Recent Foodie Finds

February 22, 2016

PRE Beef

I recently had the chance to try a new line of high quality grass fed beef from PRE Beef, a Chicago-based company changing the retail beef game. PRE Beef is sourced from New Zealand and they claim it is the freshest and highest quality beef in the grocery store. The brand uses a 15 step quality control checklist ensuring you always get the top 10% of the beef cuts available globally.

The packaging is very attractive and transparent, allowing you to see the entire cut of beef. It’s very fast and easy to defrost the meat from frozen, and it cooks super fast because its leaner than your average red meat. 

PRE Beef
PRE Beef

Each package also includes recipe ideas which are featured on PRE's website.

PRE Beef
I used PRE Beef to prepare two separate dinners with the BF. The first was an attempt to recreate the steakhouse experience at home. I chose to freeze the steaks but it only took about 30 minutes to defrost them. I simply brushed each steak (one tenderloin and one ribeye) with olive oil and sprinkled on some kosher salt and black pepper. I placed the steaks in a hot pan for six minutes per side, and they were perfectly cooked to my liking (medium)! I couldn't believe how fast they cooked, and how nice and crispy the crust was.

Sizzlin' in the Pan
Perfectly Cooked
I paired the steaks with charred balsamic Brussels sprouts, crushed rosemary potatoes, and homemade sourdough from the BF (and a juicy glass of cabernet sauvignon!). We both thought the quality of the meat was as good as you'd find in a restaurant, at a fraction of the cost of course!

PRE Beef, Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, Rosemary Potatoes & Homemade Sourdough
I also experimented with PRE lean ground beef. They offer much leaner varieties than you typically might find at the store. I used 95% extra lean ground beef and mixed with with a blend of spices PRE listed in a taco recipe on its website. Again, the meat cooked crazy fast, and I topped the tacos with onion, cilantro, hot sauce and lime. Because the meat was super lean, it was slightly dry, but adding hot sauce or salsa definitely helped.

PRE Beef Tacos
We loved the quality of the beef and felt it far surpassed other store-bought beef. If you're interested in trying PRE Beef, you can pick some up at Mariano’s or Treasure Island stores across Chicago! 

Note: I received complimentary PRE Beef to facilitate this post; however, all opinions are my own.

Another weekend, another new brunch spot! This time I landed at River Valley Farmer's Table in Ravenswood. River Valley is a store and restaurant all in one! You can purchase their farm-to-table goods from their farm in Burlington, Wisconsin, including mushrooms and pickles, as well as other goods like salsa and hot sauce. These people are crazy about mushrooms, and they certainly grow some delicious varieties. They also sell items including breads and pastries from Chicago-area stores.

Chicago Farm to Table
River Valley Farmer's Table
Chicago Farm to Table
River Valley Farmers Table
Chicago Farm to Table
Housemade Hot Sauce
I met up with Shelley from Chicago is My Boyfriend and Inez De La Fuente, for Saturday brunch. The place was super crowded and it's not a huge restaurant so I recommend arriving early. Shelley ordered a delicious bloody Mary topped with what else? Mushrooms!

Chicago Farm to Table
Bloody Mary
We snacked on some fried mushrooms, pickles, and cheese curds to start, paired with housemade salsa and a cheese dipping sauce.

Chicago Farm to Table
Fried Mushrooms, Cheese Curds and Pickles
For the main event, we tried the mushroom and egg tacos with five types of mushrooms, fermented black beans, cabbage slaw, heirloom salsa and scrambled farms eggs, as well as mushroom tamales, also topped with eggs and salsa, as well as a side of breakfast potatoes.

Chicago Farm to Table
Brunch at River Valley Farmers Table
You might recognize River Valley from their appearances at farmer's markets across the city. I first tried their tamales at the Daley Plaza farmer's market and fell in love. However, I thought the version at the restaurant wasn't as good, since it was fairly dry, even with the mushroom salsa on top.

Breakfast Tamales
Shelley and Inez enjoyed the tacos but definitely could have split one order since the tacos were so big.

Chicago Farm to Table
Mushroom and Egg Tacos
Chicago Farm to Table
Breakfast Potatoes
It was nice to try a new brunch spot, especially one featuring farm fresh ingredients. Some food was better than others, but I definitely recommend it if you're a mushroom fan. It's also a great place for vegan or vegetarian diners. The staff was extremely warm and welcoming while we were there, even offering us a snack while we waited for an open table. However, we had to keep asking for coffee, and part of my order was missing upon arrival. 

I'm giving River Valley Farmer's Table 3.5 ghosts out of 5!

