Author Archives: vegetariantourist

Chicago Happenings – October Recap

I was out-of-town on a 10-day trip to Nashville and DC this month, yet I still had the chance to try out some awesome places and attend cool events. Read on:

Kings Bowl Lincoln Park

Kings Bowl Lincoln Park

Kings Bowl– Ok guys, this place is awesome and a must-visit!  What I thought was probably just a standard, run-of-the-mill bowling alley, turned out to be an ultra-hip, fun, foodie destination. Most bowling alleys I’ve been to serve seemingly regular bar food, but Kings Bowl offers an elevated, delicious and long menu of options that were outstanding. Even for this veggie girl, there were so many choices, which was so unexpected. I was really impressed with the variety and uniqueness with options like the kung pao fried cauliflower appetizer to the Mediterranean sampler platter to the mac ‘n cheese bites, all of which were vegetarian. And, make sure to save room for dessert like the ridiculously huge Peanut Butter Cup Sundae which has vanilla ice cream topped with warm peanut butter sauce, chocolate sauce and mini peanut butter cups.  We jokingly asked if we could spend the night because we were too full to move. Ok, maybe we weren’t joking. All I know is that next time I visit Kings Bowl, I will bowl first and then eat because I’m 100% sure I will be indulging in all of their amazing culinary options and will probably be too full to move again.

Taco In A Bag

Taco In A Bag

A Taste For Change– I was honored to be asked to join the host committee to help promote the Shriver Center’s benefit, A Taste For Change. This wonderful organization aids in advancing justice and opportunity for people living in poverty and I was happy to help support such a great cause. The evening was held at an awesome space called Salvage One, which is a very unique event space in Fulton Market District. There were over 20 local restaurants serving up some unbelievable bites ranging from Piece Pizza to Heaven on Seven to Bang Bang Pie. One of my favorites of the night was Taco in a Bag which served a little different spin on their Reverse Coney option. This one had tortilla chips topped with three bean coney sauce, pepper jack cheese, yellow mustard cream sauce, green onions and oyster crackers. So yummy and I definitely need to go check out Taco In a Bag’s storefront in Lincoln Square.

Patisserie Coralie Evanston

Patisserie Coralie Evanston

Evanston Food Tour– Being the foodie that I am, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you that I’ve actually never been on a food tour before. I know, shocking, right?! Thank goodness that has finally changed. Thanks to my friend Soo of Fab Food Chicago, I got to join several other foodie friends for an awesome evening in Evanston trying out local establishments. We visited Cupitol Coffee & Eatery, Taco Diablo, Patisserie Coralie, Found and Whiskey Thief Tavern. Soo mentioned to all of us at the beginning of the food tour to pace ourselves at each place since we were going to be sampling a lot. Of course I did not listen and was pretty much stuffed after the stop #2 at Taco Diablo, and we still had three more places to go! And then we got to Patisserie Coralie and I discovered probably the BEST pain au chocolat I’ve ever had in the Chicagoland area and everything was a blur after that. I literally could not stop eating that amazing chocolate croissant in all of its flaky, buttery goodness. It was so good that I brought one home to eat the next morning for breakfast and I safeguarded that pastry the rest of the evening like it was my child or something. I was admittedly a little ridiculous, but seriously, once you try one of these croissants, you’ll fully understand my crazy that came out. Don’t underestimate Evanston, there are some unbelievable eats to be found. Now go get that chocolate croissant ASAP.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba– One of the first restaurants I ever went to in Chicago was Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. In addition to it’s absolutely delicious Spanish tapas and sangria, this place will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know they offered brunch. But, now that I know, I’ll be back, and often at that. Thanks to Anna de Codorniu sparkling wine, I had the chance to experience a yummy brunch paired with cava. I mean really, does it get better than that? I think not! And, I just have to give a special shout out to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba’s short stack of pancakes. First of all, they are the cutest little silver dollar pancakes ever. Secondly, they were warm, fluffy and already doused in maple syrup. Thirdly, the mini stack is only $2.  That’s less than a cup of coffee anywhere these days! I actually can not disclose how many orders of these amazing pancakes we had, but let’s just say, it was A LOT. And every time the waitress walked by, we put in another order. Maybe you can ballpark the number now.

