2017 | chicago foodie girl


Tangy Mango Steak Noodles

Happy Monday! I am two weeks from being done with school and I have to say that I am so ready for a break (technically, the spring semester ended on the 12th, but I'm working on some special assessment projects, so I'm on campus for a few extra weeks this year). Between all of the end-of-semester conferences, grading craziness, and the end of my own classes (I'm five classes away from finishing my second master's degree!), I'm a tiny bit burned out. While I am teaching over the summer, it's all online, so I have a few months sans two-hour commute.

Along with the mini mental break, I'm also looking forward to spending some time in the kitchen. While the hottest parts of the summer are mostly filled with restaurant leftovers, takeout, and salads, (we have a tiny apartment with no AC, so the stove sees very little action), the late spring/early summer is one of my favorite times, as there's so much fantastic produce, along with the perfect grilling weather. I don't know about you, but as soon as we hit May, I want all of my meat grilled and accompanied by all the fruits!


Eddie V's Prime Seafood

Thanks to our conflicting work schedules, there are long stretches in which Mario and I don't have much time to hang out together. Mario works a rotating schedule and there are months in which he's just getting off shift as I'm heading out the door, or I'm getting home just as he's about to start the overnight hours. During those stretches, we spend maybe an hour or two together vegging on the couch before one of us has to crawl into bed for an early morning wake up call, but long gone are the days of leisurely weekend brunches and movie dates. After a particularly crazy stretch, we recently realized we hadn't been out together in almost four months (which is a bit of long time even for us!), so as soon as our schedules actually aligned, we knew it was finally time to break our dry spell with night of potent cocktails, delicious seafood, and live jazz at Eddie V's Prime Seafood.

Located in The Shops at North Bridge, the fine dining restaurant offers diners a variety of seasonal seafood from the Atlantic and Pacific (with a 72-hour ocean to plate policy, ensuring the freshness), premium hand-carved steaks, and a wine list with over 200 bottles from around the world (showcased in a very cool floor-to-ceiling glass-encased wine cellar). Eddie V's also features a rotating schedule of  jazz and blues trios in a swanky atmosphere filled with a super attentive waitstaff. The restaurant is sexy, modern, and luxurious, making it the perfect spot for a special occasion, a fun girls night out, or as with us, a long-awaited date night.


Recent Foodie Finds

Happy spring! I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy some of the fab weather we had over the weekend. I know for some of you it has been spring for at least a month now, but up until recently, it was still very much winter here (there's nothing quite like those late March surprise snowstorms to simultaneously dash your hopes and get your blood boiling). I have to say even with the somewhat warmer temperatures, it's still hard to believe we are already mid-April! Between my trip to Mexico, a spring break mini girls getaway to the Kohler Waters Spa with Diana (soooo fantastic), and all of the usual grading insanity this time of the year brings, it suddenly jumped from early March to mid-April.

After a bit of a Chicago restaurant visit hiatus, I finally got back on track over the weekend. I spent Friday checking out Toscano, the newest pop-up restaurant at Eataly (make your reservations now, as it's only around through the end of the month!) and Gayle's Best Ever Grilled Cheese, in anticipation of National Grilled Cheese Day. On Saturday, Jess and I ate our way through the new Almost Famous brunch at SteakBar... and then promptly fell into massive food comas. I had to spend the rest of the day working on homework - that was a serious struggle after tackling such a massive spread! Finally, on Sunday, I headed out once again to check out the new brunch options at Maggiano's; the lemon ricotta pancakes and meatball benedict were both clear winners.

Here are a few of my recent foodie finds (follow me on Instagram for even more - make sure you swing by today to enter my awesome giveaway with Renaissance Chicago O'Hare/Asado Urban Grill!)...

Breakfast Sandwich with fried mortadella, egg, cheese, housemade giardiniera, and pistachio pesto at Bar Lupo. This was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I've had in a long time! I absolutely loved the addition of the pistachio pesto - it perfectly complemented the salty mortadella and gave the sandwich a unique twist.


Mexico Memories: The Food

Along with the picture perfect postcard views everywhere you look, fabulous spa services that will leave you feeling like putty, and an amazingly friendly staff, Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya also offers vacationers a non-stop smorgasbord of fantastic food options. Being that it is an all-inclusive resort, you have the opportunity to sample everything your heart (and stomach!) desires; between the nine dining options, including six gourmet รก la carte restaurants, you can happily eat and drink your way from Mexico to Japan.

