Saturday, June 17, 2017

El Taco Real in Hammond, Indiana

El Taco Real goes way back. It's been a reliable, classic place for authentic Mexican food in Hammond for decades. It took me a long time to get their for the first time, but I have since been back on several more occasions. I found that El Taco Real has what I consider the best steak tacos, I haven't tried much else because they're my favorite. But, whoever I'm dining with, which so far has been my dad, my friend, Michelle and my husband, has been kind enough to share a bite and the enchilada seizes are pretty magnificent as well - and probably what I'll order if I can ever get away from my steak taco addiction.

If you find yourself in Northwest Indiana, this is a place to seek out. Leave room for the flan!


El Taco Real
935 Hoffman Street
Hammond
(219) 932-8333
eltacorealrestaurant.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fogo de Chão offers new cocktail menu, satisfying dining experience for Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner and if you are one of those procrastinators who just hasn't made plans yet, get on the phone or online and make your reservation asap at Fogo de Chão. The The Brazilian steakhouse recently unveiled its largest bar menu innovation in its 20-year history, with brand new Brazilian-inspired cocktail options. Among the new cocktails is a Berry Mint (with Silver cachaca, blackberries, mint and Woodford Reserve), the Mango Habanero (with Silver cachaca, limes, mano and habanero peppers) and my favorite, the seasonal Strawberry Hibiscus (with Silver cachaca, house-made hibiscus syrup, strawberries and lime.) They also offer the traditional Fogo Caipirinha and a Fogo Premium Caipirinha and an extensive collection of South American wines.



Chicago Foodie Sisters attended a recent media event to celebrate the new cocktail menu at its Lasalle St. location in the city where we also sampled new bar bites. They have a nice Happy Hour menu with some new featured items. It's available weekdays in the bar from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. with tempting small bites, such as Braised Beef Rib Sliders, Spiced Chicken Sliders, Garlic Shrimp and Brazilian Empanadas.

But besides the beverages and small bites, what will really excite dad is what Fogo is known for, it's feast of fire-roasted meats and overflowing market table with premium salads and sides. Meats, meats and more meats until you just can't take another bite. They also have amazing desserts to satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth. Treat dad right this Father's Day with all the steak and pampering he deserves.



Fogo has locations in Chicago, Naperville and Rosemont. For more information, visit fogodechao.com.

Green Tree Brewing in LeClaire, Iowa


On a visit to Iowa last week, we made our way to a lot of eateries - and a couple breweries, and a tasting room at a winery and at a distillery. This brewery, Green Tree Brewing, happens to be right next to a distillery and overlooks the Mississippi River. That's the mighty Mississippi outside the window in the photo below. There's also outdoor seating and it's a lovely setting for sitting and sipping some brew. 


With about a dozen beers on tap, it was hard to narrow it down to four for a flight. There was a nice variety, so you could find something you'd like no matter kind of beer you prefer. My favorite was the Mango Me Happy. There were also a number of stouts with unusual flavors - like mint and peanut butter.

They don't have food available, but you can bring in food from a nearby eatery. The Blue Iguana has fantastic authentic Mexican food and is just a block or two away.

Green Tree Brewing Company
309 N. Cody Road
LeClaire, Iowa
(563) 729-1164
greentreebrewery.com




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leelanau Country Inn Salad Dressing

I just had to take a minute to give a shout out to the maker of this fabulous salad dressing. It's my current fave - Cherry Maple Vinaigrette. I pick it up when I stop at Casey's Gourmet Market in Naperville. I looked around online to try and find it and came across a French dressing by Leelanau Country Inn that had a great review from Plum Market.

I found a Leelanau Country Inn in Maple City, Michigan, but it looks as if it was renamed in recent years. Not sure if this is where that originated, but I know I love it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wide River Winery in LeClarie, Iowa

My husband and I had such a good time on a recent visit to LeClaire, Iowa. In just a few blocks stretch of Cody Road along the Mississippi River there are so many little shops, eateries, tasting rooms. You could easily spend a whole day just walking the strip and shopping and sipping. And there are some adorable guest houses for rent if you decide to make it an overnighter. One guest house is above the Wide River Winery, which we stopped in for a little tasting. The LeClaire location is one of three (others are in Clinton and East Davenport.)

We happen to be visiting on a Friday night when there was live music on the patio. It was the perfect setting for a summer evening - sipping wine within view of the river with a light breeze blowing and live music playing in the background. 

