Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cochon555: Chicago Tour Stop 2016


I love pork. Probably more than I should! So when the opportunity to attend Cochon555 came up, it was a no-brainer. This past Sunday, April 24th, Cochon555 was held at the Loews Chicago Hotel and we had our restaurant editor attend on our behalf to enjoy all things pork! It was an amazing culinary experience, but more on that in a bit...

So what exactly is Cochon555? This event was created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs. The event series started from a thread of conversations where family farmers struggled to educate chefs, restaurants looked to source exceptional ingredients, and consumers sought out responsibly raised proteins. They all converged into one idea: the ultimate quest of flavor. The tour is aligned with the modern-day good food movement — notable chefs, barrier-breaking women and men, artist-like butchers, spirited bartenders and brazen pastry talent. Together, they highlight all things pig and even incorporate some culinary competition.

This year’s competing chefs included Host Chef Cory Morris of Rural Society, Alfredo Nogueira of Analogue, Phillip Foss of EL Ideas, Sarah Rinkavage of Lula Cafe and winning chef Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio who took home top honorsThe chefs prepared show-stopping dishes using whole heritage-breed pigs from family farms in a head to tail showcase for a crowd of pork-loving gourmands. Chef Sarah won the event with a Mangalitsa breed of pig raised by Meadowbrook Farm. Originating from Hungary in the early 1800’s, the Mangalitsa is a very rare breed characterized by its course, wooly coat and ability to withstand extreme conditions. It is known for its high-quality, lard-type fat and high percentage of marbling, which worked in tandem with Chef Sarah’s winning menu of six uniquely created delicious bites that celebrated Chicago’s diverse culinary neighborhoods. Dishes included: Southside - Bar-b-Q Rib Rillettes: Lard, Whole Rib, Shoulder, West Loop - Pig Skin Tortellini in Brodo: Lard, Bones, Skin, Shoulder, Feet, Back Fat, Chinatown - Xi’an Spicy Pork Flatbread: Lard, Belly, Ham, Coppa, Ukrainian Village - Offal-ly Pierogi: Lard, Kidney, Heart, Brain, Cheek, Pilson - Tamales De Cabeza & Piggy Backs: Lard, Head, Ears, Tongue and Little Italy - Crema di Lardo Cannoli: Lard, Back Fat.

"Cochon555 has been an very delicious and very satisfying experience. I was very honored to participate. I got to taste forty scrumptious bites prepared by chefs paired with artisan wines from the best winemakers in the county. 
Cochon555's events benefit Piggy Bank, a genetic sanctuary that will provide free heritage breed pigs to emerging family farms and culinary schools. Guests are united with the who’s who of the good food movement helping to raise monies to support the first open-source platform for family farming. 
Two of my favorite bites were the PB&J from Rural Society: peanut butter pork liver mousse and raspberry rhubarb jelly on toasted brioche and the Empanadas: smoked pork belly with scrambled eggs and ramp chimichurri. 
I never had steak tartare before, but Creekstone Farm's steak tartare with pickled beef hearts, ramp ravigote and crispy mustard greens were so good that I had a couple of bites! 
Analogue's breakfast bite, Ham and Eggs: sugar cane glazed ham, quail egg, cracklin' cornbread, and creamed greens ... the silkiness of the yolk going over it completed the whole bite. 
The wine and cocktails were works of art! Breckenridge's bourbon presentation was spectacular. The mason jar was filled with smoke from burning wood and the bourbon and ice was poured over it. The aroma of the smoke and the depth of flavor of the bourbon paired very nicely. 
The kicker for me was the live butchering event. I haven't seen a pig broken down before and I learned a couple of things from watching the chefs. It takes a lot of skill and training to do such a feat in a record amount of time.   

To see homemade sausage made in front of my eyes was eye-opening. I'm considering to buy a sausage making attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and learn how to make some savory and spicy sausage. 
All in all, I had a great time at Cochon555. I ate, I drank, and I learned a lot from this culinary experience. I hope to attend next year's event!" - Jon, WCC's restaurant editor

A special thanks to Jon for attending on our behalf and sharing his experience! 

