Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Frontera Grill: Chipotle Hot Sauce

My husband & I returned from vacation about a week ago. We visited southwestern Michigan and Chicago. We had a great time and I didn’t want to come home! Our original plan was to spend two days in St. Joseph, MI, three days in Chicago, IL and one day in Saugatuck, MI. Well, we never made it to Saugatuck because we were having such a great time in Chicago that we decided to stay there an extra day. 
Don’t get me wrong, Saugatuck is a very cute little city. I have visited it before and had a great time walking around the downtown area. There are a lot of cute little artsy-fartsy stores and some great restaurants. There are also some great wineries that we were planning on visiting that are located near Saugatuck but there is just too much to do and see in Chicago that visiting Saugatuck will have to be rescheduled for another trip! 
Which will be hopefully soon because we wanted to visit Fenn Valley winery’s satellite tasting room located near Saugatuck because they make amazing, affordable ice wine and a great cabernet franc red wine as well. Since this is the second post that I have written that has mentioned Michigan wineries you might be starting to think that I am a wine snob. I wouldn’t say that about myself yet because I only really started drinking wine a couple years ago and I still have a lot to learn about wine. Right now, I would call myself a wine enthusiast!
Anyways, I am rambling a bit. What I really wanted to write about in this post is about an amazing meal my hubby & I had at Frontera Grill located in Chicago. Frontera Grill is one of the reasons why we traveled to Chicago this past week. Frontera Grill is owned by Chef Rick Bayless and his wife Deann Bayless. They also own two other restaurants in Chicago called XOCO and Topolobampo. I learned about Frontera Grill via Rick’s PBS cooking show titled “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” which is a great show that I really enjoy watching.
What I loved about Frontera Grill was that for each dish on the menu it listed what farm the organic meats and cheeses used in the dish came from. For the vegetables, the menu stated that a lot of the vegetables came from Frontera’s rooftop garden which means that the vegetables are seasonal and organic. 
All this attention to detail is probably one of the reasons why this place is so popular and I mean really popular. My husband & I got there on a Saturday at 5:15pm (the place opens for dinner at 5pm) and there was already a line that wrapped around the restaurant. We were probably in line for about 30-40 minutes before we got up to the hostess station to put our name on the waiting list. 
Once we were on the waiting list for a table, we then had to wait another 2 hours before we could find a table in the bar area to get drinks and an appetizer sampler platter. We were probably in the bar area for about 30 minutes before we were given a table in the dining room. I didn’t think I would ever be willing to wait that long for a dinner at a restaurant but I think it was definitely worth every minute (although it is convenient for the restaurant to be in downtown Chicago because once we put our name on the waiting list we were able to walk over to another bar nearby, get drinks and hangout for a couple of hours). It was worth the wait because this was one of the best meals I have ever had! I would highly recommend this restaurant to everyone.
After pigging out on the appetizer sampler, we shared the dish Pollo en Salsa de Elote, which is chicken, basted with Serrano chiles and a sauce of roasted tomatillos and fresh corn.  It is served with Iroquois white corn bread that is flavored with poblanos and cilantro.  The chicken had so much flavor, B swears it was pork!
Taquitos de Pollo: crispy taquitos filled with chicken, black beans and poblanos, with homemade sour cream, and aejo cheese.
 I didn’t try it because I don’t like fish very much, but B loved the tangy ceviche tostadas on the appetizer plate.  If we weren’t so full, I would have liked to have tried the plantain dish, Platanos con Crema, which came with homemade sour cream and fresh cheese.  B wanted to try the desserts as well after hearing from some other customers how delicious they were.
There is a small display of some Frontera products that are available for purchase at the restaurant. What they had available for purchase was some of Rick’s cookbooks, DVD’s of the various seasons of the PBS cooking show, Frontera salsas, a variety of Frontera hot sauces and a few other things. B & I decided to try out a couple of the hot sauces. 
Frontera Chipotle hot sauce

We bought the red pepper hot sauce and the chipotle hot sauce. I haven’t tried the red pepper sauce yet but I have tried the chipotle sauce with a couple of dishes and I love it! It has a lot of flavor and it has the right amount of spice to it. The reason B wanted to buy the chipotle hot sauce is because he was surprised to see that the list of ingredients actually included chipotle chiles. 
He said he has looked at buying various chipotle hot sauces or barbeque sauces that are supposed to be chipotle flavored and when he reads the list of ingredients on the bottles he finds that they use jalapenos or habanero chiles instead of using actual chipotle chiles in the recipe. 
I find this kind of odd, but then again I don’t work in the food industry and I don’t know if there is a good reason for this. Maybe chipotle chiles are expensive and the company wants to keep the product within a certain price range so they use jalapenos in the recipe instead. Who knows! Anyways, B was excited to see that they use chipotle chiles in the hot sauce and we were both happy to find that the hot sauce is made without any preservatives and is all natural. What a concept!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A sweet boozy dessert in 5 minutes!

At long last, I have found a dessert that I don’t feel guilty about eating.  My husband has quite the sweet tooth, so I am always on the lookout for desserts that are of a healthier kind.  When I was flipping through my August issue of Real Simple magazine I knew I had found the perfect healthier dessert to make for him. The recipe was from their “3 Ingredient Summer Recipes” article and the three ingredients in this recipe are: honeydew melon, fresh basil leaves and a white sparkling wine of your choice. It has got to be one of the easiest and quickest desserts to make on the planet.
You can use any brand white sparkling wine of your choice in the recipe but I recommend using Round Barn Winery’s Artesia Spumante sparkling wine. The winemaker’s describes the wine as “bright, fresh and softly sweet this wine is a perfect example of a Spumante that is not overly sweet.” I used this wine in the recipe and I thought it paired beautifully with the honeydew melon and basil leaves.
Round Barn - Artesia Spumante
 Round Barn winery is located on the southwestern side of Michigan and it is one of my favorite wineries to visit. My husband & I always have a great time when we visit one of their tasting rooms or attend one of their parties.  The staff is always friendly and willing to answer any of the questions you may have about their products. Many of my husband’s & my favorite wines are from this place. With their wide selection of wines, microbrew beers, brandies and vodka available to taste in their Baroda tasting rooms I’m sure you will find something you love and have to buy a case of!   We always seem to leave there with a case of wine.  Some of our favorites include the Vineyard Tears white wine, the Apple Demi-sec fruit wine, and the Pinot Noir.   If you are feeling daring, one staff member suggested you can blend the Apple Demi-sec with a quality vodka for a great martini.

Here’s the recipe via Real Simple magazine:

Melon with sparkling wine

Serves 4| Total Time: 05m
  1. Using a soup spoon, scoop half of a 5-pound honeydew melon into bite-size pieces and divide among bowls.
  2. Dividing evenly, pour 1 cup sparkling wine over the melon and sprinkle with ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
Side note: Make sure you use fresh basil leaves in this recipe because I really don’t think that dried basil leaves would taste very good in this dish.  The fresh basil leaves are really what make this dish taste great, the dish is really kind-of plain without them.