- Yes, leakproof. Packed some very juicy chili in the two-cupper (~$20), snugged the lid into place, and carried it on its side all day. Just to be safe, put it in a plastic bag since it was going to be turned over and jerked around in a wheeled case. Opened it for lunch and nary a drop had spilled. Ate, covered it up again, and took it home with still not a leak in sight.
- Yes, shatter-resistant. The silicone “sleeve” (kind of like a cradle, really) encases the glass and makes a cozy, padded nest for it. It feels really solid and significant inside that silicone.
- Yes, heat in the microwave. Nice that the silicone doesn’t get hot in the microwave, so you can pick up a heated container without oven mitts – but only the silicone part because the glass does get hot. This feature can come in handy especially for people who live alone and don’t want to dirty up more dishes than necessary. Store, heat, eat.
- Yes, easy to wash. Glass is just plain easy to get clean. The silicone container cleans up fine. We washed by hand, but all parts are said to be safe on either rack of a dishwasher.
- BPA-free. Mayo Clinic talks about possible BPA complications. Many reasons to be glad about not having it in materials that come in contact with your food.
- Yes, re-writable. Using dry-erase markers on the silicone case, you can write non-smearing notes to your loved ones when you send them off with food-to-go. Then later, wipe it off with a wet paper towel.
- Yes, good-looking. The whole ensemble feels very high quality and makes you feel good about putting food in there for yourself or your family.
Memorial Day is one of our country’s biggest weekends. The first official party to celebrate warm weather each year is always a fine time to enjoy some of life’s lighter wines and spirits.
Sparkling wines to love:
- Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut – the Spanish cava in the sexy black bottle that’s been one of the most popular sparkling wines in the U.S. for forty years. Crisp, clean, and well-balanced, medium-bodied with a palate of apple, pear and bright citrus flavors, it has a moderately long finish and a crisp touch of ginger. Pairs well with most any food.
- Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut – This refreshingly light, slightly sweet cava has fresh, fruity flavor while still pleasantly dry. Full, ripe peach, apricot fruit and vanilla nose, with big, round, soft flavors in the mouth and an appealing finish. Perfect for brunch or for mixing champagne cocktails. Great for those new to sparkling wines.
Three rosé wines perfect for indulging yourself:
- Alta Vista: Rosé 2015—100% Malbec. Reddish hue, fruity aromas of ripe and sour cherries and floral notes of red roses, with a persistent flavor of recently picked grapes. Great with pasta dishes such as pesto and bright salads. ~$13
- Masi Agricola: Rosa dei Masi 2015—Using the Appassimento drying technique to concentrate flavors, this rosé is fresh and fruity, yet complex and elegant. 100% Refosco grapes yield a soft pink wine brushed with cherry tones and intense aromas of berries, especially raspberries and wild cherries. Soft and well-balanced with lively and refreshing acidity. Excellent as an aperitif, with antipasti or seafood dishes. ~SRP $15
- The Seeker Rosé 2015—A classic dry Provence rosé blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Cinsault from vineyards influenced by the sea, sunshine and granite-schist soils. Elegant, fresh and delicately fruity, refreshing on its own or pairs well with a wide variety of shellfish, salads, and berry-based dishes. ~$14
Two vodka cocktails to enjoy for Memorial Day, Father’s Day and/or National Martini Day (both on June 19, 2016):
- Le Grand Fizz – a limey, fizzy delight, recipe compliments of Grey Goose vodka
- The classic martini – your choice of shaken, stirred, dirty, dry or otherwise, recipe compliments of Ketel One vodka
And how about these 2 whiskies to stir your senses:
- Speyburn 10-year-old Scotch whisky – Smooth and mellow, pale amber colored, non-peaty, this is a Scotch to warm the heart without stressing the nose or the palate. Mild and easy going, this gold-medal single malt at 2014 International Wine & Spirit competition, is a great one for warm weather. A bargain at ~$23
- Hibiki Suntory Japanese Harmony Whisky – A deliciously complex, smooth and gentle whisky made to be sipped over a giant ice ball or drunk neat. It’s a lovely blend of at least 10 different whiskies, aged in 5 different types of casks. The whole effect of flavors and aromas is like music from a fine orchestra. Beautiful for warm weather. ~$75
Besides the delicious smoothie recipe he introduced at the Pure Leaf TeaHouse Collection traveling tea house in Lincoln Park last week, Chef Lee Wolen applied his culinary flair to a few more recipes using their unique flavors of presweetened tea-in-a-bottle and fresh herbs to accent those combinations. Here’s one that really appeals in the warm weather we’re finally getting in Chicago.
