Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grand Opening of remodeled Fannie May flagship store tomorrow

Chicago's favorite chocolate company, Fannie May, recently unveiled a newly remodeled concept for its flagship retail store at the corner of Michigan Ave. & Wacker Dr., which will provide expanded opportunities for guests to experience the beloved Chicago brand.

As part of the new concept, Fannie May is introducing “The Café at Fannie May,” which will serve exclusive desserts inspired by the many classic candy flavors and Fannie May iconic flavored coffees, including Pixies and Vanilla Buttercream. Ice cream, including milk shakes, cones and sundaes, and chocolate covered strawberries will also be available at the flagship retail store. 

The remodeled store also features new design elements illustrating the company's 95+ year connection to Chicago and pays tribute to the strong Chicago architectural heritage.

Tomorrow is the store's Grand Opening and to celebrate, they'll be giving free Advent Calendars to the first 50 customers with their purchase. The store opens at 8 a.m.

La Voute Bistro and Bar hosts beer pairing dinner tonight

One of my very favorite eateries in Chicagoland is hosting a very fun and delicious event this evening. A five course dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. featuring Goose Island beers. You'll be greeted with a reception before dinner seating.

If you have never been to this amazing place, it's a great time to get there and sample some of their fabulous menu items and try them out with specially selected complimentary brews. Check out my previous posts on La Voute here and here. The restaurant is situated in a beautiful boutique hotel in downtown Homewood, La Banque. Get a peek at the hotel here.

Here's the lineup for tonight's Goose Island beer pairing dinner:

1st Course
Chestnut and Celery Soup served Matilda, a Belgian-style pale ale

2nd Course
Bacon wrapped scallops with creamy rosemary polenta and balsamic glaze served with Goose winter Ale, a brown ale

3rd Course
Homemade sage meatloaf with cornbread and endive salad served with Four Star Pils, a golden-hued pilsner

4th Course
Laura Chenel fresh goat cheese with apple cider jelly served with Sophie, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale

5th Course
Desserts to be determined, served with Gilliam, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale

Dinner is $45 per person. Seating is limited. Make a reservation by calling (708) 798-6000.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Corner Bakery Cafe introduces Choose Any Two menu

Last month Corner Bakery Cafe announced the launch of its new Choose Any Two menu offerings.  Guests can create their own perfect lunch or dinner by selecting two of their favorite menu items. 

I'm a huge fan of such combos. I have such a hard time deciding on what to eat and this way it's a little easier - I don't have two pick one, I can try smaller portions of two. Not only can you get a cup of soup or a salad with a sandwich, you can also choose from a warm, comforting pasta (who doesn't love of steamy bowl of gooey mac and cheese this time of year?) And when you get a salad as your match-up, it's not a sad side salad of just lettuce and a lonely slice of tomato or cucumber - it's a nice, generous salad loaded with veggies. You can also play chef and put together some scrumptious pairings.

Choose Any Two menu items include:

  • Half Sandwich or Half Panini; like the guest favorites Chicken Pesto Sandwich or Chicken Pomodori Panini
  • One Grilled Flat; select from four flavorful varieties
  • Cafe Handcrafted Pasta; with options ranging from Pesto Cavatappi to Mac & Three Cheese
  • Cafe Fresh Salad; like the Chopped Salad, all made with only the freshest ingredients
  • Cup of Soup; homemade and slow-simmered soups 
For less than $9, it makes for a perfect meal that will fill you up and make you smile! There are several locations in and around the city, including at the Willis Tower and Union Station as well as Hinsdale, La Grange, Schaumburg and other suburbs. For more info, visit

Vegas Cafe

My dad is often my lunch buddy and he'll come along with me when there's a new restaurant I want to try out or if I just have a taste for something specific from a local place. He's planning a move soon from Northwest Indiana to Central Illinois, so we're trying to plan some more lunch dates at some favorite spots and hitting a few new ones. He sent me a text one night that said, "Things are moving quickly. With that in mind, I'm free for lunch EVERY DAY." :) So, for the past week, we have eaten together every single day. It's been fun - although I'm afraid to step on the scale.

One of the places we visited this past week was Vegas Cafe in Schererville, Indiana. I'd come across it on Facebook and the photos of the food looked pretty delicious, so we thought we'd head over to try it out.

