To Market with Mo: it's not about the sauce
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When I hear the word 'whore', I think, 'lady of easy virture'. So when I am to meet the Pasta Puttana, I try to prepare myself for what someone, who calls them self a pasta whore, looks like. Wow...and cute, fresh-faced, natural, curly haired red-head (think Charlie Brown's adorable forever crush) was not what I had conjured up in my mind.
Now that we have the original image shaken from our head, Jessica Volpe, said Pasta Puttana, decided to turn her love of pasta into a business, so that she could encourage folks to cook good fresh food at home. And, being the whore she is for pasta, and pasta being one of the least intimidating things to cook on ones own, it was natural that it was pasta that Jessica would craft. And let me tell you, this artisanal pasta is...let's just say, it leaves me speechless.
If your idea of 'pasta nite' is a box of spaghetti laden with commercial (oh, the horror) jarred marinara, or a thick cheesy sauce, then you know what? Stick with the boxed macaroni. Jessica's pastas, made from local organic ingredients (ONLY) and that take hours to handcraft, deserve so much more. Or less, as the case may be. Just a bit of high quality olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt is all that is needed to bring out the complete and utter deliciousness of Jessica's silky ribbons of pasta.
So you want to get a bit more elaborate than salt and olive oil? On the back of each package of pasta, the pasta whore herself provides, not elaborate recipes, that can cause frustration or intimidation (depending on one's prowess in the kitchen), but great flavor pairings to help inspire one's creative culinary freedom. Oh, this is so a girl up my alley. Inspired by Jessica's suggestion to pair her whole wheat (OMG honestly, if ever turned off by a boxed whole wheat pasta, you will completely change your mind after trying Pasta Puttana's whole wheat, nutty delicious ribbons) pasta with roasted shallots, I took things a wee bit farther with the following recipe:
Mo's Springtime Whole Wheat Pasta
(2 entree or 4 appetizer servings)
1 package of Pasta Puttana Whole Wheat pappardelle
2 good sized shallots roasted, and silvered
1 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh peas (ok, frozen will do in a pinch)
1 cup edamame (shelled, and yes, frozen works)
sea salt to taste
1-2 T fresh goat cheese (with lemon essence if you can find)
Put a large pot of salted water onto boil. Meanwhile, heat (on medium high) a drizzle of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add garlic and heat till that garlicky good smell wafts to your nose. Add the snap peas, peas and edamame, and saute for a few minutes. Stir in the roasted shallots and then turn off the burner.
By now the pot of water should be boiling furiously. If so, add the pasta and stir immediately. DO NOT walk away expecting pasta to cook for 8-10 minutes, remember this is not boxed. Cook for 20 seconds (yes, you read that right. 20 seconds). Strain pasta.
Add pasta to the sauteed veggies. Toss pasta and veg together.
Divide among serving bowls, and garnish with a pinch of lemon zest and a few crumbles of goat cheese per serving. Devour pronto.
Whole wheat is only one of the rotating flavors that the Pasta Puttana crafts. Look for golden egg, white wine, roasted squash, wild mushroom, seasonal herb, fiery red chili, seasonal garlic, and perhaps, a few surprises this coming market season.
You can find Pasta Puttana pastas at the following locations:
See you at the markets!
Labels: artisanal food, fresh pasta, Green City Market, Pasta Puttana, seasonal organic produce
"About Last Night..." Bingo Bango Bongo
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I had a dream. Well, it was something like that for this little establishment on Milwaukee Ave. called the Bongo Room. Someone had a dream that the current owner had a restaurant named The Bongo Room, so there you have it. If it were my dream, I would have embellished a little for dramatic affect, but then again, I'm the writer, not the restaurant owner.
A day of hooky. No work, no cell phones, just the plain enjoyment of a day off from the world. It began here, at the Bongo Room. I must admit, I was not on a traditional date. He was much younger, yes, younger than my normal twenty-something crowd. He was a little less educated, and didn't have his career in line yet, but no matter, it was our special day.
The Bongo Room is pretty. It has fresh flowers, beautiful art, and seats at the counter, which I always find the most interesting. I love to pull up a swivel chair and have a conversation about life, what not. I couldn't help but notice the amount and variety of alcohol stacked high on the shelf. "Umm, excuse me, aren't you only open for breakfast and lunch?" I asked inquisitively. "True, but we get a lot of early morning Mimosa and Bloody Mary requests". Ahhhaaaa....I must make a mental note to self that if ever rounding the early morning near this fine place I must stop in for a cold beverage.
The menu had a variety of fresh choices. I wanted three or four things, and well, I usually do, but opted to try the Chicken and Avocado Club, and the Omelet with feta, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. And....a delicious Cappuccino whilst waiting. The food arrived and looked like art. Fresh, edible art.
The Avocado Club was amazing. The baguette was crispy and warm and the sandwich sang in great harmony with the cilantro lime mayo. Muah. The omelet boasted just as much flavor. The egg portion was actually wrapped around the ingredients, so you could really taste the individual flavors. The portions were generous. The service was delightful and I have to say that the conversation was as stimulating as any date I've been on in awhile, traversing topics such as XBOX Call of Duty 4, the difference between magma, and lava, and the ever increasing selection of Nerf guns.
What could be better than that?
