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Chicago food scene

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

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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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

My review of Mezcalito: Are you #DownToFiesta? I’d say we are :-)

Chef Marissa Tuñon’s molletes, featuring refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo

Somewhere in hip River North, tucked in the basement of the famous Mercadito, lies a cocktail lounge that offers inventive food and drinks in an immersive atmosphere. The name of Mercadito’s younger sibling is Mezcalito, and its goal is to capture the hearts and minds of customers who want a quality bar experience, which blends authentic Mexican food with upscale tequila-based cocktails. Ever wondered how to make your night downtown memorable? Whatever you do, I strongly encourage you to check out Mezcalito at some point. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I’m here to spill the beans – or the mezcal, more likely 😉 Keep Reading

Oh kitchen, where art thou? Living on sandwiches again – but this time, it’s truffle mozzarella sandwiches :-)

You may remember how the story went after the birth of our daughter a few years ago: I took a long break from blogging and lived on grilled cheese sandwiches for months. History seems to be repeating now, following the birth of our son. I don’t have the time or the energy to cook – blame it on nighttime feeds, my son’s sleep disturbances, and overall poor physical shape. So yes, I have been absent from here and have been feeling guilty about all those posts “which could have been” 🙁

Living on sandwiches can be repetitively boring, but I believe I’ve found a way to avoid said boredom. There’s no reason why your sandwiches can’t be upgraded and thankfully, there are plenty of upgrade options on the market these days. For me, the saving grace has been (drum roll!) truffle fresh mozzarella. Keep Reading

Another year, another stellar Chicago Gourmet food fest: rocking the fork Chicago-style!

How is it possible for 2018 to have flown by so fast? For starters, the past 12 months have been very busy for our family. Interviewing Chef Rick Bayless has been one of this year’s highlights. Of course, welcoming baby Alex has been the best highlight of all 🙂 Here’s hoping for a fab new year, filled with good health and plenty of great food! Before 2018 departs, however, it’s time to review one of the biggest food fests of the year: Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet. This review is long overdue, but then again, so are all of my blog posts as of late. Blame it on baby Alex, I say 😉

In 2018, Chicago Gourmet organizers came up with the special theme Rock the Fork to highlight the organic connection between the Windy City and food and music, respectively. Nearly 250 restaurants and chefs served their dishes at various pavilions spread across Millennium Park, and members of the public experienced the sounds of various musical genres (ranging from blues and classical to international, pop, rock and more) while tasting their way through Chicago Gourmet’s myriad of flavors and cuisines.

This was the second time I attended Chicago Gourmet (you can read my review of the 2017 edition here), and my experience was very different from last year’s. Keep Reading