A List With Amanda Puck
Thursday, July 30, 2009
HOT IN THE CITY
OK, I know it hasn't really been that hot this summer, but there has been fun events in Chicago over the past few weeks to keep us going ... and more to come ...
I was lucky enough to be one of the honorary chairs of Chefs And The City
with good friend Jesse Garza from Visual Therapy, benefiting Vital Bridges. The event was on Friday, July 24 at the The Peninsula Hotel. It was great night to see all the great chefs of Chicago and try bites from the best restaurants. And of course there was fashion from retailers such as J.Mendel and Piazza Sempione. The event raised over $100,000 for Vital Bridges. You can check all the photos out on my facebook page, www.facebook.com/amandapuck
. PS - The after party at RL was the place to be and hang with chefs like Rick Gresh, Ryan Poli, Paul Kahan and Michael Sheerin ....
Wanna Go To Las Vegas??? Martini Park is celebrating two years of being the one of hottest night spots in the city. All summer long Martini Park will be offering food and drink specials and a chance to win a trip for two to Sin City! Every weekend (Thursday – Saturday) through the rest of the summer, Martini Park will be offering two for one appetizers and a chance to win a getaway for two to Las Vegas. Martini Park is located at the corner of Erie & LaSalle.
Time Magazine, the London Daily Telegraph, USA Today and Rolling Stone Magazine all agree ... Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce “will blow you away. The performances will seduce you, the musicianship is phenomenal … it brings the house down. This is the ultimate burlesque show!” The New York Times adds Forty Deuce is “naughty but nice, with an exotic revue and celebrity status” and The Los Angeles Times states “this is truly burlesque reinvented, as only Ivan Kane can do it.”
The Venue at Horseshoe Casino Hammond is proud to world-premiere the newest Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce extravaganza. Says creator Ivan Kane, “This ain’t your granddaddy’s burlesque!” Combining “classic” burlesque with the audacious and thrilling rock ‘n roll burlesque show Royal Jelly, Forty Deuce now adds deep groove Funk burlesque, with a live six-piece band, including a three-piece horn section. Catch it while its here August 1 - www.thevenue-chicago.com.
Hope you are all having a fun summer!
To Market with Mo: Peach Amour
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I have always envied James. You know, the boy who lived in that famous 'giant peach'? How heavenly to live inside a giant peach, surrounded by the aromatic, juicy sweet flesh of the peach. What a deliciously grand way to live...yum.
Some of you razz me about my need to get to the farmers market at the 'crack of dawn' but besides being nice and quiet (relatively) and getting first pick, one of the best things about the market at that time is the smells. Before too many fellow market goers arrive, you can really smell the fresh produce. In June the strawberries, and now thru August aromatic peaches. Their smell is intoxicating, their taste pure heaven. I am going to go out on a limb and declare the peach the most sensuous fruit of the season, if not the most sensuously divine fruit period. I think most of you will have to agree with me.
Like berries and other stone fruits, the peach need no adornment to be enjoyed, just wash and eat right over the sink (for real, or else a juicy mess all over the floor). Absolute perfection. And at only 30 calories per medium peach, eat as many as you like and get a good dose of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and protein to boot.
Forget the Georgia peach, I think that Michigan peaches (okay, and Long Island peaches) are the best. Lucky for us in the Chicago area Michigan peaches are taking center stage right now at all of the markets, and just screaming for you to take them home and turn them into jam, chutney, cobbler, pie, ice cream, or add to a salad, or grill them up to accompany grilled chicken or pork, or better yet, to go with some vanilla ice cream.
I have seen a number of yellow-fleshed varieties at the markets and I am anticipating the arrival of the sweeter (due to less acid than their yellow-fleshed cousin) white-fleshed peaches which are so perfect for Bellinis, white sangria, and my favorite summertime appetizer (many times lunch and dinner entree as well for me), white peaches wrapped in prosciutto - a perfect balance of salt and sweet. Ready for a peach party?
Look for fragrant, blemish-free fruit. Note that the blush of red on the skin is not an indication of ripeness, so no need to let that be your guide to ripeness. If your peaches need to ripen some more after you get them home, just store in a paper bag until they reach a desired ripeness. But with Farmers Market fresh fruit I think you can skip that step and just store on a platter (single layer. piling in a bowl will bruise and ripen peaches too fast), on the kitchen counter. Like tomatoes room temperature just enhances the peaches' flavor, refrigeration zaps it. However, if you over bought at the market (oh, something I would NEVER do ;) you can store your peaches in the fridge for up to a week...if they last that long, right?
Peaches & Prosciutto
3 white or yellow fleshed peaches
2 oz of thinly sliced prosciutto ham
18 small leaves of basil (or cut large leaves into 18 slices)
Good quality balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Wash and gently dry peaches. Cut each peach into six sections and remove from pit. Cut prosciutto slices into thinner strips so that you have a total of 18 strips. Place a basil leaf on a peach wedge and then wrap a piece of prosciutto around the wedge. Repeat this process until all wedges are wrapped. Chill for about 15 minutes in the fridge and then serve immediately. Your guests, if you decide to share, will love you.
