Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Meal of New Foods

Wow, sorry for the delay in sharing this post. Long story short - I was without internet. But I'm back!

Where did I leave off...oh yeah, 4 cool ladies taking a taxi to Splice Kitchen. Splice Kitchen is a really great concept. It is a place where food service entrepreneurs can start their businesses by cooking in the kitchen that is rented by the hour.

We headed to the kitchen and laid out all of the wonderful and fresh items purchased at the farmer's market.

Farmers Market Finds:

  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Goat Cheese
  • Corn
  • Brioche
  • Blackberries
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Eggplant
  • Red Onion
  • Bread
  • Peaches

Doesn't chef Rhonda look excited to start cooking? She was so much fun to watch work. I could tell she has a huge passion for food and cooking.

Chef Rhonda started prepping the food.

Showing off her knife skills:

After the prep work was complete it was time to fire up the grill!

All the ladies were shocked to find out I'd never tried eggplant.

Before the eggplant was placed on the grill it was sprinkled with salt and left to sit for a bit. I'm told the salt is used to reduce the bitterness of the eggplant.

Red onions were also placed on the grill and would be used as one of the toppers for the sandwich.

Bread was sliced, grilled, rubbed with garlic and finished off with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (ICBINB).

I'm from Nebraska so of course I was excited when I saw corn was on the menu!

The corn was soaked in water prior to putting it on the grill. (I'm not much of a griller but I assume this was to avoid setting the husks on fire).

After the grilling was done the cobs were cut in half and put into a pan with ICBINB, chili powder and cayenne pepper.

The corn was tossed around in the pan and at the very end a squeeze of lime was added.

I have eaten a ton of corn in my life and I can honestly say this was the BEST EVER!!! I don't know why I never thought of seasoning corn with spices, it's magic. I wasn't sure about the addition of the lime but it really adds an excellent flavor to the spiced up corn. So good!!!

Dessert consisted of 2 things this girl has never tried; mini brioche and blackberries.

The brioche was placed on the hot grill for a very short time. This allowed it to get warm and develop some nice grill marks:)

Yum!!! Blackberries are my new favorite fruit. I really can't believe I used to pick these out of all fruit salads because I thought they looked strange. What the heck was I thinking!?!

We topped the mini brioche with a blackberry, honey and mint mixture.
(This dessert has already been recreated in my kitchen and will most likely be created again and again and again.)

Peaches and onion were sauteed with ICBINB, curry, cinnamon, salt and white pepper.

The peach and onion mixture was tossed with the peppery arugula.

Herb goat cheese was added to both the salad and sandwiches.

I always said I didn't like goat cheese, that is until I tried Capriole Herb goat cheese. Yum!

Once the food was all prepared we brought it out to the front of Splice Kitchen where the 4 of us could sit down and enjoy the meal.

A look at my plate:

Toasted bread with ICBINB spray, garlic, eggplant, basil, grilled onions and goat cheese (everyone else had tomato but I'm not a fan so I skipped it). This sandwich was awesome! I wasn't sure what to think of it at first because I had never had eggplant and thought I was not a fan of goat cheese.

Times have changed because I can't wait to try and recreate this sandwich for my husband to try!

The salad was as good as I thought it was going to be. Arugula, goat cheese and sauteed onion and peaches. I can't believe how much better the arugula at the farmers market is than the stuff I buy in the store. The peppery flavor of the arugula was the perfect compliment to the sweet peaches.

Best corn on the cob of my life - period, point, blank!!!

I created this the very next day and my husband is just as big a fan as I am!

Excellent meal with a great group of people!

L-R: Chef Rhonda, Mara, Me, Jaclyn

I've been a fan of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for a long time. I love the fact that I can use the spray and put it exactly where I want it to be! I can't tell you how many times, while growing up, I made popcorn and ruined it by putting way to much butter on it. This scenario doesn't happen anymore because I can use the spray and put it exactly where I want it to be! A little goes a long way:)

New Foods for Tracey:
  • Eggplant
  • Brioche
  • Blackberries
  • Radishes
I would like to thank I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for putting together this event. It was such a fun and educational experience!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Saturday at the Farmers Market

It all started when Mara twittered about a Farmers Market tour she was attending for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (ICBINB). I responded and asked what it was about and boy am I glad I did. The next day Lauren, a rep of ICBINB, contacted me to see if I would like to participate in the tour, too. No need to think twice about this one, I was all in!

