Cocktails to enjoy during Chicago Air & Water Show 2016

The Jet Pilot is a strong one!
The Jet Pilot is a strong one!

Great cocktail ideas are fun to tie with special occasions like the Chicago Air & Water Show going on August 20-21, 2016. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy them other times of the year if you get the recipe.  So here’s one from Rosebud Restaurants that’ll knock your socks off and maybe even make you feel like you’re up there flying with the pilots…

Rosebud Restaurants are offering this specialty drink just for the Air and Water Show; it’s called the Rosebud Jet Pilot and cost $12.

Rosebud’s Jet Pilot cocktail

1 oz spiced rum
1 oz Malibu® coconut rum
1 oz Bacardi® white rum
1 oz Bacardi® Limon rum
2 oz cranberry juice
2 oz orange juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp grenadine syrup
2 oz Peach Schnapps



Eat haute and help inspire new chefs – Charlie Trotter Project

Chicago always inspires
Chicago always inspires

Eat at a gourmet restaurant any day between today, Thursday August 17 and Sunday August 21, select a Charlie-Trotter-inspired menu item, and know that proceeds will benefit the Pillars of Excellence Mentor Program of The Trotter Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire, train, and provide opportunities for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals.

Special thanks to United Airlines, the official airline partner of The Trotter Project that will donate $1 for every Choice Menu Bistro on Board item sold on all domestic flights, August 17-21, 2016.

Stay up to date with menus and new restaurant additions to Charlie Trotter Day: follow @TrotterProject on Twitter and @TheTrotterProject on Instagram, LIKE us on Facebook, and join the conversation with #CharlieTrotterDay. And go visit one of these fine restaurants in the city:

  • A10
  • Acadia
  • Ampersand Wine Bar
  • Appellation Wine Bar & Restaurant
  • Balena
  • bellyQ
  • Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area
    Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area


  • The Bristol
  • Formento’s
  • Goddess and the Baker
  • GreenRiver
  • GT Fish & Oyster
  • Intro
  • The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago
  • mfk
  • MK the Restaurant
  • Naha
  • Salero
  • Swift & Sons
  • Taus Authentic
  • Yusho Hyde Park
  • Yusho Logan Square
    * All restaurants are in Chicago

Drink up for National Rum Day August 16


Have you discovered the beautiful flavors of serious rum? While rum is one of the oldest and most popular spirits in the world, it comes in a wide range of qualities.  Below are a few ideas for celebrating National Rum Day on August 16, 2016

Fine Diplimatico rum with coffee, chocolate and lime - num
Fine Diplimatico rum with coffee, chocolate and lime – num

Premium means top quality, and it’s certainly true about Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva (SRP $40). This rum received a Double Gold Medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and a score of 92 from the prestigious Ultimate Spirits Challenge this year.

Diplomático comes from Venezuela, where sipping cocktails along the 2500 miles of coastline is part of every day life. So skip the rum-n-cola or rum punch this National Rum Day and  treat yourself to a lovely cocktail set off with chocolate and coffee notes.

Willie Juancho and The Chocolate Factory
1.5 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
.5 oz Dark Creme de cacao
Instant coffee
Stir Diplomático and Crème de Cacao.  Wet the rim of a snifter glass with lime and dip in instant coffee and pour the mix into prepared snifter glass.

On a completely different rum note, thanks to RumJumbie sending samples, we’ve recently discovered the joys of premium Jumbie flavored rums – Pineapple Splash and Coconut Splash.  These are premium rums – you can tell from the first rich sip. No aftermath of fake pineapple or coconut flavors; instead you get a feeling of smoothness and richness in these liquors, even drunk neat. I’m not normally a tropical drink fan, but these rums didn’t need all the added sugar and flavor-disguisers that many tropical cocktail recipes call for.

