2013 | chicago foodie girl

12.19.2013

Recipe: Absolut Chicago Moscow Mule

Welcome back to Thirsty Thursday! Considering I've already been to three holiday gatherings and a restaurant opening this week, the last thing I probably need is to indulge in Thirsty Thursday, but hey... 'tis the season, right?!

Not too long ago, Diana and I were lucky enough to be invited to a fantastic event hosted by Absolut Vodka at the Hubbard Inn. Not only did they serve us a wonderful brunch, but they also plowed us with all sorts of fabulous cocktails and sent us all home with beautiful bottles of the new Absolut Chicago (which we had both been coveting since Chicago Gourmet).

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12.11.2013

Recipe: Cranberry Pistachio Pudding Cookies

As my wise friend once said, it is officially Eating Season (she swears it should have some sort of national holiday designation). Thanks to such a late Thanksgiving, I do kind of feel like I've been eating almost nonstop ever since then. There was our awesome Thanksgiving spread (here was my contribution), then there were all of the delicious leftovers... as soon as we finished up with the leftovers, it was time to shift into holiday cookie baking (and sampling!) mode. My first order of (cookie) business? The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

TGFBCS is the brainchild of two lovely bloggers. The concept is simple: they match you up with three other food bloggers, you bake & send a dozen cookies to each of your matches, and your matches do the same for you. Not only is there all sorts of cookie awesomeness, but also, the event supports a great cause (read more about it here). 

Chocolate Dipped Double Coconut Macaroons from Mary Beth at A Carrot and a Cupcake
Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing from Carol at Cafe Carol

Thick & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies with Gingerbread Oreo Bits from Becky at The Cereal Baker
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11.26.2013

Recipe: Maple Walnut Blondies with Maple Butter Glaze

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a fantastic start to the week. I don't know about you, but I am soooo not able to concentrate on anything work-related this week; between a packed weekend that included a burlesque show and a clothing swap, the transition to winter weather, and the upcoming holidays, my brain is off in a million different directions. Thankfully, today is actually my last day and then I'm off for a lovely five-day stretch (if only every week could be like this!). ;-)

As with many of you, I also already have Thanksgiving food on the brain. I've never been in charge of a full dinner and honestly, I prefer it that way. I'm mostly interested in making various side dishes and desserts (aka the best parts of the meal!). The recipe I'm highlighting today is not only one of my new favorites, but also one that would be a perfect addition to the T-giving dessert bar (especially for those of you who may not be big fans of pie): Maple Walnut Blondies with Maple Butter Glaze. While my love of pumpkin has been well recorded on this blog, I've sadly neglected to mention my almost equivalent love for maple. I'm one of those people who have at least six different types of maple syrup in the refrigerator at all times - not only is my kitchen flooded with syrup options, but I also always have at least three varieties of maple sugar on hand (this is the best). Bottom line: I love maple! These Maple Walnut Blondies are straight up full of maple-ly deliciousness. I gave some to two of my maple-lovin' friends and they proclaimed them to be super fantastic (in their totally unbiased opinions, of course). If you love maple, I promise these blondies will make you very, very happy... and I bet they would go swell with this fabulous pumpkin pie martini!

As always, Mario and I will be spending the holiday with our friends and will enjoy a day filled with awesome food, video games, movies, and board games. I hope you all have a wonderful (and delicious) Thanksgiving... I'll see you back here next week! :-)

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11.04.2013

Andersonville Dessert Crawl


Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. :-) This was the first weekend since August in which I had nothing on the calendar, no homework to complete, and no papers to grade. *whew* It felt like such a luxury to finally have three days of downtime after a whirlwind October (the heaviest part of the semester + birthday excitement + Halloween excitement). I ran a few errands, made a much-needed visit to my chiropractor, spent some time with friends, baked, and read for pleasure. I also finally sorted through the many photos from the Andersonville Dessert Crawl (all while catching up on the last two episodes of Top Chef and American Horror Story: Coven).

