Filtering by Tag: oysters

Healthy Menu Picks From Your Fave Chicago Restaurants

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!

Foodie Awareness: Can we Foodies be Socially AND Health Conscious?

Hey fellow foodies! This last year has truly been an epiphany for me and I have undergone a tremendous paradigm shift..  Even though I haven't yet fully crossed over to the 100% socially, ethically, and health conscious side (and I may never), I have made a small leap.  It may not be too apparent in my Instagram food posts, but I assure you, changes are happening behind the scenes.  The food we now eat has become incredibly controversial... and for good reason.  Not only is obesity the leading epidemic and cause of death in our nation, the overall treatment of animals used to produce the majority of our food borders on sadistic.  Herein lies the conundrum.  How can we foodies, still live our glorious lives of indulging our culinary desires, without perpetuating rapid heart disease, poisoning our bodies, and the disdainful inhumane slaughter of some of God's most beloved creatures?  

I started to make some changes for several reasons.  The first was when my sister, Kristin Rizzo, became so impassioned with a feature documentary on animal rights she directed with her best friend, Katie Cleary, who created and produced the film called Give Me Shelter.  It's a ground breaking film that opened my eyes to many current issues in the animal world I was previously ignorant to.  I then wanted to learn more...I watched, horrified, (over and over) documentaries such as Food Inc. and Earthlings.  If you can get through these films and not change your life, at least a little, then.... well.... no comment.  

With other documentaries I've watched, and books I've read, I've realized that 90% of the crap I was consuming was poison.  Diet soda (or diet anything) for example, is just a huge serving of toxic chemicals.  Diet soda actually increases formaldehyde production in your brain.  Um, no thanks!  I have cut ALL of this out of my diet.  It's much better to have the actual sugar along with the calories, than Soylent Green.  Processed food is killing America, and even though i'll have my occasional gummy bear (my vice), if it's processed or has any preservatives or is unnatural in any way....I'm doing my best to steer clear.  

But how can we foodies eat all the deliciousness that is available to us without eating meat?  Well I guess it's possible... but I'm not ready to take that step yet.  I cannot go full vegetarian or vegan, nor do I want to.  What I AM doing is making smart and deliberate choices in order to be as socially conscious as I can, without giving up all meat, and enjoying my foodie lifestyle.  

1.  I try hard not to eat meat at fast food places anymore.  If I must go to McDonald's or Subway (very rare...I know... a BIG change for me) I'll get the Filet O' Fish (don't knock it until ya tried it) or Tuna Salad.  Here and there I will still get food from my cherished Portillo's, come on, I'm only human!!!

2.  I try to only get meat (beef, pork, lamb...I no longer order veal) at restaurants where I know they source their meat from local and sustainable farms where the animals are treated as well as possible while alive and slaughtered as humanely as possible (oxymoronic, I'm aware).  I filmed an episode of my previous show, Food Junkie: Chicago, at Slagel Family Farm (watch it HERE).  I have seen first hand the difference between an old fashioned family farming operation, and the factory/commercial feedlots and slaughterhouses.  They are worlds apart.  Even though, yes, animals are still being killed for our consumption, this is by far the best way to ensure that at least you aren't contributing to the filth and evil that exists at the large corporate farms.  

3.  I buy mostly all organic produce and dairy.  It's more expensive, but it's worth it.  ESPECIALLY the dairy.  You want milk and eggs from happy cows and chickens who are being treated well and raised in a healthy environment and without hormones and antibiotics.  Don't just go after "free range".  That is a bullshit title.  Go for "Organic".  

4.  I eat a TON of seafood.  This is hardly a sacrifice.  A foodie can survive off of oysters, lobster rolls, escargot, hamachi sashimi, tuna poke, blackened catfish, BBQ salmon, and miso glazed chilean sea bass.  Pastas are also our indulgent friend.  This is where being Italian comes in handy :)

I'm definitely not perfect, nor will I ever be.   We all occasionally get hungover and have cheat days. Or we just HAVE to try that new burger at that new hot spot.   If you invite me to your house and you grill chicken or hot dogs or make me some Hamburger Helper, I'll gladly and thankfully eat it.  I'll never be the pretentious diva in your home to ask "Excuse me where is that meat from?  Um noooo thank you then."  But I may view it as an opportunity to share some of my findings with you.  It's undeniable Americans should agree that we need to make some changes.  Fortunately for foodies, these can be attainable, realistic, and delicious changes!  

Oyster Fest And Lee Brice (2012)

When you think of Oysters, do you also think of Country Music?  No? Well in Chicago, we do.  They go hand in hand just like Shaw’s Crab House and Joe’s Bar go hand in hand.  Last week, these two institutions joined forces to put on one hell of an event in River North.  A massive parking lot was transformed and packed full of 4,000 attendees who were visibly hungry for two things… delicious oysters and live country music. Lettuce Entertain You supplied all types of delectable goodies, but their oysters stole the show.  Actually, the oysters shared the spotlight with County Music star Lee Brice.  I’ve met Lee before and we have a ton of mutual friends, so it was a good ol’ time catching up with him on his tour bus before he took the stage. We got to chat about his recent #1 hit and his coveted CMA Award nomination for Best New Artist.  You can catch the entire interview by clicking here.

The crowd seemed to forget how cold this October night was once Lee commanded the stage.  His bold performance, powerful melodies, and poignant yet fun lyrics captivated the audience.  He rocked through his biggest hits:  Hard To Love, A Woman Like You, Love Like Crazy, as well as the fun-time anthem, Beer.   He also surprised me by performing "Crazy Girl."  This was a recent #1 hit by Eli Young Band and one of my favorite songs because of its haunting beauty… I had no idea that it was Lee who penned it... almost a decade ago for an ex-girlfriend.  The outdoor festivities were immensely successful… but we all know the fun couldn't stop there.  The die-hard music fans retreated back to Joe’s for the after party.  Tyler Farr performed to an exuberant crowd and Lee sneaked back on stage for an impromptu performance of MY REQUEST: More Than A Memory!!  Another painfully gorgeous remnant of his songwriting days… which happened to be a #1 hit for an obscure and up-and-coming artist, Garth Brooks. :-)  It's always a pleasure when Lee or any of his buddies (Jerrod Niemann, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Jake Owen) visit Joe's.  They're a blast, yet so down-to-earth and easy going.  Can't wait to see when some of the other guys will be coming back... StayTuned!!