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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Best of the Good Food Festival 2016

This past weekend we went to the Good Food Festival for the third year in a row.  Click here to read one of our first blog posts about our first Good Food Festival three years ago.  Yesss, we are celebrating the three year … Continue reading

Healthy Fast Food: Green Bean Chicago

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It’s not often that healthy and fast food share the same title but magic is possible.  Behold, we hath found a restaurant that aims to do both (oh and its yummy, princes and princesses).  We know there’s a few chain healthy alternatives in Chicago but none are 100% gluten free, GMO free and free of common allergins (no nuts, coconut or chickpeas) like the new Green Bean Chicago.

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It’s not often that you learn about the passion behind the restaurant you are eating in either.  Owners, Executive Chef Mike Watson, Aaron Bush and investor and dietary manager Srinivas Ravanam partnered on this daunting culinary adventure for many reasons. Mike thinks about the health of his children and how fast food often targets them.  Aaron works in the health and wellness industry across the state and sees how limited healthy food availability affect people throughout Illinois.  Both wanted an affordable fast healthy option for working families.  Both strive for a healthier tastier lifestyle for themselves.

We received free samples of their menu for review.

Menu Highlites:

Pick Your Protein: Chicken, Portabella Mushrooms (vegetarian) or Steak

Wrap it up: Choose a gluten free wrap, gluten free panini, or keep it simple with a salad

What’s Your Flavor? Choose Asian, Caesar, Caprese, Griller, Greek or Spanish style toppings

What we ate:

Gluten free Mushroom Griller Panini – pineapple, asparagus, mixed greens and spicy mango sauce

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Gluten free Chicken Caprese Panini – mozzarella, basil, tomatos, red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

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Gluten Free Mushroom Caesar Wrap – croutons, parmesan, romaine and caesar dressing

Sides – Sweet Potato Fries, Tempura Green Beans, Black Bean Hummus

Dessert! – Gluten Free Caramel Cupcake with Italian Salted Caramel Gelato

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Loving the light life:

All meals (entree, a side and a drink) are balanced to run around 500-600 calories. There is NO soda at Green Bean but instead homemade stone fruit waters are provided for the combos.  Price point runs about the same as a Panera, Chipotle or chain greasy fast food meal, around $8-$9 for a meal.

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Who needs gluten?

Kate is sensitive to gluten and has tried gluten free wraps and breads before. Some good (Udis), some not so good (some kinda yucky wrap).  Chef Mike’s personal gluten free bread and wrap recipes (a mix of tapioca and rice flour with extra love) don’t seem “gluten free”.  Both were hearty and satisfying.

Take us to flavor town!

Monica noted the sweet potato fries were delightfully crispy.  Chef Mike explained they are made fresh 4-5 times a day…no preservatives here peeps.   She also adored the salted caramel melty creamy gelato.  Kate was stuffed to the brim by her chicken caprese panini and, although she doesn’t normally get the feels for mushrooms, these ones were garlicky, juicy and free of that sometimes unpleasantly earthy flava flav.  No complaints at the taste office here.

Final Tasting Notes:

We highly recommend Green Bean.  It’s health conscious, allergy friendly, and you get your monies worth.  Fun Foodie Fact: You can get breakfast or lunch/dinner ANY time (for you brunch cravers).  It’s also awesome if you have a social group with dietary needs.  You can bring your diabetic dad, celiac sister-in-law, and nut allergic nephew all to the same place!  Green Bean is expanding to Schaumburg (yaya suburbanites!) and plans to franchise in future locations.  So lighten up and head to Green Bean when you’re in the mood for a healthy and quick meal!

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Meatless Monday: New Laughing Cow Asiago Cheese

Cheese!  The friend of many a vegetarian and, in excess, a possible foe to your caloric intake.  Laughing Cow Brand Spreadable Cheese Wedges can make you giggle in cheesy delight however and ease your cheese anxiety (easy cheesy..hahahaha).

