Saturday, February 23, 2013


They train all year.  They practice.  Condition.  They pour their blood, sweat and tears into the game.  But, only ONE can be named the 2013 SOUPERBOWL SMACKDOWN champion!!!
"I'm going to Disneyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."

A little history: Once upon a time there were two girls drinking wine on a back porch pontificating how to pass the ass cold & dark Chicago winteratimes. After a bottle or two, while discussing the love of food and friendly competition, the idea of the Smackdown was born! 

Well, we've made it through a few winters now and due to sheer awesomeness, the Smackdown lives on...

Here are some of the Smackdowns of the past:
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Chili & Cornbread
  • Retro Recipe Rehab
  • The Small Plate Six Course Italian Bring the Pain Sitdown Smackdown
  • Ribs N' Shit
And now...drum roll please: The 1st Annual SOUPerbowl Smackdown!

Here's what the invite said:

Hi People!!!
Soooooo...yes, it's long overdue - Sara and I are bringing back the Smackdown! That's right, folks. It's back. Woot!

Here's the DEAL:

We will have two Smackdown categories this time - SOUPS and DIPS. We will need six contestants (as before you can compete as a team or compete by yourself) for each category.

We already have two SOUP contestants, so we need four more. However, DIPS is wide open baby!

We will have fabulous prizes as usual. There will be judging, eating, drinking, great friends, good times and football.

If you'd like to participate, shoot me a message or post on the event and I will make sure we have you down as a competitor. As in the past, contestants are simply chosen on a first come first serve basis.

Also, as in the past, If you'd like to just come and eat, drink, judge and watch the game (and not compete), that is also very welcome!

We will start at 4:30 PM (Game starts at 5:30 PM CT)


CK and SJM

The Hostesses!
All the contestant's soups are lined up and ready to go!


2nd RUNNER-UP: Miss Sara Jean McCarthy, The "Soupstress" herself with a Poblano Corn Chowder!
Not only did the woman place third in the competition but, she also hosted and photo-documented this entire event!  Sara - special thanks for being the documentress, as well...
Also, her soup has like 5,000 steps, so good luck if you're gonna try and make this!

"So this is a mash-up of two of my favorite soups of late. The only way I can accurately describe the glorious combo is to detail the recipes of both soups separately and then combine. *note - some of the liquid measurements have been changed in the soups due to me knowing that I was combining."

1. Slice kernels off of 6 - 8 ears of fresh corn and put in bowl. Scrape the back of a large kitchen knife down the naked cob to "milk" it. Put the milk with the kernels. Reserve milked cobs.

2. In medium soup pot, melt 2 T. sweet cream butter. Stir in one white onion (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1 shallot (chopped) and the leaves off 6-8 sprigs of thyme. (I imagine a leek might be lovely here as well...)

3. Cook veggies in pot until soft and translucent. Dust with 1/4 cup flour and coat everything well. Pour in about 6 cups of veggie stock (recipe to follow), the naked cobs and a giant pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (cubed) and 2 cups heavy cream. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on consistency - you may need to add a little more water if it seems too thick. After 15 minutes, remove cobs and discard.

4. Stir in corn kernels and corn-milk, 1 pint halved grape tomatoes, salt & pepper to taste, cayenne pepper to taste, lots of fresh parsley and lime juice.

"WHILE THIS IS HAPPENING (if you can multi-task and if I can, you can) make Poblano Soup..."

1. Char 5-6 pobanos over gas flame until skin is blackened on all sides. Use tongs (I have an amazing pair of silicon kitchen-aid tongs that you should all have). Enclose hot peppers in paper lunch bag and let stand 10 minutes to steam. When fully sauna-ed, peel, seed and chop peppers. Meanwhile broil 1/2 white onion until blackened.

2. Melt 2 T. butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add 3/4 cup chopped white onion and 1 clove minced garlic. Saute until tender and add chiles. Saute 1 minute. Add 3-4 cups veggie stock (again, recipe to follow) and simmer until peppers are very tender (about 10 minutes). Mix in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 2 T. chopped mint.

