Category Archives: guest blogger

Guest blog: Baconfest 2011

While I am not fast enough to jump on Baconfest 2011 tickets, my dedicated readers are! So when Jacky Hackett of cooking blog guessed her second post correctly, (this time the mystery goat), she asked if a post on Baconfest would be, er, Kosher? Since I didn’t get to bask in the bacon-ocity, I was happy to get her full report as well as some mouth-watering photos below…

Baconfest 2011 and the crowd is ready to go hog-wild

“My husband and I were lucky enough to score tickets to Baconfest 2011. Baconfest is four hours of bacon goodness with some of Chicago’s greatest chefs preparing amazing dishes, and a few liquor sponsors provided drinks featuring bacon. But it’s not only about the swine, a food-drive is run at the event and a portion of the Baconfest proceeds are donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

We arrived at the UIC Forum to find a line winding around the block. Bacon fans poured over the menu to plot their strategy for working their way through the fest. The menu was an amazing read with offerings like bacon cotton candy, bacon biscotti, bacon-stuffed bacon, applewood smoked bourbon bacon jam, BLT martinis and bacon-infused rum. With more than 50 dishes it was a bit overwhelming; you truly did need a strategy.

We managed to hit about two-thirds of the stations. Even though servings were small, we got quite full after just a handful of dishes. A few of the chefs were out of food before we got to them, some just weren’t appealing enough to add to our overly full bellies, and a few we just overlooked. Choosing a favorite would be like choosing a favorite child, it just can’t be done…but here are a few we’re still thinking about..

Old Town Social (Jared Vancamp) served a Triple S Farms smoked bacon wrapped around a Monterey Jack-stuffed hot dog topped with pickled jalapeños, salsa fresco, and a lime aïoli. The hot dog can only be described as smooth, the bacon gave it a great smoky flavor and the toppings added a nice freshness.

Tijuana Hog Dog

Lillie’s Q (Charlie McKenna) served a pork belly and grit hash with a smoked gulf shrimp, bacon, on top of an ENC vinegar sauce. The pork belly and vinegar sauce were a match made in heaven and the grits were creamy and rich dotted with bits of bacon.

We also loved crispy pork belly with grilled ramps, peas, and farro drizzled with bacon agrodolce served by Gamba Ristorante (Tony Graves). Not only was it good-looking but the pork belly was cooked to perfection. The sweet and sour of the agrodolce balanced the rich fatty belly perfectly.

Pork belly with farro

Magnolia Café (Kas Medhat) served their interpretation of Pork’n’Beans; white bean spread topped with thick cut bacon and greens on a sourdough bread.

Terzo Piano (Margaret Colleran Sahs) served an empanada with Dreymiller and Kray cinnamon bacon, dried seedling strawberry, toasted almond with a salsa verde. The empanada had just the right amount of sweetness with a touch of savory in the salsa verde. My husband described it as tasting like Christmas. We left the fest happy, full, clothes smelling faintly of bacon, and in desperate need of a nap.”  — Jacky Hackett


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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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