Oo La La: Fresh French Fare in Humboldt Park

You relax with an espresso in one hand and a flaky croissant at finger tips reach.  Sun beams on you as you slowly sip and watch the world go by.  If you got no money for Europe but want to take a lunch mini vacay, Cafe Marie Jeanne is a tiny escape for your hour.

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Only 6 months out of opening, Cafe Marie Jeanne is situated in a prime corner of Humboldt Park.  This Parisian inspired cafe is nestled in a quiet yet booming restaurant area so you still feel serene when visiting.

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Executive Chef Mike Simmons, part owner, is an import from nearby Rootstock wine bar and yummy Lula Cafe in nearby Logan Square.  The menu focuses on a la carte grab and go items mixed with more hearty lunch and dinner fare.  Vegan and veggie options are available and there is a smattering of seafood for pescatarian as well.  A small wine and cocktail menu make this an unharried bunch destination as well.  Don’t trust the menu online, however, as Cafe Marie Jeanne picks up local produce, thus switching up some of the offerings based on what is most fresh and seasonally tasty.

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We noshed on 3 different dishes to get a feel for their lunch service.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

April, with snow and rain, and even the first day of May have not been too kind to us Chicagoan.  This steamy and creamy bowl of soup warms the soul with fragrant curry that tampers down the sometimes saccharine sweet potato.

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Raclette with Seasonal Roasted Vegetables

Our culinary pièce de résistance — Think of this as a fancy grilled cheese piled high with heart healthy veggies.  Roasted root vegetables give the sandwich a savory and filling profile.  The raclette, a semi-hard  cow’s milk cheese, is a magic melter, giving the crusty homemade bread a smattering of delicious fondue like goodness.

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White Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Funny story about white asparagus – many people don’t know it exists.  It’s like a ghost veggie.  Dig this weird veggie fact: white Asparagus lacks pigment because it is kept buried and deprived of sun, almost like it’s in a veg bomb shelter.  The lack of chlorophyll gives it a pale complexion in addition to it being more tender and mild than it’s hulk counterpart.  We liked the easy crunch of the asparagus but couldn’t taste anything outstanding in the hollandaise sauce.  Side note: it’ll still make your pee smell funny.

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Quick tip: Looking to explore more than one spot in the neighborhood?  Restaurant hop and grab a homemade piece of hibiscus key lime pie across the street at Spinning J, break out your cash and do a night cap at California Clipper or sip on more wine at Rootstock — all within walking distance!

 

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Meatless Monday Review: Marley Spoon Recipe Box

Looking for some Meatless Monday Inspiration but short on time, ideas, cooking skills?  Switch it up with a recipe/meal delivery service, Marley Spoon!  We received 2 free recipe boxes from Marley Spoon to review for all you organic peeps out there.  Marley Spoon actually has a wide delivery area including the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Australia and ‘Murica (that’s layman for America).

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We Galentine’s Day-ed it up a little early and decided to have a cooking date night to try two recipes: Quinoa Burgers and Broccoli Coconut Soup.

Here’s how the service works:

It is a subscription service but you can pause the service when you like.  Your order is delivered on either a Tuesday or Friday in a cooler box so it keeps cook ready.  A variety of 7 chef created recipes are available each week catering to different culinary preferences (meaty, veggie, global inspired, vegan, dino..ok no dino but we are checking how closely you are reading).

You have a choice of a 2 person box or a family box to feed a small crowd with pricing that ranges between $48 (2x meals a week) to $139 for 4 family meals per week.  We actually spend more on groceries ourselves sometimes so the pricing seems pretty reasonable for the time you save.

What Rises to the Occasion:

Delivery: Delivery was on point and our boxes were waiting when we arrived.  Everything is pre-packaged so no need to measure.

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Recipes: Recipes come with gorgeous color photos of each step and outline exactly what you need to have on hand on your own (small staples like salt and olive oil).  Portions are more than what we would expect for 2 people.  For example, our Quinoa Burger recipe yielded 5 burgers and we had plenty extra couscous and soup from the Broccoli Soup recipe.  Depending on your appetite, you may be able to get 2 full meals for 2 out of each recipe (hooray leftovers!).

