Category Archives: wine and spirits

Never too late to celebrate National Prosecco Day

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Riondo names National Prosecco Day
Riondo names National Prosecco Day

Wouldn’t you know we found out just a little late that this year Riondo Prosecco designated August 13 National Prosecco Day to celebrate the sparkle of summer. This sparkling wine from Italy recently surpassed the 4-million case mark in sales (according to Impact Databank). So it makes sense that this charming wine should get its own national day of recognition. Some say no other beverage defines the Italian philosophy of la dolce vita – the good life – quite like the young and fresh sparkler called Prosecco

 
It’s got an elegant mousse (bubbles) and a touch of sweetness, delighting with light-bodied, refreshing aromas and flavors of white spring flowers, citrus fruits and green apples. Pair that with a wallet-friendly price tag and you’ve got a fun drink for everyday, party or not.
About Prosecco:
  • It can only be produced in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of Italy
  • Prosecco is no longer the name of the grape; it’s the regional designation, protected since 2009 by regulation. The name of the grape was changed t
    o Glera, and

     that grape must account for at least 85% of all Proseccos which might also include any of these native varieties: Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera Lunga and international grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio

  • Prosecco’s effervescence comes in several levels. While iconic Proseccos are sparkling, versions can be made in sparkling (Spumante) or semi-sparkling (Frizzante) and even as still (Tranquillo) wines
  • It comes in 3 levels of sweetness — Brut (driest), Extra Dry, Dry or Demi-Sec (sweetest).
  • Even though Prosecco makes a quintessential before-dinner drink, you can pair one of its varieties with almost any menu and/or use it in an array of cocktail recipes.
English: Cans of prosecco.
English: Cans of prosecco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#NationalProseccoDay is the hashtag if you share on social media.  And while you’re tweeting, sip a glass of Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero. Based on a review sample we tried, Riondo’s premium version can make you feel like it’s a special day any day. This super premium sparkling wine features Riondo’s signature string closure. Grapes: 100% Glera. Alc 10.5%. SRP ~$14.00

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The Chicago Restaurant Examiner

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Welcome to the ChicagoRestaurantExaminer.com online magazine. Follow us as we report on the culinary scene around town – news from chefs, restaurants, bars and more.  New menus, happy hour goodies, wine dinners and specials galore.

We are gradually uploading material from 8 years of archives from the former Chicago Restaurant Examiner site. It’s an ongoing effort that usually takes a backseat to current news. Which means you’re getting the scoop on recent and upcoming happenings in Chicago Restaurant news!

Open the door to Chicago's rich culinary scene
Open the door to Chicago’s rich culinary scene
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Loire Valley wines spring to the fore at Sepia

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Sepia sets a gorgeous table for #SpringtoLoire
Sepia sets a gorgeous table for #SpringtoLoire

#SpringtoLoire was the name of a recent presentation by two reps from French Loire Valley wineries. Isabel Moreau from Monmousseau and Juliette Monmousseau from Bouvet Ladubay explained the intricacies of the flavors in a broad selection of delightful white wines from this region that flows along the valley of the Loire River in France. Characterized by fruity complex aromas and crisp, palatte-pleasing tastes, the wines were professionally paired by sommelier Arthur Hon and served in the beautiful surroundings of the elegant private dining space of Sepia Restaurant, 131 N. Jefferson. Attendees learned about several dry and sparkling selections and enjoyed them with small plates of delectable creations by Sepia Chef Andrew Zimmerman and his team.

Velvety rich spring-onion-potato soup, handmade spinach pasta served with smoked trout and crispy fresh pea shoots, salmon grilled to exquisitely juicy perfection, to name a few. Plus a fabulously tender and succulent slice of breast of chicken served with sausage bread pudding and two sauces in a dish that was reminiscent of Julia Child’s most outrageously good poultry recipes. Dessert was a luscious pear-ginger-rum tart with a dollop of creme fraiche ice cream. All gloriously flavorful and perfectly paired with the floral, fruity elegance of the AOC Loire Valley whites.

