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Posts from the ‘Everywhere But Chicago’ Category

Five Things I Learned While Eating My Way Through Spain

In 2016, I finally took my taste buds to the Eastern Hemisphere for the first time.  This chic travelled solo to Spain.  While in Spain, I visited 4 cities (Madrid, Barcellona, Valencia, Seville) and had a ball.  Spain is beautiful.  The people are amazing.  And the food is even more amazing.  While eating my way through Spain, this is what I learned:

  1. ‘Menú del día’ is a wonderful thing.  Menú del día means menu of the day.  Monday through Friday restaurants will serve a three course meal (includes bread & your choice of beverage for one price for lunch.  The choice of dishes are prepared with thought & precision.  And the  portion sizes are hearty since lunch is typically the largest meal eaten in Spain.  I found these meals my most enjoyable.  Below are pics from my menú del día at Toro Tapas in Madrid.
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    Vegetable & Potato Salad topped with Tuna

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    Grouper Fish in Green Sauce with Clams

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    Apple Pie

  2. A spanish tortilla in Spain has a different meaning.  Spanish tortilla in Spain is different than the tortilla made for tacos.  If you see ‘Spanish Tortilla’ on the menu, this is a dish made with eggs, onions, and potatoes.  I ate spanish tortillas almost every morning for breakfast at my hotel.
  3. Food tastes fresher.  It is what is.  Potato chips from a corner store tasted as if they were made with ONLY potatoes fried in oil with minimal salt without any extra added preservatives.

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    My Chip Fix

  4. Siesta is a ‘real’ thing.  Pay attention to the hours of operation for restaurants, shops, & other businesses you would like to visit.   Some places are closed for 2 to 3 hours before they reopen during siesta.  Side Note: You might want to carry a few snacks in your bag to tide you over until you can find somewhere to get a meal.
  5. Sometimes the best made plans occur when there is a change in plans. Piggybacking on lesson 4, I had 1 restaurant picked out.  I had studied the menu; but I failed to check the hours of operation.  Good thing that they were closed or else I would not have found a  vegetarian restaurant, El Estragón Vegetarano in Madrid.  And of course, I ordered the menú del día 😉
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    Salad with Feta Cheese

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    Broccoli Burger with Trimmings

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    Vanilla Custard topped with Chocolate

This was only a snippet of what I ate while in Spain.  And yes, I ate tapas & drank wine while in Spain.  But I will save that for another post.

I am looking forward to returning to Spain.  But in the meantime there are a ton of other places I must cross off the Dish Destination list first 😉

It’s Not Goodbye. It’s Hello.

I missed soooooooo many holidays. I missed soooooooo many possible posts. This chick was busy making some changes before 2016.

I know July was my last post; but I was busy saying, ‘Until we meet again’, to my favorite city, Chicago. I traded pizza, lemon pepper wings, and State Street for clam chowder, sourdough bread, and Market Street. I moved to East Bay area of California.

When I settled in the Bay Area, I had felt the need to visit Brown Sugar Kitchen, located on Oakland’s Westside.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Each time I visited Brown Sugar Kitchen there was a wait. And honestly, the food was well worth the wait. Chef Tanya Holland’s soul food creations will make your taste buds happy. My favorite item on the menu is the Cornmeal Waffle. The light and airy waffle served with brown sugar butter & apple cider syrup truly dissolves in your mouth with minimum effort.

Chicken & Waffles

Chicken & Waffles

Check out Brown Sugar Kitchen’s website for the hours & location. I have added a few pictures detailing my taste excursion.

Chai Tea Latte

Chai Tea Latte

Brown Sugar Kitchen

2 Eggs, Chicken Sausage, Toast, & Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Tasting New Orleans Part 2: Crescent City Cooks

Just minutes after starting my walk through the French Quarter, I bumped into a few shops along Chartres Street. I ducked inside one shop that sold unique kitchen decorative items, local food items, and regional cookbooks. On my way out, I saw a cooking demo class schedule posted outside the door of Crescent City Cooks located at 201 Chartres Street in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter.

Crescent City Cooks

Crescent City Cooks

I quickly walked back in the shop and paid $30.00 USD for Saturday demo class; and patiently waited for Saturday morning to arrive.

The demo class at Crescent City Cooks was more than what I expected. Chef Scott, one of the instructors, gave us a lesson in creole and cajun cooking while creating amazingly delicious dishes.

Chef Scott Giving A Lesson

Chef Scott Giving A Lesson

Arrive earlier, to make sure you get a great seat. If you don’t get a great seat, the remaining seats are good. Large mirrors & a large screen allows you to witness the cooking action.

