Foodie vs The Purple Pig

One of best food experiences I had while I was in Chicago was at The Purple Pig. Don’t let the name fool you because the food speaks for itself.  The concept of the restaurant is Mediterranean inspired dishes in a small plate format at community shared tables. Besides the community tables, there are about 8 seats that are open to kitchen.  That means you get a unrestricted, close-up view of the kitchen in full swing.

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This was the view from my seat while I had dinner.

The menu is expansive, the staff are passionate, knowledgeable, and this is quite an experience for any foodie. As luck would have it, I ended up at the Chef’s table after a long wait and navigating standing room only. I decided to order a couple of dishes to get started as I watched the cooks push out stunning dish after stunning dish.

 

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Spanakopita

First up was this twist on Spanakopita. This dish danced in perfect harmony with every bite. The crunch of the perfectly cooked filo dough, the filling was rich, the yogurt underneath was tangy, and the beet and carrot salad had a sublime punch of acidity to cut through the Spanakopita. It was the perfect bite in all respects.

 

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Duck Proscuitto

This little beauty is Duck Proscuitto with some house made crackers and a little pepper jelly. The duck melted in your mouth and had incredible richness. By the way, this is all done in house. The crackers provided some much needed texture. The peppered jelly had the perfect amount of heat with a little sweetness to round out this sexy little plate. After only my second dish, I realized what incredibly good food I was enjoying and couldn’t wait for more!

 

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Charred Cauliflower

I love roasted cauliflower, so when I saw this charred version on the menu I had to have it! This was probably one of the best dishes I had all night. The cauliflower was cut thin enough that cooking over high heat allowed the roasted nuttiness to come out, but it wasn’t so thin that the vegetable fell apart. In contrast, you did get some of that crunch and a little bit of bitterness that you expect from cauliflower. The cornichons were a surprising twist that added a little acid and sweetness to play off the cauliflower. The parsley gave the dish some freshness and herbaceousness. Round that out with a splash of lemon juice for some punch, some bread crumbs adding a little texture, and this dish had it all! If I didn’t want try more items on the menu I would have kept eating this all night.

 

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Mortadella

I can’t remember why I decided to get the Mortadella but it was the best decision ever!! This dish blew my mind! Not only was it all made and cured in house, but the balance of flavors on this plate truly sang. First off,  this dish is very cleverly plated. Chunks of mortadella sandwiched between chunks of ooey gooey cheese  grilled to perfection to form that carmalized crust that you associate with meats on the grill. The mortadella was salty, rich, and had a perfect mouth feel. The cheese had a firm exterior but was soft, creamy, and slightly sweet. That paired with compressed apples, a balsamic reduction, and a salad of parsley, lemon juice, olive oil was the perfect counterpoint. The salad was welcome relief to the richness and salt of the mortadella and cheese on the skewers. It made the dish enjoyable from start to finish. You weren’t left with that heavy feeling after finishing this plate. However, you wouldn’t soon forget it either. This was my favorite dish of the night!!

 

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Milk Sorbet

If a full compliment of amazing small plates wasn’t enough, there was this cleverly crafted dessert to cap off the night.  Peanut butter cheesecake and a milk sorbet that were all made in house. The best part of this dessert was the milk sorbet. It had the flavors of a vanilla milk shake,  the texture of ice cream, and finished on the palate like whipped cream. It literally just melted in your mouth.!! Granted, having the stunning peanut butter cheesecake didn’t hurt at all and it was masterfully executed. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything either!

 

The Purple Pig was probably one of the most memorable restaurant experiences during my time in Chicago. Don’t believe me? Just ask these two guys!

 

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That’s right! Here I am with Chef/Owner Jimmy Bannos Jr.!! He was very kind and thoughtful to take time away from the line to sign a menu and take this photo with me. His team is amazing and made the experience very enjoyable!

If you go to Chicago, you must go there! When I go back to Chicago, I will be going back for sure! I already can’t wait to go back!

