Fresh figs with Cambozola and prosciutto

Fresh figs with gorgonzola1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84-Recovered

Fresh figs are only available for a short time so when I saw them in the supermarket the other day, I quickly sorted through them, choosing the ripest unblemished figs I could find, then turned to Jason and said: “we need cheese and prosciutto!”


Continue reading


Grilled Ribeye Steak with Charred Scallion Citrus Compound Butter

ribeye_compound scallion citrus butter19_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84-Recovered

I first learned about compound butter while living in Germany. Compound butter is simply butter to which herbs, spices, etc. are added, rolled into a log shape, and chilled until needed to top fresh bread, baked potatoes, steaks, salmon, etc. While prepared compound butters are not so easy to find in American supermarkets, Europeans can easily find them one can find them in most grocery stores, right alongside regular butter.


Continue reading

Lagunitas Brewery and Taproom in Chicago, Illinois


The Lagunitas name is legendary among beer aficionados, and since 2014 the Chicago brewery and taproom have been thrilling locals and tourists alike with world-class beers made right here in the city, served up alongside some of the most spectacular pub grub in Chicago. The brewery is located on the near west side in a warehouse district among film studios in North Lawndale.

Entering the parking lot a large mural informs me that I have indeed arrived at the Lagunitas Brewing Company, 2607 W 17th Street, Chicago ILL, USA – Earth, Sol, Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Super Cluster, Space. Upon entering I am whisked away from my urban surroundings through a Wonka-esque corridor lit by a celestial mural and a dancing laser light that takes me on a journey beyond pure imagination to a land of malted barley and smiles by the barrel. At the end of the corridor a mosaic of a pinup girl holding a mug of beer directs me up a flight of stairs to a hall that lead me past banks of windows overlooking a staging area where beach umbrellas, an arcade racing game, an array of sofas and chairs stand ready to accommodate tour groups as they await their turn to tour the brewery, then sweeping views of the brewery floor.








The taproom itself features a large wraparound bar with comfy stools and rows of Oktoberfest-style picnic tables. I took a seat at the bar and in a minute or two Chef Bob Chamberlain came in to greet me. After walking me through the specials menu he went back to the kitchen and emerged a few minutes later with the first of a series of dishes, each paired wonderfully with fantastic beers.







Beet Salad Red and yellow beets, arugula, Israeli couscous, toasted almonds, manchego cheese, red onions & Born Again Yesterday mango vinaigrette, paired with Born Again Yesterday pale ale.


Salumi platter with spent grain crackers, a cheese washed in whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout, Wisconsin Gran Canaria’s sheep-goat-cow’s milk cheese, Manchego, housemade jerky, Serrano ham, beet jam with salumi from West Loop Salumi, paired with 12th of Never ale.

Beer Mussels PEI Mussels steamed with Lagunitas Sucks, with celery, carrots and blue cheese in a buffalo sauce, paired with Lagunitas Sucks ale.


Bacon Wrapped Scallops Pan-fried jumbo scallops served with purple mashed potatoes, seaweed salad and mango habanero jam, paired with Lagunitas IPA.

Dark Stout Brownie made with spent grains, roasted malt, and vanilla bean ice cream and caramel, paired with Lagunitas dark stout.

Having concluded my tour I can admit, I had half expected to see a massive factory coldly cranking out product but was instead greeted by a friendly team of passionate people cheerfully crafting excellent beers and entertaining guests with great food in a fun, inviting atmosphere. Lagunitas Chicago Brewery and Taproom is a great place to spend an evening and well worth the short trip from downtown.







How to Assemble an Easy French Cheese Board

French cheeses_Revol15_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

Who doesn’t love cheese? I’ve had great cheeses from all over, but my favorites tend to be French. I love creamy camembert, nutty salty hard aged Mimolette, and the deep savory earthiness of blue veined brie. For us there was a bit of a learning curve, an acquiring of taste to really enjoy strongly flavored ripe French cheeses.

The first time we went to Paris, it was to celebrate our 11th anniversary. We rented a tiny apartment in St. Germain that we later discovered was in a building the guide books noted as “the narrowest house in Paris”; though it was merely 1 meter wide at the entrance, thankfully it got wider toward the back, because it was shaped like a wedge of cheese! Once we had unpacked, our first trip was to the nearest supermarket to stock up on espresso, snacks, and wine for later in the evening.

