In today's Culinary Adventures column, Penny Kazmier shows us a savory side of vanilla. Well, here's another use -- flavoring vodka.
Waukegan-based Nielsen-Massey has joined forces with North Shore Distillery, based in Lake Bluff, for a new spirit, Tahitian Vanilla Vodka.
"When we infused Nielsen-Massey's amazing Tahitian vanilla beans into our vodka, we were impressed with the spirit's rich, multidimensional vanilla flavor and velvety texture," said Derek Kassebaum, master distiller and co-founder of the North Shore Distillery. "Our friends at Nielsen-Massey taught us that Tahitian vanilla beans are truly unique. Unlike other types of vanilla, they add delicate floral notes and a creamy texture, which we were able to capture in our Tahitian Vanilla Vodka."
Tahitian Vanilla Vodka is sippable and delicious over ice, perhaps garnished with a cinnamon stick, and mixes well with a range of fruits and spices. It can be used in coffee, tea and, of course, martinis.
Pick up a bottle (about $30) at Binny's and try North Shore's recipe for a Tahitian Vanilla Cosmopolitan: In a shaker filled with ice combine 1½ ounces North Shore Tahitian Vanilla Vodka, 1½ ounces cranberry juice, ½ ounce Cointreau or triple sec and ¼-½ ounce fresh lime juice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a fresh cranberry or an orange twist.
Cooks for a cause: Tickets are available for the 3rd annual Taste Takes Flight, a fundraiser for WINGS, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at the Chicago Marriott Northwest in Hoffman Estates.
The evening features more than 15 chefs from around the suburbs and Chicago who will be sampling the likes of beef tenderloin sliders, duck wontons, cheese puffs and handmade chocolates. The International House of Wine and Cheese will provide the wine for tasting and Anderson's Candy Shop will be passing out chocolates.
Jaime Laurita, chef to the stars who recently launched a line of gourmet food products, will be on hand as will chef/author Amelia Levin. Levin will sign copies of her book "Chicago Chef's Table."
This WINGS event will raise money to support the group's Safe House, a refuge for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
The $75 ticket gets you the food and wine tastings; spend $100 and get an additional wine, cheese and chocolate pairing. Details and tickets at wingsprogram.com or call (847) 519-7820.
Going gluten-free: Whether you eat gluten-free because of medical issues or are interested in exploring the GF lifestyle, you'll want to head to the Chicago Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, at the Schaumburg Renaissance Convention Center.
More than 7,000 people are expected to meet the 120-plus vendors, sit in on cooking and lifestyle discussions and learn all about gluten-free and allergen-free living. Hundreds of products will be available for sampling and many vendors sell their products at the expo.
The event runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day; the convention center is at 1551 Thoreau Drive North. Early bird tickets cost $35 ($10 for children) and get you in the door right at 9 a.m.; arrive at 10 a.m. or later and get in for $20 ($5 for kids). Strollers are not allowed Saturday because of the expected crowds.
Online ticketing is encouraged; get tickets and details at gfaexpo.com.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @PankeysPlate.