Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekly Live Jazz at Benny's Chop House Bar and Lounge this June

Benny's Chop House's Bar and Lounge (444 N. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL; 312-626-2444) is the city's premier place to hear some of the best local jazz musicians. Catch Lynn Hilton, Lawrence Hanks, Fred Simon, Carmen Stokes, Cecile Savage and Calvin "Koco" Brunson select days this June. Joining the all-star lineup of musicians is Sami Scot, a versatile and unique vocal artist as well as an accomplished pianist sharing her special brand of jazz melodies with guests at Benny's Chop House.
Sami ScottSami Scot is a versatile and unique musical artist whose tasty arrangements and vocal styling has earned the respect of both the public and her peers.
Whether performing solo in lounges and restaurants, summer festivals or on concert stages, her definitive and obvious talent shines through. Scot is also well known among her fellow musicians to be a skillful and generous collaborator whenever a duo or trio is required for an engagement.
Although Chicago is her home, Scot has appeared at prestigious venues throughout seven countries. Whether performing on five star world cruises, singing at the Riviera in Las Vegas, the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco or alongside Ike Cole (Nat King Cole's brother) at Chicago's celebrated Pump Room, Sami Scot demonstrates the highest level of professionalism.
Sami Scot has a reputation for lending a touch of class to special events and gatherings throughout the Chicagoland area.
larry_hLawrence Hanks is an accomplished pianist, composer, orchestrator, conductor and college professor. He earned his Bachelors and Masters Degrees at University of Illinois at Chicago. To listen to Larry play is an opportunity to explore his soul and share in his love and compassion for music, as he brings to the stage the sum total of his life's experiences.
Larry's many accomplishments include scoring and conducting the orchestra for renowned Soul artists Curtis Mayfield's and Jerry "The Iceman" Butler's "Reunion Tour." In the late 70's and 80's, He and his first writing partner, Rodney Massey penned songs recorded by nationally and internationally known artists such as Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Melba Moore, The Stylistics, The Emotions, Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble, Jerry Butler, and their own group, OMNI, hitting the Billboard charts regularly.
As a young man in his early 20s, Larry was chosen by Jerry Butler to conduct his orchestra, which consisted of a six-piece rhythm section, three background vocalists, and was often augmented by local orchestra players that would include nine horns and seven string players from various cities along the tour. In the 90's Larry found another writing, and ultimately life partner in Ms. Joan Collaso. They've traveled parts of the world, created, and played music together for the last 18 years. Larry has been the resident pianist for the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago since 1995. And in 2006 his wife, Joan Collaso became the first featured vocalist for Four Seasons, entertaining audience from every part of the globe.

Carmen Stokes - approvedOne of the many women pianists who started out playing classical but went to jazz in her early teens, Carmen Stokes is a stunningly beautiful pianist of great energy, versatility and enterprise.  As a Composer, Arranger, Instrumentalist, Vocalist, Educator and Music Director, Stokes incorporates jazz, gospel, blues, classical and Latin forms into her music.  She has constantly sought out novel directions to express her ideas.
Stokes' multiple solo efforts and countless guest performances are recognized by both her peers and the knowing public as a first class musical artist.  Stokes has performed nationally and internationally as a trio/quartet, pianist/vocalist, along with gracing the stages of legendary artists including the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Prince, and countless others.  Stokes was personally contacted by Ramsey Lewis, Chicago's own legendary jazz pianist, who requested her to perform on his behalf at the Chicago Jazz Awards because he was scheduled to perform in London.  Lewis stated, "I only trust two people in Chicago to play my songs right and you're one of the two".  Stokes honored Lewis' request and received roaring applauses and a standing ovation for her tribute to Lewis.  In an article written by Howard Reich, arts critic for the Chicago Tribune, Stokes was tagged as being, "One of the more effective jazz pianists working in the Ramsey Lewis tradition".  Stokes' vocal styling were compared in to the likes of  jazz vocalists Nancy Wilson, Diana Krall and the late Phylliss Hyman.
Stokes started playing piano at the age of six.  Stokes' classical studies were completed at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and her jazz studies were completed at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, while working with Dizzy Gillespie.  Throughout Stokes' career, she received numerous accolades and first place awards in classical and jazz and one of her more memorable accolade came when Joe Sample, one of Stokes' greatest idols, recognized her talents and awarded her first place in the category, "Best Jazz Soloist", at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival.  
Stokes continued her solo career in traditional jazz but found herself yearning for her love for R&B, Funk and Latin forms, and began integrating them in her acoustic piano playing funky and rhythmically appealing qualities.  Stokes recorded two successful CD's entitled, "Sexy Feelin'" and "Words Of Wisdom" which were sold nationally and internationally.  Stokes' CD's were in such high demand that she found herself with a full performance schedule which included sending her to Singapore where she played to "Standing Room Only" (SRO) audiences.  Upon returning to the United States, Stokes was still in high demand continuing to perform at venues with SRO audiences..