What really surprised me was my immediate urge to pour the Coconut Splash rum all over some kind of fruit. Almost any fruit sounded appealing, but I happened to have a chunk of nicely ripe watermelon on the counter. So I chopped off a hunk and did just that. Chopped the melon into bite-size pieces and poured the coconut-infused rum over it. Yes, yes. Refreshing in the extreme. And so delicious. I then started picturing it on top of things like creme brûlée, peach or nectarine slices, ice cream, brownies, and on and on. No liquor has ever inspired me with so many ideas, mostly in the dessert category or, if I should happen to be – or want to be – on vacation, I’d find the idea of fruit/dessert-with-rum positively inspiring for brunch. ” )

English: The Meyer lemon, Citrus × meyeri.
English: The Meyer lemon, Citrus × meyeri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pineapple Splash made me think of mixing with red fruit juice of some sort with lots of ice and maybe a squirt/slice of lime or Meyer lemon. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. We’ve tried a lot of rums over the years, and these seem to have a friendly vibe. And at about 15 bucks a bottle, they’re an exotic bargain. Read more at, including the history of the unusual name.

Happy #National Rum Day today!

New Nando’s – August 7 – help downtown Chicago park


If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s a great time to go enjoy some juicy, spicy, flame-grilled chicken at Nando’s PERi-PERi. It’s a totally unique, fast casual kind of place where the food is excellent and you can enjoy special sodas or a glass of wine with your meal.

They’ve only been in Chicago a year, but this South African-Portuguese restaurant known around the world is hatching its eighth Chicago-area restaurant at 227 E. Ontario in Streeterville. If you go on opening day, Sunday Aug. 7th, 100% of what you spend will get donated to help renovate the popular Seneca Park and the Eli M. Schulman Playground at Chicago Avenue and Mies van der Rohe Blvd.

“When a new Nando’s opens, we like to be good neighbors by partnering with local non-profits to help the community,” said Burton Heiss, CEO of Nando’s PERi-PERi USASince opening in Chicago in spring 2015, Nando’s has raised more than $100,000 for local non-profits.

“We are delighted to have a Nando’s in our neighborhood, and we so appreciate their commitment to improving this important public space,” said Marc Schulman, who chaired the 1990 campaign to create the playground and rebuild Seneca Park in honor of his father, the late Eli M. Schulman, a well-known restaurateur who was active in promoting Chicago and helping youth. 

nandos food lowres 300

Every Nando’s is carefully designed and completely unique, with earthy textures and bright colors that reflect its sunny African-Portuguese heritage. In Streeterville, Nando’s has transformed a former U.S. Post Office into a colorful and inviting destination. An over-sized mural by South African painter John Murray adds vibrant pinks and reds to the main dining room wall. In the United States alone, there are more than 700 pieces of original African art in Nando’s restaurants.


3 Chicago spots for wine or beer dinners

Wildfire wine dinner place settings
Wildfire wine dinner place settings

Ever been to a wine dinner? They go on around the city all the time, yet can be quite different. Naturally, the featured wines are important. And, of course, the chef-inspired menu is critical. One of the best we’ve run across for consistently good menus and consistently generous pours is Wildfire’s wine dinners, 159 W. Erie in downtown Chicago.

Their most recent one, held in late July in Wildfire’s private party room, featured selections from Cambria Estate Vineyards including a lovely “Tepusquet Vineyard” Viognier 2014 served with creative appetizers – watermelon tuna tartare with sriracha mayo on an herb cracker and grilled plump shrimp “lollipops” to dip in spicy passionfruit sauce.

Next came a generous cut of grilled white sturgeon in a rose-colored peach-butter sauce paired with Cambria’s “Benchbreak” Chardonnay 2014, a light, unoaked white with notes of tropical fruits. Delicious. And compliments to the chef on his handling of meats – the mustard-crusted beef tenderloin practically melted in your mouth.  We urge you to give Wildfire a try next time they do a wine dinner, usually priced ~$80 to $90 plus tax and tip. They do one almost every month, except for August when they’re doing a beer dinner and holiday months November and December). Check out the Joel Gott wine dinner coming up September 20.

