Monday, April 10, 2017

Enjoy final days of BRIO Tuscan Grille's "A Variety of Flavors" menu

Cucumber Basil Gimlett
BRIO Tuscan Grille in Lombard has become one of my favorite restaurants. I've made a couple visits there in recent months and I love the atmosphere, the friendly service and the phenomenon food. The current special menu is the "A Variety of Flavors" menu and it has some nice choices of appetizers, three entrees (including two that are seafood dishes - perfect for Lent), a dessert and wine options.

Although I didn't have it this time, their Lobster Bisque is fantastic and a must on your visit. It's available daily. Each visit starts with a basket of warm bread - and a crispy herbed flatbread that is irresistible. 

There's a nice selection of wines and cocktails. This time hubby had a Cucumber Basil Gimlett and I had a delicious white peach sangria. We sampled both of the appetizers on the special menu - the Calamari Britto Misto. In the past I have not been a fan of calamari, but this appetizer changed my mind. It was crispy outside and melt-in-your mouth good inside, seven with some nice dipping sauces. We also tried the spicy shrimp and eggplant appetizer. I love eggplant at the combination of the two in this savory sauce were perfect.

We tried both the Perone Beer-Battered Fish & Chips and Braised Beef Pappardelle. The fish was perfection - so succulent and the crispy batter was a winner. The pappardelle was also tasty - such a nice combination of vegetables, including one of my faves - the crimini mushrooms.

The desserts are always so tempting! We each had the perfectly-sized portion of Butterscotch Budino, which includes yet another favorite of mine - Marcona almonds.

The menu runs through Saturday, so be sure to get in and try out some of the items while you can.

One other nice feature of the Lombard location is a cozy nook with a fireplace to relax while you wait to be seated.


About BRIO Lombard – Chicago
BRIO Lombard is located at 330 Yorktown Center, Chicago, IL 60148, off Highland Avenue on the West side of Yorktown Mall near Von Maur. BRIO offers lunch and dinner, as well as a special children’s menu; brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m. The restaurant is open Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. For more information, visit For reservations, please call (630) 424-1515.               

About BRIO Tuscan GrilleBRIO (meaning “lively” or “full of life”) is a “polished casual” restaurant serving authentic, northern Italian cuisine. The subtitle, “Tuscan Grille” is descriptive in the menu that features oven-roasted steaks, chops and seafood, similar to what one would find in an authentic ristorante in Tuscany. BRIO’s philosophy is “to eat well, is to live well;” which is why it only uses the finest and freshest ingredients. BRIO brings the pleasure of the Tuscan country villa to the American city. BRIO is part of Columbus-based BRAVO|BRIO Restaurant Group (BBRG). Founded in 1992, BBRG currently operates more than 100 restaurants including BRAVO! Cucina Italiana, BRIO Tuscan Grille and Bon Vie Bistro. Please visit the website for BRIO locations at and follow the restaurant on Twitter (@brioitalian) and Facebook (

Monday, April 3, 2017

Medieval Times Tomato Bisque Recipe

So, for dinner and theatre kind of places, I go in expecting either the dinner or the theatre to be outstanding. Then if one of the two is medicare, I'm still satisfied. However, when you go to Medieval Times, you know that both the show and the food will be spectacular. 

The show is always a magnificent display of pageantry and excitement and really the food is secondary. However, the meal - that you eat with your bare hands as they would have in medieval times - is really impressive. We've been there a few times and I always love the Dragon Blood Soup a.k.a. Tomato Bisque. I was excited to see that they recently posted the recipe for this delicious soup - so in-between visits to the castle, you can make it at home. 

Medieval Times Tomato Bisque (Dragon Blood Soup)

2 Tbl. canola oil
2 ea.  medium carrots, peeled
1 ea.  celery stalk, cleaned and trimmed
½ ea. medium onion, peeled
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 ea. 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 ea. 15 1/2 oz can tomato puree
5 cups water
1 tsp. paprika
3 tbls. Sugar
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper
Pinch Italian seasoning
½ ea. lemon, for juice

Cut the carrots, celery and onion into small pieces about ½ inches. Place the carrots, onions and celery into a food processor fitted with the knife blade and pulse until they are finely minced, almost pureed.
Heat the canola oil in a 5 – 6 quart stainless steel sauce pan or pot. Add the finely minced carrots, onions and celery and cook until vegetables are soft but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir into the vegetables to combine well and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomato puree, water, paprika sugar, salt, ground pepper, Italian Seasoning and juice from ½ lemon.

Bring soup to a boil while stirring frequently. Once soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, while stirring frequently to prevent soup from scorching.

