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

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

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.

Ming Hin Cuisine

On a lunchtime visit to Chinatown with my son and his friend, I wanted to try a new place. So, I threw it out there on Facebook for reservations and another blogger, Alison with suggested a few spots and one was Ming Hin. Since she put (obviously!) after the name, I figured it must be a no-brainer and a well-known spot that I didn't know about yet. So, as we arrived and parked at the lot at Wentworth and Cermak, I put the address in my GPS and we walked the block or so to get there.

It's been a while since I've been to Chinatown - maybe 3 or 4 years and I'd only been there a handful of times, but somehow I did not even know that Chinatown Square existed. I've always parked in that same lot and hit the same spots - Three Happiness or Moon Palace on Cermak and a few shops and a bakery on Wentworth. I had never ventured over to Archer and was so surprised to see this complete two-story mall was right around the corner. 

We made our way to Ming Hin, 2168 S. Archer, to experience Dim Sum. It is so hard to decide from the many items available - all shown in pictures on the menu you receive. We narrowed it down - to eight items - for 3 people. :) 

For those not familiar with Dim Sum, it is from my understanding usually offered mainly at lunchtime and a quick meal and with small plates that allow you to taste several -- kind of like tapas for Chinese food. I've been to other restaurants where they have Dim Sum on carts that they roll around. You point to what you want, sometimes not really sure what you are getting because there aren't labels and the staff speak only Chinese. Since I don't speak a lick of Chinese, I was happy to have the Dim Sum for Dummies menu ;) - with pictures and descriptions in English. 

We tried a number of items - sesame buns, pork buns, sticky rice, a crab meat and seaweed deep fried roll that was amazing, beef noodles and rice and more. We were welcomed with tea when we first arrived and its nice to sip and wind down while you decide on what to try.

The atmosphere was clean, sleek and modern and although it was bustling at peak lunchtime still transported you to that feeling of tranquility that you often get when surrounded by bits of Chinese culture. 

We ended up bringing quite a few home. Some were hits, others not as much, but it's always fun to try new foods. And on a scale of 1 - 10, I got about a 3 for chop sticks skills. They are really lacking. I watched in amazement at an older Chinese couple sitting near us - she grabbed everything with her chop sticks with lightening speed. 

Should you find yourself in Chinatown, this place gets a big thumbs up for a speedy, yet leisurely lunch where you have the opportunity to try a number of different Chinese specialties. Most had 3 portions or more and they ranged from $3.50 to $5.50. So for all we had the bill was only $38.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Villa Maria, GenArt and WeWork Join For Improv and Wine Tour of U.S.

I had the pleasure this evening of attending an event produced by GenArt to celebrate the U.S. Summer Tour of Villa Maria Wines, which are produced in New Zealand. It was recently reported that New Zealand wine exports are outpacing Australia's for the first time ever and the tour was launched last month to continue that momentum and introduce more Americans to the brand.

I made it a girls night and invited friends Shannon and Judy along. It was a lovely evening spent at the WeWork Kinzie Tower, a great space on the 17th floor with beautiful views. 

We were greeted with Villa Maria's Sauvignon Blanc Bubbly and trays of fine cheeses, meats and accompaniments. We chatted on the balcony looking out onto the Marina Towers and Trump Tower. I had a chance to meet winemaker Helen Morrison, who explained how the winery, which dates back to 1961 is old in terms of New Zealand wineries. Having been to events for wineries in Europe that dates back centuries, I was surprised to learn that New Zealand had been primarily a beer country and slow to jump aboard the wine train. She also noted that the Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular of their wines in the U.S.

The evening included a charming improv performance, “Of Grapes & Grit: The Not Completely Apocryphal Story of Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria and the New Zealand Wine Industry.” The talented cast of three (plus musican) covered some of the milestones of the winery and it was a nice bit of entertainment to go along with the tasting festivities.

The Chicago stop was mid-way through the tour of the U.S. held at WeWork’s co-working community spaces. Open Another World™ theatrical tour stops will include:

·         Jun. 7 in Los Angeles, CA;
·         Jul. 12 in Dallas, TX;
·         Jul. 19 in Chicago, IL;
·         Jul. 26 in Atlanta, GA;
·         and Aug. 2 in Miami, FL.

To learn more about Villa Maria and the Open Another World™ campaign and upcoming summer events, visit