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. 

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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. 

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Maison Champy at Oceanique

 Chef Mark Grosz, myself and Philippe Andre at Oceanique

Chef Mark Grosz, myself and Philippe Andre at Oceanique

I'm not sure if any of you have ventured up to Evanston, but if you're in the mood for an upscale adventure into French seafood, Oceanique is worth the trip.  This amazing restaurant has been operating since 1989 under Chef/Owner Mark Grosz and is a local institution, creating dishes from the best organic produce and seafood from sustainable eco-friendly sources.  The wine list might be even more impressive than the food, comprised of grower Champagne, white and red Burgundy (including a full page of Domaine Romanee-Conti!) and a very nice collection of Grands Crus Bordeaux dating back to 1961.  The program is run adeptly by Chef Mark's son, Wine Director Philippe Andre.  Not only has he compiled quite a collection, but has also made great relationships with many a producer.

 Myself and Dimitri Bazas

Myself and Dimitri Bazas

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This leads me to the wine dinner of which I was invited to meet Maison Champy winemaker, Dimitri Bazas.  Champy was established as a negociant (a wine merchant who purchases produce of smaller growers and winemakers) in 1720 with holdings in Morey St. Denis and Montrachet.  They were purchased by Maison Louis Jadot in 1990 but Pierre Meurgey purchased the name and final holdings (10%) of Champy.  They acquired more land and began to create Savigny, Corton-Charlemagne, Mazis-Chambertin, Pommard and others.  Dimitri came from Greece to Burgundy in 1991 and consulted for many wineries before settling at Champy in 2003.  He wishes for his wines to taste as the terrior does instead of to taste like "Champy".

 Wild Maine Lobster & Day Boat Scallop

Wild Maine Lobster & Day Boat Scallop

Now onto the pairings.  First we tried 2005 Corton-Charlemagne (always 100% Chardonnay) which was full and powerful with oak spice and tropical fruit.  This was a wine everyone should experience at least once.  It paired with Wild Maine Lobster, Day Boat Scallop and English Peas.  A rich seafood is always great with this wine as they play off each other well, accentuating fruit, freshness and full flavor.  

 Organic Spanish Turbot

Organic Spanish Turbot

Next we tried the 2006 Corton-Charlemagne, which was a totally different wine than the '05.  It had more fresh fruit and acidity, but less power.  They were like amazing fraternal twins- fantastic for their differences.  It was paired with Organic Spanish Turbot, Favas, Green Garlic and Saffron-Yuzu sauce.  The dish needed fruit and acidity and the Corton-Charlemagne was up for the task.

 Wild Maine Skate

Wild Maine Skate

Moving onto red, we tried the 2007 Mazis-Chambertin, a very cool and racy wine with plenty notes of fresh berries and game.  The pairing was Wild Maine Skatefish with Asparagus.  I'm not crazy about Pinot Noir and asparagus, but the fish went well as it is mild with slight nuttiness.

 Hudson Valley Duck Confit

Hudson Valley Duck Confit

I clearly loved the last wine- a 2009 Mazis-Chambertin.  It had grippy tannins, loud and ripe fruit, bold acidity, it was a complete wine.  But, it was quite young also- a pleasure to enjoy now, but one to cellar.  It was paired with Hudson Valley Duck Confit, Spaetzle, Belgian Endive and Kumquat.  The wine definitely stood up to the rich duck and the acidity and tannins stood hard against it.  Buy this wine if you have the opportunity.

Chef made an amazing Berry Sorbet with Creme de Cassis which left everyone satisfied.  I would do this again, but remember, Oceanique will be closed in July for renovation and will reopen with a brand new look, which I cannot wait to see.  Another 24 years to you Chef Mark and Philippe!

 Maison Champy Lineup

Maison Champy Lineup

Franco Bernabei wines of Sartori di Verona at Spiaggia

Last week I had the pleasure to have dinner with Andrea Sartori of Sartori di Verona, and his winemaker, Franco Bernabei at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Chicago, Spiaggia.  The marriage of a Tuscan winemaker with Veneto wines and this amazing Tony Mantuano restaurant was too big to miss!  

The Sartori family has been making wine for over 110 years, and started very small with just 37 acres as of 2002.  This quickly grew when they secured over 5000 acres from a partnership with Cantina Colognona di Colli of Soave and Valpolicella.  Later, the family secured the services of Franco Bernabei, a well known winemaker known all over "the boot" as a master,  Needless to say, I was anxious to try the food and wine.

 Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio

We started with the Ferdi Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir (under $15), both of which were light, acidic and dry, exactly how I enjoy my typical Pinots from the region.  This went well with our Foie Gras, a salty, fatty goose liver, typically served with a sweet fruity sauce (or wine) to counter the saltiness and fat content.  Excellent.

Next we moved onto the Valpolicella reds, starting with a Valpolicella, a light drinking wine blend normally comprised of Corvina and Rondinella varietals.  Quite good, light and fruity with a touch of minerality.  This was followed by Sartori Veronese "Regolo" ($20) 100% Corvina varietal.  This wine goes through an interesting process as it is cold soaked with the grape skins for 15-18 days.  This allows the juice to soak in color, flavor and tannins before fermentation begins.  Later in the year, the wine goes through the Veneto "ripasso" process of passing through the "lees" (fallen yeast) and grape skins of Amarone wine, which still contains much sugar, resulting in a secondary fermentation.  This adds body and complexity.  The wine is named for Regolo, the Patriarch of the Sartori famiglia.  The wine melded well with our mushroom risotto, as the earthiness and minerality mixed with the shrooms, creamy rice and pancetta.

 Spiaggia Lamb Chop

Spiaggia Lamb Chop

We then leapt to the Amarone ($43), which is one of Italy's largest wines.  This one is made up Corvina, Rondinella and Oselta varietals which have been laid out on straw mats after harvest to raisinate.  This leaves behind concentrated fruit and sugar, more for the yeast to feast on and create more complexity, body and alcohol.  Always a great treat and fabulous with food, like the lamb chops we had.  Gamey flavors mixed with minerality, herbs, bitterness and fruity body.  A delicious combo.

