Friday, January 27, 2017

Chicago kicks off restaurant week


Following a big foodie extravaganza at the First Bites Bash last night, Chicago Restaurant Week is now underway. Starting today and running through February 9, Chicago Restaurant Week offers hungry diners prix fixe meals at some of the city's most beloved eateries. 

Over 300 restaurants are participating, so it's a chance to get a good deal on some of your favorite places - or even better, discover some new spots or take advantage of the prix fixe menu to visit a luxurious place that may otherwise be a little beyond your budget. There are 66 new participants this year, so even if you think you've hit every place on the list, you'll find something new to entice you. It's also a great way to preview some spots that you may want to make a Valentine's Day reservation for.

During the Chicago Restaurant Week promotion, participating restaurants will off specialized menus prices at $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.) Some feature up to four-courses with multiple options.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit ChooseChicago.com.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Try Brio Tuscan Grill's Limited-Time Flavorful Features


Brio Tuscan grill is offering a menu of their "Flavorful Features" which is a limited-time offer that continues through February 28. That makes it a perfect spot to visit with your sweetie for Valentine's Day.

This was my first visit to BRIO Tuscan Grille at Yorktown Center in Lombard and I became an instant fan.

We started off with some warm bread and nicely seasoned crispy flatbread - the perfect way to begin dinner.

As I looked over the menu, though, I knew I needed to hold back on that delicious bread because there was much more to come and everything sounded fantastic.

Our waiter mentioned that Lobster Bisque was featured every day and figured I should give it a try. I'm so glad I did. I'm generally not a huge fan of rich creamy soups, but this one blew me away. Not only was it loaded with lobster, but it was topped with sautéed shrimp garnish - and that took it over the edge. It was so good I kinda wanted to lick the bowl, but I contained myself. The next course was coming and I couldn't wait to see what was next.

Since we were there specifically to try out the Flavorful Features menu, they quickly delivered the next item - the burrata and prosciutto bruschetta, which also featured red peppers, mayonnaise, sea salt, black pepper and EVOO. It was beyond amazing. I could have stopped right then after the bisque and bruschetta. But I knew I needed to pace myself.

The next item wasn't on the Flavorful Features menus, but is a white bean dip starter. It was very good - loaded with one of my favorite foods: artichokes!



From there we moved onto the entrees. I sampled two of the three Flavorful Features, the Scallop Risotto and the Crab Stuffed Shrimp and Lobster Tail. Scallops are on my top ten list of favorite foods and these were cooked perfectly and I loved the risotto with roasted eggplant, red peppers, zucchini, tomato compote, red onions, basic and Regianno. It reminded me of ratatouille with the great blend of flavors and abundance of freshly chopped vegetables. This dish got a definite thumbs up from me.



Hubby opted for the Crabbed Stuffed Shrimp and Lobster Tail and was kind enough to let me sample (like he had a choice!) This was a great plate for lovers of succulent seafood. The lobster melted in your mouth and the shrimp had a little zing of flavor that was a lovely compliment. The lobster sat on a little bed or orzo and broccoli. Delish!


Leave room for the delectable dessert, Butterscotch Budino - a pudding topped with caramel, vanilla whipped cream and one of my favorite foods on this earth, Marcona almonds.

Oh, and I can't forget the extensive cocktail menu. The Flavorful Features menu included two nicely paired wines, but I couldn't pass up my favorite cocktail - a Peach Bellini. Hubby also didn't stray from his favorite - the Old Fashioned. We both made good decisions. 

Brio definitely impressed me and I hope to return soon. The menu is brimming with enticing salads, seafood, pastas and more. But be sure to get in before the end of February before this menu says "Ciao!" For more info, visit BrioItalian.com. 



***I did receive a complimentary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Save on dining and more with Groupon Coupons

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.


When you love food as much I do, you know that if you can find ways to cut the cost a little it will enable you to be able to dine out more often and that you'll have more to spend if you want to splurge on a pricier place. You can try bypassing cocktails for water, order from the specials menu or take advantage of prix fixe offers. But one easy way to save without sacrificing what you like to eat or doing a lot of legwork is to take advantage of Groupon offers. You can dine at some wonderful places at discounts of 50% or more. And it's not just restaurants where you'll save. You can save on travel, attractions and through some of your favorite retailers with Groupon Coupons.

