Taste of Chicago 2012

We attended the famous Taste of Chicago 2012!

2012 Taste of Chicago JenThereDoneThat.comI was told that this year was  smaller than previous years, for both restaurants and crowds.  A lite drizzle of rain really cleared the streets of Grants Park on Friday.  I was glad to avoid the crowds, and I am not sure we really missed out on fewer vendors.  Many smaller or less well-known restaurants were able to make an appearance in “pop-up restaurants” which allowed many delicious food options.  There were MANY pizza places, and a great variety of food from around the world.  Our favorite meal of the day was Jerk Chicken Belize-style from Garifuna Flava.

Tickets were 12 for $8. Eli’s cheesecake offered “taste” size original cheesecake for just 3 tickets ($2).  While most glasses of wine were between 8 to 10 tickets (average $6 each).  3 Ticket items were rare, and most portions were 8 tickets.  Not enough places had true sample or tasting size portions. There were quite a few chain and multiple location restaurants, and only a few unique Mom & Pop places that we could see.

Overall, we left full and happy.  We ate some good food and some amazing food.  The cool weather and a bit of precipitation was an added bonus!

 

Vino Loco Wine Tasting in Flagstaff, Arizona

While in Flagstaff recently, I discovered Vino Loco wine bar.  This is a darling little boutique wine bar, located in downtown Flagstaff, walking distance from the Monte V.  Vino Loco stocks many varieties of wine, including some great local Arizona wines. 

Due to the altitude, and my resulting diminished tolerance for wine, I decided to try the wine flights in order to try as many different wines as possible.  Prices are reasonable for flights, by the glass, or by the bottle. 

It is one of the best selections for hard to find Arizona small batch boutique wines.  The staff is friendly and they offer a few cheese & fruit platters to accompany the wine.  My next trip to Flagstaff will certainly include Vino Loco!

Cork Taste of Spring

Cork Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area!  Every Sunday Cork offers a themed tasting dinner.  The theme changes each month, resulting in a fresh, seasonal, delicious special night out.  Here is a sampling from the “Taste of Spring” four course (plus an optional starter) dinner that I still dream about.  Hmmmm, yum.

We started with the (optional) starter course of Braised Rabbit Risotto with Fava Bean, Taleggio, and Arugula.  Bold flavors and great texture started the evening beautifully.  The fava beans were a delightful surprise with the cheesy risotto.

The first course of Watercress and Asparagus Soup with Dungeness Crab Fritter and Creme Fraiche was light and refreshing.  The crab fritter was slightly crunchy and paired nicely with the subtle sweet of the soup. Salad

 

The candied nuts offered a sweet side to the creamy brie and tart greens in the Pen Tendril Salad with St. Andre Brie, Raisins, Apricots, Candied Nuts and Roasted Apple Vinaigrette.  The salad was a refreshing mid-point after risotto and soup, giving me the opportunity to slow down and savor all of the sweet, tart, creamy, savory flavors and prepare my taste buds for the next level of mouth watering goodness.

Lamb Loin

It was a tough decision between the  Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, or Char-Grilled Lamb Loin, or Pan-Roasted Halibut.  We compromised on both the Lamb Pan seared halibutand the Halibut.  It was a tough choice between the juicy lamb and the perfectly seared halibut, but the lamb & wine pairing exploded with flavor and even though I was getting full, I still wanted more!

The evening ended with a light & fluffy Strawberry Shortcake with Grand-Marnier Marinated Strawberries.  Cork’s pastry chef recreates classic desserts and improves upon them, the shortcake was no exception.  The strawberry reduction was flavorful without being too sweet.  It was the perfect ending to a fantastic meal!

Strawberry Shortcake

The four courses were only $35 per person, and worth every penny.  I am excited to see what’s on next Sunday’s tasting dinner menu!

Kendrick Park Flagstaff

On a recent trip to Flagstaff, Arizona we started the day with a nice warm-up hike.  The city of Flagstaff is located at 8,000 ft, and if you are not accustomed to high elevations, I strongly suggest starting with an easy hike.  Kendrick Park is located a 20 miles north of Flagstaff on the 180.

The parking lot is well paved with great views all around.  Summer or Winter, this hike is worth the stop.  There is a 1/4 mile loop that is even paved for wheelchairs & baby strollers!  The larger loop is 1.5 miles.  Our only regret was not being prepared for such a beautiful picnic spot!

Superstition Farm

I am a city girl. But I do like to know where my food comes from, beyond just the “store”. Due to food allergies I have a limited diet. I also really like food.

Over the last several years I am totally smitten with Farmer’s Markets. It is an awesome experience to speak to the Rancher who grew the meat for dinner, the Fisherman that caught the Salmon in Alaska, and now I can hang out with the COWS that my milk & ice cream comes from!

Superstition Farm is a family owned dairy farm and country store in the outer fringe of Mesa, Arizona.

SuperFarm is home to a goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, and of course, cows! This is a real working dairy, so they have cute, happy, healthy cows. My studies show that milk just tastes better when it comes from happy, well adjusted adorable cows. True Story!

A local grocery store pops-up on this dairy farm every Thursday night at the SuperFarm. Ice cream, milk, and dairy from the farm are available, as well as local farmers and ranchers bring food to sample and purchase. We sampled some delicious farmer’s cheese, fresh butter, local Arizona Honey, and fresh fruit from a local orchard.

This Thursday, we had a special treat of an all you can eat “POP UP PIG OUT” for $15 per person. We ate pulled pork, coleslaw, ribs, lettuce wrap carne asada, mango pico de gallo, and washed it all down at the milk bar. For $1 you can buy fresh local milk with a flavor of your choice. Skipping the traditional chocolate or strawberry milk, I tried the pistachio and now I have a new favorite drink! After all that food we could have taken a hay ride around the farm, or toasted s’mores around the one of the firepits.