Andy and I were excited to work with Chicago Fire because it’s so close to home and we had actually been there before a few times (thanks to a $100 gift card that I won at a Christmas party my boss threw last year). Don’t ever try to win Christmas Carol Word Jumble against me. You will lose! ;)
We were able to actually use the gift card twice, so we had already tasted their fabulous version of gluten free pizza and already had a favorite wine we like to drink with our dinner (the Windy City Red blend that Boeger Winery creates just for Chicago Fire). :) We already knew the service was great and were lucky enough once to have a server who had adopted a gluten free diet as well. I am seeing that more often in restaurants and it is very comforting.
It’s been a head-spinning 3 weeks since our visit (my apologies to the team at Chicago Fire for not being a little more timely on this piece–life has been absolutely crazy lately with multiple visits to San Francisco, training for a 20 mile race, working 45 hours a week, and being in the process of moving happening all at once). Still, I remember what a great time Andy and I had that night, and we always enjoy the food at the restaurant. So, here’s a recap of what we ordered:
Starter drinkys!! It was Friday night and I was ready for one of the cocktails I had seen earlier in the day on Chicago Fire’s inventive drink menu! I was interested because I saw a few descriptions that were not going to be sweet (like a lot of other drink menus unfortunately are). I picked the Basil Lemonade with Tito’s vodka muddled with fresh basil & lemon juice over ice. It hit the spot, just as I had imagined it would. Basil and lemon together in my drink, yes please! :) Andy had a glass of Bolla Chianti. OK, now we’re all set…
In an effort to make the entire meal gluten-free, we chose the Baked Artichoke for an appetizer. It’s a whole artichoke, doused with lemony caesar sauce and topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Chicago Fire has quite a Greek influence in their menu and many things are flavored with lemon and garlic. That’s a plus in my book and in Andy’s, too because he is half Greek. :) My favorite part of the artichoke was the cheese on top that had slightly browned and gotten crispy, and the way it tasted with fresh lemon juice on it. It was a great lead in to the salad we ordered.
Next up we tried the Chicken Pesto Salad, which is a favorite of mine. It is made of Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, pesto-marinated artichoke hearts and red onion. We ordered the house made pesto ranch dressing on the side. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces and the dressing that comes with the salad is addictive. ;) The chicken on the salad was grilled perfectly. I recommend ordering a large size salad because it is perfect for sharing if you are a party of two and plan on ordering a pizza as well.
I wanted to mention the wine pairing we had. This time, we did not order the Windy City Red that we usually drink, but instead went with a Greg Norman 2012 (Santa Barbara) Pinot Noir (because of the lighter nature of ingredients in our salad and our pizza). We chose the Greg Norman Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara) because it was a better value than the other Pinot Noir on the wine list (La Crema).
By now it was pizza time! We decided on the gluten free Greek pizza. The Greek is topped with Gyro meat, white Sauce, Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, Fresh Tomato, Feta Cheese & Pepperoncini and served with what else? Tzatziki on the side. Love it. My favorite part of the pizza (other than the super crispy edges on the crust were the little slices of Gyro meat that had also gotten super crispy/crunchy in the pizza oven. We squeezed the lemon juice over the slices for an extra burst of flavor and the tzatziki lemon combo was just paradise. It’s a real treat for Andy and I to eat pizza/things with crust/bread at all even if it is gluten free, so it was fun to try the Greek flavor combination on a crust. Bonus points for the presentation, one slice of pizza was slightly propped up with the ramekin that held the tzatziki sauce. Beautiful!
Thanks Chicago Fire, we’ll definitely be back for more very soon! We’ll continue to work our way around the menu of gluten free pizzas. We’ve already tried and given thumbs up to the Stockyard and Chicken Pesto on previous visits. :)
Chicago Fire has a loyalty program called Square Points. You can points as soon as you get a Square Points card from your server. By registering online, you’ll be able to redeem your points. Then you can earn more points when you buy food, drinks & merchandise. Some of the rewards from the Square Points membership include a free Deep Dish Delight on your birthday, a free specialty pizza for every 500 points, and free corkage. Of course the term FREE CORKAGE was music to our ears, so we decided to enroll in Square Points, too!
Are you hungry for a visit yet?!?! Good news for you if you aren’t near downtown but live closer to Folsom or Roseville, because in addition to the Midtown location on 2416 J Street, there are 3 other locations: Historic Folsom (Chicago Fire made its debut on Sutter Street in Folsom in March 2003), Folsom at Palladio, and in Roseville at Sunrise/Eureka.
Thanks for the wonderful hospitality and service all the way from the marketing team to the staff at Chicago Fire Midtown. We’ll see you again soon. :)
Farm to Fork Wine Dinner Series: Piatti Presents Matchbook Wines, Spectacular from Beginning to End!