The Loire Valley, known for its magnificent chateaux and rich history, runs through the heart of France and contains 5 distinct wine regions – Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, Centre-Loire – each with its own characteristics of grapes, appellations and styles. The wine-growing regions dotting the Loire’s banks feature no less than 4,000 wineries, 170,000 acres of vineyards and 61 appellations of origin, thus making the Loire Valley the third largest French wine making region. Producing 380 million bottles per year – be they red, rosé or white, still or sparkling, dry or semi-dry, supple or sweet – the Loire Valley is also France’s leading producer of white wines and ranks second for rosés. The region as a whole exports 68 million bottles every year to 157 export markets.

Notable among the wines presented at Sepia were:

  1. Saumur brut, Bouvet Ladubay, sparkling NV with the soup
  2. Quincy blanc, Philippe Portier 2013 with the salmon
  3. Saumur blanc, Domaine Guiberteau 2014 with the chicken breast (~$20)
  4. Vouvray Moelleux, Domaine du Petit Coteau, l`Etoile 2010 – a sweet style with the tart – Lovely! (~$23)
  5. Bonnezeaux, Domaine Rene Renou, Les Melleresses, 2000, also with the tart – Gorgeous! (~$32)

If you love white wines, consider one or more of these for your next fine meal. You will not be disappointed.

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Antonio Rallo talks to Chicago about Sicilia DOC and making wine

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Alberto and Antonio bring Chicago the news about Sicilia DOC
Alberto and Antonio bring Chicago the news about Sicilia DOC

Antonio Rallo, winemaker at Donnafugata Wineries is a tall, slender, handsome man who is currently president of Sicilia DOC. He came to Chicago recently to share news about Sicily’s passionate rededication to consistently high quality. He spoke fervently about the new consortium of Sicilian winemakers, Sicilia DOC. As of 2012, he said, every winemaker on the island banded together to form Sicilia DOC—a rare case of consensus in Italy, where winemakers tend to be fiercely independent.

Sicilia DOC intends to be a new force in the wine world with its many winemakers, one of whom, Alberto Buratto of Baglio di Pianetto, came visiting with Antonio. “Sicily has the biggest vineyards in the world,” said Antonio. In the small area around Trapani on the northwest segment of the island, he said they produce 3,500,000 hL (hectoliters) of wine every year. Surprisingly, despite Sicily’s 600 miles of coastline, the country has no vineyards in those areas. But since a mere 11% of the land in Sicily is flat—not good for growing grapes—they’ve got plenty of other space to do so. The island is home to 90 wine producers (where they crush and process the grapes), some of whom are also part of the 3000 vintners who grow their own grapes.

The soil of Sicily is so varied, said Antonio that it is said to “change from the width of one palm to another”—so the country can offer a great variety of wines. The climate is gentle for growing grapes—and makes it easy to grow organically. Summers are dry; in fact, May to September is generally completely dry, and since there is no water to irrigate with, winemakers instead reduce the quantity of grapes to conserve their resources. “Constant breezes help the grapes do their job and eliminate any concerns about mildew,” he said. “The island has the lowest-yield grapes and greatest amount of wine produced per hectare compared to any other location in Italy.”

Antonio and Alberto graciously showcased some of the DOC members’ wines. A few notables included Stemmari 2014 Grillo (distinctive lemony long-finish unoaked white), Planeta Rosé (fresh and fruity, perfect with almost any food), Baglio di Pianetto Ramione 2013 (blend of Nero D’Avola/Merlot with aromas of red berries followed by vanilla and licorice notes), and Donnafugata SurSur 2014 (100% Grillo with fruity and wild flower notes).

Antonio talked a little about Sicily’s multi-cultural history and the fact that Sicily has for centuries been a strategic location for armies on the move. Arabs dominated the area for 300 years. Next the Phoenicians, then the Romans, and then the barbarians, the Byzantines, the Normans, and the Germans. “The Greeks finally brought the concept of growing grapes to Sicily around 800 B.C.E.”

“Sicily is the highest producing area for wine in all of Italy,” he said. The DOC was formed in order to exert better control of the processes for growing and the quality of final products on the market, and the only DOC in Italy that is bigger is Prosecco DOC. A panel of tasters travels about the Sicilian countryside tasting wines in the facility and then tasting the same wines after they’re bottled and arrive in the shops and restaurants. The mission is to make sure the quality and flavor of each wine are consistent at each step with what originally went into the bottles. Anything labeled DOC undergoes this rigorous tasting and chemical analysis and must be certified.

