28 September 2014

austin, texas : uchi.

the first of seven (yes, seven!) blog posts from austin.

starting off reeeeeeally strong at uchi, a japanese/sushi restaurant in the south austin neighborhood. since me & one of my fellow travelers (hi, carly!) were on a much earlier flight to austin, we jumped at the opportunity to eat here ... we had heard really great things.

first ... a bit about uchi : "the essence of japanese cuisine is the ingre­di­ents. at uchi, we prepare our dishes using inno­va­tive food combi­na­tions for the most unique dining expe­ri­ence in austin." sign me up.

second ... uchi has a separate vegan/vegetarian menu, which contains many, many, many items that are vegan or can be prepared as such. 

third ... besides the amazing food, we had a pretty major celebrity sighting in the form of justin long. très exciting.

anywho, here's what we had ...

bond makimono :
avocado, sun-dried tomato, gobo & soy paper.
much more special than your average veggie roll. delicious.

shishito age : 
blistered shishito peppers.
this was a typical "can't go wrong by ordering shishitos" situation. uchi did not let me down at all.

brussels sprouts :
chili sauce.
soooo good. 1. it was a huge serving. 2. we devoured them.

age dofu :
fried tofu.
gotta get some protein in at the end of the meal ... maybe the best age tofu i've ever had! the perfect crisp on the outside. 

to sum up ... uchi is a must stop spot if you are in austin ... i want to go back! 

801 s. lamar
austin, texas 78704

24 September 2014

beezzee fresh food.

i was doing whole30 for a minute (ok, 30 days, duh) ... so when i was meeting up with a friend to grab a bite (hi, tedi!), we had to find something whole30 compliant & tasty at the same time. (haha.)

my pal suggested beezzee fresh food on sheffield in lakeview. a little spot, perfect for something quick & healthy... oh, and they "specialize in crafting mouth-watering food." niiiice.

here's what i had ...

carrot-apple-ginger juice & build-your-own salad :
 the build your own aspect was clutch for me. very fresh ... can't ask for much else. and the juice was amazing, so that was also a plus plus plus.

beezzee is just so fresh & healthy by nature, i know i'll be back. so if you're in the hood & need something quick, check them out.

beezzee fresh food
2807 n. sheffield ave.
chicago, il 60657

17 September 2014

deep in the heart of texas : austin.

welp, gang ... it's travel time again!! this time -- off to austin, texas i go!!

i am so excited to be going on this trip. here's why.

1. it's staring to get cold in chicago ... austin will be HOT.
2. i've done a plethora of research & let me tell you ... imma bout to eat some GOOD FOOD.
3. my lady friends & i have never taken a real girls' trip ... so just generally pumped for that.

the travel buggs :
melissa, joelle, me & carly

carly, melissa, me & joelle.


anyway ... stand by for some awesome austin eats coming up over the next couple months ... & be excited. frealz

14 September 2014

the dawson.

literally all summer, my girls & i have been discussing getting dinner & drinks at the dawson over at the six corners (halsted, milwaukee & grand) in west loop / river west ... not joking. all summer. but for whatever reason, we could just never pick the right date.

well, eventually -- carly & i decided to just go. we needed to get some last minute patio time in ... and if it was a winner, we'd be back with the rest of the gang.

a bit of history on the dawson : "this site was originally connected to a cluster of buildings owned by the dawson brothers.... [they] operated one of the most successful fireplace mantle companies in the u.s. at the turn of the last century. the dawson seeks to recreate the pioneering, artistic, & straightforward attitude ... by providing a restaurant, bar, & gathering place that celebrates the craft of food, drink & hospitality." sounds cool, right?

here's what i had ...

stone fruit salad :
lola rosa, pickled onion, pistachio, pluot vinaigrette.
after a quick google search to find out what lola rosa is (it's a lettuce.) ... i was sold on the stone fruit salad. great flavor. very unique. would definitely order again.

chickpea panisse :
also required googling ... think vegan chickpea mozzarella sticks ... weird at first, but then i was kind of obsessed with them. i kind of wish there was a vegan sauce to go with them, but beggars can't be choosers.

blistered shishito peppers :
hawaiian black salt. 
obviously i ordered these. obviously they were delicious.

i definitely enjoyed my dinner at the dawson. however, carly -- not so much. so will we be back with the rest of the group? i'm not sure. but i know i'll be back, either way. 

the dawson
730 w. grand ave.
chicago, il 60654

10 September 2014

second time around : balena.

back to basics here ... "italian inspired. honest cooking."

