“What’s Good?” – Honey Butter Fried Chicken

This week’s “What’s Good Wednesday” is featuring Honey Butter Fried Chicken. (No video today).  I visited this new restaurant in Avondale just because of the name. “Honey Butter” and “Fried Chicken” are two phrases that you don’t hear together very often. They have also been getting a lot of press, so I figured that I would try it out. I must say that I haven’t tasted chicken quite like this. The skin is nice and crispy, but the secret ingredient is the smoked paprika salt – it really does give it a very unique flavor. Very good. They also serve a honey butter, which you are supposed to put onto the chicken & it’s good, especially on the corn bread which is shaped like little honey combs. The cornbread is good but it is entirely too small – just order extra cornbread if you like cornbread.

The only thing is that they need to work on their side items.  The macaroni and cheese was dry – it was like eating cheesy-flavored noodles – very little sauce. Stay away from the Chinese Broccoli – I was trying to be healthy and eat my vegetables, but I couldn’t even eat half of this dish. They put tomato sauce in there, and I didn’t enjoy the flavor at all. Too bitter and acidic for my taste buds. The creamed corn, however was very tasty.  I do plan to go back and visit, and the next time, I plan to get the fried chicken sandwich.

The decor was cute – very simple restaurant, and kind of small with a nice patio in the back. It had a nice, neighborhood feel, and there were a couple of people there with their kids. (Although I thought that it was probably past their bedtime). Definitely worth a visit!

That’s “What’s Good!”

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“What’s Good Wednesday” featuring Plum Market and Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter

Today’s “What’s Good Wednesday” features Plum Market and Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter.

Plum Market is a new store to the Chicago area featuring on local and organic foods. It’s very much like Whole Foods but with a heavy local spin. You can find your favorite local foods and products at this store, which is what makes them unique. Check out the video to learn more.

Also featured is Trader Joe’s delicious Peanut Butter. It tastes so fresh, like someone just ground up some peanuts, added some salt and put it in the jar. I’m obviously very enthusiastic about this Peanut Butter when you watch the video.

Enjoy!

 

New Weekly Web Series “What’s Good Wednesdays”

Hi Everyone!

Today I am announcing the launch of my new weekly web series called “What’s Good?” where I will talk about my favorite foods from restaurants, grocery stores and the like. I’ll be posting the episode on Wednesdays.

In this episode, I’m featuring the following:

  • The Hummus at Bin 36 – I had the hummus at Bin 36 and was floored at how fresh and delicious it tasted. It tasted better than many Mediterranean restaurants that I have tried. I was at a party and had to force myself to stop eating it because I literally had plates of it (small plates, but plates). If I had a picnic or event, I would order the hummus specifically and take it to-go. It was served with pita bread, and I loved it. Very unexpected find at a wine-focused restaurant.

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  • Good Vines Wine – I had the pleasure of trying Good Vines Wine at this same event, and was delighted to learn that they give 5% of their proceeds back to a charity (in this case it’s Common Threads, which is my favorite charity), and they also have a lovely Marzemino sparkling red wine. I said Sparkling. Red. Wine. Who knew? It’s very well-balanced (with hints of berries and violets) and not too sweet, so it can pair with a variety of foods. The wine has half the carbonation of Champagne, and it’s quite refreshing. Definitely the kind of wine that I would take to a dinner party or an outdoor picnic. (Can you tell that I like picnics?). The wine is currently sold in the Chicago area at Mariano’s grocery stores, so be sure to pick up a bottle the next time you go shopping. They also have a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Tai-Pinot Grigio as well. Check out their website at www.goodvineswine.com

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  • Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese – If you don’t have time to cook and you have a craving for some serious Mac & Cheese, Trader Joe’s has a frozen, gourmet Mac and Cheese that you won’t believe came from a frozen box at the grocery store. It’s very creamy and has 4 cheeses. They also have a light version, but I was told to go for the regular version for the best flavor. This item is great for those days where you just don’t feel like cooking a side item, but you want to eat something delicious. Try a box and let me know what you think.

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That’s “What’s Good” for this week!

If you have any suggestions on foods that I should feature on “What’s Good Wednesdays”, leave me a comment or email me at erica@tastebudenterprises.com. If I decide to feature your suggestion, I’ll give you a shout-out in the video!

See you next Wednesday!

You Are Invited to Common Threads Cook-Off 2013!!

I’m happy to announce that tickets to the third annual Common Threads Cook-Off are now on sale! It is a fantastic event targeting Chicago’s young professional foodie elite, a fundraising competition of sorts showcasing the city’s finest food and mixology. Chefs create and serve their favorite cookout-themed dish either in a glass, on a bun, in a shell, or on a stick, and guests have the opportunity to try it all, vote on their favorites, and take part in the silent and live auctions.

As a Common Threads Associate Board member, my hope is that you’re inspired by Common Threads’ mission to educate underprivileged children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. It has been such an important part my life and I would welcome the opportunity for you to see a little bit more of what we do.

The value for this event is amazing; the crowd is ideal, the cocktails are bottomless, and you’ll eat ’til your heart’s content courtesy of the most noteworthy restaurants in Chicago.

Tickets are $75 and can be purchased at
http://events.commonthreads.org/eventDetails.aspx?eventId=117

Below is a video invite of what to expect:

Let me know if you plan on purchasing a ticket – I would love to have you!Image

Below is the link to my recap from last year’s event – Don’t miss it!

http://tastebuddiaries.com/2012/09/29/rave-review-for-the-common-threads-cook-off-event/

The Food and Fashion Rocked at “Fashion Rocks!”

I went to a fabulous foodie event Sunday night called Fashion Rocks, held at BellyQ. Over 20 of the best Chicago restaurants were under one roof with “fashion installations” by Haberdash, which is a local men’s clothing store in Chicago. What is a fashion installation you ask? Well, it’s a bunch of beautiful men who stand and pose in different scenes and outfits during the night. When I first arrived, they were holding guitars, and I asked “Are you going to play those, or are you models” and they said “We are models” – so of course I had to take a picture. They always looked away from the camera. Fierce!

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The proceeds of this event went to Common Threads (my favorite charity), and the West Loop Community Organization. Some of the Common Threads kids were helping the chefs out and they were SO CUTE with their full-sized Haberdash ties. The event was very well attended, and included some of Chicago’s best chefs and food bloggers.

Now on to the food. My top 4 favorites are below:

 Pleasant House Bakery with their meat pies – definitely a place that I need to visit in the future. I tried the Steak and Ale pie, the Chicken Balti (which was like a curry chicken, and my favorite), and the Mushroom and Kale pie.  These items are also on their menu at the restaurant. The pie dough was so flaky and delicious, and the owners were incredibly nice and down to earth – like the people next door.

http://pleasanthousebakery.com/

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Pecking Order served up a Caramelized Chicken and Garlic Rice dish. Very flavorful and comforting. It was like a hug in a bowl. I talked to chef Subido, who said that this item is on their brunch menu, but without the egg. I’ve been there for Sunday brunch and it is a nice alternative to a traditional brunch – very flavorful with different kinds of dishes that you won’t find anywhere else.  Turns out that Pecking Order is now offering brunch on Saturdays, and they have updated their brunch menu, so I’m due for another visit.  See for yourself: http://www.peckingorderchicago.com/

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Antique Taco – This is my second time trying Antique Taco at an event (Also tried them at the Common Threads World Festival), and it’s official. I need to go there. ASAP. They served a Crispy Duck Flauta that was very well seasoned and had some flavorful surprises. Plus, I like their logo.

Antique taco food Antique Taco sign

http://antiquetaco.com/

Frontier – Frontier is known for serving different kinds of gamey meat like Rabbit, Alligator, Antelope, and Kangaroo (yes, Kangaroo).  I chatted with Executive Chef Brian Jupiter who is from New Orleans, where he first started cooking different kinds of meats. Most of the meats served at Frontier are local (i.e. the rabbit was from IL) and they cook all of these different kinds of meats in an approachable way, so that they don’t scare people away.  If these items are a bit much for you, the menu also includes a nice mix of foods that you are used to eating.

I tried the Rabbit Etouffee at the event, which was really delicious – the flavors were well-balanced and I would have never known that I was eating rabbit. I could have easily been fooled into thinking that it was chicken.

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Frontier also has brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they are definitely on my “must visit” list. since brunch is my favorite meal of the day.  One item on the brunch menu that has caught my eye is the fried rabbit and cornmeal waffle dish with spiced pear butter and habanero maple syrup. I also have my eye on the bananas foster French toast and the Praline Pancakes – I know that they will be good since chef Jupiter is from New Orleans.

Check out the eclectic menu here: http://www.thefrontierchicago.com/food/

*I also learned that Frontier has a large enclosed patio, which will be great spot for the spring and summer.

I really enjoy going to these events because I can have a little taste of different restaurants and then visit the restaurant later if I like what I taste.  Great event for an amazing cause. Bon Appetit!

My Check Please! Host Audition Reel

Check Please! is a local Chicago show where people talk about their favorite restaurants. This show has always been a source of great information about restaurants that I otherwise would not have known about.

The current host of the show is stepping down, creating the opportunity to apply for the host position. My love for food and the Chicago restaurant scene has compelled me to submit an audition video reel, and below is the video – Enjoy!

How to Win a Grilled Cheese Competition

Last week, I was thrilled to win 1st place in the grilled cheese competition that I competed in (out of 12 teams), so in case you were wondering how to win a grilled cheese competition, here’s how:

1. Get a Good Partner – My friend asked me if I would be her partner for her friend’s grilled cheese competition and she said up-front that she wanted to win. I was on board with that – she proved to be a very good and competitive partner.

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2. Do Your Research – We went to a grilled cheese food truck website, looked at the menu items and recreated a few of the sandwiches to see which one we liked best. We chose a sandwich that had pepper jack cheese, fire roasted salsa, Fritos (we renamed it “corn chip crumble” to be fancy), and a cilantro-lime sour cream. After tasting the sandwich, I suggested that we add some chipotle for some flavor and spice. Perfect. We also added a black bean soup shooter to go along with the Tex-Mex theme. 

3. Dazzle them with Presentation – Anytime you watch Top Chef and other food shows, the story & presentation is key. Integrate as many of the elements together as possible. Because we had a Tex-Mex style sandwich, we enlisted some help from one of our copywriter friends that developed the name “Queso & Besos” (Cheese and Kisses) – it rhymes, it incorporates cheese, and it’s just plain cute. I used a piping bag to pipe out the cilantro-lime sour cream and added a sprig of cilantro as garnish. We served the sandwiches on trendy, rectangular white plates (the other contestants just used the plates that were provided), and we used square-shaped disposable shot glasses to serve the soup (Amazon.com is great for ordering these types of things, by the way). We also served Hershey’s Kisses as a “dessert” to go along with the “Besos” part of our name. It also didn’t hurt that we had custom-made Queso & Besos t-shirts. When we came into the room with those shirts on, everyone knew that we meant business. There was also a team song requirement, so we chose the very popular and upbeat Harlem Shake song which starts out with a spanish phrase. 

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4. Prepare in Advance – We made sure to prep everything in advance – we made the cilantro-lime sour cream and put it in the piping bag so it was ready to go. The black bean soup was cooked and blended and placed in a crock pot for the event. The Fritos were pre-crushed and placed in a plastic bag. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of cooking time at the actual event will help to relieve stress & help you to focus on cooking an amazing sandwich.

If you follow these tips, you will have an excellent chance at winning a grilled cheese competition (or other cooking competitions), should you compete in one.

This party was top-notch. The hosts like to throw fabulous theme parties and went to an events company and rented burners, extra tables for counter space, lights, and pillars. I felt like I was on Food Network in kitchen stadium. They had microphones, an emcee and a videographer. There were also 10 judges selected at random (I happened to be a judge as well), and all of the sandwiches were judged on taste, presentation and creativity on a scale of 1-5. As the winners, we were awarded with a trophy and bragging rights until next year, where we will defend our championship title. 

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Below is the video that captures the evening – it was a great party and I had a wonderful time. Enjoy!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/59950082 w=400&h=300]

 

Sweet Winter Treats: Homemade Marshmallows and Chocolate Spoons

Season’s Greetings!!

Below are a couple of sweet winter treats that I made over the holidays that I wanted to share:
– The first is a mint marshmallow recipe by Martha Stewart. A lot of people tell me that they didn’t know that they could make marshmallows from scratch – and you can…and they taste WAY better than anything that you have ever purchased on a grocery store shelf. I was inspired to make my own marshmallows after visiting a delicious restaurant called Hot Chocolate in Chicago. They include a homemade marshmallow in their hot chocolate creations, and I decided to give it a try. After one failed attempt at making vanilla bean marshmallows, (they ended up being too rubbery), I came across this delicious and fluffy recipe from Martha Stewart. It’s not hard, but it does require you to pay attention and move quickly. It also helps to get a candy thermometer:

Mint Marshmallows

Below is the link to the recipe:
http://www.marthastewart.com/355781/candy-cane-marshmallows

I served these marshmallows at a party as a part of my hot chocolate bar and they were a hit! I highly recommend that you try them and experiment w/other flavors.

– The next item is extremely easy to make, and can serve as a nice touch for any winter party. These are chocolate spoons, which can be used for stirring into hot chocolate or coffee for an extra chocolate boost. They are incredibly easy to make, and could also be wrapped in cellophane w/a ribbon for a gift. I also included these in my hot chocolate bar. I had both milk chocolate spoons and white chocolate spoons, and drizzled the alternate color on top of each by putting the warm chocolate into a sandwich bag, and cutting a small corner of the bag to drizzle chocolate over the spoons. Very nice presentation, if I must say so myself.

Chocolate Spoons

Below is the recipe:
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chocolate-spoons/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=chocolate%20spoons&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

These are great recipes to add a special touch for any occasion.

Enjoy!

How to Freeze Cookie Dough for Cookies on Demand!

I wanted to post a video about how I freeze cookie dough. I like to freeze the dough for my signature Chocolate Chip and Pecan cookies (I’m going to keep that particular recipe to myself), and other chocolate chip types of cookies (I haven’t tried this on sugar cookies).

The beauty of freezing the dough is that you don’t need to let it thaw out before you bake it. You can put the cold, frozen dough right on the cookie sheet and bake to your heart’s content.

This method is nice because you can make dozens of cookies and then bake them whenever you need them. Sometimes, I’ll cut off only 3 cookies, and make those just for myself.

Hope this is useful to you, especially for the holiday baking season.

Below is a link to a delicious recipe that I will share. Salted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. You can freeze this recipe too – I have done it many times:

Salted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe