Showing posts with label festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festival. Show all posts

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Different Ravinia This Year


Ravinia is one of the most unique music presentations in the world. I am a huge fan of the music festival and can’t believe I just discovered it a few years ago.

The Ravinia Festival has been running all summer long for over 50 years. Located in Highland Park, Illinois, it’s always presented top performers from around the world, with genres that cover all the bases.


Unlike other music festivals, Ravinia is non-profit and runs on sponsorships and gifts.

Last year I did a story on the ZZ Top concert I had seen at Ravinia the previous year, along with a preview of the upcoming season. I also included it in a number of my CI Living segments.


I had planned on doing the same thing this year, but, this year, as we all know, life is quite different. During the Ravinia Festival in 2019, I had the pleasure of seeing Nickelback perform, with Buckcherry opening for them. I have always been an unapologetic Nickelback fan.

They have produced some of my favorite songs. The ones I could sing along with all day.


The concert did not disappoint. Anyone there, watching fans singing and dancing to favorites such as “Someday,” “Rockstar,” and “Photograph,” would be clear about the profound affect the band has had on pop music.


In fact, Nickelback was so good that I had hoped to see them again when they returned to Ravinia Festival in 2020.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus had different plans. The 2020 Ravinia Festival had to be cancelled for the first time.


While this unique festival, where you can bring a picnic and a bottle of wine and listen to music on the lawn in Chicagoland, will not be taking place this summer, the Ravinia team is still keeping things alive.



On Saturday, May 15th, the performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which was part of 2019’s Ravinia Festival, will be shown as part of the PBS series Great Performances.

Before this initial presentation at 9:00 C.S.T., there will also be a virtual panel discussion with Conductor Marin Alsop, President and CEO of Ravinia Festival, Welz Kauffman, Tony Award-winning actor Paulo Szot, Chicago Children’s Choir Artistic Director Josephine Lee, and Highland Park High School Band Director Joshua Chodoroff.

Check your local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) listings for additional times if you miss the initial May 15th debut of Mass and put the Ravinia Festival on your 2021 summer calendar. You can sign up for the newsletter on their website. It’s a must for all music lovers.  

Photos of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" by Patrick Gipson/Ravinia Festival
Photos of Nickelback and Buckcherry by Brittany Lambright

Friday, January 19, 2018

Music, Food and Celebrities at Inaugural Bourbon and Beyond Festival

When I was first approached to cover the first Bourbon & Beyond Festival, I was attracted to the unique combination of music, food, and bourbon, in a city known for the latter.  

Once I received the itinerary, I was sold, and contacted Louisville Tourism about making a trip.

The huge list of performers for Bourbon & Beyond had a lot of great names, but there were two in particular that sealed the deal for me: Stevie Nicks and Eddie Vedder, both on my bucket list.

Brittany, Jamie, and I had breakfast in the lounge at the Louisville Marriott East. Lounge access for breakfast and snacks before dinner was a great benefit to staying on the executive floor.

We drove over to Champions Park so we could arrive and get settled early for the first day of Bourbon & Beyond. It was a good thing we did.

The only major complaint I had about this festival did not change during the weekend: the parking. It was just a giant mess.

Fortunately, just about everything between getting to and from morning parking and night departing were one-of-a-kind experiences.

We were lucky that the press headquarters was located in the VIP section.
Since we were early, I decided to grab something from the food trucks in the VIP area before I got too busy.

I picked up a coffee from Blackbird Espresso and picked a place to get something for lunch.

I decided on the Zoom Zoom Yum Truck and got a Gyro Bowl. It was absolutely delicious.

The press tent was a bit of a reunion in with Danielle Eddy and Dan Dunn, who were on my very first press trip to Cognac, France.

Dan was there with his Drinky Time Radio Show crew and we caught up for a few minutes before the first performer came on.

I had also seen them both at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and, ironically, in Kentucky on the American WhiskeyTrail press trip.

Dave Cavalier had contacted me prior to the Bourbon & Beyond Festival to make sure I caught his act. I really enjoyed it and the crowd agreed with me as he opened up the festival.

