Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grilled ham, havarti and American with zesty tomato dip

So, hubby and I recently attended Time Out Chicago's Grilled Cheese Meltdown - a competition among nine Chicago eateries and food trucks. One place - Same Day Cafe - was serving a rosemary grilled cheese with a little cup of tomato soup with basil oil and rosemary. He enjoyed dipping his sandwich in the little soup sample. So the next day, I decided I'd make grilled cheese for lunch.

I made him a sandwich of havarti and American with smoked ham and tomato on cracked wheat. He commented about how he liked dipping the sandwich in soup the day before. So, I improvised and just took a couple scoops of jarred pasta sauce and watered it down a little bit and added some Italian seasoning (and after I shot this pic I also added some Parmesan cheese.) I won't even try to pretend it was as good as what we had from Same Day Cafe, but in a pinch it did the trick and made a nice little dip.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cheesie's

Recently I attended Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown and was introduced to Cheesie's where everything on the menu centers on the gooey dairy product that we all love. The sandwich they were serving for this competition was The Tenderizer (cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, chicken tenders, bacon, hot sauce, BBQ sauce and ranch on Texas Toast.) It was phenomenal!

Besides three locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park and Evanston, they also have a food truck that you'll see around the city throughout the year serving up some awesome sandwiches. On the menu are a dozen creative sandwiches along with some soups and cheesy appetizers. I've seriously been dreaming about that sammich since I left the event. Be sure to try them out if you happen to be near one of their locations of if you come across the big yellow food truck! For more info, visit cheesies.com.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lodge Cast Iron Round Griddle

When we first got married and moved into our house, we were left with an ugly and barely functioning electric stove. My brother, who lived on the same street just 8 houses away had just ordered a new stove and we inherited his a few months after we moved in.

It was a very wide appliance, but I didn't mind. It was wider because in the center area in between the burners was a huge griddle. I used it all the time - especially for pancakes and for grilled cheese sandwiches. That stove served us another decade or so before it finally bit the dust and I couldn't find a replacement anywhere that had a big griddle in the middle. I really, really missed it. Since then I'd been using teflon pans for making things I would have prepared on that griddle. And I have for years had a griddle on my wish list to put over the burners that I've never gotten around to buying.

Hubby is a big fan of cast iron. He's been using cast iron pans on the grill for years and for scout camping trips. So, when I came across this 10 1/2 inch round cast iron griddle by Lodge, I couldn't pass it up. I had used a cast iron skillet in recent months, but when you simply want to flip a pancake or a sandwich, it's nice not the have the high sides in your way.

It works great and I wish I would have purchased it sooner. It brown the bread on sandwiches nicely. In the photo below, I was using some pretty large bread, but if I'd used standard white bread, I could have easily fit two sandwiches on it. On the weekend, I'll have to get out the pancake batter and give it a try. Although a large griddle that covers two burners would come in handy in our house of hungry boys, this one is on the lighter side for a piece of cast iron cookware and it stores away easily and doesn't take up a lot of room.


I plan on adding to my Lodge collection bit by bit. They are nice sturdy pieces that I know will last for a long time and that are high quality. They also get points for manufacturing all their seasoned cast iron in the U.S.A. For more info on Lodge cast iron products, visit LodgeMfg.com.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time Out Chicago's Grilled Cheese Meltdown

Chicago Foodie Sisters had the pleasure of attending Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown, a competition to crown the most succulent of cheesy sandwich creations in the city. Guests noshed on samples from nine venues serving up creative concoctions - from South Water Kitchen's pear, brie and blueberry jam sandwich to Toasty Cheese's Chef Choice (duck bacon, provolone, fresh spinach and fresh baby arugula with Sicilian cherry tomatoes and coli on a panini) to a braised short rib grilled cheese from Michael Jordan's Steakhouse.

A couple of drinks were included in your ticket - a beer from China, Tsingtao, and a delicious crisp hard cider that I was tasting for the first time and am now obsessed with from Sweden, Rekorderlig Cider.

The event had three separate sessions, each 2 hours at 11:30, 2 and 4:30. It was a fabulous way to spend a dreary winer afternoon. The event was held at Thaila Hall, an 1892 opera house in Pilsen that has some beautiful features in its lighting and decorative woodwork.

It was really hard picking a favorite. Each attendee got to place a vote for the best grilled cheese. I left full but by the time I got home was wishing I had another plate of gooey grilled cheese in front of me. It was the stuff that foodie dreams are made of. Find the list of winners here.

The event was incredibly organized and well executed and if you're looking for more fun food events to attend in the future, I'd give a thumbs up to anything hosted by Time Out Chicago. Some of their other events have been Battle of the Burger, Chicago's Donut Party and the Mac and Cheese Smackdown.




Blue Gate Garden Inn

On a recent trip to Shipshewana in Indiana's Amish Country right after Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy some really good food. On our last trip to that area, I remember dining at an Amish-style restaurant where food was served family style and while it was good and comforting and filling it wasn't outstanding.

On this visit I had some really good food without ever leaving our hotel. We stayed at the Blue Gate Garden Inn and the evening of our arrival we contemplated heading out to a restaurant, but decided that we'd stay in and stay warm and cozy and order a pizza. I wasn't expecting anything special and figured it was probably a frozen pizza that would be heated up in a toaster oven. I could not have been more wrong. I called down to the cafe and placed our order and then we all went downstairs and played a few rounds of ping pong and air hockey in the arcade while we waited. I got a pizza with sausage and ham and it was really delicious - like one of the best pizzas I have ever had outside the Chicago area. I am attributing it to probably very fresh ingredients from local farms. The meats were very flavorful and the cheese was so creamy.

We followed up with ice cream since we had been walking through the hotel that afternoon and could smell them making the fresh waffle cones and waffle bowls -- and just couldn't resist. The ice cream was really creamy and the waffle cones and bowls were so good and fresh.

The next morning we went down for breakfast. I love when we stay at a hotel that has breakfast included. We enjoyed make-your-own waffles, eggs, a ham and potato casserole, biscuits and gravy and more. They also had a station where they'd make custom omelets - which again tasted so fresh and full of flavor. It was a huge, hearty breakfast and a great way to start the day.

Should you find your way in that neck of the woods, I would highly recommend staying at Blue Gate Garden Inn. Since we were traveling with three of our kids, they enjoyed the arcade and there are some cozy commons areas where families can just relax or play games or they can head to the indoor pool. The place is extremely clean and the staff could not have been more friendly. There's also a very cool car museum next door - the Hosteler's Hudson Auto Museum, which is full of vintage cars dating back to the early 1900's.

For more information, visit bluegategardeninn.com.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dang! That's Good Butterscotch Root Beer

My family knows that as a foodie, I like to try new foods and beverages every chance I get. So, when hubby and the boys were making their way through the hardware store and noticed some unusual soda brands near the checkout, they picked this up and wrapped it along with my Christmas gifts.

At first the thought of butterscotch with root beer didn't sound very appealing, but i have certainly learned that you can't be fooled by what sounds like an odd or ill-matched combination. Sometimes you can be really surprised by how well some flavors go together. That goes for this soda. The butterscotch is subtle and it has a vanilla flavor with it as well, which made it taste to me more like a cream soda. It was actually pretty sweet (but not overly sweet) and delicious and I'd gladly accept another bottle as a gift (hint, hint kids!)

I looked up the soda and learned that it is made by Imperial Flavors Beverage Company in Milwaukee and they have been making unique soda flavors since 1964. I will be on the look-out for additional flavors! For more information on the company, visit imperial flavors.com.



The Ringer


I have fuzzy memories of making scrambled eggs in a cast iron pan as a kid and then it being a nightmare to wash by hand. I was about 10. I had no idea how to care for cast iron. I didn't know it had to be seasoned. Or that it needed a little oil rubbed on it before the eggs went in to prevent sticking. Or that you weren't supposed to use soap when you cleaned it.  And I'm pretty sure I used a Brillo pad on it - a big no-no. Yup, I really did a number on my mom's pan.

Now many years later, thanks to hubby's love of cast iron, I'm back to using it again - with a little better handle on how to use it and care for it. It can still get some stubborn stuff stuck on the bottom when cooking and then it's a little tricky to get it off. Usually some hot water does the trick, but when it doesn't I'm still wary of doing damage. So, I was excited to get an email with an offer to try out "The Ringer." It's a premium non-rusting stainless steel scrubber specifically for cast iron that is "tough on grit, gentle on seasoning."

The Ringer is made from machine soldered chainmail and is uber strong (the material was originally designed to help protect police from stab wounds.) The patented design makes it easier and quicker to clean cast iron with nothing more than hot water and because of its durable patented design, it should last a very long time.

I tried it out recently after I'd made some taco meat that got left on the high heat a little too long. The Ringer cleaned it out easily. I have always dreaded having to clean a dirty cast iron pan. For a long time it even prevented me from using cast iron. I love that I don't have to worry about stuck-on food anymore because all I need to do is a few passes with the Ringer and I'm done.

One other nice thing about this product is that you don't have to fear spreading bacteria as can happen with sponges. You can also throw it in the dishwasher to clean it.

The Ringer retails for $15 and can be ordered on Amazon.

***I did receive a complimentary product sample for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

von Trapp Brewing's Trosten Lager

When I saw the name of von Trapp Brewing I assumed that it was started by someone who just coincidentally had the same name as the famous musical family from Austria that spurred the classic movie "The Sound of Music." Well, turns out I was wrong. It wasn't someone who had the same name as the family. It IS a member of that famous family who started this brewery.

The youngest of the von Trapp children, Johannes, started the brewery at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont. I had no idea the family had a lodge and resort there and that the youngest von Trapp child, who was fond of Austrian lagers, opened a brewery there in 2010.

I received a seasonal winter beer bucket from GourmetGiftBaskets.com before the holidays to sample and review for a post and this was one of the beers that was included. It's a dark, heavy bitter brew typical of winter versions that tends to warm you all the way through.

I was fascinated by the story behind the brewery and will have to seek out some of their other beers, as well. For more information, visit vontrappbrewing.com.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Schoop's

When it comes to burgers there are oodles of places to choose from, but there's not another burger out there quite like Schoop's. It's a thinner burger that is a little crispy on the edges. I've been enjoying Schoop's for decades now - from the time I was a kid and we'd enjoy a burger at the Calumet City location. Most of my visits are now to the location in Munster. My parents lived just a few blocks away for the past dozen years, but they just relocated to central Illinois. I'd meet them often to have a burger and fries - and usually a chocolate malt in the dining room. My kids have always loved going there too so that they could play tunes on the juke box. I loved that they had the Super Bowl Shuffle on the juke box for many, many years Not sure if it's still there. Last time I was so excited to see Go Cubs Go on the juke box - I played it over and over and over.

I don't think there's been a time I've been there that I haven't ordered a burger. But they do serve other things. :) My parents like their egg salad and their grilled cheese, too. My son loves the Irish nachos. If you've never had a Schoop's burger, look them up and find one. It comes highly recommended by the Chicago Foodie Sisters.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown set for January 15

Winters in Chicago can be brutal, but one thing can make it much, much better - comfort food. While it will be months before we're partying lakeside in our tank tops with a cocktail, we can still enjoy some fun foodie events that highlight some of the great foodie spots in the city.

Time Out Chicago's 2nd Annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown is happening on Sunday, January 15 and tickets are still available for 1 of 3 sessions at Thaila Hall. If you've got to head out of the house on a Sunday in January, it might as well be for some of the best grilled cheese in the Windy City along with entertainment and tasty beverages. Read on for the full 411:

Chicago is crowning the ultimate Grilled Cheese

Time Out Chicago’s second annual Grilled Cheese Meltdown is coming to town on January 15

Chicago (January 6, 2017): January will see Chicago’s very best Grilled Cheese being crowned from a selection of some of the city’s best. Time Out, the trusted global brand for inspiring and enabling people to make the most of the city, is bringing back the popular Grilled Cheese Meltdown for the second year on January 15 at Thalia Hall.

The Grilled Cheese Meltdown will present the city’s best cheesy sandwiches as Time Out Chicago’s editors challenged nine local restaurants to offer creative takes on this classic. And it’s not chefs or gourmet experts to decide on the winner, it’s Chicagoans and Time Out still has tickets available. Participants get to taste each of the nine contenders best offerings from the featured restaurants:

Gayle’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese
Dusek’s
Same Day Café
South Water Kitchen
Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse
Toasty Cheese
Jerry’s Sandwiches
Cheesies Pub and Grub
Wyler Road

This head-to-head cheesy competition will come with tomato soup from Same Day Café complimentary beer provided by Tsingtao and Rekorderlig Cider.

Erin Delahanty, Associate Publisher at Time Out Chicago, says: “At Time Out we love encouraging people to explore the city and are constantly uncovering more of the best things to do and places to eat. Our Grilled Cheese Meltdown puts nine of our favorite spots for the classic comfort food under one roof—that plus good drinks and music makes for a great winter day in Chicago.”

Time Out Chicago’s Grilled Cheese Meltdown– tickets are still available:
  • Date: January 15, 2017
  • The event will be held from 11:30am-6:30pm, with a ticket entitling guests to choose from three sessions (11:30am-1:30pm, 2-4pm, and 4:30-6:30pm)
  • Location: Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport St, Chicago, IL 60608
  • Tickets are just $30 - a ticket gets you: grilled cheese tastings from each participating restaurant, one complementary beer, one complimentary cider, music and more

For more information and to book your ticket, visit here