Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Home Run Inn Pizza now open in Lakeview

When the Chicago Foodie Sisters got an invite to check out the new Home Run Inn Pizza location that opened last month in Lakeview, I was eager to get there and give it a try. Although there are several locations in Chicagoland, I had only known Home Run Inn from the frozen version I'd had at home or the prepared slices I'd had at sporting events or places like Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm. It's totally the best frozen pizza out there, so I knew that getting it freshly prepared and hot out of the oven would only be even better.

When I found out that it was just steps off the red line at Belmont, I made plans with my friends, Lynnie and Debbie, to make a day of it - do some sampling at Home Run Inn and then make our way to Daley Plaza for the opening day of the Christkindlmarket. The location is super convenient and it made for a fun trip as we planned our day around it.

So, us three suburban gals hopped on the red line and hit Home Run Inn between lunch and dinner (they're open for lunch Friday - Sunday) ready to try out pizza and more. There's a nice selection of cocktails that we perused on our tablet menu, including this totes adorbs "Tea for Two" served in a carafe in this cute bucket with two glasses for the classic drink that is super smooth and goes down probably a little too easy. Lynnie enjoyed her sampling.

Debbie opted for a sweeter beverage, the Georgia Peach.

And I went for a refreshing glass of hard root beer.

On the appetizer menu, we tried out the popular bleu cheese fries. Not just bleu cheese fries, but but bleu cheese fries topped with bacon. I can't kid anyone into thinking that it is remotely healthy, but it is so worth the calories. This could have easily been my meal and I could have stopped there, but there was more to taste...so much more. So I begrudgingly stopped myself after a little scoop and saved room to keep tasting.

Next we tried out the bruschetta, a classic appetizer that I love. Every place seems to have their own little spin on it and I loved that rather than mini toasted Italian bread slices, this was served with large, thick slices of garlic cheese bread. Then that little bit of fresh parmesan on top finished it nicely. Again, I wanted to overindulge. That bread melted in your mouth.

Other appetizer options included mozzarella sticks, pretzel sticks with beer cheese dipping sauce and brown mustard and Tuscan white bean hummus.

With five salads on the menu, we had to sample one, so we settled on the HRI Signature Salad - a blend of romaine with marinated pasta, parmesan, bacon, black olives, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans and craisins tossed with house gorgonzola Italian dressing. This was a great mix of flavors and textures and the dressing was very light. The salads come in small, entree or family portions. Pictured is a small. I'm thinking the family size would feed a small army. :) Portions of everything were very generous and great for sharing.

Now onto the centerpiece of the sampling - the pizza. I don't think I had ever tried anything besides the sausage pizza, so I wanted to sample something different. These are the 8" personal size pizzas, which each had six slices.

There are a number of specialty pizzas on the menu along with the option of creating your own. Some of the featured pizzas are Laura's Favorite with spinach and plum tomatoes on garlic butter crust, the Mediterranean with Turkey sausage, roasted red peppers, black olives and fresh garlic and the Garlic Fireball with sausage, jalapeño peppers and giardiniera on garlic butter crust.

We tried out the Nick's Super with sausage, mushroom and bell peppers and onions and a grilled artichoke, roasted garlic and spinach (and we added onions,) with a white wine cream sauce.  Both were fantastic with great flavor, a nice flaky crust and perfectly cooked.

If somehow you live around Chicago and don't prefer pizza (is that even possible?), you can also choose from a variety of sandwiches and pastas. They also have a kids menu with options of pizza, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, grilled chicken with carrot sticks or rigatoni.

By the time we got to dessert, I didn't think I could take another bite, but managed a couple. We tried the Ghirardelli Chocolate Bomb Cupcake. They've also got three other gourmet cupcakes and they even have some in to-go cups at the front counter. This one had rich, dark Ghirardelli chocolate cupcake with chocolate chips, topped with creamy mousse and chocolate fudge. This chocoholic gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

And at the recommendation of manager, Fernando, we also sampled their Signature Cookie Monster dessert. Actually, this is the mini version. It's got a warm chocolate cookie crust topped with vanilla ice cream whipped cream, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce.

The atmosphere is trendy, yet cozy. Loved the exposed brick and the hardwood floors that were flawlessly smooth, but without that blinding shiny glossy look. Props on the bar, too, where the brick is carried over with subtle under lighting, giving a classy vibe.

And I always say that a place can have the best food, but the experience isn't complete unless the service is awesome. Shout out to Tiwan for the great job as a server for our group.

3215 N. Sheffield Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657

***Disclosure: I did receive a complimentary meal. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Grindhouse Cafe

For many months I've been hearing about Grindhouse Cafe, a trendy little coffee and sandwich shop in downtown Griffith, Indiana, and I've been meaning to get there. I happen to meet the owner, Gabe, at a charity cooking competition event recently (we were both on the judging panel) and that renewed my interest and got me to make a special trip to Griffith.

