Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Celebrate National Cachaça Day at Texas de Brazil

If you have ever been to Brazilian steakhouse, you have probably tried the signature drink of Brazil - the Caipirinha. It's a refreshingly sweet cocktail made of limes, simple syrup and Cachaça (the third most consumed spirit on the planet.) Cachaça is a distilled sugar cane product that is considered the first distilled cane spirit in the Americas, pre-dating rum by about a century.

If you haven't had the pleasure of trying a Caipirinha, September 13 is a perfect time to do so as Texas de Brazil will be offering $5 Caipirinhas all day in celebration of National Cachaça Day. 
I had the pleasure recently of dining at Texas de Brazil, a family-owned churrascaria restaurant where you can eat to your heart's content with an overflowing market table of salads and other specialties and a variety of fire-grilled meats. Churrascaria dining is always a fun, elevated dining experience and one that isn't complete without a Caipirinha.

As part of our dinner, myself and other media professionals were given a mixology class where we learned to make this delicious national cocktail of Brazil. It was incredibly easy and looked impressive and I was quite proud of myself. I shared my newfound cocktail making skills at a recent party at my niece and nephew's and wowed the gals with my muddling technique. :) Just a couple easy steps - Put your limes in a glass, add sugar or simple syrup and muddle, add ice and Cachaça and shake. That's it. 

We actually made three separate drinks at our mixology class as they had flavored syrups that could be added - so we made a traditional Caipirinha, a strawberry one and a passionfruit one. The strawberry was my fave.

Join in the celebration of National Cachaça Day and also celebrate Texas de Brazil's second anniversary with cocktails and a dinner experience. 

For more information on Texas de Brazil, visit http://www.texasdebrazil.com. They have locations in Chicago and in Schaumburg.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Brewfest in Highland, IN

I've been to a good number of beer fests and what I love about them is that I get to try so many varieties of beers from so many craft breweries. I'm not a chugger or a two-fisted full-pint drinker. I'm a sipper and a sampler and that's why I absolutely LOVE Brewfest in Highland, IN (Just south of the I-80/94 at the Kennedy exit.)

You get to pick. You get to pour. And they have about two dozen on tap an any given time, so there are lots of choices. It's even better than a flight - which is what I usually do, because, like I said, I'm a sipper/sampler type of gal. Because you control the pour, you can start out with a few sips and if you like it, you can fill it up. If you don't like it, you only invested like 58 cents to try it out. You simply pay by the ounce - pure beer brilliance! When you arrive, you get a card that you insert for each pour and you only pay for what you pour, it's a win-win-win - for the drinker, the venue, the craft breweries. It's a good way to get introduced to new breweries and try out beers you normally wouldn't be bold enough to order a 16-ouncer of.

They don't have a full food menu. There's popcorn to munch on and you can bring in your own grub. They do have the "Big Ass Pretzel." Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what it was called when I ordered it. It came in a pizza box and fed three of us with some leftover. 

It's a great place to hang and linger with friends. There are board games for some friendly competition (They had Connect Four - one of my faves!) They also have an outdoor beer garden.

Stop by and give them a try if you like beer and lots of it - even if you're just a sipper like me. Tell them the Chicago Foodie Sisters sent you.

8347 Kennedy Ave.
Highland, IN

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bierstube in Moline

On a recent day trip to the Quad Cities with my hubby and the boys, we decided to pay the Bierstube a visit for dinner. With my husband's German background, we always seek out German restaurants. I was introduced to German cuisine by my late father-in-law, who was born and raised in Berlin and immigrated here in his late teens.

It was because of him that my husband and I would go on dates to a German restaurant in the western suburbs for potato pancakes, schnitzel, sauerbraten, rouladen, sausages, Black Forest cake and many other goodies - like Hofbrau, Dab and Spaten. Schnitzel remains one of my favorite foods.

Our boys seem to all like German food as well. A few of them are big fans of schnitzel, like I am. So, Bierstube was a no-brainer. I love that they have a schnitzel sandwich that is very reasonably prices and comes with a side, so it's a little lighter than a full dinner.

Hubby got a sausage platter with potato pancakes and some seasoned green beans that were very tasty along with some sauerkraut and marled rye bread. Another of the boys had a cheeseburger on Texas toast - not exactly German inspired, but he gave it a thumbs up. Another had some bratwurst and beer cheese soup. And the pretzels with beer cheese were such a hit as the appetizer, we ordered a second platter. Oh, and Hofbrau Hefeweizen...on tap...so glad to be able to get that there. Not a lot of places to get it on tap. We have to drive up to Rosemont to the Hofbrauhaus to get some, so it was wunderbar to have a pint there.

If you find yourself in the Quad Cities and are looking for a place to chill and enjoy a bite and a beer, put Bierstube on your list. There's also one in LeClaire, Iowa -- and hubby and I actually visited that location earlier in the summer. It's situated right on the Mississippi River, so that location also offers some nice views from the outdoor biergarten.

Visit http://www.bier-stube.com for more info.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dinner on the patio at Sage

When I was in Valparaiso recently to take my son to a rehearsal, I had to find something to do while he was there. It was an hour one-way, so no sense driving all the way back home. I spotted Sage while driving near the square, a place I'd heard only good things about - and really, really good things.

I parked and walked up to the entrance and a sign said to enter from the back. So, I entered Central Park Plaza and walked around. I'd seen the patio dining there before, but didn't realize it was part of Sage. It was between lunch and dinner - around 3 p.m. - so I was the only one out there on the patio. I perused the menu looking for something light and the flatbread pizzas caught my eye. I knew I wouldn't make much of a dent, but figured my son would be happy to finish any leftovers when I picked him up. 

I started off with some delicious warm, crusty bread with olive oil and seasonings. I could have made a meal out of it - and I almost did. Once the pizza arrived I only had room for one slice, but it was pretty awesome. 

