Monday, March 31, 2014

Funky Chunky Popcorn

So when I attended the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago recently, I walked by hundreds of booths. Most of them had dishes or cookware or kitchen gadgets, which I enjoyed inspecting. But, being the foodie I am I was happy to find a corner of the show that had some great gourmet items.

One was FunkyChunky gourmet popcorn, which was awesome! I tried out the peanut butter cup popcorn which was delightfully decadent! It was coated with sweet, quality ingredients and I'd have no problem downing a whole package. The hand-drizzeld popcorn and pretzel twists are crafted in Edina, Minnesota, which I am familiar with. My dear Aunt Marilyn lives there and we've visited her a couple of times and loved the area.

Check out the website to see the complete product line and place an order.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

From the inbox: Italian feast to offer taste of Lazio at Azzurra

I love Italian cuisine and if you do, too, this is a bit of foodie info you'll want to peruse. Sunday Suppers in April will feature favors of the Lazio region of Italy.


When in Rome! Discover the Flavors of Lazio at 
Azzurra's Sunday Suppers in April

During the month of April, Azzurra (1467 N. Milwaukee Ave) is showcasing the simple yet flavorful cuisine of Lazio, the region in Italy where Rome is located, with its new Sunday Supper menu. With spring right around the corner in Chicago, now is the perfect time for Azzurra's Lazio menu, where seasonality and fresh ingredients are at the core of every dish. Each month the restaurant highlights a different region of Italy at Sunday Supper with a homemade four-course, family style feast. April's Lazio inspired, family-style menu includes:

An assortment of:
Sheep's Milk Ricotta with English peas, toasted walnuts and mint
Sliced Local Soppresatta
Olive Pesto Crostini
Grilled Asparagus Salad

Choice of:
Strozzapreti Amatriciana
Penne with Artichokes, slow-cooked artichokes, olive oil, chilies, mint and crispy breadcrumbs

Choice of:
Lamb with Artichokes, English peas, Spring onions and fingerling potatoes
Seasonal Fish in aqua pazza (crazy water)
Arugula with Shaved Pecorino to accompany

Lemon Panna Cotta with macerated berries
Reservations can be made online or by calling the restaurant at (773) 278-5959. All dishes will be served family-style and participation of the entire table is required. Available for dine-in only.  
$23 for adults
$12 for children 8-12
Children 7 and under eat free
Full à la carte menu will also be available. 

1467 N. Milwaukee
(773) 278-5959

Sundays in April; excluding Easter Sunday
Reservations can be made between 5:30-9:30 p.m.  

The Shrockie

I thought I'd share another product I came across at the International Home and Housewares Show last week that I thought was neat.

Everyone has bag clips in their kitchen, but this cute little fish clamps down with his jaw to seal tightly and it releases with a push on the fin. It works great on small bags where the regular clips are too big. It's also magnetic, so you can stick it on your fridge instead of having it get lost in a drawer.

My kids love it and keep opening packages just so they can seal them up with this cute little fish. They appropriately have been sealing up bags of goldfish crackers.

You can order online at

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Morton's The Steakhouse in Rosemont has a new look

I was excited when I was contacted with an invite to a preview party for the remodel at Morton's Steakhouse in Rosemont because I have never been there, but have heard nothing but great things about it. Not only are their six Chicago area locations, including the original State Street restaurant, but they have now spread all over the country and have 8 international locations.

After sampling some bites at the event on Thursday, I totally see what all the fuss is about. The food and service was phenomenal and although I don't have the advantage of having seen the "before," the "after" of the remodeling project is beautiful. Our event was help in a private downstairs dining room that was sleek and stylish with mirrored marble inset buffets and flat screen TVs.

Once we got it in, my husband and I found a cocktail so I'd have a spot to set down my camera. A few minutes later a couple walked by and asked if they could join us at the table. You know how sometimes you meet someone and just instantly hit it off? Well, that's what happened.