Foodie vs Giordano’s Pt 2-Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago is known for one thing, deep dish pizza.

 

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Here are my top 10 reasons why you need to check out deep dish pizza at Giordano’s:

 

Giordano’s is an iconic Chicago foodie destination

This is true deep dish pizza

Inviting ambiance

Flavorful sauce and everything is well seasoned

They will make how you want it

Being served this deep dish is an experience unto itself.

There is plenty of time to enjoy a beverage or two since cooking this pie can take 45 minutes or more

You won’t leave hungry

Perfect place to bring your friends and family

Because pizza

 

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The only issue was the dough was a bit under cooked. Not in a manner by where the pie wasn’t edible, however, it was noticeable and did detract from the experience a little bit. Make not mistake, that wouldn’t stop me from going back and eating more and more!

Foodie vs Giordano’s Pt 1

If you are looking for an amazing appetizer and cold beverage in Chicago, then do yourself a huge favor and go to Giordano’s!! This is a quintessential slice of Chicago foodie culture!! While you are there, dive into this stunning bruschetta! So good!! Then wash it down down with a local brew and you will have an amazing day no matter what you do!

 

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Speaking of slice, did you know that Giordano’s boasts some Chicago’s favorite and most sought after deep dish pizza?? Oh yeah, we are doing to get deep into that soon! Okay, I need to quit making pizza jokes! It is around that time! 🙂

Check them out! It is worth every bite!!

Chicago’s Über Insider Sandwich Guide

Top 10 Reasons To Go To Hannah’s Bretzel:

 

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ITALIAN PARMA HAM + GOAT CHEESE

 

Pretzel buns or rolls. Need I say more??

Artisan ingredients.

Perfect atmosphere, both indoor and out.

Balanced and ridiculous flavor profiles.

A true sandwich shop.

Truly local to Chicago.

Gluten Free options.

Organic is king.

Freshly sliced Prosciutto de Parma in front of your eyes.

They have chocolate.

 

You must go get a sandwich from there! You won’t, nay, you can’t be disappointed by what they have to offer!

The Insiders Guide To Chicago’s Best Coffee

Top 5 Reasons to go to Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago:

  1. Quintessential Chicago coffee house
  2. Local, quality coffee
  3. Staff is amazing and knowledgeable
  4. Urbane
  5. Authentic

Note: I enjoyed the coffee so much that I had nothing to take a picture of! That good!

Foodie vs Eataly

I was super excited when I realized how close Eataly was to my hotel. It was one of the first things I noticed when I started researching the area. I wanted to make at least one trip during my time in Chiciago. As luck would have it, I ended up making two trips because it was that amazing! Eataly is a high end Italian market in both Chicago and New York owned by celebrity chef Mario Batali and restaurateur and business mogul, Joe Bastianich.

As soon as I opened the door, my senses were assaulted  It was bustling with patrons, the smell of parmesan cheese and aged meats were intoxicating, and my eyes couldn’t even settle on one particular part of the store. After a quick review of the store map, I made my way up the stairs to take my maiden voyage through the aisles of Eataly.

Here was the first thing that caught my eye once I made my way through the crowds.

 

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Oh, the glorious case of delicious cheeses and aged meats. I wanted to just sit right here and sample each and every item they had available. Like I say, leave no good aged meat or cheese behind. The staff behind the counters were great and incredibly knowledgeable as well. They were happy to help you find what you liked and understand how you planned on using it. I only sampled two things and then I decided to move on because there was more to see.

You probably know from reading some of my posts that I love a good steak. Sometimes I have the butcher cut a bigger steak for a special occasion that will leave a lasting impression.

