If you remember, April started cold and so cold that it snowed. Luckily, I found my way to the perfect comfort food at Nonnina, located in River North.
From the people behind the acclaimed Piccolo Sogno, is another gem featuring classic and modern Italian fare. The vibe is upscale with warmth that still feels approachable. Case in point, the grab n go counter service right next door, Nonnina To Go.
Some workdays require vino early on. And the Alanera was just the right pick. A medium bodied wine that did everything in its power to jumpstart my appetite.
The Cauliflower Arrosto was a great appetizer to commence with. Robustly flavored roasted cauliflower with Calabrian chili, lemon, capers and herbs.
The Octopus Al Forno came grilled octopus, roasted peppers, grilled frisee and a tuna caper sauce. I’ve always enjoyed the combination of potatoes with squid, they just go so well together.
The pastas, which I tried next, were both remarkable. The Maccheroni with Shrimp and Broccoli were strewn in with tender, spinach, ribbon pasta, fresh garlic and red chilies and had a mild zing to it.
The Artichoke and Ricotta filled pasta was fluffy and came tossed in a delicious medley of fava beans, peas, spring onions and parsley and had a deep, savory flavor that left me wanting more. It was a very visually pleasing dish too.
Cannoli is one of my favorite Italian desserts, so I had to try it. The shell on the cannoli was so thin and crispy, that it left me in awe. The cream was not too sweet and had been folded in neatly. Every bite was delectable. I decided to keep my decadent streak going with their Dark Chocolate Budino, and the creaminess of this unbaked pudding with a little touch of extra virgin olive oil made it one impressive sweet treat.
I seriously felt like I had made a trip to Italy. If you want fresh, seasonal Italian cuisine, Nonnina is the spot for you. The portions are sumptuous, the prices yet affordable, and the food oh-so fresh. This meal warmed my heart and I can’t wait to return for more!
My month started with a very elegant Thirsty Thursday celebration at the new Esquire Room located on the third floor of Del Friscos Steakhouse located in the beautiful Gold Coast.
Simply walking into this exquisite face felt fancy enough, with dimly candle- lit rooms and glitzy chandeliers and piano playing in the background. Feels like a celebration from the start!
We got a taste of several bubblies by the glass, my favorite being the Man Family Wines classic Brut from South Africa.
And eventually transitioned into an iconic Lambrusco, the Medici Ermete; a sparkling red wine with a distinct scent and fruity flavors.
Every drink paired effortlessly with the small bites served. There was a King Crab Spring Roll that had macadamia nuts and a smooth ginger sauce, the very unique Potato Pierogies which came topped with salmon caviar and my absolutely favorite of the evening, Gaufrette Potato Chips with Smoked Salmon and Caper Cream Cheese.
The Lamb Lollipops looked so good, I was afraid I’d slip and eat one. Fret not, I didn’t.
It was one fine and unforgettable evening that I’ll cherish for awhile!
The fairly new Poke Poke is the new rage in Chicago’s poke world. And they just opened up two new locations, one in the loop and another one in Lakeview. I got to see firsthand what the hype was about as I had lunch with one of the owners recently, and got the inside scoop on this cute Japanese and Hawaiian influenced eatery.
The décor is so nicely done; its cute and its inviting. The popularity is a testament to its food and you have to get in early to get a seat at lunch.
If you’ve had poke, you understand that it needs to be fresh. Their Signature Bowls are made in front of you where the meat is also scooped right in front of your eyes. Choices range from tuna, salmon, crab, scallops, shrimp to other seasonal fish. The options to customize your meal with are endless and I got mine with their purple rice as my base. All sauces are made in-house although the Spicy Wasabi and the Poke sauce are deliciously noteworthy. And a little seaweed and crispy onion to add your level of desired texture to the bowl.
The offerings also include Oden and Udon that can be made to order, and only on their Winter Menu. The Bento Boxes available can also be customized to your taste.
And if you want to accessorize your meal, they also sell little containers of edamame, seaweed salad, and mochi for dessert.
Just the best way to fill your tummy with fresh food and do it guilt-free! I’ll be back!
If you were impressed with meal prep companies before, there’s now a company that takes the concept up many notches. Chicagoans, Eat Purely is a company offering healthy, chef-crated meals prepared fully and delivered to your doorstep within twenty minutes. You heard right! Now, you don’t have to worry about even putting the ingredients together, because they do it all for you. I tried this service firsthand earlier this month, and was simply blown away at how convenient it was.
Menus change daily and options cater to most dietary preferences. All meals are non-GMO, chemical and preservatives free. They can arrive on demand or can be ordered a week in advance and come nicely packaged with clearly labeled re-heating options. The labeling also includes a Chef’s Inspiration paragraph, which I thought was wonderful.
My meal included the Meyer Lemon Wild Cod, wild cod, asparagus, lemon, Charred Broccoli and Chocolate Caramel Cookies.
I didn’t think it was possible to get fresh, healthy food prepared by someone else delivered to your home in less than a half hour, but apparently it is! Eat Purely makes not only city living easier but also ensures you can stay on top of your healthy goals. Don’t give it a miss!
