Category Archives: appetizers

Good luck foods for Cubs – order some!

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GO, CUBS!

According to Grubhub, the nation’s leading online meal delivery service, it’s time to order takeout/delivery food items that appear to be good luck food for the Cubs as they begin the National League Championship Series on Saturday. If the Cubs are to appear in the World Series for the first time since 1945 and ultimately clinch their first championship since 1908, you may want to order these foods on game day!

The following are the top 5 most ordered foods during game day wins in Chicago for the Cubs vs. game day losses.

  1. In Chicago, hamachi kama was ordered 145% more when Cubs won than when they lost.
  2. In Chicago, creamy mac and cheese was ordered 117% more when Cubs won than when they lost.
  3. In Chicago, black bean taco was ordered 111% more when Cubs won than when they lost.
  4. In Chicago, horiatiki salad was ordered 91% more when Cubs won than when they lost.
  5. In Chicago, shepherd salad was ordered 88% more when Cubs won than when they lost.
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Chicagoans can now subscribe to lunch and save

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IMG_0150
IMG_0150 Generic lunches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not delivery convenient, but it’s a chance to get out and exercise without killing your whole lunch hour or having to rush through a restaurant meal.

MealPal launched its subscription lunch service in Chicago today with more than 50 restaurants on board. Choose menu options from local restaurants for less than $6 per meal – and skip those annoying lines.

Chicago and DC are the latest cities to join the crowd. In New York, San Francisco, Boston and Miami, weekday lunch crowds have now ordered over 500,000 meals from more than 1,000 restaurants. MealPal has also recently introduced Pal, a smart bot that uses artificial intelligence to personalize your choices.
  • Preferences. Pal will ask you a series of questions to understand which ingredients you like and don’t like. That way you see meal options that fit your tastes.
  • Reminders and calendar integration. Pal will remind users to reserve lunch on any given day if you forget, and will add lunch reservations to your calendar.
  • Longer booking window. Previously, you couldn’t start ordering until 7pm the day before to select your lunch for the following day – but now you can check out the next day’s menu starting at 5pm.
 The service is simple to use. Visit the website or mobile app to browse the daily menu, filtering meals by cuisine and portion size. Reserve your meal by 9:30am, choosing a time to pick up your lunch. When you pick up your food, skip the line and be in and out of the restaurant in less than 30 seconds.
Six bucks for lunch? Not bad. And you don’t have to sign up to use it everyday. As of right now, it’s only available in the Loop but they expect to add more ‘hoods soon.
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Nando’s Peri-Peri cooking good and doing good

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Chicago Fire soccer stars will “take over” the grills at the new Nando’s in the SouthChicago Fire Player at Nandos Loop on Saturday July 30, delivering succulent PERi-PERi chicken to hungry fans. Nando’s will pay it forward by donating 100 percent of sales to the Chicago Fire Foundation, which improves the lives of disadvantaged youth in and around Chicago. 


Nando’s PERi-PERi, the South African-Portuguese restaurant known worldwide for its spicy flame-grilled chicken, has just hatched its seventh Chicago-area restaurant. The newest Nando’s is located at 1005 South Delano Court, in the Roosevelt Collection in the South Loop.

“Nando’s is thrilled to partner again with the Fire to warm up Chicago,” said Burton Heiss, CEO of Nando’s PERi-PERi USA.  Since opening in Chicago in spring 2015, Nando’s has raised more than $100,000 for local non-profits.

“It’s wonderful to see a company like Nando’s invested in this city to join with the Chicago Fire Foundation to give back to the community,” added Chicago Fire Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz.

Playing With Fire
Chicago Fire personalities scheduled to appear at Nando’s include general manager Nelson Rodriguez, midfielders Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Joey Calistri, Drew Conner and Alex Morrell, defender Patrick Doody and goalkeepers Matt Lampson and Patrick McLain. They will turn up the heat at Nando’s in South Loop with player appearances from 1:30pm to 7:00pm CT on July 30. The restaurant is opened from 11am to 9pm that day, with all sales throughout the day going to the Chicago Fire Foundation.

