Bob Benenson

Chicago, IL USA

Professional Experience

I am a writer in Chicago, focused on food and drink, after a long career as a political analyst. I have great contacts with people who are working to improve how we eat and drink, in areas such as sustainable agriculture and artisanship in food, craft brewing and distilling.


34 Years
13 Years
34 Years


Sports & Recreation
40 Years
34 Years
Other, Specify
2 Years


Magazine - Trade magazines/publications (B2B)
30 Years
Online/new media
16 Years
25 Years

Total Media Industry Experience

40 Years

Media Client List (# assignments last 2 yrs)

CQ Researcher (an affiliate of Sage Publications) (1-2), (10+), Edible Chicago magazine (1-2), Edible Michiana magazine (1-2), Graze magazine (1-2), Cooler on the Lake Shore blog (10+), Hop Head Farms website (6-10), Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball (1-2), CQ Press (an affiliate of Sage Publications) (1-2)

Other Work History

I publish a personal blog called Cooler on the Lake Shore ( that provides a well-rounded look at my interests in food, drink, sports and photography.

Technical Skills

Photography and basic photo-editing skills.

Computer Skills

WordPress, Word, Excel, Various text publishing programs


Digital camera, desktop and laptop computers, iPad, iPhone (including camera), iPhoto, Befunky photo editing program, digital voice recorder, Google Hangout, Logitech webcam


Available by the dozens.


Current president (since May 2013) of the Michigan State University Alumni Club of Chicago, and member of the Michigan State University Alumni Association's International Advisory Board. Was a longtime member of the National Press Club in Washington, DC.


Food journalism

Cooler on the Lake Shore is a blog I launched shortly after moving to Chicago in summer 2011. It is a showcase for my wide range of interest, including food, drink, sports and all things Chicago, and it is illustrated with hundreds of my own photographs.
Bob Benenson's Good Food Page on Facebook is a showcase for dozens of the stories I have written about various aspects of food and drink, with strong focus on matters such as sustainability, access to local foods, health-conscious eating, and food artisanship.

Local food/farmers markets

Beth Sakaguchi Eccles, a third-generation grower who co-owns Green Acres Farm in North Judson, Ind. with her husband, Brent, is one of the stars of Chicago's Green City farmers market. She graciously participated in a video discussion of her early-season produce in May 2013.
Shopping at farmers' market is a total kid-in-a-candy-store experience for food lovers. Here's one day's haul from Chicago's Green City Market, the city's largest farmers market.
Agreements by both major Chicago airports, the McCormick Place convention center, and Chicago Public Schools to increase their purchases of sustainably produced food were announced in March at the Good Food Festival and Conference staged by


This recipe was inspired by a TV ad implying there is something heroic about bringing fast-food tacos to a party. Easy, yes. But if you want to show respect for your host and friends, bring something you made yourself. It almost certainly will be tastier, and better for you. Even with bacon fat.
There are fruit salads. And then there is this fruit salad, which bathes in a syrup made with fruit liqueur and essentially makes its own punch that you can (and should) drink on the side. Super-easy to make, to
I don't think any recipe I've posted has drawn more repeat traffic than this one -- borrowed from cookbook author Michael Ruhlman -- for making home-cured bacon. Way, way easier than I think most of us were led to believe. Another simple way to show off.
This is an easy-to-make crockpot recipe, Texas-style with big chunks o' beef. But with beans, which supposedly is not done in Texas. You make the call.
I don't think any recipes I've posted has drawn more repeat traffic than those -- borrowed from cookbook author Michael Ruhlman -- for making home-cured bacon. Way, way easier than I think most of us were led to believe. Another simple way to show off.
Asparagus lovers in the Chicago area benefit in the spring from their proximity to Michigan's farms. But asparagus is available pretty much year-round in supermarkets and --roasted with a little oil and seasoning -- it is one of the easiest delicious treats around.
Homemade hummus is super easy to make, and highly adaptable to your personal tastes and touches. Ignore the Super Bowl-related headline -- this is a treat any time of year.
This fruit-heavy cobbler, baked deep-dish in a cast-iron pan, is a popular post. The secret: the syrup used to cook down the fruit is a little boozy.
This slow cooker chicken cacciatore recipe (borrowed from a crockpot cookbook) is another example of how crazy easy it is to make delicious meals at home. Great for family meals, making several dinners' worth for a busy week, or for company.
Pulled pork is a thing we love to go out to eat, but can be made deliciously and in mass quantities at home, especially if you employ a slow cooker in the process. A little more labor intensive than some recipes -- shredding a slab of pork shoulder takes some effort -- but it's close to foolproof.
Cranberry sauce is one of the easiest delicious things you can make at home. Sauced cranberries -- those prepared with spirits such as bourbon, triple sec, and even Southern Comfort -- take the whole concept up a notch.

