29 December 2013

eataly : le verdure.

hope everyone had a nice holiday! looking forward to kicking off 2014 with some awesome eats!

anywho, after a slight hiatus, i'm back with a trip to the infamous eataly, a market & restaurant space with over 20 different eateries located right downtown ... oh, and did i mention that chef mario batali is one of the founding partners?

when my gal pals & i went about a week after it opened, we obviously opted to dine at le verdure ... featuring all vegetarian & vegan dishes.

"le verdure is an eatery that celebrates a menu entirely devoted to italian-style vegetable dishes. our popular dishes are inspired by the seasonal vegetables & flavors of italy, including daily soup specials, bruschette & hearty platters to satisfy any palate." beautiful.

here's what i had ...

insalata tricolore :
radicchio, endive & arugula salad w/ balsamic vinaigrette. 
your basic greens salad.

fritto misto :
seasonal vegetables fried in extra virgin olive oil.
can you really go wrong with food fried like so? my favorite was the broccoli. mmm.

verdure alla piastra :
a selection of warm vegetables & farro salad in a nebbiolo vinaigrette.
 good, but i was expecting something a bit more exciting. delicious, nonetheless.


bonus feature from downstairs at the gelato bar (lait gelato) downstairs ... 

sorbetto :
banana & dark chocolate.
tasted like candy bananas instead of real bananas -- ergo, i loved.

eataly is definitely a fun place ... lots of foods to try & great environment. i mean, let's be honest ... anywhere you can grab a bottle of wine, then walk around shopping & eating is good in my book.

--
eataly
43 e. ohio street
chicago, il 60611

18 December 2013

quesadilla la reina del sur.

it's time for another vegan-co-workers-night-out featuring katie & tnaya! this time, we headed over to bucktown for some mexican food at the lovely quesadilla la reina del sur, a completely vegan & vegetarian spot located over near western & fullerton.

after takito, i was still craving tacos. quesadilla la reina del sur definitely hit the spot for any mexican food want i was experiencing.

their website states : "our environment is a perfect place to bring your family & friends to enjoy delicious mexican vegetarian cuisine. we pay attention to every detail to make your meal a memorable experience." yessss.

while i was tempted to order the "super burrito (huge) * beware, this is a beast of a burrito" ... i didn't. here's what i had ...

desintoxicante smoothie:
 cactus, pineapple, papaya & cilantro.
muy refreshing! 

salsas :
the bright ones were muy picante. obviously, i loved this.

guacamole :
traditional guac = good guac.

asada de soya taco :
soy-based steak.
the usual disclaimer -- i don't eat a lot of fake meat.
i can safely say ... this is the best fake meat i have ever had. the flavoring was spot on, but not so exact that you thought you were eating meat. and the texture was great. but again, not meat-like. don't ask me how they do it. generally awesome.

tamale :
homemade vegan tamale w/ green salsa & soy chicken.
i haven't had a tamale since i became vegan ... so when i saw this, i knew i had to get it. does it look appealing in this picture? no. did it taste freaking amazing? yes.

tinga quesadilla :
soy-based shredded marinated chicken & vegan cheese.
again, not photographing well. i felt like i had to open it, though, to see the insides ... since the outside was just a closed tortilla. anyway ... again, the faux chicken was fab. seasoned well & a great texture.

rice pudding :
by time dessert rolled around, i was so full from my delicious dinner. so i got this and ate it for breakfast the next morning. #win.

quesadilla la reina del sur might just be one of my new favorite restaurants in the city. i can't wait to go back asap ...

--
quesadilla la reina del sur
2235 n. western avenue
chicago, il 60647

15 December 2013

urbanbelly.

well, i've finally made it to all three bill kim restaurants ... the finale being dinner at urbanbelly.

urbanbelly recently moved from it's former avondale location to right next door to bellyq, aka right near my office. woo!

after glowing reviews from some of my co-workers, one of my gal pals, jessie, & i decided to stop in for a quick dinner last week. and let me say, we were both very glad we did.

basically, "urbanbelly is about the communal dining experience. meet new people. eat great food. feed your belly from the heart." does it get much better?

here's what i had ...


mushroom pho :
rice noodles w/ tofu, bok choy, sprouts, jalapeño & thai basil.
(no mushrooms. yes, i'm serious.)
ok, so after i discovered my love for the vegan ramen at wasabi, i think it's safe to say that i am a fan of a mushroom base broth. no actual mushroom chunks, so ok, we're all good. i was still nervous about it here, too ... but this was freaking delicious. and such an ideal dinner dish for this cold weather. great flavor, lots of tofu & noodles ... overall, win.

pea shoot fried rice bowl :
jasmine fried rice with tofu, organic pea shoots & thai basil. no egg.
k, let's be honest. fried rice is generally amazing. this version? beyond amazing. so flavorful, so fresh & so perfectly prepared. this is some legit comfort food that i could eat all day, everyday.

there are a few other items on the menu that are vegan or can be prepared vegan ... so it's safe to say i'll be back soon.


oh -- by the way ... we were treated to a chef bill kim sighting. (eek!)

