Category Archives: Restaurants/Reviews

Orzotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes!

A while back I posted about a risotto I made with orzo pasta instead of Arborio rice. This is something I do frequently,  so I figured I needed a name for it, hence orzotto! You  make orzotto the same way you  make risotto; it takes about the same amount of time and is just as versatile as risotto, meaning you can add pretty much anything you want in there! This time, I made it with orzo, zucchini, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. It was very light and fresh, and oh so cheesy! To me though, it tasted as if it was lacking something…and it took me until this morning to pin point what…this was the first time I have ever had any form of risotto without spinach or arugula or some type of green! This one was still delicious and I love the cheesiness of it, but I think I would add in some spinach next time!

Orzotto with Fresh Mozz and tomatoes:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • package of pancetta from Trader Joe’s (obviously this is optional or you can use whatever kind you want/have/like)!
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced thinly
  • 1 package orzo pasta (can use Arborio rice in place as well)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth (simmering on low heat on the stove)
  • 1/2 cup pecorino-romano or parm
  • fresh mozzarella, cubed into small pieces
  • tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes and halved them but use whatever kind and as many as you like)!
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat up the chicken broth in a small saucepan and let simmer. Meanwhile, heat oil and butter over medium high heat until butter melts. Add pancetta, onions and zucchini, saute until veggies are soft and pancetta is crisp, about 5-7 minutes, salting and peppering to taste. Add in garlic and orzo pasta, toasting orzo until lightly browned. Deglaze pan with white wine, cooking until reduced by at least half. Add in broth a cup at a time, letting the pasta absorb it after each addition and stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom or having it stick too much to the pan. After orzo is cooked to your liking ( it took me exactly the 6 cups of broth but you may or may not use it all), shut off heat but leave pan on hot burner, and add in cheeses, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Let cook until cheese melts and tomatoes are heated through. Serve with more romano or parm and some warm bread!

Since I already have a post going, I would like to mention a restaurant that we ate at Friday night as well. Josh took me there a few years ago for my birthday and we ended up going back to see if it was as good as we remember…to our delight, it certainly was! The place is called Chilipan, it is a very small, BYOB restaurant located in Logan Square on Armitage. It is incredibly good and the prices are very reasonable! I ordered a chicken that was stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and cheese and smothered in a mole poblano cream sauce and served with cilantro potatoes and garlic spinach and Josh ordered a skirt steak that was rolled with spinach and cheese served on top of sauteed mushrooms and garlic pureed potatoes with a tomato salsa type sauce! The couple we were with also enjoyed the restaurant and ordered the same dish as Josh and enchiladas which they reported to be tasty as well! We were going to a movie afterwards so did not order dessert so we can enjoy some candy during the show, but the chocolate tamale is not to be missed if you go!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Josh and I have been celebrating our one year wedding anniversary for a few weeks now…we have already had three celebrations so far and a fourth is yet to come in June! I say after such a spectacular first year of marriage, why not celebrate the hell out of it!? We started a week early when Josh surprised me with a Tiffany necklace and we went out to a wonderful dinner at Kinzie Chophouse. What a great restaurant, we had been there a few times before for dessert and drinks (fantastic wine list and molten chocolate cake)! I knew it would be good, after all it’s a Chicago steak house but it really surprised me how good it really was. My filet was cooked absolutely perfectly and was so tender and juicy, and they serve their steaks with four different dipping sauces, all of which were fantastic additions, even though, not necessary since the steak was so good on its own! We also shared a baked french onion soup that was better than most I have had in French restaurants and a roasted red pepper pureed soup that was also smooth and flavorful. We also shared a broccoli fondue, which was not awesome but very tasty…can’t go wrong with broccoli and cheese! Lastly, they brought us out a buttered rum cheesecake that was to die for! I was a little upset at first, thinking I wasn’t getting my molten chocolate cake, but what a welcomed surprise, it was sooo good and went perfectly with our wine and cappuccinos! I definitely cannot wait to go back!

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Our next mini-celebration took place on our actual anniversary, May 14th. We were working late and Josh had to coach a hockey game late that night, so I stuck around and we had some dinner, went to see the Avengers and ate some of our wedding cake! Nice romantic, not fancy way to spend our night together!

Third celebration took place last night, our first night home together for dinner in a while! So we teamed up in the kitchen and cooked an amazing dinner of basil orzotto with goat cheese stuffed chicken and a nice bottle of wine, followed by yet more wedding cake! Orzotto is risotto made with orzo instead of Arborio rice! The orzo was super creamy and cheesy and the chicken was a perfect highlight for the pasta. The goat cheese and lemon from the filling paired perfectly with the basil and parmesan in the orzo.

Basil Orzotto:

  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in pan over medium, add shallots, cook 3-5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and orzo, cook until orzo is slightly browned. Deglaze pan with white wine. Cook until wine is evaporated. Add the broth, salt & pepper to taste and let come to a boil. Simmer over low, cover and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 12-15 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat, add in peas, parmesan, heavy cream, butter and fresh basil.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 T grated parm
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Mix together the goat cheese, lemon juice, basil, parm, salt and pepper. Pound each chicken breast until thin but not too thin that it will fall apart when rolling. Place 1/3 of the filling in the center of each pounded chicken breast, roll up tightly. Salt and pepper outside of each breast (or use lemon pepper or any other seasonings you prefer). Grill or bake until cooked through. Serve atop the orzotto! We followed this decadent meal with the top-tier of our wedding cake…pistachio, Josh’s absolute favorite and a Ma Crawford special! She had never made pistachio for a wedding before we put in a special request…it came out sooooo good!!
And last but certainly not least, our fourth celebration is yet to come! We are going to Italy in June! We debated going for our honeymoon but in the end decided we would rather sit on a beach, relax and do nothing but be waited on hand and foot! Best. Decision. Ever. I don’t think I would have truly been able to appreciate Italy having gone right after my wedding, being exhausted, excited, overwhelmed, etc!  But when we got married, Josh promised we would go for our one year anniversary and I thought he was full of it! But much to my extreme delight, he is making it happen! I. Cannot. Wait.

Party Time!

So this past weekend was spent celebrating my best friend’s last few weeks as a ‘single lady!’ The wedding is set for May 11, and is rapidly approaching! The bride and groom decided to do a combination bachelor/bachelorette party weekend and have events planned throughout the entire weekend. Friday night we all went out together to an Irish bar called Fado where there ended up being a very good one man band! Of course, we stayed out just a little bit longer than we should have, which made for a fun Saturday morning, lol! Saturday’s events were all split up, boys going golfing and the girls getting manis and pedis! We followed up our nails with a boozy Italian lunch at Maggiano’s…just the thing we needed to bring us right back to normal! Saturday night, the ladies were all meeting by my apartment for some food, booze and gift opening before heading out for the evening. I planned my menu so I wouldn’t have to spend majority of the get together in the kitchen, taking things in and out of the oven, etc! I tried to plan a booze themed evening, filled with drunken gummy bears (highly recommended), jelly bean vodka for jellybean martinis (which I forgot to serve, it’s fine), Arnold Palmer Jello shots, Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and Kahlua laced puppy chow! For food, I went with macaroni and cheese cupcakes (delicious but difficult to eat), a savory basil cheesecake (was nervous about this one but it turned out great), a vegetable pizza and some cucumber tea sandwiches. The food was just light enough to not overfill us up but heavy enough to help soak up some of the alcohol we were over-indulging in!

Car Bomb Cupcakes:

Recipe adapted from of Annie’s Eat’s Blog

Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
Ganache:
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 t Kahlua (Annie’s Eats uses Baileys, which is thicker and creamier, so I just added more chocolate to thicken it up a little)!
Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 T Kahlua (same as above, didn’t use Baileys, used Kahlua instead, went with the full 4 cups powdered sugar so it was thick enough)!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. Combine the Guinness and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix together. In bowl of electric mixer, beat two eggs with creme fraiche, add in the Guinness butter mixture (this is why it’s important to let this cool or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs)! Slowly add in dry ingredients. Fill liners 3/4 full and bake 15-17 minutes.

For the ganache, heat heavy cream over low heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate. Wait 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Add in butter and Kahlua and mix until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool completely. To speed this along, you can throw it in the fridge for about an hour, but be sure to check on it and give it a stir every so often.

