Tuesday, September 16

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Wine Mon Sep 15 2014

Rioja 101: A Tasting

The last wine at Table #5 was breathing in a glass decanter, one of those that looks like a genie bottle, but with a much wider and flatter bowl. The wine rep gave it a gentle swirl, sloshing the black-plum liquid before pouring a tasting.

"Ooooh," I said because I'm easily excited. I had only just begun the night's Rioja tasting, that famed Tempranillo-producing region in Spain, and the Maetierra Dominum QP Vintage 2006 was a great way to start. The wine was dark and rich and full. I really wanted something warm and hearty to eat with it.

"How long could you cellar this?" I asked.

He consulted another gentleman behind the table who explained, "Maybe 7-10 years. But it's not really necessary to cellar because you can drink the wine now."

It was true. The wine did not make my face shrivel up or suck all the moisture out of my mouth. Rioja is unique in that the winemakers do all they aging work for you by keeping their wines safely stored in a temperature-consistent cellar and releasing them only when they're ready to drink. Scads of other producers ship wines off to market even if they're too big and tannic and require time to smooth out the rough edges.

Rioja 101

rsz_686px-localizacipctc3pctb3n_de_la_riojasvg.pngLocated in north-central Spain, southeast of Bilbao, Rioja produces white, red, and rose (rosado). For reds, Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, Mazuelo, Matura Tinta, and of course, Tempranillo, are cultivated. For whites, there's Viura, Malvasia, and Tempranillo Blanco. There were 13 total tables at the Rioja 101 tasting, hosted by Homestead on the Roof. Most tables had a minimum of four wines and with 58 total available, the breadth and diversity of the region was represented.

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Christina Brandon / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Sep 12 2014

Friday Foodpic: Sweet Mandy B's

14986971319_c1c09d16ca_z.jpgPic by yours truly from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Review Thu Sep 11 2014

¡Vamos de tapeo! Tapas in the Suburbs

dsc_2587.jpgOakbrook Center doesn't exactly conjure up images of glitzy city life or classy fine dining, but El Tapeo (originating from the Spanish term "Vamos de tapeo") recently opened in hotel Le Méridien, and I was eager to eat anywhere but the Cheesecake Factory.

Executed by Chef Franco Diaz (The Drake Hotel, Peninsula Hotel Chicago), the restaurant's menu consists of mostly tapas, sprinkled with a few larger entrees that can also be easily shared. My party and I began with the Selección de Embutidos (selection of shaved ibérico, serrano, chorizo, and fuet), followed by Carne Asada (waygu skirt steak, arugula, manchego and piquillo pepper), and Cordero (grilled adobo lamb loin shops). Our vegetable tapas included patatas bravas and setas (wild mushrooms). We finished with a roasted pineapple empanada and a dense chocolate tart topped with chocolate croquants.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Wine Mon Sep 08 2014

Wine Tastings Around Town


A two-week long event for wine lovers is coming to Chicago. Organized by Bottlenotes, Taste Around Town runs September 15-28 and features wines from Wines of France, Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena, and Australia's purveyor of bold, rich Shiraz, Penfolds. Participating restaurants, including Bistrot Zinc, Gilt Bar, and Roka Akor, are preparing select pairing menus and tasting flights and some locations, including Hub 51 and Summer House, are curating by-the-glass lists.

A launch party, hosted by Hub 51 (51 W Hubbard), kicks off the festivities on Wednesday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. Wine-lovers can rub elbows while enjoying tastings of the featured wines and bites such as king crab California rolls, braised chicken mini-tacos, prime chuck and sirloin sliders with white cheddar, and beer-battered fish-and-chips. Tickets are $50, but Gapers Block readers get discounted tickets for $25, which can be accessed here.

Taste Around Town launch party
Hub 51
51 W Hubbard

Photo via JolienS

Christina Brandon / Comments (0)

TV Fri Sep 05 2014

Upcoming Food Shows You Must Watch

top-chef-season-12-boston-supertease.jpgFall is just a leaf drop away, which means it's time to whip out the light jackets, delicately sip pumpkin lattes, and binge watch food TV. Here are some upcoming shows you are obligated to watch:
mind oa chef.jpgMind of a Chef (premieres Sept 6 on PBS)
"Magnus Nilsson and Top Chef Edward Lee explore places and cook awesome stuff" is probably the worst description of this show, but that's exactly what these featured chefs do. Past season chefs have included David Chang and Sean Brock, and Mind of Chef won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Television Program in 2013. Plus, Bourdain is the Executive Producer, speaking of which:

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Review Fri Sep 05 2014

Parachute Brings Korean-American to Avondale

If you jump, it's a good thing to have a parachute, which is a fitting name for one of Chicago's newest restaurant openings of the same moniker, fitting because the story leading up to it isn't without a bit of turbulence.

Parachute is the first ground-up project from husband-and-wife team Beverly Kim and John Clark, and the second venture for the couple as independent proprietors following in the footsteps of Bonsoiree, the Logan Square spot that they took over (and abruptly closed) after Kim's departure from Aria. Coming off a popular reality television show without a restaurant deal (Top Chef fans will recall that Kim was only a few episodes away from winning the show's ninth season) and then taking over a Michelin-starred restaurant can't be an easy follow-up. So, if there were a story of a restaurant that symbolized the American way of not giving up on dreams, Parachute might be a good example, as they opened earlier this summer with the help of bank and family loans, as well as a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $20,000.

