Friday, June 26, 2015

Festival Report: Taste of Chicago Giveaway!

Among all the food festivals in Chicago, one of Brandy's all time favorites is the infamous Taste of Chicago.  The annual festival that takes place in Grant Park features hundreds of restaurants from across the city bringing their best crowd pleasing dishes to one spot for the masses to feast on.  "Like I always say, if you can't go to every eatery in town, let them come to you," as Brandy put it.

If there is one downside to the festival, its that with such an abundance of deliciousness, it can be easy to over do it.  The ice creams, the fried foods, the burgers... while delectable, it can all do quite a number on one's best intentions for keeping to a healthy diet.  Luckily, this year, perennial sponsors, Humana Healthcare, have introduced a way to not only satisfy the hungry crowds, but educate everyone on making healthier choices.  As an eight year sponsor of Taste, Humana showcases its commitment to lifelong wellbeing for all Chicagoans by providing the Humana Healthier Choices Rewards Program – an interactive experience that rewards attendees for partaking in fun activities and trying Humana Healthier Choices, a physician reviewed listing of appetizers, entrees and desserts at Taste all under 500 calories!

Though Brandy is well known as more of a proponent of what tastes good as opposed to what is good for one's body, she was delighted to learn that this year’s program features 48 healthy food options from 24 Chicago restaurants that meet nutritional criteria, even highlighting vegetarian and gluten free options.  The Humana Healthier Choices will be identified by a green apple on the menu boards at participating restaurant booths with a list of items being handed out at the Humana tent or downloadable at the Taste of Chicago website and via

All of the restaurants participating in the 2015 Taste of Chicago were invited to submit their menu items for consideration for the Humana Healthier Choices program.  For an item to be considered, restaurants must have submitted nutritional details including calories, sodium content, saturated fat and the list of ingredients.  A panel of five top Chicago-area physicians with expertise in diet and nutrition collaboratively judged each item to assure that nutritional values were met.

After receiving a free Humana Healthier Choices Tag, which comes with a lanyard for a hands-free and convenient experience, participants can collect stamps by sampling any Humana Healthier Choices food item or participating in healthy activities at the Humana tent.  Once Taste-goers receive six stamps, they can drop off their badge at the Humana tent to be entered into random prize drawings, donated by the Taste of Chicago restaurants.  On social media, Taste-goers are encouraged to join the conversation and share their Humana Healthier Choices food items on Instagram, mentioning @Humana, #TasteofChi and #HealthierChoices.

Festival goers can also take a break from the July heat by enjoying a shaded seating area in the Humana tent, which will feature a backyard barbecue/tailgating theme, trivia wheels and a photo booth.  There will also be a Walk & Wellness Station where participants can take a free pedometer and will then be encouraged to return to the tent after walking around the Taste of Chicago to report their steps.

To celebrate this amazing program, Humana has provided Brandy with 24 food tickets for the Chicago Taste Festival to give away to one lucky reader to try out some of the Humana Healthier Choices themselves!  To enter the giveaway, simply follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below, then scroll down for a complete list of all the Humana Healthier Choices dishes being served at this year's Taste of Chicago to see what you could be snacking on in the near future!

Giveaway ends on 7/3/2015.  Tickets have been provided to the writers of this blog by Humana and Coyne PR.  Please only enter the giveaway if you are able to attend the festival in Chicago's Grant Park between July 8-12.  Any accounts entering the giveaway may be disqualified by the writers of this blog if they are deemed to be mostly promotional material, so please only use real social media accounts to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Appetizers/Starters – Less than 320 calories, 300 mg sodium and 2 g saturated fat

· Taste Portion of Veggie (Vegan) Burger (V) – Beat Kitchen
· Taste Portion of Mustard Fried Catfish – BJ’s Market
· Taste Portion of Malnati Salad (V) – Lou Malnati’s
· Corn on the Cob (V) – Mariano’s
· Roasted Celtic Corn on the Cob (V) – O'Brien's Restaurant
· Doner Shot – DonerMen
· Shrimp – Haire's Gulf Shrimp
· Taste Portion of Eggplant Sandwich (V) – Gino’s Steak