Last week I completed a two day juice cleanse from Owen + Alchemy, the Logan Square "juice apothecary." I'd never done a juice cleanse before, let alone tried juices from Owen + Alchemy, so I didn't know what to expect. They recommend doing a three day cleanse, but for a foodie like me, eliminating food from my diet (and schedule) for more than two days was a big no-no. I basically wanted to try it because 1) I've never done one before and 2) I could use a "reset" (have you seen what I've eaten lately on Instagram?!).

Juice Cleanse
Owen + Alchemy Juice Cleanse
The juices are all numbered based on their categories (greens, fruit, root, savory, nut/seed) and you can purchase them on their own in Owen + Alchemy's Logan Square store, or their pop-up shop inside Eataly. You can choose to pick up your cleanse, or have it delivered. Since I live in Lakeview, I had them deliver to me for a $10 fee. Each day of the cleanse is boxed up and comes with a pamphlet of info, directions and Q&A for your cleanse.

Each day of the cleanse involves drinking six juices, one every 3 hours, plus one tea in the morning, and one in the evening. It's a lot of liquid!

Juice Cleanse
Cleanse Instructions
Here's a recap of everything I drank and my thoughts:

Calm Tea: pretty mild smell and taste, greenish/yellow in color, tastes like a mild green tea

Hunger Before (on a scale from 1-10): 6 After: 4
Taste (on a scale from 1-10): 9

06 Kale, Parsley, Coconut Water, Romaine, Ginger: Vibrant green color, not gritty like other leafy juices I've tried. It's not bitter at all because it has balanced sweetness from coconut water. I was surprised to see it had 10 grams of protein.

Hunger Before: 5 After: 4
Taste: 8

Juice Cleanse
Juice 06
15 Apple, Ginger, Lemon, Cayenne: Not overly ginger-y, nice sweetness and a kick at the end from the cayenne. Tastes like biting into a crisp and juicy apple. This was my second favorite.

Hunger Before: 6 After: 4
Taste: 9

42 Heirloom Tomato, Organic Himalayan Sea Salt: Very bright and acidic, salty finish, tastes like a liquid tomato...could use some vodka ;) I could barely drink this one because I hate tomato juice. Definitely my least favorite.

Hunger Before: 5 After: 2
Taste: 1

02 Kale, Romaine, Napa Cabbage, Parsley, Celery, Cucumber, Himalayan Sea Salt: Not as balanced as the 06 juice, a little gritty toward the bottom, can taste the salt and parsley. My second-least favorite.

Hunger Before: 10 After: 7
Taste: 6

33 Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple, Cinnamon, Ginger, Sea Salt: Sweet, strong ginger taste, hint of cinnamon and slight saltiness.

Hunger Before: 7 After: 1
Taste: 9

Juice Cleanse
33 Juice
54 Raw Hazelnut, Cacao, Cinnamon, Raw Local Honey: Nutty, consistency of almond milk, basically a healthy Nutella shake. Sweetest, a little chalky from the nut, but this was definitely my favorite.

Hunger Before: 2 After: 1
Taste: 10

Juice Cleanse
54 Juice
Metabolize Tea: Darker in color than the Calm tea, but also very mild, smells a bit sweet and almost nutty.

Hunger Before: 0 After: 0
Taste: 9

Juice Cleanse
Calm and Metabolize Teas
Here's how I'd rank all six juices:

1) 54 Raw Hazelnut, Cacao, Cinnamon, Raw Local Honey
2) 15 Apple, Ginger, Lemon, Cayenne:
3) 33 Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple, Cinnamon, Ginger, Sea Salt:
4) 06 Kale, Parsley, Coconut Water, Romaine, Ginger
5) 02 Kale, Romaine, Napa Cabbage, Parsley, Celery, Cucumber, Himalayan Sea Salt
6) 42 Heirloom Tomato, Organic Himalayan Sea Salt

So what do I think overall? First of all, this was difficult. I realized how many times a day I think about food when I wasn't able to eat food. I had varying levels of hunger throughout the day as I noted, but I was never starving. I will say, it was hard to drink all of the juices. If you're supposed to drink six juices, one every three hours, that's 18 hours of juicing, leaving only six hours of sleep. I sleep more than six hours, so I found myself drinking some of the juices back to back. 

I can tell you the "cleanse" part worked (I'll spare you the details), and I did feel like I was better able to focus on better-for-you foods after coming off of the cleanse. I also felt like I had more energy and focus the first day, but the second day was definitely harder, and I had a hard time focusing. I'm glad I didn't do it for three days, and I probably won't try it again, but I did really like four of the six juices and would pick up a bottle or two in the future.

Have you ever tried a juice cleanse? If so, what was your experience like? If not, would you try one?

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