In 2003, Stokes' career was derailed from a tragic automobile accident which resulted in a an uncertainty as to whether or not she would be able to walk again let alone play again.  After 3½ hard years of rehabilitation, Stokes proudly recovered and returned to the piano.  She continues her piano/vocal career by wowing audiences through a style that is uniquely her own.  Stokes' motto, "Music comes from the heart and if what lies within your heart is true and genuine, your music will be true and genuine. 

Celia SavageCécile Savage (bass and vocals) and Calvin "Koco" Brunson (piano and vocals), who co-lead the jazz group "Komango," perform at Benny's. They offer a culturally diverse repertoire steeped in the African American, French and Brazilian traditions.
Cécile Savage was born in Martinique, French West Indies, and grew up in Paris, France, where she studied piano. She moved to New York City in the early 70's where she studied guitar with Ted Dunbar and joined Sugar Blue's Blues Band, playing electric bass. It is with this band that she toured Europe and Africa. She composed music for Sugar Blue's album "Crossroads."
She moved to Chicago in the early 80's, where she studied the acoustic bass with Steve Lester from the CSO, and in Madison, WI, with Richard Davis. She studied voice at the Center for Voice and Vandercook College of Music.
As a bassist, she has worked with Von Freeman, some members of the AACM,Calvin Koco BrunsonMaggie Brown and many others. She has appeared in numerous clubs around the Chicago area as a singer and bassist. She played and sung at the Hotel Sofitel from 1993 to 1997. She often played the intimate Sunday evening Jazz set at the Green Dolphin. She also entertains for many private affairs such as the Marshall Fields fashion show and the French Market. She appeared at the 2004 Chicago Jazz Festival.
Her repertoire included many French songs, which became jazz standards such as Autumn Leaves, Jazz standards, Brazilian bossas and her own compositions. She is currently working at recording her CD.
With jazz, blues and musical theatre the major focus of his work, Calvin "Koco" Brunson has  collaborated with the late, great playwright, Oscar Brown Jr. in writing plays entitled In De Beginnin', Journey Through Forever, and Sliced Apple. Koco is also an "Artist-in-Residence" with Urban Gateways. Calvin "Koco" Brunson is a world-class musician, possessing deft keyboard skills and utilizing truly inventive harmonies to reach his audience.

Fred Simon has been making music for more than forty years, composing for records, live performance, film, dance, and television, with instrumentation ranging from solo piano to symphonic orchestra. Since childhood he has been convinced that he is a singer/songwriter trapped in the body of someone who can't sing.
Fred SimonHis recorded work includes seven albums of original music under his name: SHORT STORY and TIME AND THE RIVER (Quaver), USUALLY/ALWAYS (Windham Hill), OPEN BOOK (Columbia), DREAMHOUSE (The Naim Label), REMEMBER THE RIVER (The Naim Label), and, most recently, SINCE FOREVER (The Naim Label); three albums (as principle composer) with the Simon and Bard Group: MUSAIC, TEAR IT UP, and THE ENORMOUS RADIO (Flying Fish); as well as TWILIGHT (NorthSound Music Group), a collaboration with reed player Paul McCandless and guitarist Teja Bell; THE MUSIC OF THE BEACH BOYS (NorthSound Music Group), an album of solo piano arrangements of Brian Wilson songs; and numerous appearances on compilations released by Windham Hill, Columbia, Narada, Private Music, Imaginary Road, NorthSound Music Group, Jazziz Magazine, and, currently, The Naim Label.
Fred has recorded and/or performed with Ralph Towner (founding member of Oregon), Paul McCandless (founding member of Oregon), Larry Coryell, Lyle Mays, Iain Matthews (founding member of Fairport Convention), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist), Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico (both with Pat Metheny Group), Bonnie Herman (Singers Unlimited), Kurt Elling, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Ingrid Graudins, Ross Traut, The Stan Kenton Orchestra, and many others.

