News & Features

Alice Waters & Ruth Reichl- Chicago Humanities Festival

Jenna Temkin

April 25 2014 - 3:56 PM

Alice Waters is doing a good thing.  She’s been doing a good thing for a long time.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, you have been living under a food rock for nearly three decades.  Chef, author, food aficionado, and most notably famous for her restaurant in Berkely California, Chez Panisse,  Alice Waters is largely responsible for bringing local, sustainable and organic food practices to the plates of American’s nationwide.   She has become the face of the Slow Food movement along with spearheading her most recent project The Edible Schoolyard Project.   This year, the Chicago Humanities Festival hosted a conversation between Waters and fellow food philosopher, Ruth Reichl; a colleague of Water’s who also began her career in Berkely during the food revolution of the 1970’s.  Reichl is the previous co-owner and chef of Swallow and later became critic and food editor for both the The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.  She has written four memoirs, and was the last editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine.

In their conversation, held at the Rubloff Auditorium in the Art Institute of Chicago, Reichl and Waters discussed food policy and the future of food in this county.  More specifically, their conversation highlighted the importance of changing the way we eat today in order to better serve the generations ahead of us.  Promoting her newest book, The Art of Simple Food 2, Waters said the focus here was about taking care of the land.   When Reichl asked Waters how do go about that, Waters responded “You ask.”  Reichl went on to agree with Waters by saying “We all should be eating at the same level”.  In response, Waters added “We have to turn it around and show the children that we care about them”.  For a more in depth look of this intimate conversation, please see the video below.



Upland's World-Class Sours

Josh Brusin

April 22 2014 - 5:04 PM

Maybe there’s something about Indiana but they are home to some world class breweries. You’ll be hearing plenty about the upcoming Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds in Munster. We found ourselves there in 2010 and while barrel aged stouts are certainly in vogue sour beers are the next big thing, especially come Spring and Summer. 200 miles south of Munster in Bloomington you’ll find Upland. Now that they have IL distribution, you can finally catch beers like Teddy Bear Kisses and Dragonfly at the store but their large bottles of sour goodness are brewery-only and in addition to that you need some lottery-luck to score one– or ask reallllly nicely! So after an earnest request I found myself in Brooklyn with few bottles of Upland lambics and a Sour Reserve. At the table for the sake of level-setting was a bottle of Cantillon Fou Foune, one of the legendary Belgian apricot sours.

Sours and lambics go down the long funky path of yeasts and fruits with a solid measure of wood. The Sour Reserve puts the emphasis soundly on aged funky sour with touches of citrus. It’s extreme and extremely enjoyable. The profile approaches wine and I would easily trade a cool climate (e.g. Alsatian) white for one of these. They are bigger, puckering and not only a palate cleanser but a wholesale repainting. The lambic fruit variations temper this with defined fruit. Comparing the Upland Blackberry Lambic to the apricot on the Fou Foune shows a marked difference. The blackberries are a sweet touch to the nose and taste of the Upland but the apricots linger at aromatics far more than on the palate. The sour level is kicked up on the Cantillon and there is very little respite from it. Having them both at the same time was great for comparison and they are both in the same league and at the same time characteristically different.

Upland not only produces blackberry lambic but persimmons, cherry, kiwi and raspberry.

Home Cooking

How to Roast a Whole Fish

Marly Schuman

April 21 2014 - 9:00 AM

I consider myself an ambitious cook, yet there are certain dishes that I’ve assumed I should leave to the experts. I’ve tackled complex cakes and even homemade pastas. A whole fish, on the other hand, is not a dish I ever envisioned myself making. When you see a perfect red snapper staring you in the face, you know you just have to try it out.

Whenever I am out to dinner with a group, I always gravitate towards the whole roasted fish. I’ve tried some incredible variations on this dish at Mott Street and Tanta (seriously, don’t miss the Pescado Frito), leaving images of succulent, flavorful fish swimming in my mind long after. It’s something about the experience of sharing that dish and cooking the fish whole that really seals in the flavors. I knew I had to try it myself. I’m not expert, but here’s what I learned from my experience.