The agriculture and artisanal production of grapes is in the blood of many winemakers. Each succeeding generation brings its own contributions of experience and expertise to the process. Antonio remembers going with his grandfather to the wine cellars when he was only three and a half years old. “I rode around on my little bike with an extra training wheel.” His family has been in the industry since 1851, and now the fifth generation is involved in all aspects of it – the business side, the law, the language, etc.

Antonio talked about how he, as a winemaker, tastes wines. “It might take seven hours to taste up to 300 wines,” he said. Starting with white wines, then old reds (in the barrel), they progress to new reds and then dessert wines. The tasters eat grissini (unsalted, crispy breadsticks) to help cleanse the palate. “After 100 to 150 tastes, it’s hard to tell the difference anymore,” he admitted. So they might taste from 9 am to 1 pm, then have lunch and continue tasting from 3 to 6:30 pm. “In the old days—say, 1975,” he said, “we might have had 35 people tasting a thousand bottles of wine, with five people washing bottles. Today, with modern machinery, three people can do 7000 bottles in an hour.” Staggering numbers, indeed. He said Italy is a constant source of innovation in winemaking machinery and that, in fact, France and Napa Valley often buy machines developed in Italy.

He went on to reveal an interesting trick of the trade. “All wines taste good with fennel,” according to Antonio. A common ingredient in Italian cooking, “that flavor makes even a bad wine taste better.” In fact, it is such a common ruse that people in the industry have made a verb of the word itself. Some give it to tasters because it clouds their ability to determine the real quality of the wine.

The Sicilia DOC wines are anxious to bring their goodness and complexity to the United States market. The consortium will exercise strict control and carefully record data for each Sicilia DOC wine via the Internet. For more information, watch for Sicilia DOC mentions on Facebook and Twitter and in advertorials in Wine Spectator and other American publications. They are intent on bringing the good news about Sicilian wines to the “passionate and demanding American public.”

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12 places to tend your New Year’s Day 2014 needs

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Whether you’re going out partying all night on New Year’s Eve or, like me, you’ll be in bed long before the ball drops, you may want to seek out gratifying no-cook food options for the next day. Here are 12 Chicago restaurants that have delicious food and drink specials to help you welcome in the new year. Enjoy!

AMERICAN JUNKIE CHICAGO, opens 11 am January 1
15 Illinois St. | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.239.0995

Wake Up and Rally with Bowl Game Drink Specials
American Junkie invites Chicagoans to continue their New Year’s celebrations with $5 mimosas, $7 Fireball shots, $16 domestic beer buckets and $20 premium beer buckets. Guests can combine cocktails with upscale bar bites including $7 nachos, $1 sliders and .75 cent wings. The River North sports bar is the perfect spot to catch all of the New Year’s Day Bowl Game action including the Outback Bowl where the University of Iowa will take on Louisiana State University (kick off at 12 p.m.).
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BRASSERIE by LM, opens 6 am January 1
800 S. Michigan Avenue | Chicago, IL 60605 | 312.431.1788

New Year’s Day Brunch at Brasserie by LM
Brasserie by LM invites Chicagoans to enjoy their brunch menu. Brasserie’s brunch menu includes traditional favorites as well as new creations with entrées, pastries and classic brunch items like French Toast ($10), LM Benedict ($10), Crepes ($10), Savory Tart ($7) Brasserie Burger ($12) and more. Guests can also enjoy Brasserie’s Croque menu which includes Croque Monsieur ($9), Croque Vegetable ($9) and Croque Salmon ($11). For an additional $2, guests can add an egg on top of any Croque to create a Croque Madame. Brasserie Bloody Marys and Mimosas will be available for $7 each.

In addition, a bottomless Mimosa and Entrée special will be available for $25 per person. The full menu is available upon request. Photos available upon request.
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CHICAGO CUT STEAKHOUSE, 12 pm – 10 pm January 1
300 N. LaSalle St. | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.329.1800

$20 Burger Special
Chicago Cut Steakhouse welcomes guests to indulge in their special New Year’s Day Burger Specials. Guests can select from three specialty burgers including:

  • The Eggsplosion Burger
    Prime ground beef with an egg cooked in the middle, pan-fried on an iron skillet, topped with American cheese, applewood bacon, grilled onions and jalapeno mayo on a toasted potato bun
  • Three Chili Pepper Burger
    Charred red fresno peppers, shipkas peppers & poblano peppers, topped with Chicago Cut’s famous guacamole and served on a Kings Hawaiian Bun smeared with Chipotle Mayo.
  • Tapenade Stuffed Burger
    Black and green olive tapenade stuffed in prime beef, layered with thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced sweet gherkin pickles, baby romaine hearts, coarse grained mustard and mayo on a toasted Kaiser bun

In addition, the Chicago Cut Prime Burger, $14, will also be available. All burgers are served on a buttery brioche bun, unless otherwise noted, with fresh, homemade fries and a side of coleslaw.
A perfect complement to any burger, the restaurant will offer $7 Elliott Ness Christmas Ale.
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CHICAGO q, opens 11 am January 1
1160 N. Dearborn St. | Chicago, IL 60610 | 312.642.1160

Chicago q will be open for brunch on New Year’s Day. Menu items, created by Chef/Partner Lee Ann Whippen, will satisfy brunch-goers’ “sweet tooth” and “meat tooth” by featuring house-made confections and house-smoked meats. Brunch dishes three different kinds of benedict: Smoked Chicken on honey butter cornbread, Kobe Brisket on Cheddar-Chive Biscuits with a Whole Grain Mustard Hollandaise, and Southern with Fried Green Tomatoes, Pulled Pork and a Cajun Hollandaise, Sweet Potato Hash and Eggs, Sweet Potato and Signature Carrot Cake Pancakes and more.

As a special, the restaurant will serve Black Eyed Peas. In the Southern United States, these peas are eaten on New Year’s Day as good luck treat thought to bring prosperity for the year.
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CLARK STREET DOG AND BAR, opens 9 am January 1
3040 N. Clark St. | Chicago, IL 60657 | 773.281.6690

Start your new year Chicago style with Clark Street Dog and Bar’s always fresh and never frozen menu including favorites like the Signature Clark Street Dog, Italian Beef and the newly available Vienna Bistro Chili. The Lakeview staple will open at 11 am, just in time for kickoff of the first college football bowl games in 2014. Grab a Goose Island draft beer, available for $3.50, or a signature pickle-back shot, available for $5, while enjoying the games with friends.
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GO ROMA, all locations open 12-8 pm January 1
848 N. State Street | Chicago, IL 60610 | 312. 252. 9946 | www.goroma.net
Other Locations in Bolingbrook, Lincolnshire, Northbrook and Deer Park.
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THE GRID, opens 11:30, Lounge opens at 7 pm on January 1
351 W. Hubbard St | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.321.1351

Start 2014 off on the right foot at The Grid with College Football and some of Chef Eric Romano’s delicious brunch offerings. The Grid will treat recovering party goers to their Build Your Own Mimosa Bar with 8 different mixers as well as their Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. Featured brunch items include: Eggs in Purgatory with poached eggs in diablo tomato, chupacabra sausage and goat cheese;
Eggs Florentine with spinach, hollandaise, stuffed peppers served on an English muffin and the Signature Smoothie with berries, banana, Greek yogurt, kale, B12, protein powder and pedialyte.
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LM BISTRO, opens 6 am January 1
111 W Huron St | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.202.9900

Guests are invited to celebrate the New Year at LM Bistro with their delicious brunch. Brunch specials include savory favorites in their two special brunch sections: a cheval, a selection of fork-and-knife, breadless sandwiches, and les tartines, open faced sandwiches.
A Cheval includes:
· Traditional, $13, with caramelized onion, gruyere and a sunny side up egg
· Vegeterien, $10, with portabella mushroom, brie and truffle scrambled eggs
· Poisson, $11, with whitefish, tartar sauce and poached egg.
Les Tartines include:
· Benedict 111, $13, with cured ham, poached eggs and cider béarnaise
· Tomate, $9, with heirloom tomato, olive oil, garlic
Steak and Eggs, $14, with roquette, horseradish and fried eggs

In addition, there are a variety of plates to satisfy sweet tooths like as like Buttermilk Pancakes with blueberry jam, maple syrup and homemade butter ($10), Brioche French Toast with almonds, orange marmalade and fromage blanc ($11), Crepes and more.

