Mario Batali’s Eataly Chicago

January 25th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Dining/Wining Life | My Wining Life - (0 Comments)


During a recent trip to Chicago to visit our daughter, we mastered Uber well enough to get us anywhere we wanted to go in the city. And I wanted to go to Eataly, Mario Batali’s 63,000 square foot Italian food emporium.  Just inside the front door was a dedication to Ernest Hemingway that reassured me we were probably going to like the place.  Of course, I am a fan of Batali from my daily, treadmill-time watching of  The Chew, which he co-hosts.  Also, David gifted me with a copy of Batali’s new America Farm to Table cookbook from Christmas.  I had read enough about Eataly to be intrigued and, I must say, it exceeded my expectations in a way that any store as large as five Trader Joe’s might!

The motto above the door is one I certainly approve of!  If we had know that we could have gotten a glass of wine and walked around with it, we probably would have.  As it was, we really didn’t have any intention of eating a meal at Eataly, but the power of suggestion overwhelmed us.  Inside the two-story building are eight Italian themed restaurants, the largest of which is La Pizza & La Pasta, where we eventually took a seat at the counter so we could watch the daily pasta dishes being prepared.

Lucky for us, there was no waiting.  Probably because it was still Sunday morning, but David and I used the “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” justification for ordering a glass of wine to go with a “pizza of the day”, which happened to be prosciutto!


Our very friendly server started us with a plate of oil and a brown paper package of freshly baked bread before helping us select a Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to go with our pizza.


We had a great time watching the preparation of the Daily Pastas and had no problem finishing the pizza, which had been perfectly baked in a stone pizza oven, also in view, and generously covered in fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.

Fortified and ready to shop, we walked around for the best part of an hour taking in the fish counter and it’s corresponding restaurant,  Il Pesce, as well as the meat counter.  I understand there is also a meat-centric restaurant called La Carne, which is in  a remote corner of the second floor and a vegetarian eatery called Le Verdure, as well.


If you to to Eataly, I would probably suggest starting the the center of the second floor, La Piazza, which is the busy Italian city center where you can order a glass of wine and stand at one of the tables to enjoy items coming directly from the counters or production corners located right behind them: La Mozzarella, Il Crudo, I Salumi & Formaggi and Il Fritto.

We were off to investigate Italian wines!  I have a new interest in Nebbiolo, red Italian grape variety that is being grown at Quarry Hill Winery, where I work part-time.  Nebbiolo is most commonly used in Barolo and Barbaresco wines.  I though perhaps I could learn a little more about the grape from the young guy working in the wine department.  He was initially very interested in talking to me, but when I began asking some specific questions that were out of his range of knowledge and explained that I work at a winery in Ohio, he admitted he was also from Ohio – an OSU grad.  He suggested we could sample some wines at the nearby Vino Libero counter, where 6 casks of wine were “on tap” and, once again, you could stand at a tasting counter and enjoy your wine with a selection of marinated olives, or salumi, or prosciutto di parma, or even spicy tuna.


I must say, the whole Eataly experience was a feast for the eyes.  Even the signs for the Toilette were clever!  We decided our trip home on Amtrack would allow for a small bag of groceries which we chose mainly from the selections of First Anniversary Celebration Sale bins that were prominently placed throughout both floors.

In addition to a particularly flavorful Provolone that we found in the cheese shop, we brought home some a small jar of a white truffles and mushroom sauce, a tube of Triplo Concentrato dei Comodoro tomato paste, and a box of Barilla Bucatini n.9 – my new favorite pasta!

Next time, and there will be a next time, we will plan on eating our way through both floors.  Mario Batali may have created a culinary circus in Eataly, but who doesn’t enjoy a culinary circus?

A Day of Michigan Wineries

November 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

After an especially busy weekend of working at Quarry Hill Winery, my manager insisted I celebrate with a glass of wine at a recently opened tasting room and retail wine store in historic Milan, Ohio. The Wine Post sits on Main Street, and as we arrived they were dismantling the rides from the Milan Melon Festival which was just concluding. Walking into The Wine Post was like stepping back in time. It feels like you are entering a hardware store, but the shelves are full of WINE!

Dark blue walls complement the white pressed tin ceiling and an awesome wine bottle chandelier hangs in the middle of the room.

Wine barrels have been made into high top tables, there is a comfy looking leather couch and lots and lots of wines to peruse.

But the best part is the small tasting room in the rear which can be separated from the front retail shop by sliding wooden barn doors that hang from the ceiling. Here a selection of wines and beers are listed on a chalkboard and an intimate bar beckons folks to sit and chat. A few more barrel tables and even some church pews offer seating under the string lights that hang above. I understand this back space will also host events and be available to rent.

