18th Annual Green City Market Chef BBQ: Brings 100+ Chicago Restaurants with Chefs & Mixologists to Lincoln Park


One of Chicago's greatest events is almost upon us- the Green City Market Chef BBQ will bring in over 100 of Chicago's best restaurants, showing off their Top Chefs and Mixologists to provide tastes of local, sustainable heirloom produce and heritage meats from Green City Market Farmers. This will take place tomorrow, July 19, from 5:30-8PM at the usual spot, south end of Lincoln Park (1817 N Clark St). Tickets for this event can be purchased for $125 each here

Some of the featured restaurants include Bad Hunter, bellyQ, Frontera Grill, Longman & Eagle, Parachute, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Big Jones, The Publican, while some of the beverage purveyors involved include Begyle Brewing, Half Acre, Koval, Revolution, Sparrow Coffee.

Proceeds from this event supports the Green City Market's year round market and community programs. 

Grand Cochon Comes to Chicago!

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This Sunday, October 1, 14 Chefs from around the country will be in Chicago for Grand Cochon to showcase their culinary skill and compete to become the "King or Queen of Porc"! Each Chef will create no less than three bite sized portions from their own heritage pig. They will be using the whole animal- so be ready to enjoy some amazing and off the wall food.

In addition to the 42+ bites in this communal feast, guests can sample Rosenberg's Deli's Chef Joshua Pollack's beef tartare with Sabatino's truffles, Pastoral Artisan cheeses and bread, La Brea's pop up bakery, organic pâté Les Trois Petits Cochons, a luxury butter and foie gras bar and much more!

There will also be much to drink with wine, spirits, and cocktails from the Glenfiddich Experimental Dome, Breckenridge smoked Old Fashions, The Manhattan Project by Poached Jobs, collaborative Angostura and Perfect Puree's Tiki Bar, Courvoisier cocktails, and wines from Scholium Project, Kosta Browne, Pax, Silver Oak and more. 

The event takes place at Morgan Manufacturing on October 1. Tickets are available here. General Admission ($150) lets in at 5:55pm or you can splurge with the VIP pass ($225) which lets you in at 5pm. Hope to see you all at the pig out!

Cooper's Hawk Comes To Oak Park

I live in Oak Park and was invited to check out the new Cooper's Hawk location on Lake Street. This was greatly anticipated by the community, as we don't have many close options for wine tasting in the neighborhood. I have been to Cooper's Hawk before, in South Barrington and Burr Ridge, and enjoyed the experience of tasting through their wines and found the food to be very good. 

I took my wife and we started out in the tasting room. It is really welcoming with a large L shaped bar, staff ready to help, televisions for sports viewing in the bar, and tons of wine chatchskis for purchase. When we started tasting, I was startled by the amount of different wines Cooper's Hawk had in their personal portfolio: Sparkling, Sparkling Rose, Moscato, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (both oaked and unoaked, and a premium Lux brand), Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Lux Pinot, Barbera, Merlot, Malbec, Zin, Cabernet and Lux Cabernet, Lux Meritage, Tempranillo, "Super Tuscan" (Sangiovese based blend from Tuscany), Cotes du Rhone, and Shiraz. I tried a few of the wines and found the Sparkling Rose, Pinot Gris, Barbera and Super Tuscan to be quite good, plus the Cotes du Rhone collaboration with Jean-Charles Boisset was excellent as well. Some of the other wines were in the mediocre category, but definitely worth a taste.

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In The Barrels

Enjoying some Cooper's Hawk OP!

We later shuffled over to our booth and ordered our food. After speaking with the GM and our Waiter, we found that the restaurant employed over 200 staff members, mostly comprised of the surrounding neighborhoods of Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Austin Chicago. That is a huge bonus for the community. Back to the cuisine, the tuna tacos are an excellent starter with nice Asian/Mexican fusion flavors. My wife loved her chicken entree but I found my NY Strip to be slighly overcooked (I ordered it Medium Rare) and kinda flavorless. I am unsure where the beef is from, but I would go GrassFed as it tends to have loads more flavor. Our dessert was delicious, the Key Lime Pie, which was our waiter's fav.

