Chow down in Chi-Town

A bit of the Bubbly on the 96th Floor at the Signature Lounge

A bit of the Bubbly on the 96th Floor at the Signature Lounge


Since our daughter was doing a rotation in Chicago for work, my husband and I took the opportunity to visit her as well as the city for the first time. My daughter knows me well and is a bit of a foodie herself. She did an excellent job planning a long weekend packed with “touristy” stuff and a sampling of the fantastic restaurants Chicago is famous for. As with all my blog posts, this will pertain to the culinary portion of our visit!
Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig


We arrived just before lunch so after a short walk along the river we found ourselves at our first restaurant….the Purple Pig. The subtitle on the menu is “Cheese, Swine and Wine”. I felt obligated try all three. One of my picks was the picture you see above. I was given instructions with this dish…slather the marrow on freshly baked bread, sprinkle with sea salt and top with herb salad. I followed the instructions to a tee and was rewarded with a taste like no other. A few of the other dishes we tried were Chorizo Stuffed Olives, Pigs Ear with Krispy Kale topped with a Fried Egg and Pork Secreto with Roasted Pepper, Leeks and Pickled Watermelon Rind. My first meal in Chicago was better than great!
Next up was a glass of Bubbly at Signature Lounge which was only ninety-six stories up…definitely a tourist trap but well worth the surprisingly short elevator ride to experience that view!
Dinner that night was at GT Fish and Oyster. Again, delicious food with my favorite being the Squash Blossom with Crab, Zucchini and Mozzarella. I also totally loved the Halibut Romesco with grilled peaches and scallions.
Who knew Chicken Thighs could be such an exciting lunch?

Who knew Chicken Thighs could be such an exciting lunch?


My daughter and I had girl-time the next morning with breakfast at Xoco (a Rick Bayless place). We shared a Chorizo-Egg Torta and a wonderful Churro with Pistachio Glaze. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but my daughter will attest to the Chocolate Cappuccino being excellent.
Lunch was at Eataly, a place which more sophisticated foodies than I will say is a bit touristy. Well call me a Country Bumpkin…I thought it was great! My lunch was Seared Chicken Thighs with Sundried Tomato Bread Salad of Kohlrabi, peppers, green onion and tomato vinaigrette. The Thighs were about as tender and juicy as I’ve ever had outside my own home. If you’ve never been, Eataly is like a Foodie Amusement Park. You can shop, get food to go, dine amidst the butcher, the baker and fish monger or go to one of the sit down restaurants. What’s really appealing is you can take your glass of wine or beer with you throughout the two-story establishment. I could’ve stayed for hours but eventually we had to leave to get ready for the ball game at Wrigley field….my chosen destination for a Chicago Hot Dog (oh, and the Cubs were playing the Nats). Chicago Hot Dogs Rock!
Brunch on Sunday was at Siena Tavern which resulted in another great meal. I ate light as I knew what was coming up for dinner that evening (spoiler alert-Beef), but couldn’t have been more satisfied with my Shrimp-topped Salad of Roasted Red, Yellow and Candied Striped Beets with Pickled Fennel, Toasted Hazelnuts, Creamy Nocetto (a sheep milk cheese)and pea shoots.
After a full day of seeing the sights we arrived at our dinner destination which was Bavettes Bar and Boeuf. A Classic Rib Eye-Chicago was shared with my daughter. We had them put maître d’butter on top…yum. The side dish I found most impressive was Elote style corn with chili, lime and parmesan.
I’ve just scratched the surface of the fantastic food we had while in Chi-town. I love being with my family and others who love to share food and sample a large variety. Chicago truly is a great city and while it’s not keeping with the title of my blog I just have to mention how beautifully the city is kept. The city and park gardens are in pristine condition. Some even have herbs and vegetables growing in them. I can’t wait to visit again.

Herbs of the Marrying Kind

This becomes Jen Blen

This becomes Jen Blen

My trusty Dehydrator that I plug-in right outside

My trusty Dehydrator that I plug in right outside

 First packets of my custom herb mixture, Jen Blen, processed for season 2014

First packets of my custom herb mixture, Jen Blen, processed for season 2014

I been planting an herb garden for years now, but it probably was only about four years ago that I started drying my own custom herb blends. The one shown here is the original blend that has become a family (immediate and extended) staple and has been given to the most special of friends. If you’re reading this post and have received this blend of deliciousness consider yourself in an elite class. Other blends I’ve concocted included: Dr J’s Sleep Inducing Elixir, Sumpthin Fishy and Charsley (you might be able to guess the contents of this one!).

Fresh herbs are always best, but if you’re like me, you always plant more than you can chew so why not extend your garden through the winter months with your dried creations?

Easy Peasy

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication "30-Minute Dinners"

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication “30-Minute Dinners”

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In an earlier post I mentioned that I just can’t follow a recipe precisely. That was still the case with this one although I was close, very close. I’m also pleased to note that this recipe actually only took 30 minutes to prepare just as the publication advertised and was oh so delicious!
I used salmon and cod (next time I’ll go with salmon and scallops only because the cod was so flaky). The recipe didn’t say to, but I cooked my fennel until it started to brown and sort of caramelize. The biggest change I made was I used canned diced tomatoes…even easier and better tasting at this particular time of year (I chose a garlic, basil and oregano seasoned variety). I used chicken stock instead of broth and I did not, I repeat I did NOT put any of those nasty anise seeds in my dish! I’m sure you can tell this meal was low in calories and fat.
Unfortunately this particular BH&G Special Publication magazine isn’t being displayed any longer in stores, but it may be available on the website. It’s a good one. I’ve made several recipes from the mag already and have a few more I want to try.

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Recipes are for Changing

My Shrimp, Andouille and Corn SaladrFrom Cooking Light's 20 Minute Dinners

First, let me give a shout out to my favorite cooking magazine of all time, Cooking light. I’ve subscribed for years (not that you can tell by looking at me!) and it still never ceases to amaze me how delicious the dishes are.
That being said, I simply can’t stick 100% to any recipe. I just can’t do it! Last night I adapted the above by changing the sausage from Chorizo to Andouille (Chicken no less) and I probably doubled the chili sauce. My husbands word for it…Wow!
For me, the plate is my canvas. Day after day, I create culinary masterpieces even if I’m the only one who gets to enjoy the experience. Some days it takes five minutes while at other times I’m in the kitchen for hours. Cooking has lightened my mood after a tough day at the office, has made me feel like an artist and has conveyed my love for others time after time. Try it…You’ll like it!
My Foodie magazine subscription at this point in time (there’s been many others): Cooking Light, Food Network Magazine, Cuisine at Home (a technique treasure) and the world’s best overall magazine ever…Southern Living