In the spirit of the legendary Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McCrae, and Nina Simone, the baton has not only been passed but the banner flies high and steady in the capable hands and voice of Lynn Hilton.
Composer, Arranger, Vocalist, Instrumentalist, Music Director, and Educator - she continues to expand of her proven track record of professionalism, creativity and charisma. This modern day Renaissance woman is one of most sought-after musicians in the industry. Ms. Hilton energizes her audiences with charismatic and exciting performances, both nationally and internationally.
According to Russia's St. Petersburg Times: "Lynn Hilton captivates the most demanding audiences with her innovative Lynn Hilton 300 pixels for ETstyle and wit."
Beginning her career as a teenager, she was appointed musical director for the KUUMBA repertory theater in her native Chicago. She represented the U.S.A. in the International Festival of Song and Voice competition where she was awarded "Best Arrangement" and "Best New Composer" honors.
Ms. Hilton continues her long distance work on behalf of American Theatrical companies by serving as musical director in absentia for several theatrical productions including Fences, and Jitney. She continues her hallmark of excellence as composer of several theatrical scores, including Kasimu and the Coconut Palm, and Thunderstorm by award-winning playwright Shongodina Ifatunji.
Continuously working the live jazz scene, Ms. Hilton is one of the most sought-after performers on stage and in the studio with her versatile repertoire that includes Jazz, Blues, Latin, Gospel, and today's contemporary music. She has shared her unique performances with fans in many countries in the Caribbean, Far East, Middle East, South America, Africa, and Europe. Her unique keyboard and extraordinary vocal styling has resulted in her affiliation with a variety of luminaries including Sherry Scott, Morgana King, Jonathon Butler, Marion Meadows, Hugh Masekela, and Steve Winwood. 
As a composer Ms. Hilton has written and arranged many national television and radio commercials often serving as composer, contractor, pianist, vocalist and voice-over announcer.

In every generation the universe catapults a special star that blazes a new path. That special star is Ms. Lynn Hilton. Catch her rising star and treat yourself to the colors and sounds of this extraordinary pianist and singer.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

NBC interviews Her Excellency, Nathalie Cely Ambassador of Ecuador to discuss Keep Trade Going / ATPDEA

Why Prices for Roses, Vegetables, and Fish Could Go Up

Ecuador's ambassador is in Chicago to promote trade with her country. If the U.S. lets the trade agreement expire, we could pay more for everyday items.

Today at Chicago French Market - Lunch Hour Music with Steven Justman

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Complimentary

A great way to finish up the month is to hear Steven Justman’s return to the market. The folk musician performs all around the Chicago area, specializing in American music. Justman has played in some of the most popular acoustic venues in Chicago and is happy to provide entertainment during everyone’s lunch hour.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chicago French Market helps to host the inaugural celebration to close out Chicago Craft Beer Week this weekend 5/25

Craft Beer FestivalThe Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, the Chicago French Market, and the Fulton River District Association have come together to host the inaugural celebration to close out Chicago Craft Beer Week 2013.  On Saturday, May 25th, the city's largest craft beer outdoor block party will commence with a VIP event beginning at 12:00pm, and General Admission running from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.  The West Loop Craft Beer Fest will offer a VIP hour to kick off the day, which includes one hour of free food provided by participating Chicago French Market vendors, and VIP ticket samplings of rare craft beers.  The General Admission experience will include over 25 craft beers, hours of entertainment and food for purchase. The West Loop has never hosted such a unique event, and we invite all neighborhoods to come down on May 25th to celebrate the craft beer experience with friends and family! Tickets for this unique experience go on-sale May 7 for $45 and VIP tickets for $65! To purchase tickets, visit

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Celebrate National Wine Day May 25 at Benny's Chop House

Wine has been an important aspect of human culture for thousands of years. Archaeologists in Speyer, Germany discovered the oldest bottle of wine in existence while excavating two Roman stone sarcophaguses in 1867. The bottle dates back to at least 325 AD. It is now on display at the History Museum of the Pfalz in Germany.

In spite of wine's longevity as a worldwide cultural staple, one might think that National Wine Day on May 25 was created with Benny's Chop House in mind. Benny's, a modern and sophisticated take on the traditional American steakhouse (444 N. Wabash, Chicago; 312-626-2444) has made its wine program one of the finest in Chicago.

Many restaurants like to boast about their Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Yet Benny's Chop House surpasses them-it is one of a select few restaurants in Chicago that has earned the Wine Spectator "Best of" Award of Excellence.

According to Wine Spectator, the "Best of" designation gives "special recognition to restaurants that clearly exceed the requirements of the Award of Excellence. These lists typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation, and display either vintage depth, with several vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wine regions."

"We have succeeded in creating an exceptional wine list that wine lovers will truly appreciate," said Mitchell Schmieding, Benny's Director of Operations. "Nothing makes a wonderful dining experience more memorable than an excellent, enjoyable glass or bottle of wine. Since our menu includes a great variety of dishes in addition to our USDA Prime Natural steaks, Prime Dry-aged steaks and Prime Wet-aged steaks, we have built a wine collection that complements many different foods while catering to a wide range of wine preferences."

Benny's also has a unique wine locker program that enables frequent guests to purchase wines from the wine list by the case and store them on-premises in climate controlled lockers.  

