I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point there seemed to be a shift from kale to Brussels sprouts as the coolest vegetable on the block. There wasn’t a specific moment I remember (i.e. some celebrity talking about how they OMG LOVE Brussels!), but when looking at recipes I noticed about a year ago or so that there were suddenly a lot more Brussels sprout recipes than ever before. I can get them as a side instead of french fries at my local burger joint, there are shaved Brussels salads with beets and goat cheese on tons of menus, and I’ve made a delicious Brussels sprout mac ‘n cheese. But I distinctly remember that when growing up Brussels were always the horrible side-dish that every kid dreaded, right? I actually didn’t have them until I was an adult, but always wanted to try them simply because they seemed to be everyone’s least favorite. Naturally I loved them immediately and started incorporating them into my meals whenever possible. So when my sister told me she made an amazing Brussels sprout pizza, I knew I had to give it a try myself.
The pizza is actually really simple, and really delicious. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve had Brussels sprout pizzas out a few times in the last year or so, and I liked mine the best! Admittedly, I didn’t make my own crust (ain’t nobody got time for that), but the Trader Joe’s dough I bought was good enough for me. I want to make this pizza all the time, and I’m confident you will too!
Brussels Sprout + Goat Cheese Pizza
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 pizza dough/crust (I used Trader Joe’s dough, but anything will work – you can even get fancy and make your own!) 1 cup Brussels sprouts, roughly chopped 1 small yellow onion, diced 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled salt + pepper to taste
Directions: 1. Preheat the oven for the pizza dough (i.e. 450 degrees) 2. In a medium sauce pan heat the olive oil and add the onions with a little salt and pepper. If you have the patience, make these caramelized because the flavor will be a million times better. This is going to require you to stir the onions frequently for at least 10-20 minutes.* 3. Once the onions are beginning to brown, add the diced Brussels and toss to make sure they’re coated in the oil. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until they start to get crispy. 4. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface. When ready, add the 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, followed by the Brussels and onion mixture. Top with the crumbled goat cheese.* 5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
*NOTES: 1. You don’t have to make the onions caramelized, but the pizza will taste better if you do.
2. If you don’t like goat cheese (blasphemous!), then feta will work well as a replacement
Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.
Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.
Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…
After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.
The second mile has a lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.
As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.
After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!
After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.
I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner. While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.
Last week while on Twitter, I jumped into a conversation with Ashley and Dori about pizza. The next thing I knew we had plans to grab pizza the following week (tomorrow!), and all I could think about was having pizza for dinner. I toyed with the idea of ordering some, but then figured it’d be nice to save a few extra bucks (and calories), and so I made beeline for my refrigerator. I didn’t think I had all of the ingredients to make pizza, but with a few creative adjustments wound up with probably one of the best homemade pizzas I’ve made to date.
There’s nothing traditional about this pizza, but it combines some of my absolute favorite flavors and is easily customizable. I don’t know why I waited this long to use a burrito sized tortilla as pizza crust. I guess it’s better late than never, because this “pizza” is going to become a regular on my weekly menus, that’s for sure. This is hardly a complex meal and comes together in a matter of minutes, so I feel silly labeling it as a “recipe.” But I thought it would be helpful to include the measurements and cooking temperature/time as a guideline.
Personal Mexican Pizza – makes one personal pizza –
Ingredients: 1 burrito sized tortilla 2 Tbsp your favorite salsa 1 tsp oil 1/4 cup onion, chopped 1/4 cup pepper, chopped (any will do – red, green, yellow, orange) 1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed 1 Tbsp chili powder 1/2 cup shredded cheese
Directions: 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a pan. Once the oil is warm, add the chopped onion and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent. 3. Add the black beans and chili powder, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. 4. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and lay the tortilla flat. Spread the 2 tablespoons of salsa evenly across the tortilla. Top with 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese, followed by the sauté mixture. Finish off with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. 5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the tortilla is beginning to crisp.
You didn’t think I was going to give you a Chicago Marathon recap without talking about food, did you?! I wish that I had a glowing food post for you like I did last time I was in Chicago, but unfortunately this trip was more about the race than it was the food, and I didn’t get to visit everywhere I wanted. At least that just means it’s an excuse to go back!
