Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Discovering All Sorts of Goodies at Trader Joe's South Loop

Stop the presses. Trader Joe's has opened down the street from me. Yes, one block away. I walk out my back door and cross one street. That's it. It is dangerously close I tell you. It's been open about 10 days and I've been there 4 (now 5) times. Of course I've been stocking up on staples, but then I've been adding other stuff that I randomly pick up or have remembered were recommended to me by friends. That's half the fun of TJ's though isn't it? Finding what you "need" but then also roaming the isles picking up random stuff that you didn't know you so desperately needed. I thought I'd tell you about a few of my recent purchases that I recommend:
  • Cinnamon Grahams - these graham crackers are sprinkled with sweet goodness and can be a delicious dessert. Top with peanut butter (especially Spread pb) and mini chocolate chips and you're set. Thanks for the recommendation Jonno!
  • Mango! Mango! Fruit and Yogurt Gummies - I wasn't sure exactly what these were at first, but of course they were next to the checkout aisle so I picked them up (often times those are the best purchases). I thought they might be gummies dipped in yogurt (wouldn't that be tasty), but it turns out they're just very tasty gummy candies in mango and passion fruit flavors.
  • Green Tea Mints - eat just three of these fabulous little leaf shaped mints and  you'll have the same amount of antioxidants you'll get from just one cup of green tea - fabulous!
  • Dried Black Mission Figs - addictive! I LOVE figs. Obsessed probably. It's one of those things like truffles...if I see "fig" on a dish at a restaurant I am inclined to order it. These figs are packed with fiber (5 grams, or 20% of your DV per serving!) and go great with a snack of almonds and cheese (anything from TJs will do, but I'm a fan of the low fat brie or anything soft and blue).
Did you know that Trader Joe's has catalog of recipes on their website? It's fun to peruse these and imagine all the possibilities...Just writing up this blog post is making me hungry...what are some of your favorite TJs products?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Little Bit of History in LA

Standing in front of the El Capitan Theater
People always laugh when I tell them I went to a historic spot in LA. "Every thing's new there, how can there be anything with any history to it?" NOT TRUE!

My Grandma Grace grew up in LA and I loved hearing about her childhood in in California, very different from mine growing up in the Midwestern metropolis of Cleveland, Ohio. It was glamorous to me, because, well it was LA! There were movie stars and glitz. When I told her I was heading west for a visit again I tried to draw out more specifics from her youth but at 89, I've got to get her talking about the right thing to trigger her memory. She's spoken a lot about when she worked at the El Capitan Theatre as an usher, so you can imagine my joy when low and behold, on the way to the Hollywood Bowl, there is was! The theatre debuted in 1926 and was "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama" then saw its birth as a movie house in 1941 with the world premiere of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane", and was reborn as the Hollywood Paramount in 1942. In the early 90s the theatre was purchased by Disney and restored to its former glory as a venue for live theater.

Also making its debut in the 40s (April, 1947) was The Apple Pan - a burger joint that served up some quality pie topped with ice cream. The tradition is still going strong and the place looked like it hadn't changed much in the over half a century they've been in operation. You find a place sitting at the counter, order one of the two burgers or sandwiches, enjoy, get some pie and pay cash (yes, they've got the old school cash registers to boot). GREAT place!

So many options, what will Jonno choose?!
Who can forget Pink's Hot Dogs? Opened in 1939 this 71 year old establishment draws lines no matter what time of day it is! As a hot dog fein (it's true I have the "I Heart Hot Dog" t-shirt to prove it) this was a MUST visit on the LA trip this time. It's a good thing the line was long (this was after my visit to the Hollywood Bowl with Jonno and an evening feasting on gourmet cheese and Crumbs cupcakes - we were starving for something more substantial) because it gives customers enough time to decide from the slew of delectable hot dog items (a bacon burrito dog anyone?) I opted with the traditional cheese dog, and while it's not a Vienna Beef Chicago dog, it hit the spot.

Look at that tasty dog!
I really did a lot of GREAT eating on this trip to LA. I finally checked out Urth Cafe (LOVE), went back to Jack N Jills for brunch (great rice bowls - a breakfast fave for me!), enjoyed gourmet food and drinks at the chic Gold Class Cinemas, and of course snuck in many a trip to yogurt fave Pinkberry. Lots of fun eating and as always a fun-filled few days in La La Land!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spread. It. On.

Spread bills itself as Nouveau Comfort Food.
I love peanut butter. Not as much as my friend Lauren though....she takes the cake. On my recent LA visit I saw a sign for a store called Spread. Intriguing. I wouldn't have been surprised if Spread were one of those red light stores (you know the kind I mean, but this is a PG blog after all), but was pleasantly surprised to find this was a store selling couture peanut butter! Lauren would be in absolute heaven!

I chatted with the owner a bit (he started the PB company with his wife in San Diego) and discovered that this peanut butter has been getting accolades all over. They were featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" - the Nutty edition. At $10 for a 4 oz jar, this stuff isn't cheap, but I was a convert after sampling "several" (OK, maybe 10) different varieties. I settled on #59 the famed seasonal cinnamon gourmet peanut spread and was told to "warm it" and spread it on waffles, toast, chocolate, anything. Other favorites? #30 white chocolate blueberry peanut spread, #69 cookies and cream peanut spread, and the #7 dark chocolate peanut spread.

Definitely looking forward to trying some tasty treats with my peanut spread!