Tea Off by Lee Wolen
- 1 ounce blackberry sage tea syrup
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, fresh
- 1 ounce Pure Leaf Tea House Collection™ Black Tea Wild Blackberry & Sage (where to buy)
- soda water
- elderflower tonic water
- 2 crushed blackberries, for garnish
- 1 sage leaf, for garnish
- 1-1.5 oz gin (optional)
FOR THE SYRUP
- 2 bottles Pure Leaf Tea House Collection™ Black Tea Wild Blackberry & Sage
- 8 ounces sugar
- 1 ounce fresh sage leaf
Combine all and reduce to a syrup, chill and reserve.
Combine all ingredients except tonic and soda water in a glass with ice. Top the glass off with equal parts tonic and soda. Garnish with crushed blackberries and a sage leaf.
It’s gratifying to see Chicago companies getting together to make it easier for kids to eat healthy food. And in case you wonder just what “healthy for kids” means, here are specific guidelines from Healthy Fare for Kids® (works for us grownups, too). And here are the new FDA labeling requirements. Yay! And after you’re done with all that, below that, a cool recipe to serve 4 small people.
Start your Memorial Day with a delicious -and shockingly healthy – smoothie you can make at home. Much-praised Chef Lee Wolen of top-rated Boka Restaurant created this recipe and others using the unique flavors of Pure Leaf TeaHouse Collection of presweetened teas. When an 8-year-old says she’s okay with raw kale in her smoothie ‘cuz it tastes so good, you know you’ve got a winner.
Apple Ginger Tea Smoothie with Blueberries and Kale
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1.5 cup Pure Leaf Tea House Collection™ Green Tea Fuji Apple & Ginger
- 1 banana, frozen
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Whirl everything in a blender until smooth. Garnish with chopped apple and fresh grated ginger.
Then, after you’ve digested that, and at a reasonable hour – say, eleven thirty-ish – pull out one of these lovely bubbly wines for lunch and toast your Memorial Day in earnest. Gorgeous bubblies like:
SEGURA VIUDAS RESERVA HEREDAD – an exquisite and aromatic cava (Spanish bubbly made with methode champenoise). You’ll enjoy serving it from its pewter-embellished bottle, and its smooth taste pairs well with any grilled foods or other treats you decide upon. Should you be camping out, could there be anything better than a little bubbly with your S’mores? ~$25
LOS VASCOS ROSÉ 2015 – Bright, pale pink color. On the nose, aromas of strawberries, raspberries, cherries and pomegranates underscored by white chocolate and sugar syrup. The palate is fresh, balanced and persistent. ~$14
VALDO ROSÉ BRUT – a color like scarlet brush strokes on rose petals. Bouquet is of fine and elegant blossoms with a persistent presence of raspberry and a cascade of tiny bubbles. Altogether a pleasant round warm flavor with a charming fruity aroma. ~$14
PRIEURÉ DE MONTÉZARGUES TAVEL AOC 2014 – a pretty rosé wine with violet tints and a nice salmon color and an intense nose with white flowers. ~$24
THEN, you’re probably exhausted so you’ll want to just go out and let others wait upon you for dinner. Luckily there are dozens of downtown spots to take yourself and family and friends for dining al fresco. Here are a just a few.
