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updated: 11/9/2011 4:31 AM

Get up close with Food Network's first couple of cooking

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  • Pat and Gina Neely

    Pat and Gina Neely
    Courtesy of Food Network



I can't turn off the TV when the Neelys are on. When I'm flipping through the channels and come across an episode of "Down Home with the Neelys" with Pat and Gina Neely, I'm glued to the set. I admire how well the two work together in the kitchen; when my husband and I are in the kitchen I inevitably take control. You can feel their love for cooking, and for each other.

Now you have a chance to meet this charismatic couple. Pat and Gina Neely will sign copies of their new cookbook, "The Neelys' Celebration Book," from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 9 at Meijer, 1301 Meijer Drive, Rolling Meadows.

In the new book they share their recipes and secrets for entertaining year-round, dishing up new spins on seasonal classics and suggesting occasions to celebrate that most of us haven't thought of ourselves. The 120 recipes include their take on Hoppin' John Soup and Deep-fried Cornish Game Hens for New Year's Day and Smothered Pork Chops and Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes for bringing home baby, though I'm tempted to work the mashers into my Thanksgiving menu.

The Neelys believe that life should be celebrated, holiday or not, and with this mouthwatering collection of recipes you'll become a believer, too.

Fall fest: More than 100 wines from around the globe will be available for tasting and purchase during the Fall Festival of Wine, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at The Community House, 415 W. Eighth St., Hinsdale.

The event, now in its ninth year, offers an excellent opportunity to explore and expand your wine horizons with different varietals, regions and producers. There are also plenty of opportunities to speak with some of the brand managers and representatives.

Tickets cost $20. Call (630) 654-9862 or email to reserve your tickets. A credit card is required to hold tickets.

Taste and tweet: Shoppers are invited to taste holiday wines (for free!) from 7 to 8 p.m. Nov. 17 at Schaumburg's Whole Foods Market and encouraged to tweet about the festive, yet frugal selections.

Global wine buyers Doug Bell and Geof Ryan will taste and tweet about six of the top 10 holiday wines that will be featured during the holidays at Whole Foods Market stores around the suburbs, providing tasting notes and insights about the wineries and winemakers via their Twitter feed @WFMWineGuys.

Read what they have to say then tweet your own observations on the wines, including Pascual Toso Brut Sparkling (less than $11), Earthstone Sonoma County Merlot (less than $9) and Tarima Organic Monastrell (under $11).

The Schaumburg store is at 750 N. Martingale Road. (847) 585-5800.

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at or follow on Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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