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.

Chicago Happenings – April Recap

Truth be told, I hit a wall in April. I also started an 8-week business communications class, so my usual writing time for the blog was overtaken with reading and homework assignments. I promise to be better this month because I definitely felt the void of writing. My mojo is back! With that, I did of course still go to some great events and tastings:

Gino's East Pilsen

Gino’s East Pilsen

Gino’s East Pilsen – The popular Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant opened a sister location in Mexico City last year. It was such a hit in Mexico City that a sister of the sister restaurant opened in early April in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. With a menu reflective of what’s offered at the Mexico City location, there are unique dishes to check out at the Gino’s East in Pilsen. Some of the vegetarian items I tried out included the guacamole and chips, esquites (a warm dip of grilled sweet corn, serrano, epazote, spicy mayo, cotija cheese and lime served with chips) and the Nopal Vegetarian pizza (cactus, pickled onion, mushroom, potato, mozzarella and pizza sauce). It was cool to try something different and of course, wash it all down with a delicious margarita. Make your way to Pilsen to try out this unique Gino’s East.

Bernie's Lunch & Supper

Bernie’s Lunch & Supper

Bernie’s Lunch & Supper– I was excited to finally try out this awesome River North restaurant after seeing so many great Instagram pictures of the yummy looking food and beautiful drinks. I loved the modern interior and vibe of Bernie’s Lunch & Supper, which was packed on a random Tuesday night for dinner. Definitely a hot spot! As for the food, I was definitely a fan. Two of my favorite dishes were the carrot and avocado salad (fresh and grilled carrots, avocado, romesco, almonds, grilled scallions and spinach with a delicious hidden sauce on the bottom) as well as the falafel plate with charred eggplant, hummus, feta and sliced cucumber served with some warm house made naan bread. I also thoroughly enjoyed the drink named Hygge (lsolut Elyx Alsolut Elyx Vodka, Leopold Bros. Michigan Tart Cherry Meletti Amaro, Orgeat, Lemon) which was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. And, I just recently found out Bernie’s has an awesome rooftop patio. I’m definitely adding this in the rotation of rooftops to hit up this summer. You in?

SteakBar Chicago

SteakBar Chicago

SteakBar – Yes, I fully realize the irony of The Vegetarian Tourist going to a place called the SteakBar. But, you know me…I love getting sneak peek’s at new restaurants before they open to the public. The soft opening party was a fun time perusing this new Old Town spot. I liked the feel of the place and even tried a couple delicious vegetarian bites (the truffle mac and cheese as well as the avocado bibb salad which was sort of like really good guacamole in a lettuce cup). But, what I was most impressed by were the draft cocktail options. I wasn’t really expecting much since I didn’t think a pre-made drink coming out of a tap would be that good. I was honestly blown away at how awesome these cocktails were and impressed to say the least! The Old Town Punch (vodka, aperol, st germain, lemon) was my favorite. If you find yourself in Old Town, it’s definitely worth a stop, especially for a draft cocktail.

Savage Bingo - Headquarters Beercade

Savage Bingo – Headquarters Beercade

Savage Bingo at Headquarters Beercade– Alright, I had no idea what I really signed up for when I agreed to go to Savage Bingo at Headquarters Beercade in Lakeview. I just saw the word Bingo and the option to win prizes like Lollapalooza tickets or an iPad Air, and I was sold! Honestly, it’s kind of hard to describe exactly what Savage Bingo is…it really can only be experienced. Think great music with a DJ, fun drink options and an announcer that will pick on participants and embarrass them in front of everyone if they call out Bingo but don’t actually have Bingo! There are also varied formats for the Bingo rounds including the speed round (where the numbers are read off so insanely fast it’s beyond impossible to keep up) to the final round where you must get every square filled on your card. Oh, and the announcer is not at all PC and quite belligerent actually, which makes for a riot of a time. I was equal parts laughing and equal parts scared throughout the evening worrying the whole time that he was going to pick on me! If you are looking for something fun and unique to do on a Wednesday night, go check it out. You might come home a big winner with an awesome prize!

Midwest Rum Festival

Midwest Rum Festival

Midwest Rum Festival – This past weekend I had the chance to attend the Midwest Rum Festival. It was the perfect weekend to spend indoors for the fest since it was cold and rainy. Sponsored by TheRumLab.com, this event included everything from tasting new rums, to attending brand seminars, to enjoying great music and some fun snacks. My friends and I had a blast sampling some great rum-based cocktails and even trying some rum straight without mixers. We were each given a card which was like a passport to get hole punched at each station which made for some fun to try to visit each vendor. Admittedly, we just couldn’t do it as it was just too much for us (wimpy, I know)! We should get an “A” for effort though. Last year the fest was in Louisville, KY, so maybe they will try different cities each year? Who knows! But, if it’s back in Chicago, go get your rum sampling on.

