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Celebrate The Chinese New Year in Chicago

6 Jan

Hing Kee Restaurant, photo via Yelp

I get a lot of event notices through my inbox, but I thought this one, in honor of the Chinese New Year, looked especially interesting.

Learn how to make Chinese dumplings and eat a family-style meal (featuring menu items such as pumpkin seafood soup, quadruple happiness pork meatball and water chestnut cake) for a reasonable $38. Not too shabby.

It’s on Sunday, January 15th at 3 p.m. at the Hing Kee Restaurant, 2140 S. Archer Avenue.

Details below. Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Dumpling Making and a Family Style Dinner!

$38.00 (includes gratuity)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

3:00pm – 5:30pm

Hing Kee Restaurant, 2nd Floor

2140 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60616

Tea is included. Please bring extra money if you would like other non-alcohol drinks or BYOB. Seats are limited.

Tickets must be purchased in advance at the event website:

PROGRAM

  • 3:00pm Registration
  • 3:15pm
  • Presentation – Z.J. Tong, President – Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute
  • Chinese New Year Traditions and Stories
  • How Chinese Celebrate the New Year at Home
  • 3:45pm Dumpling (Jiao-Zi) Making
  • 4:30pm Dinner Served

MENU

  • Pumpkin Seafood Soup
  • Appetizer Platter (cucumber, seaweed, wonton, eggplant)
  • Jiao-Zi (Seafood Dumpling & Vegetarian Dumpling)
  • Lemon Chicken
  • Beef with Garlic and Onion
  • Quadruple Happiness Pork Meatball
  • Abalone Mushroom with Bok Choy Tips
  • Braised Bean Curd with Black Mushroom
  • Whole Fish in Sweet and Chilly Sauce
  • Water Chestnut Cake
  • Tang Yuan (Sticky Rice Balls Soup – Dessert)
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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!!

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

A New Pick-Me-Up Thanks to Nescafe!

13 Oct
Nescafe's Dolce Gusto Coffee Maker

Nescafe's Dolce Gusto Coffee Maker

A few weeks ago I attended an event at Blackbird (where Paul Kahan broke his rogue food truck intentions) hosted by Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto coffee makers. I get invited to a ton of events and as someone who works in the PR industry, I am also often responsible for spearheading said events. This one caught my eye though. First it was at Blackbird (not going to turn that down!); second I am a fan of Nescafe when in Europe but have a hard time tracking it down stateside; third, it was at Blackbird. Oh wait, already covered that.

The event itself was lovely. Chef Kahan gave a lengthy demonstration of a seafood flambé (which was out of this world) and the small audience was able to talk with him, ask questions in a very intimate setting. That in itself is worth its weight in gold. But as Chef started to wrap up, we were given a demonstration of Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto coffee maker.

As a Keurig owner, I thought, “been there, done that” as they started going through the process and steps. As someone who wasn’t always a huge coffee drinker, that is, until my son arrived, I am definitely not a coffee snob, but I can certainly appreciate a good cup of coffee. We got the Keurig maker when I was on maternity leave because I needed multiple cups throughout the day and didn’t want to make a whole pot that would get wasted. But the coffee itself is never that great. I dress it up with my Splenda and cream, but nothing to write home about. So when the Dolce Gusto demo began, I anticipated it’d be more of the same. Until I tried it. Holy moly- that was some GOOD coffee!

The coffee was robust, very flavorful and most important (to me, at least) piping hot. You can imagine my delight when we were told we’d each get our own maker shipped to us. A lovely surprise and delight.

Well, my Dolce Gusto machine arrived and I brought it to work. I’m doing a trial where I’m not going to buy any Starbucks for a month and put the money I’m saving towards a fabulous purse. So far this week, it’s great. And, I’ve started to collect company in the morning when I’m brewing my cappuccino. Word is spreading that I have good coffee in the office. Amazon sells the coffee cups and I’m going to subscribe to a monthly shipment, which saves me 15%, so each cup of delicious, gourmet coffee comes out around $.49. Not too shabby!

Thanks for keeping me bright-eyed and caffeinated at the office, Nescafe!

Disclosure: I was not paid by Nescafe, but I did receive the coffeemaker complimentary. All the thoughts here though, I can assure you, are my own.