All in all, it is a great addition to the 'hood and a fun time whether you are a wine club member or a casual diner. I will definitely go back to sample the new wines!

Wine Pairing with Bruschetta Bar

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Last week I had the delight of putting together an amazing event for a West Loop client with the help of Chef Meagan Lombaer (aka The Radical Larder). It was for a group of about 30 guests and Meagan came up with the novel idea of creating a Bruschetta Bar- take some grilled crusty bread and top it yourself with different sauces, meats, veggies, fruits and cheeses- what could be better for a party?!

I had a blast selecting wines to pair up with the toppers and here's how some of it went:

While those may be better pairings for the wines, I highly recommend everyone to dabble and try out different combos. Might as well when you have a whole bar to choose from!

If you'd like to have an event like this for your guests, feel free to contact me for help in putting it together- it was absolutely amazing!

Chicago Beer Classic

I may be a huge wine guy, but I love my beer, and there is no better event for brews than the Chicago Beer Classic, which takes place tomorrow in Soldier Field, and not only gives you a chance to walk on the field, but also to try out over 50 brews from over 30 local breweries! Try out beers from Half Acre, Finch Beer Co, Pollyanna, Brickstone, Exit Strategy, Bell's, Pipeworks and many more. There are two sessions: 11:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-7:30pm. I suggest going VIP for more tastes, access, and 30 extra minutes- worth the splurge. 

If you haven't made plans, grab your tickets here and go!

Cochon555 in Chicago: 5 Chefs, 5 Heritage Pigs, 5 Winemakers

The good news: Cochon555 is back on Sunday, April 23. The better news: they're back at Morgan Manufacturing- one of my favorite event spaces. If you haven't been to either, then this is your perfect opportunity to see 5 Chicago chefs- Ricardo Jarquin of Travelle Kitchen, John Manion of El Che Bar, Nathan Sears of theWit, Tom Carlin of Publican Quality Meats, and Pete Coenen of Cherry Circle Room. Each has selected a Heritage pig to work with from local farms and they use the whole pig to create 5 different dishes- giving you 25 dishes to try!

All of this food is great, but what to wash it down with? Glad you asked, because not only are there normally a few bartenders battling in a Punch throwdown, but there'll also be 5 different winemakers serving The Scholium Project, Pax Mahle Wines, Kosta Browne, and Silver Oak

You can go General Admission from 5-8pm or VIP (highly recommended) from 4-8pm. There'll also be butchers onhand serving up prime cuts for purchase from more heritage pigs. So go get some pig, drink some wine, take pig home!

Windy City Wine Guy's Top 10 Holiday Wines Under $20

Just in time for your holiday entertaining shopping list, here are my top 10 picks for you wines! These are all under $20 and can be found at a local wine shop or retailer like Whole Foods. These recos are short and sweet: price point range and my notes. Enjoy!

1. 2011 Couly Dutheil Chinon Rouge 'La Baronne Madeleine' $19.99

French Cabernet Franc with solid tannins, juicy & smokey black fruit.

2. 2013/2014/2015 Amayna Boya Leyda Valley Pinot Noir $14.99

Hard to find this varietal with this amount of quality at this price.

3. 2014 Villacreces 'Pruno' Ribera del Duero $16.99

Tempranillo based beauty with body and acidity.

4. 2013 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino $18.99.

A Tuscan red which is bright and floral but has weight.

5. 2010 Chateau Lamothe Bergeron Haut Medoc $17.99 

Gotta have your Bordeaux at an affordable price- great vintage too.

6. 2012 Columbia Crest H3 Le Chevaux Red Blend $11.99

When you want an everyday red at a great price.

7. 2012 Senorio de Barahonda Barrica $14.99

A complex, inky blend of Monastrell and Syrah

8. 2014 Opolo Zinfandel $18.99

A true Zin with deep extracted fruit, minerality, rich.

9. 2012 Chris Ringland 'CR' Shiraz $19.99

 Layers of cherry, chocolate, plum cake, leather- just dang good fireplace wine.

