The Unicorn Cookie Cups Baking Kit by The Cookie Cups, which comes in a pretty pink box with pink cooking equipment and packaging inside, is the fun at-home baking experience for children three and up to do with a parent or older sibling. The 17-piece kit makes .24 mini size cookie cups and contains the following: 1 apron, 1 measuring cup, 1 silicone baking pan, 1 mini scoop, 24 mini cupcake liners, 1 unicorn horn mold, 1 unicorn plate, 1 whisk, flour, sugar, sweet Belgian chocolate chunks, white chocolate, pink sprinkle mix, pink powder, marshmallows, and vanilla frosting.
One of several kits from the designed to inspire young children there’s also kits for making pizza, pretzel making kit, and their Rainbow Ravioli Making Kit. The latter is an 18-piece set containing the following:
The Cookie Cups, a bakery that sells gourmet cookies in the shape of mini cupcake(s), was created and is owned by self-described serial-entrepreneur Nicole Pomije. The kits are, in ways, a magical way to learn to cook and have funny farm. After all, who doesn’t love unicorns and rainbow ravioli?
“My cuisine has always been at the intersection of food and culture,” said Chef Deborah VanTrece, owner of the Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, Georgia. “Having traveled the world as a flight attendant, I experienced how different cultures have their own versions of what we would call ‘soul food.’ My approach to cooking revolves around taking a modern, global approach to soul food, combined with the food I grew up eating with my family. THE TWISTED SOUL COOKBOOK will take you on a journey around the world right from your kitchen.”
Across chapters filled with vibrant photography, her book offers 100 recipes for dishes ranging from fresh salads and sides, generous entrees, exciting seafood, rich desserts, and brilliant as well as practical pantry staples to amplifying everyday cooking, including dressings, relishes, preserves, and sauces. An engaging teacher and storyteller, VanTrece shows home cooks the way to use techniques both simple and sophisticated to ensure a delicious outcome every time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chef Deborah VanTrece opened the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in 2014, and since then, the award-winning soul food restaurant has appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including features in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, NPR, Eater, Essence, Thrillist, Buzzfeed, Kitchn, and Food & Wine, winning acclaim for her mastery of imported cooking techniques and delicious globally informed cuisine.
She is included in 2020’s Tasty Pride: Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community; this is her first cookbook.
Grandma Lue’s Spinach Rice
3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup red bell pepper
1 cup chopped red onion
4 lbs fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
1 cup chopped marinated artichokes
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a deep casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic. Cool for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.
Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.
Spoon into prepared baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Bacon-Praline Macaroni and Cheese
6 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 tbsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk, warmed
6 oz cream cheese, diced
12 oz. American cheese, diced
3 large eggs
8 oz applewood-smoked bacon (8 to 10 slices), cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Transfer the cooked macaroni to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle half of this seasoning mixture and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the macaroni and toss to combine.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, until it makes a light roux. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce reaches a simmer. Add the diced cream cheese and American cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and turn off the heat. Add the remaining seasoning mixture and stir well. Quickly whisk in the eggs until they are incorporated.
Country Captain Chicken Stew
This classic dish shows the influence of the Indian spice trade throughout the ports of the old South,’ says VanTrece about her recipe for a dish that dates back centuries.
1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp duck fat or unsalted butter
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp curry powder
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1 (13.5-oz can coconut milk
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peanut rice noodles:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1 (8.8-oz package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, tossed in a little vegetable oil to prevent clumping, and chilled for 30 minutes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup toasted peanuts, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a large bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours to marinate.
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
Spring Pea, Bacon, and Radish Salad
“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” write VanTrece in the recipe’s introduction. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”
3 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen), blanched and drained, then chilled
6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional leaves for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and ground white pepper
In a large bowl, combine the peas, bacon, radishes, red onion, chopped fresh mint, and lemon zest, toss gently with the mayonnaise and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with whole mint leaves. Serves 6.
Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 324 milligrams sodium.
“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” writes VanTrece. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and pepper and process until smooth. Pulse in the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives until just combined. The dressing should be creamy but with a pleasing texture from the herbs.
Makes about 4 cups.