3. Puree with soup wand. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in a dash of heavy cream.

"Now the combining is sort of up to you, based on how thick or creamy you want your soup. Add the poblano to the corn chowder until it seems a desirable texture. You can always add more veggie stock if it gets too thick. This is a matter of personal preference.

Top with sliced green onions and cumin-lime tortilla chips."

1st RUNNER-UP: Mrs. Meredith Bolinger (It should also be noted that Meredith and her husband, Dane, also won the Retro Recipe Smackdown a year ago).  She is a returning champ, that Mrs. Bolinger, representing for the team!
Aren't they cute??? Awwwww....
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken
breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails
1. In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.
2. Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High. Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time

And, drum roll please...The 1st ANNUAL SOUPerbowl CHAMPION 2013 is: Mr. Ira Amyx with Pork Belly Corn Chowdah!  

Bacon, 3 slices, chopped.
Pork Belly, 1/2 lb, chopped.
Yellow Onion, 1 small, chopped.
Celery, 1 stalk, chopped.
Poblano Chile, 1, seeded and chopped.
Jalapeno, 2, minced.
Garlic, 2 cloves, minced.
Milk, 4 cups.
Heavy Cream, 1 cup.
Boiling Potatoes, 2 cubed.
Corn Kernels, 3 cups.
Red Pepper Flakes, Salt and Pepper to taste.

1. Cook Bacon to a crisp, remove, pour bacon grease in soup pot, add onion, celery, peppers and garlic, saute til brown.

2. Raise Head, add milk, cream and potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 mins or until potatoes are tender like a lady. Stir in corn and red pepper flakes until corn is tender.

3. Remove 2 cups of solids, put in blender or processor to puree, return to soup pot, season to taste, add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Add bacon and pork belly, or ladle into bowl and garnish with pork... Serve with alcohol.
Oh look, there's Ira in the corner enjoying some of that alcohol!
Here are people kinda enjoying themselves...
That's a little better!
DIPS (pronounced DEEYUPS)

We had three discerning categories/awards for dips this year - and I love how I say that considering this is the only year thus far we've done this dip thing...ah well, you get what I mean!

1“THE JOE NAMATH” (most AMERICANA/FOOTBALL WORTHY but, also a-bit-of-a-drunk-womanizer in spirit)

2.“SHOW ME THE MONEY!” (most decadent, rich, flavor-sensation)


And the winners were...

1. THE JOE NAMATH & 3. TOUCHDOWN JESUS - Won BOTH by a landslide and awarded to Mrs. Courtney Bollettino!

Team Bollettino for the win!
Bollettino Buffalo Dip:
1 shredded rotisserie chicken
1 or 2 - 8 oz blocks of Cream Cheese (generic brand is fine)
Half bottle of ranch dressing
1 bottle of blue cheese dressing
1 cup of Frank’s Red Hot – DO NOT SUBSTITUTE
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Let warm in a crock pot or on the stove an hour before serving
Serve with tortilla chips or celery
In all it's glory...
Court being presented with a fabulous award certificate. 
(I wish I had a picture of these stupid awards I created)

2. SHOW ME THE MONEY - awarded to Andrea and Brian!
It's Tom Cruise a good way!
And, if I may say so, an A+ for presentation.

I have to admit - EVERYTHING WAS GOOD.  I mean, it's a pretty awesome problem to have...

Here are some of the honorable DIP mentions:
The Hulk Smash by Shag.
Crab Dip Experiment by CK and SJM
Skylar's Pennsylvania Cheese thing was really amazing and decadent!
The Rueben by Stephania!

And the SOUP honorable mentions were:
Amy's delicious "Peasant Soup"
I made a soup I had several times in Tuscany: Pappa Con Il Pomodoro
Side note: I am NOT a Vegan or a Vegetarian but the soup just so happens to be...
Another side note: Vegan or Vegetarian is the kiss of death at these Smackdowns!!!
Here's Jeff (Sara Jean's roommate) and I getting caught tallying the votes!  It's all very secretive.
This innocently happened as well...
Oh, and then this happened...
Which made 49ers fans look like this...
There were a lot of nice people there - like these two lovely ladies- Murray and Andrea (the "Show Me the Money" dip winner!)
And these fine folks...
Even kids can enjoy a Smackdown!
And, Vanessa and Paul dropped by after their show...