10. 2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

Complex cool climate Cab with all the body you want

The Windy City Wine Guy's Top 10 Fall Wine Picks

Do you hear that? That's the sound of leaves and autumn hitting the streets. It's also time where many of you may drink more reds than white and need a stockpile of it in your homes. Don't forget that drinking rose all year round is STILL a thing. In the meantime, have no fear, your top fall wine picks are here! You can find most of these in your local wine store. 

1. NV Avinyo Cava Brut Reserva

I can't think of a better way to kick off this season than with a sparkling wine that's light on body while full on doughiness & sweet citrus. Cin Cin! Runs  $14.99

2. 2015 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet

Oyster season is back (the best oysters are harvested in the 'R' months) so enjoy it with a zippy and citrusy wine that holds a touch of sea brininess. $13.99

3. 2015 Hecht Bannier Cotes de Provence Rose 

Even though we've moved from Summer, I cannot give up the pink. This one offers floral aromas with ripe watermelon.  $15.99

4. 2013 Beauregard Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Gris Orange

Many eschew "Orange" wines (white wines made with limited amount of white grape skin contact) but I love them. They are much more complex than your normal whites with honey, orange peel and coconuty aromas and flavors. Jump on the bandwagon! $22.99

 5. 2013 J. Janodet Domaine les Fines Graves Moulin-a-Vent                                                            

Hard to think about harvest season without a wine from the region which turns out the first wine of Northern Hemisphere harvest.  This Cru Beaujolais has red strength but time has settled it. Take it for a ride.  $19.99

6. 2014 Erath Pinot Noir 

I love the foresty complexity of many Oregon Pinots and this one has a light fruit aspect too which is perfect for a the season. $16.99

7. 2013 Darting Pinot Meunier Pfalz

Hailing from Germany, this is a fun red full of juicy red fruit, chestnuts and hints of chocolate.  $21.99

8. 2013 Damilano Nebbiolo d'Alba

Nebbiolo is the perfect autumn wine with it's mushroomy earthiness and forest floor aspects combined with the peppercorn and red fruit of this bottling.  A real bargain at $19.99

9. 2013 Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache

Hard to find good bargains with this grape but this wine from Down Under delivers floral aromas and light red fruits to go along with the Thanksgiving bird.  $16.99

10. 2013 Masseria Surani 'Heracles' Primitivo

I'm not quite ready to get into heavy reds but this progenitor of Zinfandel is a good start.  Smoky herbs and green olive fragrance accompany strawberry and rhubarb.  $13.99

Hello Kitty Wine

I was recently introduced to a surprise wine, Hello Kitty sparkling, through an article passed along by a fellow Dad and I started to laugh. My daughter loves Hello Kitty and being a Dad, I like the label too. But what would this mean for a wine? 

Further reading led me to find out it is created by Torti in Oltrepo Pavese, a wine region in Lombardy, Italy. They make a few different wines, highlighted by a sparkling rose made out of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay ($24).

I've never minded a little fun with wine, including labeling, and will look for this. Hopefully I enjoy a glass, my daughter can enjoy the bottle.

Baconfest Chicago 2016

The 8th Annual Baconfest Chicago begins this Saturday, April 30 and runs through Sunday, May 1  at the UIC Forum.  Baconfest Chicago will feature amazing restaurants such as Slurping Turtle, Table Donkey & Stick, Spacca Napoli, Nana, The Duck Inn and The Dawson along with chefs Carlos GaytanTakashi Yagihashi, Paul Virant, and Sandra Holl.

Make sure to buy your tickets!  There'll be 3 Themed sessions: 

Saturday Lunch - April 30

11:00AM - 12:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour

12:00PM - 3:00PM General Admission Period

Featured Cocktail: Tiki

Saturday Dinner - April 30

6:00PM - 7:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour

7:00PM - 10:00PM General Admission Period

Featured Cocktail: Old Fashion

Sunday Brunch- May 1 *NEW to the fest

11:00AM - 12:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour

12:00PM - 3:00PM General Admission Period

Featured Cocktail: Bloody Mary


A Year of Cochon555: Chicago 4/26 and Heritage BBQ 9/27

Portioning a Heritage Pig into cuts for sale at Cochon 555

Portioning a Heritage Pig into cuts for sale at Cochon 555

I was fortunate to visit Cochon 555 two times this year, once on April 26 and at the Heritage BBQ on September 27. For those of you who haven't been, it is a mission to educate chefs and consumers on heritage breed pigs raised by family farmers. It is a local mission as well, which donates to local charities and promotes farm to table produce and pork. The tour has hit many US cities: NYC, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, DC, Denver, Aspen, Miami, Austin, Minneapolis and has ventured up to Canada in Toronto.