If you missed Piatti’s last wine dinner for the year featuring Matchbook Wines, I feel really bad for you! It was even more than I thought it would be––even though I knew it would be amazing. Piatti is one of my long time advertisers, and I have always been a fan of their food, but I never knew it could be pulled off like this. This dinner was probably one of the best meals I have eaten there. I think it’s mostly due to Chef Lance Carlini who combines his take on Italian cuisine with Farm to Fork/seasonal and brings it to a whole new level.
And then there were my wonderful table mates. So, at the Piatti wine dinners, patrons are sat 6 to a table, so you prepare to make new fellow loving wine friends–at least for the night! I was lucky enough to sit with Sharon, Tamara, Eduardo, and James and be a fifth wheel. :)
We were sat fountain side with illuminated trees surrounding us. We had been welcomed with an opening glass of Matchbook’s Rosé of Tempranillo as John and Lane Giguiere (owners of the winery) were making the rounds and introducing themselves to each table.
Then it was onto the opening dish: A wood fired spot prawn with Grass Valley polenta and a hatch chili chimichurri. It was paired with the wine we were already enjoying: Matchbook’s 2013 Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills.
As you can see. the plating was flawless on this dish. My favorite element was the chimichurri (a green sauce made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar) which I love on anything from seafood to chicken to beef or pork.
The second course presented to us was a Riverdog Farm Potato Gnocchi served with fall squash, Apple Hill apples, lacinato kale and cream. It was served with the 2012 ‘Arsonist’ Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills. The upfront nose on the wine revealed aromas of toasty oak, caramel apple and crème brûlée. It was an automatic match with the plump buttery gnocchi and apples in the cream sauce. Gnocchi is the only pasta I even missed post-Paleo, so this was like eating dessert for me! Also, lots of wonderful comments from my table mates––they also loved the squash and apples in the dish. It was the essence of fall! Great pairing, Chef Carlini! :)
Then it was time to get serious. The third course presented to us was a Tinto Rey Red Braised Short Rib with Thyme Toasted Mushrooms and fresh Horseradish paired with the 2009 Tinto Rey Red Blend, California. The Tinto Rey is a red wine blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Graciano, Tannat and Cabernet.
So, if you didn’t gather from the course description, the short rib was actually braised in the wine with which it was paired. We didn’t even really need a knife on this one, just a fork to pull apart the meat. Again, the plating was gorgeous and the pairing was genius.
Dessert came soon after that: A Milk Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Hazelnut––topped with Pomegranate arils. It was paired with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. I boxed up the dessert to take home to Andy, but took full advantage of the Cabernet. :) The Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon has vibrant ripe red fruit characteristics followed by layers of spice and earth and chocolate and that’s enough dessert for me!
I was completely wowed by this wine dinner and I was seated with the best company! Thanks to the marketing and management at Piatti for the great partnership we have had over the years. And thank you, Chef Lance Carlini! Amazing job. :)
As of October 25 this year, Matchbook now has a tasting room located in Zamora here. GO VISIT THEM! :)
So picture this: I work in Roseville (as a graphic designer/life saver) from 8:30am-5pm, and last Wednesday Andy and I have to be at a Kings Pre-season game by 7:00pm. Factor in a 30 minute commute time, and 10-15 minutes to get to the game from my house, and there’s pretty much NO TIME to cook and have a meal before we go.
Enter National Pizza Month and zpizza! They have a gluten free menu and salads suitable for a busy person like me.
All I had to do was call them ahead of time and let them know I wanted to pick up my order just a little after 5:00pm. I browsed their website, and chose what looked interesting to me. I thought their website was fantastic at showing what and was not available in gluten free. All you have to do is check a little box in the upper right hand corner, and the gluten free items remain listed, while the gluten items are grayed out. See?
So two items on the menu immediately caught my eye, beginning with the Arugula Salad! The salad has cucumbers, caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, candied walnuts and guess what? Arugula! Sold! I added on some avocado and chicken breast for an extra charge.
The other menu item that grabbed my attention was the gluten free Italian pizza with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, ham, basil, pesto (yes!!) mozzarella cheese, and black olives. At first I was worried I didn’t order enough food, but as we ate, we both got really full. I guess we’re not used to having a treat as nice as pizza––even the gluten free variety––and any kind of dough is really filling. I had 3 pieces and it was so gooood. The crust was great and really crispy on the edges. The pesto was terrific and I only wish I had ordered extra on the side to dip the crust in! The crust had a nice buttery flavor and even a sort of flakey texture. I am glad I have Andy to eat the other 5 pieces, because I would have demolished them for sure! ;)
Now, onto the wine we had with dinner! :)
Andy brought over 2 different wines to have with dinner. The white wine he brought was a 2012 Chardonnay from Mercy Vineyards. The second wine he brought (yep, I am pretty lucky to have such premium wines with a take out dinner!!) was a Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap which is produced from 127 year-old vines in Clarksburg!
