Hit the Dec!

Welcome to July, aka the party month of the summer! Actually, I think July may just be the ultimate party month of the entire year. While October offers oodles of fall fun and December is filled with back-to-back holiday events, July is a nonstop parade of happiness with its themed get-togethers, fireworks, BBQs, beach bashes, patio gatherings, and one very special perk afforded to those of us who live in the city: dining amongst the skyscrapers. Chicagoans have mad love for rooftop decks (quite possibly because the city is buried under three feet of snow for most of the year); I have to admit that I didn't completely understand the frenzy surrounding rooftop dining until I was here for a few years, and now I can't get enough! While we all love a good patio session, I have to say there is something very special about dining on rooftop during a beautiful summer sunset with fruity cocktail in hand.

Chicago offers numerous rooftop dining options from which to choose; recently, I was lucky to join a group of my fellow food bloggers at one of the most popular choices: The dec Rooftop Lounge at the Ritz-Cartlon. The scenic hotspot, perched twelve stories above the Mag Mile, features a mixologist-driven cocktail list and lovely cityscape views. Of course, as we all know, a good hangout spot is not just all about the fabulous view and drinks, right? A restaurant is only as good as its food (although the cocktails definitely help!). Well, as I discovered during my three-hour tour through their summer menu, The dec is one of those spots that has it all: fabulous food, booze, and views!

We kicked off our night with an East Coast vs. West Coast Oyster Tasting with a side of gigantic Crab Claws. I don't get too caught up in the East/West Coast oyster debate, as I tend to love them all, but I have to say that the briny East Coast oysters offerings were especially on point!

Mileena: Plantations White Rum, rhubarb, lime & Prosecco (my favorite cocktail of the evening!)

The perfect Charcuterie Board: a little bit of everything from spicy mustard to salty meat to sweet fruit.

 Mahi Mahi Ceviche with cilantro, citrus & crispy tortillas

Chicken Schnitzel Strips with anchovy Sriracha aioli. These salty, crispy strips had a slight bite from the spicy aoili - a clear favorite of everyone at my table!

Second in Line: Plymouth Gin, ginger liqueur, grapefruit & Anti-Hero IPA

Falafel Bites served with yogurt and pickles

Meatball Skewers served with sticky soy glazed sauce. These flavorful meatballs were another clear favorite at our table - the meat was super tender and the sweet sauce was the perfect accompaniment.

Berkshire Pork Sliders with chili & red pepper mostarda, served on brioche

Steamed PEI Mussels with Spanish chorizo, melted leeks & English IPA

Once the sun went down, we kicked off the dessert course with an bucket of Frozen Fruit Pops. Seriously, how cute was the presentation?!

Not to be outdone, there was an equally adorable Bucket of Bon Bons (and boy were they delicious and crazy addictive!).

My favorite part of the dessert course was the delectable Ice Cream Floats. The orange and Guinness floats were outstanding!

I absolutely loved everything about my experience at The dec Rooftop Lounge, from the amazing food and drinks to the gorgeous city views. The location is perfect for everything from casual brunch to a fancy girls night out - I can't wait to head to back for more summer rooftop excitement!

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at The dec Rooftop Lounge: 160 E. Pearson Street.

Click to add a blog post for Deca Restaurant & Bar on Zomato
 Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.


Icing Class at Magnolia Bakery

Last week, Diana and I were invited to join a group of bloggers for a cake icing class at the fabulous Magnolia Bakery. As you may recall, we used to have a monthly cooking class date, but after our schedules started getting a bit too complicated to keep up, we had to take a step back. While we no longer have our regular commitment, our love of trying new foodie classes hasn't faded... especially when the class involves heaps of delicious buttercream icing at one of our favorite bakeries in the city!

While I consider myself to be a professional consumer of confections, I'm far from a pro when it comes to the decorating end. I'm one of those people who loves to bake, but kind of dreads the decorating side - not because I don't want my sugary delights to look good, but more because I'm totally OCD about it and drive myself crazy trying to achieve perfection (see: the cake ball craziness). Honestly, I'd rather just dump a load of sprinkles on my baked goods and be done with it. However, I know that part of my craziness comes from the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing when it comes to decorating; I know how to make something taste good, but not always how to make it look good. This is why classes like those at Magnolia are perfect for me - I love having someone show me exactly what to do in a low pressure situation (i.e. if you mess it up, you have someone there to show you the best way to fix it!).

Magnolia offers a variety of icing classes; our two hour class was focused specifically on how to create their signature rosette cakes. The class included step-by-step instructions on everything involved in cake decorating from the best way to fill the pastry bags to choosing the correct tips and assembling cake layers.

How can you not love a decorating class that includes Disco Dust?!

After filling our pastry bags, we had a lesson in inscriptions and rosettes (complete with a resuable practice placemat that we got to take home). I definitely have a new respect for those who can produce perfect icing script, as it's crazy hard on your wrists! I found that it's way easier to pipe in flowy cursive script that it is to use block print, as straight lines are the enemy when using a pastry bag.

Once we finished our piping lesson, we moved on to cake assembly and decorating part of the class, where we got to put our newfound skills to use (the cake layers were premade in order to keep the focus of the class on the decorating).

