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Out and about in Chi Town

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

25 years of Maggiano’s Little Italy: I came, I ate, I had a lot of fun!

A silver anniversary is definitely a cause for celebration, especially in the culinary world. So many restaurants open today and close for good tomorrow, and even fewer manage to forge a culinary identity and to become a household name. Maggiano’s Little Italy is one of the few remarkable success stories. Since 1991, Maggiano’s restaurants have consistently delivered staple Italian dishes in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere – always reinventing, always passionate about food.

After serving millions of gnocchi and manicotti and tons of prime New York steaks and chicken marsala, it was time to take a break and to celebrate – and what better place to throw a party than the original Maggiano’s restaurant, on Clark&Grand in downtown Chicago? I answered yes to Maggiano’s invitation and brought my friend Marina along, as a guest. 🙂 Keep Reading

Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef dining experience: Cook like the pros this holiday season!

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with a magic kingdom of beauty and tranquility: a salt mine. I was in primary school and our teacher organized a visit to this salt mine, as a one-day trip. I can still remember the trepidation I felt and the myriad of questions that came into my mind as we approached the location. Were there any dangers waiting for me inside the mine? Any monsters of the underworld? Any dark corners filled with dangerous ghosts or enticing whispers? Buried deep into the mountain, the salt mine hosted nature-made shapes of various kinds, whose detached serenity, ice-cold touch and transparency made a lasting impression on me. Who knew salt could be so beautiful? 🙂

These memories came back to me recently, when I attended a holiday-inspired dining experience courtesy of Morton Salt. The Next Door Chef: Chicago event looked like a great opportunity for me to learn more about different types of salt and how they could elevate my dishes in terms of flavor, texture, but also looks. Salt can make or break any meal – yet, how often have I really thought about the versatility of salt and about using Morton Kosher or Sea Salt instead of the standard table salt when cooking? The answer is: hardly ever. Anxious to learn, I accepted Morton Salt’s invitation and brought my friend Marina along, as a guest. Keep Reading

Osteria La Madia review: I love you, pasta – and I want more of you!

UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.

Now that fall is here and the weather has cooled down, I really need my carbs to keep me warm and full. Whole wheat bread sandwiches, risotto, potato stew, pasta – they’re on the menu these days for one simple reason: they’re energy-packed. I can’t get through my day without a healthy dose of carbs as an early lunch, washed down by a big cup of hot English breakfast tea and complemented by a few European biscuits for dessert. Yes, I really like my continental tea and specialty biscuits – I guess old habits die hard 🙂

Coming from Europe, I am a big believer in traditional culinary techniques and products from the “old continent,” yet I am also aware that the key to success lies in reinterpreting glorious traditions to make them appealing to the present. How do you reconcile the old with the new? Can they ever work in harmony? I’ve always been interested to explore these questions, and as such I was very excited when I got an invitation to attend a special “pasta and pizza night” at Osteria La Madia. Named after an Italian cabinet traditionally used to knead dough and store bread, this trendy restaurant in downtown Chicago upholds a respectful understanding of Italian cuisine and traditions.

Osteria La Madia is currently running a half-price pasta promotion for diners seated after 9 p.m., and they invited local food bloggers to sample their made fresh in-house pastas and pizzas and to spread the word. It was an offer my husband and I simply could not refuse. Keep Reading

CLOSED A review of MOD Sienna Pizza – and a giveaway: They had me at… Brussels sprouts!

In my experience, resistance is futile when it comes to pizza – unless I’m told I am going to get Brussels sprouts on a thin crust! I have yet to find the magic of thin crusts – I like the pie crust to be thick, fluffy and pillow-like, and comforting all-around. As for the Brussels sprouts, I used to eat them when we lived in Britain, and I was not a fan (to put it mildly). We mainly ate Brussels sprouts as a side dish on Christmas Day, when they were boiled, seasoned, and paired with crispy bacon for extra flavor and texture. Disguised by the bacon, the Brussels sprouts failed to make culinary sense to me, and I found them pale, gloomy, and not charming in the slightest.

I had to revisit my opinions on Brussels sprouts and thin pizza crust last week, when I was invited to taste MOD Pizza’s seasonal offering: the Sienna pizza. Before this visit, I was unfamiliar with the MOD Pizza brand, and apprehensive about eating Brussels sprouts on a pizza. However, a quick Internet search made me uncover several positive reviews on the topic, and I became anxious to see what the enthusiastic buzz was all about. 🙂 Keep Reading