Franco wanted us to try his Garganega, a white wine he described as having body and complexity, so much so that we could drink after any hearty red, such as an Amarone.  While I do not agree I want to end my night with this (or any) white, I do agree the complexity was there to fully enjoy.  The juice went through an interesting process, as the grapes were hand-picked and dried for over 30 days to reduce water and concentrate sugar and color, then they're cold soaked and macerated on the white skins.  Some of the wine is aged in used barrels and aged "sur lie", then aged 3 months in bottle for great stabilizing.  

A great way to end an amazing evening with amazing people like Franco, Andrea and the rest of the Sartori, Banfi and Spiaggia crew.  Thanks again!

 Franco, Me, Lars and Andrea

Franco, Me, Lars and Andrea

Apothic Rosé at Graham Elliot Bistro

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Just last week I had the chance to spend time with Apothic winemaker, Boyd Morrison, and other local writers & bloggers at GEB (Graham Elliot Bistro).  I was really excited, as it was my first time at GEB, and I'd heard some great things, but was also here to try the newly released Apothic Rosé.

 Boyd & I at GEB

Boyd & I at GEB

Now Apothic is a wine which has taken Chicago by storm- I've seen it everywhere: in CostCo, Mariano's and everyone's kitchen!  The winery is based in Sonoma and owned by E. & J. Gallo Winery with a purpose of blending likeable, epic wines.  When I approached the bar, the GEB staff kindly poured me a glass of rosé and I was taken in by the sweet watermelon aroma.  When I took a sip, I noticed the syrupy weightiness of the wine, along with loads of sweet fruit.  This, like their white & red, was very likeable, especially for the price ($8-12).  For an old palate like mine, I found it too sweet, but I also immediately recognized they aren't trying to reach me as a demographic.  Boyd, formerly of Alexander Valley Vineyards, Jekel and Simi, informed me they'd been making a rosé for several years, but only for staff consumption.  And, just like their recent release of red, is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  On to dinner.

 Apothic Rosé

Apothic Rosé

First course I had the Caesar which was simple, uncut and lightly slathered with a very garlicky dressing with awesome anchovy flavor.  It was paired with the rosé, which is a popular pairing, though I prefer Sauvignon Blanc.  It even works with the creamy dressing, because the acidity cuts into the mayo and egg, and the green tart citrus & berry matches most vegetables.

Second course I had a lemon risotto which was tart and creamy, an awesome combo if done correctly (it was!).  It was paired with the Apothic White, a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Moscato.  The body and citrus was there for this pairing, and the two worked well.

Third course was totally amazing- a tender, juicy, slow cooked veal breast with lightly macerated cannellini beans and pancetta vinaigrette.  The beans crazily glued the entire dish together.  Apothic Red was the pairing, and though I think it was a bit sweet, the body and smooth tannins proved a match.

Dessert did not let down, as I had a mini banana split with salted pretzel and caramelized nuts at the bottom.  Save room for this or the gianduja stuffed beignets!

Wine Guy at The Tasting Room

As many of you know, I am not just a wine writer, but a Sommelier and Wine Consultant.  I am happy to announce that recently I signed The Tasting Room as a client!  I'll be working on their wine and beverage menus, along with training the staff to offer you the best experience along with suggestions to fit your taste.

All the wines have been changed, and we're now offering eleven different Flight tastings along with over 35 wines by the glass.  This is a seasonal menu, meant to give you the best wines to fit with what looks to be an amazing Autumn!  We're also featuring small batch, craft and cult wines, some of which you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else.  The bottle list is currently under construction, though we do have some great wines like Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon and Kistler Chardonnay. 

Along with the bottle list, our beer, cocktail and liquor offerings are also in the process of change, and we plan on offering many local craft beers, artisanal cocktails and liquors/liqueurs.

Make sure to stop by to check out the list along with Chef Marc Kuckenbecker's nouveau-American cuisine and small plates.  It proves to be a great pairing!

The New Volare Experience

Volare Restaurant has been a Chicago institution since it opened in Streeterville in 1997.  If you've been there before you've probably experienced great Italian food, Italian-American staples, along with good service in a packed dining room.  Well, recently the place shut down and received a major facelift.  They expanded with more space- a second dining area with it's own bar and a more modern look.  They kept the open kitchen where you can see chefs slinging your favorite dishes and managed to add more items like Neapolitan style pizza, charcuterie and additional hot & cold antipasti.  Don't worry- their famous Insalata di Mare (seafood salad) is still there!

I had the chance to check out the place last week with my wife and here's my take:

The host staff greeted us promptly and we were seated by GM Marco Micheli, an old colleague and a great guy.  I never can wait to look at the wine and drink menus, so I grabbed them and dove in.  The cocktail list is fun with some simplistic and fresh concoctions, some made with Italian bitters like Amaro and Campari.  The wine by the glass list is a bit below par and I'd like to see better selections, but the bottle list is full of great picks and value.Lobster Ravioli 

We put in a drink order along with a couple of starters: Vongole al Forno (baked clams) and Ravioli d'Aragosta (lobster ravioli).  The clams were good as ever, topped with bread crumbs a white wine sauce, while the ravioli were fresh and topped with a cream sauce, peas and mushrooms.  The pastas all looked great with quite a few of them made fresh in house, but we decided on the Filet Mignon medium rare for me and the Halibut for my wife. 

Filet MignonEven with all the movement, music and talking we were able to converse and hear eachother without any problem- great atmosphere.  There wasn't a spot unoccupied in either dining room, the outdoor patio or the bars, but the kitchen was working hard and getting everything out timely.  Our dishes arrived and we were ready.  Everything was fantastic- my filet was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth like butter.  It came with bordelaise sauce and potatoHalibut croquettes which makes it seem very French, but the grilled fennel made me feel Italian again.  My wife's halibut was extremely fresh and tasty, placed over parsnip puree and sauteed spinach.  I'd get those dishes again.  And again.

