Archive for March, 2010

LUSH/Green Zebra Wine Dinner

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Our first partnership with Green Zebra restaurant, our neighbor on Chicago Avenue, took place last night: a progressive dinner celebrating the imminent coming of the Spring season. We could not have asked for a nicer day! Brisk and bright, with hazy afternoon sun stretching out through the beginning of our meal. We had about 50 people in attendance, streaming into the restaurant at 6:30. Everyone was greeted with a little bubbly as they sat down: the non-vintage Zardetto Brut Cuvee, a blend of prosecco, muscat, and chardonnay from northern Italy. A perfect aperitif.

I made a brief speech introducing myself, LUSH, and thanking everyone for being there on our first joint venture. Then, I tucked myself into a booth up front with my friend Bridget, and we took part in the meal. I needed to see first hand how the pairings went with chef de cuisine Molly’s Harrison’s four course meal. Lest you think otherwise: this was work.

Most of the courses had two separate but complimentary parts, and it was our job at LUSH to find a wine that would work well with both. The first course was heirloom radish and Greek yogurt finger sandwiches, along with roasted beets with olive tapenade and spring mache. This kind of antipasti food screams rosé to me, so we chose the 2008 Franz Karl Schmitt Pinot Meunier Rosé from the Rheinhessen in Germany. Last night this wine was showing a bit of funk on the nose: a little bit meaty and mushroomy. But, its palate of bright berry fruits and cooling minerality was a great counterpart to the salty, earthy flavors of the dish. Overall, an awesome pairing.

For the next course, we had a creamy Vidalia onion soup. Rich, yet still lively and tangy, this soup demanded a wine that had a hint of oak yet still was bright in acid. And something with a funky nutty, mushroomy note wouldn’t hurt either. The 2004 Chateau Rives-Blanques ‘Cuvee Occitania’ from Limoux, France was up to the task. Entirely composed of the almost extinct mauzac, a grape usually used to make sparkling wine in the Languedoc. Aged 10 months in French oak, this wine had a creamy front palate with bright acid on the back. Notes of baked apple, hazelnut, and oatmeal complimented the soup in an unexpected way.

The next course was a true celebration of Spring: grilled asparagus with preserved lemon, black garlic, prairie farms goat cheese, then leek pancakes with pickled quail eggs and baby spring veggies. WOW. This course rocked. But, hard to pair! Asparagus is notoriously difficult with wine. All the tangy notes (pickled eggs, preserved lemon, goat cheese) demanded a bright white with high acid. But, the bitter rustic components (leeks, black garlic, asparagus) would benefit from earthy/herbal flavors. The compromise: the 2008 Quattro Mani ‘Toh-kai’ from Brda, Slovenia. Made from the grape Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano), this is one of those “double take” wines. It’s so surprising and unique that everyone in the room had nose in wineglass for another sniff. Spearmint, white chocolate, pink grapefruit, and green tea on the nose. Dry and herbal on the palate, with bright acid and a vibrant undercurrent of stony minerality. This pairing worked, but in an odd way. Both the dish and the wine had strong flavors and tastes that were able to coexist. It wasn’t one of those pairings that made dish and wine melt into each other, but rather, it seems that they challenged each other and were able to bring out the bold elements in one another.

The fourth course was perhaps my favorite pairing. The dish had two components: a mushroom tortellini with pickled rhubarb next to Anson Mill Grits with confit artichokes. A heavenly dish. Rich and rustic, with bright notes from the rhubarb and frizzled green onions on top of the grits. With it, the 2007 Cottanera ‘Barbazzale Rosso’ from Sicily. Made from a grape called nerello mascalese, grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. Bright red fruit, aromatic, transparent in body, with ashy and savory notes. The pairing worked in the exact opposite way as the one described previously; the wine and the dish really became one, one melting into the other and illuminating new flavors and textures in each. A great conclusion to the first part of our meal!

Next, we all walked the half block down to LUSH on Chicago Avenue, regaining our appetite for the final course: a medley of desserts prepared by Molly at Green Zebra. Everyone filed into our events space, newly decked out with comfy black leather couches, a long communal table, and high bar stools. The spread was awesome: chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and candied carrots, lemon tarts with candied lemon peel, rhubarb and cream tarts, as well as peanut and chocolate brittle. At LUSH, we had two dessert wines waiting: the Lustau East India Solera Sherry and the 2008 Montinore Müller-Thurgau from Willamette Valley, Oregon. The first, a rich Oloroso with a bit of sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry added, went perfectly with the chocolate-based desserts. The Montinore (one of the few examples of varietal Müller-Thurgau made in the US!), a lightly sweet wine, with notes of lavender, pear, and sweet pea, was a great accompaniment to the fruit-based desserts.

Full, content, and thoroughly impressed with Molly and our friends at Green Zebra, I fell into bed happy last night, already thinking about our next collaboration. We hope to have more dinners in the future with Green Zebra, so keep an eye out.

