Friday, October 30, 2009

Andersonville...Chicago's Hottest Neighborhood

Andersonville is considered one of Chicago's hottest neighborhoods. It is renowned for its unique commercial district, comprised almost entirely of locally owned, independent businesses. In an economically challenging time, many of the small business owners in Andersonville that I spoke with today told me they were holding their own. One of the reasons is that the community really supports local business. Small business is a huge success story in Andersonville.

A local grassroots community-wide initiative to help support the unique and independent businesses in Andersonville is on by challenging neighbors to think about how they spend 20 bucks. They are asking people for the next 20 weeks to commit to spending 20 bucks each week in Andersonville. The more people who participate in the challenge, the more invested to keep Andersonville a great place to eat, drink, shop and live. Other communities need to take notice. These campaigns are one of the many reasons why Andersonville has built a solid network of local support.

Personally, I love this town and it is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago. It is a fascinating blend of old school charm and new order magic. There are so many intriguing things about Andersonville yet it has a real hometown feel. For one thing, the residents are super friendly. Also, each and every block has an out of the ordinary mix of stores – no two quite the same. Every corner has a couple of attractive benches and this past summer, they were filled with locals absorbed in the chit-chat of every day life. Could I live in Andersonville? Yes, Andersonville is definitely my kind of neighborhood.

Restaurants abound in Andersonville and you get everything from American - the very famous Hamburger Mary’s (5400 N. Clark) - to Ethiopian to Swedish.

One thing I noticed is that there are a dozen or so really distinctive places to go for breakfast. I love breakfast and Ann Sathers (5207 N. Clark) is a Chicago mainstay that serves up a variety of very unique Swedish and traditional dishes. There is also an authentic Swedish Bakery (5348 N. Clark) that would put every celebrated baker to shame with the exception of my grandmother. There is an adorable little deli, JB’s (5501 N Clark) with an old fashioned pharmacy in back.

One of the most uncommon place is The Travelers Café (5317 N. Clark). They offers live music on Mondays, sells coffee in bulk and is a quiet spot for a light lunch. The boutique in the back of the cafe is crammed with travel books, artwork, textiles, gifts and jewelry from around the world. I found a pair of really adorable and colorful fingerless warm wool gloves (thought that these would be great for photography this winter) for $14.00 - a steal. In the very front of the cafe is an elevated area where patrons remove their shoes to lounge among the pillows that furnish the floor. To complete the global atmosphere, clocks on the wall keep the current time in various countries.

The Wooden Spoon (5047 N Clark) is the local cooking school and offers a great mix of classes with a variety of local chefs. Humorously, they named their classes with very unforgettable names like Say Cheese!, Fire and Ice and The Italian Job just to name a few.

Shopping – You will not be disappointed! GreenSky (5357 N. Ashland) is a very unexpected eco-boutique offering home décor, artisans, and eclectic items. There were so many delightful and out of the ordinary items in this shop, I am planning on doing much of my Christmas shopping there. Nadeen Kieren, the owner, is married to a local Architect who has done a lot of the historic restoration of the area. I loved her enthusiasm and she took me through a lot of the artists who play a part in establishing the stylish environment created inside this shop.

I somehow missed my favorite, the Brown Elephant Resale Shop (5404 N. Clark) which is one of those places where you can find a good deal if you happen to be there on the right day.

For shoes, Alamo Shoes (5321 N. Clark) has all of the latest in footwear styles. There is also a small running store – the Runner’s Edge (5243 N. Clark) which has a staff that are both knowledgeable and entertaining. They carry a lot of running lines that I have not seen at other Chicago running stores.

The Andersonville Galleria (5247 N. Clark) is in the heart of the thriving Andersonville retail corridor. It is a retail market building that currently features over 90 tenants offering apparel, jewelry, artwork, home furnishings, giftware, accessories, antiques, fair trade, and gourmet treats. One of the featured artists is Char Marie Flood, who does fantastic photography. She had very stylish little black and white photos hanging on simple, sterling silver settings. This is also a great location to find one of a kind holiday gifts.

One of the logical things that Andersonville does is to have their farmers market in the late afternoon. At CLARK & BERWYN, the market runs from June 24-September 9 (although they extended it this year) on Wednesdays from 4-8pm. Can’t tell you how many times I have missed my local Farmers Market because it is in the morning on Friday. Andersonville pulls in a huge crowd with worker friendly hours and a impressive selection of produce.

Andersonville has a very active Development Corporation which plans outstanding community events such as dessert crawls (my favorite) and wine walks. They are famous for the Midsommarfest, Andersonville's annual summer street festival, now entering its 44th year. Each year, nearly 40,000 people crowd Clark Street from Foster to Catalpa for two days of music, dancing, entertainment, and delicious food.

One of the authentic Swedish festivals is that of St. Lucia. A Sicilian tradition adopted by the Swedes, a celebration of lights prevails over the darkest time of the year. Each year the specially chosen Lucia girls lead a torch-lit procession down Clark Street. On December 13th this year, that is one Chicago tradition you do not want to miss.