Craft beer

Hops -- what kinds and how many are used -- are the ingredients that do more than anything to give individual beers their personality. This piece, from the Craft Brewers Conference in March 2013, explores the efforts by craft brewers to ensure the quality of the hops they use.
Chicago and the state of Illinois fell a little behind the curve on the craft beer revolution, but it is catching up fast -- in large part because of the work being done by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and Justin Maynard, its ultra-friendly executive director.
If you build an excellent brewpub, they will come. That's what the principals at DryHop in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood found when they opened in June.
The rise of America's craft beer industry continues unabated. That was the message from the opening session of the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C., in March 2013.
Greenbush Brewing, located in Sawyer in Michigan's southwest corner, is one of the region's fastest growing craft beer makers. They also were the first to make a beer using hops from Michigan's Hop Head Farms last year (their first year of production).
Begyle Brewing is part of the wave of craft brewing startups in Chicago and its environs. The young brewer/owners' beers, in a wide range of styles, have been getting lots of positive attention. And it all started with a converted turkey fryer.
CEO Nunzino Pizza and lead growers Jeff and Bonnie Steinman have built a flourishing hops growing and processing business that is in its second year of operations in little Hickory Corners, Mich. It is part of a major revival of Michigan's long-dormant hops-growing sector.
Brett VanderKamp co-founded New Holland brewery in the pretty lake town of Holland, Mich., during craft beer's first wave that crested in the 1990s. Its steady growth has been fueled by a wide variety of excellent beers and its status as one of the first breweries to also produce distilled spirits.
John Mallett, a major figure in the rise of craft beer for more than two decades, is the longtime director of operations who has overseen the rise of Bell's Brewery (of Kalamazoo, Mich.) to its status as the nation's 7th largest craft brewing company.

Sustainable farming

Prairie Crossing Farm is a pioneering organic farming and education project in the outer suburbs north of Chicago. It also has adorable baby goats.
South Dakota farmer Charlie Johnson, recipient of the 2013 Farmer of the Year Award from the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, has carried on the organic farming tradition established by his father in the 1970s
Vertical farming has not yet reached the heights projected by the visionaries who foresee skyscraping indoor farms meeting urban food needs. But FarmedHere, located in a 90,000-square-foot facility in a Chicago suburb, is using grow-lighted rack systems to redefine the term "factory farming."

Wine/regional wine

Bride of Freak of Nature is a pink sparkling wine infused with brandy-soaked oolong tea. It's a collaboration between Illinois Sparkling Co. and Cleetus Friedman, the innovative chef at Fountainhead restaurant on Chicago's North Side. The result is a summertime pleasure.
The quality and variety of Michigan wine has been steadily improving -- and gaining recognition from oeonophiles -- but it's still pretty hard to find even just across the lake in Chicago. Here's a story about some nice folks who are working to change that.


