Spa Day

So, I have had some spa gift certificates since about 2006 and decided to finally use them for a spa visit today. I spent a lovely hour at the Dana Hotel and Spa. Really friendly staff, strawberry cucumber water and an overall great time! (As a side note, spafinder.com gift cards, great idea!).

When I finished around 10am, I decided to trek over to Eataly since every time I’ve tried to visit, it’s been insanely busy. This time, I was in luck! I walked around a bit and was able to actually get within a few inches of the foods vs trying to sneak past a group 10 deep! I stopped at the counter downstairs for a cappuccino and pastry and met some of the nicest staff ever! The person at the counter was very nice and chatted about the shop a bit with me. I was quite impressed as often, staff at these spots are not quite so friendly.

I’m not sure if it’s worth the hight prices, but it is quite the show at Eataly and at least worth one visit.

Copyright, Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Oscars dinner!

I was inspired today to cook (partially since I had an absolutely amazing dinner last night at The Publican Chicago) and whipped up a slightly modified Cooking Light recipe from 2005.

So….first of all, the Publican had an amazing menu last night. Oysters with champagne, Dungeness crab, suckling pig, fries with a perfectly runny egg! Sign me up – definitely a must visit restaurant and it was lovely and cozy for a meal during the longest Chicago winter in years (and 6″ of snow!).

Tonight… Relaxing by the fireplace with the Oscars and crab cakes. Easy to make – 30 min from start to finish and tasty and healthy (key when watching a bunch of amazing looking celebrities parade around on tv!).

Obviously the poorly plated meal shown below is the one I made!!

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Birthday Greetings

So, since it’s my sister’s birthday week, I figured I should make a birthday tribute post….favorite foods, favorite birthday activities and restaurants and of course…cake!

I am one who believes that birthdays should be holidays!  I have tried to not work on my birthday almost forever, though that didn’t always seem to work in college considering I once had to take finals on the special day, but oh well….  In any case, the rules are: try not to work on your birthday, do something fun, and calories don’t count (they don’t count on holidays or vacations, either!).

So, a few things to try to celebrate:

– Visit a museum (the Art Institute is my favorite)

– Eat as much as possible (go out for breakfast, lunch AND dinner? why not?!)

– Eat cake!

I have to say that one of my favorites was at The Boarding House restaurant in Chicago….they had a ‘birthday cake’ cake on their menu during my birthday in 2012! Perfect (especially since I was eating alone..but that’s another story).

My personal favorites include shopping, museum wandering and picking out new restaurants to try.  Ruxbin is a favorite, the Publican is always party-like and a myriad of others are always good.   When I was a kid, I asked for the same menu items for dinner almost daily, but usually Mom acquiesced for my special day!

As to cake…I love homemade (Mom, if you’re reading this – I ALWAYS want a homemade black forest cake…no exceptions!).

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

 

 

 

 

One of my favorites!

I have a few favorite restaurants in Chicago, but Endgrain is one of my favorites!

I’ve been to this spot many times and have always had an amazing meal.

What will shock those who have been there with me is that I did NOT have fried chicken today…(best fried chicken in the city in my book!)

Today, I started with a wonderful Bloody Mary (it comes with a cheddar biscuit and ham and cheese!!!).

Next up…the Charlie Brown donut (or half of one anyway)….peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. Wow. Yum.

I had some coffee (delicious by the way) and then the pulled pork, Texas toast and a great fried egg. It was amazing!!!! I never would have thought into put a delicious runny egg on some wonderfully tasty pulled pork, but it was perfect!!

I also had a bite of the biscuits and gravy. This was also wonderful (their biscuits are simply amazing…I can’t visit and not eat one!)

All in all, a great meal in a fantastic atmosphere.

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

So, it’s valentines day and I decided to be domestic and make some goodies. Now, they don’t look that great, but here we go!

Guinness chocolate cake (in a cute heart shaped pan!). This includes MORE than 2 sticks of butter, sour cream, 2 cups of sugar…and more!

Next up! The ugliest cookies ever! I broke the icing bag so they look awful. I wimped out and used a mix…and meant to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter but totally forgot! Oops!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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And I Made Breakfast!

So, this is not really unusual, but I have to say that I was pretty impressed with myself considering I was really down to the bare minimum in terms of food…

Having not ventured to the grocery store in the midst of Chiberia, I was down to a few eggs, some english muffins nearing stale-ness, frozen sausage and luckily a few pieces of sliced cheese.

After a mangled attempt at a mayo/siracha sauce (really gross, don’t try it…I actually think it somehow curdled. Don’t ask…), I elected to make it simple.

So, here’s my photo and I’m proud! A sunny side up egg (which I learned a new trick for – crack the egg in a frying pan with some butter, cover with foil
for 3 min or so and voila! Perfect egg!) cheddar and some sausage (hidden)…. Yum!

See, I can cook…breakfast at least…

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Another Restaurant Week down…sort of!

We’ve come to the close of restaurant week in Chicago…that is, unless you’re dining at one of the restaurants that is choosing to keep their menus for a few more days (or weeks in some cases). Rumor has it that Blackbird is even keeping their menu on an ongoing basis for lunch.

I had an amazing time as usual during the (two) week period this year. I have to say that standouts were Nightwood and Capital Grille. Nightwood was so amazing that I want to try and figure out how I can get back there ASAP!

I also visited GT Fish and Oyster during the week (and actually Wildfire in the ‘burbs), but didn’t partake in either’ menu. While I enjoy GT, I wasn’t thrilled that the lobster roll wasn’t on the dinner menu and also, I didn’t really think it was an amazing deal since the dinner menu skewed towards their slightly less expensive items. In any case, I had a delicious (but way overpriced) lobster roll and some of a side of mac and cheese. Both were wonderful, but I will say that portion size isn’t comparable to the price (wait til you see my thoughts on New England Seafood Company next time!). As to Wildfire, I love it, but a work happy hour didn’t seem like the appropriate time or place to dig in to a three course menu….

The outcome is 100% as expected, though! Great restaurant week in Chicago.

Now, if we could make winter give in and make way for spring versus the coldest year in three decades, that would be great!

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

Nightwood – Gem in Pilsen

Wow!  I know I have been going out frequently for Restaurant Week, but I have to say – Nightwood was an excellent pick!  Even though dinner was at almost 9pm since that’s the only reservation I could get, I am still thrilled I ventured to this wonderful spot for dinner.

One of the really nice things about Nightwood for Restaurant Week is that they make a special restaurant week menu.  It’s 4 courses, $44 and absolutely wonderful!

To start, I had the pear salad.  The pears were amazing – poached and wonderful.  Topped with some foie gras – divine!  I did also try the beet salad which was good, but not quite as good as mine!

Next up – oyster chowda’!  This was wonderful and the first time I’ve seen oysters in chowder.  The base was creamy, but not overly so and the oysters were huge and delicious.  Definitely a great choice – though I will admit the other option was great, too.  That was a corned beef crostini with a medium egg – WOW!  Hard to determine which one was best.

I had the ravioli for the main course…between this and the pork loin, I think I skew ravioli, but both were excellent presentations.  The ravioli had a hint of lemon in the filling and a bolognese sauce that was amazing.  I typically don’t order pasta, but this sounded so delicious, so I couldn’t resist.

Dessert was also awesome.  Both the dark chocolate (with cute caramel corn!) and apple bread pudding were perfect desserts and a great way to finish the meal.

Coupled with a great wine and beer list and an amazing atmosphere, this is definitely worth a visit – restaurant week or not.  The room is nicely set up and dark and romantic.  There’s also really convenient street parking (not sure how it is on the weekends).

I will definitely return – this is a great spot in the neighborhood (and has a bib gourmand!).

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Hot and Cold….Restaurant Week Continues….

Well, we are almost half way through restaurant week and I’m somewhat happy to report that I’ve dined at two additional spots…hence the hot and cold.

Earlier in the week, a friend and I visited Bistro Campagne…an adorable spot with one of the cutest patios in the city (at -45 with the windchill, we elected to sit inside).. This is a great dining option any time, but their restaurant week selections are none too shabby.

First up – mussels! Always a favorite and these are wonderful – light wine broth and tons of those little mollusks (or bivalves if you prefer). I basically ate these for dinner since I ended up taking my second course home. Yes, that’s correct, I was full after the first of three courses…so be prepared!

I had chicken (the mushroom sauce was light and wonderful) and then a divine bread pudding (I really don’t see enough of this dessert on menus..).

All in all, a wonderful dinner minus a small parking mishap on the way in. Great portion size, delicious food and a really cute atmosphere.

Now…on to restaurant number three… Balsan.

I had been wanting to try this place and perfect – they’re participating in restaurant week!

Now, I don’t want to suggest the meal wasn’t good, as it was really really delicious. However, there is no value in coming for restaurant week. The $44 menu is one of the higher priced restaurant week menus and they still suggest you add additional sides and appetizers to round out your meal. Throw on drinks at $20/each and dinner easily turns into $100/person. I suspect I would have ordered differently had it be a la carte… Oh – also, they include tip, so don’t tip twice!

My starter was the artisan board. This was mostly great – amazing pate, buffala mozzarella, sausage, and some accompaniments. It was a great size and quite fresh and delicious. One cheese was rather bland, but the rest made up for it.

Dinner consisted of a mushroom pasta (though I tried the hot pot, too..wow, that was spicy!). The pasta was light and really flavorful.

Dessert was a marscapone tart – sounded weird, but an excellent execution.

Verdict on Balsan was that it was very good, but don’t go for restaurant week if you use restaurant week to find values. Also, there are a lot of fancy restaurants at this price point with amazing food, so keep this in mind, but it’s not the only option.

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Capital Grille – Succeeds Again!

Wow – as usual, Capital Grille is a restaurant week standout! (Ok, I know I haven’t visited any other spots yet…but I’m sure I won’t change my opinion here).

First of all, this is one of the best restaurant week deals. For $33 per person, you can put together a nice little tasting menu that would cost $65-$70. There’s also the ability up upgrade for $10 with the lobster…which we didn’t do, but it did look delicious on the other tables. There’s also a wine list of restaurant week pairings. I tried the Cabernet and it was a lovely accompaniment to all of my courses.

First up, the clam chowder (always a fav with huge pieces of clam and a creamy, but not overwhelming base). I could devour a stockpot worth of this stuff.

I chose the citrus cedar glazed salmon as my next course (I know – horrors – not steak!!). I just love their salmon a I think it’s one of the best executions I’ve had as many restaurants over/under cook salmon. My dining companions both had steak – and based on the amount of food left on the table, everyone loved their dishes.

Dessert for me was flourless espresso chocolate cake with a berry sauce and berries. Wow. It was gone in about 5 seconds! In years past, dessert always included ice cream but I think the new options are better (cheesecake and the chocolate cake).

Delish and divine and a great atmosphere = a perfect start to the week!

Tonight, Bistro Campagne!

Copyright Diary of a Reformed Food Wimp, 2014.

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Food weenie turns foodie!