#NoMIChocolate

NoMI | Boutique Chocolate has “popped up” in the Park Hyatt Chicago Library. Walking into this temporary pastry shop, the sweet aroma alone will make you go crazy. It’s award-winning Pastry Chef Meg Galus’ dream come true. She and her team have been sourcing rare and unique varieties to create an array of offerings, ranging from handcrafted bonbons to French and American style pastries, as well as personalized gift packages. There is even a rich Chocolate Chai tea collaboration with Rare Tea Cellar - to sip while you peruse the boutique.

Here is what you can find:

Confections - Bonbons, bars, lollipops, caramels, enrobed nuts

Pâtisseries - Éclairs, tarts, petits gâteaux

Snacks - Macarons, cookies, brownies

Gifts - Spreads, hot chocolate mix, customizable gift box

These works of art will be crafted using only the finest chocolate from makers around the globe including Valrhona, Cacao Barry, Felchlin, Guittard, Amedei and TCHO.

When: Runs through Sunday, May 11 (Mother’s Day) from 12pm-8pm

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Chef Meg Galus putting the icing on the Sensation Cake. A Devil’s Food Cake with luxurious DeZaan 72% ganache.

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You have never had rich and flaky chocolate croissants like these – trust me.

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Meg’s delectable macarons. You can even buy just one, but why stop there.

Just Another #ChicagoChefWeek Lunch

When you look at all the Chicago Chef Week menus, you just can’t decide which ones to book. Yesterday a long time friend and I tried Embeya, #delicious. All the dishes were fun to share, colorful, vibrant and full of flavor. The team there does such a great job. I’ll be back for dinner soon! (I promise Attila!)

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Clockwise from top left:

Rice Noodle Salad with short rib, rice noodle and lemongrass.

Octopus with confit eggplant, peanuts, coconut (this was not on the Chef Week menu – but we just had to try it).

Shrimp Wrap with shiitake, lettuce and Vietnamese herbs.

Seafood stew with brioche, kale, black garlic and apples.

Matcha Creme Puff – inside out.

Exoctic fruits.

Chicago Chef Week. Get on this!

Chicago Chef Week is here. With $22 lunch menus and $44 dinner menus at some of the city’s best restaurants, we kicked off the first day during lunch at GT Fish & Oyster. We saw plates and plates of their fried chicken and waffles waft by, but the real score was their chef week menu.

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1. Creamy yet light Clam Chowder, with lots of clams and crunchy salty oyster crackers.

2. Seared Tuna Salad, with a savory and tangy cider mustard vinaigrette.

3. Their famous lobster roll, stuffed and loaded with deliciousness.

4. Lemon Panna Cotta with a tangy passion fruit granita.

5 & 6. Chocolate Meringue Tart. I almost fought #billyisthebest over this. Milk chocolate mousse meets dark chocolate ganache, decorated in a perfectly toasted meringue.

Move fast because Chef Week ends on March 21.

36 Hours in San Francisco

There is nothing more exciting than cramming in as much fun as possible when visiting a city for 36 hours. Armed with the package we bid on at the Chicago Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chefs Gala silent auction last October, we were booked for non-stop action. Here are the best bites of the trip.

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Clockwise from top left:

Our favorite stop had to be the Ferry Building Marketplace. Loaded with great eateries and shopping, we were there for HOURS. Boccalone was where we stopped for lunch. The staff had us tasting salumis and before we knew it #billyisthebest ordered a Muffuletta Sandwich. Of course I had to order a half pound of Iberico de Bellota and grabbed some Acme bread, so we could snack it throughout the rest of the trip.

The line at Swan Oyster Depot was as promised, INSANE! After a stroll up and down through Nob Hill, we waited over an hour, making friends and snapping pics with those braving the wait. What an institution. Their highly recommended crab cocktail.

A deliciously rich spin on lasagna and meatballs at SPQR.

The freshest oysters ever at Swan Oyster Depot. Paired perfectly with an icy Anchor Steam.

Our first official stop was at Salt House.  Their happy hour was BUMPIN’ with beautiful people right at 4 pm. The steamed mussels al ajillo were beyond flavorfully addicting with spanish sherry, paprika, garlic and chili flakes.  We had to ask for more ACME bread to lavish in the sauce.

Tartine Bakery morning buns – right out of the oven.

 

The Best Negroni

I used to think I made the best negronis, and so did #billyisthebest. But then we met Michael at Nico Osteria. Although my favorite gin is Hendricks, Michael prefers Letherbee Gin. We tasted them side by side, and it was a fun way to spend time determining all the flavor components and what we liked about each combination.

