Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fatty's in Dekalb, Illinois

All summer and early autumn I was trying to figure out a date to head out and visit my nephew, a student at Northern Illinois University. Finally, we figured out a day that we could get together. I drove out there on a recent Sunday with my 15-year-old to treat Ryan for his birthday which was two weeks ago and to get a tour of the campus. My son is a sophomore, so I figured it would be a great introduction for him to the NIU campus.

Ryan took us around for a little tour and I snapped a few pictures. The original buildings are beautiful and I enjoyed a walk around the older part of campus.

He also took showed us the memorial to five students killed in the tragic shooting on the campus in 2008.

After our tour, we went to have lunch at Fatty's, a popular hangout nearby. Since it was a Sunday afternoon the place was full of patrons there to watch the Bears game (we won't go into game details except to say the Bears suffered a miserable loss) and there were big screens everywhere so no matter where you were seated you'd get a view.

I loved the many sports-themed sandwiches and I ordered one named after my favorite former Cub, Ryan Sandburg.

One plus to dining out in a college town is the cheap drinks. He mentioned a couple places nearby that they visit when it's $1 draft night. I ordered a Moscow Mule. Only $3.50. That's a total bargain.

So, here's my adorable nephew, Ryan and I, at Fatty's. He just turned 22. Can't believe how time flies. Seems like yesterday I was chasing him around and playing with Hot Wheels with him. He's also my Godson. He's such a good kid. I'm really proud of him!

So, on to the food. Ryan got a chicken wrap and he told me that they are known for their cajun potato salad, which he got as his side.

I got the Ryne Sandburger and asked for it on a pretzel roll along with some slaw and the cajun potato salad. It isn't served cold like typical potato salad. It's served warm - fried potatoes and if I remember correctly bacon and cheese (how can you go wrong there?) with a bit of a kick.

And my son's grilled cheese with bacon on Texas Toast with fries and baked beans.

Fatty's Pub & Grille
1312 W. Lincoln Highway
Dekalb, IL
(815) 758-7737

Monday, October 27, 2014

From the Inbox: Thanksgiving To-Go from Shaw's Crab House

After Thanksgiving hits this Friday, it's time to head into planning the next holiday. If cooking for a crowd isn't in the cards this Thanksgiving, consider a catered feast from Shaw's Crab House. Read on for more details.

Shaw's Crab House in Chicago Celebrates
Thanksgiving with To-Go Menu

(Chicago, IL)- This Thanksgiving, invite Shaw's Crab House to dinner! Shaw's is offering a spectacular to-go menu at its Chicago location for hosts who'd rather leave the Thanksgiving Day cooking to the experts. For just $40 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity), Shaw's will whip up a holiday feast with turkey, sides, dessert, and all the leftover fixins'! Orders must be placed 72 hours in advance and can be picked up on Wednesday, November 26 from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. or Thursday, November 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Shaw's Thanksgiving to-go feast includes the following options:

The Main Course
All-White Herb-Roasted Turkey (one pound per person)
All orders include Rolls & Butter

Choice of Sides
Choose four (included in the $40 per person pricing)
$5 per person for additional side

Mashed Potatoes
Classis Dressing
Sweet Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Fresh Green Beans
Au Gratin Potatoes
Corn Casserole
Roasted Root Vegetables
Harvest Salad

Choice of Dessert- one slice per person
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie

Leftovers Kit
Sandwich Buns
Cranberry Relish
Mustard Mayonnaise
Turkey Recipes
Turkey Soup Fixins': Chopped Celery, Carrot, Onion, and Egg Noodles

Shaw's Crab House, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, features a 1940s-style take on the seafood dining experience, with retro leather banquettes, polished wood floors and Art Deco touches. The Oyster Bar provides a more casual setting for diners and serves up live music five nights a week at the Chicago location. Shaw's- The King of Crab! For more info, call 312.527.2722 (Chicago) or 847.517.2722 (Schaumburg), visit the website at, tweet with The Shaw's Mermaid at or keep up on Facebook at and

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Beer Schwing

My husband and I and a couple of our friends attended the Munster Ale Fest at Centennial Park in Munster, IN this past weekend. As impressed as I was with the number of microbreweries and the selections offered and how well organized it was, I think the coolest thing I encountered at the event was the Beer Schwing.

After just 15 minutes at the event on a cold and rainy day, my hands were like ice (I, of course, didn't bring gloves) and I really didn't want to carry around a cold glass of beer. Then I spotted someone with a beer hanging on a lanyard around their neck. And then I spotted another. Then I scanned the crowd and in every direction were people walking with these big yellow beer necklaces. I stopped someone to ask where to get one and it happened to be Curt Foreman of BrewFest Partners, the consultant who worked with the town of Munster to organize the fest. He's also the inventor of the Beer Schwing.

