24hrs in chicago


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…

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.


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.

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.

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


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

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
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


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.

hoe cakes with savory sour cherry chutney


Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work, and was written by my darling boyfriend, Adam. 
Cherry season, in this area, is fleeting and fickle. Cherries are a delicate fruit, prone to weather damage,  and during their short peak period of ripeness (only a little more than two weeks!) they’re prized pickings for birds and other pests.  Any local cherries that make it to your fridge are a thing to be treasured. 

So now that all of us CSA members have them, let’s revel in cherry season. Let's wring every drop of local cherry possibility from these few short weeks. Of course, you can bake a cherry pie or make cherry ice cream. You can freeze them, can them, or dry them. Or you can do like we did and make a sour cherry chutney.

We began by slowly caramelizing Emanuel Stoltzfus's dashing candy onions, then added the cherries. To ballast their tartness we added a few spoonfuls of wildflower honey. We bolstered the savoriness with the copious addition of black pepper and fresh thyme.The result is a fruity spread that’s sweet and sour, and a perfect compliment to cheese.

To make a dish of it, we spread it atop old fashion hoe cakes. These quaint little corn meal pancakes are said to have originated in the rural South. Farmers, the story goes, would heat the flat metal ends of their hoes in a fire and grease them up as impromptu griddles.  They drizzled batter right on their searing farm tools to cook a quick lunch in the field.  We finished the hoe cakes with some creamy Camembert, but goat cheese or blue cheese would work just as well.
Savory Sour Cherry Chutney

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 cups of sour cherries
½ medium onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
¼ cup honey
3 Tbl of thyme leaves
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Begin with the hardest part: pitting the cherries.
Next, in a medium sauté pan, sweat the chopped onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to brown.
Add the pitted cherries and bring to a simmer. Then add the honey. Feel free to use more honey if necessary to balance out the sourness of the cherries.
Pick the thyme leaves from the stems and add them to the chutney. Crack a generous amount of black pepper into the sauce until it begins to taste rich and spicy.

Continue to simmer the chutney until it has reduced to a jam-like consistency.
Hoe Cakes

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

1 cup course ground corn meal
½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup water

In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly whisk in the water (you can use milk instead if you prefer) until it resembles thick pancake batter. Depending on the brand of flour and cornmeal you might have to add some extra liquid to get the right consistency.
Let the batter rest for a few minutes to activate the baking powder and hydrate the cornmeal. Meanwhile, place a 10” skillet (or large-sized hoe) on medium heat and lubricate it with a small pad of butter.
Ladle the batter into the hot skillet and spread around evenly with the bottom of the ladle. After bubbles begin to form around the hoe cake, flip it and cook the opposite side until brown. Repeat until all batter is used, this recipe should yield three large cakes.
Next, using a jar lid, cut perfectly round, finger-food-sized pieces from the larger pancakes. Spread the chutney around the cakes and melt your cheese of choice on top using an oven set 400 F for approx. 5 minutes.

london: through the eyes of my father


It takes us a long time to realize that our parents are people. They have unknown pasts, and they too were young once, just like you. Life took them on adventures; there were lovers, friends, inner turmoil, and passions that moved them from one point to the next. It’s so easy to remain ignorant to these bits and pieces that make up who your parents are. If you never ask, you might not hear, and if you’ve never hear, you may never really know the people who raised you.

I'm personally very fascinated to hear my parents' old storeis. I see two people who made it a point to pave a path distinctly for themselves and not for anybody else. I envy their bravery, and at the same time, I identify with it.

In my continuing quest to get to know them, I recently convinced my father to take a trip with me. On our way home from visiting family in Italy, we made a pit stop in London to retrace his old footsteps. A friend still owns the house he rented when he was a young spiritual hippie living in London during the 70’s. We went and stayed with her — my dad sleeping in his old bedroom, and myself on the first story in her acupuncture treatment space. During our visit, we walked around London, enjoying the parks he used to meander through and retracing his steps to places he once frequented. 

Perhaps most satisfying of all, we spent time with his friends and talked about old times. I heard stories of friends who had died, the concerts they enjoyed in the park, and the worries that were on their minds. They looked back on fifty-some years, and I got to sit there, listening to the stories of their lives. I found myself envious of all the places they'd been. The solo treks through China, the gatherings at a Tuscan villa. I wanted their wisdom. I wanted to be able to talk about life like someone who's seen it all. They'd each gone through so many things. Changed careers, survived diseases, fallen in love  hardship after victory after hardship. Here I am, racing along the path of life. I think, "that can't be me." But before I know it I'll be right there with them; looking back on the memories. 

Needless to say, I was immensely stricken by this little meander into my father's past. I fell in love with his friends. I wanted to cry at their stories, and at the same time, I was really proud of my father for attracting such special people. For all the times I want to reject where I come from. For all the times that I can only see the faults in my father. This undid them. He's a good man  a true friend, a thoughtful person, and hey, he can identify just about any tree you're bound to come across. I'm glad I had the opportunity to return with him to London, to get to see the world through his young hippie eyes. It was a very transformative experience. 

I tell you this story, so that while you have the chance, you too will make it a point to uncover who your parents were when they were young. Visit the places they visited. Stay in the places they lived. Talk to the friends that they made. Take a walk through your parents’ footsteps, so you can bring yourself closer — to them, and ultimately, yourself. The look into the past will propel you down your own road, wherever that may lead.