Da Vinci Restaurant, 1732 N. Halsted, is another restaurant that does slightly more affordable (~$50 +tt) but also highly enjoyable wine dinners. Coming up August 10 with Zito wines look for antipasti, pasta – in this case, penne with zucchini, tomato, goat cheese stuffed zucchini flower) – secondo, and dessert. The restaurant itself is broken into multiple cozy dining areas and the wine dinner usually takes place in one of those that fits the number of guests. Friendly service, nice lighting, comfortable ambiance.

And for those who love their beer, aptly named Goose Island Brewery, 1800 N. Clybourn, this summer got rid of its wine & spirits license to become a strictly beer restaurant. Besides carrying a really large assortment of all types of beers, from stouts to ales to lagers, they worked hard on expanding what you can do with beer. Imagine drinking a “bocktail” with your brunch. Choose from a Sofie Mimosa (Sofie lager and orange juice), a Michalada (tomato juice, lime, cayenne, celery salt and SPF), a Peach Wit Shandy (lemon juice, peach syrup, Willow St. Wit) or a Beer-rita (lime & organge juice infused with cilantro & jalapeno, All Purpose IPA).  The servers are well-versed in their listings and can help you figure out what you might like. Serving lunch, brunch, pub fare, burgers, greens and soup and more.


5 cool brunch places in Chicago

English: Both the largest and the meatiest blo...
English: Both the largest and the meatiest bloody mary I’ve ever had. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicagoans take their brunch very seriously, so it’s no surprise that one of the city’s prolific hospitality firms, Four Corners Tavern Group, is behind some of the most playful and delectable offerings. Their brunch menus offer creative fare and superior service in relaxed, yet lively surroundings. From music to munchies, you’re bound to find something to love in one of these neighborhood concepts.


Benchmark (1510 N Wells) in Old Town retracts the patio roof when the weather’s right. Their brunch goes for $35 per person with a $15 unlimited mimosa package (served Saturdays 10am to 2pm) features all-you-can-eat food stations like a carving station, plates of smoked brisket, the famed Doughnut Vault tower, a seafood tower, a sinfully-sweet waffle bar; and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar

Hurry on out to Gaslight Bar & Grille’s (2450 N Clark) rustic beer garden with communal tables. Only until September 30 they’ve got brunch specials on offer the first Saturday and Sunday of each month (11 am to 2pm) and include Chicken & Waffles with organic honey, Nueske’s bacon and fresh fruit ($10), Biscuit Sliders with scrambled egg, cheese and a side of tater tots ($9), a Mimosa package ($10); Bloody Marys ($8); and Trop Bombs ($5).

WestEnd (1326 W Madison) puts out brunch in an expansive sports bar atmosphere. Feast on $10 brunch specials like Chorizo Sloppy Joe with Texas toast, poached egg, cilantro, avocado and a side of house chips and French Toast Sticks served with whipped cream, powdered sugar, bourbon pale syrup and Fireball-infused crème anglaise. Build-your-own Moscow Mule Bar ($10); unlimited mimosa package ($15); and cheeky beverages such as the insta-worthy Cupcake Shot ($5) out on one of the two dog-friendly sidewalk cafes or inside the new, enhanced game room.

Fremont (15 W Illinois).  Think Vegas with this version of Sin City’s legendary over-the-top buffet ($35 per person with a $15 unlimited mimosa package). The distinct social dining experience can take you well into the night if you so desre. DJs spin top hits throughout the bi-level, sleek and chic space with retractable roof. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 10am, reservations recommended. The unlimited assortment includes carving station, Doughnut Vault tower, omelet station, seafood tower, waffle bar with extravagant accoutrements, and a DIY Bloody Mary bar with fun surprises,

Weekend brunch at SteakBar
Weekend brunch at SteakBar

SteakBar (1500 N Wells). This dining-to-nightlife hotspot, introduced brunch service every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3pm. Elevated breakfast options include:

  • Steak & Eggs with succulent skirt steak, roasted tomato and sunny side up eggs ($20)
  • Scramble made from farm eggs, crème fraiche, avocado and chives, served aside Texas toast ($11)
  • Avocado Toast, a popular choice with crushed avocado, cherry tomatoes and radish atop toasted multigrain ($11).
  • Unlimited mimosa package ($15) is also available with purchase of a dish.

