#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.

#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

Back Yard Tea and BBQs

Hopefully by now we are all getting ready for our Fourth of July BBQs! Our friends from LeaderBar gave us some #burgerlove and topping tips, so any spread can look like it’s done by an expert grill master.

We already got the party started with the upbeat crew at You and Me This Morning on WCIU – and if you didn’t see it live – you can catch it here. Matt Roan was spinning, Corri McFadden was glamming-up and host Melissa Forman and I were getting the Sailor Jerry cocktails ready!

The El Diablo is the spiciest burger on the planet.  If you like HOT – this summer add some spicy pepper jack cheese, habanero relish, jalapeño, grilled onions and sriracha mayo to your burger. On the menu – this comes with a WARNING.

Baked goat cheese in marinara, served with crostini. A crowd pleaser. I might make this for a party I am going to tomorrow.

Todd Rubin from LeaderBar and I celebrating with some Sailor Jerry Backyard Tea.

PQM

Sometimes I really luck out.  One of my friends was in town for the day, and asked me to join him at a dinner.  I said I would – but only if it was somewhere good.  And it was GREAT!

Industry fave Steelite International hosted an amazing private dinner at Publican Quality Meats. The service was astounding – cocktails were being mixed such as the South Side, and great wines were being poured. We missed taking a picture of the Fluke Crudo with Clemetines and Pine Nuts because we all devoured it. We also were entertained by and got to chat with Foodie-lebrity Farmer Lee Jones.

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The rest of the amazing menu:

Little Gem Salad with Crispy Pig Ears, Radishes and Buttermilk Vinaigrette.  The pig ears were so crispy, spicy and addicting. Note: I also ate the pig ears off the plate of the guy sitting next to me.  He didn’t want to finish them, and I just couldn’t handle that.

Whole roasted Red Grouper with Melted Leeks Vinaigrette.  This dish was a show stopper.

Farm Chicken with Summer Sausage and Fries.  The best dish at Publican – and reminds me of Paris.

Grilled Country Ribs with Mojo Verde, Swiss chard and Fried Shallots.  No angst, just Mojo.

Special thanks to John from Steelite for including me in the fun!

Tail Feather

When Chef David Burke is in town it is always a party.  Yesterday he and Chef Rick Gresh gave us all some tailgating tips on  Windy City Live for your next sporting match from David Burke’s Primehouse. Whether you are into sports or not, these recipes are sure to be a fan favorite. GAME ON!

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Beautiful quail eggs that will go on top of the brie grilled cheese sandwiches.  Rick has a special egg cutter at the restaurant that can delicately get through the shells.

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The finished appetizer – grilled cheese with brie and spicy pear.  David wants brie to make a comeback.  I also put in a vote for goat cheese.  So 90s.

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One of David’s new favorite menu additions – Rooster.  Also known as capon, it has a heartier and slightly rich gamier flavor.  This one was roasted in the oven, flavored with jalapeno under the skin.

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The mis en place for the spicy rooster chili.  The recipe is listed below and I will be making this at my next party, since David gave me some secret tips on how to make this batch a sure winner.

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The chili – served in ostrich shell bowls and garnished with capon cracklins.  Cracklins are the new bacon, you may have heard this here first.  They are less greasy than pork rinds and an alternative to bacon when you still want that fatty crunch.

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A little surf & turf.  Giant ribs with cilantro pesto shrimp.  Now I cant wait until the next game day!

Chef David Burke on Windy City Live

Rooster Chili…cheddar cheese and sour cream

2 ea              Capon, remove all meat from bones, medium dice meat, skin saved.

2 tbsp            Veg oil

2 ea               Onion, small diced

8 ea               Garlic cloves, minced

2 ea               Red bell pepper, small dice

2 ea               Green bell pepper, small dice

2 ea               Celery ribs, small diced

2 ea               Jalepeno, minced

1 tbsp            Cumin, ground

¼ cup            Chili powder

2 tbsp            Cayenne pepper

2 tbsp             Oregano

½ can             Beer

6 oz                Tomato paste

2 tbsp             Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp               Hot sauce

¼ cup             Golden raisins

¼ cup            Soy sauce

2 qts              Diced canned tomatoes

to taste          Salt and pepper

 

Garnish

2 cups             Sour cream

2 tbsp              Ancho pepper in adobo sauce puree (optional)

2 cups             aged cheddar cheese minimum of 2 years

2 cup               Capon cracklins made from the reserved capon skin

2 tsp                fennel seed, ground

3 ea                 Green onions, cut on a bias

Method:

  1. In a hot pan coated with veg oil brown the capon meat.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent.
  3. Add jalepeno, bell peppers, celery and spices and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Add beer and tomato paste and cook until reduced by half.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 2-3 hours until the liquid has thickened and the meat is tender.
  6. Mix the ancho puree and the sour cream, set aside.
  7. On a sheet pan lined with parchement or a silpat lay out the chicken skin flat.  Season with salt, pepper and ground fennel.  Top with another piece of parchement or silpat and another pan and bake in a 300°F oven until crispy, approx. 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and crumble when cooled

To serve: ladle chili into a bowl, top with  ancho crema, cheddar cheese, green onions and capon cracklings.

Downton Abbey

It’s true – Downton Abbey is addicting and truly Emmy worthy. So while you are watching the awards this Sunday – serve some Stilton cheese with gin and tonics. It is “The Queen’s” favorite cocktail. Opt for Hendricks Gin, the cucumber and rose petal flavors are refreshing, and garnish with some cucumber slices.

For more Emmy Party tips check out my segment on ABC.

Italianista Night In

Growing up we always cooked Italian. One of my favorite dishes my Grandmother used to make was linguine white clam. It’s not a typical dish that a kid would love, but it was devoured. She barely ever used fresh clams, which inspired me to spin this dish on a Saturday night. The result was lighter than the original, but full of fresh flavor. It looked amazing, and was unbelievably easy and fast to make.

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We started the night with some Reblochon. Not Italian, but creamy and delicious. Lately I just can’t get enough of the creamier robust cheeses.

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Roro makes a delicious stuffed mushroom. We always wing the recipe but the key is baking it Pyrex. Chopped mushroom stems, toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, garlic powder, grated Parmesan reggian and Italian parsley. Lots of olive oil.

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On Italian Missoni china of course. Crunchy and earthy flavors.

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The base sauce starts with olive oil, onion, garlic, clam juice, wine, butter and red chili flakes. Then in go the cockles! It’s fun to watch them open, get covered in the sauce, then get plated.

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Perfection. Garnished with Italian chopped parsley and heirloom tomatoes.

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Roro’s plate.