Monday, December 11, 2017

Buona Beef Has Opened Two More Locations

You're not a true Chicagoan if you don't love a good Italian beef sandwich. You know what I'm talking about. Lean, tender well-seasoned beef on a soft French bread roll dripping with juice and loaded with giardiniera, perhaps with melted mozzarella oozing out the side.

The Original Italian Beef company, Buona, offers that distinctly Chicago sandwich and there are even more places to enjoy it now. Last month, Buona opened a location in Streeterville at 613 North McClurg Court. I attended opening day and the location is quite cozy and chic. Then earlier this month a new location opened at 6235 W. 95th Street in Oak Lawn. That brings the number of locations beyond 20. You'll find locations in several burbs - from Frankfort to Montgomery to St. Charles to Rolling Meadows - and a couple Chicago locations. And they're not done yet. I'm also hearing talk about a new location coming to Schererville in Northwest Indiana in the near future. That will be the closest one to me yet, so I'm doing a bit of a happy dance.

This year I also enjoyed my share of Buona beef or combo sandwiches while lounging in the upper deck at the Friendly Confines watching my beloved World Champion Cubbies (It's served at Guaranteed Rate Field, as well). And I was ecstatic this year to discover Buona products in the freezer section at Aldi, so that when I can't get to a location for a freshly made sandwich, I can make it at home or I can keep it in the freezer for an easy-to-prepare meal on a busy weeknight between cross country and chess and robotics and the teenagers' work schedules. You can also purchase meal kits at their restaurant, as well, complete with fresh bread and if you have a family gathering or work event coming up and you don't want to have to worry about cooking - they cater!

The first Buona restaurant began with a secret recipe and legacy that stems back to the beef stands of the Chicago Stockyards. Founder Joe Buonavolanto, Sr. was among a group of Italian immigrants who made the Italian beef sandwich a culinary Chicago classic. He opened his first restaurant in Berwyn in 1981. Today it's the last standing 100-percent family-owned Italian beef chain. 

Although it's pretty hard to pass up an Italian Beef when you visit one of their restaurants, they also have a huge selection of other really good grub on their menu. When I attended the opening of their Beverly location last year, I tried a number of items that all exceeded my expectations - pizza, milkshakes and a salad with a nice salmon filet on top. Oh, and be sure to try their homemade chips when you go - they are a perfect little side for your sandwich. For more info, visit

Friday, December 8, 2017

Crock Pot Casserole Crock Is One of My Favorite Purchases

Who doesn't love a Crock Pot? They help make cooking easier when you have a busy day. They keep you from dirtying a number of dishes in preparing and cooking. They let you cook things long and slow so you're free to do other things. I use mine year-round at least one a week.

When we got married I got a round Crock-Pot that I still have, 26 years later. It's seen better days. It's got some scratches and the knob broke off, but it still works and still comes in handy when I'm on a baking frenzy and want to make more than one meal in my Crock-Pot or we're having a gathering and I have a side dish or dip I want to keep hot. 

For a while I had a nice oval one, too, but it ended up getting dropped and broken. When I looked around online to replace it maybe 4 or 5 years ago, I came across a rectangular crock-pot. I was so excited and placed my order right then. There were many times when I wanted to make something in my round or even in the oval Crock Pot that just didn't fit. Sometimes it was a big chunk of meat like a roast or a corned beef brisket. Or sometimes I wanted to put in frozen meat that just wasn't flexible and you couldn't cut without thawing it a bit. Not to mention that there are 7 people in this house so when I cook, it's never small portions.

When the rectangular casserole crock arrived in the mail, I couldn't wait to try it out. And I instantly fell in love. It has been one of my very favorite purchases ever. Now I have no problem fitting a pork tenderloin in my Crock-Pot or a roast or a bag of chicken breasts that are all frozen together. I also love to make lasagna in the crock pot - and it worked in the oval one, but never fit well and I'd have to break a bunch of noodles and piece them together to make it fit. The big ceramic crock is removable, so it's easy to make something ahead and transport, too. It has a 3.5 quart capacity.

Someone recently told me they planned to purchase a Crock-Pot for someone as a gift and I urged them to get the casserole crock. I get so much more use out of it than I did my other ones. It's available at as well as at stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target and on their websites, as well. Currently, there is a coupon code on the site for 20 percent off on slow cookers - 
Use Code SAVE20. I have the basic model that has a dial with 3 settings - high, low and warm. There are now programmable models available, as well.

