Category Archives: guest blogger

Guest blog spot: Catherine’s Vegan Shamrock Shake

Mystery candy post guesser Catherine was hell-bent on getting her guest post in by St. Patty’s Day, but alas, her healthy take on the sickly sweet McDonald’s Shamrock Shake took a few days longer than expected to perfect. Inspired by her love of all things mint, Catherine’s soy-based shake is a thinner take on the heavy (or “thick-ass,” as she put it) fast food shake, but 10-15 minutes in the freezer will thicken it up if that is your thang. Food coloring was added merely for photo aesthetics, and although she was ready to throw her impressive creation in a damn paper McDonald’s cup, I’m glad she opted for a tall and virtually unwaxy, glass, and she also gets photo direction props for the backdrop!

Shamrock shake arsenal

Catherine’s Vegan Shamrock Shake
1 serving
Soy vanilla ice cream 1 cup
Soy milk, unsweetened (or vanilla) 3/4 cup
High-quality peppermint extract 1/2 tsp
Green food coloring (optional) 2-3 drops
Peppermint or spearmint leaves for garnish

Blend all ingredients and garnish with fresh peppermint or spearmint leaves.

Vegan shamrock shake


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Guest blog: Not Known For: The Smoke Daddy cornbread

OK, this mystery post was a little obscure, but once you spot the Stay-Puft marshmallow man at Wicker Park’s Wormhole coffee, you never forget it. Second-time guest blog winner Mark Rumble expressed his love for the 1980s-enrobed coffee shop, most notably for the Castle Grayskull toy (which I had to google, but still don’t get). Mark took a break from his new blog for Chicago men (and the women who tolerate them), to post on a not known for that I already knew and loved…the cornbread at The Smoke Daddy…

Not Known For: The Smoke Daddy’s Cornbread
Much to my own detriment, I’m a sucker for all things spicy. So whenever I see something on a menu that would typically not be spicy, but through the miracles jalapeños it has been made so, I cannot resist. (For proof of this, see my last guest post where I raved about Beans and Bagels’ jalapeno cream cheese.)
One of my favorite jalapeno-enhanced dishes is undoubtedly The Smoke Daddy’s cornbread. I’m not a cornbread connoisseur or traditionalist, I just know what I like: a gooey, buttery and tad bit smokey piece of cornbread. The Smoke Daddy delivers on all those fronts. But because they are geniuses, they also add little pieces of jalapeño in the cornbread. It makes for a fantastic, extra jolt of flavor and spiciness, enough to make you consider ordering two sides of it.
Now this concluding sentence might sound sacrilegious, but it’s true: If you ever decide to skip The Smoke Daddy’s barbecued meat and just indulge in several pieces of their cornbread, it’d be totally justifiable. The Smoke Daddy * 1804 West Division St., 773.772.6656

The Smoke Daddy cornbread (not shot from a TV still)

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Guest blog post: Pastoral

How cool is it that not only did Elizabites reader and blogger Jacky Hackett guess last week’s mystery face, but she was actually at Ditka’s once for a wedding in the company of da’ coach and wife? For her guest post, Jacky choose Pastoral, a Loop cheese shop I can’t believe I’ve never visited. The pig and fig sandwich sounds delish, as does the goat cheese-almond butter one-two punch in the Cali Chevre. Here’s her take and scrumptious pics…
Pastoral in the Loop

Pastoral is one of those hidden gems in the Loop. While it may not be hard to find, it is easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle of the commute. I quickly became hooked and find myself in there often, even if it is just to browse. In addition to the fabulous cheese selection, they have cured meats, bread, wine, olives, pickled vegetables, jams, the list goes on. They even offer wine and cheese pairing classes. The loop location makes for a perfect place to stop and pack a picnic for Millennium Park events or the beach. Pastoral is a popular sandwich spot too. It gets crowded during the lunch rush, if you are in a hurry call ahead to order. Seating is limited, but in the warmer months they do have additional outdoor seating. The sandwich menu changes often and includes vegetarian and vegan options. The Blue Pig n’ Fig sandwich is a delicious combo of salty meat, sweet jam, and strong creamy cheese. The Cali Chevre is a unique vegetarian option with goat cheese, almond butter and red onion. They have a few locations in the city though I am partial to the Lake Street location, the people that work there are so friendly and helpful. Pastoral Artisan Cheese, bread and wine, 53 E. Lake St. (between Michigan and Wabash).

