Showing posts from September, 2010

James Denton Hosts Desperate Housewives at Harry Caray’s

I’ve wanted to go on a trip with my mom for awhile and was waiting for just the right opportunity to come along. That happened this weekend and it all began with dinner at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier and a Desperate Housewives premiere party with hunky James Denton (a.k.a. Mike Delfino). It was my first trip to any Harry Caray’s so before the festivities even began we sampled some drinks and food.  The drink menu is extensive, including a large selection of beer and wine by the glass, as well as some signature cocktails.  We started with something sweet with Mom sipping Egon’s Ecto Cooler, a combination of Effen Black Cherry Vodka , Midori, Pineapple Juice, Crème de Cocoa and club soda that she said tasted like a bubbly fruit punch. I went for Levin’s Howling Wolf, a mix of Hpnotiq Liqueur , Malibu Rum and Pineapple Juice. The food menu at Harry Caray’s Tavern really has something for everyone, whether you are looking to snack or have a full meal.  We started with the Spi

Back to Vodka, with Firefly and Van Gogh

When I did my story on flavored vodka a few months ago, there were a few that arrived too late to be included.  I figured I’d give my readers (and myself) a little vodka break while I anxiously stared at two very different brands with unique offerings – Firefly and Van Gogh .  The day finally came when I sat down with the bottles and my daughter/photographer/favorite fellow taster.  Sam was more than willing to help me with the Firefly tastings.  She has been a fan of the brand since 2008, when Jim Irvin and Scott Newitt decided to combine their love of Sweet Tea and vodka into a spirit like none other.  It all started in South Carolina, where it is still made today. I’m not exactly sure why I never did end up in front of a glass (I do like Sweet Tea and, obviously, vodka), but when I was contacted by their PR rep asking if I wanted some samples, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. The Van Gogh story and flavors are very different.  The vodka is produced in Holland, fittingly named

Hotel Elysée, A Bit of Paris in New York

While I was in New York City for Taste of Tennis , a yearly charity event that features top chefs and top players, I had the pleasure of spending a night at the Hotel Elysée .   It was my first experience at an HK Hotel , a chain of boutique properties in Manhattan that consistently receive the top ratings on Trip Advisor . Hotel Elysée was a perfect preview of my upcoming trip to France.  Everything about the hotel, including the dedication to artwork, flowers, food and drink, screams European.  My room, full of quaint furniture, had a beautiful balcony.  If I didn't let my eyes wonder past the cute table and chairs to the Manhattan skyline, I could have easily believed I was in Paris! Beyond the rooms and the attentive staff, you will find special touches at the Hotel Elysée that I’ve never seen offered without extra charge at a hotel in New York City.  For example, the high speed internet is free of cost.  Guests are given a complimentary evening reception on weekdays and

U.S. Open is about Food, Spirits and Tennis

After a preview tasting of some of the new offerings and more than two weeks of eating many other items, I think I’m well-qualified to talk about what there is to eat and drink at the U.S. Open . I know it’s supposed to be about the biggest sporting event in the United States, and you will never get me to say tennis isn’t important, but attending the U.S. Open is about the entire experience.  The experience here is about “cooks” like Executive Chef Mike Lockard, Spiaggia Chef Tony Mantuano, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Border Grill Chef Susan Feniger, Carmen the Restaurant Chef Carmen Gonzalez, RM Seafood Chef Rick Moonen and New York’s infamous Jonathan Waxman, winner of the 2010 US Open Master Chef Charity Competition. The new chefs and additional offerings by Levy Restaurants have transferred into some great dishes.  The South Plaza Café, which still offers the great Panini’s, now also has an assortment of other menu items.  I hear (I’m allergic so I didn’t try it) the Lobster R

The Last Finger Lakes Visits

The winding roads and beautiful lakes of this area don’t ever seem to end and one of them led me to Shaw Vineyards .  Steve Shaw grew up in this region so winemaking was a natural transition for him.  In stark contrast to nearly every other place I had seen, the set up here is very simple, in a barn, with a tasting table surrounded by art (for sale) by a friend of Shaw’s.   His winemaking ideas are unconventional as well and they led him to branch off from a partnership to his own place.  Among the methods he employs are wind power and geothermal energy to run his Europress, which gently de-stems and turns grapes rather than following the usual crushing process.  Shaw’s other point of note in winemaking is patience and you will find many more aged wines here than on the racks of some of his neighbors.  We tasted a selection that included his newest release, a perfect 2007 Riesling  to a 2004 Chardonnay that showed the strong pepper and vanilla from 24 months in old French oak to a 20