See What's Cookin'

See What’s Cookin’

Before you arrive, I suggest that you only eat a light breakfast. Crescent City Cooks will make sure you leave satisfied.

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

Chicken Fricassee

Chicken Fricassee

Bread Pudding w/Rum Sauce

Bread Pudding w/Rum Sauce

After leaving Crescent City Cooks, you will be able to conquer the streets of New Orleans on a full tummy 🙂

Tasting New Orleans Part 1: Everything You Think It Is

Instead of going back to Miami, I decided to venture to a city that I have never visited. Everyone I know that had visited this city would talk about how great the food is so I had to experience it for myself. And yes, New Orleans is everything they say it is and more.

I am going to take you on a visual tour of the restaurants I experienced in NOLA:

DayONEKingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

Pimento Cheese Fritters @ Kingfish

No. 10 - Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

No. 10 – Crawfish & Green Tomato Galette with Sweet Corn & Red Bean Relish topped with a Poached Egg @ Kingfish

DayTWOThe Original Pierre Maspero’s

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero's

Shrimp & Southern Fried Fish Platter @ The Original Pierre Maspero’s

DayFOUR

Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

Beignets & Café Latte @ Café Du Monde

The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Pomegranate Mimosa @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Crabmeat Cheesecake @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

Bleu Cheese Salad with Crawfish @ The Palace Cafe

The Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

Stuffed Crab Plate @ Praline Connection

DayFIVE

Mother’s Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother's Restaurant

Seafood Half & Half (Calamari & Oysters) @ Mother’s Restaurant

Pier 424 Seafood Market

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish @ Pier 424

DaySIXMr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House

Charbroiled Oysters with Garlic & Parmesan @ Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House

I could go on about each dish and each restaurant; but I won’t. I wish I would have saved Kingfish for last. The flavor combinations & creativity blew my tastebuds away. The unique Crabmeat Cheesecake at The Palace Cafe and the Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish (served with roasted mirliton, sweet potato andouille hash, and sauce meunière at Pier 424 Seafood Market did not disappoint either. Every meal I ate was great.

What was very interesting also is that three of the restaurants I walked into because I liked the menu, are owned by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. Go figure. The three restaurants are: Kingfish, Piere 424 Seafood Market, and The Original Pierre Maspero’s. Each restaurant has its own style while offering great food and good service (The Palace Cafe wins the best service award for this visit.)

And yes, I ate pralines. There are so many company’s that sell pralines in New Orleans. My favorite of all the pralines I tasted is Pa Pa Praline located in the outlet mall located along the river walk named (The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk).

And to cool off on the super humid & hot days, I went to The French Market for snoballs.

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Peach Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

Kiwi & Cream Snoball @ The French Market

And no I didn’t skip DayTHREE. Number three will be part two of my foodie vacation 🙂

Restaurant Review: Franco’s Cucina

About thirty miles northwest of Chicago’s city limits, you will find an authentic Italian restaurant that will make you forget about any chain Italian restaurant that you may patronize. The other day I had the pleasure of experiencing Franco’s Cucina located at 1550 Bourbon Parkway located in the suburb of Streamwood, Illinois.

Twenty years ago, Emily and Franco Iacciano with their son John, decided to open Franco’s Cucina after operating a successful bakery business. The Iacciano family poured their passion for food into their Italian deli and bakery.

Their passion for food can be found in each bite. From the very first bite of Chicken Vesuvio, I could tell that this visit was going to be a most memorable one.

Chicken Vesuvio

Franco’s Cucina Chicken Vesuvio

At Franco’s massive counter, you will be greeted with a welcoming smile by a member of their friendly staff. You can order piping hot daily specials, sandwiches, salads, and pizza at one end of the counter. At the opposite end, is a vast selection of sweet indulgences that made me forget about my New Year’s resolution.

I blew my New Year’s resolution in less than an hour. The Tiramisu was amazing. The Cannoli was spectacular. It was my first time experiencing Zeppole. The custard was light and airy. Biting into the Zeppole felt like I was biting into a sweet satisfying unforgettable cloud.

Franco's Cucina Cappuccino

Franco’s Cucina Tiramisu

Franco's Cucina Cannelloni

Franco’s Cucina Cannelloni

Zeppolli

Franco’s Cucina Zeppolli

In my book, Franco’s Cucina cannot do anything wrong. They even create the perfect cup of Cappuccino. I didn’t even add sugar to this beautiful work of art. Whether it was paired with a Biscotti or a Lemon Knot, the rich taste of the Cappuccino remained smooth.