Cheers!

Jane

Canadian Wine, eh.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Relevations about Canadian wine regions…

On March 24th, LUSH West Town played host to a showcase tasting of Canadian wineries, put on by the Canadian consulate. Primarily focused on Ontario and British Columbia, wines ranged from zippy, spritely Riesling to peppery Cab Franc, and right back around to intensely little bottles of icewine. A nice little related article, and video!, may be found here; http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/todays-chicago-woman/2010/03/chicago-canadian-wine-tasting-cave-spring-cellars.html.
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Standing Ovation

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

In honor of the Oscars, I would like to make a recommendation for a whiskey that deserves a standing ovation – the 2009 bottling of Eagle Rare 17 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon. (Round of applause). This is part of the Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Antique Collection, which was introduced about 10 years ago. The other 4 super limited whiskeys included in this collection are: Sazerac Rye 18 year old, George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac.

The Eagle Rare 17 is a mash of corn, barely and rye and was distilled in the spring of 1992. What else was going on in 1992? Well, Silence of the Lambs won an Academy Award for Best Picture, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for the very last time, and I was just getting over my Paula Abdul phase. Hard to imagine at the same time, these folks were distilling and beginning to age a bourbon that wouldn’t be released for almost another 20 years! I had the pleasure of trying the 2009 release of Eagle Rare 17 year just the other night. Because they are such a limited release, we rarely have them open for tasting at LUSH (if we do, don’t miss the chance to give it a try!). Maybe it was the drink or two I had before (whiskey and amaro cocktail and a glass of the Eagle Rare Single Barrel), but I thought this bourbon was pretty darn tasty. Carmel and toffee with a hint of fruit on the nose, while the palate was smooth with a little more spice and a hint of vanilla. (And the crowd goes wild).

What Not to Eat.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

As a continual wine taster, I am always seeking new flavor experiences. I feel that it’s part of my job to know and easily recall unusual flavors: yuzu, shiitake mushrooms, etc., as well as textures like glycerin and mineral crunch. I am willing to foresake pleasure for experience, even: let me tell you about how I felt about the sea urchin ice cream at Schwa [where everything else was simply sublime!]; I took a bite knowing that to me, sea urchin is too akin to snot for me to ever enjoy it. On the other hand, when the Lush crew forced me to try raw oysters for the first time a few years ago, I was instantly hooked.

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Day Off; or, The Best Lunch I’ve Eaten Recently

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

We all know what grand plans get made for a day off work:
“I’m totally going to do all that laundry! And, like, go grocery shopping! Yeah!”

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TimeOut Chicago EatOut Awards 2010

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Rock the vote…
LUSH has been nominated as one of the best wine shops in the city. Please excuse us while we fan ourselves and try to remain calm…eeeeee! So exciting. Please share your love and support of all things LUSH by voting. The TimeOut Chicago 2010 EatOut Awards are about indulging in the good stuff...food and booze, with a close pulse on the city and what is brand spanking new or established and still performing wonders peddling deliciousness. Vote your most bestest favorite restaurant, chefs, bartender, blogger…and wine shop! We heart you!
www.timeoutchicago.com/eatoutawards

OR

TEXT ‘Wine 1′ to 46786.

Verticals

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

by Erin Drain

MINI-GEEK: Verticals? For serious geeks, there are a few bottles out there in the world that serve as holy grails for collectors: the Lafites and Latours and Cheval-Blancs of the world; Sassicaia, Opus One, Screaming Eagle; Sea Smoke Pinot, anything coming in magnum form, certainly, and hell, even weird whites from Baumard, Dagueneau, and their ilk. People who have access to these wines are very lucky, indeed, and their friends are luckier still if the bottle owner wants to share. Scenes from The Billionaire’s Vinegar come to mind, where some of the world’s wealthiest and richest wine collectors come together for several days and work through verticals of the wine, meaning they drink multiple vintages, in order, of the same wine. Truly a great learning experience, drinking through multiple vintages of one wine from one producer teaches the drinker about the subtle–and not subtle!– differences that one year’s varying meteorological activity can make on what is, essentially, the same agricultural product. Events like the California wildfires of 2008 lend a certain smokiness to some wines that was not present in 2007, and so on. Also, trying older vintages of a wine will let the drinker understand more about the aging process of specific varietals, not just the individual bottling.

We Lushies love partaking in vertical tastings where possible, and we don’t limit it to just wine. We’ve been known to throw big parties celebrating the many vintages of great beers, like Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout [we still have some of the 2006 vintage!–ed.] and, among our staff and friends, the absolutely insane Three Floyd’s Dark Lord. Lushie Erin has a bottle of the 2005 Dark Lord stashed away in her cellar, to be unveiled soon with Lushie Brent during a completely ridiculous vertical tasting. So if you can keep those thirsty paws patient, stash away a bottle or two of your favorite wine or beer for a few years in a row, and get your learnin’ on. Slurp.