Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Chopping Block Winter and Spring Boot Camps

A couple months ago Kelly and I attended a media event at the Chopping Block at the Merchandise Mart. It is such a cool space and I got excited reading about all the cooking classes and crash courses that are offered. I also adore the little shop full of fun kitchen accessories! Here's a look at the upcoming boot camps at the Chopping Block where you can learn some tips beyond the basics from the pros.

boot camps
For cooking enthusiasts who want to delve deeper into the fundamentals and nuances of the culinary arts, the Chopping Block’s Boot Camps provide the perfect advantage. Our chefs share their insights into the whys, hows and tricks of the trade, so you go home with a foundation of fine-tuned skills and cook like the pros.
Culinary Boot Camp 1 • $1750
Have you always wondered what it would be like to go to culinary school? Culinary Boo t Camp provides thorough, concise cram sessions that give you a taste of a professional culinary program without the lengthy time commitment. Boot Camp explores all the fundamental methods of cooking, from basics to advanced techniques. This is a great opportunity to improve upon your skills with a trained, professional chef at your disposal. On the last day, you’ll bring everything together to plan and produce a menu with your classmates that incorporates all the skills you’ve learned throughout the week.
Culinary Boot Camp 2 • $1950
For our Boot Camp 1 graduates who just can’t get enough! In the advanced sessions, we’ll go even deeper into some of the Boot Camp subjects plus introduce some new ones, including baking, shellfish and handmade pasta.
Day 1: Day 2: Day 3: Day 4: Day 5:
Knife Skills, Fish Butchery, Emulsions and Fish Cookery Chicken and Beef Butchery, Stocks and Meat Cookery Soups and Sauces
Eggs, Vegetables and Grains

Flavor Dynamics, Plating, and Honing Your Skills
merchandise mart
mon–fri, january 27–31, 8:30am–4:30pm sundays, february 16–march 16, 9am–5pm mon–fri, march 24–28, 8:30am–4:30pm mon–fri, april 21–25, 8:30am–4:30pm mon–fri, may 19–23, 8:30am–4:30pm
Vegetarian Boot Camp • $275
Broaden your palette of cooking techniques in this two-day immersion into vegetarian cooking. Join us to explore flavors and ingredients from many cuisines as well as vegetarian proteins. Starting with a tutorial on knife skills, we’ll teach you how to create plate after plate of meatless deliciousness!
lincoln square
Fall/Winter Menu: thu & fri, february 27–28, 10am–3pm merchandise mart
Spring/Summer Menu: sat & sun, may 3–4, 10am–3pm See our online calendar for menu details.
Braising Boot Camp • $175
Braising is the perfect fall and winter cooking technique, focused on low-and-slow simmering to create über-tender meats and vegetables. Join us for this global journey while we create ultimate one-pot meals.
Osso Buco with Toasted Pine Nut Gremolata and Polenta; Spicy Soy-Glazed Short Ribs with Jasmine Rice; Cassoulet (Classic French Dish of Sausage, Pork Shoulder, Duck Confit and Beans); Curried Vegetable Stew with Naan Bread.
merchandise mart
sun, january 12, 10am–4pm sun, february 9, 10am–4pm
Sauce Boot Camp • $150
Have you ever wanted to learn how to make stock? How about mastering the art of making roux and reductions? We’ll teach you how to conquer all things sauce-related, from classic to contemporary techniques, in our most comprehensive, hands-on sauce class.
Homemade Chicken Stock; Bordelaise; Béchamel; Veloute; Hollandaise; Mushroom Cognac Pan Sauce; Apple Cider Gastrique; Truffle Cream Sauce. An assortment of meats, vegetables and starches will accompany the sauces.
lincoln square
sun, january 26, 10am–4pm
merchandise mart
sun, march 15, 10am–4pm sun, may 25, 10am–4pm
Day 1: Day 2: Day 3: Day 4: Day 5:
Pastries, Cake and Bread Soups and Sauces
Grains, Potatoes and Pasta Meat and Fish

Vegetables and Banquet
merchandise mart
mon–fri, june 16–20, 8:30am–4:30pm
See reverse for more boot camps! 888

