Category Archives: drinking

Hiatus – Studying some wine

So as much as it pains me to say this, I will be taking a brief hiatus from posting. While I have a backlog of delicious recipes and so much to share with you all, I have been busy studying for my sommelier exam taking place in June.

I know that I have told some of you about this, but I have started the Court of Master Sommeliers program. It’s 4 levels with the first as an introductory course and exam.

I will still be all over Twitter and will always respond to any comments you leave here. And while I may post once or twice before the exam, I promise to share everything with you after and deliver some yummy springtime recipes!


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Events in the City: Chicago French Market Brunch

In February, I went to a brunch event at the Chicago French Market. If you haven’t been to the market, you really must go because it’s set up like a European market and they have some really phenomenal vendors (including those that sell macarons…but we’ll talk about that another time). The event, “Meet Alpana Under the Eiffel Tower”, was sponsored by Wine D.O.C. & Wine Cru and was an 8-course tasting menu of foods prepared by the vendors of the market. Alpana Singh of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants and WTTW’s Check, Please! was the special guest of the event and provided us with some reflections on the wines that were paired with the food that we tried.

It was lovely getting to meet Alpana, as she was gracious meeting everyone and even taking the time to answer our questions. This was the first time that this specific event was hosted, and while they have some kinks to work out if they decide to host the event in the future, it was all-in-all a fun and well thought out program.

Each attendant received a signed copy of Alpana’s new book Alpana Pours, which I have really been enjoying, as well as a goodie bag filled with snacks and other tidbits from the vendors. It was truly a lovely Saturday morning.


Veuve de Vernay Brut Rose (France)
Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Lavazza Tierra Blend (Rainforest Alliance Certified)
Espirito Lagoalva (Portugal)
Monastery Tvrdos Cabernet Sauvignon (Bosnia & Herzegovina) <–I loved this
Domaine Saint-Vincent Brut (New Mexico)

Course 1

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice by Chicago Organics <– delicious
Cavapi Beef and Lamb Kabobs by City Fresh Market
Fresh Feta Salad by City Fresh Market
Course 2
Raw Vegan Lasagna by Raw <– couldn’t even tell it was raw (except that it was cold)
Crushed Red Pepper Popcorn by Pop This! Gourmet Popcorn & Candy Shop <– unreal
Course 3
Op la Frittata by Saigon Sisters
Hot Chili & Teriyaki Chicken over Fried Rice by Bowl Square
Course 4
Pastrami on Rye Bread by Fumare
Belgium Fries with Curry Mayo by Frietkoten <–i can’t even begin to explain how much i love curry dipping sauce
Course 5
Sole Fish Taco by City Fresh
Homemade Guacamole and Chips by Buen Apetito
Course 6
Croque Monsieur by LM Cafe
Rigatoni and Marinara Sauce Fasta Pasta
Course 7
Ambre Dessert by Vanille Patisserie
Red Velvet Cupcake by Sweet Miss Giving’s
Strawberry and Cheese Kolacky by Provo’s Bakery
Sorbetto Cremespresso by Lavazza Espression
Marzipan and Raspberry Macarons by Delightful Pastries
Course 8
Delice de Bourgogne
Aged Marieke Gouda
Aderkase Reserve
Fig and Black Tea Spread
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
Assorted Berries

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Sunday Funday

Is there anything better than Sunday Brunch (or Sunday Funday)? One of my favorite things about brunch is the beverage selection. I love champagne or sparkling wine, but sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like a Bloddy Mary.

My parents invited us over for brunch a couple weeks ago, and as to not show up empty handed, I brought them some of my favorite Bloody Mary mix: Zing Zang. I love this mix because you don’t need to add anything to it, but you certainly can. It’s great with vodka or without. Ben even likes it and he doesn’t really like tomato juice. A perfect addition to Sunday Brunch.

Annie’s Perfect Bloody Mary

  • 2 parts Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 part favorite vodka (I like to use Absolut Peppar)
  • 1/4 of a lime squeezed
  • 2-3 drops Tabasco Sauce
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Celery Salt
  • 1/2 Bottle MGD or other favorite beer

For Garnishes

  • Celery Stalk
  • Dill Pickle
  • Salami Cubes
  • Mozzarella Cheese Balls
  • Grilled Shrimp
  • Pickles Asparagus

Mix Bloody Mary Mix with Vodka over ice in highball glass. Squeeze limes into glass. Add Tabasco, cracked pepper, and celery salt. Add garnishes. Pour 1/2 Bottle MGD into another glass. Chase Bloody Mary with Beer.