 

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But, not like this. The little steak is the Tomahawk ribeye with the full rib bone attached.  I  lovingly refer to it as the “steak-sicle.” A single steak weighs  about two pounds and costs around 40 dollars a pound. I seriously stood at the counter and tried to figure out if I could get one in my suitcase for the trip home.  You will notice the ribeye is in good company with the smallish t-bone steak below it. Isn’t it cute?  Seriously, the meat and fish counters are truly a thing of beauty. Not only is the meat being handled on site, the quality is amazing, and the selection is outstanding to boot.

If you aren’t sure what to pair with your meat or fish, may I suggest a little pasta to go with it.

 

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All this pasta is made fresh and in house. They had every variety of pasta imaginable from standard fettuccine, squid ink pasta, stuffed pasta and everything in between. Eataly’s pasta game is truly on point and is a sight to behold. This was especially cool after thinking about my pasta posts on the blog. Such a neat experience to be able to watch their machines cut giant sheets of rolled pasta dough was a real treat!

After looking around at wine, produce, and multiple little restaurants it was time for what I really came for. Gelato. Because there is never a bad time for ice cream or gelato. I didn’t care at all that it was 39 degrees outside, I needed gelato. The station had a variety of flavors such as coffee, lemon, Nutella, and chocolate. I decided to go with the coffee this round.

 

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Coffee gelato

 

The coffee gelato was everything I could have imagined and more. First, the mouth feel and texture was stunning. It was rich, smooth, creamy, and not overly sweet. The coffee flavor was present, but perfectly balanced. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to eat more or swim in a giant vat of the stuff. It was that good! Who wouldn’t want a pool of gelato at their house? Look out, Willy Wonka! Eataly is in the house!

I ended up going back a few days later with a couple of good friends. No surprise that we did a lot of the same things including drooling over ginormous steaks, having a glass of wine, and eating more gelato. Did you think I wasn’t going to have more when I went back? This time I got the chocolate, which by the way, was a 70% dark chocolate and it was amazing!!  The chocolate wasn’t overly sweet, but the fact is the chocolate gave the gelato amazing body and it really felt satisfying to eat. I didn’t get a photo of it because I was too busy eating it. That just means you need to go yourself and try some!

If you are in Chicago or New York, you must put this on your list of places to go. Just being in Eataly is an experience unlike anything else. Then, if you have time, grab  a glass of wine, eat a cheese and cured meat plate or finally have some gelato. Even if you don’t buy anything, this is a real treat and truly worth the stop. If you don’t mind crowds then you can go anytime you want. If you don’t want to fight the crowds, I suggest you come during the week because this place gets busy in a hurry.

Stay tuned for more of my Chicago food adventures!!

 

 

 

Foodie vs Chicago Part 2

Saturday began same as Friday with my jaunt to Starbucks to help me kick start my day. While looking out the window I noticed that Chicago Police had a couple of city blocks roped off. It didn’t appear as though it was triggered by an accident as far as I could tell. I noticed the other patrons suddenly became quite excited as they leaned in to get a better view of what was causing the sudden activity. It only took a second when I looked up and saw this happening in front of my eyes.

 

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A helicopter carrying a huge steel beam to a building that was under construction or renovation. The building was just to the left and out of sight of the frame. What an impressive feat for this pilot to carefully negotiate time and time again on a Saturday morning. I grew up in a small rural town in Oregon, so this is darn impressive and the reason I took the photo. I have spent plenty of time in big cities, but it isn’t often you get to see such masterful and rather unique activity just down the street.

After a few minutes watching the helicopter, it was time to organize my day and figure out my food plan. I had almost considered not doing anything besides sitting around and enjoying beverages all day. Did I mention it was 32 degrees outside? I was so happy to be Chicago for such amazing spring weather. Fortunately or unfortunately, I decided to head out and check out more of the city. Even though it was colder outside than I hoped, the fact the sun was out and the sky was brilliantly blue made my desire to roam the city even stronger.

I decided to go check out the Chicago River and experience what I had only seen in photos. My first thought looking out over the river was that the river was greener than a bunch of a kale less than month before.

