Chicago Happenings – June Recap Part 2

Considering I was on vacation to Miami and the Dominican Republic for 9 days in June, I sure did still do a lot here in Chicago. As always, many great openings this summer and endless amounts of fun…so much so, that I’m going to split up this recap into two parts (read Part 1 here). Here’s Part 2:

By The Park Cookies

By The Park Cookies

By The Park Cookies– This adorable Lincoln Park cookie shop has some seriously tasty treats. Distinctively delicious cookies, bars and biscotti are handcrafted with unique flavor combinations and it’s tough to pick just one out from the awesome line-up. I tried several different cookies and if I had to pick one as a favorite, it was the Boston Common Park cookie which has peanut butter and jam and is actually vegan. It was so good! What I love more is the story behind By The Park and the wonderful owner Isabel who quit her job in investment banking to follow her passion. I’m always inspired by entrepreneurs like her and want nothing more than to see her succeed. Let’s all go get some yummy cookies and help promote a small business while we are at it. #winning

Seadog Sushi Bar

Seadog Sushi Bar

Seadog Sushi Bar– I LOVE finding great sushi places that know how to feed us vegetarian and vegan folk. You wouldn’t expect it to be such a big deal, but a boring avocado and cucumber roll does not suffice as an option for my dinner. Seadog Sushi Bar on the other hand has an entire separate vegan menu and tons of great vegetarian options. I have to say I was truly blown away at the attention and detail they have put into making sure they have plenty of options for us veggies out there. I tried so many great rolls and I have to say two of my favorites were the V3 maki (marinated shiitake mushrooms and avocado topped with Japanese-flavored fried tofu) and the Secret Garden maki (tempura roll with spring mix, asparagus, avocado, mango, kampyo and served with sesame dressing and miso dressing). If you find yourself in Wicker Park, make sure to go to Seadog Sushi Bar, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rachael Ray Feedback Festival

Rachael Ray Feedback Festival

Rachael Ray Feedback Festival– A beautiful (albeit HOT) Saturday evening in Lincoln Park Zoo with food and music sounds like a perfect evening to me. Famous TV personality and chef Rachael Ray brought this festival to Chicago for the first time. I had a fun evening catching up with fellow foodie friends while enjoying some tasty bites and cool beverages and keeping our eyes peeled for Rachael Ray and other Food Network chefs. One of the fun things we got to try out were the “pie-sicles” from Marie Callender’s. These perfect summer treats are made with Marie Callender’s frozen pies with additional ingredients, all just blended together. And, we found out from the chef that an even better version has some alcohol mixed into it. Hmm, I’m going to have to give that one a try. Anyways, keep your eyes peeled for next year’s Feedback Festival either here in Chicago or at South by Southwest where it is usually held.

Seven Lions Wine Event

Seven Lions Wine Event

Seven Lions Wine Event–  It was a lovely wine tasting event with Master Sommelier Alpana Singh together with Drew Harris of Shop Your Closets at Seven Lions. Drew gave tips on how to get the most out of your wardrobe, featuring de-cluttering techniques, styling tips, and go-to organization rules for any closet (which I REALLY need). More so, the evening also focused on raising awareness about Deborah’s Place, a non-profit that provides supportive housing for single women experiencing homelessness. The proceeds of the evening went to this organization and also allowed attendees to learn about ways they can volunteer and household items that can be donated to Deborah’s Place. I’ve been meaning to declutter my place and I’m glad to have now found a place that I know I can donate to those who need it the most. If you are looking to help those less fortunate, please consider donating to or volunteering at Deborah’s Place.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.