Benny's Wine List features many hard-to-find New World and Old World wines, by the glass or bottle, at a variety of price points. "We search for wines that are excellent values at whatever price level," said Schmieding. "Quality and variety are our most important criteria, and we make sure that all of our guests are given excellent guidance from one of our Sommeliers in picking the wines that fit their mood and choice of meal."

Wines by the glass range in price from $11 to $35.  Benny's will also serve a 3-ounce "half pour" serving of any wine by the glass. The pinnacle of the wines by the glass is the collection of Fine & Rare Selections, stored using the EnoMatic® preservation system which keeps the wines in their most pristine condition through the use of argon.  Benny's also offers two outstanding private label red house wines by the glass which are delicious and exceptional values: Benny's Chop House 2006 Merlot and 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Howell Mountain, California and priced at $17 per glass.

Benny's wines by the bottle are extensive and wide ranging-more than 1,200 labels are on hand.  Bottles range in price from $34 to an eye-popping $4,500 for the exceptionally rare and prized 2003 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti en Magnum, Èxchézeaux Grand Cru. Benny's stocks more than 200 white wines by the bottle, covering numerous styles and points of origin. Guests can choose from Champagnes and sparkling wines, including the increasingly popular Brut Rosé. Other white wines include Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rhône Varietals, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Spanish Varietals, Mediterranean Varietals and Rosé.

In keeping with its status as a top-tier steakhouse, Benny's stocks nearly 1,000 red wines that comprise a world-class collection from across the wine spectrum. The Pinot Noirs emanate from the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise regions of France but there are also selections from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, South America, New Zealand, Oregon and California.

Benny's Rhône wines originate in the Northern and Southern Rhône Valley of France as well as from the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence regions, plus Australia, Washington and California. The Bordeaux wines come primarily from the Pauillac and Saint-Èstephe, Saint-Julien and Margaux regions of France, but there are also Bordeaux-style wines from Italy, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and domestic versions from Washington and California.

The Cabernet Sauvignon collection comes primary from the United States, including the Napa Valley region and Washington. Other excellent selections originate in Australia, while there are some delicious Cabernet Franc wines from the Loire Valley of France. Merlot selections are domestic, from California and Washington, while the Malbec wines are from France, Australia and Washington.

Benny's wine list continues with an extensive collection of interesting Spanish red wines. Tempranillos are primarily from the La Rioja and Castilla-León regions, with a few domestic versions from Oregon and Washington. Wines made from the Spanish Garnacha grape are from Priorat and Catalonia regions of Spain.

Italian wines are well represented as well, with Sangiovese wines from Toscana; Barbera and Dolcetto wines from Piemonte; Nebbiolo wines from Piemonte and California; numerous regional wines from Barbaresco, Amarone della Valpolicella, Sicily, Umbria and Calabria.

Zinfandel lovers will find a varied collection of wines from California and Washington, and there are some interesting varietals including Lagrein, Gamay, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Pinotage from both the Old and New World that are not to be missed.

Of special note is Benny's global and domestic collection of half bottles (375 ml) including Champagnes, white and red wines, and dessert wines.  Other notable bottles include large format bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, California and Italy.  Benny's is home to the only magnum bottle of Quinta do Crasto Vinha Maria Teresa, from Portugal, in the entire state of Illinois.

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Photos courtesy of Benny's Chop House

BCH MerlotET

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Figue Mediterranean Joins the Palm Springs Restaurant Week celebration

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant (47-474 Washington Street in La Quinta, CA 92253 telephone: 760-698-9040), the new culinary gem in La Quinta, is joining other area restaurants in celebrating Palm Springs Restaurant Week, May 31 through June 16. Figue will offer a special Three Course Rustic Italian Menu created by Executive Chef François de Mélogue. 
"We're very proud and humbled by the many rave reviews we've received from our guests since we opened in late March and we are thrilled to offer our inaugural Restaurant Week Menu," said owner Lee Morcus. "We have designed a unique experience with delicious flavors from the Mediterranean region and are featuring Italy in June with this special rustic Italian menu along with other Italian wine, cocktail and food programs including cooking classes with Executive Chef François de Mélogue. Everything at Figue is made from the finest, freshest organic, sustainable and primarily local ingredients that are at the peak of flavor and exceedingly delicious. Our Restaurant Week menu will give new guests a chance to become acquainted with the Figue experience at a very reasonable price."
Figue's Restaurant Week Menu starts with a choice of four Small Plates. Choose from Garden Vegetable Panzanella, an Italian Summer Salad of Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Celery and Young Carrots; Seafood Bruschetta, with Calamari, Bay Shrimp and Bay Scallops served over grilled Italian Country Bread; Chicken and Ricotta Polpettine, chicken and ricotta meatballs simmered in San Marzano sauce; and San Daniele Steamed Mussels, PEI Mussels steamed with Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto.
The second course features a selection of specially chosen Big Plates (entrées). Choices include Gnocchi Tocco Di Carne, potato dumplings, pork & porcini sauce; Tuscan Fish and Shellfish Stew, with codfish, clams, mussels and shrimp simmered in a tomato-vegetable sauce; Shaved Pork with Summer Fruits, spit roasted pork with arugula, plums and cantaloupe; and Spit Roasted Chicken with charred corn fregula and honey balsamic glaze.
The menu concludes in spectacular fashion with choice of desserts: Citrus Panna Cotta with Organic Cherries; Pistachio, Olive Oil and Fig Cake or Chocolate and Hazelnut Bombolinis.
Those who would like to enjoy perfectly paired wines to go with each of their courses, there are two levels of wine pairings to accommodate. The price of the Three-Course Restaurant Week Menu is $38 per person. Wine pairings are priced at $15 or $25.
Figue's seasonal dinner menu also will be available during Restaurant Week. Learn more by visiting