Due to its Melon Festival popularity, the watermelon wine was sold out, but we three enjoyed a nice bottle of red and casual conversation with the other partons. Every detail of this little gem of a wine bar is perfect.

We stayed until closing time and promised to return! Soon!


How does someone who works every summer weekend at a winery relax? By visiting other wineries, of course! A quick summer trip with our best traveling friends took us to the Finger Lakes in New York for some wine tasting and relaxation. After a pleasant drive to Lake Keuka, our first stop was Dr. Konstantin Frank’s large and lovely winery. Dr. Frank immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950’s and brought a knowledge of Ukrainian root stock that still informs their large selection of quality wines. Read all about the interesting history of this legendary winery on their website.

Tastings at Dr. Frank’s were FREE! and the view was so very beautiful.



We only had time for one more winery before closing time on a Wednesday, and we made an excellent choice with Herron Hill, also on Keuka Lake near Hammondsport, NY. Herron Hill indeed sits up on a hill and has a lovely outdoor stage and eating area.




Our accommodations for the weekend were at Magnolia Place Bed and Breakfast in Hector, on Lake Seneca. It is a gorgeous house with beautifully appointed rooms and amazing breakfasts. Lots of porches give guests plenty of places to sit and relax.


Our host, Ted, suggested that before we leave we hike up the hill behind the house between the vineyards to enjoy the views of the lake. It was lovely!




Our second day of winery visits took us most of the way around Lake Seneca. After a morning of browsing in the shops in Watkins Glen, we headed north along the west side of the lake and began our wining at Shaw Vineyards because I had been told we would find the best dry reds there.

We were the only ones visiting their lovely tasting room, and we did enjoy the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a delicious dry Rose.

Next stop – Herman Wiemar Winery. The tastings here are given amongst the kettles. This trip we seemed to really be enjoying the dry Roses.



Well fed after a lunch stop at FLX Weinery and ready for more tastings, we headed to Villa Bellangelo – a fun place to visit with beautiful views, nice wines – especially a yummy 2012 Meritage – a well-informed wine tender and Scooters!!! I had so much fun posing with my best friend, Danette, on the pink scooter in front of a vineyard backdrop.



The scooters are great advertisement props for their Scooter line of wines. Sold in 1.5 litre bags with a pour spout, the Red Scooter, White Scooter and Pink Scooter table wines were too sweet for my taste, but a fun addition to the other offerings in the large gift shop at Villa Bellangelo.

Next stop – a winery and distillery on the same property. On the east side of Lake Senaca , Damiani Wine Cellars and Finger Lakes Distilling Company share the same driveway and are a walkable distance apart. We had an enjoyable tasting with Garrett, who shared his wealth of knowledge about the vodka, gin, brandy and whiskey made on the premises.



At Damiani Wine Cellars, we found a great dry Riesling and finally sat outside and enjoyed a whole glass of wine and awesome views of the lake.


Downstairs from the tasting room is a nice “cellar” which opens out to a side patio. We found out there would be a house band and open mic entertaining later and we promised to come back after dinner so that David could have his New York harmonica debut. If we lived in the area, I think Damiani Cellars would become a regular hangout.

Along with day trips to Ithaca and Corning, we did manage to squeeze in a few more wineries north of Hector on the east side of Seneca. Hazlitt 1852 Winery was hopping. They have an outdoor venue that was full of people sipping wine slushies, I think. We had a limited amount of time – most wineries close at 5:00 – so we headed directly for the busy tasting room where we had one of the speediest and most uninformed tastings of the trip. However, Hazlitt makes a Cider Tree sparkling cider that is delicious! We spent some money in their crazy gift shop, which had handbag-sized single serving plastic bottles of their most popular wines as well as magnum sized bottles of their crazy Red Cat Wines.

Just down the road, we found Penguin Bay Winery, which had a very basic tasting room and a fun place to pose for a photo.

They had a nice floral Dry Riesling and also a silky French oak aged Pinot Noir! You can drink wine and support the penguins at Penguin Bay Winery, since a portion of all of their wine proceeds are donated to the penguin exhibit at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY!

Our last tasting was in a basic barn behind a farm house called Standing Stone Vineyards. Here we were served by Sheila, a mature lady who reminded me so much of my dear co-worker, Anita at Quarry Hill. We bought a bottle of their Stonehouse Red mainly for the old black and white photo of the former farmer’s wife, Marie, and her chickens on the label.

Each winery was different, many of the wines were high quality, the weather and lake views were gorgeous! A great get-away!

