This past weekend, I had the honor of representing the Common Threads Associate Board on ABC7 News to talk about the upcoming Common Threads Cook-Off on Thursday, October 7th. See below for the video of the coverage on the event. What a great experience!
I had the rare opportunity to be an Official Sprinkles Taste Tester at Sprinkles Cupcakes with about 20 other bloggers (shout out to Windy City Blogger Collective) and below are a few things I learned “backstage” that most people don’t know:
1. The cupcakes are hand frosted with a spatula (not a piping bag), and there is a specific style of frosting the cupcakes so that they all look so elegant and delicious:
o Dollop a big hunk of frosting on the top. Smooth it flat with a spatula, then smooth it out on the sides.
o Create a sprinkles swirl on the top and add the signature candy piece, or dip the cupcake frosting-side down in a bowl of sprinkles.
I learned how to do it, but my cupcakes didn’t look like theirs – it takes a lot of practice to make cupcakes as perfectly beautiful as theirs. In fact, they have a “cupcake graveyard” for cupcakes that don’t make the cut. It’s all about quality control, folks! (My cupcake would have gone to the graveyard).
2. They really do use quality ingredients. If you see a strawberry cupcake, they put real strawberries in them. This is why they taste so good. The chocolate that they use is high-quality stuff. Sprinkles doesn’t play…
3. Sprinkles now offers MINI CUPCAKES! It’s nice to have options. The frosting is piped on these because they are so small.
4. The Sprinkles Cupcakes bakers can frost about 35 cupcakes in about 6-8 minutes. Impressive!
5. There is a Sprinkles cupcake jingle that’s actually kind of hot. It has a rap verse in it & you have to listen. It’s a catchy tune, and you will probably find yourself randomly humming it – or you will sing it while you are eating one of their cupcakes…
I’ve been a fan of Sprinkles after I had my first bite of their vanilla cupcake when they first opened the Chicago location. I always like to judge a good cupcake shop by the vanilla flavor – if they can make a good vanilla, everything else should taste amazing. My other favorites are the Strawberry and the Cinnamon & they are always introducing new seasonal flavors.
Sprinkles put the gourmet cupcake trend on the map and they continue to innovate with their cupcake ATM and amazing flavors. These are just a couple of reasons that there is always a line out the door that I will GLADLY stand in. If you’ve never been, check it out – you’ll be singing that jingle in no time!
This past weekend, I attended “A Charitable Confection”, which was a dessert-centric fundraiser to benefit a charity called Project Orange Tree. As a food blogger, I received complimentary admission to the event, and I want to share these amazing dessert finds that you absolutely need to know about:
– Brown Sugar Bakery – Brown Sugar is a classic – you really can’t go wrong with Brown Sugar Bakery, especially if you like southern desserts like sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, banana pudding and caramel cake. Stephanie the owner is really sweet, and will work with you on custom orders. This bakery won the Best Bakery award on Steve Harvey in 2013 (you can see the clip on their website at http://www.brownsugarbakerychicago.com, so if that doesn’t tell you anything, then I don’t know what to tell you!) Brown Sugar is truly a Chicago staple.
– Yum Squared Bakery – Yum Squared is a great place for you to go if you need dessert catering for an event. I had a wonderful strawberry champagne cupcake – it was the perfect consistency and the flavor was just the right balance of not being too sweet. I also tried the salted caramel chocolate cake, which tasted just as good as it looked. They offer organic ingredients and also have vegan and dairy-free options, which is a nice touch. www.yumsquared.com
– Spin-Spun Gourmet Cotton Candy – Have you ever had salted caramel cotton candy? Probably not, but let me tell you- it’s the best cotton candy I’ve tasted! It’s all-natural, so it doesn’t have the colors that typical cotton candy has (it’s all white), and the flavors were not typical of cotton candy flavors. A couple of other flavors that were on the menu included Coconut and Tabasco-Watermelon. Very creative, and something to keep in mind for a little something different at a party. www.spin-spun.com
– BAKE is a bakery in Wicker Park that focuses on classic American desserts, including Whoopie Pies, Pop Tarts, Cookies, Cakes and Pies. I purchased the pretzel cookie, because I love cookies and it looked interesting and I could only imagine the sweet and salty flavor. I could tell that this cookie was made of high-quality ingredients. Check them out at www.bakechicago.com.
– This Jam is the JAM! If you like homemade jam and preserves, definitely check out Pear Tree Preserves. I tasted an apple caramel jam that they had, which led me to purchase the strawberry citrus jam. I liked some of the different flavors that they have, including cherry citrus and honey blueberry. I had some of the strawberry citrus jam on my toast for breakfast, and it was delightful. It mainly has a strawberry flavor with a hint of orange, making it taste really fresh, like you just tasted a little bit of summertime. You may find them at a Farmer’s Market in Chicago, and can check out their website at http://www.peartreepreserves.com.
I know that these places will satisfy your sweet tooth because they certainly did for me. Enjoy!
*This blog post is dedicated to Leonore Draper, who was a part of organizing this event and lost her life later that evening. May Project Orange Tree and other anti-violence organizations continue to find & support solutions to stop the violence.
I have received the honor of being invited to Dishcrawl’s Secret Supper on April 1st, and the chef for this Secret Supper has just been announced – Chef Patrick Glatz!
Chef Patrick Glatz is professionally trained and highly travelled. He received his education at The Culinary School of the Rockies in Boulder, CO. He honed his skills in France, Italy, and the US Virgin Island of St. Thomas, embracing international cuisines and training with the finest chefs. Chef Glatz leveraged his diverse experiences to become the Executive Chef at several restaurants, including Havana Blue and Mims Limtree in the Caribbean, as well as the Copperworks Restaurant in Peoria, IL. He also has extensive background in catering and has worked as a personal chef for the owner of a Peruvian Airline in Southern California. His motto is “You only live once, why not dine well?” and he attributes his love of flavor melding to camping trips he took with his grandfather as a young boy.
As you can see, Chef Pat has a unique and cultured culinary background, and I expect that this dinner will be innovative and delicious. Join me at this Secret Supper on April 1st. You can purchase tickets at http://dishcrawl.com/chicagoss. Hope to see you there!
Want to add a bit of intrigue and surprise to your dinner plans? Try a secret supper club. They offer a level of mystery with secret locations, surprise menus, and close & personal interactions with their breakout chefs. It is believed that the idea for the underground dining scene first started in Europe, where chefs & amateurs created private, unlicensed speakeasy-operated dinners in obscure locations. This concept has since evolved in the States, and can be still found in various forms. Whether held at the home of a chef, an “underground” venue, or a space transformed such as a museum or church, all secret suppers share the shroud of exclusivity and discretion. Further variations on this theme rest purely with the chef. Formal training and culinary accolades do not make a perfect chef. Often, Secret Suppers feature self proclaimed chefs with an affinity for culinary fusion, creativity, or other specific talent.
Chefs are joining the secret supper movement in increasing numbers – either leaving restaurants to strike out on their own, or starting secret supper clubs on the side. The Secret Supper format is a winning experience for both the chefs and the diners. Chefs get a chance to showcase new recipes & concepts with an intimate group of serious diners, and foodies get a first-row seat on a culinary journey.
In the food-centric city of Chicago, the Secret Supper trend is rebounding in popularity right alongside speakeasies, farmers markets and Malort. There are a number of active Secret Supper clubs in the city, which by their very design, might not be on your radar.
Membership in The Sunday Dinner Club earned diners the privileged first taste of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, a recipe that gained instant popularity following the recent opening of the comfort food restaurant.
Clandestino, and the Stew Supper Club also operate beneath the mainstream radar, hosting such themed dinners as the Feast of the Seven Fishes and a Whole Hog menu. Newest on the list is Dishcrawl’s Chicago contingent, holding a Secret Supper at a classified venue in River North on April 1st. See www.dishcrawl.com/chicagoss for more information.
If everyone knew about them, Secret Suppers and Underground Dining wouldn’t be any fun. If you’re a foodie, though, in need of a unique and intriguing culinary experience, a little investigation might lead to a whole new and exiting way of dining.
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.
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:
Below is the link to the recipe:
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.
Below is the recipe:
These are great recipes to add a special touch for any occasion.
Hey Foodies! I wanted to invite you to an event that I’m hosting with the Associate Board of Common Threads. Common Threads is an organization started by Art Smith where they teach low income kids how to cook healthy, affordable meals. I volunteered w/them last fall, and it’s a pretty awesome organization because in addition to cooking, kids learn about different parts of the world, math (through measurements), and science.
This event is going to be the hottest Chicago foodie event of the year. Mark my words. It’s a cook-off between some of Chicago’s most popular restaurants, and the chefs can choose to compete to cook something on a bun, on a stick, in a glass, or in a shell. There will also be a whiskey tasting.
The event takes place on Thursday, September 27th at 6:30pm over at Fulton’s on the River in Chicago. Tickets are $75 until August 31st (this Friday), and after this Friday, they go up to $85. (This donation is tax-deductible). There will also be a silent auction with some amazing prizes.
Click the below link if you are interested in attending. When it asks how you found out, just click other and type in my name.
Below is a listing of just some of the restaurants that will be participating, along w/their categories:
Participating Chefs & Mixologists
IN A GLASS William Hewitt, Bin 36 Lynn House, Blackbird Ben Schiller, BOKA Mike Trow, Bridge Bar Elizabeth Samples, Nacional 27 David Blonsky, Public House Sarah Kosikowski, Sixteen Lee Guidry, SUSHISAMBA rio
ON A STICK Erik Freeburg, Bar Toma Kevin Schulz, Fulton’s on the River Bill Kim, Belly Shack/Urban Belly/BellyQ
IN A SHELL Mike Bellovich, Paris Club Table 52
ON A BUN John McLean, Burger Bar Rah Shabazz, C-House Kristine Subido, Pecking Order Brad Alexander, The Grillroom Curtis Hawk, ZED451 Also Attending:
Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of attending Flavors – A Culinary Experience, which was a fundraiser to benefit the American Liver Foundation. The event was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago (my first time visiting this hotel), and it was very well organized with over 80 silent auction and raffle items, however this event was all about the food.
The concept was quite unique with over 15 restaurants crafting table side meals with a custom menu from each restaurants. Featured Chicago restaurants included Browntrout, Frontier, Tavern on Rush and Bread and Wine.
I was seated at the Chicago Renaissance Hotel restaurant table which featured a 5-course dinner with Executive Chef James Samson. Usually when I think about restaurant food from a hotel, I think “eh…just ok. Rubber chicken” – it just reminds me of the countless business meetings and weddings that I’ve attended that have “just ok” hotel food. This was quite the exception. Chef Samson had some very thoughtful and flavorful dishes, each of which were paired with wine.
We started off with an Asparagus Salad, and my favorite part was the fried brie. There is nothing like some good fried cheese. Tuna Tartar was the second course, and the highlight of this dish was a compressed watermelon, which was put into a special machine overnight to make a large piece of watermelon fit into the palm of your hand. It was much like a dehydrated mini watermelon. Very interesting. The third course was the Beef Fheek Pierogi, which was very tasty – I don’t believe that I’ve eaten beef cheeks before, and now I won’t hesitate to try it again. Next was a perfectly cooked Lamb Porterhouse with a chic pea mint ragu. We finished off our meal w/a chocolate dessert that looked like a masterpiece.
As I mentioned previously, this event was a fundraiser to benefit the American Liver Foundation, and we heard some touching stories about people that had been affected by Liver Disease, and it really put faces and names with a cause that does not get a great deal of exposure. One of the speakers almost had me in tears as she talked about her two babies that she lost to liver disease shortly after their birth. This is truly a cause worth supporting.
The American Liver Foundation has these events every year, and they take place all over the country. Below is a link to the website for more information. Definitely check it out if you have the chance:
I would also highly recommend Chef Samsons food – you can experience it yourself at Bar Novo at the Renaissance Hotel. The menu looks good, and it has 4 stars on Yelp. I’ll be visiting to try the bacon-wrapped dates. You can’t go wrong w/Bacon-wrapped dates!