Kelly the Culinarian: May 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Celebrating #NationalBeefDay with Buona Beef

May is National Beef Month, and while it might be over, the best is yet to come! Check out the promo Buona Beef is offering tomorrow only:

Buona has officially named May 30 as National Beef Day, and all locations will have throwback pricing on sandwiches! All day, guests will receive half-priced seven-inch Italian beef sandwiches, Italian sausage sandwiches and/or a combination of both (Prices of each individual sandwich total $2.87 for a beef, $2.25 for sausage, and $3.25 for a combo). The original location in Berwyn will also feature free swag, a spin-the-wheel promotion where customers can win free beef for a year, and more! 

I learned about this momentous day this week when I spent a lovely evening at Wrigley Field with the family behind the Buona Beef empire. It was super cool to see a multi-generational family business thriving in our own backyard, and several generations joined a couple bloggers to explain the history of the business, the process of preparing the food and all the different ways you can enjoy Italian beef.

We arrived and were served up a few delicious beverages while the assorted family members and chefs explained how their food is different - the beef is seasoned, seared and the slow cooked. Nothing is added or injected, and the beef is served in gravy, meaning it's all-natural drippings, not inject broth.

Buona Beef Recipe

After that whole process, the beef stews in its juices and veggies before its ready to serve. Buona has a gluten-free option, but most sandwiches start with a soft roll that is piled up with slices of beef. I opted for the skinny sandwich, which removes some of the bread but is still essentially the same as the original. 

Buona Beef

There's a ton of different ways to order an Italian beef sandwich: dry (no gravy), standard (one ounce of gravy on top), dunked (both ends in gravy) or baptised (the whole thing goes into the sauce). You can also choose sweet or hot peppers and cheese. 

Buona Beef

We tried a few different iterations and I know mine was the best - original skinny Italian beef with both peppers and cheese. And a beer. It was a delightful pairing made in heaven by angels themselves.

Finally, we took in the rooftop view of the Cubs v. Nationals game with desserts from Buona. The view was great, the weather was pleasant and the company was unparalleled.

I have to say that the brownie ranks in the top-five desserts I've had. It was so fudgy and amazing.

Best part? I and every other Chicagoan can repeat this whole experience tomorrow for #NationalBeefDay. Bring on the cheap sandwiches, please!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I re-arranged the pain cave to better accommodate the treadmill/TV/bike combo now that I'm logging more miles and it has Napoleon downright perplexed. For the first time, he roused to watch me bike indoors. He watched me for almost the entire hour for reasons unbeknownst to me. He has a confused.
I had to stare at this face for the entire hour of indoor cycling

2. I've been working from home more and more now that I've been at my new job for a while and the difference in lifestyle is astonishing. I'm getting more done, both at home and at work, and getting more in, physical fitness wise. I got a new Misfit Shine a few weeks ago because I managed to ruin mine swimming in Austin. The data between a day at the office and a day at home is pretty startling:
Work at Work
Work from Home
They say that it's better to be moving throughout the day instead of just a burst of energy in your morning workout. I have no idea, but I'm guessing my nominal motion throughout the day when I'm in the office is not enough.

3. I'm having quite an issue with my Garmin as of late. It stopped syncing to my computer last week. I tried everything: different computers, uninstalling it, deleting old data, using the USB import. I called Garmin twice and the end result was I had to hard reset the thing, losing 10 days of workouts and all my custom screens. To add insult to injury, I pressed stop instead on lap on this morning's swim. I give up, Garmin. You win.
650 yards is not worth getting up at 5 a.m.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Win it Wednesday: Spartan Race Entry Giveaway

Who wants to get down and dirty? Spartan Races are everywhere and luckily for the winner of this giveaway, I'm raffling off an entry to a race of your choice. The company's mission is to provide the best obstacle races in the industry hands down, with options for every level of fitness. From their website:

Spartan Race is a true adventure that anyone can do, and everyone should try. With course lengths of 3+miles (Sprint), 8+miles, (Super) and 12+miles (Beast) each course is filled with mud, water, and signature obstacles designed to help you discover your inner Spartan. Athletes of all fitness levels will enjoy participating in a Spartan Race and the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the finish line.