1. Become friends with your fishmonger
If you have never cooked a whole fish before, chat up your fishmonger. Voice your concerns and ask for any suggestions. Ask which fish would be a good choice to buy whole based on what is freshest that day and your taste preferences. Also, if you’re intent on doing everything yourself, be sure to ask a few key questions. Is this fish descaled? Has it been cleaned? Are the gills removed? Unless you’re buying from a wholesale fish market, the fish monger should be removing the scales and cleaning the fish.

2. Take the shortcuts whenever possible
Don’t be ashamed if you’re a little queasy at the thought of removing the fish fins or gills. Ask the fishmonger if they can help you out to remove any undesirables. They should offer to do so with no additional cost – after all, they are the ones slicing out those beautiful filets you buy so often. Also, many fish departments will sell whole fish that are seasoned and ready to go into the oven. Check out Plum Market or whole Foods if you’re looking for something like this. You’ll still get the impressive presentation and the flavor you’re looking for without the extra work.

3. Don’t go in unarmed
In order to take on a whole fish yourself, you’ll first need a plan of action. Do you plan to roast it whole? Stuff it with fresh herbs, or throw it on the grill? They’re all great options; just make sure you have the proper ingredients and tools. Grab your phone or computer and pull up YouTube if you want a real, step-by-step tutorial on how to take on a whole fish.

4. Surround the fish with flavor

Unlike a filet, you can’t just pour your marinade over the top of a whole fish and hope for the best. Depending on your cooking method and the type of fish, you may not want to eat the skin at all. Score the skin with diagonal cuts, and pour your marinade here as well as inside the fish. Using whole or fresh herbs is a best practice to really bring out all the flavors. Note that, as with anything you roast, if there is any sweet element in the marinade it may burn as it will caramelize upon cooking (i.e. orange juice, honey, a sweet teriyaki sauce).

5. Beware of the bones

The fish should easily separate from the main bone structure easily. Still, you may find tiny bones throughout depending on the type of fish you opt for. If you don’t want the extra work while you’re eating, you can attempt to debone prior to cooking or see if you can find a deboned version at your fish store. Otherwise, a more easily manageable filet may be the preferred option for you.

Chicago Craft Beer Week Upcoming, May 15-25, 2014

M. Sheppard

April 20 2014 - 5:31 PM

Greetings, beer lovers.  There will be more to come on in this event in the coming days and weeks, but Chicago Craft Beer Week 2014 is nearly upon us.  The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s annual 10-day Chicago celebration of all-things craft beer, which will occur between May 15 and 2015, 2014, will feature some incredible events that will give you a chance to meet brewing leaders and restaurant managers, to mingle with other craft beer lovers, and to drink some rare and delicious brews.   There are also some new technological improvements designed to help you plan what will be an extremely busy week.  The press release for this year’s event is here. As I stated, I’ll have more to come on this event in the coming days – I have a DryHop Brewers event to attend this week at which various activities will be detailed – so stay tuned.   I’ll also be back to provide some tips on what to do, depending upon what your goals for the week might be (rare beers, meeting brewers, food pairings, etc.).


–  M. Sheppard

Half Acre Beer Company Heyoka IPA

M. Sheppard

April 15 2014 - 4:21 PM

Although I am no stranger to the endless quest for hops, even I have to admit that the beer-bittering industry has gotten out of control.  It is now common for hoppy brews to be released at 9%, 10% levels or more, with IBU’s skyrocketing beyond 120.  These uber-hopped beers are possibly beyond the point at which they can fairly be deemed “IPA’s”.  Not only has the production of these hop bombs shredded the craft nation’s palates, including mine, the demand for them has sent hop prices skyrocketing.   Four years ago I could buy a sixer of Stone Ruination for $12, now it is $20 if you can find one.  A bomber goes for $9.

