Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rock Bottom Helps Create the Best Combo with Beer Pairing Menu

Rock Bottom is one of my favorite places to enjoy a pint - mainly because I know that the food that will go along with it is going to be fantastic. I'm a fan of everything from their appetizers to their entrees to their scrumptious desserts and no matter what dish you're enjoying, there is a beer that pairs perfectly with it. But, sometimes trying to figure out what goes with what can be daunting. Until now.

Rock Bottom is currently offering a beer pairing menu to help you make the perfect choice when it comes to choosing your beer. This handy guide lets you know that the Rock Bottom Wheat Ale Hefeweizen is a good match for your firecracker shrimp or that a LaGrange IPA goes well with the Titan Toothpicks.

Even with dessert, we followed the menu's recommendation for the Dry Irish Stout with the Salted Caramel Toffee Dessert - a knocked-it-out-of-the-park pairing.


We ended our visit with a nice little chat with the master brewer himself, Iain Wilson, who gave some further hints into his favorite menu items and beers. He happened to have a little downtime while we were there as he was awaiting parts for some of his equipment. I could have listened to that Scottish accent all day.

Stop in an do a little pairing of your own with Rock Bottom's beer pairing menu guide. It runs through June 5th. For more info, visit rockbottom.com.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Take a culinary trip around the world with Hard Rock Cafe's World Burger Tour

It's National Hamburger Month and it's the weekend of National Hamburger Day. While hamburgers are considered to be a classic American sandwich, Hard Rock Cafe introduced their World Burger Tour menu this month, showcasing eight international versions of their Local Legendary Burger. 

Hard Rock locations in North America are showcasing these limited-time menus through June 30 and I had an opportunity to head to the Chicago location to do a little tasting. (You can check out all the details of the menu at www.worldburgertour.com)

Hard Rock gives their chefs the freedom to create a Local Legendary Burger that captures the flavor of their city and more than 160 fan favorites were among those considered by the culinary team to be part of the World Burger Tour menu. There were eight final selections, with four available in May and the other four being introduced for June. 

For May, these were the burger flavors from around the world:
·         English Breakfast Burger (London, England) – a Certified Angus Beef® patty topped with sliced ham, a sausage patty, a fried egg, a portobello mushroom, arugula and garlic aioli and served with a side of baked beans
·         Java Lava Burger (Seattle, United States) – a Certified Angus Beef patty grilled and dressed in a house-made espresso rub and topped with lava sauce, crunchy java onions, bacon, melted Cheddar cheese and garnished with a fried jalapeño
·         Tandoori Chicken Burger (Mumbai, India) – a dark meat chicken patty seasoned with aromatic spices and fresh herbs, topped with mint mayonnaise and served with a side of cucumber 
·        Jamaican Jerk Burger (Montego Bay, Jamaica) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with banana pepper rings, mango jalapeño cream cheese and jerk mayonnaise 

I had a taste of three of the four. The medium-well burgers that they serve are nice quality and  a great base to start with. I was excited to try the English Breakfast Burger, which was a monster - like taller than my glass, but worth every messy bite. It was quite the meaty masterpiece with sausage and ham piled on top of the burger. Then with mushroom and tomato - and baked beans on the side, it was like a full English breakfast in a bun. The garlic aioli, which dripped out with every bite, was a delicious bonus. In lieu of regular fries, there are artisan fry options and I decided to go with Parmesan and Romano with garlic aioli. Quite a yummy side!

I snatched a bite from my husband and son of their selections. Hubby got the Jamaican Jerk Burger and I loved the spicy and sweet combo on it. He got it with a side of the herb and garlic fries with chimichurri mayo - a pretty sweet addition. 

Also loved the Java Lava Burger, a big messy heap with a little kick, which my son enjoyed with an order of poutine fries. I love poutine and these big, gooey Wisconsin curds made my cheesy heart happy.