Per serving: Per tablespoon: 23 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium.
Aunt Lucille’s 7UP Pound Cake
About this recipe, VanTrece writes, “This is a pound cake, and the only cake I can ever remember my Aunt Lucille ever making. For me, it will always carry cherished memories of celebrations and good times. This is the kind of recipe that reminds you how good old-fashioned cakes were (and can be). Definitely use 7UP for this recipe because it has a high level of carbonation that helps the cake to rise, and gives it a brighter, fresher lemon-lime flavor than other sodas.”
For the pound cake:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted, divided
3/4 cup 7UP, divided
For the 7UP glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons 7UP
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray (see note above).
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour one-third at a time and mix on low speed, alternating with 1/4-cup portions of the 7UP, mixing well after each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and lift the pan off of the cake. Let the cake cool on the rack.
While the cake cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, 7UP, and lime zest until smooth.
Using a 6-inch wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cooled cake. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it run into the holes and over the surface.
Set the cake aside for 10 minutes before serving to let the glaze absorb into the cake and give it a lightly lacquered finish.
The cake can be made well in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen for up to 4 months. It will keep moist and can be pulled out to thaw several hours before serving. It’s great served alone or with ice cream or fresh fruit compote. Serves 12 to 16.
Per serving: Per serving, based on 12: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 6 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.
With summer fast approaching, peak festival season in Chicago will soon be upon us. See below for a list of some of the most exciting programs returning in 2022 (many of them free) along with a few new surprises!
Chicago Gospel Music Experience (June 4, 2022): This outdoor festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, celebrating the Chicago-born genre, brings together traditional choirs, contemporary urban gospel artists, and more. FREE
Chicago Blues Festival (June 9-12, 2022): With a diverse lineup in Millennium Park celebrating the blues’ past, present and future, the Chicago Blues Festival, the largest free blues festival in the world, shares the great Chicago-born music tradition while shining a spotlight on the genre’s contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock, hip hop and more. FREE
Andersonville Midsommarfest(June 10-12, 2022): For more than 50 years, this summer festival has celebrated Andersonville’s Swedish heritage, LGBTQ+ pride, and vibrant local business community. For three nights and two days, this vibrant and diverse community will bring together over 75,000 people to celebrate a proud Swedish summer tradition with eclectic music, great vendors, food and free kids’ activities. Suggested donation of $10, as well as proceeds from beer sales, benefit the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, along with several local non-profit organizations.
Grant Park Music Festival(June 15 – August 20, 2022): For more than 80 years, the Grant Park Music Festival has been Chicago’s summer musical sensation, demonstrating that classical music, performed by a world-class orchestra and chorus, can have a transformative impact on the city. This year will offer a thrilling lineup of music at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion with a mix of contemporary compositions and classical favorites such as Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Plus there’s plenty of family fun with the Independence Day Salute, Lights on Broadway, and Cirque Goes to Hollywood featuring live aerialists soaring above the stage. FREE
The Summer Smash Festival(June 17-19, 2022): SPKRBX presents The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival, the premier Hip-Hop music festival in the Midwest. For three days, on three stages, some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop will perform, including Post Malone and Wiz Khalifa. Tickets range from a 3-Day $275 General Admission Pass, to a $449 VIP Pass.
Chicago Pride Fest(June 17-19, 2022): Celebrate Pride in Northalsted, the country’s oldest official gay neighborhood at this lively fest, featuring live music, dance queens, local food, and more. The following weekend the Chicago Pride Parade (June 26, 2022), one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, marches through the neighborhood. Suggested donation of $15 for Chicago Pride Fest.
Millennium Park Summer Music Series(June 20 – August 18, 2022, Mondays & Thursdays): With the backing of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), this outdoor program features a wide variety of music from established and emerging artists at the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavilion. FREE
Pride in the Park (June 25-26,2022): An annual outdoor music festival held downtown in Chicago’s Grant Park at the end of June features LGBTQ+ performers, artists, vendors and more. 2-Day General Admission Passes to Pride in the Park start at $100.