Check out this legendary neighborhood where even you may want to put down some roots! Andersonville’s magic will immediately pull you in!

65...And Not Even Cose To Retirement!

Uno Chicago Grill® looks back on its beginnings in 1943 at the corner of Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue in Chicago, where Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno®. It was the birthplace of the now-famous Chicago deep-dish pizza, and it gave rise to a popular restaurant chain that today includes 200 restaurants in 28 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

They continue to grow domestically with two new quick serve concepts, Uno Express and UnoDue Go, and internationally with Uno Chicago Grill locations in Kuwait and Dubai.

Fresh? Yes, UNO's dough is made fresh each and every day in every restaurant. Its flatbreads use all-natural crusts. In addition, the chain features Certified Angus Beef®, whole-grain pasta and shade-grown gourmet coffee.

Did you know that Americans consume 4.4 million UNO deep-dish pizzas every year; which is enough to feed the entire population of Ireland!

Pastry Queen Parties

A former caterer, Rebecca Rather (The Pastry Queen) knows how to throw a party. This entertaining title for home cooks by the Texas native is full of imaginative dishes from the Lone Star state. Recipes platform seasonal produce and include designated “Party Express” selections that can be prepared in under an hour.

Southern standards such as spoon bread, seafood gumbo, and sweet tea are mixed with Mexican-inspired dishes such as posole and chiles rellenos. The recipe for the Lime Soup looks exceptionally good and will be the next one that I will try. I am always looking for great soup recipes.

Off beat selections like hostess-with-mostest cupcakes, Corona sorbet and layered salad in a jar add to the assortment of fun recipes. Amazing photos and article on Texas ethnicity provide readers a feel for what it is like growing up Texan.

Hungry Planet...What The World Eats

I found this orphan book on the bottom shelf in my local library. In the two years they had it, only one other person checked it out. Imagine inviting yourself to dinner with 30 different families in 24 countries and shopping, farming, cooking and eating with those families. I have a huge interest about the world I live in so this book was educational. I loved the photography and each and every detail about how globalization, migration and rising affluence are affecting the diets of communities around the globe. Each chapter of the book features a portrait of a family, photographed alongside a week's worth of groceries.

Authors Menzel and D'Alusio also wrote in personal experiences in the countries they visited- the shock of seeing Ramen noodles in Papua New Guinea, or eating dugo congealed swine blood in Manilla. Their facts and photography, along with their own personal experiences made this really interesting reading.

Navan - Recipes: Drinks

I got so many emails on the recipe I posted with Navan, I did not realize that there are so many fans of the yummy vanilla liqueur out there.
Navan vanilla liqueur is made by the House of Grand Marnier, whose orange liqueur with Cognac has been a classic for generations. Madagascar vanilla is the most famous in the world. It is used by chocolatiers and pâtissiers who like the way the flavor pairs with specific origins of chocolate. I knew there was a reason why I loved this vanilla!

The name Navan is taken from Navana, a small village on the northeast coast of Madagascar, in one Madagascar’s most renowned vanilla-producing regions.

For more information, visit

Both the recipes below should be shaken with ice:

Vanilla Martini

• 1.5 part Navan vanilla liqueur

• 1.5 part vodka

• .5 part simple syrup

• .5 part fresh lime juice

Vanilla Margarita

• 1.5 part Navan vanilla liqueur

• 2 parts premium silver tequila

• 1 part fresh lime juice

I love Egg Nog and this one looks like a party for 6!

Vanilla Egg Nog

• 9 ounces Navan vanilla liqueur

• 6 eggs

• 9 ounces whole milk

• 6 teaspoons superfine sugar

• Whipped cream

• Cinnamon or nutmeg to garnish (optional)

In two bowls, separate eggs yokes and whites. Beat egg whites with half the sugar until peaks form. Beat the other 3 tsp of sugar with the egg yolks until stiff. Fold together. Add milk. Add Navan. Pour into ice filled glasses and top with whipped cream and garnish.

St Louis's Soulard District

I love the Soulard area in St. Louis. The cornerstone of this neighborhood is the oldest Farmers Market west of the Mississippi. The historic Farmers Market has fresh produce, baked goods, exotic spices, fresh flowers, handmade soap, and more. Open on Wednesday-Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (6 AM on Saturday mornings) the market is open year round.
There are dozens of really remarkable restaurants in Soulard but my favorite is Tucker's Place (2117 S. 12th Street). Located in an old house, Tucker’s is known for its casual atmosphere and excellent food. The menu includes a steak collection, fish, pizza and their ever so famous burgers. My favorite – the pork chop. Some top secret marinate makes the taste a memory you just have to return to regularly. If I lived in St. Louis, I would be there every week. The portions are enormous so dine here to get a bang for your buck. The prices are also reasonable. Always a line but well worth the wait.