Add this hop inflation to the broader market for specialty-release beers and it becomes apparent that the craft beer market is becoming a rich man’s game; the common man needs friends to buy-in for a sixer.   But the extreme, quirky, and other limited-production beers keep flying off the shelves.  In fairness, some of the entries have indeed been spectacular; Three Floyds’ 10% Permanent Funeral was delicious.  But I saw a bomber of it selling on the West Side for $13.  Please don’t get me started on the market for Zombie Dust, which is actually sane in terms of its IBU/ABV specs but is more scarce than a newly-released iPhone.  While recently discussing beer with Josh, I wondered, what happened to the concept of enjoying a garden-variety beer?  Where are the regularly-priced beers that you can actually savor, and not have to think about how you’re going to trade for your next one?  Where are the great ones that you can actually find?

Half Acre Beer Co., which makes a strong case for being Illinois’ best brewer these days, gives a nod in the right direction with its Heyoka IPA.  This beer hearkens back to the days when I first started drinking IPA’s, and enjoyed such fare as Harpoon, Racer 5, Centennial, and Commodore Perry.  It registers a normal 7% ABV (normal for these days anyway) and has a satisfying bite.  The sting of the Chinook and Amarillo hops came in handy not too long ago, after I had tried several of Revolution’s rich, barrel-aged “Gene Series” beers.   Heyoka’s biting hops cleanse the palate and, along with its mild density and restrained malt investment, refresh your senses.  Yes, a 4-pack is $10, but at least they’re 16-oz cans.

With Heyoka, HABC has given hop lovers a nice treat at a reasonable price.  It’s not over the top, it’s reasonably priced, and it has a pleasantly sharper bite than Revolution’s milder, ubiquitous Anti-Hero.  Plus I find it more flavorful than the balance of the low-ABV, aka “lowercase”, 4% IPAs which are the recent trend.

– M. Sheppard

Home Cooking

Sephardic Charoset/Haroset

Josh Brusin

April 15 2014 - 12:01 PM

A traditional offering is charoset or haroset (phonetic spelling depending). It’s representative of the mortar Jews, as slaves, used to make bricks. But it also represents sweetness and more often than not has apples as a key ingredient. Stay with me… there are two traditions within historical Judaism. Ashkenozic and Sephardic. For more info read “Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews”.

There are many customs that differ. Sephardic Jews for example will eat rice on passover while Ashkenazic jews won’t.

In the case of charoset, Sephardic Jews use dates. Historically “The Land of Milk and Honey” refers to date honey or date syrup and to boot it looks more like mortar than chunky apples and nuts. Tastes better in my opinion too.

This is a modification of last years recipe.

To serve 10 I bought 1 lb. of dates and pitted them. Not a big deal you can squeeze out the pits very simply. 1/2 pound of cashews turn into a nice buttery consistency in the Cuisinart. Add a pinch of cinnamon and then add the dates, raisins and wine while they are processed – until you hit that pasty consistency. It should be very sweet and smell great. Let it cool in the fridge and then portion out to serve with Matzo.. or Matzah or Matzi…

–Josh Brusin

Home Cooking

Passover Parsnip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Marly Schuman

April 15 2014 - 12:00 PM

Passover is a time when we are supposed to sacrifice like our ancestors did by giving up all leavened bread. I’ll be honest with you – these cupcakes are no sacrifice. The matzo cake flour might make them a bit more dense, but you’re not giving up any flavor. Kosher for Passover macaroons are more than common, and you’re sure to come across some brownies or sponge cake over the course of the week. But parsnip cupcakes? You’ve probably never even had one any other day of the year.

Carrot cake is commonplace. But parsnip not so much. Parsnips are cousin to the carrot but with a sweeter flavor, which I thought would help overpower the matzo cake flour. Since I finely grated the parsnips, you can’t taste a strong parsnip flavor. They do provide plenty of moistness to the cake. I used agave maple syrup because regular syrup usually have corn syrup, which is a definite don’t for passover. But you can also use organic or regular syrup.