Ben’s Bloody Mary Alternative

  • 2 Parts Orange Juice
  • 1 part vodka
  • Splash of Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

Combine in highball glass.

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Restaurant Visit: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

As a Lincoln Park resident and avid tapas fan, it seems ridiculous to me that my first visit to Café Ba-Ba-Reeba was last week. But alas, it’s true. However, it most certainly won’t be my last visit.

Ben and I headed to Café Ba-Ba-Reeba for dinner with his aunt and uncle. We sat on the patio, which due to Chicago weather was covered and heated, but during the summer is completely open. (I do love al fresco dining.)

We started with pineapple sangria (on special) and house-made olives. As Ben’s aunt is a vegetarian, we heavily sampled the non-meat options on the menu. Even for the rest of us carnivores, the vegetarian options are delicious. We ordered mushroom empanadas (delicious), vegetarian paella (I can smell the saffron), and the Spanish cheese platter (glorious).

We also got one of my favorite dishes that Café Ba-Ba-Reeba does. I was well acquainted with this particular dish in advance of eating in the restaurant because one of my girlfriends enjoys making it for our monthly book club. It is a warm goat cheese marinara dip. Served with garlic bread, it is literally one of the best flavor combinations. (But then you give me garlic and cheese and I’m a happy camper.)

For those of you enamored by glistening veins of fat and cuts of beef, never fear, we ordered the braised beef short rib (so incredibly tender) and the cured Spanish meat tray (again served with cheese…yumm!)

I was in complete food heaven. Delightful conversation and small plates tend to lead to my most favorite dinners. The dinner that lingers on and on as food is brought in waves and the drinks are constantly refilled. It’s such a great way to catch up with friends and family.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba
2024 Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 935-5000

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New Restaurant: Maude’s Liquor Bar

As you all known, I am tremendous francophile. As such, I am overjoyed by the number of new French establishments in the River North & River West areas of Chicago: Maude’s Liquor Bar, Paris Club, and Bistronomic.

Last week, I was lucky enough to visit Maude’s with some girlfriends. I’d been dying to try Maude’s and had a couple of unsuccessful attempts to visit, so I was very excited to go.

Maude’s is a dive-style bar/restaurant. I absolutely love the decor, but was unfortunately unable to snap some photos due to the fabulous, but low-lit ambiance. However, the use of leather sofas, bistro tables, heavy wood, and white bathroom tile in addition to tons of mirrios creates a wonderful space for after work cocktails and dinner with friends.

Each of us ordered something different, allowing us to sample much of the traditional French menu. We started with Steamed Mussels served in a white wine sauce with olives. I’m not a huge mussel fan, but the sauce was to die for and made for very enjoyable mussels. We also had a Seared Scallop with Lentils (which served as inspiration for a dish we made over the weekend).

There were also a couple orders of Blackened Brussel Sprouts. In the past, I haven’t liked brussel sprouts (perhaps because of the preparation). But I am always willing to try a new food or new preparation, and I am so glad that I did try the brussel sprouts because they were amazing. They were served in a lemon-garlic sauce (hello…what’s not to love?!), sliced in half with the perfect amount of blackened-ness. Heavenly.

Finally, I ordered a Lyonnaise Salad that was exquisite. Frisee Greens served with…wait for…PORK BELLY! (YUM!!!!!), brioche croutons, and a medium-hard poached egg. All of the flavors melded together so beautifully and the brioche croutons did an excellent job of soaking up the egg yolk and pork belly juice. DIVINE!

Wrapped up with a couple glasses of 2009 California Pinot Noir (unfortunately I don’t remember what vineyard 😦 ) and marvelous conversation, Maude’s was a wonderful way to end a Tuesday night.

Maude’s Liquor Bar
840 West Randolph Street, Chicago
312-243-9712 or


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Guest Post! Scavenged Dinner-Leftover Wine Pasta Sauce

As some of you know (or perhaps have guessed by this point), Ben and I both LOVE food…and we love to cook together. He is a pretty great cook and is phenomenal at whipping up meals out of the food that’s left in the fridge when we haven’t had a chance to go to the grocery store. That being said, he made a great dinner on Tuesday night for himself (I had book club) and was so sweet to put together a lunch “to-go” container for me for the next 2 days. It was some of the best pasta sauce that I’ve had. He offered to guest post about it, so without further ado…

On my ride home on the bus I realized that I wanted to make dinner so I picked up a jar of pasta sauce from the Seven-Eleven between the bus stop and Annie’s apartment. The jar of Ragu was the only thing that I bought to make this sauce. I bought the only jar that they had which was a plain type of sauce, I think basil and tomato.