Labels: Chicago Famers Makets, Green City Market, peaches, seasonal organic produce
Food For All..."Dietbytes" by Sandy
Why is eating right so hard for everyone? There are a million possible answers to this question, but instead of agonizing over the right one, I try to make healthy eating SIMPLE. I work to empower those with diabetes to make easy, healthy, and delicious meals. People with diabetes already have a lot to think about and preparing complicated meals should not be one of them. One tactic as a dietitian that I have always had while counseling people, is to focus on adding better foods to their diet instead of focusing on the "bad" foods to eliminate (I hate being considered the "food police!"). The comforting news is that there are some "super foods" that those with diabetes and the rest of us should be eating on a regular basis.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Fish with Omega-3s
Fat-free milk and yogurt
Notice that these aren't exotic or even expensive foods. But, they are proven to boost health and help manage diabetes. So, keep it simple when planning meals and focus on the super foods to maximize nutrition. For further assistance, check out the 4-Ingredient Diabetes Cookbook by Nancy S. Hughes (published by the American Diabetes Association, 2007) for effortless snacks, meals, and desserts. It includes quick and easy recipes with nutritional information and diabetic exchanges for every recipe. Healthy cooking couldn't be more painless!
Labels: berries, chicago dining, diabetic cooking, dining out, efete recipes, efete.net, healthy eating, sandy sfikas
The Burger Fiend Strikes Again: On the Turkey Hunt
There is nothing quite like a pleasant little surprise. An unexpected gift from a friend or family member – or in this instance a neighbor of sorts – that leaves a kind and lasting impression.
And this little present is brought to by a newer establishment in the Lakeview area named Deleece Grill Pub, located on Clark Street next door to Mia Francesca and Andalous.
This discovery was such a surprise because I had walked by this space at least 25 times in the past month and honestly never once noticed the name on the low-hanging marquee. The venue would probably still be undiscovered by me had a friend not mentioned the name and asked if I wanted to tag along for a bite. Intrigued, and famished for a burger, your veteran Fiend could not find an excuse to stay away.
Upon entering the front door, there is a quaint fireplace along the adjacent wall within the perfect sized dining area suitable that will remain full throughout the year. As I made my way towards the wonderful patio seating area in the back, I glanced at the well stocked bar and noticed they had a decent selection of spirits and whisky.
And even better than the liquor was a wonderful selection of local and regional craft beers, everything from Bells on one axis of the Great Lakes to La Fin du Monde on the other.
Following trend, the menu featured a wide variety of entree choices that immediately jumped off the page (buttermilk friend chicken, smoked pork chop, peppercorn crusted hanger steak), and all for very reasonable prices.
However appealing the selections, we all knew perfectly well my mission: one turkey burger topped with cheddar would be the choice cut this eve. As per usual, the patty was immediately surveyed for a few things, such as any visible seasonings, grill marks and of course the shaping. Not that all of these things completely affect my grading, but as a chef in training I’m perceptive to these small mechanics because everything in its right place does make a difference on the end product.
With this in mind, I was immediately impressed by the odd shape of the burger, which tells me that it was hand-packed in some fashion – an obvious sign someone in the back cares about the quality and personal craftsmanship. And this typically means that you’ll also find a little accoutrement added within the meat.
The burger was cooked perfectly to taste; very tender, juicy and not too charred on the outside. The white cheddar added a subtle touch as well, not overpowering as say a sharp Wisconsin yellow might complement a beef burger.
Going back to the hand-packed craftsmanship, the only noticeable complaint would be there was just a hint too much spice somewhere within the burger, which I suspected was inside the meat and probably simply just the fault of too much seasoning in one area when grabbed and thrown on the grill.
As expected, when I cut through the patty there were visibly fresh house herbs and spices within the meat, generally always a glorious site however a tad bit too much in this instance. Nonetheless, I would definitely say this was a solid turkey burger and would recommend to anyone who is a fan of the protein.
And as I made my exit through the pub, I loved seeing the small open kitchen nestled across the bar, a simple reminder that there are no secrets about the way this food is made – with a fine touch and what you see is what you get.
A quick wave and a tip of the hat to the chef on the way out the door was just the right way to send us both on our way with a smile.
Deleece Grill Pub
3313 N. Clark Street
Labels: Andalus, Bells, Deleece Pub Grill, La Fin du Monde, Mia Francesca
"About Last Night..." Gia Adds 14 +19
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Well, Well, Well, I stood at the bottom of the grand staircase at the 33 Club waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio to come down and scoop me up. Sadly, he never came, (good thing, that would require some splainnin to my date). If I looked around I just might find a Chicago mob boss, or maybe an actor or actress from the 30's. It had the look of old class and style. With a drink menu like Roxy and Green Dragon it was my responsibility to try these tasty concoctions (specially "mottled" behind the bar...but I don't really know what that means for my drink). Sipping and strolling, I was in awe of the 20ft mahogany ceilings and the artwork that was on every wall. Pictures of models and actors and all kind of brilliant pieces in between. Ironically, some of the coolest artwork was in the ladies bathroom...huh...go figure.