***I was not compensated for this post. This is just an honest review on a favorite purchase. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Stacked in Oak Lawn

I've been trying to weed through the photos on my computer and coming across some fabulous meals I had that I somehow never got posted to the blog. One of my very favorite breakfasts I had was at Stacked in Oak Lawn. My friend Michelle and I stopped there following a book reading/signing of our children's book Into the Night at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn just around the corner. 

We had to wait a bit to get a table, which to me is always a sign that the place we are heading into is really good.

We had a very hard time deciding what to eat. There were a lot of choices and we were eyeing what they were bringing out to people at nearby tables and it was making the decision even harder. The pancakes looked beyond amazing. Michelle went with some crepes and I settled on a skillet. It was probably the best skillet I have ever had. It was the Country Skillet and it was loaded - really loaded. I remember how delicious the sausage was and the pile of perfectly cooked hash browns. I seriously want to drive out there right now and order up another one of these skillets. It could easily feed two. I ate half and took home the other half for another meal. 

This is one to truly put on your Breakfast Bucket List, whether you live in Chicago or in the burbs.

5273 W. 95th
Oak Lawn, IL

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Aurelio's in December: Santa and Gift Cards and Sweepstakes, Oh My!

Are you a fan of that delectable pizza produced by Aurelio's? They've got a lot going on this month with some promotions you won't want to miss. Check them out:

Renowned Family Pizza Hosts Special Visits with Santa at their Homewood & South Loop Stores Now through December 17, 2017

December 6, 2017 (CHICAGO) - Aurelio's Pizza, Chicago's first and the nation's fifth pizza chain, celebrates the holidays with special visits from Santa now through December 17, 2017.  For the holiday season, they are also offering a special gift card promotion, as well as the "Ultimate Hockey Experience" sweepstakes now through December 10, 2017.

Aurelio's Pizza Santa Calendar
Families with kids of all ages are welcome to come in for a meet greet with Santa at their South Loop location at 1212 South Michigan on Friday, December 8 from 6 to 8 PM and Sunday, December 10 from 4 to 6 PM. Santa will be at their Homewood location at 18162 Harwood Ave on Saturday, December 9 from 6 to 8 PM, Friday, December 15 from 6 to 8 PM, Saturday, December 16 6 to 8 PM, and Sunday, December 17 from 5 to 7 PM.

Aurelio's Pizza "Treat Yourself" Gift Card Promotion
For every $50 spent in gift cards purchased, the buyer will receive a $10 "treat yourself" gift card. The card will be automatically given/sent directly to the gift card buyer.  The $10 "treat yourself gift" card is valid from January 1 through March 31, 2018. To purchase a gift card, please visit or go to your nearest Aurelio's Pizza location.
Aurelio's Pizza's Ultimate Hockey Experience
Aurelio's Pizza along with Jeremy Roenick, Aurelio's Brand Ambassador,  the hosts once again the "Ultimate Hockey Experience" sweepstakes now through Sunday, December 10.Fans can enter for a chance to win two tickets to the Chicago Blackhawks game on December 17, 2017 at the United Center with Jeremy Roenick and Joe Aurelio, dinner at Aurelio's Pizza on Michigan Avenue before the game, and transportation to and from Aurelio's. 

To enter the sweepstakes visit No purchase necessary, must be 21 to enter, winners will be chosen at random.

For more information, please visit or find us on Facebook at Aurelio's Pizza Chicago South Loop.

Have a Throwback Meal at Fizz Eatery & Soda Fountain

I love nostalgic eateries - diners with jukeboxes and old ice cream parlors with soda fountains. Checkered tiles and vinyl barstools. Pastel colored booths and waitresses in dresses and aprons. All those lovely touches that take you back to the 1950s. 

So, I love the buzz about this retro eatery where you can enjoy modern gourmet burgers - named after 50s and 60s icons. I haven't been to this spot yet, but sounds like a good time with a fun blast from the past.

The restaurant is located at 7958 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago.

(Chicago, IL)- Step back in time with a visit to Fizz Eatery & Soda Fountain. This retro-inspired malt shop features a brand new throwback burger each week, perfect for hungry, nostalgic diners.

Named in homage to Chef Bushnick's favorite pop icons from the 50s and 60s, each burger comes with at least two patties on a brioche bun and a side of fries for just $12. Past burgers-of-the-week have included ...

The Chubby Checker (3 patties, homemade root beer BBQ sauce, and 3 slices of Wisconsin brick cheese )

The Ritchie Valens (chili pepper fondue, pico, and corn chips)

The Buddy Holly (roasted garlic & dill cream cheese with pickles and jalapeños)

The Big Bopper (French onion dip, onion rings and a fried egg)

For more information on Fizz Eatery's other delicious menu items and specials, visit their website.