As I mentioned last year, the Dessert Crawl is one of my favorite foodie events of the year. It always seems to fall on one of those perfect autumn days (slightly chilly and sunny) and is filled with miles of deliciousness. Really, what's there not to love about strolling through one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city with friends and eating yourself into a sugar coma? ;-) After much evaluation and the weighing of options, Diana and I decided to go with the Caramel Apple route this year, as we were both enamored with the idea of banana pot de crème. Ultimately, I think we made a fantastic choice - there were so many delicious desserts on our route that we actually couldn't even finish the crawl!

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10.16.2013

Chicago Gourmet 2013

The sixth annual Chicago Gourmet festival, aka the culinary event of the year (and the festival I had been eagerly anticipating since purchasing the tickets last November, i.e. EONS ago!), took place in Millennium Park the last weekend of September. There were 175 Chicago-area chefs, more than 100 wine and spirit producers, and just over 12,000 attendees. Yes, you read that right. A little over twelve thousand foodies made their way down to the coolest park in the city in order to rub elbows with celebrity chefs, stuff themselves with gourmet food, and drink themselves into a stupor (really, considering the amount of delicious drinks flowing through the festival, it was impossible *not* to!). 
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9.30.2013

Chicago Food Social

As I've mentioned numerous times since the inception of this blog, I love a good food truck. In fact, I have been known to plan an entire outing around a Twitter food truck stalking session. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that the trend is a fairly recent phenomenon in Chicago (thanks to some strict legislation that for years made it difficult for them to operate in the city); however, there's also the fact that there is some damn good food coming out of many of those trucks! I love the whole concept of a mini restaurant on wheels - ever since I visited my first bona fide food truck in Austin back in 2010 (Hey Cupcake!), I have been obsessed with tracking down various trucks and sampling all of their awesome offerings.

The third annual Chicago Food Social took place the weekend before last and of course, Diana (aka my food truck stalking buddy) and I were all over it! I have to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about the redesign of the festival (previously known as the Food Truck Social), as there was not only a change of location but also the addition of non-food truck restaurant booths; however, the moment we stepped foot onto the festival's grounds, all of my worries were squashed. To put it simply: it was *amazing*! There were rows and rows of food trucks (twice as many as last year!), many of which were new to us and/or impossible to track down. Seriously, it was food truck heaven!

The only downfall was that because there were so many fantastic food trucks, we ended up eating way too much (even though we did share each item & we spread it out over five hours). While we did managed to narrow down our choices to a list of absolute must-visits (that was hard for me because now that I work in the 'burbs, I miss out on most weekday food truck opportunities), we still ended up skipping quite a few because we were soooo stuffed. We've already made a plan for next year that involves visiting in shifts in order to allow for maximum digestion/calorie burn time in between the lunch and dinner sessions. :-)
 
The Tamale Spaceship: This was at the top of my must-visit list, as I was starting to feel like I was the last foodie in the city to never sample their delicious tamales. The Spaceship was the first stop of the day and ultimately, one of my top picks from the entire festival.

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9.18.2013

Recent Foodie Finds

*Tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Ahem. I'm finally poking my head out after whirlwind end to summer break and a whirlwind start to the fall semester.

Despite the whirlwinded-ness (yes, I totally just made up that word) of it all, I still can't believe five weeks have flown by since I last posted... especially considering I've written at least 20 posts in my head during that time! I did intentionally take a small step back from the 'net after a summer glued to the computer, but that small break turning into a longer break, and now, I feel like I have to make some grandiose re-entrance. Um, so, I'm back! Woo-hoo! :-)

Here's a bit of what I've been up to during the last month or so...
Hair chopping!

I've had short hair before, but it had been about 11 years since the last time I made the big chop. I went through about 10 seconds of shock when I rubbed the back of my head for the first time, but then I immediately fell in love with the awesomeness (yes, I realize how narcissistic that sounds, but it's true!). ;-)
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8.12.2013

Andersonville Dinner Crawl


As I've mentioned numerous times over the last year and a half, I have hardcore love for Andersonville. It is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago - it's filled with adorable shops, amazing restaurants, and a fabulous community (Swedish/LGBT/Middle Eastern/young professionals). Andersonville has the perfect blend of diversity, oodles of delicious food options, and some of the best festivals & events in the city (e.g. multiple food & wine crawls, Midsommarfest, St. Lucia festival).