So ya...the food...the food...the yummy food. Chef Daniel Kelly looked to create an affordable yet elegant menu serving cutting edge versions of classic American fare. Starting with a Wedge Salad, French Onion Soup, and my personal, non carb haters delight Macaroni & Cheese served in a baked potato - creamy and delicious. The Amish Chicken and the Sea Bass were our entrees of choice. I really gotta stop ordering appetizers, but hey, I'm just doing my job right? The chicken was the juiciest I've ever had, bursting with flavor and juice...there was just so much juice! The Sea Bass was absolute buttuh (aka butter), on a bed of brown/wild rice and bok choy - it was really heaven on a plate...outstanding. The ending was a bite of key lime pie (again, just doing my job), with the perfect graham cracker crust.
Fellas take your ladies here, its a cool place (oh, and they have two plasmas in the bar with ESPN on in the event you just wanna grab a drink with your man-friends).
Only one...teeny tinnny thing...you know I always check out the music right? well, this didn't fit...Tom Petty and Guns & Roses...no...absolutely not...it's just not right.
Until next week.
In this photo: Chris (server), Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
33 Club is located at 1419 N. Wells 312.644.1419 (p.s. 14+19=33)
Aria Chef de Cuisine Shares Secret Turkey Burger Recipe
Ronnie Rios Aleman shared his turkey burger recipe with a mexican flair. He's Mexican American and made these burgers for his family. They're pretty spicy, but very flavorful and delicious. He calims that you don't even know that you're eating turkey, because they are that good!!!!
Chipotle Turkey Cheese Burgers with Lime-Cilantro Ranch dressing
1 T vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion
2# Lean Ground Turkey meat
4oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 sleeve Saltine Crackers, finely chopped
Half bunch cilantro, minced
8 slices pepper jack cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
Lime-Cilantro Ranch dressing
2 cups Ranch dressing (homemade, or your favorite store-brand)
Half bunch cilantro, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Light your grill.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Mince the garlic and small dice the red onion. Add oil to the pan and gently sauté the garlic and onion for approximately 3 minutes or until translucent. Add a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Immediately transfer to a plate and cool in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, add the ground turkey, chipotle peppers, egg, crackers and cilantro. Add the cooled onions and garlic. Gently combine all ingredients until evenly incorporated.
Divide meat evenly into 8 portions and shape into patties.
Combine the Ranch dressing, cilantro and lime juice. Taste and, if necessary, add a touch of salt.
The grill should be hot and very clean to ensure that the turkey burgers do not stick. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Grill for approximately 5 minutes, then flip them and grill for another 4 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked. Top each burger with a slice of pepper jack cheese for the last 60 seconds of the grilling process.
Transfer burgers to your favorite sesame seed bun (toasted on the grill, of course!) and top with the Lime-Cilantro Ranch dressing.
Guacamole or Pico de Gallo also make a great accompaniment to these spicy Mexican style burgers. Enjoy!
Labels: aria, grilling, mexican, recipes, ronnie aleman, spicy food, summertime, Turkey Burger
To Market with Mo: Flower or Vegetable?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I have had a hankering for Space Food Sticks for the past week. Anyone but me remember these 'astronaut staples' (and yes, they actually ate them in space)? Loved, loved, loved the Space Food Sticks (should I be admitting this?). I think we thought that if we ate them, we would be like, if not become, astronauts....
But I digress and must get back to earth, back to the present, and back to real fresh food from the Farmers Markets. The markets are in abundant swing right now, so prime time to be doing the localvore thing. Something that caught my eye this week were the beautiful squash blossoms. Say wha'? No, I am not talking traditional Native American necklaces, but the flower of the zucchini plant.
If your favorite chefs have not snatched up all the squash blossoms to be had, and you have time to use them the same day or the next (no later, and be sure to store them in a glass of water or in a ziplock bag with air in it), nab a bunch of squash blossoms n-o-w. They are a delicate and delectable treat that have a subtle summer or zucchini squash flavor. Packed with potassium, vitamins B & K, and beta carotene, these tasty blooms are wonderful in soups, frittatas, quesadillas, bruschetta, on pizza or salads, or served stuffed and fried.
When I picked out a beautiful bunch at the market, I was all set to fry. But after hearing about the mouth-watering menu served at the Green City Market BBQ last week (note to self, be sure to order tickets early before they sell-out) and the squash blossoms that were served stuffed and raw, well I had to give it a whirl. And after all, the root word of squash is the indian word askutasquash which means 'eaten raw'. So that said, forget the frying and go raw.