Sail Grand Prix
Chicago has been chosen to host the United States Sail Grand Prix (SailGP) at Navy Pier (June 18-19, 2022). If you are not familiar, SailGP is one of the fastest emerging properties in world sports featuring exciting, up-close action as teams race identical F50 catamarans – a highly-technical, hydro foiling race boat that boasts highway speeds – in an annual global championship held in some of the most iconic cities around the world. Ten national teams will compete, comprising the best athletes in the sport representing the United States, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Spain, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, plus two new franchises from Canada and Switzerland. In June, the F50s will race on Lake Michigan directly in front of the Chicago skyline, marking the first time the championship has ever competed on fresh water! Tickets for single-day waterfront viewing access begin at around $40.
Ravenswood On Tap(June 18-19, 2022): Sip your way through Ravenswood, one of Chicago’s top craft beer neighborhoods and home to many small craft producers. Malt Row is one of the most prolific craft brewing communities in the country – and it’s right in Ravenswood! Enjoy brews from Malt Row, KOVAL Distillery cocktails, plus ax throwing, live music and some of Chicago’s favorite restaurants and food trucks. Suggested donations and proceeds from this event benefit the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Ravenswood Community Council, and several other community organizations.
Chicago SummerDance(July 6–September 17, 2022, select dates): The beloved series returns this summer at parks throughout the city this summer. Dancers of all ages and skill levels are invited to take part in introductory dance lessons by professional instructors followed by live music and dancing. FREE
Taste of Chicago (July 8-10, 2022): A bite-sized version of the classic lakefront extravaganza will take place over three days in July — showcasing an estimated 30–40 eateries and food trucks each day, and three mainstage evening concerts. Prior to the main event, a series of Taste of Chicago pop-ups will return this year with food and music events in three Chicago neighborhoods in June. FREE admission; tickets for food and beverages are sold in strips of 14 for $10.
Southport Art & Music Fest (July 9-10, 2022): Chicago’s iconic Southport Corridor blooms to life when Southport Art Fest takes over Waveland and Southport in July. Festival fans will visit the beautiful tree-lined streets of the picturesque neighborhood. Just steps away from the friendly margins of Wrigley Field, the two-day festival will showcase some of the city’s best and most diverse artists. FREE admission; all donations and proceeds benefit the Southport Neighbors Association.
Millennium Park Summer Film Series(July 12–August 30, 2022, Tuesdays): Guests may take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn as crowd-pleasing movies are presented on the state-of- the-art, 40-foot LED screen. FREE
Pitchfork Music Festival(July 15-17, 2022): Since 2006, the Pitchfork Music Festival has consistently proven to be one of the most welcoming, comfortable, reasonably priced, and rewarding weekends of music around. Hosting 60,000 attendees of all ages from all 50 states and dozens of countries, Pitchfork Music Festival showcases the best up-and-coming music from around the world, as well as special performances from touring stalwarts and legends alike. Featuring diverse vendors, as well as specialty record, poster, and craft fairs, the festival works to support local businesses while promoting the Chicago arts and food communities as a whole. Single day General Admission tickets start at $99 while the 3-Day, General Admission pass is $200.
Wicker Park Fest (July 22-24, 2022): As one of Chicago’s most anticipated summer festivals, and dubbed “Chicago’s Best Street Festival of the Summer ” by the Chicago Tribune, Wicker Park Fest is one of Chicago’s top-drawing festivals, attracting visitors from across Chicagoland and the country with its fantastic music line-up. Building on the area’s unique character, the weekend celebrates the neighborhood with eclectic music, great local food, arts and crafts, and retail vendors. Suggested donation of $10 and all proceeds benefit the local Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce.
Pizza City Fest(July 23-24, 2022): Steve Dolinsky – a 13-time James Beard Award-winning food reporter, currently “The Food Guy” at NBC 5 – is creating a pizza festival unlike anything that’s ever been done, over two days in the West Loop. Pizza City Fest: Chicago brings together 39 of the region’s best pizza makers (and one out-of-town guest) for two days of pizza making and appreciation, all in one location – Plumbers Union Hall in the West Loop. Thanks to 10 PizzaMaster ovens on-site, guests will be able to see each pizza maker create, bake and serve up their remarkable pies in the massive parking lot at the Hall. There will also be live music, pizza-themed art, merchandise and a few special treats. Attendees will also be able to take in a series of highly curated seminars and panel discussions with some of the country’s greatest pizza makers in attendance. General Admission 1-Day tickets start at $59 and 2-Day tickets at $89.
