Today, I was featured on the Thanksgiving Day Special on WCIU, You and Me This Morning. It was a blast because I found a way to sneak some booze into all of my food... and of course pair each dish with a complimenting cocktail. I mean, a little booze helps to make it through the crazy holiday season, am I right?! I covered the 3 major food groups, Vodka, Bourbon, and Cachaca. Here's what I made!Read More
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Ahh it's that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting crisp, and the food is getting quite comforting. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and experiencing a unique spin on typical Turkey Day fare can really elevate the holiday. I was so excited to be invited by Morton Salt to the "Next Door Chef" Pop-up dinner to indulge in Thanksgiving favorites...with a twist.Read More
Last week I ventured back to one of my favorite of our glorious 50 states, The Golden State of California. This time, however, I hit the road and toured throughout the Central and Northeastern parts of the state. This was no ordinary road trip though, this was a culinary adventure with California Dream Eater and Visit California. I spent 5 days traveling from Sacremento to Lake Tahoe and everywhere in between. Check out some of my favorite Dream Eats I encountered along the way!Read More
Ahh the challenges of the 21st century. So many conveniences, everything can be delivered right to your door. We literally don't even have to go to the drugstore anymore if we don't want to (and why would we?!). But with all of these modern technological advances comes a problem. Not there are SO many competing companies who are just dying to help you stay glued to your couch.... which do we choose?? Why are our lives so hard?!?!Read More
Wicker Park is home to some of the hottest AND coolest restaurants and bars in the city. I've always loved the gritty, real vibe. Of course it has changed over the years and has become more approachable and less of an "up and coming" neighborhood. New restaurants are popping up all the time, and with the high expectations of the local culinary scene... ya gotta be good.
B. Bim Asian Eatery, (1324 N. Milwaukee Ave.) which opened Dec. 5th, is such a cool new addition to the Milwaukee strip. They call themselves a "Korean inspired fast casual restaurant with a dive bar complex". This is so on point. It makes Korean food approachable to people who may not be quite familiar with the cuisine all while staying true to the typical Wicker Park casual watering hole. Chef/Partner EJ Kim (graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and protegè of Rodelio Aglibot) helped create a menu that provides something for everyone: Vegetarians, seafood lovers, carnivores, health nuts, or people who just want to indulge in fine yet quick Asian cuisine. Did I mention they have a full bar (yummy selection of Korean Beers) and play killer tunes (lots of 90's)?!?
Check out what I ate (yes, I was intensely full after my visit.)
Last week I had the pleasure of dining with Nutritionist and Healthy Living Concierge, Ashley Pettit. I've respected her talent and career for a long time, and even though our lines of work are quite different...we knew there had to be some way we could synergize. We decided to have a collabo lunch at both of our favorite spot, Beatrix. Beatrix has amazing foodie finds, and all of their food is health oriented, fresh, organic, and delicious. Win-Win!! Read below for Ashley's insider take on our awesome meal together!
"Lunch dates…they are a pretty common thing, especially during the work-week when you may want to catch up with a girlfriend or colleague. However, so many of my clients always tell me that when they are trying to be healthy, they don’t eat out and abstain from hanging out with friends so they can keep on track.
Get this: there is absolutely NO reason to become anti-social when you are adopting healthy eating habits. If I can do it with my friend + ridiculously awesome food, music, + travel blogger; Ms. Kelly Rizzo (aka: Eat, Travel, Rock,) then you can eat out with just about whomever, wherever you want!
I love being able to dine with all sorts of people, anytime I want. It just takes some simple consideration and a determination to eat right while being a social butterfly! I managed to maintain my composure when Kelly ordered something that came with my biggest weakness: French fries (see below- doesn’t that fry look amazing?) And sometimes I have some fries, but this lunch was not my time to indulge. Yet, in the end, I did not miss them! Here is a glimpse into our meal + the main APL tips to eating out socially." CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
The excitement I felt when I found out my spontaneous travel destination was Austin, was palpable. It's as if Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com knew that Austin, Texas was my spirit animal. If you know my brand, Eat Travel Rock, at all; you're aware that I love to combine food and music...and of course travel, in any situation. Well this was the ultimate trifecta. Good times were about to be had...by one.