Coconut CheesecakeWe did our best to save room for dessert and I already know the Tiramisu is top tier in this city, so we went a different direction- coconut cheesecake and baked chocolate pudding.  I will start off by saying to steer clear of the chocolate pudding.  It's extremely dry and no where near chocolatey enough.  But dessert was redeemed by coconut goodness- the cheesecake was everything I thought it would be, on top of a graham cracker crust.  Can't miss.

If you haven't had time to make it to Volare yet, I'll say where've you been?  If you haven't been to the new Volare, I'll say what are you waiting for?  Whatsamatta u!

Keefer's Restaurant Chicago 10th Anniversary

I was recently notified about one of Chicago's great restaurants, Keefer's, enjoying their 10th Anniversary. Named for brothers/partners Glen & Rich Keefer, the restaurant is located on the bottom floor of the Amalfi Hotel and is one of the great steakhouses of River North. To celebrate the anniversary, they'll be offering free valet, Sunday three-course prixe fix supper for $25, and $10 weekday lunch specials.

I was also invited to come and try out the menu & wine list, which turned out to be an overall good experience. I had been to Keefer's in the past, but had only been in the bar area. This time I went in the dining room, which had cozy seating, but seemed airy and almost too open- I think it had to do with the extremely high ceilings.  Our server came promptly and we started off with Dampierre Grand Cuvee Brut NV Champagne, a great wine to begin your meal with and an excellent choice to have by the glass on any wine list, especially for $14. We started off with a couple of appetizer recommendations from our excellent server which went very well with the Champagne: grilled calamari & Nantucket Bay scallops. The great thing about the calamari was that they were cooked perfectly and still had a fresh sea taste to them, along with the char. The scallops are a seasonal item, and were small, sweet and rich- look for them at the beginning of November through to year's end.

I really enjoyed perusing the Wine List- they have many interesting picks though they could be a bit more worldly, especially with Chardonnay (14 out of 15 selections from California). There is some redundancy with styles & prices for varietals as well, but overall I liked the selections for a steakhouse. I spotted what I wanted right away- the 2005 Woodward Canyon Estate Red Reserve. A great wine at without a high markup. I didn't even have to ask for a decanter before the server was on it. One more small problem is we found out Keefer's does not have temperature controlled storage for it's wines, which is disappointing for two reasons: red wines should be served around 65 degrees plus most of the selections should be stored properly.

For dinner I chose the lamb chops which were crusted in dijon, herbs and garlic, which added great flavor to a perfectly cooked medium rare. There was a sauce served underneath the chops which I did not recognize and didn't add much to the dish. With meat dishes you should order sides, which are large enough for two. I ordered the mushrooms (shitake & cremini) and Hogan's peas, which were fresh, sweet and creamy, though I would've preferred the bacon to be cooked fresh with a bit of soft fat- it came hard and overcooked. Overall, delicious, especially with the wine.

Dessert was an easy pick- apple tart a la mode & warm chocolate cake. If the other desserts are as good as these then you can't go wrong! They contrasted eachother with vanilla & cinnamon apple fruit flavor against dark full-on chocolate. Plus they make a perfect espresso.

Overall: impeccable service, high quality menu from Executive Chef John Hogan, a wine list with good picks and affordable prices, and dessert which'll make you want to go do it all again. I would!

Masciarelli Abruzzi Wine at Pane Caldo

Masciarelli WinesI recently had the pleasure of tasting Masciarelli wines paired with the Italian cuisine of Pane Caldo Restaurant and it was both a tasty and enlightening experience.  Pane Caldo has a longPane Caldo standing on East Walton Street in Chicago's Gold Coast.  It's a quaint but classy establishment with great northern Italian dishes and an amazing wine list.  I (fortunately) found parking in front and was directed to a private dining room a couple of doors down.  The space seemed perfect for private events with a large banquet table, open space, ample lighting, a restroom and coatroom.  I was greeted by Angela Acquaviva of Masciarelli and Betsy & Pete of Vintage Wine.  Let's get to the tasting!

We started off with an explanation of Azienda Agricola Masciarelli.  Gianni Masciarelli began a journey over 30 years ago to become a great winemaker in his home of Abruzzo.  He traveled through France to learn of advanced techniques which greatly influenced him and his wines.  When he returned home he was ready to take his family's vineyards and increase the quality level of their output.  He wanted to do this by putting indigenous varietals like Montepulciano and Trebbiano of Abruzzo on the world map.  Gianni did this by lowering production, adding a good mix of new French oak and aging.  Today Masciarelli has 13 vineyards throughout Abruzzo.  Unfortunately for most of America, the only wines we've seen from Abruzzo are extremely light reds of Montepulciano grapes and whites of Trebbiano (except for Orvieto DOC wines which can be much higher quality), until now.  The family dealt with the unfortunate recent passing of Gianni in 2008, and continues to produce great wines in his honor.

While we were learning about Masciarelli, we tasted through a 'vertical tasting' (a tasting consisting of multiple vintages (years or harvests) of the same wine) of Gianni's famed Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  Vintages started with recent selections and went as far back as 1999.  The youngest were very full of fresh dark fruit, big gritty tannins and high acidity- both indications that the wine still needs aging.  The further we went back in vintage, the more wild gamey notes came through, along with herbal scents, with the tannins gradually softening.  This wine was truly amazing compared to other Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines I've tried- it's aged in both barrel and bottle for over 5 years!  Gianni started this label in 1984 and it is only produced in high quality years and will be available in wine shops for about $90.

It was then time to enjoy some cuisine with the wines and we started with Castello di SemivicoliCastello di Semivicoli Trebbiano Trebbiano d'Abruzzo paired with seafood in white wine and saffron.  This worked well as the fresh seafood and lively sauce mixed with the wine's young fruit and zippiness.  Next we went on to Marina Cvetic (a label named after Gianni's Serbo-Croatian wife who works with the winery) oak aged Trebbiano paired with Marina Cvetic Trebbianomushroom risotto.  I normally would recommend Pinot Noir, Barbera or Nebbiolo with this dish, but the rich Trebbiano was very unique.  It's weight and sour creaminess stood up to the risotto and the rich mushrooms.  For a final course we had filet mignon with a red wine sauce matched up with the Marina Cvetic Montepulciano which was an excellent pairing- the slight game and tannins that the grape brings with it wasMarina Cvetic Montepulciano excellent with the beef.  And there was more Villa Gemma left to tackle our chocolatey desserts.

