Thursday, April 30, 2015

Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria, Hoffman Estates

Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria, Hoffman Estates

Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria in Hoffman Estates is not a small establishment, at 10,000 square feet it accommodates up to 350 people in the three separate dining rooms, a high energy bar area, with room for another 300 people outdoors. It doesn't feel cavernous though, but rather comfortable, with room between tables if you want privacy. The decorations lack cohesiveness, in my opinion, with old signs, restaurant flyers, sports memorabilia and more throughout the restaurant, giving the eyes no time to rest. There are also a few too many televisions, but I understand that a lot of people like to have them around. The outdoors area was not quite ready yet, but will be a fantastic place to sit when it is finished, with plenty of room and a view of the pond behind the restaurant.

Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria, Hoffman Estates

If you're eating at Moretti's, you should drink a Moretti, no? Some big name beers on the menu, along with some closer to home, and the wine list is adequate for a restaurant not focused on that. Coconut onion rings are an absolute must to start with (and they were good the next day reheated), especially if the bread that comes to the table is not fully cooked, like ours was. A minor issue. The Little Worker made his own pizza (a great kids/ menu item), while Laima and I enjoyed the rings and a salad. The pizza came back absolutely perfectly cooked and tasty to boot. My Jack Daniel's Burger (BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese and onion strings) was cooked just right, though the accompanying fries were not crisp enough for my taste. Laima ordered the Homemade Short Rib Ravioli, with a surprisingly good sauce (though too much of it) and a welcome contrast in the lemon arugula that they use as a topping. Everything tasted freshly made and done to order.

Moretti's Ristorante and Pizzeria, Hoffman Estates

If you have room for it, the desserts are beyond decadent - the three of us couldn't even finish one of the options (glad we didn't order more than one!).

This is a great new option for this area, as it really caters to a wide range of restaurant-goers, from casual family lunches to dedicated sports fans who want to watch the game. Moretti's has a kids' menu, a gluten-free section (including pizza), and plenty of options for the pickiest of eaters. Plenty of seating means you probably won't have to wait to be seated, while the carry-out option makes quick work of bringing this home.

Moretti's Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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This meal was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

WineStudio: Bodegas San Valero

Our second week of this month's WineStudio (theme: D.O.P. Cariñena), focused on two wines from Bodegas San Valero. Founded in 1944 by 60 winegrowers from Cariñena region, this coop now has more than 700 members. Besides investing in cutting edge manufacturing facilities, Bodegas San Valero has recently introduced selected grape harvesting, seeking even more the excellence in its wines by the selection of vineyards older than 30 years.

Tasting Notes:

WineStudio: Bodegas San Valero

Castillo Ducay Tinto Joven 2014: incredibly cool label with a cairn of rocks pictured; Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown at 2,100 feet from 15 to 20 year-old vines sourced from the Monte Ducay vineyard; nice garnet color with ruby edges; cherry, blackberry, and young fruit aromas and flavors in a simple, easy-to-drink wine; agglomerated cork; 13% ABV; SRP $9.
WineStudio: Bodegas San Valero

Particular Cariñena 2013: another great label, designed by a local artist; 100% Cariñena; dark fruit, spice, and herb aromas; forest, dark fruit, wood and spice flavors; luscious mouthful with well-integrated tannins; cork closure; SRP $15.
These wines were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

PROTOCOL #WineStudio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fromagerie Guilloteau: Fromager d'Affinois

I recently received samples of four flavors of Fromagerie Guilloteau's line Fromager d'Affinois: Plain, Bleu, Pepper and Garlic and Herb. Fromager d’Affinois debuted in 1995, produced using ultrafiltration, an ingenious process which retains a higher concentration of nutrients and ensures creamier and richer cheeses (and they are very creamy and rich, I assure you). A top-seller worldwide, the brand has expanded to include a number of flavors beyond the popular Fromager d’Affinois plain flavor.

Fromagerie Guilloteau: Fromager d'Affinois


  • The Fromager d’Affinois Plain is a luscious double cream that is nearly impossible to stop eating.
  • The Fromager d’Affinois Pepper combines the bite of peppercorns (black, green, white, pink and Jamaican) with the smoothness of a double-cream cheese.
  • The Fromager d’Affinois Garlic & Herbs pairs the zip of fresh garlic with mixed herbs (parsley, chives and chervil).
  • The Fromager d’Affinois Bleu combines the tang of blue cheese with the smoothness of the Fromager d’Affinois Plain. It is the ideal “starter” cheese for those looking to explore the world of blue cheeses.

Each one of these cheeses has a firm rind filled with the most sensual soft double cream cheese you can imagine. The combination of the two textures is extremely pleasing, and played off the crustiness of the baguette we topped very well.

Our four sometimes finicky eaters (aged 4 to 14) ate the cheeses up with no problem. Even the blue was given some grudging admiration, not a small feat at all.

We savored the flavors over a week or so and the cheese kept the good taste and proper texture the entire time. We will definitely be searching out these cheeses again and most certainly serving them to guests at our next party. Fantastic cheeses.

Cheese provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WineStudio: Grandes Vinos y Viñedos

Grandes Vinos y Viñedos, S.A., was created to sell the wines of a number of co-operatives of Cariñena Denomination of Origin, using a new company name, the most modern installations, and a workforce of the highest level of qualifications. Their vineyards cover over 4000 hectares, and are spread across 14 municipal areas on the slopes of the Algairén and Pecos ranges, between the Rivers Huerva and Jalón, at heights of between 320 and 850 metres above sea level. As part of this month's WineStudio, we tasted two of their wines, a rosé and an old vine red, both quite tasty and good values.

Tasting Notes:

WineStudio: Grandes Vinos y Viñedos Beso de Vino
2014 Beso de Vino Garnacha Rosé: Antonio the Bull kissed this wine and he fell in love; now he runs around the world and offers this wine to you - Beso de Vino, “Kiss of Wine”. 100% Garnacha from 40 year old bush vines; gentle press, 8 hours cold soak, free run juice fermented at low temperature; wine is not aged; mineral, cherry, and bright berry aromas; red berry flavors full of acid; very refreshing, perfect hot-weather wine; twist-off closure; SRP $10.
WineStudio: Grandes Vinos y Viñedos Corona D Aragon Old Vine Garnacha
2014 Corona de Aragón Old Vine Garnacha: cold soak 96 hours, 8 days fermentation, then 20 days on lees; deep dark, early opaque wine; red currant, dark cherry, pomegranate and oregano aromas; red currant, cherry cough drop, subtle cola, and vanilla flavors; ultra smooth mouthfeel; acid and tannin backbone into a medium long finish; synthetic cork; 13.5% ABV; SRP: $10.
Wines were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

PROTOCOL #WineStudio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wine of the Week: Angeline 2013 California Pinot Noir

Wine of the Week: Angeline 2013 California Pinot Noir

We picked up a bottle of this wine in Colorado, whilst Spring Breaking. Angeline Winery is a Russian River Valley that sources grapes from all over California, vilifies them, then blends them to create the wine they are after. For the 2013 California Pinot Noir, each lot is destemmed, fermented in stainless steel tanks, then pressed and racked to 35% new French oak barrels for secondary fermentation and aging. Pretty garnet color; nice basic Pinot with red berry and cherry aromas, backed by a hint of orange citrus; more cherries and berries on the palate; round mouthfeel into a smooth finish; twist-off closure; SRP $10.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge, Colorado

This year, during our Spring Break trip to Breckenridge, I got over to Broken Compass Brewing, the most local brewery in town. The exterior will definitely not win awards for beauty, but they've done a nice job with the design inside, featuring old ski lifts as benches and local art on the wall. Open daily at 11:30 AM, it's a bring your own food kind of place, which is probably a good idea due to the strength of the beers and effects of the altitude.

Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge, Colorado

With a lengthy beer list, it was hard to choose, but by going with non-matching flights, my brother-in-law and I covered most of what was available. You might love or hate the beer, but we both agreed there was a singularity to what they do, with an underlying common thread that seems to run through most, if not all, of their brews.

Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge, Colorado

With board games, big tables and the aforementioned feast-bringing, this is a place I can imagine whiling away an afternoon or two while in town. If you're visiting Breck, make sure to stop by and sample, let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Restaurants in Breckenridge

When we travel, we try to eat at the place we're staying as much as possible, both to eat healthier and also to cut costs. That being said, it's fun to also check out the local dining scene as well. Last week, in Breckenridge, we tried three new to us places that are worth checking out.

Restaurants in Breckenridge Fatty's Pizzeria

After a day of skiing, cooking dinner is not always the first thing on one's mind, though eating probably is. We were jonesing for something easy, when I remembered walking by Fatty's Pizzeria earlier in the week. A quick phone call was all it took, and our take-out pizzas were ready by the time we got to the car and drove over. Tasty sauce and toppings, great crust (just too much of it) - we went with the whole wheat option. Fatty's is locate doff the main drag and appears to be more of a locals hangout than some of the other places in town.

Fatty's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Restaurants in Breckenridge Dorothy's Homemade Tamales

Technically not in Breckenridge, Dorothy's Homemade Tamales is an unlikely destination in Fairplay, a short drive over the Continental Divide. Drive through the old section of town, hang a right at the end, then wend your way over to the bowling alley, where this restaurant currently resides. This place is so well known it was featured on Food Network: "Behind Dorothy's Homemade Tamales is a 100-year-old recipe, plus 2 days of prep to get the shredded chicken and red chile sauce just right." We ordered one of each tamale to try, which is definitely the way to go. The only one we didn't taste was the mixed vegetable, which wasn't very good anyway, according to Dorothy herself. They keep it on the menu for vegans and other veggie lovers. Lots of variety amongst those we did try and the mix of green or red chiles kept things interesting, especially from a texture standpoint.

Dorothy's Homemade Tamales on Urbanspoon

Restaurants in Breckenridge Quandary Grille

Located in the Village at the base of Peak 9, Quandary Grille is close by after skiing and takes reservations, if you have a big group like we did. A 2-for-1 Happy Hour for food and discounted drinks make this doubly appealing. Mostly typical bar and grill food done well, there are some more adventurous options as well. Decent local craft beer on draft list, though it would be nice if they included all the local options, like Broken Compass just down the road. The burgers and fish tacos were unanimously appreciated; in fact, only the Nachos fell flat (surprisingly). Good location, good, food, good beer, no need to ask for anything more. 

Quandary Grille on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wine of the Week: Newman's Own Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Newman's Own Cabernet Sauvignon

Newman's Own is an interesting company - growing out of the late actor Paul Newman's cooking hobby, it's a company that donates 100% of all its post-tax profits and royalties to charity. We've enjoyed this company's other offerings so we decided it was worth checking out this wine as well. At less than $10, it's not much of a flyer, either. I couldn't find much information on this vintage, but according to the Newman's Own wine website, the 2011 has 12% California Petite Sirah blended in to the California Cabernet Sauvignon, and I'm guessing they did something similar in 2013; you can taste a bit of the Petite Sirah's pepperiness in this red blend. The 2011 was fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak, which could be the case for this wine as well (winemakers have so many tricks and tech treatments nowadays it's hard to actually know if they don't tell you). This is not an overly complex wine, but also isn't overly simple either - the aromas of vanilla, dark cherry, plum, and spice lead into a smoothly sipping wine that shows off elements of dark fruit, black pepper, cedar, and herbal flavors. Definitely a food wine, it's good for drinking on its own but awakens and expands when paired with simple fare, maybe a pizza or pasta dish.

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