Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bantam Bagels named to O-List, available for shipping

This is a cool story of a foodie item that has taken off quickly. Barely a year after opening their first location, they've made Oprah's "Favorite Things" list and started national shipping, making the treats available far outside of New York. Read about these cute stuffed bagel treats and how you can try them out!


New York, NY (November 2014) --- Bantam Bagels, mini stuffed bagels, has announced their inclusion in the December issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Inside this issue, Oprah unveils her “Favorite Things” of 2014, which includes the unique and exciting mini stuffed bagel balls by Bantam Bagels. The brand has been changing the way New Yorkers think about bagels ever since opening their first location in the West Village in September 2013. With a new national shipping program in place, now anyone in the U.S. can take a bite into New York City's most beloved bagel balls, getting a taste of what's hot on this year's O-List!
Unlike any other New York bagel, these bite-sized wonders known as "Bantams," are filled instead of topped, making for the most portable, most adorable treat for anyone on your list this holiday season. Toasted up as a quick bite on the run, or served up on a beautiful platter for guests, Bantam Bagel’s unique flavor combinations and authentic New York bagel taste is sure to make your eyes light up in holiday cheer! Not to mention, Bantam Bagels is affordable, and you won’t have to break the bank to score a great gift.

Available for shipping anywhere in the U.S., the Bantam Bagels “Variety Pack” features the bakery’s six most popular flavors:

The Classicwhich is a plain bagel filled with plain cream cheese; Everybody's Favorite, an everything bagel filled with freshly chopped vegetable cream cheese; Hot Pretzel, a pretzel bagel topped with sea salt and filled with Dijon mustard and sharp cheddar cream cheese; Grandma JoJo, an Italian spiced bagel filled with fresh basil pesto cream cheese; Cookies & Milk, a brown sugar walnut bagel with a sweet chocolate chip cream cheese and French Toast, a cinnamon nutmeg egg bagel filled with a buttery, maple syrup cream cheese.

In support of Oprah's 2014 O-List, Bantam Bagels will connect with customers in their shop on Bleecker Street through a variety of creative and engaging programs. On Saturday's in November, they will host a "Oprah's ballin" program, encouraging in-store visitors to snap a selfie next to a photo of Oprah. Those who use the hashtag, #oprahsballin will land themselves a free Bantam and "photo" with Oprah. Bantam will also identify their favorite Bantam of the day and the 30th customer that comes in each day will get a free dozen of “Bantam's Favorite” flavor of the day.

Bantam Bagels also just launched a complete rebranding which included a new logo and website layout, marking another exciting period for Bantam Bagels!

Bantam \ 'ban-tuhm \ Bagels produces fresh, stuffed, artisanal bagel balls known as “Bantams.” Different than any other New York bagel, Bantams are filled instead of topped, allowing for on-the-go, guilt-free eating. With Bantam Bagels you can enjoy your beloved crispy, chewy, perfectly baked New York bagel in a unique miniature version. Baked fresh every day, and with a variety of delicious cream cheese and bagel combinations to choose from, Bantam Bagels allow you to taste multiple flavors in one sitting without feeling guilty about eating too much of a great thing. Bantam Bagels offers a big flavor for the price of a small indulgence. For more information please visit,

Days of Czech Cuisine

The Chicago Foodie Sisters got a lovely invitation to a private Czech culinary experience this past week hosted by the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago and CzechTourism. The event highlighted specialties of the Czech Republic prepared by acclaimed chefs Václav Krejčík, Jaroslav Veselý and Jan Minařík from the InterContinental Hotel Prague. Joining the chefs were Bohemian House chef Jimmy Papadopoulos and Czech sommelier Radim Petratur.

The event, titled the Days of Czech Cuisine, commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which brought a non-violent end to communism in the region. The celebration of food and wine took place at the Bohemian House at 11 W. Illinois Street. The chic, classy, cozy restaurant just opened in July, featuring a contemporary take on a number of traditional European specialties, such as schnitzel, roast duck, pierogi, paprrikash and spatzle with a menu that changes seasonally.

Before our sampling, we were given a little history on the Czech Republic, which we learned has an abundance of wineries and over 2,000 castles and chateaux.  We were joined by Bořek Lizec, the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago, the Director of CzechTourism for New York, Michaela Claudino, the PR team and additional travel and food writers.

A little presentation on winemaking in the Moravian region  was eye opening as we learned about the success of Bohemian and Moravian wines in international wine competitions. Radim Petrautur, sommelier from the Czech Republic paired wines with each of our tasting courses.

He also touched upon Czech beer and the country's long tradition in brewing.

Starting off, we sampled a Kulajda soup of quail egg, chanterelle wild mushrooms, crispy potato and cream. As a big  fan of mushrooms, I appreciated the pungent appetizer.