Fizz Eatery & Soda Fountain is an old-fashioned, neighborhood malt shop located in Belmont Heights where friends and family can gather over fabulous ice cream creations and more. The whimsical eatery features a menu devised by celebrated chef, Josh Bushnick, which includes Wisconsin-crafted ice cream, choose-your-own flavor sodas, burgers, wings, and other grill items, and an awesome retro space complete with a juke box. Dine inside or outside on the patio, Tuesday through Sunday, for lunch or dinner. Visit their website and follow the restaurant on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Add Mionetto Prosecco To Your Holiday Table

During the festive holiday season there are all kinds of reasons and celebrations that warrant popping open some bubbly. If you're looking for that perfect bottle to enjoy with friends, turn to Mionetto, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. The Italian wine maker is known as the foremost Prosecco producer in the country. Made with grapes harvested from the hillsides of Valdobbiadene in Northern Italy that are then soft pressed and undergo a second fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel, this labor of love is worth every drop.

This extra dry luxury sparkling wine will wow your guests weather it's for a casual gathering or served up with a full meal, featuring impressions of pear, green apple and wildflowers. It's refreshing and invigorating and will leave you wanting just a few more sips. It will also score you points for sure if a special someone finds it under the tree with their name on it. 

Find out more about Mionetto's products at

***I was provided with a sample for review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Krispy Kreme to Feature Gingerbread Glazed Doughnut on National Gingerbread House Day on December 12

The last few weeks as everyone was going ga-ga over everything pumpkin spice, I've been over here sipping on my gingerbread tea. That's my seasonal flavor of choice. And I am very excited to see that for just one day Krispy Kreme is celebrating my fave flave.

December 12 is National Gingerbread House Day and Chicagoland's Krispy Kreme locations at 17815 South Halsted Street in Homewood and 9150 South Western Avenue in Evergreen Park will be offering a very limited time Gingerbread Glazed Doughnut for the day. 

The Gingerbread Glazed Doughnut has a perfectly spiced gingerbread dough infused with cinnamon and ginger, covered in a warm gingerbread molasses glaze. This is the first time that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is transforming both the dough and glaze to create an all new holiday favorite.

“Gingerbread is a classic holiday flavor, and now there’s a delicious new way to enjoy it with the classic qualities of our Original Glazed doughnut,” said Jackie Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. “We take the holiday fun of gingerbread houses and celebrate it with the never-ending fun of Original Glazed doughnuts.” 

Show Krispy Kreme Doughnuts how you celebrate holiday joy with the Gingerbread Glazed Doughnut by using the hashtag #GingerbreadGlaze and tagging @krispykreme. For more information, visit and Facebook at Krispy Kreme Homewood and Krispy Kreme Evergreen Park.

About Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation
Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation is a global retailer of premium-quality sweet treats, including its signature Original Glazed doughnut. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., the Company has offered the highest-quality doughnuts and great-tasting coffee since it was founded in 1937. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is proud of its Fundraising program, which for decades has helped non-profit organizations raise millions of dollars in needed funds. Krispy Kreme doughnuts can be found in approximately 12,000 grocery, convenience and mass merchant stores in the U.S. The Company has more than 1,300 retail shops in 31 countries. Connect with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at, or on one of its many social media channels, including, and

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Giving the Gift of Foodie Experiences

I'm very much of the mindset that giving experiences are so much better than giving things. I'd often rather have a gift of going out to a restaurant I've been eyeing or taking in a show or a musical or attending a food festival or taking a trip than receiving things. I love having those memories to hold on to forever rather than a sweater that I may wear for a couple seasons. And even better when those experiences can be enjoyed with someone you love.

If you have foodies in your life and are contemplating what to get them for Christmas, here are a few foodie experiences that I would recommend:

Beer Cruise at Navy Pier

If you know someone who likes beer and if you know someone who likes beer festivals, they'll love the gift of a beer cruise. From May to September, monthly beer cruises take place out of Navy Pier on the Mystic Blue. Taste some great beers while you cruise around the lake with the beautiful skyline as a backdrop.

Dinner at The Florentine

You know how once in a while you enjoy an amazing meal in an amazing place with a fantastic setting and you know it's a meal that you'll remember for a long, long time? That's how I felt when we dined at The Florentine. It's been over a year-and-a-half since we enjoyed dinner there and I still remember the taste of those scallops and that smoked mozzarella dip and that succulent sea bass. I'd rank it in my top 10 favorite dining experiences ever. 