The Bongo Room is located at 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 773.489.0690
Open only for Breakfast and Lunch (and cocktails!)
Stay tuned for next week - Lady Gaga meets Graham Elliot
Labels: Chicago dating and dining, dating and dining, new restaurants
Sabor Saveur - a new Frexican spot in Wicker Park
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Bonjour and bienvenidos to Sabor Savuer, a new French-Mexican fusion restaurant that brings cross-cultural cuisine to Wicker Park. Located on a prime stretch of Division, the gallery-like space provides a neutral setting for globally inspired flavors. Chic and minimalist, the long dining room is bookended by brick walls, lit by dim candles and filled with only black and white furniture. The stark décor is a savvy way to showcase the food and make the colorful dishes shine.
Chef Yanitzin Sanchez might favor Latin dishes, but her French training - including a stint at the Ritz Carlton in Paris - clearly influenced the menu. You can gauge a diverse culinary career from apple foie gras, lobster enchiladas and chocolate braised salmon filet. While fish and dessert sound like an odd couple, they have surprising chemistry. The ground beef, pork and fruit tamal is one of the highlights, a savory appetizer big enough for a table of four to share, but tasty enough to eat as an entrée. The flavorful meat is wrapped in phyllo dough and covered in a leafy salad with strips of cucumber, avocado and watermelon. I think fruit and avocado make everything taste better and this dish just solidifies my theory.
Aside from my infatuation with the chocolate salmon, I also fell for the filet mignon. It could have been the grainy topping of pumpkin seeds and ground huazontle, the irresistible fried sweet potato and coconut croquettes (which deserve their own permanent spot as a side dish) or even the amaranth green beans. I loved all of it, but might order it medium-rare next time for even juicier meat.
When it comes to dessert, eye candy is the best description. Chocolate mousse is coated with ricotta and goat cheese, then garnished with a mint sprig and a sliver of orange. The unusual fig & coconut ante is a lemony circular sweet layered with blueberry cream, a glace sauce and a topping of figs and blackberries. It’s edible art that’s both pretty and palate-pleasing. They are small servings, so order more than one to really indulge.
One of Sabor Saveur’s best offerings isn’t even on the menu. It’s a BYOB restaurant which means you can savor an upscale meal without paying a premium for wine. On both of my visits, guests were drinking everything from pinot noir to white Russians, craft beer to scotch. Regardless of how strange the pairing, the staff was helpful and welcoming, providing ice buckets, glasses and bottle openers without batting an eye. My second dinner fell on a Friday night and a nearby table donated their remaining Grey Goose and a few stray beers as a parting gift. It’s a fitting gesture for a restaurant that thrives on the unexpected, whether its white linen tables with BYOB or French technique meets Mexican fare. And whether you bring tequila or champagne, you can raise a glass to a meal that transcends borders and a restaurant that trumps expectations.
To Market with Mo: the final countdown
Friday, March 26, 2010
It's the end of March and I am now in serious 'final countdown' mode (dang, now I can't get that 80's anthem out of my head). For what? Outdoor Farmers Market season in Chicago! Only a few more indoor winter markets to go: Green City this Saturday, March 27 and two in April on the 10th and 24th. This Sunday, March 28th is the last indoor Logan Square Market for the season. Portage Park Indoor Market will happen this Saturday, March 27th and then on April 24th. And that's all until Green City kicks off the outdoor season on Wednesday, May 12th -- oh yeah, you can bet I will be there, and bright and early to boot. Ok, so on April 25th I will really be in final countdown mode, don't get me on the technicality. And anyone who knows me knows that 'countdown' really starts in early November, after the last outdoor market closes for the season.
Trust me, I so, so, so appreciate our area indoor markets, but there is something about shopping for farm fresh fruits and veg, and meats and cheeses (and let us not forget our local baked goods and artisanal food products) out in the open air. Somehow everything seems that much fresher...or so I like to think to myself. Nothing like getting to the market first thing in the morning braving elements, whether gorgeous and sunny, or cold and rainy, to get your pick of the fresh picked. Seriously great way to start the day. You laugh. Try it, you just might like it.
Get in 'count down' mode with me, and head out to the final indoor markets, for a last stock up of micro greens, root veg, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, apples (yep, and so good), grains, milk, eggs, yoghurt, meats, honey, maple syrup, preserves, ice cream (not kidding), cheese and of course baked goods before outdoor market season begins:
See you at the markets!
P.S. am I missing any markets? If so let me know, email me at email@example.com
Labels: Chicago Farmers Markets, Green City Market, logan square market, portage park market, seasonal organic produce
Stuck in a Food Rut?..."DietBytes by Sandy"
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I've never been a picky eater. Sometimes I'm even a little arrogant about my open-mindedness with food. However, as a dietitian, I've learned to be unprejudiced when faced with fussy foodies. Most people just need some novel suggestions.
While food is meant to supply us with energy, we're also supposed to enjoy its taste, savor its texture, and appreciate the nutrients it provides. Being more adventurous in your diet could help to improve your overall health. You could be missing out on vitamins and minerals, as well as on exceptional flavors and tastes!
Expand your eating horizons with these new healthy food trends guaranteed to spice up any diet.