Chicago Happenings – June Recap Part 1

Considering I was on vacation to Miami and the Dominican Republic for 9 days in June, I sure did still do a lot here in Chicago. As always, many great openings this summer and endless amounts of fun…so much so, that I’m going to split up this recap into two parts. Here’s Part 1:

Chiya Chai Cafe

Chiya Chai Cafe

Chiya Chai Cafe– If you follow me on Instagram (vegtourist) you’ll have seen the caption that I added to this picture; “Being Indian, I am extremely picky when it comes to a cup of chai. Chiya Chai Cafe opens tomorrow in Logan Square and their masala chai is amazing and truly authentic. The one pictured here is a blueberry lavender chai with cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg. Seriously delicious and unlike anything I have had. Trust me, this is a must-visit place.” I truly mean those words. Finding traditional, authentic chai (not the crap that Starbucks claims as chai) is for some reason near impossible. I’ve attempted to have a cup of chai at many Indian restaurants here in Chicago and am always baffled at how not even one of them has been remotely good or even close to tasting like authentic chai. Well, I don’t need to worry anymore as I have found hands-down the best possible chai I’ve maybe ever had in my life (bold statement, I know). I have already been craving the spicy masala chai since I had it for the first time at Chiya Chai Cafe a few weeks ago. They should definitely expect me to be a regular there. If you are looking for the real deal, you can’t miss this place.

Federales

Federales

Federales– Oh boy! An invite to a VIP opening event for the highly anticipated restaurant and bar Federales in the West Loop? You better believe I was going and super excited about it. What’s not to love about tacos and/or tequila?! With a huge outdoor seating area and a retractable roof on the covered area, this place is definitely one of the newest hot spots in the city while Chicago is enjoying some amazing summer weather. Add to it some tasty eats and fun drink concoctions and it’s just happiness all around. At our event, there was a cute little build your own taco station, supplemented with lots of chips, salsa and guacamole. The veggie tacos (fire roasted rajas, potatoes and onions) were good and I will say that it is a pretty limited menu in general, and especially for a vegetarian and/or vegan choices, so just double-check the menu before you go. But, if you are coming to drink and have some chips and guac, you can’t ask for a more fun spot, especially when the weather is nice and you can sit outside.

Peninsula Garden Party 2016

Peninsula Garden Party 2016

The Peninsula Garden Party– Last year I attended one of the most epic parties I have ever attended in my entire life at The Peninsula (read more about that here). It was funny because I thought I was just showing up to a small media dinner…wow, was I wrong! So, this year when I received a save-the-date for the annual Peninsula party a few months in advance, you better believe my calendar was blocked off for that day. This year’s theme was a garden party, and as per usual, The Peninsula spared no detail. It’s always so well done, so amazing and so creative, that it’s hard to almost take it all in. Everything from the food to the decor to the entertainment is truly beyond imagination and I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to attend. The Peninsula just completed renovating all of their hotel rooms and suites and we had the chance to check them out. Can I just say mind blown?! The two bedroom suite with office, kitchen and dining room was beyond anything I have ever stepped foot in. I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t notice if I just moved in 🙂 Honestly though, the new rooms are magnificent (even just the regular rooms…ha ha) and I can’t rave enough. But then again, I just can’t rave enough about anything The Peninsula does, so I get it.

Taste of Randolph

Taste of Randolph

Taste of Randolph– One of my favorite Chicago summertime festivals! I think I have gone every year for like the past 8 years straight. It’s always a great time listening to some fun bands, having a few drinks and eating some great food. And, as the restaurant and bar scene has literally exploded along Restaurant Row on Randolph in the last five years, this has also upped the tasty food offerings at the Taste of Randolph. Aside from the fact that this street festival just attracts a large crowd in general, I always manage bumping into friends and making new ones. Nothing to complain about there. This street fest is every June so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for next year’s event and hopefully I will see you there. More like, it is highly likely I will see you there!

