Butcher & the Burger

While Chicago may be mostly known as a hot dog city, it's actually saturated with just as many awesome burger offerings. As you already know by now, I love a good burger and have made it my personal mission to discover the best of the best in the city. During my quest thus far, I found one of the most well-known and lauded burger joints to be quite a fat disappointment (although I am willing to give it another chance), while some of the smaller, most off-the-radar places have ended up being my favorites. 

After months of drooling over their burger pics on Instagram, Diana and I finally made our way over to Lincoln Park on a sunny Saturday morning to check out the most recent addition to my must-try burger list, Butcher & the Burger. Based on some solid recommendations, I went in with high hopes for a really good burger... what I didn't expect was to discover my new burger nirvana. As I mentioned on Instagram shortly after our visit, not only can I honestly say my burger was one of the best I've had all year, but also, it was so delicious that it has firmly earned a spot on my top 10 burgers in the entire city! 

Open wide! 

The build-your-own burger joint has a truly impressive menu: diners have the choice of four buns or a lettuce wrap, eight different patties (including everything from their local beef blend to bison to salmon), over ten different spice blends, and a huge list of toppings, including premium choices such as BBQ pork belly, duck eggs, and sautéed fois gras. Each burger is made to order and is completely customized to your personal taste. Needless to say, Butcher & the Burger is not only perfect for those of you who love a good burger, but also those who also may be picky about their toppings (yes, that would be me!) - there's no need to eat around too many sour pickles or pick off the raw onions because it's made 100% the way you like it.

Chef Allen Sternweiler, formerly of Duchamp and Allen's, led the restaurant to a Critic's Choice win during this year's Roscoe Village Burger Fest!

A few of the spice blends available to add to your burger. My favorites included the Greek blend, Chicago Steakhouse blend, and Burger Meets Sun blend (with ghost chilis).

Diana chose the house blend beef with Creek Bottom Game Mix spice blend, cheddar, grilled onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, and mustard on a split top bun. As she mentioned, this was a 95 napkin burger and completely awesome!  

Cheese ooze!

While I was temped to choose one of their alternative proteins, for the first visit I decided to stick with their house blend beef with Greek spice blend, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickle, truffle aoili, ketchup, and mustard on a split top bun. OMG. From the very first bite, I was hooked! My burger was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of spice and slathered in the positively addicting truffle aioli (aka crack sauce)!

 Look at all of that meaty goodness!

Along with the amazing burgers, the Hand Cut Kennebec Fries are must-try! These fries are perfectly salted with a crisp outside and tender inside. Even better? You can request a side of their ridiculously delicious truffle aioli. *swoon*

Although we were completely stuffed, we couldn't say not to dessert after discovering their selection of fresh custards and beignets. I will admit that it's not easy to make it to dessert, as you'll be tempted to devour your entire massive burger, but it's definitely worth saving a little room for their delicious offerings!

Mango, chocolate, and blueberry (my favorite!) custards

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Butcher & the Burger: 1021 W. Armitage. They also offer butchering classes, as well as a variety of take-home trays perfect for BBQs and parties. If you are a burger lover, Butcher & the Burger is an absolute must-visit! 

Butcher & The Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.  


Snap Kitchen #21DaysforGood

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have recently noticed a flurry of activity surrounding the #21DaysforGood campaign via Snap Kitchen (and if you're not following me, well, head on over and press that follow button!). For the last fourteen days, I’ve been a part of this awesome campaign/competition cantered on cultivating healthy eating habits, goal setting, and raising awareness for a lovely group of non-profits.

During the last two weeks (seven more days to go!), I’ve worked closely with the dietitians and other cheerleaders at Snap to meet my diet and lifestyle goals through a combination of healthy eating and tracking. At the beginning of the process, I set my sights on primarily adapting an overall healthier eating plan. Coming off from my summer of fabulous foodie fun, I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut while when not in food blogger mode. During the weekdays, I typically swing by Starbucks for breakfast on my way to work (I leave quite early and don't have the energy or time to sit down for breakfast), eat portable, but boring and not necessarily the most nutritious frozen meals for lunch, and then sit down to leftovers from the weekend for dinner. While I usually enjoy cooking, lately I’ve been uninspired and really overwhelmed at the idea of planning out meals for the week; I’ve mostly only been cooking rather spontaneously, which doesn’t always bode well with my schedule. Along with getting out of my foodie rut, I also decided it was time to get back to eating a set number of calories each day. While I abhor calorie counting, I know that I need to do it regularly, as I can easily fall off track and head into "eat all the foods!" mode if I'm not paying close attention.

Thanks to the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks!) I’ve received from Snap, I’ve already been able to reprogram my weekday eating; while I definitely still indulge in food blogger events during the weekend, I’ve been able to stick to my set 1800 calories per day during the week thus far. Along with sticking to a set amount of calories (which I got away from during the summer), I've also highly enjoyed the variety of foods I've been eating through my Snap meals. I'm a creature of habit and tend to eat the exact same foods over and over (especially when I don't have a lot of time to plan). The great variety is really what has kept me interested and motivated to stay on track! Seeing as the food from Snap is prepackaged, I didn’t have to shift my process too much, as I’m all about convenience during the work week. However, this prepackaged food is *so* much better than what I was typically eating for lunch - not only is it nutritionally balanced, but also it’s quite tasty. I guess that’s why Snap’s motto is "fast food for foodies," right?! Finally, while my goal wasn’t necessarily a number on the scale (although that’s definitely part of the long-term plan), I’m happy to say that I’ve easily dropped 8 lbs in the last two weeks! Out of all of my goals, shifting my eating habits back to the healthier end of the spectrum was definitely the most important and I’m super happy with my progress thus far.