We did a little sampling while we were there of a few of the 15 or so wines that were available. The winemaker, Dorothy O'Brien, is an attorney and each of the wines has a law-inspired name. After tasting a few, I decided to buy a bottle of "Sweet Justice" to bring home. It's a sweet red that tastes like a fruity grape juice that you could sit and sip and sip and sip. 

Wide River Wines are also available for purchase online. For more information, visit WideRiverWinery.com.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lagomarcino's in Moline, IL


Dating back to 1908, Lagomarcino's is a classic, nostalgic ice cream parlor and soda fountain where you can enjoy a big delicious overdose of sugar. With homemade ice cream, handcrafted chocolates and the best hot fudge you can imagine, "Lago's" as it is also known has been featured in Midwest Living and National Geographic Traveler and earned a James Beard "America's Classic" Award.

Have a seat at one of the mahogany booths or a barstool at the counter in this charming old-school place that is also a deli, serving up sandwiches on their own freshly made soft rye bread. The hot fudge that is served on the ice cream is from a special recipe that Angelo Lagomarcino, an immigrant from Northern Italy, purchased from a peddler in 1918 for $25. The man promised him and exclusive recipe for the perfect hot fudge. He seems to have been a man of his word. The recipe proved to be popular and is still used nearly a century later.



The ice cream selections span three pages of the menu with sundaes, shakes, malts and other treats. The beverages, fresh from the soda fountain, come in a variety of flavors - orange, pineapple, root beer, homemade chocolate, lime, cherry, vanilla, strawberry and black raspberry. You can also get a green river or a "Lago," which is a fruit flavored soda pop created by Charlie Lagomarcino in the 1930s that is similar to Dr. Pepper.

We visited the location in Moline (there's another across the river in Davenport, Iowa) and the place is one of those destinations that is just frozen in time and somewhere to definitely add to the itinerary of a visit to the Quad Cities or for a lunch stop when traveling I-80.



I tried out both an egg salad and a white albacore tuna salad on the homemade bread - a recipe that the Lagomarcino family bought from a Moline woman about 70 years ago. It's got such a soft texture and a good aroma. I paired it with a Vanilla Coke and there's just no comparison to one from a soda fountain versus one out of a can or two-liter bottle. I also tried a sip of my husband's "Lago" soda, which was unique and refreshing.

For dessert, I got a massive Bachelor's Kiss, with sliced bananas under generous scoops of vanilla and Dutch chocolate ice cream with hot fudge topping and marshmallow topping with whipped cream and pecans. Perfect for a chocoholic like me - and even better than a banana split.

Don't leave without trying some truffles, caramels, creams, English Toffee or other mouthwatering handmade candy. For more information, visit lagomarcinos.com.

***I did receive a complimentary meal for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for my post. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Meatloaf Like Mom Makes

Meatloaf is often the butt of food jokes. It's the unidentifiable entree doled out by hairy, heavy lunch ladies. But, call me weird -- it was always one of my favorite dinners that mom made. And...it's a favorite of my boys, as well. I make mine just like Mom did. Her secret recipe wasn't much of a secret it all. She made it mostly according to the recipe that was on the box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. My favorite part was that she's pour ketchup all over the top and then bake it.

Here's mom's not-so-secret meatloaf recipe:


1 1/2 pound ground round
2 eggs
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
ketchup 

Mix the ground round, eggs, soup mix, water, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Shape into a loaf. I put mine into a foil lined loaf pan. Cover the top with a thick layer of ketchup and bake for about one hour at 400 degrees.



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cafe 339 in Hobart, IN


When my son wanted to make a visit to Blastcamp to go paint balling with his buddy, I contemplated whether or not to make the trek back home or to wait it out in the area until he was done. After dropping him off, I decided I'd stop for brunch and then check in to see if they were tired out and ready to head home. 

I drove into downtown Hobart and came across Cafe 339. There was quite a crowd on this late Sunday morning and I wasn't sure what to expect. It was a nice surprise coming across this diner/cafe hybrid. It's got the makings of a small-town classic diner - with hearty breakfast dishes, sandwiches and more and with counter seating. However, it takes it up a few notches from the diner environment. The decor is modern and clean. The menu includes some classics with an upscale twist. They serve alcohol, too...so you can have a bloody Mary or mimosa with your Sunday brunch. It was all the things I love about a main street breakfast spot and more. 

I enjoyed the Zamboni Crepes (I'm a sucker for anything covered in Hollandaise sauce) with a side of nicely-browned, crunchy potatoes. 

I'm not one to dine alone very often, but I had a nice relaxing morning chilling on my own while my son had fun at the paintball field. I perused the paper and chatted with the gentleman next to me about the Cubs. I even took a walk across the street afterwards to visit the Librium Cafe, which I had read about previously. Downton Hobart has a nice little main street and if you ever find yourself out that direction, be sure to stop in for a nice helping of Hobart hospitality and some really good food.