About Cochon555 U.S. Tour
The Cochon555 U.S. Tour, executes a variety of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs with the world’s first nose-to-tail pig competition. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breed pigs, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually with over 60 events. The tour also features a multitude of live-event expressions including Heritage BBQ (global cultures), Heritage Fire (live-fire event), EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium), All-Star Cochon (fan favorites) and Cochon Island (agri-tourism). All Cochon555 events cultivate a long-term impact for heritage species raised by family farms, reaching the top culinary markets in North America while promoting our sponsors’ messages to 16,000 guests by drawing from the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including 2,200+ chefs, 150+ family farms and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers and craft food makers they create authentic culinary events celebrating champions in the good food movement. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe, founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network, Piggy Bank’s mission is to create a heritage breed pig sanctuary that provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. The sanctuary will change the future of food by uniting a community working together for safer, responsible farming practices and sharing of genetics, livestock and the sharing of information. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agriculture platform through the responsible farming of heritage species. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, will raise pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding the model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith Dilley or visit

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eat A Dish for Make A Wish!

Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish® 2016

Last week, Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurants kicked off their annual “Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish” campaign. This special campaign, hosted by Maggiano's, is now on their 13th year in which they have partnered with Make-A-Wish®, a nonprofit organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. This year, Maggiano's have created a special Make-A-Wish feature menu to delight their guests between April 21st through June 29th as they give back to a noteworthy cause. I was recently invited to visit Maggiano's to check out their special menu, highlighting seasonal ingreidents and traditional flavors. Visit your neighborhood Maggiano's to see which of these delicious features your chef is serving, enjoy the wonderful eats and Maggiano's will made a donation to Make-A-Wish in your honor! Dishes you'll enjoy on their "Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish" menu include: 
Dylan’s Lemonade
Peach & Pomegranate Lemonade
Maggiano’s sponsored Dylan’s wish to travel to Italy

Asiago Crusted Shrimp
Mixed Greens, Smoked Bacon, Lemon Vinaigrette – available April 21 – May 25

Filet Mignon & Asparagus Risotto
Shiitake Mushrooms, Garlic, Steak Jus – available April 21 – May 25
 In participating restaurants, Filet Mignon & Asparagus Risotto comes with 
any On The House Classic Pasta to take home.

Chilean Sea Bass
Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Vegetables, Tomato Aioli – available April 21 – May 25

Steak, Cake & Ravioli
Filet Mignon, Crab Cake, Mushroom Ravioli, Crispy Onions – available April 21 – May 25

Stuffed Chicken Fontina Risotto
Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Chives – available May 26 – June 29
In participating restaurants, Stuffed Chicken Fontina Risotto comes with 
any On The House Classic Pasta to take home.

Norwegian Cod
Shaved Fennel, Red Bell Pepper Slaw, Fresh Angel Hair Pasta – available May 26 – June 29

Calabrian Fried Chicken
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Hand-Shucked Corn with Bacon – available May 26 – June 29

Strawberry Bruschetta
Strawberry Chutney, Orange Fondue, Prosciutto – available May 26 – June 29

Fresh Berry Tiramisu
Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Fresh Berry Sauce

We invite you to Maggiano’s Little Italy for your next meal or special occasion. We also invite you to share with Maggiano's on Twitter and Instagram – share a picture of your Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish experience on Instagram and/or Twitter using the hashtag #EataDish4MAW, we will donate $5 to Make-A-Wish through June 29, 2016 – up to $25,000! Join their E-club, follow them on FacebookInstagramTwitter and Pinterest, and watch them on YouTube for more chef tips, recipes and ideas.
Between 7/3/15 – 1/31/2016, Maggiano’s Little Italy will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish from each select menu item, 50¢ per lemonade, and 100% of each Star Card sale, with a minimum guarantee of $500,000 from all in-restaurant promotions. For more information, visit
*Subject to Availability

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Resto Review: Umami Burger's Falafel Burger


Umami Burger has added a delicious new item to their menu, the Falafel Burger! Complete with a falafel patty, beet infused couscous, crushed avocado, romaine, tomato, tzatziki and pickled red onion, the Falafel Burger will be a delicious way for the typical meat lover to mix things up, or will be a new vegetarian favorite at Umami Burger in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.

I got to try the the Falafel Burger from Umami Burger recently. This burger is a falafel patty with beet infused couscous and crushed avocado. The falafel patty has a crisp crust and a tender center. The flavor from the couscous was on point and the creaminess of avocado complimented very well. The zingers were the tzatziki sauce and the pickled red onion rings. Both completed the falafel burger with true umami: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. This was a vegetarian burger that delivered flavor and texture!

So if you're looking for a unique and delicious vegetarian burger, THIS is it. Check it out at your local Umami Burger and indulge in this meatless burger full of flavor!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sous Chef Joel Makes GF Nutty Brownies

I love the springtime because it means a fresh new start after the cold and dreary winter. The spring also gives us a reason to gather with friends to enjoy the glorious weather! Friends and neighbors are celebrating spring with a cookout where each family is bringing something to share. How will you #MixUpAMoment for your spring gatherings and traditions?
For us, we'll "mix up a moment" this spring while baking Pillsbury gluten free brownies. My favorite sous chef, Joel, loves anything involving chocolate so it was easy to decide on brownies. He especially thinks baking brownies is fun!
We're making a delicious batch of Pillsbury Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge brownies for the neighborhood spring cookout, as we have some friends who are on a gluten free diet. These were a breeze to make using this brownie mix and calls for minimal ingredients - egg, water and oil. Joel added 1/4 chopped pecans and 1/4 mini chocolate chips (his favorite brownie combo.)
Stocking up on Pillsbury Gluten Free baking products at Walmart (as mentioned in my prior blog post) made this baking experience simple and easy! Besides, these baking products are inexpensive and since you are already in the aisle… you may as well stock up!

We love making recipes together but especially enjoy sharing the Pillsbury Gluten Free brownies with family and friends at our neighborhood spring cookout.

Join in the springtime baking fun! To make it easy, be sure to grab your rebate when you buy 3 or more Pillsbury Frosting, Cookie Mix, Cake Mix or Brownie mix here!
And once you have your mixes, discover some tasty ways to use them with a slew of ideas here:

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicago French Market: Delicious Updates!


The Bensidoun family, market operators in France since the early 1900s and now the largest marketoperators in Paris, operates and manages Chicago French Market. The family operates nearly 100 open-air and indoor markets throughout the U.S. and Europe, including eleven Chicagoland outdoor, seasonal weekend markets which started in 1997 and four seasonal markets in New York including one on Broadway in Manhattan. 

The Bensidoun family and MetraMarket recently unveil to the public a brand new look and modernized amenities at Chicago French Market, the city’s only year-round, European-style market offering fresh food, flowers and international cuisine from more than 30 local vendors. The vendors tend to many cuisines. Japanese, French, Korean, Mexican, and German are some of specialties of the Chicago French Market. One can buy cheese, wine, meats, wines … including chocolates, ice cream, and even specialized foods, i.e., raw and vegan dishes. No matter what, there is something for everyone! At the soft opening event there was also a Kosher table with delicious Jewish meats and cheeses. Gypsy Jazz Trio serenaded all the attendees with their music. Three new vendors opened their booths to the public … Vinegusto (vinegar vendor), Aloha Poké (poke vendor) and Little Greek Corner (Greek food). 

Some stand out vendors include Aloha Poké! The vibrant colors of the vegetables in their poké and the freshness of  fish mixed with rice was like being on the Pacific Ocean with the cool breeze blowing while sunbathing on the white sandy beach. It was perfect! Also available at the market are lobster rolls, chocolates, mini donuts, BBQ sliders, macaroons, sushi, banh mi, hors d’oeuvres with cheese and cherries, and so much more. 