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.

 

 

Chicago Gourmet 2011 is Almost Here

21 Sep

If you’re in Chicago this weekend and you’re a food and wine lover, then chances are you’re heading to the annual Chicago Gourmet Festival. With an amazing lineup of chefs, sommeliers, restaurants and participants, this will be the most delicious place in the city this weekend. Take a look at who’s going to be there. I will be attending Sunday and reporting a full recap. Tickets are still available!

2011 chefs

Ted Allen, Robert Mondavi Food and Wine Ambassador
Rodelio Aglibot
, The Food Buddha
Michael Altenberg, Bistro Campagne
Luis Arturo “Artie” Aucaquizhpi, Gene & Georgetti
Jerome Bacle, Courtright’s Restaurant
Ariel Bagadiong, Aja at the dana hotel and spa
Jimmy Bannos, Heaven On Seven and The Purple Pig
Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig
Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/XOCO
Jonathan Beatty, Davanti Enoteca
Greg Biggers, Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
Brian Binzer, Zapatista Lincoln Park
David Blonsky, Bull & Bear/ Public House
Viraj Borkar, Vermilion
Francis Brennan, L2O
George Bumbaris, Prairie Grass Café/ Prairie Fire
Cyril Calmet, The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago
Niall Campbell, Firefly Grill
Evandro Caregnato, Texas de Brazil
John Coletta, Quartino
Federico Comacchio, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush
Steve Coppolillo, Rosebud Steakhouse
Abel Cortes, e.leaven Food Company
Chris Curren, Blue 13 Restaurant & Bar
Jesse DeGuzman, Sunda New Asian
John des Rosiers, Inovasi
Stephen Dunne, Paramount
Kendal Duque, The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant
Graham Elliot and Brian Runge, graham elliot/Grahamwich
Greg Elliot, Lockwood at the Palmer House Hilton
Patrick Fahy, Café des Architects at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
Christian Fantoni, Filini Bar and Restaurant
Joseph Farina, Salatino’s Restaurant
Dirk Flanigan, Henri/ The Gage
John Folse, Restaurant R’evolution
Mark Freedman, Myron & Phil Steakhouse
Jo-Marie Frigo, Nonna Santi’s Biscotti
Dirk and Terry Fucik, Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop
Meg Galus, NoMI Kitchen
Gale Gand, Tru
Luigi Garcia, RIVA Restaurant
John Gatsos, Tavern on Rush
Carlos Gaytan, Mexique
James Gottwald, Rockit Bar & Grill
Elvia Granados, Francesca’s Restaurant
Rick Gresh, David Burke’s Primehouse
Tim Griffin, N9NE Steakhouse
Mark Grosz, Oceanique
Jeffrey Hedin, Leopold
Thomas Heinrich, Stetson’s Chop House & Bar at the Hyatt Regency Chicago
Perry Hendrix, Custom House
Roger Herring, Socca and Redd Herring Food & Wine
Kevin Hickey, Four Seasons Hotel
John Hogan, Keefer’s Restaurant/ Tavern at the Park
Sandra Holl, Floriole Bakery & Café
Trevor Hoyte, IPO
Tony Hu, Lao Szechuan
Dan Huebschmann, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House
Jun Ichikawa, Japonais Restaurant/ Mirai Sushi
Stephanie Izard, The Girl & The Goat
Noel Jaramillo, Bacardi at the Park
Stefan Karlsson, Fond Restaurant
Paul Katz, Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group
Ryan Kikkert, Jake Melnick’s
Beverly Kim Clark, aria Restaurant and Bar at the Fairmont Chicago
Diane Kochilas, AVLI Estiatorio
Michael Kornick, MK The Restaurant
Sarah Kosikowski, Sixteen
Eddie Lakin, Edzo’s Burger Shop
Mariano Lanfranconi, 5411 Empanadas
Gilbert Langlois, Chalkboard
Ryan LaRoche, NoMI Kitchen
Chan Le, Le Colonial
Kai Lermen, The Peninsula Chicago
Aaron Lirette, Duchamp
JR Luna, LUXBAR
Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia
Anthony Martin, Tru
Justin Martin, Uncommon Ground
Shawn McClain, Green Zebra/ Sage Restaurant
Michael McDonald, one sixtyblue
Charlie McKenna, Lillie’s Q
John McLean, Sono Wood Fired Pizzeria
Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill Restaurants
Cory Morris, Mercat a la Planxa
Jason Mousseau, HEARTY
Carrie Nahabedian, NAHA
Fernando Navas, SUSHISAMBA rio
Tommy Nevill, III Forks
Martial Noguier, bistronomic
Mary Nolan, Bon Appétit
Jessica Oloroso, Black Dog Gelato
Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier, Terry’s Toffee
Dan Pancake, Autre Monde Café
Chris Pandel, The Bristol
Beth Partridge, Autre Monde Café
Mark Payne, deca RESTAURANT + BAR
Nicole Pederson, C-House
Justin Perdue, LM Restaurant
Ryan Pitts, RL Restaurant
Celine Plano, The Peninsula Chicago
Ryan Poli, Tavernita
Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno
Patrick Quakenbush, ZED451
Joe Rosetti, Market Bar
Patty Rothman, MORE
Arun Sampanthavivat, Arun’s
Patricio Sandoval, Mercadito
Mario Santiago, May St. Cafe & Catering
Anthony Schmidt, Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula Chicago
Brian Schoenbeck, Stetson’s Chop House & Bar at the Hyatt Regency Chicago
Kevin Schulz, Fulton’s on the River/Bridge Bar
Nathan Sears, Vie
Alex Shalev, Park Grill Chicago
Patrick Sheerin, The Signature Room at the 95th
Bruce Sherman, North Pond Restaurant
Michael Shrader, Epic
Brian Shustrick, HEARTY
Larry Sinclair, Cantina Laredo
Mark Sparacino, Prosecco
Chris Spear, Uncommon Ground
Jeff Starr, Build A Better Burger
Sarah Stegner, Pairie Grass Café/ Prairie Fire
Kristine Subido, WAVE
Michael Taus, ZEALOUS Restaurant
Giuseppe Tentori, Boka Restaurant
Shin Thompson, Bonsoiree
Rick Tramonto, Restaurant R’evolution/ Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood/ RT Sushi Bar & Lounge
Melissa Trimmer, C-House
Jared Van Camp, Old Town Social
Paul Virant, Perennial Virant
Randy Waidner, Gibsons Restaurant Group
Scott Walton, Markethouse Restaurant and Bar
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto
Jared Wentworth, Longman and Eagle
Matthew Wilde, Moonshine
Erick Williams, MK The Restaurant
Keith Willis, SugarToad Restaurant at the Hotel Arista
Shelley Young, The Chopping Block
Ivan Yuen, Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula Chicago
Celeste Zeccola, Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Café
Bob Zrenner, Hubbard Inn
Randy Zweiban, Province