While the Dessert Crawl is my favorite of Andersonville's festivals, the Dinner Crawl isn't far behind (how could you not love an event that involves strolling through an awesome neighborhood with friends & sampling all sorts of delicious goodies?!). The 2013 Taste of Andersonville Dinner Crawl took place last week, and of course, Diana and I were all over it! After scrutinizing the options, we eventually decided to go with the Pepper Route, as we were both fixated on the idea of salmon tartare wontons. We definitely made the right choice - we had a fantastic time and walked away with several new favorites! Correction: we actually waddled away, as we were totally stuffed to the brim. :-)
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7.25.2013

Recipe: Cîroc Vodka Lemonades

Welcome back to Thirsty Thursday, aka my favorite day of the week! :-)

As I've mentioned a million times over the last year & a half, I'm definitely not the biggest fan of summer (mostly because I'm a humidity wimp), but even I have to admit that there are a few fantastic things about summer that the other seasons just cannot touch. This is the time of year in which the city is at its best: the days are filled with long walks along the shoreline, gorgeous sunrises over a glittering Lake Michigan, awesome street festivals, free outdoor concerts, and fun BBQs/picnics with friends. Of course, we can't forget the most important and delicious part of the season... the amazing fruity cocktails! :-)

Last week, Mario and I were invited to visit 25 Degrees in order to check out their new line of Cîroc Vodka Lemonades. To me, vodka + lemonade = the quintessential summer drink, so it should be of no surprise that I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sample a drink (or two... or maybe even three).
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7.17.2013

Taste of Chicago 2013

The 33rd annual Taste of Chicago took place last week. I went to the Taste the first three years I lived here & then one random year when my friend from London was visiting and wanted to go; I've intentionally avoided it ever since. Why would a foodie avoid the city's biggest food festival of the year? Well, after the novelty wore off, I realized that between the horrendous crowds (particularly the slow-moving suburbanites who loooove using their SUV-sized strollers as weapons), the lack of variety (approximately 90% of vendors offer stereotypical Midwestern cuisine: fried/greasy/breaded/swimming in gravy), and the inevitable heat/humidity, it really wasn't all that fun. I made a conscious decision to end my relationship with the Taste and that was that... until this year.

The city just had to get slick and add a new! shiny! feature to the Taste. Food trucks. Oh yes. Food trucks, aka my kryptonite. As has been well documented here, I love a good food truck - everything seems to taste so much better when served out of a cute little truck! As soon as I learned the news of the food truck addition, I knew my anti-Taste stance would have to come to an end. I rallied the troops (well, really just my favorite fellow food truck lover) and made a plan. After thoroughly analyzing the food truck section and our schedules (we're both hardcore nerdy planner people), we decided to brave the Wednesday evening fun crowd (i.e. scads of overexcited teenagers).

The food truck/concert area 
While the city did decide to allow food trucks to participate, they were confined to a small area (the easternmost part of the festival - far away from all other vendors) and heavily restricted. They were only allowed to start selling an hour before each of the nightly concerts (as opposed to the other vendors, which were available all day/night). Unfortunately, the city still hasn't fully embraced the food truck craze (WTF, Chicago?!). Obviously, I'm glad the trucks were included in this year's festival, but the setup was kind of a bummer.

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7.03.2013

Suburban Eats: Silverland Bakery

I was recently contacted by Silverland Bakery to see if I would be interested in sampling and reviewing some of their products. I will admit that I do get contacted quite often about reviews and I've had to learn to become picky about what I say yes to, as I don't want to end up in a situation where I have to promote a product I wouldn't otherwise buy/use/eat. However, in this case, I took one look at their website and sent back an email with an emphatic "hell, yes!!" (in a much more professional tone, of course). :-)

Silverland Bakery is a small mother and daughter-run company, with an amazing selection of offerings including brownies, blondies, cookies, fruit bars, and raw bars; this includes several gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free products. Bonus: all of their ingredients are non-GMO and preservative & trans-fat free. Not only are they an awesome independent bakery that offers high-quality products, but also founder Athena Uslander established a community foundation to enhance the lives and self-esteem of women and girls in need. A pro-woman company that offers handcrafted baked goods and gives back to the community? To me, that is the epitome of small business goodness.