On my visits, I had the pleasure of tasting heritage breed pork prepared by some of this city's finest chefs like Nathan Sears of The Radler, Chris Marchino of Spiaggia, John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina, Nicole Peterson of Found Kitchen, Kurt Guzowski and Thomas Rice of TETE Charcuterie, Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder, Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia, Erik Freeberg of Bar Toma, 2012 King of Pork Jason Vincent, Edward Sura of Perennial Virant, Scott Manley of Table, Donkey & Stick, Phil Wingo of Pork Mafia, Alfredo Nogueira of Analogue, Chris Curren of Seven Lions, Dave Ochs of upcoming Maple & Ash, Mitch Cavanah of GT Fish & Oyster, Chrissy Camba of Maddy's Dumpling House and Jonathan Meyer of Freehand. Now each chef was in competition and given a 180 pound heritage hog to make 6 different dishes for the voting crowd. There was a large variety of cooking style like at Cochon 555 and at Heritage BBQ with Hibachi, Korean BBQ, Asador, Braai from Africa, Char Siu, Caja China, Churrasco and Barbacoa.

I tasted many dishes like Feijoada (confit shoulder, roast loin, linguica, black beans, pickled ramps and broth, malagueta salsa), Blood & Ham (blood & rye cake, shaved extrawurst, dill cream cheese, cucumbers), Pork Candy Bar (smoked lard caramel, crispy pig ears, chicharones, dark chocolate and sea salt), Pork Belly Huaraches (crispy corn huarache with mole, cilantro and pickled pig skin), Gnocchi della Spina (potato gnocchi, spinal ragu, pork sugo, parmigiano), Dashi Braised Pork Belly, Asado de Tira Ribs, Grilled Sweatbreads in Chimichurri Rojo and many more. It's like a pork orgy in an array of culinary style- an amazing experience.

There's also great wine, spirits, cocktails (Smoked Manhattans from Breckinridge!), punches and cheese on display to keep your taste buds moving, thirsts quenched. And there's always butchers on hand to cut and portion heritage pork for you to take home- get your creative juices flowing and dress up a prime cut with your favorite recipe or just throw it on the grill.

I would recommend for anyone to save up and grab a ticket when they come to your town in 2016- tickets start around $100 and the VIP experience is the best where you get to enter an hour earlier than everyone else- I was able to taste about 75% of the room before the hour was up! See you at Cochon 555 2016!

Delicious Pork everywhere- even in dessert form!

Delicious Pork everywhere- even in dessert form!

A room full of Chef made Heritage Pork creations- where to start?

A room full of Chef made Heritage Pork creations- where to start?

Best dressed guy (always) fellow Sommelier Philippe Andre of Mo ë t & Chandon

Best dressed guy (always) fellow Sommelier Philippe Andre of Moët & Chandon

Upcoming Event: Cochon 555

An amazing on tour event is coming to Chicago this weekend: Cochon 555, known as a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs.  

For the competition, local chefs Nathan Sears (The Radler), Nicole Pederson (Found Kitchen), Chris Marchino (Spiaggia), John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina), Thomas Rice & Kurt Guzowski (Tete Charcuterie) will prepare a maximum of six whole hog dishes with hopes to win votes from a crowd of hungry gourmands and judges.  There will also be an assortment of endless wine, beer and spirits.  

Grab your tickets and get ready to head out this Sunday, April 26 to Morgan Manufacturing (401 N Morgan St).  There is also a Chef's Course Dinner at Nico Osteria on Friday and a Large Format Feast (Sold Out) at TETE Charcuterie.  See you there!