Among the retailers you'll find offers from are Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Lord & Taylor, Omaha Steaks, AT&T, GNK and more. Browse through some of the participating stores and websites and you'll find offers for free items and discounts.

And be sure to go to Groupon.com and add yourself to their email list so that you can get regular offers delivered right to your inbox. I love when one pops up for a favorite restaurant and I can get half off or more on places that I already love to visit or when I can get a discount on a place I already shop at.  It's also a fabulous way to discover new places. It's always easier to give a place a try when you don't have to pay full price and sometimes you can get introduced to some real gems.

You can follow Groupon on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.

IKEA's Kakor Chokolad

On each visit to IKEA I find more and more things to love. Like most stores do, IKEA places some tasty treats near the checkout so you're tempted to purchase them as you stare at them while you wait in line. These little biscuits with chocolate filling caught my eye, so I thought I'd give them a try. They were a nice little treat - not overly sweet. Perfect with a little cup of tea or coffee. They'll definitely be a regular in my cart on future visits.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hofbrauhaus to Celebrate 4th Anniversary on Friday

There are thousands of places to go in Chicagoland to have a beer, but there is nothing like the Hofbrauhuas - likely the most lively, energetic, jovial atmosphere you can enjoy while sipping on a brew. And although you aren't getting small batch craft beers, you're getting a taste of pure German brewing that dates back centuries. 

Elliott Bambrough from WGN's Chicago's Best
On a regular day, you can be entertained by live German music and served by ladies in German-inspired attire, but this Friday during the 4th anniversary you can really have some fun. The party starts at 7 p.m. and includes a ceremonial keg tapping with Elliott Bambrough, host of WGN's Chicago's Best, along with German dance performances and free steins for the first 500 guests. 

The place is also one you must experience for not just the lively environment and the beer, but also the authentic German cuisine, which includes lots of sausages and sauerkraut and schnitzel - and also some really awesome Bavarian pretzels that are flown in and then baked on site. Stop by this Friday and join the celebration! Prost!

For more information, visit hbchicago.com.



Celebrate Australia Day with a taste of Tim Tams


A few years ago I was introduced to the delicious Tim Tam biscuit, which is a hugely popular treat in the Land Down Under. An Australian friend of my sister brings them when she visits the U.S. and my niece, a Chicago-area transplant to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland has shared them with us, as well, when she's come home. So, when I heard that they were coming to America just in time for Australia Day (which is celebrated Thursday), I got a little giddy.

Not only will Tim Tams be available in the U.S., they will be easy to find and I won't have to run all over the suburbs on a crazy wild goose chase to track down a few packs. Go to  itsnotacookie.com and you can search for available locations. In my case, they can be found at 10 stores within 10 miles - all Walmart, Target and Meijer locations.

For those of you who have not tried Tim Tams, they are a delicious three-layer treat with smooth cream filling between two crunchy biscuits coated in rich chocolate. Four varieties are available, including an exclusive U.S. flavor - Dark Mint - along with Original, Chewy Caramel and Classic Dark. They are amazing and addictive.


A few fun facts about Tim Tam biscuits:
·         Australians eat approximately 45 million packets of Tim Tam biscuits per year
·         More than 670 million individual biscuits are made each year
·         One in every two Australian households purchase Tim Tam biscuits. Australia’s      population is 24.3 million.
·         The ritual serve, the “Tim Tam Slam,” is how it’s consumed in Australia, which consists of biting off each end of the Tim Tam and using it as a straw in your coffee, hot chocolate, or tea.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nando's Peri Peri opens in Hyde Park

Over the past year or so, I've been hearing a lot about Nando's PERi-PERi which debuted in the Chicago area in the spring of 2015 and now operates 11 restaurants in Chicagoland. So, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit their newest restaurant in Hyde Park when it opened January 14.