While Barb and I put in plenty of quality time at the beach and at our favorite swim-up bar, we also spent just as much time exploring all of the food options the resort has to offer. During our entire stay, there wasn't a single meal we didn't enjoy - and we made sure to sample everything from the buffet-style breakfast spot through all of the formal dinner restaurants. Every single restaurant was on point with their food preparation, presentation, and service (there was *so* much delicious food!). Needless to say, I could easily fill ten posts with photos from every meal, but for brevity's sake, I narrowed it down to a few of my favorites from our time in foodie paradise...


Mexico Memories: The Resort

Despite my aversion to hot weather and my tendency to shift into crispy tomato mode within minutes baring my blindingly white skin to direct sunlight, I've had it in my mind all winter that I really needed to escape to someone warm. I imagined white sandy beaches, tropical drinks, heated pools, and yes, even loads of sunshine. That urge grew stronger and stronger as the weeks went by, thanks to a crazy amount of work-related stress that popped up early in the year. By mid-February, I was desperate for a break and in need of a serene place to unplug and recharge.

Fast forward to a few weeks later in which I was unexpectedly offered the chance to plan a girls getaway at the gorgeous Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya (aka a little slice of paradise right along the Caribbean coastline) in conjunction with Apple Vacations. Now, I'm not someone to attribute fantastic opportunities to random occurrences of fate or manifestations, but in the midst of a particularly stressful few days, it was as if the universe finally threw me a bone: a gold-plated bone in the form of a luxurious all-inclusive resort in beautiful Mexico. #lifedoesnotsuck


Winter Menu at Bonefish Grill

Practically from the moment we bonded over our mutual hardcore love of seafood, Ashley began urging me to go to Bonefish Grill in order to try their famed Bang Bang Shrimp. She swore up and down that I would fall in love with the spicy sauce, crispy breading, and juicy shrimp. Based on her recommendation, I added it to my restaurant list years ago, but let's be honest, that list is ridiculously long (but not quite as long as my to-read books list - yikes!). Years flew by and I was still Bang Bang Shrimp-less... until one day earlier this month in which I was invited to stop by the Skokie location to sample some favorites from their winter menu.

Bonefish Grill is an upscale casual seafood restaurant chain that originated in Florida; they started out as a family joint and slowly grew from that one location to over 200 locations across the country. As they shifted from a local spot to a nationally-known chain, they worked to maintain their roots - many of the recipes found on the menu today originated from various family members and friends. Bonefish is also committed to seafood sustainability and responsible fishing practices, along with the original owners' daily ritual of receiving, inspecting, and hand cutting the fish (now practiced by the partners at each individual location).



16 from '16

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season and an uneventful start to 2017; after the craziness/sadness/ridiculousness of last year, I know that's about all many of you were hoping for (sigh). As per usual, I spent the first few weeks of my winter break in perpetual party mode (well, as much of a party mode a thirty-something who likes to be in bed by 10pm can shift into): it was all day drinking, Christmas celebrations, movie marathons, and restaurant visits. Alas, the time has come for me to stop acting like I'm a professional lady of leisure; not only do I need to put the finishing touches on my syllabi (classes start next week), but also, I have to shift back into student mode, as my next graduate course begins tomorrow.

Before I dive headfirst into my big plans for the year, I thought I would take a look back at some of the foodie highlights of 2016. I know I say it every year, but 2016 was truly an epic food year! As I did in 2015, I used the summer to make a nice dent in my must-visit restaurants list, as well as discover an abundance of new spots with my lovely group of foodie friends. I also had the opportunity to take a mini-trip to Canada with Diana, in which we ate our way through two cities (more to come on this!). While there were quite a few events during the year that left me puzzled, angry, and devastated, overall, it was still a fab year of food. :-)

Here are 16 of my favorites from 2016:

Lobster Mac & Cheese, with Tallegio and sweet corn from Smack Shack. I don't know what sort of mac & cheese wizardry they have going over there, but this was not only my favorite of their dishes, but also my favorite version of lobster mac I've *ever* had. The mild, tangy cheese pairs perfectly with the buttery lobster, and the breadcrumbs add a crunchy texture to the dish (which helps to cut through the richness). So much deliciousness!
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