Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Twisted K-8 Brewing: LaPorte, IN

So last week I went out the Blue Chip Casino for a preview event for the upcoming April 11 Blue Chip Brewfest, a huge annual event that now covers the Stardust Event Center as well as an added climate-controlled tent.

One of the best parts of the event was chatting with reps from the breweries and discovering how many there are that are close the Chicago area. I'm familiar with a few, but the number of breweries in Northwest Indiana is growing faster than I can keep track. One newer location that I was introduced to at the event was Twisted K-8 Brewing, which is pretty close to the casino.

Twisted K-8 is a brewpub with a nice roundup of snacks and sandwiches that are good beer fellows. So, if you aren't as much into beer as the others you're with, it sounds like it is definitely worth the trip for a foodie, too. The Ultimate BLT would probably be a nice choice. It's described as having "an unnatural amount of bacon" on toasted beer bread. I was a little giddy to see that they use Fair Oaks cheeses, too! Fair Oaks cheese is amazing!

I see they also have a chocolate stout pie in limited quantities, which could be enough to lure a chocolate lover like me to the counter. Stouts are really growing on me. Their 2 Cream Stout was one of two beers they were sampling that night. I didn't get a chance to get back to table to try it out, but I did get a taste of the Jackelope IPA, which the chef at the Blue Chip paired with their Ultimate JalapeƱo Poppers. Good call!

The place is fairly new. They celebrated their first anniversary in December and I'm sure they'd love to have you come out and do some tasting of your own. If you go, tell them the Chicago Foodie Sisters sent you!

You can also catch them at the Blue Chip Brewfest on April 11. For more information, visit http://www.bluechipcasino.com/whats-new/events/brewfest.

For more on Twisted K-8, go to www.twistedk-8.com.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Green salad with goat cheese and dried fruit

I love salads and have in recent years graduated from the typical iceberg lettuce with cucumber and tomato that I grew up on. It's one of my favorite parts of dining out -- trying a new salad or peeking at the menu to see what kinds of combinations they're using. I've come to appreciate the mix of sweet and savory items, the soft with the crunchy, the aromas created by such fresh ingredients.

So, for a weekend lunch I stood at the stove making quesadilla after quesadilla since all five kids and and my husband were home. Then I took a look in the fridge to see what I had that could go in a salad. It was time for a weekly shopping run so not that much to choose from, but I had enough for a nice salad of:

romaine lettuce
organic pea shoots (Trader Joe's is the only place I've ever seen these)
broccoli microgreens
baby carrots
gold raisins
dried cranberries
goat cheese

I would have liked to have added some kind of nuts for a little crunch, but the croutons helped.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

El Taco Real: Hammond, IN

I first heard about El Taco Real a few years back. And I mean a few years. It was from a fellow room mom in my son's second grade class. That son is turning 21 this year. So, yeah, it's been a while. She raved about it and told me it was the best Mexican food I'd find anywhere. That opinion has been repeated to me a few times over the years.

So, I figured it was finally time to make it to this legendary Northwest Indiana eatery to see what all the buzz was about. I texted my dad, asked him if he had plans for lunch and told him I'd be on my way to pick him up to introduce him to a new place.

We nibbled on tortilla chips, salsa and pico de gallo as we perused the menu. Sometimes salsa in such places is just too spicy for my palate, but this one hit the spot - a nice spicy zing without overwhelming heat.

There are several combination platters and meals, but we ordered a la carte to try a few different items. The restaurant has been around for over 40 years now and after lunch I was kicking myself for not having tried it earlier. All I had ever heard was proven true.

A cheese quesadilla and beef enchilada suizo are pictured here.

And here we have a steak taco with refried beans and rice. This was absolutely the best taco I've ever had! The steak was oozing with flavor and it was loaded with fresh veggies. It's ruined me for steak tacos anywhere else.

I'm looking forward to the next trip there to try out some more menu items and enjoy another steak taco.

El Taco Real
935 Hoffman Street
Hammond, IN
(219) 932-8333

Journeyman Flights

On a recent visit to Journeyman Distillery, I couldn't settle on a drink, so figured I'd try out a flight. At just $5, the specialty flight provided five tasting samples - a brandy, a gin, a rum an apple liqueur and a coffee liqueur. It's one of three flights available on the menu.

I really don't do shots and prefer my liquor mixed nicely among fruit juices, so I sipped slightly on the first three, pushed them hubby's way and was ready to give up. I'm so glad I didn't because I found a new favorite. The OCG is like apple pie in a glass. Goes down so smooth, it could easily be very dangerous. Perfect after dinner drink, though, that reminds me of German Apfelkorn, but better. The Snaggle Tooth was tasty as well, with coffee flavor to tone it down.

