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

68309.jpg

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

Cubs ring in Cinco de Mayo with a mariachi band in the clubhouse

stl_hoyer_on_changing_the_approach_at_the_plate_05-05_640x360_680373827856.jpg

Cubs ring in Cinco de Mayo with a mariachi band in the clubhouse

You could hear the Cubs clubhouse well before walking into the new state-of-the-art facility.

On Cinco de Mayo, of course Joe Maddon's Cubs would have a live mariachi band - complete with a Cubs jersey - performing as players geared up for a showdown with the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

What were you expecting - Maddon wearing a sombrero?

"I can confirm I won't be wearing a sombrero in the dugout," Maddon joked before Thursday's game.

Fresh off their "Minimalist Zany" suit trip that included a sweep of the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs are feeling themselves quite a bit, so the mariachi band actually fit right in.

Plus, it made for a pregame moment Maddon said he'll remember forever.

"I was partially serenaded in the video room," Maddon said. "They were really good. My favorite moment was their solid rendition of 'Tequila' that was resonating throughout the entire clubhouse. 

"It's something I'll probably never forget - hearing a mariachi band playing 'Tequila' and your boys really participating pregame. That was kinda fun."

Maybe if the Cubs win Thursday, they'll celebrate with shots of Patrón.

Here's to hoping they dump the contents of a margarita machine onto a players' head during the CSN postgame interview. It'll be just like the "slime" on Nickelodeon.

White Sox say farewell to David Ortiz: 'There will never be another one like him'

rollins_on_succesfull_season_so_far_05-05_640x360_680303683784.jpg

White Sox say farewell to David Ortiz: 'There will never be another one like him'

He has been described as a pain in the ass, one of a kind, a great hitter and RBI man and a dynamic player, one they’d love to never face again.

Yet you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the White Sox clubhouse who thinks baseball will be better off without David Ortiz, who is playing in his final regular season at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday night.

Ortiz, who homered for the Boston Red Sox and drove in three runs in a Wednesday night victory, announced before the season that 2016 would be his final one. Prior to Thursday’s contest, the White Sox presented Ortiz with cigars and a humidor as a retirement gift.

“I personally believe there will never be another one like him,” White Sox catcher Dioner Navarro said. “He was literally out of baseball and then he figured stuff out, he did it and he’s been nothing but wonderful to the game.”

Ortiz has been one of the sport’s most popular figures for nearly a decade — unless you’re an opposing pitcher. Carlos Rodon learned on Wednesday night what Ortiz, 40, can do to mistake fastballs, a lesson previously learned by 508 pitching victims.

Somehow, White Sox closer David Robertson has never surrendered a homer to Ortiz despite facing him 15 times in his career. Robertson has got the best of a majority of their meetings, holding Ortiz to a .214/.267/.286 slash line with only three hits in 14 at-bats. But it doesn’t make it easier when they do battle, Robertson said.

“He’s been a pain in the ass,” Robertson said. “He’s been that powerful left-handed bat that you just don’t want to see late in the game. He’s been an exceptional hitter who’s smart in the box. He’s just a deadly threat every time he comes to the plate.

“I just feel like it’s a dog fight every time I face him. He knows everything I’ve got and I know where he can hit it. I hope I come out on top.”

White Sox reliever Zach Duke has only faced Ortiz three times. But he knows the book on Ortiz and has even more respect after “Big Papi” dribbled a run-scoring single through a vacated hole in the White Sox shift on Wednesday night for an insurance run. Duke could see that Ortiz wanted to hit the ball to the left side earlier in the at-bat. So the left-hander tried to get a fastball inside on Ortiz’s quick hands and the slugger still managed to get inside of the pitch enough to bounce it into left field.

“He’s going to take what you give him in those situations because he wants the RBI,” Duke said. “He’s got that kind of ability to exploit whatever defenses give him. I could tell he was trying to do it on the breaking ball before it, he was even trying to shoot that the other way. I’m like ‘All right, I need to give him the heater’ and he got inside of that still. Tip my hat.”

But the bat is only part of Ortiz’s lure.

He’s not just a great player, one who has helped the Red Sox win three World Series titles. Players think Ortiz is a fantastic spokesperson and ambassador for baseball because he clearly enjoys the game and it shows.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura agreed with that assessment, noting baseball is better off in part because of Ortiz.

“He’s been a dynamic player, another case for a (designated hitter) who’s going to make it into the Hall of Fame because he’s had such an impact on every game he’s been in, in the lineup, where he’s at, playoff games, clutch moments,” Ventura said. “All those things and the Boston Strong thing. He can speak, too. He’s had a lot of important moments in Boston. It transcends a lot of things in our game.

“He means a lot of things to a lot of people.”

Rob Manfred looks at the positives of MLB's second base sliding rule

rollins_on_succesfull_season_so_far_05-05_640x360_680303683784.jpg

Rob Manfred looks at the positives of MLB's second base sliding rule

A few hundred feet away from a White Sox clubhouse in which players are somewhat confused by baseball’s new second base sliding rule, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred preferred to focus on the positives of the edict put in place prior to the 2016 season. 

After Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang and New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada both suffered serious injuries on takeout slides last year, MLB added a rule that stipulates players must make a “bona fide” effort to slide into, not around or past, second base. Intentionally grabbing a player’s leg to disrupt a throw is now illegal, as are late slides that take a player out of the baseline or past second base. 

The rule, in effect, is clear: “Just slide into the bag,” White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. 

But the implementation of it hasn’t been consistent. Last weekend in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, the White Sox thought they had a triple play turned when Manny Machado reached out and grabbed second baseman Brett Lawrie until it was a ruled clean slide. 

“I don’t feel like anybody has a feel on it, to be honest with you,” Lawrie said, explaining what happened to him at Camden Yards. “… Unfortunately, that goes against one of the points in the rule and when you don’t follow through with that, you tell everybody that, well, nobody really knows and you guys just don’t really get it yet.”

Lawrie’s gripe is that different umpires and review crews will have different gray areas for what’s acceptable at second base and what’s not. When the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista grabbed Tampa Bay Rays infielder Logan Forsythe’s leg on a ninth-inning double play attempt, a review determined Bautista’s actions violated the rule, and he was ruled out to end an early April game. That was the first high-profile instance of the new rule being enforced, and was one that resonated across major league clubhouses. It’s what Lawrie pointed to when discussing the non-call in Baltimore. 

Manfred understands the adjustment period for players and umpires regarding the rule. As was the case when MLB implemented its rule to cut down on collisions at home plate, there was bound to be some confusion for everyone in getting used to playing the game a different way. 

But Manfred doesn’t expect whatever problems do exist to last for long. 

“Whenever you change a rule with respect to the play of the game on the field, there’s going to be a period of adjustment,” Manfred said. “There has certainly been one in respect to the slide rule, but I focus on the positive. Number one, I do think the rule serves a really important purpose and that is protecting players and I think even in the last couple of weeks, you see us getting more to the kind of equilibrium that we reached with respect to the home plate rule and quite frankly, we got there a little faster at second base than we did at home plate.”

Rollins, a 17-year major league veteran, similarly compared the second base rule to the home plate one and expressed optimism that the wrinkles of it will be ironed out in the future.

“We see a guy get called out for reaching across and grabbing a player and then it happens to us trying to turn a triple play and they interpret it as a clean slide when clearly (Machado) reached out and grabbed Brett,” Rollins said. “It’s like the home plate rule, there’s still a lot of things to work out. But the home plate rule, they said slide in and we’ll go look at it and hopefully get it right, and they eventually got that right. It’ll be the same thing at second.”