Tag Archives: Chicago

Chicago Marathon Recap: The Food

You didn’t think I was going to give you a Chicago Marathon recap without talking about food, did you?! I wish that I had a glowing food post for you like I did last time I was in Chicago, but unfortunately this trip was more about the race than it was the food, and I didn’t get to visit everywhere I wanted. At least that just means it’s an excuse to go back!

As I mentioned in my race recap, we were up early and off to the expo on Saturday morning, so breakfast was a stop at Starbucks next to our hotel. After the expo, though, we headed to Native Foods Café for lunch, which happened to be just around the corner from our hotel. It’s actually a chain, but only has a few locations; mostly in Chicago, California, and Colorado (guess they like C states!). I had searched for vegetarian restaurants prior to the trip, and since this was around the corner and had good reviews, I knew we had to check it out. After quickly browsing the menu, Andy ordered their Portobello “Sausage” burger with a side of seasoned fries, while I opted for the Twister Wrap [salad greens, fresh avocado and cucumber salsa, creamy chipotle sauce and your choice of crispy, blackened, or grilled Native “chicken” in an organic whole wheat wrap] with a side of kale, and we split their lavender lemonade.

The food was awesome. The Native “chicken” looked, felt, and tasted like chicken (I opted for it blackened), and they didn’t skimp on the avocado which I always appreciate. And Andy, not a vegetarian (but woefully eats as one most of the time) really enjoyed his burger, too. I would have loved to try everything on their menu, but unfortunately our trip only allowed us to visit once. I would love to have a vegetarian restaurant like that around me!

After a trip to Target and relaxing our legs for a bit, we headed off to dinner at Rosebud Theater District. Our main goal for dinner on Saturday night was very simple: pasta. So, the obvious choice was to search for a nearby Italian restaurant. Despite staying in the financial district of the city, we had a lot of options that were open on Saturday night (though there were equally as many that were closed). The restaurant had the best reviews out of every walkable place I researched, so we made a reservation prior to our trip in order to secure a spot. We started off sharing a house salad and bruschetta, which was delicious. They topped their bruschetta with fresh mozzarella, which I really enjoyed. Of course I had my fair share of the table’s bread, which they served with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I’ve never thought to mix parmesan cheese into olive oil for dipping, but you better believe I’m going to do it now! By the time we were finishing up our appetizers, dinner arrived and we dug in. I ordered the penne alla vodka and while it may not have been the safest option, it was vegetarian and I had a pretty good feeling it wouldn’t upset my stomach (thankfully I was right). I would love to go back on an evening where I could enjoy some wine!

Our final meal in the city was at Giordano’s for deep dish Chicago style pizza. I know there are a lot of different restaurants that offer deep dish pizza in the city, but we actually visited this restaurant four years ago on my first trip to Chicago. As we were being walked to our seat, we both looked at each other and at the same time echoed; “seriously? This is exactly where we sat four years ago!” I mean, what are the chances of that?! Since the pizza is made to order and we were finally gaining our hunger back post-marathon, we ordered some parmesan fries to share while waiting for our pizza. We ordered our pizza with onions, peppers, and jalapenos, and it was awesome. We even made sure to get a pizza big enough to bring some back to the hotel, since we both knew our hunger would rage late into the night; and it did. I’m a New York style pizza girl all the way, but sometimes it’s nice to change it up and do what I like to call ‘knife and forking it.’

Now, I wouldn’t typically make note of airport food. I purposely didn’t mention the food we ate at Newark Airport because it was awful. I do, however, feel the need to mention the food I had at Chicago O’Hare. Since we were flying United, we were stationed in Terminal B right next to the most delicious airport food I’ve ever experienced – Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. If you are even remotely into food, and more specifically Mexican and Southwestern food, then you know the name Rick Bayless. As you all know I am obsessed with both food, and more specifically, Mexican/Southwestern food. So as soon as I saw that name attached to a sign hanging next to our gate, I insisted on getting something. I double checked Yelp an FourSquare reviews, and it was no surprise to see phenomenal reviews. After quickly doing a once-over of the menu, I ordered the rosted garlic mushroom torta which had crimini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, chipotle garlic mojo, goat cheese, black beans, and arugula. It was heaven between two pieces of crusty bread.

Just like I can’t wait to run my next marathon, I can’t wait to head back to Chicago to enjoy the city more. Hopefully, I won’t be waiting another four years to make my return!

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Filed under Food Review, Pizza, Restaurant, Running, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan

Another Marathon on the Horizon

It’s hard to believe that this coming Sunday, I’ll be running my third marathon (within less than a year)! I wish that I could say I’m going into this race super confident for a big ‘ole PR, but I don’t want to jinx myself. Training was lackluster (per the usual), so I’m hoping just to come in under my 4:37 PR. I think it’s totally doable based on two very important facts (in my eyes): I know I can complete a marathon, and I’m a much stronger runner than I was last time.

Checkout the sweet App you can download for the race!