We’ve always been a fan of Laughing Cow cheese.  Their spreadable wedges are portable, low in calories, high in protein and a versitile snackaroo.  One of their newest flavors, asiago, is savory and satisfying when on the go, a quick after work snack or even when hosting a partaaaay.  We received free samples during the launch of the asiago wedge back in January and lightened up our New Years but then bought even more for the Super Bowl.  We decided to create 2 contrasting recipes to showcase 2 sides of the same cheese.

Kate’s Sweet N’ Spicy Wedges

Ingredients

  • 1 Can Crushed Pineapple Slices
  • 1 Jar Jalapeno Jelly
  • 1 12 ounce Jar sliced Jalapenos
  • 1 bag CrunchMaster Multiseed Crackers
  • Laughing Cow Asiago Cheese

Directions

Sooo…this is so easy!  Lay out the Multiseed Crackers crackers on plate.  Use a cheese knife or butter knife to spread 1/4 wedge of cheese (or more if desired) on each cracker.  Spread jalapeno jelly on each cracker.  Garnish each cracker with a piece of pineapple and a slice of jalapeno.  These lil’ crackers got demolished at our NYE gathering so we’re sure you’ll love um.

Monica’s Italiano Caprese Wedges

Ingredients

  • Cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Italian herbs
  • Garlic Sea Salt
  • Whole Black Pepper grinded
  • 360 Whole Foods EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • Laughing Cow Asiago Cheese

Directions

Peel open several Laughing Cow Asiago cheese wedges, remove wrapper and set each wedge on a plate.  Sprinkle dried basil leaves, Italian seasoning, garlic, sea salt, and grounded black pepper on each wedge.  Slice cherrry tomatoes in half and wash/pat dry the basil leaves.  Add fresh basil leaves and halves cherry tomatoes to each wedge.

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Laughing Cow Asiago can also be smeared on tortilla chips and turned into breakfast nachos with scrambled eggs and veggies, spread on a bagel with spinach and roasted peppers or whateva’ you like (as T.I. says).  Or try the Pistachio Pear Honey Asiago recipe posted recently for a sweet treat.  Click here to read the recipe.

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Are you team Sweet N’ Spicy or team Italiano?  Do you have any other Laughing Cow Recipes you love?  Offer 9 total flavors, you can #savorthemoment with a different flavor every day!  Find Laughing Cow products at a grocery store near you.

Hakka Bakka Kati Rolls Giveaway

It’s not often that you learn the origins of a specialty food when you’re checking out a new restaurant but Kati Rolls, although newer to Chicago, have a true history.  Conceptualized originally in Kolkata, India, the kati (meaning stick) roll … Continue reading

Chicago, Lettuce Eat Healthy with Just Salad

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Just Salad…the restaurant title explains some of the genius of Chicago’s brand new salad eatery chain, a transport from the NYC.  It also makes us think of “Just Jack” and believe us, these salads will make you wanna do the same Will and Grace character Jazz Hands!

The first Just Salad location, placed conveniently for the downtown business set or tourists/culture lovers is just steps away from Grant Park at 20 E. Jackson.  Vibrant orange and lime green accent walls add energy to Just Salad‘s design and the Chicago location is situated in the historic Gibbons building which adds to the charm of the atmosphere.  Just Salad separates itself from the downtown munch bunch by providing quality healthy food with affordability.

These key points will make other eateries green with envy:

  • Just Salad‘s menu is created by a registered dietitian and nutrition info is readily available.
  • Protein offerings range from grass fed meats, sustainable creatures of the sea (aka seafood), organic tofu, & humanely raised antibiotic free cluckers.
  • Many produce options are GMO-free, organic and even local when possible.  Veggies are baked, raw or steamed and never canned (hey hey no BPA!)
  • Just Salad encourages us to reduce, reuse, recycle and be rewarded!  You can purchase a reusable ultra cute salad bowl and every time you bring it back for a salad refill you score extra toppings or CHEESE.