 

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This is one of my favorite pictures of my trip. The sun reflecting off the water and looking up into blue sky just makes this a really spectacular view. What I love is that so many of these amazing views are easily within walking distance from downtown Chicago.  I remember I stood here to take in the beauty long after I had taken the photo. In addition, you could both tourist boats and ships pass by, which gave the river a real sense of energy and purpose.

I ended up walking around a little more around the heart the of the city, but I was ready to eat and have a beverage to take the chill away. I decided to walk back towards the area of my hotel and just stop wherever it struck my fancy. After a couple of minutes I settled on a place to warm up, which was Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse. Although this wasn’t on my list, like a sci fi tractor beam, I was drawn in and there was no turning back. It was early in the day so the restaurant and bar were very quiet. The place represented what I would think of a high end steakhouse. It was a fine dining atmosphere but clearly intended to be inviting to the most causal of diners.  I sat at the bar and ordered something to drink. The staff was incredibly friendly, pleasant, and you really got the sense that they cared. They offered me a lunch and appetizer menu, which I looked over, but wasn’t sure what I wanted.  While chatting with the bartender for a few minutes and telling him about my mission to eat my way through Chicago he made a few suggestions off the menu. I didn’t want a full entree so we talked about some of the appetizers as an option. He mentioned this garlic bread with some stunning blue cheese fondue sauce and some incredible bacon they get from a small purveyor in Wisconsin. No surprise here, but I had to order them both because they sounded amazing.

 

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Garlic bread and Double smoked bacon from Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.

This was absolutely as good as it looked. The garlic bread was crispy, crunchy, soft in the middle, and had a subtle but present flavor of garlic throughout. Now, I have never been a big blue cheese fan, but this fondue sauce was mind bending! It was rich, creamy with just a gentle hint of blue cheese. The beauty of this sauce was the blue cheese didn’t over power but helped cut through some of the richness with a little bite. This, by the way, is the half order of the garlic bread. If you ordered the full order it would easily be enough for two people to share.

Then there was bacon. Bacon. This was some of the best bacon I’ve ever had. It was perfectly cooked, had the right amount of smoke, and the maple was a great way to offset the salty, smokey quality of the bacon. Plus, the bacon was thick so it had a nice bite and felt substantial as you took each bite. It was topped off with a little basil oil and a bit of watercress. It really made for the perfect combo. This bacon was also a half order. I remember distinctly not being able to get either of these dishes out of my mind. Even though I was full, I really wanted to keep eating and eating. Don’t despair, I made sure that no morsel was left behind. I was also surprised to hear how much the steakhouse touted that this bacon came from a family farm and they only worked with a select number of restaurants in the Chicago area. I found it so refreshing to think that a steakhouse like this was taking time to make sure they were using such quality ingredients. Especially because the food community is becoming more aware of where their food is coming from and how it is being handled and processed.

I had one other thought as I began to gather up and prepare to head back into the cold. It dawned on me that the making of the perfect hangover breakfast sandwich lay at hand. Lay a few pieces of bacon on one piece of garlic bread, drizzle some of the fondue sauce over the bacon, and place another piece of garlic bread on top. Boom! I mean, what more could you want from a breakfast sandwich?? I suppose it could use an egg in some fashion. Could you imagine a fried egg or some soft scrambled eggs nestled on top of the bacon to keep the garlic bread from getting soggy? Com’on Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, best brunch sandwich ever!! What are you waiting for?? Speaking of that, if you are in the area, go there! This turned out to be an unexpected diamond  and one that is worth the trip!!

 

Stay tuned for more of my Chicago food adventures coming soon! In fact, my dinner experience was so epic that it must have it’s own post!!!

