Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Ah yes, one of my favorite blues songs. And one of my favorite cities. I must admit, I have not been there enough, but I love going to the “big city.” Earlier in the week, I was invited to attend the Palm Bay Imports Winemaker Portfolio tasting at the River Arts Center in Chicago, and was able to take in a bit of the Chicago restaurant scene as well.

I’ve got a lot of notes to assemble on some of the great wines I will be bringing in, as well as the wonderful winemakers I was able to meet and speak with at the event, but I have to first do a couple of shout-outs to some incredible restaurants I visited while there.

First was Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge on E. Illinois St., just down the street from the River Arts Center. Needing to fuel up before a big wine tasting, my companions opted for the sushi, we stumbled onto Niu and darted in for a quick bite.

Sitting out on their streetside patio, we were served up some wonderful maki rolls (like their Mellow Yellow, which is Norwegian Salmon, Tempura Crunch, spicy mayo and topped with a mango and orange sauce, or the more traditional Rainbow, with eel, Tempura Crunch, and wrapped in salmon, tuna and avocado.) It was pretty quick for a sushi bar, and lunch was pretty reasonable. For more info, check out

Dinner was an unbelievable treat, thanks to the our local Palm Bay rep, Ed Chalupa, who invited us to a remarkable excursion into culinary decadence at new restaurant, Province, on Jefferson St. between Randolph and Lake.

Executive Chef and owner Randy Zweiban is the purveyor of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine, marrying elements of Spanish, South American, Mexican and American styles of cooking in a unique and impressively delicious menu. To be honest, I had no idea what we’d be in for that evening, but after a long day of tasting wines from Austria, Argentina, France, Italy and all over the world, I was ready to eat. And eat we did.

A meal that assembled a group of wine lovers from distributors, retailers, and Palm Bay folks, we sat down to a nearly 4-hour trip into gourmet nirvana, led eagerly by the amazing staff (thank yous to our server, Bryce, and all the staff).

I was blown away by the Fluke Ceviche appetizer, the Artichoke and Romanesco Salad with Serrano ham and black peppercorn romano cheese, the 10-hour Braised Lamb with eggplant, homemade chorizo and spicy roasted pepper corn bread, and the Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake with melon compote and lemon yogurt. Wine was flowing, although I indulged in a great beer from Three Floyds, their Robert The Bruce Scottish Ale (Province only serves Three Floyds on tap and no other beer, bottle, can or otherwise).

For more info on Province, check out

There are so many restaurants in Chicago, so it’s truly a gourmand’s paradise. If you have a free weekend, it’s not that far a drive. Many thanks to Candy and Jeff for the invite and all the fabulous hospitality; I really needed it.

1 comment:

Maman said...

Darn, I would have loved to have met you when you were in Chicago. Maybe next time.