For an event like this, it was a must. There was some soggy picnic table seating, but you really spend most of your time walking and who wants to hold a cold glass in your hand on a day like this? And, of course, when you drink, you want to eat. This way you had for hands free to munch as you went from tent to tent. It's also adjustable for different sizes of beverage containers. By the late afternoon, I'd say at least half of the people I saw walking around the fest had a Beer Schwing around their neck. To get your own Beer Schwing, go to

Monday, October 20, 2014

From the inbox: Carnivale introduces Fall menu

From the inbox this week is a wonderful line-up of seasonal specialties. Full details below.

West Loop Restaurant Creates New Colorful Dishes Using Seasonally Fresh Items
October 14, 2014 (CHICAGO) - Carnivale, Latin-fusion cuisine located in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, has launched an array of new dinner menu items as part of a seasonally refreshed menu. The new fall offerings pay homage to the season through fresh ingredients, savory flavors and an abundance of color.

The autumn flavors can be found in dishes utilizing ingredients such as apple cider, sweet potato, pumpkin seed and grapefruit. Chilis grown fresh from the rooftop garden are used in the Ecuadorian Shrimp Ceviche and in hot sauce made in house. Additionally, favorites have been updated to use seasonally fresh items such as Tuna Tiradito, Short Rib, and Chicken Milanese.
New fall menu items include, but aren't limited to:

  • Salmon Ceviche - Grapefruit ginger sauce, grape fruit segments, apple, carrots, mustard oil
  • Tuna Tiradito Ceviche - Daikon radish, apple cider, Thai basil, Yuzu, preserved wild lemon sauce
  • Coconut Shrimp - Aji panca glaze, frisee, pineapple chutney
  • Octopus - Giant lima beans, lemon zest, frisee, olive oil, parsley
  • Lechon Asado - Sweet plantains, grapefruit oregano mojo, chicharron, black bean puree
  • Churrasco - Potato tostones, cotija cheese, scallion, house pickles
  • Short Rib - Malta braised short rib, giardiniera, toasted fregola
  • Requeson - House made requeson, Urban Till farmed greens, saba, olive oil
  • Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts
"Seasonal menus give us an opportunity to showcase our culinary innovation," said Executive Chef Rodolfo Cuadros. "The new menu items blend fall textures and colors in order to compliment the season." 
Reservations are recommended by calling (312) 850-5005 or
About Carnivale:
Carnivale is located at 702 W. Fulton Market in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood. Carnivale's Latin-fusion cuisine explores dishes from Central and South America, Cuba, Spain and the Caribbean. Featuring energetic colors, glamour, photography and wild design, Carnivale engages all of the senses with global flavors, Latin music and luxurious comfort. The restaurant boasts private event space perfect for large parties, weddings and special events. Carnivale is open every day from 11:30AM to midnight for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit, become a fan on Facebook, and follower on Twitter@Carnivale312

Meatheads welcomes Bears' Robbie Gould for reading event

I first visited a Meatheads restaurant this past summer when they opened the location in Munster, Indiana. The food was pretty awesome. I tried a couple burgers, fries, shakes and chicken tenders. Besides being happy finding a nearby place for a casual, fresh burger, I was really impressed by the investment that Meatheads makes in the communities where their restaurants are located at. 

Each location has a community table surrounded by photos of local landmarks. They post football schedules and scores in the stores. They run a reading program for kids where they can read books to earn free burgers. They also have developed a partnership with Chicago Bears' Kicker Robbie Gould in support of his Goulden Touch charity.

Tomorrow you can meet Gould at a special event celebrating the summer reading program where he'll be reading and signing autographs. A specialty burger created with Gould in mind, the Goulden Burger, will also be sold at the event with 10% of the sales going toward his charity.

"Education and reading is incredibly important to me personally, and to The Goulden Touch," said founder of The Goulden Touch, Robbie Gould in a press release. "In 2013, with the help and support of our incredible partner, Meatheads, we were able to help support over 3,000 Working in the Schools (WITS) students in their summer reading program. With this year's donation, we are excited to surpass that number to positively influence even more WITS' students in the Chicago Public Schools."

Read on for event details:

WHAT: Meatheads & The Goulden Touch Celebrate Reading Event

WHEN: Tuesday, October 21st; 5:30pm - 7:30pm
  • Robbie’s Reading Time: 5:45pm
  • Check Presentation/photo opps: 6:45pm
  • Autographs/Photos with Robbie: 7:00pm

WHERE: Meatheads Lincolnwood (6734 N Lincoln Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712)

WHY: Come celebrate the 2nd annual summer reading partnership between Meatheads and The Goulden Touch, the public charity founded by Chicago Bears' Kicker Robbie Gould.