It faces busy Indianapolis Blvd, but is set back just a little bit in a long strip of businesses - but the adjoining businesses look to be offices that are closed in the evening. We went there on a weekday night and it was empty. But we really enjoyed our visit and our meal, so I hope more people discover this new spot and pay them a visit.

The place has a fun Las Vegas theme - with casino-ish decor, video of Vegas playing on a big screen and huge portions. The menu includes sandwiches (many of them open-faced) and wraps, salads and a big list of coffee and other hot drinks. Somehow I missed that last part when I was there and some of these hot chocolate drinks sounds really tasty, so I'll have to pass by Starbuck's next time I'm out that way and slip in there for a warm, cozy drink. It's a small cute and cozy casual place where you order at the counter and they bring your order out to you. Of course, I spotted a few Elvis items on the walls. He's my favorite. :)

They also run daily specials and when we were there Dad decided he wanted to try out the lasagna special. It was about $10 and came with a salad. The lasagna was really delicious - I was very impressed. It was seriously as good as I've gotten in some nice fine Italian establishments. And I loved the little garlic toasts that accompanied it. The side salad was also quite yummy with lots of veggies, shredded cheese, croutons and olives.


I opted for a burger, but really wished I would have gotten the lasagna - It was such a huge portion that dad just cut it in half and we shared it. And then still had some leftover. They also have a case with some really delectable desserts. I had a very hard time selecting one to go (absolutely no room left for dessert after the huge portions), but I finally decided on a chocolate cake dessert to go. I ended up sharing it with two of my kids when I got home. All three of us had a nice sized and satisfying serving.

Like I said, I hope more people find this place as it's set off the road just enough to not easily spot it or forget that it's there. I hope they thrive in that spot and many more stop in for a taste of Vegas.

Just a few things off the menu:

The Bellagio: Roast beef, bacon, lettuce, thousand island and provolone sandwich

The Roulette: Bratwurst, roasted peppers and onions, the signature Vegas sauce and provolone sandwich

The Mirage: Ham, bacon, mayo, boiled eggs and lettuce, balsamic vinegar and provolone sandwich

The Palazzo: Salad of chicken, ham, tomato, olives, provolone, boiled eggs and choice of dressing with croutons.

Teasers Place Wrap: Baked chicken, lettuce, tomato, signature Vegas sauce, parmesan and croutons

Vegas Cafe
800 Cedar Parkway
Schererville, IN 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Apple Cider and Citrus Turkey Brine

So, by now everyone has had their fill of turkey, but if you're planning to make a turkey on Christmas these are some steps you can follow for a phenomenally tender bird. We had brined a turkey before and it really seemed to produce a more tender and juicy turkey, so hubby had his mind set on using a brine this year. He had heard about someone using an apple cider brine and so I went to the Internet and combined a few different recipes to create this one based on what I had. Much of the inspiration came from a this recipe from the Pioneer Woman blog.
It smells amazing as it boils!

So, here's my recipe:
12 cups of water
3 cups of apple cider
Orange peels (I peeled two)
3 teaspoons of peppercorns
2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
3/4 cup of salt
3 teaspoons of garlic salt (or cloves from half of one fresh head of garlic and up the salt to one cup)
1 teaspoon of seasoning salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Add all ingredients to a stock pot and boil. Let sit for about 1/2 hour to cool down. Add one gallon of cold water and stir. Put turkey into a brining bag or large pot and pour in brine. Refrigerate in brine for about 15-16 hours for an 18-22 pound turkey. Discard brine and rinse turkey.
After brining, we coated the outside with olive oil and added a homemade rub of rosemary, garlic salt, oregano, seasoned salt and thyme.

I've learned that if you cook the turkey breast side down it also helps to keep the meat extremely tender, so that's how we did it. This year we cooked the turkey on the grill - 325 for 4 hours and then left it on another 45 minutes or so down at 200 (just to keep it warm as we finished the side dishes.) It turned out great. We may have to make all our turkeys on the grill - leaves the oven free for making all the other stuff!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

English Fruits for Cheese from The Fine Cheese Co.

When I stopped in a new gourmet shop called Charcuterie in Griffith, Indiana, I chatted for a bit with the owner and he told me about a few of his favorite products. One was a quince fruit spread from The Fine Cheese Co.

I brought it home, along with some petit toast and it made for a delicious snack - with a little spreadable goat cheese in between.