Silverland sent me a complimentary package of twelve dessert bars, along with a giant White Chocolate Blueberry Cookie (one of their newest products). Holy motherload of desserts! I took the tray to a get-together with friends and quartered each bar so that we could all try a little of each (click photo to enlarge for maximum foodie porn!). We all loved each of the bars and had a hard time deciding on our favorites - personally, I was torn between the Siberian Bearclaw, the Salted Caramel Brownie, and the Raspberry Crumble Bar.
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6.19.2013

Recipe: Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been posting much lately, despite my ambitious summer plan to work through all of my half-written drafts and actually finish them. Let's just say that the combination of the two online classes I'm teaching & the two online classes I'm taking, along with the lure of the fantastic weather (I am all about the awesome street festivals and walks by the lake), has left me *so* ready to unplug by midday. Oh, and let's not forget my rockin' gym schedule (I've made it 35 times since the end of the semester!), visits to new restaurants (more about this soon), and various birthday celebrations (my favorite six-year-old turned seven - where did the last year go?!). It has been quite a crazy-busy, but totally awesome summer so far!

While the temperature is still fairly mild, I've still started moving into my summer no-cook mode. I've mostly been craving salads and sandwiches (the Avocado, Apple & Brie Sandwich has made multiple appearances), as well as a ton of fruit. Above all, I am seriously digging all things watermelon this year. I picked up a lovely watermelon and feta salad at The Goddess and Grocer not too long ago and was inspired to make my own version (one that doesn't involve me picking out all of the onions!). The Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad is a simple dish that highlights one of the best flavors of the season. This salad is light & refreshing and has a delicious sweet/salty/minty flavor combination. It has officially become my new favorite summer dish!

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6.03.2013

Chicago Eats: New Spring Items at Corner Bakery

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a spring menu tasting event at Corner Bakery. Unfortunately, due to a prior obligation, I couldn't make the event, but the people at Corner Bakery were nice enough to offer to send over some gift certificates so that I could check out some of their new fruit and veggie-inspired offerings. Seeing as I love Corner Bakery (it's definitely one of my top picks from the fast-casual market), I jumped at the chance.

I have to admit that I order the exact same items every single time I visit Corner Bakery: the Uptown Turkey sandwich or the Tomato Mozzarella sandwich. If I'm feeling really daring, I'll mix it up and switch to the Harvest Salad during the summer or the Roasted Tomato Basil soup during the winter. Despite the fact that Corner Bakery has all sorts of awesome selections, I am very much a creature of habit and will rarely move out of my comfort zone. Of course, that means that I can easily miss out on awesome new dishes, which is why an opportunity to sample their new offerings was exactly what I needed.

Spring Asparagus Soup: asparagus simmered in a light vegetable broth with a touch of cream. Both Mario and I loved this soup! Honestly, I would not have ordered on my own - I'm so glad I had the push to try it because it is one kick-ass soup. Seriously, if you're an asparagus lover, you need to run to Corner Bakery *right now* and order yourself a gallon of creamy asparagus deliciousness!
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5.22.2013

An Evening with Marcus Samuelsson

Happy hump day! I hope everyone is having a fantastic (or at least tolerable) week. :-) To be quite honest, I'm having a hard time keeping track of the days - I really only know which day it is by my gym class schedule (Wednesdays = Chisel fo’ Shizzel with my favorite instructor). While I'm still working (my summer classes start in two weeks), I have to say that it's soooo nice to finally have a little time off from the commute and from the constant high level of interaction. As I've mentioned before, I love my school, but I desperately need a little recovery/introvert time.