I cannot believe that after looking for so many years that Sunset Foods grocery finally carries the "secret" marinate - Andria's Brush On Steak Sauce. I was so excited when I saw it because I have been asking for it for I can't tell you how many years. I could not get home fast enough and brush some on a pork steak. It was just as good as I remembered. Look at your market and if they do not carry it, look at They now have a website and will be a favorite for chops and steaks.


                                              Press Pass Photo

I love to watch Glee on Wednesday night on Fox 12. I wanted a Glee Club teacher just like Mr. Schuester. Somehow I do not remember Sister Rhea as having quite the same kindhearted personality. Funny how some thing can trigger a memory.

Smells kick off memories for me. Like the smell of bacon. I control my cravings by giving in but I will only have one slice. That seems to be my answer for everything…Portion Control. No matter what it is that I want, I eat a teeny-tiny portion.

Yes, I do go to all that trouble (and mess) to cook just one slice. Just a little taste seems to satisfy whatever it is in me that remembers bacon cooking on the stove on Sunday morning. Probably makes me think of my dad. Comfort food for sure!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lake Forest, IL. - Foodie Friendly!


Isn't It Fun to Have Breakfast At Night? It was even more fun to have Lemon mousse for breakfast! 10:39 AM and I already have a dessert hangover.

720 N Western Ave, Lake Forest
William Sonoma

Cookie, at the William Sonoma in Lake Forest, is so enthusiastic about cooking it shows every time you talk with her. I walked in today in the middle of a knife demonstration. William Sonoma’s Lake Forest store has cooking classes every Saturday.

Also, look for new ingredients that come out every week.

271 Market Square, Lake Forest

Where else can you go at 10:45 in the morning and find the ice cream bar full of people?I was so surprised but I don’t know why since I have been known to devour a half pint for breakfast myself.

Sweets is located at 260 E Deerpath Road in Lake Forest

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Losing It...

Step One: Lose A Pound A Week…

Super Size it?

Nope, mini-size it please! Muchas Gracias!

Gone To The Beach

Wishful thinking!

A16 Food + Wine

This cookbook has been out awhile and I never really looked at it until I was in my favorite Barnes and Noble store the other day.

A16 is an Italian restaurant in San Francisco which prides itself on cooking authentic food from the Campania region of Italy. It is named after the highway that connects Naples to Puglia, the "A-16" , and is the highway from which the restaurant owners explored this region in Italy. The book has one of the largest and most detailed discussions (58 pages worth) on southern Italian wines.

One of the things I really loved about this book is the focus on ingredients. In particular, one section explains the differences in the flours used in pizza making and the variation it can make in your pizza dough. There is a whole section devoted to pizza making which I will be exploring more this winter. It highlights a famous pizzeria in Naples, "Da Michele" where they discovered the secret to their exceptional pizza dough – the addition of older, fermented dough to fresh dough to create a more complex flavor. A16 uses a method which duplicates the taste and lets their dough proof for 2-3 days. We will definitely be looking at this as we continue to search for the perfect pizza.

Falling Off The Wagon...

Falling off the wagon…sometimes, you need to get a bump on the head to remind yourself why you were on the right track to begin with!

Don’t punish yourself – get right back on and enjoy the ride... and take a few photos while you are at it!


Saturday, it was lunch at XOCO after a 10 mile run. The wait was a little over an hour. Don't let the line outside fool you - it's the line inside that takes awhile. But the food? die for!

Rick Bayless has hit it again at XOCO serving up great mexican street food where everything from Cochinita Pibil (pig), Pepito (shortribs), Choriqueso (homemade chorizo) to authentic fresh-ground chocolate is on the menu. Local, fresh ingredients is what makes this place stand out.

It was really fun to watch the chef's in the beautiful, open kitchen while you go through the line. The tortas are cooked in a large, wood buring oven. Rick Bayless was there on a Saturday much to the delight of everyone and speaks highly of his committment to his brand.

An interesting assortment of Caldos (soups), Salads and Pastries are on the menu as well.

Prices are reasonable and the service - as great as the food!

I love Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. Just added XOCO to my list of all time favorites.

What Size Do You Want To Be? Photoshop Rocks!

Pretty sure that with all the tools on Photoshop,I can make you any size you want to be.
Teeny Tiny – Yep…that’s what I thought. Does not matter what you eat today! Enjoy!

The Wall Street Journals Comments On Selecting Wine For A Business Dinner

“Here’s where "cheat" comes in: More and more restaurants have their wine lists online. Find it and study it before you go. See what fits into your budget and look up the wines online. By the time you are handed the list, you'll be able to make a snap judgment that will make it appear you know what you're doing and are a quick decision-maker to boot. If the wine list is not online, drop by the restaurant in advance, look over the list and talk with the sommelier. It's a small investment in time that will pay big dividends.”

Road Food...Notes From A Busy Mom

                                   Courtesy Tiffany Dawson

Here is a cute note I got this week from my sister Krissy and why does the mental picture of her in the SUV with all of the kids and sloppy joe’s in tow really fracture me?