Go Meatless on Mondays: Meatless Mondays is an initiative set by the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is becoming a global movement that can improve our health and the health of our planet. The goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15%. Going meatless doesn't mean getting rid of protein. Try beans, lentils, nuts, cheese, yogurt, and meat alternatives like tofu and texturized vegetable protein. To find out more visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com/about/.
Ancient Grains: One reason that ancient grains are getting more attention these days is because of the "gluten-free" craze. Thanks to the reintroduction of these wheat-free alternatives, those with Celiac Disease can now enjoy a wide variety of grains. The rest of us can upgrade our grain repertoire since ancient grains have more nutritional value. Consider these long-lived grains: quinoa, millet, sorghum, kamut, spelt, amaranth, and freekeh. Click here for more information: http://www.conagramills.com/media/AncientGrainsSellSheet.pdf.
Umami: I LOVE telling people about umami! I've known about umami for years, and have been patiently awaiting the time when the rest of the world would start talking about it- and it's finally here!Let me explain...There are 5 recognizable tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour...and UMAMI! It's commonly described as savory, meaty, and brothy. Think of mushrooms, asparagus, and soy sauce - foods that contain glutamate, which provides the umami flavor. I'm not the only one who is excited about umami. In New York, you can visit the Umami Cafe where everything on the menu provides...you guessed it- umami flavor. Or, you can check out Umami Burger in California.
Why am I so pro-umami? Well, it actually provides the same flavor as the additive MSG, which could motivate chefs to use more umami and less MSG (which means less sodium). There's also some research suggesting that umami helps provide fullness and satisfaction. Visit this site completely dedicated to the "5th taste" http://www.umamiinfo.com/.
Sandy N. Sfikas, RD, LDN
Chicago Living ... Enjoy The Gilt !
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The Who : Brendan Sodikoff
The Where : 230 W Kinzie - Chicago, IL
The What : Gilt Bar
The How : With a C.V. that starts with Thomas Keller and Alain Ducasse, continues as Corporate Chef for Lettuce Entertain You and consulting with "it" Mixologist Paul McGee, would we expect anything less than a winning combination ? Brendan Sodikoff brings the fun back into casual dining and cocktails with River North's newest hotspot. Open as of Friday March 12. Reservations required.
Enjoy the Gilt ! 312-464-9544
Labels: kristine farra gold coast michigan avenue magnificent mile real estate lifestyle gilt bar river north brendan sodikoff thomas keller alain ducasse lettuce paul mcgee chicago
The Burger Fiend Strikes Again: Jack's On Halsted
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
“Please won’t you be…my neighbor?”
In a somewhat creepy way, that’s the song that kept running through my head as I eagerly pulled my chair up to the bar last week. Honestly, how could Freddie’s immortal song not be running on repeat, if you consider the insanely close proximity the Fiend lives to the quaint Lakeview gastropub.
Having visited Jack’s a few times in the past, I couldn’t help my enthusiasm when I learned the bar’s renovation during the winter would also include a slight menu revamp…with (GASP) a full line of burgers!
And while the swanky atmosphere typically would immediately conjure images of high-end beef choices, such as Niman Ranch or kobe, this bistro offers no-frills selections with an emphasis on unique options for toppings, a la the Kuma’s Corners of the world.
The Fiend opted for the Jack’s Burger, a hefty 9oz patty topped with barbeque pulled pork, sharp cheddar and shredded jalapeno. Ordered rare as per usual, the meat was cooked as desired inside while also keeping a well-seasoned crust on the exterior.
Two other burgers also caught my eye for further exploration: the Spicy Hot, which is brushed with a touch of Chipotle and features roasted Poblano peppers, pepper jack and bacon, as well as the Halsted Street Burger, topped with Maytag blue cheese and apple smoked bacon.
And though I did not have a chance to talk to the chef about the source and grade of the beef, the Fiend could definitely detect the quality in both the taste and texture.
This could get dangerous, as I fear rainy days and Mondays will definitely get me down…the street.
So the answer is, yes. Yes, I am proud to be your neighbor, Jack’s. And I promise not to be a crazy Marcy D’Arcy along the way either.
Palate – TTt
Assist Me – TTT
Buzz Factor – TTt
Pretty People – TTt
Pocket Change, Checking or Savings – Change (Checking, with wine)
I’ll Be Back – TTT
Jack’s On Halsted
3201 North Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60657-3413
Labels: Jack's On Halsted, kobe beef, lakeview, Niman Ranch
To Market with Mo: breakin' bread
For some of us with Irish ancestry, one of the things we look forward to on St. Patrick's Day is Irish soda bread and brown bread. And for others of said ancestry, Irish soda bread was just something you had everyday. How envious was I of my friend, Maura Kelly, whose mom baked soda bread EVERY morning. Maura would show up to school, with still warm slices of the raisin-speckled, unleavened heaven. And yes, of course there was butter to top those slices with.
And here I always thought that Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp were the best 'moms' (okay not really moms but in my child mind they were great stand-ins), but here comes Mrs Kelly, a real mom, who bakes bread every morning?!? Yeah, mother of the year for sure!* I stared so longingly at Maura's slices of steaming soda bread everyday that eventually her mom took pity on me and started sending along slices to share with 'the other Moira'.
To set the record straight Mrs. Kelly's, and most of the 'irish soda breads' we have all come to know, is actually Spotted Dog. A traditional 'soda bread' contains the following ingredients period, end of story: flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk (buttermilk). Now this is more your 'brown' bread you take with every meal variety.