Michael takes us step by step on how to make a perfect negroni.

Load up a mixing glass with ice. The most important part is measuring responsibly. 1.5 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of Campari, 1 ounce of Punt E Mes vermouth. We have tried Cocchi Americano and Carpano Antica and now prefer the Punt E Mes. It’s a bit lighter and brighter in flavor and doesn’t overpower the other spirits. Stir vigorously yet gently. Strain and serve up or over ice, and of course garnish with a generous rind of orange.

Or just go visit the cool bartenders at Nico.

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#sauceoff

When a bunch of Italians get together, it is bound to get saucy. So in friendly competitive spirit, we all challenged each other to a #sauceoff.  We were judged by a group of close friends, who managed to stay unbiased.  After enjoying several bottles of great Italian wine, we dished it up, but one dish was clearly #1.  Grazie.

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Our host, Team Paul Iacono, stirred the crowd with his Tagliatelle & Ragu Bolognese. Not a heavy meat sauce that you would expect in a bolognese, Paul’s was layered with flavor and very light. The winner!

The De Martes went all ‘Italian Job’ on their dish.  James is an amazing chef and worked all day on his handmade Tortellini “tastasal” with Treviso, bacon ragù in a free-range chicken broth with parsley pesto and grana padano.  The whole dish was perfection, the parsley pesto gave it a very fresh flavor. In second place – James is looking for a re-match!

Last but not least, #BillyisTheBest and I pulled out a classic we often make at home, Pasta Ceci. Seared chicken with onion, garlic, chick peas, arugula, parmesan and toasted bread crumbs. An Italian peasant dish inspired by my momma, Roro Bitetti.

Round TWO will be happening soon!

This was such a fun way to have a dinner party. Rachel DeMarte expertly created a charcuterie platter from Bari Foods, and we each prepared our dishes at home, then plated them up at go-time.

Layer in some wine (and grappa) – it was a fun night worth competing for.

Thanks to all our judges and photo takers!

Twenty Fourteen, Welcome …

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Looking back on 2013 – it was a great year, but we all are looking forward to what 2014 has in store for us, and here is what I’d like to see more of.

1. WINE: On a recent trip to New Orleans, my boyfriend and I fell in love with Chablis at Restaurant R’evolution, and just can’t get enough. I also want to learn more about Italian wines, especially big Brunellos, with the help of Vino Italiano.

2. BAGUETTE: In Paris with my besties, hot dogs on the Champs-Élysées in a baguette are a must-have obsession.  We are talking the thin ‘crunchy on the outside yet very soft and chewy on the inside’ kind.  More delicious things need to be put in a baguette, so chefs please take note. Pastoral does a great job at stuffing baguettes with Jamon Serrano, BLTS and Spanish style tuna on their sandwich menu.

3. SEAFOOD: This Dungeness Crab with fava bean puree, bottarga and radishes is not only a beautiful presentation, but a delicious appetizer served with thin crackers at Nico Osteria. Bacon and pork belly will always be in my heart, but lighter seafood extravaganzas are welcome. You’re welcome.

4. FANCY: Caviar, yes please.  And shaved truffles, please don’t stop. These crème fraîche and caviar numbers were served at the Brioni opening. Class. All the way.

5. ESCAROLE: Can it be the new kale? This salad at Pizza House 1647 is perfectly light yet robust with flavors with the addition of roasted string beans, grape tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a wedge of asiago, fennel and scallions. Chickory and Dandelion Greens are also on my list.  If you have any leads let me know.

6. ARTICHOKES: This is the one vegetable where I can never get enough. Steam them, grill them, stuff them. Just get out of my way when they are done. La Madia grills them with garlic and a creamy mustard sauce.

Well 2014, I can’t wait.

Antipasto & Pickles

Every year for Thanksgiving we are lucky to be included in a huge celebration with friends at “The Richmond”.  My mom and I always prepare a huge antipasto platter, one of my family’s signature dishes for the holiday season.  But we always like to add a few new twists. This year, in addition to the array of sliced Italian meats and cheeses, we made Zucchini & Squash Pickles. The recipe was one that my mom’s friend sourced from an issue of Southern Living.  It was a quick pickle recipe that we made two weeks in advance. They were not only sweet & sour, crispy & crunchy – but they also looked beautiful in the mason jars we stored them in, as well as on the platter.