Seven Chicago Restaurants…and Counting
Nando’s moved to Chicago in spring 2015 and has quickly opened five restaurants in the city, plus locations in Naperville and Oak Park. The newest Nando’s is located at Roosevelt Collection between W. Roosevelt Rd. and W. Harrison St. at 1005 S. Delano Ct.

Nando’s has built an intensely loyal following, from London to the Loop, by providing fresh food in a relaxed atmosphere with friendly service. Nando’s is known worldwide for its succulent PERi-PERi chicken, marinated for 24 hours, flame-grilled to perfection, and basted to the customer’s preferred flavor and spice.

Every Nando’s is painstakingly designed and completely unique, with earthy textures and bright colors that reflect its sunny African-Portuguese heritage.  The new Nando’s in the Roosevelt Collection is no exception and features a panoramic view of the Loop skyline. With thousands of pieces of original works of art that are a constant reminder of where the restaurant came from, Nando’s has become the largest collector of South African contemporary art in the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 600 pieces of original African art in Nando’s restaurants.

 

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Osteria La Madia

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Update: As of March 25, 2017, Osteria La Madia is closed. The owners are now focused on building their Firecakes brand.
Osteria La Madia, 59 Grand Ave., sits in the heart of the red-hot River North section of downtown Chicago – a great place for drinks and unique appetizers. Or try their handmade, wood-fire-grilled pizzas or a full meal from among entrees that include fresh seafood to short ribs and housemade pastas with a variety of proteins. Several salads on offer range from a selection of greens with unique dressings to a full-meal version of Ahi Tuna Nicoise.
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The bar and a small seating area form a cozy spot at the front of the divided space. Then a line of booths leads down a short path to the main two-level, large, airy dining area set with varying size tables and comfortable chairs. And the wood-fire grills are centered at the back of the space; it’s cool to watch the pizzas being made behind the protective glass shield. The overall effect is of a room that’s spacious with cozy areas. The decor is unobtrusively simple yet modern with a truly comfortable ambiance.
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Osteria La Madia's fabulous Spinach cheese fondue
Osteria La Madia’s fabulous Spinach cheese fondue

Our server happily recommended favorites when we asked. She especially recommended the Spinach & Taleggio Fondue appetizer. Picturing something oozing with oily cheese, we hesitated but decided to trust her – she said it is the restaurant’s most popular appetizer. We were amazed when she brought out a platter with a huge slab of puffy, clearly-wood-fired, pita-type bread that dwarfed a small crock of beautifully smooth and creamy-looking green sauce drizzled with truffle oil. The proper approach, she explained, was to rip off a piece of the bread, place it on your individual plate and spoon some of the green stuff over top. Wow, it was really good. Would never believe it was spinach – rich with the velvety consistency of heavy cream without betraying the slightest hint of iron, as spinach can sometimes do, or greasiness, as melted cheeses often do. The truffle oil dribbled on top gave the fondue extra pizzaz. The Sardinian bread was made of the same dough they use for their pizzas, several of which we’d tried and enjoyed on an earlier visit. They offer a wide variety of unique pizza toppings and offer several of them at bargain prices during their bar-only happy hour (currently 4:30 to 6:30 M-F). Excellent way to slake your thirst and gratify your hunger after work.

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Our other appetizer, the mussels in a tomato onion broth was simply scrumptious. The mussels perfectly cooked, the broth deeply flavored with stock and tomato and just a hint of spice. I couldn’t resist mixing some of the dark, rich, red broth with some of the spinach fondue. It turned out to be a fabulous flavor combination, although mixing the colors green and red results in a not-too-attractive shade of grayish brown. I didn’t care; it tasted SO good.
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The heirloom tomato salad was in season and just delightful. The bright range cherry tomatoes were super sweet and tasty. And the thick slice from a giant red tomato reminded us both of the tomatoes our fathers used to grow. Hard to get much better than that. The burrata was gooey and creamy and good.