As I mentioned in my race recap, we were up early and off to the expo on Saturday morning, so breakfast was a stop at Starbucks next to our hotel. After the expo, though, we headed to Native Foods Café for lunch, which happened to be just around the corner from our hotel. It’s actually a chain, but only has a few locations; mostly in Chicago, California, and Colorado (guess they like C states!). I had searched for vegetarian restaurants prior to the trip, and since this was around the corner and had good reviews, I knew we had to check it out. After quickly browsing the menu, Andy ordered their Portobello “Sausage” burger with a side of seasoned fries, while I opted for the Twister Wrap [salad greens, fresh avocado and cucumber salsa, creamy chipotle sauce and your choice of crispy, blackened, or grilled Native “chicken” in an organic whole wheat wrap] with a side of kale, and we split their lavender lemonade.
The food was awesome. The Native “chicken” looked, felt, and tasted like chicken (I opted for it blackened), and they didn’t skimp on the avocado which I always appreciate. And Andy, not a vegetarian (but woefully eats as one most of the time) really enjoyed his burger, too. I would have loved to try everything on their menu, but unfortunately our trip only allowed us to visit once. I would love to have a vegetarian restaurant like that around me!
After a trip to Target and relaxing our legs for a bit, we headed off to dinner at Rosebud Theater District. Our main goal for dinner on Saturday night was very simple: pasta. So, the obvious choice was to search for a nearby Italian restaurant. Despite staying in the financial district of the city, we had a lot of options that were open on Saturday night (though there were equally as many that were closed). The restaurant had the best reviews out of every walkable place I researched, so we made a reservation prior to our trip in order to secure a spot. We started off sharing a house salad and bruschetta, which was delicious. They topped their bruschetta with fresh mozzarella, which I really enjoyed. Of course I had my fair share of the table’s bread, which they served with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I’ve never thought to mix parmesan cheese into olive oil for dipping, but you better believe I’m going to do it now! By the time we were finishing up our appetizers, dinner arrived and we dug in. I ordered the penne alla vodka and while it may not have been the safest option, it was vegetarian and I had a pretty good feeling it wouldn’t upset my stomach (thankfully I was right). I would love to go back on an evening where I could enjoy some wine!
Our final meal in the city was at Giordano’s for deep dish Chicago style pizza. I know there are a lot of different restaurants that offer deep dish pizza in the city, but we actually visited this restaurant four years ago on my first trip to Chicago. As we were being walked to our seat, we both looked at each other and at the same time echoed; “seriously? This is exactly where we sat four years ago!” I mean, what are the chances of that?! Since the pizza is made to order and we were finally gaining our hunger back post-marathon, we ordered some parmesan fries to share while waiting for our pizza. We ordered our pizza with onions, peppers, and jalapenos, and it was awesome. We even made sure to get a pizza big enough to bring some back to the hotel, since we both knew our hunger would rage late into the night; and it did. I’m a New York style pizza girl all the way, but sometimes it’s nice to change it up and do what I like to call ‘knife and forking it.’
Now, I wouldn’t typically make note of airport food. I purposely didn’t mention the food we ate at Newark Airport because it was awful. I do, however, feel the need to mention the food I had at Chicago O’Hare. Since we were flying United, we were stationed in Terminal B right next to the most delicious airport food I’ve ever experienced – Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. If you are even remotely into food, and more specifically Mexican and Southwestern food, then you know the name Rick Bayless. As you all know I am obsessed with both food, and more specifically, Mexican/Southwestern food. So as soon as I saw that name attached to a sign hanging next to our gate, I insisted on getting something. I double checked Yelp an FourSquare reviews, and it was no surprise to see phenomenal reviews. After quickly doing a once-over of the menu, I ordered the rosted garlic mushroom torta which had crimini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, chipotle garlic mojo, goat cheese, black beans, and arugula. It was heaven between two pieces of crusty bread.
Just like I can’t wait to run my next marathon, I can’t wait to head back to Chicago to enjoy the city more. Hopefully, I won’t be waiting another four years to make my return!
One of my favorite things to make during the week is semi-homemade pizza. It’s straight forward, easy, and almost always comes out delicious. While I love the premade pizza doughs that come two to a package, I figured it was time for me to be a little more creative. For some reason, making dough scares me, and that’s the main reason why I’ve shyed away from making a truly from-scratch pizza. Late one night, though, it dawned on me – beer bread pizza!
