November 24, 2017

Farmer’s Fridge for Healthy Food on the Run

At O’Hare airport, I was trudging past the usual fast food concerns with hunger pangs lowering my food selectivity. All at once, I caught sight of an automated food kiosk called Farmer’s Fridge in the American terminal. The bright green colors immediately made me think of fresh and possibly healthy food. Jackpot!

I had brought my own vegetables (don’t ask), so all I needed were some protein sources. Peppered hard-boiled eggs and chicken breast came in cute little hard plastic jars that popped out of the machine after I easily paid by debit card. I also bought a snack with chocolate covered fruit and nuts. Yum!

Some of the larger jars contained veritable full meals with colorful layered ingredients. I plan to check out salads like the Peach Caprese with basil couscous, romaine lettuce, peaches, yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette, or the North Napa salad with cabbage, mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, feta cheese, pistachios, dried cherries and vinaigrette.

Heartier dishes like Soba noodles and Salmon Nicoise also appear on the menu. One can opt for protein snacks like Phoenix Bean Tofu or the afore-mentioned chicken or hard-boiled eggs. You can also add various flavors of LaCroix water as one’s beverage.

Breakfast options include almond butter oatmeal, Greek yogurt and granola along with pineapple coconut chia pudding.

The kiosks are refilled every morning with unsold food donated to zero percent, an organization that disperses unused products to local food pantries. There is also a slot on the machines to recycle empty jars.

Farmer’s Fridge food kiosks can be found at venues like McCormick Place, Willis Tower, The Rookery, Revival Food Hall, Block 37, the Merchandise Mart, Northbrook Court and at various hospitals and educational venues. Some kiosks have 24-hour access. For a more complete list, go to:

All ingredients, calories and nutritional facts are viewable on the kiosk screen so you can make intelligent healthy food choices.

If you live outside of the Chicago area, you may want to petition the Farmer’s Fridge to add a kiosk to your frequent haunts. Your taste buds and waist line will thank you!

Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store

I fondly remember giving a concert in the old Three Arts Club in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Built in 1914 to house women involved in music, painting and theater, the brick building was the architectural work of the storied Holabird & Roche firm. With sadness, I heard that the club had been sold to developers in 2007.

Much to my relief, Restoration Hardware has created a five-story emporium that has left many of the architectural details intact. The courtyard houses a delightful restaurant called the Three Arts Cafe which kept the old fountain and features an all-weather glass ceiling that allows diners to be bathed in sunlight.

The food is as impressive as the setting with a curated menu including “seasonal ingredient-driven” recipes. The shaved vegetable salad was beautiful to look at and to eat with brightly colored root vegetables and baby greens dressed with finely chopped pecans and cider vinaigrette. For sheer gluttony, I ordered a side of bacon which was the thick-cut kind found in British cuisine. My luncheon partner ordered a bacon club sandwich which she endorsed by eating every morsel.

The menu is small but there are several items that entice me to make return visits such as the Truffled Grilled Cheese sandwich, the slow roasted chicken with garlic confit and the house-made chocolate chip cookies served warm out of the oven.

After lunch, we strolled the five floors of rooms decorated with Restoration Hardware furniture, lighting fixtures, accessories, bedding and even some articles of clothing. The top floor has two outdoor terraces which must be divine in the warmer months. The main floor has a Three Arts Club Pantry that sells scrumptious looking donuts and hot beverages.

A visit to this historic building is like a mini-vacation with excellent food and drink sampled before or after one peruses the five floors of tastefully decorated display rooms. I’m wondering if they would let me move in?

Sausages by AmyLu

I just found delicious chicken sausages that use no nitrates, nitrites, MSG, preservatives or artificial ingredients and are pork-free,  gluten-free, low in fat, high in protein and low in carbs. I even found a flavor, Gourmet Chorizo that contains no sugar or dairy which can be challenging to find.

ATK Foods, the parent company features other sausage flavors such as Apple & Gouda Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato & Basil, Cranberry & Cognac and Chipotle Pepper. They also sell burgers, meatballs and old-world sausage products such as Polish sausage, Wieners, Bratwurst and Specialty Ethnic Sausages viagra rezeptfrei bestellen.

Did I mention that the company is based in Chicago? Joseph Slotkowski opened his Chicago sausage company in 1918 and it’s still going strong under third generation member, Amylu Kurzawski. You can shop for the products on-line or find the sausage and meat products in selected grocery stores. I found my Amylu edibles at Mariano’s in Chicago. Delicious!

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

Dandy Blend, Instant Herbal Beverage with Dandelion

Friends shake their heads at some of the foods and beverages I serve them, but let me stretch your patience with mention of Dandy Blend, an instant herbal beverage with dandelion root. While I don’t like dandelions in my yard, I love them in my cup.