Hope you all had an amazing holiday with family and friends! Now, let’s get ready for Christmas …

Fun on Wheels

Meals On Wheels Chicago’s Celebrity Chef Ball celebrated its 25th Anniversary this year – and it was such a night to remember.  Meals on Wheels Chicago provides funding to programs that support home-bound senior citizens and people with disabilities, allowing them to continue to live independently in their own homes, with dignity and self-respect.

We totally lucked out at the dinner and were assigned a rock star team at our table including Chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse, Chef Aaron Browning of Tavernita, Chef Jeffrey Mauro of JAM, Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Blackbird, Revae Schneider of Femme du Coupe and our hostess with the mostess Liz Grossman with Plate Magazine.  They all made our dinner special – and we had the chance to chit chat and watch them as they prepared the meal.

We started out with Artichoke-Ricotta Raviolis with Olives, Piquillo Peppers and Saffron from Chef Aaron Browning.

A signature dish from Chef Gresh at David Burke’s Primehouse – Surf & Turf dumplings: Lobster with Charred Lemon Chutney and Beef Shortrib with Spicy Mustard.  He was even kind enough to pass around seconds of this crowd pleaser.

One of my all time favorite dishes, the 55-day Dry Aged Rib Eye from David Burke’s Primehouse, cooked to perfection.

And of course there were great photos and PIC (partners in crime) Kiki Luthrighausen and Lorin Adolph. Not to mention #billytisthebest scored us a great food trip to San Francisco from the silent auction, with an amazing dinner at SPQR and a signed book from Chef Matthew Accarino - we’ll be seeing you soon!

The event was also sponsored by William Grant & Sons, so the mixology team was really put to the test and created unique cocktails from the William Grant portfolio. Revae made this one in particular with Sailor Jerry. It was so good we had to have two.

Sarriette

1.75oz Sailor Jerry

.75oz Lemon Juice

.75oz Ginger Zest

.75oz Lustau Rio Viejo Oloroso

Glass wash Combier Kummel

2 Dashes Regan’s Orange

Full list of participating Chefs and Sponsors

The Scout Guide Chicago Blog: Life on The Farm

One of my favorite blogs and publications is The Scout Guide Chicago. I crave the creative content and love spending time with my friend and publisher, the ever-stylish Meredith Wood-Prince.

She asked me to guest blog about my recent trip to Blackberry Farm, which was the trip of a lifetime, in every way imaginable.  My boyfriend and I road-tripped to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and may have had the best travel experience ever.  We loved everything about Blackberry Farm – from the service to the wine selections to the Saison made on premise.  And I couldn’t eat enough Benton’s Country Ham or Bacon.

TheFoodarazzi guest post from The Scout Guide Chicago:

#FOODLOVE at Blackberry Farm

Guest blogger Amanda Puck of TheFoodarazzi.com gives Scout Guide the inside scoop on Blackberry Farm.

This past summer I was the luckiest girl in the world and had the best vacation in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee at Blackberry Farm. The farm is situated on an abundant 9,200 acres of spectacular scenery and offers some of the world’s finest wines and cuisine. Blackberry Farm was named “The Best Food Lover’s Hotel in America” by Bon Appetit and rated “#1 Resort” by Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards. After reading about it in Bon Appetit, my boyfriend and I were determined to make it there.  The article had us hooked with the mention of their fried chicken to-go that could eat on the way back home when your vacation was sadly over!

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The breathtaking views had me whipping out my phone to snap the scenery nearly every step we took. The sustainable farm produces their own vegetables, wild flower honey, farm-fresh eggs and artisan cheeses from East Friesian sheep.  You can even fly-fish on the grounds.  As a truffle fanatic, I immediately fell in love with the “Truffle Dogs” who were being trained to hunt for truffles they are planning to grow at a nearby orchard.

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Blackberry Farm’s renowned “Foothills Cuisine” features both haute cuisine and foods indigenous to its Smoky Mountain heritage. Executive Chef of The Barn Joseph Lenn and his team were so inviting, which made for amazing and relaxing meals. The Barn was an exquisite space, truly magical, well designed, open and elegant.  A few of my favorite dishes included a creamy chicken liver pate with farm fresh blueberries, their famous fried chicken and of course, every morning was no complete without Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham with poached egg and heirloom tomato. As much as I love food, I certainly love wine. Blackberry Farm’s impressive wine list and gorgeous wine cellar did not disappoint. So whether you’re a food lover or a wine connoisseur, Blackberry Farm is the perfect haven.

Thanks to Ashley Boll and Nicole Donnelly for the graphics and help with the piece!