Thursday, December 31, 2015

Glamma Wine Bubble Bling

The Chicago Foodie Sisters recently got a complimentary shipment from the ladies of Glamma Wines to try out. The name, the packaging, the has girl's night written all over it. But that's not to say that the fellas can't enjoy it, too. We received three of the four varieties available - the Bubble Bling California Sparkling Wine, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2013 Chardonnay.

The company came to be as two best friends and sisters-in-law who had been bonding over bubbly beverages for decades decided to join forces to bring a long-time dream to fruition. While I took the name to simply be slang for glamorous, I found out that it's a nickname given to grandmothers who are just too glamorous, hip and fashionable to fall into the "granny" category. They happen to have children who have children, but are far too young, gorgeous and glamorous to be called "grandma" - at least that's according to an embroidered pillow I found on Pinterest. :)

Their partnership has turned out to be quite delicious and, hey, anything that encourages girl time is good with us. We popped open our Bubble Bling at our family's Thanksgiving gathering as the appetizers came out. It was paired with cheese and crackers and fruit and dips and some light salads ~ and we gals munched and chatted and giggled and mulled about the kitchen ~ just like I'm sure the creators had intended for it to be enjoyed. With a hint of fruitiness, it was enjoyable on its own as well as with some of the light snacks we enjoyed while we waiting for the full gang to show up. And I am thinking that it would be lovely in a morning mimosa! It was given a thumbs up by all the gals that gave it a try - from the 21-year-old to the Glamma of our own family, who is a fabulous 80-years-young.

Glamma wines range from $20 - $24 and you can sign-up on line for their e-mail list to be notified when new varieties become available. The wines are specially made for the Glamma label by Solana Cellars in Paso Robles, California. We look forward to trying out the other wines and will fill you in when we do. For more on Glamma Wines, visit them online at or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

**Disclaimer: I received complimentary product for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

J's Peapod

Just have to give a shout out to my favorite local Chinese spot - J's Peapod. They have two locations in Lansing and among our family's favorites are the egg drop soup, sweet and sour chicken, teriyaki skewers, orange chicken and combination fried rice. The egg rolls are delicious and come in a large portion. I always over order because I love to have leftovers for a couple days. Sometimes if I'm making a chicken or beef dish for dinner, I'll stop by there for an order of vegetable fried rice to serve as a side.

J's Peapod
Two locations:
3212 171st St. (708) 474-7170
19285 Burnham Ave. (708) 895-8582
Lansing, IL

Where to ring in the new year around Chicago

Still on the fence about how to ring in the new year? Here's a few fun events to consider:

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruises Aboard Entertainment Cruises
Make a magnificent New Year’s Eve memory aboard one of our three upscale Chicago New Year’s Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruises at Navy Pier. It’s the perfect, most sophisticated celebration on the lakefront. End 2015 and welcome 2016 with DJ entertainment, dinner, a platinum bar package, a champagne toast and fireworks from Navy Pier at midnight (weather permitting).
Choose between the OdysseySpirit of Chicago, and Mystic Blue for your New Year’s Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruise.

Medieval Times Chicago

Uncommon Ground
New Year's Eve 
Dinner Package
Special Chef's Menu 
only $55 per person 
+tax & gratuity  
phone 773-465-9801
New Year's Eve Menu
uncommon ground - Edgewater
chef's amuse
mushroom & kale arancini
olive oil asiago, truffle aioli
winter salad
butterhead lettuce, pomegranate, grapefruit,
turnips, creamy tarragon-pink peppercorn dressing
roast organic carrot soup
organic roof top coriander, maple brioche croutons
roast apple stuffed porchetta
crispy sage polenta, vanilla-bourbon apple glaze
curried squash samosa
honey-thyme tamarind & cilantro chutney
harrison farms duck confit
potatoes anna, smoked cherry jus, haricots verts
greenstar organic beer braised grass fed beef short rib
rosemary gnocchi, caramelized shallots, brussels sprouts, balsamic syrup
arctic char
white bean, fennel & chorizo ragu, kale pesto, preserved lemons
wild mushroom bourguignon
handcut egg noodles, celery root, cipollini onions,
 truffle oil, herb crème fraiche
dark chocolate fudge brownie sundae
peppermint crunch ice cream, hot fudge
blood orange crème brulee
peanut butter & banana eclair
salted caramel sauce, candied peanuts
Phone Now 773-465-9801

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast Casserole

I got this recipe from my friend, Angie a while back and it instantly became my favorite breakfast casserole after I tasted it at one of our bowling league potlucks. Most breakfast casseroles I've had use bread or hash browns for a base. This one uses biscuit dough. Can't get easier than that.