The product can be used like instant coffee, one teaspoon per eight ounces of water, hot or cold. You can use it in dairy milk or nut milk, as well. The package states that one gets a rich coffee-like taste but with no caffeine, no acidity and no bitterness. The powder does have barley and rye but the extraction process eliminates the gluten.
The other ingredients listed are chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beet. One teaspoon is only 7 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrate.

I bought my first 7 ounce bag of Dandy Blend at Walsh’s Natural Health Store on Central Avenue in Evanston. I liked it so much that I purchased a larger two pound bag from Amazon. I like it plain, but I occasionally splash in some unsweetened almond milk for a more velvety taste. If you’re trying to limit or avoid coffee, this product might be a decent substitute.

Boy, did I used to love the taste and buzz of a double-espresso but the white nights were a stiff price to pay. Happily, Dandy Blend now lets me sleep like a baby, however late I may drink it. And I view the yellow weeds in my lawn with a little more respect.

Lyfe Kitchen

My sister took me to a “new” faster food restaurant in the Las Vegas area. Upon entering, one is faced with separate menus for gluten-free, vegan & vegetarian and everything. Everything healthy, that is.

That first visit, we tried several Lyfe waters, filtered water and add-ins such as Ginger Mint Chia, Cucumber Mint and Orange Ginger Chia.These beverages are not overly sweet and very refreshing. The kale banana smoothie was also delicious with that green vegetable never tasting so good.

I ordered the quinoa crunch bowl which comes with quinoa tabbouleh, fresh vegetables, avocado, arugula, edamame hummus and chipotle vinaigrette and fireman’s hot sauce on the side. This is my newest addiction!  A side dish featuring roasted brussels sprouts and squash with dried cranberries and dijon vinaigrette had just the right amount of tang and crunch. My husband raved about his sweet potato fries with house ketchup. Fish tacos and sweet corn chowder are things I want to try in the future.

Lyfe has a breakfast menu that looks interesting as well with items such as quinoa buttermilk pancakes, chipotle potato hash and spinach and avocado frittatas.

Looking up the history of the operation, I noted that Mike Roberts, a former president of McDonald’s and Art Smith, who cooked for Oprah, are two of Lyfe Kitchen’s masterminds. Lo and behold, there is a Lyfe Kitchen in downtown Evanston and in Chicago’s River North, both of which I have now tried. Service is slower than your average fast food joint and quite a bit pricier, but I admire this trend to have chains that provide us with real food that is tasty as well as healthy. Excuse me while I order another quinoa crunch bowl to go!

Eat Like a Budget-Conscious Local in Las Vegas

Imagine coming to Las Vegas, losing all of your money gambling and needing to find fast and decent food on the cheap. Here are some suggestions made by locals for the times when you’re watching your dollars and don’t care so much about decor.

Fast-food Los Tacos has a limited Mexican food menu but, as the name would indicate, they are noted for their delicious $3 Tacos. The two Las Vegas locations look a lot like Taco Bell, but the dishes at Los Tacos definitely taste more authentic. The web site proclaims: Simply the Best/Simplemente lo Mejor and I would agree, in any language, that this is a lot of taco bang for the buck.

1710 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104
Phone: 702-471-7447
4001 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89102
Phone: 702-252-0100

Viva las Arepas is another inexpensive carry-out or eat-in fast food restaurant that features authentic Venezualan dishes. The pastelitos and empanadas are not bad, but the big draw are the arepas, grilled soft cornmeal patties with a crisp exterior and a soft interior filled with items such as beef, chicken, ham, cheese, beans or shrimp. As an added benefit, these savory Venezuelan favorites are gluten and wheat-free.

1616 South Las Vegas Blvd. #120, Las Vegas, Nevada 89104
Phone: 702-366-9696!

If you are a fan of tamales, put Dona Maria Tamales Mexican Restaurant on your radar with locations in downtown Las Vegas and Summerlin. The tamales come in flavors such as beef, chicken, pork, cheese and an addictive dessert version made with pineapple and raisins. These Mexican savories come baked in corn husks and can be purchased singly or in bulk. A dozen are only $21.75.

The 2014 Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper poll voted Dona Maria’s as having the best Margaritas to boot.

910 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89101
or 3205 N. Tenaya Way, Las Vegas, NV 89129

If you want to rub elbows with lawyers and court room workers and also have a yen for Middle Eastern food, head to Sultan’s Grill in downtown Las Vegas. Open only for lunch, this fast food favorite has killer gyros although the menu features many Greek and Middle Eastern favorites such as hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves and grilled poultry and meats. Fast, good and cheap are the operative words here. There are two other locations in Summerlin and Henderson.

