Category Archives: event

Top Chef Home Edition

This winter, in the 21st century equivalent of “hey kids, let’s put on a show”,  my friend Pete and his friends and neighbors in “Halsted Flats” — a very stylish apartment building on Chicago’s north side — have been holding their own “Top Chef” cooking contests prior to watching the latest episodes of “Top Chef Season 12.”  They recorded the weekly cook-offs on smart phones and posted short videos of “Top Chef Halsted Flats” on Tumblr:

I was surprised and honored to be invited to judge the final contest to decide the winner of “Top Chef Halsted Flats.”  What a fun night of great and inventive food and, of course, wine.  The Girl Power team of Julia and Jojo and the boys’ team of Peter and David engaged in a saucepan to saucepan battle for the title of “Top Chef.”

Top Chef Halsted Flats finalists, David, Pete, Julia and Jojo.

Top Chef Halsted Flats finalists, David, Pete, Julia and Jojo.

Pete and Julia.

Pete and Julia.


Julia and Jojo’s three course menu was inspired by the Spice Girls who also provided the soundtrack to the Girl Power kitchen.  Here’s the Girl Power menu:

Top Chef Boystown 047

In case you can’t read it, the first course was “scary” scallops with bacon and cream, “sporty” salmon with a soy and Dijon mustard glaze over “posh” squid ink pasta with truffle and champagne sauce with “Baby Ginger” chocolate and ginger spice cake pops with chocolate frosting paired with ginger beer.

Baby and Ginger Spice cake pops with ginger beer.

Baby and Ginger Spice cake pops with ginger beer.

Pete and David chose an Asian theme — pork pot stickers in a miso broth with ginger and lemongrass, Asian style stir fried pork in napa cabbage cups and an almond cookie with green tea-lychee ice cream, lychee and raspberry syrup.

Asian style pork cups

Asian style pork cups

More than the kitchens became heated.  The three judges engaged in lively discussions about the merits of each dish and the overall menus before awarding the title to Pete and Dave’s team.  Ultimately, the Girl Power team lost points for failing to take full advantage of the theme  they had chosen by not opting to include spices in each course.

Top Chef Halsted Flats winning team David and Peter in Peter's kitchen.

Top Chef Halsted Flats winning team David and Peter in Peter’s kitchen.

In addition to bragging rights, the winning team won the chef’s aprons and a copy of Chicago’s very own Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s cookbook “Girl in the Kitchen.”

For those confident enough in their culinary skills to compete for the real title, Bravo is holding an open casting call in Chicago on Tuesday, Feb. 11 for contestants for “Top Chef, Season 13.  Apply here:

Belfast’s Vibrant Restaurant Scene

In a recent regular Travel Section feature “36 Hours”, the New York Times called a visit to Belfast “an eye opening experience in the best possible way” and praised its vibrant restaurant scene.  The writers gave shout outs to the Taste of Ulster sharing boards at Robinson and Cleaver, the Crown Liquour Saloon and Ox.  Click on the link to read the article and watch the video.


Tips on storing Irish bread and scones

Irish sweet scones

A few people who stopped by Chicago’s Irish Christmas Market last weekend asked whether the Irish brown and white bread is frozen. Although the customers may have been frozen, the bread was not.  However, it freezes very well if you want to buy a loaf or two or a few scones to eat over Christmas.  The bread and scones are all freshly baked.  The brown bread is made with organic stoneground whole wheat flour and the scones are made with organic eggs.  The scone packets include a plain sweet scone, a golden raisin (sultana) scone and an orange and cranberry scone.

Here are tips on storing Irish bread and scones:

The bread is wrapped in plastic because it is being sold at an outdoor market.I recommend removing the plastic when you get home and storing the bread in a paper bag. The scones will be alright in the cellophane storage bags. If you want to save the bread or scones to eat later, freeze them in freezer storage bags.  Before eating, let them defrost at room temperature.  To refresh the scones, place them in a  350 degree oven for ten minutes.

If you want to subscribe to this blog, click on the follow button.


Thanks for visiting the Irish Christmas Market

Thanks to everyone who braved the cold and snowy weather this weekend to visit the Irish Christmas Market in Ravenswood. I’m especially grateful to those of you who bought my bread and scones. This was my first attempt at selling my baked goods at a market. I’m happy to report that it was successful and I hope to bake more for next weekend’s market.

New Irish Christmas Market in Chicago

A new Irish Christmas market debuts this weekend in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago — which also happens to be my neighborhood.  The man behind the concept is former banker Eamon Byrne who relocated to Chicago last summer from the lovely and historic city of Kilkenny to join his fiance Bridget.

The market will feature Irish gifts, food and music.   My Irish brown bread made with organic, stoneground whole wheat flour (pictured on the front page of this blog) as well as soda bread, scones and Irish apple cake will be available at the bakery stall.  Quantities are limited, so get there early.  Other vendors are Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Bistro, Begyle Brewing and Himmel’s European Bistro.

The market will be open 11 a,m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through December 22 at Montrose Green, 1819 W. Montrose Avenue, next to the Montrose stop on the Brown Line.

For more information, go to or visit the Facebook page

Irish Slow Food Event

This week an event at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago will show that there is much more to Irish food than potatoes.  On Friday, the Galway Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International will celebrate Irish culinary traditions and the Slow Food movement at Taste of Chicago Sister Cities: Slow Food featuring food provided by Irish owned Chicago restaurants and food providers such as the Gage, Farmhouse, Harrington’s Catering and Deli and Galway Bakers.  Non Irish participants include Slow Food advocate Quartino.

The event starts at 6 p.m., Sept. 20 at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Avenue, Chicago. Tickets are $50 and are available for purchase at Proceeds benefit the cultural initiatives of the Galway Committee of CSCI, the Irish American Heritage Center and Slow Food.  Chicago Sister Cities is offering a discount on tickets with the promo code: SLOWFOOD.

The event is part of a series of culinary events sponsored by Chicago Sister Cities International highlighting the ethnic cuisine, dining traditions and modern food interpretations of Chicago’s 28 sister cities, including Galway. It is being held in partnership with the Irish American Heritage Center, Slow Food Chicago,Slow Food Galway,Slow Food City’s Edge, Irish American News, Windy City Chef’s, Food Industry News, The Academy of Irish Music and Top Box Foods.

Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement that envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message