In summation, it was a fantastic experience with varietals I've never known to produce truly great wines, at a fantastic restaurant with outstanding food, service and ambience.  I'll be visiting both in the future- salute!

Italian Delight at Vivo Chicago

My wife & I were overdue for a date night so dinner and a few drinks on the town seemed like a great idea. We met up at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill for a cocktail and then it was off to Vivo for some fun with Italian.

It was my first visit to the restaurant and it is visually appealing. The outside has a small patio covered by a black awning and the dark wood and colors continue indoors giving the place a very romantic atmosphere- perfect for a date! We were greeted immediately at the host stand and sat on a nice table for two.

Our waiter, Erik, was the type which is best- knowledgeable about theCalamari Grigliati menu and wine list, timely and friendly, plus he knew the best times to approach. We started off with some drinks, heard the specials and ordered the Calamari Grigliati- woodoven grilled calamari served with mixed greens and tomato. The squid was very fresh and flavorful and instead of having grill char like most places, had a wood-smoked flavor. It was also served with a slightly spicy tomato sauce which added to the experience.

Il Bagatto SuperTuscanThe wine list is a decent size and half is comprised of Italian wines from up and down the boot. I knew more tomatoes were in my future, so I decided to go with a Toscana wine, as they have bright acidity, good weight, fruit and tannins to pair with. I selected Fattoria Scopone's Il Bagatto from Montalcino, a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese and 10% Petit Verdot. It was everything I'd hoped for plus dark fruit, oak spice, vanilla and a great length. I'd do that again.

Next I was trying a special appetizer, Burrata with fresh fruits and speck, salt cured and cold smoked Italian ham. The Burrata was very creamy and delicious, and the fruit paired nicely. My wife tried the Arugula salad which she also enjoyed. The thing I liked about this course is there was no hurry to take our main dish order or hurry us along with our meal.

We did eventually move on and I decided on the Linguine Nere alla Polpa di Granchio which is freshLinguine e Granchio octopus ink infused pasta combined with lump crab meat and spicy tomato sauce. The pasta was soft with homemade texture and the sauce had such fresh crab aroma and flavor- definitely a good dish. My wife tried the Gnocchi Gratinati which were soft and full of cheese richness. Both dishes had us leaving with leftovers.

We finished up with some espresso and an after-dinner drink, but we received the wrong chocolate dessert- a double chocolate cake which ended up being a nice end to the meal. We finished our drinks on a tour upstairs in their private party space which can be rented year-round for special events. There's a full bar, TVs, colorful furniture- a real classy place to have a party.

Overall, I was very pleased with the evening. Overall a very romantic spot with great service, good food, different wine selections, clean bathrooms and nice private event space. Like I said before, I'd do that again.

*Disclosure- this meal was compliments of Vivo Restaurant.

XOCO: Casual Mexican in River North

I finally had the chance to try Rick Bayless's XOCO in River North and I loved it!Ham/Cheese/Mushroom Empenada  XOCO means "little sister" in the Aztec language and it truly is the come and go but high quality sibling of Topolobampo and Frontera.  It features street food like tortas and caldos, snacks like churros, pastries and chips with guacamole, breakfast tortas and chilaquiles, and mexican coffees and hot chocolates. 

Food and drink is superb.  The torta sandwiches are made with LaBrea bread and filled with excellent ingredients like Gunthorp Farms chicken, Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese, braised Tallgrass short ribs, smoked Maple Creek pork loin andChorizo/Egg Torta bacon, or wood-roasted suckling pig.  They have four wine choices: Bodega NQN Picada 15 white blend, Verdad AlbariñoSanta Julia Tempranillo and Qupe Syrah.  They also offer craft beers, housemade soft drinks and complimentary water- still or sparkling.

Earth Day Chicago

Earth Day is coming up on Friday, April 22nd and there will be many ways for Chicagoans to get involved.  Here's a list of places to go and specials to take advantage of:

  • Chen's Chinese & Sushi and Koi will be offering special Green Menu Items which include Vegetable Dumplings ($4.95), Edamame ($4.50) and Green Tea Ice Cream ($3.95).
  • Cityscape Bar has whipped up an Organic Drink Menu featuring an Organic Pear Fizz, Peak Organic Amber Ale and Momokawa Organic Ginjo Sake, each $5.
  • RIVA at Navy Pier will be offering an Organic Wine Menu featuring Candoni Merlot and Pinot Grigio, each $7/glass.
  • Uncommon Ground Devon will be hosting a Great Lake Brewing Co. Dinner on April 20 at 6pm, starting with passed appetizers followed by a 4 course meal featuring grilled asparagus, truffled devil egg with ham praline and green goddess dressing, spicy duck breast with baby artichokes and spinach & duck confit tortellini.  Great Lakes beers are included with the $55 price tag.
  • Uncommon Ground Clark will be hosting a Michigan Seedling Farms/Von Beaumont Wines 4 course meal on April 21 at 6pm featuring bluepoint oysters, gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms, asparagus with goat cheese and Dietzler Farm steak with wild ramp smashed potatoes.  $40/person.
  • At Province, chefs Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions Delicatessen and Randy Zweiban of Province collaborate on a multi-course meal of seasonal, sustainable finger foods highlighting local farms paired with cocktails from Death’s Door Spirits.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Chefs Collaborative, and Organic Valley will match all donations.  April 22 at 5:30pm.  $55/person.
  • All Big Bowl locations will be giving away a free Earth Matters Tote Bag.  Every time you use the bag to pick up Big Bowl food in the future, you will receive 50 cents off!
  • Prairie Fire West Loop and Prairie Grass Cafe Northbrook will be offering Earth Day Wild Things Dinner Specials which include sauteed ramps with ramp butter crostini ($15), crumb crusted wild striped bass over spring morels and River Valley mushroom ragout with Three Sisters Garden pea-shoot sauce and a petite salad ($31), grilled lamb skewers with wild watercress pesto, grilled spring onions, dandelion greens, croutons and warm local bacon vinaigrette ($26) and a Prairie Organic vodka martini with wild watercress pesto-stuffed olives ($10).
  • Elate River North will be offering $5 TreeTinis to benefit planting trees in areas of need.
  • All participating Starbucks will be offering free coffee or tea to customers who bring in reusable travel cups.
  • Foodlife on the Magnificent Mile will be giving away $5 gift certificates and seedling bookmarks to those who share their best tips on how to "Go Green".
  • The Hotel Palomar will host the Walk in The Park Benefit on April 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.  It's Kimpton Hotels interactive Earth Day fair benefitting The Trust for Public Land will showcase local Community Supported Agriculture farmers, green vendors and recycled "trash art" with food & drink from 312 Chicago, Atwood Cafe, Sable Kitchen & Bar and South Water Kitchen.