The Fine Cheese Co., based in Bath, England has a website full of goodies - cheeses, wines, biscuits, marmalades, oils, vinegars and a large number of other gourmet items. Visit to view selections - or if you happen to be in the Griffith, Indiana area, stop for a visit at Charcuterie and try some of these delicious fruit spreads.

128 N. Broad Street
Griffith, IN

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

South Bend Chocolate Factory

Our family went out to South Bend recently for a day trip. Although it had been many years since we'd done a family visit there, my kids all seemed to remember that there was a chocolate factory there. Of course, they requested a stop. We got there too late in the day for one of the tours, but we stopped in to the outlet store for some discounted candy and some hot chocolate. We also browsed through the Chocolate Museum on site. The only thing better than chocolate is chocolate that is on sale. We came home with some mint meltaways, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate cherries, chocolate covered bacon, chocolate rice krispy treats and more.

South Bend Chocolate Factory
3300 W. Sample St.
South Bend, IN
(574) 233-3150

Islamorada Fish Company

I am married and have five sons, so they're idea of a good time is spending hours perusing the displays at Cabela's and Bass Pro Shop. I've heard from a few friends that the restaurant at Bass Pro Shop has some pretty good seafood, so on a recent stop at Bass Pro in Portage, Indiana coming back from a day trip in South Bend, we decided to have dinner there.

The World Famous Islamorada Fish Company is appropriately decorated in fish and underwater motif and has a number of seafood dishes on the menu. The place is casual and cozy and service was very swift.

Boards with bread were brought out as we looked over the menu and I'm not exactly sure what the bread was topped with - some kind of cinnamon sugar, maybe - but it was very sweet and the kids polished off two loaves in no time. We also tried venison-stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and the portion was very generous.

Everyone ordered something different, so it was nice to see a variety of different entrees and try a few of them. I got fish and chips, hubby got Mediterranean shrimp pasta and the boys got fish tacos, a tournament burger (double burger with smoked bacon), a top sirloin and cajun catfish. No one had any complaints and everything was very good - definitely exceeded the expectations of an outdoor emporium. It's definitely worth extending a shopping visit to get a bite to eat.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pizza is enjoyed by millions on Thanksgiving Eve

The evening before Thanksgiving is one where there's meal prep going on and visiting and traveling - and to make the most of it, what do millions of Americans choose for dinner on this busy evening? If you said pizza, you guessed right. Pizza is understandably appealing for the evening before Thanksgiving for its convenience and versatility.

According to the American Pizza Community (APC), pizza is frequently chosen around celebratory occasions and large family gatherings as it is highly-customizable and very transportable, allowing you to get an oven-baked meal delivered hot to your door. The APC is a coalition representing pizza stores big and small, and supplier and vendor partners that make up the American pizza industry. 

Thanksgiving Eve remains one of the five busiest days of the year for pizza orders.  Some of the larger pizza companies estimate that they will sell more than one million pizzas on Thanksgiving Eve.

Some of the reasons pizza is so popular on this busy day are:

  • Pizza offers wholesome-quality, customizable ingredients that are sure to satisfy a whole group.
  • Pizza is a flexible option: pick it up, dine in or have it delivered. Any way you slice it, it's hot, fresh and easy.
  • Pizza is a low-stress choice.  You don’t have to pile everyone into a car to go out the night before a long day of travel.
  • Pizza is the perfect meal to bring people together and for many special celebratory occasions. It’s a convenient and communal meal that is meant to be shared, and is a real crowd pleaser. 

Are you planning to order pizza for dinner on Thanksgiving Eve? What's you favorite spot to order from?
The American Pizza Community is a coalition of the nation’s large and small pizza companies, operators, franchisees, vendors, suppliers and other entities that make up the American pizza industry.  The coalition was formed in 2010 to advocate for policies affecting pizza companies and operators including menu and labeling information, fair wages, work opportunity tax credit, background checks, tax policies and small business access to capital.

Porkchop in Glenwood, IL

Earlier this year, I visited a new eatery to south suburban Glenwood called Porkchop during their soft opening. I had visited their Loop location and tried a pulled chicken sandwich that was pretty fantastic, so I was excited I heard they were opening a location closer to me.

Everything I tried on that initial visit was high quality, full of flavor and nicely presented. I had a big platter with samples of several bbq items, shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles. I returned again to bring a friend there for lunch and had a pork chop sandwich that was delicious.