Mo's Stuffed Squash Blossoms
10-12 squash blossoms
2 oz soft goat cheese (I used lemon infused)
2-3 T finely chopped mix of fresh parsley, basil and lemon thyme (feel free to use other herbs)
2 T finely chopped zucchini & yellow squash
sea salt to taste
cracked pepper & lemon pepper to taste
Carefully remove the stamen from each blossom (reach in and pull out from the inside of the blossom) Put blossoms aside. Meanwhile, mix together the cheese, chopped herbs, chopped squash, salt and peppers. Then depending on the size of the blossom ever so carefully put 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture into a blossom. Then gently twist the petals of the blossom together to enclose the stuffing. Fill all of the blossoms then place in the fridge for 15 minutes. Remove from fridge, plate and serve immediately.
Any fans of "Space Food Sticks"? Or anyone with Squash Blossom recipes? email me at email@example.com
Labels: Chicago Famers Makets, Green City Market, seasonal organic produce, squash blossoms
Gastrogasmic Dining at State & Lake With Kellye
I made the foolish mistake of checking out The Wit, on opening weekend.
It was energizing, exciting and best of all pleasing to my taste buds. Although I was only able to try two of the restaurants, The Roof and State and Lake, the latter was my favorite.
As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not start that day off with something unexpected. Sure pancakes and eggs over easy would be fine but they wouldn’t be gastrogasmic!
State and Lake is billed as a gastro pub. Their breakfast menu is disproportionately meat friendly but that’s never a problem with this carnivore! The restaurant offers omelettes and frittatas, pancakes and waffles, fruits and veggies all laden with that gastro pub/comfort food feel.
I grazed through items like Steak and Bennies, Braised Pork Shoulder with Biscuits and smoked garlic and the Short Rib omelette and thought to myself, will I need a nap or a cardiologist after this meal? I opted for the short rib omelette. Four eggs wrapped around 16 hour braised short ribs, Wisconsin cheddar, mushrooms and caramelized onions. As if it needed anything else, breakfast potatoes and a stack of pancakes tagged along too. It was love at first bite. The beef was incredibly tender and melted away with the firmness of the mushrooms, and bite of the cheddar. Who would ever think that this flavor combination would work? How could eggs compliment beef like this? I continuted eating and eating. I did sample the pancake, too doughy and raw. The potatoes were a nice touch but didn’t hold a candle to the omelette. To be honest they were really just wasting space on the plate, begging to be included in the omelette fiesta!
I rarely flash around my membership card to the Clean Plate Club but that morning was something other worldly. In a word, gastrogasmic. State and Lake offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Though the service is spotty it’s worth it to get a nibble at what’s been created here.
There are different 16 beers on tap and thankfully you won’t find Budweiser here!! All offerings are premium boutique beers ranging from Abita, Dogfish IPA to Allagash and Two Brothers! The wine list is obscure but familiar. All in all, this place is worth waking up early on a Saturday for.
The Wit Hotel
State and Lake Restaurant
201 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Labels: breakfast, brunch, chicago dining, chicago restaurants, efete.net, gastro pub, kellye washington, state and lake, the wit hotel
"About Last Night..." Gia Enjoys Hot Chocolate in the Summer
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
"Duh..." was the expression that came to mind (and face) when the hostess at Mindy's Hot Chocolate asked me if I wanted desert. Strolling along Damen Ave. on a beautiful summer night we almost walked right past this spot. As soon as I saw the packed house and delicious deserts going by I basically did the moonwalk and backed right up into this cool little place. So...in case you're wondering, Hot Chocolate is NOT just deserts. Though the creepy, dripping font makes you think of hot fudge and running chocolate you can find so much more on the menu.
At 9pm, this place was crowded, so plan ahead. Even the comfy benches out front by the window (sorry, could not post pics), require a reservation. The music is loud and the conversations are buzzing. People are just talking and talking and food is moving around constantly. But for me, tonight was going to be different. I was doing desert...first...and last. Though the menu offered a wide range of options including octopus, Ahi Tuna, Walleye, Rabbit, Lamb and Chicken. I was tempted by the Macaroni & Cheese with Gruyere and cheddar, but I kept my eye on the prize...I stayed focused.
We cozied up on the benches in front to watch the busy street traffic, until our waitress served us a little bit of heaven. Hungry gal that I am (thank God for Bikram Yoga), we narrowed our choices to S'More...and More, and A Tribute to the Malted Milk Ball. Each came with a little shot glass of drinky goodness (I love to use unofficial foody words). S'More came with a rich chocolate and cream soda phosphate, and the Malted Milk Ball came with a coffee/cocoa chocolate milk shake. As for the deserts themselves I can tell you this. The S'More treat was creamy, chocolaty, with a delicious buttery crust. The Malted Milk Ball had a brownie type texture with a smoky almond meringue. Our forks were clanking and swirling around the plates to get every last drop. AMAZING! The coffee was a spectacular French Press from Uncommon Grounds called "wild ass blend". I mean honestly, I'm pretty sure this coffee was named after me.
In this photo: Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
Hot Chocolate is located at 1747 N. Damen, Chicago, IL 60647 773.489.1747
Labels: chicago nightlife, dating and dining, deserts in chicago
A List with Amanda Puck
Thursday, July 16, 2009
And what a summer this has been, now that it finally feels like it.
