Everyone has different signs of what
they look for to signify that Spring is here and Summer is just around
the corner. For some it's the arrival of asparagus, rhubarb, and
green garlic - the foods of Spring. For others, it's the arrival
of tulips, daffodils and pansies. For me, I knew Spring was in the
air when I saw the maintenance men power washing the sidewalks outside
the restaurant. Okay, I know that you probably find that a
little strange, but that means that our patio was just moments away from
opening (Saturday, May 1st is the official open), and we can start
dining outside. If you don't live in the Midwest, I can't
explain how happy we Midwesterners get at being able to eat outside
again after being cooped up for the Winter. So, based on my signs,
I can officially announce that Spring is finally here.
On another note, both XOCO and
Frontera were recognized last month by two separate entities. In
the case of XOCO, we won in two categories at this year's Time Out
Chicago Eat Out awards. The first was for Best New Restaurant, and
the second was for Best New Mexican Restaurant. In terms of
Frontera Grill, we came in 4th in Chicago Magazine's Top 40 Chicago
In honor of our wins, I created an "at
home" version of XOCO's wildly popular torta (and my personal favorite)
the Pepito, and from Rick's new cookbook, "Fiesta at Rick", the recipe for Fronterizo
Ceviche, which has been on the menu since the beginning. You can check
out these recipes in the Test Kitchen section.
And now, without further ado, the rest
of the newsletter.
I'm always a little sad when one of my favorite
dishes comes off the menu, and that was the way I felt when the tuna
chamoy (which was my favorite ceviche) came off. That is until I
tasted this new dish, Coctel de Atun Tropical from our sustainable
seafood appetizer menu. Imagine sashimi-grade Hawaiian yellowfin
tuna mixed with a chunky avocado-tomatillo guacamole and finished with a
tangy mango-grapefruit salsa. Believe me, it's as delicious as it
sounds. This is just one of the fabulous dishes from the new Frontera
menu which starts on May 4th.
Tuesday, May 4th. Rick
is taping an interview with Emeril for his Sirius radio show, "Cooking
with Emeril." Emeril's show airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11AM
ET on 112|XM 157. Airdate is TBA.
Wednesday, May 5th.
Rick will be appearing on the Martha Stewart Show. He'll be preparing
several dishes from the new book "Fiesta at Rick's", which will be released on July
5th. Check your local listings for exact air time.
May 23rd. If you're attending the National Restaurant
Show at McCormick Place, check out Rick's demonstration at 11:30AM with a
book signing at 12:30PM.
We're gearing up for this year's Festival of the One True Taste benefit which is on
Sunday, June 13th. We've started selling tickets for both the
daytime Farmers Market Fiesta and the evening dinner.
The "Farmers Market Fiesta" tickets are $45 per person
in advance, or $50 per person at the door.
Tickets for "The Dinner Like No Other" are $150 per
person, which includes dinner, drinks and gratuity. This dinner is
by reservation only. Tickets are selling fast, so you should act
quickly if you'd like to attend.
For tickets to either event, call 312-661-1434.
If you're unable to attend, but would like to make a donation to the
foundation, you can do so by following this link.
We're hard at work gathering great silent auction
items. Here are some of the items that will be offered in this
year's silent auction.
1. "Trip of a Lifetime." You and a guest
will join us for our annual four day staff trip to Mexico.
2. Spend the day in the test kitchen, working on
recipes for our next book.
3. Two VIP tickets to a taping of the Martha
Stewart Show in New York.
4. Tequila tasting in our private library with
5. You and three guests can spend the day on
Spence Farm, capped off by an alfresco dinner.
6. Cocktail party for 15 in Rick's backyard
garden, along with a tour of the garden with Master Gardener Bill
7. Private Demo for 15 in our Test Kitchen.
Here's another new product from the Housewares show that caught my attention. It's called the
Microplane Easy Prep Pizza Cutter and given the number of pizzas from
Rick's Frontera Foods product line that come through the test kitchen
every week, this gadget really got a work out. I really liked the soft
grip ergonomic handle and the large (4-inch) stainless steel blade, but
what set this cutter apart is the removable blade, which makes clean up
fast and easy, plus both pieces are dishwasher safe. This design
eliminates the problem that I have with most other cutters - trying to
get the area between the blade and the handle clean. The Easy Prep
Pizza Cutter works on both thin and thick crust pizza and retails for
$12.95. You can find it on line at Amazon.
from the Test Kitchen:
Two of the recipes this month come directly
from the recognition that we received in April for both XOCO and
The first is my take on my favorite XOCO torta,
the Pepito, which is braised shortribs with caramelized onions, artisan
jack cheese and pickled jalapenos. I created a version that's
easy to do at home using a slow cooker or dutch oven. My Slow-Cooked Short Rib Sandwich is a great
alternative if you can't make it into XOCO.
Next, I wanted to share a recipe from Rick's
new book that has been a staple on the Frontera menu, Ceviche Fronterizo. It's dishes like this
that gained us a spot on Chicago Magazine's "Top 40 Chicago Restaurants
Ever." Currently, it's on the menu using Blue Marlin.
And last, I wanted to take advantage of the
season by creating a dessert using strawberries, since this year, in
Chicago, we're expecting the season to start in the middle of May.
I hope you'll try my Strawberry Tres Leche Shortcake recipe.
I strive, as I'm sure most people do, to live a more
sustainable lifestyle. I've always felt that it's much easier to
achieve if you gradually make small changes, rather than trying to
achieve a 180. That's what attracted me to these two books.
They were written in a style which allows you to pick and choose the
things that you're most interested in changing, and they're presented in
a way that doesn't make you feel guilty for not doing more.
"Do One Green Thing" by Mindy Pennybacker.
Mindy's book is organized around four main categories; food and
drink, a green and healthy home, personal care and apparel, and
transportation. I appreciated how she presented the information by
providing the good choices, what you should avoid, and what you should
be aware of in making your decision. I was especially interested
in the section she did on plastics, not only from the standpoint of what
you should avoid in terms of being recyclable, but also in terms of the
chemical composition, and how that can impact your
"Shift your Habit" by Elizabeth Rogers.
Elizabeth approaches the sustainability issues from a different
perspective by offering you suggestions on how to be more
environmentally conscious, while saving you money and time. Her
philosophy is that you can pick and chose the ideas that work for your
lifestyle. Again, I appreciated the background information on how
these ideas impact not only the planet, but also our wallets.
Whatever your motivation is for going green,
it's worth checking out these two books.
See you next month.
Test Kitchen Director/Web Site Culinary Director
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