Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Ari Bendersky

Some of us have a voracious appetite for life that can never be sated. Ari Bendersky is one such character. He's completely flush with his own need to know what's new, what's next, what's good in the worlds of food, wine and music. And because I know I could never hold a candle to his boundless energy and constant curiosity, I'm so grateful that I can be his armchair traveler and he, my guide. Go Ari, go Ari...

WHO Ari Bendersky is the co-creator (along with Matt Marcus) of foodie, an iPhone app that delivers unique, exclusive offers to users from Chicago's top restaurants. Over the last 15 years, Ari has been a successful lifestyle and entertainment journalist writing for the likes of the New York Times, Associated Press, Huffington Post,, Advocate, Out, Chicago Tribune,, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago and more, including his blog,

THE GIFT I love wine and I find that giving a bottle from my favorite wineries is a great gift—definitely better than just picking any random bottle off the shelf. I'm a massive supporter of Joel Gott and his Zinfandel is always off the hook. Earlier this year, another Napa Zin came my way: Brown Estate is one of those cult shops that when you discover it, you know you found a good thing. Want to make someone happy? Send a bottle of the 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel. And if you're feeling festive, forget Champagne and head to Alsace where you get better deals and just-as-good sparkling wine. My favorite? Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rosé. It has a gorgeous, coral color and is beautifully effervescent. It's crisp with delicious watermelon and strawberry notes—and it's great for any celebration or just hanging around having brunch on a Sunday.
If you really hard-pressed for a great gift, you'll never go wrong (unless the recipient is vegan or vegetarian) with a subscription to the Bacon of the Month Club from the Grateful Palate. I swear, if a slab of porcine lusciousness showed up at my house each month, I might leave a trail of drool from my front door all the way to my kitchen. I know my dog would love me even more!

But the ultimate gift? A trip to Sonoma for a long weekend of biking, eating and wining. While there are planned tours, I'd probably want to plot my own course by staying at the Hotel Healdsburg, renting hybrids from Wine Country Bikes and hitting some of my favorite wineries in the area, including Ridge, Gary Farrell, Gloria Ferrer and others. I'd eat at Cyrus and indulge at The Spa at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Anyone want to go?

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? Chicago, Illinois

I am an eternal explorer; whether that is traveling to other cities or countries or just checking out what's going on in Chicago. I thrive on learning about new music, cultures, food, wine and more. Positive energy also inspires me. Life's too short to be negative or to allow negative people to bring you down. I'm also inspired by my partner, Drew Harris, who is a passionate, creative and generous soul.

It usually involves a bottle of wine and something simple. I'm a big eater but not a huge cook. I craft simple dishes: salad, pizza, pasta. I love grilling chicken with a great rub. I'm a big fan of Chicago-based rubs, Urban Accents, and love making a spicy shrimp stir fry with massive amounts of fresh, colorful vegetables. And, in summer, I make a mean guacamole with fresh mango, tomatoes, red onion and habanero peppers.

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