Spartan Race even has events for kids. We believe that fitness and adventure should involve the whole family. Come out and watch your kids run, jump, and climb like children were meant to do all in their own Spartan Kids race.

There are 102 race options on the books presently, including the Chicago Sprint Aug. 16.I'll use Rafflecopter to randomly select one winner on June 3. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Training Tuesday: One Year Later

I can't believe it's been a year
I've been thinking a lot this week about where I was a year ago. The Vermont City Marathon was my best race to date, hands down. I bested my personal record by more than 20 minutes, removing a total of 41 minutes from my first marathon time. It was magical, the perfect day. And I have no idea how to recreate it again.

I set out to run a half marathon Sunday morning and could not hack it. Granted, it was after a 42-mile bike ride on the Ironman Wisconsin course (it's famously challenging) and a 1.2-mile pool swim. But still. It was all I could take to run to mile 10 before run/walking back to the car. I'm ahead of my training plan, sure, but some days I think about how I used to be fast.

The only picture I took in Madison
What buoys my spirits (see what I did there?) is my swim performance. Thanks to the Garmin, I can tangibly quantify my improvements. I only got the Garmin 910 last summer, well into my Ironman training. Now, I'm getting obsessed with the swim data. It's easy to see how much time each 50-yard sprint takes, how many strokes it took and what your swim efficiency was. Last cycle, I sort of did swim workouts. But without a watch or pace clock, I had to improvise. Now, it's reassuring to see that I can complete the workouts as written and am actually seeing improvements.

Also, my love of biking was renewed over the weekend while biking the IMWI course from Verona. After riding the 62-mile Arlington 500, I was totally wiped out and pissed off. My eyeballs hurt from my contacts, my legs were sad and I was just spent. I felt completely different post ride this weekend. Maybe it was the nostalgia, or perhaps remembering that I am in fact an Ironman, regardless of how I feel today, but it was awesome. There is no better ride out there. It's well-marked, you get hills and 35 MPH decents, there are farms and historic sites - Madison has it all.

I know what's required to get back to fast. Less beer, more veggies, more intervals and fewer excuses. So here's to making it count. Pigman or bust.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cooking with Kelly: Coconut No Bake Cookies from NOW Foods

Healthy No Bake Cookie Recipe with peanut butter, cocoa, coconut and oatmealIf you've checked out my NOW Foods giveaway, you know I have a ton of products from them at home. In fact, the prize pack I'm raffling off and took home from the NOW Foods immersion last month with FitFluential is valued at more than $500!  That means I've got a lot of new kitchen items and supplements to try in my house.  Lucky me (and lucky whoever wins later this week).

Since it's been a toasty weekend, I didn't want to bake at all. But I needed a treat to take to a party, so I got busy in the kitchen doing my damnedest to not turn on the oven.

Healthy No Bake Cookies with peanut butter, cocoa, coconut oil and coconut sugar

These no bake coconut cookies combine some of my favorite ingredients and flavors: peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal and coconut. I wanted to try the butter infused coconut oil I tasted at NOW Foods, and the coconut sugar is a healthier option because it has a lower glycemic index.

I'm not saying these are healthy, BUT there are way worst things you can consume. Plus, there's about 10 minutes of actual work. Wait a half hour and then you're dessert ready.

Coconut No Bake Cookie Recipe

1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
3 Tablespoons butter infused coconut oil
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Combine the coconut sugar, almond milk and coconut oil in a small sauce pan, then heat until boiling. Allow to boil for one minute, then remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients.

Turn out tablespoon-sized cookies onto wax paper and allow to set up for a half hour before consuming. If you can wait.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm still getting my monthly RawSpiceBar subscription and fall more in love with this service every month. I made the April Japanese box for Sunday dinner this week and was very impressed by the result. The matcha and chia mochi cake sounds weird, and it looks kind of strange, too. It comes out of the oven with a greenish tint and comes together so quickly that I had my doubts. However, now I want to re-purchase the entire box. The pork tenderloin was amazing, and the noodle salad was delightful with the addition of a handful of peanuts. 10/10, will do again.

2. If you're on the fence about signing up for a Spartan Race, there's a discount code valid this weekend only in honor of Memorial Day that nets up to $40 off a race entry. Just use "MEMORIAL" to get the cash off.

