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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