For the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, mix until fluffy and combined. Mix in Kahlua. I think that next time I make these, I will add cocoa powder to make a chocolate version!

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, cut out a portion of the center of each cupcake (I used an apple corer, just didn’t go all of the way through the bottom). Fill hole with ganache and top with frosting! Enjoy!

Basil Cheesecake:

Recipe adapted from Giada.

  • 4 ounces ricotta
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and rosemary (any herbs of your choice really, and this may not even be necessary)!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, fold in chopped basil and bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees!

Macaroni & Cheese Cupcakes:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • pepper to taste
  • dash of oregano and thyme
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
  • broccoli florets
  • mushrooms
  • pancetta, diced (I used the pre-diced package from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta until al dente, adding broccoli for last few minutes of cooking…drain pasta and broccoli. In a small saucepan, cook pancetta with some olive oil until nice and crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, keeping juices in pan. Add butter to pan of drippings, once melted, sprinkle with flour, cook about 2 minutes. Add in cream and milk, whisking until smooth and begins to thicken, about 5 or so minutes. Add in seasonings. Turn off heat and add in cheeses, whisking until melted. Add in pasta, pancetta, mushrooms and broccoli. Beat in one egg. Pour into lined muffin pan, cop with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Bake 14-16 minutes or until golden on top and heated through. Next time  I make these, I will add in another egg so it binds better, these were kind of difficult to eat!

Veggie Pizza:

  • 2 packages crescent dough
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages Neuchâtel cheese, softened
  • 1/2 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 t parsley
  • 1 t seasoning salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • chopped veggies
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Roll crescents onto greased baking sheet, pressing together all perforations, making one large rectangle. Bake as package directs and let cool completely (if you spread the Neuchâtel mixture onto warm crescents, it will become watery/runny). Mix together Neuchatel, ranch mix and seasonings until fluffy and combined. Spread over cooled crescent dough. Top with shredded cheese and any veggies you want. I went with broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, red, green and yellow peppers. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Cucumber Tea Sammies:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • good, soft bread
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • sprouts

In food processor, combine avocados, peas, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse to smooth and combined. Remove crust from bread, spread each slice with a generous helping of avocado mixture, top with cucumbers, carrots, and/or sprouts (or any combination of these you like, I mixed and matched with all three)! Form sandwich and cut into fours.

Arnold Palmer Jello Shots:

  • 1 package lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chilled sweet tea vodka
  • 10 lemons, halved, juiced and insides removed (this is way more difficult than it sounds, honestly took me an hour to accomplish this)!

Combine boiling water and jello until jello dissolves. Once dissolved, add in cold sweet tea vodka. Stir a minute or so to combine. Pour into halved lemons. Set in the fridge to harden. Before serving, cut halves in half (into fourths).


For the drunken gummy bears, I just combined gummy bears with vodka, pouring in enough vodka to cover the bears, and put it in the fridge. After the first day, I had to add move vodka since they little guys soaked it all up! I added enough to cover them again and let them sit in the fridge for another 4 days. They swelled up and not only looked super cute but were also very delicious! For the jellybean vodka, I separated out the jellybeans into colors, and put red, orange and pink each in 1 1/2 cups of vodka and let them sit in the fridge for 3 or so days. I then drained the vodka and it would have been ready to drink/serve, had I remembered! Oops! And lastly, for the puppy chow, I just added in a few tablespoons of Kahlua to the chocolate, butter, peanut butter mixture before coating the chex cereal!

 

All in all, the menu was a hit and the weekend was amazing! After our get together the ladies headed out to Whiskey Sky, on top of the W hotel for some martinis and an amazing view! We then headed to one of the bride’s favorite piano bars, Zebra Lounge; a cute little place with the same piano player every night! We then headed to Vertigo Sky in the Dana hotel to meet up with the boys, making this quite a brief stop for the debacle it was to get in! And then finally, ending our night at Local 22 for some karaoke! Sunday, we met at 25 Degrees for some brunch and bottomless mimosas (as if this was necessary after the weekend we had)! We all collectively stated that we will definitely be returning to 25 Degrees. The food was delicious, the mimosas were continuously flowing and the atmosphere and staff were very nice and accommodating! So to recap, I will be recovering until Wednesday! No seriously though, fantastic weekend, well worth it, even if I am dragging today!