Recently, I was participating in a local author fair with my friend Michelle. I've authored six books and my latest one is a children's book about nocturnal animals called Into the Night. My friend, Michelle, is the illustrator. We had fun at the event meeting other authors and talking to visitors and signing copies of the book. Afterwards we decided we would have lunch together. We are both pretty indecisive and went back and forth all day about where to go. I was actually on the way to an Asian restaurant when we were driving through Glenwood and I mentioned Porkchop to my friend. I told her what I'd tried and how good it was and she decided she'd like to try it.

I was so excited to see elote on the starter menu - it's so good and not something I come across very often. It had a chipotle mayonnaise on it that was pretty tasty. I decided to go with the chicken and waffles I had tried before. It was so good - the buttery waffle was cooked to perfection and the fried chicken breast was perfectly seasoned and extremely juicy and tender, served with a slightly spicy and very thick syrup.

I can't wait to get back for another visit because I always see more items on the menu that sound delicious. If you're in the area, drop in for a bite.

100 Nugent Street
Glenwood, IL

Fogo De Chão fall menu includes scrumptious seasonal tastes

Butternut and Sweet Potato Soup
If you have not been to Fogo de Chão, it's a place you simply must experience at least once. Whatever your tastes, you'll find something to please your palate. But, if you are a carnivore, you will be in absolute heaven as the Brazilian steakhouse offers menu options with unlimited cuts of freshly prepared meets prepared in the churrasco tradition and served gaucho-style.

It's a beautiful spot to visit any time of year and I love that they switch out items and introduce new flavors for each season. There's still time to get in an enjoy what they're offering for the fall.

It includes:

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
·         Roasted Butternut Squash Salad – Butternut squash, a winter staple in Brazil, is roasted with cinnamon and honey and then tossed with cranberries and feta for a uniquely autumnal Market Table salad.
·         Pear & Endive Salad – Fresh, seasonal pears join julienned purple endive, crumbled bleu cheese and candied bacon with pear vinaigrette to round out this seasonally-inspired salad.
·         Butternut & Sweet Potato Soup – Creamy roasted butternut squash is blended with sweet potatoes and winter spices in a soup tailor-made to accompany any chilly fall evening.
·         Blackberry Azedo (Portuguese for “sour”) – Fresh blackberries are muddled with mint and shaken with Hendrick’s Gin, Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur), and a house-made lime sour.

Along with some flavorful dishes and seasonal craft cocktails, they're also offering an expanded wine list that includes more than 55 South American labels - from Malbec vintages sourced from renowned Argentinian producers to rich Cabernet Sauvignons from the Chilean valleys – each hand-selected to perfectly complement the numerous Brazilian specialties only found at Fogo de Chão.  

The Blackberry Azedo

We were invited to come in for dinner to try out the seasonal menu items, which along with the traditional Market Table & Feijoada Bar and meats were quite a feast. The Market Table alone is more than satisfying with a huge array of cold salads, salmon, hearts of palm and other items. One of my favorite foods in the world is the apple salad from Fogo's Market Table - on each visit I can't wait to have a taste. The side dishes are also amazing - Southern Brazilian specialties such as pão de queijo (warm cheese bread), crispy hot polenta, and caramelized bananas, which are served family style. The meats were delicious as always, and so hard to pass up - I always want to try them all. There are several cuts of beef, lamb and chicken - and one of my faves is the parmesan pork loin. If you possibly have room for dessert, the selections are extremely tempting! Get in there soon to get a taste of fall and then after kick off the new year with some more great seasonal tastes to come.

There are three Chicagoland location (we go to the one in Naperville) as well as several more throughout the U.S. and South America. For more information, visit, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Berghoff

My favorite ethnic cuisine is German. I grew up never knowing what German cuisine was like. When I met my future father-in-law at age 14, I had no clue what schnitzel was or even bratwurst. I knew about sauerkraut, which I was always afraid to even try because of the potent aroma.

But once I met my future husband and got to know his family, I was introduced to German cuisine. His father was an immigrant born and raised in Berlin who came here in is late teens. His mom would occasionally make sauerkraut and knockwurst or weiner schnitzel and I'd go along to the Heidelberg in Elmhurst where there was a deli and a restaurant in the basement where I'd enjoy sauerbraten and kassler rippchen with red cabbage or sauerkraut. I'd have potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. And for dessert I'd always enjoy Black Forest Cake.

