Eat & Drink Chicago

Last week, Matt and I traveled to Chicago for my birthday. I was thrilled because we hadn’t been on a big trip together in over a year. However, the day before we were supposed to leave, I came down with a cold-y/sinus-y something awful that left me feeling drained and like my head was going to explode. I texted my friend in Chicago that I was sick and she asked if we were still going to go to which I said, “OF COURSE.” When I set my mind to something, I do it. I mean, sometimes with things I don’t really care about, I quit because I get bored, but I am serious about travel, so off we went.

When we got into town, we checked into our Airbnb which was in Wicker Park and close to tons of shops, bars and restaurants. After I downed three packs of emergen-c and some Dayquil, we headed out to meet my friend for drinks. She suggested this cocktail bar called Billy Sunday in Logan Square. They happened to be having a Campari event (have I ever mentioned how much I love Campari? I don’t think I have, but I could drink a negroni every day) so we ordered boulevardiers. Lots and lots of boulevardiers. They were delicious and I had convinced myself that the bourbon would help my cold-- I’ve watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, mind you. I ordered something else at one point, I think it was called a heart. All I can remember is that it had rum in it but it tasted like gin… Idk, I was pretty drunk.

amaro.jpg

The next day was my actual birthday and it started with a fucking hangover which was compounded by my cold. Every time I coughed, my head throbbed. Matt and I made eggs and then decided to go get gelato because, hey, it was my birthday. I wasn’t really feeling well enough to go to the museums or walk around much, so after gelato, we watched a few episodes of really old Law and Order (Criminal Intent, not SVU). Sidenote-- did you know Jeff Goldblum was on Law and Order in the early 2000’s? I did not! Eventually we left the house to walk around the neighborhood. We hit up my favorite bookstore in town, Myopic, and then found a bar called Links that I decided I needed to go into cause that’s my last name. It was really great and Matt had some local beer whereas I had something from Prairie Ales out of Oklahoma. After drinks, we headed to an early dinner at The Winchester. I drank the Tendu red blend from Matthiasson, which I’d first tried in KC and loved. We also tried an Amaro flight and soon realized Amaro was not our thing.

By Friday I was feeling much better and we actually spent most of the day out and about. We went to the Art Institute of Chicago, where I haven’t been in probably 12 years. Their modern wing was absolutely incredible, especially their Magrittes. Contemporary was great too and impressionist was amazing. After the museum, we walked around Millennium Park a little bit and then decided to check out a wine bar I had heard about. We went to Webster’s in Logan Square, a wine bar that focuses on natural and low-intervention wines. I flipped when I saw their wine list and immediately got a glass of this Georgian orange wine by Do-Re-Mi. I fell in love with Georgian orange wine in L.A. and have been told it is impossible to get in KC so I was thrilled to see it on the menu at Webster’s.

Do-Re-Mi uses traditional winemaking techniques that have been used in Georgia for forever. The wines ferment in Kvevri, large buried clay vessels. The juice is left to ferment with its skins for quite a while resulting in a deep orange-red hue. While the Do-Re-Mi smells floral like many orange wines, it tastes nothing like it smells. On the palate, it is super funky and tart like fresh rhubarb and underripe cherries. It has a full body, even for an orange wine, drinking much more like a light to medium-bodied red.

orange.jpg

Matt and I decided to get a bottle so we skimmed the list and I think I shrieked when I saw one particular bottle on the wine list. It was the Cruse Wine’s Monkey Jacket, a Valdiguié blend from Michael Cruse that is hard to come by in general and nearly impossible in KC (unless you order from the coasts). Matt humored me and we got a bottle. Its bouquet was fucking beautiful. So bright and fresh, it smelled of red berry cobbler and juicy plums. On the palate, it is all currant jam and fresh sage. It is technically a blend of Valdiguié, Carignan, Tannat. Cruse is based in Petaluma, CA and focuses on sustainably producing natural wines. When I tasted the Monkey Jacket, all I could think was “holy fucking shit, this is good.” And that is the best feeling.

