Wednesday, September 17

Food Network in Concert at Ravinia + a GIVEAWAY!

This Saturday, September 20th, music and culinary worlds collide at Highland Park's Ravinia. Food Network in Concert is a one-day-only festival bringing together local and national chefs, Food Network stars, and great musical performers. Food Network chefs including Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli, Jose Garces, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Chicago's own Jeff Mauro, will be on-hand for a variety of culinary events including themed lunches and dinners, and walk-around tastings. About 75 local chefs will also be taking part, including John Coletta, Jimmy Bannos (Sr. and Jr.), Tony Mantuano, Andrew Zimmerman, Gale Gand, Paul Virant, Mindy Segal, and the list goes on!

What can you expect to taste at Food Network at Ravinia? Even highlights include The Greatest Hits, a walk-around food and wine tasting featuring 100+ wineries and 50 chefs, the BBQ-themed Country Cookout: Farm to Turntable, Hot Hot Hot with the spiciest dishes from across the globe, and I Want Candy, a dessert-themed tasting featuring 15 pastry chefs from across the US.

The music component of the first ever event will include performances by headliner and Grammy Award-winning artist John Mayer, American Idol season 11 winner Philip Phillips, DJ Alexandra Richards, Twin Forks, and more!

To learn more, see the entire day's schedule, and purchase tickets, visit the Food Network in Concert at Ravinia website. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America.

As an added bonus, I'm giving away two tickets to Food Network in Concert, courtesy of event sponsor, al fresco! 

al fresco offers a variety of flavorful, healthy chicken products that contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives, nitrates, or MSG. Its line of products, including breakfast and dinner sausages and chicken burgers, are made from lean, boneless, skinless chicken meat, and are 50% less fat and 30% less sodium than leading beef and pork products.

To learn more about al fresco and find out where you can find products near you, head to al fresco's website!

Enter to win the pair of tickets below! The winner will receive a pair of Lawn Seat Tickets with Access to The Greatest Hits (total value $398). To see what is included with these tickets, head to the Food Network in Concert schedule and select "Lawn + Greatest Hits". 

You have until 12 am (midnight) CST on Friday, September 19th to enter. Winner will be notified the morning of Friday, September 19th and tickets will be emailed to the winner.

Good luck and I hope to see you at Food Network in Concert!

Tuesday, September 16

Al Fresco Weekday Lunch at Publican Quality Meats

It can be tough sometimes to take a lunch break during the busy work week, but every now and then I make an effort to get out of the office and enjoy our beautiful city. A few weeks ago, my friend and coworker Hannah and I walked over to Fulton Market (which is luckily a short walk from the office!) and stopped into Publican Quality Meats for a quick lunch. Both of us had eaten at The Publican, its sister restaurant which is also next door, but it was our first time at PQM.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we sat outside in the sidewalk cafe (rhyme time!). There was arguably as much, if not more, seating outside as inside the restaurant. Not only can you dine in at PQM,  it also is a butcher shop and market where you can purchase meats, cheeses, breads, and more. The restaurant also is a private space for The Publican, and offers full catering.

PQM changes its menu frequently, ensuring you're bound to always be able to try something new. We started with the butcher's daily cheese plate, a selection of three cheeses, accompanied by rustic breads, candied nuts, fruit, and homemade raspberry jam. The cheeses were fantastic and so was the bread! I could have easily ordered this as my main course.

Butcher's Daily Cheese Plate
We both ended up ordering sandwiches for lunch. As a fan of beets, Hannah tried the Beet L.A.T. with beets, bibb lettuce, avocado, pickled green tomatoes, aioli, sprouts, and smoked cheddar on multigrain bread. Her sandwich was served with a side of marinated kale in a light vinaigrette. She was a big fan!

Beet L.A.T.
The gyro came recommended to me by several friends, so that's exactly what I ordered. "The return of the gyro" featured big strips of braised pork belly, raita (yogurt sauce), escalivada (grilled veggies), pea shoots, and calabrian chili vinaigrette on griddled flatbread. Mine came with a side of spicy slaw that was amazing. Overall, the sandwich had a ton of flavor, especially from the raita and pork belly. The flatbread held everything together, without it getting too soggy. Both sandwiches were huge portions and we were able to take half home for another meal.

