Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ring in the new year at Osteria La Madia

If you are still contemplating where to eat your final meal of 2014, I've got a great suggestion for you. Osteria La Madia in River North has a recently revamped menu and a new look. The Chicago Foodie Sisters took some time during the busy month of December to attend a media lunch and see what's on the new menu at this eatery that got a makeover after a 7-year itch.

With some great contemporary takes on Italian classics, you'll find house-made fresh pastas and crisp pizzas with a variety of other carefully prepared specialties. Some of the dishes we sampled are on the menu for New Year's Eve prix fixe meal - like the Foie Grad Meatballs that were OMG unexpectedly probably my very favorite of the dishes that we tried. The Wild Boar Bolognese was another favorite that is on the NYE menu.

I got this press release in my inbox recently with details of their New Year's Eve menu. I'd totally recommend it as a way to say goodbye to 2014 in supreme foodie style. :) Nosh on!

Wine and Dine New Year's Eve at Osteria La Madia

Ring in 2015 with Italian flair at newly revamped Osteria La Madia (59 W. Grand Ave). Kick off your evening at the warm, rustic dining destination at 5pm (12am in Italy!) with a complimentary glass of Prosecco or sparkling cider. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy a classic five-course prix fixe meal. Cost of the five-course meal is $65 (plus tax and gratuity) or $85 with wine pairings between 5pm-8pm, and $30 for kids under 12. Specials will also be offered a la carte, in addition to the restaurant’s regular dinner menu. 

The prix fixe meal offers guests the opportunity to elect one specialty dish for each course:

·         Anti-Pasti: Roasted Artichokes. Duck Confit Arancini. Chicken Liver & Truffle Bruschetta.
·         Salata: Little Gem. Arugula, Apples & Walnuts. Heirloom Beets. 
·         Primi or Pizza: Gnocchi. Pappardelle, Wild Boar Bolognese. Spaghetti, Cacio e Pepe. Tagliatelle, Foie Gras Meatball. Margherita. Triple Pepperoni. Parma Classic. Wild Mushroom. Lamb Sausage. Smoked Pork Belly. 
·         Entrée: Porcetta. Vegetable Lasagna. Tournedos of Beef. Roasted Chicken, Winter Squash. Sea Scallops. 
·         Dessert: Nutella Chocolates. 
Guests who want to make a night of it can kick things off with a later dinner, and countdown to 2015 with live music, a celebratory toast and complimentary late night fare. For reservations beginning between 9pm-10pm, price of the five-course prix fixe meal is $75 (plus tax and gratuity) or $95 with wine pairings. Beginning at 11pm, guests can enjoy a live band and when the clock strikes midnight, ring in the New Year with a Prosecco toast. Those partying early into the morning will be able to quell late-night hunger with complimentary fresh zeppole (fried Italian donuts) and a host of savory pizzas. All guests will receive a traditional Roman gift in celebration of the occasion. For more information and reservations call (312) 329-0400 or visit dinelamadia.com.  

Any interest in featuring these fun New Year’s Eve happenings in an upcoming feature or roundup? Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or for additional information. Thanks for considering.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rumchata Cheesecake Pudding Shots

I was at a brunch recently hosted by my dear friend, Patty. She has a beautiful home and loves to decorate and entertain. She's a wonderful cook and always puts in so much effort into the the food she prepares for her guests. I mean she doesn't do anything small or easy. The buffet included casseroles and appetizers and even a salmon filled pasty crust that was carefully shaped into a fish. :)

One of my favorite things I had at the party were Rumchata Cheesecake Pudding Shots and really these don't rate real high on the difficulty scale, but pouring dozens of shots is a bit labor intensive. These were so creamy and sweet and could be really, really, really dangerous. I took a couple bites of my husband's and then decided I'd have one. When someone made a second round by our table, I couldn't resist having just one more.

1 small Cheesecake flavored pudding 
¾ c. milk
¾ c. Rumchata
8 oz. Cool Whip 

Whisk together milk, Rumchata and pudding mix in a bowl. Add Cool Whip gradually with whisk. Spoon into individual disposable shot glasses. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A look back at 2014 restaurant openings in Chicago

This little gem showed up in my inbox and I had to share it. If you're looking to head out to a new spot over the holidays or know a foodie who would LOVE a gift card to a hot new spot, here's a few new places to put on your list.

