First Bites Bash 2018

Every year to kick of the coveted Chicago Restaurant Week, Choose Chicago hosts a little event called First Bites Bash. With over 60 restaurants, it’s a means of getting a glimpse of the 14 days that follow.

This year, it took place inside the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, and it was a perfect venue.


As you walk in on the lower level, you are obligated to not just look around you but ABOVE you, towards the grand ceiling.


You were also able to enter on the second floor and from the wrap-around balcony, getting an aerial view of the hustle and bustle below.

Continue reading “First Bites Bash 2018”

Hubbard Inn Winter Menu Preview


This time of year is always a time full of family, magic, and holiday cheer, but it is also always a time of frantic planning, shopping, hosting, and altogether chaos. Some nights, I just need a short break. A few hours where I am able to relax, dine, and drink with adults. I replace the Doc McStuffins theme song with jazzy lounge music. I replace the yoga pants and slippers with fitted pants and some boots. Continue reading “Hubbard Inn Winter Menu Preview”

Be Thankful


Today I am thankful for very many things. In order of appearance in my day (not priorities, I swear!), there is coffee. 20171123_081702

I am thankful for this sustenance that allows me to carry on with my multi-faceted lifestyle. It’s been a crazy way of living, balancing work life, food life, and family life. If you know me personally (or even superficially via Instagram), you know calling me a coffee addict is an understatement. But trust me when I say this: you do NOT want to be with me on a day I haven’t had a cup of strong coffee before 9am. 

Whoops, let’s focus on positive thoughts. I’m thankful, furthermore, for the Chicago foodie community that I have grown closer to over the past year.


I’ve been taking pictures of my food & writing restaurant reviews for over 10 years now, but it hasn’t been until recently that I started finding “my people”. The people who just get it, who don’t judge when I get excited about the visual appeal of a dish. We get criticized & ridiculed, often while we’re working (YES it IS work!),but with the support of my friends, we’re able to laugh it off.

Now, let’s get to the sensitive mushy stuff.

I’m thankful for my family – both immediate and extended. I’m a mother of two, a sister to one (-in law to 3), cousin to way too many. I try to spread myself out and give attention to everyone, but sometimes often I find that my priorities are mixed and I choose the superficial lifestyle over what’s real. To be honest, it’s because it’s easier. Or it’s because I’m too tired to make the efforts. But regardless of how much I know I’m sucking at this adulting gig, my family is always there for me. And the unconditional love goes way beyond my need for coffee, my need to take pictures, and definitely beyond my need to network (I’m horrible at that sometimes too so -meh-). Guys – I’m sorry to make you compare your life to mine, but my family is pretty darn amazing. Today and every day, I wake up (okay fine, and hunt for coffee first) and realize how lucky I am to have them.

My girls, first and foremost, are my everything.


We go on adventures with almost all of the free time I have. Sometimes it’s as simple as a late night drive thru trip for some Steak & Shake Side-by-Sides. Other times, we make a day out of Chicago. Or Skokie (Hi Shake Shack.. sponsor me please. Or just build in Schaumburg). But no matter what we do or where we go, we’re making memories. And eating and taking pictures of what we’re eating but hey.. they’re my daughters after all 😉

And then there’s this guy.


Today marks 10 years since the last first kiss I ever had. 10 years since my last “first date”. 10 years since I thought “Alright, maybe it’s okay to settle down and let one guy make me his priority for once” 10 years since I thought “This will be the only guy I crush on that has a fauxhawk.” (also the last time I ever thought that). We’ve been through a lot together, and I can’t imagine going through any of it with anyone else. He’s got my back and I’m lucky to have him too. As much as I roll my eyes at almost everything he says & does, I also love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone. But let’s be real here – he’s way lucky to have me too. Do you know how much random free food he’s gotten in the past year? The way to a man’s heart is bringing home a Chuy-changa “just because”. AND IT WASN’T EVEN LEFTOVERS – that’s real love there people.

Anyways, that’s enough for today. I made Mia a fortune teller/cootie catcher, and she’s growing very impatient that I’ve told her to “hold on” before playing for the 17th time (I’ve counted).

