Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dining Out in Chicago: Mercat a la Planxa

The past week and a half marked a special time of the year in Chicago—Restaurant Week. During these magical 10 days, Chicagoans get the opportunity to take advantage of some of the best dining the city has to offer at a fraction of the usual cost. Participating restaurants offer 3-course prix fixe menus that run from $22 at lunch to $33 or $44 at dinner. I had the pleasure of dining at both South Loop's Mercat a la Planxa and Boka in Lincoln Park. The former was an experience that exemplified the essence of what is great about Restaurant Week—excellent food at a stellar price. The latter, however, was a lesson in where restaurant week falls short. But that's a story for another review.

I am a huge Iron Chef fan, so I was excited to check out Jose Garces's tapas hot spot. Upon entering, I was struck by the Gaudi-esque decor. The space is covered in geometric patterns and bright colors and exudes hip modern sophistication. The dining room's deep blue ceiling and hanging light fixtures create the illusion of a starry night sky. While the main dining area is a little cluttered, overall, the space is great and the decor is lovely. In terms of ambiance, the vibe is trendy and the place was buzzing all night.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes: 3 Ways

Valentine's Day is not one of my favorite holidays, but it's not without its redeeming qualities. First, it's an excuse to stuff my face with chocolate, and second, it presents an opportunity to make themed treats. So, imagine my excitement when I received a Valentine's Day package from my mom filled with 1. chocolate, 2. supplies to make themed treats, and 3. a new cookbook filled with recipes for said treats.

These adorable cupcake decorations (paper liners, toppers and sprinkles), along with my newest cookbook, Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, inspired me to make three plays on Dorie's recipe for chocolate cupcakes with chocolate glaze.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baking with Julia: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

It's time for Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia! Today our baking adventure continues with chocolate truffle tartlets. I was really looking forward to making this week's selection, since it's my absolute favorite type of dessert- uber chocolaty and deeply decadent. I can safely say that the end result did not disappoint. It was a chocolate lover's dream- a buttery chocolate pastry shell with just the right amount of salt, a rich melt-in-your-mouth chocolate filling and chunks of milk and white chocolate and crunchy biscotti all mixed in.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Simple Tomato Sauce

Source: The Kitchn

This week's selection deviates slightly from the norm as far as my recipes go. If you read D*lish often, you know that I tend to gravitate towards recipes that involve a lot of ingredients or complex preparation. And that I somehow manage to take simple recipes and complicate them until they're barely recognizable. I'm not what you'd call a minimalist. That's for sure. However, I do acknowledge that simple is sometimes best and I understand it's important for every cook to have a handful of basic recipes in his or her repertoire.

When I stumbled upon Marcella Hazan's 4-ingredient tomato sauce on the Kitchn, I had yet to try a really great simple marinara recipe. It could not have sounded more simple, so I figured I would give it a try. The recipe was featured as part of an article titled "12 Recipes to Know by Heart" and after trying it, I understand why it was #1 on the list. It's smooth and silky and utterly delicious. And requires less than 5 minutes of hands-on time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Baking with Julia: White Loaves

It's finally here! Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia has begun!

About a month ago, I signed up to be a part of Tuesdays with Dorie, a virtual baking club attempting to tackle Dorie Greenspan's 450+ page Baking with Julia. Twice a month, along with my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, I will be posting a recipe from BwJ selected by the group. Most weeks, I will simply share my pictures and thoughts, not the actual recipe itself. That right is reserved for the host(s) of the week. I could not be more thrilled to be part of such a great group. Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Breadcrumbs

Let me just say, brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable, but I feel bad for them. The proverbial last kid picked for dodgeball, they're unfairly saddled with a bad rap. They're the vegetable that kids love to hate. But for all you haters out there, read on, because I'm going to make you love brussels sprouts.

It's my theory that about 90% of people who hate brussels sprouts have never had them prepared properly. It's crucial to cook them to just the right point of doneness, because underdone they are tough and unpleasantly crunchy, and overdone, they're worse. When cooked past their peak, sprouts are mushy and emit sulfur, which gives them a bitter taste and an awful smell. A lot of complaints about brussels sprouts stem from those who have only experienced the bitter mush that results when sprouts are cooked to death. But I guarantee this recipe will convert even the most avowed brussels sprout haters.