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Appearance: Both recipes looked like what was on the recipes cards when completed.  We felt like fancy french chefs.

Taste: The kale chips were crunchy and addictive…possibly the easiest part of the recipe box.  Our veggie burgers were hearty and filling.  The soup had a bi-partisan reaction…more on that below.

 

What Should Be on the Chopping Block:

Souper Spicy?:  With cooking, there is always room to grow!  With both of us being a level up from amateur kitchen goers, we think a few things could be improved.  The broccoli soup recipe was extra spicy for some reason and didn’t have the creamy consistency that appears in the picture.  We would have liked more of a coconut flavor and would have modified that spice to flavor ratio for some more depth.  It was possibly the green curry with ginger that could have been baby spiced to improve the other flavors in the soup.

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Time: It took us 2 hours to make everything.  For a busy person, this might not serve.  One suggestion would be for Marley Spoon to provide pre-chopped or diced ingredients but we aren’t sure how this would affect the freshness of produce.

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Final Course Thoughts?:

Taste your dishes throughout the cooking process and modify them if you like!  We added paprika and chili powder to our kale chips and were pleased with the results.  Don’t be afraid to be a kitchen rebel if you know how to cook to season items to your liking.

Bonding: We had a super fab time cooking together.  We could see this as a intimate date night, girls night out or bachelorette type experience, or just a way to liven up the ho hum experience of weekly cooking.

Overall, we loved the experience of learning to cook new recipes and spending time in the kitchen together. Ingredients are local sourced and grass fed animules, making you feel a bit at ease for what you are consuming.  Food waste is cut own bu the pre-packaged format as well.  If you’re looking for a culinary adventure with less effort, we suggest giving Marley Spoon a try! Use the Promo Code CHIORGANIC for $35 off your first box.

 

Bake 425º Pizza Review

For once the suburbs beat Chicago to something yummy.  New local business, Bake 425°, promises Farm-to-Crust Bake at Home pizza and operates in Highland Park, Hinsdale, Evanston, Glencoe, Winnetka and Lake Forest.  Bake 425° took over the hole left by HomeMade Pizza Kitchen but with a modified format.  Owner, Bill Borneman, decided to keep the ease of the pre-made ready to cook pizza but shift to locally sourced, small batch and organic ingredients.  Specialty diets are honored with gluten free crust and vegetarian pizza options.  For traditionalists, classic cheese, Margherita and “pick your own topping” choices begin the menu.  Adventurous pizza monsters (like us) will be pleased, however, by the unique menu items like Poblano and Chicken Sausage pizza or the Earth Lover pizza with truffle oil, Yukon Potatoes, Portabello mushrooms and Béchamel.

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Bake 425° gave us one pizza, one salad and a cookie to sample and review.  We chose the Go Green vegetarian pizza, Sunshine salad and chocolate chip cookie.

What we liked:

Pizza: The Go Green pizza comes with pistachio pesto sauce, brussel sprouts, quartered cherry tomatoes, garlic oil and mozzarella.  Pesto sauce on pizza is a total thumbs up and the brussel sprouts were (thankfully) roasted and crisp.  Crust is whole grain so some consumers may not be used to the dough’s heartier taste compared to white flour.

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Salad: The Sunshine salad was filled with spicy arugula greens, roasted butternut squash, pine nuts and shaved mozzarella.  Lemon oil dressing complimented the mix with a tart and bright flavor.  The salad did need a little bit of salt and pepper to balance the sour lemon.

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Ease of Cooking: Bake 425° gives you everything you need to cook your ‘za, except an oven of course.  Instructions are clear and you are provided with parchment paper for cooking, eliminating the need for any pans or clean up!

Serving Sizes: We fed three people, which averaged about $10 dollars a person…not bad for a quality take home meal.

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What we would change:

The Chocolate Chip Cookie: Nothing really against the taste of the cookie but after eating a pizza, maybe the gelato that Bake 425° offers would balance out the meal better than ending with more dough.  We were so stuffed from the pizza, we barely touched the chocolatey dude.

Why would you try it?

When you are having one of those “I wanna stay in my blankey and bake on my couch” kind of nights, Bake 425° can simplify your night without compromising your taste buds.