A bottomless mimosa and entrée special will be available for $25 per person.
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THE LOCAL CHICAGO, Opens 6:30 am January 1
198 E Delaware Place | Chicago, IL 60611 | 312.280.8887

New Year’s Day Burger Party at The Local Chicago
$20 Burger and Fries Special

The Local Chicago welcomes guests to indulge in their special New Year’s Day Burger Menu on New Year’s Day. Guests can select from five specialty burgers including:

  • The Eggsplosion Burger
    Prime ground beef with an egg cooked in the middle, pan-fried on an iron skillet, topped with American cheese, applewood bacon, grilled onions and jalapeno mayo on a toasted potato bun
  • Three Chili Pepper Burger
    Charred red fresno peppers, shipkas peppers & poblano peppers, topped with Chicago Cut’s famous guacamole and served on a Kings Hawaiian Bun smeared with Chipotle Mayo.
  • Tapenade Stuffed Burger
    Black and green olive tapenade stuffed in prime beef, layered with thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced sweet gherkin pickles, baby romaine hearts, coarse grained mustard and mayo on a toasted Kaiser bun

In addition, The Local Chicago’s regular burgers, The Ahi Tuna Burger, $20, with Pickled Daikon, Kimchi and Sesame-Wasabi Aioli, the TLC Burger, $14, with a USDA Prime Patty and Aged Cheddar, and The Mushroom and Gruyere Burger, $16, with a Porcini Crusted Steak Burger, Marinated Portobello Cap and Mushroom Mayo, will also be available. All burgers are served on a buttery brioche bun, unless otherwise noted, with fresh, homemade fries and a side of coleslaw.

A perfect complement to any burger, the restaurant will offer The Local Chicago Beer created by Two Brothers Brewery for $7.
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NOUVEAU TAVERN, opens 11 am January 1
358 W Ontario | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.915.4100

Begin the New Year at Nouveau Tavern. On Wednesday, January 1, Nouveau Tavern will open early at 11:00 a.m. for the Nouveau Hangover Brunch. Guests can cheer on their favorite football team while enjoying a free Bloody Mary with the purchase of an entree from the brunch menu.
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PORKCHOP, opens 11:30 January 1
941 W Randolph St. | Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.733.9333

Special New Year’s Day Slider Bloody Mary and Bloody Mary Flights
Porkchop invites Chicagoans to start the New Year out right (and recover from last night’s festivities) by indulging in an epic Pork Slider Bloody Mary (Bloody Mary topped with a pork slider, rib and slice of bacon, drizzled with BBQ sauce). The meal of a cocktail is in honor of National Bloody Mary day. Those looking for a lighter variety can try a Bloody Mary flight featuring sample sizes of the “Bakon” Bloody Mary, Jalapeno Bloody Mary and Pickle Bloody Mary.

Customers looking for recovery can find reprieve in the V8, a Bloody Mary made with Chopin potato vodka garnished with vegetables; $9. Pair that with some good old comfort food including The Fat Elvis (bacon-studded Belgian waffle served with sliced bananas and peanut butter maple syrup; $12), Chicken and Waffles (southern fried chicken served on top of a Belgian waffle with ancho chile infused maple syrup; $12) or their Pulled Pork topped with a Fried Egg served on a Fried Mac & Cheese Bun. The resolutions can wait until Thursday.
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WEATHER MARK TAVERN, opens 11:30 am January 1
1503 South Michigan Avenue | Chicago, IL 60605 | 312.588.0230 |

Weather Mark Tavern invites Chicagoans to recover (or continue the New Year festivities) with a delicious bottomless mimosa brunch (bottomless mimosas and any brunch entree for only $13.95). Guest can top off their champagne cocktail with peach, cranberry or orange juice. Bloody Mary’s and Screwdrivers are also available for $5 each.

Cocktails can be paired with featured brunch dishes including Steak and Eggs; $9.50, Buttermilk Pancakes or French Toast; $7.95, Huevoes Rancheros; $7.95 and made to order skillets; $9.95. More unique options include the Caprese Eggs Benedict; $8.95, Weather MarCristo (sausage patty inside two Belgian waffles, syrup battered and fried; $9.95) and The First Mate’s Burrito (scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, house potatoes and sausage wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and covered with chipotle cheese sauce; $11.95).
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