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Foodie for Thought: Beth Nielsen



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Updated: May 12, 2014 12:13PM

Beth Nielsen’s pastry chef friends joke that she’s the “CIA of vanilla.” As the well-traveled chief culinary officer at Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, she basically is. Her taste buds are trained to tell which flavors make a recipe pop.

Nielsen was 15 when she began working for the family business as an all-around schlepper. The post-college years took her away from the company and, for a time, the States. She started a school, managed resorts for a hospitality group and moved to Spain to do “the Julia Child thing.”

Her return to Nielsen-Massey in 2006 as Director International required a move to the Netherlands. She now lives in Libertyville, 15 minutes from work and never far from a good meal.

One beef: “I don’t eat much meat. Inovasi [28 E. Center Ave., Lake Bluff] is the only place where I’ll eat the hamburger. [Chef John des Rosiers] sources everything locally. He knows the farmers, the breeders. I can tell if it wasn’t a happy cow. John has happy cows. He uses a local white Cheddar, a little mesclun and a ketchup aioli that’s light, not glopped on. The burger is so juicy, you don’t need anything else.”

Good morning: “I love a good brunch, and I am an eggs Benedict snob. The egg has to be absolutely perfect, the hollandaise has to clog your arteries and I love homemade, nitrate-free ham. So I had the eggs Benedict at Yolk [355 E. Ohio and other locations] and it was pretty perfect.”

Good vibe: “I love the vibe at Acadia [1639 S. Wabash]. It’s in a weird area. You almost don’t know it’s there. But you can walk in there in jeans or in black tie and feel comfortable.”

Hey, bartender: “If I don’t want to think hard about where to eat, or to start the night, it’s Sepia [123 N. Jefferson]. They do such a good job in the bar. They do it old school. It may be a slightly modernized mix of ingredients. It may take 10 minutes for them to make your drink. But when you get it, it is perfectly balanced.”

Upper crust: “Pizza Italia [218 S. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville] is only delivery or pickup. It’s a family business. Their sauce is excellent. Their deep dish is as good as any Chicago-style deep dish I’ve ever had.”

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