--
urbanbelly
1400 w. randolph street
chicago, il 60607

11 December 2013

takito kitchen.

last saturday, josh & i made a somewhat impromptu visit takito kitchen over in wicker park on w. division street.

un poquito about takito ... "takito kitchen features mexican-inspired cuisine ... seasonal shared plates, ceviche, tacos, soups & more with a focus on fresh ingredients and complex flavors, all tucked inside a homemade tortilla."

ok, so i have been surriously craving tacos lately. i don't know what it is. maybe i am just dreaming of the warmth of mexico in the midst of this horrific cold we've been experiencing in the aptly named windy city as of late. (k, i know that's not why we are called that. but it fits on both levels, amirite?)

here's what i had ...

caliente margarita :
lime, agave, chipotle, morita, cointreau, corazón blanco. 
wow, yum. i love spicy, so i was super excited about this. delicious &, more importantly, strong

all three salsas & escabeche w/ masa crackers :
listed in order of preference since i don't remember which was which ...
tomato hibiscus ghost pepper : tomato, onions, garlic, hibiscus tea, ghost pepper, cilantro.
seasonal escabeche : pickled vegetables & chilis. 
seasonal smoky salsa : lo siento, i don't remember the ingredients.
tomatillo pistachio : tomatillo, roasted onions, roasted garlic, pistachio, roasted serrano chile, arugula, cilantro. 
in all honesty, all the salsas were super sabroso. buuut i wasn't obsessed with the masa crackers. for me, i want some crunchy, salty tortilla chips when i am eating salsa. these were almost graham cracker-like. don't get me wrong, i still snarfed.

avocado pine nut puree :
pickled garlic, jalapeño & cilantro.
code for fancy guacamole in the best way. this was awesome. and i thought the masa crackers were better with this than the salsas. don't know why ... the real win, though, occurred when we mixed a bit of this + the ghost pepper salsa.

vegan tacos :
corn torilla, roasted vegetables, seasonal salsa, sesame & arugula.
the fact that there is a pre-vegan-item on the menu all the time makes takito generally amazing in my book. these were good ... my only issue was the inclusion of a sweet potato/squash type. i mean, i get that the tacos are seasonal, but i just decided i am not a big fan of those veg, in general. otherwise, perfection.

takito is a great, casual spot for lunch, dinner ... and most certainly drinks. i plan to try the cucumber margarita next time. if you find yourself in the area, i highly recommend.

--
takito kitchen
2013 w. division street
chicago, il 60603

04 December 2013

greek islands.

lucky josh had all of thanksgiving week off from work ... so one day, he drove down to the west loop to have lunch with me! after much discussion, we decided to head to greektown ... specifically : greek islands, located at the corner of s. halsted & w. adams.

a bit about this lovely restaurant : "greek islands is proud to import its own extra virgin olive oil, wine, cheeses, seafood, olives, herbs & spices directly from greece ... we only use healthy, natural & fresh ingredients in our cooking." oh, great! who doesn't love healthy, natural & fresh ingredients?? i know i do.  

here's what i had ...


three cold spreads :
from the top, clockwise.
fava : traditional greek spread from chickpeas. kind of like a thicker hummus.
skordalia : smooth garlic-potato spread, blended with imported extra virgin olive oil. sooo good. i always forget how much i like skordalia. greek islands provided a pleasant reminder.
melitzanosalata : freshly roasted eggplant, blended with garlic, potatoes & olive oil. my favorite of the three. super flavorful & delicious.

village salad :
vine tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions & green pepper. 
after all those tasty spreads ... i knew i'd want something light. simple & fresh - can't ask for much more. 

greek islands is one of those classic chicago places (it's been around since 1971!) ... that you really just can't miss.

also ... any fans of my big fat greek wedding? our server's name was nick. #win.

--
greek islands
200 s. halsted street
chicago, il 60661

01 December 2013

jellyfish.

hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving! i know we did! back to business ...

last weekend, i got dinner with two lovely friends / co-workers (hi, erin & jenny!) ... we decided to head to the gold coast ... jellyfish on rush street, to be exact.

per their website, "jellyfish [is] an intimate pan-asian restaurant & lounge ... an escape from the crowded sidewalks below into a space that is exotic & distinctly chicago ... where the inspiration draws from the beauty & rhythm of these mysterious creatures." wowza.

but the best part, you ask? ...

hello, jellyfish vegan menu. 
woohoo!

we all know how much i love a secret vegan menu. so i was super pumped about this. and per the usual ... it was a small-plates-sharing type of place. here's what we had ...

shishito peppers :
soy sauce. no bonito flakes. (duh.)
to sum up ... we ate one whole plate ... then ordered a second. that's how much we loved these. #yum. 

veggie delight :
organic lettuce, tofu, soy paper, kampyo + avocado.
i love any vegan roll that isn't just a plain avocado, cucumber, asparagus, etc., etc., etc. ergo, i thought this was delicious.

edamame w/ garlic chili sauce. 
oops. forgot to take a picture. but you can guess what it looked & tasted like.

togarashi fries :
togarashi dusted w/ ketchup.  
erin & i can't pass on any form of french fries. a little out of place with the rest of the food we ate, sure ... but crispy perfection, nonetheless.

jellyfish was quite quite tasty ... i'm looking forward to heading back to try the rest of the vegan menu!

--
jellyfish
1009 n. rush street
2nd floor
chicago, il 60611