Chicago French Market’s refreshed dining area will now also feature authentic French café seating for 150 guests, including Parisian bistro chairs and tables and two communal farm tables that each seat eight guests. Additional seating for up to 150 will be available in the concourse and seasonal outdoor seating. Multi-colored umbrella canopies in blue, white and red will cover select tables and soften the space. Locally made tables constructed of recycled milk jugs, plus newly stained and polished concrete floors will complete the Chicago FrenchMarket dining area’s new look. All in all, the food and drink and generous hospitality both of the Besidoun Family and the MetraMarket make it such a wonderful place to visit and feel the Parisian essence.

It's no surprise that the new look and amenities are the most extensive and dramatic updates made to the market space since its grand opening in 2009—with design elements that reflect Chicago’s sister city bond to Paris and celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of this friendship pact that unites the City of Paris and the City of Chicago. Paris is one of 28 sister cities connected to Chicago through Chicago Sister Cities International, part of the international Sister Cities program that works to create and strengthen cultural, municipal and economic connection in more than two thousand cities around the world. 

New design features at the Chicago French Market start with a 62-foot long by 11-food tall wall mural in the Market's dining area. An expansive Paris cityscape drawn by the hand of Midwest sketch artist, Devin Chhing, the color wall mural is flanked with a photograph of Buckingham Fountain and Chicago's skyline. 

Together with a newly designed public space for people to dine at the market, customers will be greeted at both Chicago French Market entrances by custom marble mosaic rugs. Both rugs feature the Chicago French Market logo with signature red, whit and blue market canopies. Printed maps of the market will now also be available, including a braille map and personalized tour available to anyone who requires assistance navigating the marketplace. Plans are also in progress for a permanent, digital map and directory of vendors to be stations at each entrance.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Round Up: Grilled Cheese Glory

Did you know that April is Grilled Cheese Month?! We love our share of grilled cheese sandwiches at home but I love putting a delicious spin on them every so often. Why limit yourself to just cheese and bread? Mix it up with a combination of cheeses. Incorporate some spreads like pesto. Stuff your sandwich with meats like bacon, ham, turkey, BBQ pulled pork or even hamburger patties! If you're a fan of grilled cheese, here are some variations to try out!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sous Chef Joel Makes GF Chocolate Chip Cookies!

It's a lazy weekend and that means I can finally peruse the aisles while I shop at my leisure. Walmart has some new things in the baking aisle - Pillsbury Gluten Free baking products! I stocked up on a couple of their mixes at Walmart since they make it easy for me to prepare homemade baked goods with my family.
Once I got home, my little sous chef asked if we could make something together in the kitchen. I love when we have these family moments! He's been expressing more interest in joining me in the kitchen so we spend some quality time baking. Joel and I both share a love of chocolate chip cookies so it was easy to pick something to make.
The Pillsbury Gluten Free Premium Chocolate Chip cookie mix was perfect for us to do together. Requiring minimal ingredients - water, egg and softened butter - using the cookie mix allowed us to focus on the fun of stirring everything together and prepping our cookie sheets.
Although the cookie mix can just be placed on the cookie sheet by rounded teaspoons (which I started doing), my sous chef prefers rolling each by hand perfectly and rolled my mounds before baking...
Pillsbury Gluten Free Cookie Mixes, like their Chocolate Chip cookie mix, are the perfect complement to creating instant smiles on my sous chef. We loving mixing up a moment in the kitchen and having fun in the process. Now with Joel so interested in spending time with me in the kitchen, it's been wonderful to enjoy those times even more. We plan on baking more together with some delicious projects in the works!
Check back here soon to read up on how I'll be using the Pillsbury Gluten Free Premium Brownie Mix for an upcoming spring cookout!.
In the meantime, I'd love for you to join in the springtime baking fun! To make it easy, be sure to grab your rebate when you buy 3 or more Pillsbury Frosting, Cookie Mix, Cake Mix or Brownie mix here!

And once you have your mixes, discover some tasty ways to use them with a slew of ideas here:

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Subscribe to Feeds
Follow Me on Twitter
Add in Facebook