I became hooked on German food. After dinner, we'd walk through the deli and buy goodies to take home - German rye bread and chocolates and marzipan and strudel and imported beer like Hofbrau which was very hard to come by in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

So, it's a bit sentimental for me as it is linked to my husband's heritage, but also it really tastes good! There aren't too many German restaurants around in the south burbs where I live. If I want a German meal I have to go out to Frankfort to Chef Klaus' Beirstube or up north to a handful of authentic German eateries or to the Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont. We once had a nice German place here in town that later moved to the next community over, Lynwood. It didn't last very long before closing and the building has since been demolished. So, I get to enjoy German food so infrequently that it's always a real treat.

Earlier this year, hubby and I did an overnight at the J.W. Marriott, which is just down the street from the Berghoff, so we had to take the opportunity to dine there since we were so close. Hubby got a combo platter that had a bratwurst and knockwurst with German potato salad and kraut. I got my usual - weiner schnitzel with red cabbage and fried potatoes. There was also a side of green beans.

I always like to order flights to try out a variety of different flavors, so we got a flight to share. My favorite is the Berghoff Pilsner.

The restaurant itself has a cool history, dating back to 1898. At the time it was a mens-only saloon where sandwich were served free with your beer purchase. It later evolved into a full-service restaurant and when prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Berghoff got Chicago's liquor license #1.


The Berghoff
17 West Adams

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup

This is a tasty soup that is super easy because you throw everything in the crock pot and about four hours later

5 cups chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese
1 can seasoned, diced tomatoes
3 roma tomatoes (diced)
(You can use two cans - I only had one on hand so I subbed with some fresh - or go with all fresh and use 5 or 6 roma tomatoes)
1 can sliced carrots (or 3 large sliced fresh carrots)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. minced onion
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup spinach
1 cup diced, cooked chicken (I keep this in my freezer at all times ready to go for soups)
1 pound cheese tortellini (you can use frozen or fresh. I used a refrigerated tortellini from Trader Joe's.)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours.
I had refrigerated tortellini and didn't want it to get too soft, so I added everything except tortellini and then stopped after two hours and added it on top. Then cooked for two hour hours. It came out perfectly.

I would stir at least once during cooking to break up creamed cheese. I served mine with a grilled Provolone and Munster on cracked wheat bread. Very tasty!

Visit Greenbush for Beer and Barbecue

We visit Southwest Michigan often. When we need to getaway from the craziness of every day life, we head up for a day of walking or dining or shopping or sipping or sitting on the beach and watching the waves or a sunset. So much beauty there and my worries just slip away as soon as I hit the state line.

One place we have visited many times that we've been in that area is Greenbush Brewing Co. in Sawyer, Michigan. This summer we decided to stop by with the kids one evening to discover that the place was packed. Our previous visits had been on weekday afternoons in the off-season. We also noticed that they had added an annex with a cool outdoor beer garden and even with that addition, it was hard to get a table.

On our next trip it was again just hubby and I at lunchtime and we had an easier time finding a table. We also sampled from the bbq menu. BBQ and beer are always a good combo and they do it right at Greenbush.

I like beer, but I don't drink a full pint at a time. I like to sample and try a few different varieties. If I find one I like, I just get a small glass. So I like that small portions are available.

If you're a craft beer afficianado, it's a place worth seeking out with a large variety of their beers on tap at all times.

Greenbush Brewing Co.
5885 Sawyer Road
Sawyer, Michigan

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Izze soda

I try to shy away from soda as much as possible, but I rarely buy it and keep it on hand at home, so when I dine out  or grab carryout, I have soda on occasion. I usually opt for root beer or something without caffeine. When I first tried Izze soda years ago, it was so refreshing.

Now when I spot it at a restaurant, it's usually the beverage of choice. Panda Express is one of my son's favorite places to eat and I love that I can get it there. I've only seen the sparkling blackberry variety there, but it's my favorite flavor, anyway. The sparkling clementine is also quite good.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bob's Belgian Hot Chocolate

Have you seen this man and this hot chocolate booth? I came across him at the Oktoberfest celebration in Griffith, Indiana and somehow left without a card or brochure or any contact info. And I can't seem to find him online - no website or Facebook page that I'm finding. But....just a public service announcement that this hot chocolate is DA BOMB! Best cup I've had this season. He melts down real Belgian chocolate and tops it with whipped cream. It was uber delicious! I wish I knew where to find him again and I am hoping one day we will cross paths again. If you happen to spot him at a fair or festival - be sure to try a cup!