French cheeses_Revol18_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol3_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol2_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol4_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84
As soon as we entered the store we were greeted by the aroma of freshly baked baguettes, but we knew immediately when we were approaching the cheese department. Though many French cheeses are kept at room temperature, even when wrapped in cellophane and in a chiller case, the combined aromas of all that ripe cheese can be overpowering. Within a few minutes we had filled two baskets with everything that caught our eye, several baguettes, a couple of mild and ripe cheeses, and wonderfully salty French butter. Although we had a long list of restaurants to try, that first night we dined solely on bread, cheese, butter, and wine.

French cheeses_Revol13_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol8_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol6_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol7_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol14_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

Fast forward a couple of months, we had experimented with a variety of cheeses and discovered what we liked, and looked forward to the smelly cheeses as much as the milder ones we liked in the beginning. Luckily we didn’t have to drive the whole 6 hours to Paris every time we needed cheese; the drive from our house in Germany to the French border was only a bit more than an hour long, and there was a supermarket not far from the crossing. Once we discovered how easily we could make the trip, we visited often to stock up on cheeses and butter.

French cheeses_Revol10_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol9_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol16_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol11_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol17_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

French cheeses_Revol12_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_84

Sometimes we like to re-live that first evening in Paris with an array of French cheeses and a bottle of wine. When my friends at Revol asked if I’d like to work with their new cake stand and glass dome, I knew in an instant what I wanted to prepare, a lovely French cheese tasting. In the years since returning to Chicago, I have spent a lot of time perusing cheese departments, but have always struggled to pull together all of my favorites in a single trip.

Lately I have started buying my cheese through online retailers who ship their products directly from France as well as other European countries. is a company in France that will ship to the USA and sell a wonderful variety of cheeses we enjoyed while living abroad. is a specialty delicacy online food store that ships products from various European countries. Between the two sites, we can experience a little taste of Europe without leaving our home. I hope you give them a try, I’m sure you will enjoy them as much as we have.

Bon Appetit’!

French Cheese Board
A good selection includes 2 hard cheeses, 3 soft mild cheeses, and 2 blue cheeses

Fresh baguettes, sliced
French sea salted butter (Beurre d’Isigny Butter – Doux (Unsalted))
Selection of crackers (pictured: LesleyStowe – Fig and Olive Raincoast Crisp)
Apricot and/or fig preserves (pictured: Bonne Maman Fig Preserves)
Champagne, Rose or even a nice light-bodied red wine will do. (pictured: 2016 French Blue Bordeaux Rosé)

My cheese recommendations
Petit Basque
Brilliant Savarin
Cambozola Grand Noir
Beurre d’Isigny Butter – Doux

Dinnerware pictured: 

Herradura Tequilas


I rarely pass up an offer to test premium spirits, and when asked if I’d like to try Herradura Tequilas I jumped at the chance. Founded in 1870, Casa Herradura is the world’s only remaining tequila producing hacienda, still harvesting agave by hand and estate bottling each batch using the same traditional methods they began with almost 150 years ago.



I visited the website to read through the history of the brand and the intricate production process as I waited for the package to arrive. Most interesting to me is the open fermentation process, which occurs without interference relying on naturally produced wild yeasts that are unique to the valley, lending subtle variation, complex character, and an incredibly smooth taste that industrialized fermentation can’t match.

Herradura Blanco
Aged 45 days, this white tequila is great for mixing but with a touch of sweet agave, warm vanilla, and surprisingly smooth woody notes, its a shame not to sip is neat. Surprisingly smooth sipping, it has a clean finish with a hint of oak.







Herradura Blanco with pineapple, red jalapeño and marash pepper
Makes two cocktails

4 oz Herradura Blanco tequila
1/2 cup lime juice (5-6 small limes)
1/2 cup pineapple juice plus three slices of pineapple
1 tsp agave syrup
1 red jalapeño thinly sliced

Slice the red jalapeño and set aside. In a large mixing glass, muddle two slices of pineapple, add lime juice, pineapple juice, agave syrup and stir. Wet rim of each glass with pineapple juice and dip into pepper flakes. I chose marash red pepper flakes (Turkish crushed peppers) for its depth of flavor and mild heat. Pour the cocktail into each glass and enjoy!


