More and more women are becoming prominent characters in the great pageant that is the food and beverage world. Below are three of note.
Viktorija Todorovska is an author, chef and level III sommelier who owns and operates OlivaCooking.com. She is skilled in the art of helping people appreciate fine wines, including sharing her knowledge about pairing them with food. Her goals are to help make wine approachable and to illuminate the cuisines of other countries.
To those ends, Viktorija regularly conducts seminars and workshops on her own and in conjunction with fine restaurants around the world. During a recent session held at Kendall College in Chicago, her audience included both professionals and amateur wine buffs. She broke down the intricacies of origin, growing conditions and tasting for 2013 vintages of white Burgundies from multiple locatons in Bourgogne, France. She was a model for the proper technique for tasting (roll it around your whole mouth and then spit it out rather than swallow), and explained which tastes are detected by which parts of your mouth and tongue. She showed where the premier (1er) cru and the grand cru wines are grown and explained how the individual climats (delineated plots of land with specific geographical and climate conditions ) determine the characteristics of wines from particular areas. This region is where all seven of the grand cru white burgundies of the world are made. Heady company.
Viktorija is not only incredibly knowledgeable but she’s also an expert at making complex information understandable. For anyone who didn’t already know about white burgundies from St. Aubin or Puligny-Montrachet (do NOT pronounce the “t”) or Chassagne-Montrachet, they were bound to walk away feeling more confident about asking for one of these in a shop or ordering one in a restaurant. In addition, Viktorija is an accomplished chef. Look for her cookbooks—The Sardinian Cookbook, Provence Food and Wine, Risotto Made Easy and more.
Another woman of note, Renée Erickson, came through our city recently where Shaws Crab House Chicago held a full-scale wine dinner to honor her recipes and promote her gorgeous new cookbook, “A Boat, A Whale and A Walrus.” Renee is an acclaimed, James-Beard nominated chef and the owner of several Seattle restaurants: The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle. The funny name of the book derives from the names of some of her restaurants. Her cookbook is written in her own voice – a voice that’s gentle, and wise, and clearly in command of the kitchens she oversees in her restaurants. She speaks about the human qualities we all possess, in kind and caring ways that make her seem like someone I could actually enjoy having as a boss.
I love how she explains the tools and techniques she uses and gives a serious resource list for obtaining the ingredients and materials she recommends. She emphasizes that food is all about bringing people together. But clearly taste is important to her – she uses heavy cream in her creations with the same abandon that Jackson Pollock used paint on canvas.
Her book groups recipes by season. For example winter ingredients includes carrots, citrus and kale as well as onions and potatoes. She gives several ways to use each item in dishes that can comprise part of many different menus.
Warning. This cookbook is not for beginners. But it will certainly reward the good cook with creative ideas, fabulous recipes and heart-warming stories.
Gloria Collell is a beautiful woman who is also the spirit of Mia wines. Freixenet CEO Pedro Ferrer approved her idea for this line of fresh, young wines and entrusted her with its stewardship. She brings to her role as winemaker a deep passion for the process and the life—her initial foray into studying for the law proved less than inspiring—and the traditions of her Barcelona family’s love for and work with wine. Mia is Freixenet’s newest concept—fresh, approachable, slightly sweeter wines designed to appeal to Millennials, many of whose taste preferences run towards craft beers and cocktails mixed of spirits with juices, sodas and other ingredients. The idea was to create wines that are lighter and easier to drink yet still have enough acidity to pair beautifully with foods of all types.
Mia wines include white and rosé sparkling moscatos as well as still wines: white and rosé and a hearty red made with Tempranillo, the ubiquitous Spanish grape that also comprises part or all of the base for so many of the country’s finest robust dry red wines. Mia’s still white wine is a multi-layered blend of four types of grapes indigenous to the Penedés region of Spain. All go beautifully with Spanish tapas of all types. Visit Paolo’s Vinum, 328 S. Jefferson, Suite 120, on Chicago’s near south side to enjoy tapas and Mia wines in a restaurant with charmingly modern yet unassuming Spanish decor and a warm ambiance.
When asked what brings her the most pleasure from life, Gloria responds, “I suppose you could say I have three passions in my life today – first of course my family, but followed closely by winemaking and the lifestyle of this region, particularly Barcelona. It’s such a wonderful mix of the traditional and the modern. Full of creative people, life, and of course wonderful food and wine.”