Using mint tea to make a version of the classic mint julep works. It's super-easy to make, it's less intensely sweet, and is less likely to sucker-punch you than the traditional julep, which is essentially all booze with a booster shot of sugar.
A favorite drink recipe can be an excellent starting point for your kitchen cocktail creativity. Here are a couple of home concoctions -- made with craft spirits from Midwestern producers -- that are riffs on the famed Seelbach, a champagne/bourbon drink invented in Louisville, Ky.
"Sparkling wine in a can" isn't something you'd want to serve at a formal dinner party, but the 6-ounce servings from Sofia from California's Coppola winery are handy if you just want to make a couple of bubbly cocktails and don't want to open a whole big bottle.
The never-ending experimentation in the home mixology lab led to an exploration of whether a hot beverage that tastes like a margarita could be made. It's very possible -- though the outcome looks more like Tang.
The title of this piece, published in Edible Chicago magazine in January, says "warm winter cocktails." But in reality, we are mostly in climate control and most of us drink coffee and tea all year-round. So why not try these toddy recipes, provided by five of the Midwest's leading distillers?

Food entrepreneurs

More and more food entrepreneurs are using crowdsourcing (think Kickstarter) to raise money to get their businesses off the ground. This subject was discussed at a panel at's Good Food Festival and Conference in Chicago this March.
Master butcher Kari Underly is at the forefront of the rising interest among women in the trade of meat cutting. Already known for her teaching skills at programs such as Grrls Meat Camp, she is raising money to open a "meat academy" in her hometown of Chicago.
The buy local ethos of Chicago's food community is well represented by The Spice House, owned by Patty Erd and her husband Tom. Make that Patty Penzey Erd, as she inherited the original Milwaukee-based spice business from her parents.
Running an upscale fried chicken restaurant, open every day, might seem daunting for the chefs who have made a mark running Chicago's semi-private Sunday Dinner Club. But Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp say they can't wait to open Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which they plan will happen in August.
Butchery, not long ago, was a classic "man's trade," beefy guys cutting beef. But after years of decline, as factory-cut meat replaced butcher shops, there's a revival, and many of the leaders are women. Chicago's Kari Underly is one, and she's raising money to create a professional butchery school.

Craft distilling

Bill Welter developed a passion for whiskey making while spending a summer as a golf caddy in Scotland. He has gone on to establish Journeyman, a critically acclaimed craft distillery in southwest Michigan that also is in a small group of organic spirits makers.
The craft spirits sector is growing fast in the Midwest. Here's a story about the rising profile of microdistilleries at one of Chicago's premier annual tasting events, staged at Binny's flagship retail store in April.
Michigan State University's previously low-profile Artisan Distilling Program has opened a tasting room at its East Lansing production facility and is bottling its own products under the Red Cedar Spirits label. Read all about it and meet Kris Berglund, the prof behind it all.
The small Chicago suburb of Riverside is an architectural jewel, with houses designed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. Now the year-old Quincy Street Distillery downtown is promoting a different kind of craftsmanship.

Urban agriculture

Sarah Elizabeth Ippel is one of the nation's leading young innovators in education. Her Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC), a charter school on Chicago's Southwest Side, teaches principles of sustainability to very young children (K-4) -- most of them from low-income Hispanic families.
When Sara Gasbarra started Verdura -- building container gardens for Chicago restaurants -- last year, she did not expect a client lineup of some of the city's hottest dining spots. Gasbarra, whose business is flourishing in its second season, reflected on her first year in this December 2012 piece.

Food artisanship

The term "red-handed" has always had a sinister meaning. But not for Justin Venturi of Goshen, Ind. If Venturi's hands are red, it is because he has just made another batch of the fresh fior di latte (cow's milk mozzarella) that is the most distinctive ingredient of his authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Sustainably produced food

Food Patriots is a documentary, currently in the final stages of production, by Jeff and Jennifer Spitz, whose project was inspired by the health crisis their son Sam endured after he suffered food poisoning from chicken tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.