All Arizona Wine List at FnB Scottsdale

This is an all Arizona wine list I encountered at FnB Restaurant in Scottsdale.  Arizona wine is hard to find outside the state, but very very good.  Most of the wine comes from the Sonoita AVA in the southeastern part of the state, which is located at very high altitude (4500 feet) and surrounded by mountain ranges.  There's not alot of rainfall, but the soil retains water well and irrigation is also involved.  The varietals mainly consist of French Bordeaux and Rhone grapes, with some Italian mixed in.  All in all, I loved the wine I tried, the Canelo Hills Sauvignon Blanc and the Dos Cabezas Red Blend.  If you're in town for spring training baseball (White Sox in Glendale, Cubs in Mesa), make sure you check out this restaurant and some Arizona wine!

Michelin Stars Wheel into Chicago

Chicago is about to receive it's first ever Michelin Guide ratings and I'd be hard pressed to find anything more overdue.  This city has long been a culinary and eating mecca, not to mention having great spots for wine, beer and beverages.  The Michelin Guide has been around for about 100 years and highlights top restaurants and chefs.  Now that we've taken a bite into the coastal bias, let's get into our award winners:

3 star: Alinea, L2O

2 star: Avenues, Charlie Trotter's, Ria

1 star: Blackbird, BOKA, Bonsoirée, Crofton on Wells, Everest, Graham Elliot, Longman & Eagle, NAHA, NoMI, Schwa, Seasons, Sepia, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Takashi, Topolobampo, TRU, Vie

While the Michelin Guide has yet to be released, these results were made available through a Yelp poster leak which is currently under investigation.  In addition to the awards above, 46 other restaurants have received the Bib Gourmand Award, given to those establishments which offers good value (two courses plus a glass of wine or dessert for under $40, not including tax or gratuity).  Some of these include: Belly Shack, De Cero, Gilt Bar, Girl & The Goat, Hopleaf, La Creperie, Lula Café, Mado, Nightwood, The Purple Pig, Riccardo Trattoria and Taste of Peru, to name a few.

All of these establishments represent fine food, great beverage, excellent service and years of hard work which have become known and respected.  Congrats to our Michelin Stars and Bib Gourmand winners!

 

Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar

WCWG with Curtis Nordeen of Fleming'sI recently was invited to a wine dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in River North and was quite impressed with their wine selections and food quality.  It's at a great location, just west of Michigan Avenue on East Ohio Street, with two levels of options.  On the first floor is the wine bar featuring the "5 for 6 'til 7" menu, which is 5 cocktails, 5 wines by the glass and 5 appetizers priced at $6 each until 7pm.  Upstairs is the kitchen, dining room and rooms for private events.  And the most impressive thing I found was the Fleming's 100: 100 wines available by the glass, with 30 of them being priced $10 or less! 

Our wine dinner featured some new and exciting menu items including RoastedPeppercorn Steak Mushroom Ravioli, Lump Crab Louis Wraps, Tillamook Bay Petrale Sole, Two-Peppercorn Steak with F-17 Sauce Lobster Bake(17 ingredient house steak sauce), Beef Wellington, Lobster/Seafood Bake and Molten Lava Cake.  These were also paired with two excellent wines which, while they weren't an ultimate pairing, did an great job of being versatile: 2007 Sanford Santa Barbara County Chardonnay and 2006 Frog's Leap Rutherford Merlot.

Here's a bit of footage I took of one of their private dining rooms along with an interview from Chef/Partner Jerl Griffin:

There's lots of great things happening at Fleming's this month and next including a $39.95 three course prix fixe menu, a Caymus interactive dinner, wine Tuesdays with 25% off Fleming's 100 bottles & free corkage, and "Opening Nights" every Thursday in September where they'll bring you into the Fleming's 100 by opening 20 bottles for you to taste for $25- and you'll also receive a $25 dining credit if you stay for dinner!  A lot of value at a steakhouse.

Chicago 3 MediaFor extra coverage be sure to check out my interview with Chicago 3 Media and Jennifer Fernicola-Ronay.  It was a good time with good food and good people.  Special thanks to Chef, the Fleming's staff, Operating Partner Curtis Nordeen and Kurman Communications.

Windy City Wine Guy in Seattle

On the wharf by Waterfront Seafood GrillIt was my first trip to Washington and I wanted to let Seattle give me all that it had.  Being from Chicago, I have the priveledge of being surrounded by some of the world's best restaurants, great lounges and bars, music, concerts and an awesome view of Lake Michigan.  When I go to a new city I seek its best aspects and try to live a full experience.  I was only going to be in Seattle for two days so it was time to live it up a little.