BaconFest Chicago

If you haven't made the trek to BaconFest, you'd better start planning for 2016.  It is a show of culinary porkdom, craft cockpigtailing, smokey sensory meaty goodness.  I waded through a sea of people looking for a pork fix, piggy tricks and drink mix.  There were cooks from Chicago restaurants like Big Jones, Duck Inn, Epic, Lockwood, Perennial Virant and Taco Joint. Meaty, salty eats everywhere surrounded by beer from Lagunitas, Goose Island and Lakefront Brewery along with Wirtz cocktails.

The biggest quandary on what to do is where to start or how.  I figured it was best to start in the middle and work my way out, taking small bites from each vendor to save my stomach for later, while grabbing cocktails from Templeton Rye and Tito's and foregoing gutstuffing brews. 

Wading my way through the masses, I managed to find my favorites:

- Tanta (118 W Grand Ave).  They made my favorite dish of the Fest, a Chicharron Glazed Bocado, a spicy thick piece of bacon with pineapple which had the right amount of everything. Delicious

- Kanela Breakfast Club (1408 N Milwaukee Ave).  This was an extremely close 2nd, with an amazing dessert- Bacon Infused Loukoumades (Greek Donut) accompanied by the most outrageous candied bacon I've ever tasted!

- The Duck Inn (2701 S Eleanor St).  The most insanely delicious hot dog ever- The Frankenduckie: a duck fat dog wrapped in bacon with cheese sauce, pickled jalapeno and Calabrian chili relish. 

- Acre (5308 N Clark St).  Chicken Liver and Bacon Pate which was so delicious I almost asked for fourths!

- Sheekar Delights (Glenview IL).   One of the best Baklava ever with bacon, pistachio, walnuts and simple syrup, which made it lighter and better.

- Velvet Taco (1110 N State).  The Cuban Pig: a taco stuffed with grain mustard, slow roasted chili rubbed pork butt, cured ham, applewood peppered bacon, gruyere and pickles.  Perfect Cuban taco.

- Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse & The Budlong (6954 N Western Ave).  Nashville Hot Chicken Club was an insanely heat rubbed chicken paired with Nueske's smoked bacon.  I love the heat.

- Old Town Pour House (1419 N Wells St).  Ebel's Weiss Braised Pork Belly.  It was like pot roast but 100x more delicious with onion marmalade, red pepper coulis and sweet serrano chili pepper.  Love love love.

It's so hard to stop talking about the food but I'll stop there and leave your imaginations (and drooling) to wander).  Too many cocktails to think about my favorite with Koval, Tito's and Templeton Rye in the house.  You'll have to taste through the madness!  

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife   

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife


Earth Day Wine Selections

Earth Day is April 22 and it's time to start thinking of ways to celebrate.  What better way to enjoy the sustainable fruits of our Earth than with wine?  I have four wines for you, each from a distinct place which represent a deep commitment to environmental stewardship and community care, the essence of Earth Day!

- Protea Chenin Blanc ($14.99). I hate to start with my favorite but here goes.  This wine is amazing as both an easy drinker and possessing some mid-weightiness.  It has some acidity, making it great for food pairing, but the flavors are lush with honey and tropical melons.  Even cooler, the grapes are grown without training on "bush vines", sprawling about Franschhoek Valley all natural-like and growing some amazing fruit.  To take it one step further, the packaging is made to be upcycled and you'll be sure to argue not only who over who gets to keep the bottle but what to do with it later!

- Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay ($21.99).  Made entirely of estate fruit on the Chilean Coastal Range just 15 miles from the Pacific, bathed in sunshine and buffeted by cool ocean breezes.  Certified organic and biodynamic farming capture all the site has to offer.  A fabulous example of what the varietal can do when made in a classic style with preserved natural acidity and light oak.

- Loveblock Pinot Noir ($35.99).  The fruit is grown in the furthest southern reaches of the world of wine on the Someone's Darling Vineyard, which is accredited through New Zealand Winegrowers' Sustainable Winegrowing program (SWNZ).  Five clones of Pinot Noir are combined to make lovable, smokey and floral aromatics along with ripe berry and herbal notes.

- Tangley Oaks Merlot ($14.99).  This winery has a partnership with Lamanda Joy (Master Gardener) and is on a mission to preserve and strengthen communities across the US through community gardening.  That, along with the fact this wine is a great bargain from Napa Valley, makes it an Earth Day no-brainer.