Our fantastic instructor/icing pro in action!

Diana gave us all a run for our money with her kickass frosting and piping skills!

I went a little crazy with the color scheme and ended up with a Easter-meets-baby-shower-glitter-disco-bomb themed cake (this was pre-glitter). And yes, there's approximately three pounds of icing on my cake. ;-)

Diana's final creation included a healthy dusting of Disco Dust! Yay! 

Diana and I had a fantastic night (fueled by a buttercream high) and walked away with not only a stash of new skills, but also our delicious cakes, and at-home decorating kits and recipes so that we can do it all over again. I loved the small-class format (which allowed for individual attention) and laid back atmosphere - I would definitely recommended Magnolia's classes for newbies and seasoned decorating pros alike!
Want to try your hand at decorating the Magnolia way? Check out the class calendar here. Each class is $75 per person, two hours long and has a theme, from specialty filled cupcakes and holiday cupcakes to cake decorating. You can even schedule a private BYOB class! 


Miku Sushi

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Mario and I are sushi fiends. From paper thin cuts of sashimi (yes, I know that's not really sushi per se, but humor me here) to fusion rolls stuffed with cream cheese, we are always up for sampling from every end of the spectrum. During the last fifteen years, we have eaten our way through numerous sushi spots in the city and suburbs; we definitely have our favorites, but we're always up for giving new restaurants a try. So of course, we were excited to discover that the space that once housed Lincoln Square's renowned (and personal neighborhood favorite) Tank Sushi is now home to the newly renovated Miku Sushi.

Miku Sushi is the brainchild of husband and wife pair Stanley Liem and Sara Katekaew, who actually met while working at Tank Sushi in 2008. Katekaew spent a decade as Tank's general manager and Liem was a onetime waiter who left Tank in 2011, pursuing his dream of opening his own restaurant. Eventually, the duo married and opened a second spot, a popular Thai restaurant in Chinatown. Shortly after Tank finally closed its doors (and briefly housed the quickly shuttered Laughing Bird), the owners offered the pair the opportunity to purchase the space and implement their own vision of upscale sushi in the very same spot where they first connected seven years ago.

How gorgeous is this little corner nook?! The swirling blue waves reminded me of one of my favorite Japanese woodblock prints.

The pair designed the space to include a fish case and counter seating so that diners can watch the sushi chefs at work.

Garlic Edamame. I'll admit that there's nothing remarkable about edamame, but I will say that if you are a garlic lover, this version is a must-try (it's super garlicky!).

Tuna Tartar with truffle soy, avocado, chive, micro greens & chips. This is a dish that we order practically every time we see it on a restaurant's menu, so we're constantly comparing and contrasting versions - we both agreed that this version was one of the best we've ever had! The tuna was so fresh and paired perfectly with the avocado and truffle (and really, you can't beat truffle!). Plus, it was so beautifully presented! Miku translates to "lasting beauty" in Japanese; it's clear that they take care to use that concept in their plating. 

Calamari with honey wasabi sauce. Mario particularly enjoyed this dish because it was filled with tentacles (the one part that creeps me out) and I loved the perfectly balanced sweet/spicy sauce.

Hamachi: goma-ae miso, black pepper, scallion & truffle oil soy. This was another highlight of our meal - the fish was buttery smooth and super truffle-y (similar to the truffle soy from the Tuna Tartar); I easily could have eaten an entire plate of this nigiri for lunch!

Flaming Dragon Maki: shrimp temura, salmon, super white tuna, black tobiko & scallion. As soon as I heard this was served on a flaming plate, I just knew we had to order it. Obviously, Miku wins for the presentation of this roll - really, who doesn't love a plate of fire?! The only tricky part is that if you're going to take photos, make sure you snap them quickly; we learned the hard way that if you take too long, the flames will bake the bottom of the roll to the plate. Whoops.

Fiesta Maki: spicy tuna, lobster, avocado, cilantro, super white tuna, red tobiko & wasabi aioli. Out of everything we sampled, this was definitely the richest and most substantial roll, thanks to the combination of the tuna and lobster. I particularly enjoyed the slight peppery bite from the wasabi aioli and cilantro.

Robusuta: lobster, fried banana, red tobiko wrapped inside-out with crispy rice, topped with micro greens & spicy honey mayo. Our final roll was unlike any other maki I've ever had before and stood out as another favorite of the afternoon. Mario wasn't a big fan of the fried banana (it was a little too sweet for him), but I loved the crunchy banana combined with the buttery lobster and slightly spicy mayo If I'm going to pick a maki roll, I'm going to go all out with a decadent roll like this one!

Although we were completely stuffed and packing up our stuff, our waitress insisted that we try the Cookie Dough Egg Rolls. Stuffed with hot cookie dough and served with strawberry dipping sauce, these dessert rolls were a fun play on the traditional egg roll... and yes, we scarfed them all down. ;-)

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Miku Sushi: 4514 N Lincoln Ave. The appetizing and creative rolls, beautiful presentations, and fantastic service make this sushi spot a must visit for seasoned sushi lovers and newbies alike!

Click to add a blog post for Miku Sushi on Zomato
 Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.