The Florentine is located inside the JW Marriott and if you really want to score some points, go big with your gift. Book an overnight at the JW Marriott and book a spa appointment

Afternoon Tea at Bakewell Bakery

A gift of afternoon tea is a wonderful gift experience - particularly for a mother, daughter, sister or girlfriend. We recently had afternoon tea at Bakewell Bakery in Flossmoor and it was such a fun experience. The food was phenomenal...all of it. Their sandwich, scones, desserts were so delish. And if there was one extravagance I could spoil myself with it would be to go there every day for tea. :)


This is a foodie experience that won't soon be forgotten. It's a foodie event that I look forward to all year - Baconfest. This fest has grown quite a bit over the past several years and they now have several different sessions, but at each one you have the opportunity to sample upwards of two dozen bacon inspired dishes from many of the hottest and trendiest spots in the city.

Time Out Chicago Events

I'm always excited when I have an opportunity to attend a Time Out Chicago event. They're always well organized, at unique venues and a great time. And there's always lots and lots of delicious food to be tried - whether it's at the Grilled Cheese Meltdown or Mac and Cheese Smack Down or the Time Out Chicago Donut Party.

Universal Yums

If you're like me, you love to try out foods from different places around the world. One of my most exciting moments this year was stepping foot into Jungle Jim's International Market in Cincinnati where there were tons of foods from every corner of the planet. Universal Yums brings those International Snacks to your door in monthly packages. You can also purchase 1, 3 and 6 month gift subscriptions for the foodie in your life. There are two different size packages to choose from.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Brickstone Brewery in Bourbonnais

Whenever we are on the road or heading somewhere that's an hour or so drive from home, my husband always likes to look up craft breweries in that area to find a new one to stop at. Last year, I arranged online to buy him an old Studebaker pick-up truck for Father's Day as a project for him to work on with the kids. Then, they had to go pick it up and it was a couple hours away in a rural area in central Illinois. 

He didn't find anything in the area he had to go to, but did find that Brickstone Brewery was kind of on the way - at probably the mid-way point. So, he and the boys went down to pick up the truck and on the way back they made a dinner stop at Brickstone. He really liked it and has been wanting to get back there.

So, on one of his weekdays off work he decided we'd go there for lunch and then try and visit one of the nature preserves that have rehomed bison and recreated prairie land with native plants. It was a very warm and sunny day, so it was perfect for a little hike outside. 

We decided to stop for lunch first and started with a flight so that we could try out several of the beers. Along with it we got a big combo platter - and my favorite thing on it was the spinach cheese dip. I've been craving it ever since we visited. The platter also had chicken strips, onion rings and a buffalo chicken roll that was super tasty - and there were a variety of yummy sauces along with it. They also brought bread to the table - a whole warm loaf. And how could I resist that?

I was pretty full after the appetizer, so I got a salad and hubby ordered the Black N' Bleu Sirloin - and shared a little with me. 

It was delicious - cooked medium with peppercorn seasoning and with a giant portobello mushroom and it was covered in a melted sauce with bleu cheese crumbles. It was served with mashed potatoes and some fresh, sautéed vegetables. Hubby enjoyed it and then somehow managed to still have a little room left for dessert - raspberry cheesecake.

It was a great place for a lunch date and I'd definitely like to stop for a bite and some beer when we are heading down I-57 again. For more information, visit

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The District Food Hall Offers Upscale Casual and Quick Cuisine

Last year a new area was developed at Oakbrook Center that features a new 12-screen IMAX theatre, additional shopping and a 14,000-square-foot dining hall called "The District."

This past week I met up with the other foodie sister at Oakbrook Center for massages at Mario Tricoci Hair Salon & Day Spa and with just a short span of time before our appointment we didn't have time for a sit-down meal at a full service eatery. So, we opted for something a little quicker - lunch from the District.

We loved the options and some of are favorites were among the restaurants there (I could eat Porkchop every day!) Becky had a couple of tacos from Cilantro. I got a pizza margherita and a side salad at Pie Five. 

“Guests will find everything and more following the opening of The District at Oakbrook with its variety of dining options,” said Caryn Torres, senior general manager of Oakbrook Center at the time of the opening in the fall of 2016. “This addition plus a number of new stores and amenities reinforce our reputation as a premier Chicagoland shopping destination.”

Here are all the details on the food offerings there:

District at Oakbrook
The new 14,000-square-foot dining District at Oakbrook features chef-driven fast-casual restaurants both familiar and new to Chicagoans.

