24hrs in chicago

7.22.2015

Note: A version of this post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work. 
When you find yourself in Chicago with 24 hours to spare, what do you do? Well, I happen to have spent a little over 24hrs in Chicago this past month, and I have some things to recommend…

BRUNCH
The Flying Saucer is a modern brunch spot with an old school vibe. The ambiance feels like your classic diner joint. The menu follows suit with traditional egg breakfasts, but throws a twist with vegan options and Mexican-inspired breakfast flare. Don’t know what to order? The huevos volando is one that you won’t want to miss. The menu is also extremely affordable.

SHOPPING

Humboldt House is a bohemian woman’s dream. The space is filled with unique artisan jewelry, wall hangings, and other home goods. Everything has a free-spirit vibe, but with a clean un-cluttered aesthetic. Little touches here and there, whether it’s a geometric earring or a hand-thrown mug. It’s hard not to go crazy in here.

The aesthetic at General Store is a lot like Humboldt House – clean, white, soothing – however the product itself is a bit more simplistic. The assortment is great for unique, high end home goods, and their hat assortment is off the chain. Even if you can’t afford anything here, do stop in for the visual stimulation. It’s a beautifully curated space.

EXERCISE
It’s really important to keep your exercise routine up while you’re traveling. If you have a minute to do so, I highly recommend booking a class at Shred 415. The class alternates between 10 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes of bootcamp-style weights. The instructor changes it up, moving between intervals, to keep you entertained and pushing yourself the entire time. The satisfaction afterwards is extremely rewarding. I promise your clothes will be drenched with sweat, and you’ll feel like you’ve just torched a million calories. Ok, maybe not a million, but definitely enough to go out and enjoy that Chicago restaurant scene. Another plus? The endorphin release keeps you smiling all day long.


DINNER
Save your money for dinner, because you’re definitely going to want to eat at Momotaro, and you’re definitely going to have to spend money. Sadly, this is the truth of the matter for a nice dinner in Chicago. The city isn’t home to the James Beard Awards for nothing. Chicago takes its fine dining seriously. Momotaro itself serves a menu much like Japanese tapas; you order small plates to share as a table, and then you top it off with the restaurants artisan sushi. The small plate format allows the chef to flex his muscles in crafting the perfect bit. Each forkful (or chopstickful) artfully melds flavors, changing in your mouth throughout the tasting experience. The drinks at Momotaro are also a must try. The options are peppered with Asian influences – matcha, cherry blossom, and wasabi. Myself, I tried the Lucky Peach, made with George Dickel 8yr Tennessee whiskey, Stirrings peach liqueur, shiro miso, orange, and lemon. It was one of the most inventive and delicious drinks to touch my lips in a long time. 

So there you have it, 24 hours in Chicago. A big thank you to my girl Chelsi for hosting me and showing me around. You. Are. The. Best.

grilled shrimp & apricot risotto

7.18.2015

Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work, and was written by my darling boyfriend, Adam. 
Risotto is the king of rice dishes.  Fried rice, paella, curry—they got nothing a proper risotto. The difference is in the rice grains. Proper risotto is made with arborio rice, a super-starchy, creamy variety cultivated in Italy.  

But it’s more than the grains themselves that distinguish risotto from other rice dishes. The unique method of cooking the arborio is truly what makes risotto special. Hot vegetable or chicken stock is added to the cooking arborio grains one ladle at a time.  When the rice absorbs all the liquid, another ladle is added. This process, along with constant stirring, extracts all the starch from the grains, giving risotto its characteristic creaminess.

For this version of risotto, we cooked in this week’s apricots form Beechwood Orchards.  We anchored the savory element of this dish with John Glick’s sweet onions and finished it with mint and basil to really drive home the summery flavors.  And because it’s grill season, we figured, hey, why not throw some shrimp on the barbie too. 
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
10 large shrimp
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock (approx.)
1 large sweet onion
1 lb apricots
1/4 cup cream cheese (as per Naomi’s Italian grandma’s secret recipe)
3 sprigs of mint
3 sprigs of basil
1 cup chopped parsley
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 Tbl smoked paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Directions:
Begin by shelling and deveining the shrimp.  Transfer them to a medium mixing bowl and pour in the half a cup of olive oil. Toss in lemon zest, parsley, paprika and a dash of salt. Mix thoroughly, ensuring the ingredients are evenly distributed over the shrimp.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to give the marinade time sink in.
Bring the three cups of vegetable stock (or water) to a simmer in a small pot.
Dice the onions and sweat in olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat until they become translucent.  Add the rice and toast in the pan until it begins to pop and crackle.  That sound is the shells of the rice grains splitting, which will allow it to cook more quickly and evenly.
Add the simmering vegetable stock one ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid incrementally.  Stir the rice almost constantly to agitate more and more starch from the grains
While the rice is cooking, slice and pit the apricots, cutting them into eighths.
After about 15 minutes the rice should be close to finished.  Check its doneness by chewing a small bite.  If the grains of rice stick in your molars, the risotto needs more time.  
When the rice is close to finished, add the apricots; they don't need much time to cook.
Turn off the heat, and stir in the cream cheese, mint and basil.  The risotto should be very creamy and loose enough so the grains don’t try to clump together.
Meanwhile, throw the shrimp on the barbie and grill away. 

get your juice: owen & alchemy

7.08.2015

In Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood lives the coolest juice company I have ever seen: Owen & Alchemy. Their look is graphic – futuristic elements mixed with archaic symbols and natural materials. It’s both light and dark – the design an experience in and of itself. To boot, their juices are inventive and delicious. The menu includes your basic green juice staples, but adds in fun twists like himalayan sea salt which is packed with vital minerals and also helps to preserve the juices and keep their freshness. In addition, Owen & Alchemy offers fermented drinks (think Kombucha) and a menu of light bites including smoothie bowls and salads. If you find yourself in Chicago anytime soon, do stop in to find a healthy bite.