Irish Brown Bread. On every table in Ireland, at every meal: breakfast, lunch and tea. Seriously I cannot get enough of the stuff when I have been a visitin'. But try to re-create that grainy goodness stateside, and it just falls short without lots of adds-ins like oat bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, and trust me, I have been tinkering with this for a long time. Until now. I have finally discovered the PERFECT organic whole wheat flour to recreate the perfect brown bread. And to think it has been right under my nose at the Green City Market
the whole time. Heritage Prairie Farms
stone ground organic whole wheat flour. Heritage Prairie Farms
grinds whole wheat, grown by Ted's Organic Grains, to just the perfect point, leaving all the nutricious bran and germ in tact. And now once again a perfect brown bread. Slainte.
Mo's Irish Brown Bread
3 1/2 cups Heritage Prairie Farms Organic Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup sugar (I know, not a purist)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut in small pieces
2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust baking sheet with cooking spray and flour.
In a large bowl mix together flour, oats, baking soda and sugar. Using fingers or pastry cutter work in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in buttermilk until a dough is formed. Turned dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about one minute. Shape into a ball and place onto baking sheet. Flatten dough to about 1 1/2" high. Cut cross in the top, brush with buttermilk and sprinkle some oats on top. Bake approximately 35 minutes.
p.s. so are you hankering to get my secret recipe for Spotted Dog? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*seriously not fair to expect my mother of Ukrainian ancestry to bake Irish Soda Bread daily and god knows she made more than enough from scratch. I mean who bakes homemade hamburger buns?!?
Labels: Green City Market, Heritage Prairie Farms, Irish Brown Bread, seasonal organic produce, Three Sister's Garden
"About Last Night..." He said I was a Goddess
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I had Feast on my list of "to do's" for quite some time. Tucked away on North Damen I was round the corner with my date at, dare I say the library when I decided to check Feast off my list and discover some tasty goodness. But first, let me clarify the library thing. He asked me to meet him there because there was a book he desperately had to check out. "Are you kidding me?" was my first reaction. No matter, I'm game for a nice read, and it was pretty romantic actually. Whispering and flirting over aisles and aisles of books. Moments later we were off to Feast. My first reaction was "where are all the tables? the people?". They were tucked around the corner and it looked like a large living room that had only a few pieces of furniture. The music was loud. I wasn't sure if I should start dancing in the wide open space or just grab a seat. You really have to expect anything with me. If they'd have been pumping out some Lady GaGa I would have turned that place inside out. However, we chose the latter, but I immediately asked our server to turn the music down. I hadn't seen this man in twenty years and, well, he was special then, and even more special now, so I really wanted to hear what he had to say.
Our server obliged. Points for him.
I didn't even look at the menu I just asked for a delicious mix of things. Again, he obliged with a smile. More points. Out came the Chicken tortilla soup, pasta special with grilled chicken and roasted red peppers, and lemon and rosemary chicken skewers with pita, feta and hummus. The menu had an every day feel to it. Some comfort food items, and a few pizza options as well. The soup was standard tortilla soup, it wasn't off the charts. The grilled chicken pasta was good, like something I would make at home actually, but garlic, butter, red peppers and chicken make a delicious combo. The skewers were nicely flavored and sat on a bed of lettuce, hummus and feta and had an overall Greek feel to it, which was tasty, but not fabulous.
It was a nice cozy place. Perhaps amazing for breakfast with my girlfriends, but I was sorta nonplussed by the whole experience.
The best part? reading to me from that "must have" book at 4:30 in the morning.
What was it you might ask?
Love Letters of Great Men, Volume 1.
Until next week! Muah!
Feast is located at 1616 North Damen 773.727.7100
They also offer breakfast, and lunch, as well as catering and a venue for small gatherings up to 100.
America Idol! Showbiz Shelly Starters
Just got back from Los Angeles where I was covering American Idol! I attended the red carpet (it was really a blue carpet) party where all the Top 12 contestants strutted their stuff. I had the interviewed our two Chicago contestants, Lee Dewyze of Mount Prospect and Crystal Bowersox of Chicago. Both were thrilled to to make it this far and even gave me the scoop on where they used to work in the city! Be sure to click here
for my interviews with all the Top 12 contestants! You can also hear what contestant Andrew Garcia has to say about the judges and what Michael Lynche's baby did when he first got home from Hollywood week! American Idol is on Tuesdays at 7pm and Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX Chicago!
Also, check out my interview with The Black Eyed Peas who were in town over the weekend performing at the United Center. Fergie told me what she likes to eat backstage before a show and the snack you can only get in Chicago that she can't get enough of! The group also told me how they planned to party St. Patrick's Day weekend!
Labels: american idol, Black Eyed Peas, efete.net, Showbiz Shelly
DMK Burger Bar
Friday, March 12, 2010
If I were in charge, I might change the name to DGB. Damn Good Burger. Michael Kornick (of MK fame) and David Morton (perhaps you’ve heard of Morton’s Steakhouse?) have successfully opened a reasonably priced, unreasonably good burger bar worthy of the hype. Where else can you get a grass-fed beef burger topped with marinated Portobello mushrooms, blue brie, griddled scallions, and dijonnaise…for only $8?