Sundays on State (July 24–September 4, 2022, select Sundays): After its enormously successful debut in 2021, Sundays on State, presented by the Chicago Loop Alliance, will return for Summer 2022, with portions of Chicago’s most iconic street, State Street, closing to vehicular traffic again for select Sundays this summer. Join neighbors from every Chicago community and beyond for this free, interactive block party, while safely enjoying art, culture, active recreation, food, drinks, shopping, and local attractions in the heart of everyone’s neighborhood. FREE
Windy City Smokeout(August 4-7, 2022): It’s like a weekend-long tailgate at this popular country music festival, known for drawing in the industry’s top names. The 2022 festival lineup includes some of the biggest names in the industry, including Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, Willie Nelson, and more. Along with today’s hottest country acts, the lineup also includes some of the world’s best pitmasters. Barbecue pros from all over the country will be serving up ribs, brisket, smoked meats and more, highlighting styles from Kentucky, Nashville, Missouri, and Chicago. Local barbecue vendors include Bub City, Lillie’s Q, and Pearl’s Southern Comfort. Ticket prices range from $45 for a 1-Day Sunday General Admission ticket to $185 for a 4-Day pass.
Northalsted Market Days(August 6-7, 2022): The 40th Northalsted Market Days is a weekend long live music street festival celebrating community in Chicago’s landmark Northalsted/Lakeview district. The 1/2 mile long festival features all-day lineups of live music on 6 stages, 250+ unique vendors, arts, crafts, food and drink, DJ’s and dancing, sponsor booths, and more! Estimated attendance of 120,000 people from near and far, representing all colors of the rainbow! Suggested donation of $15, as well as proceeds from festival support local nonprofits, and fund community projects like the Chicago Pride Crosswalks.
Chicago Air and Water Show (August 20-21, 2022): The largest free show of its kind in the country, this waterfront show features stunning aerial displays above Lake Michigan. The show can be viewed along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point. FREE
Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit ChooseChicago.com. Follow @ChooseChicago on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. #CaptureChicagoExcitement
Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made ofbrilliantly polished stainless-steel plates, now does more than just reflect the Chicago skyline and clouds above and the perfect Instagram backdrop for selfies on the ground. The sculpture, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, now is also an AI powered chat bot capable of answering questions about the city.
It all began when Covid hit and the constant stream of visitors stopped. The Bean, which is decidedly not good at knitting or baking bread, became focused on moving beyond being the most beautiful gigantic drop of mercury-looking statuary–though we must say it did a great job at that. Eager to be a vital part of the visitor experience, The Bean worked hard at becoming a digital communicator—wanting to interact with the millions of visitors who come to Millennium Park each year.
When my fans come back, thought The Bean, I want to be ready. There were a few bad moments particularly when The Bean learned about other non-Bean art and culture for humans to enjoy in the city. This was a tough realization at first and The Bean did have an existential crisis but thankfully it was quickly dealt with after a few counseling sessions. Another glitch was that The Bean learned more than The Bean really wanted to know about intense fan rivalry between the Cubs and the Sox and how it splits the city into two regions: North of The Bean and South of The Bean. Being wise, The Bean refuses to say which team it likes best and denies reports that it was seen in Wrigleyville wearing a Cubs hat.
“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, Executive Director of Millennium Park Foundation. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”
Call it The Bean Knows All. Want to know where to get your favorite style of pizza? What’s happening in the city? Head to explorewiththebean.com to ask The Bean about anything from neighborhood restaurants to what events are happening next weekend as well as the latest in child-friendly activities, things to do, museum exhibits, and more.
Turning this 66-feet long by 33-feet high sculpture, one of the largest of its kind in the world, into an AI powered chat bot called for team work. A partnership was developed between Choose Chicago and Northwestern University Medill School’s Knight Lab, a diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces says Glenn Eden, Board Chair of Choose Chicago, the official organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination.