Friday, March 31, 2017

It's Friday! Where to go in Chicago area for Lenten meals

As the Lenten season moves on, you may be on the lookout for some new places to try that are offering up some really good seafood (or vegetarian meals). Well, look no further. Here is Chicago Foodie Sisters' guide to some of the top spots to enjoy seafood during the final weeks of Lent.

fourteensixteen in LaGrange

Lent features will rotate every two weeks:
Week 1-2:
Fired goat cheese and root vegetable fritters - poached pears, aged balsamic $10
Poached lobster tail - brussels sprout & yukon gold hash, brown butter emulsion, lemon $25
Week 3-4:
Peruvian shellfish ceviche - sea asparahus, shrimp, scallops, radish, red onion, cilantro, habanero $12
Rushing Water's Trout - farro, rainbow swiss chard, meyer lemon byre blanc $21
Week 5-6:
Pan seared scallops -poached apricots, parmesan crisp, hydro watercress, ramps, caper vinaigrette $16
Shrimp Orcchiette - classic soffritto, stewed tomatoes, italian parsley, pecorino $18
Kinfork (in Schaumburg) and Rack House (in Arlington Heights)

Fish & Chips will be offered every Friday through Easter:
Fresh Pacific Pollock fried crispy in our house beer batter with slaw, fresh lemon, and remoulade. Choice of fries or tots $10

LaVoute in Homwood

Every Friday this Lenten season, La Voute will feature a variety of seafood specials ranging from Crab Cakes to Mussles to Salmon and so much more.  And during Lent and beyond you can enjoy crab legs every Wednesday.

Arami in Chicago
Chicagoans can enjoy an extensive meat-free menu this Lenten season, including a variety of sashimi, nigiri, and maki fare. Highlights also include Hokkaido Miso Ramen with vegan kimchi, Japanese mushrooms, fried tofu, and negi ($14) and Kankoku-Nabe ($16).  Reservations are available seven days a week via Reserve.

FIG & OLIVE in Chicago
The sophisticated, French-Riviera inspired restaurant in the Gold Coast offers seafood options in an elegant setting for diners observing Lent. With a menu showcasing fresh, Mediterranean-style ingredients, guests of FIG & OLIVE enjoy Sea Scallops with honey roasted carrot, orange segment, citrus and charmoula ($19); Salmon Crudo with pomegranate, grapefruit segment, pink peppercorn and pomegranate dressing ($16); Crab Cake with horseradish, preserved lemon mayo and cilantro ($16); Riviera Salmonwith braised endive, baby kale, cauliflower purée, olive and piquillo condiment ($26); Branzino a la Plancha with haricot vert, yellow wax beans, roasted potato and green harissa sauce ($32), and more. For more information, please visit FIG & OLIVE’s website or call (312) 445-0060.

Homestead on the Roof in Chicago
Leave traditional notions of pot pie at the door, because this Lenten season Executive Chef Scott Shulman is serving up something special at Homestead on the Roof. Putting his own unique spin on the classic comfort food item, behold the Lobster Pot Pie. A homemade pie shell created in-house by Executive Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira, this signature item is filled with decadent Maine lobster, seasonal vegetables, and lobster bisque. Hello, Lent. For more information, please visit Homestead on the Roof’s website or call (773) 332-2354.

Keith's in Whiting, IN

I made my first visit there recently after being urged to go there form friends for several years. There's a significant number of seafood entrees on the menu as well as seafood specials. I enjoyed some salmon with a lemon caper sauce that was amazing. My lunch portion came with soup or salad for just $14.

Latinicity in Chicago
The meat-free options are limitless at Latinicity. The foodhall is home to ten unique kitchens, including MariscosSpanish for “seafood”, where diners can enjoy calamari, mussels, fish & chips and oysters.  Latinicity also serves up classic ceviches, salads and tortas, with Lent-friendly options to go around.  Reserve a table at Pata Negra, the full-service tapas restaurant within the foodhall, to enjoy small bites like gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), pulpo de la gallega (octopus), or montadito de congreja (crab toast). 

Vermilion in Chicago
Known for its bold Indian-Latin cuisine, the fusion restaurant offers an array of seafood and vegetarian options.  Appetizers include Toasted Coconut Shrimpwith kashmiri mirch chimichurri and lychee jalapeno salsa, Blue Corn Crusted Scallops with Peruvian corn, calabasa, chipotle and goat cheese, and Grilled Peruvian Pulpo Octopus, featuring tangy tiradito sauce and jicama slaw. Signature Latin entrees include Vermilion’s Caldeirada De Peixe, a savory Brazilian seafood stew served with tomato rice, and Plantain Crusted Seasonal Whitefish, seasoned with cilantro mint and served with roasted corn tomatillo salsa. Another staple is the Lobster Portuguese, voted as a top dish worldwide by USA Today. Reservations can be made on OpenTable or by calling (312) 557-4060. 