In the past month, I’ve eaten at DMK three times and sampled five different burgers, four varieties of fries, three types of beer, two signature cocktails, fried dill pickles, and an order of chili-spiced onion strings. While the sheer amount of food I consumed is a little staggering, it was worth every last calorie.
The sweet potato fries might be the singular best item on the menu. As a budding fry connoisseur, there are a number of variables that constitute an exceptional fry. Length, thickness, crispiness, saltiness, temperature, and flavoring all contribute to the complex taste equation. I don’t know what DMK does in their kitchen (aside from revealing that these are hand-cut russet potatoes), but I think they’re practicing alchemy. Somehow, the fries they serve are infinitely better than their burger joint competitors. The parmesan and truffle cream fries could actually be called gourmet, while the sea salt and black pepper arrive with house-made ketchup that gives Heinz a bad name. If you’re a spud fan, DMK will not disappoint. As an added bonus, the small size fries are a mere $2 to $3, meaning you might as well order all five types for the table.
On the burger side, you can pick your protein, which is perfect for picky eaters or experimental diners. While DMK divides the menu into signature burgers (choices #1-8) and turkey/lamb/veggie/Portobello (selections #9-13), you can mix and match. The turkey, eggplant, Portobello and blue cheese coleslaw combo is stellar, but you’ll need two hands as the eggplant starts sliding to the side. The roasted hatch green chile version served with a fried farm egg, Sonoma jack cheese, and smoked bacon is rife with spice, but the egg is a delicious addition. Even the veggie and grain burger with cheddar, eggplant, tomato, and pesto mayo is better than expected, even if it’s on the crumbly side.
Aside from cuisine that rivals far more expensive restaurants across town, DMK also thrives with broad-based appeal. You can find families with strollers or young couples out for cocktails. The energy and appeal of the space attracts a diverse crowd, but somehow it doesn’t feel strange to sip a pilsner with a baby one booth over. One warning – they don’t accept reservations so it’s best to arrive early, order a drink, and people watch while perusing the menu. It’s worth waiting for that DGB…and an order of the sweet potato fries.
To Market with Mo: still, still, still
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Admittedly I am not much of a 'spirits' gal. More of a wine gal. And if I am going to venture into the spirits let's keep them clear....your whiskies you can have. Sure, I've been known to partake in a 'hot whiskey', for purely medicinal reasons of course, or take a sip of the Irish whiskey, because according to my great Auntie Mae, "a lady doesn't drink beer, a lady drinks whiskey." Oh my. Seriously? Yes. She would sooner see me drink a whiskey, or worse yet, a shot of poitin (aka, Irish moonshine) then lift a pint.
Well, I think I can finally become a 'lady' in my great auntie's eyes as I have discovered a whiskey that I can not only partake in, but throughly enjoy. That my friends would be white whiskey. Wha'? No, I am not talking moonshine or white lighting, but whiskey at it's purest: skip barrel aging altogether and bottle directly. This is not any mass-produced base white whiskey, but an all organic, all kosher, made from scratch, with locally sourced grains, white whiskey. This spirit (or spirits I should say) with it's floral nose and clean fresh flavor isn't made in a backwoods still, but in Chicago's 1st boutique distillery: Koval
. Every step of the distilling process, from the mashing, to the fermenting, to the bottling is done at Koval's
north Ravenswood Ave. location.
Founders, Sonat and Robert Birnecker walked away from careers in academia to carry-on Robert's Austrian grandfather's distilling tradition. Just one sip (note: this is not a brace yourself to wince sip, or am I the only one to do that when tasting whiskey and spirits) of one of their five white whiskies, or rye vodka, and you will be so grateful that academia's loss is now our gain. Each of their grain spirits has their own crisp and clean distinct flavor, that are truly enjoyable sipped on their own, or blended beautifully into a cocktail. And, speaking of distinct flavors, Koval does not stop at grain spirits, but offers up the most interesting selection of liqueurs. Sure ginger liqueur has become pretty popular in recent years, and Koval's
is made with (are you kidding me
) hand peeled organic ginger, but where else can you find Rose Hip (a gorgeous mixer or apertif
), Chrysanthemum Honey (floral and honey flavors all in one? beyond lovely
), Coffee (that tastes of fresh ground coffee beans and not some cloying chemically imposter for coffee
), and Jasmine (all I can say to that is, WOW
So many Chicago area chefs have embraced the Koval line of spirits and liqueurs, not only to create signature cocktails at their establishments, but they have snuck bottles off the bar, and into their kitchens to, no, not swig on their shifts, but to enhance the dishes that they are creating. Now, you don't have to go to your favorite restaurant, or bar to enjoy the Koval line (though I certainly do not discourage that behavior). If you are like me, and like to try your hand at your own mixology and cooking abilities, then there are plenty of area retailers, and on-line retailers for you my out of town readers, where you can get your hands on these incredible handcrafted distillates. Go to Koval's website www.koval-distillery.com
for a complete list of retailers and some great cocktail recipes as well. And, while on the website reviewing the Koval product line, take notice of the beautiful bottle labels designed by a local artist, aka, Sonat's mom. Now that's keeping it local.
p.s. have a great cocktail recipe using Koval spirit's and liqueurs? email me at: email@example.com
Labels: boutique distillery, grain spirits, Koval, liqueurs, white whiskey
"About Last Night..." Oh mi Dios estaba tan bien!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
True. That could apply to the entire night. The translation, "Oh my God it was so good!", in case you did NOT take Spanish in High School like the rest of us. Sticking with my "tour de North Ave" we found ourselves waiting in line, for what seemed like hours at Uncle Julio's. No, this was not a long lost family member I was dying to see on a Saturday night, it was this amazing Mexican Restaurant I've been hearing about that needed some attention, along with my appetite. "Oh you HAVE to go to Uncle Julio's....it's the BEST!". Did you ever just go to a place to eat because someone just wore you down and you didn't want to face them again without being able to give a full report?
