The 1st Chicago Food + Wine Festival

Sweet Home Chicago!


At the end of August Haute Momma (mom) and I headed west to Chicago. We were embarking on a weekend adventure that was sure to be filled with food, beverage, memories and laughs. I haven’t been back to Chicago since our wedding, that is almost 4 years now. Sometimes I find myself longing for Chicago. I get sad when I go so long between visits. You already know that I love the Chicago food scene because of these delicious hot dogs and these copy cat burgers. When we hopped in the car to head to the 1st ever Food + Wine Festival held in Chicago we didn’t know what kind of amazing food awaited us.


Because Chicago was home for us and because there are just things you must do the minute you get there, the first thing we did after dropping our bags off in the room was hike it down Michigan Ave. towards the lake. I love the sight and sounds of Lake Michigan. I especially love the fact that you run your toes through the sand with your back to the John Hancock building. There isn’t anything quite like it.


We arrived at the festival right when the gates opened. We only bought tickets for Saturday so we wanted to make sure that we got the most out of that day as we could. It was hard to decide between grabbing food or drinks  the minute we walked through the gates or heading off to hear a famous chef talk to us about Pulpo (Octopus). We chose the latter…

Chef Jose Garces

It’s Iron Chef Jose Garces!! Did you know Jose Garces is from Chicago? I gotta say, awesome people tend to come from Chicago (hehe). When the hubby and I lived in Philly we had the chance to eat at several of his restaurants. In fact, we lived a block away from Garces Trading Company and frequented Village Whiskey often. We never met a Garces restaurant we didn’t like! Mom and I were pretty excited to watch Chef Garces create several dishes using octopus. He even made cooking an octopus look easy.

Dipping the Octopus

The octopus was scrumptious! When we finished enjoying our pulpo we immediately went out to see what else the festival had to offer. Oh, did I tell you it was a rainy overcast day? This literally had no bearing on the awesome food and drink that we had and I would say that the crowd was pretty content with dodging between rain drops in an attempt to get to the next table of amazing food.


We grabbed a bunch of amazing little bits; prepare yourself for the food montage…






I ate a lot of things before I remembered to take a picture…that happens a lot when I take my camera to food events. I really needed an extra hand that day. If you follow me on twitter then you might have seen my tweet about hopefully getting the chance to meet Stephanie Izard (First female Top Chef winner) and Rick Bayless (the most awesome person ever). I watched both of them demo delicious dishes.

Stephanie Izard

Stephanie was hilarious! She started her demo by chugging a beer; Stella Artois no less. She’s the kind of chef that I would want to spend every day with. I would just sit in her kitchen and eat my face off while discussing any sort of randomness that comes to our minds. She’s my kind of people. She showed us how to slap some noodles and make magical spring roll wrappers in a skillet. I seriously sat there the entire time wishing I was standing on the stage next to her. I just wanted to be her best friend that day. And then…


OMG it’s Rick Bayless!!! Ever since I saw him on Top Chef Masters I was like “can we eat Mexican food together?” I constantly promote all things Rick Bayless, if he comes out with a new product I just assume it’s awesome so I recommend it to everyone. We use all of his sauces to create amazing tacos and enchiladas. I actually refuse to use any other enchilada sauce. One time I bought a canned enchilada sauce and it is was disgusting that I threw out the entire dish (no I didn’t cause that is super wasteful, but it wasn’t my favorite). I just couldn’t let my enchiladas exist in the same universe as that canned nonsense. Chef Bayless knows how to make rich mexican sauces that are deep in flavor and spices AND come in a bag. He’s just the best.

Rick and I

Chef Crush! I even had him make it out to Haute Pepper…I think he might have laughed. I haven’t dug in to the cookbook yet because, life. I am going to get on that right away because I love Mexican food and maybe if I cook some of his amazing food everyone will be in awe.

Before the closing of the festival we made sure to get in some final bites and snap some parting pictures. I might have gone to the Chobani tent like 3 times…




Before the weekend ended we made sure to make some mandatory stops (yes, this included Garretts Popcorn and Giordano’s pizza). And one place that holds special significance is the Billy Goat’s Tavern.

