Falling in love again…

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Remember that old, old song by Marlene Dietrich? Yes, I’ve officially fallen in love again – with another kitchen appliance! Made a miraculous discovery in the last 6 months of pandemic isolation.

I adore roasted potatoes. Can’t make them in my small Chicago apartment oven unless it’s 5 to 10 degrees outside because the entire apartment gets nicely roasted, too. It’s normal for me to get overheated while cooking, but when the hot oven here is on for any length of time, I sweat profusely. Which is why I tend to wear sleeveless shirts all year ’round, right through the winters.

Anyway, my skilled-chef son-in-law and daughter gave me an Instant Pot Duo (henceforth herein called IP) for my birthday last February. I read the instruction book over several times and began to despair that I was ever going to “get it.” Then a friend suggested I look for a video on YouTube. Voila! I found – of all things – a guy who makes videos about cooking with an IP. The scales fell from my eyes at last!

The IP is a small-apartment-with-stove-with-crappy-insulation dweller’s dream come true. I remember my mother’s stovetop pressure cooker when I was a little kid. It always seemed incredibly mysterious, not to mention dangerous. I was probably 8 years old when my father patiently explained how the thing worked, but I never quite understood. And I don’t remember being all that impressed with the food that came out of it, either. But that’s another story.

Last night my son-in-law and daughter and I enjoyed an almost-entirely-IP-prepared 3-course dinner with a delicious bottle of Barolo and a lovely bottle of Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay. More on that – and my new love affair – soon.

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Books on Food and Drink – Chicago and elsewhere

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Been reading much lately? For some of us, this is one of life’s greatest pleasures and, if truth be told, it works pretty well as an escape, too. And either one of those goals is common in these challenging times. So here are a few books – no particular order – on the joys of food and cooking. Maybe there’s something that’ll work for you.

Books on Food and Drink Chicago – and elsewhere

The Road to Mexico, by Rick Stein. Celebrity chef Stein, author and TV chef, chronicles 100 step-by-step guides to creating simple yet sophisticated dishes inspired by his travels.

Cultural Insurrection: A Manifesto for the Arts, Agriculture, and Natural Wine, by Jonathan Nossiter. This skilled sommelier tells the unexpected story of how these areas intersect when winemakers use their skills to make natural wines.

The 12-Week Diabetes Cookbook: Your Super-Simple Plan for Organizing, Budgeting and Cooking Amazing Dinners, by Linda Gassenheimer. Need help adjusting to a diagnosis of diabetes? This Cordon Bleu-trained chef/author/TV and radio personality offers advice for creating meals that work for diabetics as well as for just plain heart-healthy.

Whole Cooking and Nutrition: An Everyday Superfoods Approach to Planning, Cooking, and Eating with Diabetes, by Katie Cavuto. Enough of the dieting and deprivation says the author who is dietitian for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Phillies. This book inspires you to live a healthy lifestyle and build a positive relationship with food. More than 150 vibrant, flavorful recipes, this cookbook promotes a mindful, pleasurable approach to eating.

Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast, by Ina Pinkney. In the absence of a mother or grandmother who liked to cook, the author decided to keep track of all the details when she got her recipes for both life and food. She opened her own restaurant, Ina’s, and happily served her customers for 23 years. Now you can get the benefit of her experiences and her recipes in her new book.

Sicilia: The Cooking of Casa Planeta, Elisia Menduni. Beautiful illustrations will have your mouth watering for a taste of these dozens of delectable recipes for everything from sardine pie, to lemon ice, to pasta with anchovies. Pair with one of this winery’s excellent choices, one of its handmade olive oils, and sip as you read the stories of the country’s people and places.

Recipe for a Delicious Life, by Zipora Einav. The author suggests how to discover your own perfect blend of food and music to stimulate your appetite for lasting health, harmony and joy. It offers a free interactive app, a music CD and more.

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5 pandemic luxuries: 2018 Pinot Noirs from Dutton-Goldfield

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Some who have been able to work from home during this long-running pandemic may be saving enough money to be able to treat themselves to some luxurious wines they might never have considered. And I can’t think of a more luxurious treat than one of these 2018 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir wines.