All in all - another successful Smackdown.  Thank you to all who participated!  And, big congratulations to all of our deserving champions.  The next Smackdown will be the highly anticipated "Taco Party Smackdown" which will take place in April.  Look forward to seeing all your faces (and some new ones) there!

Ciao for now,

Saturday, February 2, 2013

But if you try sometimes...YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED!

That's right Mick, dahlink!

There is this restaurant in my neighborhood called goosefoot that I have been dying (so dramatic) to try since it first opened a little over a year ago.  Now, I can walk to this place-it's that close- or you can even book a reservation online at Open Table but, via phone or internet, no matter what night I inquire about, what time I inquire about or how far in advance - I just can't seem to get my ass a table.   Can ANYONE get in there...I mean, lately?  Be honest.  Someone must be eating there!  I know...First. World. Problems.

So, what's a gal to do?  Since my abilities to book the restaurant over the interwebs or via phone have been continually thwarted - I thought I might send an email directly to Mr. Chris Nugent and wife, Nina, at goosefoot and see if it would help to politely and simply ask if I could have a reservation. Why not?

This guy.
This is what it said:
------- Original Message -------- 
Subject: request for reservation 
From: Carolyn Klein 
Date: Wed, December 12, 2012 12:06 


First off, cheers on such a successful and amazing restaurant in the 'hood - so very exciting! 

The reason I am writing to you today is because I have been trying to make a reservation at your lovely establishment for months now but - and I'm sure this comes as no surprise - I have been extremely unsuccessful. 

Anyhooo, I write a food blog called RELISH and we are just starting to get our feet wet in the foodie blog community. We usually meet monthly to cook, explore wine, talk about important shit, etc...however, next month we are starting to branch out into more exploratory urban pioneering element of the blog and I know goosefoot would be a great place to inaugurate. 

Now, please forgive my boldness - and I'm pretty sure this is impossible - but, our next date is set for Sunday January 13th and, if a girl could beg, we would LOVE to come to your restaurant! So, if by some MIRACLE you had a cancellation or the rapture happens and the sinners are left to eat good food could you let a girl know? We have a party of four and can do any time you have available on that Sunday. If not this time 'round...perhaps another time... Thank you for your consideration and continued success to you! 


Now, perhaps I'm biased but, COME ON!  That was an awesome email!!  I would have given the reservation to me...
"Ha!! She'll never get the reservation!"
This was their response:

----- Forwarded Message -----
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2012 3:12
Subject: RE: request for reservation


Thank you for contacting us!

We'd like to apologize for the delayed response, we recently received a very high volume of requests. Unfortunately we are not open January 13th as we are only open Wednesday-Saturday. Thank you for your interest in goosefoot and we wish you a happy new year!

Kind regards,
Chris and Nina

Perfectly lovely response AND they did an awesome job of not remembering the part of the email where I said I'd come any time they had available (i.e. - hooking a sista up) and simply ended their correspondence with a "we wish you a happy new year!" all. in. lower. case. goosefoot. style. y'all. aw. 

It's okay Chris and Nina. I know you are probably very busy. Catch you on the flip side...

Licking wounds and moving forward. What to do now? We still needed a plan! We still wanted to eat something amazing! We wanted wine and savories and good conversation in a lovely atmosphere - where we didn't have to cook for once! We still wanted to be entertained by gorgeous food. Yes, back to the drawing board...

Ms. Jackie had an idea! She emailed us within a few days saying she had something in the works but, would need to get back to us. It was all very mysterious. Who did she know? Where was she taking us? Why so secretive??