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see what everyone’s dinner table spreads look like! I’ll be sharing ours on my Instagram story, so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re following along!

Family Fun at Frato’s!

Summer is officially over for my kids and their friends. And with the end of summer comes the end of planning play dates at water parks & outdoor playgrounds. Some days when trying to make plans, I give up because indoor activities can get either played out (indoor bounce “zones” only last so long before someone gets sick or hurt) or expensive. And then I still have to find places for them to EAT – and let’s face it. Kids can get picky. And picky eaters get cranky way too quickly for the parents to truly relax and enjoy their meal.

Enter our saving grace: Frato’s Pizza & Catering in Schaumburg.


I used to think of Frato’s as just take-out/delivery pizza. Then one day I decided to take my family with me to just eat there (I’ll be honest: it’s so that I wouldn’t have to clean up after everyone. Which is A HUGE deal for a tired, over-worked mom). I realized this is a place I could make a regular outing.


And what a PERFECT opportunity this past weekend. My 1st grader & her friends all went separate ways for school this year, so the parents and I wanted to meet up for an “end of the year” lunch. So we decided to take the risk of bringing not 1-2 kids, but 6 KIDS AND A BABY with us, 4 poor old souls (3 moms & 1 dad) and eat at Frato’s.

[Drool-worthy pictures after the jump!]

Continue reading “Family Fun at Frato’s!”

Happiness & Boom Boom Sauce


Happiness cannot be defined in a single sentence. I mean technically it can, but it wouldn’t be enough. Everyone’s view of and means of achieving happiness is different.  It’s both simple and complicated, and sometimes it can be rather frustrating. Continue reading “Happiness & Boom Boom Sauce”

CFA’s Favorite NW Suburban Coffee Spots


The thing about coffee is that there is hardly any breathing room between Starbucks and the closest Dunkin. Shoot, there’s hardly enough breathing room between Starbucks and the next Starbucks! Same goes for Dunkin. And I’ll admit – I have the app for both. Because I’m a sucker for racking up rewards.

But I’d say in the past 2 years, I’ve learned to stop pulling into the convenient drive thrus and pay attention to the quality of the coffee. Quick shout out to my cousin, who happens to be a contributor on atribecalledepicurious – he graciously donated a Moka pot to me, and it fueled my obsession. But more on the world of homemade coffee & caffeine variations another time.

I’m not about to invite you all into my home just yet. We’re not cool like that. I can’t let you see how “human” I truly am. For now, just believe me when I say my kids do not leave their toys ANYWHERE that isn’t a restricted play area, my laundry is always done & folded & put away, and we only use our finest non-plastic china to serve homemade, organic breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, you don’t know me, so you have to just take my word for it. I swear.

Continue reading “CFA’s Favorite NW Suburban Coffee Spots”

Jolibee – Chicago

Happy National Fried Chicken Day everyone!

I’ll admit, I was taken surprise by this day. I was totally off the ball and haven’t been keeping up with the ever important “Foodie Days”. You may think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m actually kind of disappointed in myself! These random days are so light-hearted and fun, they make for decent potluck days, and they sometimes make me think outside the box.

And by outside the box, I mean this time I’m referencing a Filipino CHAIN to celebrate.

20161008_150844Enter…. JOLIBEE. For Filipinos, specifically in the Chicagoland area, this was a huge freaking deal when the ‘bee first arrived. I’m talking, Six Flags-style lines, Black Friday-esque impatience… ya’ll really wanted your Chickenjoy.

And if you didn’t catch what I said, this is a CHAIN. With that said, I will drive the 30 minutes, passing yellow archs, crowns, and ivory towers to get my fix. At first, I was such a hater – mainly because I hate crowds and for the first several months, that’s all I saw when passing by. But now that the hype has died down, I managed to finally get my order in. Let’s focus on the chicken – I love fried chicken, and they’re doing it and doing it and doing it well.

And in case you haven’t gone in yourself, make sure to pick up their *peach mango pie* too. Better yet, get yourself like, 5. And hide that stash from your kids because they WILL steal them. And you will regret the things you say & do to your kids for being innocently drawn to sweet, sugary, beautiful things.