Dutton Goldfield winemakers love their work!
Dutton Goldfield winemakers love their work!

Dutton-Goldfield’s vineyards, many with intriguing names, promise excitement and quality that their elegant luxury wines always meet and surpass. As of 2018 they’re in their own new facility and now have complete control over every aspect of the production of their wines – and the 2018 harvest had no pandemic issues. In the new facility, the winemakers now get to select the best possible picking dates when they’re confident the acids and sugars are at their absolute optimum balance. We consumers are the winners in being able to choose from their selection of 2018 wines that showcase a fabulous combination of mouthwatering freshness and decadent richness. Prepare to be utterly delighted by any one of these. This post showcases just five of them for your special-occasion, friendsgiving, or self-indulgent consideration.

Devil’s Gulch Vineyard, 2018 Pinot Noir. Located in Marin County, this vineyard has put out a gorgeous Pinot that’s extraordinarily silky and velvety with “fruit and spice characters” that have a “wonderful combination of power and fineness,” a nose with “sweet wild berries in the forest, tinged with nutmeg and cinnamon.” Isn’t your mouth watering? You don’t need to wait until the holidays to indulge yourself with this 5-star beauty. Think pairings like rabbit, pork, lamb or quail (bacon-stuffed mushrooms, anyone?). Thank you, winemaker Dan Goldfield. Alc. 13.8% SRP ~$72.

Angel Camp Vineyard, 2018 Pinot Noir. Situated ini Anderson Valley, this beautiful 10-acre spot sits on a scenic knoll with a gravely slope that lets winemaker Dan Goldfield extract deep, plummy flavors and voluptuous tannins from the grapes. Consider the joy of “dusky blackberry and plum aromas complemented with savory beet and earthy notes. Christmas spices provide a lacy framework” for the harmonious balance of sweet black cherry, purple plum, dried flowers and sandalwood flavors. Enjoy it now or let it mellow. You’ll love it with warm potato salad, bacon quiche, poultry or pork and cheeses like Fontina or Havarti. Alc. 14.1% SRP ~$62.

Fox Den Vineyard, 2018 Pinot Noir. Perched atop a formerly-sea-bottom ridge, Fox Den sits on eight acres in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley and has a terroir that makes for low vigor vines, slow ripening, and beautifully floral and fruit driven wine. The long growing season of 2018 encouraged these vines to produce a satiny texture and a nose of red fruits with sweet raspberry and strawberry interlaced with baking spices. In the mouth you get a sweet-tart interplay that dances from Bing cherry to dried cranberry to alpine strawberry with a drift of cinnamon and nutmeg. Think pairings with duck confit, seared tuna, and pulled pork or sweetbreads. Creamy goat cheese, Kaseri or Bellwether’s triple crème San Andreas will sing with this wine. Alc. 13.8% SRP ~$68.

Enjoy with a special meal you’ve prepared. Or a few of the decadent cheeses mentioned. With friends on Zoom, or just by yourself.

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Chicago’s Fannie May – 100 years in the business of chocolate

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Fannie May S'Mores Snack Mix
Fannie May S’Mores Snack Mix

With the tsunami of COVID-19 causing a severe reduction in personal shopping these days,  some  retail businesses are scrambling to reach their customers. Wine, for instance, can be shipped, but it’s extremely vulnerable to fluctuating temperature, humidity and movement. Some businesses are better positioned in this fight because their products are shelf stable and can be mailed or shipped with ease.

In the case of Chicago’s own Fannie May chocolates, their products are also a big part of what people need these days – comfort food.  Now, in honor of National Chocolate Day October 28, Fannie May, celebrating its 100th year in business, has revamped its packaging with a new and vibrant signature look that gives a nod to the company’s Chicago heritage.

And along with that, it’s just introduced a new product called Fannie May S’Mores Snack Mix. I must say, the sample they graciously sent falls right near the top of my “Oh, I must have something sweet” options. Although I normally aim for dark chocolate (70%+ cacao, please), it’s not very sweet. This snack mix, however, hits the sugar need perfectly. And I love the contrast of the crunchy graham cracker bits (honied and covered in sweet milk chocolate) with the smooshy sweetness of the marshmallow bits (covered in sweet milk chocolate). Ah, I haven’t had a marshmallow in years. It did bring back memories.