BRIO Tuscan Grille in Lombard

They say variety is the spice of life, and BRIO Tuscan Grille Lombard in Chicago is embracing this philosophy with an array of new dishes on the “A Variety of Flavors” lunch and dinner menus. Available Tuesday, Feb. 28–Saturday, April 15, the menus present two exciting new appetizers, three entrées (including two mouthwatering seafood dishes), a divine dessert, and delightful wine options. 

I was in recently to try out some of the menu items from this list of limited-time selections. The calamari was fantastic and the Peroni Beer-Battered Fish & Chips hit the spot. The North Atlantic cod was crispy on the outside, succulent and so flavorful on the inside. It came with fries and Brussels sprout slaw for $17.95. The pasta dishes are always pretty awesome and this menu includes a Lobster and Black Pepper Shrimp Ravioli.

The Florentine in Chicago
The Florentine located in the Loop inside the JW Marriott is one of my absolute favorite dining spots in the city. Venture in for seafood appetizers and entrée options crafted by Executive Chef Zach Walrath. The Italian dining destination offers an elegant, seasonal menu with dish highlights including Capesante: hudson canyon scallops, parsnip puree, red cabbage, gala apple, pancetta ($20); Branzino:whole mediterranean sea bass, giant white beans, puttanesca, basil, lemon ($42); Salmone: faroe island salmon, shaved fennel, orange, grapefruit, treviso, pomegranate agrodolce ($32); Trota: pan roasted trout, creamed escarole, fingerling potatoes, smoked trout, capers ($35). 
For Lent-friendly imbibing, tasty mocktail selections include Mixed Berry Italian Cream Soda with farmers market mixed berry simple syrup, sparkling water, topped with cream; A rif on a Caipirinha with muddled lime, jalapeno, cucumber, agave nectar and topped with soda; and Pomegranate & Mint Mojito: the classic without the liquor. For more information, please visit The Florentine’s website or call (312) 660-8866.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

From the Inbox: Your Bacon Dreams Come True This Weekend

It's often said that everything is better with bacon -- and no where is that more true than at Baconfest Chicago. The big meaty mania festival is back Friday and Saturday at UIC Forum for three sessions. Do you have tickets?

Chicago's Premiere Food Festival the 9th Annual Baconfest Chicago
A Bacchanalia of Bacon; March 31 & April 1 @ UIC Forum

The 9th Annual Baconfest Chicago will be held on March 31 and April 1 at the UIC Forum. Chicago's premiere food festival will feature over 150 top chefs and world-renowned restaurants. It is a unique showcase for bacon talent from Food Network stars, Michelin honored chefs (Stars and Bib-Gourmands!) and James Beard nominees, side by side with beloved local chefs on the rise.  

Participating chefs in each session will also compete for the Golden Rasher Award, an award to celebrate special achievement in the bacon arts.  A panel of judges will award for "Most Creative Use of Bacon" and "Best Front of House Presentation."  A portion of proceeds from Baconfest Chicago are donated to The Greater Chicago Food Depository.  Sponsor Jewel will bring unlimited bacon samples and and will give attendees coupons for free bacon.

9th Annual Baconfest Chicago
Baconfest Chicago 2017 Menu.
Tickets are  still available at

Baconfest Chicago by the Numbers
  • Over 8,000 pounds of Nueske's bacon
  • 4 tons of bacon consumed over two days
  • A bacon marathon featuring 25 miles of bacon strips
  • 150 of Chicago's top restaurants, 40 first-time participants
  • More than 4,500 foodies over three sessions

Friday  Dinner - March 31
6:00PM - 7:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour
7:00PM - 10:00PM General Admission Period
Saturday Lunch - April 1
11:00AM - 12:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour
12:00PM - 3:00PM General Admission Period
Saturday Dinner - April 1
6:00PM - 7:00PM Cooking Channel VIP Hour
7:00PM - 10:00PM General Admission Period

New 2017 Baconfest Chicago Sponsors:
  • Small Town Brewery will sample the following: Not Your Mom's Hard Iced Tea, Strawberry Rhubarb Beer and Apple Pie beer.
  • Cicero Beverage Company will team up with Bakon Vodka to offer a Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary bar featuring a bacon-infused mix, horseradish accented mix, Bakon vodka, and an array of garnishes.
  • Metric Coffee booth will be pouring their nitro-cold-brew coffee called Hellion.
  • Pure Leaf tea will be brewing up samples for guests to try and Bai will be passing out refreshing antioxidant infusions.
  • Partner Tahoe Kitchen Co will feature artisan olive oils and kitchen implements.

About Baconfest:
Baconfest Chicago holds its ninth tasting event on March 31 and April 1, 2017 at the UIC Forum (725 West Roosevelt). Ticketholders gain access to a bacon-wonderland where the city's best chefs hand out amazing creative bacon snacks. Luxury brands, artisan bacon-makers, and bacontrepreneurs display, sample, and sell a multitude of bacon products. The best mixologists and brewers hand out bacon-inspired cocktails, beer and wine. To celebrate special achievement in the bacon arts, Baconfest gives out Golden Rasher Awards (the Oscars of the bacon world). Best of all, Baconfest is good for America. In addition to hosting a food drive and raffle at the event, Baconfest Chicago donates a portion of proceeds from ticket sales to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  Since 2009, Baconfest's support has resulted in more than $360,000 for Chicago's food bank, which translates into more than 1,100,000 meals for hungry people in the area.

Social Media:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

From the Inbox: Get your tickets to Blue Chip Brewfest

From the inbox today...
One of my favorite beer events is coming up soon! Blue Chip Brewfest will feature over 300 beers from dozens of craft brewers from the Midwest and beyond. Get your tickets to the April 8 event through or the casino box office. And you'll find a little Brewfest-related reading on past Brewfests here and here and here and here and here and here.

Blue Chip to Host Seventh Annual Blue Chip Brewfest April 8

More than 300 brews from more than 80 specialty breweries will be available to taste at the ultimate beer sampling event, the Seventh Annual Blue Chip Brewfest, sponsored by Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa, Michigan City, Indiana, on Saturday, April 8 from 1:30 to 5 pm. Last year’s sold-out event attracted more than 2,500 beer enthusiasts.

Three ticket packages are available, including the Brewmaster package, which includes lunch with Laura Bell from Bell’s Brewery in the Orleans Ballroom from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, the VIP Session, with the Dogfish Head Beer tasting event in the Sam’s Town Ballroom from noon to 2 pm, early entrance to the main tasting event at 1 pm and a commemorative pint glass and t-shirt. The VIP package includes the Dogfish Head Beer tasting event, a pint glass and early entrance to the main tasting at 1 pm and the general admission package includes the main tasting event from 1:30 pm to 5 pm. The $15 designated driver ticket includes complimentary specialty soda and water.

Tickets are $99 for the Brewmaster Package, $75 for VIP admission, $45 for regular admission and $15 for designated drivers and are available at or at the Blue Chip Gift Box in the casino pavilion. Guests must be 21 or older, with a valid state or government-issued photo ID.

Blue Chip will hold a silent auction during the event for premium items and other beer-themed collectibles. Proceeds will benefit a local charity. 

Live entertainment will be provided by the Allen Wronko Band. Food offerings available for purchase include brats, hot dogs and pretzels. All of the Blue Chip restaurants will be open. 

About Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa
Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa is the premier entertainment destination in Northwest Indiana. Located an hour’s drive east of Chicago in Michigan City, Indiana, Blue Chip features a 65,000-square-foot single-level casino, two hotel towers with a total of 486 upscale rooms; five restaurants, a spa, full-service salon and fitness center, two gift shops and the 20,000-square-foot Stardust Event Center. For more information, visit Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa is a property of Boyd Gaming. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Boyd Gaming is a leading diversified owner and operator of 24 gaming entertainment properties located in Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Boyd Gaming and Blue Chip press releases are available at

Monday, March 20, 2017

Yoder's Horseradish

Each time we make a visit to Amish country, we come back with a lot of food souvenirs. On our most recent visit, we stopped at Yoder's Meat and Cheese Company. We often head home with all kinds of goodies - baked goods, cheese, tea, jellies. This time I also grabbed a pack of knockwurst  - and to go along with it, a jar of fresh Yoder's horseradish. Good stuff! If you need to clear your sinuses, this will for sure do the trick. I use just a dab. :)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Swedish Meatball Gravy

I am a fan of Ikea's Swedish meatballs that are served in the cafe.

I am not a fan of making gravy.