Return of the Gyro
Overall, PQM is a great lunch option if you're near Fulton Market or the West Loop. While it's getting a bit cooler outside, the sidewalk patio is nice (though the tables are NYC-like, a.k.a. very close together). Although it is a butcher shop by nature, the constantly-changing menu offers options for veggie lovers and carnivores alike.

I'm giving PQM 4.5 ghosts for their high quality ingredients, quiet and bright sidewalk patio, and reasonable prices.

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Publican Quality Meats on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 15

Celebrating National Chicken Month at Chicken Shop

Soho House Chicago, the 12th and largest Soho House globally, recently opened in the West Loop. The first Soho House opened in London in 1995 as a home-away-from-home for those in creative industries. While much of the building is reserved for Soho House members, the five-story building also houses three public-facing restaurants, The Allis, Chicken Shop, and Pizza East. I've had the pleasure of checking out the stunning space on a few occasions, including having drinks and snacks in The Allis (named after the building's commissioner).

In honor of National Chicken Month, I was invited to check out weekend brunch, so the BF and I stopped by on a Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere is a little bit country, a little bit rustic, a little bit retro, and a whole lot relaxed. I loved the mix of materials throughout, especially the reclaimed wood tables, original cement columns, and tall windows covered in lace.

Dining Room
We both started with cups of Blue Bottle Coffee, which we were pretty huge fans of. Call me crazy but a chicken appeared in my coffee! Do you see it?!

Blue Bottle Coffee
No visit to Chicken Shop is complete without sampling their rotisserie birds. They're available by the quarter, half, or whole and are marinated in a spice mix, steamed, and marinated again, before rotating on a spit. Each portion is divided for sharing, and are bone-in. I loved the tenderness and juiciness of the bird, and so did my better half. Chicken Shop offers two sauces as well, smokey and hot, that you can add to practically anything. We both preferred the hot sauce.

Quarter Free Range Rotisserie Chicken
Smokey & Hot Sauce
We also ordered two sides, the crinkle cut fries, and mac 'n cheese. Both were awesome! The fries were super light and crispy, while the mac was extremely rich and creamy. You could immediately see the gooeyness of the cheese on the mac--it wasn't just a runny sauce, this was the real deal. I also liked the fresh black pepper on top.

Crinkle Cut Fries
Mac 'n Cheese
 During weekend brunch, Chicken Shop offers three menu items, chicken 'n waffles, an egg, tomato and avocado English muffin sandwich, and corn hash and poached eggs. Keeping with the National Chicken Month theme, we tried the chicken 'n waffles. This ended up being our favorite dish because the chicken was super light and crispy, and the waffle held up pretty nicely. Even though the chicken was on the greasy side, that waffle was not soggy and had the perfect consistency when taking a bite with the chicken. The gravy and syrup are served on the side for adding as much or as little as you'd like.

Fried Chicken 'n Waffles
Now, you're probably thinking, how could anyone eat more food after trying that much heavy comfort food? Well, we prevailed and ordered a gooey brownie. Chicken Shop offers three desserts including the brownie, apple pie, and lemon meringue pie, but the brownie came highly recommended by our server.

Not only are all desserts made in house, so is the ice cream that accompanies them. The massive brownie arrived at our table and we immediately could smell the rich cocoa scent. The best way I can describe this brownie would be INSANE. It's on the underbaked side, which I love, and you can tell the quality of the chocolate is excellent. It also features huge chunks of macadamia nuts. The brownie is served very warm, and is phenomenal with the homemade ice cream. The BF and I went bite for bite until we realized oh crap, we should stop. Now.

I'm still thinking about that insane brownie...

Housemade Brownie & Ice Cream
After the Damage Was Done
Now that you've seen the delicious grub at Chicken Shop, you should definitely check it out for yourself. In honor of National Chicken Month and Chicken Shop's introduction to Chicago, they are offering select guests 50% off their bill this Tuesday, September 16th. During your visit, show your server this post in order to receive the deal.

Have fun and be sure to save room for dessert!

