Filtering by Tag: slagel farm

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!  

MY Favorite Chicago Burgers

I’ve loved burgers for as long as I can remember.  The seeds of love and trust began to germinate when I was a little girl and my dad would take me and my two younger sisters all over Chicago to fun burger and hot dog spots; Byron's, Plush Pup, Wolfy's, etc.  Of course there were the frequent trips to McDonalds, still a fond and comforting reminder of childhood, but it was the authentic Chicago burger joints that really made an impact.

I can appreciate a fancy gourmet burger just as much as the next foodie, but it’s the tried and true, old fashioned, greasy spoon burgers that are near and dear to my heart.  You also can’t go wrong with a classic Steakhouse burger.  My list below is compiled of many of MY Chicago favorites.  I really tried to stay away from the main stream “favorites” that everyone always talks about. Of course we all love Kuma’s Corner, Au Cheval, etc., but I wanted to bring some new flavor to the table… pun intended.  Here are my favorites, in no particular order.

The Lockdown Bar and Grill- Let’s just say I have a deep Burning Love for this next burger.  The Fat Elvis Burger is all kinds of crazy. First off, for those of you who haven’t graced the space that is the Lockdown, be afraid…be very afraid… in a good way.  DO NOT go on a day you have a migraine; as the incessant blast of heavy/death metal is on a decibel level not known to the common restaurant.  But don’t let the hardcore, blood-curdling tunes and the prison-like atmosphere deter you.  For the Fat Elvis Burger really makes this Jailhouse rock.  If you like dessert for dinner, then pull up a chair, you're gonna be quite happy.  They begin with Grand Marnier sautéed bananas and thick cut smokey bacon and pile it on a juicy black Angus patty that happens to be smothered in PEANUT BUTTER.  The decadence is off the charts.  Even though I ate this when I was already stuffed from about 5 other burgers… I couldn’t stop eating it.  The juxtaposition of the sweet with the salty and the savory was sublime.  Worth EVERY screaming calorie.   1024 N. Western Ave. West Town


West Town Bakery-  A bakery?? Somewhat unlikely for one of my favorite burgers.  Yet this fluffy piece of paradise deserves a top spot on the list.  The West Coast double burger with American cheese and special sauce is curiously reminiscent of my favorite NON-Chicago burger, In N Out Burger.  Pretty much everyone on Earth agrees that it doesn’t get any better than In N Out, so here’s a way to get a souped up version of it right here in Chi Town.  It’s melty deliciousness is off the charts, and it’s soft bakery bun gives it a polished finish many “greasy spoon” burgers lack.  The quality and freshness were incredible. A must try.   1916 W. Chicago Ave. West Town

Dusek’s-  Ahhh the Juicy Lucy.  Even though Pilsen is a bit of a hike, going to Dusek’s for all of their food, but especially their burger, is worth every step of the journey.  Yes, the Juicy Lucy is considered a “Gourmet” burger… but that’s ok.  Any burger that is made of Slagel Farm beef automatically scores major points.  This burger is no exception.  The preparation is  unique yet with a recognizable flavor profile.  The thick “local and sustainable” patty is served with a red onion and bacon marmalade that explodes with flavor.  That, along with an heirloom tomato slice and butter lettuce make this burger deliciously well balanced.  It should also be noted the Juicy Lucy is served with Duck Fat Fries.  Yup… these fries are no joke.  Bacon marmalade and duck fat fries on the same plate? Yes Please!!! 1227 W. 18th St. Pilsen

Centro Ristorante-  I can’t remember a time I’ve EVER had a subpar meal at any of the Rosebud Restaurants.  They’re not only known for their exceptional food, but also their consistency.  Centro is their most recent opening, yet it is a revival of one of their very first Rosebud locations, Centro on Wells. But man, this River North spot knows how to do a a Steakhouse burger.  Their Rosebud Burger on a Butter Bun is perfection.  Don’t you dare get it cooked more than medium rare, as this thick juicy patty doesn’t deserve to be dried out.  The butter bun is soft and scrumptious and it needs no more accoutrements than the simple combo of lettuce, tomato, and ketchup.  One of the best steakhouse burgers I’ve ever had.  6 W. Hubbard St. River North

Chop Shop- This is one of my favorite NEW spots in EVERY aspect.  It’s a kick-ass restaurant, it’s an Italian butcher shop, and also an entertainment/live music venue.  It’s everything I love in one spot! But their burger is wonderful and is already scoring them a ton of buzz.  Once again, simplicity and classicism win over pomp and flash.  Their Butcher Burger is comprised of Slagel Farm beef (yay!!), aged cheddar, and smokey bacon.  Cooked perfectly, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly delicious.  This place will be my second home for sure.  Oh, did I mention their incredible cocktail and craft beer menu??? Yea, definitely will be my second home.   2033 W. North Ave. Wicker Park

Odge’s- From the outside, Odge’s looks like a local graffiti artist had a field day.  Inside… well it’s your typical old school Chicago hot dog/burger stand.  The warm cozy nostalgia takes a back seat to the delicious burger.  Double patty, oozy melted American cheese, grilled onions, ketchup, mustard, on a sesame seed bun.  It was perfect and whisked me back to childhood and everything that is great about regional Chicago casual cuisine.  If you want a solid and traditional burger… no frills, but cooked perfectly… check out Odge’s.  730 N. Damen Ave. Ukranian Village

Portillo’s-  As I said this list is in no particular order.  That being said, the Portillo’s cheeseburger is the one I eat most often, and may have to be my all time favorite numero uno.  I’ve really never found another burger that can stand up to, or top this charbroiled masterpiece.  It’s simple, and it’s perfect in every way.  Lettuce, tomato, mayo, and melty American cheese.  Needs NOTHING else…except maybe the occasional bacon upgrade.  Hats off to you, Portillo’s.  You’ve been curing my hangovers and making me happy for many years past, and I'm sure for many years in the future.  100 W. Ontario St. River North

Dillman’s- Au Cheval has gotten more press for their burger than probably any other food item in  Chicago over the last year.  Yes, the Au Cheval burger is glorious in every way… and wow…that egg.  However, I wanted to give props to another Hogsalt Restaurant Group creation… the Dillman’s burger.  Dillman’s is what you get when you cross a Jewish Deli with Bavette’s.  A dark intimate room that serves one hell of a matzah ball soup…and burger.  Imagine an actual quality version of a Big Mac on steroids.  The towering double patty with “sharp” American cheese with dill pickle and dijonnaise is reminiscent of American’s iconic “I’m lovin it” burger.  Only better, wayyyy better.  It’s delicious and needs its own place in the spot light… apart from it’s famous Au Cheval sibling.  354 W. Hubbard St. River North

Edzo’s- Let’s just say when I met the manager, Thom, at Edzo’s he informed me that he’s eaten at least one burger a day for the last 27 years.  I kid you not.  So it says a great deal that he chose to manage the acclaimed Edzo’s in Lincoln Park.  Now he can satisfy his burger obsession easily, often, and with an amazing product.  Edzo’s does the traditional, old-school burger right.  Fresh, never frozen, tasty thin patty with the traditional toppings, ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion.  The also offer a “Slagel Farm Upgrade” which made me so beyond happy.  It’s not everyday that a fast food burger joint will offer the highest quality, local, sustainable, and “animal friendly” meat. So, I of course, tried the “Spicy Sconnie” burger with the Slagel Farm beef.  It’s made with “ketchipotle sauce”, jalepeno infused Merkt’s cheddar, and grilled onions.  It was spicy, sweet, tangy, and unreal.  Loved every bite.  If I were Thom, I could definitely see eating one of these creations on a daily basis.   2218 N. Lincoln Ave. Lincoln Park

The Wiener’s Circle- Chances are, if you’ve ever been to The Wiener’s Circle, you were likely blackout drunk at 3:30 am.  You also probably remember the screaming insult match you got into with the staff instead of the meal you ordered.  So please allow me to refresh your memory.  I’ve been going to this crazy joint for about 15 years now.  And shockingly, I’ve been there in the broad afternoon daylight…as well as in the dark and ominous twilight hours.  Their charbroiled cheeseburger is out of this world.  I do NOT want to know how it’s made, who is making it, or what the sanitation process is, I put the blinders on for this one .  It’s magic on a bun.  The char flavor with that Merkt’s like sharp cheddar sauce that resembles a neon orange greasy form of crack is sinful.  Literally, i’m sure.  I implore you to try it in the light of day… not only will you remember it, but the staff will go a bit easier on you too.  Tip: Do NOT order the “Chocolate Milkshake”.   2622 N. Clark St. Lincoln Park