Cappuccino

Franco’s Cucina Cappuccino

Remember to take your appetite when you go to Franco’s Cucina. The flavors are huge and so are the servings. According to owner, John Iacciano, “Go big or go home”.

Daily Specialss

Saturday Daily Specials

I now know why Franco’s Cucina has been around for 20 years. Happy 20th Anniversary to Franco’s Cucina. I wish them twenty plus more years to come 🙂

Additional Photos from Franco's Cucina

Additional Photos from Franco’s Cucina

Tasting My Way Through Atlanta

For my pre-birthday celebration, I decided to take a quick trip to Atlanta. It has been 4 years since I visited the city where I lived for at least 9 years. I had been searching the Web and discovered the Atlanta food scene had changed in the time that I had been away. And let’s just say that the change was for the better.

My first stop was to a buffet with great tasting food and awesome service. For the low price of $10 (excluding gratuity/tip) you can enjoy all you can eat soul food at Murrell’s Café located at Interdenominational Theological Center in the historically black college district of the West End community.

Murrell's Cafe

Collard Greens, Dressing, Macaroni & Cheese, Cornbread from Murrell’s Cafe

Later that night I decided to have a night cap at my old stompng ground, Café Intermezzo located on Peachtree Street in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood. The peach martini hit the spot.

Café Intermezzo

Peach Martini @ Café Intermezzo

The next morning in the middle of a 3 mile walk I stumbled across Sublime Doughnuts. Located in Atlanta’s Home Park neighborhood just west of the Midtown community, do not be surprised if the line is outside the door

Sublime Doughnuts

Fresh Strawberry N Cream Doughnut @ Sublime Doughnuts

Sublime Doughnuts

Orange Dream Star Doughnut @ Sublime Doughnuts

I am happy that I didn’t eat a huge breakfast. I had to save room for the Taste of Atlanta. Yes, Atlanta has their own Taste. It was one enjoyable food experience. I purchased a ticket for the VIP Experience so there were additional benefits including the standard benefits of this amazing festival.

Taste of Atlanta

A Few Tastes @ the Taste of Atlanta

My favorites were:

Polaris, Atlanta

Georgia Pumpkin Spuma with Pumpkin Seed Oil From Polaris

Ink & Elm

Pickled Shrimp with Deviled Egg Sauce, Mustards, & Crispy Chicken Skin from Ink & Elm

Chai Pani

Kale Pakoris from Chai Pani

Choya Umeshu

Choya Umeshu

After all that tasting, I decided to go have dinner later that evening at Negril Village. Negril Village is located on 10th Street inside the old firehouse steps away from the MARTA station. The unique Jamaican dining experience awakened my taste buds with bold flavors. I ordered the Ginger-Lime Brick Chicken with Herb roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed cabbage, and ginger chicken jus. The chicken was tender and easy to pull off away from the bone. While you are there, make room for for dessert 🙂

Negril Village Atlanta

My Experience @ Negril Village, Atlanta, Georgia

I enjoyed my brief visit to Atlanta. Of course, I did not scratch the surface of the amazing eats Atlanta has to offer. Next time, I will be sure to stay a little longer in order to check out other restaurants located in Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs. If you have any Atlanta area restaurant suggestions, be sure to let me know.

The Other Side of South Beach: A Foodie’s Tale

With so much coming at me, I decided to get away for a much deserved extended weekend. I wanted to go where the water and sky is crystal blue. I wanted the sun to kiss my skin. With that said, I also wanted all of this in the continental United States. I found a deal within my budget that took me to South Beach.

Paradise. Getaway. Vacay.

Paradise. Getaway. Vacay.

When people think of South Beach, beaches, palm trees, bikinis, and partying instantaneously comes to mind. As a foodie, I had to see what South Beach restaurants had to offer. I must say, my overall food experience didn’t disappoint. I did’t have a researched prepared list of restaurants before I departed Chicago. The hotel where I stayed provided me with a list of ‘popular’ restaurants. After trying one of the restaurants on their list, I decided to go rogue and leave the list on the nightstand.

After my run on Saturday morning, I needed to fuel my body. As I strolled along Collins Avenue, I came across La Provence Artisanal French Bakery & Cafe at 1629 Collins Avenue. I bought a fresh fruit cup and a chicken empanada. I took my sweaty self back to the hotel and ate breakfast on the private balcony of my room.

La Provence

La Provence

For dinner, I took the advice of the hotel list and went to Joe’s Stone Crab at the far south end of the beach at 11 Washington Avenue. The food was fresh and the service was great. Eating at Joe’s, I felt as if I was eating at another good seafood restaurant. I didn’t feel as if I was having a dining experience unique to South Beach. The lighting was dim so I couldn’t capture any great photos. I say, if you are in South Beach and you have some spare time, check out them out.

The next day I walked myself into a hunger frenzy. A sign that read Happy Hour and $5 mojitos drew me in. Keep in mind, it was Saturday at 1:30 in the afternoon. This sign was in front of Yuca (Young Urban Cuban American) located at 501 Lincoln Road. I decided to order Ceviche Salvaje, a fresh medley of seafood served with tostones. Who could go wrong with $5 mojitos? I left Yuca more than satisfied and feeling great. Keep in mind, Yuca was not on the hotel’s list.

Yuca

Yuca

When I woke up on Sunday, I was famished. I went to Yardbird for brunch. Located on the corner of 16th Street and Lenox Avenue at 1600 Lenox Avenue, Yardbird did not disappoint. I ordered a little bit of everything. I learned that the chicken is marinated for 27 hours. I love my mother’s fried chicken; but I think Yardbird’s chicken would win over my mother’s recipe hands down. And because of Yardbird, I know I cannot give up chicken :-). Another favorite of mine at Yardbird was the Chilled Spiced Watermelon. With a mixture of spices, they turned my favorite summertime dessert into a savory side.

For brunch, they offer a limited dessert menu. I walked my happy self right back to Yardbird for the Key Lime Donut Bites. They are served with coconut pudding, mango jellies, and a crunch topping. I am glad that I waited to get back to the room to eat dessert. When I bit into what appeared to be a sugary donut whole, a burst of yummy key lime filling took me by surprise. I wolfed down the donuts before I realized that I had more containers in the box. The coconut pudding and mango jellies are good enough to shine on their own. I forgot to mention, Yardbird wasn’t on the hotel’s ‘list’ either.

Yardbird

Yardbird

I don’t know about you; but I could not go to South Beach without soaking up some sun. I put on my bathing suit, sprayed on the sunscreen, threw my bag over my shoulder, and went to the beach to lay out like it was nobody’s business. I was on vacation so I was not in the mood to find a grocery store. I ordered beach service from DiLibo’s Beach Club. Because the sun was blazing, I ordered a humus plate and an amazing virgin frozen drink. I forgot the name; but it was a refreshing combination of ginger and lime juice. I believe there was a splash of pomegranate or cranberry juice added.

DiLibo Beach Club

DiLibo Beach Club

While you are Lincoln Road, remember to stop into Dylan’s Candy Bar. I picked out an assortment of circus sticks. I also took advantage of the Green Market that was held on Sunday. I couldn’t resist buying tea from Exotic Tea & Spice.

Dylan's Candy Bar

Dylan’s Candy Bar

Green Market

Green Market

Do not let anyone tell you that South Beach is not a great food city because overall I enjoyed my food excursion. When you go to South Beach, put on regular clothes and eat a meal or two at a table with a chair 🙂 With so much to eat in so little time, I didn’t get a chance to go to half of the restaurants that I found on the internet when I stopped being lazy. I look forward to next year when I go back to South Beach. South Beach is worthy of an annual foodie holiday 🙂

222: Two Restaurants, Two Days, Two States

In 2 days, I had the opportunity to visit 2 restaurants in 2 different states. Please don’t rack your brain wondering how I was able to pull off something so diabolical 🙂 I ventured to Cincinnati, Ohio and right across the bridge were good eats in Covington, Kentucky.

In Cincinnati, I made my way to the Hyde Park neighborhood and experienced Green Papaya. If you are not familiar with the area, be careful to not pass up the restaurant. This restaurant is found in a short strip mall at 2942 Wasson Road. Their vast menu has something for everyone. NOTE: The lighting in Green Papaya was low. The quality of the pictures do not reflect the quality of the food.

Cucumber Rolls

Cucumber Rolls

Tod Mun

Tod Mun

My favorite dish was the entrée. I ordered Siam Seafood with an order of brown rice. Fresh seafood and vegetables filled each bite.

Siam Seafood

Siam Seafood

Brown Rice

Brown Rice

Across the bridge in Covington, Ohio, I found an eclectic and hip restaurant on Main Street named Otto’s. Located at 521 Main Street with a red rooster guarding the front steps, the staff made me feel at home as soon as I walked through the door.