If you want to make these cupcakes not for Passover (and you should), be sure to adjust the flour as indicated below. To see the full recipe click here.

Farm & Garden

Pastoral's Artisan Producer Festival - Saturday, April 12

David McCowan

April 10 2014 - 9:00 AM

Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival

We here at Chicago Foodies love this city and the many awesome people who make it delicious. And, it turns out, we’re not the only ones with a serious gastronomic crush.

This Saturday, April 12, Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine will be hosting their fourth annual Artisan Producer Festival at the Chicago French Market. This FREE event will feature nearly 100 makers and shakers of all stripes showcasing hand-crafted products, handing out samples, leading demos and answering your questions.

f8b54e90349c9e86d80a8111_186x280Though some of the participants will be descending on Chicago from spots around the world, many of these folks are from our own Midwest backyard. Pick up some charcuterie from local meat wizards West Loop Salumi and pair it with a hunk of Wisconsin cheese from Clock Shadow Creamery. Or indulge in something sweeter from Katherine Anne Confections washed down with a Half Acre beer. Catch a demonstration on making Girl & Goat’s famous pig face dish or hang out with past Chicago Foodies featured distillers Koval and Letherbee.

If you want to get in on this celebration of craft food and drink, — and again, this is FREE, so why wouldn’t you? — pop on down to the Chicago French Market between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. A full list of participants and a schedule of events is below, but check the Pastoral website for the latest information.

Pastoral’s Artisan Producer Festival

Saturday, April 12, 2014, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Chicago French Market
131 North Clinton Street, Chicago, IL 60661

The Participants

Alemar Cheese Company
Baetje Farms
Capriole Goat Cheese
Cellars at Jasper Hill
Clock Shadow Creamery – Cedar Grove Cheese
Columbia Cheese
Cypress Grove Chevre
Essex St. Cheese Company
Hidden Springs Creamery
Holland’s Family Cheese
Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese
LaClare Family Farms
Marcoot Jersey Creamery
Milton Creamery
Neal’s Yard Dairy
Prairie Fruits Farm
Rodolphe le Meunier
Rogue Creamery
Sartori Cheese
Saxon Creamery
ShadowBrook Farm – Dutch Girl Creamery
Shepherd’s Way
Spring Brook Farm – Farms for City Kids Foundation
Uplands Cheese Company
Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery
Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company
Widmer’s Cheese Cellar
Zingerman’s Creamery

Creminelli Fine Meats
Olympic Provisions
Smoking Goose Meatery
H. Forman & Sons
West Loop Salumi

Big Picture Farm
Confection Diva – Sweet Margy
Katherine Anne Confections
Whimsical Candy

5 Rabbit Cerveceria
Artisanal Imports
Half Acre Beer Company
Sixpoint Brewery
Ale Syndicate
FEW Spirits
Koval Distillery
Letherbee Distillery
Virtue Cider
Vandberg and Dewulf (Imports of Belgian Beer)
CH Distillery
Rhine Hall
Journeyman Distillery

fornlorn hope wineWINE
Candid Wines
Elk Cove Vineyards
Fox Valley Winery
Good Harbor Winery
Huneeus Vintners
Illinois Sparkling Company
L. Mawby Vineyards
Lieb Cellars
Girls in the Vineyard
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Forlorn Hope Wines
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
Firelands Winery

Ameline Mustards
American Spoon Foods
Ames Farm Honey
Castleton Crackers
Counter Culture Coffee
Cook au Vin
Effie’s Oat Cakes
La Fournette Bakery
Pear Tree Preserves
Potter’s Crackers
Quince & Apple Small Batch Preserves
Savory Spoon Panforte
Stu’s Sour Pickles
Thornburg Preserves