********* Did someone say beer?*********

I have to at least mention that we spent a lazy and memorable hour sampling beer at Ithaca Beer Co. the afternoon we visited Ithaca. Outside of the spacious tasting room and restaurant, there is a huge outdoor area with picnic tables under a hops-trellised pergola. Bocce courts, a wine bottle wall and adirondack chairs invite visitors to waste more than an hour enjoying their variety of beers. We decided to try some flights which include 4 four ounce pours. Mine was the Seasonal Flight which included Ground Break, Cayuga Cruiser, Country Pumpkin, and White Gold. If you are in Ithaca, make this a sunny day destination!




Smith Berry Winery – New Castle, Kentucky

June 14th, 2013 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

Our annual drive home from AP grading in Louisville includes a brief detour off of 71N to Smith Berry Winery. Greeted on the way in by owner, Chuck Smith, who claimed we looked familiar, and maybe we did because it was our 4th or 5th visit to this quiet rural antidote to the noise of Louisville.

The 180 acres used to be a dairy and Burley tobacco farm. The Smiths still raise organic beef cattle, sheep and vegetables, but the tobacco farm has changed over into vineyards, and the wines produced are high quality.

Today we sampled some dry whites and reds. Our favorite red from last year, Brother John, was not available yet this year, but we did take a liking to the Burley and Cheviot, named for tobacco and sheep respectively. As we tasted, we chatted with Jennifer Cowden, events director, who explained that their every other Saturday summer concert/dinners generally attract 600 people who sprawl on blankets around their outdoor stage.

We have yet to plan our travels to include time to enjoy the lovely shaded wine garden outside the tasting room. A bottle of the American Oak, a crisp, oak forward Chardonnay, would have been perfect on a day like today.

As English teachers, we were first drawn to this winery through David’s love of Wendell Berry’s essays and poems about agriculture. Wendell’s daughter, Mary Berry Smith and her husband, are the owners, and several of Wendell Berry’s books are for sale in the tasting room.

Food writer, Michael Pollan, quoted Wendell Berry saying, “Eating is an agricultural act.” We think sharing wine is, too!

Shade Winery and Dancing Tree Distillery

May 19th, 2013 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

A recent lazy afternoon in Southern Ohio gave us an opportunity to visit two local gems in a place called Shade. Shade Winery is a great place to take a picnic lunch, get a bottle or two of wine and spend an afternoon.

We arrived just as owner Neal Dicks was putting the chalkboard sign out front and opening the doors for business.
Just inside the door is a tasting bar where Neal and his wife, Oui set us up for a full tasting – 14 wines!  We began with whites – two Vidal Blancs, a deliciously light and fruity Cuckoo Traminette, Refresh Reisling.  The Multiflora Rose Chambourcin was crisp and not as invasive as the name suggests!  Then on to Spiral Cabernet Franc (amazing!), Red Shoulder Corot Noir made from a hybrid grape variety I had not heard of, Kestrel Chambourcin and Elderberry.   Their Ridge Red Chambourcin is most like Buckeye Red where I work at Quarry Hill Winery, in Berlin Heights.  Not a fan of sweet wines, I wasn’t wild about Dream Pink Catawba or Bobcat Blush Niagara but I know some college students who would lap it up!  Go Bobcats!  The Cricket Legs Concord was a good juicy concord, but the last tasting – a sparkling wine Neal calls Schnuckelputz – was a pure surprise.  It tasted a little like a ginger beer and is made with organic sugar, organic ginger and organic lemons!  Yum!

A nice arrangement of high and low tables inside offer seating for about 45 people, but we were more interested in getting outside onto the nice deck.

We chose a bottle of Cuckoo wine and purchased a wedge of Tomme goat cheese from Integration Acres and a package of ramp crackers made by Crumbs Bakery. I had never heard of Tomme cheese, which is a French style low fat content cheese named for Tomme de Savoie from Savoie in the French Alps. It was delicious and even better with the flat and faintly oniony crisps.

Next time we will plan ahead, bring some of the family and make use of the two gas grills that Neal has down the hill for picnickers to use.

Neal checked on us frequently, offering lots of information about his grapes and philosophy of wine making.  His best commentary was “Beer brings you solace, wine brings you hope and water – bacteria”.  As our bottle was empty, he asked if we had ever been to nearby Dancing Tree Distillery. After making a quick phone call to the distillery on our behalf, he told us a tour group associated with the Athens 30 Mile Meal Conference was about to begin, and he told them we would be on our way.
Who knew this little gem was tucked along the side of the road! Distiller Kelly Sauber founded Dancing Tree Distillery in 2011 with the intent to make exceptional local spirits. He conducted a informative tour of his small operation for our group.

Kelly makes vodka, gin, whiskey and specialty spirits crafted 100% on premises from near-at-hand grains, fruits, herbs, and roots imparting flavors and styles uniquely Appalachian.

After the tour and detailed Q & A, we went inside the house next door for our tasting. Kelly led us into a beautiful kitchen and there we sampled.  First the Spicebush Gin, an award winning spirit flavored with juniper, spice bush, and rose hips.  I like gin and I really liked this flavorful, piney gin.  Then two vodkas – one grain based and one made with vidal grape pomace.  An interesting flavored vodka that would make a killer cocktail.  Finally, we tasted the coffee liqueur that was sweet on the tongue and had me thinking of dessert recipes for the bottle we would undoubtedly buy.

Local Beer in Charlotte, NC

April 29th, 2013 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

Time out from wine to give some necessary attention to beer! Whenever we go to Charlotte, NC to visit my son, we end up sampling some great beer. This time, we weren’t in town for an hour, when we stopped at Good Bottle Company, a new craft beer store and tasting bar that my son had been meaning to check out for a while.

The store is well stocked with beer from all over the country, as well as some international beers.

Along the back wall is a tasting bar with several taps and a map showing where the tasting tap beers are from.

My son insisted I try Word to Yo Moda, a red saison from Charlotte’s own NoDa Brewing Company. David tried Shift, a New Belguim Brewery Pale Ale. Sometimes I think my son’s first job washing dishes at The Brew Kettle introduced him to beer knowledge early on. We chatted with one of the owners about their business model, hours and interesting concept.

Before leaving, we entered the contest for the bicycle in the front of the store and headed down he street to the Savory Spice Shop to sample spices!

On Saturday, we finally had an opportunity to sample beers at two local breweries in the NoDa Arts District of Charlotte. Conveniently located next to each other – luckily this involved parking the car just once in the crowded parking lots – both were “hopping” on a dismal, rainy afternoon. The first was Birdsong Brewery,
founded in 2011 with a quest for better beer and a 5-gallon soup kettle. The outside deck was full of people and dogs and loud conversation.

Inside, it was standing room only with a few high top tables and a long pub bench table in front of a large window allowing views of the brewing facilities . A tour was in progress, an acoustic guitarist was entertaining in the corner and we enjoyed a round of very tasty beers. David said the Jalapeño Pale Ale was surprisingly sweet and not at all toxic. I enjoyed the Lady Bird Brown which had enough caramelly sweetness to please my palate.

Next stop, a run in the rain across the parking lot to NoDa Brewing Company.

NoDa was larger and noisier, but we managed a table for four and stayed a while tasting several of their beers.

David’s Hop Drop and Roll had enough IBUs to satisfy his craving for citrus bitterness and my Coco Loco was rich and nutty with hints of organic coconut.

It must have been edging toward dinner time, because servers from The Tin Kitchen Food Truck began circulating the room with menus and order forms. Coincidentally, we had met the owner a year ago tasting spices at Savory Spice and had a long conversation about his food truck enterprise back then. We had to order something! A sampling of Duck Confit tacos and a taste of chips and salsa for the table!

Sunday morning, we might as well have been home in Cleveland – gray skies, pouring rain and the culinary highlight of the weekend threatened by weather. We had planned on a day of fun in the sun back in the NoDa District at the Growlers Pourhouse Oyster Roast 2013. Growlers is a bar that specializes in “Craft Beer and Beer Food”. We got information from the Facebook page stating that the event was not cancelled, the bands would still play, and the food ticket price had been waived. For a $5 cover charge, we stood in the cold and rain to feast on buckets of steamed oysters, perfect pulled pork sandwiches, brats and pretzels. Of course – more beer!

Under dripping canopies, tables were set up with crackers, hot sauces, paper towels and oyster shucking knives. David tried in vain to steady the hot oysters in his cold fingers to pry. Luckily we found a young woman with advanced shucking skills who had already eaten her fill and who was happy to shuck for us so we could slurp some of the salty goodness of the steaming oysters. They ran out after our first bucket – but we had already had a plenty and the band and wet drinkers were getting loud.

Each beer I set down seemed to be snatched up by someone else before I could finish it, but our jeans were getting soaked and a warm movie theater was calling us. A memorable “pouring Pourhouse” experience that left us laughing – not “growling”!