A note before going further: I don’t really measure anything when I cook and I recommend you to do the same. I cook to taste. I add and add until I think it tastes or looks right. This does make for mistakes and recipes not coming out the way that I thought they would, but I believe that I makes me a better cook because I can learn from my mistakes.  So please forgive me for my vague recipe.

I started the water boiling for the pasta. (Every kitchen should always have some kind of pasta.) It doesn’t matter the type of pasta. This was soccer-shaped pasta that we got in a gift bag at a wedding.

I put a medium pot on the burner on medium-low. While the pot was heating up, I took one slice of thick cut bacon that I had in the freezer and cut it up into very small pieces. I used scissors to cut it because it was difficult to cut while frozen. I put the bacon into the pot and let all of the fat melt.

I grabbed some not so good looking Kale from the fridge and using my hands ripped it into small pieces throwing out the mushy bits (in total I used about a cup of kale). I turned up the heat on the pot and added the kale. (I did not add any salt because I was using some of my home-cured bacon which was a bit salty, but if you are using less salty bacon I would recommend adding a pinch of salt here.)

I added some dried minced garlic, dried parsley, and dried basil. I sprinkled each of them. Add as much of each to your level or preference of each of the flavors. I was heavy on the garlic, light on the parsley, and used a healthy dose of basil.

I let the kale get nice and fried and let the bacon get just a bit crispy. You will know when it is right from the smell. I ran into an issue here because I needed something to sweeten up the sauce. My original thought was to use honey because it was one of only a couple items left in the kitchen to eat. (If you try this with honey, please let me know how it goes).

I had a bit of luck here. Annie had previously been home and she had a glass of Gewurztraminer, a sweet aromatic wine that Annie is very partial to. She left it for me to finish and I decided that this would be sweetening agent that I needed. I added enough wine to cover the bottom of the pot with a decent layer to de-glaze the pot. This got up all the good flavors that were crusted to bottom of the pot. I let the wine sizzle of a minute or two then turned the heat down to low.

I added the pasta into the boiling pot at this point. I also added some of store-bought sauce to the sauce pot at this point. I added only enough to give it the desired volume of sauces. I think I used about half the jar. When the pasta was al dente, the sauce was warm and ready to eat.

I was really suprised at how well it came out. I think it was one of the best “scavenged dinners” I have ever made. In fact, it was a lot better than some of the nicer dinners I have ever made. Enjoy.


  • 1 Jar of regular pasta sauce
  • 1 slice of thick cut bacon
  • Dried minced garlic
  • Dried Parsley
  • Dried Basil
  • Kale (Fresh would be best)
  • A glass of half drank Gewurztraminer
  • 1 lb of pasta
  • Kosher salt

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Date Night: Custom House

Who doesn’t love a good date night? Ben and I both LOVE food and especially love good food. I have a tendency to purchase all of the delicious Groupons to fabulous Chicago restaurants. Last weekend: Custom House Tavern.

Unfortunately, the ambiance was so wonderful (and low-light…in a good way) that I do not have any pictures. I do, however, have the tasting menu and our wine pairing! YUM!

We started with a Roasted Squash Salad with Frisee, Bacon and Maple Yogurt paired with a 2009 Big Fire Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I don’t think that there could have been a more perfect start to the meal. I love squash, especially in the winter. The bacon maple yogurt was a lovely salty/sweet addition. The Pinot Gris had wonderful minerality.

Course 2 was a Seared Sea Scallop on top of a Braised Pork Belly with Grits and a Tart Cherry Mustard. I love everything about this dish: scallops, pork belly, and a good grainy mustard! Each bite of this dish had all of the sweet savory and delicious elements. It was even better with the wine pairing: 2009 Cotes du Rhone by Les Vin de Vienne from the Rhone Valley.

Our final savory course was Beef Short Ribs with a Potato Puree, Cipollinis, Chard, and Tomato Jam. Again delicious. (I really had nothing bad to say about this meal.) Paired with a 2008 Hudson Shah Malbec from the Wahluke Slope in Washington State.

Finished the meal off with the best part of the whole meal: DESSERT!! A Dark Chocolate Ganche (to die for) with Verjus, Violet, and Cassia Bud Sherbet. So phenomenal there aren’t even words to describe. There was a really great cinnamon chocolate combination and the sherbet and violet added just enough sweetness. Paired with 2009 Moscato d’Asti Cascinetti Vieti from Veneto Italy. I’m normally not a huge dessert wine person, but this was lovely.

All in all, definitely heading back to Custom House Tavern again. Deets: 500 S Dearborn Chicago IL 60605 – (312) 523-0200

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