Housemade ricotta-stuffed tortellacci with summer vegetables and truffle shavings
Housemade ricotta-stuffed tortellacci with summer vegetables and truffle shavings

Our entrees: scallops were nicely seared without being overdone, while the side dish of farro was a bit salty; the housemade ricotta-stuffed pasta and vegetables were all good individually without feeling quite melded in the overall dish. In any case we enjoyed both dishes, and they went perfectly with the fine, light red wine our server recommended from among the nicely rounded list of wines by the bottle and by the glass (priced as 4oz, 7oz and full bottle portions). A shared dish of strawberry gelato along with an after-dinner liqueur put a mellow ending on a nice evening. We’d gotten there early and by the time we finished, the place was hopping with diners, including several large families sharing a meal together.

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The whole experience was lovely, with wonderful service in comfortable surroundings. We’d recommend visiting Osteria La Madia any time; check their hours of operation here. In case you don’t want to fight traffic or pay through the nose for parking, get to La Madia in a snap via the 156, 36 or 22 buses or the Red Line (Grand/State station). It’s a short walk from any of those lines. You’ll feel welcome while you’re there and leave feeling glad you came.

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And by the way, the same folks who operate La Madia also operate the top-rated Firecakes bakeries. If you like donuts, do not fail to visit one of their locations. Hint: We highly recommend the coconut cream-topped cake donut. And La Madia recently started offering brunch on Saturdays and Sundays (10 – 3pm) and guess what? You can feast on Firecakes donuts there in addition to either their prix fixe brunch or lots of variety priced a la carte.
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The restaurant provided a meal to facilitate this review. All opinions are strictly those of the writer.
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Bring your appetite and relax at Nando’s Peri-Peri Wabash

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A restaurant with its own special vibe opened this summer at 22 S. Wabash on Jewelers Row near Madison Ave: the fourth Chicago location of Nando’s Peri-Peri. It’s a unique, partly self-serve but not fast-food place that specializes in delicious flame-grilled chicken with many different variations on the restaurant’s proprietary Peri-Peri sauce. The chicken is super juicy and the sauces come in shades of spiciness suited to almost any particular taste.

This place is a hidden treasure trove of delicious food served in a warm, cozy atmosphere – and it’s a great place to come when you’re hungry. You’ll notice from our pictures that we were obviously hungry; we couldn’t remember to take a picture of each course before we dove in and started eating!

Nando hummus - too good to wait
Nando hummus – too good to wait

The starter hummus benefited greatly when we poured the contents of the little bottle of Peri-Peri sauce served on the side for that purpose. Woke up the flavor of the spread and gave a nice spicy tang to the whole dish. It was served with crisp and uniquely cut vegetables – carrot discs, unusually shaped fingers of cucumber, thinly sliced strips of pepper, and little triangles of rich-doughed pita bread. Very tasty and nicely presented.

Nando peas 'n' chicken
Nando peas ‘n’ chicken

We both decided to go for the dark meat chicken quarter with two sides ($9.95 with two sides, $7.95 for just the chicken). Side choices included garlic bread – a delicious Portuguese roll nicely grilled in garlic butter – creamy smashed red potatoes, Machu peas – fresh crushed with mint and chili – and Portuguese rice. Pick your sides, then stroll over to the self-serve station and sample as many cups as you like of your choice(s) of Peri-Peri sauces, which come in a variety of hotnesses and include mild, garlic, wild herb, medium and hot. It’s a self-serve place for the most part, but helpful servers make the rounds on a regular basis. Our server that night was particularly willing to help – he got us napkins, extra drinks, and desserts, each with two spoons for sharing. We definitely felt taken care of.

The chicken was exquisitely grilled after having been marinated in their original Peri-Peri sauce, cooked to perfection, served up super juicy and just enough crisp in the skin to enhance the flavor beautifully. So tasty we found ourselves gnawing on the bones to mine the last of the juicy goodness. Our mashed potatoes and Machu peas and garlic bread were most satisfying. The Portuguese rice was quite mild until we kicked it up with some Peri-Peri sauce that brought it to life.