Malice In Wonderland At Vertigo

Malice In Wonderland At Vertigo

‘Malice In Wonderland’ at the dana hotel– Every since I was a kid, I have loved Halloween. It’s actually very nostalgic for me because my parents would switch off each year on who took me out trick-or-treating and then to my school Halloween party, and who stayed at home to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Now as an adult, I carry on my Halloween tradition, but in a very different way (ha ha)! This year I had the privilege of attending an unbelievable party at Vertigo at the dana hotel. From the second you walked into the first floor entrance of Vertigo, you were transformed into the world of Alice in Wonderland, being greeted by Alice herself with a welcome drink, traveling down the rabbit hole and encountering other characters from the story, even the Mad Hatter himself. I was beyond impressed with the decorations, all the dressed up characters and more so, the unbelievable tea party that awaited us. Mini sandwiches cut into the shapes of a suit of cards, pastries made into actual cards, beautifully decorated cake pops and so much more. Not to mention the pristine tea sets with perfect tea cups. Let’s just say, #mindblown! Vertigo always knows how to throw some great parties, but I’m not sure how they will top this one (although I’m sure they will figure out a way)! Maybe next year I’ll pay back my parents for all those years they took me out on Halloween and I’ll take them to the amazing party that awaits at Vertigo. I feel like I owe them for their commitment to making all of my Halloweens so memorable.

 

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

 

No More Blisters Please!

We’ve all been there. Traipsing around the world, wanting to look fashionable and hip, you pop on those adorable new pair of heels for a day of city exploring. Completely ignoring that little voice in your head telling you this is a bad idea. Very bad idea. Ah, no worries, I’ll break these shoes in and it will all be fine. They are comfortable anyways and I’m a warrior!

One hour later, you’re trying to find the nearest drug store to buy yet another box of band-aids for the newly formed blisters. Now, you are totally regretting not having gone for the “tourist look” and worn your tennis shoes and given up on trying to look cute and trendy all together.

Ahem, clearly I’m not speaking from experience. I’ve *never* had to do that.

That is, until now. I recently discovered a great shoe brand called Jambu where style and comfort are the name of the game and perfect for us travelers who don’t want to wear tennis shoes while we are out exploring (not that there is anything wrong with that!).

JBU by Jambu

JBU by Jambu

The newly released JBU (Just Be You) Fall collection by Jambu has some great options for whatever type of travel or weather needs you might have. And, get this, the shoes in this collection are vegan too (meaning no animal products were used to make the shoes). You know this veggie girl is totally on board with that!

I happened to be heading on a trip to San Francisco and wore my new Mary Jane inspired flats for my travels (style called Berta). Let me tell you….they were so awesome and comfortable and fun! There is a memory foam lining that totally cushions your foot and there is great traction on the bottom, so you aren’t slipping around on those slick airport floors.

Comfy Shoes At The Airport

Comfy Shoes At The Airport

I personally thought they were really cute too and went well with a casual look or even with a charming little dress. Honestly, it was perfect for my travels and I know these will be coming along with me on many more jaunts around the world.

Traveling With JBU Shoes by Jambu

Traveling With JBU Shoes by Jambu

So, who’s with me on only wearing comfortable shoes and not ever having to buy band-aids for blisters while exploring the globe?!?!?

En Route To SF

En Route To SF

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

Chicago Happenings- September Recap

Check out some of the fun things I’ve been up to lately! Seriously, even when I try to slow down a bit, there is just too much going on in the amazing city of Chicago.

Salero

Salero

Salero– Each month this fantastic West Loop Spanish restaurant does a happy hour special called “Pintxos and Porrons”. The team collaborates with a different chef, sommelier, winemaker and/or mixologist to put a fresh spin on the pintxos menu and newly featured porrons of new wines/ciders. The week I went could not have been any better because Chef de Cuisine David Chapman and Sous Chef Bill Walker from the awesome vegetarian restaurant Green Zebra were creating the pintxos that evening. Some of the delicious dishes we tried ranged from vegetable fried rice with butternut squash and apples to fried squash blossoms with jalapeno cream cheese and a spicy sauce to roasted red peppers with herbed cheese. It was all so well created and perfect for this veggie girl. Definitely check out Salero for Pintxos and Porrons for the perfect after work snack and drink, or just make a dinner out of it like we did!