Unfortunately, I'm not a coffee drinker (I hear the coffee there is magnificent) and I really prefer iced tea to hot tea. This Jamaican Rooibos hit the spot. I've been craving it ever since my stop there.

Although the chicken salad comes highly recommended, the Croque Grindhouse caught my eye. Loved the lightly toasted sourdough with ham, provolone and Swiss cheese with apple and herb dijon mustard and served with a side of chips. I was very pleased and will plan to get back there soon to try out the chicken salad that everyone raves about.

There's also a big selection of loose leaf teas.

And a nice selections of sweets. I'm a sucker for scones, so I got a lemon ginger one (It. Was. Heavenly.) and a cranberry one to go.

They also have a nice selection of breakfast items that sound like they are worth getting up early for.

146 N. Broad St.
Griffith, IN
(219) 595-5678

Aurelio's Pizza

If you're from the Chicago area, and particularly the south suburbs, you have most likely tried Aurelio's Pizza. With a crispy crust and mounds of gooey cheese, Aurelio's is a favorite of Chicago pizza lovers. Many swear by the old Homewood location, dating back to the 1970's where the pizza just seems to taste a notch better than at any other location. Maybe it's the oven. Maybe it's the nostalgia. Maybe it's the atmosphere. Whatever it is, it's good. If you've yet to try it out, be sure to head to Homewood or visit one of their many other locations. This was my recent Aurelio's Pizza - from the Munster, Indiana location. Go to aureliospizza.com for more information.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tilted Kilt Shares Street Taco Recipe

Who doesn't love a good taco? Especially now that the chilly weather has kicked in and it's the season of hunkering down on weekends to watch football and eat comfort food. Tilted Kilt serves up some tasty street tacos and they've shared the recipe, which you'll find below:

Mazina Tortillas 4.5’’ 3 ea
Cabbage-Cilantro Mix* 1.5 oz-wt
Salsa Verde* 1.5 oz-fl
Green Chili Pork* 6 oz-wt
Cilantro-Onion Relish* 3 tbsp
Fried Corn Tortilla Chips 1.5 oz-wt
Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa* 2.5 oz-fl
Lime Wedge

1. Heat Green Chili Pork in the microwave for 2 minute.
2. Heat Mazina Tortilla for 5 seconds on each side then place them on a large plate @ 7, 10 and
11 O’ Clock position of plate.
3. Add the Cabbage-Cilantro, Salsa Verde, Green Chili Pork and Cilantro-Onion Relish. (In that
4. Portion and place the tortilla chips @ 3 O’ clock position of platter.
5. Portion and place the Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa in the center of plate.
6. Place the lime wedge @ 1 O’clock Position of plate.

2015 Eater Awards Announced

Well, it's foodie award season and another list has been revealed. This one celebrates the best of the newbies. I'm happy to see some of my new favorites on the list. Congrats to all the winners and nominees as well, who continue to help the Chicago food scene soar to new heights.

I'm sharing the award winners posted today by Eater. Find the full article here.

Eater Awards 2015
Restaurant of the Year
NomineesThe Angry CrabDove's LuncheonetteThe Duck Inn, Intro, Momotaro
Finalists: The Duck Inn, Intro, Momotaro
Winner: The Duck Inn
It's not easy being the restaurant poster-child for one of Chicago's classic working-class neighborhoods, but creative everyman chef Kevin Hickey and an unlikely partnership with the Rockit Ranch group leaped over the bar by both reigniting south-side Bridgeport and creating one delicious restaurant with The Duck Inn.
Chef of the Year
Nominees: Ashlee Aubin, Dennis Bernard, Kevin Hickey, Jimmy Papadopoulos, Jason Paskewitz
Finalists: Jimmy Papadopoulos, Jason Paskewitz, Kevin Hickey
Winner: Jimmy Papadopoulos
One of Chicago's best new chefs rose from relative obscurity to put his creative stamp on a cuisine that many Chicagoans were born and raised on. The unique spins and gorgeous presentations Papadopoulos puts on Eastern European cuisine at Bohemian House make him a chef to watch for years to come.
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Paul McGee, Julia Momose, Liz Pearce, Freddie Sarkis, Brian Sturgulewski
Finalists: Julia Momose, Paul McGee, Liz Pearce
Winner: Paul McGee
Five bars. That's how many openings - and cocktail programs - celebrated cocktailer Paul McGee oversaw in 2015, including his hit tiki follow-up to Three Dots and a Dash (Lost Lake) and four bars within the gorgeously restored Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
So Hot Right Now
NomineesThe BlanchardBoeufhausBom Bolla, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, GreenRiver
Finalists: The Blanchard, Boeufhaus, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
Winner: Boeufhaus
A few of Chicago's top restaurant groups and chefs opened steakhouses in 2015. But perhaps the city's best new meat-driven restaurant came from a pair of relative unknowns in a neighborhood not known for pricey cuisine - and some of its best, most creative dishes aren't even the steaks.
Stone Cold Stunner
Nominees: The Betty, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, The Drifter, The Franklin Room, Swift & Sons
Finalists: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, The Franklin Room, Swift & Sons
Winner: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
The longtime private club and nineteenth century time capsule on Michigan Avenue underwent one of the most painstaking and gorgeous restorations in recent memory and the food and beverage concepts - mostly overseen by Land and Sea Dept (Longman & Eagle) - are now some of the most fascinating and special places to eat, drink and play in Chicago.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