Beatrix – River North, 519 N. Clark, patio and open window seats are perfect for sipping a fresh juice, specialty iced coffee or signature cocktail like the Mexican Iced Coffee and Malted Freddo, and the Habenero-Pineapple Margarita and Blueberry Tom Collins, both made with homemade fresh juices. The full wine bar has open floor-to-ceiling windows.
Bellyup Smokehouse & Saloon, 1132 S. Wabash, offers a Beyonce Boozy Lemonade for Memorial Day Weekend Friday, May 27 through Sunday, May 29 (CLOSED on Monday, May 30). 10 bucks for the lemonade cocktail special.
As Chicagoans gratefully welcome warmer temps, we’re ready to start toasting summer with Memorial Day food and drinks. One of the best ways to celebrate is with sparkling wine, and here are some fun ideas from Segura Viudas, one of Spain’s most popular maker of bubblies.
For beach or boat, throw a few Segura Viudas Brut Minis (~$6) in your bag alongside your sunscreen and life preserver. It’s enchanting to have your own little bottle of smooth bubbly whenever you want. OR if you’re going climbing or some other adventurous trip, take along a full-size bottle of Segura Viudas Gran Cuvée Reserva (~$14) to celebrate when you reach your goal.
If you just want to stay home and impress your friends or family with your cooking skills, stock a few bottles of the affordable and always-versatile cavas Segura Viudas Brut (~$10) or Segura Viudas Rosé Brut (~$10). Try Spicy Fish Tacos or build your own taco bar with spicy salsa from scratch. Cava goes great with spicy foods without turning up the heat.
And then, of course, if you just want to let the pros do all the work, you’ve got a ton of fun Chicago food and drink options. Here are 9 on the north side:
- CASTAWAYS BAR & GRILL, North Avenue Beach, is open all weekend serving salads, wraps, sandwiches, and quesadillas accompanied by frozen cocktails and even Corona in a can. Music, too.
- CLARK STREET DOG & BAR, 3040 N Clark St., starts the fun on Friday through Monday with $7 to $9 summer cocktails. Open 9 am til late night.
- COMMONWEALTH TAVERN, 2000 W. Roscoe, features $3 to $14 brunch items on Saturday and Sunday, with a $3 Build-Your- Own Mimosa Bar and $6 Build-Your- Own Bloody Mary Bar.
- FLAGSHIP, 1622 W. Belmont, introduces al fresco dining this Memorial Day. Choose from succulent brunch items 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday and Monday only.
- KANELA BREAKFAST CLUB, 5 north side locations, intros al fresco dining and a new bar menu this Memorial Day weekend. Check out special drink concoctions like Rosemary’s Bubbly (gin, fresh squeezed grapefruit, lemon and orange juices, rosemary syrup, a splash of prosecco, served on the rocks; $9).
- KIZUKI RAMEN & IZAKAYA, 1482 N. Milwaukee, Monday only for lunch or dinner, $4.50 (half-off regularly $9) Shochu Sake flights. Surprise yourself with this rich combination.
- MAK: MODERN ASIAN KITCHEN, 1924 W. Division, opens its small-but-charming patio for Memorial Day, serving the dynamic flavors of traditional Chinese cuisine with a healthy and modern twist.
- STRETCH BAR & GRILL, 3485 N. Clark St., offers 25-percent off and a free Stretch koozie to all Veterans with proof of Military ID. Check out their Cubs game day beer, shot and food specials.
- TAVERN ON LITTLE FORT, 4128 N. Lincoln Ave., has Saturday and Sunday deals on brunch items along with a $3 Build-Your- Own Mimosa Bar and $5 Build-Your- Own Bloody Mary Bar.