OCG is sold in a growler in the shop along with a huge variety of other bottled liquor made on site.

Journeyman Distillery

109 Generation Drive
Three Oaks, MI

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hunter's Brewing: Chesterton, IN

I love that there are so many craft breweries that have popped up in Northwest Indiana in the past few years. At Hunters Brewery in Chesterton they actually call themselves a "nano brewery," where they brew by hand with their one-barrell system.

I met co-owner of Hunter's Brewery, Justin Reisetter, at the media preview event for the Blue Chip Brewfest to be held at Blue Chip Casino on April 11. After several years of home brewing he found a brewing partner in Amy Gentry, who became one of the first female brewers in Indiana. The result was the small-batch boutique brewery that opened two years ago.

The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday and while you may not be able to pick up a six-pack of beer at your local grocery store on Sundays based on state laws, you can swing by Hunter's for a growler. You'll find 8 or 9 of their own concoctions on draft along with some guest taps.

At the media preview I tried out the Cassidy Irish Stout paired with potato pancakes topped with carrot and beet salad. Beets and potato pancakes are just a couple of my favorite foods on the planet. When I saw the potato pancakes my mind drifted to the many times I've enjoyed Kartoffelpuffer at German eateries - potato pancakes served with applesauce and sour cream - along with a good German lager along the lines of Hofbrau or Spaten. So, it surprised me to find it paired with an Irish stout. It totally worked, though. The chocolate coffee notes nicely accompanied the sweetness of the carrot and beet salad.

Try out some Hunter's beers along with those of about 50 other brewers at the Blue Chip Brewest next month. Click HERE for tickets.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blue Chip Casino to hold Fifth Annual Blue Chip Brewfest April 11

There's been an explosion in the brewing industry over the past decade in the production of craft beers. As the artisan movement has brought forth a renewed interest in the old-school, natural, by-hand, small-scale methods of making various foods, the craft brew trend has highlighted new creative minds making beer in similar ways. It's not done for the purpose of mass-producing and marketing beverages on a grand-scale for the overall purpose of pure profit, it's simply being done for the love of the craft and the enjoyment of sharing that craft with others who have the same appreciation for it. 

There's no better place to find craft beer aficionados than at a beer fest and one of the biggest gatherings in craft beer will be happening on April 11 at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Indiana. The event began five years ago and has grown to include more than 50 specialty breweries pouring over 250 brews. The event is now held in the Stardust Event Center and an adjacent climate-controlled tent.

At a media preview for the Blue Chip Brewfest this week, I had the opportunity to try out several of the brews that will be featured and to talk to some of the brewers themselves. While it will be heavy on local microbreweries, it will also feature brewers from around the country and beyond. Some have just started brewing beer and a few have been brewing for over a century. Really it's a big celebration of beer in many forms from many places.

Three ticket packages are available:

$45 for regular general admission
$75 for VIP admission 
$99 for the Brewmaster Package
$15 for designated driver

The main tasting event is from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Food offerings of brats, hot dogs and pretzels will be available for purchase.

The Brewmaster package includes a luncheon with Lagunitas Brewing Founder Tony Magee featuring foods paired with Lagunitas beers from 12 to 1 in the Orleans Room, a VIP package including the Indiana Beer Tour from 1 - 3 p.m. and the main tasting event. It also includes a pint glass and t-shirt.

VIP ticket holders receive early admission and can attend the Indiana Beer Tour featuring unique beers from breweries located in Indiana from 1 pm to 3 pm. They will also receive a pint glass.
General admission ticket holders receive a pint glass and guests with designated driver tickets will receive complimentary specialty soda and water, but are not allowed to sample alcoholic beer.
Musical entertainment from The Allen Wronko Band and the Zydeco Voodoo band is new to the fest. Blue Chip will hold a silent auction during the event for premium items such as a mini-fridge, coolers and other beer-themed collectibles. Proceeds will benefit the United Way of LaPorte County.

For more information, go to bluechipcasino.com. Click HERE for tickets.

A few shots of the sampling for the media preview event:

Rosie's: New Buffalo, Michigan

We adore Southwest Michigan and make day trips there occasionally during the school year when we can drop the kids at school, drive north for breakfast and/or lunch, so some shopping or visit the beach and be back to pick the kids up from school.

That's what hubby and I did on St. Patrick's Day. I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I figured we'd visit Three Oaks and stop at Elm St. Bistro, Froelich's or Viola Cafe for breakfast. There is also Conway's which I've been dying to try out. But...it's the off-season. And it was a Tuesday. So, unfortunately none of those places were open. We figured we'd head to New Buffalo to spend a little time at the beach and see if anything was open for breakfast there.