The first Nando's restaurant opened its doors in 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since then, Nando's has opened 1,200 restaurants in 23 countries on five continents. The chain is known worldwide for its flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours and its eclectic decor featuring artistic pieces from South Africa with no two stores decorated the same. Nando's opened its first U.S. location in Washington D.C. in 2008. Although it originated in South Africa, the menu includes Portuguese cuisine, which I had never tried before.

As we arrived to to get a taste we were greeted by a student of nearby Kenwood Academy, one of the highest ranking public schools in the city, who let us know that every purchase that day would benefit the school. With a line out the door, we knew it would be a profitable event for a great cause. Nando's, which has traditionally been a big supporter when they join a new community, donated 100 percent of opening day sales to the school - a total of $11,020. It's so wonderful when food can bring people together and do good and this is a shining example of that.

Nando's Hyde Park location is lively and colorful and a place where you don't just eat - you have an experience. The staff was extremely jubilant and friendly despite the demand's of the day's big crowds. I couldn't wait to see if the food lived up to the hype. I'm happy to report that it was fabulously unique and exceeded expectations. Talk about chicken that melts in your mouth. My dining partner for the evening, my good friend, Michelle, and I have sent each other several random texts over the past week and a half (at crazy times of day and night) talking about how we want more of that chicken. We seriously haven't stopped thinking about it.



Aside from a chicken breast meal - with a cucumber and poppy seed salad and Portuguese rice sides - we also tried the country salad (with roasted red pepper, grilled corn, chickpeas, croutons and Halloumi cheese over greens) and a chicken thigh sandwich with a side of Macho peas (spicy pea mash) and PERi-chips (fries.) Everything was bursting with flavor and I am so stoked about trying more of the menu items (the braised Brussels sprouts sound awesome as do several of the wraps.) While many restaurants dabble in many different meats and entrees, Nando's does one thing - chicken - and they do it oh, so well!

There are also a number of tempting desserts to choose from, which seem to come in reasonable size portions (who can eat a 14-ounce slice of cake after indulging in a full meal?) and I was so glad I had a little bit of room left to try the Naughty Natas - a traditional Portuguese tart, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It was a tasty little custard treat that was a phenomenal finish for our evening. 

Nando's is a casual spot where you can count on getting your meal quickly, but it's far from what you'd classify as fast food. Once you head in, you get a cute little painted chicken with a number on it that designates your table. You order at the counter and your order is made fresh and brought out within minutes, so there's no lag or delay in waiting for a server's availability or waiting for your check and it's a great spot to get a meal fairly quickly that is miles above what you'd grab at a drive-thru of fast food spot. All chicken should be this juicy and every fast casual experience should be this amazing.

The Hyde Park store is located at 1447 E. 53rd Street. For more information, please visit www.nandosperiperi.com, follow @NandosUSA on Twitter or Like Us at Nando's PERi-PERi USA on Facebook.

***I did receive a complimentary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

King of Pop Zesty Ranch Popcorn

Popcorn is a favorite snack of mine and although I'm perfectly fine with a big bowl of regular popcorn drizzled with a little butter, I love to try out various flavors, too. I recently tried out a snack size bag of King of Pop's Zesty Ranch. It's one I would definitely like to snack on again. Sweet covered popcorn is nice, but I prefer salty and savory flavors and this one is a winner. Get more info on how to get your own here.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grilled ham, havarti and American with zesty tomato dip

So, hubby and I recently attended Time Out Chicago's Grilled Cheese Meltdown - a competition among nine Chicago eateries and food trucks. One place - Same Day Cafe - was serving a rosemary grilled cheese with a little cup of tomato soup with basil oil and rosemary. He enjoyed dipping his sandwich in the little soup sample. So the next day, I decided I'd make grilled cheese for lunch.