Pig and Fig sandwich


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Guest blog: Carmela’s Tacos

People really do win on elizabites. Melissa Yen, previous co-owner of the beloved and sorely missed Vella Cafe is an expert when it comes to guessing my mystery posts. With three correct guesses under her belt, it was time for her guest blog for a second time. Yen is the flavorful mastermind behind 361 Syrups; a line of specialty flavored syrups (used in the Italian sodas at Cippolina, the lattes at Milk & Honey) that’ll be sold this fall at local cafes, bars and stores like Provenance Food and Wine, also writes her own food blog. For her post, she wrote up a mouthwatering taqueria called Carmela’s, where it’s all about the pastor…her post and pics below…

Al pastor at Carmela's Taqueria

“I don’t know what compels one to pick one hole-in-the-wall taqueria over another. I’ve been driving by Carmela’s Taqueria for years and have always wanted to stop in. Even from the outside it looked enticing. So, finally, I did it. The place is tiny, with a counter and maybe six tables. It’s painted bright, inviting colors and although a bit worn, it’s clean. The menu is simple, with eight taco choices, burritos and tortas. While the horchata was on the watery side, the fresh carrot juice was a steal at $2.50 a glass. I sat at the counter, which is about a foot from the flat top and rotating spit in which the pork for the al pastor tacos is sliced from. Unfortunately the day I was there, the spit was empty, but I got to watch as one of the cooks layered pork marinated in chilies and pineapple with raw onion slices onto the giant skewer which would then be placed on the spit. That layered creation of pork, onions and pineapple must have weighed 100 pounds…no joke. Tacos al pastor are the item to order at Carmela’s. I ordered three tacos, carne asada, chicken, and al pastor. While the chicken and carne asada were fresh, they paled in comparison to the al pastor. It had been shaved from the spit, and then griddled on the flat top so the outside was crunchy and caramelized from the sweet pineapple drippings and the inside was tender and chewy. Oh the flavor! This taco, served with cilantro and onion, did not even need salsa. That is a lot for me to say, as I love to slather on the sauce of any kind. Salsa would have just masked the already perfectly melded flavors of the spicy/sweet pork, the bite of the raw onion and the freshness of the chopped cilantro. I have always been a big carnitas (slow roasted pork) fan, but Carmela’s won me over to al pastor. Carmela’s Taqueria, 1206 W. Lawrence

Inside Carmela's

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Guest blog spot: Zingerman’s

I am so excited about this long-awaited guest blog, which is not only about Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, but the Creamery, Bakehouse and Deli that are found in the popular foodie haven/mail order company. I, unfortunately have never been, but Ben Reid (founder of the recently launched, a free online gift registry for Chicago restaurant-obsessed newlyweds) guessed the Landmark mystery ceiling correctly back in Sept., and decided to bring us to all four locales. There are good gobs of goo (fried cheese curds), bacon farm bread, T-shirts and more to be read in his fun post below:

“Trips home to Ann Arbor are never complete without a visit to Zingerman’s, pound for pound the best deli in the world in my book and a place everyone should eat before they die. I wanted my post to stand out though, and while Zingerman’s is unknown to many Chicagoans, it does receive national plaudits and lacked the obscurity I was looking for. So when my family decided to take a break from Thanksgiving leftovers and head to Zingerman’s Roadhouse, the lesser known restaurant sibling to the original deli, I figured this was my answer. Turns out it was so much more…

We had a party of 6 on a Friday night and had to wait a few minutes in the bar for our table. The Zingerman’s family takes the sourcing of their products very seriously, and they were doing the local thing way before it was in vogue. And if it ain’t local, it’s the best damn thing you can get from far away. So I started with a locally produced Zaison, a Belgian beauty created the Roadhouse’s bar manager at a brewery up the road, and my wife Jennifer had a Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, Calif.

