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Out and about in Chi Town

2019 Chicago Gourmet: Lights, Camera, Napkin – and delicious food galore!

Fall just isn’t complete in Chicago without the usual great food extravaganza that is Chicago Gourmet. The sun may come and go, the theme of the fest may be funny or pensive, and the participating restaurants may change – and yet, year after year, the magic remains. Where else can you find a plethora of America’s most talented and most diverse chefs gathered in one place, sharing their talent and their time with an unashamedly food-obsessed audience? I dare you to give me a counterexample 😉

This was the third time I attended Chicago Gourmet (you can read my reviews of previous editions here and here), and my experience this year was on par with what I have come to expect from one of Chicago’s most popular annual celebrations of excellence in food, held at Millennium Park. This year’s theme – Lights, Camera, Napkin! – highlighted the connections between food and entertainment through a series of super fun cooking demonstrations. Keep Reading

Chicago Food Planet Chinatown food tour: from bao buns to astral signs, and a splash of bubble tea!

What is your favorite Chinese dish? Is it bao buns or sweet & sour pork? Spring rolls or Szechuan chicken? As for me, I love them all, without exception – and there’s a reason for it ๐Ÿ™‚

Growing up, I never got the chance to experience Chinese food. There was one Chinese restaurant in our city, but my family and I never visited it, for various reasons. Having lived with zero Chinese food for the better part of my life, nowadays I feel spoiled for choice living in Chicago – a big diverse city, where restaurants and cuisines are as varied as they are flavor-packed. It is this variety which sometimes confuses or overwhelms me. How to make sense of a myriad of regions, styles and interpretations? How does one begin their exploration of Chinese cuisine in Chicago – and, equally important, where?

Luckily, Chicago-based food tour companies have taken on the task of making Chinese cuisine accessible and easy to understand by tourists and local residents alike. Take, for example, Chicago Food Planet, whose “food ambassadors” have worked hard for the past 13 years to connect their clients “to the greatest food city in the world and the gourmet artisans who call Chicago home.” I was very excited when Chicago Food Planet (CFP) contacted me and asked me to review one of their food tours. I needed all the expertise I could get to gain an in-depth understanding of Chinese food in Chicago – so I said yes to their Chinatown Adventure Food Tour 😉

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My review of etta: tasting the magic of the hearth

I’ve always thought eggs are a pretty straightforward affair. Hard boiled, poached, scrambled, covered with hollandaise, smothered by chimichurri. There are numerous ways to reinvent tradition, and yet many of them invariably gravitate towards a few tried-and-tested standard applications. I believe that to make your breakfast/brunch eggs brighter and to make you truly happier, a journey of a special kind is needed – one which combines a passion for innovation with a love for quality ingredients, flamboyant and versatile, and most importantly, bursting with rich, immersive flavors. I recently embarked on such an incredible culinary journey at etta, and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, etta is famous for its wood-fired hearth, which bestows charred flavor to dishes ranging from focaccia to meatballs and from salmon to pizza. I visited etta (short for โ€œHenrietta,โ€ which in French means โ€œkeeper of the hearthโ€) for brunch a couple of weeks ago, and I was impressed with the high quality of the ingredients used, as well as with Executive Chef Danny Grant‘s hearth-informed vision.

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My visit to Arun’s Thai: the magic of approaching food as a postgraduate research project

Ask me about my favorite Chicago neighborhoods, and I’ll have two words for you: Albany Park. Every time I visit one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, I’m in for a treat. I love the people – warm, friendly, bursting with excitement and imagination -, the streets – a mosaic of cultural symbols seamlessly intertwined – and, of course, the food. Many popular Chicago restaurants are located in Albany Park, yet none of them manages to capture the hearts of minds of diners the world over like Arun’s Thai does, which I got the chance to visit recently.

Located on a corner lot on North Kedzie Avenue, next to a grocery store, Arun’s Thai Restaurant looks rather unassuming from the outside. Keep Reading

2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo: mindful eating, part #2

Torie & Howard organic hard candies, on display at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo

Is there a better time to talk, taste and enjoy sweets and snacks than during the summer months? I reckon there isn’t. I don’t know about you, but we’ve been gorging on berries – nature’s best sweet snacks, available in abundance as we speak 😉 Indeed, summer produce offers plenty of options to indulge while keeping an eye on the environment and your own well-being – and that’s exactly what US consumers have been craving lately. Sweet and snack manufacturers have been trying to capitalize on the increased demand for mindful, healthier, closer-to-nature products, and this trend has been on full display at the latest edition of the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held in Chicago recently. Keep Reading

The magic of the foodie weekend: a recap of fun places & events across Chicagoland

Cake pops served at the recent official launch of Offshore at the Navy Pier

What are you doing this weekend? There’s so much to do, see and eat in Chicago, that choosing can be really difficult. Don’t worry: I understand – as a matter of fact, I’m in the same boat! How can I say “yes” to some experiences, and “no” to others? I want them, and I want them all, lol

And yet, I have to pick – and with that being the case, my first pick is Taste of Chicago. Keep Reading

ROOH: a story of belonging

Every now and then I come across a restaurant which makes me question my own food journey and my purpose in keeping this blog alive. I take the time to reflect on what I do and how I do it: Have I kept true to myself while writing all these stories and posting all these recipes? Have I remained authentic to those influences from my past, which have shaped me in profound and lasting ways? Is it still me who’s doing the writing – or is it somebody else, whom I barely know? This striving for authenticity has always interested me. There are so many stories out there that seem contrived, inauthentic, or downright fabricated – and so many restaurants which thrive on providing an embalmed, carefully manufactured version of their supposed true purpose. And then… there’s ROOH.

Meaning soul or spirit, ROOH is a restaurant which brings India to Chicago in a way that preserves the authenticity of the Indian dining experience while also gifting it with a fresh, innovative perspective. As someone who is familiar with traditional Indian cooking, I was looking forward to seeing how acclaimed Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar would rethink the fundamentals of Indian cuisine so as to epitomize a fine dining experience. I thought such a project had its risks, the most obvious perhaps being the loss of authenticity. As I stepped into the restaurant on its official launch night, I had one question in my mind: Will I be able to find the spirit of India at ROOH?

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