Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chicago Food Finds

If you haven’t guessed by now, my favorite food is anything that includes beans (refried or black), avocados, corn chips and tortillas and as an added bonus – plantains. This usually makes it very easy to find a new place to eat since Chicago is full of Mexican, Spanish, and Puerto Rican themed restaurants. This weekend I had the chance to check out a few places. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera so the pics were all taken with my Blackberry. Enjoy!!

Zocalo Restaurant and Tequila Bar - 358 W. Ontario (River North)    **Thursday nights after 9PM all food is 50% OFF!!!!

By far, one of my FAVORITE spots in Chicago, this was my first time selecting from the Entrée menu. Let me just say, they did not disappoint!! The leftover made an awesome lunch the next day. My girls (who were visiting from out of town) tried the Sangria (only $5 on Thursday nights) and a guacamole sampler while we waited for our entrees. This was such a great choice for my out of town guests who still raved about it the next day!


Tacos en Cazuels – A trio of tacos served with black beans…. includes Barbacoa (Centro Mexico Style braised beef marinated with guajillo chiles), Cochinita Pibil (Yucatan style pulled pork with pickled red onions), Tinga de Pollo (Shredded chicken with chipotle peppers, tomatoes and onions).

Zocalo (2)

Tinga Poblana – Chipotle marinated grilled chicken breast with poblano pepper-chorizo potato cake, cool avocado salsa, fresco cheese and pico de gallo.

Zocalo (3)

Fajitas ZOCALO – Marinated grilled chicken breast and steak with onion, red and green bell peppers, Mexican Rice and whole black beans.

La Fonda Del Gusto Restaurant – 1408 N Milwaukee (Wicker Park)

La Fonda Del Gusto sign

The sign that drew me in…. free Mimosas and Bloody Mary drinks during brunch!!

La Fonda Del Gusto 1

Huevos Motuleños $8.95 ---  Classic Yucatecan style fried eggs with ham on top of a tortilla basted in Kolito salsa with refried black beans, plantains and green peas. (**I substituted chicken for ham)

La Fonda Del Gusto 2

The special of the day, which the waiter claimed was the best hangover meal ever (not that I or Bobby needed it, LOL), was the Chilaquiles with Steak entree. It was just a tad bit too spicy for my wimpy taste buds, but the flavors were awesome!!

Add chips, salsa, guacamole, 2 mimosas and a coffee and our total came in under $25! Not bad at all!

**Honorable Mention (since I forgot to take pics)

Café Iberico - 737 N Lasalle Blvd (River North)

This is my favorite Spanish tapas place in the city! A late night trip to Japonais on Friday (one of my fav sushi spots) went wrong when they told us over the phone the sushi kitchen closed at 11:30. At 11:05 when we were seated and tried to order sushi they said there was no sushi available, “the kitchen closes when the manager feels like it”, and we could only order from the late night menu… which looked pretty “sub par” compared to the dining menu. We grabbed a $7 appetizer each, which to a hungry person felt like eating a mint since the lobster rolls were the size of a Twix bar, and ditched the place.

The girls and I headed to Café Iberico where the kitchen is open until 1:30 AM and the full menu is available! The sangria pitchers for only $14 were definitely a plus! I LOVE the Jimon Iberico (a cool take on “ham and cheese”) and the Paella Croquettas, which were pretty tasty. I normally go for the baked goat cheese, but since it was late I passed on that dish. This turned out to be another great choice among the out-of towners!

Chicago (A.K.A. Cherish)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Obsessed with Brazil (but stuck in Chicago)

I absolutely LOVE to travel and South America is one area of the world I am hugely interesting in seeing. I have heard so much about the culture and food there and can't wait to see for myself! Luckily, I found a way to get a taste (pun intended) without spending more money than my tight budget allows.

The Taste of Brasil in Oak Park, IL features authentic Brazilian dishes and appetizers, along with a great selection of fresh fruit smoothies. After receiving a recommendation from a coworker, I decided to see for myself... I was pleasantly surprised! The food was AWESOME!!!!

I went with the traditional dish of "Feijoada". According to Wikipedia:


The Brazilian feijoada is prepared with black turtle beans, with a variety of salted pork and beef products, such as salted pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue).
This stew is best prepared over slow fire in a thick clay pot. The final dish has the beans and meat pieces barely covered by a dark purplish-brown broth. The taste is strong, moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by the flavors of black bean and meat stew.

Side dishes

In Brazil, feijoada is traditionally served with rice, and accompanied by chopped fried collard greens (couve mineira), lightly roasted coarse cassava flour (farofa) and peeled and sliced orange. Other common side dishes are boiled or deep-fried cassava, deep-fried bananas, and pork rinds (torresmo). A pot of hot pepper sauce is often provided on the side. The meal is often washed down with cachaça, caipirinha, or beer.

I can't wait to go back!!! If you want to try it yourself, check them out at:
906 S Oak Park Ave
(between Garfield St & Lexington St)
Oak Park, IL 60304
(708) 383-3550
Cherish (A.K.A. Chicago)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chicago’s Popcorn Battle

Most of you who are familiar with the list of “tourist foods” in Chicago have heard (and maybe fell in love with) good ol Garrett Popcorn… Well, after living here for a while, I’ve discovered a number of popcorn companies in the city that are attempting to take over Garrett’s monopoly on tourists’ tastebuds!

Admittedly, Garrett’s was the first popcorn that mixed cheese and caramel that I ever liked. I’m hooked now. All I ever want is the “Chicago Mix”… its like the best of both worlds!

I have to give props to the guys from Lets Get Poppin’ on Chicago’s South Side. I met them in a bar and after convincing me I'd love it more than Garrett popcorn, they went to their car and brought in a bag for me to take home. Why wait? My friends and I ate cheese/caramel mix right there at the bar and loved it… cheese fingers and all! They also showed up to the Chicago Greek picnic with mini bags, which my girls and I all bought and devoured!

You also have to consider Nuts on Clark – which has locations in both airports and Union Station – great locations to inspire a tasty travel snack and tasty stuff.

While I haven’t tried Mix Match Gourmet, it seems to be popping up in a lot of places around the city… Next time I’ll have to grab a bag and see how it tastes!

I also haven’t tried Chicago Popcorn Works but they boast some VERY interesting flavors… the Banana Foster and Grape popcorns sound borderline scary. I’ll have to see if they can do a “tasting” because my curiosity is truly piqued and the “Caramel Apple” sounds awesome.

Now my REAL inspiration for this post came from a Yelp Summerfest in Chicago that I attended yesterday…. Have I mentioned that I’m a carnivore? When I saw the Salted Caramel table with… get this…. Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn!!! I tossed out my other food sample to free up my hands. This was popcorn with real pieces of bacon!!!! WHAT??!?!?! OMG – it was awesome… Must have more. This goes down as my winner (so far at least) for the Chicago Popcorn competition!

salted caramel bourbon bacon popcorn

Cherish (A.K.A. Chicago)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

I tend to get home from work later most days and still have to find time to study for my engineering license exam. So cooking, while I love to do it, is something that usually needs to be quick and simple. I have had a subscription to Everyday Food Magazine for about 3 or 4 years now and I enjoy it so much. I’m always looking for new recipes to try and new ideas for flavoring. One of my favorite recipes is the Chicken Noodle Soup. It’s a shortcut version that I separate into serving-size portions and freeze for later in the week or the following week to have quick and easy lunch options. Here is the recipe as listed:
everyday food chicken soup
Serves 6 to 8
  • 3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces medium egg noodles
  • Cooked chicken meat, shredded (from Homemade Chicken Stock recipe)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Place stock in a stockpot over medium-high heat, and bring just to a simmer. Add carrots, and simmer until tender, about 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain noodles, and add them to the pot of stock, along with shredded chicken meat. Season with salt and pepper. Heat until very hot. When ready to serve, stir in dill and parsley.
Cherish’s edits:
  • First and foremost, I don’t have time to make my own broth so I usually go with Organic chicken broth by 365 (Whole Foods Brand) or Swanson (based on whichever is cheaper that day).
  • I use carrots and celery and normally I enjoy the peeling and chopping process…. but when I’m REALLY lazy I buy the pre-peeled/sliced ones that come in the plastic container, then I can just chop those into smaller chunks.
  • As for the meat, its more like a “what’s available” deal… I prefer chicken thighs for the flavor, my grandmother likes to use wings and I’ve used breasts (I prefer bone in) but they just don’t have that same tenderness of the thigh when you reheat it. I boil and then simmer the meat until its cooked through, remove the thighs/breasts and pull/shred the meat, then throw it back in. Again, when I’m REALLY lazy, I cheat by picking up a rotisserie chicken, pulling all the meant off and throwing it in pot with the broth and cooked veggies (as in the original recipe above). My favorite roasted chicken is the “Lightly Seasoned” one at Jewel-Osco.
  • Lastly, I enjoy my soup with some tasty butter crackers and a dash of Frank’s Red Hot hot sauce on days when my sinuses need a boost! Try it out and let us know how it works!

(I seem to have “lost” the pic I took of my version so I’ll have to take another and add it to this post)
Cherish (A.K.A. Chicago)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oak Park/Forest Park–Chicago West Weekend

This weekend I did a lot of wandering in the streets of Oak Park and Forest Park, the city of Chicago’s immediate west suburbs. Both areas are easily accessible by the Green (along Lake St) and Blue (along I-290) elevated trains (El’s). Here is a photography enhanced list of the nice food spots I discovered along with links to my Yelp reviews of some of them…

Louie’s Grill, Forest Park – small corner diner with booths and a counter…. reminded a little of my days in Tennessee where a good old Waffle House was the place to be! I grabbed a stool at the end of the counter and the guy next to me handed me the front page of his paper. Nice! I went with my standard “2 eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast”… that is my “comparison” meal. I like to compare apples to apples and as a potato lover, it all hangs in your breakfast potatoes and the crispiness of your bacon! These were nice, typical breakfast potatoes, done just right with the crunchy edges!


Thyme and Honey, Forest Park – This fairly new restaurant had a great “down home” feel inside. The decorations were like “grandma’s house” (well, not my city-born grandma, but what I assume other grandma’s houses are like). The menu was a nice combination of breakfast and lunch/dinner dishes. The biggest bonus was the full-size banana that came with each dish. I could hear kids at the tables around us excitedly asking their parents to open their bananas. How cute! I ordered my “comparison dish” (see above, LOL) and the potatoes were perfectly cut and crispy, but had nearly NO seasoning *sad face* Ketchup helped, but I really missed the seasoning. The other options were grits or fruits. My breakfast buddy (the one with the knife upside down in the pic) ordered the fruit (huge chunks of melon) with his Thyme and Honey omelette which included ham, sausage, bacon, onions, pepper and cheese. Overall, it was a good meal, but nothing special. Maybe I’ll have to go back and try dinner there…

Aripo’s Venezuelan Arepa House, Oak Park – My FAVORITE place of the weekend. This new Venezuelan spot was a great suggestion from a coworker. The “arepas” are “sandwiches” – meat/fillings in between corn cakes. They were AWESOME. I wrote a Yelp review on it HERE.

July 14 arepas oak park (2)July 14 arepas oak park
Todd and Holland Tea Merchants, Forest Park – I walked in here and instantly fell in love with the set up. This cute tea shop was actually had 4 different sample teas – 2 hot teas and 2 iced teas. I wrote a Yelp review on this place also HERE… they turned me on to the benefits of Rooibos for allergy sufferers and I have been excitedly enjoying cup after cup of the Rooibos Chai blend.

July 2010 todd and holland tea merchants

Bonus – Chicago folks looking for some cooking lessons, Flav’our Cooking School is advertising their August Hand-On Classes for half off. I’m definitely working a class or two into my summer budget!

Happy Eating!

Cherish (A.K.A. Chicago)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breakfast in Atlanta

It is true that I love food…but I really love breakfast!!!! Yesterday one of my older sisters and I went to my favorite breakfast spot in Atlanta…Highland Bakery. And it got me thinking…I need to list my top three places to enjoy breakfast any time of the day. So here we go….
3. Flyin Biscuit
There are locations in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. You can get vegan and non vegan items here. I LOVE their Love Cakes which are made from black beans…and their soysage has a wonderful kick to it. Of COURSE their biscuits are yummy and they come in classic and whole wheat. But I have to say by far my favorite dish and what I get 9 times out of 10 that I go is the Southern Scramble. The combination of eggs, collard greens, turkey bacon, greens and cheddar cheese may sound strange but it tastes oh so right. Add to that the Sledgehammer (4 shots of espresso with cream) and their signature rosemary potatoes, and you are good to go. Or add a yummy mimosa or Bellini…yes they serve a little but of alcohol. Nothing hard, but enough options to compliment a meal. They take all forms of payment and are really busy on the weekend.
2. Thumbs Up Diner
With 5 locations spread out in Atlanta, Thumbs Up has breakfast down pat. These hole in the wall spots crank out the biggest pancakes I have ever seen and some YUMMY home potatoes. They are ALWAYS packed and rarely will you go and not have a short wait. You wont find a hostess to welcome you but a podium with a pad on it for you to sign your name and number in your party. Don’t worry…you wont have to wait for too long. But it will oh so be worth the wait. My must have item to eat every time I go is The Heap. You can pretty much have it any way you want but it will be served in a small cast iron skillet. Bottom layer consisting on their home fries, then you choose your cheese, your meat and how you want your eggs cooked that will be laid on top. Man oh man my mouth is watering just thinking about it!!! No alcohol served here and they take cash only…but don’t worry…there is an ATM machine in each location...
1. Highland Bakery
Man, where do I start? First of all I was introduced to this place by one of my oldest friends…and I have been hooked ever since!!! They have it ALL…coffees, baked goods, and yummy fresh, all natural food!!! They even mill their grits on site!!!! And you get SO MUCH yummy food!!! There is only ONE Highland Bakery in Atlanta and that may be why I love it so much. They stay busy but I don’t remember waiting longer than 5-10  minutes even on a Saturday morning. I LOVE their French toast…I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE their French toast. But when my sister and I went I got an omelet made my way. That means light onion, spinach, mushrooms, ham and mozzarella!!!! Oh and since I don’t eat grits I got their YUMMY home potatoes that are made from red potatoes and seasoned to perfection. But what my sister got (which I have been scared to get) is their famous peanut butter French toast. Let me say that their French toast is made with 1in thick challah bread so you know it is going to be a lot of food. But the peanut butter French toast is TWO pieces of challah bread held together with peanut butter, grilled on a flat top (melting the peanut butter perfectly) and topped with carmelized bananas!!!! Does that not sound yummy???!!! She wanted eggs too and I told her that the French toast was a lot of food and that may not be a good idea but of course she did NOT listen to her little sister. Well…in this Mann vs. Food situation…FOOD CONQUIRED!!!! They take all forms of payment. No alcohol served here but you can get anything you find at Starbucks here!!! Sit inside, outside or on bar stools and no matter what you order…you will not be disappointed. Next time I go I will be trying the cilantro corn pancakes that are over black beans!!! Does that not sound divine??
Here is a picture of my food and my sisters…is your mouth watering yet?Highland fthighland omel

Happy Eating!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Will Work for Food

I am not a fan of long meetings and my job requires long meetings every once in a while. The one upside that always exists, even in the worst meetings, is the food. There will always be food. So when I received an invitation to attend a 5 hour professional development and networking meeting, I realized it was during “dinner hours” and immediately RSVP’d. This turned out to be a great idea. The meeting itself turned out to be very interesting and the spread afterwards was nothing short of TASTY!

I fixed a plate of hors d’oeuvres and sat down with a couple of coworkers to discuss the yummy fare…Clockwise from top right:

  • Olive and Roasted Tomato Tapenade with Wasa Crisps
  • Carrot sticks with Spinach Ranch dressing (I’m a fan of carrots)
  • Brie and Raspberry En Croute (this was REALLY tasty!)
  • Chipotle Roasted Shrimp w/ Pico de Gallo Brunoise on Polenta Croutons (I loved the polenta crouton, that was a great idea)
  • Tuscan Chicken Fontina Bites (these were sooo awesome!)
  • Shepards Pie (center – I used to hear about this dish back in my Minnesota but never tried it for myself… don’t think I’ll be sad if I never try it again)
I didn’t grad a pic of the Petit Fours but there were at least 12 to chose from. I really enjoyed the mini mango-iced cookie sandwich with apricot filling. All in all, throw in unlimited beer and wine and I left feeling more connected with my coworkers and pretty satisfied with the food!

This is what my plate looked like at the end… (I don’t like olives and the shepards pie was a little…. scary?)

July 13 2010 Hyatt lodge

All in all, it was a great event, hosted at the Hyatt Lodge Hotel in Illinois. You can bet your dinner, I’ll be back there for more meetings and food!