Thanks to the beer, making bread this way is a whole lot easier. I don’t need to worry about adding yeast, kneading it for a certain amount of time, and then trying to entertain myself as I patiently (read: not patiently at all) wait for it to rise. My fiancé was skeptical about the idea, but I figured I’d give it a whirl. I mean really, what could go so horribly wrong that it would be a total fail?
Using my generic beer bread recipe, I spread it out on a baking sheet (no snazzy pizza stone for me), so I suppose it was more like a flatbread, or a Sicilian styled pizza since it was somewhat rectangular. The ususal baking time for the entire loaf in a bread pan is an hour, so I decided to bake the bread for 45 minutes, take it out and add our toppings, and then continue to let it cook for another 8-10 minutes. I went with a BBQ themed pizza since I wasn’t sure how the flavors of traditional pizza sauce and beer bread would be. But in my head, BBQ sauce and caramalized red onions married quite well with beer. Thankfully, I was right.
I’m now left wondering what other combinations I can put on this beer bread crust, because it was pretty awesome.
BBQ Beer Bread Pizza – makes 1 pizza –
For the dough: 3 cups of all purpose flour 4 1/2 tsp baking powder 3 tsp salt 3 Tbsp of sugar 12 oz. your favorite beer
For the rest of the pizza: 1 medium red onion, sliced 1 Tbsp salt 1/4 cup your favorite BBQ sauce 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used mozzarella, though I bet gouda would be awesome)
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2. Combine dry ingredients, and slowly mix in beer until fully incorporated 3. Spoon the mixture onto a greased baking pan, or pizza stone if you have one 4. Bake for 45 minutes 5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet, and add sliced red onion and a Tbsp of salt. Sautee for about 10-15 minutes, until they are tender and begin to caramelize 6. Once the pizza is done, pull it out to add the BBQ sauce, cheese, and onions. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.
With the high temperatures this week, I struggled with what I should make for dinner each night. I didn’t want to turn on the oven, but the thought of standing outside and grilling in the heat was too much to bear. So, I cranked up the air conditioning and got to work, this time on pizza.
I’ve been meaning to make a breakfast pizza for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I had breakfast pizza for the first time while staying at The Borgata in Atlantic City, at their buffet. Until that point I hadn’t thought of a breakfast styled pizza, but after having a slice was immediately convinced it’s a great idea.
So when one of the things I got in my Hormel Family Food Blogger welcome package was bacon, I decided that would be the perfect vehicle for my breakfast pizza. In addition to the bacon, I added some eggs, scallion, cheese, and seasoning. Since I used a pre-made pizza crust, it was so quick and easy. Because it’s so fast and requires little effort, it’s great as a quick week night meal, or even as something easy to throw in the oven on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Breakfast Pizza – makes one pizza –
Ingredients: 1 pre-made pizza dough crust, or your own 1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, but any kind will work) 3 scallions, diced 4 slices of cooked bacon, chopped 3 eggs 1/4 tsp oregano 1/4 tsp dried basil
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2. Layer pizza with cheese, bacon, and scallion. Crack each egg over the pizza (I did a triangle formation to try and prevent them from spreading into one another). Top with oregano and basil. 3. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until crust is crispy and eggs are cooked through
I love party food. This means chips, pizza, appetizers, and of course desserts. Obviously, I don’t have parties too frequently, and they aren’t necessarily the best for you (by default), so they’re more of a treat than a regular occurrence. But, with a little tweaking they can be healthier, and incorporated into more meals (at least I think so).
Prior to my trip to Trader Joe’s on Saturday, I check out their Fearless Flyer to see what deals they had, and also perused their website where they have just a few favorite recipes listed. I was immediately drawn to the Thai Chicken Pizza recipe, since it seemed so different. I’m always up for pizza, because as one of my fiancé’s teeshirts boasts, pizza is the best!
Unfortunately this pizza wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I think it might have been the peanut satay sauce used solely as the sauce for the pizza – it was a little too much. The cheese, scallions, carrot, and cabbage mix worked nicely, though. I left out the chicken because I forgot to grab the Chickenless Chicken strips I purchased from TJ’s out of my parent’s fridge when I was leaving. Maybe the lack of chicken was the culprit. Oh well, I’m just going to have to make up for it by making some Chickenless Buffalo Chicken Pizza next week.
