Sunday, December 29, 2013


It’s 9 AM and I’m eating my chosen breakfast before I leave Chicago.

I want to memorize the moment… close my eyes six months from now and remember exactly how this tastes.

What’s not to love about a Maxwell Style Street polish charred to perfection? I dream about this sandwich smothered in grilled onions… delicious from start to finish.

The Italian Beef dipped in gravy and served with sweet peppers? Quality that can’t be matched.

And to finish it all off, the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. I’ve been trying to recreate this recipe for years with little success. I quit trying… at least for now.

I also love their chopped salad…romaine and iceberg lettuce mixed with ditalini pasta, chicken breast, bacon, tomato, red cabbage, Gorgonzola cheese, green onion and their house dressing. Drooling yet? A lot of people say it’s the best chopped salad in Chicago. It’s the ditalini pasta that makes the difference.

At 100 W Ontario, this is a habit worth repeating again and again and I can’t get in line fast enough for seconds.

Bon Appetit!

Eataly Chicago

This is one of those places you can go into a million times and come out with a different vision of Italy each time. Such an eye-opener, especially when you wander in for breakfast when they first open at 9 AM. One thing for sure - you’ll immediately want to book a one way ticket to Italy, grab your passport and never look back. I’ve thought about it each and every time I go inside.
I had so much fun exploring Eataly again today. I can’t say any one section is my favorite. I like them all.

If you think the prices are a bit too high, go for the education. I learned more about Italian food in two pop ins although each one lasted a lot longer than I anticipated. 

Crazy as it sounds, if I had a full day here, I would spend it reading labels…and drinking wine of course. You can grab a glass and walk around while you shop.

Many items are made fresh in-house. The gelato is divine and the desserts are portioned to bring you back for just one more.
The five of us came with an undersized appetite  – we had dinner planned that night – so we split an antipasta plate and a pizza. It was perfect. Of course, the Italian white wine was our favorite share. Once again, the service was great.
The crowds have been impressive… so much so they had to close down last Monday in order to restock and give the staff time to breathe.
A trip to Eataly is a glimpse inside what makes Italian food and wine one of the top cuisines in the world and now that I’ve found my go-to place in Chicago, I want to hit up to some of the other Eatalys around the world. 
Let see, if I start in Rome and work my way through Italy, I can knock ten off my list just like that. Che bello!

Bon Appetit!

The Perfect Drink

Connect your iOS device via app and watch the virtual glass fill up on your screen as you pour. 

My son got one for Christmas and this version of the Cranberry Margarita was the perfect drink.

Bon Appetit!

Cranberry Margarita

1.5 ounces tequila
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce cranberry juice
½ ounce lime juice

Salt the sides of the glass. Fill shaker with ice. Shake and pour.

Eischen's Bar

Oklahoma’s oldest bar in Okarche, OK serves up over 24,000 pieces of chicken each week. I find this statistic astonishing.

The part of the recipe I’m sure of? The chicken is cooked at 330 degrees for 15 minutes and is made by applying a coating mixture of wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, cornmeal, salt, and paprika.

The piece of the recipe I don’t know? The “other” spices that are added to the mix. No measurements were given to uphold its classified status.

Eischen's does everything textbook down to the square of butcher paper it’s served on. I also loved the Frito Chili Pie.

On just my second tasting, I’m giving Eischen’s the title of BEST Fried Chicken anywhere so the challenge is on.

Same time next year!

Bon Appetit!

25 Reasons to LOVE Chicago

After 25 years of living in Chicago, here are 25 reasons to love the city despite the weather.

1. Great food, Restaurants, and Chefs:

Home to Jimmy Bannos, Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard, Bill Kim and the molecular gastronomists at Alinea, Moto, ING, Schwa, and Graham Elliot's, Chicago is easily the most progressive restaurant city in the country. 

Throw restaurant owners like Theresa Nguyen and Mary Nguyen Aregoni and their Mama Su into the mix, and restaurants get pretty perfect. 

2. 26 miles of beachfront and 19.5 miles of bike paths:

The bike paths connect you with some of the most spectacular views… and food… in the city.

3. Public Transportation:

Between Metra, your bike, the water taxi, the L and the bus, you can get anywhere in Chicago. My favorite way to travel? Running!

4. Neighborhoods:

The language you hear spoken pretty much defines the neighborhood and great eats can be found on every corner. 

I can’t say that I’m partial to any one of them. I love exploring them all.

5. Lake Shore Drive:

This amazing roadway runs through most of the city and connects you with many of its top restaurants, neighborhoods and shops.

6. The Chicago Skyline:

No matter where I see it from, it never fails to take my breath away.

7. Navy Pier:

Navy Pier is the leading lakefront playground in Chicago. From rides, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping, Navy Pier does have it all.

8. The Chicago River:

The river is memorialized by two horizontal blue stripes on the Municipal Flag of Chicago and is dyed green every year in the spirit of St Patrick's Day.

9. North Avenue Beach:

The best beach in the city hosts international volleyball tournaments and sun worshippers alike. Great food and water sports but even better people watching.

10. The Championship Chicago Blackhawks:

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks…I like the sound of it…again!

11. The Cubs and Wrigley Field:

One of the best summers I had was working as a photographer for the Cub's home games. Wrigley is an institution…as is Murphy’s Bleachers.

12. Festivals:

The Taste of Chicago, the Jazz Festival, the Blues Fest, Taylor Street Festa Italiana, Taste of Greece… there are hundreds of summer festivals and in Chicago you can party with the best of them every weekend.

13. Lake Michigan:

There are so many ways to play...jet ski, paddleboard, windsurf, sail, kayak, water ski...

14. Eataly:

This 63,000 square foot theme park of all things Italian will get you wondering how to be Italian in your next life.

                                                                                                        Photo: NBA

15. The Chicago Bulls and Legend Michael Jordan:

The Bulls  and Michael Jordan had one of the NBA's greatest dynasties, winning six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 with two three-peats.

16. Michigan Avenue:

I can get in so much trouble wandering up the Michigan Avenue bridge to 900 North...not just shopping but eating too.

17. Green City Market:

This market connects farmers and local producers to chefs, restaurateurs and food-loving Chicago. Sustainably grown food and education makes this market one of the best in the country.

18. Maxwell Street Market:

On any given Sunday my favorite place to hang out for real Mexican food.

19. The Bean:

The most popular sculpture in the city is a go-to for photos because of its unique reflective properties.

20. The Loop:

The heart and soul of Chicago, the Loop is the center and most iconic section of the city.

21. Parks:

Part of what makes Chicago one of the most beautiful cities in the country?
580 parks including Millennium and Grant.

22. Sears Tower:

I lost my fear of heights on the ledge one morning. What’s not to love looking 1,450 feet down?

                                                                                                Photo: CBS News
23.Lincoln Park Zoo:

Chicago’s free zoo at one of the best locations in the city. They also host one of the city's best runs.

24.Solider Field and Da Bears:

The views from this field are renowned. Mike Ditka still reigns having won an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach.

25.Signature Room at the John Hancock building:

Grand vistas and some of the best memories of my 25 years in Chicago.