The snack mix comes in bags of three sizes, 2-serving, 5-serving and 17-serving for parties – or just to keep around the house.  Each one-ounce serving is 140 calories. Best to measure out portions ahead of time so you’re not tempted to keep stimulating your taste buds with that lovely mix of tastes and textures and sweetness.

Many thanks to whoever invented the S’More. And many thanks to Fannie May for creating S’Mores Snack Mix and touching our hearts in these troubled times with this convenient way to relive a bit of tasty nostalgia. No open fire required.

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Good to know…Some French Market vendors will be open all winter

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The restaurant industry has been hard hit by this pandemic. In Chicago, as in many other cities around the world, some have had to close permanently. Fortunately, enough people here are still able to get out and patronize the many restaurants that do remain open.

Sunshine on the awnings at Chicago French Market
Sunshine on the awnings at Chicago French Market

For Metra commuters and office workers who like to come to the city’s beautiful indoor French Market, bad news and good news. In response to the current impacts of reduced traffic in the downtown area, some vendors at the Chicago French Market will enter a period of partial hibernation until March 1 of next year.

“A core group of our vendors at the Chicago French Market (131 N Clinton St, Chicago, IL 60661) will continue to operate throughout the winter months, including Saigon SistersBuen ApetitoKlay Oven KitchenJokers Cajun KitchenA Taste of the Philippines and Cubano Bros , will continue to serve our customers and work together to provide our customers a varied and robust lunch service that will include options for dine in, carry out, curb side pick-up and delivery to the many residential and office buildings that surround our location, “ says Leslie Cahill, Director of Operations and General Manager.

As more and more people return to work, the plan is “to be back in full operation on or before March 1, 2021 and to position the Chicago French Market to come roaring back to the same sold out capacity as we were before the shelter-in-place order was given,” she said.

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Chicago chef spreads love to nurture hungry spirits

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Quentin Love community
Quentin Love community

Injustice. Hatred. Racism. Anger. Hunger. Joblessness. Fear. How the hell do we fix this, people? Must not despair. Must think creatively. And leading us by example – without regard for the cost – restaurateur and chef Quentin Love is living by his motto “Healing communities through food.”

Quentin Love – perfect name – transforms his Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill in West Humboldt Park into a soup kitchen every Monday serving nearly 300,000 free meals to date and has given away turkeys and free meals to thousands on the West Side for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today June 5 1,000 free meals
Today June 5 1,000 free meals

In response to the damage caused by looters during protests over police brutality in America, Love has pledged to serve 1,000 free meals this Friday, June 5, at Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill, 3506 W. Chicago Ave., starting at 2 p.m. FREE meals being served right now.

Many grocers have closed due to violent protests and extensive vandalism to essential businesses such as grocery stores, further limiting options for poor residents living in a food desert.

“No one should have to go hungry,” said Love. “Maybe, if people are shown some love, they will stay at home and stop all this violence and destruction.”

Love witnessed a business being looted and torched a block away. He knows there is no guarantee that his benevolence to the community will safeguard his business. But says, “You can’t worry about the property if you’re not protecting the people.”

Quentin Love Motivational Cook Book

Love, who grew up on both the South and West Sides, believes in healing communities through food and programming. Through his philanthropy, he has developed best practice partnerships to help feed the poor and indigent every Monday at his restaurant. The soup kitchen is an initiative of the Love Foundation, the nonprofit he founded in 2001 to provide afterschool activities and teach non-violence to South Side youth. He is the author of The Motivational Cookbook: Feeding Your Body, Mind and Spirit.

Quentin Love 66 Day Objective
Quentin Love 66 Day Objective

The 66-Day Objective, which discusses how to lock in your goals and or remove habits in 66 days through guided journaling. Love has owned more than 10 restaurants over the last 16 years. In that time, his menu and charitable giving have been geared toward providing healthier food choices to residents living in “food deserts,” communities with scant groceries or access to fresh fruit and vegetables that have high incidence of diabetes and heart disease.