Otto's

Otto’s

Kate suggested I try their Arnold Palmer. Made with pink lemonade and lightly sweetened tea, this drink paired well with the Chicken Salad Sandwich and Sweet Potato Fries. Don’t look for ketchup to accompany the Sweet Potato Fries. Instead of ketchup, a sweet syrup is served with the crisp Sweet Potato Fries. The Chicken Salad was not packed with extras like relish and eggs. The mayonnaise based Chicken Salad contained and extra crunch from the celery and pecans.

Chicken Salad Sandwich w/ Sweet Potato Fries

Chicken Salad Sandwich w/ Sweet Potato Fries

If you are in the Cincinnati or Covington area, venture back and forth across the bridge. You too can eat at 2 restaurants located in 2 different states in 2 days 🙂

A Taste of Spain: Emilio’s Tapas Restaurant

I have never travelled to Spain. But if I travelled to Spain, I bet the country tastes like Emilio’s Tapas Restaurant in Hillside, Illinois (approximately a forty minute drive northwest from the city of Chicago).

The server will not place chips and salsa on your table while you wait for your lunch or dinner. You will not find tacos, enchiladas, or fajitas on the menu. Emilio’s Tapas Restaurant offers authentic cuisine from Spain.

Emilio’s offers cold and hot tapas, soups, salads, as well as a number of entrées. If you are willing to wait thirty minutes for your meal, Emilio’s have 3 varieties of paellas for you to choose from.

I had the pleasure of feasting on Croquettas Pollo (chicken croquettes), Pollo al Curri (curry chicken salad), and Paealla de Mariscos (seafood paella) Each dish was full of flavor and packed with fresh ingredients. Trust me, the paella was worth the wait (and was superb the next day).

Each dish was brought out one at a time. This isolated the flavors of each dish and allowed me to savor the authenticity of each plate.

Emilio’s is a popular destination in Hillside. I suggest that you make reservations if you want to enjoy great food served with exceptional service.

My Experience @ Emilio's Tapas Restaurant

My Experience @ Emilio’s Tapas Restaurant

Dandelion Market: Charlotte, NC

Have you every gone to a restaurant and all you wanted to do was eat vegetables? I know I have never said, “Hmmmmm, let me order some more vegetables.” Well, I never said it until I had the pleasure of dining at Dandelion Market located at 118 West 5th Street in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dandelion Market

Dandelion Market

After my flight had landed in Charlotte, I search on the Internet to find the best places to eat in Charlotte. Dandelion Market was listed as one of the best restaurants in Charlotte. I looked at the dinner menu online and saw that they had their fare share of veggies, as well as seafood and meat dishes. After I had dropped my bags in my room, I headed over to Dandelion Market.

When you enter into the restaurant, just know that you read the signs outside correctly. You are at Dandelion Market. I liked the rustic European country feel. The decor added a warm and cozy feeling to the restaurant. They serve tapas (small plates). Most tapas restaurants I have been to have modern and trendy decor. Dandelion Market contradicts the typical tapas restaurants I have experienced.

The first dish on the menu that caught my eye was the Fried Beet Falafel. Yep, Dandelion Market had beets and falafel. The falafels had the earthy taste if beets; but the beets had the texture of the falafel. The Fried Beet Falafel was a seemless taste of yummy. The beets were truly fully incorporated into the falafel. They are served with a house made harissa yogurt sauce. The Fried Beet Falafel is able to shine alone without any sauce.

Fried Beet Falafel

Fried Beet Falafel

The next dish that my excellent server, Ms. Jasmine, had brought out for me was the Sweet & Spicy Green Beans. They are served in a small cast iron skillet with tongs. I appreciated that the green beans were not overcooked. The Szechuan sauce and crushed macadamia nut topping were the perfect compliment to the fire grilled green beans.

Sweet & Spicy Green Beans

Sweet & Spicy Green Beans

For my protein, I decided to order the Buttered Sautéed Sea Scallops. They were paired with arugula greens drizzled with pomegranate drizzle. The sweetness of the drizzle balanced salt of the sea scallop.

Buttered Sautéed Sea Scallops

Buttered Sautéed Sea Scallops

Looking at the menu, I couldn’t tell if they served dessert or not. I asked my server about dessert and she rattled off three items. Ms. Jasmine recommended the Ice Cream Sandwiches. It isn’t your typical sandwich cookie. The ice cream sandwich is comprised of rich and creamy mascarpone cheese ice cream sandwiched between two gooey buttery brown sugar cookies. They are served with rather sweet & tart raspberry sauce.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

For drinkers do not worry, they have a full bar. You can order craft beers, wines, and cocktails.

If you are in Charlotte, North Carolina, stop by Dandelion Market. I believe you will be well satisfied.

My Experience @ Dandelion Market

My Experience @ Dandelion Market