Pasta Boot Camp • $150
Basta pasta! We’re going to delve deep into regional Italian pastas, making several types of dough from scratch. You’ll learn how to use a pasta roller, as well as how to create rustic shapes by hand, and we’ll dress up our pastas with divine homemade sauces.
Egg Dough: Cavatelli alla Matriciana
Black and White Striped Dough with Squid Ink: Striped Farfalle with Shrimp and Zucchini Salad
Semolina Dough: Hand-Formed Pastas (Orecchiette, Busiati and Pici) with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Ligurian White Wine Dough: Pansotti (Ligurian Ravioli Filled with Ricotta and Bitter Greens) in Walnut Sauce

merchandise mart
sat, april 19, 10am–4pm
Baking Boot Camp • $300
Roll up your sleeves and spend a dough-filled two days in the pastry kitchen. Pies, tarts, eclairs, cakes, and more!
Grilling Boot Camp • $350
Join us for our comprehensive two-day hands-on grilling workshop. Master the ins and outs of grilling with charcoal, gas and wood. Learn tips and methods in brining, marinating, slow cooking, smoking, dry and wet rubs. You will leave this class feeling “fired up” for an adventurous grilling season. Jump on board, whether you’re a novice or a weekend warrior.
lincoln square
sat & sun, may 17–18, 10am–3pm sat & sun, june 21–22, 10am–3pm
Laminated Doughs • $300
Learn the techniques and professional tips for making outrageously flaky, buttery layered doughs. We will teach you the versatile nature of these sweet and savory delights.
Day 1: Day 2:
Doughs and Batters:
Baguette; Pain d’Epi; Pie; Biscuits; Devil’s Food Cake; Genoise Sponge Cake Roll; Pecan Shortbread; Tuile Cups Custards, Fillings and Mousses:
Crème Brûl
ée; Quiche Lorraine; Pastry Cream; Èclairs; Chocolate Mousse; Ganache; French Buttercream; Frosting and Piping
merchandise mart
thu & fri, january 16–17, 10am–4pm sat & sun, april 26–27, 10am–4pm
Day 1: Day 2:
Danish, Croissant and Puff Pastry Doughs from Scratch; Sweet and Savory Fillings
Shape, Proof, Fill and Bake—Filled Danish (Cream Cheese, Custard, Apricot); Croissants and Pain au Chocolat;

Brie en Croute and Beef Wellington
merchandise mart
thu–fri, march 20–21, 10am–4pm
Artisanal Bread Baking • $150
Spend a day in our kitchen exploring the techniques behind baking artisan breads.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread; Braided Challah; Multigrain Bread; Sourdough English Muffins; Marble Rye; Rosemary Breadsticks.
merchandise mart
sat, january 18, 10am–4pm
lincoln square
sun, february 23, 10am–4pm
See our monthly class calendars for
these half-day mini boot camps:
Cupcake Boot Camp Donut Boot Camp
Pie and Tart Boot Camp
Boot Camps at the Chopping Block provide thorough, concise cram sessions that give you a taste of a professional culinary program without the lengthy time commitment.
Let’s get cooking!
European Pastry:
prices are per person. 1-week notice required to cancel enrollment in any class. all classes subject to cancellation or rescheduling.
the chopping block • lincoln square 4747 n. lincoln, chicago 60625 telephone (773) 472-6700 fax (773) 275-4150
the chopping block • merchandise mart suite 107, chicago 60654 telephone (312) 644-6360 fax (312) 644-6367 www.thechoppingblock.net 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Six city spots to consider for New Year's Eve

Still unsure on your plans to ring in the new year? Well, there are many delicious menus waiting to be enjoyed in the city on the last night of 2013. Here are a few:

1. City Tavern

Here's a look at some of the New Year's Eve specials.

2. The Berghoff

Ring in the new year German-style and take in a free history tour of this Chicago foodie landmark.

Grab your friends and family and ring in 2014 at the Berghoff! Join us for complimentary history tours.
On this behind-the-scenes tour, guests will take a guided walk through both public and private spaces in our historic building. Learn about The Berghoff’s debut at the World’s Fair in 1893, see Chicago’s #1 Liquor License, and get a glimpse into our daily operations and food preperations.
Tickets are FREE!!! Register atberghoffhistorytour.eventbrite.com
Tour will leave every half our from the Bar. Hurry! Space is limited.

