It's so hard for me to believe that the year is almost over, and we're counting down the days to New Year's.
It's been a whirlwind year for us including Rick's Top Chef Masters win, XOCO's opening, and working on the new cookbook (working title is "Fiesta at Rick's") to name just a few.
Holiday time is so hectic, it's often hard to find quiet time to spend as a family. I have two recipes to share, which will not only give you two delicious desserts, but are fun family projects - Polvorones or Mexican Wedding Cakes and Chocolate Truffles. I've also included the link to our Champagne Margarita, which is a great way to bring in the new year.
In closing, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your continued support, not only of the restaurants, but of all of our other projects. We wish you a healthy, happy holiday season, and may 2010 exceed all your expectations.
Peeks into Chef's Inspiration. Classic Mexican street food flavors and traditional techniques are reinterpeted this month by a collaboration among the talented culinary team at Frontera, Richard James, Enrique Gomez, and Rick.
Tamal al Pastor is a banana leaf-wrapped tamal made with fresh-ground corn masa, filled with grilled pork al pastor, grilled onions, and slab bacon. It's finished with pineapple-guajillo chile sauce, which is ladled over the top. It's been an instant hit with our staff, and as Richard says, "it's an amazing dish." I couldn't have said it better myself.
It's available at both lunch and dinner. Come in, try it, and let us know what you think. It'll be on the menu until December 26th.
Also, be sure to check out our dessert menus, which we just recently added to the menu section of the web site.
Upcoming Restaurant Events. Here's the scoop on New Year's Eve. There will be live music all evening, and we're currently taking reservations. Topolo reservations can be made either on line or by calling 312-661-1434. Frontera reservations can only be made by phone.
At Frontera, we're offering a special menu which includes four appetizers, a choice of entree, and a choice of dessert. The cost is $85.00 per person, which doesn't include beverages, tax and gratuity.
At Topolo, you'll have a choice of three 5-course tasting menus for $110.00 per person with beverages, tax and gratuity extra.
In 2010, we will again be offering a series of wine dinners. Space is very limited since we only take 45 people per dinner. Next year's are February 17th, March 17th and April 21st. For each dinner, we invite a different vintner, and our chefs build a tasting menu around the wines from that vineyard. The dinner starts upstairs in the test kitchen with margaritas, and a demo and tasting that Rick prepares. You then move downstairs to the Morales room for dinner. These dinners sell out quickly, so I urge you to call as soon as possible if you'd like to attend. The cost is $150.00 per person, per dinner, which includes the test kitchen demo, dinner, wine pairings, tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 312-661-1434.
Frontera Farmer Foundation. The good news is we have a lot of money this year to give away in the form of grants to Midwest farmers. In order to get the word out, I decided to list the requirements here, in hopes of reaching the largest number of eligible people.
The Frontera Farmer Foundation will award grants for capital improvements of up to $12,000 to small and medium-sized, individually owned farms that sell their food products to customers in the Chicago area at farmers markets and otherwise. Farmers must have been in business for at least two years and must demonstrate how the grant will improve both their farm’s viability and the availability of locally grown food products in the Chicago area. Grant applicants will be judged on the basis of demonstrated need, long-term dedication to sustainable farming, creative and business acumen, and commitment to sustainability.
The deadline for the application is January 31, 2010, with the grants being awarded in February 2010. Please pass this information on to anyone you know who qualifies.
Kitchen Gadget Adventures. These are stainless steel spring action scoops in the two sizes I find most useful.
The small one is often called a cookie scoop which I used for both the truffle and polvorone recipes.
The larger one is the typical ice cream scoop size, and I find it very useful for portioning out muffin or cupcake batter, and as Rick demonstrated last month, it makes fast and easy work of cleaning out the butternut squash seed pods.
They range in price from $10 to $15 a piece, and I would suggest that you go with this style of scoop since it will hold up better than the plastic versions. You'll find them in cookware stores and on the internet.
New Recipes from the Test Kitchen. Time got away from me this month between Rick's demos and testing the final stages of the new book, and I only had time to work on two recipes. I went with the holiday theme, and have two great desserts to share with you.
The first is a polvorones recipe (Mexican wedding cakes), and the second is our take on a classic chocolate truffle which we've flavored with anejo tequilla and chipotle chile powder.
At this time of year between entertaining, parties at work and hostess gifts, I wanted a few desserts that you could whip up quickly.
I'm also providing the link to our Champagne Margarita, a great cocktail for toasting at the holidays or for New Year's.
FAQ's. We've added a new feature to the web site under the Ask Rick section. Over the years, as you can well imagine, we have seen many of the same questions asked by Rick's loyal fans. We've created this section as a way to facilitate your getting answers to the most popular questions.
Sustainability. The Today Show did an interesting story last week on donating your old stuff. They had all kinds of categories from home goods to clothing to sports equipment to books and media. The electronic category caught my attention, since this month I upgraded both my cell phone and home computer, and now need to find a way to either recycle or donate.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence accepts used cell phones which they donate to women in need. If you go to their site, they have a pre-paid mailing label you can download, along with a tax receipt for your donation. Anything that they can't refurbish, they do recycle.
Here are two organizations that can help you find a new home for old computer equipment. The first is the National Cristina Foundation, and the second is Earth911.com. If your equipment is too old, Earth911 can help you find a recycle center near you.
Best Buy also recycles all kinds of electronics. There is a $10.00 charge for some items, but you'll receive a $10.00 Best Buy gift card in exchange. That's a win-win in my book.
It's a great time of year to help others in need with things that you're no longer using. Your donation can make a real difference.
Up, Up and Away. Don't forget that we're closed for our annual winter vacation from January 1st to January 11th. We'll re-open the restaurants on January 12th.
See you next month.
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