Time with the Girl in Chicago

Since summer hasn’t come to Seattle for more than a day or two, we decide to go to SUMMER (and Aunt Carla)!


After a late night arrival (the thunder storms had us circling O’Hara way beyond our landing time), we grabbed a bagel and a train ticket to head downtown Chicago. Or is it Chi-Town? Or the Windy City? Arriving in Union Station, we emerge to find a caffeine jolt and Double Decker bus tickets.

Stop #1: At the base of the “Willis Tour” we pick up our ride and travel through ‘the loop’ learning about the history of the buildings in downtown Chicago. We also started a list of places we might want to check out later.

Stop #2: Millennium Park provided hours of fun — and lunch. Our favorite stop was exploring the underside of “the bean”, although the gardens, sculptures, architecture activities and Crown fountain also provided lots of entertainment.

Stop #3: Checking out the Museum Park, we now have to decide which one we visit tomorrow. Although it was tempting to get off at the next stop (Navy Pier) we restrained ourselves from hopping off as we knew that Saturday plans would lead us back here.

Stop #4: After shopping on the Miracle Mile (specifically the American Girl store where Ms. Double Digits spent her savings on a look like me doll), it was time to catch up with Carla the Purple Pig.


Ms. Double Digits studied the stars way back in fourth grade and she added planetarium to her list of things to do. Today, she can cross that off her list! Our visit to the Adler Planetarium included:

  • Apollo launch artifacts (Bailie needs to see Apollo 13 soon)
  • Lunar rovers and space puzzles and instruments to explore our solar system (some from 100’s of years ago)
  • An amazing film entitled “Journey to the Stars”

Then we took a walk to the “Money Museum”. At the Chicago Federal Reserve they give away bags of money! Next up, was a long and patient wait to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower. The SkyDeck view went on for miles…and even better we were able to walk out on the ledge.

Dinner in Greektown @ Athena: Started with a Greek red wine (Boutari Naousa) accompanied by Saganaki, Hummus, Exohiko (phylo filled with lamb, artichokes and capers) and a few bites of Bailie’s Gyros.


The morning started at Navy Pier for a harbor cruise complete with lunch and over two hours floating out on Lake Michigan. What an amazing way to check out the skyline — it seemed like a new building appeared every two minutes! And there was plenty of time for shopping at both the Navy Pier and then later the Miracle Mile.

In between shopping trips, we took a tour of the Hyde Park neighborhood:

  • Robie House – One the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces
  • Obama House – Well, the roof line at least. Plenty of concrete barricades and the Secret Service kept us from getting to close.

Dinner: We haven’t had Chicago style pizza…yet. Stuffed isn’t so bad (and I am a thin crust girl).


Time to start the trip home bright and early. And it ended with a FABULOUS welcome home dinner. Thanks Oscar!

The Purple Pig

After selecting a yummy glass of wine from the extensive wine list ( a glass of Campo de Borja – Cote de Hayas Alto Moncayo “Veraton” Garnacha, Spain), the “small plates” started to arrive…

From the Antipasti menu:

  • Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese & Pistachio Vinaigrette – The salty pistachio chunks added crunch!
  • Corn and fresh tomato salad smothered in arugula pesto – So refreshing after a hot day in the Chicago sun.

From the smears section:

  • Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese – I could eat this for breakfast on a bagel, lunch, or dinner! FABULOUS!

And then comes the Trio of Cheeses:

  • La Chevys Noir (a soft goat cheese perfect for any meal)
  • Truffle Tremor (truffles infused into cheese, you can’t go wrong)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (picked specifically to please the double digit dinner)

And the final plate: 

  • Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes – Fell apart with the touch of the fork!

Dessert was had at Oberweis Dairy (hot day = ice cream)

The location:

The Purple Pig | 500 North Michigan Avenue | Chicago, IL | 312.464.1.PIG | Website

Liberty School…for an Every Day Sip

Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2008

What a great, affordable bottle of wine! YUM!

The 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon offers up-front aromas of ripe red fruit, followed by similar vibrant and rich berry flavors. Silky but firm tannins lend excellent structure, while maintaining a soft approachability reflective of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has a ripe finish with good length. Its fruit-driven style lends ease to food-pairing.

For the longest, most detailed notes I have ever seen about a bottle, visit their website. 

Buty Winery – 2008 Syrah

After being in Walla Walla last weekend, it was fun to peruse the wine list at Matt’s for wines we missed.

For tonight’s meal, we choose a Syrah-based blend: Buty Winery, Rediviva of the Stones. It was spicy, a bit fruity AND VERY smooth.

This blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon is grown in the ancestral riverbed of the Walla Walla River. Dominated by syrah, the exact blend with cabernet sauvignon reflects the vintage balance. It is aged entirely in French cooperage with about 30% new oak. Rediviva of the Stones is delicate, sensuous, and of the earth with lovely floral notes. Our cuvée grows as our organic Rockgarden Estate matures.

Dinner @ Matt’s

A wonderful summer evening in Seattle makes a perfect night for a walk through the market (for those readers not from Seattle, that is the famous Pike Place Market) to find a great meal. After a pre-meal taste of truffle concoctions, we head into Matt’s.

Matt’s in the Market is located across the street, the chef obviously plans the menu based on what is currently available. We started by selecting a bottle of wine, then picked our favorite things from the menu to share…

  • tenderloin carpaccio – sliced so thin that you can see through it, topped with arugula and shaved Parmesan, the overall flavors were sweeter than I expected
  • foie gras – a balanced dish – one half foie gras with relish, the other seared and served on toast with a marinated bing cherry and sprinkles of hazelnuts
  • heirloom tomato salad – yellows and red, fresh herbs and delicious soft cheese
  • salmon – on a bed of chile corn puree, wedges of yukon golds and topped with tomato salsa
  • And for dessert, we asked for the chocolate bread pudding special with a twist. The special was a chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream drizzled in chocolate and caramel sauce. However another dessert had sea salt caramel ice cream. We switched out the vanilla for the caramel. What an amazing decision! And a perfect way to end the meal.

During the meal, we savored every morsel while watching the colors of the summer sky turn from a warm blue to shades of pink. The most vibrant pink occurred as we walked back to the car.

The location:

Matt’s in the Market | 94 Pike St #32 | Seattle, WA | 206.467.7909 | Website

Sinclair Estate Vineyard Winemaker Dinner

Time for a Winemaker Dinner – after a day of tasting. Whose idea was this anyway?

Chef: Greg Schnorr

Winemaker: Amy Alvarez-Wampfler

Taste // Sip

Apricot Eclair with Crisp Prosciutto & Spiced Butterscotch // Chardonnay

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salad with local pea shoots, kale and aged balsamic // Merlot

Dry Creek Ranch Seared Leg of Lamb with Curry, Cucumber and Couscous // Pentatonic

Mist Valley Ranch Braised Short Ribs with Bolognese Sauce and fresh egg noodles // Sangiovese

Almond Danish with Local Cherries & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream // Vixen

The location:

Fat Duck Inn | 527 Catherine St | Walla Walla, WA 99362 | 509.526.DUCK | Website 

Walla Walla Weekend

A little R&R for 48 hours. Complete with sun, lots of wine, great food and a perfect companion.

We arrived in town after a perfect late afternoon drive in time to settle into our room at Vines & Roses. Then headed to Whitehouse Crawford for a fabulous dinner. It was so wonderful to walk out of a restaurant in the dark warm summer evening!

Saturday started with a relaxing bath as the fire place roars behind me then a yummy breakfast. Pear and almond waffles, tomato and chili fritatta and bacon scalloped potatoes. Left me thinking “why have I never stayed in a B&B before?” At breakfast, we learned about farmer’s market and decided to head there in search of bread, cheese and other farm fresh fruits and/or veggies to snack on as we venture out to the wineries.