Dave and I had a great chat for this Beat article I wrote before I headed to the Main Stage (the festival had a great system of alternating stages so that you weren’t waiting for setup between acts.

Chris Robinson, formerly of the Black Crows, was on stage with his Brotherhood band. I caught some of the act before I had to head back to the press tent.

The other interview I arranged was with Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
It went great and I especially loved what he said about his most famous song, which also happens to be one of my favorites – Blue on Black. You can read the whole interview here.

I got to see Kenny Wayne perform a few minutes later, doing that song and Heat of the Sun with his band. He really is one of the best guitarists out there.

It was really hot and there was a break before I had other artists to see, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a while.
On the way out, we stopped to check out some of the interesting booths around the grounds.

I was happily surprised to see a lot of charities and a lot of places with handmade goods.

We stopped at the Rock Out for Rescue booth to buy some tee-shirts.

Given the fact that the word “bourbon” was clearly stated in the title of this event, there was no shortage of bars set up at Champions Park.

You could get just about any bourbon you desired, straight or in a cocktail, as well as cocktails at the Tiki Bar and some beer outlets.

The Water stations were also welcome in the heat of Louisville, as was the gelato.

After some snacks at the hotel and a change of clothing, we were back at Bourbon & Beyond for the headliners.

First up was former Pearl Jam lead, Eddie Vedder.

He sang quite a few of the band’s songs, including Wishlist, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter, and I Wish I Was.

He also did a fantastic rendition of Neil Young’s Rocking in the Free World.

I have to say Eddie Vedder was even better than I expected him to be.  

The Steve Miller Band came on next with many of the hits he is famous for, including Take the Money and Run. 

He kept the crowd singing and dancing. He also brought in Kenny Wayne Shepherd for Stranger Blues.

We left right after Steve Miller finished. It had been a long, but, fun, day and we knew we had to return to the Louisville Marriott for a good night’s rest before day two of Bourbon & Beyond.

On stage photos by Brittany Lambright.

Check out my videos from Bourbon & Beyond on my YouTube Channel.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Restaurants and a bit of Burlesque in Atlantic City

I didn’t expect this story to be written quite the way I’m about to. When I decided to attend the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival, I thought it might be nice to go in a day early and check out a resort I hadn’t been too. That day early happened to be my birthday so a celebration with New York friends seemed to be fitting.

Revel Resort, which I had heard incredible things about, graciously agreed to host me and have me and two close friends, Liza and Lynn, to dinner at Amada, a Jose Garces restaurant. I had been to two of his other properties in Scottsdale and Chicago so I was in for a treat. I had also interviewed the Chef for Cocktails & Joints. 

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to point you to the other Garces restaurants as Revel Resort has closed down in the short time since I was there. I was one of those hoping this beautiful property would be sold before the closing date, but it was not.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have lots to say about food and wine in Atlantic City. Before we get to the festival, I’d like to describe an incredible meal I had at a place that is very much open.

After we checked into the hotel, Liza, Lynn, and I were just planning on meeting Lisa Johnson and Alexis Kull of Lisa Johnson Communications at Atlantic City Bottle Company for drinks before our dinner at Amada. We ended up with a lot more than we planned.

Atlantic City Bottle Company is off the strip and not easy to find, but it’s definitely worth the drive to the stadium (it’s across from there, between McDonald’s and the car wash).

The Iron Room Speakeasy is actually located beyond the AC Bottle Company wine and liquor store. It’s not very big, but definitely makes a statement, with lots of wood, and a spot for live music in the corner.

It was hard to decide whether to go for one of the classic cocktails with a unique twist, or one of the favorite wines from an uncommon vineyard. I went with the Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc, a good choice for a New Zealand wine that’s not quite as grassy as some of the others.

My friend Liza did experiment with the Strawberry Pim’s Cup, which she said was very good and mojito-like.

In addition to a great drink list, the food here is amazing. The Udon Mac & Cheese was delicious. It was very cheesy with lots of parmigiana for a bit of a kick. I loved the idea of using long thick noodles in macaroni and cheese.

The Chicken Waffles were excellent. I have had this before and it’s usually a chicken leg, but it’s done instead here with a cutlet. Also, it’s more savory than overly sweet.