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Brandy Gonsoulin / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Sep 05 2014

Friday Foodpic: Tomatoes

14925908578_26624b9f34_z.jpgImage by cgmethven from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Openings Fri Aug 29 2014

Vice District Brewing Opens in the South Loop

Today at 4pm, Vice District Brewing opens to the public for the first time. Located at 1454 S. Michigan Ave., just south of Roosevelt Road, the taproom's initial draft lineup will feature Vice District's black IPA, extra special bitter, IPA, blonde and molasses porter, as well as a collaboration with Finch's Brewing. Eventually there will be 14 beers on tap at all times.

Like many involved in the craft beer renaissance in Chicago, Vice District cofounders Quintin Cole and Curtis Tarver II started out as home brewers.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Aug 29 2014

Friday Foodpic: Lettuce

14882400900_dab2e16843_z.jpgPhoto by swanksalot from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Event Wed Aug 27 2014

Summer is Over, Having Fun is Not

over-2.jpgIf you're looking for good weekend plans, here are two great ideas: Saturday's Heritage BBQ at Goose Island's New Barrel Warehouse (605 N. Sacramento, 4pm) isn't cheap (tickets start at $125; early access VIP available), but it'll be worth it: five chefs (among them Chrissy Camba of Laughing Bird and Cary Taylor of Big Star) will compete for the heralded title of "BBQ King/Queen of Chicago" using heritage pigs. You vote while enjoying all the food and drink you can stomach.

Longman and Eagle's Block Party (Sunday, 1-10pm) is an experience to behold; incredible music from Windy City Soul Club, kids activities, buttons from Busy Beaver, and great food--elotes, ceviche, and meatballs!--for your end of summer fete-ing. Event takes place alongside L&E (2657 N. Kedzie) on Schubert from Kedzie to Troy.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Aug 22 2014

Friday Foodpic: Hops!

14812666097_061821e800_z.jpgPic by garyegary from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Drink Thu Aug 21 2014

Market-Fresh Mixology Puts Seasonality Behind the Bar

Market Fresh MixologyBridget Albert and Mary Barranco's Market-Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season, published by Agate's Surrey Books imprint, was revised and expanded earlier this summer. The Albert and Barranco show you how to use fresh, seasonal ingredients from your garden, the farmers market or produce department to make delicious cocktails year-round.

Summer, of course, offers the broadest options for cocktail ingredients -- fresh fruit, tomatoes, herbs. Unfortunately, the weather's been as suitable for hot drinks as cool cocktails, but this week we might actually see some 90-degree weather. Here's one of the new recipes book to help you beat the heat.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Random Thu Aug 21 2014

You, on the Phone.

4833223036_8067f2caa6_o.jpgI was chatting with a food blogger in her late 40s when she asked me for my Instagram account handle. I shrugged. "Nope, I don't have one," I replied. She stared at me for a good (and awkward) ten seconds before she shook her head in confusion, and returned her gaze to her smartphone.

In fact, her question was the first time our gaze actually met. Before that, I wasn't sure if her head was physically and irrevocably aligned with her Blackberry's magnetic axis. She never looked up from that thing. She missed waiters explaining dishes, she missed my (and anyone's) feeble attempts at conversation, and I'm certain she wouldn't have noticed if the entire restaurant burned to the ground.

Many food bloggers act similarly, and perhaps that's due to the demands of an online profession. They take food pictures, Instagram that shit, and caption their collage with "YUM lobster roll with truffle fries #mylifeisperfect" They don't eat the food, and if they do, it's a small bite before they're back on Twitter or whispering quietly to their guest, who is probably tweeting the person right next to them. Taking pictures used to capture a memory, to crystallize an experience for future reminiscence. Now pictures demonstrate to others how happy, exciting, social, and/or privileged you are. It's about taking multiple pictures of mundane crap, trying to find that perfect professional angle that is ruined the minute they apply sepia filters all over them.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Event Wed Aug 20 2014

Bacon Takedown Returns Sept. 14th

4997408325_9f1b997883.jpgYou could do a lot with 15 pounds of Hormel bacon, right? The Bacon Takedown will gladly give you the pork for you to compete Sept. 14 at Lincoln Hall for the top award. Make anything you want with the bacon -- savory or sweet, even jam -- and serve up your creation to attendees (tickets are $20) who will vote for the "People's Choice" at the end of the day, with a separate group of judges awarding a winner. If you are interested in throwing your toque in the ring and competing for the glory (plus a year's supply of bacon from Hormel and cookware), email Bacon Takedown to register.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Aug 15 2014

Friday Foodpic: Red Haven Peaches

14690591067_92efd28966_z.jpgPicture by Renee Rendler Kaplan from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Event Mon Jul 21 2014

A Garden Party at Rick Bayless' House

By Judy Wu

I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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Thu Sep 18 2014
Green City Market Cookbook Release @ Jayson Home

Sat Sep 20 2014
312 Urban Block Party

Sat Sep 20 2014
City Made Festival

Sat Sep 20 2014
Food Network in Concert @ Ravinia

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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