Besides, I'm a sucker for biscuits and gravy, so this combines all the bests of breakfast - biscuits, sausage, eggs, cheese, gravy. This casserole doesn't require prep the day before, so when you get up for Christmas morning you can put this together and then enjoy it for breakfast or brunch as everyone rolls out of bed. It's also delicious after a day or two, so it is great for times other than the holidays. Make a pan on the weekend and reheat for the breakfast in the days to come. For the recipe, click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide


From Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine:
(Available in store. Find more gift items at

Best of the Midwest ($79.99)

America's heartland has a bounty of artisans producing phenomenal cheese and small batch accompaniments; the Best of the Midwest Collection celebrates just a few of them. Award-winning Pleasant Ridge from Wisconsin’s Uplands Dairy is nutty and savory with a smooth toffee finish; it’s right at home on Potter’s Crackers with a swipe of sweet, tart cranberry mustard from Michigan, topped with a hearty slice of Summer Sausage from the Badger State's Underground Meats. Indiana’s Capriole Farms has been a pioneer of the artisan goat cheese movement since the very beginning - their Wabash Cannonball is a striking and delightful ball of ash-ripened chèvre with a tart finish.

Cheese Survival Kit ($19.99)

Cheese that not only survives, but thrives! Be prepared for any cheesy situation that might arise with Opinel’s beautifully-crafted pocket knife from France's Savoie, Formaticum’s pocket-sized cheese journal and Pastoral's signature 2-ply cheese paper, designed specifically to keep your cheese fresh and delicious.

Friday, December 11, 2015

From the inbox: Coconutz Chicago opens today!

We've been lucky to have a little reprieve from our usually brutal Chicago winter weather, but it won't last for long. And in the icy days to come, won't it be nice to be able to pop into a restaurant/bar where you're transported to somewhere tropical? Exotic bar bites and sangrias on tap? Yes, please! That's just some of what you'll find at Coconutz, which opens to the public this afternoon! Here's the full details:

Coconutz Chicago Opening off the Gold Coast on December 11, 2015

Explore the Island Inspired Food and Beverage Offerings plus Daily Happy Hour Specials

(Chicago, Ill.) – It may be approaching 60 degrees in Chicago this weekend, but this weather is often fleeting and unpredictable. It’s the perfect time to visit Coconutz Chicago where it’s always warm with a soft glow and the tropical drinks and cabana bites are readily accessible. Coconutz will be open to the public on Friday, December 11 at 4:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights, with a DJ and dancing beginning around midnight. 

Explore the libations Coconutz will offer featuring hand-crafted cocktails utilizing fresh ingredients, house-made infusions, exotic punches, unique wine varietals, sangrias on tap, and craft beers: Discover the small plate Cabana Bites food menua celebration of island food cultures from around the world: The kitchen will be open daily from 4:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. 

Coconutz will offer a daily “1-2 Punch” Happy Hour from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: $1 off food items, $2 off wine, and $3 off the Signature Punch, a house-made white rum punch infused with tropical fruits, herbs, and spices mixed with a blend of fresh squeezed juices served in a Thai coconut. During opening weekend, the first few hundred patrons through the door will receive a “Wish You Were Here” postcard good for 20% off a future visit. Travel to Coconutz Chicago anytime to warm up and get away from it all – it will be well worth the trip!

About Coconutz Chicago:
Opening on December 11, 2015, in the Division Street Entertainment District, Coconutz Chicago will be a respite from city life where every day will be a vacation day on the Gold Coast. Serving island inspired food from Chef Sean Welker and beverages curated by General Manager and sommelier Joshua King and Beverage Director and sommelier Brendan Smith, Coconutz will be a welcome tropical oasis. Coconutz is Lodge Management Group property located at 13 West Division Street in Chicago, Illinois 60610. Coconutz will open daily at 4:00 p.m. and close at 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, Coconutz will party with a DJ and dancing at midnight until closing at 3:00 a.m. For more information, please call (312) 266-0944 or visit http://www.coconutzchicago.com and

Sanfratello's giving away free pizza for a year

As a gift to its patrons, Sanfratello's is doing a 12 Days of Pizza promotion with an opportunity to win FREE pizza for a year. Sanfratello's is a southside favorite - I'm especially fond of their deep dish pan pizza. Every card is a winner and prizes can be claimed from December 12 through February 28.

Prize List:

Three Grand Prizes:
One large single-topping pizza each week for an entire year. Your choice - thin or pan. There'll be one winner at each of our stores!

Three Second Prizes:
Pizza party for 10 (carry out or delivery). One winner at each store!