My other culinary adventure this week, though, turned out to be a success. I made a Smokin’ Hoppin’ John, from The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donel. I’ve seen variations of this recipe in quite a few different places, but finally settled on giving this variation a try, mainly because I already had the cookbook out when I was trying to plan our meals for the week.
Since I had the opportunity to throw it all in a pot and let it simmer for 25 minutes, it provided the perfect opportunity for me to fold the laundry pile that continued to grow as the week progressed. I also got to squeeze in a 45 minute yoga practice before starting to cook, and everything was ready in a reasonable amount of time. And I had leftovers… hello lunch!
Smokin’ Hoppin’ John via The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook – Serves 6 –
Ingredients: 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 1 medium sized onion, chopped coarsely 1 cup uncooked medium or long grain rice (I used long) 1/2 Tsp smoked paprika 1 (20-oz) bag frozen black-eyed peas 2-3 cups water or vegetable stock (I used water) 1/4 cup beer you like to drink (optional, but I added it!) 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced 1 Tsp salt or soy sauce (I used smoked salt) scallions, grape tomatoes, chopped parsley, shredded cheddar, and/or hot sauce as garnishes
Directions: 1. Over medium heat, heat the oil in a large saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. 2. Add the rice and stir to coat with the aromatics. Allow to toast for 1 minute. Add the smoked paprika and stir to coat. 3. Add the peas, followed by 2 cups of water, the beer (if using), and the chipotle chile. If not using beer, add 1/4 cup of water in it’s place. Bring to a lively simmer, lower heat to low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes without lifting the lid. At 25 minutes, check the rice for both doneness and moisture. The rice and peas should be moist, but not super soupy. If the mixture is too dry, add additional liquid, a few Tbsp at a time (up to 1 cup). Return to the lid and allow to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. 4. Add the salt or soy sauce, stir, and taste, adding more as you see fit. 5. Serve hot with any or all fixins <– I used shredded cheddar, and a chipotle hot sauce
While many foodies are purists, when it comes to weeknight dinners, I have no problem admitting my shortcuts. There’s even a show on the Food Network with “Semi-Homemade” in the title. Sure, I don’t wear cute cardigans and prepare my semi-homemade goodies for parties (most of the time) but the general idea is there. I’d say at least one or two times a week I cheat the system and use something that someone else made for me in my meal.
The past few weeks have been slow on the blogging front just because I’ve been so busy. I haven’t had the opportunity to try many new dishes, therefore leaving me with little to talk about – or so I thought. Originally when I started this blog, I figured it would be to post new recipes I try, create, etc. I’ve realized though, that while there are always new and great recipes, there are some I’d like to have more than once! So, sometimes I have a lot of content, sometimes I don’t. I’m in the process of trying to really figure out how I want to handle my blogging. Do I want to do something more on a daily basis, like some of my favorite blogs, Peanut Butter Fingers, Eat Drink Run, and Healthy Tipping Point? Or, do I want to stick to new recipes, yummy restaurants, and things like that? I guess I’ll just have to try it out. Or, maybe I just need to find more time to cook!
Back to the pizza. I’ve found that most refrigerated crusts I’ve purchased are more than passable. It also helps that they come in two packs, so I’m able to get two meals out of it – whether it be two dinners, or maybe a dinner and a breakfast (hello breakfast pizza!). With a few random ingredients in the fridge, I threw together a pepperoni, onion, and pepper pizza with Italian seasonings. In the time it would have taken me to pull up a menu, place the order, drive to pick it up, and then eventually be home to eat it, my entire meal was done. The great thing about pizza is that you can throw almost anything on it. Last week we had a pizza with BBQ sauce, and Monday night was regular tomato sauce (with huge chunks of garlic). You really can customize it just how you crave.
Now that I’ve made a more traditional, and Southwestern styled pizza, I think it’s time to get more creative. I think my fiancé, our wallets, and most importantly our bellies, will welcome a more frequent rotation of homemade pizzas into our lives!