A Look Back at Chicago’s Best Restaurant Openings in 2014

As one of the top dining cities in the U.S., Chicago has been blessed with the best chefs and restaurants and 2014 was a year to remember with several great restaurants joining the scene.  Including cozy neighborhood destinations, a Michigan Avenue transformation, and two celebrity chef hot spots, here’s a year in review of the Windy City’s newest dining spots in 2014:
18 S. Michigan Avenue
(312) 372-4001
Opening Date: August 2014
Locals and visitors welcomed Billy Lawless’ transformation of Henri to the more casual and cozy Acanto with open arms. Critics and diners fell in love with Executive Chef Chris Gawronski’s interesting Italian creations, including the Suckling Pig times Three (pork three ways, as garlic-infused sausage (cotechino), milk-braised belly and roasted skin-on loin), and Duck Egg Spaghetti. Complemented by Beverage Director Jon McDaniel’s extensive list of Italian wines, Acanto has become a central meeting place for those who love Italian food and an approachable, inviting dining experience. It is a must-do for visitors taking in Chicago’s nearby attractions, while locals have reason to return time and time again for get-togethers of all kinds – from bites and drinks at the bar to light lunches and hearty dinners for social, business and pre-theater gatherings. With glowing reviews in CS Magazine, Chicago Tribune, RedEye, and recently named one of Chicagoist’s 18 best new restaurants of 2014, Acanto is an exciting addition to Chicago’s Italian dining scene.
Ceres’ Table
3124 N Broadway St.
(773) 922-4020
Opening Date: May 2014
In May 2014, Ceres’ Table opened in Chicago’s bustling East Lakeview neighborhood. Chef Giuseppe Scurato, who introduced Ceres’ Table in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood in 2009, joined forces with All Day Hospitality’s Caryn Struif, a Chicago restaurant veteran, to expand upon the successful concept that earned four Bib Gourmand awards from the esteemed Michelin Guide. This past year, Ceres’ Table was honored with its fifth Bib Gourmand award at its new location.

The restaurant features regional, Italian-inspired seasonal plates that pay homage to Chef Scurato’s Sicilian heritage. In the new, larger space, Chef Scurato has expanded the menu to feature new offerings, including homemade pizzas (one of Time Out Chicago’s Best Dishes of 2014) cooked to perfection in a newly installed wood-burning oven that sits at the heart of the restaurant.
Chicken Shop
113-125 N. Green Street
(312) 754-6941
Opening Date: August 2014
Chicken Shop serves up free-range birds, which are marinated overnight, steamed and then cooked over charcoal on a special rotisserie. Taking inspiration from 1950s American general stores, guests enjoy a fun, casual setting while indulging in a rare taste of rotisserie in Chicago. Guests can also enjoy the Dirty Burger, an extension of the Group's popular "burger joint" concept that originated in London, which features a house-made patty based on an original recipe specially crafted by Nick Jones and his chef team. Dirty Burger complements Chicken Shop’s concept, which is rooted in a simple menu with a focus on high quality, seasonal ingredients and tasty accompaniments. Chicken Shop serves dinner Monday through Sunday and brunch on weekends, where guests can enjoy the popular Fried Chicken and Waffles. Chicken Shop has been featured on Chicago magazine’s October 2014 Hot List and Zagat named it one of “The 15 Hottest Brunches in Chicago” and one of “Chicago’s 10 Hottest New Restaurants.”
CURRENT Restaurant 
644 N. Lake Shore Drive
(312) 255-4460
Opening Date: May 2014
Cornerstone Restaurant Group opened CURRENT Restaurant, a social, Italian-inspired restaurant with Executive Chef Gregory Elliott at the helm, in the W Chicago-Lakeshore in May 2014. True to its name, the menus at CURRENT feature a fresh, modern take on seasonal Italian cuisine showcasing Chef Elliott’s simple and soulful ingredient-driven dishes. Once guests enter into CURRENT's lively and inviting space, they notice interesting design details inspired by the restaurant’s prime location situated between sprawling Lake Michigan and the stunning Chicago skyline with the use of cool tones and highly reflective polished chrome mixed with earthy stone and silver-washed wood. When it comes to the cuisine, Chef Elliott serves seasonal, Italian-influenced flavors with a modern twist morning, noon and night.
Grillhouse By David Burke 
1301 American Lane, Schaumburg, IL 60173
(847) 517-1600
Opening Date: October 2014
Grillhouse by David Burke is serving modern American fare with a farm-to-table focus in the Northwest Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, continuing the James Beard Award Winner and Bravo Top Chef Master Contestant's long reputation for sourcing and utilizing the highest quality ingredients and preparing completely unique American dishes. At the new 22,000 square-foot, 450-seat grillhouse, guests can expect the same caliber of dining experience as Chef David Burke's award-winning downtown restaurant.
Pizza East
113-125 N. Green Street
(312) 754-6920
Opening Date: August 2014
Pizza East serves rustic pizzas made from traditional, seasonal ingredients. A ciabatta style, slow-proved dough is handmade in house every day, fired up in wood-burning ovens with an array of natural ingredients as toppers. An open layout provides a firsthand view of the hustle and bustle of the kitchen while the expansive sidewalk patio offers an al fresco dining option in season. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on weekends. Top accolades since opening include Chicago magazine's October 2014 Hot List and Zagat named it one of “Chicago’s 10 Hottest New Restaurants” and one of "8 Hottest New Italian Restaurants in Chicago.”
River Roast
315 N. LaSalle St.
(312) 822-0100
Opening Date: July 2014
With a prime location overlooking the Chicago River, River Roast offers dramatic city and water views from every seat – inside and out – along with cuisine by Chef/Operating Partner Tony Mantuano and Executive Chef John Hogan.  A menu of contemporary American fare features meat, fish and veggies roasted to perfection and carved tableside as well as playful yet rustic small plates, sides, desserts and more.  Inventive drinks and cold-brewed cocktails, unbeatable craft beers and a well-crafted wine selection round out the experience.  On Sundays, River Roast welcomes live blues by famed local musicians with the Blues & Brews Brunch program.  With one of the best patios in the city, River Roast is a gathering place to connect for every occasion.  River Roast is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Since opening, River Roast has been included on Chicago magazine's The Hot List, received 2 stars by Chicago Tribune Dining Critic Phil Vettel, named a new restaurant to try by Zagat, best brunch in Chicago by PureWow, received a positive review by Crain's Chicago Business and more.
Ten Mile House
1700 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 905-0669
Opening Date: November 17, 2014
A social hub for the thriving Evanston community, Ten Mile House serves thoughtful comfort food and beverages in a vibrant, welcoming setting. Located in the heart of Evanston’s Central Street district, just steps from Northwestern University’s Ryan Field, Ten Mile House serves an extensive menu featuring wood fired pizza, smoked meats and a diverse selection of comfort food classics and healthy fare. The restaurant continues the tradition of hospitality of the community’s original Ten Mile House, which was founded in 1836 by Major Edward H. Mulford and served as the social and economic center of Chicago’s growing North Shore. Brunch service is slated to begin in 2015.
The Allis 
113-125 N. Green Street
(312) 521-8000
Opening Date: August 2014
The Allis is an expansive lounge area perfectly suited for those seeking an idyllic space for popping open their laptop, meetings, social get-togethers, pre- or post-dinner cocktails and more. Open to the public, guests enjoy offerings that evolve throughout the day — with gourmet coffee, cold pressed juices and an array of house made pastries in the morning; salads, sandwiches, and afternoon tea by day; and delectable snacks and cocktails by night. Offering both members and nonmembers the chance to enjoy the Soho House experience, The Allis was designed to exude the Soho House look and feel - velvet and tufted leather couches and chairs, vintage chandeliers from Paris, Tiffany-style lamps, custom bookcases and a stunning array of artwork by internationally-renowned talent. The space is aptly named after the Allis family who owned the Chicago Belting Factory. The name "Allis Building" is also inscribed above the building’s front entranceway. The Allis serves breakfast, lunch afternoon tea, small plates and wine, beer and cocktails. Top accolades since opening include:
  • Chicago magazine's October 2014 Liquid Hot List
  • Chicagoist’s "Best New Bars" 2014
  • Eater "Drink Heatmap" 2014
  • Tasting Table's "Best New Bars" 2014
Unite Urban Grill
1450 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 455-8900
Opening Date: November 2013
A neighborhood restaurant, Unite Urban Grill serves seasonally inspired, modern comfort fare. Located in the heart of Chicago’s West Town, the restaurant serves a diverse menu in a contemporary dining space. The menu is designed to fit a variety of tastes and includes grilled steaks, seafood, shareable snacks, and an assortment of vegetable-focused items.

Information provided by Isabelli Media Relations.

Urban Accents popcorn kit makes great gift

In our house, pretty much every Saturday night is movie night. Much of the time, we tune into MeTV in Chicago to watch Svengoolie. He hosts the programming at 9 p.m. that usually broadcasts vintage horror flicks and B-movies. My big boys will pull put a pack of milk and some cookies and my 9-year-old will pop some popcorn. We all cram on the sofa and loveseat and watch such classics as The Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy's Ghost and Frankenstein.

If you have someone on your gift list who does a lot of home movie viewing and is a popcorn fan, this Get Poppin' gift pack is perfect. With fun seasonings like Tangy Dill Pickle and Sizzling Sriracha, it'll give a regular old bowl of popcorn a bit of a kick. The pack also includes Jumbo kernels specially grown  for Urban Accents with no GMOs. The pack is regularly $25.95, now on sale for $19.46. Order at www.urbanaccents.com.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chicago Restaurant Week includes Odyssey dinner cruise

This press release was in the inbox today and I instantly got a little giddy that Chicago Restaurant week is coming soon. It's a wonderful way to sample the best food in the city at much lower prices than usual. Take a look at the line-up for this fun dinner cruise on Lake Michigan.


CHICAGO, IL (Dec. 15, 2014) - Odyssey brings Chicagoans a unique experience during this year's restaurant week. Aboard the comfortable climate-controlled decks of Odyssey, guests will dine on an exclusive Chicago Restaurant Week menu developed by Chef Leonel Martinez. "It's an honor to be participating in Chicago Restaurant Week. This event gives our team the opportunity to showcase our culinary expertise to a larger audience, and we can't wait to see what the guests think," says Martinez. 

Cruisers will set sail and start the evening off with a champagne cocktail to toast the fabulous night ahead. The customized Restaurant Week menu begins with a Mixed Greens Salad garnished with goat cheese, seasonal fruit and sugared pecans. Main course options include a choice of Roasted Chicken, Odyssey Short Ribs, Vegetable Napoleon and the Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin that will be featured at First Bites BashDinner ends on a sweet note with a selection of Mini Pastry Cups, Cakes, Pastries and Seasonal Fruit.

Restaurant week participants can choose from two voyages on Saturday, January 31 or Saturday, February 7. This experience will be unlike any other Chicago Restaurant Week venue with live music, gracious service and stunning views of the city skyline from Lake Michigan. 

Complete menus, photos and further details are available upon request. 

Dates Available: Saturday 1/31 & 2/7
Board 6 p.m., Cruise 7-10 p.m. 
Price: $34.39 (tax, gratuity and beverages not included)

Reservations are required. Includes meal, cruise, entertainment and skyline views. Call 888.957.2634 or visit Odyssey's Website

General Information
Odyssey Cruises, Spirit of Chicago, Mystic Blue CruisesSeadog Cruises and Chicago Elite Cruises are part of Chicago-based Entertainment Cruises.

The Spirit of Chicago, Seadog, and The Odyssey received the Trip Advisor 2014 Excellence Award

The Odyssey received Illinois Meetings + Events magazine's 2013 readers' choice Best of Award.

The Spirit of Chicago and The Odyssey received a 2014 Editor's Choice for Best in Boats from Chicago Traveler.

Entertainment Cruises' fleet was voted as a "Best of Knot Weddings" for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Spirit of Chicago received Chicago Parent's Best Places to Flirt in the Best Places for Chicago Parents in 2013.

Seadog Cruises received top ratings and a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor in 2012 and 2013. 

Odyssey was named the "Best Cruise Line in Chicago" by Destination Guide in 2012. 

Seadog Extreme was awarded the "Best Kid-Friendly Thrill" by Time Out Chicago KIDS in 2012.

Entertainment Cruises received the Silver Award from NTA's Courier Magazine in the "Favorite Sightseeing Cruise Line" category in 2012. 

Odyssey was named a 2012 Top Rated Restaurant & received a certificate of recognition from Restaurant.com.

Odyssey was recognized for having a 4 out of 5 stars from Yelp & received the "People Love Us" award in 2012.

The Odyssey was named the Best of Boats/Charters/Cruises by the Illinois Meetings + Events Magazine in 2011 and 2012.

Odyssey was named a "Concierge Favorite" by Concierge Preferred in 2011. 

About The Chicago Elite
The Elite is Chicago's most innovative dining and entertainment experience. The private charter yacht is available as a private event space for parties of up to 150 guests. Featuring two interior salons, an expansive bar and lounge on main deck and a finely appointed dining room on second deck. Top deck features a contemporary roof top style outside lounge with unparalleled waterfront views of Chicago's award winning skyline and architecture. Chicago Elite offers a completely customizable event on a private yacht for a meeting, wedding or unique gathering. For more information, visit www.eliteprivateyachts.com.

About The Odyssey
The Odyssey's 749-passenger ship, the largest cruise vessel to ply the waters of Lake Michigan, is unrivaled in luxury and recipient of Concierge Favorite and Best of The Knot awards in 2012.  The Odyssey, at 200-ft. long and 55-ft. high, is equipped with three climate controlled decks, an outdoor observation deck, three indoor bars, dance floors, and exceptional skyline views from bow to stern.  Odyssey's distinguished service and experiences cater to all tastes and senses. For more information, visit www.odysseycruises.com.

About Spirit of Chicago
Spirit of Chicago's festive, four-story ship has been creating high-energy fun from beginning to end as it cruises along Chicago's lakefront. The 192-ft. ship sails year-round and features a vibrant interior of three climate-controlled dining decks with new bars and dance floors and panoramic windows.  For more information, visit www.spiritofchicago.com

About Mystic Blue
Featuring a contemporary décor with sleek, silvery-blue interiors, Mystic Blue boasts an outdoor lounge with modern furniture, and three enclosed decks with the largest picture windows of any dinner boat on Lake Michigan. From parties of two to 600, Mystic Blue is the place for cool music, delicious food and drinks, top-notch service and unbeatable views from every table. For more information, visit www.mysticbluecruises.com

About Seadog 
One of the most popular attractions at Navy Pier, Seadog has thrilled over 1,000,000 people. Seadog offers three turbo-charged excursions from a 30-minute Speedboat Lake Tour, a 75-minute Lake and River Architectural Tour, and the most horse-powered vessel on the water, a 30-minute Extreme Thrill Ride. Dogs cruise free (based on availability). Seadog operates April - October, weather permitting. For more information, visit www.seadogcruises.com

Holiday cash and cool mint gift idea

Ok, I admit I'm not the craftiest of people, but I love gifts that throw in a little extra thought or a theme. When the folks at the Illinois Lottery asked me to come up with some gift ideas using lottery tickets, I whipped up with this, which is perfect for an acquaintance that you would like to remember with a small gift or if you have a large number of people to give to and want to keep them all the same. The big plus is that it is super simple, so you feel like you were crafty and creative without going to a lot of trouble or needing a hot glue gun.

People really love to get lotto instant tickets as gifts. I know I do. It's something fun and there's that added excitement of scratching them off to see if you win something. I was at a Christmas party last year where the hostess gave each guest a little wooden box with chocolates in it and rolled up and tied to each box was an Illinois Lottery instant ticket. I won $12!

For this gift, I purchased some boxes of Andes Mints (who doesn't love those?) They usually run about $3 a box. Sometimes you can find them on sale for less than that. And there's always the option of upgrading to Fannie May Mint Meltaways or those oh, so good Frango Mints from Macy's.

On the boxes, I taped a Holiday Cash instant ticket and a little tag that says "Hope you win a mint!" I stopped in the office at the middle school my sons attend to give them to the secretaries in the main office and the school nurse. They were really appreciate of the gesture…and especially the lottery ticket.

The Illinois Lottery has a variety of other instant tickets in the $1 - $30 price range. You can find he full line here.

*** I did receive complimentary lottery tickets to use in the gifts pictured. I did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sunda makes a great brunch spot

So, when you sit down to have brunch with Billy Dec, you know it's going to be good. That's a guy who knows good eats. And when you're dining in one of his restaurants, you can expect everything to be top notch and complete fireworks for your taste buds. 

A graduate of Chicago Kent College of Law. He's the CEO and founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, a Chicago company that owns several restaurants and clubs. He's a contributor on Windy City Live on ABC-7, where he fills in the audience on the food and entertainment scene and he's also a contributor on 103.5 KISS FM. This year he was appointed by President Obama to serve on this White House Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. 

What else? Oh, just a couple of Emmys and a pile of other accolades for his business ventures. He's also an actor whose career dates back to way back to the days of Friends. Most recently he appeared in an episode of Criminal Minds and he's been filming scenes for Entourage. He's appeared on the Today Show to show off Rockit Burger Bar's Mac and Cheese Attack (an angus burger on two fried mac and cheese buns!) His newest venture, the Duck Inn, just opened last week. Oh, and there's the hat. You almost never see him without one. And when we spent a fun afternoon with him recently, the hat was there, too.

The Chicago Foodie Sisters had the opportunity to join Billy Dec and some of his friends for a brunch crawl at Sunda and Bottlefork ~ two completely different concepts and menus, but both completely impressed us. The company was fabulous, as well, with several food, fashion and media professionals at the table providing entertaining and hilarious conversation.

Stop #1 was Sunda. With a an extensive menu of Asian inspired dishes and American classics with an Asian twist, you'll find something for everyone ~ although you'll likely have a very hard time deciding. Lucky for us, Billy ordered up several favorites so could sample a few, along with a mimosa kit.

My favorite would probably be the Tempura French Toast. The Oxtail Potstickers were pretty awesome, too. Scroll down for the amazing visuals.

Should you be spending time in the city over the holidays, put brunch at Sunda on your itinerary. You won't be disappointed.

110 W. Illinois
110L 60654

Chicago Gourmet was a foodie highlight of 2014

I am starting to reflect back on the year of 2014 and all of the foodie highlights. I'll be getting a post up soon to fill you in, but just taking a few moments on this chilly day in Chicago to take a peek back on a warm, sunny September day in Millennium Park that was a complete foodie paradise. What a fabulous foodie event!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Urban Accents Gourmet Gobbler Turkey Brining Kit

So, let me tell you a little about my Thanksgiving. I hosted family for dinner the day after Thanksgiving. It was just the second time in my life that I was making a turkey.

The first time was over 20 years ago when I was a newlywed and we were having family over for Christmas. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn't know how long it took for a turkey to thaw. I had no idea that there was "stuff" in the middle that had to be removed. I took it out of the freezer the evening before and put it in a roasting pan and put it in the oven. The next afternoon it was still raw and had cooked with the bag inside. It went in the garbage and luckily I had also made ham.

So, fast forward a bit and I thought I'd try again since I have had a couple decades of cooking experience since then. Most years we have gone to my sister's house for Thanksgiving. Since I always liked the leftovers at home, I'd often make a turkey breast and all the trimming a day or two later. This year I was having a few family members over, so I went for it and purchased a big bird. Not wanting to have to worry about thawing, I ordered a fresh turkey from Howard & Sons in Munster. It was also a free-range, hormone-free Amish raised version.

Since I'd recently received a package of some product samples from Urban Accents, including a brine kit, I thought I'd give it a try. I had heard so many good things about brining. So, I did the brining thing and am so glad I did because (pardon the language) I made one kick-ass turkey!

I put the turkey in brine for 9 to 10 hours as the instructions recommended a half hour per pound an I had an 18-pounder. That night I removed it from the brine and cleaned the turkey (yes, I even removed everything I was supposed to), then added the rub and it smelled magnificent before it even went in the oven. I covered it and put it in the oven at 325 degrees for two hours, then down to 225 and went to bed. Four hours later I got up to baste it went back to bed for a bit. Then the temp went back up to 325 for two more hours (the last hour or so uncovered so it could brown.) It was about 10 hours cooking time total.

Being a novice, I hadn't even though about placement and didn't realize I'd cooked it breast side down when it seems the more common method is breast up. However, it was the moistest turkey I've ever had. It worked out perfectly.