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Celebrate National Hamburger Month and National Salad Month All Month at Benny's Chop House

You don't need a special occasion to enjoy a delicious salad and hamburger, but when National HamburgeBenny's Burgerr Month and National Salad Month are celebrated throughout the month of May, it's time to savor these American classics by enjoying the extraordinary selections at Benny's Chop House, (444 N. Wabash, Chicago; 312-626-2444).

If you want a burger that's a true culinarian's delight, you'll love the burgers at Benny's. They all are made from USDA Prime Beef that is freshly ground in-house. Benny's Burger is topped with blue cheese, port wine onions and served with a huge order of truffle fries, for only $9.99. Another scene stealer is Benny's Fried Egg and Truffle Oil Aioli Burger, $10.99, topped with delicious house-made aioli, crowned with an organic egg, and accompanied by decadent black pepper-bacon fries. Finally, if you're a burger purist, you'll love the Classic Burger, topped with your choice of cheddar or blue cheese and served with hand-cut French fries, $9.99.

National Salad Month
Grilled Romaine SaladThe Association for Dressings & Sauces launched National Salad Month in 1992 and the celebration's 21st anniversary is this May. According to, "less than 50% of the U.S. population (and 80% of women) is getting enough of the essential nutrients for optimal health." Research shows that eating just one salad a day can have a significant positive impact on your health.
Benny's Chop House makes it easy to get your quota of fresh organic greens. Stop by for lunch and enjoy generous salads made from the finest fresh ingredients. The Prime Steak Salad features USDA Prime beef with garden greens, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes, lightly dressed with béarnaise vinaigrette and served with hand-cut fries, $13.99. Another delicious choice is the Sesame Atlantic Salmon Salad with asparagus-fingerling potato salad and English peas and served with Dijon-miso vinaigrette, $14.99. The Asian-Blackened Chicken Salad is served with grilled pineapple, edamame, scallion, carrot, cucumber, and mint in tangy ginger vinaigrette, $11.99. The Lobster Cobb combines succulent fresh lobster with tomato, bacon, avocado, and sweet corn with tarragon vinaigrette. The Warm Spinach Salad is topped with a sunny side-up egg in a sun-dried tomato, bacon vinaigrette, $18.99, and Benny's special Caesar Salad is served with focaccia crouton, white anchovy, fresh Parmesan and a zesty Caesar dressing, $5.99 small/ $12.99 large.

Dinner guests will enjoy Benny's signature Grilled Romaine Salad with lemon-garlic vinaigrette, $8.99, a customer favorite, the Belgian Endive Salad with goat cheese, pecans and mustard vinaigrette, $8.99, or Benny's Seafood Salad with shrimp, calamari, octopus and sepia, $14.99.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chicago-Based Innovative Floral Company is Transforming the Luxury Hospitality Floral Market

Venture-backed start-up Luxe Bloom, LLC™ saves luxury hospitality operators time and money with natural long-lasting rose arrangements made from the world's highest quality Ecuadorian roses and last up to 60 days.

Luxe Bloom 300 pixels with borderChicago based start-up, Luxe Bloom™ provides luxury hospitality operators in US hotels, fine dining restaurants and high end spas with exquisite natural, long-lasting rose arrangements on a monthly recurring basis. Luxe Bloom's luxury rose arrangements come direct to the customer's door in more than 20 colors and designs for a variety of hospitality settings. Bespoke colors and designs are also available.

With her background as a brand marketing executive for Fortune 50 companies, launching Luxe Bloom was a natural venture for Founder, Shelley Rosen . "The company was established to solve problems for luxury hospitality operators with a lens on innovation and creativity," said Rosen. "Our floral arrangements last several weeks and do not require water or refrigeration to keep their natural beauty, saving time and money while improving operating costs. Our clients consistently tell us our flower arrangements make it easy and more predictable to run all aspects of their business."