I have traveled solo many times...for quick work trips. I have never traveled on a solo vacation before, and I must say... I was pumped. No one other that myself dictating when and where to go, what to see, what to eat. The decision making began the evening before my flight when I actually found out that Austin was my destination. I immediately went on the Booking Now app on my iPhone and began to search. The ease and functionality was superior to ANY travel app I'd ever used. Since Booking Now is for travel less than 48 hrs out, I was a bit worried that desirable accommodations might not be readily available. Incorrect. The most luxurious hotels in town, as well as unique and boutique hotels were easy to find...and more importantly, affordable. Many of the hotels even had discounts that were just for Booking.com and Booking Now customers. I booked a gorgeous room at the JW Mariott in a matter of a minute and I was all set. Ready to wing it in Austin!
When I arrived in Austin, and after I got settled into my glorious city center accommodations with a stunning view of the Colorado River... I got my game face on. Fortunately, Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com wanted me to explore the musical culture of the Live Music Capital of the World. This was going to be fun, to say the least. My first challenge was to "bear hug the unknown", and seek out a local record shop...one that is hidden or known only to locals. I decided to walk down South Congress, or as the locals call it, SoCo. I didn't let the 100 degree heat sway me from my mission. I found a tiny little spot called Friends of Sound, and believe me, it was hidden. First, I ventured off the main drag and down a little side street. The sign said "entrance in alley" So I walked down the alley...then around an old brick building... then around another corner. Finally, tucked away, was a vintage vinyl shop that was so perfectly and authentically Austin. I shopped a bit and of course picked up some old school Country tunes like pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings and the Best of Johnny Cash. I then cozied up to the manager to see if he had any great recs for where to see some live music. Not just any live music, mind you... but my next challenge was to "scare myself silly" and find a local gig that was well outside my musical comfort zone. Well he and a fellow shopper gave me some great tips for where to find some great live shows that evening... shows that were not necessarily Eat Travel Rock friendly.
Later, I ventured out for my first ever solo "night out on the town". It was great. Amidst the hustle and bustle of buzzing 6th street in downtown Austin, I hardly felt alone. The vibe was electric, and music was pouring out of every doorway and corridor. I was headed toward the Red Eyed Fly and it reached me before I reached it. The music was LOUD... and joyfully angry sounding. I asked the door guy to fill me in and he said the Death Metal show on the outside patio was $10. SOLD!! Now, I'm usually very non-discriminating when it comes to Rock music. I love it all. But death metal has always been an enigma to me. How can you even understand what they're saying with all that grunting and barking into the mic??? Plus it just seemed...scary! Well, I let go of all that and head banged with the best of them...with a Lone Star beer in hand. The crowd seemed friendly and no one seemed to mind that I only had 15 tattoos instead of 50. After a while, even though the music was starting to make my head hurt, I could see why people gravitated toward the overall vibe. Death Metal will not likely be filling my iPod soon, but it was sure fun for 30 minutes.
Next up, I wanted to venture even farther from 6th Street, and "abandon my compass". I needed to find a Rock bar that was in a part of town unknown to me. I found this tiny little run down club called Beer Land. It was definitely off the beaten path and looked right up my alley (no pun intended). They had a surfer-esque garage band on stage and they were totally my taste. A cross between the Ventures and Green Day. As I cozied up to my 2nd tall-boy of Lone Star, I sat back and realized how fortunate I was to be experiencing something so magical. Not even 24 hrs before, I didn't even know I'd be in Austin. Now here I am, sippin' on a cold one, and soaking up one of the coolest musical scenes on the planet. Bless your heart Rock N' Roll.
My final challenge was to find an iconic spot in town where a part of musical history occurred. After some research, it became clear where I needed to visit. Arlyn Studios is a place where music history has been made; over and over again. This recording studio is not only the home studio of Willie Nelson, but many of my all-time favorites have recorded here: Waylon Jennings, Sublime, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Gary Clark Jr., Phish, and Merle Haggard, just to name a few. Their history is rich, but even more impressive is what the music is made with/on. Arlyn Studios possesses one of the few Neve recording consoles in existence. If you saw Dave Grohl's documentary, Sound City, you would know the level of prestige and mystique this conveys. Not only do they have a Neve console, but it is a Neve/API hybrid and the only one like it in the world. As the gracious owner of Arlyn, Lisa Fletcher, explained to me..."It's like the Bentley and Rolls Royce of sound boards coming together." I was lucky enough to have Lisa give me an after hours tour of the entire studio. I couldn't get over the musical history that was in my presence. She even let me "play" with the Neve console. To touch the boards where some of the most significant albums in music history were made, was surreal. I could actually feel the pulse of all the sounds that have been flowing through that studio for decades. It was an experience that will last a lifetime.