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Chocolate and wine ideas for Mother’s Day

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Cacao beans for chocolate
Cacao beans for chocolate – Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

It’s fun trying new products and sharing with you. Today we’ve got a bit of news about canned wine, and are introducing a new flavor from Round Barn Winery & Distillery in Michigan, along with a new brand of dark chocolate from South America by To’ak.

A recent surprising trend has single-serve, canned wines moving dramatically higher on the popularity scale. Convenience – undeniable. Less waste – you don’t have to open a whole bottle of wine to enjoy a glass. Safety – no need to worry about glass breaking if you take your wine outside, on a picnic in your backyard or sitting in the audience to enjoy a concert in Millennium Park…hopefully one day soon again. Maybe this year for Mother’s Day, plan a picnic on the living room floor!

Get on board with Round Barn's raspberry lemonade sparkler
Get on board with Round Barn’s raspberry lemonade sparkler

Baroda, MI-based Round Barn Winery has added Raspberry Lemonade as the fifth flavor in its lineup of refreshing canned wine options. The new variety blends wine from the winery’s proprietary grapes with natural raspberry and lemon concentrates to create a liquid refresher with a touch of carbonation and 5% alcohol. No high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or artificial flavors are used. Each 12-ounce can – somewhat misleadingly presented as two 6-ounce servings ‘cuz who’s gonna drink half a can? – contains 24 grams of sugar, 10 of which are added, so it’s fairly heavy in sugar. But it also happily doesn’t use any of the not-so-healthy artificial sweeteners. This new flavor is a very pleasant, slightly sweet, lightly fizzy drink with a delightful tang of raspberry and lemon that sparks your taste buds. Would make a lovely brunch cocktail, an aperitif or even a dessert wine – kind of like a Prosecco with a tangy edge to it or a mimosa with raspberry and lemon.

To'ak dark chocolate mini-bars
To’ak dark chocolate mini-bars

The chocolate is dark – full of antioxidants – and made by To’ak in a way that preserves the biodiversity of Ecuador, which they say is the birthplace of cacao. The sample we got came in three flavors that actually carry a “vintage,” that is, the year in which the cacao was picked and made into chocolate. They even give you a little guide that tells you how to smell and taste, and it gives practice naming the taste sensations you experience. Just like your wine.

  • Rain Harvest 2015 Dark (80.5% cacao). Tasting notes say floral, woody, herbal, earthy, berries.
  • El Nino Harvest 2016 (78% cacao). Notes say ripe banana, mint, floral, earthy, berries.
  • Rain Harvest 2017 (70% cacao). Notes say pistachio, orange bitters, black cherries.

Perfect! Sparkling wine and chocolate for Mother’s Day brunch!

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Our caring city of Chicago – food for the hungry and health workers

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The times are incredibly stressful as state governments begin declaring extensions to the stay-at-home orders. The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a profound impact as individuals and businesses struggle with how to respond. As a part of this new reality, many homeless shelters around the country have been temporarily shut down or had their services modified, leaving many without access to food and shelter.

Wrigley Field hosts Lakeview Food Pantry
Wrigley Field hosts Lakeview Food Pantry

The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field are stepping in big-time to host Lakeview Pantry, and many Lakeview area residents are volunteering their time to help, reports 44th Ward’s Alderman Tom Tunney. Thanks to Vince Fetsch for volunteering and for sharing photos from Wrigley Field , and thanks to Koval Distillery for procuring sanitizer for some of our senior housing facilities. You can support Koval’s efforts, order sanitizer or request a donation here.

Meanwhile, Celebrity chef Art Smith’s popular Windy City eatery Chicago q has launched an initiative to provide free hot meals to the homeless, hungry and healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep Chicagoans healthy. “Before the quarantine, the homeless had a place to go each day of the week to receive a warm meal. However, with many of the shelters now closed, there are many days where they have nowhere to go.” states Fred Latsko, real estate developer & owner of Chicago q. “We are hoping to pick these days up until the crisis is over and the shelters reopen.” Thus far, the restaurant has handed out more than 1,000 hot meals. Kudos, Fred Latsko and Chef Smith!