Identita Golose

Identita Golose

Identita Golose– Identita Golose is a culinary organization whose mission is to highlight the best of contemporary Italian cuisine, showcase the culinary excellence of each Italian region and honor top Italian chefs who blend traditional techniques with modern methods. Identita Golose was recently at Eataly and I had the honor of attending a master class in which Chef Carlo Cracco from Milan and Chef Michael Tusk from San Francisco shared their favorite new culinary techniques as they each created an innovative dish. I always love watching chefs in action and learning new concepts and skills, even if I am just watching and eating (and drinking wine). Chef Carlo Cracco (who is also a judge on Masterchef Italy) developed an unbelievable dish of pasta with smoked butter and black bread crumbs. I am not usually a fan of anything smoked, but this dish was truly remarkable and unlike anything I’ve ever had. Identita Golose hosts different events around the globe so keep your eyes peeled if they are in a city near you.

West Town Bakery

West Town Bakery

West Town Bakery– Have you tried West Town Bakery? Not only do they have delicious baked goods, but an awesome menu of food (with lots of great vegetarian options). When I was invited to a cake decorating class it was a no-brainer to say yes. Taught by head cake decorator Sam Turner, our group of six was able to fill, frost and decorate our own cakes in whatever way we wanted. It was quite the hilarious and entertaining time watching all of us try to create our cakes, especially when Sam made it look so simple and easy. I truly have a new-found appreciation for all cake creators and decorators. What could have turned out pretty ugly and disastrous, I was quite proud of the cake I created. More so, my co-workers who were the lucky recipients of the cake the next day, were even more impressed with it. I think they were only complimenting me because the pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting was insanely delicious! Several have asked if I am taking regular cake decorating classes at West Town Bakery; let’s be real, it’s not to see how creative I am with decorating, it’s just so they can have more cake. I work with some smart and sassy folks!

The Peninsula Chicago

The Peninsula Chicago

The Peninsula– The Lobby at The Peninsula is now offering an awesome deal on Wednesdays called “Burgers & Bubbles.” Every Wednesday evening you can get the burger special for the month paired with a glass of champagne for $25. I had the chance to check out a special event on a beautiful night on the terrace where the executive chef of The Peninsula, Jose Fernandez, did a demo for us. What was even better was that he created a special vegan burger for me made of chickpeas, quinoa and jalapenos (he used flax seeds to bind the burger, rather than using egg, to make it vegan). Honestly, one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had in a long time. I was actually trying to convince him to add this to their daily menu because it was just that good! If you stop in to The Lobby at The Peninsula, don’t leave without trying this veggie burger. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

UberEATS

UberEATS

UberEATS– Well, I think most of us are all familiar Uber, but did you know that Uber also delivers food from some of your favorite restaurants? Yeah, I didn’t either. So, I downloaded the app and tried it out and it’s pretty freakin awesome. Just like how you can see where your ride is at and how long it will take to arrive to you, you can do the exact same thing with your food. You get status updates on when your order has been received, when your food is being prepared and when the food is on the way to you. My parents were recently visiting so we tried out UberEATS for a chill evening at home with some pizza, bread sticks and salad from Jet’s pizza. I loved keeping track of where our food was and knowing exactly when it was going to arrive. How convenient. If you’d like to try it out, download the UberEATS app and use code eats-ip2bf to get $15 off your first order. You’re welcome!

 

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

Mixing It Up For Fall

The cooler morning temperatures have arrived and fall is definitely here. It’s funny how the body adapts and I’m noticing that I’m already craving more substantial and warm comfort foods. While I wish I could solely live on the ultimate comfort food (mac and cheese and/or grilled cheese with tomato soup), it’s sadly not at all realistic. So, I’ve put my healthy thinking cap on and am trying to figure out ways to fuel my body as the degrees drop.

One of the perfect kitchen tools that will help me through fall and winter is definitely my new Hamilton Beach rice cooker. The great thing about this appliance is that it not only cooks rice, but also a variety of grains like quinoa, cous cous and oatmeal. AND, it doubles as a vegetable steamer and can even steam some fish if you’d so like (not this veggie girl here though).

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker

Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker

Obviously being Indian, the rice cooking portion is going to be a godsend and part of my weekly cooking routine. But, for this post I thought I would try making something other than rice as an experiment. I decided to see how the rice cooker did with oatmeal, since I’ve never made oatmeal in a rice cooker before.

Getting Ready To Make Some Oatmeal

Getting Ready To Make Some Oatmeal

And, it worked like a charm! You can even set the timer so that it cooks up at your desired time when you wake in the morning or while you are finishing up your morning routine.

I created a little Indian twist on my oatmeal and added some cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, brown sugar and crushed roasted almonds. It was so perfect and the best breakfast after my morning spin class. I think next time I will add some raisins for a little added sweetness.

My Indian Twist On Oatmeal

My Indian Twist On Oatmeal

And, because there was plenty of oatmeal to go around, I used it for the next few days in my smoothies, which was a great addition.