3. In sad news, I lost my Yelp Elite status this year. I've tried without any luck to avail to the powers that be, but I'm guessing this little corner of the Internet caused some friction with the Yelp overlords. I scored an invite to an awesome elite party last night at Top Golf as a plus one, which was a small miracle and super fun. A local distributor brought it all types of craft beer for sampling, which was so much more delightful than my golfing. I'll stick to running and triathlons.

And yeah, my hair is in that awkward in between stage of growing out right now. I can't help it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Win it Wednesday: Amazing NOW Foods Giftpack from #NowGetFit

It's the giveaways to end all giveaways! This one is truly epic. I hung out with some pretty amazing people at NOW Foods a few weeks ago and had a blast learning about all the science and care that goes into their supplements, foods, personal care items and snacks. It was amazing to see the production, as well as the company culture.

Oh, and the swag. There was so much swag that they send the out-of-towners stuff home via UPS.

Lucky me, I'm the local gal, so all three bags of snacks and supplements came home with me

And now, they can come home with you. Just look at the sheer quantity of this prize:

 NOW® Solutions Faux Wooden Oil Diffuser
 NOW® Solutions Lemongrass Oil
 NOW® Solutions Cheer Up Buttercup Oil Blend
 NOW® Solutions XyliWhite™ Neem & Tea Tree Toothpaste Gel
 NOW® Solutions XyliWhite™ Neem & Tea Tree Mouthwash
 NOW® Solutions Sweet Almond Oil
 NOW® Solutions Cocoa Butter Lotion
 NOW® Solutions Vitamin C & Manuka Oil Gel Cleanser
 NOW® Solutions Vitamin C & Acai Berry Toner
 NOW® Solutions Vitamin C & Sea Buckthorn Moisturizer
 NOW® Solutions Citrus Moisture Shampoo
 NOW® Solutions Citrus Moisture Conditioner
 Ellyndale Foods™ Premium Avocado Oil
 Ellyndale Organics™ Coconut Infusions™ Non-Dairy Butter Flavor
 Living Now® Organic Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
 Living Now® Tri-Color Quinoa
 Living Now® Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
 NOW Real Tea® PomeGreenate™ Tea
 NOW Real Tea® Slender Chai™ Tea
 NOW Real Tea® Women’s Righteous Raspberry
 NOW Real Food® Organic Triple Omega Seed Mix
 NOW Real Food® Organic Freekeh
 NOW Real Food® Honey Roasted Pecans
 NOW Real Food® Organic Coconut Sugar
 NOW Real Food® Nuts About Berries
 NOW Real Food® Slender Sticks™ Acai Lemonade
 BetterStevia™ Pomegranate Berry Liquid
 BetterStevia™ Organic Packets
 NOW® Sports Pea Protein Vanilla Toffee
 NOW® Sports Sprouted Brown Rice Protein - Chocolate
 NOW® Sports Plant Protein Complex
 NOW® Sports Recovery Factors
 NOW® Sports MCT Oil
 NOW® Sports Energy Extreme
 NOW® Sports Arginine Super Power Stack
 NOW® Sports ZMA
 NOW® Sports Whey Protein Isolate Packets
 NOW® Eve™ Women’s Multiple Softgels
 NOW® Biotin 5000mcg
 NOW® Probiotic 10™ Packets
 NOW® Instant Energy B-12 Packets
 NOW® Effer-C Acai Berry Sticks
 NOW® Vitamin D-3 5,000 IU
 NOW® Cranberry Mannose Packets
 NOW® Ultra Omega-3

Now I've had this prize pack in my sweaty little hands for enough time to try a huge variety of the products. In addition to employing them to recreate my favorite NOW Foods recipes we enjoyed during the #NowGetFit Immersion, I've been experimenting with the various products. The avocado oil is amazing for grilling, since it has a high smoke point at the primary flavor note I detect is creamy. I used it in my chipotle lime grilled chicken recipe last week with great results.

I've also found the toner to be a great post-workout refresher for my face now that it's warmer and I'm training more. I've been adding the brown rice protein powder to greek yogurt and the pea protein to oatmeal with great results. And finally, the wood diffuser and wake up essential oil live on my desk at home. It might be all in my head, but I find it very soothing.

But you can decide that for yourself. One winner will be chosen at random via RaffleCopter in one week, and I'll announce the winner here. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Training Tuesday: Much Math Edition

Thanks for the goggles, dad!
I'm on week four of my half Ironman triathlon training plan. I have yet to miss a workout (despite forgetting goggles when I visited Texas), but I sure have screwed a few up, it appears. I was scheduled to swim 1,200 yards on Saturday, which I guesstimated would take me 25 minutes. I tried a new pool, which the staff assured me was an Olypmic pool. The fact that the workout only took me 13 minutes leads me to believe that word doesn't mean what they think it means.

Olympic = 50 meters. That means 1,200 yards is 11 laps, and should have taken me the same amount of time. Either LA Fitness's pool is not, in fact, 25 yards, or the pool was a lot shorter than promised. One length usually takes me 11 strokes and this one was 20, so I have no idea what the conversion factor is there. I've already spent way too much time trying to figure this out. My brain hurts.

One thing I know I did right was the bike portion of this training (thanks, Garmin!). I met Alyssa and Amy for the Arlington 500 ride Sunday and it was mostly glorious, except for a ridiculous headwind in the last 15 miles. It was so bad that despite planning to make it the full 69 miles, I cut out and only did 62. However, since a half Ironman is 56 miles, I'm still counting this as enough training for one day.  I was SO tired afterwards that it was all I could do to stay awake through Sunday dinner. This ride did have incredible well-stocked rest stops - turkey sandwiches, PB&J, mini bagels with peanut butter, GF cookies and bars, fruit and pickles. It was awesome.

So. Much. Food.
The plan at this point is to keep on keeping on with the training, and spend this pretty much unscheduled holiday weekend running long (13.1 miles just because), biking much (maybe a loop in Madison on the Ironman course) and hopefully swimming outside for the first time this season. These are not required by my training plan, but since I've got the time to do it, might as well. Plus, I enjoy seeing the world this way.

I love getting back to me through training. It's awesome to find myself at the end of a workout.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chicago #WineRiot Recap 2015

Three years strong! On Friday, I suited up for this year's Chicago #WineRiot in Union Station. While I attended in 2013 and 2014, this is the first time I've gone at night. In many ways it was very similar to my previous experiences, but the clientele was quite different at night.

I rolled into Wine Riot at 7:15 after enjoying a delicious Greek dinner on a patio nearby. There was quite the crowd of people who went ugly early. I'm not sure how one gets that inebriated unless pregaming was involved. Also, I felt under dressed. The crowd was female-heavy and done to the nines for this event. It was a whole other Wine Riot from what I am accustomed to.

This year, I finally walked through the Wine 101 presentation in which experts walk attendees through a guided tasting highlighting various aspects of wine production, such as irrigation, barreling aging and maturity.
As always, I enjoyed tasting new wines and even partook in some wine cocktails.

In all, I had a blast learning about new wines and trying different styles. I wish the vendors were more generous with their pours - some of the glasses felt like just the essence of wine.

It is hard to beat the convenience of this event, though. Get on the train, get your wine on and get back on the train. It's a great girls night and an excuse to get together. Cheers to another year!

Friday, May 15, 2015

What We Ate at #NowGetFit

You may recall that I spent a fabulous 24 hours earlier this month getting educated on supplements and natural products at NOW Foods. It was an amazing trip - I learned about the science and care that goes into creating NOW's more than 1,400 GMO-free products, as well as the deliberate moves they've made to ensure their growing fleet of staff is happy and healthy. In addition to filling my brain, NOW Foods topped off our tummies at every turn, too. Here are some of the culinary highlights, complete with recipes. For more, check out the NOW Foods recipe database, where you can search based upon dietary restrictions.

