March 2015 | chicago foodie girl


Chicago Eats: Quicky with Ricky

Earlier this month, Diana and I were invited to stop by the swanky Virgin Hotels Chicago for a Quicky with Ricky [insert a mental string of winky faces and kissy lips]. As sexy/seedy as that may sound, the rendezvous in question was actually not with hotel mogul Sir Richard Branson himself, but rather, his newest Chicago culinary venture, Miss Ricky's



Chicago Eats: Chop Shop

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm not a huge fan of Chicago's SPD craziness; in fact, I usually try to stay away from the masses as much as possible during the height of the celebrations. However, there are a definitely a few things that will make me tempt fate and push my way through the shamrock-clad, green beer guzzling crowds, one of them being a morning filled with delicious eats at one of the hottest new brunch spots in Wicker Park, aka Chop Shop.

Open since 2013, Chop Shop is a multipurpose butcher shop/restaurant/deli/performance space snuggled into a nook on North Ave. directly under the Blue line. The business has some major meat cred behind it, as one of the partners is of the famed Minelli Meat & Deli family. The idea behind Chop Shop is one that appeals to a more modern and younger dining crowd: a pared-down and updated steakhouse for those who care about where their meat comes from and who also prefer a more unpretentious, low-key environment. Take away the thick buttery sauces, white linens, and overpriced dishes, and add in a carefully curated beer and cocktail list, an airy, bright space, and a streamlined menu that showcases high quality, affordable meats... voilà, you have Chop Shop!



Recipe: Double Chocolate Baileys Cheesecake Brownies

Happy St. Patrick's Day! As I've mentioned in the past, Chicagoans are crazy for this holiday - the week-long celebration includes countless drunken pub crawls, numerous parades, and the holy grail of the celebrations, the river dyeing (check out this time-lapse video to see how it's done). While I can't exactly say I'm a huge fan of the typical Chicago-style St. Paddy's Day (too many brawls and too much green puke), I do love a good opportunity to get together with friends at one of our favorite local Irish pubs and indulge in a day of nonstop folk music, corned beef, and whiskey.

This year, I decided it was time to take our predilection for whiskey and combine it with our love for chocolate.... because really, every holiday calls for a fabulous boozy, chocolatey dessert! These Double Chocolate Baileys Cheesecake Brownies have a dense fudge-like consistency and are spiked with a healthy dose of Baileys Irish Cream. Let me be clear - these brownies really pack a punch, as the addition of the liqueur to both the brownie batter and the cheesecake batter ensures the flavor is at the forefront. I love the intensity and decadence of these brownies (and so has everyone else who's tried them - I've already received several requests for more!).

Double Chocolate Baileys Cheesecake Brownies



Chicago Eats: MAK (Modern Asian Kitchen)

Ask owner Tommy Wang about the inspiration behind his popular Wicker Park eatery and it will become quickly evident that it was borne out of a love affair with his parents' cooking. Growing up, Wang developed a deep appreciation of traditional Chinese dishes, having spent numerous hours eating and learning to cook at his family's suburban restaurant, Tien Tsin. As an adult (and years after the restaurant closed), Wang lamented the lack of quality Chinese restaurants outside of Chinatown and longed to take his father’s cooking talents and refine them to a more modern level. This sparked the idea behind MAK, a health-conscious, fast-casual twist on his beloved childhood fare.



Recent Foodie Finds

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. After hibernating for the much of last two weekends, thanks to a combination of ridiculously cold weather and general grumpiness, I went all out over the last few days. I kicked it off on Thursday evening with a soft opening at Miss Ricky's with Diana and then spent Friday afternoon leisurely lunching with Ashley at Commonwealth Tavern. I followed that up on Saturday with a foodie/girls day with Diana that included a class at The Chopping Block, our first visit to Calumet Fisheries (complete with a fun/stinky tour of the smokehouse), and an Italian ice tasting at the wonderful Jodi's Italian Ice Factory in Hammond. After a weekend of almost nonstop foodie activity, I was happy to spend Sunday at home with Mario, noshing on our newly procured pepper & garlic smoked salmon and Swedish Fish Italian ice. :-)

Here are a few of my recent foodie highlights (follow me on Instagram for even more!)...

Nutella Cheese Stick Pastries from Franco’s Cucina in Streamwood. Their special twentieth-anniversary pastry sticks are stuffed to the brim with Nutella and are perfectly fresh & flaky (you know it's a good cheese stick when you're covered in little flakes of puff pastry at the end of your meal). I also sampled the raspberry and cinnamon sticks, which were just as delicious as the Nutella. If you find yourself in the 'burbs, a stop at Franco's Cucina is a must!



Chicago Eats: Nellcôte

Recently, I met up with my lovely blogger babes for a marathon brunch/catch-up session at the even lovelier Nellcôte. This was the first time the five of us had actually been able to get together as a full group (as one of us now lives in an entirely different country!), so we were filled to the brim with stories and jonesing to share a really fabulous meal. Open since 2012, Nellcôte is one of those semi-hidden gems in the West Loop. While everyone is familiar with the restaurant as a perfect spot for dinner and drinks, it seems to be a bit less on the radar for brunch. I'm almost reluctant to rave about it too much, as I don't want it should be taken over by masses of brunch-happy Chicagoans. ;-)

Nellcôte draws both its moniker and its influence from Villa Nellcôte, the French mansion once and inhabited by the Rolling Stones. The Euro-chic space drips with crystal chandeliers and is outfitted with a Parisian herringbone wood floor, Art Nouveau wrought-iron gates, Gran Dossier Tolix bar chains in Hermès orange, and a white Italian marble staircase. While the restaurant is most definitely sexy and opulent, it's also comfortable, approachable, and filled with whimsical touches (including these gorgeous chairs I would love to smuggle over to my place!). 


Madison & Rayne

As much as I enjoy cooking, there are days (okay, even weeks) in which I have no interest in meal planning or grocery shopping; this is especially true around this time of year in which even going through the drive-through at Starbucks can become a chore. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but seriously, I am on autopilot all throughout the latter part of winter. After my 1.5 hour commute home in the snow, freezing rain, and/or below zero temperatures, the last thing I want to do is worry about what to cook for dinner. Enter Madison & Rayne.

Almost two years ago, Josh Jones, the former chef de cuisine of Spring Restaurant and Green Zebra Restaurant, and Melanie Mityas, a frequent diner at Spring, partnered up to create Madison & Rayne, a local ready-to-cook meal delivery service. Similar to other meal delivery services such as Plated or Blue Apron, Madison & Rayne is a company that delivers raw, pre-portioned meal ingredients and detailed recipe cards for those who want access to a range of high-quality restaurant-worthy food prepared in the comfort of their own homes. The duo's mission is to help people rediscover or discover for the first time how fun and rewarding it can be to cook a really great meal (or in my case, to help those who don't want to order takeout, but who are also feeling too lazy to plan out their meals). Unlike similar companies, Madison & Rayne only uses locally sourced ingredients and offers a high level of customization.

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