“Hi Suzi - mean you really want the sloppy joe recipe that we ate on paper plates yesterday in the SUV on the way to activities? That is how our life has been, and my cooking. No really!

I got a cookbook that Callie's school did (needless to say I don't have a recipe in there because I missed the deadline!) and I picked a recipe each day that came from Callie's classmates - somehow kids always like it if they think that their classmates eat it! No kidding aside, the sloppy joe’s came from there and they were good.”

Does this sound like your life mom? Send us the recipes that makes your kids think that you are the greatest cook in the world. You are you know!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cabo San Lucas

One of my favorite places to chill is Cabo San Lucas. My friend Araceli got married there. CONGRATS TO ARACELI AND TOM. I couldn’t go because of school (drat ---but committed). Here is what I know and love about Cabo…

Stay: I will only stay at a hotel on the Playa El Medano…the only beach where you can swim and where all the action is. My favorite place: Me Cabo. Check it out on

AM Coffee: At the Marina Cabo San Lucas …great views, coffee and conversation. You are bound to meet someone from any given corner of the world.

Eat: Peacocks – right down a dirt road within walking distance from the Me Cabo…amazing how 5 star the food is. A great patio to sit outside and a hundred lights to get you in the mood. You can check out the menu at

Drink at: The Office – right on the beach and by 4:00 PM the entire bar is rocking.

Fishing: Yes, this is where I caught my 150 pound marlin and had major fishing stories to tell my brothers.

Love Cabo!

The 60's...

Looks Like Terry's Old Van...

My father belonged to a gourmet club back in the 60’s. Gourmet clubs in the 60’s? Imagine what that was like? At the old North Star hotel downtown Minneapolis, he told me that they never revealed to the group what the dish was until they tasted it. He also said that almost everything that he ate was exceptional.

The 60’s? Most of what I remember was my mom’s pot roast on the dinner table and 10 people fighting for the prime piece... and the burgers and fries from the drugstore soda fountains. No such thing as healthy eating back then.

Everything about food was just starting to be discovered along with an appreciation for Julia Child. She introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream through her cookbooks and TV programs, most notably The French Chef which premiered in 1963. Her most well-known cookbook is Mastering the Art of French Cooking published in 1961.

My first Julia cookbook was in 1999...a cookbook by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin called Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Also was the intro to my favorite Steak Diane recipe.

The 60's was the coming of age for food. How about it. What do you remember about food from the 60's?

My Stash

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down so there is nothing like a little dessert therapy to keep a girl happy.

These edible treasures are from one of my favorite little restaurant in Highwood, the Il Mulino Bakery at 530 Sheridan Rd (847) 266-0811.

A regular stop on our Sunday bike route, the authentic Sicilian bakery has two small tables out front where you can catch plenty of sun and conversation. Inside, cakes, pies, and cookies line the cases and are all beautiful enough to make your choice difficult.

I'm sure I get in a long ride before I make this stop. Just the smell of the cannoli’s will make you gain 10 pounds.

There's always a selection of focaccia and lasagna and on the weekends owner Maria Rosa Sparacino cooks up whatever captures her eye at the morning's market. I swear, she is the most welcoming restaurant owner on the North Shore.

Great Corn All Year Long. Recipe: Corn

The worst things about the end of the summer is the end of the sweet corn crop.

I remember my sister Mary use to freeze corn and enjoy it all winter long. Here is a quick and easy way to have sweet corn until you can get it again at the Farmer's Market next year.

Fresh, Frozen Sweet Corn:

1)Cut the corn off the cob (a messy job!)

2)Put corn in a pot of boiling water.

3)Turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Bring the corn to a slow boil and boil for 2 minutes.

4)Ladle the corn into your containers and leave about 1” of air space at the top for any expansion.

5)Allow to cool in a cold water bath before placing in the freezer.

A bushel of corn (about 60 ears) will yield between 6 to 10 quarts of whole grain corn to freeze.

When you do use the corn for a meal you can add flavorings then. I love good old butter and salt to taste.

Old Market, Omaha

I use to live in Omaha, Nebraska in the late 70’s and always remember Omaha as a great food city.

The French Café at 1017 Howard Street has been an Omaha main stay forever and is still one of my favorite restaurants. Just walking into the French Cafe, you feel taken into the ambiance of a celebrated European bistro. It is really just the most comfortable place for conversation, a bottle of wine (because in these surroundings you’ll never have just one glass of wine) and a extraordinary meal. The filet au poivre is still hard to beat.

V. Mertz is another popular restaurant that has been serving up renowned and elegant cuisine for over 30 years. Executive Chef Kyle Anderson and Sous Chef John Engler serve up some of the best indulgences. When in season, locally grown and certified organic produce is provided. Cheers again for the chefs who love fresh, local ingredients.

M’s Pub has a distinctive wine list for as long as I can remember was/is the place to go for happy hour. Customers, wearing anything from jeans to tuxedos, enjoy this cornerstone which has been there since 1973.

