New Weekly Web Series “What’s Good Wednesdays”

Hi Everyone!

Today I am announcing the launch of my new weekly web series called “What’s Good?” where I will talk about my favorite foods from restaurants, grocery stores and the like. I’ll be posting the episode on Wednesdays.

In this episode, I’m featuring the following:

  • The Hummus at Bin 36 – I had the hummus at Bin 36 and was floored at how fresh and delicious it tasted. It tasted better than many Mediterranean restaurants that I have tried. I was at a party and had to force myself to stop eating it because I literally had plates of it (small plates, but plates). If I had a picnic or event, I would order the hummus specifically and take it to-go. It was served with pita bread, and I loved it. Very unexpected find at a wine-focused restaurant.

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  • Good Vines Wine – I had the pleasure of trying Good Vines Wine at this same event, and was delighted to learn that they give 5% of their proceeds back to a charity (in this case it’s Common Threads, which is my favorite charity), and they also have a lovely Marzemino sparkling red wine. I said Sparkling. Red. Wine. Who knew? It’s very well-balanced (with hints of berries and violets) and not too sweet, so it can pair with a variety of foods. The wine has half the carbonation of Champagne, and it’s quite refreshing. Definitely the kind of wine that I would take to a dinner party or an outdoor picnic. (Can you tell that I like picnics?). The wine is currently sold in the Chicago area at Mariano’s grocery stores, so be sure to pick up a bottle the next time you go shopping. They also have a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Tai-Pinot Grigio as well. Check out their website at http://www.goodvineswine.com

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  • Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese – If you don’t have time to cook and you have a craving for some serious Mac & Cheese, Trader Joe’s has a frozen, gourmet Mac and Cheese that you won’t believe came from a frozen box at the grocery store. It’s very creamy and has 4 cheeses. They also have a light version, but I was told to go for the regular version for the best flavor. This item is great for those days where you just don’t feel like cooking a side item, but you want to eat something delicious. Try a box and let me know what you think.

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That’s “What’s Good” for this week!

If you have any suggestions on foods that I should feature on “What’s Good Wednesdays”, leave me a comment or email me at erica@tastebudenterprises.com. If I decide to feature your suggestion, I’ll give you a shout-out in the video!

See you next Wednesday!

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Official Invitation to the Common Threads Cook-Off

Hot off the press – this is the official invitation for the Common Threads Cook-Off. Isn’t it beautiful? And don’t you want to come? Look at all of these amazing restaurants!

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You Are Invited to Common Threads Cook-Off 2013!!

I’m happy to announce that tickets to the third annual Common Threads Cook-Off are now on sale! It is a fantastic event targeting Chicago’s young professional foodie elite, a fundraising competition of sorts showcasing the city’s finest food and mixology. Chefs create and serve their favorite cookout-themed dish either in a glass, on a bun, in a shell, or on a stick, and guests have the opportunity to try it all, vote on their favorites, and take part in the silent and live auctions.

As a Common Threads Associate Board member, my hope is that you’re inspired by Common Threads’ mission to educate underprivileged children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. It has been such an important part my life and I would welcome the opportunity for you to see a little bit more of what we do.

The value for this event is amazing; the crowd is ideal, the cocktails are bottomless, and you’ll eat ’til your heart’s content courtesy of the most noteworthy restaurants in Chicago.

Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at
http://events.commonthreads.org/eventDetails.aspx?eventId=117

Below is a video invite of what to expect:

Let me know if you plan on purchasing a ticket – I would love to have you!Image

Below is the link to my recap from last year’s event – Don’t miss it!

http://tastebuddiaries.com/2012/09/29/rave-review-for-the-common-threads-cook-off-event/

The Food and Fashion Rocked at “Fashion Rocks!”

I went to a fabulous foodie event Sunday night called Fashion Rocks, held at BellyQ. Over 20 of the best Chicago restaurants were under one roof with “fashion installations” by Haberdash, which is a local men’s clothing store in Chicago. What is a fashion installation you ask? Well, it’s a bunch of beautiful men who stand and pose in different scenes and outfits during the night. When I first arrived, they were holding guitars, and I asked “Are you going to play those, or are you models” and they said “We are models” – so of course I had to take a picture. They always looked away from the camera. Fierce!

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The proceeds of this event went to Common Threads (my favorite charity), and the West Loop Community Organization. Some of the Common Threads kids were helping the chefs out and they were SO CUTE with their full-sized Haberdash ties. The event was very well attended, and included some of Chicago’s best chefs and food bloggers.

Now on to the food. My top 4 favorites are below:

 Pleasant House Bakery with their meat pies – definitely a place that I need to visit in the future. I tried the Steak and Ale pie, the Chicken Balti (which was like a curry chicken, and my favorite), and the Mushroom and Kale pie.  These items are also on their menu at the restaurant. The pie dough was so flaky and delicious, and the owners were incredibly nice and down to earth – like the people next door.

http://pleasanthousebakery.com/

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Pecking Order served up a Caramelized Chicken and Garlic Rice dish. Very flavorful and comforting. It was like a hug in a bowl. I talked to chef Subido, who said that this item is on their brunch menu, but without the egg. I’ve been there for Sunday brunch and it is a nice alternative to a traditional brunch – very flavorful with different kinds of dishes that you won’t find anywhere else.  Turns out that Pecking Order is now offering brunch on Saturdays, and they have updated their brunch menu, so I’m due for another visit.  See for yourself: http://www.peckingorderchicago.com/

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Antique Taco – This is my second time trying Antique Taco at an event (Also tried them at the Common Threads World Festival), and it’s official. I need to go there. ASAP. They served a Crispy Duck Flauta that was very well seasoned and had some flavorful surprises. Plus, I like their logo.

Antique taco food Antique Taco sign

http://antiquetaco.com/

Frontier – Frontier is known for serving different kinds of gamey meat like Rabbit, Alligator, Antelope, and Kangaroo (yes, Kangaroo).  I chatted with Executive Chef Brian Jupiter who is from New Orleans, where he first started cooking different kinds of meats. Most of the meats served at Frontier are local (i.e. the rabbit was from IL) and they cook all of these different kinds of meats in an approachable way, so that they don’t scare people away.  If these items are a bit much for you, the menu also includes a nice mix of foods that you are used to eating.

I tried the Rabbit Etouffee at the event, which was really delicious – the flavors were well-balanced and I would have never known that I was eating rabbit. I could have easily been fooled into thinking that it was chicken.

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Frontier also has brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they are definitely on my “must visit” list. since brunch is my favorite meal of the day.  One item on the brunch menu that has caught my eye is the fried rabbit and cornmeal waffle dish with spiced pear butter and habanero maple syrup. I also have my eye on the bananas foster French toast and the Praline Pancakes – I know that they will be good since chef Jupiter is from New Orleans.

Check out the eclectic menu here: http://www.thefrontierchicago.com/food/

*I also learned that Frontier has a large enclosed patio, which will be great spot for the spring and summer.

I really enjoy going to these events because I can have a little taste of different restaurants and then visit the restaurant later if I like what I taste.  Great event for an amazing cause. Bon Appetit!

My Check Please! Host Audition Reel

Check Please! is a local Chicago show where people talk about their favorite restaurants. This show has always been a source of great information about restaurants that I otherwise would not have known about.

The current host of the show is stepping down, creating the opportunity to apply for the host position. My love for food and the Chicago restaurant scene has compelled me to submit an audition video reel, and below is the video – Enjoy!

Rave Review for the Common Threads Cook-Off Event

Thursday, I attended the Common Threads Cook Off hosted by the Associate Board (which I’m a member of). What a fantastic event. This is the kind of event that leaves you feeling like an honored guest – well fed, well watered and well taken care-of.

The event was held downtown at the Fulton’s on the River restaurant, which is an excellent venue for an event of this magnitude.  The entire downstairs section was used for this event, which was very well attended with approximately 350-400 guests. The tables on the terrace outside allowed guests to admire the breathtaking views of the Chicago river.

Chicago-area chefs from all of the popular restaurants came together to duke it out for the best dish in a glass, on a stick, in a shell and on a bun. The chefs seemed to have a level of friendly competition between each other, encouraging the cook-off guests to vote for them by placing a voting chip (in the form of a bottlecap) into their bucket. Sara Greunberg (Top Chef Runner Up) was there representing Spiaggia and was shaking her bucket like “vote for us!” Very fun.

When I walked in, I was almost overwhelmed by the number of restaurants participating in this event.  All of the popular Chicago restaurants were in one place, including some new restaurants that I’ve been wanting to visit. There was so much food, but below were some of my personal favorites and highlights:

Pecking Order:  This country chicken sandwich on a Filipino-style bun had me saying Chik-Fi-Who? K-F-what? Best chicken sandwich I’ve had in quite a while.  It was dressed with pimento mayo, gouda tomato, onion and cilantro. The bun and the sauce are what really made it stand out.  Pecking Order is a relatively new restaurant headed up by chef Kristine Subido – formerly of the Wave Restaurant in the W Hotel. She told me that they are now open for brunch on Sundays, along with lunch and dinner during the week. I gave Pecking Order one of my chips. Guess where I’m going to be going for brunch?

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ZED 451: Served this amazing Maple Cajun BLT.  Time stopped for a moment and my eyes literally rolled to the back of my head. For the “On a Bun” category, this place tied with the Pecking Order for me.

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Lockwood: Heirloom Tomato soup and Burrata Cheese Crostini served in an elegant shot glass. Best tomato soup I’ve had in a long time. The crostini is what really made it shine.

Masa Azul – Chef Jonathan Zaragoza was representing Maza Azul (Mexican restaurant) in Logan Square, and had a tender and delicious Grilled Chicken Thigh Kabob with Chipotle Greek Yogurt Sauce. I love Chipotle anything, and this was very tasty. This is another restaurants that is on my list. How could I not know about this place? It has 4 ½ stars on Yelp. I’m going.

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Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar – Union Sushi gets the “out of the box” award from me because they served Grilled Kangaroo with Citrus Zest and Sweet Potato Cream. I have never seen Kangaroo on a menu, and I didn’t know that people ate Kangaroo. Quite frankly, I was a little disturbed by the thought because they are so cute. But then I thought to myself, “When would I ever have the chance to taste Kangaroo.”  (Unless I go to Australia). I reluctantly tasted it, but was pleasantly surprised. It tastes like beef with a hint of lamb. Very good. 

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Spiaggia – Sara Gruenberg at Spiaggia had a very creative presentation of a Cured Salmon and Squid Ink Grissino. The salmon was beautifully wrapped around a twisted black breadstick (grissino), and the black color came from Squid Ink. This was a well thought dish.  

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In addition to all of this food, there were also mixologists that had beautiful and delicious custom crafted cocktails. I loved the creativity that came from the chefs, and this event reminded me that these chefs really are culinary artists. This is their art. It was beautiful and delicious.

From the food and drinks to the adorable kids walking around helping to get donations, this was a wonderful event.  Where else can you have amazing food from Chicago’s top restaurants, and contribute to a great cause at the same time?

The icing on the cake for me was when Art Smith came by my table and introduced himself. Art is a well-accomplished celebrity chef and the founder of this organization, and it really meant a lot to see him there supporting the Associate Board and interacting with the guests. This is an organization that I’m proud to be a part of because it allows me to serve the community through my passion for food.  The best of both worlds.

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The next Common Threads event is the World Festival in March. I’m told that the World Festival is a super-sized version of this event, and rumor has it that the event in March is going to be the best one yet. Stay tuned! 

Learn more about Common Threads at http://www.commonthreads.org

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The HOTTEST Foodie Event in Chicago

Hey Foodies! I wanted to invite you to an event that I’m hosting with the Associate Board of Common Threads. Common Threads is an organization started by Art Smith where they teach low income kids how to cook healthy, affordable meals. I volunteered w/them last fall, and it’s a pretty awesome organization because in addition to cooking, kids learn about different parts of the world, math (through measurements), and science.
 
This event is going to be the hottest Chicago foodie event of the year. Mark my words. It’s a cook-off between some of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, and the chefs can choose to compete to cook something on a bun, on a stick, in a glass, or in a shell. There will also be a whiskey tasting. 
 
The event takes place on Thursday, September 27th at 6:30pm over at Fulton’s on the River in Chicago. Tickets are $75 until August 31st (this Friday), and after this Friday, they go up to $85. (This donation is tax-deductible). There will also be a silent auction with some amazing prizes.
 
Click the below link if you are interested in attending. When it asks how you found out, just click other and type in my name.   
 
 
Below is a listing of just some of the restaurants that will be participating, along w/their categories:
 
Participating Chefs & Mixologists

IN A GLASS 
William Hewitt, Bin 36 
Lynn House, Blackbird 
Ben Schiller, BOKA 
Mike Trow, Bridge Bar 
Elizabeth Samples, Nacional 27 
David Blonsky, Public House 
Sarah Kosikowski, Sixteen 
Lee Guidry, SUSHISAMBA rio 

ON A STICK 
Erik Freeburg, Bar Toma 
Kevin Schulz, Fulton’s on the River 
Bill Kim, Belly Shack/Urban Belly/BellyQ 

IN A SHELL 
Mike Bellovich, Paris Club 
Table 52 

ON A BUN 
John McLean, Burger Bar 
Rah Shabazz, C-House 
Kristine Subido, Pecking Order 
Brad Alexander, The Grillroom 
Curtis Hawk, ZED451 
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Also Attending:

KOVAL Whiskey Distillery
Sparrow Coffee Roasters
KIND