The Hanger Steak was tender and tasty, but the Brussel sprouts served with them got our attention fast as the best we’ve ever had.

We also enjoyed the pappardelle, the crab, and the cheese plate, which had a great combination of cheeses and fruits.

After dinner at Amada back at Revel, we went to the Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Night Club. It was my first burlesque experience and Ivan was kind enough to give us access to the VIP section. Although the club was forced to close when Revel did, I hope it has the opportunity to open up somewhere else in Atlantic City.


We were back in our room after my birthday had ended, but I still had a lot more celebrating to do over the weekend as Lynn and I were staying for the next day, and my daughter was than joining me at Caesar’s for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Secrets at the Cancun Wine and Food Festival

It was another beautiful day in Cancun and I took advantage at the start with a room service delivered breakfast on my balcony at Secrets The Vine.

I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready for the first event of the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, the press conference with Garry Manuel Tattinger, Dave Amar and the star of the festival, Daniel Boulud.

I’ve been to wine and food festivals in Atlantic City, New York, Aspen and South Beach, but this was my first time attending the Cancun-Riviera Maya one.

It is hard to be a food-lover and not be in amour with Boulud, chef and restaurateur extraordinaire. That feeling was even stronger after listing to him talk about his journey around the world learning about and celebrating food before he landed in New York and produced his most famous restaurants.

There was a lot of talk about protecting the environment, GMOs and using locally sourced ingredients, all things that are becoming very popular in Mexico.

After the press conference, we attended a number of seminars taking place at Secrets The Vine. The first was “The Future of Cuisine” with Chef Normand Laprise of Canada. He spoke about “cooking from scraps” and not wasting product, whether it is meat, fruit, vegetables or fish.

Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain then talked about his (successful) quest to bring gastronomy to Monterrey, Mexico and how he worked with the fact that there wasn’t a lot of meat in the area.

“There wasn’t a lot to eat,” he said. “We had to learn to use everything.” This included the figs and lemons that grew freely in the area.

Last, but certainly not least, Daniel Boulud spoke about his history that started as a young teenager in Lyon, France, and went through London, and on to New York.

Boulud also talked about re-inventing dishes, “A chef wants to be known for a dish, but you don’t want it to stick to you too long. You need to re-invent yourself.”

By the time we got out of the seminars, we were all very hungry. I headed to the Market Cafe with Donna Heiderstadt, a longtime friend whom I had gone to college with. Despite the fact that the buffet was about to close we were impressed with the selection of fresh food.

I took a selection, from eggplant to tostadas and gazpacho.

We had a little free time in the afternoon and I was more than ready to hit the pool with a cocktail. It was warm and sunny out and my fellow journalists all had the same idea.

I had forgotten how beautiful the beach was in Cancun and Secrets had the perfect setting for it. After enjoying it for a bit I met up with the group for a tour of the hotel.

I was happily surprised to find a large sports bar at the resort, Half Time. There was also a wine bar (with a huge selection), and coffee bar I hadn’t visited yet with a selection of coffee drinks, pastries, and soft pretzels.

I also hadn’t realized that my Preferred Club suite allowed me access to a pool for just those in that section. It had its own restaurant and bar.

We toured a number of suites, including the Master Suite and Honeymoon Suite, which had a bathtub in the room, unlike the others. Given the high rise stature of this particular Secrets, the majority of the rooms did not have tubs.

Before heading back to the room to change, I was able to see an incredible night view of the strip of Cancun with both bodies of water.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed the meal at the Dragon. It took a village (from AMResorts, RBBpr and the kitchen staff of the restaurant) to put together a safe and incredibly delicious meal for me.

It had been years since I had eaten in an Asian restaurant. It had involved too many hospital trips.

It’s very difficult for a cuisine that relies on seafood and fish sauce to make something safe for someone with a severe allergy to eat.

Dragon not only accomplished this, but they did it with THREE dishes I love: Wonton Soup, Chicken Pad Thai and Vegetable Tempura. Everything was cooked for me in a separate part of the kitchen from the fish and it was done to perfection.