My first night I checked into the Roosevelt Hotel, an older building with nice sized rooms and central downtownSatay at Wild Ginger location making it easy for me to walk to my targeted restaurants and bars.  I walked to Wild Ginger, an Asian Restaurant with a reputation for making great satay.  If a restaurant being busy is a good sign, this place would be great- there was quite a crowd for a Tuesday evening.  When I'm in town alone, I like to dine at the bar because there's always someone to interact with.  The bartender's name was Nathan and he clearly had a grip on the action.  He knew his drinks and the menu very well.  I started with two satay- a Thai Chicken and a Young Mountain Lamb, and a Hitachino Nest White Ale (an awesome Japanese whitbier).  Both satay were extremely tasty, accompanied by sticky rice, pickled ginger cucumbers and their own sauce.  The wine list is exceptional with great selections by bottle or glass (which is dispensed by the Enomatic system), and a separate cellar list with over 2000 selections they've collected over a 20 year span.

Purple Wine BarI wanted more to try, so I went to Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, a gorgeous two level building surrounded by windows.  The wine list was full of great choices, with very interesting glasspour options: I went with Tenuta Sant'Antonio Scaia Rosso, 100%Small plates at Purple Corvina varietal from northeast Italy.  Good fruit, light/medium body and cedar box spice.  The menu was full of small plate options and I settled on three:  Housemade Toulouse Sausage, Mimolette and Roasted Garlic White Bean Crostini.  I loved the chance to try a little of this and that while sampling the wine list.  After all these small options it was time to turn in and get ready for another day.

On Wednesday I checked out and met up with the WBC or Bust group at the site of my new hotel room, the Renaissance, before we departed for Woodinville, which I will touch on in my next post.  When we returned that afternoon, it was time for a beer tasting hosted by Charles Finkel himself at Pike Pub & Brewery.  We tasted a lineup of their beers like the Pale, IPA, Kilt Lifter, Naughty Nellie and XXXXX Stout before we moved onto a tour.  I wish we had time for the menu, Roasted Snails in Phyllobut we had to get ready for the Waterfront Seafood Grill where we were in for aBraised Short Rib coursed wine dinner with tasty items like roasted snails, seared scallops and braised short rib.  There was also some killer wine being passed around from producers like Andrew Will and Nota Bene Cellars, both of whom make stellar Syrahs and Owen & Sullivan Winery.  This was an outstanding dinner from a spot with an uncomparable view.

In my visit to Seattle I had a small piece of what makes the city so great and I still have so much more to see.  If you get a chance to visit then make sure to take advantage of it and try to visit the places I mentioned.  If you live there then be proud and let us know what I missed, which places are your favorites and why- share the wealth!

Coming up- Woodinville & Chateau Ste. Michelle, Yakima and Walla Walla.

Memorial Day at the Arboretum

The Arboretum of South Barrington

I was looking forward to some family, sun and fun on this Memorial Day weekend, and today we took a drive to the Arboretum of South Barrington.  It’s pretty much an outdoor shopping mall surrounded by gardens and trees with almost everything you need to see or do available.  There are shops, restaurants, festivals, a cinema, clock tower, brick sidewalks and a bowling alley/bocce ball court.  There’s also ample parking- but just remember where you last saw your car!

 

We were hungry, so we headed to Pinstripes Bowling, Bocce & Bistro first.  This gigantic facility has a bowling alley, bocce ball courts, a banquet hall, WiFi, a bar, a fire pit and both indoor and outdoor seating.  We were loving the warm Windy City weather and went for a seat on the patio, and were ready for a drink.  My wife loves the Arnold Palmer (half iced tea/half lemonade) and I opted for an ice cold Peroni on draft.  I checked out the wine list and while it has many pedestrian choices like Ecco Domani, DaVinci, Castle Rock and Joel Gott, it does offer some hard to find wines like Teruzzi & Puthod “Terre di Tufi”, ZD Chardonnay, Argyle “Nuthouse” Pinot Noir, Rubissow “Les Trompettes” and Quintessa.  The menu is Italian influenced with panini, soups, pasta and pizza, but also contains American favorites like sliders, cobb salad and ribs.  We split the Tomato Mozzarella Bruschetta and Beef Tenderloin Sliders.  The bruschetta was amazing- ripe cherry tomatoes, ciliegine mozzarella, toasted crostini brushed with sweet balsalmic and arugula salad.  Everything worked so well together and it was very tasty.  The sliders were delicious and I couldn’t figure out which was softer: the bread or the beef!  The steak was so tender and was topped with sweet peppers and cippolini onions.  They were surrounded by a lick-the-plate bordelaise sauce and topped with crispy shoestring potatoes drizzled with truffle oil.  Our server, Amanda, was not only very informative and helpful on our first visit, but also very attentive- she heard us talking about the Meatball Sliders and brought us a sample to try!  They were excellent as well.  I don’t know how anyone could order an entrée after all that, so it was time for dessert.  Pinstripes offers free cheesecake to anyone who checks in on Foursquare, so we took advantage of it.  My wife said it was one of the best cheesecakes she ever tried- it was brûléed and moist with a crunchy crust and served with strawberry sauce and fresh strawberries.  We decided to bypass the bowling/bocce until next time and walk the Arboretum.

 

It was great to stroll in the open fresh air and pick which shops we wanted to stop in.  We checked out Yankee Candle, LOFT, Sur La Table, Anna Shea Chocolates and Panera for coffee.  We also stopped by Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant.  They make wine in Orland Park from fruit grown in California, Michigan and here in Illinois, and have four restaurants in Burr Ridge, Orland Park, Wheeling and South Barrington.  We were greeted by went for the tasting, which included one sparkling, three whites, three reds and a dessert wine.  The sparkling wine was a combination of Chardonnay with natural peach fruit and turned out to be my favorite.  It was dry, tasty and refreshing with a load of fruit flavor which lasted.  Their whites, a lineup which included Riesling, Chenin Blanc and a blend, were all good and exhibited nice fruit flavor, light spice and sweetness.  The reds showed promise as well, with a peppery Syrah, a light drinking Cabernet Sauvignon and their Lux Merlot, which has discriminating selection and significant oak aging.  Finished up with a very good Pomegranate dessert wine, which was just as tart as it was sweet.  All in all, I recommend their wine club, especially if you live close to one of their tasting rooms.  That’ll give you the best options and an opportunity to taste your purchase.