From the Inbox: Get in on the Pocky Share-A-Bration Contest

I found this press release for this fun contest online today. If you have never tried Pocky, you don't know what you're missing. Introduced in Japan these light, tasty pretzel-like sticks are dipped in a variety of flavors. There's really no American treat anything like them. I was introduced to them a few years ago from my sister's Japanese exchange student, Yukiko. She still sends packages to my sister at Christmastime and I'm often lucky enough to have some passed on to me. I'm also thrilled to learn that they can be found in the Chicago area at Costco stores in addition to being available online at Amazon. Be sure to check out the contest, which runs through November 15.

Ezaki Glico U.S.A. Honors Fans of Famous Pocky & Pretz Treats with Share-A-Bration Contest  
Snack Lovers of World-Renowned Brand Will Have the Chance to Win 1,111 Possible Prizes in Exciting New Social Media Campaign 
Irvine, CA – Ezaki Glico U.S.A., maker of the Pocky brand of snack products, has just announced its upcoming Share-A-Bration contest, officially launching on November 11th and ending on November 15th. This latest “Share Happiness”-themed endeavor from the makers of the incredibly popular, chocolate-dipped treats has been designed to coincide with the brand’s annual customer appreciation day – which always occurs on 11/11, due to the snacks’ uncanny resemblance to the       number 1. The Official Glico Stick Day – also nationally recognized as Pocky & Pretz Day in the company’s home country, Japan – will kick off by giving fans the opportunity to win one of 1,111 possible prizes, the largest amount the brand has ever offered. 
Beginning at 12pm PST on November 11th, snack fans can log onto a number of Ezaki Glico U.S.A.’s social media sites – FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Instagram – and simply “like” or “follow” their popular Pocky snacks. From there, participants will be guided to the Share-A-Bration contest’s official site, also found by clicking http://sharepocky.com/stickday, where they will have an opportunity to “share” a box of one of five delicious stick-shaped treats from the brand, including three flavors of Pocky, Original Pretz, and chocolate-filled Pejoy (the latest snack addition to Glico’s lineup). Each time a box is “shared,” contestants will receive notification if they have won or need to try again. Contestants can play up to five times in one day, with an opportunity to start fresh each day until the Share-A-Bration ends. Possible prizes, awarded at random to lucky winners, include a Pocky Power Bank for charging smartphones, a compact Pocky Speaker, and a handy Pocky Towel. 
“Share-A-Bration is the perfect way for us to show our appreciation for the millions of Pocky lovers out there,” commented Shunsuke Nakai, President of Ezaki Glico U.S.A. “With 1,111 prizes to give out, we couldn’t think of a better way to say thank you for all the years of support as we continue to ‘Share Happiness’ with the world.” 
Ezaki Glico U.S.A. corporate offices are in Irvine, CA and they adhere to the Ezaki Glico philosophy “A Wholesome Life in the Best of Taste.” Please visit the website glicousa.com or pocky.com
Pocky was developed in Japan when the idea was suggested of coating the already popular Pretz, a pretzel-like stick snack treat, with chocolate at one end so that they could be held without having to worry about the fingertips becoming soiled. At first the sticks were manually dipped. However, as demand increased, the innovation and creativity of engineers was fired up to develop a “Glico-Original” manufacturing plant. Pocky flavors in the U.S. are Chocolate, Strawberry, Matcha Green Tea, Chocolate Banana, Cookies & Cream, and Milk Chocolate. Pejoy, introduced last year in the U.S., are crispy cookie biscuit shells filled with rich, smooth creams: Chocolate, Matcha Green Tea, and Cookies & Cream. Pretz flavors are Original, Pizza, Hot Chili Salad, Sweet Corn and Tom Yum.
About Ezaki Glico
Ever since the launch in 1922 of the nutritious, fortified Glico caramel in its distinctive red box, the business activities of Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd. adhered to the corporate philosophy of “Enhancing Public Health Through Food.” Upon the 70th anniversary of the Glico Group in 1992, this same spirit and dedication was incorporated into the revised corporate philosophy of “A Wholesome Life in the Best of Taste.”
Glico caramel – the company's first product – incorporates the innovative creativeness of Mr. Ri-ichi Ezaki, the company's founder. Ever since the beginning, the entire staff has likewise been heartily dedicated to further enhancing people's health and quality of life. This has led to the expansion of business lines beyond confectionery to include ice cream products, processed foods, desserts, milk products, baby formula, food ingredients, and raw materials for cosmetic and health products.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Add Cinnamon Pear Ginger Infused Water to your Thanksgiving table

