Chicago Weekend

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This past weekend, Eric and I took a quick little trip to Chicago to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. The nice thing about having Eric as a travel companion, is that our vacation philosophies are very similar. We both like to get up early and fit in as many activities as we can. And I’ll be completely honest.. about 90% of these “activities” typically revolve around food. No wonder we get along so well. We scouted out quite a few places beforehand, and were able to hit each and every spot in the short time we were there. The first stop was of course a quick trip to the well known “bean.” Because you can’t really visit Chicago without a few obligatory “bean shots.” Next up was a trip to Sprinkles Cupcakes.

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As a huge fan of the show Cupcake Wars, I was pumped to taste the cupcakes from one of Cupcake Wars’ judges. And these cupcakes did not disappoint. I had a Peanut Butter Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. It was perfectly sweet and delicious. Eric had the classic Black and White Cupcake and was also a huge fan. Nothing starts off your day better than a cupcake.

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Later on we stopped by Eataly, which is a gourmet Italian marketplace owned by Mario Batali. There was delicious, high end food in every corner, and a huge selection of Italian wines. There are even areas for shoppers to stop and enjoy a glass of wine or a charcuterie platter during their shopping trip. We didn’t end up eating anything, as we were still on a Sprinkles induced sugar high, but I would love to go back and roam around again.

Our next stop was a trip to a bar we had seen on Bar Rescue. If you’ve never seen the show, it is definitely worth a try. A “bar expert” remakes failing bars throughout the U.S., and though the host is incredibly obnoxious, the show is one of Eric and my favorites. The bar we visited is called Blue Frog’s Local 22 and it was remade to be a burger and beer bar. We just went for a beer, and it was nice little reprieve from walking around the streets of a very snowy Chicago.

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For dinner, we went to RPM Italian, which is owned by Guiliana and Bill Rancic. A few years back, when I worked at a country club, I had a crazy work schedule and was only able to see Eric for a few hours on Monday nights. And since I was too exhausted to ever do anything, we spent a lot of our Monday night date nights watching TV together. The only problem was that there is absolutely nothing to watch on Monday nights in the summer. So somewhere along the road we started watching Guiliana & Bill’s reality show. When we used to watch the show, they talked a lot about opening up an italian restaurant, and eventually RPM Italian came to be. We thought it would be a fun little anniversary date to visit the restaurant we had heard so much about. We started with an appetizer of grilled baguette served with fresh ricotta and marinara sauce.

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It was so delicious, and we both said we easily could have eaten 3 pieces each, but we had to save our appetites for the main course. I chose Mama DePandi’s bucatini and it was definitely one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a while.

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Eric had the spaghetti and meatballs and loved his as well. It was an all around successful anniversary.

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To end our night we did our own little Irish bar crawl with my cousin Kristin, who lives in Chicago. She was a fantastic tour guide and it was so great to catch up. And with that our little weekend trip was over. It was a nice little break from the norm and a fun way to celebrate our last “dating anniversary.” Because in a little less than 3 months we’ll be Mr. and Mrs. Jones…Crazy!

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Alex’s Baby Shower

My mom has a close knit group of girlfriends that I grew up calling “my aunts” and all of their kids are “the cousins.” Well seeing as my mom was the last of her friends to have kids, I was quite a few years younger than all of the cousins. But it didn’t bother me much because I always referred to the cousins as “my big girlfriends.”  I remember going over to their houses to see them get ready for prom and thinking they were so cool and grown up. Nowadays the age difference doesn’t seems so big, but I still refer to my cousins as my big girlfriends.

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This weekend I got to help celebrate at the baby shower of one of my “cousins”, Alexandra. It was such a fun day and if their little guy is anything like his parents he is going to be one cool kid. And although seeing all of the adorable tiny onesies  that this little guy will soon be wearing was the biggest highlight, the food was another great part of the day. So like any normal food blogger, I thought I would share our delicious lunch with you.

The first course was a miniature cup of creamy tomato basil soup with a mini grilled cheese sandwich. And ohmygoodness was it delicious. The soup was incredibly creamy and was topped with basil oil. And it was perfect paired with the mini grilled cheese sandwich.

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Next was the house salad served in a parmesan bowl. The salad featured mixed greens, black olives, tomatoes & chickpeas, tossed in a tangy and sweet vinaigrette. The salad was also garnished with a fried ball of goat cheese.