Even though my training wasn’t any better than it was for the Philly Marathon despite trying to convince myself “this time would be different,” I know that over the course of the last year I’ve become so much stronger as a runner in general. Sure, I may not be strong enough to shave off 30 minutes like I was originally hoping (though my half marathon time will tell you otherwise), but I know that I can beat 4:37 (as long as something doesn’t go horribly wrong).

My plan is to run with a pace group. I’ve never run with a pacer before, but in most races where they are available, I try to keep my eyes on them if possible (this was especially helpful for my half marathon PR). The problem I had running Philly is one that novice marathoners know all too well – I went out too fast, despite feeling great and still being on the “slower side,” and by mile 16 I wanted to be done, and by mile 21 I wanted to cry. This time, I’m hoping that if I’m forced to run slower (they make you wear an extra bib on your back to be a part of the group in this race), I can at least keep it at a more-than-comfortable pace for the first three quarters, and then, if I’m still feeling like it’s easy (as a relative term, of course) I can pick it up and finish strong. Even if I run with the pace group I’m planning to run with the entire time (the reach pace is 4:10 and the hopefully easy option is 4:25), I’ll still tackle a 12 minute PR, which is pretty respectable if you ask me.

Can you tell I’m trying to talk myself into this being a good race? Whatever it takes!

In all seriousness, as we get closer, I’m excited. Truthfully, I was dreading it a few weeks ago, really fearing I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I know better than that – I can do it. It may not be a stellar performance, but I’m running my THIRD marathon! That has to count for something, right? Plus, it’s in one of my favorite cities, and the thought of getting to go there (even if just for a long weekend) makes it all worth it. I can’t wait to devour some cupcakes at Molly’s and probably eat my weight in deep dish pizza.

Alright, who else is running Chicago? 
Any last minute tips/words of encouragement?! 

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Filed under Running

Pelican Bay Key Lime Cupcake Mix: Refreshingly Delicious

One of my birthday gifts from a co-worker included a box of Pelican Bay’s key lime cupcake mix. Since I was going to a barbecue at her place on the 3rd, I figured it’d be nice to bring the cupcakes along with me, so she could enjoy some of my present. I was also able to transport them in my cupcake carrier, which was so convenient!

The mix itself was super easy – there were just two bags inside the box, one for the cake, and one for the frosting. Aside from the mix, I only needed some eggs, milk, oil, cream cheese, and butter. After combining all the ingredients I was able to sit back and relax; something that was more than welcomed in Saturday’s heat! I decided to add a little pizzaz  to the cupcakes by adding some sprinkles I had left over.

Everyone really enjoyed the cupcakes, and it was nice to have minimal work in the kitchen. I love baking, don’t get me wrong, but I always feel like I make a mess; so many bowls, spoons, and measuring cups, followed by the waiting (I’m very impatient). I haven’t been a fan of cream cheese based frostings since I got sick from a red velvet cupcake at Phoebe’s in Chicago, so I’m wary about making them. However, these had just the right amount of cheese and sweet ratio, and the lime was potent but not over the top, leaving the cupcakes on the lighter-side which was nice since Saturday was so warm.

I’m interested to see what other mixes they have, and not just cupcakes but cakes and cookies, too! Unfortunately I have a few left over that I was forced to bring home because they still had so much food at the barbecue, and I then on Sunday after our four mile race, I started on some rum and coke brownies for the next barbecue (post coming soon!). Oh, and I still have birthday cake left over. Looks like I’ve got some serious eating to do!

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Filed under Baking, Cupcakes, Food Review

Chicago Food Round-up!

So this post has taken quite some time for me to finish. The reasons are two-fold; one, there is just SO much for me to talk about in regards to food in Chicago, and two, I got sick with a nasty cold almost as soon as I pulled into my driveway.

I can honestly say I’ve never been somewhere that had such a plethora of [delicious] food in such a small radius. You name the type of food, it’s available. They even have late night places open from 9p to 5a, for the sole purpose of feeding your midnight munchies!

That being said, I’ll do this the most economical way; day by day, meal by meal. So prepare yourself!

We arrived Friday evening after a grueling 12 hour drive. Not to waste any time, we checked into the super nice Belden Stratford Hotel (thanks, Orbitz!) and set out on our first culinary adventure. We weren’t sure what type of food we wanted, or even where to go, so we settled on our tried and true favorite, Mexican. The place was called El Nuevo Mexicano, and it was awesome! The place was small and loud with lots of talking, and great music. We each ordered a Mojito; mine regular and my boyfriend splurged for the pomegranate. The tortilla chips were nicely seasoned, and the salsa was spiced just right. I got the Combonation Vegetariana, which had a guacamole burrito, rice and bean chimichanga, and chile relleno, all served with rice and beans. I’ve had all of the aforementioned foods, but never in the specific combinations. A burrito solely stuffed with guacamole is satisfying in itself. Throw in some deep-friend rice and beans, almost like a Mexican eggroll, and a deep fried, stuffed with cheese chile smothered in sauce = heaven. I left full, with a smile on my face!