Canal Park Brewing Co in Duluth

If you're up this far north you have to stop in Canal Park Brewing Company.  It's a big space right on the shore of Lake Superior with an outrageous outdoor patio and some awesome brew.  The menu isn't bad either with typical bar fare along with their own touches like Pickled Herring and Beer Can Chicken.

I went for their 40 Acre Saison right away, served in a tulip.  It's light and refreshing like a Farmhouse Ale should be, but watch the kick- it's 7.6% abv.  I also went for the Nut Hatchet, which is a World Beer Cup Winner.  It had aroma of roasted nuts and 7 grain bread and a smooth taste of brown sugar with toffee- I'd have liked it with a Black & Bleu Cheeseburger.

The bar crowd was pretty lively and I actually started up a conversation about sports with a local Minnesotan and a guy from LA.  If I visit again, I'll be sure to take the tour.  This is another place to mark on your list to visit in Duluth.

Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth


While visiting Duluth, I had to venture to the Northern Waters Smokehaus in Canal Park for one of their delicious sandwiches.  They're basically a small deli featuring smoked fish and house cured meat and pate, which you can take to go or grab a sammy.  

First visit I took Lily and we grabbed lunch for the whole family: got a Slamming Gordon for the kids which his smoked salmon pate on pita with cucumber & tomato, a Sitka Sushi for the wife which is Sockeye gravlax (dry cured) with wasabi mayo, ginger & veggies, and a Cajun Finn for myself- smoked Cajun spiced salmon with green onion cream cheese and peppers.

We sat on our patio and popped open some Ferrari Rose, a Metodo Classico dry sparkling wine from the Veneto made from Pinot Nero (60%) and Chardonnay (40%).  It was perfect with my sandwich: the acidity melded with the fat of the salmon and cream cheese, dry charred oak spice matched the smokiness of the fish, light berry flavor cooled the Cajun spice while bready toasty aroma went well with the ciabatta bun.

It's funny how something perceived as a classy or celebratory beverage can go so well with the casual encounter of a sandwich, so it just goes to show- don't pigeonhole a sparkling wine!

I stopped back to grab some smoked fish and pate to take home and it was outrageously delicious too.  The Smokehaus is a must-stop if you're in Duluth.

Windy City Wine Guy Hits Lake Superior

Lily & I on Lake Superior

After I hit the big "40" combined with my mother's recent passing, I realized you can't take time for granted.  I've always had wanderlust and now is always the time to continue traveling.  I always enjoy travel because it involves new experiences, culture (especially food!), scenery and people.

Lately I've been trying more local travel for a number of reasons: 

- Cost of travel and all involved has recently gone way up  

- Ground travel is far more economical in comparison to air 

- Everyone in this country has great spots to hit in an 8 hour or less driving radius

And that brings me to my latest travel: Duluth, Minnesota.  The city has a storied history of trains, ships and Lake Superior.  I'll be checking out all of this and local food & breweries to let you know about this great Northern town and help you put it on your travel list.

Kick Off Your Summer Grill

I've been cooking for almost 30 years and have learned a lot from mom, grandma, chefs, television, books and internet.  I've tried many new things in the past number of years and I have to say, I get the most enjoyment out of grilling outdoors.  You can cook almost any meal outdoors and more than you can cook in, and the enjoyment you get on your deck or in your backyard is priceless.  

I still love a juicy steak or pork chops on the grill, but after 40 you learn to add more fish and seafood to the menu.  And recently we've instituted "Taco Tuesdays" in our house and I've been having loads of fun with it.  Cornmeal crusted tofu, chili lime rum shrimp, tequila cilantro fish, etc has been the most delicious creations of the week.