In addition to the city’s homeless, the team at Top Nosh Hospitality** wants to do what it can to thank and support healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital staff, paramedics and other have also been invited to pick up complementary hot meals from Chicago q.
The meals vary slightly week by week but all include a hearty helping of Chef Art Smith’s signature Southern-inspired fare. For example, this weekend’s menu will include:

  • Saturday, May 2nd – 4 to 6pm: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Side of Coleslaw, Carrot Cake Muffin, Bottled Water
  • Sunday, May 3rd, 4 to 6pm: Fried Chicken Sandwich, Side of Coleslaw, Carrot Cake Muffin, Bottled Water

** Chicago q, 1160 N. Dearborn St., is part of Top Nosh Hospitality, a Chicago-based restaurant group known for cultivating unique dining experiences filled with creativity and hospitality. Others in the group include La Storia, Blue Door Farm Stand, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden and Biggs Mansion.

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Physician shares why continued vigilance is crucial

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Hard to separate truth from fiction these days about what can happen and what we can and can’t do to stay safe in this perilous time. The important thing is to remember to check your source. It is undoubtedly better to heed the advice of the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control than to let politics dictate your behavior.

Dr. Lynette Charity urges everyone to keep observing the cautions
Dr. Lynette Charity urges everyone to keep observing the cautions

We got this in our inbox the other day and found it to be thoughtful advice from a medical professional about keeping the curve down. So herewith, Dr. Lynette Charity, Board-certified anesthesiologist, talks about the need to continue our stay-at-home precautions in full force.

“Although America just experienced the deadliest week since the COVID-19 outbreak, the curve is flattening. It’s been nearly one month since the first shelter-in-place order was announced and experts believe that social distancing and precautionary measures are indeed helping to slow the spread of the virus. #Quarantinelife has become a trending hashtag on social media with scores of people sharing posts about boredom, anxiety, and frustration with their new housebound lifestyle.

‘”As boredom, frustration and grief set in, many people are tempted to ease up on precautionary measures and this simply can not happen,’ says Dr. Charity, a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist who gives CME accredited talks to medical professionals about maintaining health and mental wellness.

“Right now more than 80% of Americans are isolating themselves, dreaming of their previous lives that included dinners out with friends, spin class, work happy hours, family gatherings, play dates, field trips, and more. How long will we have to endure this new normal? It’s easy for anyone to get complacent under these conditions and with news coming from so many different sources, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction and truth from hype. Are there any health precautions that can be loosened? Which safety practices should you adopt for the long term?

“‘We need to empower each other with motivation, realistic guidelines, and facts,’ says Dr. Charity who has contributed to the growth of physician wellness programs across the country.”

Dr. Charity urges everyone to remain vigilant: do social distancing, don’t get complacent and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle during #quarantinelife. For more info, visit her website.

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Connecting with food friends virtually

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Games, food and drink at a virtual party
Games, food and drink at a virtual party

While we’re in lockdown, we become more aware of our love and need for good food. Thanks to the employees who are hanging in there to make and deliver the stuff to us in our hidey holes. Bill Gates estimates it’ll only last 8 to 10 weeks if we handle the effort well, so let’s all cooperate by staying home and listening to the CDC coronavirus guidelines.

But we can’t for long separate ourselves totally, so let’s look at a few options for connecting virtually to share meals, play games, or whatever ways you feel like being with friends and family.

  • Netflix Party – download this Chrome extension on each person’s computer. Pretty easy. Great synchronization for all participants.
  • Google Hangouts Meet – set up a meeting on your Google calendar and invite people.
  • Zoom.us – download the app. It’s free for basic, but they only allow up to 40-minute sessions. At $14.99/mo you get up to 24-hour sessions.

If you’ve discovered other technologies for simultaneous viewing, video calls, etc., please tweet to @ BarbaraSWWAN. Thanks, and good connecting!

 

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Lovin' how Chicago does it!