As many benefits as I've reaped so far, the #21DaysforGood campaign isn’t just for my own good - it’s also about competing for $3000 to be gifted to a charity of my choice by spreading awareness and good cheer about my experiences with Snap Kitchen. I’m competing for Felines & Canines, a wonderful neighborhood no-kill animal shelter dedicated to providing a safe and loving shelter to abandoned, injured, abused and neglected animals until their permanent adoptive home is found. They are a fantastic organization who could really benefit from some love (along with some cold, hard cash!).

You can see more on Twitter, but here's a bit of what I've been eating during my challenge so far...

Here's what 1800 calories worth of food looks like - perfectly packaged and ready to go! 

Checking out some of Snap's summer menu during my first visit!

Kale Watermelon Salad with balsamic vinaigrette, basil, and feta

Spinach and Goat Cheese Scramble with egg whites, cherry tomatoes, and baked sweet potatoes 

Almond Crusted Chicken Strips with housemade mustard sauce

Chicken Butternut Squash Macaroni with walnuts, roasted garlic, and goat cheese 

Crunchy Coconut Shrimp with pineapple and Thai basil rice 

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with spicy tomato sauce 

Want to learn more about the 21 Day Commit? Check out the overview found here - or feel free to shoot me any questions via email!


Mid-Autumn Festival at Shanghai Terrace

One of the most important festivals on the Chinese calendar (second only to Chinese New Year) is the Mid-Autumn Festival. The annual event, which falls on September 27 this year, celebrates the harvest time and the biggest, brightest moon of the year. While the festival dates back centuries from the tradition of worshiping the Goddess of the Moon and celebrating the harvest, the modern day version is more about reuniting with family and close friends to view the moon, drink tea, and nosh on delicious mooncakes by the light of lanterns.

Ever since I first learned about the festival from a group of wonderful Chinese exchange students I had in a class years ago, I've longed to travel to China during September (along with it being one of the most important festivals, it's also one of the most beautiful). As much as I would just love to pick up and head over to China to celebrate, it's just not in the cards at the moment (I will get there one day though!). In the meantime, I'm all about finding alternatives that don't involve crossing an ocean, so of course, I was thrilled when the good folks at the Peninsula Hotel invited me to join them for a media preview of their six-course Mid-Autumn Festival dinner at their fine-dining Chinese restaurant Shanghai Terrace.

You may recall that I stopped by the Peninsula over the summer to indulge in their amazing Bastille Day menu. Seeing as that meal was one of the best of the entire summer (and a few of the dishes are even on my overall top picks of the entire year!), you can bet that I had extremely high expectations for the meal. I'm happy to say that Shanghai Terrace met all of my expectations and then some - the space was gorgeous, the food was delicious, and through everything from the intimate setting to the delectable mooncakes, it really felt like they had captured the essence of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Descending the staircase to the restaurant - how gorgeous is the lobby?!

Every corner is filled with beautiful teapots and other art objects - I could have spent hours exploring all of the lovely finds!

We kicked off the evening on The Terrace (open from May-September), which offers a relaxing city-meets-lush-garden-oasis vibe.

As the sun set, we made our way back inside for champagne and our six-course authentic dim sum feast!

First course: Shanghai Terrace trio with Wagyu Beef, Crispy Crab Wonton, Truffle Chicken Siewmai

Second course: Peking Duck Roll with cucumber, scallion, and hoisin sauce

 Second course vegetarian option: Crispy Tofu with garlic, green bean, onions, and jalapeno

Strawberry Fields: Absolut citron, chambord, lemons, strawberries, and Sprite

Third course: Abalone Seafood Soup with shrimp, scallop, bamboo mushroom, and spring onion

Fourth course (and my favorite of the savory dishes!): Steamed Tiger Prawn with garlic sauce, seasonal vegetables, and coriander soy

 Look at all of that garlic awesomeness!

Green Tea Mojito

Fifth course: Chinese-Style Beef Tenderloin with bell peppers, onions, and Chinese barbecue sauce

Fifth course pescatarian option: Chili Prawns with asparagus, wasabi, and sweet chili

Before our final course, we were treated to a mooncake making demonstration by Chef Elmo Han. Originally created by Dim Sum Ambassador Chef Yip during his 26-year tenure at The Peninsula Hong Kong’s Spring Moon restaurant, these special Peninsula mooncakes are made of a light egg custard and flaky pastry morsels (traditional mooncakes are made from a heavy lotus paste and duck egg yolk). As we learned during the demo, each individual cake is handmade and is reminiscent of a shortbread cookie filled with egg custard (in other words, holy deliciousness!).

Sixth course: Homemade Mooncake and Red Bean Pudding

I triple heart love sweet red bean desserts, so you know that I completely demolished this delicious pudding! 

The best mooncake I've ever had!

The Mid-Autumn Festival package, Chicago-style, which includes authentic mooncakes, a dim-sum inspired menu, "AfterMoon Tea" in the Lobby and a festival-themed "Moon" cocktail is available through September 27 at the Peninsula Hotel. 

Shanghai Terrace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.