Enso Sushi & Barrecently collaborated with the new Friends Sushi on State St. to host a Spring Opening Celebration and guess who got to go?! I’ve always considered sushi to be spring-summer season food, because of just how light and fresh and colorful it is. There’s no better way to channel spring than with some raw fish and Maki and that’s what I did.
At the event, guests got to mingle over cocktails and sake, and an exciting discovery for me was the Yuzu Wine, which had such complex citrus flavors that every sip was satisfyingly refreshing.
From their lovely seasonal menu we got to try some phenomenal items, such as the potstickers and ceviche boats. The ceviche was a fresh medley of tuna, salmon and yellowtail and the freshness of the fish spoke alone. I loved the ponzu sauce it was mixed in with and the Serrano peppers gave it a little touch of heat.
Their Signature Maki platters were so flavorful that I couldn’t stop eating. My favorites were the, Lady Diana (with salmon, scallop, cilantro, and spicy mayo) and the Line of Beauty (with king crab, fresh salmon, asparagus, avocado and mango). The combination of spicy mayo with the Sriracha in the latter was simply tantalizing.
The décor and vibe are also noteworthy. Such a soothing ambiance that makes you forget the city’s hustle bustle, and gives you an opportunity to truly enjoy your meal.
Anymore, it won’t be easy to stroll on State St. without stopping into Friends Sushi!
While I like coffee, I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m a coffee lover. And I’m certainly picky about my coffee. But there’s something about coffee shops, that one with the right vibe will always get me in the door for a hot or cold beverage.
The name Passion House Coffee is not new to coffee savants in the city, known to bring the most authentic coffee by partnering with coffee farmers and importers who share the same passion. A culmination of coffee connoisseur Joshua Millman's vision and passion; Passion House was launched in 2011.
The new Passion House Coffee shop that replaced Bow Truss in Logan Square has exactly the ambiance I am seeking when I want to indulge in a cup of java.
This month I had a very fun visit to their quaint shop & eatery that has a cozy, European feel to it and even comes with meditation space for its patrons. The baristas for once, know what they’re doing and stand eager to fill your cup.
The Latte selection is extravagant and fresh pastries supplied daily by Bittersweet Pastry Shop in Lakeview. I got to sample an assortment, starting with a little cup of their fresh granola. The tray came with a Pear and Anise Crumb Cake, Hazelnut Brownie (gluten free), Pistachio Brioche, a giant Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie and a Chocolate Croissant. The croissant was pure decadence made straight from chocolate butter and chocolate dough. You ask for chocolate and they deliver.
As I began my own journey at Passion House, with the Purple Rain Latte, which was brought out first, I had to rub my eyes for minute to verify that it did indeed come with edible glitter. Talk about adding a little glitz to your day. The Salted Caramel Latte was my absolutely favorite and I was able to watch it being made. Always happy to be mesmerized by the latte art!
That was followed by their Spring Lavender Latte, which will definitely add a little spring in your step. The lavender seeds added such a delightful twist on this classic coffee drink. I loved the element of calm to a caffeine boost; did you even think that was possible?
All lattes were seriously smooth, subtly sweet, and intensely addictive. I couldn’t stop drinking them and deferred my worries of what would happen later in the day with such a caffeine overload. Well worth it! And tea lovers, they got you covered too, a wide selection of teas brewed fresh if coffee is not your thing.
Now you’re not going to expect to find much for a pescatarian at a place like Passion House, correct? Wrong! I ate a Salmon and Cream Cheese Scone that knocked my fish-loving socks off. A savory-smoked salmon scone with the fluffiness of a pound cake that I devoured just as fast as I ate the pastries.
I also happened to stop in on National Cold Brew Day, so I snagged a bottle of their home brewed bottle to take on the road. Why stop with the caffeine now?
Their wall of swag was fun to look at and includes bags of beans for sale, because trust me, you’ll want to take some home with you.
At Passion House coffee is truly a journey. The amount of care and attention to make your coffee experience an unforgettable one is impressive And I’m proud to say, that inner coffee lover has now been unleashed.
NY’s fast-casual Mexican chain, Dos Toros recently debuted in Chicago with its first location downtown in the Chicago Loop. And I was lucky enough to stop by and check out the hype.
Dos Toros is literally a tale of two brothers who wanted to preserve the simplicity of Mexican cuisines, especially a no-frill 13-inch burrito. They’ve achieved that and much more as was evident just by the sheer crowd that gathered at lunch hour.
What was I most impressed with? In addition to their commitment to sustainability and zero compromise on freshness was the fact that vegetables are offered as a protein option for your tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
And since I didn’t have fish, I had every combination of their vegetable medley with melted cheese, faro and beans in a plato, quesadilla and tacos. I also took full advantage of their house made Habanero sauce.
Dos Toros also has one of the prettiest salsa and guacamole plates I’ve seen. Wouldn’t expect such presentation at a fast, casual place. And bonus for when I return on a non-workday, they offer beer!
All the food is mostly gluten-free, non-GMO, nuts-free and vegan. Now you can splurge on Mexican food without the guilt.
Dos Toros is going to have no problem establishing its footing in the loop food scene.