Semi-Homemade Pizza – Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are!-
Ingredients: 1 premade pizza crust (found in the refrigerated section) 1/2 yellow onion 1/2 green pepper 1 cup any kind of tomato sauce 2 cups shredded cheese Pepperoni (amount to your liking) 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes 1 Tbsp oregano 1 Tbsp garlic powder 2 Tbsp vegetable oil for sautéing
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees 2. Heat pan with oil, and while warming up, slice onion and pepper to desired size. Once pan is warm, add onions and peppers, sauté about 5-10 minutes, adding seasoning half way through. 3. Pour sauce onto pizza crust, spreading evenly. Top with 1 1/2 cups of cheese, followed by pepperoni, and then onion and pepper mix. Layer last 1/2 cup of cheese on top. 4. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown (you can lay it directly on the rack)
So this post has taken quite some time for me to finish. The reasons are two-fold; one, there is just SO much for me to talk about in regards to food in Chicago, and two, I got sick with a nasty cold almost as soon as I pulled into my driveway.
I can honestly say I’ve never been somewhere that had such a plethora of [delicious] food in such a small radius. You name the type of food, it’s available. They even have late night places open from 9p to 5a, for the sole purpose of feeding your midnight munchies!
That being said, I’ll do this the most economical way; day by day, meal by meal. So prepare yourself!
We arrived Friday evening after a grueling 12 hour drive. Not to waste any time, we checked into the super nice Belden Stratford Hotel (thanks, Orbitz!) and set out on our first culinary adventure. We weren’t sure what type of food we wanted, or even where to go, so we settled on our tried and true favorite, Mexican. The place was called El Nuevo Mexicano, and it was awesome! The place was small and loud with lots of talking, and great music. We each ordered a Mojito; mine regular and my boyfriend splurged for the pomegranate. The tortilla chips were nicely seasoned, and the salsa was spiced just right. I got the Combonation Vegetariana, which had a guacamole burrito, rice and bean chimichanga, and chile relleno, all served with rice and beans. I’ve had all of the aforementioned foods, but never in the specific combinations. A burrito solely stuffed with guacamole is satisfying in itself. Throw in some deep-friend rice and beans, almost like a Mexican eggroll, and a deep fried, stuffed with cheese chile smothered in sauce = heaven. I left full, with a smile on my face!
On the way home, we happened upon Molly’s Cupcakes, which was actually recommended by a friend (Serial Baker). Ecstatic over our first cupcake experience in Chicago, we ran into the store, forgetting our stuffed bellies. I’ve never seen a cupcake joint so crowded in my life! It was overflowing with people sipping huge cups of coffee, and chatting over delicious looking cupcakes. I ran up to the counter, and immediately started deliberating. Being in an extreme chocolate mood, I went for the Chocolate Decadence, while my boyfriend got the Pumpkin Spice. BEST. CUPCAKES. EVER. Mine was filled with chocolate mousse, and topped with two different types of chocolate ganache. As a chocolate lover, I couldn’t have asked for anything more! The pumpkin was also awesome; the spice and pumpkin ratio was perfect, with an almost cheesecake –like filling and icing. I really don’t think I could have asked for two better cupcakes!
Saturday morning we got up early, and trekked through the rain to the all famous Orange. A breakfast place known for its juices and frushi, I had only heard great things. Though, some of Yelp’s reviews left me a little wary. At any rate, we sat down and immediately got a water with a cucumber slice (nice and refreshing), and some orange infused coffee. The coffee was okay; it tasted more like a tea, and reminded me a bit of a mixed drink. We then ordered some frushi, which was absolutely delicious. It was coconut rice wrapped around either kiwi or watermelon… yum! I went for the #11.5 omlette that had bacon, leeks, and brie cheese, along with toast and delicious breakfast potatoes. My boyfriend went for the chai tea French toast. Both were decent, but nothing to write home about. The French toast was a little soggy, and the eggs were good, but could have used more cheese. Overall I enjoyed the experience, but wasn’t floored.
We continued our mediocre eating day by stumbling upon Phoebe’s Cupcakes, a place I had found from the Cupcakes Take The Cake blog. I went for the red velvet, and my boyfriend got a red licorice cupcake. I couldn’t have been more disappointed! It feels blasphemous to even write about a subpar cupcake, but someone’s gotta do it. The cake itself was really good. The icing, however, not so much. It was WAY too cheesy, to the point where I couldn’t even finish it. My boyfriend’s, however, was good. I’m going to chalk it up to a bad batch of icing, but it’s definitely ruined red velvet for me for awhile. Such a shame. On a brighter note, though, they did have cupcake flavored coffee that was amazing! I couldn’t put my finger on the flavor combination, but it was just right without any milk or sugar.