Billy Goat Tavern

Are you familiar with the curse of the Billy Goat? Are you familiar with the SNL skit about the Billy Goat Tavern? If you said no to both of those questions then I request you go here and here. My Great Grandfather was a famous (yeah, I am gonna go with famous) sports writer for the Chicago Sun Times. He covered stories of many great athletes and most notably wrote a great deal about Joe Louis the boxer. Go ahead and look him up!  Anyhow, when Grandpa Gene retired from sportswriting he got the esteemed honor of hanging his byline on the wall of the Billy Goat…


There he is, Gene Kessler! We didn’t actually stay for the cheezborger’s since we had other food awaiting us but stopping by and taking the picture was a must!  You should go there and eat a burger or two. You will also read a lot about Chicago sports history and probably interact with some very interesting folks!

I don’t think I could ever truly summarize a trip to Chicago in one post (or several). I know that this trip was wonderful. Great food, great company, and a great city. I miss you already Chi-Town.


We’ll see you next year!!!

Chicago River

P.S. Food + Wine has a great recap of the festival on their site. Check out all the things I was too busy stuffing my face with and not taking any pictures of. Chicago Food + Wine Fest Recap.

Beer Cheese Spread (Ball)

Happy Monday Cheese Balls!

Beer Cheese Ball #1

I bring to you another Hollymead Monday treat. I wanted to make something that is perfect for feeding your football watching friends or even gracing the table at a dinner party. Everyone loves cheese and I am pretty certain people are mostly fond of balls so…cheese + ball = cheese ball. I made this cheese ball recipe for the Superbowl and the first time I made it I wasn’t sure it would work. I had no experience making cheese products on my own. I am a huge fan of cheese, a HUGE Fan. I probably say yes to anything that is made with cheese. It is because of this love of cheese that I had to make this ball and I had to share it with you!

Cheese and Butter

I was making this recipe for the family and they reminded me that we have been to a restaurant that serves a cheese spread with their bread and for some reason it never dawned on me that cheese spreads can be spotted in restaurants all over the place. In fact, I am always much more impressed when you get a bread basket that comes with a flavored butter or cheese spread instead of just your normal butter. An image of the sad wrapped butter that comes with the basket at Cheesecake Factory just came to mind. How can they make such great food and be known for massive portions but they give you wrapped butter packets?!?!

Molding the cheeseball

When I took a cracker and smeared on this spread my dad immediately recognized this from the Hollymead days. He told me that this spread would be made available to the patrons waiting for a table or just enjoying a night-cap in the bar located within the inn. I think it only makes sense that you make beer cheese for the bar, it is such an appropriate pairing! I am not sure my grandma would have served a cheese ball in the bar, her recipe didn’t exactly call for it to be a ball but I figured it would be a great ball! I think she could have served it in little ramekins or even as individual discs for each patron. I wonder if they had football playing on the tv in the bar. I would guess that the answer is yes since they were from Chicago and football is a pretty big deal in Chicago. Football, beer and cheese, this sounds like a perfect Sunday!

For all you old school cheese lovers, this one is 100% for you!

Beer Cheese Spread

Beer Cheese Spread (Ball) 

Yields 1 Ball

1 Small Smoked Gouda or Edam Cubed (room temperature)
1/4 Cup Salted Butter Cubed
1/2 Tsp. Prepared Mustard
1 Tsp. Worcestershire
1 Tbsp. Grated Onion
1/2 Tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 – 3/4 Cup Beer (any beer will do!)
1/4 Cup crushed pretzels or peanuts

Combine butter and cheese in a food processor. Pulse until the cheese and butter are broken down and form small crumbles. Add in mustard, Worcestershire, onion, garlic salt. Pulse until ingredients are combined with the cheese and butter. Add half of the beer, pulse and check consistency. If the mixture is spreadable then you can remove it from the food processor. If it needs more beer add a little at a time until the mixture is spreadable.

Once mixture is combined place two pieces of plastic wrap on the counter, place one sheet down going horizontally and the second vertically. Spoon the cheese mixture in the middle of the plastic wrap. Gather the ends of the plastic wrap in the middle and form a ball with the cheese mixture. Twist the plastic and tuck under the cheese mixture. Place the ball in the fridge for 2 hours to allow it to firm up. Once firm, remove cheese mixture from the fridge and roll in the crushed pretzels or peanuts.