Hassle-free August holidays with Grillo Sicilian white

Crisp white Grillo is perfect for picnics
Crisp white Grillo is perfect for picnics

August is the beginning of the end of summer, but it’s still a month full of holidays.  One of them is Single Working Women’s Week (this year July 31 to August 6). This holiday gives single working women a chance to get together and officially celebrate their unique contributions to the world. And what better way to do that than a picnic! August is also National Picnic Month – dedicated to the joys of coming together with friends and family. Everybody loves a picnic, but it sure can be a lot of work. Try something new this year by hosting a picnic potluck. It’s a great way to cut down on prep work and save money while spending time with friends.  Here’s a suggested task list:

  • Someone bring the wine
  • Someone bring the cheese-cracker-salumi plate
  • Someone bring fresh fruit or a seasonal vegetable/salad
  • Someone bring the main dish
  • Someone bring the blankets and music
  • Someone bring extra wine

You will not go wrong for your summer picnics by choosing a crisp Sicilian white wine. Grillo, for example, which is blended with the Catarratto grape that’s native to Sicily makes the perfect addition to your spread for under $20. Its unique flavor pairs with any cheese or summer fruit. Read all about Grillo and other lovely

Elegant for dinner, great for Chicago rooftops
Elegant for dinner, great for Chicago rooftops

Southport news – free summer art festival and fall restaurant opening

This July 16-17 from 10am-5pm, more than 75 of the city’s most diverse artists will show off their creations at the Southport Art Festival. You’ll see works in oil, acrylic, watercolor, jewelry, sculpture, photography, glass and mixed media. from photographers and abstract painters to live art demonstrations and booth chats with the artists. New this year the festival will be FREE to attend. That’s right free!

Beautiful art at Southport Art Festival like this ring by Devin Johnson
Beautiful art at Southport Art Festival like this ring by Devin Johnson
From  live music performances by to tasty treats from restaurants in the Southport Corridor area will be serving up summer favorites. and interactive art-filled experiences. The Southport Art Festival creates a creative spirit into Chicago’s fun, funky and hip Southport Corridor.
Beyond the head-turning tunes and palate-pleasing cuisine, festival-goers will have the opportunity to corral their creativity by contributing to a freestanding graffiti wall. Children can also enjoy  the youth art tent where they will be able to make clay masterpieces, color art themed coloring pages to take home. There will also be a kids carnival taking place at the festival as well, where kids can go on rides and play carnival games.

Come September, you can check out Tuco & Blondie, a Mexican spot with an American flair in Lakeview (3358 N Southport Ave). It’s 4 Star Restaurant Group‘s tenth Chicago restaurant.

“If you’re hungry, chow down. If you’re thirsty, drink up. We’ll have room for all,” said 4 Star Restaurant Group partner Josh Rutherford.  “From a walk up indoor patio for grub with a view to a lively outdoor back patio scene, it’s bound to be a good time!”
It’s big, with 3,000 square feet inside and 3,000 outside, but the 250-seat Tuco & Blondie is meant to be arelaxed place where families or groups of friends can linger and laugh over drinks and a meal cooked in Chef Stein’s scratch kitchen.  Like the movie that inspired the name – Clint Eastwood’s landmark film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Editor’s note: Do NOT watch the edited-for-television version of this movie; get only the uncut original) – Tuco & Blondie aspires to be an original classic.
Inside, exposed brick walls, an inviting bar and pops of color throughout welcome guests  Outside, the bodega features a brick fireplace,an engaging courtyard and other fun aspects that will keep patrons coming back.