Wine tasting started on the south end of Walla Walla:

  • Beresan – My favorite memory is the red curtains that kept out the warm sun. Lots of options for every day drinking wine too. However our goal was to find special bottles!
  • Balboa – The best bottle had a yucky snake on the label. But they pointed us to Rulo!
  • Sleight of Hand Cellars – What a fun experience here…a must visit for anyone going to the area. You can even request your favorite album to be played while you taste many fabulous bottles.
  • Amavi Cellars – What a beautiful view! Of course, we got a bottle of one of the wines we tasted with dinner last night.
  • Rulo – Has my vote for my favorite place. The winemaker has a great story that we drew out of him while we tasted bottle after bottle.
  • Basel Cellars – A beautiful location where we stopped to enjoy our farmer’s market finds with a bottle of their best cab (a solid every day drinking wine).

In the late afternoon we headed to the airport area east of town

  • Trust – Another winemaker pours his wines sharing his tail and adventures.
  • Kontos Cellars – A must visit on my list! We learned that the syrah was their best bottle.
  • Before we knew it, 5 o’clock struck and the tasting rooms were closed.

It was time for another fabulous dinner at the Fat Duck Inn for a winemakers dinner.

After sleeping in until the last minute, we hustled downstairs for another fabulous breakfast. And my stomach needed it~!

For day two of tasting, we just headed downtown. Of course, we started first at farmer’s market after our wonderful finds yesterday. Today we loaded up on several pounds of beets (red and yellow), lots of berries and, of course, some Walla Walla sweets. Just in season…

  • Seven Hills Winery – Sharing the Whithouse Crawford building brought back memories of Friday night. And they have so many good bottles of wine to choose from.
  • Locati Cellars – Many good reds to taste!
  • Tero Estates/Flying Trout – Great options from this husband (Tero) and wife (flying) team.
  • Walla Walla Wine Works – Lots of options for every day drinking topped off with an odd chocolate red wine bottle. Had to buy it for my next chocolate and wine party.

It was such a F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S weekend that we have already started a list of places to taste the next time we visit.

Tasting Menu @ Whitehouse Crawford

It is our first night in Walla Walla. The summer air is infectious. The stomach is growling…

Luckily, we had reservations at Whitehouse Crawford. We sit down and there was so many items on the menu that sounded delicious, we narrowed it down quickly: the tasting menu…complete with wine pairings. After several courses, my dining companion leaned back in his chair and stated “This is so me!” more than once.

Rabbit terrine with house-made pickles /&/ Jean-Paul Trocadero, NV Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Savoie, France

Smoke quail with mushrooms /&/ Stella Fino, 2007 ‘Rosso’, 63% Sangio., 37% Barbera, Columbia Valley

Local greens with lentils, articokes, radishes, soft cow’s milk cheese and a saffron dressing /&/ Syrah Rosé, Fjellene, 2010 Columbia Valley

Roasted Copper River Salmon with red dragon sauce and soba noodles /&/ Tranche, 2007 Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley

{Sorbet – rhubarb}

Wagyu beef tenderloin with mild mushrooms sauted in foie gras butter and red wine sauce and seasoned french fries /&/ Amavi Cellars, 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

Coconut rice pudding with poached rhubarb and almond cookie crumble /&/ Late Harvest Semillon, Forgeron Cellars, Walla Walla Valley

The location:

55 W Cherry St | Walla Walla, WA 99362 | 509.525.2222 | Website 

Another Grgich Hills

This time a Zin! Looking for a good Zin to have on hand as I have a few Zin lovers in my close circle of friends.

Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel 2007, Napa Valley – 5% Petite Sirah.

The winemaker notes…

So enriched by sweet oak that its very deep, berry-like fruit takes a moment to catch up with its initial aromas of sweet cream, cappuccino, root beer and toast, this opulent Zin finds a niche all its own. It is wonderfully supple with a fine spine of tannin that firms without being overly obvious, and its layered flavors reflect all the complexity of its nose. A bit of last-minute heat and a little chalky astringency hold it back from even higher scores, but, given the winery’s track record for making long-lived wines, it is fairly safe to assume that this one is still far from reaching its best.