20130213_112116_resized 300 pixels with borderAngela Portella, Spa Director of Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria of New York commented, "Because the cost and longevity of their rose arrangements are more predictable than fresh floral, we have stabilized our floral costs with Luxe Bloom. The long lasting nature and ease of care has afforded our staff even more time to serve our important guests."

Pro Ecuador

The roses are grown under Flor Ecuador® regulatory governmental agency monitoring environmental standards of Ecuadorian floral firms. Rosen stated, "It's the proximity to the equator that enables Ecuador's farmers to produce the finest flowers in the world. That is why we are closely working with the Trade Office of Ecuador in Chicago to support Keep Trade Going efforts between the U.S. and Ecuador."

"The mission of Chicago's Trade Office of Ecuador, established in 2011, is to promote Ecuador's export offer and to attract investors. One of our star products is the unparalleled Ecuadorian rose. Luxe Bloom and her President, Shelley Rosen, are great collaborators with this Trade Office," said Mr. Borys Mejia, Trade Commissioner of Ecuador in Chicago.

20130403_085759_resized 300 pixels with borderGiven the natural aspect of the rose product and operation, a multi-tier supply chain is critical to Luxe Bloom. In addition to selling luxury flower arrangements, Luxe Bloom is the exclusive distributor of San Andres Farms long-lasting roses known as the Kiara Collection. Maria Clara Correa, CEO of San Andres Farms stated, "We are delighted to welcome Luxe Bloom into our clientele. Kiara Collection Preserved Roses and Luxe Bloom have been working together to create high-end products that meet the needs of luxury business operators. Together we are not only selling roses, but we are solving hospitality operators' problems with the long lasting nature of our rose innovation."

Investors believe in the Luxe Bloom concept and are showing their support with early stage capital. "We are pleased to have a Private Hedge Fund manager in New York and a Real Estate developer from Ann Arbor, Michigan who believe in our vision as investors," said Rosen.

20130418_151218_resized_4 300 pixels with borderChicago investor, William Conway, of Raputs, LLC. said, "As an angel investor, I look for innovation in an early stage start-up with a leader who can execute and sell the dream. We have found this in Luxe Bloom under the direction of Shelley Rosen."

"Luxe Bloom arrangements are in hotels, spas, country clubs and restaurants in Chicago, New York, Miami, Marina Delray and now Paris," said Rosen. "With the positive feedback we are getting from luxury operators, we know we are meeting an unmet need in the commercial floral market, and we are just getting started."

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Chicago-20120830-00623_resized 300 pixels with borderBased in Chicago, Illinois Luxe Bloom, LLC. founded in 2103 by former Fortune 50 executive, Shelley Rosen, offers natural, long-lasting rose arrangements to luxury business operators on a monthly recurring basis. Luxe Bloom roses are 100% ethically sourced from Ecuador. Due to the long-lasting innovative nature of Luxe Bloom rose arrangements, which require no water and no refrigeration, operators can save money monthly on luxury floral. Luxe Bloom was named a Finalist for the Best Innovative Products Editor's Choice Awards at the 2012 International Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show. Luxe Bloom will be exhibiting at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago, May 19-21 in Booth #9271. Visit us at: .

Celebrate National Apple Pie Day on May 13 at Benny’s Chop House with a Sumptuous Fuji Apple Tart

National Apple Pie Day on May 13 puts America’s favorite pie front and center on the dessert stage at Benny’s Chop House (444 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago; 312-626-2444). For this year’s celebration, Benny is showcasing the delicious Fuji Apple Tart from Pastry Chef Aaron Lindgren. 

To create this thrilling dessert, Chef Lindgren starts with fresh Fuji apples, known for their

crispness and sweetness. He caramelizes them to bring out their natural sweetness and tosses them in a blend of cinnamon, sugar and citrus zest. The mixture is then baked in tangy cream cheese dough; the baking process continues to caramelize the apples while leaving the crust ever so delicate and fluffy. To complete the creation, the chef accompanies the tart with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream topped and a haystack of fresh Fuji apples. The result is a beautiful, mouthwatering and memorable finale to a wonderful dining experience at Benny’s Chop House.

This great dessert really should be no surprise, since Benny’s long list of regular customers comment frequently that the desserts are nothing short of amazing. Paired with the perfect dessert wine, the dessert course is a signature event every time. It’s another reason Benny’s Chop House is considered one of Chicago’s best the steakhouses for those who desire the best in modern and sophisticated dining.