It all stems back to an incident that happened just after I got married. I was a young newlywed eager to cook for my hubby. I decide to make biscuits and gravy for breakfast and tried to make it having my mom guide me through the steps over the phone. After I had added some milk and was stirring and stirring and stirring, it didn't seem like it was thickening up much. However, my mom instructed me to add another cup of milk. At that point it was more like soup than gravy. So, I told mom I'd add more milk, then hung up the phone sure that she had no clue what she was saying (despite the fact that she'd been cooking for a family for close to four decades.) I didn't listen. I added no more milk. Then suddenly it started to thicken and I thought I'd be eating a perfect plate of gravy. I turned off the heat. It got thicker and thicker. By the time my husband picked up to plate, the gravy was literally like a pancake. You couldn't spoon it. You had to cut it with a knife. My poor hubby didn't bat an eye. He was a trooper and sat down and ate it. All of it. Like it was a pancake. No complaints. But I never ever tried to make gravy again. I was terrified of it.

So, it's 25 years later. I bought frozen meatballs at IKEA. But what are Swedish meatballs without the gravy? So, I looked around the internet for some recipes and gave it a try. And hey...I actually made gravy. And it was good!

4 tsp. butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups beef broth
1/2 cup milk

Melt the butter in pan and gradually whisk in four to make a roux. Slowly add broth and cook over low heat. Add milk. Continue cooking until it thickens. Add heated meatballs to pan or spoon over heated meatballs.

Oh, and grab a jar of lingonberry jam to go along with it!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Edinger's Filling Station in Pontiac, Illinois

A couple months ago my parents moved to central Illinois to live with my sister. It's really strange. For the past 13 years they've lived less than 10 minutes away and I saw them often. Before that they lived in the house I grew up in and when I got married, we bought a house about 20 minutes from them. So, for my whole life I never lived more than 20 minutes away from them. It's been an adjustment.

Since I work from home, I'm able to pretty much set my own hours and I have the flexibility of heading out for lunch. Dad would accompany me often for lunch at various places in the area. Sometimes we'd hit favorites of his, like Schoop's or Olive Garden or Fuddrucker's or Lincoln's or Miner Dunn. Other times we would try out new places I had been eyeing. If I was busy working and decided on a whim at 10:45 a.m. that I'd like to go out lunch at 11:30, I could always call up dad and he'd be ready to go. I really, really miss that.

Now he lives just over 2 1/2 hours away. In January, when his birthday was coming up I suggested we find a place in the middle where we could meet for lunch. We decided on Edinger's Filling Station in Pontiac and one of my sons came along to see Grandpa for a birthday lunch.

The place is adorable with a fun retro diner feel. It's open for breakfast and lunch with a large menu of classic diner food. The place was charming and very clean with a friendly staff. We all got something somewhat light and were all happy with our food. Dad had an order of biscuits and gravy, my son got spaghetti and I had some mac and cheese that was delicious.

The place was quite busy at lunchtime, but we just had to wait a couple minutes for a table to be cleared. It was so nice to linger at chat and see Dad for lunch again. We decided we'd continue our lunch dates about once a month in a place in between the two of us along I-55. We've had 3 lunch dates so far with another planned soon. Edinger's will definitely be a place we will revisit and I'd recommend it to anyone traveling I-55 through Pontiac or cruising the old Route 66.

IKEA's Handy Dandy Accessory Holder

A walk through IKEA for me is like cutting a kid loose in a toy store. I want one of everything - from furniture to bedding to dishes. I also can't resist grabbing things as I head through the kitchen area. There are always fun and reasonably priced gadgets and utensils. Europeans are extremely focuses on efficiency and it's fun to see the space saving products throughout the store.

I grabbed a couple of these stainless steel utensil holders. With the large collection I have, I have a full overflowing drawer in my kitchen full of spoons and scrapers and spatulas and tongs. This fits neatly in the corner for the extras. I also grabbed one for hubby's outdoor man cave. He now has one beside the grill filled with stainless tongs, knives and brushes so they're always at his fingertips as he cooks.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Magisso Magnetic Tea Ball

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I love my tea. After many years of drinking strictly tea bags, I was introduced to lose leaf tea and I now drink it often. I've had a number of different tea balls over the years, but the magnetic tea ball from Magisso is definitely my favorite.

The ball sticks to the top of your tea pot, so after it steeps, you use your spoon to lift it up and you're ready to go. There's no transferring it back and forth while it drips. And better yet, my favorite teapot is a metal one I received as a wedding shower gift many moons ago. I can warm my water directly in it on the stovetop, then stick my tea ball right to the lid and let it steep. Anything that makes teatime quicker and more relaxing is a winner in my book. This Finnish company makes many other cool kitchen and home products. Give the website a look -