No worries, after the hour long wait, truly a place to arrive early and plan on staying late because they don't take reservations! And after three of Julio's Gold special Margarita's I was ready to tear into my date...I mean the menu....or both...whatever...I digress.
WOW (see expression on my face in pic W.O.W., get it? ahhh nevermind). This food is FRESH and delicious. Probably the BEST Mexican restaurant I have ever been. (So yes, now I must tell people too). The salsa had a fire roasted flavor and was pureed, not big chunks of onions (ummm, date and all), and the chips were warm and crispy. The menu had so many choices I could hardly narrow down to Chicken Enchiladas, Fish Tacos and Tamales. The warm tortillas are made right in front of you and everything has the freshest ingredients. There were two types of beans, black and red, and the Tilapia was blackened and seasoned to perfection with the right amount of lime and a tangy avocodo sauce. The chicken was also served with a creamy cheese sauce and was rich and flavorful as well. This was not a night to be eating small, which trust me, I never do.
Couple things that could affect date night are the following: very long wait times so be prepared. Very noisy, lots of chatter and "TssssssTssss" sounds from the kitchen, and not a lot of privacy. But hey - get your Margarita groove on and toss up some chips - save the intimacy for later right? Oh, but watch the beans...you know what they say!
Hasta la vista!
Uncle Julio's is locasted on 855 W. North Ave 312.266.4222
In this photo: Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
Assist Me: TTT
Buzz Factor: TTT
Pretty People: T
Pocket Change/Checkbook/Savings: Checkbook
Put On Those Dancing Shoes !
You KNOW Spring is around the corner when we kick up our heels and put on our dancing shoes ! The Joffrey Ballet is off to start a new season and Dancing With The Stars comes to Chicago. Dancing with the Chicago Celebrities
is the only event of its kind that brings together local celebrity dancers for a magical evening of ballroom dancing, wonderful food and general dancing for all guests.
Many of our favorites have participated including Bears Hall-of-Famer Gale Sayers, Radio Host Mancow, Dina Bair of WGN, D.C. Crenshaw of Game Time Dine, Ginger Zee of NBC, Top Chef Rick Bayless ... Something more laid back your style ? Enjoy a room with a view as the River turns a perfect shade of St Patrick's Day Green
with reserved "box seating" at Trump International Hotel and Tower !
Labels: kristine farra gold coast real estate michigan avenue trump st patricks day river view green dancing stars ginger zee rick bayless mancow gale sayers crenshaw chicago bears magnificent mile
Pamela Anderson in Chicago!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Thanks to everyone who stopped by Woodfield Mall yesterday to hang with Pamela Anderson and B96. The actress and model was there to sign bottles of her new fragrance Malibu. To check out more pictures click here!
Be on the lookout for lots of other celebs hitting Chicago later this week. The Black Eyed Peas will be at Enclave (213 West Institute Place) Saturday, March 13th. The group performed at the nightclub last June after appearing at our B96 Summer Bash. Will.i.am is scheduled to deejay at Crobar ( 1543 N Kingsbury St) afterwards.
Grammy nominated group LMFAO will also be in town March 13th to perform at Manor nightclub (642 N. Clark Street).
Finally, if you're a movie buff, be sure to check out She's Out of My League in theaters March 12th. The film stars Jay Baruchel and Nate Torrence. I had the chance to interview the two last week and it was absolutely hilarious! Click here to see it!
Next week I'm off to LA to cover American Idol as the contestants are narrowed down to the top 12. I'll be coming back with lots of good gossip and pictures to share!
Now...time for the Oscars!
Labels: Black Eyed Peas, Jay Baruchel, LMFAO, Nate Torrence, Pamela Anderson, She's Out Of My League
Friday, March 5, 2010
If you want a taste of enlightenment, forget a trip to the Far East. You can worship at the shrine of Sunda and savor the glorious creations of their “Food Buddha.” He might not be a spiritual leader, but Chef Rodelio Aglibot transcends traditional cuisine. The menu touts “New Asian” fare, a broad culinary term that translates into specifically delicious dishes. One of the best – and most addictive – is the Classic Crispy Rice, an appetizer that warrants its very own journey to Sunda. Picture nigiri sushi, but with pan fried rice glazed in soy sauce and topped with three different delectable toppings: hand cut spicy tuna and jalapeno, seared American Kobe beef tartare and shrimp tempura with avocado and wasabi. While the dish is meant for sharing, I could have devoured it entirely.