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So what did the Chiorganicgirls (royal we) think of it?  Well dang, who doesn’t love a good fresh salad.  As you walk in, you enter into a world of your salad imagination.  Like Chipotle x2, there’s a long topping assembly like starting with a bevvy of green choices.  Romaine, kale, mixed greens, spinach, and other lettuces start you off and then your head begins to spin (salad spin, ha) with the possible salad combinations.  The produce was very fresh, colorful and crunchy.  The portion size for the price was superb and the reusable salad bowl held about 2 servings of salad=only about 4-5 bucks for a big serving of salad with primo toppings.

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If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, you can start with a signature salad recipe.  Our favorites were the Thai Chicken Crunch with romaine, red cabbage, celery and crispy wonton pieces, and the (what did you like Monical?).  There’s even a Chicago inspired salad, the Windy City Kicker, with Italian sausage, giardiniera,red onions and celery.  If you wanna get really jazzy, get your Dr. Frankenstein on and create your own crazy salad (butternut squash, falafel, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, horseradish chive dressing…you monster!).  We also really loved the menu because it’s colored coded to help you avoid allergy or even preference snafus.  You can easily tease out sneaky hiding seafood, gluten, or dairy.  Finally, don’t let the name fool ya.  Wait for it!  SURPRISE, there is more than just salads at Just Salad.  Wraps, juices and smoothies are available too.  We def need to go back after some sweaty warrior II poses at the Millennium Park summer yoga to try the Peanut Butter Chia Warrior with almond milk, chia seeds, PB, agave nectar and banana.  Doesn’t that recipe make you want to do Just Salad Jazz Hands now?

No?  Well how about a Kale Yeah (sorry had to!)

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JUST SALAD is open!

20 East Jackson Blvd

S State St & S Wabash Ave

Hours:

Mon – Fri: 10:30am – 9pm
Sat – Sun: 11am -8 pm

*We were not compensated for our opinions but did get to try some yummy free salad.

Eat Local: Burger Point Restaurant Review

Do you ever wonder where your McDonald’s cheeseburger meat came from?  Unless you’re subjected to some kind of food coma induced nightmare, you probably have avoided being “in the know” on fast food meat origins.  “But burgers are so delicious”, you say.  Yeah we get you, (well the dabbling meat eater one of us, aka Kate, does and the veggie burger fiend one of us, aka Monica, may have an inkling too).  Burgers, in all their glorious forms, are special sammiches.  But as we are grown people, we like grown and sexy sammiches with ingredients we can name…and we LOVE food that’s locally sourced and not only tastes fresh but is fresh.

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Recently, we visited the South Loop to try a locally owned burger slinging business, Burger Point (with no creepy clowns, bonus!).  Owners, co-founders and couple, Asha Mathew and David Esterline, pride themselves in providing consumers with grass fed beef as well as organic chicken, turkey and veggie burgers.  Asha and David started Burger Point about 3 years ago and used to gaze at the space across from their condo and dream of opening their own business.  They often craved a juicy organic burger a ala North side DMK burger so they snatched up the corner spot on State and Archer and started their own burger revolution.  Local sourcing is their priority and many produce items come from David’s produce shop.  95% of the menu is house made.  Meat is ground, formed into fresh patties in the restaurant and meals are made to order (take that, Burger King!)

The menu hosts 17 specialty burgers, wangs (or wings as some might call them) with house made sassy sauces, and side options like house cut sweet potato fries.  We started our culinary experience with hearty samples of the vegetarian chili.  A toasty bowl of chili is definitely the thing for a Chicago arctic winter.  It had a healthy amount of cooked “just right” beans, a perfectly thick consistency and a nice kick of spice.  We liked the bits of tofu floating around in the mix as it added to the filling nature of the chili.  This dish could make your meal and Burger Point gives you free toppings like cheese, sour cream, olives and onions to boost it’s fill factor.