Pre-workout, we fueled up at the hotel super early with these coconut flax crunch bars. They were awesome: super dense, delicious and power-food rich, they gave my stomach something to digest throughout a relatively intense spin class. Here's how they were made:

#NowGetFit Coconut Flax Crunch Bars Recipe

2 tbsp NOW Real Food® White Chia Seed Meal
2 tbsp NOW Real Food® Organic Golden Flax Seed Meal
1 tbsp NOW® Sports Sprouted Brown Rice Protein
3⁄4 cup NOW Real Food® Tropical Fruit Dices
1⁄2 cup brewed NOW Real Tea® PomeGreenate Tea
1 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Rolled Oats
1⁄2 cup NOW Real Food® Macadamia Nuts, chopped
1⁄2 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Hemp Seed Hearts
3⁄4 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Coconut Sugar
1 cup Living NowTM Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1⁄2 cup Ellyndale Organics Canola Oil
1⁄4 cup NOW Real Food® Grade B Maple Syrup
1 tsp NOW Real Food® Certified Organic Vanilla Extract

1) Preheat oven to 350 F (325 convection). Line quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.
2) In large bowl, combine flax meal, chia meal, brown rice protein, and tropical fruit dices.
3) Pour tea over mixture, stir well and set aside.
4) In a separate bowl, combine oats, macadamia nuts, hemp seed hearts, coconut sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt.
5) In another bowl, mash the banana. Stir in canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
6) Add banana mixture to flax/chia mixture.
7) Once all wet ingredients are well mixed, fold into dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
8) Spread mixture onto sheet pan so that the granola bars are 1⁄2 inch tall.
10) Allow granola to cool for 30 minutes or until it has firmed but it still soft to the touch.
11) To remove from the pan, run a sharp knife along the edges to make sure granola has loosened. Over a clean table or cutting board, flip sheet pan upside down, and tap to release granola.
12) Cut into 4 inch bars and serve.

Next up, after spin and yoga, we were treated to a post-workout recovery shake. I sipped this en route back to the hotel. It was very creamy and rich, and with the shaker bottle they provided, easy enough to tote to the gym and mix while commuting.

#NowGetFit Cinnamon Chocolate Protein Shake Recipe 

3/4 cups almond milk
1⁄8 cup NOW® Sports Plant Protein Complex
1 tsp. NOW® Organic Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. NOW Real FoodTM Organic Turbinado sugar
1 drop BetterStevia® Cinnamon Vanilla Liquid

1) Place all ingredients in protein shaker and shake well for 30 seconds, until consistency is uniform.
2) Serve chilled and enjoy before a workout for extra energy or after for swifter recovery.

While we were tasting the various oils and coconut infusions NOW Foods makes, we were treated to a green smoothie that was packed with all sorts of good-for-you veggies, but didn't taste like it at all.  This is a great recipe for my Vitamix, which doesn't get nearly the use it should. The avocado in this really pulls it all together and makes the mix super creamy.

#NowGetFit Green Chia Smoothie Recipe 

1/2 cup organic banana
1/2 cup organic kale leaves
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup ice
1⁄8 cup organic spinach
1⁄8 cup organic avocado
1⁄8 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Raw Sunflower Seeds
1/2 tbsp NOW Real Food® White Chia Seed Meal
1/2 tbsp NOW Real Food® Organic Golden Flax Seed Meal
1 drop BetterSteviaTM Lemon Twist Liquid
1) In a blender, combine all smoothie ingredients.
2) Blend at medium speed until smooth. Serve immediately and enjoy!

The final activity in our tour and outing was baking in the NOS Foods test kitchen. It's a great facility with every tool and toy you can image. My group made these gluten-free snicker doodles, which turned out so light and fluffy I would have never guessed they were missing gluten. Now follow these directions carefully, since I neglected to do so the first time.

#NowGetFit Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies Recipe 

(Makes 12 Cookies)

1⁄2 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, solid
1 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Turbinado Sugar
1 1⁄2 cups Living Now® Organic White Rice Flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. salt

1) Preheat oven to 350° F (325° F convection).
2) In a large bowl cream coconut oil with turbinado sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3) Whisk in eggs until mixture has a uniform consistency throughout.
4) In a separate bowl, sift white rice flour, cream of tartar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
5) Add flour mixture into coconut oil mixture and combine until dough is formed.
6) Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
8) Cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

My team did not make the next batch of cookies, which was by far my favorite treat of the day. They were salty and sweet, and the perfect texture for my ideal dessert - just slightly crumbly but mostly just chewy and amazing.  I'd like to try this with golden raisins and dried cranberries.  Mmmmmm ....