If you'd like a great way to enjoy the weather, open a bottle of white (I normally use Riesling because of its limey, mineral properties) and get to work:

  • Marinate.  Today I bought Wild Caught Walleye (if you live in Minnesota, you'll come to LOVE this fish) and prepped it with garlic, oregano, cilantro, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper and tequila.  Let it sit covered in the fridge for at least an hour before bringing it back up to temperature.
  • Drink.  Pop open a refreshing bottle to enjoy (today was Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Riesling) and cool off.  Enjoy the day while the kids play in the yard.
  • Grill.  Doesn't matter whether you're using a gas or charcoal grill: cover the grates with foil.  All flaky fish will disintegrate if you don't.  And use an extra large spatula to get under that filet.
  • Additions.  You may be drinking a bit, but try to multitask.  Make sure to chop your toppings like tomato, avocado, peppers, greens, etc.  
  • Tortillas.  Always use corn- it's the original, less calories and tastes better.  And make it easy on yourself and grill them up!  Brush both sides with olive oil, place them on the grill and have your tongs ready because they cook quickly.  Have a towel or covered plate ready to keep them warm.

Now you're ready.  If you're going spicy (which I always do), you may want to stick with something that is refreshing and has a tiny bit of sweetness like a Washington State Riesling, a homemade margarita or mojito.  After your bev is ready, it's time to construct some tacos with the family and buon appetito!

Get Your Passport to Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde   

Vinho Verde


With Spring in full swing, you're going to want to bust out of those Winter doldrums and grab some light and refreshing wine.  One of my favorites to start with is Vinho Verde, made in northern Portugal and meaning "green wine" or "young wine".  It is mainly made white, though rosé and red are made, and meant to be drunk within the first year after bottling.  Certain producers will also purposely make them slightly effervescent by injecting a small amount of CO2.  And it is made of local Portuguese grape varietals like Loureiro, Alvarinho, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal.

Fortunately for Chicagoans (and folks in DC and New York) there is a chance to taste some of these refreshing wines around town through the Passport to Vinho Verde along with a chance to win a free trip to Portugal!  Here's a list of some places you can hit:

Gold Coast Sushi at Jellyfish

I always hear people mention in a bored way "another sushi place opened up" but that cannot be said about Jellyfish.  It's a new sushi place.  It's authentic.  And good.  You'll find it on Rush Street with an entrance leading to the second floor (accessible by elevator or stairs) across from Hugo's.  The look is very contemporary with a vibrantly lit bar and amazing views of the bustling neighborhood.

Spicy Crab Mini Tacos

Spicy Crab Mini Tacos

I was invited to stop in to try Chef Jason Im's menu and was seated in a very comfortable booth while I enjoyed a Kumquat Manhattan from the bar- if you like your whiskey like I do, you'll like this citrusy sweet twist on the classic cocktail.  The food started to roll in with Spicy Crab Mini Tacos which are loaded with fresh lump crab, flavored with lime, cilantro and candied lemon.  They also have a light kick with red tobiko and jalapeno.  This dish is a winner.  I also liked their Seafood Ceviche, a mix of scallops and shrimp with a touch of hot sauce and citrus.  Another tasty and refreshing way to start off.  Another starter followed- the Siam Shrimp.  Jumbo black tiger shrimp with pineapple and mixed vegetables in coconut curry.  The shrimp are enormous, but I would've liked more curry spice in this though.

The rolls are definitely a must as they have some really inventive creations like the Fire & Sol (salmon, spicy ponzu, snow crab), Cherry Blossom (tempura lobster tail) and Summer Rush (tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp wrapped in cucumber) along with classics like California and Spider. 


The main dishes sound great with selections of Yakitori Chicken and Wagyu Beef Burger, but we tried the Roasted Sea Bass.  This dish is just succulent with buttery bass cooked medium and melting in your mouth and salty crisp skin.  It was cooked perfectly. 

Throughout dinner I had my chance to sample the beverage list and tried JC Pichot Vouvray Chenin Blanc and Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon.  The choices aren't numerous but they have a good bit of variety like Graham Beck Sparkling Rose, Do Ferreiro Albarino and Ceretto Barolo, along with some heavy hitters like '03 Dom Perignon, Far Niente Chardonnay, and Opus One.  Plus the Japanese Whisky and Sake lists are quite solid.

Finishing it off, dessert worth the trip as we tried the strawberry panna cotta.  It's presented in a mason jar with layers of crunchiness, smoothness, creaminess and fruitiness.  Just stick the fork down to the bottom, pull it out and enjoy.  And they have an espresso machine, which always makes me happy and is a must for every restaurant in my opinion.   

If you're up this way shopping and living it up, put this fresh place on your list.