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For the main event, Kate got a little meaty and tried the #7 hamburger, called the Dirty South, with aged cheddar cheese, double smoked crisp bacon and BBQ sauce on a homemade pretzel roll.  The flavor of the bacon and burger was juicy, not greasy, and Kate noticed a markedly higher meat quality than chain restaurants.  Kate’s fave part was the PRETZEL BUN!! “I know me and gluten are iffy but this was a homemade pretzel bun”

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Monica tried the #14 with the moniker the Best Damn Veggie Burger Ever, which sports a homemade veggie patty with chipotle aioli, havarti cheese and avocado on a sesame seed bun.  She liked the balance of beans and rice, simplicity combined, but needed more kick from the chipotle aioli to counterbalance.

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Becoming a Burger Point Superfan can have perks.  Customers can use the delivery ease of Grubhub or Ordersnap to ensure no leaving of one’s bed is necessary, crumbs be damned.  If you do choose to wear pants and leave the house, Burger Point is located on the quiet corner of Archer and State.  Frequent Feeders can join a rewards endeavor called the 5 Star Program.  Every $5 spent gives the user a point which can eventually lead to free point earned foods.  One customer even racked up so many points that there is a burger named after him, the #17 Saigon Johnny, featuring fresh ground chicken, sliced cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro with sriracha aioli and soy sauce.  The couple and their manager, Ryan, like to let their minds run wild with new monthly recipes.  Their salmon burger is very popular for the Lenten season and now they are working on the aptly named Heart Attack consist of 5 different types of bacons. We are guessing it features pork, beef, turkey, chicken and tempeh bacon (haha we actually have no idea.  Is there such a thing as chicken bacon?  Chicky bake for short?)

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The South Loop neighborhood is close to popular Chicago locales like Soldier Field, the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium in addition to public transportation making it an accessible choice for tourists and locals alike.  If you want a relatively quick and tasty meal that doesn’t challenge your moral meat values, leave those golden arches behind and taste Burger Point!

Come out of Chi-bernation for these Winter Food Finds

Oh winter…devilishly evil Chicago winter.  You haven’t been able to keep us down…especially with all these events and restaurant openings popping up.  What about you, dear readers?  Have you wound your scarf around you and strapped those snow boots on to take the chill out of winter?  Here are some spots that may make you wanna brave the great white Midwest.

Remember that ol’ Lasalle Power company dance club you used to troll to pick up your future v-day date?  Well now it’s been converted into a brand new Gino’s East.  Chicago’s legendary pizza spot just got classy at its River North location.  Three floors of expansive rustic cozy hangout space will eliminate your wait with your out of town guests as you get your “mangia” on with artichoke pizza, pickle-y sliders and fat stuffed cheese sticks with spinach.  The restaurant proclaims to be  including a brewery opening in several months as well…just in time for Spring!!

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Our next pick is a neighbor to the north, Pizzeria Serio, a  hidden addition to the food scene on Belmont avenue in Lakeview.  WGN’s Chicago Best honored Pizzeria Serio as one of Chicago’s fave pizza.  Check out the video here.  We hopped over snow mounds to meet with the Chicago Food Bloggers and Pizzeria Serio was gracious enough to host our group.  We sampled several tasty starters like a Spinach Salad (baby spinach leaves, red onion, mandarin oranges, goat cheese and walnuts in homemade citrus dressing) and the more traditional Caprese.   For veggie lovers and goat cheese lovers (eww says one of us..the goat cheese hater) try the spinach specialty pizza (EVOO, sea salt, black pepper, fresh garlic, tomatoes, spinach, ricotta and goat cheese sans sauce).  For the more purist pizza crowd, try the wood burned crusty Eat Your Veggies (onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives)  and get your 5 a day veg serving…a good excuse to eat mas pizza if we do say so…and we do.