It was a beautiful day and I was seated in a nice shady spot. Kids were running around in the splash pad in the plaza and people were walking by with dogs. It was such an ideal summer setting for an afternoon meal and a place I hope to revisit as I hear more and more how good their entrees are.

157 W. Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jason's Deli

While down in the Bloomington, Illinois area to visit my parents, sister and niece and nephews, we decided we would stop for a bite and Jason's Deli seemed a good spot. With a nice menu of sandwiches and soup, a salad bar and the complimentary ice cream, there would something to please everyone. 

Whenever I go to a Jason's Deli I usually get the muffuletta. That sesame bread is amazing. I got a whole one that my sister, her babysitter and I split. Dad got the tortilla soup, which he really enjoyed. My sister and her kids got a variety of different items. 

I missed getting a picture of the baked potato I ordered for my mom, which was gigantic. I've always been happy with everything I've ordered there. And although I opted to skip the salad bar this time, I've gotten salad in the past and there's a nice variety of items and it goes beyond lettuce and a couple other veggies. You have a lot to choose from.

I have to also add that the staff there was extremely nice. We had a big group of 10, so we had to move a few tables together and they were very nice about us re-arranging the dining room. They came over to check and see if we needed anything else and when I goofed up my mom's baked potato order (she didn't want cheese), they made her a new one at no charge - even though it was my mistake.

Jason's Deli is a favorite for a quick bite or if I want to build a salad. And of course, we all had to finish off with a little ice cream - the best part of a visit. No matter what you order, you know there is soft serve ice cream and chocolate syrup waiting at the end. For more into on their locations and menus, visit jasonsdeli.com.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cooper's Hawk Collaboration Deux Innovators' Release Party

Earlier this week Chicago Foodie Sisters (along with Chicago Beer Bros) attended a Cooper's Hawk launch party for the newest variety available to wine club members. This was a very special wine created as a collaboration with Jean-Charles Boisset and Tim McEnery.

The event was held at the Monte Bello Estate in Lemont, a lovely tented venue attached to a stunning residence turned event space with a beautiful garden (if you know someone planning a wedding - look this place up!)

As we arrived we were offered JCB Brut Burgundy No 21 along with passed appetizers of Saucisson De Lyon, Smoked Eggplant & Feta Crisps and Foie Gras Mouse. After a little mingling on the beautiful estate we gathered near the garden for the saber ceremony, which is a tradition of opening a wine bottle with a saber. 

Gathering in the garden for the saber ceremony.
With wine, you must have song. Boisset led the crowd in a lively tune.
The evening was broken up with some entertaining conversation between Boisset and McEnery (and between the two and the audience) throughout the evening. McEnery is poster-child proof that the American Dream still exists. He began working in the food/hospitality industry at age 11 and created a concept that didn't exist - a world class, Napa-style tasting room, retail space and dining room combination in the Midwest and in the past 12 years he has grown the company to 29 locations throughout the country. Now one of the fastest-growing restaurant concepts in the country, Cooper's Hawk crafts over 50 varietals of award-winning artisanal wines.

Boisset, who was born in France and raised above wine cellars and overlooking centuries-old vineyards, continued in the family business after his parents founded a winery in 1961. He's one of the most innovative names in the wine industry, in both his home country of France and California's wine country.

A great admirer of Boisset, McEnery had the opportunity to meet him in recent years and it was a wine-making match made in Heaven. The two hit it off instantly and the duo were hilarious and heartwarming on stage as they told embarrassing stories and shared some of their experiences in winemaking. I'd actually been at a Cooper's Hawk event the week before and heard a couple repeat stories that McEnery had shared earlier at the media event. You could tell they were stories that he repeats often, but each time felt like he was sharing the stories for the very first time.

Dinner was exquisite. We started with a first course of Wild Alaskan Halibut. Executive Chef Matt shared the long and complicated process of creating the Sauce Nantua, which included harvesting lobster roe, giving it the rich red color. It was paired with Cooper's Hawk Lux Chardonnay.

It was followed by a main course of Steak Frites with Farmer's Market Roasted Vegetables and Wild Mushroom Ragout (paired with the star of the evening - the Collaboration Deux) and finished with a dessert course of Klug Farms Michigan Blueberry Clafoutis with Whipped Chèvre and Grilled Peaches. Dessert was paired with Cooper's Hawk's perfect dessert wine, Cooper's Hawk Ice Wine.

It was an amazing evening at a stunning venue where you felt as if you were sharing a meal with family. Listening to these two humble winemakers tell captivating stories made you feel at home. Wine has a way of doing that - bringing people together and making strangers into fast friends.

For wine club members, Collaboration Deux is the newest wine club feature that will release officially on Tuesday. It's available by the bottle exclusively to wine club members, but you'll be able to get it by the glass in the restaurants (by the way, Oak Park is the newest location, which just opened earlier in the week. I'll have a post up on location #29 on the blog soon.)

For more information on locations, wines and the wine club, visit coopershawkwinery.com.

Scroll down for more photos from the evening.

Emily Wines (yes, that's really her last name), Master Sommelier with Cooper's Hawk

A bottle opened via saber.

Course one, a Wild Alaskan Halibut with Sweet Peas, Three Sisters Greens, Brioche Croutons and Sauce Nantua

Main Course - Steak Frites with Farmers Market Roasted Vegetables & Wild Mushroom Ragout

Chicago Foodie Sister Carrie with a bottle opened by saber during a garden ceremony prior to dinner.
Dessert course was paired with Cooper Hawk's Ice Wine - Klug Farms Michigan Blueberry Clafoutis with Whipped Chèvre and Grille Peaches.
Executive Chef Matt talked a little about the meal and what went into the preparation.