Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going all "natural"

I love going to the farmer's market but this year between training for the marathon, work and stuff in general I just haven't seemed to go as often as I would like to. Wednesday I was able to visit Chicago's Green City Market. I am always amazed just how much the market has grown in recent years as the popularity of sustainable, local food sources has grown. It used to be a handful of us on Wednesday mornings sipping our Intelligenstia coffee and doing some light shopping. The Market today is now a bustling metropolis of stores compared with the little market that could just a few years back. It is very exciting to feel the energy and be part of something that is so special to the city of Chicago.

On my shopping trip I bought some beautiful mini sweet yellow tomatoes, peaches, basil (for the pesto of course), cilantro and chives. I had such fabulous intentions for my creations with my bounty from the market, which I have to say if half the fun of the visit. The peaches are so ripe I had to eat them over my wastebasket at work for fear of decorating myself with the juices. Day 2 I cut them (much cleaner eating) and paired them with low fat brie from Trader Joe's and walnuts for lunch. Simple. Delicious. The pint of tomatoes had a sign next to them that said "like candy". Who can resist tomatoes that are supposedly as sweet as candy? Believe it or not they were. These little yellow bits were sweet with a bit of a peppery finish. On Day 1 I cut them into a "salad" with my herbs (just snipping them in with kitchen scissors is way easier than bothering to use a knife) and my fancy tuna in olive oil (Genova Tonno) and Day 2 I sliced them on top of my bagel and veggie cream cheese. This market trip was a "fruitful" one for me and I am already planning my shopping list for next week.

Also on the "natural" front, I was in the mood for ice cream this evening. I do love making my own ice cream and I probably should have just bought the milk and cream I needed to whip up the special treat at home for my own 100% natural experience. But no. I was lured by the new All-Natural line of Haagen-Dazs containing just 5 ingredients. What can I say...I'm influenced by advertising and I was intrigued. I ponied up my $3 and decided on the Brown Sugar flavor. I thought the flavor would be natural and light, but instead the brown sugar was cloying sweet. The texture was smooth and lovely but really I could only enjoy a few bites. Even now my palate is left with a not so pleasant after taste. Will I try it again. Definitely (its in my freezer now after all) but next time I'll add a small cookie to cut the sweetness a bit. If there's a sale going on with ice cream at your grocery though I say "go for it". Please let me know if you try any of the other flavors too...I'm curious about the mint and the vanilla too!

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Weekend, 2 Brunches

My tummy was very happy this weekend. I ran 12 miles on Saturday and I think that "gave me permission" to pig out. I love brunch and really took advantage of that by visiting two of my favorite brunch spots in the city of Chicago.

Day 1 - Bongo Room - 1152 S. Wabash
I hate waiting in long lines for brunch. I'm hungry. I want coffee. I wanted to start eating 20 minutes ago when I began waiting in line. Bongo Room is one of those places that you're usually guaranteed a long wait. It's listed as a "must visit" in all the magazines for tourists, it's in close proximity to the museum campus and around the corner form lots of high rise condos. As one of the best brunch spots in the city everyone and their sister wants to eat here. That is after 10 am - aka the magic brunch hour. I hurried to shower and get out the door to be at Bongo Room by 9:45 am. With 2 of us we were seated immediately in a booth. By 10 am we could see the crowds starting to congregate outside the window. Suckers! There is no better feeling that being comfortably seated in the A/C, drinking an iced coffee and enjoying my absolutely fabulous breakfast.

Bongo Room has some phenomenal pancakes (peanut butter and white chocolate pretzel anyone?) and the famed chocolate tower of french toast, but when it's on the menu I really do have a tough time not ordering the special breakfast burrito. Chorizo. Rock Shrimp. Beans. Eggs. Spinach tortilla. Delicious. Add some rosemary potatoes on the side and you're golden.

I spent the rest of the day watching movies, icing my knees (yes from the running) and recuperating before a night of out to celebrate my friends bachelorette and my brother's birthday. I was out well after midnight, which I may be getting to old for.

Day 2 - David Burke Primehouse - 616 N. Rush
My gluttonous eating continued with a 2-hour American Dim Sum Brunch at David Burke's restaurant in the chic James Hotel. Very different atmosphere here as it this is hotel dining (at its best - in this blogger's humble opinion) and reservations are accepted. No waiting for a table. My party of 3 was comfortably seated in a large booth and we were raring to go. Though the service was not as attentive as I've seen on past visits, the food was never the less stellar and unforgettable.

Dim Sum, small plates of food, is served in the morning in Chinese restaruants. Head to Chicago's Chinatown and you can be waiting in Bongo Room (post 10 am) type lines for Pheonix on Cermak. Who can resist warm steamy bao buns or crispy chicken feet? Ok, I can't, but I'm sure there are readers who any case David Burke, being the incredibly inventive chef that he is, created his American version of this popular eating style at his eponymous Chicago restaurant on Sundays.

The menu offers 27 different small plates starting with traditional brunch goodies (eggs benedict and small panckaes with passion fruit butter); to chilled nibbles (smoked pastrami salmon, oysters, salmon tartar, oatmeal creme brulee served beautifully in a hollowed out egg shell, Caesar salad and granola parfait); to the more Asian inspired menu items (tempura green beans, lobster fries and beef dumblings); onto southern bits (mini hamburgers on brioche buns topped witha kobe beef corn dog, fried chicken drumstick, mac & cheese); and the final savory course a surf & turf (a fried potato skin topped with creamed spinach and beef tenderloin, unfortunately the salmon portion wasn't anything too exciting). Enough already you say? No, no, no...The sweet treats were our finale and we couldn't even finish all of them! The trolley of sweets included make your own mini sundaes, hazelnut or lemon creme brulee, the famed cheesecake lollipops, chocolate cake, chocolate mousee and who could forget the made to order mini fortune doughnuts.

Needless to say after over 2 hours of eating all this plus coffee I looked and felt like I was carrying a large food baby. It was difficult to even walk, yet I found myself purusing the racks at Nordstrom - big belly and all. I'm detoxing now, but there's always a new adventure next week after all, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pesto for my Pasta...or for a sandwich...or for some chicken

I looove pesto, especially in the summer because it tastes incredibly fresh, it's easy to make and you can use it in so many dishes. Now I've read in my food magazines that you can create a batch of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Great idea, but unfortunately when I make my pesto I like to use it immediately. I'm not so great at that planning ahead stuff. If you are though more power to you!

So Pesto...According to my trusty Wikipedia reference guide, Pesto was originated in the Liguria region of Italy. Now I have traveled fairly extensively in Italy but unfortunately I have not been to this beautiful northern coastal region. Someday though right? The "sauces" popularity spread throughout Italy, France (specifically Provence) and other Mediterranean regions. Pesto meaning "to pound" or "to crush" is a reference to the traditional crushed basil, pinenuts and garlic of the "sauce".

With the help of my food processor I will sometimes stick with the traditional ingedients (basil, pinenuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese) but often I'll use whatever I can get my hands on. Here is my recipe for pesto success:

1 cup chopped greens (basil, mint or argula)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pinenuts or pistachios)
1/2 cup+ olive oil
1/2 cup+ parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Garlic 1 or 2 cloves chopped -- I know you're supposed to add some but hey, sometimes I'm just not in the garlic mood (ahem, I don't want to stink to the wholly heavens as I'm sweating out garlic on a run)

*Chop the nuts in the food processor
*Add chopped greens, garlic (if desired) and 1/4 cup of the oo. Pulse until combined. Taste (very important -- does it need more oil? Probably). Scoop mixture off sides and add in more oil. Pulse again until combined.
*Add in your cheese and a bit of salt. Again tasting is very important so have your tasting spoon handy. Add more oil, cheese or salt to make sure you've got the taste down right.

Presto you've got Pesto! See so easy right? Why would you buy the store bought stuff when you can go to a Farmer's Market for the greenies or even just pick up a $2 pack of herbs at the grocery? You can add it to pasta (cook 1 lb. of pasta according to directions, reserve 1/4 cup cooking liquid, drain and then stir together) for a hot or cold dish (referigerate for 2 hours and it makes excellent pasta salad. Even if you don't want to use the pesto with pasta, you can use it in lieu of mayo on your sandwich, use it as a topping for your chicken or fish...

*Other pesto ideas? Please comment and share them!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to our first adventure together

Hello there Ladies & Gentleman!

I'm delighted to at long last have a blog. I've been met with shock and awe when I say "I don't have a blog" or "what would I write about?" You my friends have told me to do what I do best and that is to write about food. This will serve as my new medium for reviewing restaurants (though Yelp will by no means fall by the wayside), discussing food favorites, market visits and basically anything that has to do with food. Welcome to the Adventures with Food Girl!

Up first? A rave about a fabulous snack food discovery that came to me by way of
Costco (thank goodness I love these treats or else I'd be stuck eating a box of 50 of them all by my lonesome!) Brothers All Natural has created some delightfully tasty fruit crisps in the Fuji apple and Asian pear variety. 40 calories, 0 grams of fat, one whole gram of fiber? Can't beat that in a morning snack option. These freeze dried fruits are crispy and light,making for a perfect palate cleanser. Each bag contains one and a half pieces of fruit (shocking I know) and that's other ingredients! Taking a peak at their website ( they also offer bananas, strawberry bananas, pineapple, peaches and a host of potato varieties too. Can't wait to keep snacking!