3. The Boarding House

Enjoy a wine pairing dinner on New Year's Eve at one of Chicago's Hottest Spot where Alpanah Sing was named 2013 Sommelier of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

We are offering two prix fixe menus with optional wine pairings for New Year's Eve Dinner: 
  • For Reservations from 5 - 8 pm there is a Four Course menu at $65 per person * Wine Pairings $40 per person
  • For Reservations from  8 - 11 pm there is a Six Course menu at $85 per person * Wine Pairings $60 per person

4. The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant

Chicago Firehouse is a personal favorite for me, not just because of the outstanding food and service, but the history of the place and being married to a firefighter, I'll be forever smitten with the place. Check out what they have planned on New Year's Eve.

5. Seasons 52

Another favorite place of mine, Seasons 52's newest Chicagoland location downtown offers a dazzling wine menu and selection of fresh, healthy meals. Ring in the new year and this hot new spot.

6. Jellyfish

Spend New Year's Eve on the Gold Coast with a beautiful presentation of dishes at Jellyfish.

December 31, 8:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.

CHICAGO (November 2013) – Ring in the New Year this December 31 at Pan-Asian eatery and lounge Jellyfish located in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast at 1009 N. Rush Street.  For $195 per person, enjoy a premium, top shelf open bar, heavy passed appetizers, free flowing champagne and multiple mouthwatering chefs’ stations.  Rejoice in a champagne toast at midnight and dance to DJ Jimmy Munoz spinning beats from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Jellyfish’s New Year’s Eve celebration includes:

New Year’s Eve Specialty Signature Cocktail:
·         Golden Sunrise - Sauterne Infused Sake with Gold Flakes. 

Heavy Passed Items:
·         Warm Peking Duck Bao Buns.
·         Hamachi, Avocado and Ponzu on Crispy Sushi Rice.
·         Japanese Sweet Potato Rolls.

Gourmet Chefs’ Stations:
·         Premium Seafood Station:
o   Live Poached Lobster Tail and ClawsKing Prawns, Snow Crab Claws and numerous Caviar varieties.
·         Chef Jason Im’s Asian Bao Station:
o   12hr Soy Braised Beef BaoWinter Vegetable Pickle Slaw with Chipotle Sake Sauce.
·         Chef Puje Dorlig’s Sushi Station:
o   Torched Wagyu Beef, Summer Truffle and Asparagus Maki.
o   Pink Flower Signature Sushi Roll - Salmon, Crab, Cream Cheese, Avocado and Cucumber.
o   El Sol Signature Sushi Roll - Spicy Tuna, Spicy Shrimp, Avocado, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Creamy Yuzu and Red Tobiko.
·         Sweets Station:
o   Chocolate Beignets with Chocolate Drizzle, Coco Nibs and Shaved Chocolate.  
o   Taro Ice Cream Tartlets with Fresh Berries.

Tickets are $195 per person (inclusive of tax, gratuity & processing fees) and are now available for purchase on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jellyfish-invites-you-to-an-exclusive-new-years-eve-celebration-tickets-9167360823

Festively decorated, Jellyfish’s New Year’s Eve celebration is a party not to be missed! This celebration is 21+. Name will be checked at door. Proper identification required. Complimentary valet parking is included.

Located in Chicago’s Gold Coast area, 1009 N. Rush Street, a second floor glass atrium offers exclusive, stunning views of the vibrant and legendary Rush Street.  The Pan-Asian restaurant and lounge is a hidden gem for tastemakers to discover and explore their senses. From the exotic and stylish, but clearly Chicago, cool blue décor to a unique culinary journey, crafted cocktails and eclectic rhythms, Jellyfish is an oasis for lunch, dinner or late-night bites. Jellyfish is open seven days a week: Sunday – Wednesday, from 11:30 am – Midnight; and Thursday – Saturday, from 11:30 am - 2:00 am. Visit Jellyfish at their website at http://www.jellyfishchicago.com/on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/JellyfishChicago or Twitter at www.twitter.com/JellyfishOne11To make a reservation, call Jellyfish at (312) 660-3111.