Love Omaha...and I haven't even touched on the steak joints.

That's What You Get For Waking Up In Vegas....

My 27 year old son goes to Vegas at least 4 times a year to get his fix. Here are some of the places I love to go:

Mandalay Bay.

The rooms and the environment are not only stunning but the restaurants are hard to top: Mix,Fleur de Lys, Aureole, China Grill, Shanghai Lilly, Red Square, Trattoria Del Lupo, rumjungle, Rick Moonen's RM Seafood and STRIPSTEAK. Take your pick---all of them happen to be spectacular. The highlight: Mandalay Bay Beach is a world-famous playground offering a wave pool, lazy river, three swimming pools, a jogging track and 2,700 tons of real sand. The May through September Beach Concert Series features some of the top names in music as guests are serenaded from a one-of-a-kind stage above Mandalay Beach.

The Palms: Playboy Club, Moon, Ghost Bar, Rain… the Palm’s has it all when it comes to late night entertainment and the rooms are deluxe. You simply cannot find a higher end value for the price. Up to three thousand guests can party in style at the pool, enjoying live concerts, DJs and three bars. Wish this place had been around when I was Tommy's age.

The Burger Bar. I ate here almost every night when we were in Vegas for ArenaBowl. The grilled food was superb and you could get in and out in a matter of an hour. The bartenders were fun and the beer and burgers don't get any better than this! In Mandalay Place, there is a wide selection of meats from Angus, turkey, lamb, vegetarian and even buffalo and amazing toppings. Never tired of the food and I ate there a lot.

My Best Recipe Secrets Exposed...

Since the early 80’s, my two best sources for recipes and cooking methods have come from Cook’s Illustrated and Martha Stewart. If I am entertaining, I always come out 110% when I am making something from either publication.

Cook’s Illustrated

A new edition of Cook’s Illustrated comes out every two months and I read it from cover to finish in one sitting. They accept no advertising and is set apart by extensive recipe testing and in depth lessons on how to make each dish. I love this part. It goes into the science and you come out with a pretty good understanding of what works in a recipe.

I was hooked on this magazine the first time I cooked Orange Chicken. It is problem and solution spelled out and tells you a lot about what they tested and what did and did not work.

I go on this website anytime I am making something new. It gives you a lot of information on the best way to make a dish that leads to nearly bulletproof results. The magazine also runs detailed evaluations of both kitchen equipment and name brand foods and ingredients. It has helped me select everything from the best extra virgin olive oils to pancake syrup.

Martha Stewart

Since the early 1980’s, I have been using Martha Stewart’s cookbooks. One Christmas, I wanted a new recipe for French Onion soup, which was a tradition in my house Christmas Eve. The recipe called for sherry and Gruyere cheese. It was the best French Onion soup recipe I have ever made. And just as an FYI, everything I have cooked over the years from Martha Stewart has been outstanding.

I Love Weekends

Yep, Facebook has a page. Go to:

684,947 fans and counting.... Is it Monday yet?

Notes From Jennifer...

The nicest thing about living in Oregon is that you can always enjoy fresh seafood and produce. I have become somewhat of a seafood snob after helping my friend pick up fresh fish from her dad's seafood store on the coast. They literally buy fish right off the boat! Having fresh tuna, clams, crab, cod and salmon I could never go back to buying the fish from the grocery store that was caught weeks ago. Not only does it taste better but you can buy it for a lot less than at the local grocery store.

Now that my nursing program has started I have less time to cook but still manage to make dinners most nights. I find that after a long day of classes, labs and clinicals cooking has a calming effect on me. It helps me to slow down and relax. Since I am on a tight budget, cooking at home allows me to control the ingredients and portions of my food.

We eat dinner together almost every night and it is a great way to connect and reflect upon our day.

More next week about balancing school and home!

Shops On Scranton

Every Saturday, I worked at Shops on Scranton, an antique store in Lake Bluff, to learn more about antiques. Unfortunately, I found a whole slew of treasures I just had to have for the kitchen. It was possibly the only job I had where I spent more than I made!

Cookbooks We Love

Being a photographer, I love to look at cookbooks with not only great recipes but also wonderful photographs. You’ll sell me on trying a recipe faster if I can see a photograph of the finished product.

Two recent issue cookbooks I have come to love include stunning photographs. They are Venezia: Food and Dreams by Tessa Kiros and My New Orleans; The Cookbook by John Besh.

My New Orleans; The Cookbook by John Besh

This book is big and beautiful and captures both the heart and soul of one of my favorite cuisines. The best thing about the book – besides the recipes- is John Besh talking about his passion for New Orleans cooking. He is a sustainer and like Rick Bayless, he has entered into ventures such as raising his own pigs and helping local suppliers provide what is needed by chefs. Look there for a really great feature on a supplier of Creole Tomatoes. The book includes small historical Black and White vignettes spread all through the book. The collected works of 200 truly unique state-of-the-art dishes are supplemented by eye-catching photos and educational side notes with individual recommendations for each dish. Sounds almost like cooking school.