To make National Apple Pie Day more intriguing, here are some fast facts about this perennial classic. According to a 2004 survey by the American Pie Council, one out of four Americans prefer apple pie, followed by pumpkin or sweet potato, anything chocolate, lemon meringue and cherry. In 2004, 36 million Americans identified apple pie as their favorite.

With regard to pie as a favorite, one in five Americans admits to having eaten an entire pie by themselves. More than one third of Americans have craved pie in the middle of the night and have eaten pie in bed. Apple pie in history: the first time fruit pie was mentioned in literature was when Robert Greens Arcadia wrote, in 1590, "Thy breath is like the steame of apple pyes." People have had a love affair with apple pie ever since.

About Benny’s Chop House 

Benny’s Chop House is located at 444 N. Wabash Ave. in Chicago, IL 60611. Whether your preference is for 100% USDA Prime natural, dry-aged, and wet-aged steaks, fresh fish and seafood flown in daily, or many other superbly prepared appetizers, salads, entrées and desserts, there are many ways to enjoy a memorable experience at Benny’s Chop House.

You’ll relish perusing Benny’s wine list that has earned Wine Spectator’s "Best of" Award of Excellence. Benny’s extensive wine collection includes more than 1,500 labels. Yet, the enjoyment doesn’t stop there. If spirits are your penchant, you’ll be pleased to know that Benny’s has one of Chicago’s most completely stocked bars and an elegant and creative specialty cocktail menu.

The restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight. The bar and lounge remains open an hour later. Live jazz from some of Chicago’s best musical artists is presented Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Benny’s participates in many events and holds by invitation only events at the restaurant. To learn more and register to receive invitations, contact Benny’s at (312) 626-2444 or visit  


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Keep Trade Going" Campaign Highlights Ecuador's Importance as a U.S. Trading Partner and the Quality of its Products

Without U.S. government's renewal, expiration of trade agreement in July will make sought-after Ecuadorian products more expensive

Ecuador_2sheet 300 pixelsWhile most Americans may view Ecuador as simply the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador's importance to the United States as a trading partner is really much more significant. This important message will be on display in May as the Ecuadorian Trade Office in Chicago launches a new communications campaign, "Keep Trade Going." The campaign will launch in Chicago and then expand to other cities in the United States over the coming months. The goal of the campaign is to enable the business community and general public to know the facts about trade with Ecuador and why many sought-after Ecuadorian products may become more difficult to find after July of this year. The campaign website, to be launched soon, is

ROSA 4 300 pixels with borderEcuador produces the greatest roses in the world, according to many flower aficionados. Approximately 30 percent of the roses purchased in the United States are imported from Ecuador. Ecuador exported $400 million worth of flowers, in market value, to the United States in 2012. Other high-quality Ecuadorian products that are exported to the United States include quinoa, broccoli, artichokes, tropical fruits, tuna, tilapia, coffee, chocolate, cacao and processed food. "All of our major exported products are excellent, but we're especially proud of our roses," said Borys Mejia, Trade Commissioner for Ecuador in Chicago. "Ecuador is blessed with the perfect climate and soil conditions for rose production. When people want the best, they choose Ecuadorian roses."

ROSA 3 300 pixels with borderIn 2012, the United States imported nearly 9.3 billion dollars' worth of Ecuadorian products, according to the United States Census Bureau. For more than a century, Ecuador has been a strong trading partner with the United States. Since 1991 trade relations have been under two key trade preferences agreements: the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (APTA/ATPDEA) and/or the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences Program (GSP). These trade preferences agreements have allowed Ecuador to export products to the United States without paying an import tariff. This has helped keep the price of Ecuadorian products down while enabling Ecuador to be competitive with other exporting countries. But these agreements are due to expire on July 31, 2013 and without quick action from the U.S. government, when the agreements expire a highly increased tariff will be imposed, and the price of imported Ecuadorian products will go up.

The "Keep Trade Going" campaign is one method that Ecuador is using to encourage the U.S. Government to renew the ATPDEA and GSP so that Ecuadorian products will continue to be tariff-free. As an alternative, Ecuador would like to have more of its products classified under the GSP. "Trade relations between Ecuador and the United States are very positive. The United States is Ecuador's principal trading partner, and our business activities are important sources of jobs in both countries," said Mejia. "Renewing these trade preferences agreements and re-classifying some products under GSP would mean that trade between Ecuador and the U.S. could continue seamlessly while the two governments continue to develop new mutual cooperation agreements that could be broader and more far reaching. New trade preferences agreements with a broader extent in other cooperation areas would help Ecuador and the United States enjoy a more predictable and stable trade relationship while putting in place additional policies that benefit both countries."

The key mission of Ecuador's Chicago Trade Office is to reach out to the business community and the public. "It is important that we continually let businesses and the public know the value of our products to both the Ecuadorian and American economy," said Mejia.

