5 Questions with...WTTW 11's Alpana Singh

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5 Questions with...WTTW 11's Alpana Singh

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

November 18, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekone of Chicago public televisions most popular personalities and Master Sommelier whose knowledge of food and wine is second to none in our fine cityshe hosts the wildly-popular Check, Please! on WTTW Channel 11here are 5 Questions withALPANA SINGH!

BIO: Born and raised in Monterey, California, it was only natural that Alpana Singh would develop an interest in wine. As the Director of Wine and Spirits for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc., her duties include wine education and training, purchasing and bar program development for the Chicago based restaurant group. She also moonlights as the host of the three time Emmy Award-winning restaurant review television show, Check, Please!, which airs weekly in Chicago on WTTW 11. In 2006, Singh published her first book, Alpana Pours. Alpana also pens a weekly wine column Bottle Service for the Chicago Tribunes RedEye and writes for her beverage blog www.whatwouldalpanadrink.blogspot.com.

Born to Indian parents who moved to California from the Fiji Islands, Singhs family owned an ethnic grocery store in Monterey where she worked at an early age; a life experience that she credits for her present day work ethic and ease with people of all ages. While waiting tables in college, she discovered her love for wine and found that it combined her varied interests of geography, history and food. She achieved her goal of becoming a Master Sommelier by passing the final exam in 2003 at the age of twenty-six.

Prior to her position at Lettuce, Alpana served as Sommelier for Chef J. Johos Relais Gourmand and Traditions et Qualit restaurant Everest. During that time, Wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. praised her in his publication the Wine Advocate as one of the finest young sommeliers in America today. In 2006, Bon Appetit named Singh Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year. She has also been featured in numerous publications including Newsweek, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

1) CSNChicago.com: Alpana, its an amazing success story that in just a short period of time you went from knowing next to nothing about wines and the wine industry to now holding the title of Master Sommelier, one of the youngest individuals to ever achieve this honor. What was the spark in life that took you down this career path?

Singh: I first became interested in wine while I was working as a server at a fine dining restaurant in my hometown of Monterey, California. I wanted to learn more about the subject in order to correctly answer questions diners would have about the wine list. I was immediately fascinated with the study of wine and was soon spending whatever spare time I had reading and learning about it. I became aware of the Court of Master Sommelier program and decided to focus my full energy and attention on passing the exam.

2) CSNChicago.com: What sports did you excel at playing growing up in California, and, since youve been in Chicago, what team(s) have you gravitated toward following on a regular basis?

Singh: I was not much of an athlete in school, but I did enjoy playing tether ball, Im not sure if this counts as a sport. My friends and I would mostly go bowling in high school and in college. I grew up surrounded by beautiful beaches so I loved to go kayaking and boogie boarding in the ocean.

After moving to Chicago, I lived in an apartment with a roof top deck that overlooked Wrigley Field. My roommate was a huge Cubs fan so I would join him on the roof top to watch the Cubs play and I soon found myself rooting for the Cubs. I was amazed at how emotionally invested I became with the team and the game. I was on a roller coaster ride of feeling different emotions joy, sadness, disappointment, elation, anger, fear, triumph, etc. After the calamity of 2003, I realized that I didnt have what it took to follow a sports team, especially a team like the Cubs. The emotional drain can be extremely exhausting.

I have a huge amount of respect for sports fans, especially Cubs fans, because I realize how much dedication it takes both in time and in heart. My father is a huge 49ers fan and I remember one year, he had to be taken to the hospital after the 49ers lost a crucial game. Thankfully, he ended up being OK but I realize that this type of fanaticism is in my DNA so its probably best that I keep an arms distance away from getting too involved in following a team. I do enjoy going to sporting events be it the Cubs, White Sox, Bears or the Bulls. Theres just something about the energy of being at a live event, especially with Chicago fans.

3) CSNChicago.com: With the big Thanksgiving Day holiday coming up, name three wines that CSNChicago.com readers should consider having on their tables to accompany a traditional Thanksgiving feast?

Singh:

Prosecco a sparkling wine such as Italian Prosecco is a festive way to greet your guests when they first arrive. At around 12 a bottle, the wine is fairly inexpensive and can be enjoyed with a wide array of appetizers crudite, shrimp cocktail, mixed nuts and meat & cheese trays.

Sauvignon Blanc I prefer white wines that are fresh, crisp and clean and Sauvignon Blanc is a particular favorite. The style will appeal to a wide range of palates and will pair well with the various side dishes featured at any standard Thanksgiving table.

Malbec I always make sure to always have a bottle of Malbec in my house. Its a rich and satisfying full-bodied wine that hits the spot when you want something heavier. Most Malbecs are also really affordable.

4) CSNChicago.com: As you know, Chicago sports fans are big on tailgating before big sporting events. Is there a wine out there that goes well with burgers, brats, etc. or should we just stick with beer during our pre-game rituals?