His cooking style has been portrayed as “freewheeling international,” with an importance placed on local ingredients. His flagship restaurant August was one of the first restaurants to reopen after the hurricane, and he has been energetically occupied in efforts to help the victims of Katrina.

He has championed a renewed appreciation of local Cajun and Creole cooking, saying he believes them to be essential to the survival of the city’s cultural heritage.

Tessa Kiros Cookbooks

Tessa Kiros says that she was living in Italy with her husband surrounded by his family of cooks. She loved the grandmothers making jams and preserving artichokes and things. She started to record what was going on in their kitchen and it became a book.

She has become one of my favorite cookbook authors and now has a beautiful series of cookbooks that have easy to follow, delicious recipes and incredible photographs. Her books are so beautiful that I never cook with one of them on my counter. Sometimes I will photocopy the page.

Her books are filled with recipes that represent her heritage: Greek, Finnish, Cypriot, South African, and Italian and her photographs show the enchantment and the personality of where she has lived.

She has done Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book, Apples for Jam: Recipes for Life (love the cover of this one!), her most recent in hardback Venezia: Food and Dreams a one of my all time favorites Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes.

She is another chef who relies on fresh and obtainable ingredients and every recipe I have tried from her books has been excellent.

Gerhard's...Simply to Die For!

Gerhard’s… I can’t even get this elegant european dessert out of the box. I took one bite thinking that I would then put it on a beautiful plate and finish it off slowly, savoring every bite. No chance! I ate the entire obsession out of the box.This is not even remotely healthy but I have added it to my now growing list of indulgences...and this is my #1 indulgence! Unqualified excess at it’s best!

Do you have a dessert that places you somewhere between heaven and I will absolutely be in purgatory forever? Unfortunately, now that I have found Gerhard's, this is a sin that I will probably repeat over and over again.

Is Mary Greub (Owner and Principal) to blame? Absolutely! Let's blame it all on Mary and stay tuned for more on all of the outstanding desserts that are created in the kitchens at Gerhards.

Simply to die for!

Street Food

It is no secret that when I lived and worked in Mexico, I ate everything off the street. I grew to appreciate and love street food and never got sick…ever. The trick is to find vendors who are popular with the locals.

This website is all about Consumers International (CI) campaign for safe access to street food and to preserve street food life. If you find any others, send them my way.

San Francisco had a Street Food Festival this year. Check it out

Here is the list of Food Vendors using Twitter:

Some more websites on street food are:

Red Sauce...Have Passed This Recipe Around For Years

My sister-in-law Liz gave me a recipe for red sauce some years back that she got from a cooking class she took at Byerly’s in Minneapolis.

My friends and I have passed this recipe back and forth over the years in an effort to improve it. See what you can do to add your own and send it back to me with your magic.

The best thing about this recipe after you get all of the ingredients in the saucepan is that you get to let it simmer all day. Super easy and great to feed a crowd. Serve over the pasta of your choice with an exceptional Italian bread. Don’t forget to get a high-quality Italian bread. The bread may be the side but it will also be one of the essentials that you will remember about the meal.

Here is the list of ingredients that we have so far:

4 cups chopped Roma Tomatoes

1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms

1 ½ cups chopped onion

¼ cup lemon juice

½ medium size banana pepper

1 Tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp Italian Spices

1 tsp Oregano

3 tsp crushed garlic

1 chicken bullion cube

1 6 ox can tomato paste

2 cups red wine

1 tsp olive oil

Fried Chinese Shrimp- Recipe

This is a quick and delicious appetizer to cook. The first time I had it was in Chinatown in San Francisco and this is a fairly close duplication of that recipe.

Fried Chinese Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp

1 Tbsp soy sauce

½ Tbsp sherry

½ tsp fresh grated ginger

2 Tbsp peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

Marinate shrimp in their shells for at least ½ hour in the soy sauce, sherry and ginger. Drain. Stir fry in a hot pan with the peanut oil and garlic until color changes. Add green onions. Add sesame oil and a dash of salt. Toss until onions are barely wilted.

Serve hot and let guests remove shells.

2008 Recipes And Counting...

I like going out to dinner and exploring a new restaurant but I also love trying new recipes at home.

I just figured out that since I have tested out a new recipe every Sunday for the past 40 years, given a few weeks off for vacation and a break from the kitchen, I am going on 2,008 recipes. Do I remember them all?...not a chance but I do have this huge box where I have placed all of the one’s I really love. Back then, there were no computers to keep a database of recipes and now, I throw it into my box out of habit if I love it and intend to cook it again.

Learning to cook has been a passion and often was a competition with my friends and co-workers. Who could do the best ribs? Who could master the greatest lamb chops or Key Lime Pie? It was hysterical when one of us finally had to admit that the other had mastered the task.

