Food and Wine

Food and Wine

Uncorking Green Wines
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Some like their white wines, the lighter the better. Some are such diehard red fans they’d rather never eat fish again than have to pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc. And then there are those who like their wine green.

Baking Up Tradition
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Back in the day, a proper Wellesley cookie swap meant lacy aprons, long skirts and lighted luminaries. It even involved a little silver bell: Just as with Pavlov’s dogs, the ringing signified it was time to drool. On cue, the women who were gathered at Mary Bevilacqua’s lovely home would present and exchange their baked treats, following a set of rules codified in their 1970s classic, “The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook.”

Lacy aprons? Silver bells? Not so much today. A modern cookie exchange is just as likely to include booze and—gasp—even boys. More cocktail party than Betty Crocker, this holiday tradition has evolved to accommodate the hip, the talented and even the hopeless in the kitchen.

published in the Chicago Sun-Times

George was having a fine time with our little cooking exercise. He was eager to pour, eager to measure and especially eager to whisk.

But he was not eager to taste. “I don’t like vegetables,” George announced. His 4-and-almost-a-half palate had seen the enemy, and it was green. Or maybe red, if you counted the pepper we had just added to the bowl.

Sommelier Spotlight: Eno at the InterContinental
published in Sommelier Journal

Eno’s four female sommeliers–young, dynamic and enthusiastic–could easily pass for a group of college co-eds. But spend five minutes with any of them, and each exhibits a level of knowledge and professionalism far above what someone could pick up from a weekend waitressing job.

Sweet on Students
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Tomoko Ichikawa’s husband went one better than a box of chocolates for their 10th anniversary. Instead, Matt Mayfield bought his wife the chance to make chocolate with some of the world’s foremost experts.

“I like to do things that are very tactile,” says Ichikawa, an information designer by trade. She sews and bakes as a break from the computer screen.

But this was a whole different ball of wax paper. Ichikawa spent two days Discovering Chocolate with the pros at the first Chocolate Academy in the United States, opened by Zurich-based über-chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut here in Chicago at the end of September.

Two EE’s Winery
published in Sommelier Journal

If Two-EE’s Winery founder Eric Harris had a theme song, it would probably be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Taste In Translation
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

I was just dying to try chicken feet. I saw them on the menu the last time I had dim sum in Chinatown. Always in search of different and authentic, I couldn’t find anything more unusual than chicken feet.

World SamplerWorld Sampler: Around the World in a Dozen Dishes
published in Fort Wayne Magazine

Fort Wayne may be far from any border, but the variety of ethnic cuisine in our city can take your taste buds on a world tour. You say you’ve never ventured beyond burgers, you like your steak-with-a-side and you’re just fine, thank you? Surely you’ve heard that you are what you eat. Who would want to be known as bland or ordinary?

A Feast of Fancy New Food
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Imagine wandering for hours amid tables of the best cheeses, chocolates, confections, coffees, olives, sauces, dips and chips while friendly fellow foodies beg you to take a taste. Sounds like a dream, right? It is until about six hours in, when you’d rather have a glass of water and an antacid than another gourmet fruit and spice spread on organic macadamia flax bread.

A Sommelier by Any Other Name
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

It’s that funny French word, easily mispronounced. To up the intimidation factor, it involves wine. And it’s not exactly a part of everyday conversation.

So when Mike Baker, store manager and unofficial buyer for Wine Discount Center on Elston Avenue, runs into friends, it’s not surprising that they ask, “Now what’s that thing you’re doing?”

Need to Know
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

Have you ever eaten raw shrimp on accident? Opened a new cheese for a cocktail party only to find it’s the stinky kind? Wound up with too few steaks at your cookout or rubbed them with spices so strong your guests sneezed until they went home?

Most of us can make a mean box of Rice-A-Roni. But certain specialty foods and beverages are a little more challenging. We don’t buy or serve them very often. They’re packaged with lots of unfamiliar words—just what is shade-grown coffee anyway? There’s a certain level of knowledge required to choose a wine or cheese, meat or seafood, and there’s a certain cost…we really don’t want to mess up those purchases.

Pass the Frog Legs
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

When my daughter was a toddler, she was as fond of Cheerios, macaroni and hot dogs as the next kid. But her favorite thing to find on her high chair tray? Olive tapenade—she didn’t really care what it was served with, if anything, except a spoon.

Then in kindergarten, each child in Mia’s class was invited to bring his or her favorite fruit to school to share. Her hairy kiwi stood alone amid the bananas and grapes, a horrifying and repulsive creature to most 5-year-olds. Not my foodie kid.

So while it shocks the wait staff when my fifth grader now orders a plate of squid and devours it with gusto, finishing her meal with a decaf coffee, I’ve been reaping the benefits of her diverse palate for years. I almost never have to eat at a restaurant with an indoor playground.

Creme de la ChopsCrème de la Chops
one of my Chefs Tell columns in Fort Wayne Magazine

He seems so laid back, a bit soft-spoken, with an easy smile. Lose the uniform, keep the Colts hat, and he could pass for a college student finished with his last exam of the semester. Appearances can be very deceiving.

Southern Comfortable
published in Fort Wayne Magazine

Sometimes what you get isn’t what you expect, but upon reflection, it makes perfect sense.

Consider Eddie Merlot’s chef. You might think that the man behind the Rolls-Royce of fat, juicy steaks would be a swanky, larger-than-life kind of fellow as loud as the flavors he creates. But you’ll need to lean in to hear Matthew Nolot.

Beyond the BeachesBeyond the Beaches
published in Grape Anticipation Magazine

Plan a trip to Brazil, and your friends will wax poetic about beaches, meat on a stick, beaches, Carnival, beaches, sunshine and beaches. But Brazil is much more than Rio de Janeiro.

Bourdain’s Newest Target a Real Clown
published in the Chicago Sun-Times

He’s the guy you want to sit next to at a boring dinner party. Worldly. Witty. Wicked, in a no-harm-done kind of way. He’s a chef, a writer, a film aficionado. Anthony Bourdain is the nicest, most hard-drinking, caustic SOB you’d ever want to meet.

And yet he’s traded his trademark cigarettes for pureed prosciutto.

Sommelier Journal Cover, August 2008How Green Is Your Wine?
published in Sommelier Journal

They filled a classroom one weeknight at Just Grapes, a wine store in downtown Chicago, nearly 40 consumers whose interest was piqued by a presentation on biodynamic wines. Erinn Benziger was on hand to describe the methods used at her family’s vineyards in Sonoma, which are Demeter-certified biodynamic, certified organic or sustainably farmed. Almost before she could begin, hands went up. The biggest question: What is biodynamics, and how is it different from organics?

Before Sonoma Was Known: An Interview with Chef Ash
published in Sommelier Journal

Chef John Ash has come to stand for many things. Known as the founder of wine-country cuisine, he began pairing food and wine in the early 1980s at his Santa Rosa restaurant, John Ash & Co.

Beverage Programs Go GreenBeverage Programs Go Green
published in Sommelier Journal

It is Alberto Gonzalez’s firm belief that a commitment to the ecological type of green can bring in the financial type of green. In fact, he’s put his money where his mouth is—as have the customers who have flocked to his GustOrganics restaurant in New York City since its opening in early 2008.

Brazil: Ready for the World
published in Sommelier Journal

It was a devastatingly beautiful morning as Ademir Brandelli greeted us in front of Don Laurindo, his family’s winery in southern Brazil, where he is director and enologist. The breeze was pleasant, the sun warm in a sky so blue it was almost unreal. A perfect day for working in the vineyards—and Brandelli’s father, Don Laurindo, was doing just that, as he does every day at age 77.