 

 

 

Foodie vs Chicago-The Arrival

My trip started with plenty of fanfare. Before even leaving the airport my flight was delayed due to a VIP in the area. Well, it first was categorized as an Air Traffic Control related issue. Trust me, this was most definitely a VIP. It was no surprise that everyone on this flight began to speculate and guess who it could have been. Little was left to doubt when that crackling voice from cockpit informed us that the VIP was the President. Turned out our arrival was going to overlap with the President’s scheduled departure and that was the nature of the delay. We were greeted at the airport with a pleasant view of this little  aircraft.

 

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Say hello to Air Force One. By the way, from the distance I was taking these photos, inside the terminal, this was the best of the bunch. For some reason, they weren’t very keen on getting a close up. Oh well, it was pretty cool to be this close. Not a bad way to be welcomed in the Windy City.

 

I didn’t get to my hotel until late in the evening and with the time difference I had plenty of time to kill. So, first up was stock up on a few hotel essentials. There was a Whole Foods a couple blocks away and it was good to get a little fresh air too. There are certain things you must have in your hotel room to have a proper stay. Here is a photo of a few of my essentials.

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For me these are important things to have in your hotel room. Grapes make a great late night snack or something refreshing when your hotel room is sweltering and you can’t stabilize the temperature in your room. Bananas are a great, healthy and quick way to start a busy day as opposed to scary hotel breakfasts or big box breakfast sandwiches. Water, I know after a long day flying and traveling I forget about staying hydrated. Also, the temptations of travel bring other types of beverages to the party. Finally, without saying, beer is a must. It can be less expensive than the hotel bar and a great night cap or a way to wind down after a long day. These are some of my hotel travel essentials.

The truth is this post has a deep dark secret. This post contains the one major food blunder of my trip. As I was talking with some family about it the other day they reminded me that at least I got my bad food out of the way early and ate well the rest of the trip.

A couple hours after I arrived at the hotel I decided to look for a little dinner option. I knew I didn’t want to go very far and I remembered seeing a few places on the same block as my hotel.  I remembered seeing a local Armenian restaurant in my research that scored relatively good reviews and was right across the street from hotel. Perfect, I thought to myself. It is really close by and should be super easy.

So, I walked across the street, got seated, and proceeded to order a drink. I noticed the place was dark right off the bat. There was only one other table of 6 people in the back part of the restaurant.  Other than that, the place was empty. That was only confirmed by the fact that the hostess and the bartender had plenty of time to spend on their phones in between doing nothing or filling an occasional drink order. With that aside, I was excited with the looks of the menu and proceeded to decide what to order. The menu had the classics such as kebobs, couscous, lamb varietals, and a number of other things. I ended up settling on Kofta, which a mixture of ground meats heavily seasoned and formed into meatball or kebob style shapes. I opted to go with the lamb and ground beef Kofta as the idea of ground lamb seemed particularly appealing.

 

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Let me just say that this dish had a number of issues. I will say the best part of it was the meat mixture, as advertised.  It was seasoned well, flavorful, and was moist. The rest of the dish, however, was a big miss. The salad on top of the meat was just parsley and chopped red onion. It wasn’t dressed or seasoned in any way, but the real tragedy was the amount of salad was out of proportion. After a few bites the flavors of the salad began to take over and didn’t provide any complexity to the dish. The rice was not seasoned well and I almost wondered if it was prepackaged. The biggest elephant in the room was the onion and bell peppers on the plate being used as a garnish. The menu referred to the those two veggies as charred, which I took to meant charred and cooked through, but still retaining some of the key flavors. No, not exactly. Instead, one side of the vegetable is charred and thrown on the dish. You end up with a slightly charred but totally raw vegetable, which is a total buzz kill. There are tons of applications for raw veggies, but this isn’t it. For one, there is a ton of onion already on the dish so adding more raw onion doesn’t make any sense. The bell pepper committed the same infraction expect without the pungent flavor that overtakes everything. A simple change would have been to grill both the veggies a little longer to not only cook them through but develop more flavor. This is one reason I talk about seasoning so much in my blog and that the simple techniques can really elevate the dish. Needless to say, this was a let down. The best part was the meat and my drink after the long trek from the airport.