Note: My meal at Chicken Shop was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Chicken Shop Chicago
Inside SOHO House
113-125 N. Green St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Chicken Shop on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11

La Creperie: A French Classic

When my French-food-loving friend Meg was in town, I knew we had to stop at one of the city's most famous French restaurants, La Creperie. The restaurant, which dubs itself the US' oldest creperie, briefly closed and reopened late last year (I recommend reading the story behind this). Having lived in the area for five years, I was embarrassed to say I'd never been to La Creperie. It was that neighborhood classic I had been meaning to try forever, but just never got around to it. But that finally changed!

Meg, the BF and I strolled over to La Creperie on a sunny Saturday afternoon where we were seated on the back patio. Looking at the restaurant from the street you'd never have any idea how large the restaurant is, and how far back it goes. The little patio in the back was secluded, quaint, and lovely and includes a handful of tables with umbrellas, as well as several fountains.

We started with the escargot, or snails, served in a garlic butter sauce. I almost always order escargot at a French restaurant because it's something I never really eat, and most certainly wouldn't make myself at home. The gooey sauce was heavenly, especially with the crusty French bread.

Obviously we were going to get crepes at La Creperie. The BF and I split a savory crepe with chicken, roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese. The portion size was gigantic and is perfect for sharing, especially with a starter, or if you plan on trying a sweet crepe for dessert.

Half of the Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes & Goat Cheese Crepe
Meg also tried a savory crepe; hers had egg, goat cheese and spinach. The quality of ingredients in both crepes was excellent. There was a ton of cheese, which is always delicious, and the outside of the crepe was soft and buttery. It was easy to inhale bite after bite, despite the large portion size.

Egg, Goat Cheese & Spinach Crepe
We were so stuffed from the crepes that we didn't have room to try a sweet crepe for dessert. Sweet crepes include 14 different options with fillings such as Nutella, peanut butter, fruit, or caramel. I will definitely be back to try the Nutella and sauteed bananas crepe!

I'm giving La Creperie 4 ghosts for their tranquil atmosphere, friendly staff, comforting French cuisine, and reasonable prices.

La Creperie
2845 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
La Creperie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9

The Return of a Bagel Empire

Finally, there's a decent bagel spot in the city and I couldn't be more thrilled. Brobagel, the new bagel shop from Piece Pizza owner Billy Jacobs is now open in Wicker Park. The to-go shop is in the former Salon Blue space adjacent to Piece Pizza. Billy Jacobs is one half of the famed Jacobs Bros. Bagels empire that began in 1983, and was purchased by Big Apple Bagels' parent company in 1999. Billy has brought back the bagels and I can personally vouch for their awesomeness.

I stopped by on a Saturday morning with the BF and we tried some bagels with cream cheese, as well as bagel sandwiches. The bagels are New York style, boiled, then baked, resulting in a crispy outside and chewy middle (the way bagels should be, in my opinion!). Bagel options include the usual suspects like, sesame, onion, garlic, everything, pumpernickel, and not-so-usual-suspects like walnut raisin bran, and even a beer bagel. Spread options also balance the familiar and unfamiliar including scallion, veggie, sriracha, garlic confit, and whipped tofu.

So many cream cheese options!
We both chose an everything bagel with sriracha cream cheese. Lucky for us, the bagels came right out of the oven so they didn't even need to be toasted. They were like a typical NY style bagel, though slightly smaller than you'd find in the big apple. The cream cheese tasted, and looked like spicy nacho cheese. It was pretty fantastic and unique.

Everything Bagel with Sriracha Cream Cheese
Everything Bagel with Sriracha Cream Cheese
Brobagel also offers a menu of bagel sandwiches which feature spreads, premium meats and cheeses, and veggies. The BF and I tried the Turkey Special with sliced turkey, bacon, Manchego, fennel, tomato, and caramelized onion spread. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo before we ate our sandwiches but they were ginormous. They almost looked like two bagel sandwiches in one...they're that tall. I wasn't a fan of the massive globs of caramelized onion spread so I'll definitely ask them to go easy on it next time. You can also build your own, or order a selection of salads or soups.

Brobagel is my new fave bagel in the city. I appreciate the unique variety of spreads and bagels and they also serve up some great Metropolis Coffee. The bagels and sandwiches are on the pricey side, but I guess you get what you pay for! I'm giving Brobagel 4 ghosts for their delicious bagels, and that hot sriracha spread!

1931 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
BroBagel on Urbanspoon