Zucchi Olive Oil Tasting

Zucchi Olive Oil Tasting

Zucchi Olive Oil Blending Class– The cool, unique things I get to experience just because of my blog still blow me away many days. Take for example, an olive oil blending class at Quartino’s Restaurant through Zucchi Olive Oil. The founder and expert olive oil blenders came here all the way from Italy to showcase their premium olive oil products, as well as teach us how to examine, taste and learn more about olive oil. Who knew that just like wines, olive oils can have so many different notes, aromas and tastes, everything from banana to tomato to green apple? Surely not me, until I tried them in a side-by-side comparison. We also then blended our very own olive oil for our own cooking purposes (I decided to blend mine for pizza/bruschetta uses, so I used more of the tomato and spicy olive oil blends for my concoction). What an interesting, educational and fun little experiment. It’s definitely opened my eyes to the level of quality, taste and proficiency that go into producing amazing olive oil and I really enjoyed learning about it from Zucchi Olive Oils. I don’t think I’m quite ready to add master blender to my list of skills just yet though.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.

Fun, Unique Items I’ve Tried Out

One thing I love most about having this blog is getting the opportunity to try out new, fun items. Sometimes the things I try out are categorized under wellness, fashion and beauty, but still very pertinent to my vegetarian, traveling lifestyle. Here are some great products I’ve recently tried out:

Dakota Watch Company Fitness Tracker

Dakota Watch Company Fitness Tracker

Dakota Watch Company Fitness Tracker– It’s no secret that I love to stay active. Be it at a spin class, walking the city streets or hiking a mountain trail, I like to keep my body moving. I’ve always thought it would be nice to track my activity and have a better sense of what I’m really doing on a daily basis. I had the chance to try out the Dakota Watch Company’s Bluetooth Smartband Fitness Tracker and really liked tracking everything from steps, active time, distance, calories burned and sleep patterns. What’s great about this particular product is that you can wear it with the provided band on your wrist, or clip it on to your pocket with the clip housing. Sometimes if I’m getting dressed up for the evening, I don’t always like to have my fitness tracker visible on my wrist, so it’s nice to be able to clip on to a pocket to remain more hidden while still keeping all my stats. What’s also great is that since the tracker is bluetooth enabled to sync to an app, you can always keep tab on your stats, whenever and where ever you go. Try it out.

Molton Brown Body Polisher

Molton Brown Body Polisher

Molton Brown’s Body Polisher– This amazing body polisher exfoliates your body with exotic scents while the bamboo stem particles polish your skin leaving it so unbelievable smooth and soft. Trust me, I’ve tried it! The Molton Brown’s Pink Pepper Pampering Body Polisher is such a perfect product for anyone looking to get silky smooth skin and a sleek glow. A body scrub with spicy-sweet aromas and pink pepperpods for antioxidant protection and warming notes of patchouli and ginger. I’m loving using this right now in the summertime, but I know this body scrub is going to be so perfect for those dry, winter months when my skin needs a major pick-me-up. I’m pretty sure I will be needing a new replenishment by the holidays. Who wants to buy me a new supply for Christmas? Ha, I’m kidding…but really, I’m not:)

Delicacies Bracelet

Delicacies Bracelet

Delicacies Bracelet– Introducing the world’s first (and only) line of jewelry for epicureans. Designed and founded by Nicolle Nelson and in partnership with Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, this jewelry also has a broader mission of giving back and feeding the hungry with each sale. Delicacies is designed by people who love food, for people who love food, while celebrating the natural beauty, simplicity and meaning ingrained in the food we eat. What a cool, unique concept! The beautifully designed bracelets are centered around a signature ingredient that is cast in the highest quality sterling silver and paired with rich Italian leather. I received the adorable artichoke bracelet, where the artichoke stands for passion, partnership, wisdom and peace. I love that there is a description for each ingredient and the meaning behind each. Delicacies has also just come out with a new line of necklaces which are really nice as well. Definitely a great gift for the foodie in your life.

 

Please Note: While I was provided with these products, all opinions are my own.

Chicago Happenings – May Recap

Yay, summer has finally arrived and I’m done with my communications class!! I expect to be back on my more regular writing schedule again shortly. I have one more trip coming up in early June and after that will have lots to share, so stay tuned. With that, here are some fun things I tried out during the month of May:

Raised Rooftop Bar View

Raised Rooftop Bar View

Raised Rooftop Bar- You know I’m a total sucker for a great outdoor bar. Pair it with a stunning view, delicious food and fun drinks and I’m expected to be seen there all summer. Yup, Raised Rooftop bar at the Renaissance Hotel downtown is where it’s going to be at this summer. Right along the river, this stunning rooftop has it all, fun vibes included. I loved the decor, cool private cabanas and some tasty treats we tried like the elotes and peanut butter and jelly push-pop desserts. If you are looking for one of the newest hot spots in Chicago, Raised Rooftop is definitely it. Keep your eyes peeled for me there.