I am excited to be partnering with Your Wine Cellar in Strongsville, Ohio. Your Wine Cellar is the winery side of The Brew Kettle, a brew-on-premises micro-brewery and restaurant that also offers an opportunity to make and bottle wine. This is our FAVORITE place in our home town. The intimate seating and colorful decor in Your Wine Cellar creates perfect place for a small gathering or party. Perhaps the best part – just ask my husband – is the beer taps along along with wine selections at the tasting bar. Having established a friendly relationship with Ry Haditsch, the wine-mistress and manager, I was able to help her use chalk cloth to make her life easier – and the experience of her guests more fun.

Chalk Cloth sign displays wines available for making

Ry needed a place to display the list of wines available to make – a list that changes from time to time. This long, reusable chalk cloth scroll did the trick. The chalk cloth is bordered with a rich gold and burgundy grape fabric and stabilized with dowel rods at the top and bottom.

Linda’s Other Life chalk cloth table mat at Your Wine Cellar Winery

Also, at Your Wine Cellar, Ry is displaying and selling a few of my chalk cloth table mats which measure 14 x 30 inches and are perfect for labeling wines and cheeses for a wine tasting or party tablescape.

Linda’s Other Life chalk cloth table mat at Your Wine Cellar Winery

She has offered to make wine gift bags available to customers purchasing a bottle of wine to give as a gift.

And, just for fun, there is a full sized chalk cloth table runner on the copper-topped tasting bar. Looks like customers are already having some fun with my creations!

Linda’s Other Life chalk cloth table mat at Your Wine Cellar Winery

We have made and bottled wine at Your Wine Cellar on several occasions. What a fun evening with friends – tasting, selecting a wine to make, mixing the juice, adding the extras to the mix. Customers can design their own labels before their bottling date. They offer packages for wedding parties to mix and bottle small, favor-sized wedding wines with custom designed bride and groom labels. They also frequently have a Red and White deal, where you can make a red and a white wine on the same evening and give half of each case back to Your Wine Cellar, so you can take home a split case of two of your favorites!

We love having a local favorite Friday night destination. If we were in Ireland, this would be our pub. See you on Friday! Get there early or be prepared to wait for a table.

P.S. You can wait in Your Wine Cellar for your table in The Brew Kettle. Beer/wine? Win/win!

Cellardoor Winery – Lincolnville, Maine

September 9th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

Luckily we found some Cellardoor wine for sale in a small grocery store in Camden and it peaked our interest enough to put us on the road to Lincolnville, where this lovely winery had so much to offer.

I wish I had taken more pictures in the main tasting room which had a semi-circular tasting counter with comfortable stools around it. Tastings were free and generous. And a free wine and cheese pairing tasting was in progress in their more formal tasting room where wine colored plush upholstery covered seats line the tasting bar and another seating counter faces the windows. It impressed me as lovely venue for a small private party.

A small gift shop separates the two tasting rooms. I was totally intrigued by the story of the winery logo which was take from the old barn door that used to be on the property and which they have displayed inside the gift shop. Carved into the wood is a symbol indicating that hobos were welcome. I have just started watching season 1 of Mad Men ( finally finding time to watch television on Netflix while I sew ) and there was a whole episode about a hobo and the symbols of the safe houses. It reminded me of what I had learned about the patterns in the quilts displayed for escaped slaves outside of safe houses.

Above the tasting room and gift shop is another production area and there was a balcony overlooking the vineyards that offered a lovely view.

A pretty view – but not as lovely as Lake Erie’s Quarry Hill!

Truro Winery – Truro, Massachusetts

September 4th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

Now that I actually have my dream job pouring wine in a winery tasting room, I feel compelled to share the love of My Wining Life! My first post under my new category is devoted to the first winery we visited on our recent vacation. Down toward the Provincetown tip of Cape Cod is Truro, Massachusetts and we happened to be there for my birthday. Truro Vineyards showroom is inside an old house and there was a good crowd on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

This winery has an efficient and very informative format for their tastings. For $10, an individual is given a full-sized souvenir wine glass and instructed to go outside to the tasting pavilion alongside the vineyards where every 30 minutes a structured tasting is conducted. The tasting fee includes 5 tastes, but if you are sitting with someone (like my husband) who you don’t mind swapping spit with, you can taste 10 wines by sharing glasses.

Pencils, tasting notes, wine crackers and a rinsing bottle of water in one of their signature lighthouse shaped bottles are on each table. I was interested in how the hostess explained the amount of residual sugar in each wine and what foods each would pair well with. I’m going to have to pick up my game! We brought home three bottles – two from the lighthouse series because I just LOVE the kitschy bottles! Although we will have to wait until Thanksgiving to drink the Lighthouse Series Cranberry wine – which really will taste great with a traditional turkey dinner.