The Hamilton Beach rice cooker is perfect for anyone looking for healthy, hot meals, and I think it’s especially great for a family since it can make large quantities (4-20 cups). It’s a wonderful addition to your kitchen and the best for those healthy comfort meals as the cold weather sets in.

 

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

Chicago Happenings – August Recap

August: gone in the blink of an eye. I still have not accepted that summer is basically over and fall is on its way. While I do love the fall, I’m wishing the summer could stick around a bit longer. Since I have no way to change that, we’ll just relive some of the cool things I did this past month:

Eat Purely

Eat Purely

Eat Purely– Have you tried Eat Purely yet? It’s an awesome, healthy option for ordering chef-made meals in less than 20 minutes (Chicago only at this time). All the ingredients are organic and locally sourced and most of all, absolutely delicious. I had the chance to try out a few different meal options and I have to say I was really impressed. You can order these meals up to one week in advance and the portion sizes are really substantial, meaning quite the bang for your buck. Eat Purely really is all about making our lives healthier and easier. One of my favorite dishes I’ve tried so far (which is pictured) is spicy peanut buckwheat soba noodles, Chinese bbq tofu, really fresh veggies like cucumber, snap peas, carrots, bok choy and more. Quite honestly, I wasn’t really expecting much from this dish, but there was so much flavor and the vegetables were so fresh and tasty. Trust me, you want to try out Eat Purely. And here’s the best part; use the code VEGETARIANTOURIST to get a $20 credit (which is basically two free meals). Seriously, a no-brainer. Download the app, order your food and check it out for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Honey's Chicago

Honey’s Chicago

Honey’s– I was so excited to check out this newly opened hot spot in the West Loop called Honey’s. It is a stunningly beautiful place with a hip crowd, great cocktail menu and yummy food. I was there only for happy hour and some snacks, but got to try another great restaurant that is focused on seasonal, contemporary dishes. And, what’s great about this place is that chef also directs the cocktail program so that the cocktails are inspired to be paired with the dishes on the ever-changing menu. I think that is so cool and so rare to find. I don’t think I’ve come across that level of sophistication or detail at many restaurants I’ve been to when it comes to the cocktails. It’s right up my alley and you know I’ll be back to come try more of what Honey’s has to offer.

Arami

Arami

Arami– If someone suggests going to a sushi place for dinner, I’m the one that usually needs to check the menu before agreeing to it. Why? Because many sushi places don’t do much in terms of vegetarian food outside of the boring and standard avocado and/or cucumber roll (so unimaginative of them). And, then you find a place like Arami that has not only tons of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, but they even have an entire separate menu. How’s that for remembering us dietary restriction folk? I love it! I really enjoyed checking out some of the amazing dishes at Arami (like the pictured maitake mushrooms from the robata grill). Another dish I absolutely loved was the agedashi tofu, which was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Arami is an adorable, quaint space and the food is great, so make sure you go check it out. They definitely have got you covered, no matter what your dietary restriction.

Steadfast

Steadfast

Steadfast– I love finding restaurants that are not pretentious but have such delicious and beautifully presented food that you feel like you are at a pretentious restaurant; that’s Steadfast. My recent dinner there had me blown away at how gorgeous each item was….and, it wasn’t only pretty, it tasted great too. If you go, one of my absolute favorite items on the menu was the bread. You get to pick the variety of breads (options like lavender pretzel or orange sourdough or garlicky cracker to name a few), to the pickles, oil and butter to be served alongside (and there are several, unique varieties within each category like saffron butter).  Such thought and detail into something that usually is so basic at most restaurants. The bread course was just the first foray into a lovely dinner with so many flavors and artistic presentation. I had just as much fun photographing my food as I did eating it!

Green Zebra

Green Zebra

Green Zebra– I’m always asked what my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Chicago are, and without hesitation I always include Green Zebra on that list. It’s one of the few places that I can eat every single item on the menu! Do you know how awesome that feels? When at most restaurants I can only choose maybe a handful of items on a menu, then I come to a place like Green Zebra that feels catered just to me. It’s pretty damn cool. And more than that, absolutely delicious. One great thing Green Zebra does is an entire tasting menu each week that is focused around one seasonal ingredient (with the fall coming up, think acorn squash or pumpkin or apples for example). It’s an awesome way to experience a well thought out and innovative menu around a great vegetable or fruit. Go try it out my fellow veggie (and non-veggie) warriors.

 

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