Singh: I cant think of a better wine to celebrate your team than Champagne. Rose Champagne, in particular, also pairs really well with ribs and burgers. Its also bubbly like beer so why not?

5) CSNChicago.com: Check, Please! on Channel 11 has been a huge hit in Chicago and you have done a great job as host allowing your guests to freely review and even argue about the citys top restaurants. In your opinion, what makes this show so appealing to the general masses and not just dining experts?

Singh: I feel that most people can relate to our reviewers because we all have a restaurant that we like to call our own, much in the same way people follow a sports team. We take it to heart when someone criticizes something we care so deeply about or we cheer when they agree with us. Besides, who doesnt love watching video footage of delicious food?

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to plug Alpana? Tell us, we want to hear about it

Singh: I am teaching my husband how to cook and were chronicling the adventures in a new blog homecookingschooled.blogspot.com. I guess you could say hes currently in training.

Singh LINKS:

What Would Alpana Drink? official blog

WTTW Ch. 11Check, Please! page

Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants official site

Alpana Singh on Facebook

Alpana Singh on Twitter

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

LOS ANGELES – A man stepped to the microphone during a Q&A session at Cubs Convention and called Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman “the two boy geniuses.” The fan told Epstein how his friends used to call the Dodgers baseball boss “your Mini-Me,” asking about their personal rivalry and if beating L.A. in the playoffs had any extra meaning.

“We have a friendly rivalry,” Epstein told a packed hotel ballroom in downtown Chicago in January. “First off, didn’t he interview for an internship with us and we turned him down way back in the day?

“And then like nine months later, he was GM of the Rays. When he was with Tampa and I was with Boston, we never spoke, because we were in the same division. It was kind of a heated rivalry. We literally never called each other on trades or anything like that.”

But where it’s so difficult for the small-market Rays to keep up with the ultra-rich Red Sox – and replace Friedman’s vision and Joe Maddon’s star power and survive a string of wasted first-round draft picks and find a long-term stadium solution – the Cubs and Dodgers are positioned to be superpowers for years to come.

That’s what makes this Memorial Day weekend showdown at Dodger Stadium so compelling beyond the National League Championship Series rematch. It’s not just upcoming free agent Jake Arrieta returning to the site of his onesie no-hitter on Friday night, a reigning MVP (Kris Bryant) and Rookie of the Year (Corey Seager), two of the best closers on the planet (Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen) and a classic Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup on Sunday afternoon.

The Cubs eliminated the Dodgers less than a month after Epstein finalized a five-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $50 million, likely surpassing Friedman as the game’s highest-paid personnel executive.

“Jed developed a pretty good relationship with him, because I didn’t like talking to him,” Epstein said, referencing GM Jed Hoyer, another Boston transplant on the Cubs Convention panel that day. “But then when I came out here with the Cubs, a different league and everything, I developed a much better relationship with Andrew and we became friends, so now it’s much more of a friendly rivalry.

“I will say that losing to the Dodgers would have been a bitter pill to swallow on a number of fronts, including that one. But they’re developing a powerhouse out there.

“We see them as a team we have to go through each year to get where we want to be.”

[MORE CUBS: Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand]

Backed by Guggenheim Partners’ financial muscle and flush with new TV money, the Dodgers have won four straight division titles and 90-plus games each season while ramping up a farm system that’s now ranked fourth, fifth or sixth by Baseball America, ESPN and MLB.com.

“Everyone’s got their own style and their own approach,” Epstein said. “Ours was more kind of bottom-up (where) they needed to keep it rolling at a high level in the big leagues while retooling their system and nurturing the talent that was already there.

“We had to go out and transact and bring some stuff in. We were at different points of the success cycle. They’ve done a really nice job of winning while kind of establishing something new at the same time.”

The blue-blooded franchise that produced 17 Rookie of the Year winners last month rolled out Cody Bellinger, a 21-year-old, left-handed first baseman with nine homers in his first 28 games in The Show. Julio Urias – who might be the next Fernando Valenzuela – is supposed to be conserving some innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City for another October where the Cubs could be standing in the way of the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988.

“They’ve been producing great young talent for a long period of time,” Epstein said. “If you go back and look at some of the young studs they have in the big leagues that (former scouting director) Logan White and (the previous regime) brought in, some of the guys are still coming.

“They’re stocked and the Dodger tradition runs really deep. With Andrew and his front office, we know they’re going to be dynamic. They’re going to have more resources than anyone. And they’re a big threat to the whole league for a long period of time.”

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Tom Thibodeau was without Derrick Rose for the first time in his head-coaching career last season, coaching the Timberwolves while Rose suited up for the New York Knicks.

But a reunion may be on the horizon. Rose is an unrestricted free agent and the Timberwolves, though they don't have a real need at point guard, are showing interest in the Chicago native. We'll have to wait until July 1, when free agency begins, to see what happens.

See what special guest Nick Friedell, Bulls beat reporter for ESPN, had to say about the topic on SportsTalk Live in the video above.