4514 N. Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
“Whenever I eat here, I feel like I was at my friends Mom or Grandma’s house…”
200 South Halsted
I originally started coming here when I was at UIC (that’s the University of Illinois at Chicago for those who aren’t local). Whenever I ate there, I felt like I was at someone’s house eating something their Grandmother just made. The food was rich and full of flavor, and everything was so fresh. From previous experience, after being in business for several years (or more), sometimes the taste changes (and sometimes not in a good way). So now, the question is: “Will Greek Islands be the same?”
We started with the Saganaki. Yes, its very cliché, but its one of the first things I tried from here, and it’s a classic.
After one bite of each, it was confirmed, a done deal, the last nail being hammered into the coffin…
After a taste of each dish, you can taste the freshness of the ingredients, I was still reminded of my friend’s Mother/Grandmother, so yes, this place still has it.
I also forgot that this place imports their olive oil straight from Greece (another explanation as to why everything is so good!)
Hopefully you will get to try for yourself!
On Monday, October 17th, I had the pleasure of attending this month’s Culinary Fight Club, hosted by the amazing non-profit organization, Fight2Feed.
I have to admit that before discovering this event, I had not heard of F2F. So I had to do some research. I’m one of those people who is weary of who I donate to because I know sometimes my contributions don’t go to the hands that truly deserve it (CEOs & advertising vs actual needy people). So when I found out that F2F actually delivers food
DIRECTLY to the homeless bystanders of Chicago, I was more than eager to give my share of a donation! When I have time to give, I’m definitely going to be volunteering with them as well.
So the event at hand is one of the most fun events I’ve ever attended. Chefs, both by profession or by passion, compete in a monthly contest similar to timed ones seen on TV. They are given 60 minutes on the clock, secret ingredients, a limited pantry, and a theme. I consider myself, as a guest, EXTREMELY lucky in that the theme for this month was none other than Chicago Street Food. While many indulge in the high end, fine dining opportunities around the city & suburbs (and there are definitely plenty to chose from), my biggest pleasures are found in local hole-in-the-wall, mom & pop shops. So this seemed like something I would love from the very beginning.
There were 3 judges, plus a “Chef-eree”, who would choose the top 3 winners. Guests would then be asked to taste and nominate the “People’s Choice Award”. Now on TV, the most I’ve seen is 3 contestants. This showdown had twice as many! With 6 dishes to try, the judges, the audience and myself all had a difficult competition to assess!
When I watch Chopped or similar shows, I have always argued that an hour was such a long time for one dish. Then I went to CFC. OMG that time flew soo fast! And the chefs all did so well with time management that I seriously doubted any and all confidence of the notion that “PSSHH… I could so do that!”
Again, the theme of the month was Chicago Street Food. Most of them had used plantains, and all but 1 chef used tortillas or pita bread as a “carrier” carb. The one unique chef (fireman James Bernstein & his ‘sous chef’ daughter) put together one of my all time favorite “street foods” – jibaritos!
My other favorite was Chef Nicholas Saponaro.
Let’s pretend I look absolutely adorable in this picture, instead of hair ruined by the wind and face melted by the hot spotlights inside. His dish was out of this world to me – Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich with jicama slaw and crisp plantains, served on a pita – and clearly others thought so as well.
The top two actually ended up tying for first, but after using the Chef-eree as a tie-breaker, Chef Millie Ayala ultimately won with her rendition of a Chicago Hot Dog, beating out Devon Seafood Grill’s Chef David Rolon and his vegetarian spring rolls.
I can’t wait until the next event. And to be able to volunteer with Fight2Feed. For more information on their organization, visit their website here. And make sure to visit Culinary Fight Club to keep tabs on future events!
“You had me at fresh pasta!”
Nando Milano Trattoria
2114 W. Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
This last month was pretty stressful for me, which ended at exactly 1:30pm CDT on Friday, September 30th (not like I was counting down the minutes). So what do I do when I want to relax (other than sing-along to a Backstreet Boys song on my drive back?) This girl got her hair done and treated herself out to dinner!
My hairdresser living in UkranianVillage, and I knew that, regardless of where I went, I wasn’t going to be disappointed. So, I looked on Yelp and I found this gem: Nando Milano Trattoria. They had a lot of good reviews and, when I looked at the menu, I saw this:
That sealed the deal for me as I have a weak spot for fresh pasta.
Was I their first patron of the day? Yes. Did I care? No (especially since I didn’t have a lunch that day, this gal was starving!)
I started with the Polenta Ghiotta, which was an organic crispy polenta with mushroom, cheese fondue and a creamy porcini sauce. The polenta was firm and not soggy with that perfect crisp on the outside. It absorbed the cheese and porcini sauce beautifully.
Next, I went with their (fresh-made) Orechiette Special that had a ground wild boar ragout in tomato sauce. The wild boar was not gamey at all and it was tender. (Sometimes with the wild game meats, they can be gamey and/or chewy or tough – this one wasn’t). If you have ever had fresh pasta, you know how good it can be – you taste the freshness of the eggs and flour, which was what the orecchiette had.
I was asked if I would like dessert. Technically I was full, but I wanted to hear what they had. I heard their tiramisu, their cannoli, their profiteroles…and then I heard bombolone. When I asked what their bombolone was, it was described to me as a donut filled with Nutella and, before he could even finish the sentence, I said, “I will have that!”
It was so beautiful, it was almost a shame to eat it.
So for Nando Milano Trattoria, with this meal, it was not only fresh, delicious and flavorful, but you had also brought me comfort and soothed me after a rough few weeks. Thank you, it was a pleasure, indeed!
Bring your children, bring your husbands, bring your wives to Nando Milano Trattoria! You will be graced by, not only their authentic and flavorful meals, but by their wonderful and friendly staff as well.
Nando Milano Trattoria
How did you celebrate National Coffee Day?
It’s no secret that Justine, Maeven, and I LOOOVE our food. And that includes our coffee!! Of course, we here at Eat Play Chicago LA will not let this day go by without sharing with you guys how we celebrated this awesome holiday.
Justine’s cup of joe:
Justine went to Krispy Kreme with the two kiddos for coffee and donuts. Coffee is life and everything, but just look at how yummy those Halloween donuts look!
Maeven’s cup of joe:
Jaja’s cup of joe:
How did you spend National Coffee day, our fellow coffee enthusiasts? Let us know! Have a nice day and enjoy that cup everyone! As a small reminder, make sure to carry with you a reusable cup to help the environment a little, not just to day but as often as you can remember.
“This dish is so versatile, there are a variety of ways you can put together a rice or grain bowl…”
Growing up, I was raised on rice. Nowadays, I don’t eat it as much anymore, but I get a craving for it once in a while. This dish is so versatile, you can substitute the rice, the vegetable or even the protein.
I started by making my rice. Most of the bags will say that the grains are pre-washed or “no washing/rinsing required” but that step is so ingrained in me that I still clean my rice first. Instead of the sushi rice that I used in this dish, you can use brown rice or quinoa, if desired.
While that is cooking, I can relax for a moment before working on the vegetable – basically any would do. From spinach, to asparagus to mushrooms and edamame, the choices are endless. I chose spinach, that I sautéed in toasted sesame oil.
I then took some roasted seaweed and cut it into strips or pieces so I can lay the protein on top. I had some smoked rainbow trout that I wanted to try with this. I could have also used fish (i.e. salmon), chicken, beef, pork or tofu for this as well. Place the protein on top of the seaweed and voilà – you have yourself a rice bowl!
Similar recipes include:
As you can see, there are a variety of ways you can put together a rice or grain bowl!