Italian overload!

Last Friday night, Josh and I didn’t have any plans (a rare event in our household), so we decided to go out to dinner. We had to choose somewhere with good vegetarian options because of lent. We were originally leaning towards French since the hubby is obsessed with Bouillabaisse (seafood stew…not my thing), but after browsing some menus online, Osteria Via Stato had a similar, Italian version of a seafood stew, so we went with that! I’ve been to this restaurant a few times but not in the past few years so I was excited to go back! I was not let down at all, what a great experience overall. Our waitress was very good and helped us pick out a fantastic bottle of wine to pair with our entrees, the atmosphere was great, dim, romantic, quiet. We decided not to do the family style menu since it was only us two and ordered everything a la carte. Traditional to Italian restaurants, they start you off with some bread and oil at the table, but theirs kicked it up a notch, having cloves of roasted garlic (one of my favorite things ever) infusing the oil; with a little bit of parm, this was a wonderful start. The garlic had a nice sweetness from roasting and the bread was served warm with a soft, chewy center and crusty outside. For entrees, Josh of course ordered the seafood stew and loved it. The broth had a nice spice to it and the scallops were the best I’ve ever had; cooked perfectly with a wonderful caramelized crust. I ordered the shrimp, spinach and leek risotto from the specials featured that evening. It was very good, but I should have known better than to order risotto when we can make an amazing one ourselves at home. I wasn’t disappointed by any means, but I should have gone with something I don’t or can’t make at home….but all of that aside, it was very rich and creamy, thinner than I am used to but all the cheesy goodness was there. We actually skipped dessert and ordered dessert coffees and wine instead. Their spiked cappuccinos came out piping hot and very thick and creamy. A wonderful ending! http://www.osteriaviastato.com/

We had friends coming in to town Saturday that we were planning to head to dinner with that evening. Since they were guests, we told them to let us know what kind of food they wanted and we’d find a great, under-the radar, non-touristy, non-chain ‘Chicago’ place to take them. Unexpectedly, they settled on Italian and wanted pasta! Had we known this ahead of time, we probably wouldn’t have gone out for Italian the night before, but maybe it’s the Italian in me but I could eat pasta every night and be quite content!! We decided on a place in the West Loop called La Luce. We’d been there once before and the food was delicious and we’ve been wanting to go back ever since and finally had the perfect opportunity. We made a reservation for the upstairs portion of the restaurant; a quieter, more open atmosphere, and usually fairly empty. Josh and I got there a little early and made ourselves at home at the bar to wait. The bartender, whom ended up being our waiter, was fantastic. Such a tremendous help and super nice. I was in one of those moods where I couldn’t decide what I wanted to drink, so he let me try two different proseccos and two different wines, even opening two bottles specifically for me to try. He also helped quite a few people at the table choose entrees and no one seemed disappointed. Same as usual, they started us out with some warm bread and bottle of olive oil and jar of parmesan at the table, which I love and much prefer….I’d rather make my own dipping oil, but that’s just me! For the table, we ordered calamari and mussels, neither of which I tried but everyone said they were good and there were none left on either plate, so I take that to mean they were good! For entrees, Josh ended up with seafood linguine (it’s fine, apparently he’s addicted to seafood medleys) and I went with the scallops. His was very tasty, the white wine marinara sauce was delicious and I couldn’t help but sop some up with some warm bread! My scallops were also very good, cooked well, but I was biased from the ones I tried the night before at Osteria Via Stato. Those were just cooked so amazingly that these were not quite as good…had I not had those though, I would have thought there were very good! And to boot, one of the men in our party is a chef in Michigan and he said the meal was good, and to me, that says a lot! http://www.lalucewestloop.com/

As if we didn’t eat enough Italian, we decided to make a different version of baked mostaccioli Sunday night…we have a sickness, it’s fine!! Instead of using ground beef, we used sausage and instead of using homemade gravy, I used a bottled sauce from Trader Joe’s to save some time. Here’s the recipe I used:

Baked Mostaccioli:

  • 1 lb. mostaccioli
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • 1 package mozzarella cheese (thanks Em)!
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • garlic
  • 1 egg
  • parmesan to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Italian sausage
  • Trader Joe’s marinara sauce (bottled sauce, I know, I’m embarrassed)!