I made him a sandwich of havarti and American with smoked ham and tomato on cracked wheat. He commented about how he liked dipping the sandwich in soup the day before. So, I improvised and just took a couple scoops of jarred pasta sauce and watered it down a little bit and added some Italian seasoning (and after I shot this pic I also added some Parmesan cheese.) I won't even try to pretend it was as good as what we had from Same Day Cafe, but in a pinch it did the trick and made a nice little dip.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cheesie's

Recently I attended Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown and was introduced to Cheesie's where everything on the menu centers on the gooey dairy product that we all love. The sandwich they were serving for this competition was The Tenderizer (cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, chicken tenders, bacon, hot sauce, BBQ sauce and ranch on Texas Toast.) It was phenomenal!

Besides three locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park and Evanston, they also have a food truck that you'll see around the city throughout the year serving up some awesome sandwiches. On the menu are a dozen creative sandwiches along with some soups and cheesy appetizers. I've seriously been dreaming about that sammich since I left the event. Be sure to try them out if you happen to be near one of their locations of if you come across the big yellow food truck! For more info, visit cheesies.com.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lodge Cast Iron Round Griddle

When we first got married and moved into our house, we were left with an ugly and barely functioning electric stove. My brother, who lived on the same street just 8 houses away had just ordered a new stove and we inherited his a few months after we moved in.

It was a very wide appliance, but I didn't mind. It was wider because in the center area in between the burners was a huge griddle. I used it all the time - especially for pancakes and for grilled cheese sandwiches. That stove served us another decade or so before it finally bit the dust and I couldn't find a replacement anywhere that had a big griddle in the middle. I really, really missed it. Since then I'd been using teflon pans for making things I would have prepared on that griddle. And I have for years had a griddle on my wish list to put over the burners that I've never gotten around to buying.

Hubby is a big fan of cast iron. He's been using cast iron pans on the grill for years and for scout camping trips. So, when I came across this 10 1/2 inch round cast iron griddle by Lodge, I couldn't pass it up. I had used a cast iron skillet in recent months, but when you simply want to flip a pancake or a sandwich, it's nice not the have the high sides in your way.

It works great and I wish I would have purchased it sooner. It brown the bread on sandwiches nicely. In the photo below, I was using some pretty large bread, but if I'd used standard white bread, I could have easily fit two sandwiches on it. On the weekend, I'll have to get out the pancake batter and give it a try. Although a large griddle that covers two burners would come in handy in our house of hungry boys, this one is on the lighter side for a piece of cast iron cookware and it stores away easily and doesn't take up a lot of room.


I plan on adding to my Lodge collection bit by bit. They are nice sturdy pieces that I know will last for a long time and that are high quality. They also get points for manufacturing all their seasoned cast iron in the U.S.A. For more info on Lodge cast iron products, visit LodgeMfg.com.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time Out Chicago's Grilled Cheese Meltdown

Chicago Foodie Sisters had the pleasure of attending Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown, a competition to crown the most succulent of cheesy sandwich creations in the city. Guests noshed on samples from nine venues serving up creative concoctions - from South Water Kitchen's pear, brie and blueberry jam sandwich to Toasty Cheese's Chef Choice (duck bacon, provolone, fresh spinach and fresh baby arugula with Sicilian cherry tomatoes and coli on a panini) to a braised short rib grilled cheese from Michael Jordan's Steakhouse.

A couple of drinks were included in your ticket - a beer from China, Tsingtao, and a delicious crisp hard cider that I was tasting for the first time and am now obsessed with from Sweden, Rekorderlig Cider.

The event had three separate sessions, each 2 hours at 11:30, 2 and 4:30. It was a fabulous way to spend a dreary winer afternoon. The event was held at Thaila Hall, an 1892 opera house in Pilsen that has some beautiful features in its lighting and decorative woodwork.

It was really hard picking a favorite. Each attendee got to place a vote for the best grilled cheese. I left full but by the time I got home was wishing I had another plate of gooey grilled cheese in front of me. It was the stuff that foodie dreams are made of. Find the list of winners here.

The event was incredibly organized and well executed and if you're looking for more fun food events to attend in the future, I'd give a thumbs up to anything hosted by Time Out Chicago. Some of their other events have been Battle of the Burger, Chicago's Donut Party and the Mac and Cheese Smackdown.