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In a whole other country (this is what it feels like to Chicago residents) is Farmhouse in Evanston.  This tavern makes their own burgers, condiments and soda from scratch with ingredients plucked straight from Midwestern farms.  Even their beverage selection is pulled only from Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.  The majority of interior pieces are reclaimed woods and salvaged materials.  At the kick off to North Shore Restaurant month, going on now, we gobbled down hot beer battered Wisconsin cheese curds with crispy warm centers and fresh Tavern-cut peppery potato chips with homemade ranch-like dipping sauce.  On demand for our next visit is the Old World Grains Burger with Forest Mushroom and Poblano Pepper.  For those of you who don’t venture that far out of our city, there’s also a sister location in River North with a slightly different menu and a two floor space.  Don’t all these pics of yummy food make you wanna trek through your alley to the El?

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A Holly Jolly Holiday Gift Guide

A Chi Organic Girls Holiday Gift Guide

Is it just us or did the holiday season creep up on us like those giant spiders in the new Hobbit movie?  We’ve been feeling the adrenaline of the season, hitting the streets in our snow boots and clicking away with our mouses in a fury of gift giving.  OMGS Christmas is only 4 days a way!  The biggest dilemma we’ve been facing: How to find that one of a kind perfect gift for the foodie, fit fanatic or Chicago adventurer.  Holiday gift guide to the rescue!!

Do you have an artist in your life?  How about Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers, a Deaf artist who has been experimenting with clay for several years now at Lillstreet Art Center.  These one-of-a-kind bowls can make a great centerpiece for a new home or a fancy fruit bowl to liven up a blah kitchen.

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Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers

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Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers

Something for your highly caffeinated friends?  We recommend Bowtruss Coffee Roasters, located in River North and Lakeview.  One of Chicago’s bustling micro-roasters, their bean blends offer complex flavor profiles like cherry or apple undertones.  Read more about our experience at Bowtruss here.

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For foodies, check out recommendations of Chicago food experts (including ours) in the Chicago Food Bloggers Holiday Gift Guide.  For example, We love Vosges Haut-Chocolat, with boutiques located in downtown, Lincoln Park and of all places, O’Hare Airport.  Pick up a custom box of regional truffles (think Mexican coco dusted in chili) or an exotic chocolate bar, like the newly released Coconut Ash and Banana Dark chocolate bar.  For your veggie and vegan peeps, try Chicago Diner with a gift card for a tasty “I can’t believe it’s vegan” shake or have your friends rep their veg style with a Chicago Diner t-shirt.  Click here for more food gift ideas.

Fit Fanatics: For a yoga lover or to help someone get off their asana (haha) and get fit, gift them one week of unlimited classes at  Zen Yoga Garage (plus first-timers automatically get one week free pass with a coupon).  Learn more about this 2013 new hotspot here.

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Zen Yoga Garage

And for a more one-on-one fitness focus, how about some serious calorie crushing sessions with our fave certified personal trainer, Sabri Xhaferi, NASM CPT.  Sabri offers nutritional counseling, myofascial (muscular relaxation) techniques, and one-on-one highly individualized personal training with flexible payment arrangements.  Email sabriCPT@gmail.com and find more background info here.  You can also grab some healthy tips on his Facebook page.

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Sabri Xhaferi, CPT
Photo courtesy Ela Miszczyszyn

Oh and for fun fun fun person in your life: The Chicago donut scene has been rolling (like a rolling pin, get it?) this year.  For the fun chasing type, how about tickets to the first ever batter-y, deep-fried Donut Fest in Chicago on Jan 26th!  Tickets are on sale Monday, Dec 23rd at noon.  For more info  http://donutfest.com

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Glazed & Infused Donuts and Firecakes Donuts

Whew!  It’s time to break our the tape, scissors, and wrapping paper and get these gifts in the sleigh!

What are your recs for Chicago’s best gifts?  Where do you eat, sweat and play?