Apparently, Jack had a connection behind the scenes at Angelina on Broadway in East Lakeview. The restaurant doesn't normally have cooking classes but, she had taken a private class there before (she's fancy) and found the chef to be lovely, the atmosphere to be cozy and the food - amazing! Fred, the Chef, and Jackie sat down to discuss the menu and this is what Jackie sent us...
From: Jackie
Date: January 18, 2013 7:29:45 PM CST
To: Carolyn, Shannon, Kristen, Sara
Subject: Fwd: Dinner Menu Ideas

Girls.  I am over the moon.  Here is Fred's email below.

After reading it, please finish reading my thoughts here regarding a plan.
SO.  I have requested that we do this next Saturday at 5:30.  Shannon and Sara, I am really hoping you can be there!  I have mentioned to Fred that one of us may arrive late and join in wherever we're at....sound good Sara?

I have also told him that he should choose the meat, etc as we are most interested in what he thinks we should taste.  Right?

Question:  any food restrictions I should tell him about?

Question:  do you want to to a wine pairing with each course for the added cost or just have white or red for the whole meal?

I have told Fred we're up for the cheese course, YES?

Hopefully I'm not forgetting anything.  Please let me know about diet restrictions and/or your preference on the wine pairing and I'll confirm it all with him.

EEEEEeeeeeep!  Excited.
Begin forwarded message:
From: Fred Ramos
Date: January 17, 2013 6:12:31 PM CST
Subject: Dinner Menu Ideas

Here are my thoughts on a menu for you kids!

Amuse- Demitasse  Cream of Cauliflower Soup
First Course- Golden Beet Carpaccio, Green Beans, Hearts of Palm, Aged Goat Cheese
Pasta Course- Hand Rolled Ricotta Gnocchi
Fish Course- Scallop al Cartoccio
Meat- Braised Beef Shortrib  or Pork Saltimboca, Roasted Amish Chicken or duck u pick what u want for your entree?
Dessert- Served Family Style/ Tiramisu, chocolate Bread Pudding Creme Brulle, Spumoni, and whatever the special dessert is that wk!

6 courses small portions. That way you girls can taste a bunch of food, learn some new cooking techniques drink some wine and have a good time!

I think we could do it for $40 a person and that would include white and red wine. Does not include Tax and tip. We usually do not do tasting menus like this do to the size of the restaurant and kitchen. I will make the exception for you because it is earlier in the day and its only 6ppl. We can always add a cheese course we can do wine pairings for each course for an additional charge? Let me know about food allergies or vegetarians.

Understand the sample menu is just some ideas we can make your favorite soup, salad, pasta, doesn't have to be a scallop - can be salmon.  Let me know what you are thinking.  Let's lock down a time and date and talk to you soon.f

Upon arrival, look what we found on our table.  Our own menu.  FRED IS AWESOME.
Let's begin...
Amuse Bouche: n. (AH-moos BOOSH): small taste to start the night - literally translates as "entertain the mouth," - usually a good indicator that you're about to have a great meal!
Cream of cauliflower soup with crispy Proscuitto, Prosecco
First course...
Golden beet carpaccio, Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc
I'm certainly not a carpaccio expert but, in my mind, it is usually a raw meat or fish with lots of acid - this had no meat or fish going on but, hit the acidity nicely and I thought a delicious play on the word!  Clearly I've been watching too much Top Chef!
Scallop al cartoccio, Chardonnay
I had to look up cartoccio 'cause Momma had no clue.  It simply means: cooked or steamed in parchment.  Cartoccio sounds much sexier - nice menu play, Sir.
Hand-rolled Spinach and Ricoota gnocchi, Montepulciano d'abruzzo
OKAY - this was some of the best gnocci I've ever tasted.  It was light and had an almost Uni-dissapears-in-your-mouth type of consistency.  Delicious.
Clearly I hated it.
Meat course...
Beef Short Rib, Cabernet Sauvingnon
This was damn good, reminds me of that slow cooked Brisket I make from time-to-time...
Sidebar for K-Hud, who got a nose piercing since we last saw her - I did not fully capture it in this picture but, it looks totally HOT!
Moving on to the cheese course...
Fontina, Pecorino Toscano & Robiolla, High Valley Eruption (boom!)
Creme Brule (Tiramisu - not pictured).
Our Chef's assistant (or maybe they worked together and I'm mortified I am not remembering his name - sorry, awesome guy!) brought us out a lovely Inniskillin to pair with our beautiful desserts.

