Monday, November 12, 2012

FoodGirlAdventures is Moving!

Heads up everyone! I've got a fancy new website, and I'm moving the blog over there. From now on, you can read my posts at

If you read this blog via an RSS feed, the feed should update automatically. In case it doesn't, the new feed address is Simple, right?

Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lemonade for a Good Cause

I was back in LA this past weekend and attended Alex's Lemonade Stand, a wonderful charity raising money to treat and prevent childhood cancer. The event was beautifully organized, the weather was fantastic, the attendance was star-filled (Jimmy Kimmel was the Emcee for the event, Michelle Branch performed and there seemed to be an endless stream of celebrities) and the food was worth writing home about.
Of course there was lemonade with fresh strawberries
One of the highlights of the day for me was meeting Katrina Markoff - the founder of Vosges Chocolate. I have been a huge fan of the exotic truffles, hot chocolate, mixes and all things Vosges for years so it was a true honor to meet the woman behind the purple boxes.

Decadent Vosges truffles (courtesy of
I had the opportunity to enjoy food from some of my favorite celebrity chefs. I had panini with nutella and banana prepared by one of my favorite Food Network stars Giada De Laurentiis (she brought her adorable daughter Jade). Chef Jonathan Waxman made a seemingly simple salad with steak that melted in my mouth. Fellow "Top Chef Master" contestant Mary Sue Milliken prepared a chip with the most delicious bean mixture.

Mary Sue's hearty bean dish

"Top Chef" season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio was nice enough to pose for a picture with me.

I think we'd make a pretty cute couple

Chef Voltaggio's delicious oyster chicken dish served cleverly in oyster shells nestled on a bed of salt rocks
The food was all tremendous. Each chef spent their time and effort preparing dishes that were thoughtful, beautiful executed and delicious. Most stood up to the 80+ degree temperatures too which was mighty impressive.
Loved this dish - it's purple potatoes were stunning
Quirky presentation plus caviar

Treats - some filled with ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery
The lively scene at Culver Studios
Looking forward to get more involved with a wonderful charity and attending this event again next year!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wine Tasting in Temecula

We all know that California features some of the very best wine in the country. On a recent trip to LA I discovered that southern California has some wonderful vineyards and views that could rival that of its Northern compatriots.

Temecula has a rich history in the wine industry with many successful vineyards establishing themselves in the early 19th century. The region is stunning offering a backdrop of mountains amongst the vines and green valleys.

Old Town Temecula feels like something out of a Western movie. The main street has a host of unique boutiques, specialty foodie stores (there's one for gourmet olive oil and another for root beers from all over the country) and restaurants. There is an incredible farmer's market on Saturdays with an impressive array of fresh fruits, veggie, smoothies, prepared foods and treats.

Of course you'll want to do some wine tasting on your visit to Temecula. There are a wide variety of options with some 40 wineries to visit in the region, but I loved Ponte Winery. The views here were especially stunning and you can't argue with 8 pours (your choice of wine) accompanied by addictively good pita crisps.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Diner en Blanc

Diners walking to the secret location for Diner en Blanc (

The scene was stunning. Hundreds of diners chicly clad in white feasted under twinkling lights in the iconic North garden of Chicago’s Art Institute. Everyone was smiling, laughing and overall enjoying a truly unique experience that drew curious glances from Michigan Avenue tourists. Diner en Blanc. You’ve probably seen the pictures of crowds dressed all in white cavorting the night away with sparklers, picnicking to the 9s and twirling napkins in the air like a dervish. You might have thought this was some crazy French phenomena. It was, and then it made it’s way here to Chicago on a warm August 24th.

Diner en Blanc has a strict set of guidelines that ultimately allow for a truly unique dining experience. Participants are only allowed to register for the event by invitation. The venue is a complete secret so guests only select their meeting location at the time of registration. Guests are asked to dress in white from head to toe (most are fully dressed to impress with hats, feathers and festive attire like something from a magazine photo shoot.) A limited number of tables and chairs are available for rent, but many of the attendees came toting their own (the all-white rule applies here too as well as table size and height specifications.) Guests arrived at their preassigned meeting location and were led to the clandestine and notable location at Chicago’s Art Institute.
Dinner in candlelight at the Art Insitute
Uber gourmet picnics by celebrity chef Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia and “Top Chef Masters” fame) were available for sale. There were a variety of picnic options including some decadent dishes: roasted Amish chicken, smoked Great Lakes Whitefish spread, Red Hen Bakery baguettes, pork and duck pate, Sambuca-spiked watermelon, pistachio and vanilla financier cakes and Amaretti cookies. The options were truly mouth-watering. Guests bringing their own picnic dinners packed equally impressive fare.

The night was truly a unique experience for those attending, and anyone watching the evening unfold.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Ode to Sprinkles

Don't you just want to take a nibble from this big sugar cookie?
No, not that Sprinkles (btw though their cupcakes are tasty there are others I prefer.) I'm taking about sprinkles. Chocolate. Rainbow. Funfetti. The bursts of sugar always add a little fun to a sugary treat.

Sprinkles are French in origin and date back to the late 18th century when they were called pieces montees (please excuse the lack of accents) translating to "assembled pieces". Nonpareils ("without equal") are circular balls of sugar. Nonpareils (synonymous with the round chocolate candy in light pastel colors) are also a favorite of mine because their little white bubbles on chocolate make my heart sing on Snow-Caps at the movies.

The mouthwatering showcase of sprinkled treats at Sweet Mandy B's
Sprinkles instantly solicit fun and childlike pleasures. My fiance is obsessed with rainbow sprinkles in particular; he never met one he didn't like. I celebrate his enthusiasm and continue to look for new baked goodies with the sugary confection to tantalize his (and of course my) taste buds.

Rainbow sprinkle cupcakes I baked for Jonno (recipe courtesy of M. Stewart)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day Trip to Madison

Sitting at the Terrace with Annie & Jackie
Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending the day in Madison, Wisconsin. Just a few years ago (ahem, OK over a decade ago) I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and it's always fun to go back for a visit with my girlfriends, especially during the summer.

Dane County Farmers' Market - Madison, WI
The Dane County Farmers' Market bills itself as the largest producer-only farmers market in the US, and it truly is an event. Every Saturday farmers, cheesemongers, bakers and the likes setup shop around the beautiful state capital. There's live music galore and the scene (especially on a beautiful summer's day) is a spectacle.

Look at those curds! (courtesy of
Babcock Hall Dairy - ice cream made at UW!
After perusing the market and making a few purchases (carrots, baby zucchini, green onions and some delightful tea breads) we took a break for lunch. Lucky for us Annie had done her research and steered us towards a wonderful restaurant on the square called The Old Fashioned. The food had a distinctively fresh Wisconsin focus to its menu. I left a happy diner after eating a walleye sandwich, and the ladies had some of the best cheese curds I can remember eating too!

Yes, UW makes it's own ice cream!

After some shopping along State Street, it was time for the Memorial Union Terrace. Situated on Lake Mendota, our student union is stunning. There are few other campus who could boast the views, the beer selection, or the ice cream that UW can proudly claim. We each enjoyed ice cream (I had banana peanut butter) as we sat outside and reflected on the day and our next adventure together.

View of Madison looking at the Capital from State Street

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Horrifically Unhealthy Chicago Food Faves

When you're visiting Chicago you must have a piece of deep dish pizza. It's almost a crime not too because this is the food (along with Chicago style hot dogs) that is so often identified with the city.

Wiener Circle. My favorite hot dog in the city is probably calorie laden but it's a treat.
Imagine my surprise as I'm eating my breakfast yesterday and the local NBC news cast starts listing off the horrific nutritional details of this treat. 800 + calories in one slice?! 48 grams of fat?! I almost fell off my chair remembering maybe not so fondly, the times I've enjoyed not one or two slices, but sometimes THREE slices. It's just that good that it's hard to resist.

How can you resist this popcorn goodness? (courtesy of the Chicago Reader)
Who doesn't love Garretts Chicago Popcorn Mix? There is something so sinfully delicious in the mix of caramel sweetness and day-glow orange cheddar. One cup packs 400 calories and 36 grams of fat! Yikes.

I don't know about you, but I'm going for a run.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Biking and Eating Take Two (or Three)

Just around midnight with friends Janet & Lara getting pumped for our 25-mile ride
You already know I love biking and eating as referenced by earlier blog entries. There is something so special about hopping on your bike heading for a new destination. The food seems to taste different, maybe because of the excitement surrounding the new adventure. I've lived in Chicago for over a decade and have always wanted to try the L.A.T.E Ride, a 25-mile journey that starts at midnight and ends as the sun rises over the city. It sounds poetic doesn't it?

And we're off! Great vantage point for a shot of the riders (courtesy of

Chicago's Chinatown (courtesy of Wikipedia)
I envisioned my friends and I traversing the city from Chinatown (perhaps for dim sum?) through Greektown (for a late night gyro.) We could feast on tasty bits in Wicker Park and get late night tacos in Humboldt Park. No, the ride didn't exactly happen like that. Instead we slowly (oh so slowly, barely pedaling at the start) made our way across the city. There was an unexciting rest stop mid-ride where we enjoyed not-yet-ripe bananas, but it didn't matter I was famished and they tasted great.
Here comes the sun
As we finished the final stretch of the ride along the lakefront trail, we could see that the sun was intending to rise. We biked faster and made it back to Grant Park in time to see a beautiful sunrise. There was live classical music. There was the scenery and there were treats - chobani yogurt, energy bars, Keifer and oat milk.

And we're done!
What a truly memorable Chicago experience! It was a tough go starting a ride at midnight at finishing up around 5, but after a shower, a long nap and some eggs I was a happy camper once again. This was such a fantastic way to see the city (well, if you're not planning to do the Chicago Marathon which is also a scenic 26 mile tour) and would recommend it to try at least once!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal - Goodies from Upstate NY

This month I had a host of tasty local treats from Crystal who hails from upstate New York.

I really enjoyed this little bundle of treats:

  • Chai spice macaroons (so light and chewy)
  • Cheesy crackers
  • Homemade strawberry rhubarb jam (LOVE this - I added some to my oatmeal and it was delicious)
  • Little chocolates
  • Maple peanuts

I'm a big fan of getting to try locally made products (and handmade goodies), so this was a fantastic Foodie Pen Pal month!

If you're interested in finding out more about Foodie Pen Pals (a fabulous exchange of goodies both purchased and homemade for foodie bloggers and folks who just enjoy good food) click here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Favorite Summertime Snack

My favorite snack
It's fair to say that I'm obsessed with Cambozola cheese. It's a mixture between brie and blue cheese (Gorgonzola) and is quite addictive. I am very careful to only allow myself to eat a certain amount a day because I could easily eat the entire me it's rich and creamy and oh so delicious.

To make me feel a bit better about myself I pair the tasty cheese with fresh fruit and it's the perfect summertime snack - dates, strawberries and apricots with Marcona almonds. Perfect isn't it?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Holy Crap! Yep, It's a Cereal

Holy Crap! is a pretty funny name for a cereal. My friend Lara gifted me with this treat made in Vancouver, and I've been meaning to post about it.

This stuff comes in a wee little bag about the size of some TJ's nut mixes. The portions are small to boot; this cereal actually expands! Upon close examination the cereal looks super healthy, and it is with all organic goodness - chia seads, hulled hemp hearts (I don't actually know what those look like, but they're listed on the ingredients), buckwheat, cranberries, raisins, apple and cinnamon. They boast that "the three main ingredients three main ingredients are some of the oldest perfect foods known to humans."

Up close and personal (from

Basically you mix 2 tbsp of this miracle cereal (did I mention it has 4 grams of fiber?!) in with about 4 tbsp of almond milk, you wait a few minutes and it expands. Coolest thing ever. If you're looking for something different to start your morning off right, Holy Crap is it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chicago Foodies

I am excited to share that I'll be doing some blogging over at I've been a longtime follower of the blog. I had the opportunity to meet the blog's creator, Josh, and after attending one of their meetings am coming on board with them to do some blogging! You can read restaurant reviews and some travel food goodies as well.

You can read my first posting about The Shanty, an adorable restaurant in Wadsworth, Illinois that is a mere hop, skip and a jump from the Wisconsin border.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: Trader Joe's 100%

Ooh I am loving my foodie pen pal packages. Once a month me and fellow food bloggers exchange boxes of treats (both homemade and store bought) and then write about them. Who doesn't love getting something in the mail? Even better when it's food related right?!

Ooh, I highly recommend this goodness on your next Trader Joe's visit
After my marathon weekend trip in Ohio I needed to do some grocery shopping. I of course popped around the corner to pick up a few staples at my local Trader Joe's, though I was wanting to get more groceries I told myself there might be some special treats in my Food Pen Pal box! Low and behold I see I have a package from my Foodie Pen Pal, Carrie at Family Fitness Food, and guess what? It is FILLED with delicious foods from Trader Joe's! What more could a girl ask for?!

I always think I've tried everything there is at TJ's, but Carrie proved me wrong by picking up a few of her favorites for my box o' TJ's fun:

Trader Joe's Foodie Pen Pal Goodies from Carrie at Family Fitness Food

Carrie packed my box full of dark chocolate, everything crackers (love), a chocolate bar with peanut butter, creamy TJ's PB, pumpkin seed snacks, two types of seaweed snacks and olive tapenade. She'd also made some peanut butter granola, but sadly it didn't survive the trip from Cali to Chicago.

I sent a box of local (Chicago) chocolate based goodies over to The Little Spoon Blog - check it out here.

If you're interested in learning more about the fabulous Foodie Pen Pals, click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Marathon of a Weekend

I knew it would be a busy weekend for me (when is it not?) With my high school reunion, wedding planning galore and marathon #6 on tap I knew my visit home to Cleveland would be action packed. Of course the weekend plans did not disappoint!

I got to spend time with my Dad eating at healthy middle-Eastern restaurant Aladdin's Eatery followed by dessert treats at Cleveland fave Malley's.

Who can resist the Pink Elephant sundae - peppermint ice cream with hot fudge & penauts
Friday brought wedding errands galore - looking at invitations, going to the florist, the venue, meeting with the caterer - whew! Luckily their was a stop for lunch at Willoughby Brewing Company and then a fun dinner out with my high school girls Erin and Kate with their significant others at Latin fusion restaurant Paladar.

With my girls Erin & Kate
Saturday brought a 15 year high school reunion (shockingly it's been that long!), lunch with my parents and Grandma at Mitchell's Fish Market and dress shopping #1. Luckily there was a few hours of rest time before a relaxing dinner of carbs at Italian-American favorite Mama Roberto's.

Italian-American pastas - the portions are big enough to share AND have leftovers!
Sunday was Marathon day in Cleveland! My parents neighbors Scott and Deidra are also runners and were nice enough to drive me down for the 7 am race start. The Cleveland marathon starts just behind the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Pre-race in front of the Rock Hall
It was not my fastest marathon (Cleveland was actually my slowest of the 6 I've now run) and I'm blaming that in part to the 80+ degree temperatures, but it was wonderful to run all around my fair home city!

Start of the race
My Mom made for a fabulous cheering squad at mile 24, and my Aunt, cousin Heather and her fiance were also a stellar cheer team. My cousin Stephen ran his first marathon, and I keep telling him he's going to want to do more after this. After an afternoon resting we all enjoyed dinner with my grandmother for hibachi style Japanese.

It really was a marathon of a weekend and I'm happy to say I wouldn't have changed anything.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What a Lovely Spring Weekend

I'm a busy girl. If you follow me on Twitter or on Yelp you'll know I'm a gal always on the go. I travel. I go out to eat. I rarely spend my days not planning what's next on the omnipresent to-do list. This past weekend however I relaxed a bit. Things weren't as structured.

River North's Slurping Turtle (courtesy of Eater Chicago)
I had a dinner date with my friend Annie that we'd had on the books for months. We had secured a reservation at the soon to be closing (August) Charlie Trotter's. In Chicago's culinary world, this is it. The mecca of fine dining. A few days before our reservation you know what we did? We cancelled. Shocking! We agreed we didn't want to be spending $300 a person on dinner and instead opted for a more low key experience at Takashi's Slurping Turtle.

Loved this dish - spicy ramen noodles with little chunks of meatball goodness
The modern and bustling vibe of the Japanese-style restaurant with shared tables and boisterous diners is quite the different dining experience, but we both loved our duck fat fried chicken bites, grilled asparagus and scallops, umami brussel sprouts, tuna and truffle oil tacos and steaming bowl of spicy sausage ramen. It was quite the feast, so much so I had to roll myself the mile and a half home - luckily I walked to burn off a few calories I'd consumed.

Mushroom, asparagus & green onion crepe from Chicago's Green City Market
Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn to visit the Green City Market. I arrived safely by bike and no sooner had I sat down to enjoy my mushroom and asparagus crepe, did the rain start pouring down. My friend Janet was kind enough to meet me there in the rain and brought an umbrella too. Rain aside we perused the seasonal fare and split many of the goods - fresh lettuce, bundles of asparagus and Brunkow cheese spread (raw milk cheddar goodness!)

Despite the rain I was elated when I saw morels at the market!
I was beside myself (I did a little dance in the farmer's tent) when I saw morel mushrooms! Yes these are pricey little funghi but they are amazingly intoxicating and only make an appearance in the spring. After running errands Saturday afternoon I found myself at Macy's (ahem, Marshall Fields for all ye Chicago folk) flagship store on State Street for a free cooking demo by none other than Takashi Yagihashi who's restaurant I'd dined at the night before.
I had a great seat for this Chef Demo with Takashi at Macy's
I enjoyed an unexpected three-course lunch and cooking demo, and ended up buying a cookbook for him to sign as well. If I'd been in planning mode I never would have stumbled upon this random fun! At night I had the pleasure of sauteing my morels in butter and serving them over a bed of brown rice. I slept ridiculously soundly Saturday night!

Interior of adorable Swedish restaurant Svea (courtesy of
Sunday was definitely my funday! I called my Mom in Ohio of course to wish her a Happy Mother's Day, and then headed up north to Andersonville with friends Lara and Lesley for Swedish style pancakes with lignonberries at traditional restaurant Svea. We had beautiful spring weather in Chicago Sunday and it made shopping around at all the adorable boutiques and galleries that much more fun.
Traditional Swedish pancakes with lignonberry jam at Svea
 We treated ourselves to ice cream at George's and I have to say that is some of the best ice cream I've enjoyed this year! I had a small scoop of Fat Elvis - banana ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chocolate chips. After a lovely pink champagne toast back at Lara's with her roommate Jen, it was time for cleaning and decompressing at home.

Fat Elvis ice cream (courtesy of George's website)
Whew - what a weekend right! For not over planning I think I still managed to make some action packed fun. Next up is my high school reunion/wedding planning/marathon #6 weekend at home in Ohio!