what i’m loving: june 29 – july 5

  1. this resource : 15 day blog makeover challenge. | i have been a part of this challenge since the beginning, and i highly recommend it if you are having any trouble building your blog!
  2. this picture of my cats : scroll to bottom | because we just moved them to a new city, and they did surprisingly well during the eight hour drive.  and this picture is one of our favorites.  :) 
  3. this beer / cocktail : pop-up i.p.a. from boulevard brewing co. | because it is low and alcohol and full of flavor.  it’s a great beer to have around for the holiday weekend!
  4. this appetizer – grilled blue cheese & bacon stuffed onion. | stuffed peppers, yes.  stuffed bread, yes.  stuffed onion?! how can i possibly turn down something so original?  also, if you haven’t tried onion, bacon and blue cheese combined together,  I feel that you need to restructure your priorities.
  5. this restaurant –  stanley’s kitchen & tap. | if you are ever in chicago, specifically lincoln park, and you want a dive-y, laid back, fantastic bar at which you may catch a glimpse of the occasional celebrity – this is it.  the real reason I love this place?  southern chopped chicken salad with buffalo chicken.  this could be my meal for EVERY meal.  every.  single.  one.
  6. this recipe – stuffed french bread. | i’ve been eyeing this one for a while … I absolutely can’t wait to try it, and I think it will be a perfect one to attempt in my make-shift kitchen until we are completely moved in!
  7. this dessert – strawberry lemonade bars. | these just seems so … ‘merican.

chloe and lily.

what i’m loving : june 22 – june 28, 2015

this list is created based solely upon the opinions of a flavor journal.  check out my recipe blog and stay a while!

  1. this resource : cookie + kate’s essential resources for food bloggers. | this link is seriously so helpful for me.  it gives great advice and suggests specific items / apps to use for food blogging!
  2. this picture of my cats : scroll to bottom | Lily is the gray one, Chloe is the white one.  they are so sweet … when they’re sleeping
  3. this beer / cocktail : 3 floyd’s : space station middle finger.| if you’re serious about your beer, then you need to get into indiana asap to visit 3 floyd’s.  people lose their shit for these beers, and space station middle finger is one of my favorites.
  4. this appetizer – ahi tuna tartare. / (or this version – way easier and surely just as good). | because i could live on tartare.  steak, salmon, tuna.  i love alllllll of the tartare.
  5. this restaurant –  gilt bar. | i love, love, love this restaurant in chicago.  it’s sexy, sophisticated, well-priced for downtown and absolutely delicious.  if you’re ever in town, i highly recommend  you check it out.  if you’re feeling REALLY classy, look into getting into the library downstairs…
  6. this recipethis orecchiette pasta dish. | because it reminds me of one I’ve had at gilt bar.  I’ve tried to recreate it, but can’t get it quite right … looks like I’ve got another dish to tackle next month!
  7. this dessert these HUGE cookies. | could these seriously look any more delicious?!

lily and chloe.

chicago adventure series : about.

Mark and I have lived in Chicago for over a year now, and we have struggled to adjust and really dive into the culture.  We live within five minutes walking distance to Restaurant Row, and ten minutes walking distance to River North and The Loop.  This shouldn’t be hard for us to appreciate, but somehow we have just not made it our “home”.

Mark’s hotel recently sold, and he is going to be relocated soon to wherever they have an opening.  This could mean ANYWHERE in the country (or out of the country).  After some serious thinking, I realized one thing:  I LOVED Chicago prior to moving here, but I have yet to enjoy it since.  I need to set aside any grudges I have towards overpriced products, food and drink, and I really just need to get back to enjoying my surroundings.  I live in a seriously amazing location, and it’s now or never if I want to enjoy it for a few more weeks before moving.

Thus, I am creating the chicago adventure series.  I am planning four separate days of hitting my favorite spots in the city, and exploring some new digs, too.  Hop aboard the fun train, my friends.  Let’s get this rolling.

chicago deep dish adventure: stop #2.

Mmmm!

Cheeeesy.

Pizano’s was another stop on my list.  The fact that it juts happened to be about a block and a half from my hotel made it a MUST-do.  While there was still a monsoon occurring outside as I relaxed in my room, I decided to go to the market across the street to snag a couple bottles of wine and some cheese, crackers and chocolate.  Mm hmm.  That’s a solid vacation in my opinion:  your own deluxe king size bed, a big fancy flat screen, and all the wine you can drink without worrying about any kind of responsibilities.  Holla!

Well, this was around 7:00.  After almost an entire bottle and about a half a block of cheese, I had decided that I had enough of the solo TV time in bed and I needed to get back out there.  Downpour or not, I was determined to continue my deep dish adventure.  Obviously, Pizano’s was the best option because of its super convenient location.

I took the elevator down twelve floors, snagged an umbrella courtesy of the hotel, and cautiously walked through the revolving door out into the storm.  I dashed down the street, through countless puddles, and finally arrived at my second pizza destination.  Hooray!

Goose Island 312.

Upon sitting myself onto a bar seat and briefly scanning the draft options, I was a little let down by the beers they had on tap.  I opted for a Goose Island 312, as it was literally the only local beer they had on tap.  (I’m such an IPA / Porter / Stout girl, typically speaking).  The bartender was an older gentleman, and was also VERY accomodating.  I was literally the only person in the joint, but he didn’t once act annoyed that I was there.  (They are open past midnight – baller!)

I ordered spinach dip (his recommendation of the two apps I asked about), and an individual sausage pizza.  I had read on Yelp! that the sausage pizza at Pizano’s was pretty tasty, so I was excited about it.

Mmmm!

Got the spinach dip, pretty good.  Pretty spinach-y.  I liked it.  Got the pizza … they forgot my sausage😦 but I didn’t realize this until the next morning (of course I had to take some leftovers home with me).  But overall, the pizza was still mighty tasty.  Flaky, buttery crust, prominent tomato flavor, and the cheese was awesome.  I sprinkled a little parm and crushed red pepper on top for some extra flav-ah!

To be COMPLETELY honest, I don’t really have a favorite between Lou’s and Pizano’s in terms of pizza flavor.  Unfortunately, I believe I’d like Pizano’s better had I gotten the sausage on the pizza.  The service, however, was tremendously different.

The bartender even bought my second beer and suggested I come visit him again the following night.  Talk about a turn-around from my devastating service that morning!  I should have gone … oh well.  Next time!  I’ll be back for that sausage pizza!

chicago deep dish adventure: stop #1.

6" deep dish, sausage pizza upon delivery to my drooling, gaping mouth.

I had already marked Lou Malnati’s as a destination on my deep dish quest in Chicago.  After checking into my baller hotel (it’s baller, I just wanted to say it again), the concierge informed me that Lou’s was his favorite place to get pizza in the entire city, and that the popular joint had just opened a new location only four blocks away.

Holla!  I’m on it!

I walk four blocks in a downpour to reach Stop #1 (of course, after an entire summer of one of the worst droughts in history, my solo vacation is just a monsoon).  I run across the street, stomping the puddles as I go, and suddenly find myself standing in front of my destination.  The place is pretty big, and the front windows open up for that fresh-air-feel.  It seemed decent enough, but nothing to write home about.

I walked in, the host was pleasant, I said “just me!”, and he asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  My boyfriend and I are both bartenders, so I do have a soft spot for bartenders surrounded by an empty bar.  I agreed to the bar seat offer, and quickly unloaded my umbrella and purse underneath my seat.

The “bartender” … (she didn’t do much of anything, which leads me to question whether or not she actually possesses this title), was slow to approach me.  Another girl sat down into a seat just to my right, (I had actually passed her walking on the sidewalk a few blocks south of Lou’s), and our bartender eventually made her way over to us.  The other girl ordered a beer (she’s clearly taking full advantage of her vacation, and in retrospect, I wish I would have done the same), and I just ordered a water.  Well, I looked at the menu for roughly five minutes, although it takes literally about 30 seconds to decide what you want for lunch, before the bartender offered to take my order.

I ordered a house salad, a personal deep dish sausage pizza, and a diet soda.  Let me excite you with this picture before i divulge into the details of the adventure:

The following describes my Chicago Deep Dish Adventure:  Spot #1:

House salad:  Umm…  well… I got a gorgonzola dressing, and it really lacked flavor – how does that happen?!  I feel as if that sums it up.

Deep dish pizza:  After I waited nearly ONE HOUR, no joke, it was just … okay.  Here is the story:  The girl next to me ordered right after me and had her pizza FINISHED by the time I got mine.  The bartender had to tell me three times that a manager was figuring out the situation (that’s about the only talking she did to me), and fiiiiinally a manager delivered it.  Now, I’ve been in the restaurant industry for eight years.  When someone’s food is clearly taking a very long time, a manager always addresses the guest, Imageapologizes, offers some sort of pleasant gesture (such as comping the meal, or at least half-ing it, etc.), and reassures the guest that they are doing their best to correct the situation.  This manager dropped my pizza off at the end of the bar, so the bartender could retrieve it.  There were two of us at the bar, and my neighbor girl had an empty plate.  Who the hell do you think the pizza goes to?!  This is not a difficult situation to correct.  So, my bartender brings it to me.  She checks back when I’m waiting for a box for the remaining half, and said “worth the wait, isn’t it??”  Well, no.  It was not worth my wait.  This is my vacation and I would rather not spend it waiting for your kitchen to fix their shit.

Service:  After much thought, I am going to rate this service as abysmal.  My soda came after I had finished my salad, and I had to ask twice for it.  My water sat empty the ENTIRE time I was there, except for the very end when I was ready to go.  Not having a manager address the fact that a small, six-inch pizza took nearly an hour was really just the icing on this shit-filled cake.  Do your job, man.  You’re in guest service, why don’t you offer some decent service to your guests.

Disclaimer:  I am NOT generally a complainer.  As I’ve mentioned, I am a bartender, and I know exactly how this shit works.  This service was definitely in the bottom 10% of my all-time rankings, and the pizza was just okay.  I brought half of it back to the hotel, and I just surrendered and gobbled the whole thing down as soon as I got back.  The crust was suuuuper greasy, but still a little too crunchy, and I had to add a shit load of crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese.

Overall ranking on my deep dish adventure:

Food:  6.5

Service:  1.0

Atmosphere:  4.5

It looks taaaaasty! …but greasy…

Lou’s did not prove itself in this adventure.  If I ever decide to eat there again, I’ll get delivery.  Or I’ll sit at a table with a real server.

Now I’m going to go shopping … and get a beer!  Cheers to solo vacation!

Much love,

Sara

i’m ridin’ solo…on vacation!

ooh la la.

VACATION! WOO HOO!  SOLO VACATION! …what?  That’s right, I’m ridin’ (actually flyin’) solo to one of my favorite U.S. cities this Sunday…

ooh la la.

Chicago.

Why am I going alone?

Because I am an independent human being that is capable of enjoying “me” time in a different city.

Trust me, I LOVE my boyfriend, and I would LOVE for him to join me on this adventure … but his current situation, (he cares for his elderly father on a 24/7 basis), does not allow him to go on vacation with me.  Not in the last year and a half … and not right now.

So, being the stubborn individual that I am, I decided to book a solo vacation.  And I.  Could.  Not.  Be.  More.  Excited.

I’ve got the following in mind, and PLEASE let me know if there is anything else I should add to my list:

  • Giordano’s (I’ve been here three times before, and I love it)
  • Yolk (for breakfast)
  • Al’s Italian Beef
  • Hot Doug’s
  • Billy Goat Tavern
  • Morton’s (The O-riginal)
  • Spacca Napoli
  • The Purple Pig
  • Haymarket Brewery
  • Revolution Brewery
  • Goose Island (I’ve also been here a few times)
  • The Art Institute
  • Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • the Newberry Library
  • Symphony Center
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Chicago Cultural Center

Fat and happy is really what I’m going for …

mm hmm….

…and I’m also staying in a GORGEOUS hotel in the Golden Coast neighborhood that is 4.5 starts.  A king deluxe room all to myself?  Oh, you’re too kind.

I feel that an awesome adventure lies ahead, and I cannot wait to start.  I’ve also experienced some dramatic career changes within the last couple of weeks, so I definitely feel that this is the ideal time to get away and clear my head.

If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should just take a weekend to yourself to get away, then why don’t you just do it?  It may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.  I’m looking forward to sharing my first solo vacation with everyone!

Much love,

Sara

the day Aarón Sanchez made my lunch.

Grilled Octopus Salad

Aarón Sanchez, celebrity chef from Food Network and one of the coolest people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, made me lunch earlier this week.

You see, I created my own local magazine (based out of Kansas City) for which I write nearly every article.  I focus my articles upon local restaurants and the people behind them all, which is really a killer concept for my city.  Kansas City is slowly becoming recognized as a culinary destination, and I am SO lucky to have such an exquisite, worldly cuisine available in my backyard.

So where does Aarón Sanchez come into this?  Well, he recently opened a restaurant in one of the suburbs of Kansas City:  Leawood, Kansas.  His restaurant, Mestizo, of course has Mexican influences … but the primary focus is: FRESH INGREDIENTS.  Everything from the chips to the guacamole is made in house, and Aarón really strives to make sure all of his ingredients are as local as possible.  When I was contacted by his PR rep, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to feature such an awesome concept and chef in our magazine.

Myself and my photographer, Lauren, showed up at Mestizo around noon on Monday, August 13.  We sat with Aarón for about 30 minutes as he described his concepts, his past, and his passion for cooking to us.  After the interview, he excitedly told us we would be receiving “the ultimate VIP treatment”.  I think passed out for a minute after that happened.

Luckily, I pushed back through to consciousness as he started bringing dishes out for us, delivering each one by hand and explaining every ingredient.  One of my favorites (but I actually think they were all favorites) was a small tortilla topped with avacado, crab meat, pickled onion, and a thin slice of serrano pepper.

Tortilla, avacado, crab meat, chili flakes, pickled onion, serrano pepper…I could eat 25 of these, no problem.

(Excuse the photo quality; I took these on my iPhone.)

I also thoroughly enjoyed the crisp pork belly tacos, which are available everyday on the menu.

Crispy pork belly tacos … piping hot, handmade tortillas came on the side.

Grilled Octopus Salad

The grilled octopus salad was also delectable, and I eagerly gobbled up all of the extra octopus left on Lauren’s plate (she’s vegetarian).  Sadly, I cannot divulge much more about my experience, as this will be an article in the next issue of our magazine:  concrete city magazine.  But I WILL say, if you are a Kansas Citian and have not yet ventured out to Mestizo, I highly suggest you do so immediately.  The atmosphere, food and cocktail selections are top-notch, and the staff is phenomenal.  Maybe if you’re lucky, you will also have Aarón take care of you, too.

Much love!