Thus far, my recovery has included quite a bit of time at the gym (making up for all of the days I missed during the semester), pleasure reading time (my to-read book and magazine pile is diminishing!), and some quality time with friends and Mario. As one of my favorite academic bloggers called it, it's time for me to become my Best Summertime Self! The first part of being my BSS included a fabulous weekend in which I met the totally adorable and so sweet Chef Marcus Samuelsson, discovered the best mojito I've ever had, and attended my first sumo match.
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5.16.2013

Good vs. Evil: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

Anthony Bourdain + Eric Ripert = über awesomeness

Last Friday, Diana and I attended what is totally the culinary equivalent of a rock concert: an evening with the super-awesome Antony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. The auditorium was packed with foodie fans, and as with any hot show, there were the requisite inappropriate screamers ("I love you, Tony!" "Come home with me, Eric!"), the note-tossers (I'm just going to guess that the notes two guys in skinny jeans & skull caps put on the stage pre-show contained phone numbers and invites to hipster bars), almost nonstop laughter & clapping, and a plethora of cheap beer.
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4.29.2013

Recent Foodie Finds

Happy spring! Yes, I realize spring technically started over a month ago; however, it was still very much winter in these parts until just a few days ago (we had tickets to a Sox game on the 19th that was snowed out!). The piles of dirty of snow have finally melted, the trees have sprouted tiny buds, and there's a whiff of the telltale spring smells (dirt, fresh grass, wet pavement) in the air. I'm so sure that the crappy weather is finally done that I actually put away the errant pile of scarves and mittens yesterday. Yippee!

We're rapidly nearing the end of the semester. My students' writing portfolios and my final few homework assignments are all due by the end of this week. After a whirlwind week of grading, I will be done, done, done with the semester! Yay! I have a really fantastic group of students this semester and while I'm sad to see them go, I'm also excited to finally have time to tackle my huge spring/summer to-do list (including a backlog of foodie porn & recipe posts, two new classes to design, and six grad credits to complete).

A few food highlights from the last few months...

Cupid's Choice Donut from Dunkin' Donuts: I have to admit that I'm a bit of a donut snob, as there are so many amazing donut shops in Chicago, but even I am powerless when it comes to the charms of cute heart sprinkles and rich Bavarian Kreme. :-)

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4.22.2013

Baconfest 2013

Bacon Nation!

Baconfest: we came, we saw, we conquered. Well, realistically, it's more like Baconfest conquered us... no matter how much you love the swine, really, there's only so much you can inhale before it gets the best of you (as first-timer Mario discovered). :-)

Baconfest 2013 was even more fabulous than its predecessor - mostly because I knew what to expect and I actually followed my own advice. As much as I wanted to stuff my face with one (or five) of everything, I knew I couldn't handle it, so I made a plan and mostly stuck to it (admittedly, I did get sucked into a few extra tables once I saw their fabulous creations). In our two hours of extreme bacon consumption, we encountered everything from bacon scrapple with bacon sriracha, bacon-salt cured egg yolks, and a bacon Malort Julius (the "Wake n’Bacon" from Three Aces) to chocolate bacon mousse in a bacon phyllo cup topped with bacon granola and bourbon caramel (Triple Bacon Chocolate Mousse from Chicago q). Mario's favorite (it was a tie for me) was the Benton ham & scallion waffle with Nueske’s bacon jam, Tim Burton’s bourbon maple syrup, and boozy smoked bacon & banana ice cream coupe from deca. Holy amazingness!


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4.18.2013

Baconfest Survival Guide

Guess what time of year it is?! I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with spring (we're still mostly in the wintery ick in this part of the country). I'll give you another hint: oink, oink, oink. Give up?? Oh, all right, I'll tell you (I suck at this game anyway!): it's time for BACONFEST! Woo-hoo!

Yes, my dear readers, it's time for that magical day of bacon, bacon, and more bacon. The fifth annual day of bacon worship takes place this weekend, and of course, I'll be right there amongst the thousands of other bacon lovers, fighting for my piece of the pork pie. My trusty bacon-lovin' sidekick (aka Diana) had a bit of a scheduling kerfuffle (as in she won't even be in the state), so she bowed out and graciously passed on her ticket to Mario. Let's just say he wasn't the least bit displeased to hear the news. :-)

Seeing as I'm now a Baconfest veteran (you can read all about my experience last year here), I thought it might be a good idea to put together a little survival guide for all of the newbies. I did quite a bit of Baconfest prep last year (yes, I'm a nerd and I love to research & plan), but I will admit there were a few things I wasn't quite prepared for (e.g. the person who tripped and smashed her gooey bacon mac-n-cheese bite right into my camera lens).