Cook mostaccioli al dente, drain. Brown sausage and cook in pan. Meanwhile, mix ricotta with a lot of parm, the egg, a few cloves of minced garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together pasta, ricotta mixture, sausage, 1/2 the mozzarella, and the sauce. Pour into a casserole pan and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and parm. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until center is hot. Let stand 10-15 minutes before eating.

Overall, a great weekend for food and I would highly recommend both restaurants if ever looking for a delicious Italian meal in Chicago! As for the baked mostaccioli, it was pretty good, but doesn’t even come close to my gram’s! Had I used homemade gravy, it definitely would have been better, but time was not on my side that day my friends!

Let’s Tango!

I am excited to announce that I can now check another item off of my ‘things to do before I die list!’ After years of wanting to eat at Tango Sur and making numerous attempts to get a reservation, I have finally accomplished what I deemed to be the impossible! Now to those who live in Chicago and have eaten there with no problems are probably wondering what I am talking about and why it has been so hard, so let me explain….for starters, this is a tiny BYOB Argentinean restaurant located in a popular area of downtown Chicago that does not take reservations. Being BYOB means that when I finally ate there, I wanted it to be on a weekend where I can take full advantage of wine drinking (unfortunately I do not have one of those jobs where I can stumble in to work, hungover, and just make it through the day….although I’m not opposed so if anyone wants to offer me one of those, that’d be great)! Secondly, the no reservations issue, I called two weeks in advance one time for a Friday night reservation for a group of 6 and the person on the other end of the line actually laughed out loud at me before promptly hanging up…annoying.  Finally, this place usually has around a two hour wait for weekend nights….this is something my impatience and starvation would never be able to handle. I would never be able to time that out right nor would I ever want to wait that long to eat! So about a week ago, I decided I couldn’t stand it any longer and called the restaurant just to see what could be done…lucky for me I got a super nice guy on the other end who offered to put my name on the waiting list for Friday night at 7 pm! Being put on the list meant a guarantee of less than a 20 minute wait.  Knowing that I’d finally get the opportunity to eat there, I was kind of nervous…had I been building this place up for so long now that it would just fall flat of any expectations and be a complete let down? Could it really be as good as everyone says? The answer was very simple, yes, it really is that good!

We started out by trying all of their empanadas, which were amazing! So soft and doughy with ample fillings including: spinach and cheese, ham and cheese, chicken, beef and corn. They were all great, Josh’s favorite was the chicken, however I was unable to pick one and wanted another round of them all! We also ordered the Proveleta, provolone cheese, grilled with olive oil, roasted red peppers and garlic. Ah-mazing! It came to our table on this enormous platter sized plate of melty, gooey cheese which we ate with the bread they provide for every table. The saltiness of the cheese with the sweetness of the peppers was divine (warning: you must be a cheese lover to enjoy such a rich dish…but then again, who isn’t)?! For our entrée, we ordered the Lomo Relleno: half slab of Argentinean filet filled with chimchurri, ham and served with a portabella mushroom sauce. Not the most appealing looking dish but definitely one of the most decadent and delicious I’ve ever had! And boy was it enormous…this was the first time Josh and I have ever had to take leftovers home from a restaurant, ever! And being BYOB, the final bill was amazingly cheap compared to most downtown restaurants! I cannot wait to go back here, it was one of the better meals I’ve had in the city thus far, I highly recommend it to all!

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As I said, not the most attractive looking...and this was over half gone already!

Holy Zucchini!

The other weekend while visiting my family, my mom sent me back with a giant zucchini, like massive! It was so big that I was brainstorming recipes that utilize zucchini the entire drive home! Every  meal last week consisted of zucchini in some way, shape or form! One night it was battered and fried, another it was roasted, the next it was made into a fritter and lastly baked into a quick bread! Finally, I ran out of zucchini, only to come into work yesterday to a generous patient that happened to bring me one of her own that she grew! So starts the zucchini train all over again! Of course, I will always make muffins or another bread, but what else can I do with zucchini?! So I am turning to you guys for ideas….please send me your favorite zucchini recipes, I’d love to try something new and different!