On the way home, we happened upon Molly’s Cupcakes, which was actually recommended by a friend (Serial Baker). Ecstatic over our first cupcake experience in Chicago, we ran into the store, forgetting our stuffed bellies. I’ve never seen a cupcake joint so crowded in my life! It was overflowing with people sipping huge cups of coffee, and chatting over delicious looking cupcakes. I ran up to the counter, and immediately started deliberating. Being in an extreme chocolate mood, I went for the Chocolate Decadence, while my boyfriend got the Pumpkin Spice. BEST. CUPCAKES. EVER. Mine was filled with chocolate mousse, and topped with two different types of chocolate ganache. As a chocolate lover, I couldn’t have asked for anything more! The pumpkin was also awesome; the spice and pumpkin ratio was perfect, with an almost cheesecake –like filling and icing. I really don’t think I could have asked for two better cupcakes!

Saturday morning we got up early, and trekked through the rain to the all famous Orange. A breakfast place known for its juices and frushi, I had only heard great things. Though, some of Yelp’s reviews left me a little wary. At any rate, we sat down and immediately got a water with a cucumber slice (nice and refreshing), and some orange infused coffee. The coffee was okay; it tasted more like a tea, and reminded me a  bit of a mixed drink. We then ordered some frushi, which was absolutely delicious. It was coconut rice wrapped around either kiwi or watermelon… yum! I went for the #11.5 omlette that had bacon, leeks, and brie cheese, along with toast and delicious breakfast potatoes. My boyfriend went for the chai tea French toast. Both were decent, but nothing to write home about. The French toast was a little soggy, and the eggs were good, but could have used more cheese. Overall I enjoyed the experience, but wasn’t floored.

We continued our mediocre eating day by stumbling upon Phoebe’s Cupcakes, a place I had found from the Cupcakes Take The Cake blog. I went for the red velvet, and my boyfriend got a red licorice cupcake. I couldn’t have been more disappointed! It feels blasphemous to even write about a subpar cupcake, but someone’s gotta do it. The cake itself was really good. The icing, however, not so much. It was WAY too cheesy, to the point where I couldn’t even finish it. My boyfriend’s, however, was good. I’m going to chalk it up to a bad batch of icing, but it’s definitely ruined red velvet for me for awhile. Such a shame. On a brighter note, though, they did have cupcake flavored coffee that was amazing! I couldn’t put my finger on the flavor combination, but it was just right without any milk or sugar.

We spent the rest of our Saturday at The Lawrence Arms 10 year anniversary show which was awesome, despite me feeling sick from the aforementioned cupcake. Afterwards, we stopped at The Weiner’s Circle to get ourselves a Chicago dog. I was skeptical about liking a hot dog with pickles, hot peppers, and relish, but I really liked it! It’s definitely something I would get again. The place itself was also quite an experience; the help talked back to every drunk person looking for a late night snack, and didn’t take anyone’s crap. I was actually afraid to place my order, in case I messed up. Thankfully, since I was sober, they treated me with respect. Others weren’t so lucky.

Since Sunday was our last full day, we decided to spend most of it doing touristy things like visiting Millennium Park and the Willis (Sears) Tower.  We decided to start the day off with breakfast at The Bongo Room. Now let me tell you, I’m actually not much of a breakfast person; I tend to shy away from it when given the option. But Chicago has definitely showed me how delicious it can be! We decided to share plates this time, as every thing on the menu sounded amazing, and we couldn’t decide on one thing each. Being a lover of Mexican food, I tend to judge places on their burritos. Naturally, we got the breakfast burrito, and one of their daily specials; French toast smothered in cream, caramel and caramelized apples, along with a side of Thai chicken sausage. Every single thing I tried there was phenomenal. Everyone around us had something equally delicious looking on their plates. If I had the stomach for it, I would have tried everything. It seemed like most tables each got their own dishes, and then shared one of their yummy sounding pancake options. I would go back there in a heartbeat; the 45 minute wait was more than worth it!

We ended our trip with some Chicago style pizza. I had searched on Yelp while waiting in line at the Willis Tower, and decided on Giordano’s, which was around the corner. After tweeting about it, some locals gave me a hard time, telling me I should have gone to a few other places. Unfortunately, they were too late. I’m not sure what the huff and puff was about, though, because I really enjoyed Giordano’s! We decided to get the pie stuffed with onions, peppers, and broccoli. I was never really interested in the concept of a stuffed pizza with the sauce on top. After having it, though, I’m a fan. We only got a 10 inch pie to share, and wound up bringing more than half of it home which was convenient for snacking on the 12 hour drive back!

All in all, I think I gained anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds (I was too afraid to actually weigh myself), but it was totally worth it. While we were there, we walked everywhere, and I couldn’t help but take note of all the people out for jogs. Now I understand. If you live in that city and aren’t afraid to eat, you need to work it off some how! Needless to say Chicago is vying for the top spot on my list for best cities. And when it comes to food, it’s definitely number one.

So here are the pictures of everything mentioned above. Let the salivating commence!

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Filed under Pizza, Restaurant, Spanish Food, Travel