Some of the group went to Secrets’ Red Piano Bar for music and dancing after dinner. I didn’t stay long because I knew I had another long day ahead of me. It would be filled with exploring the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, as well as Secrets The Vine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tastes of Aspen Food & Wine Classic

I walked around Aspen for a while enjoying the warm day deciding what to do with the two hours I had free. Since I’ve been to a few of these food and wine festivals I know that it’s pretty impossible to do the Grand Market all at once. There’s just more food and drink than any person can consume. I decided to make more than one trip and headed downtown for my first.

The Food & Wine Classic market wasn’t nearly as big as South Beach, but there was certainly plenty to try. I stopped at the British Airways table to find out more about how the chefs prepare food that works well with the plane’s altitude. I can’t say I fully understood the process, but it seemed to come together on my recent trip to London on that airline.

Can you think of a better combination than Godiva Chocolate and ice cream? Godiva Chef David Funarc took it one step further by giving his Godiva Ice Cream Parlor Truffles flavors like Banana Split, Pecan Caramel Sundae and Rocky Road.

The Wines of Spain tent included not only a fantastic selection of Tempranillo, Albariño and other Spanish varietals, but also cheese tasting.

The Best New Chefs named by Food and Wine Magazine had their own tribute and area to cook some of their award-winning recipes.

If you see Kay wine not only has an interesting name and intriguing bottle, but I liked their fruity Cab blend from Italy. For an entirely different take on “boxed wine,” try Volare, which comes in a pocketbook case. The Pinot Grigio wasn’t bad and the pocketbook holds the equivalent of two bottles for $14.99.

Kitchen Aid had their entire Cook for a Cure appliances on display. These pink items acknowledge the relationship between the cookware company and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer for the Cure organization.

I didn’t want to eat too much because I had a luncheon to go to, but did take a few of Green & Black Organic Chocolates to go (love the real cherry pieces in the Chocolate-Cherry, as well as the Ginger one). The StellaArtois Best of Belgium Press luncheon started with Hoegaarten with an asparagus, scallops and lobster dish. My friend Lisa was with me and she hard at work tasting the beer (it’s not my favorite beverage), as well as eating the seafood. She didn’t seem mind the task and also enjoyed the sushi dish with Stella, while I checked out the cheese and fruit platter.

Chef Daniel Joly prepared the food for the event to pair with the beers. I thought the gnocchi with lamp was a great combination, and the Open Chicken Crepe was delicious. The Stella Artois party ended with a Decadent Chocolate Dessert and miniature crème brulees. A few bites of two of my favorites were all I could manage after the morning of eating.

We headed back to the B&B for a short nap before the Zonin Prosecco tasting at Casa Lua. I really enjoyed the sparkling wine and wished we had time to sample some more of the company’s Italian wines, but we had another party to get to.

Fly, Drive and Reside was sponsored by Mercedes, Veuve Cliquot and Timbers Resorts. We were on the rooftop of the Dancing Bear in time for a beautiful sunset and lots of champagne. Lisa and I mingled for a while and enjoyed the scenic views. The night was just perfect, not too hot and not a chill in the air. It was hard to leave, but I had another party to get to.

Gail Simmons’ Last Bite, Late Night Dessert Party was at the Hotel Jerome and it was as sweet as it sounds. Even the drinks at the Late Night Dessert Party were decadent. I went for the Espressotini with Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa, Patron XO Café and Fonte Espresso. It certainly woke me up!

Harry & David supplied a selection of Moose Munch and Bark, with flavors such as Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroon and Cherry Vanilla. The mini cupcakes and mini doughnuts (bittersweet chocolate, yum) were on a looking like they would be rolled around the room. The Roasted Vanilla Peach Hand Pies made me glad I hadn’t had any dinner before I came.

It was pretty late when I got out of there, but I was on quite a sugar high and not ready to hit the sack. Before calling it a night, Lisa and I met up with a friend at Belly Up to hear some great live music. It was a comfortable venue and I wish I had the energy to stay until the end of the show and the closing of the club, but I was coming down from the sweets. It had been a long day and I had an even longer one to come.