After all of my musical challenges were completed... it was time to EAT!! You didn't think I'd forget the food, did you?! Here is a run down of some of my favorite Austin meals. Many of these recommendations came from locals as well as Time Out Magazine Austin. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro was first. Wow. Chef Tim Love's latest adventure in on point. The menu is eclectic and represented by almost every animal species on earth... from duck to rattlesnake. The food was outstanding, and since I was solo, they let me do a tasting of several of the dishes. I would definitely say the best piece of fried catfish I'd ever had. The staff was overly accommodating and friendly. It was my happy place.
Next up was to satisfy my taco craving. You can't go to Texas without filling up on this Tex-mex staple. Torchy's Tacos was ALL i'd been hearing about and it was a must. I took an Uber to this little trailer park lot and there was Torchy's. A cute little food trailer in a dusty parking lot surrounded by red picnic tables. I actually had a fried avocado taco...my life will NEVER be the same. It was taco heaven...in a trailer park.
Finally, I had my last meal at Odd Duck. I could not hear enough about this James Beard Award nominated hot spot. I also heard their brunch was spectacular, so that's what I went with. Everything they serve is locally sourced and sustainable. If you don't believe me, in the most serendipitous fashion, they sat me at the bar right next to Farmer Chris, who is actually the chicken farmer from whom they directly source their eggs. My egg education is now on a loftier level... and the dishes I enjoyed at Odd Duck were next level. It was one of those authentic experiences that can't be described, only felt. I knew I was in a special place, away from the tourists and the hustle, where I could feel the true sense of this remarkable city. My last bite and breath of Southern Texas before heading back to Chicago.
Needless to say, traveling solo may be my new favorite thing. Not only was I able to learn so much more about Austin, its music, and its culture, but I was able to learn more about myself. My sense of adventure is alive and well, and people and places (and music) that once seemed foreign or intimidating, are now welcomed and appreciated. I'm so grateful for this quick journey, and even though i'm back in Chicago, in my comfort zone...Austin is already calling me back.
In case you haven't noticed, I'm mid- health kick. Which isn't a diet (hate that word) because I thoroughly love and enjoy all the delicious foods i'm eating, and I'm never hungry, nor do I deprive myself. I've just been staying away from all meat except seafood, making smarter and healthier choices, especially when out at restaurants, and working out a ton. Piece of cake really... mmmmmm cake.
You might think it's impossible to go out to dinner and still eat well. It's NOT! Even if you're veggie and/or seafood focused. Here are my fave picks from my/ Chicago's fave restaurants. I've included a ton of neighborhoods, and cuisine types. Please share with me your favorite healthy dishes, I'd love to discover even more!
Eataly Chicago- the grilled octopus (polpo alla griglia) at Il Pesce restaurant inside Eataly. Cooked to perfection, not rubbery AT ALL. The great kick from the chili flakes and chili peppers will also jump start your metabolism!
Bub City- Bub City is known for their succulent BBQ. But if you're not eating meat, or trying to eat light.. there aren't too many options on their menu. It has almost discouraged me from going until I discovered, in the very bottom right corner of their menu is one seafood item. The blackened or BBQ grilled salmon. They're both INSANELY delicious, but if you're trying to cut sugar, get it blackened.
Pearl Tavern- They are oyster and seafood focused, so there are a few great options like the ceviche and oysters of course. But their Salmon burger with shredded butternut squash and house made giardinera is quite possibly the tastiest sandwich, and dare I say, burger, I've had in a LONG time.
La Sirena Clandestina- There's really no way to go wrong at this spot since all their food is to-die-for. But if you're keeping it healthy, check out the Head On Prawns with charred Serrano Salsa.
Maude's Liquor Bar- The oysters are to die for in this romantic and intimate setting. I love the way they're served too. Makes you feel like it's more of a meal vs. an appetizer.
Osteria Langhe- Love the unique Italian fare at this Logan Square spot. The Cauliflower with salted cod and sunchoke puree with house pickled veggies is a great meatless and lighter choice.
MFK- This Lakeview spot has some of the best ceviche I've had. But their Boquerones are fab too. An anchovy is perched atop piquillo peppers and fennel, all of which is resting on a piece of crusty Italian bread.
GT Fish and Oyster- always my fave. Their Thai Coconut soup is light yet filling. So yummy with chunks of fish and shrimp in it. Also their mussels in a spicy red marinara is outstanding.
Beatrix- Love everything on this menu, but the standouts for my fave healthy fare would be the Mushroom and Quinoa Burger with swiss, baby kale, and sriracha aioli. It's one of the best, if not THE best veggie burger I've ever had.
RPM Steak- Do you ever feel like you "just can't even" go to a steak house if you're not eating meat, or trying to eat healthy. Well ya can. RPM Steak has a ton of amazing salads, but 2 items I have literally dreamed about are the Coal Roasted King Crab legs with lime and coriander, and the Atlantic Scallops. Trust me, you will NOT feel left out while your fellow diners are gnawing on Flintstone's sized Tomahawk bones.
Sushi Dokku- Now sushi can be pretty healthy overall... especially if you're not getting mayo rolls deep fried in sweet and crunchy tempura batter. When you hit up this outstanding West Loop venue, try the Uni but order it in a cucumber cup and compliment it with the Tako (octopus) sashimi.
Greek Islands- If you love Greek Town as much as I do, you never want to have to give up the yummy food just because you're eating healthy. Fortunately, I can OD on taramosalata and grilled octopus and this spot has the best of both. If you're cutting carbs too, or gluten conscious, order the taramo with veggies for dipping instead of bread/pita.
India House- Indian food is known for having a ton of vegetarian options. Even though they're fried I cannot eat Indian food without getting the veggie samosas. Also, order the tandoori shrimp which is very light and comes with veggies on the side. I love to mash up the samosas and mix it with the sauces and all the tandoori and veggies too!
I had such a blast a couple weeks ago with theses Fashion forward foodie babes!! We dined at Tipling Hall, ate delicious brunchy bites, drank mimosas, and gabbed forever. Check out the entire video here! Plus we gave away the chance to host your own amazing brunch at Tippling Hall and the winner is @KELLYLETTO_ Congrats!!
Thanks to all who came out to the first Eat Travel Rock Unplugged event at Chop Shop last night! Robbie Gold performed and we had some great wines by Fabio Viviani Wines. It was a blast and I had so much fun teaching my simple and tasty Italian Valentine's Day recipes. In case you missed it... the recipes are below!
Appetizer: Figs and Prociutto di Parma
Take approx 12 fresh figs (if you can't find fresh you can rehydrate dried figs by boiling water, adding figs and turning stove off, and letting them soak for 2 hours). Wrap the figs in a long thin slice of the prociutto (should be di Parma.. it's the legit imported from Italy prociutto...the best) seal with a toothpick and add a small dollop of raspberry preserves on top.
Salad: Crazy Caprese- My version of Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese)
1 container ciliegine -fresh mozzarella (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes red (halved)
1 container cherry tomatoes yellow (halved)
1 red pepper diced
1/3 cup kalamata olives (halved)
1/4 cup good quality IMPORTED FROM ITALY/SICILY extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp good quality imported balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar on top, add spices and fresh herbs. Mix together well and serve. Can be chilled in fridge for up to a couple hours before serving.
Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
2 large or 4 small Zucchini
1/2 large onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes (imported italian if possible)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
5 oz. goat cheese
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Fresh Basil (chopped)
1/2 lb Pasta (Rigatoni or other wide tube pasta)
Peel and Chop Zucchini (I live a bit of skin on for color and nutrients) into cubes. Put in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp salt and toss. Set aside for 10 min until moisture starts to come out. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet and add onion. Cook 2 min and add zucchini. While zucchini cooks (3-4 min), boil water in a medium/large pot and cook pasta according to instructions. Add 50% of can of crushed tomatoes to zucchini, add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 min over medium heat. Add goat cheese and basil and stir until creamy and smooth. Strain pasta into skillet and mix to combine. Pour into serving platter/bowl and garnish with a lot of fresh shredded italian cheese and a bit more basil.
Kelly's Version of Pork Chops Pizzaiola
2 thin cut Bone-in Pork Chops (please use local/sustainable i.e. Slagel Farm)
1/2 onion sliced into long skinny pieces
1 large clove fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Remaining 50% of can of crushed tomatoes from pasta recipe
1/4 cup chopped hot red cherry peppers in brine (Mazetta's)
1/4 cup chopped mild red cherry peppers
salt and pepper to taste
High quality imported Italian hard cheese (pecorino romano, gran padano, or pref Incanestrato)
Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to heavy cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Once hot add pork chops and sear... appox 2 min on each side. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Add a bit more olive oil and onions, then add garlic, scrape up all the little brown bits from the bottom while sautéing the onion. Add the white wine to help deglaze the pan. Salt and pepper. Cook for 2 min. Add the crushed tomatoes, cherry peppers, and more salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork chops back into the sauce. Finish cooking for approx 2 more minutes or until pork chops are cooked through (no pink) but NOT dry or over cooked. Transfer all to a serving platter and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a LOT of grated cheese.
I had never been anywhere warm for New Year's Eve...ever. 34 NYEs have been spent in insufferable arctic temperatures. Fortunately for me, my better half made sure my 35th NYE was spent in the warm Caribbean sun. It can be very hard for me to stay out of the planning phase of a trip, but I let Jay and his buddies take the reigns on this one... and wow, did they pull off one hell of a trip. Note to self: Always leave trip planning to adventuresome men who love to party.
I had never been to, nor really heard of Anguilla (pronounced: An-gwhil-uh). Apparently it was in the British West Indies...and that was good enough for me. Let me cut to the chase. The island is perfection. It's only 13 miles long and 3 miles wide (you fly into St. Maarten/Martin and take a 20 min boat ride over). It is encircled by the most glorious talcum powder beaches and pristine turquoise water. It is not heavily developed and the islanders are gracious and welcoming. They are very proud of their island paradise, and rightfully so. Very few resorts occupy Anguilla, and the ones that do are quite exclusive. We stayed at Ce Blue Villas, a gorgeous resort made of only 8 villas overlooking a quaint, yacht speckled bay. The terrain and waters seemed more reminiscent of Hawaii than the Caribbean. All in all, a sight for sore (and frozen) eyes.
Our first day there we went Scuba Diving. There was a great little dive shop on the beach and we were able to charter a private dive boat for the 6 of us. The diving was not the best i've experienced (that actually would be Hawaii) but it was solid. The shallow dives were a bit murky but the deeper (80ft) wreck dive was fantastic. Clear warm water and an abundance of sea life was visible, including several sea turtles. Overall, definitely worth it.
Day 2 was an experience of a lifetime. Being all "eat travel rock" as I am, many would be surprised to find out that I'd never been in a little plane. They've always made me nervous, so I've avoided them at all costs. Well I was outvoted when it came to deciding how we were getting to St. Barths. It's an 1:15 boat ride, or a 9 minute plane ride. The plane won. We chartered a small 8-seater, and low an behold, 10 minutes later (landing on Earth's shortest airstrip, and one of the world's most extreme airports) we were in the South of France.
St. Barths was surreal. I literally felt as if we were magically transported to Europe. EVERYTHING is in French, EVERYONE speaks French, they use the Euro, and the streets and buildings look much more European that Caribbean. We had reserved a table at the world famous, Nikki Beach, and had the time of our lives. Fresh sushi, delicious grilled chicken and steak, and magnum bottles of Domaine Ott Rosè for days. The crowd was international... we may have been the only Americans, which was such a relief. Live music, dancing on tables, endless food and wine, while playing on the St. Tropez-esqe beach was otherworldly. We then WALKED to the airport and hopped aboard our little flight back home... touchdown... 9 minutes later.
When people ask how my trip was, my first comment is: The food was amazing!! It's true. EVERYTHING we ate was delicious. The service is friendly, but timing...well everyone is on island time. So don't go to a restaurant starving (hard for me) because you won't eat for about 30-60 min. But soooo well worth the wait. Each meal we had was perfection. From beach shacks (Blanchard's Beach Shack), to fine dining (DaVida), everything was on point. Of course each menu was seafood heavy, which was expected and welcomed. Yet they do great BBQ, and have other great ethnic food such as Italian. The meal that took the cake, however, was Scilly Cay. This restaurant encompasses one entire tiny island. Our instructions were to: "go to the end of the dock, wave like an idiot, and a little boat will come pick you up." I was the one who volunteered to wave like an idiot, and sure enough, 1 min later, a little boat scooped us up. The island was a 2 minute boat ride away and it was untouched, authentic, and gorgeous. The food: Grilled lobsters or grilled chicken...that's it. Oh and some earth shattering rum punch. That. Is. It. I went with grilled lobby, and smarter people went with a combo... I missed out because the chicken was some of the best i'd ever had. Both were coated in a sweet coconut curry sauce that was sublime. After my big meal, I went over to a little lawn chair on the beach, had a spiritual moment, and just let it all sink in...
And New Year's Eve! This is all I will say. When the clock struck midnight, I was on the beach with my feet in the water, glass of champagne in my hand, watching fireworks, kissing my guy, and hanging with great friends. Best. EVER.
Anguilla is an island destination I would absolutely return to. I've been to Jamaica twice, and Dominican Republic twice and I'm not a huge fan because you can't leave the resort or really explore the indigenous food, people, and beauty of the island. Anguilla is different, it's safe and easy to find hidden gems and mingle with the locals. The food, the people, the beaches, and the scenery make this my favorite Caribbean destination, and overall my favorite trip I've taken. If you need more activity or restaurant recommendations, let me know by commenting below! Viva Anguilla!!
Hell's Kitchen was not a New York neighborhood I was too familiar with. I'm sure I've driven through it from the Upper West Side to downtown, but I never paid too much attention to it. Maybe because I thought it was too close to Times Square, or maybe because the name sounded scary...nevertheless, I finally got to know this little "hood" and I likey.
I'm now partial, mainly because my new favorite hotel is in Hell's Kitchen. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has prestigious boutique hotels all over the country, including several right here in Chicago (Palomar, Allegro, etc.) but Ink 48, right in Hell's Kitchen is outstanding. From the second I arrived to the second I departed, the service was on point. My room was GORGEOUS and unique. The jacuzzi tub was in the living area and the enclosed stone shower was tucked away around the corner... very cool layout. I had a great view of the city and other room amenities included a granite vanity (perfect for doing my pre-TV makeup) and a yoga mat (perfect for a very early AM stretch before heading to VH1). They also have one of the city's most killer rooftop bars called The Press Lounge.
The location of Ink 48 and Hell's Kitchen is great. It was an easy walk to Times Square, where I film. But it's also a short cab ride down town or up-town... close to subways too (I usually take subways everywhere in NYC). There are also some great dining options. Ink 48 has their own upscale and trendy dining spot, Print, and you're only two blocks away from the badass Gotham West Market which is the coolest "food court" I've ever seen. It also has a quick serve version of the famous Ivan Ramen.
Cannot WAIT to go back soon and stay with them during my next visit. Never thought I'd say this, but hope to see you all in HELL's Kitchen ;)
It's ok, I'll let Food Network piggy back off of Eat Travel Rock. Quite flattering the hashtag for their event last weekend at Ravinia Music Festival was #EatDrinkRock... haha, ok seriously folks. My manager, Chantel, and I headed up to Highland Park to explore what was sure to be incredible food and incredible music...sounds right up my alley!! I also managed to snag 2 quick interviews with some heavy hitters in the culinary world.
The first chat was with Billy Dec (Co-Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions) and Chef Kevin Hickey (Executive chef of Bottle Fork and the upcoming Duck Inn). They were FRESH off their win for BEST HOT DOG. Quite an accomplishment being in Chicago and all. Check out the Video HERE!
Next, I had a chance to interview a Food Network Chef/Host I've been a fan of for a while. She has a simple yet bold take on Latin American food... hence her show's name, Simply Delicioso! Check out this video of Chef Ingrid Hoffmann !!!
Food trends have been quite, well, trendy as of late. There is always something new that is "all the rage" and Chicagoans buy into the trends (literally and figuratively) whole heartedly. Are we jumping on the bandwagon because we are yearning to try new and interesting foods, or are we absorbing all of these calories just because it's what everybody in town is doing? Which brings me to the next point... Are these trends making us fat? Are ANY of these trends healthy? How long can these trends be sustained?
Meat. Ahhh meat. So delicious, so satiating, and so controversial. If you follow my blogs you will know that I have recently become outspoken on trying to be more socially responsible with my meat intake. For now, I'll put this aside. Chicago is a meat city, and these meat trends have been on a steep incline. Is bacon something new? No. Is seeing it in and on everything imaginable new? Yes. A few years ago, you didn't see bacon on your doughnuts, and in your chocolate, and garnishing your martini. Yes this CAN BE delicious. But an immense intake of bacon can't be good for us and our waistlines, correct? What has come along since bacon became so En Vogue? Pork Belly. This fatty splendor can be found everywhere. On burgers (as if that's necessary), in tacos (this I have ZERO qualms with), in eggs, and in/on pasta and pizza. This is where trend separates from indigenous foods. When you see a pork belly taco, that is a regional Latin American specialty. When you see pork belly on a 1/2 lb "Santa Fe" burger at a local "gastro pub" it's a food trend. This all becomes silly and unnecessary when people start throwing bacon and pork belly and foie gras on EVERYTHING just because it's a fad. Maybe I don't want foie gras on my PB&J!!!!
What is up with the doughnut and cupcake trends?? I mean, yea they're freakin' delicious, but could we be shoveling our faces full of anything worse for us? The problem is; that because you just HAVE to try Doughnut Vault, or you haven't lived until you've had Sprinkles or Sweet Mandy B's, people flock like lemmings to these places and consume vast amounts unaware of how bad it is for us. The occasional dessert is fine, if not necessary. But to have full venues, restaurants, and shops dedicated to these trends may be too much. I think the public is starting to speak, however, when entire chains like Crumb's Bake Shops are going under. Maybe a 2,000 calorie cupcake isn't on OUR menu anymore. Also, stores like Sprinkles and Glazed and Infused which had lines around the corner or were sold out by 11am, now are much more tame. Is the trend on it's way out? Are we becoming more health conscious, or just sick of certain trends and waiting for the next big one? What are your thoughts friends? Does Chicago have room for a potentially healthy food trend? Why can't omelets or healthy soups be the next big thing? Don't throw "but Kale and Brussels Sprouts are huge right now!" at me... entire restaurants or menus dedicated to these items aren't springing up left and right... they're just side dishes... and half the time they're loaded with bacon and pork belly anyway.
I'd love to know your thoughts! Leave me a comment!
Since I posted an Instagram of my healthy homemade chili last night, I've had a ton of people ask for the recipe. So I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for my first ever recipe post! Chili is probably my favorite meal to make because it CAN be incredibly healthy, it's incredibly simple, there are thousands of ways to improvise and make it your own, EVERYONE loves chili, AND it it's almost even better as leftovers. Here is a vegetarian and gluten free version I've been making for years that is surprisingly hearty. You can improvise as much or as little as you like.
1/2 large onion diced
1 green pepper diced
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
2 whole ears of fresh sweet corn (cut off the cob)
1 small can of chopped green chiles
1 can organic crushed tomatoes
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 can organic Cannellini (great white Northern) beans (in liquid)
1 can organic black beans (in liquid)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Hot Mexican Chili Powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp fat free Greek Yogurt per serving
Mexican shredded cheese (for garnish)
Cilantro (for garnish)
1 lime wedge per serving for garnish
Your favorite hot sauce
Over high heat sautee onion and green pepper in 2 tbsps canola oil for 2 minutes then add mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium/high and sautee all veggies until softened. Reduce to medium heat and add the canned crushed tomatoes followed by diced tomatoes then beans then chiles stirring throughout. Add the fresh cut corn. Reduce to low heat and add all the spices and salt and pepper. You may want to add more or less to taste. Cook over low heat for at least 30 minutes.
Ladle chili into 6 bowls and garnish with a dollop of greek yogurt, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, a lime wedge, avocado slices/chunks, and hot sauce to taste.