Thursday, May 21, 2015

Giordano's opens today at Navy Pier

Pizza lovers who like to hang out at "The Pier" (Navy Pier, that is) can rejoice as a piece of Chicago's famous food culture - the legendary Giordano's Famous Stuffed Pizza officially opens today at that site. This is the 51st location for Giordano's and is located on the north side of the pier's main entrance. There's also an outdoor patio space so that you can enjoy that big slice of heaven while gazing out at the great city of Chicago.

But wait...there's more good news. :) If you don't have time for a sit-down meal, you can still enjoy this slice of Chicago from a new grab-and-go kiosk alongside the pier's outdoor entry point at the promenade. It's a great, convenient way to have good eats without slowing down. Enjoy your pizza as you walk the length of the pier and take in the beauty of the lake and the skyline. At the kiosks you can get 6-inch individual stuffed pizzas from a built-in oven. It's near the entrance of the pier by the car drop off and will be open during regular pier hours. Happy eating!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Toast & Jam open in Schererville, IN

From the inbox today - Good news! It looks like there's a new breakfast and lunch place to choose from when you hop over the border into Indiana.

Start the day out right with Toast & Jam

New breakfast and lunch restaurant now open in Schererville

Schererville, Ind. (May 20, 2015) - Toast & Jam Breakfast & Lunch Café in Schererville has opened its doors and is serving breakfast and lunch daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Toast & Jam will be hosting its grand opening the first week of June, which will feature many fun events and happenings.

Breathing new life into the building that formerly housed Kelsey’s Steakhouse, Toast & Jam hired the interior design team of Mixdesign, Inc. to create fresh new custom décor features utilizing antique toasters, mason jar light fixtures to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The café offers guests homemade meals featuring breakfast and lunch classics, as well as specialty menu items such as Mediterranean strata and Cajun chicken mac and cheese.

Owners Nick Karounos and Sam Cappas are excited to open this new venture in Schererville.

“We have been very pleased with the support that we have received from the community. Schererville is a vibrant and growing town and we are proud to be a part of it. We look forward to serving our guests delicious food and making them feel at home,” said Cappas.

Toast & Jam features two separate spaces for guests to enjoy. The “Toast” side of the café is the perfect place to savor breakfast or lunch. The “Jam” room is available for special events and parties, seating up to 80 people. Guests of the “Jam” room can enjoy a private bar, large presentation TV and king’s table, and choose delicious fare from a custom menu.

Located at 7311 Mallard Lane in Schererville, Toast & Jam Breakfast & Lunch Café is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit or call 219-769-0000.

Famous Dave's Party on the Patio this weekend with free buffet

Well, we are gearing up for the first official weekend of the summer season! Famous Dave's is a great place to relax and enjoy the long weekend and they have some fun plans that even include a free buffet.

Who doesn't love Famous Dave's? I'm a big fan and it's funny - I have a niece who had gone to Japan to teach for a year, met a nice Australian fellow, married him and had two kids and when they came to the U.S. for a visit last summer, her husband Alex's first food request was some good barbecue from Famous Dave's.

Last year I attended a grand re-opening of the location in Bolingbrook and had the opportunity to try out many of their great new small bites bar menu options. There's absolutely something to please everyone.

Another cute story about Famous Dave's I have to share. Last August, my niece Kelly and I went to Chicago Gourmet and as I was leaving Millennium Park to head to the train station, I see Famous Dave himself sitting on a bench waiting for his ride. I'd seen him earlier inside one of the tents, but the line was long and we were headed to another scheduled event, so we didn't get a chance to talk to him.

I wasn't sure if he'd want to be bothered after a long, hot day at the event, but I couldn't help myself. "Hi, Famous Dave!" I said as I walked by. Well, he was in the mood to chat. He talked about his Native American roots and his fond memories of the time he lived in Chicago. He was the nicest guy. He even grabbed my plate from the fest and went to town with a Sharpie and I got this sweet souvenir. He's quite the artist!

So, anyway...back to the Memorial Day weekend stuff going on at Famous Dave's. This info was sent to me about the festivities that start on Thursday and run through Sunday. If you haven't been to Famous Dave's lately, get on over there this weekend and enjoy some time on the patio with a drink and some bites. There's a chance to win raffle prizes, too!


Chicago has two seasons, winter and patio season! Famous Dave's is launching the official start to summer with a weekend long bash at four of their Chicagoland locations (Addison, Bolingbrook, Orland Park and Oswego). The festivities kick off Thursday, May 21 - Sunday May 24, everyday from 4pm - 9pm. The festivities will include drink specials; raffle prizes and a free buffet from 4pm - 6pm. Guests can jam out to live music at Bolingbrook, Orland Park and Oswego locations. Fresh air included at no extra charge! 