I returned my hotel, grabbed a beer and some good dark chocolate, and looked forward to a little rest with even higher hope for killer food for the rest of my trip. Luckily for me, there was plenty of good food to come!

Stay tuned for more posts following my Chicago adventures!

Foodie vs. Chicago Part 1

It is my first full day in Chicago and I already know this is an amazing city! I started off the day like any other day visiting a new place, which was to find a Starbucks. I needed something that was familiar and ultimately this became my base of operations. It turned out to be on a very popular street downtown so I was able to enjoy the buzz of city life. I had arrived as I gazed out onto the city streets and watched people start their days. I already had formed a bond with the people of Chicago as the weather would unite us. It was in the 30’s and raining when I began to plan out my day. Turned out that would be the best part of the day as snow was in the forecast and with it came lower temperatures. Now, keep in mind, I’m used to  all kinds of wacky weather here in the Pacific Northwest, but I had hoped that was I going to be blessed with some great weather.  Let’s just say I was blessed for packing for all weather conditions because this was nuts!

I had been planning this trip for a while and I had some ideas of places I wanted to visit, things to do, and of course, where I wanted to eat. It was really just a matter of figuring out what I was going to do that day. I decided to keep it pretty simple and pick some things that might be interesting. My goals were to check out Wrigley Field, walk around downtown to work off some of this jet lag, and find some amazing food.

After finishing my coffee and getting a lay of the land I ventured out to a few places near my hotel. I was immediately taken by all the historic, architectural buildings that seemed to go on forever on the skyline. Without being really sure of how close they were I discovered these two gems right away.

 

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The Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune is perhaps one of the most recognizable publications anywhere in the country. No matter where you live everyone knows about the Tribune in one fashion or another. Plus, the building itself is really spectacular and worth checking out. I did text this photo to of few of my friends who are in the news and journalism world. I either received smiley faces or responses that I won’t dare repeat on this blog. Just take my word for it. 😉

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WGN Radio

Not very far from the Tribune building is WGN radio. Why would I bother sharing this photo? Well, I am a sports guy for one. Second, WGN radio is recognized in most places and I wanted to be able to say, “Oh, here is where this is.” The other neat thing is that the studio faces out onto the street and it is a wall of glass. Therefore, you get a first hand look and listen while these shows are happening, live! That is pretty cool!

 

After being done in the city, I set out on public transit to check out Wrigley Field. This field has so much history. It is almost impossible to ignore the majesty of this fabled park no matter what team you root for.

 

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

 

It was super easy to get there with public transit and the park is right there. I was there a little ahead of opening day, but that didn’t take any of my enjoyment away from being here. It struck me that this area seemed a little sleepy and quiet as I looked around. I reminded myself that it was a weekday afternoon and I couldn’t  have imagined what game days were like around the park. Even with all that, you could feel the energy in the air.

 

Remember earlier I talked about that silly weather? Here it was in full force while I was trying to take in the sights.

 

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That’s right, snow! Snow in springtime in Chicago. Oh, there was that little temperature thing too, which had dropped to just above freezing. What a way to start my trip, I thought.The good news was I was warm, dry, and hungry. I needed to find food.

I made it back into the city and started reviewing my restaurant list for where I wanted to eat. I found a place that wasn’t very far my hotel that was on my must try list called Labriola Café and Ristorante. It had earned some high praise and amazing buzz among my foodie and blogging friends.  The place was really quaint, old school, but with a contemporary feel. I was in old world Italian, but felt casual and approachable. The menu featured all the standards and classics for what you would expect of a higher end Italian restaurant. It was late in the afternoon and I knew dinner wasn’t too far off so I decided to go with one of my personal favorites, Caesar salad. I decided to add chicken after the waiter asked if I wanted anything on it. After some waiting, I was rewarded with this stunning salad.