 

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

Chicago Happenings – March Recap

The month of March was filled with lots of fun travels for both work and fun; Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toledo, Ohio (for a wedding). No wonder the month flew by…I was gone most of the weekends of the month! I still tried out some great things during the weekdays when I could:

Urbanbelly Wicker Park

Urbanbelly Wicker Park

Urbanbelly– One of my all-time favorite chefs in Chicago is Chef Bill Kim (read about his vegetarian cooking class I attended here). He is truly one of the nicest, most humble chefs I’ve ever met. I was thrilled to hear he was opening another location of his famed Urbanbelly restaurant in the bustling Wicker Park neighborhood underneath the blue line El stop at Damen. I attended the soft launch party and was not surprised that the food and drinks were outstanding. I absolutely fell in love with the sweet potato, maple, feta and arugula dumplings (so unexpected, but SO good), the vegan kimchi and let’s not even talk about how much of the pea shoot fried rice I had (jasmine fried rice with scrambled egg, tofu, pea shoot and Madras curry powder). I literally could not stop eating it. It’s wonderful to find Asian restaurants that understand that many of us vegetarians don’t eat fish sauce, so it was great to see a menu reflective of that kind of attention. I’m super excited to go back and try the vegetarian pho and other dishes. Oh, and you know I will be ordering that pea shoot fried rice. One for dine-in and one to-go. Yes, I’m that obsessed.

Earl's Kitchen + Bar

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar– When you think of things associated with Canada you probably think of things like hockey, maple syrup and Justin Bieber to name a few (ha ha, sorry for the Bieber reference…I had to). You can also now add Earls Kitchen + Bar to the list. This awesome chain out of Canada is making its appearance all over the US, including right here in Chicago. I finally tried it out and was really blown away by not only the sheer volume of options on the menu, but the international influence from many different cuisines of the world. I’m talking Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Korean and Indian just to name a few. I wasn’t sure how authentic these dishes would be, but I was really impressed with everything I tried (which was a lot)! I have to say that hands down my favorite vegetarian dish I tried was the Korean Bi Bim Bop. And, I was not expecting it all. The spice level, flavors, fresh ingredients and awesome stone bowl it was served in made it feel like a truly traditional dish. And, also to note is the fun drink menu, like the Silly Wabbit drink that was visually made to look like an actual carrot (including the fact that they use fresh pressed carrot juice in the drink). So, let’s give a little love to our neighbor from the north and enjoy this great restaurant here in the city of Chicago.

iFLY Chicago Lincoln Park

iFLY Chicago Lincoln Park

iFLY Chicago– Even though I consider myself pretty adventurous, there are still things that I’m not sure I can do, like skydiving. I think I would freak out on the plane ride up and then right before I had to jump out of the plane. So, I recently tried out pretty much the next best thing; indoor skydiving!! The newly opened iFLY in Lincoln Park was such an amazing experience and probably the closest I’m ever going to get to real skydiving (well, maybe I’ll change my mind someday, who knows)! This indoor simulator has you “flying” inside basically a huge air tube with an instructor by your side to guide you. Check out the video I posted on Facebook here. You go through a whole experience where you first watch a safety and “how-to” video. An instructor will then help you get geared up with jumpsuit, goggles, helmet and earplugs. And then you are off! I was definitely a little nervous, but once I got in the air tube, I had the best time flying around and enjoying the experience of what it must feel like to be floating through the air. I have to admit the time went by really fast, just as it probably does when you are free-falling in skydiving. I would definitely go back with family and friends and its the perfect indoor activity, especially on those cold winter days when you are looking for something fun to do. Go check it out and let me know what you think!

Snap Kitchen Streeterville

Snap Kitchen Streeterville

Snap Kitchen– I think I was the last person in Chicago to try out Snap Kitchen! No really…my Instagram feed has been filled with beautiful pictures of all the awesome dishes and cold pressed juices for months now. I FINALLY made it to Snap Kitchen since it opened inside the Whole Foods in Streeterville, which is close to my work. I was so impressed with the quality of food and found it fresh, healthy and delicious. What really hit the chord for me though is that all the signage and packaging for every dish is color coded. So, standing from 10 feet away from the refrigerated case, I could quickly scan through all the options and find the green tags that denotes a vegetarian/vegan dish. I don’t have to read every tiny ingredient to determine if something is vegetarian since it’s already done for me and so easily visible! In addition, I had the chance to meet the mastermind behind all the food, the executive chef, Matt Reinhart. Not only was he so incredibly nice and humble, he truly was interested in my honest feedback. I appreciated that (and that he was even interested in it at all)! I know he’s already incorporated some of my ideas and I’m excited to see what else he comes up with as Snap Kitchen is always reinventing their menu. Definitely worth trying out Snap Kitchen, no matter what your palate or dietary restriction.

Tilt At 360 Chicago Observation Deck

Tilt At 360 Chicago Observation Deck

360 Chicago– Can you imagine being 94 flights up in the sky, and then tilting out of the skyscraper at 30 degrees hovering 1,000 feet over the Magnificent Mile? Yeah, me either, until I tried it. Another one of Chicago’s fun adventures is the Tilt at the John Hancock Observatory. Basically in a glass enclosed “ride” of sorts, you are tilted out of the building with sweeping views of the city and the streets below. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done and is truly the first of its kind in the world. And, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart! It was fun and so unique and you know I love that! The other great thing about 360 Chicago is that you can enjoy views in every direction of Chicago (get it, 360 degrees). I spent a lovely evening trying out the Tilt, taking some great pictures before it rained and learning about new upcoming events like the Sunset Series; weekly events such as a Monday night tripod series with a photographer, Tuesday evenings with a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Thursday evenings with a DJ for a fun party. I kind of want to go for each one of these to check them all out. Who’s in?

 

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