In honor of their 20th anniversary, Chicago Sport and Social Club
hosted their annual Volleywood beach party. Breaking record attendance numbers, Volleywood was held on Saturday, July 11, 2009 at North Avenue Beach where more than 200 volleyball teams competed for over $5,000 worth of prizes. Beach bashers enjoyed live entertainment including a performance from the legendary rap star, MC Hammer! (see photo with Jason Erkes of the CSSC) Beach bashers took part in interactive activities including: Horseshoe Casino’s bikini blackjack, Crunch’s inflatable boxing ring and Q101’s mechanical surfboard!
Looking Fashion Forward, the Department of Cultural Affairs held a press conference for Fashion Focus 2009, which will be October 22-25. The conference was at Macys and included all fashion leaders and supporters in the city. Tommy Hilfiger was on hand as well, who Mayor Daley announced as the master designer for the fashion incubator program. For more info check out http://www.chicagofashionresource.com/
. It was a treat to see a "lunchtime fashion show" with all our great local designers such as Agga B., Lara Miller, dIETERbENNET among others.
What's coming up next ?
Join Bright Pink at The 900 Shops (at 900 N. Michigan Ave) for an all-day shopping event featuring fabulous discounts, activities, treats and raffle prizes from all your favorite stores.Purchase a ticket for just $20, and 100% of the proceeds benefit Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. www.shop900.com/brightpink
for more info
Martini Park, Chicagopride.com & showbizchicago.com host LIFE IS A CABERET MONDAYS AT MARTINI PARK from 5 to 9 pm, so we can sing along to our favorite show tunes with Chicago’s Brightest Cabaret performers! Martini Park is located at the corner of Erie & Lasalle.
To Market with Mo: l'herbe royale
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Nothing, okay almost nothing, symbolizes summer to me more than basil. At it's peak right now, basil let's us all know the days are long, warm and sunny. Just eating basil conjures up the thought of warm, summer sunshine for me.
The 'king of herbs', as it has been referred to for centuries, basil is a native of Iran, India, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Africa but it is most commonly associated with the Mediterranean, especially when partnered with it's favorite mate, tomatoes. But hey, let's not limit ourselves.
Sweet varieties, like Genovese, and opal can be found at the markets right now but keep your eyes open for varieties like lemon, lime, cinnamon, globe and Thai that work really nicely in Asia and Indian cooking, and when used in fruit and dessert dishes (can we say strawberry-basil ice cream or jam? yum) as well as beverages and cocktails (heck, I am sipping on some sparkling water right now, muddled with lemon and lime basil, and yes, it is very refreshing). And don't limit yourself to buying pre-cut bundles of basil. A number of farmers and plant vendors at the markets are selling basil plants. Don't have any outdoor space? A sunny windowsill will do just fine to keep you in basil indefinitely -- just keep pinching back your basil plant so that it keeps producing antioxidant-rich leaves and does not get too stalky.
Cut basil will store well in the fridge for a few days either in a plastic bag or a glass of water. Not going to use it right away? Basil can be stored in the freezer if you blanche it in boiling water, shock it in ice water, dry and then store in plastic bags. But a favorite and popular way to preserve basil? Pesto, which has endless possibilities: tossed on pasta or grilled vegetables, slathered on a cob of corn or a sandwich, topping a baked potato, crostini or pizza, and great with grilled polenta, chicken or fish.
2 cups of packed basil leaves
4 cloves of garlic (can I just say the garlic at the markets has been great this year!)
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely grated romano cheese
salt & pepper to taste
Place the basil, garlic and nuts in a food processor or blender* and process to an almost paste consistency. With blender or processor on, slowly stream in the olive oil. Then add the cheese and salt & pepper to taste. Option: add some hot pepper flakes to give your pesto a bit of a kick.
Not using right away? Store the pesto in the fridge, in a container with a thin layer of olive oil on top. The olive oil will help preserve the bright color of the pesto.
Made a huge batch? Pesto freezes great. Just put into a freezer bag or freeze in an ice cube tray. When the pesto has frozen remove the cubes from the tray and transfer to plastic freezer bags.
Do you have nut or dairy allergies? You can make 'Liam's Pesto.' Follow the recipe above but reduce the amount of olive oil to a 1/3 of a cup and eliminate the cheese and the nuts. You could also replace the nuts with sunflower seeds as long as your nut allergies are not affected by the seeds.
*(okay, you want to be traditional instead of quick and convenient? Make your pesto in a mortar and pestle. So worth the extra effort)
For more recipes and uses for basil email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: Basil, Chicago Farmers Market, Pesto, seasonal organic produce
"About Last Night..." Gia Gets Served
OH. MY. GOD. (to steel a quote from my twelve year old niece). I had the most amazing experience at Cibo Matto at the WIT Hotel. John Schadl (shown in pic) knows how to treat a lady, and anyone else looking for something to write home about. Open for only weeks the beautiful fresco on the ceiling was barely dry. When you walk in you are greeted by a line of wait staff all dressed like soldiers in white waiting to serve. I fumbled with my chair and within seconds I was assisted by one of these friendly gentleman. The lights were mellow and romantic with soft jazz playing low enough to tap your foot AND have a conversation. When you look up at the painting by local artist Todd Murphy you are intrigued by the feeling of spring with cherry blossoms and beautiful people floating around. It's refreshing and light.
