Friday, December 5, 2014

Bartender's Corner: A look into the beer and spirits industry

Events and noteworthy news

By Sam Ujvary

Drink Local

A couple weeks ago, I went to an event, Drink Local Chicago. Hosted by Social Power Hour, the event, self-explanatory, consisted of local wineries, breweries and distilleries coming together for a massive tasting for the public. How brilliant, promoting the companies that don't have a massive marketing budget and may not be a household name. These are handcrafted products getting their name (and product) out there, and encouraging local citizens to become more a part of their community, all while enjoying a local wine, new beer or small batch whiskey. In such a populated city with endless options, it's really nice to go to a place where I can see which companies are growing, brewing and distilling around me, and it's even better to get to know those doing the growing, brewing and distilling. Much like this Made in the U.S. and buying local trend Americans have been embracing lately, it's nice that the craft industry is running with the idea as well.

Some of the notable companies, Potosi Brewing, Next Star Vodka, Carson's Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing joined other well-known players in the beer and spirits game like Rogue and Koval.

The one-day showcase of all things Chicago brought together local vendors in an intimate setting. Hopefully, by this time next year, more Chicagoans will learn of this event, and more local companies will want to partake in giving us a proper education of what goes on around us in the wine, beer and spirits world.

Chicago, here's to you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Drago's Seafood Founders Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

This November, a woman near and dear to the New Orleans culinary scene was once again celebrated through a lifetime achievement award in her name. The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) presented the 2014 Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award in Hospitality to Drago and Klara Cvitanovich, the beloved founders of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant.

Klara Cvitanovich, photo courtesy of Andrea Mabry Photography

“As the newest member of the NOWFE Board of Directors, I am extremely proud to be presenting this award in honor of my aunt, Ella Brennan,” says Lauren Brennan Brower, owner and managing partner of Dickie Brennan & Co. “The Cvitanovich’s are perfect examples of what this award represents: hard work and a lifelong passion for our industry.”

Born in Yugoslavia before immigrating to the U.S., the Cvitanovich’s met in the mid-1950’s during a Mardi Gras celebration, a fitting inauguration of the love they share for the community. They opened Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in the late 60's, and have since been an integral part of the hospitality industry, serving the greater New Orleans community through service, philanthropy and their charbroiled oyster empire. For 45 years they have made this region stronger, safer and more united--in the weeks following Katrina, Drago's gave away more than 77,000 meals.  
“We are humbled by this award, yet it is our honor to serve our communities and our neighbors, especially in times of need,” says Mr. Cvitanovich. “We are committed to continuing our support of local nonprofits and the people of this region.”
National World War II Museum, photo
courtesy of Andrea Mabry Photography
The gala, which took place Thursday, November 13 at the National World War II Museum, celebrated the husband-wife team for their incredible passion while entertaining guests with the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble and participating restaurants, including Emeril’s (Emeril Lagasse being a loving acolyte of Miss Ella Brennan herself), Commander’s Palace, Palace Café, and Mr. B’s Bistro (all Brennan family staples), Acme Oyster House, and more.

Like past winners, who include Chef Paul Prudhomme (he got his start at Commander's Palace), philanthropist Bill Goldring, and Chef Leah Chase, the Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award embodies Ella Brennan’s deep passion and commitment, which has made a significant and longstanding impact on the New Orleans hospitality industry. This is what the Cvitanovich’s stand for.

A commitment through extraordinary leadership and a profound love for this culinary scene is what perfectly exemplifies this award, and through it, celebrates Ella Brennan’s contribution to New Orleans, and the foodservice industry as a whole.

Miss Ella Brennan, matriarch of the celebrated New Orleans restaurant family, is regarded as one of the most revolutionary restaurateurs in the world. She read, she researched, she talked and interacted, and most importantly, she listened, all while packaging the Creole charm into the stomachs of hungry New Orleans visitors and locals alike. Years later, three generations of Brennan’s, who have also experienced a rift in the family, control one of the most iconic restaurant lines in not only New Orleans history, but American history. With more than 17 establishments, the Brennan family, guided by their matriarch, Miss Ella, turned the city into an exciting eating destination.

-Megan O'Neill

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bartender's Corner: A look into the beer and spirits industry

Events and noteworthy news

By Sam Ujvary

Culinary Fight Club

Last night I judged an event, Culinary Fight ClubEvery third Thursday of the month a different location and different Taste Bud Challenge is established, and three to four teams duke it out for a winning title. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary, and the challenge was Sips & Bites. Each of the three teams were tasked with concocting a craft cocktail to pair with a culinary piece that would perfectly harmonize it. In terms of judging these folks on their dishes—I had no business sitting at that head table next to the host restaurant manager, a marketing guru for U.S. Foods, and a previous CFC winner and top ten best sandwich-claimer at the World Food Championship in Vegas last week. But I was thrilled to be a part of it, so I did my best to put my knowledge to good use.