#NowGetFit Ultimate Organic Oatmeal and Goldenberry Cookie Recipe

(Makes 4 Dozen Cookies)

1 cup NOW® Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
1 cup NOW Real FoodTM Organic Turbinado Sugar
1 cup NOW Real Food® Organic Coconut Sugar
2 tsp Ellyndale® Organic Vanilla Extract
1 cup NOW Real Food® GoldenBerries, chopped
1 cup NOW Real FoodTM Organic Rolled Oats
2 large organic eggs
2 cups Organic All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt

1) Preheat oven to at 350F.
2) In a mixing bowl combine coconut oil, turbinado sugar, and brown sugar until the mixture is fluffy.
3) Add 2 large eggs and vanilla extract and mix until you have an even consistency.
4) Fold in all dry ingredients, including Goldenberries and Oats until you have a homogeneous mixture.
5) Place in freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes.
6) Form 1⁄2 inch balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
7) Bake 10-15 minutes.
8) Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Want the ingredients to make some of these yummies? Stay tuned .... 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I was in Austin this week for Mother's Day and it was fabulous. I made many friends, like Poomba. He's like roomba, except for my parents' pool.
2. And there's this guy, who took up residence in my mom's new stove. It's the first scorpion they've found since moving to Texas, so I'm pretty psyched I was there for it. My mom was like "Go get your dad!" and I was thinking "Can I take this as a souvenir?" Not sure how the TSA would take that one.

3. My final new friend was my mom's brand-new swagger wagon. She bought herself a Prius and I have to say, I'm a big fan. I took it to the gym and drove her around in it. If I didn't already have a damn sweet triathlon-worthy chariot of my own, this is what I'd go for. I love that it's giving you your MPG in real time. It feels like you have a score to beat. Also, it's way roomier than I expected, which I tested out with our multiple shopping trips.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day from the Lone Star State!

Hi there, moms! I got up super early Saturday to hit the airport before most normal humans rouse to take a flight to Austin. Before we headed to the hills to see our parents, my sister and I went on a brewery tour.
 I was super unimpressed with the tour itself, so I won't get into it. The breweries were cool and I wish we had a chance to learn more. I mean, dogs at breweries always float my boat:

And barbecue with beer is even better

But the tour itself left much to be desire. Anyhow, we're now resting comfortably in hill country with my family and new-found friend. Apparently it's the first my parents have found in their new abode.

So here's to all the mommas out there - thanks for doing what you do. My mom is my rock and the cornerstone of my life. One day isn't enough to thank her for all she does.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2015

10 Tips for #WineRiot Newbies

PS- Enter my Chicago #WineRiot ticket giveaway now

I'm gearing up for my third edition of Second Glass's Chicago #WineRiot and I've got this thing down to a science. My friend Ally asked me what she should know as a newbie, and as a veteran Rioter, here are my tried and true tips to rocking out Wine Riot.

  1. Hydrate. You don't want to be the sloppy/sick one. One bottle before you get there, cups and such mid-event and one bottle on the way home.
  2. DO NOT DRIVE. For the love of all things ever, make other arrangements. You're at Union Station, so I don't know, maybe take the train and get an uber from the station to your house. Carpool with a sober friend. Walk. Do anything other than get in a car.
  3. Pick a meeting spot. If you're going with friends, decide where you'll meet if you get lost. It's a closed off area and shouldn't be that difficult, but hey, stranger things have happened.
  4. Download the app. You can keep your tasting notes organized and research the vendors in advance.
  5. Pack a snack. There's food available for purchase and usually a cheese vendor or two, but pretzels are always a good idea when you're imbibing for three hours.
  6. Be on time. Trust me, three hours sounds like a long time. It isn't if you're chatting and having a good time.
  7. Evening sessions = dress up. I've only been during the afternoon, but I understand the evening sessions get a little more upscale and club-like. 
  8. Tag your photos with #WineRiot. There has always been an instagram printer that spits out photos tagged with the official hashtag. 
  9. Check out the photo booth. It's just fun and I get these shots every year. 
  10. Bring a roomy but hands-free purse. There is swag to be had in the form of wine bottle openers, sunglasses, stickers, wine corks, etc. But I don't want my hands full of crap when I'm trying to get my wine and networking on.