CHICAGO FRENCH MARKETfarms for city kids
Beaver Coffee + Donuts
City Fresh Market
Delightful Pastries
Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer
Fumare Meats
Loop Juice
Klay Oven Kitchen
Lavazza Espression
Lillie’s Q
Little Goat Bread
Oh, Olive!
Saigon Sisters
Sam’s Gourmet Lasagna
Superior Nuts
Vanille Patisserie

Ovie Bar & Grill

Images courtesy of Pastoral Artisan Cheese & Wine


broVo Spirits Amaro Project

David McCowan

April 03 2014 - 9:00 AM

Mhairi Voelsgen didn’t realize what she was offering. She and her broVo Spirits partner, Erin Brophy, had just created a $25,000 flop, – a rhubarb liqueur that didn’t taste a lick like they’d hoped, – and the two were looking to their bartender friends for help salvaging it.

Would they, the ladies asked at bar after bar, be willing to help turn the middling spirit into an amaro?

The overwhelming response surprised them. “It was as if we offered them a million dollars,” Voelsgen laughs. “We asked seven bartenders and all seven said yes.”

Amaro, as Voelsgen and Brophy now realize, is every bartender’s secret passion. The category of bittersweet liqueurs is the ultimate display of complexity weaving together woody roots, fresh citrus, savory herbs, exotic plants and every nut, stem, flower, grass and spice imaginable into a balanced dram. For these barmen, practitioners of balance every night behind the stick, creating an amaro is a challenge unlike any other.

BroVo’s initial release – the seven bottlings that saved the failed batch – were a sell-out and taught the distillers a lot. “We realized early on,” Voelsgen says, “that we don’t have the palate to make our own amaro. We are a distillery that works with bartenders.”

Looking beyond their home market of Seattle, Voelsgen and Brophy traveled to San Francisco and Chicago to find takers for a second round, released in 2013. The two are again canvasing the country working on the next wave due out later this year with new collaborators from Chicago as well as tapping into Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia.

BroVo Chicago Amaro LineChicago’s 2013 run features four local barmen and each is wildly different, running from light to heavy, from shot to integral mixing ingredient.

But why come to Chicago for inspiration?

“Hospitality,” Voelsgen says, without missing a beat. “Chicago’s bartenders put the customer first.”

Amaro No. 13 – Bobby Adams, Fion Wine & Spirits
Of the four Chicago releases, this is the gentlest. Garlic and lemongrass waft out after a light opening salvo of chocolate and there is a nice floral note of chamomile. The combination sounds weird, but it works. Really. Sip this one slowly and smile.

Amaro No. 14 – Mike Ryan, Sable Kitchen & Bar
Tasting notes for No. 14, begin with the word “magic.” The recipe is based off Sable’s house chocolate bitters and there’s no denying the chocolate flavor front and center. However, what sets this apart is the interplay with savory thyme, showcasing Ryan’s culinary background. Neat, its rich and tasty. Mixed, it adds depth.

Amaro No. 15 – Greg Miesch, Fion Wine & Spirits
Lavender and peppermint suffuse this amaro in perfect balance. Curiously delightful, the two flavors trade turns in the spotlight, before fading to soft citrus, then a spicy chile pepper finish that lingers and lingers. No. 15 is another contemplative sipper and perhaps the most unique of the four.

Amaro No. 16 – Stephen Cole, Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf
Cole’s amaro is inspired by his favorite classics. It includes artichoke (like Cynar) and sandlewood (like Cardamaro), but finishes with peppercorn spice. The layered complexity mixes very well with whiskey and the flavors actually expand and become more distinct in cocktails.

broVo Amaro CocktailsAll four amari are available around Chicago at $35 for a 750mL bottle. Each is lovely neat or on the rocks, but they also play well in cocktails.

Mike Ryan offers up a wintry Manhattan variation called the Warding Circle using his No. 14 that mixes with rye and rich PX sherry. And one of Stephen Cole’s original drinks, Bitter Giuseppe, gets an update from his No. 16; it pulls no punches and makes the amaro the star.

Check out the recipe for the Warding Circle here.

Check out the recipe for the Bitter Giuseppe No. 16 here.