Herradura Reposado
(pictured right)

Warm and tinged with spices and fruit, cooking the agave gives it a buttery sweetness. Aged 11 months in American white oak barrels, this luscious tequila has a structured woody character and incredible smoothness.

During our time in Germany we learned a new twist on the old practice of shooting tequila; instead of trying to kill the harsh taste of cheap tequila with the sharpness of salt and lime, a wedge of sweet ripe orange dressed with a dash of cinnamon serve to enhance the qualities of a good tequila and prolong the experience. Though this combination may sound off-putting and will likely raise a few eyebrows, you might impress a few friends or even make some new ones.

Herradura Reposado with orange wedges and cinnamon
one serving

3 oz. of Herradura Reposado
Wedges of sweet orange
Dash of cinnamon

Nothing more to say about this drink except cheers! (or PROST! to our friends in Germany!)

Herradura Añejo
(pictured left)

Intense flavors of cooked agave, hints of dried cherries, figs, cooked pears, and fresh cream. The Añejo has a beautiful dark amber hue thanks to spending two years in toasted oak barrels giving it a bold, woody character and a smooth but spicy finish. Simply too intricate to mix with anything, I enjoyed it by itself. A stellar sip like this calls for equally stellar drinkware so I poured it at room temperature into Peugeot’s modern take on a connoisseur’s nosing glass, which sets atop a frozen metal chilling base. Bringing the temperature down about 10 degrees further smooths the flavors, then I enjoyed it with a bit of dark chocolate. Enjoy!

Poached Pears with Caramelized Chestnuts with Roquefort Cheese (Mauviel Series)

mauviel_poachedpears17_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

One of my earliest food memories was the discovery of a pear tree in the schoolyard way back in kindergarten. It was a sunny late fall day and as I ran through the leaves, the strangely shaped brown apples caught my eye. The sweet aroma of wet leaves and fallen fruit was too much to resist so I grabbed one, and as soon as I was out of view of the teacher, I took my first bite. The soft, sweet, juicy flesh was so delicious that I instantly fell in love as I quickly ate as much as I could and got rid of the evidence among the leaves.

mauviel_poachedpears4_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears2_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears9_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears3_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

I felt excitement mixed with guilt, and though I knew I could get in trouble, I repeated my crime several times over the following weeks. I would wait patiently for just the right moment when the teacher was distracted to sneak off for my secret treat until one day when I was surprised to find almost all of the fruit was gone. I could see a few hanging higher up, and decided I could climb high enough to reach one. As I wriggled my way up between the branches, I found a place to wedge my foot and as I leaned out to reach my prize, I spotted the teacher walking quickly in my direction. In my panic to climb down my foot slipped, and for a few seconds I felt like I was floating.

mauviel_poachedpears7_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears5_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears6_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

It took a moment to realize I was hanging upside down from the tree, my other foot still wedged in the perfect spot. The teachers worked quickly to get me loose, and though I was uninjured, I knew my secret was out. I did not get in trouble for my mischief, but the teachers watched me a little more closely from that day on. Though I still love pears today, I almost never climb trees, preferring to buy them.

mauviel_poachedpears8_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears14_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears11_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears12_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears13_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pears is with cheese and bread as a light snack, but poaching in simple syrup can deepen and enhance their delicate flavor, as well as turn them into a stunning formal dessert. To complement the concentrated flavors of cooked fruit, stronger, veined cheese and tender, caramelized chestnuts add richness and balance the sweetness. Citrus zest and Grand Marnier add a pop of freshness and acidity.

mauviel_poachedpears16_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

mauviel_poachedpears15_caramelizedhazelnuts_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_72 copy

Poaching fruit is a delicate process; as caramelization progresses it is important to avoid scorching or overcooking, and choosing the right pan can make a big difference. I chose a heavy Mauviel copper sauté for its instant reaction to flame adjustments, and because there will be no hot spots to watch over for burning. I can also use a lower flame, which prevents the fruit turning to mush. With the lid on, it essentially becomes a tiny steam oven, creating the perfect environment for gently cooking delicate foods.