When Chef Todd Stein came to present the Contemporary Italian menu it was full of unique, seasonal choices with starters we chose, such as Crudo di Hamachi which had great texture and flavor, and fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with whipped ricotta. It was like eating flavored air - so delicious. For the Primi course I chose the Corzetti, pasta coins, sweet corn, oyster mushrooms and charred red onion, which was a wonderful blend of smoky and sweet. For the Secondi (main course) I opted for the Halibut. This Halibut was grilled to absolute perfection. If I could make it like this at home I would probably never eat out again. The flavor was smoky and the texture was hearty yet flaky. This was the kind of meal you could eat three or four courses and not feel overwhelmed when you leave (or maybe that's just me). When our server Brent recited the desert menu there was ONE thing I couldn't resist. It was a salted carmel ice cream. Are you kidding me? I was almost licking the bowl like a two year old. OUTSTANDING!
One last...and very important thing. If I was standing next to you I would have you lean in and I would whisper this...when you dine at this fabulous establishment you will receive, from John, a teeny tiny yellow ticket which gets you VIP access to the roof top at the WIT. But shhhhhh...you didn't hear it from me. And P.S. the roof top is ALL THAT - a must have experience.
Shown in photo: John Schadl, GM at Cibo Matto, and Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
Cibo Matto is located at 201 North State Street (at the WIT Hotel) 312.239.9500
Labels: dating and dining in chicago, fine chicago dining, italian cuisine
The Burger Fiend Strikes Again: The Turkey Hunt Begins
The quest for the perfect burger isn’t an easy task these days, with a wonderful variation seemingly around each and every corner. This is especially true when it comes to searching for a turkey burger…a very lean and flavorful meat that one could argue that at time tastes better when made from scratch at home.
As a burger aficionado, I’ve always found it somewhat hard to find a really great turkey burger at restaurants. In my experience it’s typically a frozen, flimsy square that is about as tasteful as the box it came packaged in. However this time around The Burger Fiend and efete.net are looking forward to finding that next great gobbler on a bun. Mission: Accepted.
The first stop on the road is a newer Wrigleyville locale, The Stretch, which is owned by the same group that first brought you Goodbar and Cortland’s Garage. The interior is a little less inconspicuous than the somewhat obvious marquee off Clark and features multiple flatscreens and seating in both the front and the back – perfect for packed game days or if you just want to escape the evening food rush.
As a Northsider, I first noticed the turkey burger one evening when walking by and saw the crafty menu names that incorporate the regional sights and places, such as the Clark Street, South Paw and the Wrigleyville.
However on this night, the Addison Street burger would be the delight of my fiendish desire.
If you know me well then you know I’m a very plain and simple eater, however this offering – in a clever little twist – came with some favorite Thanksgiving fixings: lettuce, tomato, white cheddar, a splash of a delicious cranberry-apple relish and all nestled within a bed of sweet potato fries.
While I typically would forgo any additional sort of condiments beyond a splash of ketchup or BBQ sauce, the relish complemented the meat with a sweet and tangy kick.
The taste of the turkey itself was seasoned very well both inside and out, evident by the visible ground celery and sage, which gave it both an extremely rich and savory taste. Likewise the meat was also cooked fairly well in the middle, not so much on the juicy side but definitely not dry, which is the especially tricky part of cooking with turkey due to its naturally lean composition.
The only real complaint about the taste, which my cohort also pointed out, was that there was a pinch or so too much salt. Though don’t let that deter you: the sodium dusting wasn’t enough to ruin the meat by any means, but was noticeable.
So the next time you are in the area – perhaps looking for a place to kill some time before, after or even during a Cubs game – think about The Stretch as a great alternative to kick back, relax and enjoy a bite. Or if you’re just looking to celebrate Turkey Day on one of the other 364 days of the year too, let someone else take care of the feast this time around.
The Stretch Bar & Grill
3485 N. Clark
Labels: The Stretch Bar and Grill, Turkey Burger
To Market with Mo: Life is Just a Bowl of....
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
...Cherries. While up in Michigan last week I couldn't help but notice that the cherries were just dripping from the trees. So I knew that when I got back to Chicago...cherries at the Farmers Markets! Both sweet and sour varieties are lining the market tables now thru early August.
For years I would go straight for the sweet varieties and completely ignore the sour 'pie' cherries. Without air conditioning, I avoid baking at all costs during the summer, so 'no thank you' to the need for 'pie' cherries. Boy, was I wrong about that, last year I finally gave them a try and I gotta say, I actually prefer them , straight up as is, over their sweet cousins. And I have found all sorts of uses that don't require the oven being turned on.
Cherries are a tasty, tasty treat that are really, really good for you. A natural anti-inflammatory that sits low on the glycemic index, cherries are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins A & C, potassium (1 cup has as much as a small banana), fiber and only 97 calories per cup.