After-work music party in the park! May 23, 24 and 25: Hot country music and food from Tennessee – right here in downtown Chicago. The Soundtrack of America: Made in Tennessee concert series will be streamed live here onto a two-sided video wall in Congress Park. Country stars Citizen Cope, Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show and Ashley Monroe will be performing at iconic attractions in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. The video screens have 360-degree panoramic camera angles and interactive capabilities between artists and audience. It’s the first long-distance concert of its kind, and local vendors will have the finest foods from Tennessee on offer throughout. The party starts at 5:30 pm Monday, 5 pm Tuesday, 5:30 pm Wednesday. Congress Park is located at the south end of E. Congress Parkway at about 530 S. Michigan Ave.
All summer: The Renaissance Hotel by Marriott, 1 W. Upper Wacker, has opened its new rooftop lounge called Raised. Great views, beautiful warming-fire devices for cool nights, great mixed drinks and wines, and a fun atmosphere make this a great place to enjoy a summer afternoon or evening. Enter the Renaissance’s trendy cocktail lounge on the main floor and then take the elevator up to the third floor. The space has both inside and outside areas large enough to accommodate big parties, but with plenty of smaller spaces designed to make you feel cozy. And the views during “l’heure bleu” (just after sunset when clear skies turn deep blue) are fabulous. Check it out online here.
And lately England is coming out on top in another surprising arena: sparkling wines. Cuvees from England have taken the top prize in the last two International Wine & Spirits Competitions, according to an online article on Grape Collective. Some experts say that England has the same soils as the Champagne region of France and now, as global warming heats things up, it’s getting similar temperature conditions, too – or at least three out of four years, according to one attendee sipping Hattingley Valley English sparkling wine. A perfect setup for making prize sparkling wines. A British brand Fieldstone sparkling wine won a recent blind tasting against competitors from Champagne. Someone at the event said, “I guess global warming is good for something.”
The cheeses were savory and the finger sandwiches appealing, making a nice showing for our fellow-English-speaking allies. Cheeses included Amber Valley Sage Derby (a surprising pale-green-laced yellow cheese with a soft texture like Havarti), Amber Valley Blue Stilton (beyond comparing with the average blue cheese you get here in America), English Vintage Reserve Cheddar (the British do a great job with cheddar), Wigmore Soft Brie, and Dunlop Mild (semi-soft and pleasing). Next to them were plates of a well-known British snack known as the Scotch egg – breaded and deep-fried hard-boiled eggs – served sliced in quarters and topped with a dab of grainy mustard. Familiar pub fare.
The event also showcased several brands of gin made in the U.K. Gins, including Beefeater, Hayman’s, Sipsmith and Plymouth, offered creative cocktails using various combinations with Madeira, bitters and more. Guests were drinking everything from dusty dry to barely-sweet pink cocktails, and everyone lifted their glasses as the Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson proposed a happy birthday toast to the Queen. The magnificent view from the consulate’s 61st floor home made an impressive background for Chicagoans joining in to celebrate good things British.
Do you love shopping at farmers’ markets? I remember my first visit years ago – my imagination was so fired up that I was expecting home-grown tomatoes even though it was June! If you haven’t tried it yet, this is the year to start treating yourself. You can even celebrate the opening of the season by attending a “garden” party complete with music at Daly Plaza next Thursday, May 12 from 11:30 to 3 pm.
You’re probably not going to save money shopping at a farmers’ market, but you’ll get to choose from fresh-from-the-earth, often organically grown produce and know that you’re supporting local growers. Well, as local as possible. This is Chicago, after all. You’ll find farmers from downstate Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin and a few closer. At least you’ll know they don’t have to pick their produce unripe so it will travel well in a truck for thousands of miles
Spring brings options like green onions, young greens like Swiss chard, arugula and spinach, garlic scapes (check out this spinach/garlic scape soup recipe) and more. A great time to top up your vitamin K levels… Here’s a full list of by-the-day-of-the-week farmers’ markets in Chicago 2016.