 

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Chicken Caesar at Labriola

I thought the kitchen had messed up when I saw this placed in front of me!  This was the most impressive salad I think I have ever seen in my life. What set this above the rest was the chicken. It was glistening, perfectly cooked, and gave some real depth to this salad. These aren’t the meager thin slices of chicken that most of us are used to seeing on Caesars. No, the whole thigh and drumstick is seasoned, roasted, sliced, and then served. It becomes the ultimate eating experience when the chicken is cooked this way. This was like the ultimate choose your own bite adventure. You could have a bite with some chicken meat and a little crispy skin. It was perfectly complimented with the punch of the anchovies, the crunch of the croutons, and the freshness of the romaine lettuce. I think I could eat this salad every day. I mean, all salads are healthy, right? Okay, maybe wishful thinking but you get the idea. My biggest issue was the poor lighting in the restaurant. It was hard to see what I was eating and taking photos was quite the project. In fact, this photo was taken with a pen light I held in one hand and my phone in the other. Despite that, I highly recommend Labriola if you are in Chicago. You must check this place out!

A big part of this trip was about networking and connecting with fellow foodies and bloggers that I had interacted with prior to my trip. I have always been a big proponent of supporting those who have supported me. While trying to make plans for the day I had reached out to a few people in hopes to make a lunch or dinner date. I ended up connecting with a fellow food lover who suggested that we have dinner at a Brassiere called Cochon Volant. Of course I was all in and we made arrangements to meet.  Unlike travel shows on TV getting lost is part of the initiation process. It is going to happen, there are no exceptions. It isn’t always fun, pretty, and it can be downright frustrating. However, it makes that first drink taste so much better when you finally arrive at your location. Yes, I got lost and it may have happened more than once. In any case, I finally arrived, met my friend, and set off to explore the menu. You want to know my key to deciding if it a restaurant is really good? If you want to purchase one of every item on the menu then you are in good shape. It is possible that maybe you are just that hungry, but for the sake of argument lets go with you want one of everything on the menu. That’s exactly what happened to me. I wanted it all.  My friend made a couple of suggestions, but when she said, “The best burger” I stopped listening to everything after that. I knew that it was what I had to have. I knew even before I ordered the burger this was going to deliver in a big way.

 

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Le Cheeseburger Royale at Cochon Volant

I think the name of this beauty says it all. It features prime dry aged beef, house pickles, thick cut bacon, confit onions, ooey gooey cheese, and hand cut fries. Is there anything better in the world?? I think not! This burger had that quintessential perfect bite. The soft buttered buns, the richness of the ground beef, the creaminess of the cheese, the saltiness from the bacon, the punch from the vinegar from the pickles, and a little sweetness from the confit onions was mind blowing. On top of that, you had that face drip factor which is a must for any good burger. Add some hand cut fries and a mayo with a little dijon mustard mixed together and you have a perfect pairing. It was the perfect compliment and is a meal fit for a king. I wanted to eat 5 of these burgersl! Again, I had this funny sense I was dreaming, but it dawned on me that this was just the quality food I was going to find during my time in Chicago.

 

Oh, did you think I would leave you without dessert? Nah, I wouldn’t want to deny you that joy.

 

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

This pie is downright amazing! It is the perfect symphony of chocolate and peanut butter. This was so rich that by the third or fourth bite I was done. You can easily share one slice with at least two people in my opinion. What makes this stands out is that there are some whole peanuts on top of this pie. It provides a much needed textural crunch. It is a great way to break up the dense and silky texture of the chocolate and peanut butter that make up the base of this pie. Once again, this is perfect bite and a great way to top off any meal at Cochon Volant. I would highly recommend this to anyone who goes to eat there. I do know that you can find this pie at a local bakery in Chicago. They don’t always have it on the menu but it is a huge seller, I can assure you of that. So go there and eat, lots!

Can’t wait to share more of my Chicago adventures with you!

Enjoy!!