Planned menu highlights range from signature fajitas to what Chef Stein swears will be the “best chicken salad you will ever eat (to be named later)!”  Hand-crafted cocktails inspired by The Good, The Bad and the Ugly…

“The Man with No Name,” “Angel Eyes,” and the “One-Armed Bounty Hunter.” And then there’ll be an extensive margarita menu featuring choices like the Cadillac (top shelf) and the classic strawberry, frozen or on the rocks.

Scope out the location while you’re at the festival and mark your calendar to watch for the opening.

Chicago summer duo – Square Roots Festival and LEYE opens Ēma

at the chalkboard teaching at the in Chicago, ...
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Square Roots Festival 2016 opens on Lincoln Ave. between Montrose and Wilson this year with two outdoor stages, two indoor stages, and over 50 acts, compliments of  The Old Town School of Folk Music and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.  Hang out at this Lincoln Square tradition and check out the unique vendors, delicious local food, and more than 30 craft beers. July 8 (5-10pm), 9 (12 to 11pm) & 10 (12 to 9pm).

There’s no official charge but donations are suggested ($10 for adults, $5 for seniors/kids, $20 for families). For more info, visit

Ēma, just opened in the Hyatt Place at 74 W. Illinois, is a new gem in the crown of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. Serving Mediterranean small plates – lamb, beef, lots of vegetables – meant for sharing, it’s open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4:00pm to 10:00pm and Fridayand Saturday from 4:00pm to 11:00pm, with lunch coming soon. Rotisserie Ēma will open in July 2016 with lunch and dinner service Monday through Friday from 11:00am to 7:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 4:00pm. Check out the menu here.

100 years of Juan Gil Family wines

Juan Gil wine in candlelight at Maple and Ash
Juan Gil wine in candlelight at Maple and Ash

Spanish wines had been heading to the top of our list of favorites anyway, and they recently got another big push in that direction when the Juan Gil Family Wines debuted their collection in Chicago. This delightful winemaker’s portfolio tasting was put together by the importers and distributors at Heritage Wine Cellars and held in the sleek and modern yet warm and sexy environs of Maple & Ash, 8 W. Maple St.

In 1916 Juan Gil Jiménez established Gil Family Estates in the Jumilla appellation of Spain. The operation has been passed down for four generations and now, after 100 years, is one of Spain’s foremost wine producers, with nine bodegas located across eight appellations.
Juan Gil executives in Chicago
Juan Gil executives in Chicago

Members of the Juan Gil family and winemaking teams brought their wines to Chicago where they told their stories to guests who enjoyed samples of dozens of delicious wines, including the limited release of Juan Gil 100 Anniversario. Maple and Ash provided delicious appetizers to complement the wines, and the hundredth anniversary chocolate-and-whipped-cream cake was to die for.

Starting with the white wines of a beautiful and expressive winemaker named Belinda Thomson, we were hooked. The whites include many made with Albarino grapes and come in a range from crisp yet fruity to perfectly rounded and rich. And the reds only got better and better – elegant and refined, complex and satisfying. Some of the reds are deep inky purply red color, others ranging from rose red to berry, and from garnet to mahogany. Intense, with great mouth-feel and long finishes.  Representative wines included those from:

The Gil Family combines the art of old vine indigenous grape-growing with modern winemaking to produce terroir-driven wines that are internationally respected for their originality, consistency and value. Their wines are elegant. Their websites are beautiful and easy to read and navigate. Their labels are gracefully modern. And their prices range from popular premium (Bodegas Ateca Honoro Vera Garnacha 2014 ~$9) to luxury (El Nido 2013 ~$100).
100 years of delicious Juan Gil Family Estates wines. We highly recommend going forth to your favorite wine dealer to get yourself some.