Local brews at the Roadhouse

On the Roadhouse menu one finds various all-American delights. The whole thing has a southern bent, with sections for BBQ, Mac & Cheese, Fish, and Burgers. My sister went to Wisconsin for college though, so for an appetizer we couldn’t resist going Midwest with the fried cheese curds. They ended up being the most ridiculously good gobs of goo you can imagine. These aren’t your typical breadcrumb-coated squeakers…more like what happens when a James Beard nominated chef (yes, they have one of those in Alex Young) takes over the recipe.

Fried cheese curds, worth a trip to Michigan alone

For entrées, we had the BBQ Pork Entrée with Eastern North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce, Pit Smoked Beef Brisket, sautéed Georges Bank scallops, the Roadhouse Macaroni & Cheese, and a Bacon & Blue Burger with Nueske’s (of course) and Point Reyes Blue Cheese. They were all fantastic and masterfully demonstrated their own little highlights of American cooking.

Here’s where it gets interesting. We told our server that I was snapping pics for a blog post, to which she suggested if she were writing a blog about Zingerman’s she wouldn’t limit herself to just one establishment in the empire, which consists of the deli, the roadhouse, a creamery and a bakehouse. She would go on the “Tour de Food.” The Tour de Food, as it turns out, is a challenge to visit all four retail locations in the empire in one day in order to win something that stirs the soul of any red-blooded American — a T-shirt.

Eyes darted around our table in excitement. Suddenly this blog post had real purpose. We were going to do the Tour de Food and share its glories with the esteemed readers of Elizabites. And we were in a race against time. It was already 9:30PM, and we had one down. Our server signed our “TDF” passports and we raced to make it to the deli by closing time (10PM).

We burst through the doors of the famous deli around 9:45PM. At most mortal establishments 15 minutes before closing is a time that elicits stink-eye looks from the staff, but not at Zingerman’s. “Hi! Come on in, welcome to Zingerm – wait, aren’t you the Reids?” Not only was everyone there unreasonably delighted that we were extending their Friday night shift, but Dave, the bread guy remembered my Mom and sisters by name from a week earlier. Instead of asking “can I help with something” or “any questions”, he says “what do you guys want to try?” And thus began about 20 minutes of trying different kinds of bread—Parmesan pepper, Pain de Montagne, 8-grain 3-seed, Peppered Bacon Farm Bread (you read that right), Chocolate Cherry, and Pecan Raisin, to name a few. Dave, it seemed, was content to feed us samples all night and educate us on the various traditional baking methods employed at the Bakehouse, and for that we salute him. Here’s to you, Mr. Gives-us-free-bread-and-loves-the-science-of-baking-more-than-anyone-we’ve-ever-met-guy. Thanks Dave. I took a couple shots of the cheese and meat case on the way out to give any of the uninitiated a glimpse of how ridiiiiiculous this place is.

A case for meat and cheese

Bread-making at Zingerman's Bakery

Two down, two to go, and luckily they were right next door to each other. We were up and out the next morning to hit the Bakehouse and Creamery well within our 24-hour window for the Tour. As we’ve come to expect from Zingerman’s, at the Bakehouse they don’t just sell you bread, they invite you back into the Bakehouse to watch cool kids in bandannas knead the dough and work the ovens. We weren’t in the store five minutes and already we were sniffing fermenting sourdough and being lectured on the logistics of accommodating the varying baking times for around 20 different types of bread. We bought a challah and went next door to the creamery. Same deal – like cheese, will eat. We tried Little Dragon tarragon goat cheese, Great Lakes Cheshire, Montgomery Cheddar, and something they call a Lincoln Log. We turned in our stamped passports, collected our shirts, and went next door to the newly opened Zingerman’s Coffee Roasting Co. (these guys do it all) to savor the smell of success, and of coffee.