(Summerlin) 1910 Village Center Circle #7, Las Vegas, Nv 89134 • 702-838-3221
(Downtown) 321 S Casino Center Unit 101, Las Vegas, Nv 89101 • 702-380-3040
(Henderson) 72 W Horizon Ridge Pkwy Henderson, NV 89012 • 702-998-2344

End your meal with a hot or cold beverage at Inspire News Cafe, a downtown coffee bar with magazines, free wifi and a great view of tourists and locals parading by. The Cafe is part of a larger entertainment complex called Inspire that includes an upstairs bar, a theater with live music, lectures and movies plus a roof top bar in good weather.

107 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89101

River Valley Farm Table on Wilson Avenue

I can sniff out new food concerns at forty yards so I came to a screeching halt in front of
signage that said “River Valley Farmer’s Table” at 1820 W. Wilson. Upon walking inside, the first room is a small shop that features both shelf stable, refrigerated and frozen food items like salsas, pickled mushrooms and pasta sauces that use River Valley Ranch grown produce. The second adjoining room has a lit deli case with cheeses, prepared salads, house smoked corned beef and ham plus a limited number of places for sit-down dining. There’s even a little room to the west with the eponymous farm table available for private parties. They now have a liquor license so you can have wine, cocktails or craft beer with your meals.

I recently had lunch there and was impressed with green tomatoes lightly fried with cornmeal and buttermilk over a salad that had pickled vegetables as well as greens dressed with a vinegar and cream concoction. I would order this again in a heartbeat. Asparagus and mushroom tamales were light and flavorful. Those same mushrooms and asparagus were used for a chunky and non-red chili served by the cup or bowl. My dining companion David had a burger featuring grass-fed beef and proclaimed it tasty. Sweets were tempting us at the check-out station, but we remained stoic in the face of mouth-watering cookies, pastries and candies.

Their tag line is “Come in for a sandwich and Passionhouse coffee, and leave with ingredients for dinner.” I went home with a delicious loaf of sourdough bread my first visit. I will return for the Sunday brunch and one of those damn fine looking cookies.

My friend Zehava let me know that the River Valley Ranch sells its goods at many of the city’s farmers markets and they have a food store featuring their products in Burlington, Wisconsin where the Fox River Valley farm is located.

Mario Batali’s Eataly in River North

Eataly Opening

The first time I walked by this crowded and alluring glass building in River North, I asked a doorman what it was. He replied “Eataly” so I assumed from his pronunciation that he was Italian. Maybe so, but that is the punful term celebrity chef Mario Batalia has called his new food emporium in Chicago. Hordes of people have flocked to see the 23 eateries (including sit-down restaurants, cafes and take-away stations), plus the shelves, baskets and glass cases full of sauces, sausages, pastas, wine, fish, produce, meats, breads and sweets. There is a Rizzoli cookbook section and two different gelato stands with one featuring Alpine milk plus another stand for Nutella confections, for Pete’s sake.

The lines for the restaurants have been endless, so my visits have been limited to gawking and shopping for take-away items such as interesting shapes of pasta, unusual sauces and jams, hard-to-find cheeses and salamis, Italian chocolates and fresh-baked bread. Some things are outrageously expensive, but other items have been reasonably priced. Caveat emptor.

Mario Batali’s climb to the top of the Italian food chain has not been without bumps. Restauranteur, television personality, cookbook author and foodie friend of Gwyneth Paltrow, he was sued by his staff for keeping their tips. However you feel about Mr. Batali, he is a global food force with culinary concerns in New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, California and now in Chicago. Buon appetito!

Open every day from 10 AM to 11 PM.

43 East Ohio Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Tel: 312.521.8700

Breakfast Beat: Pannenkoeken

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I am always on the look-out for interesting morning comestibles. Pannenkoeken Cafe, a tiny venue in the Lincoln Square neighborhood offer up Dutch pancakes as their specialty. I had a vegetarian option that allowed me three choices out of asparagus, broccoli, mushroom, spinach, onion, green pepper, red pepper, and tomato. My plate arrived with the vegetables arranged in such a painterly fashion that I was loathe to take fork and knife to the plate-sized creamy crepe. Good thing I did because it was delicious. The cafe serves a good selection of breakfast fare including omelets, French toast and regular buttermilk pancakes, but make sure someone at the table orders a sweet or savory “pannenkoeken.” You won’t be sorry. The cafe, technically part of the Lincoln Square mall, has an entrance on Western however. What is “bon appetit” in Dutch?

Pannenkoeken Cafe (in Lincoln Square)
4757 N Western
Chicago, IL 60625
Hours: Mon-Fri (7am-2pm) and Sat & Sun (8am-2pm)