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Out and about in Chi Town

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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My review of Taco Thursday: A night out in the city, munching on tacos? Count me in!

What comes after Taco Tuesday and sounds equally tempting and delicious? Taco Thursday, of course! Since coming to Chicago I’ve had my fair share of tacos, and working my way diligently through taquerias (time permitting) has been one of my most enjoyable missions. Every time I think I’ve seen enough in terms of ingredients and flavor combinations, I come across a new interpretation of this age-old dish that leaves me speechless. Yay for creativity in the kitchen! 🙂

As a fiercely proud Chicagoan, I think it is my duty to gain more knowledge and experience of the tacos that make our city so great. This is why I was very excited to attend the first Time Out Chicago (TOC) Taco Thursday event, which took place at Joe’s on Weed St last week. A night out in the city, munching on tacos? Count me in!

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My brunch experience at Maggiano’s: When life gives you lemons, you make lemon ricotta pancakes!

Glorious cranberry raisin focaccia, with a crunchy crust, pillowy inside and fruity goodness galore. Supple and wholesome veggie frittata, with fresh tomatoes screaming sun, summer, adventure. Decadent eggs Benedict, covered by a velvety blanket of Hollandaise sauce, light and caressing like a midsummer night’s dream. And, last but by no means least, the lemon ricotta pancakes, self-assured and deliciously addictive. I tried them all at the recent brunch event I was invited to attend at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant on Clark & Grand in downtown Chicago. What a brunch, what a Sunday! Keep Reading

The Good Food Festival and the International Home+Housewares Show recap: from blenditarians to social robots… and back!

Metropolitan Farms reps at The Good Food Festival: loud and proud about the urban agriculture movement!

It’s not often that I get the chance to attend two food-related shows in one day, but when it happens – oh, what a joy! Such was the occasion recently, when The Good Food Festival ended the same day the International Home+Housewares Show began, and attending both was an opportunity I simply couldn’t miss. What do these expos have in common? My answer: a desire for innovation complemented by an awareness of the need for sustainable growth, as well as a respect for customers and the environment. Fortunately, sustainability is here to stay 🙂

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When Graeter’s Ice Cream came to Winnetka: a world of delicious treats awaits!

The ice cream pictured above is dangerous – it really is! 🙂 I can’t remember the last time I had to work so hard to exercise restraint when eating ice cream. In the end, the delicious pint of decadence was gone within an hour – my family and I simply couldn’t resist it.

It all makes sense if I tell you this is strawberry cheesecake ice cream, the mystery flavor which was revealed to the world by Cincinnati-based ice cream maker Graeter’s only a few weeks ago. I got the chance to try this delightful frozen concoction at the newly opened Graeter’s store in Winnetka IL, the second of this kind in the Chicagoland area, and I can confidently say this ice cream was definitely worth the wait… and the hype! Keep Reading

My review of ROOF on theWit’s new menu: what a view, what a flavor journey!

This is downtown Chicago at night: a city of enticing lights, hidden treasures and sophisticated meanings. A world of secrets, which lay there to be discovered by inquisitive minds. A city like no other, that’s for sure. I experienced it all – the stunning view, exquisite food, the overall trepidation of the night – recently, when I was invited to celebrate the newly revamped menu at ROOF on theWit in downtown Chicago.

A glamorous escape set 27 stories above the vibrant city streets, ROOF on theWit has been rated one of the top 3 rooftop bars in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine, earning international praise for its stunning design, private event spaces and entertainment options. A hot nightlife destination needs a menu which keeps up with culinary trends and satisfies a demanding clientele – and the new menu at ROOF on theWit is right on point in both respects. It is a menu which provides the opportunity to escape to renowned foodie destinations and to undertake an unforgettable journey through flavors. No time to travel to Spain? Now you can bring Spain closer to you – at ROOF on theWit 🙂

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Secrets of the slurp: my ramen-making learning experience at Strings Ramen

Craving comforting soups on cold nights? I have two words for you: Strings Ramen! With spring yet to make its official entrance in Chicagoland, this is the perfect place to grab a bowl of fresh ramen and to indulge in authentic Japanese flavors while watching the world go and being warm and cosy.

Recently I got the chance to learn more about this famous dining spot located in the heart of Chicago’s Chinatown, when I was invited to celebrate String Ramen’s third anniversary. Myself and other fellow Chicagogrammers were given access behind the scenes, learned more about the ramen-making process and the history of this popular dish concept (which goes back two centuries), and sampled a variety of ramens to behold. Just the perfect thing to do when it’s cold (Chicago-style cold!) and the rain is pouring outside 🙂 Keep Reading