Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Green City Market Summer BBQ

Thursday, July 12, 2007 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm

Join over 50 of Chicago’s Top Chefs as they prepare delicious tastings using Green City Market foods at this popular annual culinary event. Musicians will add to the festivities.

Beverages include Goose Island Beer & Root Beer, Ice Mountain Water, Connoisseur Wines Tasting, Glunz Family Winery Sangria, and wines from August Hill Winery.

Tickets ($50 pre-event; $60 at gate) are available at GREEN CITY MARKET each Wednesday & Saturday beginning June 13th through July 11th. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.thespicehouse.com.

Want to make the evening extra special for you and your friends? Reserve a private table for an additional $100. Includes table, linens and 10 chairs. BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers).

The festival is located at the south end of Lincoln Park, just north of the parking area, between 1750 N. Clark Street and Stockton Drive (the same location as the Market).

All contributions support GREEN CITY MARKET, a 501(c)3 organization, and are tax deductible.

Sam’s Academy Wine Classes

The July-through-September class schedule for Sam’s Academy is ready for viewing. Sam’s Academy is the wine education program for Sam’s Wines & Spirits. The classes are held in Chicago (at CHIC/Le Cordon Bleu campus), Downers Grove and Highland Park and are led by Bill St. John.

I have taken two classes at the Academy and I highly recommend them to anyone seriously interested in learning more about wine and cheese. Bill is a great teacher – very knowledgeable, friendly and full of information. He takes teaching these classes seriously and demands that those who attend do too. He doesn’t tolerate talking while he is presenting, which is great if you’re there to learn (not so great if you planned on giggling with your friends over the stinky cheese). That is not to say that it’s all work and no play. There’s time to socialize and enjoy the wine – and you get plenty of both. I attended a French wine and cheese pairing and a Spanish/Italian wine and cheese pairing class. I left both classes tipsy, full and with more knowledge about wine and cheese than I came with.

The classes fill up quick, so if you’re interested, check out the schedule and book a session or two soon:
Sam’s Academy July – September, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Walking Tour of La Villita

This past Saturday, I went on a walking tour of La Villita (or Little Village) as part of a larger group organized by Slow Food Chicago. We met at the famous clock arch that is the entrance to La Villita at 26th Street and Kedzie Avenue. Our tour guide gave us some background information and history on the neighborhood; here is an excerpt from the Little Village Chamber of Commerce website that describes the vitality and importance of this area:

A Driving Force in Chicago’s Economy
Little Village is a thriving commercial area in Chicago’s West Side with more than 1,000 businesses that offer a vast array of goods and services. It is also home to the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, a fact reflected by the many unique Mexican specialty products available from merchants in the area. Little Village residents and business owners are amply recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic, and commitment to family and community. Businesses in Little Village create jobs for thousands of residents.

Th Little Village commercial area generated nearly $900 million in sales in 2001, a year that saw the nation endure a severe economic downturn. This fact reflects the perseverance and creativity of the area’s business owners and residents and serves as testament to the community’s vitality.

Our first stop was La Baguette, a locally-owned chain bakery with twelve locations in Chicago – this location being one of the largest. We sampled wide variety of pastries and cookies.

Next, we went to El Milagro to sample some freshly made tortillas made from masa ground on-site at 26th Street location. The business was started in 1950 by Raul Lopez and the tiny, homegrown tortilla operation grew into a well-established brand that you can find in grocery stores big and small across the Midwest.

We headed to a Western wear shop and briefly spoke with the owner and then headed back out into the heat to try out a street drink called “champurrado”. It’s a warm, thick, chocolate beverage made with milk, masa harina, chocolate and spices. It’s definitely a drink better suited to cold, winter days, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try it.

Moving on to a corner grocery store, we stopped in for a sample of some Mexican cheese. It was similar in texture to string cheese, but it had more flavor and depth. The owners of this small store travel to Mexico every two weeks to buy authentic ingredients and products. They started their business by bringing back Mexican cheeses from the markets. The wheels of cheese are coated in chili powder to keep insects away at the open-air farmers markets.

Next up, a candy and pinata store. It was so bright and colorful and alive. We sampled two different types of candy – a caramel wafer and a tamarind chili pepper candy. The tamarind chili pepper candy was a little sweet, sour and spicy – a great combination.

Our last stop was Carniceria Aguascalientes. It’s a grocery store with a restaurant inside. They’re famous for their gorditas or “little fat ones”. We chose from a variety of fillings and it was a good end to an informative and fun day.

Slow Food Chicago periodically offers walking tours of Little Village, Argyle Street and Devon Avenue. For more information on upcoming events or to learn more about Slow Food, visit their website at www.slowfoodchicago.org.

And for some really great photos of the Little Village walking tour, check out nibblekibble’s flickr album.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Recommendation | The Wine Diva & Kim Crawford

On Saturday night, my fiancĂ© and I attended an outdoor patio dinner in Bucktown. We arrived early and sat down at a table with none other than the Wine Diva – Christine Blumer. We attended one of Chris’s wine and cheese pairing classes at the Calphalon Culinary Center where she introduced me to what has become my favorite white wine – Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. Just the smell of it makes me happy and drinking a glass washes away any care in the world. She, of course had no idea that she had such an impact on my wine life, but I mentioned to her that I was serving this wine at our upcoming wedding in August. I jokingly said “She (i.e. Kim) is going to be our special guest!”. And wouldn’t you know, Chris says “Kim Crawford is actually a guy!”. So there you have it. Now, Kim will be our official Best Man at the wedding and we’re still looking for the perfect red to be our Maid of Honor – then we’ll have the perfect marriage.

I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Kim Crawford’s Sauvignon Blanc and enjoying it outside on a warm summer night. And if you love it as much as I do, then you also owe it all to the Wine Diva, so make sure to visit Chris’s website for information about classes and private wine parties.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2006 is available at Sam’s Wines & Spirits for $14.99.