In fact, the majority of the menu could be considered dining nirvana. The Truffled Tataki Sashimi was mouthwatering and I recommend indulging with the “all the above” option which includes tuna, salmon and American Kobe topped with Enoki mushroom, chive and a drizzle of soy truffle vinaigrette. On the sushi side, put your chopsticks to work on the specialty rolls, especially the fruit-enhanced Golden Child filled with escolar, mango, avocado, tempura crumbs and topped with a mango crème. For a more savory roll, order the Caterpillar wrapped around unagi and avocado topped with unagi sauce, tempura crispies and “burnt sugar.” If you want to experiment with an entrée, I highly recommend the light and flavorful Malay Style Chilean Sea Bass.
On top of the supremely exotic cuisine, Sunda delivers impeccable service and ambiance. The wait staff has obviously studied under the tutelage of their Food Buddha and provided excellent recommendations. As for the interior, picture a trendy NY transplant in the heart of River North complete with prime people watching and luxe décor.
Book your trip to Sunda soon and taste the new crown jewel of the downtown dining scene…it’s good karma.
Labels: new asian cuisine, pressed sushi
"About Last Night..." Was that a Roshky or a Roosky?
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I have recently taken up residence in Wicker Park, albeit temporary, so I decided to enjoy the many fine local establishments that this delightful neighborhood has to offer. I have to say, that this cold weather is really scaring my thigh high Stuart Weitzman boots back into their box, what with the collection of salt and snow anxiously awaiting every gorgeous step! That said, sometimes you just want to enjoy a casual evening in flats and a nice warm hat. I can't fool you though, you know by now I just got a new hat and couldn't wait to find a place to wear it right?
We started the evening at Santullo's on North Ave. Well, actually, we started the evening driving around the block for thirty minutes looking for a parking space...then...Santullo's Eatery. This place has been called one of the best pizza places in the country! WOW - that's a big, bold statement. It's basically a slice of New York style pizza right here in Wicker Park. They are bigger than your face, the slices that is. Fold up the "Hipster" and enjoy the fire roasted red peppers and feta cheese - absolutely delish (as in delicious....work with me). Sitting at the window enjoying our slices I couldn't help but feel the need to top this meal off with a warm cup of coffee and something devilishly sweet. Enter....Oak Mill Bakery. While there are six total locations, only the one on North Ave has a tiny little European cafe where you can sip your coffee and enjoy the warm cozy atmosphere. Beautiful cakes adorn the window and it feels like you just stepped off the Eurostar in Paris to have a latte with your friends. The bakery is European, and all the ingredients come from Europe. Feeling much less travelled than
butter I was about to eat I felt it my blogging responsibility to try several things. After all, it's my job right? The Marscarpone cake was very sweet but creamy and good. The apple cake was dryer than American style, but very rich. My favorite was the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. It was the exact slice of devilish goodness I was craving. I also snacked on the carmel topped butter cookies and the Roshky....the chocolate, hazelnut bite from heaven that our server brought out last. OMG it was so good I could have taken a dozen home. I officially decided that if I ever need a tall gorgeous cake, to accompany a tall gorgeous man to the altar, this is the place I'm getting it from. (date and man TBD, of course!).
A devilishly good night....and morning with croissants. Oh si tres bon!
Santullo's Eatery is located at 1943 W. North Ave 773.227.7960
Oak Mill Bakery is located at 2204 W. North Ave. 773.252.4400
Assist Me: T
Buzz Factor: T
Pretty People: T
Pocket Change TTT
To Market with Mo: climb every mountain...
March. Hum, still winter in Chicago. Still three months until summer begins. And still five months before tomato season begins. I don't know about you, but right about now I start going thru (ok, really started after I ate my last homegrown tomato in early October) MAJOR real vine-ripened tomato withdrawl. No, do not tell me to just pick some up at the grocery store. Oh, you mean those unripe, ethylene-manipulated tomato imposters? No. Those. Just. Won't. Do.
I will eat real vine-ripened tomatoes, from the farmers market, or from my backyard, during the season, until I have the worst acid stomach, and acid burned tongue, from all my fresh tomato over-indulgence. Now, ask me to eat the out-of-season, grocery-store variety, well you can forget about it. When I eat a tomato, I want to taste summer, not mealy, tasteless mush.
Enough of my rant. I have found the solution for us tomato loving purists...Tomato Mountain Organics
. Growing, and harvesting the best, and ripest tomatoes (and other ingredients) and transforming them into what I consider jars of summer. Tomato based salsas, pasta sauce, soup, preserves, juice and wow, the best Bloody Mary mix, ever. Tomato Mountain Farm
, located about a 2 1/2 drive north into Wisconsin, is not only the farm that organically grows all of the ingredients, and picks them at the peak of freshness, but they also process all of their jarred products, in their own processing kitchen...hence, why all of their products taste like jars of sunshine.
Know of any other markets coming up? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: seasonal organic produce, Tomato Mountain Organics, tomatoes
I heart HOCKEY and STARFRUIT and WEST END and am meeting HAWKS PLAYERS WEEKLY
I heart hockey! Coming off the excitement of the Olympic games where our Women's team led by four time medal winner and Apprentice Amiga- Angela Ruggiero took Silver and our men -well our Chicago Hawks players took home Gold and Silver and competed in one of the best games I have seen!! (sorry to my 5 year old nephew Ben making his hockey debut and a CONGRATS on winning his first game). Last Friday, I attended the taping of "Game Time Dine" and caught up with Adam Burish who assured me our Blackhawks were looking strong going into the end of the season and would be well refreshed after the break. Now is as good a time as ever to hit up Stub Hub, Craig's List, or your boss for tickets to see the Hawks in action at the United Center. The next best option is to catch the game at WEST END, in the West Loop-the best hockey bar in the city (jerseys everywhere and players show up post game on occasion) and they offer ridiculous weekly dining specials and a roundtrip bus to the United Center for free! I am a huge fan of $5 salad nights but still cannot refrain from drinking beer, so much for saving calories!