cruse.jpg

I was told by multiple people that I needed to check out Red and White Wine, a wine shop that focused on natural wines. Our last night, we decided to check it out and buy a few bottles to take to dinner at our friend’s house. I was overwhelmed by the quality of the selection at Red and White. I saw wines that I had only read about in the flesh, which is one of my favorite things. The main one that had me freaking out was La Boutanche by Selection Massale. I’d read about these wines and had seen them all over instagram but was told they couldn’t be imported to KC. I picked up the Gamay since Gamay is a favorite of mine. It was only like $18! We also grabbed a bottle of Dao by Casa De Mouraz, a natural and biodynamic winery out of Portugal.

dao.jpg

The Dao paired nicely with the roast my friend made. It smelled like cranberries and pistachio while on the palate it tasted of anise and overripe bing cherries. It was so smooth and was just full-bodied enough to hold its own against the beef. We had the Gamay after dinner as we watched this Will Smith movie, Six Degrees of Separation (have you seen it? Super odd and interesting. Not what you would expect from Will Smith). The Gamay was so bright and fruity, smelling like fresh raspberries but tasting like watermelon and arugula, which sounds like the most incredible base for a salad. After Monkey Jacket, I would have to say the La Boutanche was my second favorite wine I had on the trip. It was just so damn drinkable (I may have even chugged some…)!

gamay.jpg

All right, I feel like I just wrote a novel about a five day trip, but I have to say, we packed a lot of eating and drinking into it. Although I was sick the majority of the trip, I had an amazing time. Chicago is one of my favorite cities and probably the out of state city I’ve visited the most. If you make it to Chicago, you have to check out Webster Wine Bar and Red and White Wines. I already miss them both dearly.

AmByth Estate Sauvignon Blanc

AmByth.jpg

Disclaimer: I started writing this post before Hurricane Maria devestated Puerto Rico, so I hope my going on about the beauty of this island doesn't seem tone deaf. I hope you will consider donating to an organization that is providing relief to our fellow American citizens such as UNICEF.

First impression of this wine: it is orange AF. I have had several orange wines and have loved them all, but they are usually more of a gold/coppery hue than truly orange. The AmByth Sauvignon Blanc is a straight up sunset in a glass. AmByth Estate uses only organically grown grapes which are then crushed by foot. This skin-contact Sauvignon Blanc ages with its skins for 9 months until it achieves the perfect apple cider hue.

On the nose, this is pure passionfruit. I wouldn’t know this except I have been doing this experiment where I buy the strangest fruit I can find at the grocery store and try it as a means to entertain myself as well as expand my palate. While passionfruit isn’t strange, it is pretty uncommon in Kansas. I think I first tried fresh passionfruit when I was in Puerto Rico a year ago. We took a catamaran out to the island of Culebra off the coast of PR and it was absolutely beautiful. It was also all you could drink and they were serving rum with passionfruit juice. It was delicious. The smell of this wine takes me right back to the beaches of Culebra.

On the palate it tastes funky like apple cider vinegar, lime blossom and, you guessed it, passionfruit. It smells and tastes just like Passionfruit by Drake, perfect, right? Well, maybe not if you’re not a Drake fan but then why are you even here? It’s so damn smooth and you just want to listen to it on repeat while you sit on a Caribbean beach somewhere drinking the AmByth Estate Sauvignon Blanc. “Passionate from miles away, passive with the things you say.” Mmmmmmm.

I also dig that this wine is unfiltered and super cloudy. I tend to prefer unfiltered, unfined wines. They tend to have more funk and be less predictable, varying bottle to bottle. Sometimes that means you end up with something less than optimal, but I’ve been lucky and have loved all of the unfiltered wines I’ve tried. While I noted that this wine would be perfect for a Caribbean beach, it is also kind of perfect for fall in Kansas City. It’s still hot here so a chilled wine is not a bad thing, but the leaves are changing and don’t look unlike this Sauvignon Blanc. The apple cider vinegar quality to it feels pretty autumnal.

