurant was equally delicious. It’s all locally sourced produce, meat and dairy and you can immediately taste how fresh everything is. I also loved the second floor terrace balcony. It’s a great way to watch the streets from an elevated perch.

All in all, it was a fun trip that definitely rejuvenated me to be better about this blog (though I still wish I had an extra hour every day I could use for it) and I think moving forward, I’m going to commit myself to telling the story better. Yes, we all love food. But I want to continue telling you WHY I love it and why it means what it does to me.

Aviary is open

25 Apr

Aviary, the cocktail brainchild of Grant Achatz, opened this past Saturday. As with everything chef Achatz does, he is reinventing the cocktail as we know it.

The menu for Aviary is as follows:

Cocktails

Cranberry, passion fruit, orange, rums – $17
Popcorn, butter, crème fraiche, rum – $15
Coffee, ristretto, milk, rum – $15
Pineapple, mint, sanbitter, chartreuse – $16
Hot Chocolate, Ecuadorian chocolate, fernet, tequila – $15
Ginger, peychaud’s, shiso, fingerlime, – vodka $17
Daiquiri, sugar cane, lime, rum – $12
Banana, lemon, mint, new make – $16
Tiki, macadamia, cinnamon, batavia – $17
Blueberry, verjus, sweet vermouth, rye – $19
Martinez maraschino, sweet vermouth, gin, – $14
Lemon, carbonated, gin – $16
Sazerac, demerara, peychaud’s, rye – $14
El Diablo, creme de cassis, ginger beer, tequila – $15
In the Rocks, demerara, angostura, bourbon – $18
Sassafras, vanilla, anise, kirsch – $18
Rooibos, verbena, almond, vanilla, gin – $18
Sidecar, cointreau, lemon, brandy – $14
Scots Pine, yuzu, elderflower, tequila – $17
Truffle, campari, sweet vermouth, gin – $28
Martini, aged, vermouth, gin – $18

Bites

Cantaloupe, prosciutto, basil, champagne – $3
Lobster, cracker, comte, grape – $5
Chowder, croquette, clam, spicy corn pudding – $3
Crab, tempura, tomato, pickle – $4
Pork Belly, coconut, curry, iceberg – $4
Potato, custard, malt vinegar chips, chive – $3
Wagyu, smoked paprika, pumpkin seed, yogurt – $6
Foie Gras, rhubarb, pumpernickel, lavender – $5
Cheesecake, strawberry, balsamic, graham cracker – $3
Brioche, chocolate, smoked salt, vanilla – $4