This family-friendly event will reward kids for participating in Meatheads’ Summer Voracious Reading Program. Robbie will be reading some of his favorite books, signing autographs, taking photos and dining with customers. 

Also, for one night only, Meatheads will be bringing back the limited edition charity burger developed by Robbie, The Goulden Burger. 10% of sales from The Goulden Burger sold at the event will be added to the final total donated to The Goulden Touch. Meatheads will reveal the final number of Goulden Burgers sold this summer and present a check to The Goulden Touch.

ABOUT MEATHEADS:  Meatheads is a 15-unit Chicago-based fast-casual, family restaurant that is passionate about giving back to the community. It has supported education, athletics and local charities since the first location opened in 2007. For more information about the Meatheads, please visit

ABOUT THE GOULDEN TOUCH:  The Goulden Touch is a registered 501c3 Not For Profit Corporation founded by Chicago Bears Kicker Robbie Gould. The mission of The Goulden Touch is simply to help those in need. The idea is to balance the incredible importance of giving to others while also making charitable giving fun. The public charity focuses its areas of giving within four Goulden Rules that include: Education, Health & Wellness, Medical Research and Social Service. For more information visit

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best of Bucharest takes place Saturday

Looking for some lively foodie fun this weekend? Consider paying a visit to the Little Bucharest Bistro at 3661 N. Elston for a feast of roasted pig and lamb, grape stomping, gypsy music and more with a buffet of goodies for $25. Take a look at the full press release for more on this inaugural fall harvest event.

CHICAGO (September 2014) - Little Bucharest Bistro, the popular eastern European restaurant located at 3661 N. Elston Ave in Chicago, will host its first celebration of “The Best of Bucharest” on Saturday, October 18 at 12:00 p.m. noon until 12:00 a.m. midnight.  The joyous and delicious festivities, featuring the best that the Region has to offer, will include:
·       Grape Stomping;
·       Complimentary Grape Juice;
·       Pig and Lamb Roasts;
·       Gypsy Minstrels  and Dancers;
·       Special Buffet of Bountiful Delicacies at $25 per person;
(Reservations are suggested; limit one ticket per person; dine-in only; not valid on with any other offer; beverages not included; gratuity not included).

“Join us as we showcase the BEST of the BEST in Romanian food, drink, entertainment as well as cultural traditions that you will NEVER see outside of Romania,” says Little Bucharest Bistro’s gregarious owner Branko, the host with the most!  
At 9 p.m., get ready for Branko to, literally, break plates to ward off any demons in the room!
Little Bucharest Bistro’s “The Best of Bucharest” $25 Buffet features:     
o   Appetizers: “Vinete,” Eggplant Spread with cucumber, red onions, tomato, feta and grilled pita; Roasted Beet Carpaccio,” greens, clementine, goat cheese and caramelized nuts in vinaigrette; and “Mititei” Charbroiled Sausages, beef and pork, garlic, served with greens and crispy polenta.

o   Entrees: Freshly Roasted Pig and Lamb; Award Winning" Sausage-Stuffed Chicken Thigh, served with creamy gorgonzola polenta in a rustic tomato sauce;  Chicken Paprikash, braised chicken in paprika over polenta, crème fraiche with green beans and pearl onions; Bucharest Signature Vegetarian Goulash, tomato stew with couscous and broiled eggplant; and "Sarmale" Stuffed Cabbage; pickled cabbage stuffed with pork, ground beef, and sautéed rice stewed in tomato jus served with polenta and crème fraiche.

o   Desserts: Home-made Strudel cu Mere" Apple Strudel, with raisins, walnuts, vanilla gelato and caramel sauce; and “Clatite” Warm Crepes with chocolate, strawberry or apricot sauce.

A full bar also is featured in the main dining room, serving specialty cocktails as well as an assortment of European beer, wine and brandy including “Branko's "Flaming Tea.”

Little Bucharest Bistro is open Monday – Friday from 3 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Saturday from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Sunday from 3 p.m. – 2 a.m.; and closed on Tuesday.  For reservations and private party information, please call (773) 604-8500.  Complimentary limousine service, with 24-hour advance notice, is available for groups of 6 or more.
About Little Bucharest Bistro
Originally located at 3001 N. Ashland since 1970, a fixture there for more than three decades, Little Bucharest Bistro moved to Chicago’s Old Irving Park area in 2009. Known for its Eastern European food, Little Bucharest translates to “Little Paris of the East.” The restaurant blends a touch of Romanian heritage with American contemporary fare in a vibrant and modern atmosphere.  A picturesque outdoor patio also is available. For more information, visit or follow on Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn.

Munster Ale Fest set for Saturday

Ok, folks. There's a fun event tomorrow that I have really been looking forward to - the Munster Ale Fest at my favorite local park, Centennial Park. Online ticket sales are no longer available, but tickets can still be purchased at the door for general admission and designated driver admission.