Lots of Daily Prizes:
BOGO pasta dinner (offer will be applied to the lower value entree)
BOGO large or family-size thin or pan pizza, get a free small pizza
$5 off $25
$10 off $50
Free dessert (any on menu)
Free small cheese sticks
Free small zucchini sticks
Free pizza fritz
Free tomato bread
Free garlic bread
$2 off $10
Free soft drink

Punch Bowl Social offers eclectic menu, three levels of grown-up fun

This week we had the opportunity to visit Schaumburg's new adult playground, Punch Bowl Social, which offers old schools games, bowling, bocce and more. It's three levels of fun that make for a great social outing. Order up a bowl of rum, vodka or bourbon punch and spend the evening playing darts, bowling a few frames or playing some rounds on a four-person Pac Mac arcade game.

As much fun as there is to be had there, I was there first for the food and I was really wowed by what we sampled. When you think bowling alley, you often think of deep fried frozen appetizers. Not here. They call their dining room the "Diner," but it's not typical diner food either. There are a lot of the common classics, but usually with a definite twist - like the Very Serious Grilled Cheese, which has gruyere and goat cheese with poached pear on grilled ciabatta or the Mac and Cheese entree which has tender belly bacon braised leeks and bread crumbs. They've taken a lot of favorites and made them even better.

We started off with some buttermilk biscuits, served with a black pepper jalapeño ginger jelly. Normally, I'd steer clear of something with jalapeño in the name because I'm never sure how heavy it is on the jalapeño. This was sweet with just a hint of heat. Loved it!

Next  we tried the Farmer's Salad of mixed greens (and lots of reds, too) with roasted tomatoes pickled onions, burrata and a roasted tomato cumin vinaigrette, which is an unlikely combo for a salad dressing, but it works so well.

After that came the deviled eggs. I'm quite a fan and always like to try them when I see them on a menu. These were topped with a dollop of bacon jam (a perfect accompaniment) and included tartar sauce and mustard and were garnished with baby arugula.

The menu is divided into neat little sections. I didn't try any from the "Bar Bites" section, but they offer chips and salsa, spicy candied nuts, truffle kettle chips and sweet cilantro wings. The Deviled Eggs were on the "Share Plates" menu along with roasted eggplant dip, stuffed criminis, spicy mango jalapeño quesadillas and an interesting nacho plate that I'm told is one of the most popular items - cauliflower nachos. They include roasted cauliflower, corn tortilla chips, jalapeño creme, cilantro, queso fondito, queso cotija jalapeño, pickled onion, creme fraiche - and chicken or pork carnitas can be added to it.

The "Soups and Salads" section includes a turkey and white bean chili, a kale and chicken salad, a roasted carrot avocado salad and a Korean steak salad in addition to the farmer's salad we tried.

There's also a breakfast menu available daily from 11 to 3 p.m. and it's enticing enough to make the drive early in the day for one of their specialties, which include huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, monkey bread french toast and more. On Sunday, they served brunch with a massive bloody Mary bar with a myriad of ingredients available.

Burgers and sandwiches make up the bulk of their business and from the "Specialty Cast Iron Burgers" section, we tried the Waldorf Burger, which was such an awesome, but unexpected blend of flavors. I mean, really...who puts dried cherries, candied walnuts and apples on a burger? Well, Punch Bowl Social does...and it's burger magic!

Under "Craft Sandwiches," we sampled the New Order Chicken Sandwich, which our wonderful server, Megan, recommended as her favorite It, again, had such a bizarre blend of ingredients, but it combined savory and spicy and salty all together and it worked so well. It was a chicken breast with mustard vinaigrette picked slaw, spicy aioli, radish, bibb lettuce, jalapeño creme on ciabatta. It's something I likely would not have ordered, but I'm so glad I tried it because it was fantastic. Our server didn't steer us wrong.

Also on that part of the menu was the Cubano. I became hooked on Cubans after seeing the movie Chef and now I have to have one whenever I get the chance. Wow. One of the best I've had. The tender belly ham, cocoa dusted pork, pickles, mustard cream and gruyere on ciabatta was very likely the best one I've come across. I just wish I'd had the appetite to have more than a couple bites.

But, I wasn't done yet. Still to come were a couple dishes that were from the "Gastro Diner" portion of the menu and my favorites of the night.

One was Chicken and Waffles and this was like no plate of Chicken and Waffles you've ever had - a panko breaded chicken breast on a malted waffle topped with strawberries, chipotle pecan maple syrup and candied walnuts. It. Was. Amazing

Last was Paul Bunyan's Sweet Tea Brined Chicken. Yes, SWEET TEA BRINED CHICKEN. You read that right. I love the creativity of this menu where you find versions of dishes that you just won't find anywhere else. While it is a spot for some great fun, the food definitely is the centerpiece of the establishment...even ranking above my favorite game ever - skee ball - that can be found in the lower level. Anyway...back to that extraordinary chicken. It's a 1/2 free range chicken served with a side of mac n' cheese and a kale/tangerine/tarragon slaw that I could eat every day. We didn't even attempt dessert after that line-up, but I could see the dessert case from our table and I wouldn't have turned my fork up to any of them.

There, of course, is a big focus on the mixology menu and the beverage director brought out three of their  "New School" signature drinks: the Bourbon Smash, the El Macho and the High Fashion. The Bourbon Smash has buffalo trace bourbon, muddled blueberry and lemon and house made blueberry syrup (and was my favorite of the three.) The El Macho includes el jimador reposado, muddled cucumber, house made cardamom syrup and fresh lime juice. The High Fashion was a refreshing and light cocktail with sparkling wine complimented with house made grapefruit syrup and fresh lemon juice.

The Bourbon Smash

El Macho

The High Fashion
Also, if you're looking for vegetarian or gluten-free options, the menu has items clearly marked that fall into that category or can be adapted to meet your needs. Oh, and another thing that is worth mentioning - this the 6th location and they like to support independent, local guys as sources, including Co-op Sauce Co. (a Chicago company) and Elevation Organic Ketchup (from near their Denver location.) You can also buy several of their products to go, including these (oh, and that awesome jelly I mentioned earlier can also be bought by the quart.)

I just love the whole concept of the fresh and inventive dishes along with original, creative cocktails in an environment with so many opportunities for social connections. I mentioned bowling and arcade games, but let me fill you in a little more - the two-four lane bowling areas have "boutique lanes" meaning that they are a smidge shorter than a standard bowling lane. There's also a photo booth, pinball machines, dart lounge areas, bocce, ping pong, corn hole, skee ball, shuffle-board, a 4-man Pac Man game and other classic 80's arcade games as well as board games. Oh, and PRIVATE KARAOKE SUITES, which would be blast for a birthday party or other group outing. There's also an app called Rockbot, which is kind of like a juke box that you control from your phone - and you have the ability to bump other songs. It's been added at all of their locations. And the crown jewel of the place is the Bonzini - a unique Italian-made 8-man foosball table.

The decor is described as a modern/victorian/industrial/mountain lodge mix. It's casual. It's fun. It's inviting. It's got almost any kind of entertainment you can think of for such a venue, except that you won't find the latest video games there - you can count on the classics, like Galaga. Several more locations are in the works for 2016 as the company continues to grow as it has done in the three years since it began.

The location's grand opening takes place Saturday.

Punch Bowl Social
1100 American Lane
Schaumburg, IL

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Garrett Popcorn Shop now open in Woodfield Mall

Popcorn lovers rejoice! The maker of kernels in several wonderful flavors known as Garrett Popcorn is expanding and bringing the beloved popcorn, a Chicago tradition since 1949, to the burbs. The first Chicago suburban location opened just a couple weeks ago in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. The shop is offering classic flavors as well as new permanent menu additions at the location. You can also pick up some of the limited time seasonal flavors there as well.

Stop in for a fresh batch of the popular Garrett Mix or specialty recipes, like Pecan CaramelCrisp. And if you can't make it there before the holidays, keep in mind that you can order the goodies online, too, in tins up to 6.5 gallons at

The Schaumburg location joins 10 Chicago locations and two more at O'Hare Airport with additional stores in New York, Las Vegas, Detroit and Atlanta.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chicago-based Modern Sprout among Oprah's "Favorite Things" list this season

It's been a fun few weeks of announcements for foodies with the long-awaited Michelin Bib Gourmand and Michelin Guide Chicago lists of the best restaurants in the city being revealed. We've also come to the time when Oprah announces her "Favorite Things" for the upcoming holiday season, which always includes some great food and kitchen/cooking items. Among them this year are a delectable deep-dish cherry pie from, the T-fal OptiGrill and a Skandia Telva Knife Block Set.

Also making her list is an item from a Chicago-based company, the Modern Sprout Garden Jar, an amazing self-watering hydroponic system in a pretty, colored mason-jar that produces fresh herbs all year long. It's nice to see that a Chicago company made the list after Oprah called the city her home for so long.

If you take a little time to browse the site, you'll see you can also get a variety of other herbs, flowers and even tomatoes and with a variety of containers. Oprah was fond of the three-pack gift set of mason jars that include mint, basil and parsley. Jars can also be purchased separately.


Modern Sprout Garden Jar Three-Pack: Herb Essentials
Garden Variety

"Now this is a fantastic gift: made in the U.S.A., a vintage-inspired mason jar containing a self-watering hydroponic system that grows herbs. I love the idea of giving a set—my faves are basil, parsley, and mint."   — Oprah

Read more:

You'll also find additional adorable planters on the website, like this chalkboard version.