The long and short of it is Zingerman’s as a company is a food lover’s treasure, and the Tour de Food is their treasure hunt. You’ve never met people so passionate about food, and I don’t mean just the owners of the company but EVERYONE working there. And I don’t say that lightly living in Chicago, a city full of passionate foodies. If you’re near Ann Arbor, MI and are hungry, do yourself a favor and go to one of their fine establishments. If you’re near Ann Arbor however and are feeling hungry AND particularly ambitious, go on the Tour and tell ‘em Ben sent you. And enjoy your free T-shirt.” Zingerman’s, 422 Detroit Street, 734.663.DELI

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Guest blog: Doc’s Juice and Smoothies

Avid mystery post guesser and local writer/blogger Melissa Yen took at crack at last summer’s mystery chandlier post, and identified the gorgeous Sepia light fixtures immediately. It took her a few months, but she finally settled on Doc’s Juice bar for her guest post, focusing on the kale-and-blueberry packed brown smoothie. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this place, and love the idea of a kale smoothie that doesn’t taste like vegetables..I also love the guest blog posts that show me something new around town. Yen’s post and pics below..

Brown-smoothie-1I am obsessed with healthy food lately. Kale. Kale is your friend because it is chock full of vitamins A, C, E , K & B6, along with calcium, niacin, zinc, iron, etc. ….And blueberries…how can you pack that much antioxidant activity into those tiny little berries? Put them together and you can conquer the world, or at least your health. Who would have even thought of putting them together? Doc’s Juice and Smoothies, is who. Doc’s is located at in a spacious, bright storefront. They use all organic ingredients and are “The Home of the Veggie Smoothie.” They promise you won’t taste the veggies and you don’t. I’m addicted to the Brown Smoothie. As a rule of thumb, you should not associate the word brown with food. It’s just not appetizing. I don’t care what they call it. I call it delicious. Kale, spinach, blueberries, bananas, mangos and apple juice; That is the magic combo. I would rather spend $4.99 on one of these healthy, tasty treats than on a fancy frappuccino. That frappuccino buzz will be gone in an hour, although the 15 grams of fat and 400 calories will settle around your waist and stay awhile. The Brown Smoothie will fill you up with vitamins, antioxidants and yummy fruit flavor. You won’t taste the greens, Doc and promise. 2151 W. Armitage, 773.278.5600.

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Guest blog spot: The Bar on Buena

When my friend, fellow foodie, and blogger Jeff Kitler guessed the Naha mystery trees correctly I was happy for two reasons. First, because he tipped me off to a great “not-known-for” at Naha, fried calamari. The second because his guest post is on a bar/restaurant in Bueno Park, a ‘hood I have hardly explored. I am very intrigued by beer that flows out of a faucet, tequila-marinated steak tacos and a Big Sandwich with pancetta and a fried egg. I give you a Bar. That’s on Buena.

Abbey Ale Leffe Blonde

Abbey Ale Leffe Blonde

“I love The Bar on Buena for many reasons. First, and probably least importantly, it has a great name. The Bar on Buena lends to an incredibly lame joke, one I use over and over again and never grow tired of: “Where are you going for dinner Jeff? The Bar on Buena. What bar? The Bar on Buena! Duh, it’s on Buena. Yes I understand, but what bar?” And on and on. But seriously, The BOB is a sparkling gem stuffed with delicious food and intriguing beer. Hidden between Wrigleyville’s sport bars and Uptown’s pho shops, The BOB fills a void in Buena Park for those seeking quality food and an outstanding beer list. The BOB’s closet-sized kitchen sits behind the bar and offers a surprisingly large lineup of serious pub grub that includes pulled pork sandwiches, tequila-marinated steak tacos and the killer (literally?) B.O.B Burger topped with Red Dragon Cheddar, pancetta and a fried egg. And let’s not forget the brew! With more than 100 beers available by the bottle and 19 poured from the “faucet,” the beer selection alone is enough to please the biggest brew snobs. And don’t worry, the friendly staff is more than happy to help select a brew for those without their in-the-know enthusiast. The BOB is a great neighborhood bar located on one of Chicago’s most adorable tree-lined streets. With summer arriving soon (we hope!) The BOB’s sidewalk café is sure to be packed! Give The BOB a try…you can’t not find it.” The Bar on Buena, 910 W. Buena Ave., 773.525.8665.
Pulled pork with Carolina-style sauce with Cheddar cheese on Texas toast with red onion relish and sweet potato fries

Pulled pork with Carolina-style sauce with Cheddar cheese on Texas toast with red onion relish and sweet potato fries

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Guest blog post: Amalie’s local fixes

Local writer/blogger Amalie Drury’s guest post takes the carb-overload into high-gear, but it was too mouth-watering not to post immediately after she sent it in. After correctly guessing a Mystery glitz post a couple months ago, she decided to highlight her top five fave fixes around town and even supplied pics of each! She had me at Brett’s fudge brownie and Zodiac popover rolls, and the rest of the treats I have yet to try.. deliciousness ensues below…

Dear Elizabites readers,

Many millennia ago, I was the winner of a guest blog entry on Elizabites. Finally, after stretching my #1 talent (procrastination) to astonishing limits of acceptability, I have produced the text.

I don’t know what took me so long. My chosen topic has been a passion since the days when my mother taught me that the best snack after a grueling Jazzercise class is a mixed mini dozen from My Favorite Muffin. The most essential item on any grocery list is a bag of (gourmet) chocolate chips. And if you’re going to all the trouble of making hot chocolate on a snowy afternoon, please, put away the Hershey’s. Bring on the Droste.

In my family, we are chocolate super-snobs. Cookie monsters. Sugar speed freaks. I was worried when I moved to Chicago eight years ago, as it’s a city known more for hunks of meat than delectable sweet treats. But when I realized there was a chocolate factory mere blocks from my office and I would be breathing cocoa powder as a way of life, I knew this really was my kind of town. And after a trillion calories’ worth of trial and error, I’ve nailed down a list of my favorite fixes (in no particular order):

Brett's Kitchen fudge brownie

Brett's Kitchen fudge brownie

1. Brownies from Brett’s Kitchen in River North. Available only on Fridays, they are tall, cakey and liberally iced, with a smattering of walnuts for intermittent crunch. Take one home in a white paper bag, microwave for 13 seconds, get out a fancy fork, and turn on a Gossip Girl rerun. Yummm. Yum.
Swirlz bittersweet chocolate

Swirlz bittersweet chocolate

2. Bittersweet chocolate cupcakes from Swirlz in Lincoln Park. Moist chocolate cake, light-as-air chocolate buttercream frosting, and a few crispy tendrils sprinkled on top…they are, I assert, the best of the trendy cupcakes.
Zodiac Room popover roll

Zodiac Room popover roll

3. Popovers at The Zodiac, Neiman Marcus, Michigan Avenue. At this ladies-who-lunch spot, they know their crowd well. Forget crusty, mouth-scraping table bread. The Zodiac passes out hot popovers—light, flaky pastries that look like exploded muffins—with silky, spreadable strawberry butter on the side. You will ask for another. I guarantee it.
Sepia cookies (photo by Martha Williams)

Sepia cookies (photo by Martha Williams)

4. Chocolate chip cookies at Sepia. There are specific qualities I require in a chocolate chip cookie, perhaps my favorite food on Earth. A certain not-too-weighty density, the perfect level of doneness, discernable hints of brown sugar and salt, slightly crisp edges, and chips that remain melty at all times. The pastry chef at Sepia only rolls hers out at lunchtime (call ahead to find out when), but They. Are. Freaking. Fantastic. Seriously, perfection.
Vosges caramel marshmallows

Vosges caramel marshmallows

5. Vosges Haut-Chocolate caramel marshmallows. Vosges is a Chicago-based company helmed by the lovely Katrina Markoff, and their packaging alone is enough to induce bliss (purple satin bows!). The items in question—vanilla bean marshmallows topped with caramel, surrounded by dark chocolate and sprinkled with toffee—are impossible to resist. Luckily, at $27 for a box of nine, they are a once-in-a-while situation. Try them if you know what’s good for you.

If you ingest one of these things just because I said so, I hope it’s everything you hoped for and more. In fact, tell me about it sometime.

Extra-sweetly yours,

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