Goodbye to Popolano's

Upon hearing news just over a week ago that Popolano's in Lansing would be closing as of January 1st, I knew I'd have to get back for at least one final meal. Well, I have since been there twice and I'm not ruling out a New Year's Eve visit.

Overall I've had good experiences there and have enjoyed the meals. I am a major carb-a-holic and I don't think there are any dinner rolls I like better than these big, heavy, warm, yeasty buns. I will be sorry to see them go.

And this may not look like anything spectacular, but the garlic dressing made there is fantastic. Probably the only place left in town where I can get creamy garlic dressing like this.

The pizza has always been high on my list of favorite pizzas. My kids usually go for the simple cheese and pepperoni, but I always liked getting the "six pick" loaded with ingredients. Behind that salad is a a cup of chicken dumpling soup, which I have always ordered on my visits there. Love it!

I've had a variety of entrees at the establishment over the years. On my most recent visit I got the Chicken Lemon Scallopine over angel hair pasta, which I really enjoyed. Not too long ago I was there and got the crispelle, which was really fantastic. I was also there for a recent business meeting where one of the specials was a pasta dish with wilted spinach that made for a perfect light lunch.

While I'm almost always full long before the waitress asks about dessert, I have a hard time passing up the tiramisu. Sometimes I convince my husband or sons to split one with me or I order one to go. Last year I remember being there in the fall when they had a pumpkin tiramisu and it's one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life. You still have a little time left to get over there for one last taste at the Lansing location. They'll close up after the New Year's Eve celebration, going out with a bang. It will be sad to see a longtime family-owned restaurant close its doors. They seem to be a dying breed.

Those who are fans of Popolano's - or Popo's as some of the locals call it - can now visit their established location in Chesterton or if you happen to attend an event at the Serbian Social Center, you can get a taste of Popolano's as they are now the caterer for the banquet hall.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bonefish Grill in Orland Park, IL

As I am wading through photos taken during 2013 as we move on to a new year, I am reminded of all the wonderful meals I had at some of my favorite places - Meyer's Castle, Geno's Steakhouse, Seasons 52, Wildfire, Labriola Cafe, Foodie's Market Cafe, Venice Steakhouse, Roka Akor, J.J. Kelley's, Artisan Table and more.

I was also introduced to Bonefish Grill this fall as a new location opened in suburban Orland Park, the fourth Illinois location. I love seafood and was excited to see what this brand had to offer. It has grown rapidly since it debuted 13 years ago in Florida to now have 188 restaurants in 32 states. Bonefish Grill also offers hand-crafted cocktails and 30 wines by the glass.

We visited not longer after the opening for a press event where we had the chance to sample a variety of appetizers, entrees, sides and dessert, staring with Wagyu Beef and Ginger Dumplings, Bang Bang Shrimp, Mussels Josephine, Ahin Tuna Sashimi and bread with olive oil and herbs along side an apple martini.

The salads were fresh and fabulous, especially the Ceasar with the in-house dressing and home made croutons. As for the entrees, we got a taste of the Chilean Sea Bass, Swordfish, Salmon and Grouper with a sampling of their awesome sauces, which by the way, you can find recipes for on their website. I think my favorite was the Pan Asian sauce, paired perfectly with the grouper. With each of the cooked-to-perfection grilled entrees, you don't feel like you're overdoing it and the sauce additions pack so much flavor.

If you're not a seafood lover, no need to fret. There's an adequate selection of dishes for carnivores. I got a chance to try the Lily's Chicken (which combined by most favorite flavors - goat cheese, sautéed spinach artichoke hearts with a lemon basil sauce), Pork Chop and the Filet Mignon, which totally melts in your mouth. The side of steamed vegetables was divine and we also tried out the Jasmine Rice, Potatoes Au Gratin, Garlic Whipped Potatoes and Ratatouille, just part of a long list of wonderful side options, each one better than the next. The variety makes it a completely inviting eatery with something to satisfy the most discerning of tastes.