Andy said he chose the wine pairing to resist the traditional “pizza wines” like sangiovese or chianti, because this pizza had pesto on it and really lent itself to a lighter style of wine. Enter the Chardonnay from Mercy––a less oakey more fruit forward wine, but still a Chardonnay lover’s wine, and the Pinot Noir mimicky Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap. Try either of these two and you’ll just think wow.
Kind of too fancy for pizza, but hey, gluten free zpizza is pretty fancy–especially before a Sacramento Kings game, so OK I’ll take it. :)
PS: The Kings won the game against the Toronto Raptors, 113-106! :)
I love September and October in Sacramento. There are so many fun events to celebrate Farm-to-Fork and harvest time. There’s an intoxicating energy all around. The wineries are busy harvesting their grapes and there gets to be a little chill in the air in the mornings and when the sun goes down.
Though the Farm-to-Fork celebration has officially come to a close, it’s certainly not over. So many local restaurants and grocery stores have adopted this theme, and it’s exciting to see the concept take off locally just in the past two years. (Even though Alice Waters was practicing Farm-to-Table 40 years ago!! and Sacramento is not doing anything new.) ;)
I know that ever since I went Paleo (3 ½ years ago), I have made it a point to eat non-processed, local and organic foods when at all possible. I was extremely blessed to meet a partner who had adopted the same healthy eating habits as me and we have continued to be Paleo/Primal in the three years since.
We have made some incredible Paleo meals together with the best ingredients from two of my sponsors: Nugget Market and Whole Foods. We have also used other purveyors: Taylor’s Market and Sunh Fish for our meats and fish.
This Salmon dish is only an example of the kinds of things we prepare on a weekly basis. There is almost always something this special, so many times, it is more tempting to stay in than to eat in a restaurant. Don’t even get me started on all the eclectic wine that we have to pair up with whatever we make. ;)
The recipe was adapted from the Salmon Hazelnut Recipe from the book It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. The cauliflower and sweet potato mash was done on a whim and is all my own.
I hope you continue to practice Farm-to-Fork/Farm-to-Table at your house and when dining out beyond this month and celebrate this incredible agricultural paradise we are lucky enough to call home. :)
The star of this recipe is the compound butter that tops the salmon after it has been baked. You can use all or some of it, but we had a lot left over (even after using 1/2 of it on 20 ounces of salmon).
Make the compound butter ahead of time (recipe below) and use the freezer to re-solidify it if you happen to be short on time.
For the salmon
1 Tbsp melted butter
salt and pepper to season
20 ounces wild-salmon (it was easier for us to portion after cooking)
Preheat oven to 400. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with salt. Place salmon in the middle, skin side down. Brush salmon with melted butter and season again.
Place salmon in oven and roast it about 10 min. Be careful not to overcook. To serve, portion your filets and top each with slices of hazelnut butter and additional toasted hazelnuts.
1/2 stick of butter
4 Tbsp hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 small shallot and 1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, finely minced
Toast hazelnuts over medium heat until golden, then set aside to cool.
Sauté shallot and garlic in 1 Tbs of melted butter until shallot is translucent. Remove from heat.
Then add shallot mixture to the toasted hazelnuts, along with the remaining butter, thyme, and some salt and pepper.
Place mixture into the freezer for about 10-20 minutes.
Then place a large piece of plastic wrap on flat surface and transfer the butter mixture (after it has set up a little in the freezer) to the center of plastic. Form a log shape like above. Wrap tightly in the plastic and chill until solid. This will take 2 hours in the refrigerator, or about 45 minutes in the freezer.
Spinach salad with red and yellow bell peppers, avocado, mushrooms, and salami from Taylor’s Market.
1 head cauliflower (cut into small pieces)
1 large white sweet potato (cubed)
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
Salt to taste
Cook cauliflower and sweet potato in boiling water until fork tender. Drain water and set aside.
Chop shallot into thin slices and sauté in melted butter in a small pan. Add the garlic. Cook until shallot is translucent.
Place cooked cauliflower and potato into a food processor with the shallot mixture.
Add the garlic powder and chicken stock and pulse until completely smooth. Season to taste.
Last but certainly not least was the wine pairing. A 2010 reserve Pinot Noir from one of our favorite (and super local) wineries, BellaGrace Vineyards. The grapes are sourced from Sangiacomo Vineyards in Carneros. It is a fairly ripe Pinot Noir, but with the distinctive strawberry flavors unique to the region. The wine is fairly acidic, which perfectly compliments the fatty characteristics of Pacific salmon.
You can find BellaGrace Vineyards on Facebook here or visit them in person at the winery (complete with a cave cellar) at 22715 Upton Rd in Plymouth from 11:00am to 4:00pm, Fri-Sun. They also have a tasting room in Sutter Creek (73 Main St, Sutter Creek) open from 11am-5pm daily.