This inaugural beer tasting event runs from 1 - 5 p.m. If you were lucky enough to snag a VIP ticket, you can enjoy an early hour of special tastings from Three Floyds Brewery at noon. Over 100 brews are available for sampling from over 30 Midwest breweries.

Craft beers from such popular spots as 18th Street Brewery in Gary, Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer, MI, Vice District Brewing in Chicago and Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN are among the breweries participating.

General Admission tickets are $55 (cash only) at the gate and a commemorative pint glass is included. A designated driver admission is $15 (cash only) with unlimited soda, water and a commemorative pint glass. No one under 21 years of age will be admitted.

Be sure to download the Munster Ale Fest app with background on the brewers at the booths and a rating system to note your favorites. Go to for more information.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hearty Egg Scramble

I know, I've posted lots of picture of my scrambled egg breakfasts, but couldn't help it. This one was fantastic.  I'd watched a video on FB recently where they instructed viewers to make perfect scrambled eggs by scrambling them vigorously with a whisk and not adding any water or milk to them. So, I followed that advice and I really liked the consistency.

8 oz. fresh spinach
Olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk green onion, diced
8 eggs, scrambled well
1 roma tomato, diced
4 slices of ham lunchmeat, diced
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to your skillet and add spinach. Heat until wilted and then add pepper, onion. Cook until soft.

Scramble 8 eggs and add to pan. As they are nearing completion, add ham, half of the cheese and tomatoes. Flip eggs as they cook and when finished, add the remaining cheese to the top. Remove from heat and cover until cheese melts.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekly Specials at J. J. Kelley's

Probably my favorite place in town for a bite to eat is J. J. Kelley's, a little pub and restaurant on the north end of town on a frontage road just off I-80/94. I have a few favorites on the regular menu - the chicken tenders, the reuben sandwich, the chopped salad, the Chicken Vessuvio, the buffalo shrimp. Sometimes I'll see something on the specials that sounds especially intriguing and it becomes a favorite, too.

This past week my husband, my oldest son and I stopped by there for lunch. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of always ordering something different and then splitting it so that we can try two different thing. We both honed in on the Sliced Prime Rib on Ciabatta with mushrooms and gooey cheese. But I spoke first, so hubby changed his order to the Santa Fe Salad, also on the specials menu.

I knew I'd love the salad as the chicken chopped salad is one of my very favorite menu items. This one had a southwestern flair with black beans and olives and spicy chicken and it was served with their delicious garlic bread.

My sandwich was awesome. I adore ciabatta and it was toasted with some added some garlic then was covered with mushrooms and mozzarella. It was served along with some parmesan fries that were pretty fantastic. I hope this makes it back on the specials menu again very soon. :)

J. J. Kelley's 
2455 Bernice Road
Lansing, IL

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pepper and Pasta Soup

This past week we picked the last of the peppers out of the garden. There were a lot of banana peppers and bell peppers still hanging from the plants and I wanted to use them up. So, my son went out and picked.

My first thought was some stuffed peppers, but a lot of the peppers were just too small for that or were an odd shape. So, my second thought was stuffed green pepper soup. It's one of my favorites. I use some ground beef, canned tomatoes, green peppers, rice, chicken broth and some tomato sauce.

When I looked around my pantry, I realized I didn't have any canned tomatoes (not sure how that happened! I try to always keep those in stock.) I also realized I didn't have rice. The boil-in-bags work great for this. I put the bag right in my broth and boil it and then cut the bag open and dump it.

So, with no rice, I looked to see what I had for pasta. I had a little bit of campanelle pasta left in a box and decided to throw it in. It worked wonderfully! Because it's kind of large, those couple handfuls of pasta were a perfect amount. So, here's the step by step of what I'll call my Pepper and Pasta Soup.

6 chicken bouillon cubes
12 cups of water
46 ounce can tomato juice
1 pound browned ground beef
4 - 6 ounces of campanelle pasta
3 or 4 medium to large bell peppers (any color), diced
1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced 
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of each: dried basil, garlic salt, dried oregano
Two teaspoons of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
(adjust seasonings to your taste)

First I dissolved the bouillon in the water on a low simmer. When you use bouillon for soups, the instructions indicate to use one cup of water per cube. I prefer to water it down and use two cups of water per cube to help cut down on the sodium. The tomato juice and added seasonings make up for it.

Add tomato juice and seasonings and let it continue to simmer as you dice the peppers and onion. Add your veggies and continue to simmer about 10 minutes. Then turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and ground beef. Boil for about 8 - 10 minutes or until past has softened.

I was very pleased with the results. In fact, I really liked it better than my traditional stuffed green pepper soup. Hope you enjoy as well!