CPC exterior photo 1 300 pixels with borderOne key outreach effort on the part of Ecuador's Chicago Trade Office, during the past year, has been to work very closely with the investor group that is establishing a new Chicago Perishable Center within O'Hare airport. It will be located in the former Lynx Cargo Building at Mannheim Road and I-90, in the northeast corner of the airfield. This new state of the art Center, which will officially open in the third quarter of 2013, represents the first time in decades that Chicago will be a destination to which exporters can directly ship their perishable products. U.S. cargo airlines are planning to soon begin flying directly between Ecuador and Chicago.

"The Chicago Perishable Center means that Midwestern distributors don't have to purchase their perishable wholesale products in Miami or Los Angeles, where the major perishable centers are, and then truck them to the Midwest," said Shlomo Danieli, one of the key principals involved with the creation of the Chicago Perishable Center. "Trucking the products from Miami to Chicago typically takes two or three days which, for perishable products such as fresh flowers and produce, can make a big difference in product freshness and shelf life. With a new Perishable Center in Chicago, the products will arrive in the Midwest in fresher and better condition." Danieli predicts that by the end of its first 30 months of operation, shipping to the Center will have reached a rate of nearly $90 million dollars of product per year.

As a major fresh rose exporter, Ecuador views the Chicago Perishable as crucial, since the marketplace within a 500-mile radius of Chicago represents approximately 80 million consumers, based on U.S. Census data. "We don't see the Chicago Perishable Center as taking away import business from Miami or Los Angeles," said Mejia. "Rather, we believe that it will expand the overall availability of imported products from Ecuador in the United States. It will increase our geographic reach to include the greater Midwest area which until now hasn't had access to our products when they are still really fresh."

In preparation for the opening of the Chicago Perishable Center, Ecuador's Chicago Trade Office has organized a series of business-to-business activities that will allow Midwestern importers to meet with H.E., Nathalie Cely, Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States, and other Ecuadorian governmental representatives and businessmen. On May 15, the Trade Office will host a private preview and tour of the Chicago Perishable Center and, at a special reception and dinner later that evening, meet with business and political leaders to discuss its vision for a continued prosperous and mutually beneficial trade relationship between Ecuador and the United States.

"Keep Trade Going" to be featured on the "L"

CTA Train Car with blurred faces only 300 pixels with borderThe Chicago public will also delight in the "Keep Trade Going" campaign. Beginning May 6, fifteen train cars on the Brown Line "L" will be wrapped in beautiful images of Ecuadorian roses and food products. The interiors of these train cars will be decorated wall-to-wall with photography and key messages about Ecuador and its products, all under the banner of "Keep Trade Going."

"This is only the beginning," said Mejia. "Through our continuing efforts to reach out and tell the story of Ecuador, we want everyone in the United States to know that the phrase "Product of Ecuador" is not merely a sign of quality and good business, it is also a symbol of our continuing and productive relationship with the United States and the American people. That is something the people of Ecuador cherish."

Midwestern Rose Vendors Will Benefit

One of the Midwest-area vendors of Ecuadorian roses who will benefit from the Chicago Perishable Center is Shelley Rosen, President of Luxe Bloom, LLC., ( ) a Chicago-based start-up that offers natural long-lasting rose arrangements to luxury business operators on a monthly recurring basis. All of her company's rose products are imported from Ecuador. "Our strong relationship with the Trade Office of Ecuador allows us to keep our quality imports coming to meet our demand," she said. "We support the 'Keep Trade Going' efforts between the USA and Ecuador, as the quality and innovation is paramount to our operation."

About The Republic of Ecuador

The Republic of Ecuador is located on the Equator in the northwest of South America. It borders Colombia and Peru to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Having a surface area of 283,561 square kilometers, the geography of its four regions is very diverse: Andes, Amazon, Pacific Coast and Galapagos. Ecuador is known as the gateway to the world renowned Galapagos Islands, but the mainland of Ecuador is also a beautiful and varied country with an interesting history and culture, making it an ideal travel destination.

Ecuador's population is approximately 15 million people. The largest cities are Guayaquil (2.6 million people) and Quito, the capital (1.7 million people), and Cuenca (277,000). Quito and Cuenca have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Ecuador is a representative democracy with five branches: executive, legislative, judicial, electoral, and transparency and social control. The President is Rafael Correa and the Vice President is Lenin Moreno. The Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States is Nathalie Cely. Ecuador is divided into 24 provinces.

The government adopted the U.S. Dollar as its national currency in 2000. The economy is based primarily on oil and agricultural production, with an annual Gross National Product of $127.4 billion in 2012. The economy experienced 7.8 percent growth in 2012, with a 5-year compound annual growth of 4.2 percent, according to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom.