Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

What I Ate in Iceland

When my friend asked if I would be interested in going to Iceland, I said “Why not?” (I read Shonda Rhimes book the Year of Yes, so I’m very open to things this year).

It’s a surprisingly short flight (only 5 hours from JFK airport in New York), it’s clean, modern, they speak English, and there are drop-dead gorgeous landscapes.

As I started my research, I kept reading that Iceland has terrible food. I will admit that I didn’t have any of the dried fish or rotten shark BUT I was able to have some food that was tasty and delicious. I will note that the food in Iceland is expensive. It seemed as if everything costs a minimum of $20. Minimum.

If you ever make your way to Reykjavik Iceland, be sure to check out these dishes and restaurants:

Breakfast/Brunch

Slippbarrin

I stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina (excellent hotel that I would HIGHLY recommend) and the breakfast and Sunday brunch were excellent. They have a fantastic variety with foods including oatmeal, flatbreads, waffles, bacon, quiche, breakfast pastries, fruit, etc.

The Sunday brunch costs about $30 USD and the breakfasts during the week are about $25. This breakfast/brunch is worth the price. We ended up going there 3 times. So good.

 

Lamb Soup:

I had some lamb & vegetable soup at Geysir Restaurant during one of the tours I went on to see a Geyser, and it was absolutely delicious. According to my tour guide, sheep live as wild animals in the mountains resulting in excellent quality meat. The soup had a light broth, had a mild in flavor, and great texture. I would highly recommend it if you like lamb. The cost was $20 and included bread and butter along with 1 free soup refill.

Lamb & vegetable soup. Fantastic!

Lamb & vegetable soup. Fantastic!

 

 

 

Ice Cream at Valdis:

As cool as it was in Reykjavik in August (Mid-50’s), Ice Cream was a popular treat.

A local suggested that we visit Valdis over by the marina, and it did not disappoint. The flavors were incredible. I had a flavor called Bailey’s & Ranill, which tasted like RumChata, and I paired that with a coffee-flavored ice cream. Best combination of all time. They also had an interesting grey-colored licorice flavor, which tasted like a black jelly bean. The shop is a little bit off the beaten path, and there seemed to be mostly locals at this shop. They also give huge portions if you wanted to share with a friend. My two scoops of Ice Cream on a cone cost me about $6 USD.

 

Seafood at Saegreiffin – The Sea Barron

 This place was so good that I forgot to take a picture. There was a line out the door that was about a 30-minute wait. They are known for their lobster soup & they offer a number of grilled fish items on skewers, and you can also get potatoes and vegetable skewers. I had the salmon skewer, and it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. After I ordered, they said that it would take another 30 minutes for the food to come out. It was worth the wait – definitely stop by here for some fresh seafood. It was also relatively inexpensive at ~$25 USD for the Salmon skewer and the potato skewer.

 

Hot Dogs at Bæjarins Beztu

This is a famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik where celebrities frequent, including Bill Clinton and most recently the Kardashians. The hot dog was tasty and had unique toppings including ketchup, a mayo sauce, sweet mustard, and fried crispy onions underneath the hot dog. The crispy onions added nice flavor and crunch – I would definitely get it again. My hot dog cost about $5 USD.

 

 

Ramen at Ramen Momo

For a change of pace, we tried a Himalayan-Tibetan restaurant with Ramen noodles. I had the chicken broth and chicken added to my noodles but found it to be bland. Be sure to ask to for it to be spicy, as my friend did and liked hers better. The chicken dumplings were ordered as a side item and those were crunchy & delicious! The space is tiny, so we got the food to-go and ate it at the hotel. The cost for the Ramen and fried dumplings was about $25 USD.

Nice change of pace

Nice change of pace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon

The food here was good, but ridiculously overpriced. For lunch, I ordered the Cod fish with potatoes along with a beet salad, and tasted my friend’s crème brulee. The cost was about $65 USD.

 

Skyr Yogurt

The Skyr yogurt in Iceland is delicious, silky, smooth, and packs a lot of protein. In general, be sure to have any dairy products that you can – the texture really is fantastic. Almost luxurious. This yogurt is available everywhere, from hotels to convenience stores – you won’t be able to miss it. I’m going to be looking for this at Whole Foods here in the states.

Silky, luxurious yogurt

Silky, luxurious yogurt

 

 

Fast Food: Domino’s Pizza

I hate to admit it, but I ate Domino’s Pizza in Iceland. (I know. Shameful.) There was a late bus schedule at the Blue Lagoon and we got back to Reykyavik after 10pm. Little did we know that all the restaurants close around 10pm in Iceland. We ordered pizza delivery because we were tired and cold and didn’t feel like walking across town to the one restaurant that was open. Note that a small pizza in Iceland is more like a personal-pan pizza size in the US. Itty bitty. I live in Chicago so I never eat Domino’s but it was actually pretty tasty (or maybe we were just hungry). The cost for a small pizza and wings was about $25 USD.

As a side note, there is no McDonalds or Starbucks in Reykjavík. I was told that there was a McDonalds but it closed down because the prices were too high.

Reykjavik is a charming city and I hope that it can maintain it’s charm with the influx of tourists. I ate very well in Iceland & hopefully with these tips, you will too!

Við skulum borða! (Bon Appetit!)

6 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Sprinkles Cupcakes (Based on my “Backstage Pass”)

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:

I'm an official Sprinkles Taste Tester! Dream come true!

I’m an official Sprinkles Taste Tester! Dream come true!

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).

 

My attempt at decorating a cupcake sprinkles style...

My attempt at decorating a cupcake sprinkles style…

Still tasted good...

Still tasted good…

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…

 

High Quality Chocolate. Only the best!

High Quality Chocolate. Only the best!

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…

http://www.ilovesprinkles.com/downloads/jingle#i-love-sprinkles-1

 6. Best of all, they have a birthday club! If you sign up, you will get a free cupcake on your birthday. Can’t beat that! I love getting free stuff on my birthday. http://www.ilovesprinkles.com/birthday/join-the-birthday-club

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!

Thanks Sprinkles!!!

#SprinklesTasteTester
@sprinklescupcakes – Instagram
@sprinkles – twitter

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!

The HOTTEST Foodie Event in Chicago

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 
Image
Also Attending:

KOVAL Whiskey Distillery
Sparrow Coffee Roasters
KIND

 

Chicago Chef Week 3/18 – 3/23

Chicago Chef Week starts today – it’s Open Table’s version of restaurant week where selected restaurants offer a 3-course Prix-Fixe menu. Lunches are $22 and dinners are $39/person.

I like these kinds of promotions, but I have to say that I have gotten a little bit jaded after my last dining experience during Chicago Restaurant Week. After going to a 3-course lunch at a restaurant that will remain nameless, I was disappointed because my portions were so tiny that I ended up having to go to Corner Bakery to satisfy my appetite.

Restaurants have to balance offering the right menu selections and keeping their costs down so that they can still make a profit.  The best restaurants are the ones that let you choose your courses from the entire menu, instead of offering a scaled-down menu for you to choose from. Also be sure to check the hours that these offers are valid, because sometimes the restaurants restrict these kinds of offers to a set time during the day.

As long as you keep these things in mind, you can manage your expectations. Prix-fixe offers are a great way to try a new place and experience the ambiance for a fantastic price.

See below link for restaurant selections:

http://www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?m=3&ref=4981&pid=346

Bon Appetit!


Chef Spotlight: Pastry Chef Jessica Ashley

[slideshow]I consider myself to be quite the food connoisseur, and I recognize talent when I see it. If I were a chef talent scout (I’m sure those exist), I would definitely be recruiting Jessica Ashley to join my team. She’s young, ambitious and doing her thing! Her talent is undeniable.  In just 3 years after graduating from culinary school, she has baked custom cakes for MTV and celebrity events, and worked as a production chef on the kids cooking TV show Junior Cuisine. In the midst of all of this, she has also been running her own cake business, baking specialized cakes for weddings and special events.

During her college internship with Kraft, Jessica instantly knew that she wanted to be a chef when she visited to the Culinary Institute for Education.  This life-changing “aha” moment led her to apply for culinary school at Kendall College in Chicago after finishing her undergraduate degree. She kept her application a secret until she applied, because she “just knew” that this is what she wanted to do, and there was no stopping her.

The level of creativity and skill is instantly apparent in Jessica’s cakes. They look like the kinds of cakes that you see on shows like “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes”.

Her specialty? The Cream Cheese Pound Cake. This recipe from her great aunt has been in her family for years. In addition to her decadent cakes, she also bakes vegan and dairy-free cakes, and she’s been experimenting with sugar-free dessert offerings for those with diabetes.

Jessica has observed that people aren’t buying the grocery store sheet cakes as much anymore because they are opting for decorative cakes to serve as a trendy centerpiece. Just when she thought that cupcakes were on their way out, they are quite popular, even in weddings.  Some of her clients have requested cupcake towers vs. traditional tier cakes to avoid the “cutting fee” that many banquet facilities charge when using an outside cake vendor.  Cupcakes also allow wedding guests to grab a cupcake and go, and they offer flexibility with providing an assortment of flavors.

What’s next for Jessica? She’s working on offering after school cooking classes for kids centering around nutrition, baking with healthy ingredients, and decorating. She will also continue to host private events, and plans to travel more with her business. Her next trip is scheduled in New York, where she will be baking for a corporate launch party event.

Jessica inspires me because she is truly living out her passion and purpose, and success has followed her along the way.  I see big things for her future. One of her goals is to compete in a Food Network competition, so keep your eyes open!  With her passion and drive, you just might see her on TV!  Hopefully her story inspires you as much as she inspires me.

Jessica’s Baking Tips for Home Chefs:

  • Instead of sticking a knife or toothpick in your cakes/cupcakes to check for doneness, gently press the top of the cake to see if it springs back. If it springs back, its done.
  • If you start baking, make sure all of your dairy items are room temperature.
  • Bring eggs to room temperature before baking. If you don’t have the time, place eggs in warm water to bring to room temperature faster.
To learn more about Jessica Ashley, visit her website at  http://www.jacakes.com.