We came across Rosie's, a breakfast and lunch spot on Whiiaker within walking distance of the lake. We still had lunch to come (corned beef at Nelsons Saloon), so we went light. Hubby had a couple pancakes and I got a half-order of biscuits and gravy. The place was a cozy little diner where the locals streamed in and out. They're only open until 2 in the afternoon so they specialize in breakfast dishes and sandwiches. I'm glad we found it and I have a feeling we'll be there for more breakfasts to come.

The lake still had a lot of ice on it and was really pretty, but after the winter we have had, I'm looking forward to a full thaw and coming back in flip flops in a couple months!

128 N. Whittaker
New Buffalo, MI

18th Street Brewery: Gary, Indiana

I love learning the stories behind craft breweries and how they got into the biz. 18th Street Brewery opened in 2012 in Gary's Miller Beach area in a region that is heavy on microbreweries. However, 18th Street really took root back in 2008 by Drew Fox following a trip to Belguim, where he, of course experienced some pretty dandy beer. He started home brewing and that's what led him on a path to creating his own recipes and offering them up in his own tasting room. 18th Street has evolved to now having a full kitchen with soups, salads and sandwiches and even a kids' menu.

18th Street was one of the breweries featured in the Blue Chip Brewery's media preview I attended last night, where I tried out the Sophomoric Saison with lime zest, lime juice and Citra hops paired with crab salad filled artichoke with lime vinaigrette. While sometimes contrasting tastes make for good pairings, this duo carried the predominant citrus flavor throughout and seriously for a moment took you to a more tropical locale far from our chilly south shore digs.

I meant to circle back around for the Hunter Cherry (Double Milk Stout with Cherries), but had to eventually raise the white flag after making it through twelve tables. The wonderfully charismatic and passionate creative director,  Joey Potts, explained that the Hunter Cherry is the third incarnation in this vertical series.

Although I have tried out 18th Street beers in the past, I haven't yet been to the brewery. My husband, on the other hand, has made several trips there with a buddy. I've been banned from such bro-dates, so I'm gonna have to get there on my own sometime soon and I'm even more excited to do so now that I've perused the kitchen the menu. I've been urging my husband and his craft-beer loving friends to do some guest posts. Stay tuned for that.

If you'd like to sample some of 18th Streets brews, get your tickets for the upcoming Blue Chip Brewfest on April 11, which has grown hugely since its inception five years ago. It will take place in the Stardust Event Center at the casino and in an adjacent climate-controlled tent. There are three tiers of ticket prices, starting at $45 along with designated driver admissions. Go to bluechipcasino.com for tickets.

For more on 18th Street Brewery, check out their website at www.18thstreetbrewery.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Triton Brewing: Indianapolis, IN

I had an opportunity this week to head to a media preview of the upcoming Blue Chip Brewfest, a hugely popular event now in its 5th year that draws thousands for an afternoon of tasting more that 250 craft brews. I also had the advantage of getting to try some specially prepared food pairings along with each brew.

The first brewery I stopped to visit was Triton Brewery out of Indianapolis, which opened in 2011. I chatted with Mike, their director of sales for a few minutes about the brewery and what was being sampled. I love the local connection with the names of their brews, which are explained on the cardboard carriers. Deadeye Stout comes from the Deadeye Dick character in a 1982 novel by Indianapolis author Kurt Vonnegut  Hatch Blower comes from a label given to Indiana astronaut Gus Grissom, who died in a tragic pre-launch fire in 1967.

The Hatch Blower IPA was paired with boneless buffalo wings. My palate has become more steadily embracing IPAs and this was one that was not overly intense for me - more a middle ground variety I would say and what could be better with it than buffalo wings? Very good combo.

I've become a big stout fan as I've tried more at various tastings and fests. Perhaps they speak to me because as a chocoholic I love the chocolate undertones so common in stouts. With hints of chocolate and coffee, some stouts can almost taste like dessert and so it was fitting that the Deadeye Stout was paired up with some mini cheesecake and dense chocolate cake bites. Perfect pairing. Triton plans to feature five beers at the Blue Chip Brewfest.

Tours are available of their 10,000 square foot brewing facility by appointment on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Visit tritonbrewing.com for more information.

I'll have more on the Blue Chip Brewfest on the blog in the coming days. For tickets, visit http://www.bluechipcasino.com/whats-new/events/brewfest.