“The District at Oakbrook will round out our great selection of fine dining, casual restaurants and snacks and drinks, providing guests with diverse dining options to fulfill any culinary craving,” says Torres. “Oakbrook Center’s fast-casual restaurants will be ideal for on-the-go shoppers, business lunch crowds, large groups, families and moviegoers looking for quick service in an upscale setting.”
The highly anticipated District at Oakbrook will open this winter in time for holiday shoppers and the local office lunch goers. The following vendors within The District will complement Oakbrook Center’s current restaurant lineup:

  • Nando’s PERi-PERi – The South African-Portuguese restaurant is known worldwide for its succulent PERi-PERi chicken, marinated for 24 hours, flame-grilled to perfection and basted to customers’ preferred flavor and spice. It’s equally renowned for its spicy PERi-PERi, Bird’s Eye chili pepper and unparalleled collection of original South African art.

  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop – Potbelly Corporation is a fast-growing neighborhood sandwich concept, offering toasty warm sandwiches, signature salads, hand dipped milkshakes and freshly baked cookies served by engaging people in an environment that uniquely reflects the Potbelly brand.

  • DMK Burger Bar – In 2009, David Morton and Michael Kornick opened DMK Burger Bar in Chicago. Since then, DMK Burger Bar has been serving award winning burgers, fries and shakes to Chicagoans. DMK is a major supporter of local charities benefitting hunger, wellness, children and the environment.

  • Greek Kitchen – At Greek Kitchen, guests get Greek served their way with customizable pita handhelds, fresh salads and plates. This original, quick-serve concept offers the most flavorful ingredients, guided by the timeless health benefits of Mediterranean cooking. Guests can enjoy Greek food that is refined for a modern world. 

  • Porkchop – Dishing out an urban interpretation of a Southern backwoods experience, Porkchop serves gourmet Southern comfort food and barbeque and features an innovative bar program with some of the world’s top whiskeys.

  • DAVIDsTEA – DAVIDsTEA is making tea fun, modern and friendly. The store offers more than 150 flavors of loose tea, hot and cold drinks to go, modern tea accessories and the world’s greatest, most knowledgeable staff.

  • Stan’s Donuts – The popular Stan’s Donuts, brought to Chicago by critically acclaimed baker Rich Labriola from California, has crafted some of the world's best donuts for more than 50 years. Stan's offers an abundant variety of donuts, as well as tasty coffee and delicious ice cream.

  • Pie Five Pizza Co. – At Pie Five Pizza Co., customers can create their own personalized pizza in under five minutes. With a selection of more than 28 fresh toppings, seven savory sauces and four made-from-scratch crusts, Pie Five has something for everyone all for one low price.

  • Freshii – With the mission to create a restaurant that helps people live healthier and longer, Freshii provides fresh, nutritious and energizing meal choices. The menu offers everything from quinoa bowls to fresh pressed juices. 

  • Cilantro Taco Grill – A family-ran business, Cilantro Taco Grill provides a delightful restaurant experience with great service. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner made from fresh ingredients, guests can taste truly authentic Mexican food.

New Retailers
The new development project would not be complete without the addition of retail options for shoppers. A host of new stores, including Fabletics, Altar’d State and Oliver Peoples opened their doors later in the year, bringing the freshest trends, newest brands and hottest labels to Oakbrook Center guests.

The diverse roster of upscale shops and specialty retailers, ranging from fashion, fitness gear and designer footwear to artistry jewelry, a candy boutique and more, helps to meet everyone’s tastes and provides guests with an unmatched shopping experience.

Upscale Amenities
To accompany the new retail and dining options, Oakbrook Center added more top-of-the-line amenities for guests to make their shopping trips more enjoyable.

Most significantly, the development project included a three-level parking garage to improve vehicle access. Further enhancing parking efficiency, the garage features a real-time digital management system that will help customers find a parking space, easing the search for a spot and creating a more relaxing shopping experience.
Visitors are also able to take advantage of the privacy of a new family restroom, enjoy a beautified walkway between Nordstrom and Sears on the Upper Level and appreciate redesigned common areas and several other exterior enhancements creating more chic and comfortable surroundings. 

More information about project at Oakbrook Center is available, as well as on Facebook at, and Twitter and Instagram via @OakbrookCenter.

Oakbrook Center is located in Oak Brook, Ill., on the corner of Route 83 and Cermak Road just off of Interstates 88 and 294. The center features a unique collection of more than 160 shops and restaurants. Shopping hours are: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For complete information, please visit or call 630/573-0700.