2011 master
sommeliers

Serafin Alvarado, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois
Jay Fletcher, Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado
Eric Hemer, Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida
Alpana Singh, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Joseph Spellman, JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery

2011 speakers

Bridget Albert, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois
Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig
Xavier Barlier, Maisons Marques & Domaines
Bobby Gleason, BEAM INC.
Lynn House, Blackbird
Charles Joly, The Drawing Room
Stefan Karlsson, Fond Restaurant
Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appétit
John Legnard, Blue Moon Brewing Co.
Rob and Allie Levitt, The Butcher and  Larder
Tony and Cathy Mantuano, Spiaggia
Paul Mugnier, Premium Port Wines
Ira Norof, CWE, Southern Wine & Spirits of California
Adam Rapoport, Bon Appétit
Peter Scott, Premium Port Wines
Erling Wu-Bower, The Publican
Donald Ziraldo, TWG/Equifera Icewine

2011 emcees

David Blackmon, CPS
Lin Brehmer, Radio Personality, WXRT Chicago
Joe Campagna, ChicagoNow.com
Jason Carlen, Spiaggia
Catherine DeOrio, Culinary Curator
Steve Dolinsky, ABC 7
Shebnem Ince, Henri/The Gage
Chris Koetke, Kendall College
Kiki Luthringshausen, Beauty and Her Feast
Amanda Puck, The Foodarazzi
Adam RapoportBon Appétit
LeeAnn Trotter, NBC 5

 

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.