Our dining mates for the evening were JoAnn Rouche of Chicago and her husband. When I told her I hadn't been to Morton's before, she filled me in on her favorites. She said they first visited Morton's on their 1st wedding anniversary 34 years ago and they've been going there ever since. She said they dine there about once a month.

She recommended the caesar salad, the chocolate soufflé, filet with béarnaise sauce and sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon. She also raved about the bread.

We spent the evening sampling different items and chatting. She's a preschool aide for 3 to 5 year olds (what an awesome job!) and has four kids. Her husband happens to be retired from the Chicago Fire Department, so he and my husband, who is a firefighter/paramedic had a lot to talk about. I really fell in love with JoAnn and a couple hours later, we were hugging as we parted and exchanging contact information. So, it was great to make a new friend.

Now let's get back to the food. We tried out a wonderful bruchetta bite, jumbo shrimp cocktail, some ahi tuna with avocado and pico de gallo on wonton crisps, lamb chops, proscuitto wrapped mozzarella with balsamic glaze, short rib sliders, beef medallions, crab cakes and key lime pie and cheesecake for dessert. I sampled everything except for the crab cakes. I somehow missed those on my rounds. Also tried out the mango vodka with pineapple and a cosmo. Every bite - and sip - was exquisite! Scroll down for some visuals

Morton's The Steakhouse
9525 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, IL

Trader Joe's Vegetable Melange

Just have to give a shout out to Trader Joe's. I've yet to find a product there that I don't like. I really like their frozen vegetable blends. We're still hanging on to winter here in Chicagoland, so I'm not yet doing a lot of fresh veggies. These are great to have in the freezer to warm up to complete a meal.

The most recent vegetable blend I used was this Vegetable Melange in seasoned butter sauce. I'm sure it has a lot more butter than I would use in making it myself, but hey, you've got to a live a little. And it's really good. It's a product I will surely buy again on my next trip to Trader Joe's. I thought that if I had leftovers I could use it in some soup. But…no leftovers. It went great with a piece of salmon with lemon and some brown rice (also a frozen Trader Joes' item.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

East Chicago Knights of Columbus Fish Fry

Last week I was working on a Foods article for a local paper I write for and I went out to check one out and take some pictures. The Knights of Columbus doesn't just do fish. Well, they do several kinds of fish. Plus shrimp. Plus frog legs. Plus pierogi. Plus chicken tenders and grilled cheese for kids. Plus desserts. Plus and all-you-can-eat salad bar with 30+ homemade items.

The prices range from $8 to $15 for adult meals and kid meals are $5. The Fish Fry takes place every Friday through April 25 from 4 -7. Take a peek and what they're serving up.

Knights of Columbus
1104 Knights of Columbus Drive
East Chicago
Fridays from 4 - 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

From the inbox: Easter menus from Chicago's top chefs

Easter is just around the corner. If you're looking to dine out for the occasion, read on:

Whether looking for a family-friendly brunch or a more exquisite affair, Chicago-area's best chefs have you covered this Easter Sunday with a variety of festive offerings, including:

1467 N Milwaukee Ave 

Whether dining at Azzurra for brunch or dinner on Easter Sunday, guests can take advantage of the restaurant's delicious specials all day long. The traditional, Italian inspired Easter specials include Spring Pea Soup ($7) with herbed mascarpone, Fava Bean Bruschettone ($8) with lemon zest, oregano and pecorino toscano, Potato Gnocchi ($15) with butter, asparagus, fava beans and english peas, Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb($21) with spring vegetables, and Bass in Aqua Pazza (crazy water) ($21) with seared tomato, chilis, clams and mussels. Azzurra's full a la carte brunch and dinner menus will also be available. Guests can make reservations online or by calling the restaurant at 773-278-5959. 

720 N. Wells

Celebrate Easter Sunday at The Boarding House! The restaurant will be open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the holiday and offer a festive three-course menu for $44 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity) as well as wine pairings selected by Master Sommelier Alpana Singh for an additional $24 per person.  A special kids menu for $12 for children under 12 will also be offered.