Homemade Salsa

We can all agree that one of the quintessential things to have during the summer is salsa, right? Granted, there are a million variations of salsa that you can make and create really easily. Some of the classics are mango, pineapple, peach, green chili, and that just scratches the surface. Salsa is so easy that you can have homemade salsa in about 5 minutes! Not only that, but chances are you have everything you need to make the salsa at home already. That means you don’t even have to leave the house and drive from store to store to find the ingredients you need. I am all about simplicity and making sure the ingredients you use can be found anywhere.

So, the only question is how much time do you want to spend making your salsa? You can either dice and chop the salsa by hand and that only adds about 5 more minutes–still quicker than going to your local Speed-O-Mart. Or, you can throw it all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. It is really that simple. They are both perfect choices, but some people like their salsa a little more chunky, so maybe making the salsa by hand is a better way to go. Maybe you have some guests who like their salsa a bit more broken down, then blender salsa might be your answer. If you have someone who doesn’t care, well, do whatever gives you more time to enjoy the best part, eating. Honestly, some days I like to make it by hand because it keeps some of my knife skills, well, sharp. But, if you are trying to minimize adding that “special human touch” to your salsa, then blender or food processor salsa should be your final answer.

Ready to go? Let’s do this!

Basic Salsa

 NOTE: Once you have handled the jalapeno or any spicy pepper, wash your hands right away!! However, more importantly, do NOT touch your eyes, nose, mouth or any other sensitive skin as the oil from the jalapeno stays on your skin even after you have used soap!! The oils will cause burning and it is very unpleasant!! Sorry for the bold, underlining, italics, and caps, but I can’t stress this point enough about the jalapeno. I have done it and take my advice, it is very unpleasant. If you want to totally reduce the risk of the getting the oils on your hands, then grab a pair of latex gloves, clean dish scrubbing gloves or anything else that provides a barrier between the pepper’s oil and your skin. Make sure you discard the gloves right away and wash your hands still in case you get any on your skin while you are taking the gloves off.

This recipe is the same for both being done by hand and thrown in the blender. I will include instructions for both.

4 ripe vine tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoons red onion

1/2 of a jalapeno

2 tablespoons cilantro

4 teaspoons lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Hand cut salsa:

Dice first five ingredients, throw into bowl, add remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper, stir, and adjust accordingly.

Blender or Food Processor Salsa:

Okay, cut the onion and jalapeno into pieces about the size of postage stamps or a little smaller. The real heat from the jalapeno is in the seeds and the white ribbing, so scrape that out with a spoon to tame the spice from the jalapeno. Again, be mindful of oils from the jalapeno as it can linger on your skin longer than you think.

Peel the garlic cloves, and cut them in half.

Throw the garlic, onion, and jalapeno into your blender/processor with the olive oil to allow the ingredients to move around the blade. Pulse or chop on low speed until have those ingredients are chopped finely. You can scrape down the bowl if ingredients are getting stuck on the side of the container or add a little lime juice to help as well.

Cut tops off tomatoes and cut them into quarters, add a few quarters at a time until they are broken down. Don’t worry if they are super chunky now, you just want to be able to add the remaining tomatoes. Continue until all tomatoes are broken down, but pretty chunky.

Add cilantro and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse or process till you have reached your desired consistency.

Season with salt, pepper, or a little lime juice as needed.

If you are just using this for chips, you can add a little less salt since most chips have a good bit of salt on them. But, if you feel like the salsa needs more, then go ahead and add it.

 

That is it! You are done!

 I promise even with all these little steps the salsa comes together very quickly. If you want to add more spice or anything else, go for it! As I’ve said, this a stock salsa, that you can customize any way you want.

If you are looking for something to go with this to wet your whistle, may I suggest a cold beer, a nice margarita, or for a responsible Friday night, some good quality tequila would be just fine. Make sure you have a driver, a friend, have turned in your keys or you have a place to stay for the night so you can really enjoy the evening the right way.

Enjoy!