I digress... 
BUT, Ms. Shannon PR-ed her 1/2 marathon earlier this day, came in under 2 hours and then still dragged herself out to dinner with us-so awesome! (This is a picture of us zip-lining in Costa Rica last winter - I didn't have any pics of us from this last night so, this will have to do!)
Here were all the things I was going to talk about in this blog entry but, feel as if this baby has already worn out it's welcome.  Please ignore all typos.

We actually discussed quite a bit about our travels this night. Mainly France: Kristen and her partner, Sean, just got back from Paris and had an amazing time, Jackie officiated a wedding outside of Paris a little over a year ago and now and I'm planning my wedding in southern France in the fall. So, there were many stories to share on that front. I won't get into all the minutia but, so exciting all around!

It seems this dinner was, as many of ours tend to be with such friends who have many irons in the proverbial fire; diverse in topics, ADD in nature and full of our daily to-do's and what-to-be-done's. See notes above. So, it leaves me with - what did I/we take from this night? How do we tie this breadth of energy, varied discussions and culinary delights all together? 

Here's a thought...

I'm certainly no expert AT ALL but, I find it very interesting how afraid people are to ASK in life. Whether it be for simple directions, needs/wants in a friendship, desires from a partner or even for help at work because you're afraid you'll appear you don't have all the answers! Hell, I certainly have been guilty of all of the above at times. But, here's what I'm humbly learning. We can pretend to know it all. We can pretend our partner should know what we need and want - magically be able to read our mind and give it to us.  We can pretend our friends should know how or why they have hurt our feelings.  Or, we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and ask for what we need and want before someone dissappoints.  I know I prefer to know the rules of the game I am playing so I know when I'm wrong!  I mean, what's the harm, really?  At least when you ask, the playing ground is level - people are aligned - and it's honest. 

Jackie, Kristen and I reminisced about how utterly lost we were in Chianti one October, years ago: we had to pull over to the side of the road, stick our noses in our Italian phrase-books, put our big girl pants on and try and ask for directions to our Villa (which we eventually found we were only 25 kilometers from...duh!) to a group of Italian construction workers and one bad-ass waitress who immediately, upon hearing our butchered Italian, started giving us directions in English. As dumb as it sounds - it was scary - but, if we didn't ask, we never would have found a place to lay our heads after an exhausting day/night of travel and would have ended up sleep in a compact car in the middle of nowhere (well, not really) with nothing to eat or drink but three bottles of Coca-Cola Light and a tube of Pringles.

So, yeah, maybe when you ask for directions - the person you are asking wants to help you and doesn't just think you are a stupid foreigner. Or, hey, maybe when you tell your partner you need something from them - you don't get the response you would have liked. But, isn't it better to give someone (even if it's yourself) the benefit of the doubt and in the long run, know you were honest and fair.

It's like goosefoot. True, we wanted to go there. We asked. We asked nicely. It didn't matter. The answer was no. But, no one got hurt and I'm certain we'll get there at some point. Similarly Jackie asked, too. And, this time it paid off. And, Fred at Angelina was able to give us what we needed: a night filled with the celebration of fantastic food, wine and a sincere connection between friends. 

If anything, maybe we should take it from Mick and Keith: You [really] can't always get what you want but, if you try sometimes you just might find YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED. Life. Love. And some delicious eats. Thanks Jackie. And, a special thanks to Chef Fred.

Carolyn (and the ladies)

PS: Stay tuned everyone - next up is the SOUPERBOWL SMACKDOWN! The "Smackdown" is back and I intend to capture it - as best I can!

***picture courtesy of Sara Jean McCarthy's creative insomnia!***