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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The perfect pre-Mother’s Day afternoon: cooking with Michelle… and Nellie!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope this day brings you lots of happiness and peace, and you celebrate it with your loved ones 🙂

I’m happy to report the school semester is now over and I can go back to cooking – and what better way to celebrate my return to all things foodie-related than with an easy yet super-decadent lemon pastry cream French toast, just in time for Mother’s Day? Truth be told, I had plenty of help to bring this recipe to life – first from my daughter Michelle, and then from Nellie. Nellie is the brown hen mascot behind Nellie’s Free Range Eggs brand, whose reps have recently contacted me to review their products. With May being National Egg Month and with Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought this was the perfect moment for an “egg-ucation” refresher – so I said yes, and I embraced the challenge 😉

I ate a lot of free range and organic eggs when I was growing up. There was famine in the cities and eggs were scarce, which meant that my family would always arrange for me to spend the summers in the countryside. Local peasants were so poor they just couldn’t afford to buy expensive cages for their hens, which meant the hens were kept outside and only fed natural food – lucky me! Keep Reading

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

Book reviews, part 1: It’s time to read great life stories and to fire up the grill!

It’s almost May 1st – time to fire up the grill, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of this long winter, and now I’m ready to put the heavy coat back in the attic until next year. So is my family: DH and our daughter are both “outdoor creatures,” who would rather share laughs in the warm spring/summer glow than languish in front of the TV waiting for the air conditioning to start. Isn’t it wonderful that the weather is finally giving everyone a break?

Now is also the time to rethink your diet, and cookbooks are a great place to start if you’re looking for recipe ideas or straight-up inspiring storytelling. This is part #1 of a bigger roundup book review I intend to write (there are so many good books out there, and so little time!) Stay tuned for part #2 over the next week or so 😉

Good food and good storytelling go hand in hand, and the recently published book Treated Like Family is a case in point. 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

Happy Easter!

To those of you who are celebrating Easter, I wish you a peaceful and joyful Sunday with your loved ones 🙂

Cabbage rolls: the story of the beloved dish we eat at Easter

There is something very enticing in the unadulterated simplicity of some dishes. There’s arguably no sophistication, no gimmicks, just a lot of hard work and some fingers crossed hoping that the dish will please your loved ones. As the days go by, this food miraculously gets better, and its minimalist components come together to create a symphony of deep flavors which defies the initial humbleness of the dish. How can something so simple (some might even say unrefined) render so much delightful goodness? 🙂

Such is the case – and the paradox! – of cabbage rolls. It’s a simple dish which comprises a rather small number of ingredients, and it does not have the sophistication I have learned to appreciate in recent years. And yet, once you take a bite out of the succulent ground meat and experience the amazing taste of cabbage-flavored bacon sporting a delicate hint of bay leaves, you learn that even the most basic dishes can conquer your stomach and inspire your mind.

Cabbage rolls are the quintessential Easter dish in our family, yet as I have recently discovered, this is not a dish which belongs to Eastern Europe exclusively. Variations of it can be found in many cultures around the globe, from Italy to Japan and from Sweden to a myriad of Middle Eastern countries. Keep Reading