First Course
Choice of: 

Pea soup, bacon onion jam

Shaved vegetable salad, sugar snaps, crispy garlic, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette

Smoked salmon, dill new potatoes, cucumber salad, horseradish, creme fraiche

Fried egg, lentils, chicharron, chimichurri

Second Course
Choice of:

Skate wing grilled lemon aioli, roasted cauliflower, brown butter

Grilled pork blade steak, grits, haricot vert, grilled corn relish

Tagliolini, carrot purée, peas, mint relish

Lamb chops, grilled asparagus, tomato raisin tapenade


Julia's Easter Dessert Celebration

Kids Menu ($12 per child under 12 years of age)

Choice of protein:
Pork Tenderloin
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
Choice of Vegetable

Choice of vegetable: 
Grilled Asparagus
Baby Carrots and Peas
Grilled Zucchini
Creamed Spinach

Choice of starch:
Fregola Sarda
Mashed Potatoes

The restaurant's regular menu will not be available. Call 312-280-0720 or visit OpenTable for reservations.

151 W. Adams

The Florentine has something for everyone this Easter with a grand, gourmet brunch buffet on Sunday, April 20 from 10am to 2:30pm. Offering artisanal meats and cheeses, raw bar, Pannettone French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Preserves, Waffle Station, Yogurt, Homemade Granola and Fruit Station, House Cured smoked salmon, bagels and lox, omelet station, ham and lamb carving stations, assorted paninis as well as an assortment of pastries and desserts. $50 for adults and $20 for children. Optional Bloody Mary Bar and Unlimited Mimosas for $12 per person. 

24 S. Michigan Ave

Hop to The Gage this Easter Sunday to enjoy their traditional brunch menu along with a fleet of seasonal dishes by Executive Chef Peter Coenen. Specialty dishes include Smoked Rabbit Confit with market lettuce, poached egg and mustard vinaigrette; Grilled Lamb Loin with cheddar grits, Genesis Farm's heirloom carrots and truffle bbq; and Wild Line Caught Salmon with local asparagus and brown butter-caper hollandaise. A variety of essential Easter cocktails will also be available - including Ceasar Bloody Mary's and Mimosas. Easter Brunch will be served from 10am until 2pm.

For reservations and more information, please call 312-372-4343
InterContinental Chicago

505 N. Michigan Ave

The famed InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile is hosting a traditional Easter brunch buffet this year inside The Continental overlooking Michigan Avenue. Diners can enjoy a spread of luxurious dishes such as Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon with red onion confit and beurre rouge; Neuske Bacon and Slagel Farm Sausage Quiche Loraine; and Hunter Style Chicken with pearl onions, wild mushrooms and medera jus. Made-to-order breakfast items such as omelets and waffles, as well as a carving station will also be available, in addition to a children's buffet offering crowd-pleasing macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. Easter brunch will be served from 12pm until 3pm and costs $75 per person, which includes a mimosa or bloody mary and gratuity. Brunch costs $28 per child ages five through 12, and is complimentary for children four and younger. 

For reservations and more information please call 312-321-8844.

624 Davis Street, Evanston, IL

Koi, located in the heart of downtown Evanston, will be featuring their newly launched Dim Sum Brunch on Easter from 10:30 a.m. -3 p.m.  Originated in the Cantonese provinces of Southern China and translated to "Touch the Heart", Dim Sum is a shared dining tradition enjoyed with tea and small savory dishes such as dumplings, stuffed buns & noodles.  Koi's dim sum menu offers 60 items to choose from as well as $10 bottomless Mimosas and $5 Bloody Mary cocktails.  


505 N. Michigan Ave

Located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, celebrate Easter with a feast fit for a king at Michael Jordan's Steak House. Executive Chef James O'Donnell's signature menu will be available all day along with two seasonal specials -- Braised Lamb Shank with Goat Cheese Polenta and Spring Garlic-Mint Gremolata ($41) and Petite Filet Mignon with Pan Roasted Lobster, Asparagus, Brown Butter and Black Trumpet Mushrooms ($51).

Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 312-321-8823.

