Move over Chicago Gourmet, here comes Chicago Food + Wine Festival

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago...
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago as seen from the Chicago river (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a new kid in town. Coming this August 28 to 30 the Chicago Food + Wine Festival will offer residents and tourists a selection of culinary events over three days in our beautiful downtown and Lincoln Park areas. The Festival includes:

  • Grand Taste tents offering food, wine and cocktail samples from local and regional artisans
  • Chef Showcase, where 40 Chicago chefs will serve tasting portions of their restaurant’s signature dishes in the Grand Taste tents
  • More than 30 interactive cooking demonstrations and
    intimate tasting sessions
  • Toast & Taste, the festival’s signature Saturday night tasting event featuring 16 of the country’s best chefs and live music
  • Last Call, late-night dessert and nightcap party; book signings; and more

Tickets go on sale today at 10 am. For tickets and more information, visit

The Chicago Food + Wine Festival marks a compelling collaboration between C3 Presents, Tim Love (Iron Chef Champion, the co-host of CNBC’s Restaurant Startup, and the owner/chef of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Love Shack, TLC Catering, White Elephant Saloon, Queenie’s Steakhouse, and The Woodshed Smokehouse in Ft. Worth, TX), and FOOD & WINE Magazine.  C3 Presents is the Austin-based event company that produces Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park, Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin’s Zilker Park, Austin Food + Wine Festival, Music City Food + Wine Festival in Nashville and more than 800 shows nationwide.

Speaking of cupcake recipes…

As we were in the last post, how about his astonishing recipe? For Oreo-addicts (you know who you are) who love wine, this just might constitute dessert nirvana.

Wine, Nutella and Oreo cupcake with wine filling and frosting

Oreo Nutella Nuvino filed  cupcakeFor the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup Nuvino’s Red Blend Wine
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Nutella
  • 10 Oreos

For the filling:

  • ½ cup Nutella
  • 5 Oreos

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup red wine, any kind you like
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
Wine-frosted Oreo wine cupcake
Wine-frosted Oreo wine cupcake


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 10 muffin cups with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. The cupcakes: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add the egg and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Stir in Nutella and Nuvino’s Red Blend until evenly combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Place an Oreo cookie on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Pour batter over each Oreo cookie and fill each cupcake liner about ¾ of the way full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. The filling: In a ziplock bag, place the Oreos and use a mallet to crush the cookies into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine Nutella with crushed Oreos. Set aside.
  4. The frosting: In a small saucepan, combine Nuvino’s Red Blend (see below) and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and wine comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup or a light syrup texture). Let to cool.
  5. Beat the butter until until smooth and creamy. Slowly add in powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time), vanilla, and ¼ cup of prepared wine syrup. Beat until no lumps remain. Taste the frosting and add salt to cut the sweetness, if you prefer.
  6. Assembling the cupcakes: Cut out the center of each cupcake with a sharp knife. Fill the cupcakes with Nutella & Oreo filling. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cupcake. Enjoy!

Brought to you by Nuvino, makers of single-pouch wines that might just be the future of wine packaging (right after those increasingly popular multi-liter boxes). If you live in California, you can buy their pouches of Chardonnay, Malbec, Red Blend, and Sauvignon Blanc  in lots of outlets. If you live in Chicago, order online through or try one of their various wine club options.

Buttercream glories at Magnolia Bakery

Okay. They have absolutely no redeeming nutritional value. But who cares? Made with tons of unsalted, sweet cream butter, these  gorgeously iced cupcakes and more definitely qualify as “close your eyes” food (more about that in my upcoming cookbook 17 Ways to Eat Your Way to Happiness).

Magnolia Bakery started out in New York, has a bunch of locations there, and now makes a Chicago home at 108 N. State St. at Randolph in the Building 37 structure. I attended one of their “icing and wine” classes the other day and fell in love with not only the frosting but also the vanilla cupcake itself. Read a full Magnolia Bakery review–including the recipe for their scrumptious vanilla buttercream icing–on my Chicago Restaurant Examiner site. Get some of these for Easter/Passover.  Your guests will love you for it.

And here, for your enjoyment, I reproduce the recipe for Magnolia Bakery’s wonderful vanilla cupcakes (they said it was okay!):

Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes


  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredient are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.