Note: You can also roll up the cheese in a log form and slice individual discs or you can spoon in to small ramekins for serving.



10 Football and Tailgating Recipes

Football season is here and that means lots of stuffing my face snacking on Sunday afternoons with family and friends in front of the big screen. Here are some of my favorite dishes that you can whip up for the team!

  1. The Best BLT 1-img_2409
  2. BBQ Chicken Pizza 1-img_2127
  3. Blackened Chicken Po’Boy img_1390
  4. Buffalo Chicken Slidersimg_1300
  5. Honey BBQ Oven Baked Wings img_8754
  6. Little Italy Burger 
  7. Spicy Asian Wings img_1090
  8. Mini Corn Dogs img_0421
  9. Apple Cheddar Grilled Cheese img_0106
  10. Three Bean Chili img_1156-001

P.S. Here we go Steelers, Here we go!!

August Instagram Bites

I take lots of pictures of food and post them to Instagram. If you follow me then you already get to see these yummy dishes but for those of you who don’t,  I decided that it might be a good idea to share them here so you can see what I am eating when I am not in the kitchen. Here is a monthly recap of the delicious things I ate or drank  in August and where you can find them!

  1. Brunch Plate – Grand Concourse 
  2. Chicago Imposter – Franktuary 
  3. Beef Empanadas and Plantains – Conflict Kitchen  
  4. Lemon Berry Pancakes – Square Cafe 
  5. Villa Mt. Eden Pinot Noir 
  6. Rootbeer Shaved Ice – Little Italy Days 
  7. Grape Leaves, Chickpea Salad and Hummus – Greek Gourmet 
  8. Americano – Julius Meinl Chicago 

Asian Slaw Salad

I don’t know how it is September already…

Asian Slaw

I know you are getting ready to jet for the long weekend but I wanted to get this to you before you depart. I am sure you are going to be attending at least one BBQ this weekend or gathering and you need something that is easy and delicious to whip together. I don’t like to get super complicated with food, I bet you figured that out already. I recently went to an event on a farm and I needed to think of a dish that would make sense. The event was outside so I knew I wanted to steer clear of anything with eggs, mayo or any other ingredient that would not fare well in the heat and sun.

Edamame and Slaw

Salads and slaws are easy to assemble and pack up for a picnic. If you can’t think of anything else do not despair because this will do the trick! Not too long ago my mom started making broccoli slaw with poppyseed dressing and lots of other yummy elements. It has become my new favorite side in the summer. I love it when we have hot dogs or some other grilled food and then a heaping side of broccoli slaw with a light dressing and craisins or something else with a bit of sweetness. I love getting creative with salads and dressings.

Slaw and Ramen

I learned about this salad when I was looking for a dish for a potluck and someone told me this would do the trick. I made my own version with a lot more Asian influence. I like to experience different textures when I eat salad so the more you can throw in there to make it exciting the better.  Also, like I just laid out above, you know I think the best way to deal with a potluck is simple and easy. This literally is the easiest thing I have ever put together for a gathering. The best part was crushing the ramen noodles which I grew up calling oodles and noodles…anybody with me? You can play with this anyway you like. Get busy with your slaw making, no judgment zone!

Asian Slaw

Asian Slaw Salad

Yields 10-12 Servings

1/2 Lb. Shredded Cabbage
1 Pkg. Broccoli Slaw
1 Pkg. Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup + Seasoning Packet
1 Cup Cooked Edamame
1 Green Onion Minced
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
Juice of one lime

Place shredded cabbage and broccoli coleslaw mix in a bowl. Add cooked edamame and sprinkle with chicken seasoning packet from the ramen soup package. Crush the ramen noodles into small bite size pieces. Add dry noodles to the slaw mixture.

In a small bowl or salad dressing mixer combine vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce and lime juice and minced scallion. Whisk or shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad, toss everything together, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The longer it sits the better it gets so letting it sit overnight is also recommended.

Before serving taste and adjust seasoning to fit preference. A little more soy sauce can be added or a splash of ponzu will also work to brighten it up before serving.