 

A great weekend which included all the essential elements: family, food, fun, sun, beer and wine.  Throw in a prayer for all my fellow veterans, current service member and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and that makes a perfect Memorial Day.  Let me know how you spent your weekend and make sure to try the Arboretum!

Windy City Al Fresco Dining

The sun is peaking out, the city looks alot more green and the temperatures are rising.  That means it’s time for Dining Al Fresco!  Having a few drinks and a good meal outdoors is what makes for great times and memories, and it’s hard to find a better city than Chicago for outdoor dining.  So many great restaurants, bars and lounges to choose from with scenic patio views, haute cuisine, excellent wine lists and craft cocktails.  Here's a few of the best I've picked out for you:


  • The Purple Pig.  Just set to open a large patio overlooking Illinois Street and Michigan Avenue, this self proclaimed “Cheese, Swine & Wine” spot is a hit.  Many small plates including sardines, cured meats, smears and pork are spattered on the menu and great for sharing.  Wash it all down with one of their craft beer selections or pick something from their wine list.  You just can’t go wrong! 

  • Piccolo Sogno.  Not only do they have one of the best patios in the city, but the food and all Italian wine list are also amazing.  Start with some Prosecco and antipasti and enjoy the weather.

  • Chicago Riverwalk.  One of the best vantage points of towering buildings, architechture and the Chicago River is on our Riverwalk.  It opens on May 31st and features great seating and even better dining: Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, Friendship on the River, Lagniappe Cajun Creole Joynt and O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe.

  • Riva.  Head to Navy Pier and enjoy the best views of Lake Michigan, the Ferris Wheel and some great steak and seafood. You might even catch some fireworks at this Phil Stefani Signature Restaurant.

  • Shanghai Terrace.  Enjoy authentic Cantonese Dim Sum and cocktails at the Peninsula Hotel.  This East Asian inspired terrace is a great place to enjoy Chicago's Magnificent Mile.

  • Zapatista.  Fine Mexican cuisine, cerveza, margaritas and an awesome view of the South Loop on Wabash is more than enough satisfy you on any day this summer.  Hard to beat the fish tacos and an ice cold Modelo.

  • Athena.  Authentic Greek cuisine shared outdoors in a garden with a fountain on Halsted.  Nuff said?  Opa!

  • Palmer Place.  One of my favorite suburban spots (La Grange) with one of the best patios in Chicagoland.  A true Bier Garten with over 175 beers from around the world and some good old American food to boot.


Dining in Chicago can be so adventurous and relaxing at the same time. Be sure to let me know what your favorite spots are- myself and my readers would love to hear it!

We aren’t shying away from drink choices as I have a few recommendations for spring and summer as well.  The temperature is a bit cooler in the spring (between 45-75 degree F), so beer with weight like IPAs or Bocks are good, and both red and white wines can be enjoyed.  Try these out: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Sprecher Mai Bock, Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc, Lange Estate Pinot Noir and Yangarra Old Vine Grenache.  For summer, I love Pilseners and Wheat beers, and mostly white wines like Pinot Gris/Grigio and dry Riesling.  Try these:  Allagash White, Trumer Pils, Big Fire Pinot Gris, Ca' Montini L'Aristocratico Pinot Grigio and Ch. Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling.  Hope you enjoy these tips and have a great summer on the patio!

BYOB at Lips Asian Bistro

 

Last Friday was my wife's birthday and I wanted to make plans to go somewhere new.  I wanted to be creative but nothing as crazy as "Date Night".  We both like foreign films, so I figured a trip up Southport to the Music Box was in order.  Now all I had to do was pick a restaurant.  My wife has been craving sushi since we found out she was pregnant last year and I discovered a little place called Lips Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar.

 

I made reservations a few days earlier and since the place is BYOB ($1 corkage per person), I needed a good wine to bring.  I decided on 2008 Gouguenheim Torrontés, a small craft wine made at high altitude in Argentina, available under $10.  Torrontés is a celebrated grape in Argentina, brought over by missionaries, and a great varietal for sushi- fresh zippy citrus fruit accompanied by crisp acidity and floral scents. 

 

 Traffic wasn't too bad for a Friday and parking on Southport was sparse, but available ($1.25/hour).  We purchased our tickets to the show "Pranzo di Ferragosto" (Mid-August Lunch) and walked down to Lips.  It was still before 7pm, so the restaurant was not busy yet and we had the pick of seats.  There is a sushi bar to the right, a small bar in the back and seating in the front and left side of the restaurant.  Upon seating we were presented with menus and specials and the waitress opened our wine.  Now it was time to decide on our maki rolls and sashimi (sushi pieces without rice), though they do have Japanese cold and hot appetizers and dinner entrees like ribeye steak, rack of lamb, bass, teriyaki and noodle dishes and Korean pork.  As usual when it comes to sushi, we decided to overeat, and ordered three rolls- Rainbow (California covered with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and shrimp), Dragon (shrimp tempura covered with avocado and eel) and Strawberry (white tuna, tempura crunch and hot sauce topped with spicy tuna and strawberries) along with sashimi pieces. 

 

We enjoyed conversation, miso soup and our wine, which was varietally correct in being fresh, citrusy, floral with a hint of honey.  The sushi came to the table promptly with beautiful presentation.  The three rolls were lined up next to eachother on a large plate and our piece orders were individually plated and garnished, as usual, with pickled ginger and wasabi.  The sushi tasted even better than it looked- the rolls were packed with fresh fish and tasty mayos and sauces.  Even though I love eel, the Strawberry maki was my favorite- a perfect combination of spicy fish, sweet fruit and salty eel sauce.  The sashimi was a great value, two pieces per order, and the special maki was priced between $10-14.  This was an excellent meal with excellent value- our bill was still under $75.  No room left for dessert- we ate so much sushi we thought we were going to swim out of there!

