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MickyN

Time Out Chicago mac & cheese smackdown: what’s in a great mac & cheese?

It is the moment you take the first carb-loaded bite and feel your culinary discovery mission is complete. The moment you lock lips with the decadent béchamel, savor the shy nutmeg  undertones, and realize you never knew gruyère could be so delicious. You are clearly in awe of the chef’s artistry to break new ground and to create innovation in a dish which always struck you as basic, mundane, uneventful. It is that moment when your eyes open in wonderment and you can’t quite believe you’re tasting what you’re tasting: is this the humble mac & cheese – or is this history in the making? Hello, great mac & cheese rendition 🙂

Recently I had the chance to taste several exquisite takes on mac & cheese and to cast my vote to crown the best mac & cheese in Chicago. How exciting – and what a great way to spend the day for me and my mom! Keep Reading

2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo review: the perfect way to celebrate the advent of National Candy Month!

Baobites, a baobab-based snack

Who doesn’t like a piece of sweet at the end of a meal? Make it not just any sweet, but baobab-based sweet – and I think you will love the change! Citrusy and refreshing like an apricot yet also gentle to the stomach like a pear, the pieces of baobab pictured above are pure flavor Heaven. Having tasted baobab for the first time at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, I am pleased to report that I am now a baobab fan. Not only are baobites delicious without being sickeningly sweet, but they are also good for you from a nutritional standpoint. I checked out several peer-reviewed articles on the topic, and the facts (high vitamin C and fiber content, amongst others) are there. Hurray for nutritious sweets and snacks!

Held in Chicago at the end of May, the Sweets & Snacks Expo celebrated its 20th anniversary in style this year, bringing together 17,000 professionals from the confectionery, cookie and snack industries and over 200 new exhibitors. A show of this caliber can be anything you want it to be: an exploration of food trends, a networking opportunity, a series of exciting and fun discoveries. This year I did a little bit of everything, and time flew by really fast. 🙂

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Cheesy, easy breezy, veggie-loaded sandwich: Be careful with the goat cheese!

Goat cheese has to be one of the priciest ingredients ever – to me, anyway. I used to eat a lot of goat cheese when we lived in Europe, in countries where this type of cheese was produced in large quantities. Since coming to Chicago however, I had to scale down consumption for no other reason than price. I love a good goat cheese-inspired sandwich and miss the old days of indulgence!

With limited market supply and high prices as a result, what is a goat cheese aficionada left to do than to hunt down promotions and to hope for a sale? This is exactly what I have been doing for awhile now. Keep Reading

2017 National Restaurant Association Show review: charcuterie, pickles, truffle zest, amarena cherries – and so much more!

Exciting, thorough, overwhelming – these are just some of the words I would use to describe the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, which takes place in Chicago every May. Starting on a Saturday and ending the following Tuesday, the event draws in tens of thousands of restaurant professionals from around the world, who come to the Windy City to learn to build a successful business from the best restaurateurs, to network their way through the Show and to strike lucrative deals. As a former journalist and current food blogger, I think it is very important that I stay on top of trends and products and that I report them accurately to my readers – and this is why for me the NRA Show is a goldmine. Knowledge is power, right? 🙂

So, what does the salami in the pic above have to do with this Show – and what do we ultimately need to take from it? According to a NRA survey of almost 1,300 professional chefs, house-made charcuterie items are going to feature prominently on restaurant menus this year. Keep Reading

Memorial Day wishes

Wishing you all a safe and peaceful Memorial Day. We’ll spend this day honoring the fallen and counting our blessings in the land of freedom 🙂

Memorial Day sausage sandwich extravaganza: a different kind of pigs in a blanket!

There’s no time like the time you spend with your loved ones 🙂 This weekend my husband is off work, which means we will truly be celebrating Memorial Day together as a family. We went out to eat today, while tomorrow we’ll stay home and dear husband will do some grilling – and when we grill, we don’t hold back! We will for sure make the decadent sandwich below using fresh sausages we got on sale from the local grocery store. I will use a batch of Italian sausages for this purpose, but you can use brats as well (as we did in the past) with similarly spectacular results.

In creating this dish I was inspired by pigs in a blanket, the popular appetizer which involves hot dogs or small sausages wrapped in dough and baked until piping hot. Eating them straight out of the oven, sizzling with luscious juices and covered in buttery pastry, is definitely one of my greatest joys. This dish does resemble pigs in a blanket, but with a twist: the dough is replaced by lots and lots of bacon and pepper jack cheese. The more proteins, the merrier!

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My review of the US World Chocolate Masters competition: Here’s the future, written in chocolate!

It takes a lot to make one quality piece of chocolate. Somewhere far away, most likely in Ghana or the Ivory Coast, farmers labor relentlessly on the cocoa plantations, eyebrows sweating under the asphyxiating heat, machetes in hand to cut and set aside the precious cocoa harvest. Once fermented and dried, the cocoa beans are acquired by intermediaries and are bagged and shipped around the world, in a trade which is as profitable as it is marred by difficulties. What pastry chefs create and what we consume is a labor of love, the work of many hands and minds – all of it for our appreciation and guilt-free delight.

Every two years for the past 10 years, renowned French producer Cacao Barry has organized the World Chocolate Masters competition to highlight the magical world of chocolate and its burgeoning talents. The challenge involves making original chocolate creations on a given theme within a particular time frame. The reward at the end of this grueling competition, with national qualifying rounds held in 20 countries, is the chance to get a spot in the World Final and to be crowned the best chocolate chef in the world. From there, sky is the limit 🙂

The theme tackled by contestants during the 2017-2018 edition of World Chocolate Masters (WCM) is Futropolis: A Quest for Tomorrow’s Chocolate Flavors. I had the opportunity to attend the WCM USA selection, which was held in Chicago recently, and I was in awe of the innovation, attention to detail and utmost dedication to the theme displayed by the finalists.

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