You only have through Tuesday to try out these ones and then there's a new line-up starting Wednesday:

·         ATOMIC! Burger (Las Vegas, United States) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with Atomic beer-battered peppers, pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, garlic chipotle ketchup and chipotle mayonnaise
·         Tango Salsa Burger (Buenos Aires, Argentina) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with andouille sausage, Monterey Jack cheese, chips de batata, a fried egg, salsa criolla and garlic aioli 
·         Greek Burger (Athens, Greece) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with arugula, feta cheese and a tomato slice 
·         Aloha Burger (Honolulu, United States) – a Certified Angus Beef patty topped with SPAM, Monterey Jack cheese, a grilled pineapple ring with sweet soy glaze, guacamole and pico de gallo

Oh, and p.s. There are some yummy cocktails that were designed to pair with some of these tasty burgers: 
·         All Jacked Up – created to balance the Jamaican Jerk Burger’s spicy flair, this cocktail features a mix of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, PJ, Orgeat and lime juice, garnished with orange and pineapple wedges and a cherry 
·         Crisp Sipper – inspired by the Aloha Burger’s sweet and savory taste, this cocktail features a mix of Hendrick’s gin, Monin Cucumber, lemon, orange and raspberry, topped with tonic and garnished with rosemary and thyme
·         MelonPalooza – designed to complement the fresh flavors of the Greek Burger, this cocktail features a mix of Midori Melon Liqueur, Malibu Rum, Hard Rock’s house-made sour mix and PJ, garnished with slices of pineapple and strawberry
·         Sweet & Fiery – inspired by the ATOMIC! Burger’s spicy flavor, this cocktail features a mix of Absolut Peppar Vodka, Canton Ginger Liquor, Blue Curacao, lemonade and ginger beer, garnished with a red pepper 
·         Black Cherry Melonade (non-alcoholic) – created to complement the rich espresso of the Java Lava Burger, this mocktail features a mix of Black Cherry Real and Monin Cucumber, topped with ginger beer, garnished with a cucumber slice and a cherry 

Want to extend your world burger tour? If you're looking to book a rock star vacation, Hard Rock, in conjunction with global experience agency Infrared, is offering a World Burger Tour travel package that includes stops at iconic cities including London, England; Athens, Greece; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Seattle, United States. This four-stop, once-in-a-lifetime excursion celebrates the cities that inspired Hard Rock’s World Burger Tour. The 10-night trip includes flights and first-class hotel accommodations, ground transpiration and exclusive dining and music experiences at Hard Rock Cafe locations in each city is not typically available to the public, so now is your chance to take a rockin' trip around the world. More info available at worldburgertour.com.

To celebrate this world tour menu, my friends at Hard Rock are offering a gift pack to one of our Chicago Foodie Sisters followers. 

To enter the giveaway - 

1) Follow Chicago Foodie Sisters on Facebook and
2) Leave a comment on this blog post telling us which burger you'd most like to try.
3) Find our FB post at Chicago Foodie Sisters about the blog post and comment there.

Send a direct message on the Chicago Foodie Sisters Facebook page to let us know how you entered and leave your e-mail address, so that we can contact you if you win.

Do all three and you get three entries into the giveaway.

Contest closes at 11:59 on Friday, June 3. Winner will be notified on Friday, June 4.

***The information, gift card, gift pack and giveaway have been provided to me by Hard Rock International. I was provided with a complimentary meal for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Potbelly Sandwich Shops

I was invited recently to stop in for a meal at a local Potbelly Sandwich Shop. I'm a newbie to Potbelly, with the exception of a rainy day a while back when I was under the weather and running errands. I stopped in for a quick cup of soup and was on my way. I am really glad I got an opportunity to stop in again and check out the chain because I found a new favorite sandwich - the mushroom melt. It is on the "Skinny" menu as a sandwich under 400 calories. I opted to get mine on flatbread. This warm gooey sandwich on this toasty bread is one that I quite enjoyed. And really, it's not something that would normally be my first choice of sandwich because I often feel like I need some meat to be filled up. However, with three melted cheeses and a mound of meaty mushrooms, I felt very satisfied and I know this will be my go-to sandwich on future visits.

Hubby came along for the visit so he got a sandwich called the "A wreck." That was his kind of sandwich, loaded with several meats and lots of veggies - salami, roast beef, ham and turkey with Swiss cheese on multigrain bread.

We also tried out the chicken noodle soup - a classic bowl of noodles, chicken and veggies in a light broth. The kind that grandma would make in her own kitchen and ladle out for you.

We also split a salad, one of the protein-packed varieties called the "Clubhouse."
It's basically Potbelly's version of a Cobb Salad with generous portions of chicken breast, eggs, crispy bacon, tomatoes and avocado on a bed of spinach. I tried it out with the citrus vinaigrette, which is very refreshing and complimentary.

We also finished off the meal with a Cookie Collision Shake - Potbelly's signature shortbread cookies with Oreo and vanilla ice cream. What a decadent treat.

One other thing I have to point out is this awesome table top that caught my eye when we walked in. The location we visited was in Homewood, Illinois and the shop sits in a little strip of stores on a site that was once the Washington Park Race Track. I'm a huge history buff so I was just so excited about this fun little touch to the place. Isn't it super cool?

About Potbelly Sandwich ShopPotbelly Corporation is a fast-growing neighborhood sandwich concept offering toasty warm sandwiches, signature salads and other fresh menu items served by engaging people in an environment that reflects the Potbelly brand. Our Vision is for our customers to feel that we are their “Neighborhood Sandwich Shop” and to tell others about their great experience. Our Mission is to make people really happy and to improve every day. Our Passion is to be “The Best Place for Lunch.” The Company owns and operates over 400 shops in the United States and our franchisees operate over 20 shops domestically, in the Middle East and in the United Kingdom. For more information, please visit our website at www.potbelly.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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Meatheads offers great toppings for burgers

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to burgers. And if you go to Meatheads there are also a lot of options of what goes on top of your burger. Whatever your tastes, you'll find something you'll like. And if you're someone who stays in the safe zone of ketchup, mustard and lettuce, this is your chance to break free and pleasure your palette.

There are a few signature sandwiches, like the Cajun Sunrise pictured here with a fried egg, bacon, pepper jack cheese, bleu cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato and fresh jalapeño. Five other chef-inspired burgers are on the menu, as well.

But, you also have the option of creating your own from such ingredients as avocado, chili, sauerkraut, red pepper and giardiniera and a number of sauces. My favorite?  Provolone cheese with applewood smoked bacon, avocado, cucumber wasabi sauce and mayo.

My favorite toppings on a Meatheads burger are provolone cheese, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, mayo and cucumber wasabi sauce.

Don't forget the fries - which you can load with a number of toppings and sauces, as well.

Go to meatheadsburgers.com for the full menu.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Potbelly Raising Funds for Chicago's Midtown Education Foundation

Betcha didn't think you could be doing a good deed by drinking a milkshake...but if you order a Cookie Collision Shake through June 6 at one of nearly 100 Potbelly Sandwich Shop locations in the Chicago area, $1 from each shake sold will go to support the Midtown Educational Foundation.

In addition to fundraising for the MED, Potbelly will provide students enrolled in MEF's programs an opportunity to visit the Potbelly Support Center corporate office during the summer for a business apprenticeship seminar. 

The Cookie Collision Shake is a blend of Potbelly's signature shortbread cookies along with Oreos and vanilla ice cream - a delicious sweet treat to finish off a meal at your neighborhood Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

New to Potbelly, like me? Go to Potbelly.com and take a peek and their menu, which is full of satisfying sandwiches, protein-packed salads, hearty soups and more. Find a full review of my visit on the blog next week, but here's a peek at my favorite item that I tried, the mushroom melt. This light sandwich is one of the lower calorie selections and includes mushroom and three melted cheeses. I opted to have mine on flatbread. Such a warm and tasty sandwich!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Florentine

So, recently I received an invite to experience the JW Marriott in Chicago and their spa. It was an amazing weekend in the city and much needed getaway. Of course, being the foodie I am, I was almost as excited about dinner at The Florentine as I was about the massage.

With a lovely selection of menu items using fine ingredients, it was not an easy decision when it came time to order. I tried a variety of menu items that were all beautifully presented and magnificent in taste.

I learned that nearly all of the pastas are made in house - everything but the Fregola!

It was nice to see that there was a good selection of craft beers on tap, including many local brews. However, I opted for a prosecco as we perused a menu and hubby went with a Renaissance Wallbanger. We also had some sips of wine as we progressed through the meal, paired by manager/sommelier Alexandria Sarovich.

We were treated with a hearty bread basket of sea salted ciabatta, onion rosemary foccacio and grissini.

Our first starter was the Mozzarella di Buffalo, a high quality fresh mozzarella hand smoked in Italy with pickled shallots, basil pesto and served with crostini. This is a great sharable that was so good I would have been happy with nothing but this to eat. But, then it was on to the Capesante, pan-seared scallops, sun choke puree, pancetta vinaigrette & sun choke chips. Scallops are one of my favorite of all foods and these were cooked perfectly with fabulous accompaniments.

Hubby ordered the Stinco di Maiale (braised pork shank, potato parsnip puree, braised swiss chard, parsnip chips, sugo) and I went for the Meagre - pan roasted mediterranean black bass with braised escarole, butter beans, chorizo and saffron broth. It's in my top five meals I've had this year. So many flavors fused together perfectly and since butter beans are one of my very favorite vegetables, I was so happy to see them presented with this dish - and in the most delicious way. You never see butter beans served in restaurants and this made me very happy.

We also ordered a couple vegetables from the contori menu - baby carrots with parsnips, hazelnuts, thyme and maple butter and brussel sprouts with pancetta, fontina foduta and parmesan breadcrumbs. Chef Zachery Walrath knocks it out of the park with each and every dish. Such a great, creative incorporation of texture and crunch to everything and an amazing meld of flavors that leaves you craving the dish long after you've eaten it (I still can't stop thinking about the Mozzarella di Bufala and the Meagre!)

For dessert, we went with something light, a gelato and sorbet trio of peach, blueberry and mango.

Tucked away on the 2nd floor of the JW Marriott, the Florentine is romantic and intimate and a perfect place to savor such wonderful dishes and time with your date or friends.

The Florentine
151 W. Adams
Chicago, IL

Monday, May 16, 2016

Lynnie Que's

When I'm running around and short on time for cooking dinner, I often make a quick stop at Lynnie Que's in Lansing for the 5 for $5 pulled pork or sloppy Joe sandwiches. They're a mini size of the regular menu pulled pork sandwiches and perfect size for the kids. They love them. If you like pulled pork, this small carry-out is definitely a place to try. All of her meat products are hickory smoked and she makes her own barbecue sauce that is tangy and flavorful, but not super spicy. You can also by the sauce by the jar.

This is a shot of the regular size pulled pork.

Each week there's a new soup on the menu and the chicken and dumpling is one of my favorites.

Along with pulled pork, you'll find a variety of meats on the menu - from brisket to ham to chicken. There's also a long list of sides, with such delicious options as corn souffle and pepper jack mac.

Lynnie Que's will soon be moving to a new location just around the corner where she'll have a full service restaurant. No news yet on what the new menu will look like, so best to get in to Lynnie Que's carryout now and get some of your favorites!

Lynnie Que's BBQ
19267 Burnham
Lansing, IL
(708) 474-7837

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Downs Syndrome Association of NWI is COWMUNITY winner from Meatheads, awarded $500 for new facility

Meatheads is looking for good causes and good people to reward as part of their COWMUNITY Spotlight efforts. Honored in April was the Buckley family and the Down Syndrome Association of NWI & Chicagoland in Highland, which been growing and in need of a new facility.

Dawn Buckley was nominated by Stacey Killeen, who is a volunteer and a speech therapist with the DSA. Buckley serves as executive director of this non-profit that serves newborns through adults and she's also the mother of a little girl with Downs Syndrome named Addie. Among the services the facility offers are free tutoring and speech services. Over 500 families are helped through the DSA.

The organization will move into a larger facility later this month and they've been lucky enough to get about 90% of the labor and materials donated. In recognition of her efforts, Meatheads awarded $500 to Buckley to be used for the new facility.

Meatheads also treated Buckley and several friends to a party at the Meatheads Schererville location where they enjoyed some of Meatheads signature burgers, fries, shakes and more. The manager's daughter, who has a bakery business, even donated a cake with the organization's logo.

Meatheads is looking for more great people, causes and organizations to help. You can nominate someone online at Meatheadsburgers.com. According to the website,

"Throughout 2016, Meatheads, is honoring its most valued community members for their hard work, determination and hustle. The launch of the​ Meatheads Cowmunity Relations Program to reward those making a difference in its communities, or “cowmunities” as we call them​! Each month, Meatheads will select one person who exemplifies the company’s standards of hardwork, determination and hustle. 

P.S. Should you be interested in helping the organization, they're still in need of lightbulbs and doorknobs and any monetary donation is welcome to help with expenses. Go to DSAofNWI.org to make a donation.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MOD Pizza opens new Naperville location: $50 in gift certificates giveaway

MOD Pizza just opened its seventh Chicago-area location last month. The restaurant chain, with more than 125 locations nationwide, is the pioneer of fast casual pizza and allows guests to build their own creations from more than 45 sauce, cheese and topping options – all for one price. 

A new variety, the Cooper (pictured below), is an artisan-style pizza tailor-made for spring that features seasonal roasted asparagus along with red peppers, Italian sausage, red onion, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and fresh basil. It's available through June 30.

“The Cooper highlights fresh asparagus that is roasted in-house daily and bursting with fragrant flavors. We’re also bringing back a real crowd-pleaser with this pizza – ricotta cheese,” said Brian Figler, culinary manager at MOD Pizza. “We love showcasing seasonal vegetables that we hope will encourage people to experiment with ingredients they may not immediately associate with pizza. Whether customers try the Cooper or add roasted asparagus to their own pizza or salad, our goal is to continually mix it up at MOD.”

In addition to the Cooper, guests can order any one of MOD’s nine classic, handcrafted and custom-made pizzas or build their own creation choosing from more than 45 signature sauce, cheese and topping options – all for one price. MOD also offers salads, milkshakes, fresh-brewed iced teas, lemonades and local craft beer and wine, where available. 

For more information about MOD Pizza and the Cooper, please visit http://www.modpizza.com.

So, how would you like to give MOD Pizza a try? Enter below for a chance to win 5 certificates for a free pizza valued at $50.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 2, 2016

Guest Post: Chicago Has a New Tell-All Food Memoir, Book Signing May 5

A big thank you to Denise Mattson for today's guest post on this fun new foodie book, "Chicago: A Food Biography." Novice foodies will be fascinated in learning about Chicago's culinary roots and even experienced, enthusiastic foodies are sure to find out something new about Chicago's culinary past.

Meet the Authors this Thursday! They will be will be discussing the book and signing copies at the State Street Barnes & Noble bookstore, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., on Thursday, May 5 at noon.

Chicago Has a New Tell-All Food Memoir

A vegan and a carnivore walked into a restaurant, and out came the history of food in Chicago.  It’s a rich tale, one that took them across Chicago’s Black Belt, into its historic German and Irish enclaves, through today’s Puerto Rican neighborhoods and back to what may have been the first documented morsel ever consumed in Chicago.

Two local academics, Daniel R. Block and Howard Rosing, have compiled the city’s culinary memoir in a new book, “Chicago: A Food Biography.”

“This is a true Chicago book,” says Rosing, executive director of the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning at DePaul University.  Old-timers will recognize the places of their past and newcomers can gain a fresh understanding of Chicago’s deep celery roots. That’s right, what is now the Lakeview neighborhood was once dotted with celery and vegetable fields. Dairy farms were pushed to the suburbs to protect delicate noses from the smell of cow pies, not—by the way—a Chicago delicacy.
Rosing, a cultural anthropologist, contributed content on Chicago’s earliest residents and immigrants, exploring the meaning they placed on the foods they brought with them and developed later, after blending recipes with foods they discovered in their new city.  He also delved into the city’s food manufacturing past.

Block is a professor in the Geography program at Chicago State University. A self-described food geographer, he wrote the restaurant, supermarket, and retail sections of the book, as well as detailing Chicago’s vast natural resources and agricultural history.

Today, Chicago is home to 22 restaurants that earned Michelin stars in 2016. These accomplishments were built on a history of food invention and innovation in Chicago that includes flaming saganaki cheese served in Greek restaurants, gyros cut from a spit and Cracker Jack. 

The jibarito was introduced in Chicago in 1996, according to Block—the carnivore—who calls it a delicious homegrown invention of food vendors in Humboldt Park similar to a torta but served between fried plantains with shredded pork, tomatoes and cheese. There is a vegetarian version too.
African-Americans earned credit for being the first to combine southern style barbeque ribs and sausages and serving it with French fries and white bread, a common dish in the city.  

Other famous items that were created or produced in the Chicago area are Wrigley gum, the Milky Way bar, Milk Duds, Tootsie Roll, Red Hots and Jelly Belly jelly beans, among others. 

Why is it important to know a city’s food history?

Block says food reveals a lot about the everyday lives of Chicagoans. From the offerings of street peddlers, to the historic produce and meat markets on South Water and Fulton streets, to the 1893 World’s Fair where you could get a beer outside the fairgrounds from Herman Berghoff: food is a tool that reveals things about culture.

“People don’t realize that things they think are new trends have been in Chicago for a long time,” Rosing says. Oyster bars have been here since about the 1850s. German beer gardens appeared in the mid-19th century. “If you are going to live in a place and form an attachment to a place, you should know its history,” he recommends.

Writing a book on food means there is going to be some sampling involved. “I never had a pork chop sandwich,” said Block, who is Jewish. But for the purposes of investigation, he indulged. “It was developed on Maxwell Street. It’s a bone-in grilled pork chop that is juicy and messy, and was it good!”

Writing the Chicago installment of the Food Biography series—there also are editions for New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco and Portland—was both a culinary and a research adventure.
Sources of information were diverse and plentiful, such as the diary of an 18-year-old girl eating at the Edgewater Beach Hotel on Independence Day 1918, community cookbooks available at the Harold Washington Library and menus dating back to the 1850s tracked down at the Chicago History Museum. It took about two years to piece together this historically overlooked, yet vital portion of Chicago’s past.

After chatting with readers, Rosing realized that, “People from Chicago read the book to find themselves in it, their neighborhood restaurants, anecdotes they recognize because maybe they experienced it.  They also say ‘how come you didn’t include this?’ "

As for Chicago’s very first bite of food, it was likely local game, corn, beans or squash consumed by Chicago’s first non-native resident—Jean Baptiste Point du Sable.

The authors will be discussing the book and signing copies at the State Street Barnes & Noble bookstore, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., on Thursday, May 5 at noon.

Denise Mattson is a City News Bureau of Chicago alum who writes locally on a variety of topics.