Burger with Nitro Milk Stout grilled onions

One nice topping for burgers is onions. Some like them raw, some like them grilled. And when they are grilled, soaking them in beer is the way to go. The latest batch of burgers went on the grill and beside them was a foil pan filled with sliced onions, a couple pats of butter and a bottle of Left Hand Brewing's Nirto Milk Stout. It was a great addition to the beef patty topped with Muenster cheese, pickle slices, lettuce, tomato and bruschetta topping.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Journeyman Distillery: Three Oaks, Michigan

I've written before about how much we enjoy spending time in Three Oaks, Michigan. From where I live it's only an hour away, even less than that if traffic is good and you drive a little fast - not that I do that. :) You drive by open fields and farm land once you are off of I-94, so it has that appeal of being off the beaten path. However, once you get there there are some spots that are so cool and chic, you feel like you are in downtown Chicago. So, really it's the best of both worlds. The downtown main street is quaint with some little cafes and shops, an independent movie theatre, a library housed in a cool, historic building, a Civil-war era meat shop, a brewery - and just off the main street is the Journeyman Distillery. It's housed in a historic factory that in many other locations likely would have been demolished. It's been converted into several business - the Acorn Theatre where live theatre shows take place (it also houses a little gift shop with wines), a garden and antique shop and the Journeyman Distillery. 

In converting the space into a distillery, it kept elements that are reminiscent of a century ago - like weathered bricks on the walls, yet it's added sleek modern touches and there's a wall of windows where you can peek in at where all the magic happens. 

Sometimes when we are hanging in town, we make a stop there after lunch for a drink (they make an awesome Moscow Mule, if that's your thing!) On our most recent stop, we tried a Smoking Peach and also tried out a flight. I love sampling, so the flight seemed a good option. And yeah, I was reminded of why I don't drink whiskey and bourbon and all that stuff straight (simply put, I'm a lightweight and need something tamer, sweeter and fruitier), but I did find something I am a huge fan of - Old Country Goodness, a.k.a. O.C.G. It's like sipping on some very sweet apple cider and something that could easily get you in trouble because it's so smooth.

Anyway, I've only been to Journeyman on our daytime stops when things are pretty laid back and quiet. The venue is also available for private events (what a cool spot for a small wedding!) and they occasionally have live entertainment. There are also a number of goodies in the gift shop. If you find yourself in the area, stop by there for a drink...or two!

Journeyman Distillery

109 Generation Drive
Three Oaks, MI

Monday, May 18, 2015


Bruchetta is such a refreshing appetizer ~ the aroma and flavor of fresh tomatoes and herbs make it a favorite. It's also very easy to make and later in the summer, when we have both fresh tomatoes and fresh basil in the garden, it's super convenient.

4 plum tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons or so of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I buy it in a jar from Aldi - fresh is even better)
dash of sea salt
dash of pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1 baguette, sliced and toasted

Mix together and scoop on top of toasted bread. I also like to use it as a topping on burgers.

Bruchetta topping is also great on top of burgers

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Country Store & Catering: Sycamore, IL

I have the privilege this year being one of a group selected by the Illinois Farm Families to serve as a City Mom Blogger. Throughout the year, I have the opportunity to visit several farms and hear from the experts and see first hand where our food comes from.

Although I live in a bustling burb, I adore farm life. My husband and I often joke that he missed his calling of being a farmer. He loves the outdoors, gardening, yard work, fresh produce, tractors and getting up with the chickens. We've been to a number of farms over the years with our sons, from living history farms to U-pick fruit farms to a modern dairy farm. We make an annual trek to a festive pumpkin farm. We've stayed at a farm bed & breakfast where the kids gathered chickens for breakfast and looked on as the Amish neighbors at the neighboring farm did their chores.  We've spent time on my cousin's soybean and feed corn farm in central Illinois where the kids had tons of room to roam. 

So, when I paid a visit recently to Gould Farms in Maple Park, Illinois as part of a day dedicated to pork education with the City Moms, I loved being out in the rural area even if it was a chilly spring day and we spent most of it inside.

The day included a tour of the farm, an introduction to the Gould family's history, mission and operations, a presentation by a representative of Hormel and a demonstration from Country Store & Catering in Sycamore. 

The Country Store & Catering prepared lunch for our group with butterfly-cut pork chops, baked beans, steakhouse potato salad and pasta salad. Everything was made from scratch using all-natural ingredients and no preservatives and was quite good. The pork chops were huge, but I went ahead and put one between two fresh rolls, slathered it with some zesty barbecue sauce and ate as much as I could.

