Cochon555 – Chicago

Cochon555 is a national culinary competition and Sunday they were in Chicago at Morgan Manufacturing. It was a night full of pork, wine, spirits and great people. Five chefs compete using five hogs to create dishes that ticket holders vote on. The winner from each city meets in Aspen June 20th for the Grand Cochon and bragging rights of the best heritage hog chef in the U.S. Congrats, Chef Nicole Pederson from Found Kitchen!

Check out my video to get an inside look at this ultimate pork extravaganza!

Dinner on the Amalfi Coast at Osteria Angelo Masuccio – Salerno, Italy

Welcome to the Amalfi Coast, breathtaking views and amazing food – see for yourself!

Osteria Angelo Masuccio Salerno Italy Window

Osteria Angelo Masuccio is a tiny authentic Italian restaurant in Salerno. I discovered cannolicchi and the best homemade pasta with truffle shavings! Salerno is an affordable option for a base to check out the different towns along the Amalfi Coast. The restaurant prices are some of the best you will find and Osteria Angelo Masuccio’s food is just as good (and sometimes better) than many places I tried in Amalfi and Capri.

Osteria Angelo Masuccio Patio

Sit on the small patio on the narrow pedestrian cobblestone street to enjoy the people watching and the nice summer breeze. The ground floor of Osteria Angelo Masuccio consists of the dining room and the kitchen is upstairs.

The vegetarian and seafood antipasti is constantly changing depending on what is available and in season. This night we had the seafood with raw slices of salmon, mussels, cannolicchi and mussels. I am not a fan of clams and I admit the cannolicchi kind of scared me but I fell in love after the first bite.

Angelo Masuccio Salerno Italy Seafood Antipasti

Also known as razor clams Continue reading

Lunch at Solbar – Calistoga, CA

Solbar Calistoga - Image via Solage

Solbar Calistoga – Image via Solage

“You have to eat at Solbar.” After hearing this repeatedly I made my way to Solbar a Michelin Star-rated restaurant in the Solage Resort in Calistoga. A huge outdoor patio full of beautiful trees and surrounded by mountains is a great way to take in Napa. The 95 degree day prompted me to sit inside but the large windows, vaulted ceilings and rustic chic vibe was just as enjoyable.

Check out this video if you want a peek inside Solbar.

The 95 degree day made an easy choice of the chilled sweet corn soup. It was refreshing and the chunks of avocado with the magic combination of lime juice and cilantro gave the soup an extra creaminess and zing.

Solbar Calistoga Chilled Sweet Corn Soup

Solbar Calistoga Chilled Sweet Corn Soup

The organic Coke Farms baby lettuce salad was ripe and crunchy Continue reading

Brunch at Bread and Wine – Irving Park

Bread and Wine Whiskey glazed cinnamon rollWith Easter approaching I found Bread and Wine thanks to OpenTable’s Chicago restaurants page featuring openings for Easter brunch. Housed in a former laundromat (with parking in front!) the space is a cozy wood filled room with a bar, chef’s table and small retail space stocked with wine and locally made snacks.

Welcomed warmly we were led to the patio to enjoy the rare sunny spring day. The imbibe list is full of craft beer and drinks like the Bitter Goddess perfectly sweet and sour with Avinyo Brut Cava, Cynar and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Coupled with unlimited refills of Intelligentsia and we were off to a great start. Continue reading

I Died & Went to Wine Heaven – Drake Hotel, Chicago

Vintage Portfolio Tasting SignI was lucky to be invited to the Winebow Vintage Portfolio Tasting at the Drake Hotel  by Anna Lisa Tempestini. She is the proprietor and winemaker at Fattoria Resta in Buonconvento, Tuscany.

Winebow Vintage Tasting Gold Coast Room The DrakeHundreds of wines were showcased from around the world.

Vintage Portfolio Tasting Wine GlassesGetting in early was nice as it gave me time to peruse the tables and have some good conversations with the wine makers.  Two that I am really excited to share are Martin del Nero and Root: 1. Continue reading

Italian Food Lover’s Dream – Ciao, Eataly Chicago!