Furious Spoon Ramen

Furious Spoon Ramen

Furious Spoon– This popular Bucktown spot for ramen is the real deal. With communal tables and fun hip-hop music it’s kind of hard not to love this joint. I went with some friends on a random, cold May evening and we had a blast catching up and *attempting* to eat ramen properly. I still don’t quite have the hang of it with the semi-large ladle in one hand and chopsticks in the other, but I somehow managed to eat and not have most of it running down the front of my shirt (a bib would’ve been real handy just to be safe)! It can be tough to find veggie ramen as it is not always available at every ramen shop, but you are good to go at Furious Spoon. I also like that you can customize your order and add extra veggies of your choice. Oh, and don’t forget to get the Fury Sauce to add a nice, spicy kick to your ramen. My mouth was on fire but I kind of liked it…some definitely like it hot! Lastly, a new Logan Square location is expected to open any day now, so you’ll have even more chances to get your fix.

Dunkin Donuts Cookie Baking Class

Dunkin Donuts Cookie Baking Class

Dunkin Donuts Cookie Baking Class– On May 2nd Dunkin Donuts revealed their new chocolate chip cookies and I had the honor of learning how to bake them alongside the executive pastry chefs from Dunkin Donuts. The new chocolate chip cookie boasts simple and wholesome ingredients and is definitely delicious. During our baking session, let’s just say that I spent more time laughing and cleaning up the mess I made than actually baking anything. I think one of the chefs was a little concerned (and humored) by my friend Peggy and I. We created quite the disaster during our baking escapades, but it was such a blast. We also got to make some fun dessert creations from the new caramel latte squares and blueberry cobbler cronut. Everything we made was of course heavenly and we even got to bring home the recipes. So, now I can make these amazing cookies at home too. Who’s coming over for warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk?!

SPiN Chicago

SPiN Chicago

SPiN Patio– Who doesn’t love a fun game of ping-pong, especially when snacks and drinks are involved?! This spacious, awesome place opened earlier this year and has a small and cute little patio with, you guessed it, a ping-pong table outside to play while the weather is nice! I think I actually prefer the indoor space personally and will definitely be back to take advantage of all the fun to be had there. I think SPiN is a great place to show up with a group of friends and have a friendly (or more likely, a super competitive) ping-pong match against each other. It’s neat because there’s also an option to join nightly tournaments, events and even private ping-pong classes with professionals. And, if you feel like just hanging out and having nothing to do with ping-pong, there are several VIP lounges throughout the large space to chill with your homies. So many options, the choice is yours. Whatever you choose, I know it will be fun.

Green Bean Restaurant

Green Bean Restaurant

Green Bean Restaurant– This one goes out to all my gluten-free peeps. The adorable and cozy Green Bean restaurant in Lincoln Park is 100% gluten-free and serves everything from sandwiches to salads to ramen, plus a lot of fun sides and desserts. The owners and chef spent two years developing and perfecting this menu to be completely gluten-free. They are even opening a second location in Schaumburg soon! My friend Sarah and I checked it out and really enjoyed the tempura battered green beans with teriyaki ginger dipping sauce and the sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli among other things. Oh, and don’t leave without trying the gelato-filled cupcakes. Yes, you read that correctly. They were delicious and gluten-free. A win-win for sure.

 

Please Note: While I was invited to these events, all opinions are my own.

Healthy Snacks Roundup

I’ve been so fortunate to try some really amazing and healthy snacks lately, so I thought it would be fun to do a roundup and share some of these great finds. Any and all of these snacks will be perfect to keep on hand for travels, stashed in a snack drawer at work or in a pantry at home. I’m all over each one of these options!