For our demo by Tom Ulrich from the Country Store, we learned a little about how to prepare pork and learned a few tips of the trade. Here are a few bits of the pork 411:

- Tom makes all his products on a charcoal grill - his favorite method of cooking pork.

- He recommends seasoning a day or two before to allow it to work its way into the meat.

- Rubbing pork with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice opens up the pores to allow the spices to penetrate. 

- Cozzini knives are a favorite of butchers.

- Cut a slit in a pork roast and stuff the center with herbs or cheeses.

- For a big pork loin, cook just to a 145 internal temperature as the temperature continues to rise after removed from heat.

- Mix beef and pork and boil with pepper and onions then simmer for 3 hours for a great shredded meat sandwich.

- Make a lattice pattern with bacon as a topper for a pork roast.

- Once cut, it's best to use pork within 3 to 4 days. You can extend that by a few days by using seasonings and salt.

I also learned that if you purchase a big pork loin, you can separate it to use it several different ways. One pork loin can be converted into a pork roast, country ribs, pork chops and cubed stew meat. The demonstration was a great way to finish out our day.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mother's Day lunch

Mother's Day arrived and we had no reservations anywhere. I wanted to go to lunch with the boys. And I had just won two $25 gift cards for Buffalo Wild Wings in a raffle, so I suggested we go there. "Are you sure?" my husband asked more than once, knowing that the place is way more "man cave" than it is a relaxing, lunch spot. But being a mom of five boys, "man cave" stuff is pretty familiar.

So, I spent Mother's Day afternoon with my husband and my boys in a crowded, noisy sports bar. I sipped on a Twisted Margarita while I watched bits of the Bulls game and Cubs game. I munched on more fried foods that I'd eaten in a long time. And I sat at the table glancing at these kids who are becoming men and lamenting over where the time has gone.

They are currently ages 10, 11, 13, 15 and 20. I remember the early days when I niavely figured it would get easier...nothing could be harder than sleepless nights and diaper changing, right? But, each stage is its own level of "hard" and it's an ongoing challenge to meet the basics of survival with lots of encouragement, working to help them find their niche and place in the world and stepping back and letting them make their own choices - and mistakes. It's hard work, but it's well worth it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hawaiian Luau Luncheon for Teacher Appreciation Week

Just thought I'd share some pics from this cute Hawaiian Luau themed luncheon that the PTA had for the teachers and volunteers during Teacher Appreciation Week. On the menu were "Hawaiian Sliders" aka ham sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls with shrimp and pineapple skewers, corn on the cob, fruit salad, Hawaiian salad and a cool banana cake decorated with the Hawaiian theme with a shoreline, surfboards, a dancer in a grass skirt and a volcano.

Loved this creative cake that followed the Hawaiian theme.

The PTA did a nice job of decorating the Teachers Lounge and handed out leis to each person who attended. :)

From the inbox: Lou Malnati's opens 41st location

Last week there was a new addition to the family of locations of Chicago exclusive Lou Malnati's. The 41st restaurant opened May 6 in Lincoln Square/North Center.


Just in time for Chicago’s al fresco dining season, Lou Malnati’s will offer great outdoor dining space in Lincoln Square. 

Chicago, April 29, 2015 . . . In 1971, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria ( opened their first restaurant on Lincoln Avenue in Lincolnwood. On Monday, May 4, the family owned business will open their 41st location just four miles down the road at 4340 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s iconic Lincoln Square/North Center community. There will be a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, May 6 at 1:00pm.
“We are pleased to bring Chicago’s best deep dish pizza to the Lincoln Square and North Center neighborhoods,” said Marc Malnati, owner of Lou Malnati’s. “Our newest location puts us in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood and we are excited to be part of the community. This also fills a void we’ve had between our Lincolnwood and Lincoln Park service areas for far too long.”

The décor consists of muted blues, greens and oranges and the neon sign out front evokes a retro atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950's & 1960's.  Inside, a wall of windows and a “living wall” filled with plants, brings the feel of the outdoors into the restaurant year round while retractable glass doors allow for the dining room to open up onto a seasonal patio.  The large outdoor area will allow patrons to enjoy Chicago’s summer days and evenings.  

Located just south of the Old Town School of Folk Music, Sulzer Library and Welles Park, the newest Lou Malnati’s will be a key member of the Lincoln Square and North Center communities. As part of the company’s ongoing commitment to the Chicagoland area, this location will offer a variety of programs to support qualifying local charities and schools.

The new location will add 100+ jobs to the community. It will seat 172 people. Carryout, delivery and catering services will also be offered. 

About Lou Malnati’s
Lou Malnati’s is a family-owned company with 41 locations in the Chicago area. They have grown by stressing consistency in quality, service and food which is offered in a unique environment by a staff that is committed to one another, our customers and our community.