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I wasn't kidding!!

I am going to share my zucchini bread recipe with you guys here since it turned out so delicious:

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 cups zucchini, shredded
You can doctor it up by adding chocolate chips, shredded carrot, nuts, lemon, etc!
On another note, we hit up a tapas restaurant last night to help a friend say good-bye to the city of Chicago. I have to say, this was my third tapas experience and I’m just not a big fan! The thing about me and tapas is that it’s just not enough food, that is unless you order majority of the menu and spend $100! All three experiences turned out the same, spent over $50 and walked out still hungry! Our group ended up heading to Heaven on Seven with the intention of getting dessert and ended up ordering appetizers along with the cake, so it must not have been just me that walked out hungry! The food itself was delicious, everything we ate last night was very good, and if you are a small portions type person, Cafe Iberico is a great choice! But for those with an appetite, I’d recommend just heading straight to Heaven on Seven for some fried jalapeno cornbread blasters and some jambalaya or brisket! And then follow that up with the chocolate peanut butter pie or deep chocolate pecan pie! Just sayin!
Back Side of M Pie

Big Willy Style!

Unfortunately I have nothing new on my quest to make the best flourless chocolate cake ever! There has yet to be any attempt at all actually, mostly due to a super fun, busy weekend…one of the best I’ve had while living in Chicago! It ended perfectly Sunday night where we ate at a place called Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, a barbecue restaurant in Bucktown! I love barbecue so this was right up my alley. The place was crowded enough for us to have to wait 20 minutes at 8:00 on a Sunday night…impressive yes, annoying, absolutely! On every table they had two different kinds of barbecue sauces (one regular and one spicy), a barbecue vinegar sauce and a roll of paper towels, key for any barbecue joint! We started with an order of their fried jalapeno corn fritters, I was not impressed….the fritters themselves were dry (even though they were dripping in oil) and flavorless…I wouldn’t have even eaten them if it weren’t for the delicious sauce accompanying them. The waitress was kind enough to leave the left over sauce at our table so I could dip my fries in it, definitely earning her some brownie points! I ended up finally deciding on the pulled chicken sandwich and Josh went with the ribs. He was able to order the cornbread as a side, which I have slight obsession with so was delighted…that was until it arrived! Again, like the fritters, it was dry, flaky and severely lacking in flavor….not very appetizing at all if it weren’t for the honey butter it was served with…another point for the sauces! I slathered my pulled chicken in the spicy barbecue sauce and it was absolutely delicious…moist, smokey, and slightly spicy with a twang! Overall, I would recommend this restaurant, just be sure to stick to the barbecue, it’s what they do best!

And since I can’t tell you about something I baked, I will tell you about the delicious dinner Josh and I cooked last night! I had just bought some fresh chicken breasts from the butcher and wanted to use them right away so we decided to stuff them! I grabbed a log of goat cheese, a bag of spinach and sautéed some diced up onions and garlic in olive oil. I added the spinach at the end and removed everything from the heat as soon as the spinach began to wilt. In the meantime, Josh pounded down the chicken breasts into nice, flat, even pieces, spread them with a nice helping of goat cheese and sprinkled that with some fresh basil and parsley. We topped this with the spinach mixture and he rolled them up, and sealed the edges with toothpicks so wouldn’t lose any of the goodness during cooking (what teamwork). We seasoned the chicken itself with garlic salt and pepper, seared them in an oiled/heated cast iron skillet on one side, flipped them and threw them in the oven to finish baking (350 degrees for about 30 minutes). Josh pointed out that a sauce would really tie the dish together (we watch a lot of chopped and iron chef where this is constantly etched into our heads)! A lemon white wine sauce came to mind, thinking the acidity from the lemon and the sweetness from the wine would pair perfectly with the goat cheese and fresh herbs. So again, I started by sauteing some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until softened. I then added about half a cup of white wine, deglazed the pan and added about a cup of chicken broth. I let it come to a boil before simmering and adding some grated lemon zest, fresh rosemary and parsley. After it simmered for a few minutes, I added a few tablespoons of butter and let it thicken up until the chicken was ready. Paired with pan-fried squash and brussels sprouts, this was one amazing home-made dinner, one that will definitely be repeated! Dessert was, albeit tasty, sadly nothing too special…a few warmed Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownies covered in store-bought chocolate peanut butter (me) and coffee (Josh) ice cream! Dinner ended a bit too late to begin the flourless chocolate cake journey, so maybe next time, hopefully!