Leffe Blonde Ale

Some people are wine drinkers. Some are beer drinkers. Some are whiskey people...or rum or vodka or gin or bourbon. I like to consider myself a well-rounded drinker who has come to appreciate each on its own merit and the process that goes into producing it.

With a father-in-law who grew up in Germany, imported brews were almost always around at family gatherings and I came to prefer German beers and those that had a similar taste - Hofbrau, Dab, Spaten, Heineken, St. Pauli Girl, Hacker Pshorr. While I still hold a fondness for the brews of his homeland, I've come to really like Belgian beers and it's nice to always have the fallback of Blue Moon at just about any bar or restaurant, which is Belgian-style and just so nice and crisp with a wedge or orange.

I first sampled Leffe Blonde at Chicago Gourmet and really liked it, so when I spotted it at Binny's recently, I had to grab a six-pack.

In the Midwest, where you're hard pressed to find any structure that dates back before the 1850's, Leffe actually dates back to 1240 and is still produced on the same grounds (although is a different reconstructed abbey), which makes me love it even more.

Anyway, if you're a fan of Belgian-style beers, be sure to try out one of the originals. I found mine in the refrigerated section at Binny's at $9.99 a six pack.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Demi K's: Munster, IN

I've driven by this place - Demi K's in Munster - several times a week for years, but never been in. But this week as we were passing by, my 9-year-old asked if we could stop somewhere for a burger. He asked at just the right time and in we went.

Demi K's is one of those places that has a huge menu. Pretty much anything that you can throw in a fryer, you will find here. Gyros. Polish sausage. Chicago-style dogs. Perch. Wings. Shrimp. Chopped steak. Chicken sandwich. Philly cheesesteak. Pizza puff. Italian beef. Ribeye steak sandwich. There's a lot to choose from.

The painted walls in side are cute. The "Munster Mustangs" wall is a salute to the local high school teams and a few historic photos are on the wall.

I got my son a plain burger, as requested. He also asked for cheese fries. Turned out to be a HUGE order that he shared with two of his brothers and me - and we still had some left over. Next time I get a hankering for a gyros, I'll have to head back their way and try it out.

Demi K's
437 Ridge Road
Munster, IN

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Back to the grill

I'm just a little giddy that spring is finally getting here, although slowly...and the grilling season is back underway. I did send hubby out to the grill a few times when he trudged out there in boots and had to wipe off the snow with a brush before he could get to cooking. However, the days of daily meals made on the grill is on the horizon and I'm so excited.

Just had to share a shot of our first burgers of the season. It's a big deal to me because I don't make burgers on the stove top. They just aren't the same. We only eat them when they are prepared on the grill...and it's been a long 6 months or so since I had one on the grill, so this tasted particularly wonderful! Covered in steak seasoning and melted provolone, I added some tomato, lettuce, pickle and mayo on the toasted bun and served it up with some baked beans and corn on the cob and washed it down with a glass of Leffe Blonde Belgian Ale. What have you been cooking up on your grill?

Monday, March 23, 2015

90+ Cellars

I feel like I'm sharing an awesome little secret with this post...it was something that surprised and excited me. I was shopping in Binny's recently and stopped at a sample table. I'd noticed the label on bottles an aisle earlier. I was intrigued by the label itself, but at an $8.99 a bottle price, I figured it wasn't worth trying. I love a good glass of wine when I'm out for dinner, but 'm not a big by-the-bottle wine purchaser (simply because I can't finish a bottle all by myself), but I'm absolutely a wine snob. I generally don't bother with a bottle that's less than $15 or $20 just figuring I probably won't like it. Wow, was I wrong.

The rep for 90+ Cellars explained that their wines come from respected wineries around the world that simply sell their high-quality overstock to 90+ to be sold at a lower price. You're still getting really good wines, but at a fraction of the price. The catch is that it isn't disclosed exactly what winery it's coming from, but you get the country/region and a lot number. I'm all for a little mystery if means I can get what should be a $40 bottle of wine for under $10. I tried the cabernet, resiling and sauvignon blanc. I was impressed by each one and couldn't believe it came out of a bottle that retails for only $8.99.

I left with a couple bottles, including a bottle of Lot 94 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford, Napa Valley, Ca. that was a nice accompaniment to a grilled filet dinner. I love that I no longer have to wonder if I should bother with a low-cost bottle of wine. I know that with 90+ Cellars I'll be getting wine that should cost much more and is high quality.

Take a look on their website www.ninetypluscellars.com for more on the story of how 90+ Cellars came to be.

Smoking Peach at Journeyman Distillery

Hubby and I make frequent visits to Three Oaks, Michigan and I remember the buzz about Journeyman Distillery before it opened. We'd drive by and peek at the building anxiously awaiting its opening. Turned out to be all I expected and more. 