Dallas

Hello! I am fresh off the plane from a quick trip to Dallas. We were in town so my husband could take a work meeting but we decided to turn his work trip into a mini vacation since his dad, stepmom and brother live there. I saw a lot of the city that I haven’t seen before (and I’ve visited quite a bit in my seven years with Matt). For instance, we went to Fort Worth to visit the Modern Art Museum. It was fantastic and I had no idea it was there! I got my Rothko fix which should hold me over until October when we go to Chicago. We also visited one of the best wine shops I have ever been to! Whenever I go to a new city, I research wine shops and wine bars to see if there is anything particularly interesting that I should check out. In the case of Dallas, a shop called Bar and Garden looked too good to pass up.

Bar and Garden specializes in natural and organic wine and their selection is absolutely incredible. I saw bottles from wineries that I have only seen on Instagram such as Dirty & Rowdy, Brea, Brendan Tracey and a ton more along with a bunch of my favorites. The staff was also so friendly and helpful. I had a 10 minute conversation with one worker about how much I love natural wine and I was in heaven being in a store that was full of it. The GM of the shop actually knew my husband’s family because her son went to school with Matt’s brother. She was fabulous and we nerded out over natural wine while my fam stood patiently silent. I can’t recommend Bar and Garden highly enough if you are in Dallas. They also have a shop in L.A. so if that’s your hood, check them out!

Here are the two wines I picked up:

Brea Cabernet Sauvignon

Brea.jpg

Brea is the collaboration between Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars and Tim Elenteny of TE Imports. They practice natural winemaking at its finest by using organic fruit from the Central Coast and spontaneous fermentation. They produce a limited number of varietals, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. I picked up the Cabernet Sauvignon and was thrilled because I had heard about Brea for a few years but had never seen their wines. Soon after getting home from the wine shop, I opened the bottle to share with my husband and father in law. The two of them are huge craft beer lovers and not particularly into wine. Still, I wanted to hear their thoughts on the Brea. We all agreed that we noted stone fruit and bing cherries on the nose and as we tasted it, big dark fruits popped on the tongue-- plums and black currant. My father in law said “it pops, it just pops!” and I couldn’t agree more. It has a bright acidity and isn’t too tannic. It isn’t the heavy, syrupy Cab that you’ve had at every open bar you’ve ever been to. No, this Cabernet is light enough that it could be paired with a fish dish or a pasta tossed with vegetables and balsamic. I absolutely loved this wine and hope I can find a way to get my hands on more.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge

Clarine.jpg

I was thrilled to find La Clarine Farm at Bar and Garden. The owner of the wine shop I frequent in Kansas City put in a special order so I could try La Clarine Farm. I haven’t opened that bottle yet so this was my first time trying LCF. I chose the Jambalaia Rouge, which is a great blend of Mourvedre, Marsanne, Granache and Syrah. La Clarine Farm is an incredible winery based in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills and uses the most natural winemaking techniques including no additives and spontaneous fermentation. I paired the Jambalaia with grilled chicken marinated in lime juice. It was absolutely delicious. The best way I can describe the smell of this wine is that it smells exactly like that raspberry Haribo candy that I used to eat as a kid. Do you remember those? They don’t really taste anything like raspberries but they are sugary and delightful. On the palate it tastes just like double apple hookah, which is kind of like a mixture of apple and anise. It seriously took me back to being 18 when I thought that hookah was the shit and I was living on the edge because I was smoking tobacco. The Jambalaia is tart with bright acidity. I served it chilled and I recommend that, especially if you are in 100+ degree weather like I was.

It was a wonderful trip and I am so glad I got to spend time with Matt and his family. If you are in Dallas, definitely check out Bar and Garden. I can’t wait to go back in November and try some more wine.

Field Recordings Koligian Vineyard

This past Friday was my fifth wedding anniversary. My husband and I took a short trip to Oklahoma City because there was an amazing art exhibition I had to see-- Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic. It was fan-freaking-tastic that we spent the entire trip just stopping each other to say, “God, that exhibition was incredible”. We also stayed in the amazing 21c Hotel. These establishments are part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum. They mostly had pieces by artists I wasn’t aware of but had two Lalla Essaydi pieces-- she is this incredible Moroccan artist who juxtaposes traditional arab culture with feminism.