4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, IL

Guests looking for an earlier meal on Easter Sunday with a Japanese twist can head to Roka Akor Old Orchard for the restaurant's special Easter brunch menu available from 12 to 4pm. Roka Akor's Easter Menu includes: 

Tuna Flatbread $18
Mebachi, olive, cilantro and truffle aioli

Cucumber Wrap Snow Crab with Ora King Salmon tartar $18
Avocado, yamagobo, kaiware, yuzu garlic sauce.

Tako Salad with Oriental Dressing $12

Topanyaki Seafood $28
Shrimp, scallop, calamari, mussel

Grilled Baby Zucchini and Cauliflower $9
Yuzu mustard and jalapeño miso sauce

Soft Shell Shrimp Maki $12
Cucumber, chives, kimchee, sweet chili aioli

Asian Pear and Mizuna Salad $9
Yuzu dressing and salted pecan

Scramble Eggs with Choice of Salmon, Beef or Veggies $12
Sansai mix, yuzu avocado puree

Roka Akor's full brunch and dinner menus will also be available. Guests can make reservations for Easter Sunday online or by calling the restaurant at (847) 329-7650. 

401 N. Wabash Ave

The culinary team from Trump Chicago will present a sophisticated, yet spirited Easter brunch celebration at Sixteen - the chic, fine dining restaurant at Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago. While gourmands delight over the afternoon's lavish spread and a complimentary glass of champagne, younger diners will revel in lively entertainment including a petting zoo featuring adorable ducks, chicks, and other cute farm animals and Easter-themed takeaways. Led by Executive Pastry Chef Aya Fukai guests will enjoy a bounty of sweet treats.

Sixteen's Easter brunch costs $148 for adults and $35 for children (under 8 years of age) exclusive of alcohol, tax, and gratuity. Reservations are highly recommended and may be made by calling 312-588-8030. 

151 W. Erie St.

Tavernita will be open for both brunch and dinner service on Easter Sunday, April 20th.  For brunch, guests can select from a special $30 per person sharing menu.  Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling 312-274-1111.

Billy Goat Tavern

Fans of Saturday Night Live will recall the skit with John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray working at a restaurant quite similar to Chicago's Iconic Billy Goat Tavern calling out "Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger. No fries, chips. No Pepsi, Coke."

I had never been to the Billy Goat before and when Dad and I decided to go for a bite to eat after seeing the Celtic Women perform at the Chicago Theatre over St. Patty's Day weekend, I was pleased to see a Billy Goat location right around the corner.

We stopped in for a burger. A yummy, juicy burger. Make that cheezeborger. :) We were there on a Sunday at dinner time and the place on Lake Street was surprisingly quiet. Just one other table was occupied when we entered and I was a tad bummed that the server wasn't quite as lively as Belushi. He did have one line down though - when you order a single, he says, "Are you sure you don't want a double? A single is just a quarter-pound." I heard him repeat it to three others who came in while we were there. If you stop in and get this question, listen to him. The quarter pound is quite thin. It was a very tasty burger, but I could have gone for something a bit more meaty. Customers add their own condiments.

Another thing I didn't expect is that there were fries on the menu!! I thought that was always part of their "thing" was that they didn't serve fries. Oh, well. I was glad that they had them on the menu, though, because they were good. Really good. Good greasy fries to go with that good greasy burger. Probably the full day's worth of calories at once, but worth it.

We got two burgers, fries and two Cokes and it was just over $12 - very, very reasonable for a meal in the city.

Now a little on the history. As a Chicago Cubs die-hard, I am sure that any hard core fan has heard the old story about how the owner of the Billy Goat visited Wrigley Field with his pet goat. He was denied entry because of the smell and the owner put a curse on the field and the Cubs. And well, it seems that we're still cursed. The last time the Cubs appeared in a world series was 1945. That's when the curse was placed on the Cubs during game 4 of the series. The last World Series win was 1908. Read a little more on the curse here -

Click here to watch the Saturday Night Live skit that imitates the atmosphere at the Billy Goat -

There are now nine locations including one in Washington D.C.