Ellie Goulding GoMacro Bar

Ellie Goulding GoMacro Bar

GoMacro Bars– I had the chance to try out GoMacro bars last year and absolutely loved them. The peanut butter chocolate chip one was my absolutely favorite (should be no surprise here)! GoMacro recently partnered with famous singer Ellie Goulding on a new bar, the Ellie MacroBar which has coconut, almond butter and chocolate chips. In addition, specially marked Ellie Goulding MacroBars have a “Goulding Ticket” inserted inside for a chance to win VIP tickets to Ellie’s concert at Madison Square Garden or a one-on-one workout with Ellie in LA. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! Delicious, healthy, great tasting bar and a chance to hang with Ellie Goulding?! I’m in. Check out the link for more information here and then go get the bar. They are so delicious!

Brad's Kale Chips And Broccoli Poppers

Brad’s Kale Chips And Broccoli Poppers

Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale and Broccoli Poppers– I have the same problem as most people; the clock strikes 3pm during the work day and I need a snack. While potato chips sounds like the best idea ever, I know that I can’t go that route. But, I’ve found just about the best substitute. Enter Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale snacks. They are crispy, crunchy and taste great! Never baked or fried, all flavors of Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale are dehydrated at or below 115 degrees to preserve essential nutrients and enzymes. There are even a variety of flavors like the “Vampire Killer” coated with red bell pepper, cashews, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, scallions, chickpea miso, garlic, and Himalayan sea salt. Such a fun flavor and delicious too. I have absolutely loved having these around for that 3pm snack craving and knowing I’m eating something healthy over junk food. A win-win for sure!

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds

SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds– If you’ve been following me, you know I love anything pumpkin. I love the seeds too! I was really curious to try out SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds not only cause it’s right up my alley, but there are a ton of great flavors to choose from in both sweet and savory flavors like cinnamon sugar, maple sugar and sea salt, curious curry and somewhat spicy (among quite a few other flavor options). I have loved adding the sweet variety seeds to my morning oatmeal and adding the savory flavors to my salads. Oh, and also just eating them as is for a snack. The great thing about these pumpkin seeds is that the chewy outer shell of the seed has been removed, so there’s no chewing forever or having it stuck in your teeth. I’m totally on board having these at work, at home or when I’m on the road as they are great anytime, anywhere. Check them out.

The Paleo Cookie Company

The Paleo Cookie Company

The Paleo Cookie Company– I attended the Good Food Festival in Chicago in March and met the awesome owners of The Paleo Cookie Company. They were offering samples of their cookies and I immediately fell in love. These cookies are handmade, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and GMO-free with all natural ingredients. But, more than any of that, they are absolutely delicious and addictive! I particularly fell in love with the pumpkin spice cookie which has hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and has only 100 calories per cookie. The pumpkin cookie was originally meant to only be a seasonal cookie, but it was such a popular hit and in high demand that it was kept around as a staple offering. When the people speak, you listen! Trust me on this one, the pumpkin cookie is to die for and there is nothing to regret.

I Heart Keenwah Snacks

I Heart Keenwah Snacks

I Heart Keenwah Snacks– Another amazing find at the Good Food Festival were the I Heart Keenwah snacks. Offered in both sweet and savory varieties these delicious snacks are made from a base of quinoa and are certified gluten-free and non-GMO. I tried the peanut butter cacao quinoa clusters which are delicious little squares of cacao nibs and creamy peanut butter as well as the Herbes de Provence puffs which are perfect as a snack on their own or added as a crouton substitute for salads. Both were great snacks and will be perfect for those times I’m on the road and want a healthy alternative to junk food. I know my gluten-free friends are going to be so excited to know about this awesome option for them too. I guess that means I have to share now, huh?!

so, there you have it! I’m have some upcoming trips planned and many of these snacks will be accompanying me. Can’t wait.

 

Please Note: While I was provided with product, all opinions are my own.