We are now back home with our cats, which is very nice, but I kind of wanted to continue the celebration. I had a bottle of wine that I had been saving for a special occasion. It is the Field Recordings Koligian Vineyard blend. If you’ve read my blog, you know what a Field Recordings fangirl I am. They turned me onto good wine a few years back and ever since, I have been eternally grateful. As I mentioned, when a wine is above $25, I will let you know. While I got this at a wine sale for about $25, it usually retails for around $34. In my opinion, it is well worth the cost. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It is unfined and lightly filtered, which I love.

On the nose, it is straight up anise, bing cherries and new leather boots. Do you know what I’m talking about? Before my L.A. trip last spring, I bought these oxblood leather boots and they had the best smell. Nothing beats that, sorry vegans. It is so delightful on the palate and not overly tannic or acidic. It tastes of boozy cherries, you know, like a cherry that has been sitting in your old fashioned for a bit and absorbed a ton of bourbon.

Kehinde Wiley is one of my favorite artists. His style is so fascinating, imitating the style of Renaissance portraits, but replacing traditional subjects with contemporary African American men and women. His pieces consider race, gender and politics. I found a particular set of paintings interesting as they considered Ethiopian Jews and the Palestinian experience in Israel. I also very much enjoyed his pieces that featured women. The majority of his works feature men, and I enjoy those, but I really liked seeing the portrayals of women in his paintings and sculpture.

If you have a chance to see Kehinde Wiley, take it! One of his pieces is at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art if you are in the Kansas City area and it is fantastic. Also, open up special bottles of wine! Sometimes I buy a bottle and tell myself I’m saving it for a special occasion and then the occasion comes and I don’t open the bottle. It’s silly really, to save something just for the purpose of saving it. There will never be a perfect time to open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving or taking that transatlantic trip. Just go for it and enjoy. So that is what I’m doing tonight and I am absolutely enjoying this wine.

Bernier Chardonnay

I’ll be honest. I have never been a chardonnay fan except for this brief period in college when I was trying to avoid reds and got really into that oaky, buttery Chardonnay game. However, it quickly ran its course and then I never wanted to taste notes of oak or butter again. I should note that  the Chardonnay I was drinking was most likely under $7 and mass-produced nonsense. I learned to appreciate other white wines, mostly crisp, light wines like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and later Grüner Veltliner and even Viognier. I replaced butter and oak with herbs and fruit and loved it.  

I wanted to give Chardonnay another chance though since it’s probably been seven years since I bought a bottle and I figured I shouldn’t swear off an entire varietal just because of a few bad experiences. I went into my wine shop and said, “look, I don’t like Chardonnay, but I want to try it again, what would you recommend?” And this is why I love wine shops, they know their shit. The woman working showed me a range of unoaked Chardonnay that she promised were light and fruity not at all heavy and full of Bath and Body Works vanilla body spray notes (my words). I chose the Bernier Chardonnay because she swore it was good and it was less than $15. At least if I ended up hating it, I wouldn’t hate myself too.  

The Bernier Vineyard is located in the Loire Valley of France and their website claims that they were the first to plant Chardonnay in the region more than 25 years ago. The wine smells bright and energetic, not at all what I expected out of a Chardonnay. It evokes apricots and green apples and tastes like nectarines, peaches and all of the light stone fruits. Also pamplemousse La Croix. It almost reminds me of a great Sauvignon Blanc because of its fruitiness and crispness but it still has the bigger body of a Chardonnay.

I’m pairing this with chicken fajitas and the light sweetness cuts through the spice while the fruitiness enhances the mango salsa I should have used. I would love to be in Mexico City right now, where I would probably be eating something more authentic than chicken fajitas. I would be checking out Frida Kahlo’s Blue House and taking all of the pics (and selfies) in the world. But guess what, this is reality and I’m in Kansas. But this wine can transport you. Maybe the winemakers didn’t assume I would be transported to Mexico City but hey, you never know where you’ll end up! If you are a Chardonnay nay-sayer, go to your local wine shop and ask for a great unoaked Chardonnay. I am now referring to myself as a Chardonnay convert rather than a former nay-sayer.

Kahlo's Blue House in Mexico City. Photo by Ursula Rothrock.

Kahlo's Blue House in Mexico City. Photo by Ursula Rothrock.