Whenever I cook a recipe that someone else gave me, no matter how far away they are, when I sit down to eat it, they are there. I can always remember the first time we ate that dish together, where we were and the smell of their kitchen.

Cooking together and sharing a meal is the glue that has held us together after all these years. I have developed so many great bonds of lasting friendship because of cooking.

Cold Weather Cravings For Soup

I've feel the cold-weather cravings for homemade soup. Here is a recipe for Zuppa Toscano which is one of my favorites. I usually make a big pot and freeze the rest in Ziplock bowls so that I can pop one out of the freezer during the week if I don’t have a lot of time to cook and still want a hearty meal.

Get good sausage for the soup – usually the store bought Turkey sausage can be pretty bland. You can get great homemade sausage at the following specialty meat markets in Chicago:

Gepperth’s Meat Market 1964 N. Halsted (773) 549-3883

Paulina Meat Market 3501 N. Lincoln Avenue (corner of Lincoln & Cornelia) (773) 248-6272

Zuppa Toscano

1 LB ground Italian Turkey Sausage (Take casing off)

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 medium onion, diced

4 pieces of bacon, fried and crumbled

2 tsp garlic

10 cups chicken broth (homemade if possible)

Heavy cream or half and half (optional)

3 large red potatoes – sliced thin

¼ bunch kale (organic if possible)

Take the casing off the sausage and sauté with crushed red pepper in the soup pot. Drain excess fat and refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients. In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic for 15 minutes or until onions are soft. Mix in the homemade chicken broth. Boil and add the potatoes and cook until soft – usually about 15 minutes. Add cream or half and half – just a little to change the color of the broth to white. Sir in the sausage and the kale. Cook just for a few minutes. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

The New Caputo Cheese Market - Lake Forest

The new Caputo Cheese Market will have their Grand Opening on Sunday, October 25, 2009 from 11 AM - 4PM. We'll be there to cover it and will report to you on the blog next week.

Can't wait for this new store carrying more than 1,000 cheeses, oils, vinegars, spices, pastas and fresh deli items to be in my own back yard.

Caputo Cheese Market is at 231 E. Wisconsin Ave. Lake Forest Phone: 847-482-0100

Store hours:

Monday – Friday

6 a.m. - 7 p.m.


6 a.m. - 6 p.m.


6 a.m. - 5 p.m

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why We Love Green City Market

Green City Market is Chicago’s only year-round farmers’ market promoting local, sustainable farmers, producers and chefs by connecting them to the public through educational programming and special events.
The Outdoor Market goes through October 31st at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton. 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM. For Indoor market dates and times, check out their website at

What I love most is that so many supporting chefs from the finest restaurants in the city demonstrate how to prepare meals using locally produced, seasonal ingredients from market farmers and producers. Chef demonstrations take place every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Where else can you get free cooking classes from the best chef’s in the city of Chicago?

The upcoming October schedule is:

10/28 Michael Lachowicz - Restaurant

10/31 Chris Pandel - The Bristol

DiningIn: A New Way To Take The Office Order

At my last office, ordering food for the group was always a task. Regardless of how much you like the company of your colleagues, there was always someone with a peanut allergy, wanted their dressing on the side or someone who was simply a pain in the butt.

Best known for its web-to-door food delivery service, DiningIn just introduced a group ordering feature. Rather than having to meticulously record your staff's food preferences, users create an Evite-like invitation and give others carte blanche to fuss over their orders.

DiningIn's guest service is now available in Chicago.

The company offers users an opportunity to create an event and set a delivery time at least 90 minutes in advance of an order. Hosts then choose from menus of local restaurants and national chains.

One of the exceptional features of the site includes the ability to set a spending limit on a per guest basis or a "guests pay" option on individual meals. After the parameters of the event have been set, guest receive their invitations with the terms of payment built directly into the invite.

Although the dining selections are currently limited, the ease and flow of this site is unbelievable. In addition to the group ordering feature, DiningIn offers users online catering, a la carte orders and a meal concierge dial-in service for corporate customers.

While companies like GrubHub and Foodler offer similar delivery services, only DiningIn allows users to avoid the order-by-committee situation. Visit

Noodle Bar Lake Bluff

Noodle Bar Lake Bluff

I’m in noodle heaven. Did this magnificent food come from a restaurant in my neighborhood? Am I actually, finally getting a neighborhood?

I stopped off at the Noodle Bar Lake Bluff tonight on my way home from the train to grab a quick bite. Located at 20 E. Scranton Avenue, this restaurant is one block from the Metra train station downtown Lake Bluff. The Noodle Bar Lake Bluff features nouveau Pan-Asian cuisine. A lot of restaurants have done Pan-Asian but the food at this comfy place is incredible. There are 60 things on the menu and an inviting food bar in the dining room where you can watch while the food is prepared in an open kitchen.

I was lucky enough to chat with Alexis, one of the owners, while I waited at the bar for my take out. She told me that all of her chefs all come from Chinatown and they pick them up and drive them home every day. Love the fact that employers take tender loving care of their chefs. They all deserve to be spoiled.

