I don’t know about you guys, but I just love the weather outside! It seems that spring has come to Chicagoland and that, after months of grueling cold and icy roads, I can put away my heavy winter coats and wear light clothes – at last! Spring and summer are my favorite seasons because I feel at my best in the sun: I am confident, inspired, energized, happy. Now is the time when things and situations around me gain new meanings, and obstacles are approached with a positive and constructive attitude. Now is the perfect time for me to go ahead and work on any outstanding projects.
I always eat light in the spring and summer. Whereas during winter I often make Georgette’s zucchini bake and drink rivers of comforting sweet hot chocolate, in the spring I want to give my body nutritious but also calorie-friendly dishes. The foods I make at home and eat while out and about are informed by this desire to eat lightly, and each new dish I discover makes me very happy.
Earlier this week myself and other Chicago food bloggers got the chance to make several spring culinary discoveries when we were invited by Corner Bakery Cafe (CBC) to taste their new menu items, which would be available in-store beginning next week. The presentation was made by Chef Ric Scicchitano, CBC’s senior vice president of food and beverage. Ric is a graduate of New York’s Culinary Institute of America, and was CBC’s first-ever employee at the original location, which opened in Chicago over 20 years ago.
The toasted sesame kale salad was the first one I tried. Made up of three different kinds of kale, shredded carrots and toasted sesame seeds with a ginger soy dressing, it was light and unbelievably tender. I am not a fan of kale and did not think that I was going to enjoy this salad, but I did. The kale was very flavorful, and the dressing gave it a charming assertiveness and made it stand out. I also really liked the texture: soft yet far from lifeless, it perfected this dish and made it appealing to the reluctant kale eater in me.
The quinoa and pico salad was the second new item I tried. It had cooked quinoa, black beans, diced tomatoes, grilled corn, red onions, limes and cilantro, all bathed in a light dash of olive oil. Light as a feather and full of nutrients, this salad benefited from the inclusion of the pico, which made the dish fresh and supple.
The Southwest avocado wedge (a returning menu item) was my favorite of the three. The buttery avocado was ripe to perfection, infused with flavor, and simply out of this world! The corn salsa on top of it was very fresh and tasty, and the tortilla strips made up a guarded layer of crunchy deliciousness.
In the second part of his presentation Ric talked about the new CBC smoothies. The orange, carrot and ginger smoothie was the first one I tried – and I was hooked! Made with 100 percent fruits and veggies and no sugar added, it had layer upon layer of flavor, which left me amazed and delighted. This smoothie is definitely on top of my favorite drinks this spring.
I also tried the new four berry smoothie, made with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. I tasted the original recipe and the one with protein added, and my vote went to the original recipe because it was lighter than the other one. Overall however, I thought the orange, carrot and ginger smoothie was the undisputed winner of the smoothie taste test.
You don’t have to sacrifice flavor to eat healthy – this is CBC’s slogan this spring. I like their slogan because it reinforces the idea that taste and nutritional benefits are not two mutually exclusive concepts, and that you can make both work to your advantage as long as you put heart into it. I think CBC’s new menu items are proofs that flavor and healthfulness can work together beautifully, and I am pleased with my culinary discoveries. These are the foods and drinks that make me happy. They are the perfect fuel for my body – the perfect fuel for spring.
*Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by Corner Bakery Cafe for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.