Main Dishes – Less than 500 calories, 500 mg sodium and 4 g saturated fat

· Veggie (Vegan) Burger (V) – Beat Kitchen
· Mustard Fried Catfish – BJ’s Market
· Grilled Steak Taco – Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
· Grilled Chicken Taco – Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
· Smoked Alligator – Chicago's Dog House
· Smoked Rattlesnake with Rabbit – Chicago's Dog House
· Watermelon Hibiscus Gazpacho (V) – Farmer's Fridge
· Avocado Toast (V) – Farmer's Fridge
· Vegetable Spinach and Plantains (V) – Iyanze
· Jerk Chicken – Iyanze
· Chicken Ke-Bob Curry Rice with Vegetables – Kasia Deli
· Malnati Salad (V) – Lou Malnati’s
· Grilled Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Salad – Star of Siam
· Doner Kebab – DonerMen
· Kebab Salad – DonerMen
· Chap Chae (V) – Jin Ju
· Eggplant Sandwich (V) – Gino's Steak
· Chicken Tacos – La Cocinita
· Black Bean and Queso Fresco Arepas with Guasacaca and Cabbage Slaw (V) – La Cocinita
· Grilled Cheese (V) – The Fat Shallot

Desserts – Less than 320 calories, 300 mg sodium and 2 g saturated fat

· Limone (Lemon) Sorbet (V) – Caffe Gelato
· Blood Orange Sorbet (V) – Caffe Gelato
· Peach Cobbler Gelato (V) – Caffe Gelato
· Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato (V) – Caffe Gelato
· Italian Lemon Ice (V) – Franco's Ristorante
· Italian Watermelon Ice (V) – Franco's Ristorante
· Strawberry Paleta (V) – La Mexicana
· Mango Paleta (V) – La Mexicana
· Lime Paleta (V) – La Mexicana
· Watermelon Paleta (V) – La Mexicana
· Seedless Watermelon (V) – Mariano’s
· Mango Sorbet (V) – Star of Siam
· Chocolate Frozen Baby Banana (V) – The Fudge Pot
· Chocolate Dipped Strawberry (V) – The Fudge Pot
· 1 Dinky Donut (V) – Dinky Donuts
· Southern Red Velvet Morsel of Love (V) – Ms. Tittle's Cupcake
· Frozen Mango Kefir (V) – Starfruit Café
· Taste Portion of Frozen Mango Kefir (V) – Starfruit Café
· Frozen Original Kefir (V) – Starfruit Café
· Taste Portion of Frozen Original Kefir (V) – Starfruit Café

The following items, available from Dia De Los Tamales, do not meet the Humana Healthier Choices nutrition criteria but provide options for Taste-goers with gluten-free dietary restrictions:

· Slow Roasted Cuban Pork Tamale
· Taste Portion of Slow Roasted Cuban Pork Tamale
· Spicy Black Bean & Corn Tamale (V)
· Taste Portion of Spicy Black Bean & Corn Tamale (V)
· Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese Tamale
· Roasted Pepper Goat Cheese Tamale (V)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Food News: Inaugural Brunch Run 5K!

Normally, Brandy is not exactly the best role model when it comes to exercise, but when brunch is involved, she'll turn up for just about anything.  Case in point, when Brandy became aware of a brand new 5K that not only benefited a worthy cause, but also promised a lavish brunch at the end of it, she found herself for the first time in her life considering going out for a good old fashioned run.  "I can endue just about anything if there's bacon and French toast at the end of it," as she put it.
The first ever Brunch Run is a 5K with a reward worth running (or walking) for. Participants will receive an event lifestyle t-shirt and enjoy a beautiful course at Montrose Harbor, an on-course “FauxMosa” (non-alcoholic mimosa) station, a Belgian waffle station by Julian’s Recipe and a signature brunch from Chicago’s esteemed Blue Plate Catering when they've cross the finish line. Once there, participants are invited to dig into a full spread of delicious brunch items including a Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sandwich; Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach and Egg White Sandwich; Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich; Baked Cinnamon-Raisin French Toast Casserole; Breakfast Burrito (Gluten free option available); Apple Wood Smoked Bacon; Seasonal Fruit Display; Blue Plate Pastries; Roasted Breakfast Potatoes; Kiddo “Pancake” Dog; and Mini Yogurt Parfaits. 
Photo courtesy of Michelle Molise PR
Participants are encouraged to walk or run the chip timed 5K course in honor or in memory of a loved one who is battling or has battled cancer. Individual and team fundraising incentives will be awarded to those who raise the most funds on behalf of Imerman Angels and everyone else is encouraged to attend this family friendly event to cheer the runners on.
Registration will be $50 for adults and $15 for children ages 5-12. Each participant who registers and raises a minimum of $100 will receive an Imerman Angels picnic blanket to enjoy their brunch on (while supplies last).  
To register for the Imerman Angels Brunch Run 5k please visit or call877-274-5529.  Stay up to date with all things Imerman Angels by following them on Twitter and Instagram, and like them on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Molise PR
About Imerman Angels
Imerman Angels, a one-on-one cancer support community, carefully matches and individually pairs a cancer fighter or caregiver with someone who has fought and survived the same type of cancer (a Mentor Angel). These 1-on-1 relationships inspire hope and offer the chance to ask personal questions and receive support from someone who is uniquely familiar with the experience. The service is absolutely free and helps anyone touched by any type of cancer, at any cancer stage level, at any age, living anywhere in the world. Imerman Angels is a federally  registered  501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Up Comedy Club or Brunching Out Loud

The Slow and Savory Review

A long, long time ago, a very young Brandy arrived in Chicago, full of hope and dreams of stardom. She had already made a name for herself on the music hall circuit back home in Old Blighty (and indeed, there are still those in certain circles that speak of her famous Dance of the Seven Owls with great admiration) and had now decided to conquer The Colonies. Shunning the typical routes of Hollywood and Broadway, Brandy made her way to Chicago, where a burgeoning comedy scene seemed the real place to be.  

Stepping off the bus and straight into The Loop, she began to inquire about where a young hopeful might go to get acquainted with the bigwigs of comedy and she was directed to a modest little theater in Old Town, where a bunch of beatniks were causing quite a stir with their irreverent improvisational sketch comedy shows.  "Put me in one of your shows!" Brandy proclaimed as she stepped grandly inside the theater.  "Do you even know what improv is?" A man with a clipped beard and a black hat asked her. "No, but I'm sure I'll figure it out along the way!" she responded.

Worried she didn't quite have the skills, but impressed by her gumption, Second City hired on Brandy to do various jobs about the theater, like answering phones, sweeping up, getting lunch for the actors, and such so that she could learn as she went.  Not long after she started there, another young British lass, a cheerful and bubbly little thing with a lust for adventure named Bunny Bacon, was hired on as a coat check girl.  And that, dear readers, is how Bunny and Brandy first met.

"It's simply too perfect!" Brandy exclaimed as she starred up at the marquee over Piper's Alley in Old Town, "Brunch at Second City!  I really can't believe it!" Brandy was eyeing up a sign that read "Sunday Bloody Mary Sunday," which was advertising a brand new brunch service at the Up Comedy Club, which featured a full buffet, unlimited drinks, and a 45 minute improv comedy show, all for the price of a $40 ticket.  Knowing dear Bunny was off in the Andes somewhere with her husband Benedict and therefore would be unavailable to accompany her, Brandy dialed up her friend Bailey Blue and informed her of he extraordinary news. "I'd like to think I had some little part in this newest development," Brandy smirked. "Do they even know you're a professional bruncher?" Bailey asked.  "I can't talk any more now, luv, I'm going in to buy us some tickets!" Brandy said in a rush and hung up the phone.

Up Comedy Club, located on the third floor of Piper's Alley, is one of the more recent additions to Second City's arsenal of stages.  Not only does it feature some of Second City's signature improv and sketch comedy performances, but also hosts traveling stand-up performers like Todd Glass, Dave Attell, and Al Madrigal.  The theater is set up in the classic cabaret style with open booths at the back of the room and tables throughout the rest of the floor, all facing the stage.  The seating was based on arrival, ensuring everyone had a fair chance at a good view, though with the room as wide as it was, there was nary a bad seat in the house.  Brandy was quite pleased by how spread out the seating was, meaning people weren't piled on top of one another.  "One does need a bit of arm room when eating," Brandy commented, approvingly, "And I suppose so do the more aggressive laughers in the room."

Once shown to their seats, Brandy and Bailey were allowed to visit the buffet, which was set up just outside the theater.  First, the ladies visited the hot table, which featured breakfast staples like scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries, and sausage as well as biscuits with either sausage or mushroom gravy.  Among the more interesting choices were a garlic butter shrimp, creamy polenta with Taleggio cheese, and brussel sprouts with crispy panchetta, as well as some tantalizingly fresh looking spinach and tomato salads.  On the cold table was an amazing array of fresh fruit and pastries, like blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls, and almond croissants.  Two more stations featured fresh proteins; some carved-to-order pork tenderloin and fried chicken with freshly made waffles.

After filling their plates to the brim (Brandy's strategy was to get a little bit of everything straight away instead of filling one plate and then returning for seconds later, as she didn't want to have to get up during the show), Brandy and Bailey returned to their seats and were immediately beset upon by kindly servers offering them coffee, mimosas, and Bloody Mary's, all of which were refilled with brilliant efficiency during the course of the morning ("I don't think I've seen the bottom of my glass yet!" Bailey giggled at one point).

Both ladies were quite impressed with the food, especially since Brandy is sometimes a little skeptical of buffets.  Favorites included the tender sprouts and salty panchetta, the very creamy polenta, the tender biscuits with their accompanying deliciously savory gravy, and especially the chicken and waffles, which Brandy and Bailey had dressed with cinnamon apples and spicy syrup.  "I have to say, this food is certainly nothing to laugh at!" Brandy said, showing a cocky smile to Bailey.  "Perhaps you need to look into sighing up for a comedy class upstairs in the training center to improve those one liners of yours," Bailey responded, rolling her eyes.

Brandy's instincts in bringing all the food to the table proved to be useful, as the lights began to dim right at 12:00.  The house company of veteran improv performers then took the stage and let loose 45 minutes of mimosa snorting hilarity, using suggestions from the audience to craft one hilarious scenario after another, even indulging in some brunch themed humor themselves with scenes based at a pre-wedding brunch, a brunch party, and a post church service pancake breakfast.

"Oh, it feels so good to back," Brandy grinned and she and Bailey collected their things after the show, "And I'm glad to see that though the theater has grown since I first became acquainted with it, the quality of the comedy and the service hasn't decreased in the least.  I thoroughly 'Yes And' this brunch."  Bailey gave Brandy a quizzical look.  "'Yes and?" she asked.  "It's a comedy term, dear.  As in 'Yes, and I'd like some more mimosa please.'" Brandy grinned.

The writers of this blog were invited to dine free of charge by the theater in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bunny and Brandy's Brunch Guide: Father's Day 2015

Open faced Schnitzel Sandwich from BoHo
River North
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
opens at 10:00 am, ala carte
Signature breakfast items include the Breakfast Sandwich with scrambled eggs, smoked Applewood bacon, white cheddar, vine-ripened tomatoes and arugula pesto, or the Corned Beef Hash & Two Poached Eggs, garnished with sweet tomato marmalade.
C Chicago
open at11:00, ala carte or prix fixe for $27
Featuring ala carte dishes like Tuna Tartare with avocado roulade, wasabi tobiko and aka tosaka seaweed, Octopus A La Plancha with shaved fennel, radish and calabrian sause vierge, Scottish Salmon Unilateral with smoked salmon roe, favas and verjus sauce, or Whole Turbot Fish, baked in an aromatic salt dough. The prix fixe includes choices of appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts.
Bohemian House
serving brunch from 10:00am-2:00pm, ala carte
All Dads get a complimentary plate of Applewood smoked bacon with black pepper and maple. Specialties of the house include an Open Faced Schnitzel Sandwich, Bavarian Pancakes and Smoked Beef Tongue Hash, and the aptly-named, Pick Me Up cocktail. Check out our previous post on BoHo for the full rundown on their brunch menu!
2 courses for $35.95 with complimentary sticky bun and a $20 dining card for a future visit
Menu choices include Crispy Miso Lobster & Shrimp Dim Sum or Fruit Poke appitizers and entrée choices like Ribeye and Eggs, featuring Shoyu Charred Ribeye with a sunny side up egg accompanied by Kim Chee Short Rib Hash.
Maxwell’s at the Club
brunch served from 10:00-2:00, buffet, $45 per person
The buffet boasts a wide-range of options, including prime rib, roasted rack of lamb and roast turkey carving stations, an omelet bar, a waffle bar and assorted pastries, as well as a variety of appetizers, salads and entrées.
brunch served 11:00-2:30, $95 per person, buffet
Guests will enjoy a complimentary craft beer and whiskey tasting. There will be a selection of American bourbon and rye whiskey along with single malt and blended whiskeys from around the world. The buffet brunch will feature a carving station, a seafood and sushi station, a kids buffet, and a selection of pastries.
Shake Shack
opens at 11:00 am
Shake Shack River North or the brand new Chicago Athletic Association location will offer a FREE single scoop cone or cup of vanilla, chocolate or Mud Pie frozen custard to all dads. Check out our recent post on Shake Shack for more info on their menu!

Steak and Eggs from Unite Urban Grill
Gold Coast
The Local Chicago
buffet or ala carte, starts serving at 6:30am
The breakfast buffet offers a selection of signature American staples, including French toast, scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, homemade breakfast potatoes and pancakes, or opt for bigger plates like Prime Filet and Poached Eggs or Belgian Waffles with Devonshire cream and pure maple syrup or even lunch dishes like Fried Goat Cheese served with cinnamon apple sauce and lavender honey, Truffled Deviled Eggs topped with grilled asparagus and crispy potatoes, BBQ Baby Back Ribs with hand-cut fries and cole slaw, or the tender Rotisserie Chicken served with seasonal vegetables and a natural reduction.
Devon’s Seafood Grill
brunch from 10:00-3:00, 50% bottles of wine up to $100, $38 buffet
Featuring hot dishes like Slow Roasted Prime Rib carved fresh, Thai Chicken Wings, Lobster Mac N’ Cheese, Atlantic Salmon with Lemon Herb Butter and Haricot Verts or seafood specialties like Smoked Trout, Peppered Mackerel, Smoked Salmon, Oysters on the Half Shell, Shrimp Cocktail, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Char Crusted “Ahi” Tuna, and Smoked Mussels. Read our full review of Devon's Seafood brunch.

Navy Pier
Odyssey Cruise
Boarding time is 12:15 p.m. and the cruise is from 1:00-3:00 p.m, $69.90 per person
For the Father’s Day Brunch Cruise, each dad will receive a cocktail and each guest will receive one mimosa or glass of champagne. Diners will be greeted with upscale entrees and desserts, DJ entertainment and best of all – everyone will be dancing away!

Shrimp and Grits from Luella's Southern Kitchen
Lincoln Square
Luella’s Southern Kitchen
brunch served from 10:00-3:00, ala carte
Signature dishes include Cream Cheese and Praline Pancakes with fresh blueberry compote, Chicory Coffee French Toast, Southern Benedict with braised Slagel Farms pork, poached farm eggs, Crystal hollandaise, Andouille Sausage Quiche with Romano cheese, caramelized leeks, and farm eggs, Bourbon Chicken and Waffles served with bourbon maple syrup, and New Orleans BBQ shrimp served with cream cheese grits. Check out our full review of Luella's for more info on their brunch service.

West Town
Unite Urban Grill
brunch served 10:00-2:00, ala carte
In addition to their regular brunch offerings, Unite will be offering giant 22 oz. Cowboy Steaks, perfect for dads who'd rather not have to grill themselves steaks for Father's Day. Also, all day and evening long, dads will leave with a bottle of Unite Urban Grill's signature basting sauce. You can find out more about Unite's brunch serve in our post here.

The Bristol
10:00-2:00, ala carte
In addition to the regular brunch menu, The Bristol will offer Steak and Eggs — the perfect option for Dad’s special day. The featured dish includes perfectly pan seared skirt steak with farm egg, sauce bearnaise and crispy Bristol potatoes.

Beef and Duck Confit Burger, photo courtesy of Chez Moi
Lincoln Park
Chez Moi
brunch served 10:30-3:00, ala carte,
Specials include Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich with Pomme Frites​, Beef and Duck Confit Burger with Pomme Frites​, or Sautéed Salmon with Cabernet Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

Old Town
Second City/Up Comedy Club
11:00-1:00, buffet for $40 per person
A brand new brunch service just launched at UP on the third floor of Piper's Alley and features an extensive buffet of breakfast favorites like Chicken and Waffles and Biscuits and Gravy, unlimited Bloody Mary's and Mimosas, and a 45 minute improvised comedy show all included in the price of the ticket (more on this in Friday's post!)

Ted’s Montana Grill in Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Glenview
brunch starts at 11:00 am
All three locations carry a wide variety of bison favorites like the Avalon Burger with Gruyère, blue cheese, bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli, and baby arugula, the Canyon Creek Burger with Cheddar, bacon, jalapeño, blackberry jam, and a fried egg, or the Montana Breakfast Burger with American, grilled ham, spicy tomato jam and a fried egg. They even offer bison meatloaf, pot roast, and short ribs!
Rack House Kitchen and Tavern in Arlington Heights
Service begins at 11:00 am, ala carte
Special dishes like Smoked Pork Benedict piled high with 14-hour smoked pulled pork and served alongside crispy breakfast potatoes and regular Sunday specials like $5 brunch cocktails or a $79 BBQ Family Platter (feeds 4-6 people) with Pulled Pork, Brisket, Smoked Sausage, Smoked Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, Coleslaw, Baked Beans & Cornbread
Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook
brunch served 10:00-2:00, buffet, $48 per person
Every table will receive an order of PGC Benedict; Poached Egg with Spinach and Roasted Tomato Hollandaise. The buffet will include favorites like Asian Tuna Salad with Bok Choy and Soy-Sesame Sauce, Sliced-to-Order Ancho Marinated Skirt Steak, and the signature crepe station with Valrhona chocolate, strawberries, jam, Nutella, whipped cream.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Scone City or My Kind of Town

The Slow and Savory Review

First it was cupcakes.  Then donuts.  Then macaroons.  The pastry trends can be difficult to keep up with these days.  Since Brandy makes regular practice of visiting as many bakeries as possible, she likes to think she's on top of things, but there are a few items she would like to see becoming the next sought after treat.  "Scones, for one," Brandy explained one day, "Scones in this country are often little more than edible paper weights.  Back home, scones are tender, chewy, delicious little things that go perfectly with a cup of tea.  I do wish there was more places I could get a good scone or two."

Luckily for Brandy, the delightfully named Scone City recently opened in Wicker Park, specializing in not just scones, but home made jams and artisan coffee drinks, including cold brew on tap.  "A cafe that sells only scones?  It's like someone read my mind!" Brandy exclaimed upon hearing the news.

Scone City, tucked away just off the corner of Ashland and Division, had a stark white interior with contrasting black accents that fit quite well with the espresso bar theme. Bar stools sat by the window up front, then small tables and chairs, and more comfy arm chairs on an elevated section at the back. The scones were proudly on display beside the counter, making the choice simultaneously easier and more difficult.  So excited was Brandy to try the scones that she ended up forgoing the delicious sounding house made jams ("They even have clotted cream!" she exclaimed with glee) and ordered up six flavors to supply her with breakfast for the rest of the week.

Day 1: The Breakfast Scone with bacon, egg, and cheddar.  This scone had a chewy, but not heavy texture that resembled more of a buttermilk biscuit. The flavor was nice and cheesy with just enough bacon to make things interesting (Brandy was actually happy they hadn't gone overboard with the bacon) and a little bit of scrambled egg in the middle. "Quite an interesting concept," Brandy commented, "And most definitely delicious, but not quite the kind of scone I'm used to."

Day 2: The Halfwit with bittersweet chocolate chips, espresso glaze, and cocoa nibs.  Brandy thought the texture of this scone was almost cookie-like and certainly would have paired well with a cup of Joe.  The cocoa nibs made for a nice crunch in each bite, but Brandy would have liked the coffee flavor in the glaze to be a bit stronger.

Day 3: The Blackberry and Orange Glazed.  This was probably the most traditional scone Brandy tried, with a chewy, more moist texture than some of the others.  The berries were plump and juicy inside the scone, and the orange glaze provided a bit of tartness, but there was an odd perfumey aftertaste to it that Brandy didn't quite care for.

Day 4: The Brie, Thyme, and Honey. Certainly one of the most appetizing looking scones of the bunch, this one had a very dense texture, but was still very tender and crumbly.  The honey provided a nice floral note, while the thyme was subtle and perfect, and the brie more of a garnish than a predominant flavor. "This one definitely needs to be accompanied by a beverage, whether its tea or coffee," Brandy commented, "But I do so love a sweet and savory pastry."

Day 5: The Triple Chocolate.  The name of this scone was pretty self explanatory, as it was a basic scone with huge milk, dark, and white chocolate chips scattered throughout.  "This is a pretty standard type of scone for a coffee house," Brandy contemplated, "But the little addition of sugar on top marks this as being quite a bit better than other cheaper imitations."  The texture again was a bit dense, but the melt-in-the-mouth, high quality chocolate made it feel rather luxurious.

Day 6: The Afternoon Tea with Earl Grey soaked raisins and a tea flavored glaze.  Unsurprisingly, this was Brandy's favorite scone of the bunch.  The tea soaked raisins were plump and full of that distinctive citrusy, herbal flavor Earl Grey is famous for. The glaze added another layer of flavor, but didn't overpower the scone with sickening sweetness.

Though not always the authentic English scone texture she so desired, the scones from Scone City were none the less pretty bloody delicious.  At only about $3 a scone, their substantial size was more than enough to satisfy as a meal in itself, along with a good cup of tea or coffee, of course.  Brandy was certainly interested to return to Scone City as soon as possible, not only to try out some of the other flavors on offer, but also to finally get at those house made jams to see how they might enhance some of the more simple scone varieties.  "I do so hope scones are becoming the next big thing," Brandy mused, "Scones are meant to be enjoyed at leisure, not wolfed down in one, which is why people who appreciate proper scones are generally more intelligent and relaxed.  And if there's anything this world can use, its smarter, calmer people inhabiting it."

The Short and Sweet Review

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Shake Shack or Between a Rock and the Concrete

The Slow and Savory Review

*We would like to apologize for the quality of photographs in this post, which is below our usual standard.  Normal service will be restored next week.

Lately it seems as if every established quick service food chain has been desperate to get their stake in the growing Chicago culinary scene.  International additions to the landscape like Le Pain Quotidien from Brussels, Nando's from South Africa, and Pret a Manger from England have even ushered in chains from other states, like Snap Kitchen from Texas, Sonic from the west coast, and most recently New York's Shake Shack.  Brandy first caught wind of the buzz around Shake Shack last year when their first location opened up in River North, causing lines around the block of Midwesterners and East coast transplants desperate to get their hands on some of the burger joint's storied wares.  "For goodness sake, how good can a quick service burger be, really?" Brandy lamented at the time, and as a stubborn opposer of anything trendy, she decided to not join the hordes until the furror died down a little.

As the weather began to even out into the low 70's, Brandy found herself wandering about downtown one day, looking for a bit of nosh she could take with her into the park for a good old fashioned picnic when she stumbled upon Shake Shack's recently opened second location inside the newly opened Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.  The smells of frying burgers was rather intoxicating, and as masses of people didn't seem to be spilling forth from out of the door, so she figured the time was right for a little peek into exactly what made Shake Shack so sought after.

Shack Shake kept their design simplistic so as to not overshadow the beautiful vintage lobby they resided in.  The signage was a great help in controlling the flow of traffic from ordering to paying to picking up one's food, and ample seating inside at tables and outside on picnic benches meant those eating in could be accommodated quite easily.  Wandering up to the first station, Brandy quickly scanned the menu and placed her order to go, then about ten minutes later, after being presented with all of her treats, she headed out to the park for a little picnic in the sunshine.

First Brandy eyed up the Fries.  As far as side dishes went, there was really only two choices: fries and cheese fries, and since she was indulging in so much more, Brandy went the simpler route.  The fries were crinkle cut and nicely crunchy without being greasy at all.  "As good as these are, I'd better save a few of these...for dipping into my ice cream, as I understand is traditional," Brandy said, mischievously.

One of the unique dishes to both Shake Shack locations in Chicago is the Publican Pork Sausage, which as its name implies, uses a pork sausage from Chicago's own Publican Quality Meats.  Sadly, upon opening the box, Brandy was rather shocked by her dog's nakedness.  According to the menu, the dog was supposed to feature cheddar and American cheese as well as fried shallots, but this dog was entirely undressed.  Brandy wondered briefly if she had not ordered the dog properly, as she knows full well there are several places in Chicago where one needs to know secret terms just to step into the place, but logic would tell her that simply saying the name exactly as it appears on the menu should result in the item described.  Regardless of its nakedness, the sausage was pretty tasty with a bold flavor and a great snap, which was helped by the fact that the dog had been split and grilled down the middle.  The bun too was very nice, being soft and slightly sweet with a buttery finish.

Next, Brandy dug into the Shack Stack burger, a combination of the standard cheese burger and the 'Shroom burger, which featured a portobello mushroom stuffed with Muenster and cheddar cheese, then coated in a crunchy batter and deep fried on top of a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, and "Shakesauce."  Brandy really liked the texture of the mushroom on the beef patty, which lent not only flavor and juiciness, but a uniqueness that she had never seen in any other burger.  The beef itself wasn't particularly juicy, but it was tender enough.  Surprisingly, the overall flavor was good, but extremely salty, making Brandy wish she had ordered up a drink or two.

Indecisive as always, Brandy decided to try two of the Shake Shack signature Concretes, which were limited flavors only available at that location: the Millennium Perk and the Penthouse Sweet, both of which featured well known Chicago treats mixed into their signature custards.  The Millennium Perk was made from vanilla custard with Intelligentsia coffee beans and old fashioned donut pieces from Glazed and Infused.  Brandy thought the thick texture of the custard was simply dreamy, and the slight bitterness from the coffee beans was a perfect match for the sweet base as well as the chewy, cakey bits of donuts.  The Penthouse Sweet featured chocolate custard with sprinkles peanut butter sauce, and pieces of pecan walnut caramel toffee from Vosges Haut Chocolates.  This was decadent as a candy bar with lots of crunchy surprises throughout from the toffee, as well as an underlying nuttiness from the peanut butter sauce, which mixed seamlessly into the custard.

Her entire, admittedly over indulgent, meal came out to just under $30, which isn't such a bad price, and though her food did arrive quickly and the service was relatively polite, Brandy just couldn't get that naked dog out of her mind.  "If I wasn't so full, I'd like to march right back in there and demand the cheese and shallots I'm owed," she moaned, patting her very fully tummy and sitting back on the bench to enjoy the sunshine.  Shake Shack was certainly a step up in the fast food arena, though Brandy couldn't help but feel her enthusiasm for the food had been slightly tainted by all the hype.  "I'd take this over a flavorless, frozen amalgamation of beef some other places serve, certainly," as she put it, "And I do like that an effort has been made to break away from the stigma of being a chain by using lots of local goodies to make each location unique.  But at the end of the day, Shake Shack is simply just a burger joint with a lot of good ideas."

The Short and Sweet Review
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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tea Time with Brandy: GoMacro Bars

One of the biggest problems Brandy has when indulging in a lavish brunch is how to get her eating schedule back on track for the rest of the week.  "Eating several courses of food between the late hours of the morning and the early afternoon often leaves me still full by dinner time, meaning I'm starving by the next morning," Brandy often laments, "And it can be a good day or two before I'm evened out again.  But I find a good little snack in the afternoon can help a great deal."

Recently, Brandy discovered the deliciousness of GoMacro mini bars, a 100% vegan, USDA certified organic, certified non-GMO, Gluten-Free, and made from mostly raw ingredients snack bar that comes in 11 delicious flavors.  The bars, which are just under an ounce, retail for around $3 a piece and contain energy boosting all natural goodness like different nut butters, dried fruits, and seeds.  Most of the bars have a pleasant chewy texture and are nicely sweetened with brown rice syrup, meaning they don't taste artificial or overly saccharine.

Among Brandy's favorite flavors were the bright and fruity Sunny Uplift with cherries and raisins, the decadent Protein Pleasure with peanut butter and smooth, creamy chocolate chips, the delightfully crunchy Morning Harvest with apples and walnuts, and the pleasurably chewy Protein Paradise with cashews and caramel.

Brandy found that not only do the bars make an excellent mid afternoon snack, they also make a rather nice light breakfast when combined with a pot of yogurt, some fresh fruit, and a cup of tea.  "I do like the idea of starting the day off with something all natural and wholesome so as to prepare my body for the vast amounts of butter, bacon, and sugar I will intake at my next eventual brunch," as Brandy put it.

In order to share her new found love of GoMacro bars, Brandy has arranged for a little giveaway!  All you need to do to enter is follow the instructions in the RaffleCopter widget below and a winner will be announced on Wednesday June 10th.  If you can't wait to get your hands on some delicious GoMacro Bars, you can place an order directly from their website using the code "BLOGGER" at check out to get you 40% off!

The writers of this blog were provided with product samples in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway