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MickyN

Potato lemon balm salad: summer cooking at its best!

Did you know use of “uncommon herbs” is one of this year’s hottest culinary trends? I picked up this information while doing research in preparation for attending the latest National Restaurant Association Show (you can check out my review here), and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad to see the overall “return to nature” approach at work, be it epitomized by plant-based products, imperfect produce, exotic fruit and super fruit – or, finally, uncommon herbs.

But, what are some of the less used herbs at the top of the popularity pyramid this year? In the brochure which details this year’s top trends, the National Restaurant Association gives chervil, lovage, lemon balm and papalo as examples of uncommon herbs. I really wish we’d grown lovage: my mom uses a lot of lovage in her cooking, but sadly I have yet to find this plant available for purchase in Chicagoland. Luckily, on the other hand, our lemon balm bush has survived the polar vortex and is now thriving in our garden. Time then to make a lemon balm salad – so beautiful, so seasonal, so fresh 🙂 Keep Reading

My visit to Coarse Italian in Glenview: talking family and community with restaurateur Franco Francese

Ask restaurateur Franco Francese about his favorite food-related memory, and his face lightens up at the thought of Sunday dinners of years past. It was a family affair, with everybody sitting down at the dining table and waiting their turn to get rigatoni. As with many Italian dishes, the secret lied in the sauce – and the Francese family recipe was a work of wonder, featuring cow’s neck bones simmered for hours at a low temperature so as to slowly develop their flavor. “Family matters,” Francese tells me with a pensive voice. “It’s what molds us and shapes us as people. And it’s nice to work with family.”

It is this spirit of family and familial love that Franco Francese is bringing to the Glenview Park Golf Club with his latest restaurant, Coarse Italian, which opens for dinner on June 17. Keep Reading

My review of NRA Show’s centennial edition: when mindful eating takes center stage

Every year in May I get incredibly excited for what’s about to come. Not only am I eager to finish the school semester and enjoy a long-awaited summer break, but I also fidget at the thought of the upcoming National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show. In my opinion, this is one of the year’s best food-related events which take place in Chicago, unrivaled in scope, in number of attendees, in showcase of inspiration.

This year’s edition was bigger and better than ever before, for a good reason: restaurateurs and industry experts from all across America came together to celebrate 100 years of existence for both the National Restaurant Association and for the Show. What’s the connection between the NRA Show and my sandwich, pictured above? Read on for the answer 😉 Keep Reading

Five things I learned from Chef Fabio Viviani at Macy’s latest cooking demo

Chef Fabio Viviani’s fresh bean salad with roasted chickpeas and crispy mortadella bites

Is there anything better than a walk in downtown Chicago when the flowers are in bloom and the weather is crystal clear? Yes, there is 🙂 To make your day even better, I encourage you check out the cooking demo schedule on Macy’s Culinary Council website before leaving home. If you’re in luck, you’ll catch a demo at Macy’s on State Street – the perfect destination for foodies and fashionistas alike.

Go downtown, eat fresh food made on the spot, and build memories to last a lifetime: That’s exactly what I did recently, when I visited Macy’s State Street to attend a cooking demonstration given by Chef Fabio Viviani 😉 Keep Reading

Chef Battle Midwest Regionals: I ate, I judged, I had a fabulous time!

I don’t know about you, but I love cooking competitions! There is something truly addictive in watching the adrenaline, the sweat, the trembling – and sometimes the desperation – of talented chefs working under pressure. Be it the ingredients that are hard to work with, be it the technology that fails, be it last-second misfortunes which render the final dish inedible – it’s all that drama that keeps me glued to the TV screen, waiting for the chefs’ next move. As a Chicago-based foodie, I’ve also had my fair share of live cooking competitions, which I attended and then described in detail on this blog.

The most recent competition I was invited to was Chef Battle Midwest Regionals. I also agreed to be a judge for the preliminary stage of this event. Spending Sunday downtown eating food made by talented local chefs and grading them for their efforts? Yes, please 🙂

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Good bread is king! A few words on my favorite Chicagoland bakeries

Now that spring is finally here (or so I hope!), I can scale down on typical comfort foods and go back to the dishes I crave the most: panini, sandwiches, light soups and salads. So easy to make, so flavorful, so nutritious and satisfying! We’re talking sandwiches, which means now’s also the perfect time to answer some readers’ questions regarding the bread I usually eat and use in my recipes. What is my go-to bread, and why? Do I have any favorite bakeries?

As someone who has lived in Chicago for close to 8 years now, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad bread-related experiences. Keep Reading

Celebrating 20 years of Chicago’s Best Wingfest: Give me wings, glorious wings!

Tamarindo chicken wings served by Estrella Negra at 2019 Chicago’s Best Wingfest

What’s the magic formula for perfect chicken wings? I don’t know about you, but the first thing I notice when eating one is the texture. As I bite into it, I expect it to be moist and delicate, with an almost melt-in-your mouth quality. Once that’s done, the flavor kicks in: I expect it to be a little bit on the spicy side, and fully developed, encompassing several layers of surprising elements. What’s my absolute no-no? The freezer burn taste. I’ve tasted it before – never again, tyvm!

If you’re still unsure what kind of chicken wings you like, how about you try a lot? I reckon the best way to do it is to check out Chicago’s Best Wingfest next year. With so many wings to discover, you’re bound to find a favorite, have a fab time with your loved ones – and maybe even win some prizes in their famous wing eating competition 😉 Keep Reading