April 25, 2018

Chicago Grind in Andersonville

A favorite coffee bar hangout in the Andersonville neighborhood is Chicago Grind, at Berwyn and Broadway, featuring coffees and teas from Metric Coffee Roasters and Benjamin Tea.

Husband and wife team, Reem and Jim Dababneh are frequently behind the cash register and food counter as they fill orders for beverages, pastries and savory food items. My favorite meal option is the vegan quinoa kale salad with nuts, cranberries and red peppers. They have even brought the “to-go” order outside when I have my dog.

The artisanal flatbread sandwiches have been top notch with gluten-free options available. Gourmet salads are another meal option, along with all sorts of enlightened treats from Maier Bakery, Alliance Patisserie and the gluten-free Defloured Bakery.

The Dababnehs are also owners of the very successful Pizzeria Aroma, just east near the Berwyn el stop. They will be moving that restaurant to another spot in the ‘hood, so I will keep you posted.

Chicago Grind is a handy spot for business meetings, lunches, breakfasts on the run or casual beverage breaks in the outdoor cafe. That is if it ever warms up enough to sit at sidewalk tables again!

http://www.chicagogrind.com/

Las Vegas Downtown restaurants: Eureka, Le Thai, PublicUs

A month-old restaurant called Eureka (part of a western chain) in downtown Las Vegas got my business twice this past week. Winning appetizers included Lollipop Corn Dogs and Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Peanuts. Sesame Teriyaki Salmon with black rice was very satisfying with Grilled Chicken Tacos and Fried Chicken Sliders pleasing other palates in my party.

A second visit rang my bell with a Protein Chopped Salad of quinoa, sunflower seeds, roasted beets, beans and feta drizzled with an oregano mustard vinaigrette. If I lived in Vegas, this would be a weekly menu item for me. Crispy sweet potato fries were slightly marred by a too-sweet cinnamon sugar glaze. House-made Ginger-Lime Sodas were a refreshing accompaniment to the meal. I will be brave next time and order either Charcoal Lemonade or Turmeric Nectar. The Osso Bucco Bites looked tempting, too.

http://eurekarestaurantgroup.com/blog/locations/las-vegas/

You wouldn’t expect excellent Thai food in Las Vegas and especially not in the touristic downtown area, but Le Thai is serving authentic and tasty food in its Fremont Street location. Green, red and panang curry dishes were all top notch accompanied with a cooling Thai-style chicken salad. Future visits will have to include the signature waterfall sauce and chef Dan Coughlin’s signature 3-color curry.

http://lethaivegas.com/

Located in the Fremont East district of downtown Las Vegas is PublicUs, a bustling coffee bar with delicious and healthy eating options. I had a savory salad with quinoa, goat cheese, hummus and vegetables. (Yes, quinoa seems to be my current menu choice these days.)

The menu is heavy on meat and fish as well as vegetarian options. The baked goods and desserts look delectable. A gigantic chocolate chip cookie tempted my sister at check-out which she ate with great relish. Prices were a bit high, but the ingredient quality and inventive recipes seem to make the expense worth it. There are outdoor and indoor seating options in this hipster outpost. Waits can be a bit long for food orders.

http://www.publicuslv.com/

These restaurants come highly recommended and go on the list to try on my next visit to Vegas: Cornish Pasty Company and Esther’s Kitchen in the downtown area along with Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar at the Monte Carlo Casino on the Strip.

Healthworks Cacao Powder

My current vice is Healthworks cacao powder (ordered online from Amazon) which I have used in some surprising ways. Yes, it has caffeine, but I find if you mix it with healthy carbs or protein, it seems to mitigate that “coffee jag” feeling.

One of my breakfast favorites is McCann’s Steel Cut Oats (from Mariano’s) with cacao powder and unthawed, frozen organic cherries mixed warm into the cooked oatmeal. I steam the oatmeal in a vegetable/rice steamer and pop the frozen cherries (from Costco) into a toaster oven. I no longer have a microwave, but that appliance could help you unfreeze the fruit, too. You don’t have to perch over a hot stove while these foods cook.

I use 1/2 cup of dry oats, 1 cup of cherries and a tablespoon of cacao powder. When the oats are cooked and the cherries are unthawed and warm, I mix them together with the cacao powder. You will have a modest amount for two people or one generous portion if you like a big breakfast.

Another breakfast treat is a chocolate omelet. I mix 1/2 cup of egg whites with a tablespoon of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 5 drops of stevia. My current favorite is Sweet Drops English Toffee by SweetLeaf. If this sounds strange, think of it as breakfast, caffeine and dessert, all in one.

I have even started making my own sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate using cacao butter, cacao powder and stevia. My method for making chocolate will be in a future article.

Does anyone have a sugar-free, dairy-free mole recipe? Imagine chili with chocolate. My taste buds are already dancing!

Please send me any of your ideas for using cacao or cocoa powder in recipes. Signing off, fellow chocoholics.

Throat Coat Tea to the rescue

Every other person I know is just coming down with a cold, is currently battling coughs and sneezes or is slowly convalescing from this pervasive respiratory virus.

Those of us who are singers are especially brought low by this illness when our voices are impaired.

Periodically sipping Traditional Medicinals’ Throat Coat Tea is the only way I could get through singing for a recent funeral. I was grateful that the warm liquid soothed that scratchy sore feeling in my throat between songs.

Traditional Medicinals ingredients include licorice root, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, wild cherry bark, fennel fruit, cinnamon bark and sweet orange peel.

Another effective brand is Yogi Throat Comfort Tea which features some of TM’s same ingredients and a Honey Lemon version.

Other tea flavors that may be “medicine cabinet” candidates are peppermint and ginger for stomach upsets or echinacea and gingko for immunity boosting.

Who doesn’t feel better with a relaxing warm beverage? Milk, honey or lemon optional.

Defloured, baking gluten-free goodies for Chicago & Milwaukee

My dog Ralph turned me onto a bakery called Defloured. On walks, he would bee-line to this storefront and routinely use his paw to knock on their front door. Johanna, the baker/owner has become one of his favorite neighborhood friends, due in no small part to the treats he receives from her and her staff.

Defloured is a gluten-free bakery and creates sweet treats that suit many restricted diets. These are not your cardboard tasting health foods, but delectable brownies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.

Not only do they sell delicious products from their Andersonville shop, but their baked goods are sold at some of the more discerning coffee bars, grocery stores (Whole Foods) and restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

They also create custom cakes for events and cookie or bar trays for parties. Not only can they do gluten-free bar and cookie trays, but Defloured also can do vegan or dairy-free cookie trays.

Ralph and I both agree that this bakery deserves a big high-five paw up.

http://deflouredbakery.com/

Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix

With the Great British Baking Show on hiatus, Netflix has added an Aussie baking show called Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Much flashier than its British counterpart, the Zumbo set is reminiscent of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The season starts with twelve contestants of varying ages and both genders. Each program features a general assignment that all current contestants tackle. The two lowest scorers have to undergo a Zumbo test to create insanely complicated dessert creations. The lowest scorer of that competition is eliminated. Like other reality cooking shows, the winner is the last one standing.

The hosts are genius Australian dessertmaker Adriano Zumbo, British cook, writer and broadcaster Rachel Khoo and Gigi Falanga, their outspoken Brazilian cooking assistant.

Some viewers may not like the colorful flash, the quick camera edits and dramatic music this show embraces, but I find the program untaxing and cheery after a rough day. Non-chef that I am, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is a veritable palate-cleanser for me. Sweet indeed.