i said this after my last visit to balena, but how good does that sound?? since i went forever ago, i've been wanting eat there again with josh. so a couple weeks back, we landed there for a nice little date night.

the menu & vegan options = totally different this time around. here's what i had ...

grilled zucchini :
calabrian vinaigrette, mint & almonds.
 zucchini is questionable to me sometimes ... this version was the absolute best preparation i have ever had. (take that, fig & olive.) even josh thought it was amazing. must have been the calabrian vinaigrette. not sure when calabrian chilies became so popular, but i'm very pleased about it. where can i get my hands on some??

 bavette :
pomodoro, basil & olive oil.
i don't know if i was just starving when i got to balena or what, but i inhaled this bowl of pasta. so simple = so delicious in my book. really, just so so good.

seems like the menu at balena is ever evolving ... and with such great, simple, italian fare ... i don't know how anyone could not want to visit again & again & again. 

1633 n. halsted street
chicago, il 60614

07 September 2014

le pain quotidien.

when le pain quotidien opened on armitage ave. in lincoln park, there was quite a bit of excitement ... even though it's a chain, & an international one at that (it started in brussels), that doesn't mean that they don't have some actually very tasty plates. not fast food, but not fine dining ... it's the perfect spot to pop in.

their mantra, you ask? : "when you start with ingredients that are simple & pure — great bread, fresh fruits & vegetables, and the sweetest jams and preserves — it’s not hard to make a menu that tastes special. every item that we offer combines our just-baked breads with thoughtful, seasonal ingredients."

but also? the vegan items on their menu are clearly marked as such ... especially exciting on such a european-influenced menu.

anyway, here's what i had ...

organic lentil & avocado salad :
raw vegetables, arugula, frisee, flax seed & basil vinaigrette.
a lovely lunch salad ... obviously high-end ingredients ... very tasty. basically a win, win, win situation.

much like blue door farm stand, lpq (that's short for le pain quotidien) is definitely going to become a regular stop for me ... & since my first visit, two more locations have opened up (gold coast & west loop). so the rest of the city can enjoy this lovely place, too. 

le pain quotidien
1000 w. armitage ave.
chicago, il 60614

03 September 2014

macku signature sushi.

my group of gals is always looking for a new sushi place to try. so when someone (hi, b!) suggested macku signature sushi on halsted in lincoln park ... i jumped at the opportunity to try it. i had heard good things, so why not?

about macku : "the menu at macku is defined by a unique palette of ingredients, textures & flavors. dishes combin sweet with savory, along with hints of spices and smokiness. above all, every dish has a unified intention, a clear vision. that vision belongs to chef/owner macku chan." beautiful!

here's what i had ...

miso soup : 
wakame, tofu, green onions & jalapeños.
as miso soup is generally not vegan (boo, fish broth), i was so excited when our server told me the macku version is ... i obviously added jalapeños for some extra spice ... warn & delicious. 

tofu salad :
fresh tofu, mixed greens, tomato salsa, wafu dressing.
non-vegan fryer at macku, so i went for the fresh tofu. this was surprisingly tasty. unusual-ish flavors for a japanese restaurant ... but in a definite good way.

avocado & white asparagus roll : 
basic. tevs.

in summation ... miso soup = great. tofu salad = good. roll = fine. if you've got a hankering for vegan miso soup, i'd say it's worth the trip.

macku signature sushi
2925 n. halsted street
chicago, il 60657

01 September 2014

mia francesca.

happy labor day, everyone! hope you all had a nice weekend. we did. :)

anywho ... back to business. even though i've lived in chicago / chicagoland my entire life, i had never been to any of the francesca's restaurants ... surprising, right? i don't know why ... i just hadn't! so we decided to head over to our local joint : mia francesca on clark in lakeview, the first & original.

about this group : "when chef scott harris opened the doors to mia francesca on north clark street in 1992, he created a trend in the chicago restaurant scene that has become a benchmark for urban dining." true. like i said, what was i waiting for?

here's what i had ...

insalata della casa :
hearts of palm, avocado & tomato. 
simple & delicious. something i will definitely be replicating at home... easy enough, right? kind of a perfect lunch salad.

verdure pasta :
farfalle w/ peppers, eggplant, broccoli & zucchini. 
a nice mix of veggies ... but the actual pasta was kind of meh, sadly. also, sometimes i forget i don't love eggplant & then it ends up on my plate & i'm sad.

with so many francesca's options around town, i don't see how it's possible that i don't head back at some point. classic chicago italian fare. enjoy!

mia francesca
3311 n. clark street
chicago, il 60657