With all the care put into presenting the perfect bird accompanied by beautiful mouthwatering sides, don't forget to complete your meal with attractive and refreshing beverages. Along side the wine and apple cider, fruit-infused water is a great, light beverage to offer your guests.

I'm a huge fan of infusing water with fruit and you almost never see me with a glass of water unless it has ample ice and a wedge of lemon, orange, lime or some berries in it. I've never tried pears before and this sounds like a great recipe where cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger are added with the pear to Jeju 16 bottled water, which is the #1 water brand in Korea and is also gaining popularity in Japan. This is a great way of adding a bit of seasonal flavor to your table and one that your guests are sure to love.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Foodie's Market Cafe

Foodie's Market Cafe in Dyer, Indiana has been a favorite local spot for me for quite some time now. I'm in the far south suburbs along the Indiana border, but I head into Indiana often for work or to shop or to take the kids to the doctor or dentist. So, I pass by this place often. 

When I judged a cooking competition last week and the judge beside me was the manager of Foodie's, it reminded me that is has been months since my last visit. So, I've had a hankering for one of their sandwiches and soups since that night.

I finally filled my craving on the way to a movie, where I stopped first for a bowl of their fabulous Steak and Ale Soup (my favorite of the soups there), which I paired with half of a BLT. I don't know what kept me away so long. I can't wait to get back there again.

There were a few changes since my last visit. The dining room has expanded, but that also means the gourmet section is quite a bit smaller. They've also added blue plate dinner specials in the past couple months, so you can get a hot, hearty dinner of classic diner comfort foods like pot pie, meatloaf and roasted pork along with a couple sides. 

Stop and check it out if you haven't already. Visit FoodiesMarketCafe.com for more info.

Judging the American Legion Chili Cook-Off

Last weekend I was invited to judge a chili cook-off at the Lansing American Legion Post #697. Every year in early November the Legion becomes the site of a big pancake breakfast hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 697, to benefit veterans. After breakfast is done upstairs, they get started on the chili cook-off downstairs.

It was the third cooking competition I had judged in three weeks (two of those involved all chili and the third had a few chili entrees in the appetizer category.) I'd also sampled several chilis at the 4th Annual Chili Cook-off at Lansing Autumn Fest. So, in less than a month's time I tried a total of over four dozen chili recipes. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

This competition at the American Legion has 11 entries of mostly traditional chili. One of my favorites was one that also had steak in it. Another favorite was a little more soupy that you'd expect a chili to be, but it had great flavor. It is so much fun getting to try out new recipes, whether they are from professional chefs, seasoned chili cooks or at-home amateurs. There's always something to learn - the most import being that no two chilis are ever the same. This one had cash prizes at steak, so these cooks took the competition very seriously!

The winning chili.

2nd place.

Third place winner.

Movie Review: Burnt

When I saw the trailer for the chef-centered movie, Burnt, I knew it was one I'd have to see...because I knew there would be some pretty things to look at between the food and Bradley Cooper. I recalled going to see the movie Chef and what a feel-good flick it was. And I guess because I was expecting a feel-good flick, I was a little disappointed. 

I'd like to hear the perspective of someone who has worked in an upscale, high-pressure kitchen like that portrayed in the film. Maybe it would hit close to home for them, but I'd rather believe that there are more chefs out there that are kinder and gentler and more about the joy of cooking than high-strung, short-tempered, plate throwing, bi-polar types. There really wasn't much feel-good in this film and they could have potentially had a really knockout, climatic ending, but they didn't. At. All. It's the only movie I've seen in the theatre in the past couple of years that I haven't cried at during some point in the film. I'm a cryer when I'm watching something on the big screen and totally in that zone - whether it's a drama, a comedy or an animated movie. I just didn't feel anything watching this one, except that it could have been so much better.

The story revolves around a once huge addict who let everything crumble while he fed his habit even after being handed good opportunities as a young chef in Paris - and his quest to acquire that third Michelin star. I thought there was a lot lacking in the relationships that could have made it more interesting and engaging.

The best part were the artfully crafted plates that were served, so if you're in it for the food porn, there's a bit of that.