1. Have a plan and PACE YOURSELF!
Take a look at the map beforehand and find the locations of your must-sees. Mark down all of the awesome porky delights you absolutely must sample (I highly recommend hitting up the 2012 Golden Rasher winners, Three Aces and 676 Restaurant, as well as Sable, Black Dog Gelato, 2 Sparrows, Atwood Cafe, Glazed and Infused, Little Market, and Mercadito). Restaurants will often run out of food and/or you'll be too full to try every single thing, so make sure you hit your favorites first! Also, figure out a plan of attack - which of your favorites are closest together? Which direction will you go when you first walk in the room? Will your entire group move from table to table together or will you split up? I know this may sound slightly anal, but trust me, you'll understand the need for a plan once you're engulfed by the delicious bacon blanket the moment you step into the room and you're consumed by the temptation to just start shoving everything in sight into your mouth.

Also, keep in mind that you will be presented with more porky amazingness than you ever thought possible. Try to resist the urge to eat absolutely everything - if you don't love a dish, then don't finish it! Save your stomach space for the items that you truly love. Remember that it's not a competition... as much as you may love bacon, you really do have a finite amount of space to stuff all of that pork. Take breaks and pace yourself!

2. Dress comfortably and travel light
Baconfest is a magical, delicious experience, but keep in mind that no matter how you approach it, you will leave the fest a sweaty, bloated, thirsty mess (but a very happy one!). You'll be packed into a relatively small space with not only hundreds of other bacon lovers, but also steam trays, fryers, mini ovens, and random drunk frat boys. Dress comfortably/light and don't wear anything you cherish too much, as there's a very high likelihood you'll leave the fest with a random grease spot or two. If you have any bacon-themed clothing, definitely wear it! Baconfest is a veritable bacon-themed fashion show.

Make sure you bring a bottle of water with you. While there will be water available at the fest, it won't necessarily be easy to make your way through the crowd to get to one of the stations. Once the meat sweats hit, you'll be glad you don't have to push through the throbbing crowd of crazed bacon lovers just to procure a tiny cup of water. Other than some water and your basics (ID, cash, cell, camera, etc.), try not to bring much else with you. You will get a tote bag at check-in, so you'll have something in which to dump all of your BF swag.



3. Get there early
This was the crowd waiting to get into Baconfest last year... an hour & a half before the doors opened. Baconfest is some serious business. Plan to get there early - you can use the time in line to study the map & plan your route. As much as waiting in any line sucks, the Baconfest crowd is quite fun (there's ample opportunity for fun foodie conversations, singing, media interviews, etc.).
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3.22.2013

SiBlackFinn American Grille

A few months ago, Mario and I were invited to a tasting event at BlackFinn American Grille in Mt. Prospect. Unfortunately, due to my work schedule, I couldn't make the event, but the people at BlackFinn were nice enough to set up a dinner reservation for us on an alternate date so that we could check out one of their newest locations.

I must admit that I don't typically frequent Mt. Prospect. It's one of those suburbs that you really need to have a specific reason to travel to, as it's a little too far out of the city for just a quick jaunt (it's also a bit too suburban for my tastes). However, despite my 'burbs snobbery, I have to say that we had a really fun night of food and discount store shopping (there is an immaculate TJ Maxx in the same shopping center as BlackFinn - it's 10x better than any of the city locations!).

We arrived for our 7:00pm Friday reservation and were immediately seated, despite the huge line of people waiting for tables. Score one for BlackFinn, as one of my major restaurant pet peeves is when they make you wait even when you have a reservation. The place was consistently packed the entire evening with families and couples of all ages, but despite the extremely busy night, our servers were all very friendly and totally on top of their game.

Crispy Calamari: deep-fried calamari and jalapeño slices with marinara sauce. Mario and I are both calamari fiends and we love to try out new versions. While there wasn't anything special about the calamari itself (it was the typical battered crispy calamari rings), we both really liked the addition of the jalapeño slices, as it added a nice kick to a fairly standard dish.