I somehow managed to try a bite of each of the desserts that were brought out - a seasonal Creme Brûlée, Key Lime Pie and Macadamia Nut Brownie. Trust me when I say to save room for dessert and even if you can't possibly eat another bite, order one to go. It would be such a misfortune to not finish off a meal with something that wonderful.

There was absolutely nothing we tried that I would not order on my next visit. Every bite was sheer paradise, seriously. The flavors transport you to a tropical place that you never want to leave. I will soon be back and encourage you to give it a try.

Bonefish Grill
15537 South La Grange Road
Orland Park, IL 60462

Wildfire in Oak Brook, IL

One of Foodie Sister Becky's long time favorite restaurants has been Wildfire and in 2013, I finally made my way to the Oakbrook eatery. I loved the old time supper club feel and instantly was in agreement with her on loving the place.

It was crowded when we were there for an early dinner, but cozy. Hubby and I shared a wine flight and I started off with a fabulous salad while hubby had lobster bisque. My filet was the best I've had in quite some time and the potatoes au gratin were fabulous.

We finished off with a lovely dessert sampler, a perfect ending to an amazing meal. Service was impeccable and I think I'm overdue for a re-visit!

Reservations are recommended. We were able to be immediately seated for our reservations, while those walking in were given long wait times. You can make reservations online at wildfire restaurant.com.

Wildfire Oak Brook
232 Oakbrook Center
Oak Brook, IL

The Classic BLT

Is there anything better than a good old Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich? Here's a run down on the sandwich in it's most basic form:

Two slices white toast
Four slices cooked bacon (or if you really love bacon a couple slices more)
Iceberg Lettue
Beefsteak tomato
Hellman's mayonaise

Now, just a few notes on some variations that I like to throw in from time to time:

The Olive Oil Hellman's is magnificent

When hubby makes them, he fries up thick sliced pepper bacon, but I hate the mess and usually make mine in the microwave

Once in a while I'll add a slice of cheddar cheese

I love to use whole grain bread in favor of white

Red leaf lettuce is awesome on a BLT

Kumato brown tomatoes are great on a BLT

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Johnsonville's Three-Cheese Italian Style

I recently picked up a package of Johnsonville brand Three-Cheese Italian Style fully cooked smoked sausage. One pack went in with some penne and sauce and was a nice addition.

The second package went into a pan after I'd sautéed some red, green and yellow peppers and potatoes and onions. It was a great accompaniment to add a little bit of meat to a skillet loaded with fresh veggies.

Friday, December 27, 2013

China Chef in Lansing, IL

Ok, I'm pretty sure I've posted on this place before, but a shout out to China Chef on Torrence Avenue in Lansing, IL. I love the orange chicken, fried rice and everything else I've tried there. And nothing bums me out more than when they are out of cantaloupe and I can't get a cantaloupe smoothie. They are THE BEST!!! But, my back-up flavor is Watermelon and they've never been out of that.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas salad

This has gotten to be one of the dishes I make for Christmas and that family members request. It couldn't be easier. Three ingredients (well, this time I added a fourth) and it goes perfectly with the Christmas color theme.

Green baby spinach
Bright red grape tomatoes
Poppy seed dressing

And this time I also added some marinated mozzarella - kind of like adding little snowballs to the Christmas colors. :) Mix well so the dressing distributes nicely and serve. :)

Seasons 52 Flight and Flatbread

Have I mentioned before how much I adore the flatbread at Seasons 52? Well, I really, really do. And even better when they are offering the Flight and Flatbread and you can try a variety of wines with it. Take a peek at what I tried out on our last visit. :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ninja Salsa

So, I recently got a Ninja as a gift from my sister. She has been raving about hers for a long time and I am so excited to finally have one of my own. The day it arrived in the mail we made a bunch of milkshakes and smoothies and the next day I made salsa.

1/2 onion
5 roma tomatos
3 green onion stalks
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 green pepper
handful of cilantro
garlic salt
lime juice

Blend in Ninja for several pulses, about 30 seconds total.

When I make salsa I usually make it really chunky and cut my tomatoes and other veggies into larger pieces, so this was very different than what I usually make because there was so much more liquid and everything was finely chopped. It was a very nice deviation from what i'm used to it and it was a great topping on the tacos I made for dinner that night.