Nando makes its own Sangria
Nando makes its own Sangria

The choices of wines were impressive – two selections from South Africa, a couple from Portugal, and several others, as well as a sangria of the day and their regular featured red sangria, both refreshing and full of fresh fruit. My companion, who’s dined with sangria in Spain and Portugal many times, felt the big leaf of fresh basil in the mango sangria-of-the-day was an inspired touch.

The desserts were unexpectedly out of the ordinary. This visit we decided to pass on the custard tarts, a regular feature at Nando’s, so we could try some of the other options. From the super-moist carrot cake to the super-rich chocolate spoon cake, each served with a dollop of whipped cream, and the bottomless dish of frozen vanilla yogurt, we tucked in with vigor and didn’t quit until we had almost finished the three.

The place was rocking with Spanish/Portuguese music throughout the meal. It was just loud enough to liven the atmosphere without interfering with conversation. We thought they ought to pipe the music outside to let people know what a fun and delicious experience is on offer inside. The decor is fresh and original, using lots of natural wood with some unique decorating touches. Bathrooms are clean and cheerful, and benefit greatly from having the music piped in there as well.

Any time you are anywhere near State and Madison and you’re hungry, you will be very well satisfied if you make the trip over to South Wabash to meet the Peri-Peri staff and sample the menu. Friendliness and helpfulness were definitely the keys to the service kingdom at Nando’s Peri-Peri the night we were there. Sad to say, the restaurant is very hard to see from the street. No signage extends out onto or across the sidewalk. Perhaps they’ll remedy that soon, but in any case, this spot is well worth the search.

And don’t forget they have three other locations in Chicago: Clybourn, Lakeview and West Loop.

Nando’s supplied samples to facilitate this review; the opinions expressed are 100% those of the writer.

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Chicago Fire soccer team mans the grills at Nando’s

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This Saturday November 21 Nando’s PERi-PERi is christening its new 22 S. Wabash location by donating its first day two days of proceeds to the Chicago Fire Foundation, which works to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth in and around Chicago. And five Chicago Fire soccer players will be doing the cooking. Nando’s PERi-PERi is a South African-Portuguese restaurant known around the world for its spicy flame-grilled chicken. The Wabash spot makes its fourth Chicago location.
Oh, yeah. Good chicken.
Oh, yeah. Good chicken.

The marinated-for-24-hours then flame-grilled chicken is the star of the menu – from wings to quarters to whole birds and with a variety of sauces available – but the different combination plates and sides make a wide enough variety to satisfy just about any craving. How about this creative salad combo: Butternut squash and couscous salad ($8.25), made of oven-roasted butternut and red onion with olives, grilled corn, chili and couscous, served with dressing on a bed of leaves. You can practically taste the flavors just thinking about it.

And how about the desserts? From raspberry brulee/white chocolate cheesecake ($6.25) to a chocolate/peanut butter/red velvet cupcake ($3.25) and the Four-High carrot cake ($6.25) consisting of four rich, golden cake layers with walnuts, pineapple, and raisins and topped off with cream cheese icing, they are not kidding around. Oh, and they give the calories right on the website for every item on the menu. In case you’re wondering, the carrot cake clocks in at 1136 this-is-probably-all-you-can-eat-for-the-day calories.

Chicago Fire players scheduled to appear at Nando’s include defender Eric Gehrig, midfielders Chris Ritter, Michael Stephens and Matthew Watson, and Fire great and club ambassador Gonzalo Segares. Get your special chicken served up by these guys when you stop by Nando’s on Wabash this Saturday and Sunday.

