Just a quick drive from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, you’ll find Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Brand New Full Episode at End of Blog) Or as locals and travelers alike call it… “Beer City, USA.” Even though Grand Rapids is only 2.5 hours north of Chicago, I had never made the trip until now. The saying “better late than never” has never been more true. Here are some things about Grand Rapids you may not know:Read More
Filtering by Category: food
A couple weeks ago, right before my trip to LA, I was perusing my new favorite travel app, Porter & Sail. It's the coolest app I've used in a while and make me feel super VIP...it's your very own insider concierge. First it lets you book a room in some of the coolest hotels in London, LA, New York, Miami, and Singapore. Then, once you're actually a guest, it gives you access to some of the best restaurant reservations and events in town. (They actually helped me get a rezzy at Gjelina... which is usually almost IMPOSSIBLE to get in to.) So. My. Speed. While perusing, I came across this gem of a hotel, The Farmer's Daughter.Read More
Lobsters have long been considered a delicacy. The ultimate and proverbial "last and final meal" most people would choose before meeting our maker. Since lobsters have seemed so lofty and unattainable (especially in daily life) the general public knows very little about this fascinating arthropod. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Portland, ME last week to delve into all that encompasses the Maine Lobster. This trip could NOT have been more perfect for me, as I have NEVER had the privilege of visiting the beautiful state of Maine, and I have also become more appreciative of lobsters recently as I try to no longer eat red meat (or mammals).
In Maine, lobsters are a way of life. They are a massive part of the economy and also a way of employing thousands of lobstermen and sustaining their families. Seeing this dynamic and the importance of lobsters to this region was truly special. Thanks to the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, I was able to get an inside look on the entire process; from trap to table. Most importantly, we were to learn all about Maine "New-Shell" Lobsters. These are lobsters that have recently shed their hard outer shell toward the end of the summer. The shell is much softer, you're even able to poke a hole in a claw with your finger...unheard of for old or hard-shell lobsters. These "new-shell" lobsters are supposed to be the sweetest and tastiest lobster in the world, and I'm here to taste them myself!
The first stop on our lobster tour was the Cape Seafood processing plant. The vast majority of the lobster that is processed at Cape is shipped out to all the Luke's Lobster restaurants around the country. We really got up close and personal with all the lobbies here...all while wearing the finest in rubber boots, hairnets, gloves, and cloaks in order to keep everything as sterile as possible. We saw how the lobster is cleaned, cooked, cooled... and ultimately, picked. They had a room full of about 50 pickers who were as quick as lightening and can pick all the meat from a knuckle and claw in about 2 seconds flat. It was incredible to watch, not to mention the respect you garner for the pickers' talent, dexterity, and diligence.
Next, we got to actually TASTE the incredible "new-shell" Maine Lobsters at one of the most famous lobster roll restaurants in the country. The Clam Shack, in Kennebunk, ME, has won award after award and continuously has been voted "best lobster roll". They put in on a round brioche bun instead of the typical hot dog bun or split roll. They also use a mixture of mayo AND butter to give you the best of both worlds. It was a simple, sweet, and outstanding sandwich.
Later, we all were aboard The Lucky Catch, a real lobster boat. The weather was perfect, even out at sea. The skies were pure blue as was the water, and the shoreline of Portland was breathtaking. Few things are more beautiful than the historic shores and harbors of New England, and to see it from an actual lobster boat was surreal. Our lobsterman captain was going to show us the ropes (pun somewhat intended) of how to set the traps and haul in the goods.
First off, we put bait in bags. Several pounds of large herring went into each orange mesh bag. Those would then be placed inside the large and genius-ly configured lobster traps. Once we caught some lobsters we got to measure them and band them.
Measuring them is of utmost importance. The Maine Lobster rules and regulations are incredibly strict in order to conserve and sustain the lobster population. A legal lobster in the State of Maine has a carapace or body shell length that measures between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches. If they are too big or too small they MUST be immediately thrown back. Small lobsters haven't yet been given the chance to breed and larger lobsters have shown that they are good breeders and are to be kept in the population. Check out this video I shot to see how it works!
We also had the rare chance to see a "berried" female, or a female who is covered in eggs. These females must be immediately thrown back and notched on their tail to tell future lobsterman that they are capable of breeding. It was one of the coolest things I have witnessed in nature.
When I heard we were going to the Maine State Aquarium, I wasn't all that excited at first, as I thought it would be "just for kids". However, when I saw all of the insanely rare specimen of lobster they had in their possession... I was blown away. Check these out!! The 1st is a 1 in 100,000,000 rare albino lobster, and the second is a 1 in 2,000,000 cobalt blue lobster. It was one of the most stunning sights my eyes have ever laid upon.
We closed out this lobster immersion trip by, well, eating more lobster! Attending the Claw Down event in Boothbay Harbor was a fantastic way to bring this experience full circle. 20 local chefs were competing for the "best bite" of lobster. It was a blast and was so cool to see all of the different and unique ways in which new-shell lobster could be prepared. There was pasta, sandwiches, stews, sautés, etc. Here is a lobster salad served with crispy chicken skin on a soft roll. Delicious!
I've always been a huge fan of lobster. However, now that I know everything that goes into the fishing, sustainability, dealing, processing, preparation, and of course...eating...I have an entirely new respect for this delicious animal. I've also now become a fan of the succulent and sweet "new-shell" Maine lobster. Make sure that when you order your next lobster, if it's in the late summer, early fall, ask if it's new-shell. If it is...watch your tastebuds explode and then please tell me all about it!!
To learn more, visit: http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com
Everyone loves comfort foods. Sometimes you want all the decadence of your favorite foods but the guilt that comes with it can be crippling. What if you could have it all. Your favorite satisfying foods, but with a healthy twist?! Here you go!
Mac and Cheese is a comfort food staple. But it's usually loaded with so much heavy cream and cheese that it could take a month just to work off two bites! While I was perusing Instagram recently I came across a pic of my friend Lauren Nolan, aka The Lakeshore Lady's, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Arugula. The heavy cream is replaced with roasted cauliflower puree and it's outstanding. You do NOT feel like you're eating a healthy substitution. Get the whole recipe here!
Who doesn't like to end a satiating dinner with something sweet?! But as we know, most of our favorite dessert indulgences are "a moment on the lips...a lifetime on the hips" But what if you could actually be eating your favorite desserts but also have it be healthy?! Mind blown, right?!
Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts * are the best of both worlds. It comes in a dual sided container (we're all familiar with these). One side has the little crumbles and crunchies we love, and the side has the fruity goodness or creamy part of the dessert incorporated into it. I swear it's as if you are eating the actual desserts, and the fact that you get all the flavor for under 220 calories is outstanding.
Now I am VERY picky about yogurts. I used to be naive and think that any yogurt was automatically healthy for you. Then I realized that most of the yogurts we eat have artificial flavorings or sweeteners (which are incredibly harmful). Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts have NO artificial flavorings, sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup. They’re a good source of calcium and protein and best yet, they’re made from cows not treated with hormones. So now it’s ok to indulge in your favorite desserts and say adios to all the guilt that comes with it. Also, you've gotta check out this hilarious video that The Girls With Glasses made to show you how Muller Dessert Inspired yogurts are a delicious lifesaver. Click HERE to watch. Here’s to our sweet-tooths! #yogurtwithbenefits
*The second half of this blog (yogurt portion) was sponsored by Muller Dessert Inspired Yogurts.
Eating and Traveling are 2 of my 3 favorite things. And they occur simultaneously, often. Eating food at an airport is usually either a hassle, or a quick necessity...and rarely delicious. What if airport dining could be a pleasure? Crazy concept?....maybe.
So I'm kind of weird. I actually enjoy spending time at airports. I'm fascinated with air travel in general and just like being around it... watching the planes land and take off, seeing the pilots hustle about the terminal. Air travel definitely isn't as prestigious and romantic as it was several decades ago, but I still like finding ways to enjoy it. I like to get there as early as possible prior to my flight, of course for logistical reasons, but I also like to have a good meal before I board. Unfortunately, options can be limited, especially at my home bases, O'Hare and Midway.
Yes, Chicago airport food has definitely improved, but it is far from haute cuisine and chic dining. No, we don't need 3 star Michelin restaurants at our airports, but how about things other than soggy or overly dry and processed genetically modified turkey sandwiches? Even the "Wolfgang Puck" restaurants still offer the same boring dry turkey sammies. Yes, Rick Bayless makes an appearance with Tortas Frontera, and there is a sushi spot called Wicker Park Seafood (I haven't tried it, reviews seem positive). But for the most part, you're stuck with all Chili's-esque options. Processed and microwaved "bar" food. Is it THAT hard to bring in some fresh and organic options?
I'm spending a lot of time in New York lately. Laguardia is a cesspool of nastiness. Zero options for a good meal. JFK on the other hand is like the Garden of Eden of airport dining. High end steak and sushi options, healthier fast casual options, and streamlined bars at every other gate. I had a delicious sushi dinner last night in the Jet Blue Terminal at Deep Blue. It was sexy and sleek and the food was actually great.
I do have one way to ensure that you can at least get the best meal possible at ANY airport you go to. There are a few great apps out there can be very helpful. Gate Guru is my favorite. Not only will it give you the updated arrival and departure boards at every airport but it also has a complete list of all food, shops, and amenities and what terminal and gate they're at. It also features reviews of other travelers so you know which to hit up, and which to steer clear of. Happy travels all, and please share with me which airports YOU feel have the best food!
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!