Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wine Tasting in Temecula

We all know that California features some of the very best wine in the country. On a recent trip to LA I discovered that southern California has some wonderful vineyards and views that could rival that of its Northern compatriots.

Temecula has a rich history in the wine industry with many successful vineyards establishing themselves in the early 19th century. The region is stunning offering a backdrop of mountains amongst the vines and green valleys.

Old Town Temecula feels like something out of a Western movie. The main street has a host of unique boutiques, specialty foodie stores (there's one for gourmet olive oil and another for root beers from all over the country) and restaurants. There is an incredible farmer's market on Saturdays with an impressive array of fresh fruits, veggie, smoothies, prepared foods and treats.

Of course you'll want to do some wine tasting on your visit to Temecula. There are a wide variety of options with some 40 wineries to visit in the region, but I loved Ponte Winery. The views here were especially stunning and you can't argue with 8 pours (your choice of wine) accompanied by addictively good pita crisps.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Diner en Blanc

Diners walking to the secret location for Diner en Blanc (

The scene was stunning. Hundreds of diners chicly clad in white feasted under twinkling lights in the iconic North garden of Chicago’s Art Institute. Everyone was smiling, laughing and overall enjoying a truly unique experience that drew curious glances from Michigan Avenue tourists. Diner en Blanc. You’ve probably seen the pictures of crowds dressed all in white cavorting the night away with sparklers, picnicking to the 9s and twirling napkins in the air like a dervish. You might have thought this was some crazy French phenomena. It was, and then it made it’s way here to Chicago on a warm August 24th.

Diner en Blanc has a strict set of guidelines that ultimately allow for a truly unique dining experience. Participants are only allowed to register for the event by invitation. The venue is a complete secret so guests only select their meeting location at the time of registration. Guests are asked to dress in white from head to toe (most are fully dressed to impress with hats, feathers and festive attire like something from a magazine photo shoot.) A limited number of tables and chairs are available for rent, but many of the attendees came toting their own (the all-white rule applies here too as well as table size and height specifications.) Guests arrived at their preassigned meeting location and were led to the clandestine and notable location at Chicago’s Art Institute.
Dinner in candlelight at the Art Insitute
Uber gourmet picnics by celebrity chef Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia and “Top Chef Masters” fame) were available for sale. There were a variety of picnic options including some decadent dishes: roasted Amish chicken, smoked Great Lakes Whitefish spread, Red Hen Bakery baguettes, pork and duck pate, Sambuca-spiked watermelon, pistachio and vanilla financier cakes and Amaretti cookies. The options were truly mouth-watering. Guests bringing their own picnic dinners packed equally impressive fare.

The night was truly a unique experience for those attending, and anyone watching the evening unfold.