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By this point, we were all a bit full but that didn’t stop me from tasting the main dish: cheese tortellini with fresh vegetables and grilled chicken. I could only have a few bites but it was fantastic.

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And finally, my favorite part of every meal…dessert. Out came a flourless chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream. So chocolatey and delicious. Stay tuned for some great new recipes this week!

 

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Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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This past weekend Eric and I took a trip to North Carolina. Eric’s best friend Tom, is in grad school at NC State, so we thought a quick visit would be a great mini vacation. And it was a weekend full of fun and tons of food. We arrived early Thursday morning just in time for a quick lunch at Mitch’s Tavern. Mitch’s is a cool little restaurant-bar hidden just outside of NC State’s campus. A scene from Bull Durham was actually shot in this bar.

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Their menu was really unique. It featured simple sandwiches and some southern inspired meals like plates of North Carolina style chopped barbeque and fried green tomatoes. When I saw a baked sweet potato dish I was sold. A baked sweet potato stuffed with walnuts and dried cranberries, drizzled with honey and served with a side Greek salad. Delish.

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Later that night, Eric and I headed up to Chapel Hill for a Valentine’s Day date. We went to Top of the Hill Restaurant which is perched on a hill overlooking University of North Carolina’s campus. The view was fantastic, as we were seated just as the sun was setting.

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Seeing as Top of the Hill is a brewery, we figured it was only right to start off our meal with a few brews. I had the Old Well White which was a wheat beer flavored with orange peel and coriander. It tasted like a lighter version of a Blue Moon.

DSC00720For my entree, I chose the crab cakes and was very happy with my choice. The crab cakes were light with a bit of kick to them. They were topped with a creamy remoulade on top of wilted spinach. The spinach was actually one of my favorite parts of the meal. Tossed in garlic and a touch of olive oil, the spinach was cooked perfectly

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And what would a Valentine’s Day date be without dessert? Eric and I had perused the menu a bit online before we visited Top of the Hill, and as soon as we saw the description of their Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches we knew we had to get them. Two years ago we split a piece of red velvet cake on Valentine’s and fell in love with the crimson cake topped with rich cream cheese frosting. And Top of the Hill’s interpretation did not disappoint. But how can you go wrong with decadent cream cheese ice cream sandwiched between two layers of moist red velvet cakes? It was a perfect ending to our first day in North Carolina

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Beach Grille Date Night

Hello again!

I apologize for the lack of new recipes this month. All the July baby showers, weddings & golf outings have kept me pretty darn busy at work. But it has not kept me from dreaming up some recipe ideas that I hope to test out soon. In the meantime I hope you all enjoyed the guest post from my lemon cake connoisseur Eric. I know, I know…he’s funny and he makes delicious baked goods. Told ya he was a catch. Anyway, last Friday Eric and I had the chance to go out and “celebrate” our year and a half of dating. Not that we actually care too much about random anniversaries and we are definitely not one of those couples who celebrates every month of dating… We just share the notion that any excuse to go out to eat is worth celebrating. So we chose an occasion and a restaurant. Since it was a beautiful day we decided to go to The Beach Grille on the Nautical Mile. All the restaurants on the Nautical Mile have an awesome view of Lake St.Clair, and if you can withstand the smell of fishflies, it makes for a pretty nice night out. Eric started his night with yet another bowl of French onion soup. Soooo predictable. Just kidding. This soup was delicious. Just look at his happy expression:

And that’s why we get along. The kid gets real excited about food. Plus we have a really great standing agreement that I always get to have the pickle that comes with his sandwich and he always gets the last bite of anything we share. Great relationships 101, folks. Anywho, For dinner I chose the crab cake sandwich and I was not disappointed. The crab cake was pan seared and flavored with fresh lemon. It was light, fluffy and very fresh. I’m not a huge fan of restaurants that deep fry crab cakes because I think it takes away the sweetness and flavor of the crab, but the Beach Grille’s crab cakes were perfect. Plus they were served on an English muffin with cheese…so that didn’t hurt to much either. Well played Beach Grille, well played.

Eric got the Daytona Sandwich, which included  chicken, bacon & cheese. All his favorite foods packed into one lil sammie. It’s like they knew he was coming in. And last but not least…we got a brownie sundae complete with Sander’s fudge. It was awesome. Chocolate layered upon chocolate. Can’t really go wrong. So there we had our wonderful summer date night. Good food and wonderful company. Come back soon for some new recipes!

 

 

 

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