Cafe 339
339 Main Street
Hobart, IN
(219) 940-9644
cafe339.com



Friday, June 9, 2017

Eataly

Eataly made its introduction into Chicago's culinary world over three years ago and if you haven't been there yet, it's time to get your foodie-lovin' booty into that place. It is truly a culinary haven where all of your foodie dreams can come true. 

Sample some of the best imported cheeses, meats, wines and more and sit at one of the several counters or tabletops and enjoy a freshly prepared gourmet meal or snack. It's really a must-see for anyone who loves good food. So, enough talking...take a peek around...and plan your foodie field trip!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Aurelio's Pizza in Munster

I've eaten at several of the Aurelio's locations and local longtime connoisseurs of thin crust pizza will often tell you that there's something about pizza at the original Homewood location that is just a notch above the rest. Somehow I agree. Between the nostalgia factor and the pizza that can be made in the "old oven" upon request, it tastes just a little different.

However, pizza at any Aurelio's is pretty tasty. It's loaded with gooey cheese that has a bit of a crunch around the edges and a nice crisp crust. The sausage gets an A+ for it's texture and taste. 

It's been a while since I had an Aurelio's pizza and when I was thinking of a place to go for dinner with my boys this past week that would be quick and reasonably-priced, I decided on Aurelio's. The only sit-down pizzeria in my town is Beggar's, which I love - especially when they have somewhere there playing the pipe organ - but I was in the mood for something different and Aurelio's is quick and close. 

If you've not tried Aurelio's yet, it's one of those legendary Chicago-area places that you have to cross off your bucket list. It's actually been more of a suburban spot - since 1959 and there are now about 40 locations in 6 states. In 2015, they finally made their way into Chicago with a new South Loop location. It's one of those spots that has been feeding generations in the Chicago area and one that really doesn't get its due when people start talking about the best pizza in the city or publications produce lists of the best. It's quite underrated in my opinion when it comes to those top 10 lists. It's a Chicagoland classic that deserves a spot with the regulars.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Cal City Special


Growing up in Chicago's south suburbs, there's a sandwich place I was introduced to in high school called Lincoln's. At the time it was located in Calumet City. That was the second location. It originated in Gary, Indiana where the little sandwich spot served up hungry steelworkers. The Calumet City location has since closed, but the family who originated the restaurant later moved to Highland, Indiana and opened Lincoln's O. The "O" stands for "Original." 

I'm so glad that this place has hung on for so long. As the last remaining member of the original family has slowed down a little at her wishes and reduced hours, the place still draws in big crowds at lunchtime. Besides the delicious (and really reasonably priced) sandwiches, they make homemade pies and soups that a big sellers, as well.

My favorite since I started visiting Lincoln's about 30 years ago is the Cal City Special. It's simple, but just so good. Ham. Turkey. Bacon. Melted American Cheese. Lettuce. Tomato. Mayo. On a toasted French Roll. It's still my favorite sandwich at Lincoln's - and at any other restaurant. If you've never set foot in Lincoln's, you really need to put it on your list. The decor is a little outdated. It's small and nothing fancy. But the ladies behind the counter are super friendly and super fast. And the sandwiches are like a big delicious hug that takes you back to simpler times. Get over there for a Cal City Special - and tell them the Chicago Foodie Sisters sent you.

P.S. They have very limited hours -- open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Lincoln's O
2813 Highway Avenue
Highland, IN
219-923-4144
lincolnso.com




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tom + Chee

One fun thing about traveling is finding out the local favorite food spots. I always enjoy finding not only small mom-and-pop places, but also chains that are unique to a region. I found a few of those while in Ohio earlier this year. 

Somewhere in planning our itinerary I came across Tom + Chee, a casual and quick eatery dedicated to an American classic - the grilled cheese. While the chain has now expanded outside Ohio, it originated at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. They are now in 14 states, but haven't entered Illinois yet. They're all around us - Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, but so far no Illinois. 



Should you happen to come across a Tom + Chee in another state, it's definitely worth a stop. They're signature sandwich is the grilled cheese glazed doughnut, a concoction that doesn't sound all that appetizing, but actually compliments each other really well. As we stepped out of the Newport Aquarium at Newport at the Levee, just across the river from Cincinnati, I spotted a Tom + Chee, so I knew we'd have to make a stop to try out the Grilled Cheese Donut. For more information on the franchise and their locations, visit tomandchee.com.