 

Walking around we saw many sights like blocks full of greystone buildings, boutiques, bars and restaurants.  After a while our sweet tooth kicked in and we stumbled across a bakery called Sensational Bites.  They have unbelievable cupcakes (peanut butter, caramel, red velvet, etc), awesome brownies (mint, coconut, peanut butter, etc), pies, cakes and good coffee.  We ordered some for there and to go, and they cut our orders and plated them.  A great sweets bakery that every neighborhood needs.

 

The movie was the end of our date night and turned out to be very good.  A man named Gianni, who lives in Rome at home with his mama, is talked into taking care of a few friend's mothers in exchange for payment and favors.  Gianni is a very good cook who loves his wine and entertaining, which ends up being a convenient combination later in the movie. 

 

I recommend all our stops from that evening and you can copycat the date if you want- your companion will not be disappointed- let me know how it goes!

 

Vibrant Rioja at MK

This week I went to a tasting sponsored by The ENYE Group and Vibrant Rioja at MK Restaurant highlighting the wines of Rioja.  The space is excellent for tastings, built in an old warehouse with a skylight that sprays sunshine throughout the space during the daytime.  It also has a bi-level ground floor which segments the tasting rather well.  They also always offer great pairings for the wines that are presented.  For this tasting they had spanish cheeses, ham and sausages, marinated octopus, dried fruits and almonds.  The tasting was very good and gave me the idea to write this post.  Let's talk about: What is Rioja?

Simple enough, Rioja is a region in north central Spain and it is also a name used for the wines which come from that region.  It's a great spot for growing wine grapes because it sits on a plateau 1500 feet above sea level, has a moderate continental climate, is segmented by the Ebro river (providing hydration) and is protected from northern Spain's typical harsh winds by the Cantabrian Mountains. 

The wine region is also divided into three different subregions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  Rioja Alta lies to the west at the highest elevation, creating a shorter growing season.  It's dominated by clay soils and gives more secondary "Old World" aroma and flavor along with lighter body to the wines.  Rioja Alavesa brings you to Basque country with local law and traditions granting new bodegas (spanish wineries) just north of the river.  Soil is comprised of limestone and the grapes grown here have higher acidity and allow for fuller body.  Tempranillo is the main grape grown in the two regions.  Rioja Baja is to the east, sits at lower altitude and has a more Mediterranean warmer climate.  Other grape varietals like Garnacha, Mazuelo and  Graciano flourish here and are used to blend with Tempranillo from Alta and Alavesa.  In recent years they've allowed Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to be planted here for blending as well.

Mostly red wines (85%) are made in the region, though rosé and whites are produced.  Red and rosé wine is comprised mostly of Tempranillo, 60% or more, and combined with the blending varietals from Rioja Baja.  White wine is made primarily from Viura (also known as Macabeo) blended with Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca.  The whites are made in two distinct styles, either light and fruity or barrel-fermented and full bodied. 

As far as aging is concerned, Rioja wines can be unoaked or aged in a barrel, along with being released immediately or after 5 or more years.  Age can be indicated on the label:

  1. Joven/Consecha: These wines are released immediately, unoaked and meant to be consumed within 2 years.  They are fresh, fruity and really express the vintage.

  2. Roble/Media Crianza: Aged 2-6 months in new oak.  Imparts alot of oak flavor and influence on the young wine.

  3. Crianza: The wine spends at least 1 year in oak and 1 year in the bottle before release.

  4. Reserva: These are specially selected wines aged at least 1 year in oak and 2 years in the bottle.

  5. Gran Reserva: These are made during special vintages only and aged at least 2 years in oak and 3 years in the bottle.


Many of these wines exhibit high acidity, ripe red fruit, earthiness and a decent amount of tannins, making them good food wines.  They pair well with charcuterie (sliced cured meats and sausages), goat and sheep milk cheeses, grilled fish and meats.

Do yourself a favor and get exotic, prep some tapas, drink Rioja and imagine yourself in Spain.  It's like a mini-vacation!

BYOB at Park Grill

One of the best places to visit for locals and tourists in the city is Millenium Park.  There's so much to see and do, from the Jay Pritzker Pavillion to the Cloud Gate (the Bean!), that can be enjoyed by families, loners, couples, etc.  This spot holds a special place in my heart because I proposed to my wife on the Ice Rink just over 3 years ago (obviously she said YES!). 

I also enjoy visiting the Park Grill, a cozy spot you can relax with good food, drink and a view of the rink.  We also ate there just after my wedding proposal and have sat in the same booth every visit.  I recently found out there is no corkage fee on Sundays and Mondays, making it a great BYOB spot on those days!

We decided to go to the Park Grill for dinner this past Sunday for our 2nd anniversary dinner.  So we called a babysitter for Liljana, grabbed a bottle of wine and headed out.  We normally have Dom Perignon for our anniversary drink, but I mistakenly forgot to stock a bottle, so it was time to dig into the stash.  Since Blagica was in the mood for red wine, I decided on Colgin Cellars Cariad, a Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley comprised mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  It's not an easy wine to find (I bought mine from a liquidation sale), but you could try to get on their ordering list, though it's running 3 years behind!

The Park Grill was steady as always.  They have a very good menu featuring local fruits, vegetables, pork, beef and chicken, along with wild caught fish.  Service is very knowledgable and attentive, though they seemed thinly stretched as it took around ten minutes before we were initially greeted by our server.  They feature a very good cocktail list, beer selection and bar menu, along with $5 food & drink choices in the bar area every Thursday from 5pm-close.  Their wine list is a bit pedestrian, with many of your usual suspects, but I see alot of value choices like Newton Chardonnay ($50), Babich Sauvignon Blanc ($39), Peter Lehmann Shiraz ($36), and Chateau Labat Haut Medoc ($48).

All in all, another satisfying experience, made even better with our own wine.  Make sure to take advantage of their Sunday/Monday BYOB and enjoy the Millenium Park fun!