The restaurant is a sister to the Noodle Bar NYC and Alexis and her husband spent a lot of time there learning the ropes in order to operate their first restaurant. My early conclusion is that their first attempt at running a restaurant is working. All of my neighbors told me they love the food.

I had the Pad Thai. Now, this is how I test out a Pan-Asian restaurant. I normally do not LOVE Pad Thai but if I do…well I think it is a great restaurant. One taste and I could not shovel the food in fast enough. Alexis mentioned that they use no sugar in the Pad Thai and you can tell. It is possibly the best Pad Thai that I have ever eaten and remember, I don’t even like Pad Thai.

Noodle Bar has 56 seats and a semi-private party booth which seats twelve. Will unquestionably have to check out the party booth some night with my neighbors. Noodle Bar offers dining, takeout and delivery. Since I am just a block away, I will probably not take advantage of the delivery service but I can see that a lot of my friends in Lake Bluff will. In addition to the dining area, Noodle Bar also offers a full-service lounge with 26 seats and is featuring all sorts of special drinks and specials on the weekends.

During the week, the restaurant offers a fixed price lunch menu with a salad, spring rolls and a choice of entrée for $7.95. Noodle Bar also has a Kids’ Menu, with entrees such as Coca Cola Chicken and Hotdog Fried Rice appealing not only to the under-ten set but I may have to try the Hotdog Fried Rice myself. Can’t imagine it but some of those things that don’t sound quite right are really fantastic.

Noodle Bar is located at 20 E. Scranton in Lake Bluff; the restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to Midnight; and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Noodle Bar offers private and corporate catering.

Call (847) 735-8170.They are working on their website at so just head in and enjoy a remarkable meal which will send you home loving the fact that this is the “new” Lake Bluff.

Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead

Day of The Dead is a celebration where friends and family reminisce about those who have died… with plenty of food and drink as an offering.
Every year, about the middle of October, I build a shrine in my house full of the traditional favorites of my dearly departed including marigolds, candles, photos, and their favorite foods and beverages.

I have a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps that slowly goes down every year. My little brother Tim died when he was 27 years old. We use to hit the Schnapps at Stand Up Franks in Minneapolis every St. Patrick’s Day. Schnapps is the drink of choice at my altar so stop by.

I love this holiday. One would think that El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a sad day but to the contrary, it is a celebration. It is observed in Mexico on November 1st (All Saints Day) and November 2nd (All Souls Day). The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that they will listen to the prayers and the observations of the living.

For anyone you've ever adored who has died, there is no better way to spend the month. During that time, I also cook meals that they loved. For instance, I will cook a Chinese dinner because it was my mom’s favorite. I will grill a steak because my dad was an expert at it.

The celebrations can take a humorous tone, as people remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. Family altars are vibrant. The living shower the deceased with food and presents and decorate the graves and recount their stories of their loved ones.

It is such a beautiful holiday of celebration so I hope that you are busy building an altar and cooking all of their favorite foods to celebrate everything that they brought to your life.

National 27- Recipes: Drinks

I love this place. Not only are their Mojtos the best, but they also have a drink called lookbetternaked Margarita that is a tasty mix using some of the best reposado tequila. The a la carte menu offers the El Corazon, a trio of Mango, Ginger-Habanero and Mojito Martinis with a sampling of ceviches.
I had dinner there last time and the food was remarkable but so are appetizers that are a mix of taco flights, small plates, and other brilliant offerings. 325 West Huron, Chicago 312-664-2727
The Look Better Naked Margarita, created by Adam Seger of the National 27 Restaurant in Chicago, is designed to be a healthier cocktail option. The majority of the ingredients are either organic, fresh or both and their paired with one great tequila.

· Sambazon Organic Acai- berry juice filled with antioxidants and healthy omega fats

· Agave Nectar- alternative to sugar syrups with fewer calories but all the sweetness

· Rosemary- rich in Vitamin E to help prevent cancer and skin damage

· Organic Egg White- full source of protein

· Fresh Lime Juice- filled with Vitamin C and helps prevent heart disease


· 11/2 oz Partida Estate Reposado Tequila

· 1/2 oz Samazon Pure Organic Acai

· 3/4 oz Partida Organic Agave Nectar

· 4" sprig rosemary (top inch reserved for garnish)

· 1/2 oz organic egg white

· 1 lime, fresh squeezed

· organic salt for rimming

· fresh, cracked organic green peppercorns for rimming


1. Rim a 10 ounce cocktail glass with equal parts organic salt and fresh cracked organic green peppercorns.

2. Remove rosemary leaves from the woody stem and muddle in a 16 ounce pint glass until aromatic.

3. Add the liquid ingredients and transfer to a cocktail shaker.

4. Shake vigorously until the shaker is frosted.

5. Strain into the chilled, rimmed glass.

6. Float a 1" rosemary sprig on top.

The Last Farmers Market Of The Season