Monday, July 27

Recent Foodie Finds + A GIVEAWAY

I hope you had an amazing weekend enjoying the beautiful weather that finally decided to show up in Chicago! I'm back with another installment of my recent foodie finds!

Click to add a blog post for Seasons 52 on Zomato 

First, is Seasons 52, a national chain restaurant focused on seasonal and fresh ingredients. While I had passed the restaurant many times (it's dangerously close to Nordstrom), I had never been in to check it out. I was curious how the chain would execute its fresh concept, so when I was invited to an exclusive blogger dinner, I accepted with an open mind. 

The blogger dinner featured Seasons 52's new summer menu and gave us all a chance to try anything off the menu. We also met Executive Chef Partner Brad Froelich, who kindly answered my numerous questions about the menu, ingredients, and food preparation. All the of the fish served is fresh, never frozen, and they use very little butter in their food preparation. Listed on the menu are calorie counts which can help guide you in your food choices. They also have separate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menus, which came in handy for my +1 veggie friend, Reba. The menu changes every week when items are swapped in and out. Although it is a chain, they do their best to feature local ingredients when possible, as well as local beers.

I was pleasantly surprised with the food quality, variety and flavor. By no means are portions small, but if you're looking for Cheesecake Factory portions, go elsewhere. Yes, the food and drink is on the pricier side (my glass of wine was $19, sea bass was $32), but you are paying for more expensive ingredients, and the River North location. 

Check out some of the food we tried below! Some favorites were the lemon and herb roasted whole branzino with Meyer lemon, thyme, broccoli, and crushed roasted potatoes, summer truffle risotto with sweet corn, shaved truffles and chive oil, and of course, the signature desserts which are served in shot glasses. It was hard not to want all of them but we tried the s'mores with Belgian chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, lemon curd with blueberry, and key lime pie. The favorite? The chocolate peanut butter! A true classic. 

Seasons 52
Salumi Piccante Flatbread
Seasons 52
Summer Truffle Risotto
Seasons 52
Heirloom Tomatoes & Herb-Crusted Mozzarella
Seasons 52
Blistered Shishito Peppers
Seasons 52
Lemon & Herb Roasted Branzino
Asian-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass
Asian-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass
Seasons 52
Dessert Options

Hannah's Bretzel Emerging Chefs Competition
Click to add a blog post for Hannah's Bretzel on Zomato

This past May, local sandwich shop (with ridiculously tasty bread!), Hannah's Bretzel, hosted its first annual Emerging Chefs Competition. The contest featured local culinary students from Le Cordon Bleu and Kendall College competing to create the city's next best sandwich. The winner of the competition received a culinary scholarship and a spot on the Hannah's Bretzel menu.

Twenty five year old Le Cordon Bleu student Joyce Mac's Keen-Wow Sandwich won over judges and fan voting at the competition. I met up with Joyce over lunch to taste test the winning sandwich which is now available at all Hannah's Bretzel locations! 

Chef Joyce Mac
Chef Joyce Mac and the Winning Keen-Wow Sandwich
The winning Keen-Wow sandwich features quinoa "patties" made with organic tri-colored quinoa, kale, sundried tomatoes, manchego cheese, and house chips. The patties are topped with pickled red onions, an herb salad, organic mayo and jalapeños on Hannah's signature organic bretzel bread. I LOVED this sandwich (it gets my vote!) because it has so many layers of textures and flavors. The patties are flavorful, and the jalapenos and herb salad add a nice crunch and freshness. And we can't forget about the bread. It's strong enough to hold all of those fantastic ingredients. Be sure to check out the Keen-Wow the next time you're at Hannah's Bretzel!

Hannah's Bretzel
The Keen-Wow Sandwich

Ghirardelli in the Wrigley Building
Click to add a blog post for Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop on Zomato

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably saw the photo I posted of my massive hot fudge sundae at the new Ghirardelli store inside the Wrigley Building! The new store is the brand's largest ever, and has stunning views of the Chicago River. I had a chance to check out the two-level space last week and was impressed with the selection of products and the beautiful store. I never wanted to leave!

Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
My friend Hannah and I were treated to sundaes from the huge ice cream shop. The menu features fountain creations including sea salt caramel sundaes, banana splits, and butterscotch hot fudge sundaes, as well as shakes, floats, hot chocolate and more! We went with a classic hot fudge sundae, and brownie sundae! They make their hot fudge in-house, everyday!

Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
As if our decadent sundaes weren't a big enough treat (literally), we took in what they call "the million dollar view" while we ate. You could see all of the boats floating down the river, as well as the hustle and bustle of Michigan Ave. The sundaes were phenomenal and so was the view. I think this is a must-try experience for any local or tourist alike. Your day will instantly be better, guaranteed!

Ghirardelli Chicago
Hot Fudge Sundaes
Ghirardelli Chicago
Hot Fudge Sundae
View from Ghirardelli Chicago
The new shop also features a station where you can fill customizable gift tins with signature Ghirardelli squares!

Ghirardelli Chicago
Create Your Own Chocolate Tin
Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Ghirardelli Squares
You can also stop by the pick and mix station which features 14 different premium Ghirardelli products including chocolate covered sea salt cashews (personal fave), blueberries, malt balls, and raisins!

Ghirardelli Shop in the Wrigley Building
Pick and Mix
And lastly, what may be a new life goal for my future home, Ghirardelli has a milk chocolate tap that constantly pours luscious liquid chocolate. I REALLY wanted to stick my head under there (no shame). Their in-house chocolatier uses the chocolate to make hand-crafted products including slabs, molded bars, and seasonal items.

Get yourself to Ghirardelli this summer to enjoy one of their amazing sundaes! And don't be rude, take me with you!

Ghirardelli Chicago
Milk Chocolate Tap

OneTable's Nosh:pitality Event

A couple of weeks ago my friend Lauren and I attended a hands-on pickling workshop as part of the first ever Nosh:pitality event in Chicago. These events are organized by OneTable, an online hub that engages post-college, pre-family Millennials to create custom Shabbat dinner experiences. Although the idea stems from Jewish traditions, OneTable events are open to people of all different cultures and backgrounds. One goal of the Nosh:pitality events is to help participants learn skills for hosting their own dinner party.

The event I attended was held at the West Loop's WeWork space and featured a hands-on pickling workshop with Jonathan Posner of Wandering Foods Productions, as well as a spirits tasting with Noelle DiPrizio from Chicago Distilling Company in Logan Square.

I always wanted to learn how to pickle and it was really fun to learn with Jonathan's step-by-step instruction. Ultimately, we pickled three jars of green beans, carrots, and cucumbers with different brines including ingredients like dill, mustard seed, garlic, and red pepper flakes. It was a lot of fun, but the hardest part was waiting a week until our pickles were ready to eat (the carrots and green beans were great, but we put too much salt in the cucumbers!). However, we were told you could eat these homemade pickles after about twenty minutes, making them a perfect last-minute accompaniment to a home cooked meal. Of course the pickles do get better with time though! I'm rationing these babies out!


OneTable
Ready to Pickle!
OneTable
About to Pour the Salt on the Cucumbers
Homemade Brines
Homemade Brines
OneTable
Cucumbers Ready for Brine
OneTable
Adding Brine to Cucumbers
OneTable
The Finished Product
Lauren & Me
We also sampled some of Chicago Distilling Company's spirits including their vodka, gin, and white whiskey. While I'm not sure pickling and spirits go well together, it was cool to learn more about Chicago Distilling Company.

Chicago Distilling Company
Noelle DiPrizio of Chicago Distilling Company

Check out OneTable's website to find out more about what they're doing now that they've launched in Chicago, as well as their upcoming events!


DAVIDsTEA & a GIVEAWAY!

Specialty tea retailer DAVIDsTEA recently launched its Old Timey Treats Collection, featuring five brand new, limited-edition iced teas inspired by classic malt shop treats. The new flavors include Banana Split (a rich and creamy rooibos with chocolate, banana and sweet meringue), Black Cherry (a fruity black tea inspired by a classic cherry soda), orange-cherry Shirley Temple (an homage to the mocktail), Cotton Candy (sweet and nostalgic) and Mango Fruit Punch (with pineapple, mango and tangerine).

In celebration of the refreshing new tea collection, I've teamed up with DAVIDsTEA to offer one lucky Ghost Guest fan a DAVIDsTEA gift pack including:

  • Lemonade Stand Gift Pack: includes three citrus teas, rock sugar and a leak-proof, BPA-free pitcher with a fine mesh infuser (value $40)
  • The Old Timey Treats Collection: includes each of the five new summer teas mentioned above (value: $25)


DAVIDsTEA
Lemonade Stand Gift Pack
Photo Credit: DAVIDsTEA
DAVIDsTEA
Old Timey Treats Collection
Photo Credit: DAVIDsTEA
Enter below to win!

Open to Chicago-area residents only. Must arrange for prize pick-up. Contest ends Thursday, July 29th at midnight CST. Winner will be notified via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Tuesday, July 21

Recent Foodie Finds

Is it me, or is this summer flying by like crazy? I've been insanely busy eating my weight in donuts and fried chicken (not kidding) and it's time to share some of the best places I've been as of late.

Firecakes Donuts

First up, Firecakes Donuts in River North. My first visit to this tiny donut shop was way overdue but it was worth the wait (and weight!)! Emily and I stopped by on a Saturday and tried a few including the butterscotch praline, peanut butter chocolate, and rhubarb bourbon. All three were divine!

Firecakes
Firecakes
Firecakes
Butterscotch Praline Donut at Firecakes
Firecakes
Peanut Butter Chocolate Donut at Firecakes
Firecakes
Rhubarb Bourbon Fritter at Firecakes
Just Salad & Be Leaf

Working in the Loop has become even more exciting lately with the addition of several new fast casual salad concepts: New York import Just Salad, and local joint, Be Leaf. Both offer made-to-order and pre-designed salad options, but Just Salad definitely has more options. I made my own salad at Just Salad, but it was a very overwhelming experience. There are SO many options to choose from: type of greens, crunch, veggies, protein, dressings, etc. My advice? Study the menu in advance because the line moves very quickly during lunch. Also, you can easily spend $12 on a salad here if you're not careful.

My experience at Be Leaf was a bit less overwhelming but that's because I was there during non-peak hours and I gave up and chose one of their signature salad combos which was tasty. I like how they make all of their dressings, but there are no low-fat or low-cal options, and they charge extra for things like edamame! Want salmon on your salad? Fork over a fiver. The proximity of Be Leaf to my office would make me come back, but this is definitely not your everyday lunch spot, unless you can afford it.

Just Salad
Just Salad
Be Leaf
Be Leaf

Be Leaf
Be Leaf

Cemitas Puebla

Another lunch spot I finally visited was Cemitas Puebla in Fulton Market. Cemitas Puebla is known for their sandwiches baked on homemade sesame seed rolls. The bread is fantastic! I tried the al pastor sandwich with caramelized onions, avocado, house chipotle sauce, and Oaxacan cheese!  The chips and guac is fantastic too! I'm glad I finally crossed this place of my must-try list!

Cemitas Puebla
Guacamole at Cemitas Puebla
Cemitas Puebla
Al Pastor
Snap Kitchen

Another new Loop lunch spot is Snap Kitchen, a Texas import offering fast, fresh takeaway. All meals are made fresh daily and color coded by size. This place has an insane variety of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, and will soon offer juices. All entrees come refrigerated with easy heating instructions and full nutritional information. I liked how all items were clearly marked with allergens including gluten and dairy, and there were options for sodium conscious consumers and those following a Paleo diet.

Snap Kitchen hooked me up with practically a week's supply of food so I got to try a lot. The verdict? Every single thing I had was delicious. Not just kind of tasty. Delicious. My only gripe? I don't think some of the options are exactly healthy. Calorie counts are a major focus but some items had high daily values of cholesterol, saturated fat, or sodium, so make sure to read those nutrition labels!

Snap Kitchen is taking over Chicagoland with locations already in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the Loop, Naperville and soon, Old Town.

Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen
Greek Salad With Shrimp
Sprig

Have you heard of Sprig yet? It's a San Francisco-born startup that recently launched in Chicago! Via an app on iPhone and Android devices, you can order a fresh, organic meal made with high quality ingredients, all delivered in under 15 minutes. The company's mission is to make eating well simple and accessible. The menu changes everyday, and they often feature partnerships with high caliber chefs, including former White House Chef Sam Kass. Each dish ranges from $9-$13 plus a small delivery fee.

I checked it out for myself and was especially curious about the under 15 minute delivery guarantee. Let's just say my food arrived at my doorstep before I got home, so yea, it's fast! My friend Lauren and I tried the chicken pot pie and a roasted chicken thigh dish with cauliflower and quinoa. The chicken pot pie had way more flavor than the chicken which was pretty bland. I will say, the portions were very generous and the food wasn't soaking in heavy sauces or butter. I think I'd give it another shot in hopes that I just tried a boring dish.

Sprig
Sprig
Chicken Pot Pie & Chicken Thigh with Roasted Cauliflower
Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique

A few weeks ago, Sapna Dalal of The Vegetarian Tourist, hosted a sugar happy hour at her friend, Teresa Ging's bakery, Sugar Bliss, in the Loop. We had a blast sampling a variety of cupcakes, cake pops, and French macarons. The crowd favorite were the ice pops available for summer. Each ice pop is made with real fruit juices and come in flavors including mojito (my favorite), watermelon, and key lime pie. There's a coffee-flavored ice pop made with Intelligentsia Coffee!

Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Cupcakes
Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Macarons
Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Cake Pops
Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Cupcakes
Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Ice Pops
Sugar Bliss
Mojito Ice Pop
Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss Cake Pops
When we weren't getting a sugar high, we also had a chance to try making Sugar Bliss's signature flower frosting they place on their cupcakes. I struggled. Hard. I'm going to stick to eating cupcakes instead of frosting them. Yes, that is my sad interpretation of a frosting flower below. It's abstract...

Sugar Bliss
Learning to Ice Sugar Bliss Cupcakes
Sugar Bliss
Learning to Ice Sugar Bliss Cupcakes
Because Sugar Bliss and I love you, they are offering you 10% any order of cupcakes, cake pops, french macarons and ice pops with code POPSRUS!

4th of July Weekend in Nashville

There's something I just love about Nashville. I find myself there once a year in the Summer to take in the great food, culture and music. The BF and I randomly ended up there for July 4th weekend and it was an indulgent weekend filled with some of the best food and drink Nashville has to offer. I trolled Instagram for some of Nashville's hot spots and ended up at Rolf and Daughters, where we had dinner on our first night. This ended up being my favorite meal of the weekend. It's hard to grab a reservation so we just showed up and sat at the bar. It felt like walking into Au Cheval on a Saturday night at 8pm and getting seated immediately. R.A.D. has a beef tartare with a cult following that we of course had to try. We also loved their homemade pastas. Make sure you hit this place up if you're in Nashville!

Rolf and Daughters
Beef Tartare
Other food highlights included food-truck-turned-restaurant Biscuit Love and their ridiculously delicious biscuit sandwiches and biscuit donut holes, or "bonuts". Crack on a plate. All of it. Especially "The Princess," a Nashville hot chicken biscuit sandwich with house pickles, mustard and honey. Another must-visit restaurant in Nash.

Biscuit Love
Biscuit Love
Biscuit Love
Bonuts with Lemon Mascarpone and Blueberry Compote
Biscuit Love
"The Princess" 
I always make a stop at touristy Loveless Cafe when in town. I don't care how gimmicky it is. I love their biscuits and homemade jam. I was less-than-impressed with their fried chicken this time around, but their BBQ never disappoints. Nothing says Happy Birthday America than a plate of fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and hash brown casserole. Or something like that...

Loveless Cafe
Fried Chicken at Loveless Cafe
Loveless Cafe
Biscuits and Homemade Jam
When we weren't eating, we were checking out the local craft beer scene. We made it to four breweries:
Our favorites were Tennessee Brew Works which also served beer bread (!) and had a great outdoor patio, and The Black Abbey which had a killer porter!

Tennessee Brew Works
Tennessee Brew Works
Beer Bread
Beer Bread at Tennessee Brew Works
The Black Abbey Brewing Company
The Black Abbey Brewing Company
The BF and I played the most epic game of Jenga at Jackalope Brewing Company. Seriously. We had an audience. Cheap thrills!

Jackalope Brewing Company

We also checked out a totally Instagram-worthy coffee shop, Barista Parlor. It was a hipster's paradise and I had the best $7 latte of my life there :) Hey--they make their own almond milk, and this lactose-fearing gal likes her almond milk.

Barista Parlor
Barista Parlor
Barista Parlor
Latte at Barista Parlor
Battle of the Burger

Battle of the Burger
Photo Credit: Battle of the Burger
Last, but definitely not least, I want to tell you about a delicious event coming up this week!

This Thursday, July 23rd, you can find me at the 3rd annual Battle of the Burger held by RedEye and presented by Amstel Light. The event takes place at the Chicago History Museum and will crown Chicago's best burger. The competition began with 100 bars/restaurants and RedEye readers narrowed the number down to 20, all of which will be at the event Thursday where final voting will take place. Food Network Star of “The Kitchen” and “Sandwich King” Jeff Mauro will guest host the event!

Participating bars/restaurants include:
  • Bad Apple
  • Chef’s Burger Bistro
  • Claddagh Irish Pub
  • Davanti Enoteca
  • Good Stuff Eatery
  • Leadbelly
  • Lotties Pub
  • Rockit Burger Bar
  • Rt 12 Bar & Grill
  • Shelby Campbell’s Tavern & Grill
  • Standard Bar & Grill
  • Temple Bar (Beef & Barley)
  • The Assembly American Bar & Café
  • The Range Grill & Tap
  • Whisk 

Tickets start at $40 but since I love you, you can get $5 off with my code: REDEYE5A

Hope to see you there!


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