When it came to the cocktails, I had it covered. One team designed a dishwater-colored cocktail that tasted much better than its murkiness would imply. With a hint of St. Germain and a lemon zest to offset its sweetness, Grandma’s Kool-Aid was the only drink made without a tomato base—something I found interesting considering the other teams weren’t creating a dessert dish as their bite. They paired it with a small pork dish. The second drink, a Pinchelada, was a classic beer-and-tomato-juice Michelada, only with the team's own personal twist, and was paired with plantain nachos. The third drink was a lot more basic than the resta Bloody Mary. The third team—the winnerspaired their basic Bloody with a piece of fried shrimp and an apricot jam of some sort. 

What I adore about Culinary Fight Club and their mission, Fight2Feed. A mission to help fight hunger all over Chicago, last month they set out with a goal to feed 500 hungry Chicagoans. Quickly surpassing that goal, the team eventually raised enough donated food to feed over one thousand. Proceeds from each month’s Culinary Fight Club go to making these meals, and it wouldn't be possible without the team they've built. Anthony Martorina, cheferee and judge says, "We raise money by having chefs and home cooks performing a culinary throwdown. Then the money we raise is being used to try and knock out hunger in our city." 

Here's to you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

INFOGRAPHIC: Analysis of U.S. Food Waste Now Available

Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) represent three big trade associations tackling one big problem: food waste.

These trade associations representing the nation’s food retailers, manufacturers and restaurants have recently announced the key findings of a new study they’re calling the 2014 Analysis of U.S. Food Waste Among Manufacturers, Retailers and Restaurants. Prepared by BSR for the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the information and data is presented in a set of infographics to offer context and explanation around the respective industry waste streams.

Accurate assessments of the volume of food waste being produced by each sector are essential in moving forward and creating a more efficient and sustainable food system.

To start, only 75 percent of food waste in restaurants is regularly tracked.  Beyond that, 22 percent donate leftover food to food banks or other charitable organizations. And though recycling is another option, 64 percent of respondents said that there are strong barriers to donating, and even more (92 percent) said there are even barriers to recycling food waste.

For manufacturers, retailers and foodservice professionals, an understanding of the sheer size of waste is fundamental to affecting meaningful reductions.

For a more in depth look into food waste in all three sectors, check out the Food Waste Alliance’s infographics here.

FMI, GMA and NRA make up the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, an industry-led initiative focused on reducing food waste by increasing food donation and sending unavoidable food waste to productive use (energy, composting) and away from landfills. For more information and the complete report visit

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bartender's Corner: A look into the beer and spirits industry

[Tequila (book)worm]
Adult beverage education

By Sam Ujvary


Selling and serving alcohol anywhere is a huge responsibility. It's not simply an exchange of money for a shot of whiskey in the hopes that there will be a 20 percent tip attached—at least it shouldn't be. The person on the other side of that bar where you're sitting should be knowledgeable of their product, relatively personable, and preferably, should have some kind of alcohol certification.
In many establishments in most states, many bars and insurance companies require staff members to have some sort of certification. I used to bartend at a large hotel in Chicago, and by Illinois state law, I had to be TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) certified. In fact, TIPS alcoholic beverage server training is now mandatory in many states. As an employee who was serving liquor, I had to understand what to do in the event of an alcohol-related incident, and I had to learn what was and was not considered to be illegal, how to spot potentially illegal activity or questionable behavior, and how to prevent it if possible. While I was sitting through the three-hour training seminar, I looked around at my new co-workers. Most of them seemed extremely bored, which didn't particularly sit well with me. Sure, this stuff seemed monotonous, but when it was time to take the test at the end of the session, most of them didn't know that serving a Jack & Coke to a pregnant woman wasn't illegal. I started looking at this from my future patrons' perspective. I wouldn't want to be sitting at a bar and have someone serving me who didn't know how to tell the guy next to me that he's had enough and to take away his car keys. I like that now I know how to spot a 20-year-old who entered the bar through false pretenses, and I like that I learned how to develop some fundamental social skills to prevent potential trageties.
The point of these programs is to prevent over consumption, underage drinking and drunk driving. As an added bonus, it's a good certification to include on resumes. With TIPS, your certification is only valid for three years, but I've walked away with some know-hows that I'll always remember. TIPS training is currently accepted in the following states:

Arkansas, California, Colorado (not RVP approved), Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois Basset Approved, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah Beverage Server, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin (Bartenders License) and Wyoming. 