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3.14.2013

Recipe: Leprechaun's Lunch

Back when I lived in Bay City, I was in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade almost every year from the time I was six up until I graduated from high school. During my high school years, I marched with our band (yes, I was a clarinet-wielding band nerd). When I was younger, it was either with my school's pom-pom squad (complete with my dorky Dorothy Hamil haircut) or my Girl Scout troop. Looking back, I have to admit it really wasn't ever about St. Patrick's Day for me - it was all about the thrill of being in the parade (parades are a very big deal in BC, along with the July 4th fireworks, the Polish Festival, the River Roar, and Madonna).

People in Chicago are just as crazy for St. Patrick's Day, but here, it's less about the parade and more about the green river and stumbling around for a week in a total drunken stupor (while clad in the latest shamrock fashions). I can't say I'm fan of the Chicago-style St. Patrick's Day (too many brawls and too much green puke), but I do enjoy a nice day filled with Irish folk music, dancing, and green cocktails (usually at Tommy Nevin's). Unfortunately, there will be no SPD fun for me this year, as I will be in a graduate class all weekend (boo!). Fortunately, it's Thirsty Thursday, so I have the perfect excuse to get my green drink on a few days early!

The Leprechaun's Lunch cocktail is a smooth and refreshing blend of crème de menthe, chocolate, and Irish cream. This is my favorite St. Patrick's Day cocktail - not only is it delicious, but it's just plain fun, as it's basically an alcoholic liquid version of a Thin Mint. Holy yum.

Happy St. Patrick's Day (a few days early) and happy Thirsty Thursday! :-)

Leprechaun's Lunch
INGREDIENTS
1 oz Baileys Irish Cream
1 oz crème de menthe liqueur (I used Hiram Walker)
1 oz crème de cacao liqueur (I use Godiva or BOLS)
4 ozs milk

DIRECTIONS
1. In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine all of the ingredients. Shake well.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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3.12.2013

Recipe: Slow Cooker Cafe Rio Chicken

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a fantastic start to the new week. Thanks to a combination of a ridiculous number of sick days (evil stomach virus) and a crazy snowstorm/snow day, this is actually my first full week at work since 2/21. Wow.

Not only am I back to my regular work schedule, but I'm also finally back to cooking (stomach issues have a way of making you sooo not interested in thinking about food!). A few days ago, I decided it was time to take charge of my giant pile of to-try recipes and actually make some of the dishes. I have to say that my first pick from that pile, Cafe Rio Chicken, totally knocked it out of the park - it is officially my new favorite slow cooker dish!

I've never been to a Cafe Rio before (we don't have them in Illinois), so I can't vouch for how much this actually tastes like what they serve there; however, I can say that it is seriously delicious. This flavorful chicken is super easy to make and is so versatile - it can be served over rice or a salad, in burritos or tacos, or even as a homemade pizza topper. Really, the possibilities are endless! I used the chicken several different ways (Mario and I got four days worth of dinners out of one batch) - while I enjoyed all of the meals, my favorite was over Spanish rice and topped with avocado. If you're looking for an easy to make and extremely flavorful chicken dish, I highly recommend you give this a try!

Slow Cooker Cafe Rio Chicken

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs chicken breasts
1/2-1 small bottle of Zesty Italian dressing (use the full bottle if you want very juicy chicken)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 packet of ranch dressing mix, mixed with 1/2 cup of water
1/2 Tbs chili powder
1/2 Tbs ground cumin

DIRECTIONS
1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir.

2. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

3. When cooking time is done, shred the chicken with a fork and mix well with any leftover juice.

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3.04.2013

Blogiversary

*I had planned to post this last week, but my body was taken over by an evil stomach virus that left me completely out of commission and soooo not interested in thinking about food for days. Ugh. 

February 22nd marked the one-year blogiversary of chicago foodie girl! To commemorate the first year of brilliance (haha), I thought it would be nice to put together a mini-retrospective. Of course, I couldn't fit in everything that happened over the last year, but I think I hit enough of the highlights...