We spent the rest of our Saturday at The Lawrence Arms 10 year anniversary show which was awesome, despite me feeling sick from the aforementioned cupcake. Afterwards, we stopped at The Weiner’s Circle to get ourselves a Chicago dog. I was skeptical about liking a hot dog with pickles, hot peppers, and relish, but I really liked it! It’s definitely something I would get again. The place itself was also quite an experience; the help talked back to every drunk person looking for a late night snack, and didn’t take anyone’s crap. I was actually afraid to place my order, in case I messed up. Thankfully, since I was sober, they treated me with respect. Others weren’t so lucky.
Since Sunday was our last full day, we decided to spend most of it doing touristy things like visiting Millennium Park and the Willis (Sears) Tower. We decided to start the day off with breakfast at The Bongo Room. Now let me tell you, I’m actually not much of a breakfast person; I tend to shy away from it when given the option. But Chicago has definitely showed me how delicious it can be! We decided to share plates this time, as every thing on the menu sounded amazing, and we couldn’t decide on one thing each. Being a lover of Mexican food, I tend to judge places on their burritos. Naturally, we got the breakfast burrito, and one of their daily specials; French toast smothered in cream, caramel and caramelized apples, along with a side of Thai chicken sausage. Every single thing I tried there was phenomenal. Everyone around us had something equally delicious looking on their plates. If I had the stomach for it, I would have tried everything. It seemed like most tables each got their own dishes, and then shared one of their yummy sounding pancake options. I would go back there in a heartbeat; the 45 minute wait was more than worth it!
We ended our trip with some Chicago style pizza. I had searched on Yelp while waiting in line at the Willis Tower, and decided on Giordano’s, which was around the corner. After tweeting about it, some locals gave me a hard time, telling me I should have gone to a few other places. Unfortunately, they were too late. I’m not sure what the huff and puff was about, though, because I really enjoyed Giordano’s! We decided to get the pie stuffed with onions, peppers, and broccoli. I was never really interested in the concept of a stuffed pizza with the sauce on top. After having it, though, I’m a fan. We only got a 10 inch pie to share, and wound up bringing more than half of it home which was convenient for snacking on the 12 hour drive back!
All in all, I think I gained anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds (I was too afraid to actually weigh myself), but it was totally worth it. While we were there, we walked everywhere, and I couldn’t help but take note of all the people out for jogs. Now I understand. If you live in that city and aren’t afraid to eat, you need to work it off some how! Needless to say Chicago is vying for the top spot on my list for best cities. And when it comes to food, it’s definitely number one.
So here are the pictures of everything mentioned above. Let the salivating commence!
If you like spice, and you like meat, and I know you like pizza (who doesn’t?!) this NEEDS to be on your to-try list.
I can honestly say the first time I tried this was while I was still in college. There were multiple pizza joints around campus while walking to and from bars and house parties. Conveniently the ones closest to the bars stay open well past 2am. So, when they late night hunger craze hits, these pizzerias are flooded with drunken college students.
One of the more adventurous locales, Pietro’s, offered up interesting combinations like BLT pizza, Buffalo Chicken pizza, even an apple pie pizza in the fall, etc.
Being a lover of all things supremely spicy, one evening I decided to give it a whirl. Well, I was instantly hooked. It was just the right amount of mozzarella cheese, buffalo sauce, and chicken strategically placed atop perfectly cooked dough. I then spent the next year and a half ordering it religiously.
After graduating I went on a quest to find the next best thing. I spent many an evening dissatisfied with the rendition of my favorite – either the chicken was too dry, there wasn’t enough hot sauce, or it was just over-all subpar.
Since moving to Highland Park, NJ, though, I think I’ve stumbled upon the next-best, or perhaps even best Buffalo Chicken Pizza. It can be found at La Rosa II.
My only gripe is the grease/oil situation. It literally oozes out of the pizza as you eat it. Granted, this is a combination of the ingredients, but it just makes you feel guilty while devouring it. Needless to say I just finished housing some of it.
I love spicy food, and this has just the right amount of spice. It’s definitely present, but doesn’t overwhelm you and take away from the other flavors. It has just the right amount of cheese for an ooey gooey texture, and impressively sectioned pieces of chicken.
I definitely give this pizza an A-.
I certainly won’t be stopping my search for the best Buffalo Chicken Pizza. I’ll try it any time I can get my hands on it. And be advised, I’ll let you know when I find the one.