Here's to you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bartender's Corner: A look into the beer and spirits industry

[Ghost] traveling with alcohol enthusiasts

By Sam Ujvary

Bobby Mackey's

Bars are a $24 billion/year industry, and most of us who are 21 and older understand that. But what we never think aboutexcept during this time of yearis how bars are so popular, that many patrons have since passed on. In honor of Halloween, this is the story of a place used to having supernatural regulars.
I sometimes like to watch T.V. shows like Scariest Places on Earth or haunted shows on the Travel Channel, especially when bars are involved. I don't necessarily believe everything those being interviewed say, but I enjoy the tales and back stories of how these establishments became haunted. Having attended arguably the most haunted campus in AmericaOhio Universityyou can't not be interested in this kind of stuff. 
On a long and winding road in Wilder, KY lies a popular local bar known for its entertainment, Bobby Mackey's Music World. I recently watched a Ghost Adventures repeat on the Travel Channel where the hosts show up to the infamously haunted venue and attempt to summon the dead. There are several backstories involved in the haunting of Bobby Mackey's what was once a slaughterhouse was used as a supposed sacrificial ritual site. Shortly after, a killing occurred and one of the parties held accountable promised to haunt the area forever. Once the slaughterhouse was demolished, a new speakeasy was built in its place during prohibition. A speakeasy that was perhaps too popular, as it drew the attention of local Cincinnati mobsters who wanted to overtake the establishment. Refusing the relinquish, legend has it that violence quickly escalated, leaving more individuals who refused to cross over. 
Nearly 20 years later, a new nightclub, Latin Quarter, opened in the building, and shortly after, a tragic Romeo and Juliet story unfolded. The owner's daughter fell in love with a singer, but her father didn't approve, and made him disappear. Once his daughter found out, she took both her father's and her own lifeleaving all to haunt the building. In 1978, Bobby Mackey opened the doors of his self-titled nightclub, and he, along with much of his staff, have witnessed paranormal encounters ever since. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this, is that the singer from the Latin Quarter story shares the same name as the current owner, and the bar itself.
If you like bars, history, and questionable stories, I encourage you to spend this eerie holiday learning more about your favorite local establishments and their possible haunted histories. 

Here's to you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The French are passionate about their food, and trout has always played a prominent role in their cuisine. Today, French-inspired bistros, cafés and brasseries have experienced a resurgence across the US, and many are featuring rainbow trout on the menu. Its delicate flavor and tender texture lends itself perfectly to classic herbs and seasonings, sauces and French-inspired sides.

And when establishments look for freshness and value, they look to Clear Spring Foods,which provides a number of cuts and sizes including Clear∙Cuts─ the only 100-percent guaranteed boneless rainbow trout fillets available in the market today.

Menu Watch
Anis Bistro, located in Atlanta, offers “a taste of Provence in the heart of Buckhead.” This charming casual bistro’s vision is to transport its patrons to the South of France. Its traditional French fare strives to include the most authentic ingredients – from wines and cheeses to seafood specialties such as trout. In fact, a staple menu item, Truite Meunière, features pan-roasted trout and wilted greens with marinated artichokes, capers and lemon browned butter.And to the west, the Bistro Vendôme in Denver pan-sears its Idaho rainbow trout with caramelized fennel, haricot vert and grape Sauce Vierge for an impressive finish, calling this menu creation Truite avec Raisins. For more traditional presentations where the delicate, mild flavor of the trout emanates through, look to the Harbor House, lakeside in Milwaukee, or Brasserieby niche, not far south in St. Louis. Both prepare their rainbow trout simply, yet wonderfully with almonds and tender green beans.

Clear Springs Rainbow Trout is the perfect foundation for creating signature appetizers and entrées.
Hot Smoking rainbow trout lightly over birch wood is a flavorful technique. Enhance smoked trout with juniper berries and serve with a creamed horseradish sauce and cranberries for a European flair. Hot smoking both “smokes and cooks the trout at the same time.” This process requires much less time and effort than cold smoking.
wine sauce provides great aromas and flavors for easy-to-prepare entrées. Cooking trout directly in a wine sauce is effortless, and any semi-dry white wine is a good choice, whether accompanying the dish or during preparation.
MARINATE trout in a combination of herbs and nut-infused oil vinaigrettes to put your own signature touch on your menu and leave lasting impressions on every guest.
From smoked to sautéed, dusted to crusted, rainbow trout offers the ultimate in menu versatility and a great choice in addition to,or as a substitute for, other seafood items.

Be sure to visit for additional menu ideas!