I was quite pleased with myself. The bird was wonderful! If you are planning out your Christmas menu and it includes a turkey, do your self a favor and order the Gourmet Gobbler Turkey Brining Kit. If it could make a turkey cooking novice like me put out a meal like this, you can expect miracles, too. :)

*** I did receive a complimentary sample product. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University Calumet lunch finale

This week was the final lunch date for the restaurant of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at Purdue Calumet. I had been there for dinner and wanted to try out lunch before the end of the summer. When I called for reservations, the table reservations were full, but they were able to squeeze me in for the bar seating.

I attended dinner with my husband when I had been there previously and had told my dad how much we enjoyed it, so he was excited about trying it out, too. As we arrived, we learned that the theme for the lunch was "Magic Show" and the dining room was decorated with top hats and playing cards. Napkins were folded into little bunny ears. The menu items followed the magic theme.

When I had been there for dinner, I had preselected the entrees when making the reservation. This time I hadn't seen a preview of the day's menu, so I wasn't sure what the options would be. They ended up all sounding so fantastic, I spent way too much time contemplating which to get. I settled on the flank steak after much deliberation. My dad ordered the Copperfield Chicken Pasta.

We both tried the Abra Kadabra Broccoli Salad, which mixed a wonderful blend of flavors - some sweet, some bitter, some smokey, some creamy. The salad could also be ordered as an entree with chicken breast added.

Dad shared a couple scoops from his plate and when I tried it I wasn't sure I'd made the right choice. The chicken was incredibly tender and the creamy sauce was delicious, served with crisp, fresh green beans.

Then I tried my entree and I was in heaven! This was truly one of the best meals I've ever eaten. I went back and forth over ordering the salmon or the steak. The salmon sounded fabulous and I saw someone nearby eating it and was pretty set, but then I changed my mind when I saw that Brussels sprouts were the vegetable. That sealed the deal. They melted in my mouth and as a bonus had bacon added in!!! The best serving of Brussels sprouts I have ever had.

They even did magic tricks for us to go along with the theme.

A very sweet gentleman named John, who is a university employee, was seated next to us and obliged when I asked if I could snap a pic of his French Onion Soup and Salmon. It looked delicious!

I can't believe I passed up dessert (especially at just $2,) but I knew I'd be back that evening for dinner, so I convinced myself not to over do it. It looked spectacular, though.

Sadly, the semester is now over and the kitchen is closed for a bit. I can't wait to see what comes up on their menu in the spring.

The Butchers Tap

The Grand Opening of the Butchers Tap in Chicago last week was a huge success! I had the pleasure of checking out the new spot and sampling their food and drink menu. With the location originally a butcher shop that was opened in 1932, this is a great location right on Southport in the Wrigleyville area. With 100 beers, 60 on tap they also include wine on tap straight from the barrel. Lets not forget Moonshine- yes they have that too. The tap list includes IPA's, Wheat, Ambers, Pale Ale's, Stouts and Ciders. Also included are seasonal cocktails such as Ravenswood Old Fashioned.

The menu at The Butchers Tap comes straight from food purveyors and farms from their crops to the kitchen. The team behind the menu supports the local agricultural economy and includes a full menu of items.We started with the Butcher Board that included Smoked Goose Soppressata, Smoking Goose Elk Stageberry and from the Artisan cheese selection, Capriole Goat Cheese. The board was accompanied by nuts, crackers, and a variety of fresh fruit and spreads. To wash it down we sampled  the Ale Asylum from Madison, WI .

The full menu includes creative burger selections, vegetarian options, and for options on the lighter side they offer a Wine Country Salad. One of the most creative burgers on the menu is called the Zeus. This included Catalpa Grove Lamb, Feta Cheese, Arugula, Pickled Red Onion, and Tomato Cucumber Hummus Spread.

We chose to go with one of the signature selections, the Butchers Classic. This deli sandwich from heaven included Mortadella, Capocollo, Salami, Ham, Provolone, Mayo, Mustard and House Italian Dressing.

We also tried the chicken sandwich straight from the hen. Buttermilk seasoned and fried- oh so good. This included a generous side of my favorite, mac and cheese.

If your looking to try a new spot in the area, check out The Butchers Tap. As the tag line on the menu states " Good Karma Never Tasted So Good"-my thoughts exactly.