“Our team of students was thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the design questions involved in making a conversational system that works well for visitors to Chicago,” said Joe Germuska, Executive Director of Knight Lab. “And if, in the future, The Bean needs us for new projects, we’re ready to help.”
The Bean Ups Its Game
Now that it’s also an AI powered chat bot, The Bean isn’t going to just sit back and relax. That’s not Bean-like. Instead, it wants to make even more friends and provide more information and so is continuously working to take its knowledge base to the next level. And by the way, The Bean loves when people take photos of it or pose with The Bean for selfies. But though The Bean thrives on attention, its goal is not to be The Bean-all when it comes to Chicago.
Instead, The Bean loves to share all that Chicago has to offer. All you have to do is ask.
Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.
Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south.
Photos are courtesy of Choose Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Following the Rueda Wine Trail, a historic route through the provinces of Valladolid and Ávila where the viticulture dates back to the 11th century, leads me this evening to Calle St. Maria, one of the main streets in the Medieval city of Tordesillas.
My destination is Bodega Muelas de Tordesillas, housed in a tall and narrow stone building dating back centuries where the two Muelas sisters—Helena Muelas Fernandez and Reyes Muelas Fernandez– continue running the winery started by their great, great grandfather.
“This is where we learned to make wine,” Helena tells us as she leads us down uneven steps cut out of rock to the first level of the vast cave like cellars that lie underneath the building. It is here, she tells me, where they’re aging their Alidobas Vino Blanca in casks of French Oak.
“This is very cry and crisp,” she says of the wine while we take a taste. “It was a very desert year in 2017, we had no rain which is why it has such a flavor as this.”
I like the taste and allow her to fill my glass once more. There’s a delicate light green cast to its yellow color that match its slight grassy aromas. It is amazing to me that the wines of the Rueda and nearby Ribera del Duero, two grape growing regions with harsh climates, produce such wonderful harvests of grapes. But, Helena explains, the hot summers and long cold winters create perfect growing conditions for varietals of the Verdejo grape.
As she talks, we navigate the stone steps further down into the cellars which ultimately some 60 feet underground. The walls are carved out of hard stone and I marvel at how difficult it must have been to hew the rock by hand which is how they did it back in the 1700s when the house was built. Each landing is stacked with barrels and wine bottles and each as a significance to Helena who talks about the vintage and the weather conditions the year they were bottled. The caves get darker, the light less bright the further down we go. On the next level, dust covers the exteriors of unlabeled bottles, vaulted tunnels disappear into darkness and iron grates protect rare vintages. We are descending into wine history and the history of a family who has dedicated themselves to making wine.
Now we’ve explored the depths of the cellars, we follow Helena through the shop and up to the second floor. Here, sunlight streams through the lace curtained windows. We’re in the tasting room where there’s a long table, large enough to hold us all. The cabinets and furniture look original, maybe even dating back to when the house was built which only adds to the charm. Helena passes tapas, those great small plates of Spanish food—who would know I would come to love potato salad sandwiches—and samples of their wines. There’s their Velay Vermouth made from 100% tempranillo, a 2008 Grand Reserve Muedra also from tempranillo grape (that and the Verdejo used for making white wine are the predominant grapes here), a semi-sweet Alidobas and a nice dry rose.
Their vineyards include the La Josa Estate where the Verdejo varietals are planted; their tempranillo are grown at La Almendrera estate, located in La Peña. At present their production is diversified.
“We make young white wines, white on lees and generous white; rosé wines; young and aged red,” says Helena.
The sisters are totally enthralled to be working in the old family business, in the old family home, using both their great, great grandfather’s wine recipes and developing their own. For those who want to learn some of the secrets of this venerable wine house, they offer several types of visits from tastings to an initiation into understanding the nuances of the wine.
That night, after we’ve said goodbye at the doorway and traveled back along the cobbled streets to the historic Parador Nacional de Turismo de Tordesillas, where we’re spending the night, the moon glows softly over the old stones and gardens, creating a dreamlike quality. Is it the past approaching? But then maybe it was the tempranillo.