Eataly Chicago Cheese Counter

Mario Batali’s Eataly opened on Monday and is basically Disneyland for foodies. Remember when Whole Foods opened up their store in Lincoln Park and you felt like you could spend hours in there? Well this feels like Whole Food times ten. Two levels full of all the groceries, wine, food, cookbooks and kitchenware you could ever want. Add to that a Nutella bar, wine bar, brew pub, eight restaurants and nine cafes and you can see how easy it is to feel like you could spend days inside this Italian wonderland.

Eataly Chicago 2nd Floor EntranceEataly Chicago Bull

Come along with me on my trip to Eataly –>

You are not going to see, do, eat, buy everything you want in one trip so look at Eataly as a multi trip destination. Each of the restaurants and cafes are categorized by the type of food it focuses on, bread, fish, meat etc. Here’s the restaurant round-up from their website: Continue reading

Pastoral in Lakeview = Best Neighborhood Shop

Pastoral BLTA

Enjoying a Pastoral BLTA at Millennium Park

Imagine a spot where you can stop in and find the perfect bottle of wine, craft beer, cheese, olives, jams, and chocolates for the dinner party/housewarming gift/Ravinia outing/picnic and you are probably thinking of Pastoral.  Not only do they have all of these things (several items are local as well) but also they serve THE best sandwiches and salads. On top of this the staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and more than willing to help you find the perfect item you need for any occasion. They also cater, create picnic lunches and have classes.

See for yourself! Here is a video tour of my lunch last week…Enjoy!

Boxed Wine, It’s All About The Temp: The Salt : NPR

I have some fond memories of celebrations that involved Franzia so I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for boxed wine.  The upside of boxed wine becoming trendy is the bar for quality has been raised.  The integrity of the wine will depend, however,  on the storage temperature. NPR points out:

“Perhaps the more important finding is that at the colder temperature, boxed wine had basically aged the same as bottled wine. That’s because companies have been layering different oxygen-stopping polymers over the initial breathable layer. “They’ve fine-tuned that bag for the wine industry,” she says.”

Moral of the story, keep your Franzia cool. Read more at The Salt:

When It Comes To Boxed Wine, The Cooler, The Better : The Salt : NPR.

Oregon Chardonnay Finds Its Voice –

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay Grapes (Photo credit: pmarkham)

This weather is getting warmer and that gets me to start thinking about white wine again. A good friend of mine is a wine maker in Oregon at the Lemelson Vineyards. As any winemaker he is proud of what is produced but so is the wine drinking world.

Image via

The New York Times rates their reserve chardonnay #1 in a recent tasting. Congratulations! I am awaiting a bottle in the mail to try. The 2009 Reserve chardonnay from Lemelson is described as, “…very much reminded me of a good Pouilly-Fuissé, with its lively energy, seemingly ready to uncoil in the mouth, and subtle flavors that might best be described as mineral, spicy and nutlike, but not fruity.” Now that is a description.

Despite being the most popular white wine among Americans, chardonnay has had a bad rap. As this article points out with the first sentence, “IN the beginning, there was chardonnay, and it was not good.”

This is changing in the Willamette Valley as the “second wave of Oregon chardonnay has appeared in the last decade or so, the product this time of conscious decision-making and more confident winemakers.”

So if you have ignored Oregon chardonnay in the past consider it again. If you are looking for something new, check out this list. Especially the 2009 Reserve chardonnay from Lemelson Vineyards.  Cheers!

Link to the full article:

Oregon Chardonnay Finds Its Voice –

Wine Bar In The Works: ‘Check, Please’ Host Patners With Bistronomic Owners


Fans of Check Please!, the show that lets every day people review their favorite Chicago area restaurant, will be happy to know that the host Alpana Singh is opening a wine bar in River North.  No word of exact location or estimated opening date but I will be on the look out for more updates.  In my opinion there can never be enough good wine bars.

Alpana Singh Restaurant, Wine Bar In The Works: ‘Check, Please’ Host Patners With Bistronomic Owners.