Poached Pears with Caramelized Chestnuts and Roquefort Cheese
4 servings

4 pears, halved (any pears will do but bosc or red d’anjou have the best flavor)
12 chestnuts in shells
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon lemon zest (finely grated)
1 tablespoon orange zest (finely grated)
1/2 lb Roquefort or other soft, ripe cheese, sliced in chunks (two or three per serving)

Preheat oven to 400’F.

Cut a 1/2″ X through the shell of each chestnut to prevent them bursting. Take care not to miss one or you’ll have a mess to clean out of the oven! I’ve never had one explode on me but I’ve seen the aftermath in a friend’s oven. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. You will know the nuts are done when the X’s open up and curl back. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before peeling. Be sure to prepare a few more than you need, the aroma is irresistible!

In a large, lidded sauté pan, melt butter then stir in honey, water and orange liqueur. Add the sliced pears flesh side down along with the shelled chestnuts and bring to a boil. Add the lemon and orange zest to the pan then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender. Arrange pear slices and chestnuts on a serving plate, dress with additional syrup and roquefort or another pungent, soft cheese for an elegant dessert.

Products featured
Mauviel M’héritage Copper & Stainless Steel Saute Pan, cast iron handle
Revol Arborescence Coupe Bowl – Ivory
Revol Arborescence Rectangle Imitation Wood Serving Platter – Ivory
Revol Belle Cuisine Black Rectangle Baking Dish
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board
Wüsthof 4″ Pairing Knife Classic IKON
Piper-Heidsieck Rose Champagne
Leifheit Zester

Roasted Pork Loin with Shallots, Thyme and Sage with a Fennel and Orange Salad


I’ve been testing out a beautiful new baking dish from Revol that looks like a cute little pig and so far my favorite dish to make in it is a tender glazed pork loin with shallots, fresh sage and thyme. The open shape and high sides deliver moist, gentle roasting and the generous size leaves plenty of space for adding vegetables.







My favorite feature however is the cute little snout that makes a very convenient spout to pour drippings for making gravy. The textured black glaze gives it a cast iron look but luckily this little pig is made of lightweight porcelain which makes it an easy to handle serving dish as well!








Roast pork loin & shallots with honey, sage, and thyme glaze
Serves 6

Roasted pork
3 Lbs whole pork loin, fat trimmed
6 large shallots, peeled and trimmed
5 fresh sage leaves
5 sprigs of thyme

Honey white wine vinegar glaze
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons Sauternes white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Season pork loin all over with sea salt and black pepper. In a hot skillet, add 2 Tbsp butter and brown loin on all sides, remove from pan. Saute whole shallots for five minutes then transfer to bottom of baking dish. Carefully set pork loin atop shallots and using a brush, pour glaze liberally all over pork, coating shallots with any remaining. Place thyme sprigs and sage leaves on top of roast, lightly cover baking dish with foil and roast in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, remove foil and continue to roast 15 minutes longer until a meat thermometer inserted in center of roast registers 145f. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes before slicing.

Roasted mushroom cream sauce
250g/8oz mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon beef beef stock paste
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 large shallots from roasting dish, diced

Add butter to medium hot skillet; when foam appears add mushrooms and toss to coat, then saute until soft (5 minutes). Add beef stock paste, stirring to dissolve. Stir corn starch into milk, add to skillet and bring to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fennel and orange salad
1 large Fennel bulb
2 medium oranges (I chose cara cara oranges for incredible flavor)
1 medium regular orange
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove stems from top of fennel bulb, reserving leaves for garnish. Slice fennel bulb in half vertically, make two v-shaped slices to remove core from each half, then slice thinly. Slice oranges into thick slices, trim rind from each slice and cut into sections. Add olive oil, juice of lime, and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with fennel leaves.

Products featured
Black Porcelain Pork Dish
White slate stone feel pizza pan –  Basalt (Serving pork)
Equinoxe Ceramic Large Coupe Plate
ARBORESCENCE Porcelain Breakfast Bowl in Ivory
ARBORESCENCE Coupe Plate in Ivory

%d bloggers like this: