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!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Biking to Bridgeport

Pleasant House Bakery & Maria's are next door to each other in Bridgeport
Wednesday was a clear, cool spring day and the city was calling out for a bike ride. Lucky for me I had plans with my friend Jessica to head south for an evening of food and drinks in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.  I LOVE biking to eat, in fact it’s one of my very favorite activities (read about the sweet themed biking & food tour I did with my friend Erin) next to running and eating :)

Having a neighborhood, a bike-friendly route and a destination in place are key when you’re planning your biking and dining adventure.  We knew exactly where we were going. 

Beautiful savory pie (Pleasant House Bakery website)
We headed to the farm-to-table mecca Pleasant House Bakery for savory dinner pies. The savory pies including spinach and kale (my fave) and steak and ale. Lucky for us it was a cool evening so we welcomed the satisfying heat of the pie. We also ordered the mint peas and the deluxe gravy chips – perfectly cooked crispy potato wedges coated with a light gravy, bits of steak and cheddar cheese. We couldn’t say no to the house made ginger soda either.

Jessica was nice enough to treat me to a cocktail next door at Maria’s Packaged Goods. This neighborhood bar has been on my “list” for a long time! Patrons walk through a refrigerator door in the back of a liquor store and enter a cocktail bar with a tremendous beer list and a nice assortment of cocktails too.

This was my first bike outing of the season and I’m looking forward to many more in the coming months!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Celebrating the BIG NEWS

 I can't believe it's already May - there is so much blogging to be catching up on and oh so much that has happened these past two weeks.
Yeah for birthday celebrations!
The last week of April included some whirlwind travels for me - just the way I like it! I was in Ohio celebrating my Grandmother’s 90th birthday (or her “milestone birthday” she didn’t want people to say just how old she was!), my Dad’s birthday and finally my birthday. There was as always a lot of eating out and celebrating with family who traveled from all over.

Celebrating my birthday with my Grandma
I was home in Chicago for all of a day before I headed out to visit the BF in LA. Anywhere I wanted to go he obliged saying “this weekend is all about you.” I knew something was up, but I let him keep telling me that as we ventured to Apple Pan for burgers, SK Doughnuts (twice!), a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, out for the MOST amazing tacos at farmers market fusion hot spot Komida, a hilarious comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade and brunch at Hugo’s for the famous Pasta Mama.

Balance Bowl at Cafe Vida - brown rice, spinach, eggs, chicken, tomatoes & guac!
Korean bibimbap at BibiGo (courtesy of TastingTable)

Apple Pan Burger (courtesy of
SK Doughnuts - AMAZING (courtesy of

Pasta Mama - yes, eggs & pasta for breakfast (courtesy of
All that eating required some serious stair climbing in Santa Monica - what a workout!
Let’s just say I did not go hungry on my LA trip. That Saturday I selected a brunch spot; we visited a farmer’s market and packed a picnic for Malibu Wines. We enjoyed our picnic, drank some good local wine and people watched. We then headed to the very swanky Geoffrey’s along the gorgeous Malibu coast line. The meal was good, but really the scenery was better. Shortly after dinner Jon proposed! I don’t think I do the description of his proposal justice as there were definitely some comedic elements involved, so please read his blog about how the proposal happened here.

With my Handsome Man Jonno at Malibu Wines

Geoffrey's of Malibu - site of our pre-proposal dinner (courtesy of Swell City Guide)
It was a truly memorable weekend! I look forward to many more LA travels and an eventual move to the City of Angels. If you have any LA must visit locations, please do let me know!