Five favorite restaurant dishes (it wasn't easy to narrow it down to just five, as I visited a lot of fantastic places during the last year; there were also several other restaurants that I could have easily added to this list, but I haven't blogged about them yet):

Mercat a la Planxa (Chicago Restaurant Week 2012)

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2.18.2013

Chicago Eats: Mexique

Welcome to another edition of Starr is way too busy with her giant stacks of papers to grade and homework to complete (and while we're being honest, a fabulous, but overwhelming social schedule) to actually write a blog post or two. Wah wah wah. Yes, it's true: I am scheduled solid from 5:00am until 10:00pm (or later) just about every day. However, that's no excuse to neglect my fabulous readers, right? :-)

I'll tell you one thing I absolutely did not neglect: Chicago Restaurant Week. I ate and ate and ate. I took a break over the weekend to attend the Cider Summit (more about this in an upcoming post!) and then I went back and ate some more. Seriously. I only went to three restaurants during the week, but I think I ate more during those three meals than the entire rest of the month! Chicago Restaurant Week is one of my favorite times of the year - it's a ten-day long culinary celebration involving over 250 restaurants. Participating restaurants offer special RW prix fixe menus starting at $22 for lunch and $33/$44 for dinner. It is the perfect opportunity for diners to try out some pricier restaurants for a fraction of the price and also to visit some of the popular favorites for special dishes you won't find on the regular menu.


Out of the three places I visited this year, my overall favorite was Mexique, thanks to the combination of fantastic food and lovely atmosphere. Mexique had been on my must-try restaurant's list for years, but I hadn't initially planned to check it out during Restaurant Week. However, after I read somewhere that it was sure to be a sleeper hit of RW, I took a look at their special lunch menu and was instantly sold.

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1.21.2013

Recipe: Roasted Mushroom Medley

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I had packed one that included a lovely sushi lunch and movie (Life of Pi) with Mario, a Top Chef catch-up session (sooo not happy with last week's results), Restaurant Week planning (one of my favorite weeks of the year!), and homework. Yes, actual homework. As of last week, I have assumed the dual role of instructor and student. I'm taking two online classes through my school (geography & politics). As much as it's a bummer to have to do both lesson planning and homework during the weekends, I am excited to be back in the classroom in a student capacity. I'm a big nerd/awesome like that. :-)

I came across today's Meatless Monday dish, Roasted Mushroom Medley (my first food post of the year - what took me so long?!), on Pinterest last summer. After filing it away in my to-make file, I forgot all about it until I saw the recipe make its way around again a few weeks ago. I decided it was finally the perfect weather for a hearty roasted veggie dish. While it's intended to be served as a side dish, I found that the mix actually makes a really delicious sandwich filling (similar to a sloppy joe, but with mushrooms instead of meat). This is a must try for all mushroom lovers!

Roasted Mushroom Medley


















INGREDIENTS
2 lbs mixed fresh mushrooms (I used button, shitake, and oyster)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (I used the amazing Garlic Balsamic from Herbally Yours)
Salt & pepper, to taste


DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and trim stems.

2. Slice the mushrooms into 1-2 inch pieces.

3. In an ovenproof casserole dish, mix the olive oil with the garlic, herbs, and salt & pepper. Add the mushrooms and mix well - make sure all of the mushrooms are coated with the oil.

4. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through.

5. Remove from heat and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


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1.15.2013

13 Years

Mario and I went on our first date thirteen years (!!!) ago today.

We went to the movies to see The Talented Mr. Ripley. He gave me his long blue scarf as we waited in the ticket line and the biting January wind whipped around us. During the movie, we giggled to each other about the old ladies in front of us who kept asking each other, "Is the movie over yet? Is he dead yet?" every five minutes as they crinkled their peppermint candy wrappers. After sharing coffee at the little shop near my apartment, we decided we couldn't bear for the night to end, so we rented another movie and cuddled under my comforter. Halfway into that second movie, he kissed me. Six months later, he said he was in love with me.

Since that night, there have been some amazing highs and some ugly lows... and thirteen years later, we're still kicking. I think one of the key contributing factors to our longevity is our willingness and ability to communicate - we talk about everything from the silly to the mundane to the serious. I always know how Mario feels about any given topic (this includes the good and the bad) and he's always the first person I want to talk to when something exciting happens or when I need some advice. As much as he may frustrate me, he's always the one I want to come home to. He is my support system, my biggest cheerleader, and my best friend.

Happy anniversary to us! ♥

Celebrating Mario's birthday with a big-ass snake
April 2000 



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