Food-cation Inspiration

My friends LOVE food.  They also love to travel.  And they love to share the goods.  In this case – I wish they shared the champagne.  You will see what I mean …

The best pleasures in life are simple, and while yachting around Australia, Marlborough Sounds to be exact, the simple pleasures were simply – lobster & champagne.

The setting – heaven.

They foraged these themselves – lobsters each weighing between 3 and 8 pounds.

And a cooler full of Cristal – need I say more?

Next time, I want in!

*GUEST RAZZI – Stacy Johnson –

I miss my friend Stacy, now she is living out in San Francisco.  But she is a great friend – she sends me food photos!  We both love sushi, and these are some great images from her visit to Sushi Ran in Sausalito.

Here is her review on the foodie go-to site she founded –

“Went to Sushi Ran for dinner, it was truly exceptional. Definitely one to book in advance even if you are going on a week night. We sat at the sushi bar and I highly recommend it. Garth was our sushi chef and he was fantastic. We met Yoshi the owner and he could not be nicer! He was clearly well known and well liked since most of the diners in the room knew him by name. We talked about his philosophy of great food and great service and everything lived up to what he told us.

The service all around was amazing. Sushi Ran is this great mix of being upscale yet casual with a true neighborhood feel. We were told they have a lot of people that eat there over 100 times a year and I can totally see why!

The Crunch Roll is the most popular at the restaurant and is a must. The creamy scallop roll was incredible. The sashimi and dessert were also amazing.

The menu changes based on the best fish they can get that day. Friday’s and Saturday’s are best and we were told to go back for the omakase at the sushi bar. We made reservations for that before we even walked out the door, I can’t wait to go back and try it!

Recommended Dishes:

Anything, Crunch Roll is the most popular, their selection of fish is great so you can’t go wrong.” – Stacy Johnson, Food Mafia

Blue Fin Toro Sashimi.

Creamy Scallop Roll with miso aioli, umami tobiko & avocado.


Crunch with eel, avocado, aonori powder, tempura flakes, spicy crab & shrimp.

Dessert sampler.

Salmon and Blue Fin Toro Sashimi.

Unfiltered Sake.

Can’t wait until she invites me to visit!

4th Annual ChiliFEST at Rockit Bar & Grill

Chili is the perfect dish for Chicago winters – it is hearty, spicy and fun to make.  Starting on Monday, January 23, Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Wrigley are celebrating their Fourth Annual ChiliFEST. Executive Chef Amanda Downing will offer guests a unique chili by the bowl each day of the week.  And to wash it down – Goose Island bottle and draft specials.

Monday’s Chili – Green chili rubbed pork shoulder, white beans, queso fresco and tomatillo salsa.  This one was delicious with the addition of the tomatillo sauce and the flavors in the pork seasoning.

Wednesday it’s Bison Chili – ground buffalo, chorizo sausage, black beans, chipotle peppers and cheddar cheese.  The bison / chorizo combo is brilliant – smokey and spicy at the same time.  The chili thread garnish is fun.

Thursday, it is no ordinary Chicken Chili.  This one is jerk braised chicken, pinto beans, habaneros, jack cheese, cilantro and a squirt of lime.

For the whole ChiliFEST lowdown and menu – go here.

Don’t miss out on a great chili this week.  And if you don’t eat red meat or are vegan – Chef Amanda has you covered with a classic signature Turkey Chili (red kidney beans, shredded cheese and cilantro, for $7) and Vegan Chili (lentils, soy sausage, edamame, bell peppers, cumin, tomato for $12).


Up in The RV* life is pretty sweet when LUSH Wine and Spirits is a block away.  Not only is it a great place to grab some great bottles of wine, beer and bourbon (and sake and everything else you can think of), they have a SNACK MENU, made by a real SNACK MASTER.  So buy a bottle or two, they will open it up for you and order away – these SNACKS rule. The Duck fat Popcorn gets a mention.  It is popped old school in front of you and is richly decadent.

They take the sandwiches very seriously – they are thin and crispy and carefully made.

Colonel Newsom’s Preacher Ham & Gruyere.  With ground mustard and house made pickles.

The Crispy Chick Peas are pops of crunchy bites seasoned with cumin.

Boquerones & Piparras Pepper – this dish reminds me of being in The Basque.  These peppers are everywhere.  Last time I was in The Basque I brought two jars home.   They are perfect with the anchovy fillets.

Kelly is the SNACK MASTER – she rocks the kitchen.  And we love Carrie – she always hooks up with good juice.

The RV* – Up In Roscoe Village!

Aviary Surprises

One of the best places to have innovative cocktails in Chicago, no scratch that – the country – is Aviary.  We all got that memo and most likely waited on line to snuggle into the glamorous booths, drink menu in hand.  On the many trips I have made there, my favorite surprise was their version of The Hurricane.  Brightly layered with cranberry, passion fruit and rum, it reminisced of a stroll down Bourbon Street in The Big Easy, without the overly sweet aftertaste.  And no, you can’t keep the souvenir glass. Oh and yes – that is an umbrella.

Our server’s pic for us to try on the BITES menu – POTATO.  With malt vinegar chips and chopped chive.  She described it as a fancy tater tot, and she was right.  The custardy bites had some crunch, but more lovely and intricate flavors.

So Hurricanes and Tater Tots at Aviary?  Surprise!  And worth the trip!

PS – Apologies for the photo quality – no flashes allowed at Aviary …

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Midori – Means Green in Japanese

Finding a great new sushi place in any town is a fun discovery, and this one is so 80s in a good way.  Friends of mine have been coming to Midori since then, where the Chef is Mexican and the owners are Korean, and the food is delicious Japanese. 


Sliced mushroom and string beans served with a spicy chili sauce.  The sauce is made with Korean Chili Flakes – which are coarser and have a sweet and smokey flavor.  This type of chili is one of the main ingredients in kimchi, and it makes your mouth water.

They gave me some to take home.

This dish must be ordered in multiples, Dynamite Shrimp.  The shrimp is tempura fried, diced and mixed with their “special sauce” and then broiled.

Beautiful fresh sushi.

My friend Liza made me love Sweet Shrimp, the first time I had with her was at Arami.

Chef Roberto rocks, it was great sitting at the sushi bar and getting to know him.  Thanks for a great night!

Girl + Goat = FUN

Waltzing into Girl & The Goat in Chicago when it is PACKED and scoring seats at the bar to dine is NIRVANA!  And we all give Stephanie major credit, there has not been one time where she has not be on that line – working it.  The bread menu is brilliant, makes you think outside the box with flavors and dips.  A few standouts from my last visit, the top 3 out of the 10 dishes we tried …

oysters . fried stingray . egg salad . capers

Never would anticipate that oysters and egg salad would be this delicious of a combo.

roasted cauliflower . pickled peppers . pine nuts . mint

Cauliflower is a favorite vegetable, when it is roasted and combined with the pickled peppers.

ham frittes . smoked tomato aioli . cheddar beer sauce

AKA Crack/Cocaine.  Have not stopped thinking about these crispy, salty, ham spiked morsels since last week.  Notice the double dip action evidence.  They make me a happy girl!  I want a jar of this Ham Glitter and will put it everywhere! (HINT)

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Happy Cheesy New Year

Our Second Annual Stay at Home New Year’s Eve French Onion Soup Fete – was a success!  The recipe was adapted from the October 2011 issue of Bon Appetit: I held on to the issue to try it out.  In place of the brandy, one cup of white wine was added, as well as a few springs of thyme.  It helped to have a few Cheladas and bourbons with friends before we got started at Big Star.

Happy New Year – May it be Very Very Cheesy!