For being a tiny rural town in SW Michigan, Three Oaks is such a cool place. It's downtown business district stretches about two blocks, but is full of unique places including an independent theatre (the Vickers), a live theatre (the Acorn), an old-school meat market, a brewery, a couple cute cafes, antique shops, an art gallery, the public library housed in an awesome historical building, the Dewey Cannon trading post with bike rentals, a classic saloon, a pizzeria. 

Just behind main street, the Journeyman sits in part of the old feather bone factory where they make small craft batches of various liquors, including whiskey, gin, vodka and more. The place is loaded with weathered wood and full of sunlight streaming in from the big back window. It's a setting for weddings, parties, musical entertainment, but you can just pull a stool up to the bar and enjoy a drink and we've done that several times. 

We decided we'd head up to Three Oaks on St. Patrick's Day to get some corned beef at Nelson's Saloon, but before we did that we hung out in New Buffalo for a little bit and walked by the lake. Then we stopped at Journeyman where the special cocktail that day was the Smoking Peach. I suggested it for hubby as I had tried smoked cocktails before and thought he'd like it, even though it was a sweet one. The process of watching it made is pretty fun and it's neat to watch the smoke rise out of your jar. I loved the smokiness added to the sweet taste from the peach puree. 

I also noticed among the liquor for sale was a barrel aged balsamic vinegar, which I brought home. It made for a awesome salad dressing.

Journeyman Distillery
109 Generation Drive
Three Oaks, MI

Random meal of the week

This week's random meal of the week:

This all came out of the freezer, but was quite tasty.

Schwan's salmon filets - baked with lemon slices on top
Trader Joe's - frozen fried rice
Market Day - broccoli florets

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Part of the time spent at the Good Food Festival Chicago this weekend was attending a screening of the 2013 documentary GMO OMG. The screening was sponsored by Chipotle of the film directed by Jeremy Seifert following his journey of learning more about what goes into the food we eat and why labels don't reflect what we are really consuming.

I've read mixed reviews on it and while some scenes may be a little over-the-top, I definitely walked away surprised at how common GMOs are and how much of our food supply is affected. It does make me pause and reconsider my purchases. I will likely be more conscious of what I'm purchasing and the information makes me even more likely to reach for organics when that option is available. Worth the 84 minutes. You can watch it currently on Netflix.

Meson Sabika: Naperville, IL

Foodie Sisters Carrie and Becky got together this week for lunch and at Becky's suggestion set out for Spanish tapas at Meson Sabika, which is housed in a stunning 1847 mansion in Naperville.

Starting out, they brought Spanish olives to the table and some crusty Italian bread that we enjoyed while we perused the lengthy menu.

The menu includes entree selections and paellas, but we opted to go for a few tapas. It's always nice to get a taste of a few different things. We started out with two cold tapas. There were nearly twenty to choose from just on the cold side on the lunch menu.

We settled on Salmon Curado con Queso, which Becky had tried before and highly recommended. It was house-cured salmon, rolled with dill cream cheese and served with toast points and traditional garnish. Fantastic!

Next was Rollito de Buey, thinly sliced beef tenderloin wrapping a mixture of dates, blue cheese and pine nuts layers with Portobello mushrooms and pimiento peppers, served with pomegranate reduction. The combination of tastes and textures was pleasant and the artful presentation was beautiful.

They carry the Republic of Tea products, a premium tea brand that we didn't realize came as a bottled iced tea product. It's rare that I enjoy tea without any sweetener, but this Ginger Peach Black Tea variety needed none.

Then we had another twenty to choose from on the list of hot tapas. We tried out the Gambas al Ajillo, grilled tiger shrimp in garlic lemon butter sauce. It was the simplest of the items we ordered, but cooked perfectly and presented nicely.

Our second of the hot tapas was Cazuela de Pollo, chicken casserole with red bell peppers, asparagus and a pimiento cream sauce. This was lighter than what you'd expect in an American casserole. The sauce was on the thin side, but had excellent flavor that infused into the tender chicken.

As if that wasn't enough food, we decided to share a dessert. We both love flan, so we asked the flan of the day flavor. Coconut. Wasn't sure how I'd like it, but the coconut flavor was so subtle that it was barely there. Really enjoyed it.

And here's a peek at the rest of the stunning property. The 1847 mansion transports you to another time of nostalgic luxury.

The restaurant also has a Tapas to go menu.

They also have a banquet space for events and what a gorgeous venue this would be for a wedding!

Meson Sabika
1025 Aurora Avenue
Naperville, IL