July 2013 | chicago foodie girl


Thirsty Thursday: 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).


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.

The food truck/concert area

This was one of the new-to-me food trucks & the one I was most excited to try. I'd heard nothing but good things about their food but hadn't managed to track them down. After my experience at the Taste, I can now officially count myself as one of their many, many fans!

Rosemary fries drizzled with truffle aioli from The Fat Shallot. I cannot say enough good things about these fries! Seriously, they were some of the best fries I've EVER had! The fries were perfectly crispy and covered in truffle amazingness... *drool*.

Amazing truffle fries = :-)  :-)  :-) 
(BTW - that little peek of bandage is covering a piece of my new tattoo. More on this later!)

Thanks to our experience with Beavers at last year's Food Truck Social, we both knew that this food truck was an absolute must-try!

Nutella Dream (strawberry sauce + Nutella) and Reese's Gourmet Mini Donuts (chocolate sauce + Reese's peanut butter sauce) from Beavers. They're crispy on the outside, and light & fluffy on the inside... pure donut perfection.

A few of the other food trucks: Taquero Fusion and Jerk. Modern Jamaican Grill (they have the best logo!)

Once we were finished with the food truck section, we decided to hunt down a few of the Pop-Up Restaurants... but first we had to fight our way through the sweaty, greasy crowds. Ick.

Pop-Up Restaurant menus: hearty and Inspiration Kitchens 

Cilantro-Garlic Pulled Pork Sandwich from hearty. Both Diana and I had pictured a pulled pork sandwich topped with cilantro - we were pleasantly surprised to find the pork had been cooked in a cilantro sauce. So delicious! I'm guessing it was the same sauce they use for their cilantro-garlic ribs. If you are a fan of cilantro, the sauce is a must-try!

Crawfish Pistolette from Inspiration Kitchens. While I wouldn't rate this as a bad sandwich, it was my least favorite item we tried. It was a little too bready and far too filling (I'm sure some of this had to do with the weather). However, the sauce was quite good, so I'm definitely open to giving it another try!

After the Pop-Up section, we decided to walk around the rest of the festival to check out the offerings... commence Taste of Chicago suckiness. After passing approximately 20 rib, sausage, and pizza places (blah, blah, and blah), we finally gave up and spent our final tickets on Italian ice. 

Watermelon Italian Ice from Franco's Ristorante

I have mixed feeling about my return to the Taste. On one hand, there's a part of me that's glad I decided to check it out - I was able to add a fantastic new food truck to add to my list and I had fun hanging with D. On the other hand, my experience reconfirmed exactly why I don't care for the festival - it's overcrowded and quite overrated. Ultimately, the Taste just doesn't hold a candle to the scads of smaller and far more awesome food festivals (Food Truck Social, Baconfest, Chicago Gourmet) that happen throughout the year. 

*Recommence Taste of Chicago hiatus*



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.


Marinated Peppers & Chickpeas Salad

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I had a very packed one filled with grocery shopping, grading, and homework... lame, right?! Thankfully, Sunday was filled with more than enough excitement to make up for the rest of the weekend - Mario & I headed down to Boystown and met up with some friends for the Pride Parade. While the parade was definitely tamer than in years past, there were still plenty of boobs, beers, and boys. :-)

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm mostly in my summer no-cook mode (it's been a bit of a weird summer, temperature-wise, so I'm back & forth with wanting to turn on the oven & avoiding it like crazy). I'm also still on a serious salad kick, so I've been scouring Pinterest religiously in search of inspiration. Today's Meatless Monday dish is based on two awesome salads I came across during my search. The Marinated Peppers & Chickpeas Salad is packed with flavor and works just as well as either a side dish or as a light meal on its own. Bonus: it's easy to assemble and perfect for those hot weather days in which you don't want to turn on the oven. :-)

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