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Chicago food

The Culinary Fight Club Blended Burger Challenge: A fight is a fight is a fight – for a great cause

The first rule of the Culinary Fight Club is: You do tell people about the Culinary Fight Club 🙂 If you’re like me and like watching movies and immersing yourself into pop culture, then you must be familiar with the movie Fight Club, which features testosterone-brimming one-on-one fights, voyages into the unconscious and a breathtakingly charming Brad Pitt. What is the subject of Fight Club?  That’s actually a very good question, and many answers have been suggested ever since the movie was released, back in 1999. At the most basic level, the movie and the novel it’s based on are about the competitive spirit embedded in human nature, and about competition as the key to break free from the conformism imprinted on us by modern society. Ultimately, fighting is the key to Life, and a fight is a fight is a fight.

In a move that has pleased foodies and movie buffs alike, the concept of a fight club has been adapted to suit the culinary world under the name of the Culinary Fight Club, a national organization which hosts live cooking competitions. Contestants – be they home cooks or executive chefs – come together to compete, amass glory and new followers, and give back to the community. Indeed, what makes the Culinary Fight Club so special is this emphasis on competition with a higher purpose: ending hunger and helping local friends in need. To achieve this goal the Culinary Fight Club gives 20% of the proceeds from each competition to Fight2Feed, a nonprofit organization which provides service and support to hungry men, women and children.

I know about the Culinary Fight Club events and I love their emphasis on helping the community – and this is why the invitation to attend their latest cooking competition in Chicago was an offer I simply could not refuse 🙂

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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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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

My review of The Good Taste Series culinary competition: goetta sausage, shrimp chilpachole – and so much more!

Their hands move restlessly, as if playing the piano. Sweat covers their foreheads and they nervously wipe it out in-between the cooking sessions. “I’m sorry I can’t talk right now, but I promise I’ll cook you the best dish when the judges are gone,” one tells me with visibly shaking hands, while putting the finishing touches on his salmon&goetta sausage dish. One extra garnish here, one hot sizzling pan there – the spectacle is on! They are the nine Hyatt chefs who are performing in The Good Taste Series culinary competition. They are determined, focused, fierce.

I admire professional chefs and I never miss an opportunity to watch them work. This is why I was very excited when I was invited to attend the third edition of The Good Taste Series Midwest regional competition, which was hosted by Hyatt Regency McCormick Place last week. A well-established contest organized by Hyatt as a means to support and recognize its culinary talent, The Good Taste Series gave me the chance to observe nine well-seasoned chefs as they created stunning dishes – and to try them all!

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My review of the Truly Italian food expo: Italian flavors and culinary traditions at their best

I can still remember the first time I came across Italian food: it was a few years after the fall of communism, when my cousin made pizza and cannelloni. She has always been very adventurous in the kitchen, and she took my family by surprise when she made these two dishes, for the first time ever. We didn’t even know how to pronounce their names – I remember we called them “piza” and “chameleon,” lol

As I ventured out of my parents’ home and into the big wide world, my appreciation of Italian cuisine has gone stronger, and I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since that first pizza I tried in my cousin’s kitchen. To me, Italian cuisine is very much a work in progress. I constantly try to find out more information about its history and phenomenal worldwide impact, and I’m always after new and exciting recipes to try. My husband and I are big fans of Italian food – in fact, as I’m writing this, I have cannelloni and pizza baking in the oven, both of which will be ready just in time for dinner. 🙂

Since I am so passionate about Italian cuisine, I was very happy to be invited to the opening of the Truly Italian food expo, held in Chicago earlier this week. What does true Italian food mean? What does it taste like? These are some of the challenging questions I wanted to explore at the event. Keep Reading

My review of 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria: for the love of pizza!

UPDATE: This pizzeria has closed.

With a baby at home and demanding jobs outside the home, who has time to dine out? Not me or my husband, that’s for sure. We haven’t had the chance to go out in what seems like forever, and sometimes I do miss the free time I once used to enjoy. Thankfully, 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria has recently come to our rescue, when we were invited to the opening of its newest restaurant in Evanston, IL.

After opening its first California location in January 2012 to rave reviews, 800 Degrees has been turning out, on average, 800-1,200 pizzas per day, serving 300,000 pizzas in its first year from a single location (wow!). 800 Degrees is also credited with starting the “assembly-line” pizza phenomenon. I couldn’t wait to be a part of this phenomenon myself, so I gladly accepted the invitation to check out their new location. It was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse 🙂 Keep Reading