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Out and about in Chi Town

How to keep cool in the summer: Have a shake, have a gazpacho!

Looking for ways to keep cool and refreshed in the sweltering heat? I hear you! After much hesitation, the hot weather has come to Chicago bringing with it sweat, dehydration and thirst – a lot of thirst! I am a city girl who loves hot weather and summer in general, yet even I sometimes find it hard to cool down and to keep myself hydrated in the humid Chicago weather. Thankfully, the restaurant scene in our beautiful city offers plenty of options which quench your thirst and cool your appetite – and I have recently explored a few of them. Here’s the summary of a delightful afternoon I spent exploring the culinary world downtown – complete with pics, glorious pics 🙂

I first stopped by Zoup! to check out the latest additions to their summer menu (you can read my previous review of Zoup! here). Keep Reading

My review of Chef Stuart O’Keeffe’s cooking class: I had lunch with a Food Network star!

Chef Stuart O’Keeffe at Macy’s State St

It’s hot outside and you don’t want to eat – and you also can’t for the life of you remember any notable Irish dish other than corned beef and cabbage. And yet, Chef Stuart O’Keeffe manages to pull you into his world of flavors, and you decide that eating on a sweltering hot day is not such a bad idea, after all. Chef O’Keeffe’s food pays tribute to his Irish upbringing, yet it is cosmopolitan in its scope and versatile in its approach. Just like his personality and on-stage presence, his food is vibrant and bubbly, in the best possible way 🙂

I met Chef Stuart O’Keeffe at a cooking demo at Macy’s State St in downtown Chicago one hot summer day. My previous Macy’s Culinary Council cooking class had been amazing, and I was looking forward to yet another exquisite culinary experience. Keep Reading

My recent BlueStar pizza class experience: the science of pizza, revealed in a cooking space like no other

Chefs Leo Spizzirri and Susan Swanson during the BlueStar pizza class

Chef Leo Spizzirri  is a man of a phenomenal energy and charisma, and what keeps him motivated is something most of us enjoy: pizza 🙂 He talks fast, his hand gestures are broad, and his eyes light up whenever he shares stories from his past as a pizzaiolo certified by the International School of Pizza or as a consultant for some of America’s largest pizza manufacturers. What he’s most passionate about, however, is his current job as a pizza instructor at the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy (NAPCA) in Lisle. Do you ever think about what goes on inside your pizza? About the chemical reactions among the ingredients? About the stress level applied to the dough? If you’d like to find out more about the science of pizza, meeting Chef Spizzirri is a must. Believe me: you will not be disappointed.

I met Chef/instructor Spizzirri when I attended the BlueStar pizza class held at NAPCA, which Chef Spizzirri manages along with his business partners, Chefs Anthony Iannone and Renee Gabbett. This is a full review of my experience – and what an experience that was! Keep Reading

My vegetarian lunch at Fogo de Chão: enjoying warm spring days one Watermelon Fresca at a time!

Maybe it’s just me and my preconceived ideas, but eating veggies is not something I would normally imagine myself doing at Fogo de Chão. Mention the name of this restaurant and more often than not I’ll have a vision of endless meats roasted over an open fire in a Brazilian steakhouse (aka churrascaria). There is drama and magic in the play of the fire, and the chefs look like illusionists taming a spirited force which turns rawness into deliciousness. And yet, Fogo de Chão is not exclusively about the gaucho way of preparing meat – on skewers impressively maneuvered by the chefs for hours on end – but also about veggies: wholesome, fresh, flavorful veggies meant to satisfy your appetite and to make your hot day lighter, healthier, and overall more bearable.

I visited Fogo de Chão in Rosemont IL for lunch recently following their invitation to try out the new salads featured on their summer menu. Keep Reading

Winging it at WingFest 2018: so many wings, so little time!

How do you like your chicken wings: mild with dashes of parmesan, hot with ghost pepper galore, or BBQ-style, smothered in smoky bourbon sauce? Or maybe you like the exotic kind, brimming with gochujang, pineapple and mango? Whatever your preferred flavors or tolerance of spicy food, you were bound to find your favorites and to discover new ones at the 19th edition of Chicago’s Best WingFest, which was held at UIC Pavilion earlier this month.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I’m not into spicy foods. Furthermore, being heavily pregnant has made me very cautious when it comes to trying out new dishes. What if there wouldn’t be anything mild enough for me to be able to eat at WingFest? What if my feet would get more swollen, and my ankles would hurt even more as a result of standing up for hours? All in all, was it really worth it? In the end, curiosity got the best of me: I attended WingFest, and I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded. The mild wings were plenty and delicious, the crowds were manageable, and the experience was a lot of fun 🙂

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My review of Fort Willow: Big Bites, bold flavors, amazing memories

Have you ever been to a restaurant which has a tree made from wooden slats and a swing inside? I have, and I’m here to reveal some of its secrets 😉 Indeed, somewhere in this amazing city of ours there is a charming little dining spot which fits the above description – a place whose quiet ambiance and whimsical decor remind you of childhood, innocence, and endless dreaming. The name of the restaurant is Fort Willow, its location is an unassuming section on Elston Avenue, and its cosmopolitan menu makes up a sophisticated journey through flavors. Do you want to travel back in time and around the world, savoring global flavors while joyfully reminding yourself that life is precious and memories are a cherished part of it? If you do, then Fort Willow is your place to be.

I visited Fort Willow at opening time one Friday afternoon. Keep Reading

Five things I learned from Chef Rick Bayless at Macy’s latest cooking class

With Chef Rick Bayless at Macy’s kids cooking class
Photo credit: Brittany Sepulveda

Whenever you get an invitation to attend a Macy’s Culinary Council cooking class, you’d better say yes! Especially if the class is scheduled during Macy’s Flower Show and involves Chef Rick Bayless, a culinary expert with a deep understanding of Mexican cuisine and a passion for storytelling. As a big fan of Chef Bayless, I was excited to get the invitation to attend his latest kids cooking class – and equally excited to get the chance to interview him for my blog. I could not have asked for a better time and place: with Easter right around the corner, Macy’s on State Street was in bloom (literally!), and the explosion of floral colors and scents was truly intoxicating 🙂 Keep Reading