★ ★ ★ ★ – Julia Kramer

Bringing News of Verjus to You!

As promised, while we finish our repairs, we are going to the source to find the very best of what is going on out there and bring it back to you this fall.  Our first trip was this past Monday we headed up to Hickory Creek Farms  for their Verjus celebration.  Fortunately, it was one of those rare below 90 degree days and only about 90 minutes from Chicago, in other words, the perfect day trip.  Indeed it was.


What is verjus you ask?  Good question, verjus (translated literally – greenjuice is the very first pressing of grapes during the season).  It can also be done with sour fruits such as crab apples.  Historically it was used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, it is also found in Syrian Cuisine.  As what you ask?  Think vinegar substitute (heck it is really an unfermented vinegar — could certainly be fermented in a a barrel or cask of your choosing).  In cooking it can be used when a mild acidity is called for.  It is similar to a little citrus juice although the flavor is a bit rounder.


Beyond the obvious uses, our hosts (including Beverly Malen) encouraged us to try Verjus Cocktails from Adam Seger  including a fantastically herbaceous Rooibos, Verjus & Rum Punch w/ sour cherries and herbs, a Gin, Verjus & Ginger Beer Cocktail w/ fresh thyme and a Verjus Manhattan w/ Rye.  Important to note: all the spirits were from the fantastic newcomer to the local spirits scene, Journeyman.  They are located in Three Oaks a very short drive from Chicago and well worth the visit.



Palazzolo’s Sorbetti


After a nice covered trolley tour of the vineyards we returned to a tasty feast of goat, which had been roasted by Chef Leonard of another West Suburban local fav, Marion Street.   A feast under the apple tree was accompanied by the wines of Hickory Creek as well as some wines from a Long Island vineyard that may make an appearance on our fall list.  The meal finished with a little crushing of the grapes and a verjus sorbetti from Palazzolo’s Gelato.  The result was a delicious and refreshing alternative to the more traditional lemon or lime flavors.



So the versatile verjus reminds us that everything old is certainly new again.  We have one question for you?  Do you verjus?  Well if you want to try check out the very brief recipe below and let us know if you have new successes of your own using this interesting acid.


How to Make your own Verjus:

Note/Disclaimer: you need a lot of grapes to attempt this.  Figure about a pound and a quater of green wine grapes for one cup of verjus.  Try Midland or call a local winery to see if you can acquire… with the very dry summer it may be a more difficult task then usual.


You will need a food mill (wine press is great if you have one), fine strainer, grapes, mason jars to store the juice.  First stem the grapes as much as possible, then run through the food mill in batches.  Then pour through a fine mesh strainer to catch the rest of fruit (you will still have a little sediment on the bottom).  You can strain directly into sterile mason jars or a spouted container useful for mixing cocktails or into a punchbowl for immediate serving.  As with most things food related it is best used fresh but will hold for up to 6 mos if you add citric acid and a little sodium metabisulfate.  If sulfites disagree with you this is probably not something you want to do.


Happy pressing!






Vinitaly2012 – Part 1 or Scooters, Fiats & Cividin

Some Delicious Large Format Bottlings

When asked, “What is Vinitaly” an easy American response would be “Google it.” There is no meta-description that can aptly describe, which this event certainly deserves ten-fold …..and then there are the scooters.

Vinitaly may have inspired the cantina scene in “Star Wars.” Italians, Brits, Americans, Chinese, leaning into the slickest trade-show booth’s that only an Italian could have imagined. Speaking languages that all are translated by hand-gestures & understanding of a common interest in uva-culture. Castles, enoteca’s….night-club, music-pumping booth’s manned by models across from modest looking vintner’s in jeans & sport coats. Entering its perimeter takes a careful eye, & knowledge of Italian terroir. Italy’s 20 wine growing regions, each represented in a building the size of the UIC Forum….within those buildings the individual territories broken down even further. Wine makers from these individual DOC’s & DOCG’s show their new vintages, and occasionally, if you are worthy, produce some of their older vintages, richer, deeper examples of their wine-making prowess.

Fresh Goat Cheese from the Farm on the Bulfon Estate

It was my first trip back in 11 year and it has grown, showcasing the ever vibrant, Italian wine scene. We were guided by true gems of this industry. Bevery Malen of Imports Inc. “Strong is the force in this one”….Beverly represents some of the finest Italian Producers, with special strength in the North, including Friulian Elder-Statesman Emilio Bulfon , responsible for championing the survival & vinification of the rarest varieties of this region. There is more though. It is a proud story of someone close to his land, his heritage, his maker. The varietal wines he produces have names like, Cividin, Ucelit, Sciaglin sounding very exotic and indeed they are some of the most interesting wines that will ever touch your palette. Showcasing an exciting diversity of flavors and styles.

Bulfon and his family are true custodians of their Region, his daughter is an avid conservationist and fascinating historian of the area and every inch of the winery and grounds are dedicated to preserving and showcasing the most authentic and very best traditions that Fruili has to offer. Bulfon has only visited this country once to proudly showcase his wines 8 years ago on North Michigan Avenue at Cafe Spiaggia…we were lucky enough to be there. In the fall, his son will return to do the same, right here, in Berwyn….as I write this I realize the parallel’s and it makes me grin…..but these are stories to be detailed in future episodes.

Oh those darn scooters!

Side View of Large Cask at Bulfon

Then there is Aldo Zaninotto of Wine D.O.C. Aldo is a citizen of the world & whom introduced us to Mariano Buglioni’s wines this past summer. We found ourselves staying at his warm & welcoming Locanda & witness to his old-world sensibilities peppered with new-world polish. Wines vinified from oft forgotten, secondary grapes are transformed into front-running contenders. He revels in doing this but also excels in more classic wines such as Amarone & Recioto. Interested? Well stay tuned for a personal introduction on Roosevelt Road later this summer as part of a very special dinner we are planning.

Buzz, buzz, beep.

Like bees around the daisies, these Vespa’s zoom in & out in front of your Fiat….if you’ve driven in Italy you know what I mean, stressful but we were fortunate enough not to directly feel the sting. This is why one risks to enter the hive…to come out with honey so sweet. Mission accomplished.

We can’t wait to share the new found treasures & relationships of our trip with you this year and beyond! The Voyage was not not only fruitful, it was inspirational. To see the owners of a little cafe in Berwyn U.S.A so warmly received by our Italian & Croatian hosts & inspirations….what..Croatian’s you say? Yes….but that is for a future episode. Look for more entries on VinItaly and our trip over the next few weeks.