WHO: Nando’s and Chicago Fire Soccer Team
WHAT: New Nando’s opens in the Loop, with Fire players taking over the grills. All sales donated to charity this weekend
WHERE: Nando’s, 22 S. Wabash Avenue
WHEN: Restaurant opens 11am; Players on site Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22 from 11:30am to 1:30pm and 5:30pm to 7:30pm

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Spirits-infused recipes for cookouts and football parties

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BBQ chicken bacon bites

Nothing says party like food cooked on the grill – meat, chicken, vegetables, whatever. The smells alone make me want to invite people over. One way to put those meals over the top is to brush with spirits-infused sauces and toppings. And another way is to wash ‘em down with tasty cocktails made with matching spirits.

Below are a few rum-, whisky- and gin-infused food and drink ideas for your next family and/or friends gathering. These food recipes are so good you don’t even have to have an outdoor grill – your oven’ll work fine. You could even adapt them to cook in a big covered skillet if you don’t want to heat up the kitchen when your A/C is straining to keep up with blistering temps or soggy humidity (and yes, that can happen these days even in football season).

Thanks to the folks at Captain Morgan rums and Crown Royal whiskies, here are a few intensely flavored dishes and drinks to try for your next barbeque or football party.

BBQ Chicken Bacon Bites
Recipe and photo courtesy of Georgia Johnson, The Comfort of Cooking

  • Nonstick cooking spray2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes8 oz. (half pound) bacon, cut into thirds1/2 cup Spicy Sweet BBQ Sauce (recipe below)Toothpicks

Instructions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Wrap each chicken piece with a small strip of bacon. Secure with a toothpick and place on the baking sheet. Brush with BBQ sauce. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven, brush bites with more BBQ sauce, and return to oven. Bake for 15 more minutes. Serve warm.

Spicy Sweet BBQ Sauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar1/2 cup chili sauce1/2 cup Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce1/4 cup ketchup1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce2 garlic cloves, crushed1 teaspoon ground dry mustardGround black pepper, to taste

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, or until thickened as desired. Stir occasionally. Use immediately as you wish, or store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Play Action Spiced Rum Punch
1.5 oz. Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum2 oz. pomegranate juice1 oz. apple cider1 oz. fresh lime juice0.5 oz. simple syrup

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a punch glass. Add ice and stir well to blend. Garnish with a mixture of orange wheels, apple slices or pomegranate ice cubes.

Whisky recipes (Photo courtesy of hirejoejohnson)

Brats with “Maple-ized” Onions
2 large onions1 1/2 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon olive oil3 oz. Crown Royal® Maple Finished WhiskyPinch of SaltBuns

Instructions: Grill bratwursts over medium heat, turning them every three minutes until they turn golden brown or the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Thinly slice the onions and stir them in and add a pinch of salt frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add Crown Royal® Maple Finished Whisky to the skillet and continue to cook onions, stirring occasionally, until well “maple-ized.” Simmer until there is very little moisture left in the pan. Place brats on buns and top with generous amount of onions.

Bull Rush cocktail
1 oz. Crown Royal Black® Whisky0.5 oz. Triple Sec Liqueur1 or 2 splashes grenadine3 oz. club soda

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a punch glass. Add ice and stir well to blend. Garnish with a mixture of orange wheels, apple slices or pomegranate ice cubes.

And not to be left out, Sapphire gin and Barking Irons, makers of the ultimate home mixologist’s bag of tools ($495), bring us a few other classic cocktail recipes:

Gin & Tonic Reimagined
1 ½ oz Bombay Sapphire East Gin3 oz Fevertree tonicLime wedge OR different garnish (lemongrass, juniper, coriander, cassia bark, etc)

Press lemongrass stem and lime wedge into base of old-fashioned glass. Fill with ice and build. Garnish with lime wedge, lemongrass stem.

Sapphire Peppered Peach Tea Collins
1 ½ oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin¾ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice½ oz. Simple Syrup1 ½ oz. Peach Iced TeaPinch of Black PepperClub Soda

Build with ice in a highball glass. Top with Club Soda. Garnish with peach slide and lemon twist

Bombay Negroni
1 part Campari1 part Bombay Sapphire1 part MARTINI Gran Lusso

Stir the ingredients over ice. Strain into a lowball glass with a large chunk of ice. Garnish with an orange slices.

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