I loved this little window where we could see the chefs hard at work. The venue was delightful!

Since I wasn't familiar with Czech cuisine, I was eager to see what types of dishes awaited us. I assumed there would be elements of German and Polish specialties since those two countries are their neighbors to the north. I was pleased to see some of my favorites of each country - potato pancakes, goulash, pierogi, kolacky.

Potato pancakes are one of my very favorite appetizers and although I usually enjoy them with applesauce and sour cream, I loved this presentation which included sour cream, cured salmon, apple preserves and trout roe.

The chicken liver pate was served on a small wedge of toasted bread with pickled onions and mustard seed. I commented on how beautiful the plates were and Lizec explained that the images on the dishes represented what you would find in a typical Czech garden.

The pierogi was far from those I've had at Polish restaurants and festivals in the area and featured aged gouda, smoked beef tongue and charred onion.

Czech dumplings differ greatly from those in Polish dishes or the country-style dumpling my mom made as we were growing up in that they were shaped in a small, round patty infused with bacon and topped with short ribs.

I was most looking forward to dessert and I was more than pleased. Included was a miniature Czech doughnut with a fantastic plum marmalade and sour curd cheese, dusted with powdered sugar. I learned that this is really considered a kolacky as each region in the Czech Repulic has a version of their own. Whatever you want to call it ~ it was divine!

Next were kolacky, a favorite that I pick up at our local bakery from time to time. These little bites were topped with apple cider jam and powdered sugar. 

This was a foodie event that I really enjoyed as it not only featured some of the best food you'll find in the Czech Republic, but introduced us to the culture and history of this land that I sincerely hope to visit one day. Honestly, it's been at the top of my bucket list since I saw the movie "Last Holiday" starring Queen Latifah. It's remained one of my favorite movies as it's a comedy and romance and adventure all rolled into one that highlights the beautiful landscapes, architecture, food and culture of the Czech Republic. Kind of funny that Queen Latifah influenced my travel bucket list, but she did. After this little glimpse further into the Czech Republic, I want to go there all the more! For more information on the Czech Republic, visit

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chef Chris Black to the rescue with delightful Thanksgiving recipes

Looking for some new recipes to spice up your Thanksgiving meal? Try out these two irresistible dishes created by LongHorn Steakhouse's Executive Chef Chris Black.

The dishes work well with an alternate entree, too. Chef Chris Black celebrates "Steaksgiving" with a standing rib roast. Oh, my…just imagine the leftovers from that!

Mushroom Stuffing


  • 2 cups Shiitake mushrooms, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup celery, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, rough chop
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 eggs
  • Cornbread


  • Heat oven to 350F. Grease 9x13 baking dish.
  • In a saute pan warm the EVOO.
  • Add mushrooms, onions, celery, sage, S&P. Sweat vegetables over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Cool mixture in refrigerator.
  • Crumble cornbread into bite size pieces. Scramble eggs in a bowl and combine with cornbread, cool vegetables, stock and heavy cream. Pour into baking dish.
  • Bake for 35 minutes.

Feeds 4 people.

Cornbread for Mushroom Stuffing

  • 1 cup self-rising white cornmeal
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, more or less
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
  • Dash hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Pepper or garlic powder, if desired

  • Heat oven to350F. Heat 9” Cast iron skillet.
  • Combine the cornmeal and flour with the salt and sugar.
  • Blend in the egg and add enough buttermilk to make a thick batter.
  • Add any green onion and other optional ingredients you want.
  • Grease skillet well.
  • Pour batter into hot skillet and bake about 45 minutes. Until tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

Brown Butter Cake

  •  sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

·       Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle. Butter and lightly flour an 8 1/2-by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
·       Heat butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam, then you can turn the heat down to low. This will help to control the browning process, when the milk solids turn color to deep brown, it will be done.
·       Transfer to a shallow bowl and chill in freezer until just cool, about 10 minutes.
·       Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
·       Cream together the cooled brown butter and sugars with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
·       Add eggs 1 at a time, continue to mix well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
·       At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
·       Transfer batter to pan, smoothing top, then wrap pan on counter to settle batter. Bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then invert cake onto a rack and cool completely, right side up, 1 hour.

Feeds 5 people.

Wine Poached Pears

·       2 cups white wine
·       1 cup sugar
·       1 lemon, juice and zest
·       ¼ star anise
·       ½ stick cinnamon
·       1 vanilla bean, split
·       20 each black peppercorns
·       4 ripe pears, Bartlett, Bosc or Sekel

  • Combine all of the ingredients except for the pears, in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  • Add the pears and cook for about 25 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.
  • Cool the pears in the poaching liquid.
  • Remove cool pears.
  • Return liquid to a pan then heat to reduce to a syrup.
  • Cool. Drizzle over pears and cake. Top with whipped cream.

Feeds 5 people.