Look for richly-colored firm cherries with green stems. Sweet cherries will keep for up to a week in the fridge (like berries, don't wash until ready to eat). The 'pie' cherries are more perishable than 'sweet' varieties so try to use right away, and if you can't they freeze well. Wash the cherries and 'stone' them, which is a piece of cake with 'pie' cherries, just pop out the pit with your finger, put a single layer of the pitted fruits on a baking sheet and freeze. Once the cherries are frozen transfer to a freezer bag or container and back into the freezer for later use.
I got a little carried away this week trying cherry recipes, that did not involve baking, but hey
don't let me stop you from baking them into a pie, tart, cobbler, crisp, or cooking up some compote or jam. I started out mixing up a tart cherry 'Arnie Palmer' using hibiscus tea instead of black tea, hey a girl has to stay hydrated while cooking. I then moved onto a cherry salsa which was great with grilled chicken and then had to make some gelato...any excuse.
Here is a recipe for Cherry Salsa. And, if you really need the Cherry Gelato recipe, email me at email@example.com.
2 cups sour cherries (pitted fresh or frozen will work)
1 scant tablespoon of sugar
1/2 small red onion finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped (seeds removed)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (prefer kosher or sea)
Coarsely chop cherries. Put into small bowl and stir in sugar. Let sit about 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Add onion, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro and salt. Stir until combined. Let stand about 20 minutes so flavors can marry. Serve with favorite grilled meat or fish or just go right for the tortilla chips.
Labels: 'pie' cherries, Cherries, Chicago Farmers Market, sweet cherries
Yes...The Burbs Have Skills Too!
Many city dwellers perceive Chicago's suburbs as being foreign, out of touch and not very cosmopolitan. The thought of driving 20 to 30 minutes to enjoy an evening out with friends or just a fabulous dinner is not the norm, since the city has so much of that kind of stuff to offer. Of course suburbanites beg the differ and their dining options continue to increase to include fabulous local restaurants with big city appeal. Glen Ellyn's Glen Prairie restaurant is one of those new upscale places that has both city folks and suburbanites raving.
Glen Prairie offers casual sophistication in a warm and comfortable atmosphere. The menu is contemporary American cuisine and their ingredients come from local contemporary American farmers. Starter dishes like "Grilled Sweet Corn and Tomato Bruschetta" and "Buttermilk Fried, Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms" are straightforward and very tasty. The "Wisconsin Pike" and "Bison Ribeye" are entrees that were well prepared and very memorable. Other signature must haves are the "Miller Farms Seared Chicken" and the "Parpadelle Carbonara" served with "Caw Caw Creek proscuitto, slow roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs. Their side dishes are the perfect complement to any meal, but the "Mac N Local Farmed Cheese" is what foodies dream about. A variety of desserts plaster the menu, but their "mini" order option satisfies the sweet tooth with smaller tastings of at least six of their offerings, including the "Bing Cherry, Brioche Bread Pudding", "Strawberry, Peaches & Cream Trifle", and "Heavenly Brownie Sundae". The cocktail menu boasts a plethora of signature martinis and their wine list is solid and affordable. In-fact, expect to enjoy a very pleasant dinner in an upscale environment without breaking the bank.
Glen Prairie is connected to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 1250 Roosevelt Rd, but this restaurant could just as well be connected to a Four Seasons. The service was great and the surroundings were elegant. It's about a 30-40 minute drive from the city, but the trip was well worth the trip. Glen Prairie serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a gluten free menu. Click here for more information www.cpglenellyn.com.
Labels: chicago dining, chicago restaurants, crowne plaza hotel, dc crenshaw, fete select tv, fine dining, glen ellyn, glen prairie, local farmers, suburbs, upscale cuisine
"About Last Night..." Gia spends Sunday with a Sangria
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A casual twist on a Sunday afternoon date found me in a wonderful explosion of color and flavor nestled in the Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Ave. Mercat a la planxa. I heard many wonderful things about Chef Jose Garces unique blend of flavors and seasonal Sangria it seemed the perfect afternoon stop before a walk through Millennium Park.
While I don't consider myself much of a Sangria gal, I couldn't help but sample the light flavor of this sparkling goodness with cherries floating and bumping into the ice adding a delicious sweet flavor with every swirl. No doubt, this girl was hungry, so as always I started with a light appetizer. Arroz a la Cazuela, which translates to Chicken, Chorizo, and Tiger Shrimp soup with artichoke salad and piquillo aioli (true...a lot of fancy words which undoubtedly will fill my little blog up just in translation alone!). However, this soup was more than light, and certainly more than good. It was outstanding.
Known for my appetite and uncanny way of handling even the largest of portions I ordered the Australian Sea Bass with smoked pine nuts, celery root and basil emulsion, and the Setas Al Horno (wild mushrooms, con fit potatoes shallots & parsley). Disappointed at first by the small and artsy portions (admittedly, really hungry), I took a moment to admire the artwork. After a one second pause it was without hesitation that I devoured the light, flaky sea bass as each bite swirled through the celery root and emulsion. I was also delighted with the rich buttery flavor of the mushrooms and potatoes.
A strange, yet cautionary note from my experience...beware the almost pitch black bathrooms. Yes, I realize this is odd to remark, but I was both intrigued, and a bit lost in the black stalls with single shining headlight. Thank goodness I only had one Sangria or I would have had to leave a trail of popcorn to find my way out!
A location definitely fit for a light and lovely date.
Mercat a la planxa is located at 638 South Michigan Ave. 312.765.0524
Labels: blackstone hotel dining, dating and dining in chicago, south loop dining
"Old Town" Does No Good for "New" Tapas Spot
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyday was Friday? Well supposedly the tropical island of Eivissa evokes the type of energy where every night out seems like a Friday night celebration. Eivissa, the Catalan name for Ibiza, is known for its summer club parties that attract a ton of tourists and a lot of publicity. It’s no wonder why the owners of the new tapas restaurant Eivissa are attempting to bring that same type of energy to Old Town. The concept sounds cool, but can the new kid on the block pull it off? Maybe for partying, but not so much for the cuisine.
The best thing about Eivissa are their “Islas Baleares” cocktails and “Chupitos” (infused shots). Their standard red sangria is infused with vanilla beans and Ceylon cinnamon for a warm, spicy taste. But after the alcoholic beverages nothing else is memorable, except for their Pinxtos, a unique mixture of morsels on toasted bread. The “Salpicon Aioli”, consisting of different seafood was the winner in this category. Their classical tapas are just average and be sure to order more cocktails to help wash down the dry ”Croquetas De Jamon”. The “Carnes-Meats” section featured a duck and asparagus dish. My advice is to take the asparagus and leave the duck. The dessert menu featured a tart, rice pudding, and a chocolate churro, but I was too disappointed with the service to move on to the next course. Oh, did I mention service? Two words sum up the service. Not good. The communication or lack there of with the server was frustrating. There was no explanation of the menu and dishes were slower than normal to arrive at the table, despite a sparse lunch crowd. The restaurant is nicely designed, but a return visit is necessary to determine the vibe. Eivissa is not a first choice for tapas, but their fabulous drinks may have the Old Town folks sipping libations on their patio throughout the summer.
Eivissa is located at 1531 N. Wells St. Log onto www.eivissachicago.com for more information. Check out Fete Select TV for more restaurant reviews and an inside look into Chicago’s newest and hottest restaurants.
Labels: bloomingdales chicago dining, chicago restaurants, dc crenshaw, eivissa chicago, fete select tv, ibiza, infused cocktails, old town, tapas valencia, wells street
To Market with Mo: I Found My Thrill...Blueberries
So off today on our annual '4th of July' week trip to Michigan. Lots of sun, water, biking, golfing, cooking, eating, visits to wineries and breweries, and best of all? Michigan Blueberries.
No need for a trip to the state that produces 32% of all blueberries consumed in the United States to enjoy Michigan blueberries, as they have made their appearance, this week, at Chicago area Farmers Markets and will be at the markets through September.
Is there a more perfect fruit? No peeling, no pitting, no coring, no cutting, or no cooking necessary. Just wash and pop in your mouth for a burst of pure perfection. Not only is the taste perfection but these little berries are full of vitamins B6, C, E, and K, fiber, and loads of antioxidants. They are low in calories, coming in at just 84 calories per one cup of berries, and they are fat and cholesterol-free.
Look for plump, dry, smooth-skinned berries that are dark blue to deep purple in color. Any hint of red and the berries are not fully ripened. You will want to store them in an open container and not a closed bag or container where moisture can form, in the fridge, where the berries will keep for up to two weeks. And whatever you do, don't wash the berries until you are ready to use them.
Blueberries freeze really well, as long as you don't wash the berries prior to freezing (washing before freezing will toughen the skins). Put a single layer of unwashed berries on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen, transfer to a sealable container or freezer bag. When ready to use, just take out the berries you need, rinse and drain.
If you can hold off eating all your berries as is, they are perfect in pies, jellies & jams, syrup, muffins, pancakes, smoothies, vinaigrettes, salads, and as a topping to your morning cereal or yoghurt.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries is in a Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake (Bon Appetit, July 1990) but not always keen on turing on the oven or consuming lots of butter in the heat of the summer, so here is a sublime, simple and beautiful dessert.
1/2 cup sugar
juice of one orange and 1/2 a lemon
1 cup of grape juice or a fruity white wine
1 cup of water
pinch of cinnamon
2 cups of blueberries
1 cup of plain yoghurt
Combine and bring sugar, orange & lemon juices, wine, water and cinnamon to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for one minute, stirring the whole time. Add the blueberries and coold for another minute. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Puree the mixture in a food processor (or blender) and chill. Pour into bowls and swirl in a dollop of yoghurt prior to serving.
(P.S. this recipe also works well as 'grown-up' frozen ice pops with or without the yoghurt)
Labels: blueberries, blueberry recipes, Chicago Farmers Market, Michigan blueberries, seasonal organic produce