Saturday rolled around and I was excited. I taxied my way to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. This is the only year-round farmers' market featuring local farmers. Love that all this great food comes from close by.

Once at the market I met up with Jaclyn, the ICBINB rep for Saturday's outing, chef Rhonda Cady and Mara. It was such a blast strolling the market with these 3 ladies. I had a great time and learned a lot!

This was my first time shopping here this year. I forgot about all the diverse items available in this one spot. Let's go on a photo tour, shall we?

Ginormous cucumbers:

Goat Cheese, to be used in the salad and sandwich:


It was so humid outside. When Mara suggested smoothies I was all in!

I opted for the Raspberry and Peach smoothie. This smoothie was the best. Refreshing and light, just what I needed!

Beautiful radishes.

Millions of peaches...peaches for me. Okay, who can name the band that sang that song?

A big smile came across my face when Chef Rhonda shared her idea of sauteing onion and peaches in ICBINB and then adding it to arugula. I couldn't wait to see how this creation would turn out!

Love that we were able to taste the fruits before we purchased. All of them were awesome but Mick Klug Farm from St. Joseph, MI was my favorite.

Herbs/Greens. We grabbed some basil for the sandwich, mint for the dessert and arugula for the salad.

The bread at the market looked and smelled amazing. I can't remember what type of bread we ended up getting but I do know it was very good!

After we picked out all of our Farmers Market finds we headed to Splice Kitchen to get cooking!

And we had a wonderful spread of farmers market finds and ICBINB to work with!

Check back tomorrow to see what Chef Rhonda created with all this good stuff! Everything was delicious and I've already recreated a couple dishes:)

fyi ... If you want to see some amazing photography from the Green City Market, check out Mara's post.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday at Benny's Steakhouse

Yesterday was my birthday and my husband went all out to make sure it was a good one.

I got all dressed up since it was a celebration:

He made reservations at a new steakhouse named Benny's. The owner Benny Siddu is also the owner of my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago, Volare. If this man makes my favorite pasta I couldn't wait to see what he could do with steak!

I've tried many steakhouses and I'm going on record: Benny's is the best all-around steakhouse in Chicago! Nothing but the best at this place. From the food to the service everything was perfect. At the end of the night my husband and I both agreed this was the best service we have ever had at a restaurant.

The dinning room:

Our booth:

Once we got to Benny's I was surprised to see my husband planned to have roses on the table and a bottle of great champagne chilling in a bucket.

First dish was a fabulous Potato Gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and basil. This was the BEST gnocchi I've ever put in my mouth. The taste, texture and aroma were all perfection!

Second dish was Grilled Romaine salad with garlic-lemon vinaigrette. I've never had grilled romaine and I've been missing out. The flavor of the grilled lettuce with the garlic-lemon vinaigrette and the shaved cheese was the perfect combination.

I could eat this salad every day of my life!

Third dish was an All Natural USDA Prime Filet Mignon. This is the first time I've had grass fed steak as well as the first time I've had steak at Benny's. I'm not sure which of these two firsts contributed to my decision that this was the best steak of my life and I don't care. I know one thing, this steak was AMAZING. It just melted in my mouth and the flavor was like no steak I've ever had before.

Our side dish was the Broccoli with Wisconsin cheddar gratin. This was good but didn't live up to the perfection of the other dishes. It was a bit to buttery for me.

And what is a birthday without cake. Yet, again this was the best piece of Chocolate Layer Cake to ever touch my lips. The cake was moist and the fudge buttercream frosting had the perfect amount of sweetness to it.

The mix of the rich chocolate cake and the refreshing raspberry sauce was nothing short of excellence. Presentation is gorgeous.

If you love steak and love great service you will love Benny's.

Now, if only I could afford to eat here everyday!!!