As a fan of hockey and all things delicious, I will be at STARFRUIT CAFE on Halsted this Saturday, March 6, from 4:00-6:00pm to meet Blackhawk Defenseman, Brent Seabrook. Starfruit offers frozen kefir and smoothies that contain local produce, Vosges Chocolate, Swirlz Cupcakes, as well as other tasty and healthy add ins. Todd West, VP of Store Operations, told me that another store is in the works for The Merchandise Mart this Spring in addition to the stores at Block 37, 1745 W. Division, and my favorite-2142 N. Halsted. Starfruit is also open late, so it is the perfect stop off after the gym for a low calorie, DIVA smoothie, so I am not stuffing my face at 8:30pm- negating my 10 mile run, pilates class, and hour of weight lifting.
I like this meet a Blackhawk player once a week thing I have going....See you at Starfruit!
(Note:Starfruit Hours vary by store location, Division and Halsted are open later than Block37)
Labels: Burish, Kefir, Ruggiero, Seabrook, Starfruit Cafe, West End
The Jersey Shore and Brooklyn come to Chicago...by Showbiz Shelly's Starters
Monday, March 1, 2010
Hey Everyone! Welcome to my blog! There's been lots going on in Chicago's entertainment world. This past weekend the Jersey Shore came to Chicago! Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino and Paul "DJ Pauly D" Delvecchio stopped by Lumen nightclub for an appearance. The ladies were going crazy as The Situation and Pauly sipped on Svedka vodka in the VIP section and threw out t-shirts to the crowd. Click here
to listen to my interview with The Situation and hear what he had to say about Tiger Woods and seeing naked pictures of Snooki! (Photo by Francis Son).
Also, Wesley Snipes was in town this week to promote his new film Brooklyn's Finest.
It stars Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere and Don Cheadle and was directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)
. I had the chance to speak with Snipes and Fuqua who told me more about the movie. You can hear it on B96 March 5th when Brooklyn's Finest
Labels: Brooklyn's Finest, Jersey Shore, Showbiz Shelly, The Situation
Sugar Shock..."DietBytes by Sandy"
When I hear people complain about the sugar content in certain foods, I ask, "Why is sugar unhealthy?" To which I get, "Um, well, it causes diseases and it's just not good for people." I'm dissatisfied with this explanation so it's time to clear up the uncertainty and set some easy-to-follow guidelines.
It's first important to know that there are different types of sugars: natural sugars like the kind found in fruit, milk, and vegetables and added sugars like table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and all of the other caloric sweeteners. Both types of sugars can contribute to excess calories but added sugars have more harmful consequences, when eaten in excess.
The reason why we've been hearing so much about the dangers of added sugars is that more and more foods today are loaded with them. As a matter of fact, we're now eating 20% more added sugars now than we did in 1970. According to Rachel Johnson PhD, MPH, RD, the associate provost and nutrition professor at University of Vermont, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are responsible for this surge in sugar intake.
For the first time, the American Heart Association recently issued a scientific statement with specific guidelines on limiting sugar. "High intakes of added sugar have been linked to overweight and obesity, a lower intake of essential nutrients, and increased triglycerides, hypertension, and inflammation."
In other words, added sugars are making us fat and contributing to disease. Until recently, it was thought that added sugars were simply adding empty calories...calories that we can't afford to be taking on. However, the latest research is showing that excess sugar increases disease risk above and beyond its impact on weight.
So, how do we manage our sugar intakes? First of all, check the ingredients. Here are some common added sugars: Agave nectar, apple juice concentrate, corn syrup, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maltose, molasses, and raw sugar. Next, check the nutrition label. Aim for 25 grams (6.5 teaspoons) of added sugar per day if you're a woman, and 38 grams (9.5 teaspoons) for men. This comes out to around 100 calories for women and 150 for men.
Check out the sugar content in some typical foods:
*One teaspoon of sugar equals about 4 grams.
- 12 oz can of Coca Cola = 40 grams (10 teaspoons)
- Starbucks Grande Vanilla Latte: 16 grams (4 teaspoons)
- 6 ounces low-fat fruit yogurt: 18 grams (4.5 teaspoons)
- Silk Chocolate Soymilk: 20 grams (5 teaspoons)
- 1/4 cup Maple syrup: 49 grams (12 teaspoons)
Sugar can be sneaky. You'd be amazed that sauces like ketchup and BBQ sauce have significant amounts. I even found a surprise in my own diet...the protein bar stashed away in my desk has 16 grams (4 teaspoons)! Shocking!
We should be mindful of everything we eat, but it's time we get extra vigilant about added sugars. Eat minimal amounts of processed food, and plenty of fruits and veggies, and you shouldn't have a problem. And, treat added sugars like a "sporadic food," not a staple.
Sandy N. Sfikas, RD, LDN