August 2016 | chicago foodie girl


Recent Foodie Finds

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a fab start to the week! On one hand, I can't believe it's already almost the end of August - it feels like only a few weeks ago I was saying goodbye to my spring semester students, and now today, I'm meeting all of my fall semester students. On the other hand, while I'm sad to say bid adieu to my days of leisure (and another summer of foodie fun), I am ready to shift into fall, aka the best season. For someone who's more of a cool weather person, this exceptionally hot and humid summer has been unbearable. I know there's still at least a month of summer weather, if not more, but I am so ready for pumpkins, honey crisp apples, bonfires, gorgeous colors, and all of the other goodness that fall brings.

As with many of you, I was glued to the Olympic games during the final two weeks of my summer break. I wasn't much into the Olympics until a few iterations ago - now, despite any reservations concerning political issues, I just cannot get enough! As always, gymnastics, swimming, and track & field dominated my TV screen, but I also spent a fair amount of time with sailing, rhythmic dancing, wrestling, volleyball, and water polo. Also, although I slowed down quite a bit (the Olympics came at the perfect time for me!) in preparation for the new school year, I did manage to squeeze in a few end-of-summer foodie activities, including a visit to the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck during its only Midwest stop; for a mega Hello Kitty fan, that was a dream come true (and yes, there will be a blog post covering all of the HK goodness very soon!).

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

Vanilla Milkshake Layered with Dark Chocolate, Cherry Coulis, Lemon Curd and Espresso Whipped Cream at Blue Door Kitchen. This amazingly delicious milkshake (seriously, it was one of the best shakes I've ever had in my entire life!) is part of the Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a yearlong festival celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. Through December, 38 of Chicago’s top chefs are creating Shakespeare-inspired dishes in a nod to the legacy of the great playwright and as part of a program called Culinary Complete Works. Of course, as an English professor and foodie, this program is right up my alley! I've been to two of the restaurants to sample their Shakespeare-inspired dishes and already have plans to visit several more next month.

The shake at Blue Door Kitchen was inspired by the descent into madness of King Lear: the layers represent Lear dividing his kingdom up among his daughters, while the choice of chocolate and coffee make a historical nod to the fact that these exotic ingredients were first introduced to Europeans during Shakespeare’s day.


Travel Eats: RuYi at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

As I've mentioned numerous times over the years, I have a soft spot for Wisconsin. I spent my undergraduate years there and during that time, I learned to appreciate the slower pace, the expanses of golden fields, the quirky sayings, and its inhabitants' unabashed love for dairy products. I seriously considered staying there post-college (in either Milwaukee or Madison), but the lure of living in Chicago eventually won out. Realistically, I'm glad I didn't end up there for a variety of reasons, but I do still have mad love for the land of cheese.

While I have a long list of must-visit spots in Wisconsin, Milwaukee is still one of my all-time favorite stops. Along with the beautiful lakefront area (which is never quite as crowded as it is in Chicago), there's also a gorgeous top-notch art museum, long months filled with nonstop festivals and concerts, and a burgeoning food scene. While the city does have its own unique vibe, it feels a bit reminiscent of the Chicago of yesteryear with its mix of new developments and old-school charm. After our trip to Potawatomi Hotel & Casino for the Woodford Reserve dinner last year, Diana and I have been itching to get back to Milwaukee to explore more of the food scene, so of course, the moment the good folks at Potawatomi invited us back to check out their newly expanded Asian restaurant RuYi, we immediately cleared our schedules, jumped into Big Red and headed up to Wisconsin for a foodie-filled weekend.

RuYi (derived from a term meaning "as you wish" in ancient China) has long been a popular option in Milwaukee for authentic Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai favorites, thanks to Chef Tony Ho. A veteran of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo, Chef Ho created a menu that appeals to a wide variety of tastes (playing into the concept of food "as you wish"). The restaurant recently expanded to include a sushi bar and Ho played a pivotal role in ensuring the quality of the sushi is at the highest level possible. The fish is flown in twice a week from a trusted proprietor in Japan and prepped in a specially designed walk-in cooler - it's 36 hours from sea to sushi, which is a phenomenal turnaround for the Midwest.

Diana and I arrived at Potawatomi early afternoon, flung our bags in our room, and immediately headed downstairs to RuYi for our sushi extravaganza (living the sushi lovers dream!). We were greeted by Chef Ho with a gorgeous assortment of nigiri. Every piece was so fresh and so perfectly assembled - this platter really set the bar high! The standouts included the buttery Escolar (super white tuna), the bold Unagi (freshwater eel), and the delicate Tai (red snapper).

So much deliciousness!

Next, we moved on to the RuYi Specialty Roll: spicy salmon, tempura crunch, avocado, yellowtail, tuna, and tobiko with spicy mayo. We both fell hard for this spicy roll, thanks to the combination of a few of our favorite cuts of fish paired with the buttery avocado and crunchy tempura pieces.

Plus, how perfectly photogenic was this roll?!

Then we sampled another of their signature offerings, the Fire Keeper's Roll: spicy salmon, jalapeno, tuna, super white tuna, salmon, avocado, spicy mayo, and tempura crunch. Again, we both really enjoyed this roll, as it had a great combination of flavors and textures, along with just the right amount of heat from the spicy salmon, mayo, and jalapeno. We were also super impressed that both rolls contained a decent amount of fish - RuYi uses very little filler in their rolls, letting the fish take the starring role.

Check out this fun video that shows how they construct the Fire Keeper's Roll... I'd be happy to welcome them into my house for a daily reenactment. ;-)

Our third and final specialty roll of the afternoon was the Lovers Roll: scallop, spicy tuna, cooked shrimp, avocado, and mango sauce. The road to my heart is paved with scallops and avocado, and Diana's route also includes a healthy dose of mango, so it felt as though this roll was custom made just for us.

We both triple heart loved this cutesy delicious roll!

Finally, Chef Ho brought out this amazing Sashimi & Sushi Platter. Again, as with all of the rolls, everything on this platter was perfectly fresh and came in such a gorgeous arrangement - talk about a showstopper! When it comes to sushi in the Midwest, RuYi is right up there with the best of them; the quality of the fish, the presentation, and the excellent service combine for an outstanding experience.

As with our last visit, Diana and I both loved everything about our stay at Potawatomi - the food, drinks, and hospitality were completely on point (we even managed to win a little at the casino!) and we can't wait to go back for another round. Seeing as its only an hour and a half drive from the city, there's no excuse not to head up to Milwaukee to explore more of the Midwestern foodie scene... and when you do, make sure you plan to stop for some fantastic sushi at RuYi.  

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino: 1611 W. Canal St., Milwaukee, WI.

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



Chicago Eats: Brunch at Artango Bar & Steakhouse

Ever since our first visit to Artango Bar & Steakhouse (formerly known as Artango Bistro) last year, Mario and I have considered ourselves to be major fans of the sexy Argentinian spot. During the beginning of 2015, we had both been dealing with some particularly stressful situations at work and the gross late winter weather seemed unrelenting; thanks to a combination of exhaustion from the persistent stress and the offensive slushy ick permeating the city, we fell into a pattern of flopping on the couch, ordering takeout, and completely zoning out at the end of every day. After a few months of the same old, same old, we finally got sick of ourselves, so we peeled our butts off of the couch and made our way over to Artango for a change of pace. That night we ended up falling hard for the restaurant's romantic atmosphere, beautiful one-of-a-kind d├ęcor, and the delicious South American cuisine... and it has been a place that we've returned to over and over ever since (thankfully, we're now both in much better places with our jobs - getting tenure definitely tends to help!).



Chicago Eats: Smack Shack

For years, the seafood scene in Chicago was downright lacking; there were a few fine dining restaurants and scads of greasy fried fish joints, but that was about it. Whenever people would ask me for seafood restaurant recommendations, I really could only think of a handful of places that I both truly liked and thought were worth the cost. It was a sad state of fishy affairs. Thankfully, the seafood scene has done a complete 180 in the last few years. It seems like practically every month there's a new seafood joint popping up - from tiny seafood boils serving seriously spicy Cajun food to food trucks serving drool-worthy lobster rolls to even more fine dining options, there are multiple high-quality spots in practically every neighborhood. And now finally (finally!), we have our very own Smack Shack.

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