Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Chicago with my new friends at Cracker Barrel cheese for three days and be immersed in the world of cheese. I know, it sounds terrible, right? Well, since cheese is probably one of my most favorite things in the world, I went without hesitation. While I expected to have a blast, I really had no idea about all the magic that was in store for me.
Upon arrival in Chicago, I headed to the Kraft Headquarters, specifically to the research and development department for Cracker Barrel cheese. There I met up with nine amazingly talented bloggers. We learned about cheese, how it’s made, and how to taste it.
Did you know that Cracker Barrel just won two awards at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest®? They were best in class in the medium cheddar category and second runner-up in the entire competition. Kudos to them!
That first evening we had an amazing dinner at Little Goat. This is the second restaurant created by the uber-talented Stephanie Izard. You may know her from Top Chef. I can’t begin to describe the meal and experience. It truly was beyond words. Plus, we had wine paired with every course. Does it get any better than that?
The following day was a gastronomic tour of Chicago. We began at Webster’s Wine Bar where we learned how to pair wine with cheese. I’ve always found it interesting how wine can really bring out the flavors in food and vice versa.
After that, we hopped back on the trolley (Yes, we were taken around the city by trolley!), and headed off to Vosges Chocolates. There we paired chocolate truffles and cheese. While this may sound odd, it was pretty epic. We also had the chance to sample a chocolate bar with bacon in it. I’m fully convinced that bacon does make everything better.
Our next stop was The Haute and the Dog where I got a classic Chicago Dog, which at this point I could barely finish because I was already stuffed. I did want to point out how much I love this ginormous “Meat” mirror. It was love at first sight. This may be recreated at some point in my own house. Stay tuned.
As if we hadn’t put enough food into our bellies, we headed back to our hotel, Public Chicago, for happy hour and a private session with our own mixologist. Swanky stuff, I’m telling you!
Following happy hour, we went to ING for dinner. This restaurant is known for its flavor-changing experience. You start your meal off eating normally. Halfway through you take this natural miracle berry that changes the way your tongue recognizes flavors. From what I understand, it makes sour things taste sweeter. It was a pretty wonderful and unique experience.
On the final day, we had an unbelievable brunch at Boarding House. Not only was the food delicious, but this place is visually stunning. The ceiling of the first floor is covered with over 6,000 wine glasses. The ceiling of the second floor is covered with over 3,000 wine bottles. I can’t begin to describe how remarkable it is.
After brunch, we had a food styling session with Laura Bednarski. We even had time to do our own food stylings. Not too shabby, right? We then had a cheese pairing session organized around the seasons, which was led by Mike Wisner of the Cracker Barrel Culinary Team.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to the folks at Cracker Barrel cheese and everyone else who was involved in this incredible experience. This truly was an event I will cherish for a lifetime. I’m also happy to say that I have nine new blogger friends!
From left to right: Karly Campbell of Buns in My Oven, Robyn Stone of Add a Pinch, Megan Pence of Country Cleaver, Colleen Levine of Cheese + Champagne, Joanne Ozug of Fifteen Spatulas, and yours truly. In front: Courtney Whitemore of Pizzazzerie and Andrea Fellman of Savvy Sassy Moms,
And this just might be my favorite picture. Clearly Courtney and I are having a moment here.
If you’d like to see more pictures, you can find them on Instragram. You can also find some short videos via Vine. I’m @inspiredbycharm for both applications. Most of these images and videos are in my Twitter feed as well. The photos I did not take in this post are used with permission and credited to Todd Rosenberg/Cracker Barrel.
I am part of the Cracker Barrel BlogHer Team. While, I was compensated for this post and given this fabulous all-expense-paid trip to Chicago, all of the opinions above are my own. Cracker Barrel Cheese definitely is Cheddar, Perfected.
Photography // Todd Rosenburg for Cracker Barrel