Soup du jour!

After dinner last night, it is now my mission to learn how to make an amazingly delicious flourless chocolate cake! We ate at a little French place called Cafe Bernard in Lincoln Park. Aside from being the only people dining at the time (we had very early reservations so we could make it on time to a 7:00 play), the atmosphere was very nice; small, dimly lit, and romantic. Being the most indecisive person I’ve ever known, I always do my research ahead of time and check out a restaurant’s menu before arriving. This saves me hours of grueling decision making at the restaurant, which ultimately postpones eating! I had settled upon the french onion soup (a definite for me whenever present on any menu) and jumbo sea  scallops with a balsamic reduction…that was until they presented us with an amazing $20 three-course prix fixe menu!

Unfortunately the prix fixe menu did not have the scallops as an option for an entree so I decided to go with the crepes. They sounded super delicious after all, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots with a parmesan-swiss garlic cream sauce. To my surprise, these were not quite as delicious as they sounded, which left me somewhat disappointed! The crepe itself had little to no flavor at all, and felt more like a tortilla than a crepe. And the sauce, as delectable as it sounds tasted more like cream than cheese, which for me was a let down since I’m such a cheesehead! The soup however was absolutely wonderful, a little salty, but I am not one to complain about salt! The Gruyère was perfectly melted with a little crispness around the edges of the bowl (my favorite part)! Now, on to the best part of every meal, dessert!

I am a chocoholic and only really eat chocolate desserts (sad I know) so when I saw the flourless chocolate cake, I needn’t look any further! I’ve had quite a few flourless chocolate cakes in my days and this one was one of the best! It was incredibly rich and velvety, pairing perfectly the bottle of Graves Bordeaux we had ordered. As aforementioned, I love me some chocolate, so another perk to this was its size. Usually flourless chocolate cakes are miniscule servings surrounded by some type of caramel or sauce spread elegantly all around the plate. This piece (and I wish I had taken a picture of the actual piece I ate, but this picture is pretty darn close, caramel included), was the size of a slice of pie! It was to die for!

Stay tuned as I begin the challenge of baking an even more delicious flourless chocolate cake!

Spicy!

My husband and I are obsessed with this little place in Evanston, called Dixie’s Kitchen and Bait Shop that serves what I find to be the best jambalaya ever! (Sidenote: also a favorite little spot for the Obama’s when they are in town)! So we figured, why not try to make our own version! So we downloaded Emeril’s recipe from Foodnetwork.com and altered it slightly and made it into a crock pot recipe.

Monday night, Josh and I cut up some sausage and chicken and defrosted some shrimp in preparation for our very first attempt at making jambalaya. We added some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, and tomatoes along with chicken broth, Worcestershire, frank’s red hot, some olive oil,a few bay leaves and a whole lot of Cajun creole Seasoning and cayenne pepper. BAM!! We let that all marinade overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors could fully meld together.

Yesterday morning before heading out to work, we threw the mixture into the crock pot and set it on low, hoping we would have a delicious dinner waiting for us when we got home! We didn’t add the shrimp or rice into the crock pot since they would overcook so we grabbed white rice from a Chinese Restaurant down the street and pan-fried the shrimp in olive oil and Cajun creole seasoning when we got home! All in all, it turned out delicious! Luckily we both love spicy food because this was very hot! Maybe it was marinating everything together overnight or maybe it was the hot Italian sausage we used in place of Andouille, either way, a definite success in my book!

Here is the recipe we ended up coming up with:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 T Cajun Creole Seasoning
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package frozen shrimp, defrosted
  • white rice

I’d love to hear your feedback if you decide to make your own Jambalaya, if you liked this recipe or how you altered it to make it your own!