‘Food’ Category

08 November 2012

Cooking Thanksgiving – Year Two

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food

So, it’s November (wow), which means it’s time to start thinking ahead to the holidays, starting with, Thanksgiving.

Last year, my SIL and I took the baton of cooking the big meal, and it was a nerve wracking experience that ended with everyone happy and full and no major accidents. Sure, I got a burn on my arm and a cut on my hand but I had all limbs at the end of the meal!

And now, my SIL and I have started talking about Thanksgiving year two and since last year’s meal went so well, I don’t think we’ll be making a ton of adjustments!

Menu plan (so far) is:

  • Turkey (not pre-made this time!)
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Steamed green beans (with a small green bean casserole)
  • Mashed potatoes (made with real potatoes this year)
  • Stuffing

The major thing we learned last year is that we had WAY too much food. I never thought I would say that but the number of leftovers were crazy and really, we could pare it back and stick with the classics. We tossed out the rolls, cranberries and wild rice/corn dish from last year. Well, the latter isn’t totally out, yet.

I tend to go a little overboard in menu planning, making sure there is something for everyone, so most times, I overthink it and there is way too much food. So in looking at this list and adding a few appetizers on top (in case we’re running late), we should be still plenty full at the end.

When we finished cooking last year, I kept thinking, we can change things next year! Make new stuff! Try new recipes! And this year, we’re keeping it pretty simple.We are a product of routine and knowing what will be there (and thus enjoy) is not a bad thing. Change isn’t a bad thing either but sometimes, it’s nice knowing what to expect.

Now, if I can make it through this year without another new burn, I would be even happier :)

Are you getting excited for Thanksgiving?

22 October 2012

Going home

By: Jessica B.

Chicago is home most of the time but I haven’t another home too, southeastern Wisconsin. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but now, I only make it back there a few times a year.

And you don’t really get to appreciate fall when you live in the city. The foliage changes color but it’s not quite the same. And, there are no farm or corn fields within commutable distance. Fall in the city is great, but not quite the same.

So I headed north this weekend to get a break from the city, see family and get my live college football fix.

It was great and exactly what I needed.

So let’s take a look at fall on the other side of the state line.

It was a nice weekend and I’m looking forward to going back next month for Thanksgiving!

How was your weekend?

17 September 2012

Tea time!

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food, Random

This week, I leave for London.


There are so many things I’m excited about for this trip and I’m focusing on those and not my nerves.

So to kick off vacation right (once I arrive), I scheduled an Afternoon Tea session at Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at the recommendation of my food guru, Robin.

And to prepare for my formal English tea service (because I’m not that fancy), I went with two friends to high tea at The Drake’s Palm Court in Chicago. It’s not London, but it gave me a chance to observe and prepare myself because, I don’t want to that girl at tea.

Okay, I don’t know that much about tea but it’s fancy and fun experience and I am really kind of digging it.

So here are some photos to show a lovely afternoon with good friends, conversation and snacks. Pinkies up!


Palm Court at The Drake Hotel – The harpist was on a break

Menu and fancy china. Obviously, tea is on the menu

Three tiers of joy. My favorite: second tier in the center. Roast beef w/horseradish. Divine


Three lovely ladies at tea – Instagram style

How was your weekend?

06 September 2012

Food Crawl: West Loop edition

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, Food

So now that I’ve told you about my DIY food crawls, I thought I’d give you a little example of my most recent one in Chicago’s West Loop.

Located on the west side of Chicago (shocking), this industrial, lofty, warehouse district has grown exponentially over the last 1-2 years. The unused space is now housing a lot of new restaurants, entertainment and living spaces.

And with this boom of development, a crawl was definitely in order, but I quickly found that one was not enough.

I’ve been to the West Loop and “restaurant row,” known as Randolph Street a few times for other restaurants there (along with indulging in some insane donuts at Glazed & Infused), but this time, I was there to do some damage, and I did.

Here’s where we visited:

  • Haymarket Pub & Brewery
  • Au Cheval
  • Grange Hall Burger Bar
  • City Winery

It was a solid crawl with lots of high alcohol-content beer and food. We managed to go from starving to buzzed to drunk to full and sober and then ready for bed. That is a solid crawl right there

Notes about each:

Haymarket – To be honest, we just stopped here to have a few beers, but I would go back and drink more and even try some stuff on the menu. It was a little loud but the beers they brew weren’t bad (skip the Pilsner).

Au Cheval – Last time I was here, my Marc Jacobs purse got destroyed (long story) but the purse survived and I decided to give it another try. It doesn’t take reservations and seating is sparse so get there early. We strolled in when they opened and weren’t the only ones with that idea. We had two beers and a plate of fries with an egg on top and aioli. It was incredible. I would absolutely go back and focus just on that menu. For beer, I recommend the Urthel Saisonniere and Caracole Saxo. Tip, it gets more difficult to say both post consumption

Grange Hall Burger Bar – I love this place. Dad and I went here once and had a great meal and yet again, it didn’t disappoint. Well the only slide downside was the basket of fried veggies w/horseradish dipping sauce. It was over fried and stuck together and still tasty but just not as wow as I hoped. I got a burger with fried egg, white sharp Cheddar cheese and then we split a piece of Michigan Blueberry pie. Tip: always save room for pie. Always.

City Winery – By now, we were hitting the food/beer wall, but made it to one more place. What’s cool about this place is that it is a full winery and concert hall with reserved table seating. We got a tour of the patio, indoor and private dining areas and then got down to some wine. We sampled a ton of stuff from the tap, Cab, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sav Blanc, sweet wine and even a Malbec rose. And got to sample a trio desserts that included a pretty amazing chocolate lava cake.

And after all of this, I was ready for bed :)

I’m already planning another trip to the West Loop for a crawl of a few more places I have my eye on. If you haven’t been, I also recommend: Publican, Publican Quality Meats, Aviary, De Cero and Girl & The Goat. Really, there hasn’t been anything I don’t dislike over there so far.

So tomorrow is Friday, big weekend plans anyone?

03 September 2012

Chicago neighborhood food crawls

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, Food

I love food, and in Chicago there are no shortages of places to eat.

There is no way to visit every place, so when a handful of new places I like open up around each other, I like to organize a little neighborhood crawl.

It’s like a bar crawl but with food (and a few drinks). The intent isn’t to get wasted (although it does happen), but to bounce from 3-4 places and sample a few appetizers and cocktails to see if you like it.

This does work better when you’re in a group, but I’ve done a few solo while traveling too and it’s been fine.

I will also point out that this is not something official or overly organized, I just come up with a list of places and then ask/beg my friends to go with me. Sometimes, they are a surprisingly tough sell :)

So here are my rules when I organize a crawl:

  • No more than 5 locations total. Seriously, you will explode
  • You should be able to walk or have a short bus, train or car ride to each location. The goal is to find places close together so you can exercise going to each
  • Drinking is not required at each, but you shouldn’t get too hammered, otherwise, you won’t remember the food!
  • Try to find places that have some different cuisine at each, makes it more fun
  • Always cap it off with dessert, brings the night to a close
  • Call ahead for reservations or wait times, but if in a pinch, sitting at the bar is a back up. I prefer to sit in the main dining area around everyone else, but if it’s not working, don’t push it

I’ve been known to break a few of these rules but overall, it makes for a really fun night, especially when you’re with other people who are really in to it.

Since I named this, I’ve done crawls in Wicker Park and West Loop and I’ll put an example of one up on the blog this week because seriously, there was some damn good food had.

Happy Labor Day everyone! How was your long weekend?