A Squared: May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Night at the Bakery with Le Pain Quotidien

Great news, Chicago: Le Pain Quotidien has arrived! And with 3 brand new locations, no less.

I have popped into this adorable bakery cafe on a previous visit to New York City and was immediately enamored with the European vibe of the place and also the delicious food. It's no surprise that you feel immediately transported to a European bakery when you walk into LPQ. The bakery began in Belgium when Alain Coumont decided to create a place that served the kind of fresh bread that he loved as a child. In the late 1990's he opened his US flagship location in New York and today there are over 200 LPQ locations around the world.

Last week I had the fun opportunity to join a handful of other food bloggers for a special cooking class with Anna Boisture, Head Baker & Instructor at LPQ's Bleecker Street Bakery in New York. We met at LPQ's West Loop location (located on the corner of Clinton and Randolph on the edge of the French Market), which will house the main bakery for all three Chicago LPQ cafes. The Night at the Bakery was such a great way for us to learn-- hands on-- about LPQ's menu, process, and mission... and to learn a few new kitchen tricks!

And before I tell you about what we actually cooked, I wanted to share the above photo of the beautiful snack spread that the folks at LPQ put out for us. How amazing is that?! I made sure to sample pretty much everything and found a few favorites: the Hazelnut Flûte (an amazing baguette filled with chunky hazelnuts and plump raisins, the spicy harissa spread, and an amazing whipped feta spread.

We started the evening by doing a little bit of baking. On the menu: a modern take on a summer berry shortcake. We baked our own quinoa and spelt biscuits, a fun new grain spin on a classic shortcake. And then we topped them with homemade coconut chia seed pudding and fresh macerated berries.

It was so pretty and tasted amazing. It was even a little healthier than your average dessert, which was great since I spent so much time snacking on the breads and spreads!

Next up, we made fresh and springy tartine-- an open faced sandwich. We all paired up to create different components of the sandwich. Erin and I were tasked with making the sweet green pea hummus. It was really easy to put together and the result was a hummus with a beautiful bright color and fresh sweet taste. We spread the hummus on huge slices of bread and topped with fresh peas, crumbled bacon, sliced radish, and a little mint for a light and delicious meal.

You can scroll on down to find the recipe for this delicious tartine. I highly recommend recreating this on a warm spring or summer day when peas are in season. You could also top with a little shaved Parmesan too!

Aaaaaaand... Deal alert! If you're interested in taking a class at LPQ, you are in luck! Their other US bakeries are regularly offering classes ranging from pastries to pretzels to desserts and their Chicago West Loop location will be doing the same soon! If you're planning on signing up for a class, be sure to use code LPQ107 to receive a $10 discount off the cost of your course!

LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN Pea, Pancetta & Radish Tartine
Serves 2


For the pea hummus--
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, defrosted
  • 2 Tbs. tahini
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 pinches of sea salt
  • black pepper
To serve--
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta
  • 4 radishes cut into slivers
  • 8 mint leaves, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. shelled peas

For the pea hummus, put the peas, tahini, olive oil, salt and black pepper into a food processor or use a handheld blender to blend in short bursts of 10-15 seconds, until you have a smooth purée.

To serve, spread the pea hummus on the bread, then top with the pancetta, radishes, mint and peas.

*Editor's Note: The Night at the Bakery class and meal was hosted by Le Pain Quotidien and Zapwater Communications. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Follow on Bloglovin

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lunch in the Loop: Blackwood BBQ & Mercato

I'm always on the hunt for good lunch options in the Loop and it can be tough to weed through the chain burger, sandwich, and burrito joints to find them. It seems like the Chicago restaurant gods have been listening recently though because some real fast casual gems have popped up and I'm impressed. I'm sharing two new finds with you today that could really put my brown bag habit in jeopardy!

Blackwood BBQ
The Loop

For the last few months, I have walked by Blackwood every morning on my way to work and the smell of their smoker has had my dying to stop in. This place serves up pretty legit barbecue in a fast casual environment-- the perfect way to satisfy a barbecue craving during your lunch hour. The food here is assembled in a line as you like it (a la Chipotle) and there are a ton of delicious options. You first select your meat: pulled pork or chicken or beef brisket and then how you'd like to eat it-- as a sandwich, platter, or salad. Then you get to choose from a variety of regionally-inspired barbecue sauces like the mustardy South Carolina-style that I chose for my pulled pork salad or the spicy Kansas City-style that my husband chose for his brisket sandwich. Alex loved that the staff asked him if he preferred he brisket on the leaner or fattier side, a choice you don't often get to make, but one that can definitely affect how much you enjoy your meal. Each meal is served with a side dish of your choice. They serve BBQ joint favorites like mac and cheese, cornbread, baked beans, and coleslaw on the side. We were both really impressed with the quality of our meal at Blackwood. This fast casual lunch was tastier and more flavorful than we have experienced at some other sit down BBQ joints around the city, which is super impressive given how quickly you can get in and out the door here.
Blackwood BBQ on Urbanspoon

Mercato at Urban Market
The Loop

Last week I met up with Kit from The Kittchen for lunch at a new spot in the Loop that I will definitely be visiting again!

I have often heard about the food court in the lower level of the Chase Building (which is only a few blocks from my office), but this was my first actual visit. And shame on me! Not only is there a huge salad bar and a Tortas Frontera by Chef Rick Bayless at Urban Market, but just recently celebrity chef Fabio Viviani opened Mercato here as well. And he's officially changed the fast casual lunch game in the Loop!

Mercato's menu is full of the delicious flavors and dishes that I fell in love with at chef Fabio's Siena Tavern, but available in a quick, casual, and takeout-friendly location. Some of the menu items available here are unique to Mercato, while others have been borrowed right from Siena Tavern's menu. I was so excited to see my favorite Tuscan Kale Caesar Salad topped with sun-dried tomatoes and ciabatta croutons packaged up and ready to go at Mercato. This is an exciting alternative for those days when I haven't packed a lunch and need a healthy and filling takeout option.

Also on the menu: Pizza, of course! Mercato has several pizza options available. They offer a variety of pizza squares like the four cheese or pepperoni below. These are some of the quickest options available at Mercato and with a thicker focaccia-like crust, they make a fast, filling, and tasty lunch.

If you're in the market for something a little larger (maybe to share or take a few slices home for later?), Mercato also bakes up whole pies in their pizza oven as well! These pizzas have a thinner crust and also come with a variety of toppings. Kit and I both loved the unique combination of pesto, white beans, avocado, and pulled pork that we tried. The toppings were definitely not your typical pizza fixings, but the combination was so different and delicious!

Last, but by no means least, Mercato also features a made to order gnocchi and pasta bar. The pasta and the gnocchi are made fresh daily with recipes specially crafted by chef Fabio.

Kit and I have both had (and loved) the gnocchi in truffle sauce at Siena Tavern, so we decided to get an order of gnocchi at Mercato and compare. While truffle sauce wasn't an option here, Mercato does offer a four cheese sauce, pork ragu, and the bolognese, which was what we decided on. The gnocchi was just as tender as I remembered at Siena Tavern and the sauce was super rich with big chunks of meat. It was really kind of surprising that something that tasted that slow cooked and flavorful was served at a fast casual restaurant.

Now that I have been to Mercato, I fully intend to abandon my brown bad a little more often, leave my office, and venture over to the Chase Building. This entire meal (or even just one dish, like a normal person might eat) was well worth the trip!
Urban Market Chicago on Urbanspoon
Editor's note: Lunch at Mercato was provided to me at no cost. The opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.

Follow on Bloglovin

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Easy Angel Hair with Tomatoes, Basil, & Mozzarella

It is finally starting to feel a like summer-- or at least, like spring-- here in Chicago and I could not be happier to see the sunshine. I even got out a suitcase this past weekend and packed up our hats, boots, and scarves in preparation for the big move. I figure that since it is almost June, we probably won't see snow again for a few months... hope I didn't jinx it for us.

When the weather gets warm like this, I start to crave dinners that are light and fresh. This pasta dish totally fits the bill. And even better, it's quick and easy to make-- perfect for a busy weeknight.

Angel hair pasta is tossed in a simple and flavorful sauce of fresh tomatoes, shallot, and garlic with a hint of tangy balsamic vinegar. Topped with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves, it is a one dish meatless dinner that is both delicious and satisfying. This is a great summer dinner recipe to keep in mind for a busy weeknight!


  • 8 oz. angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces *I use the ciliegine and just slice them in half

Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften, but not brown, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pour in the reserved pasta water and the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add pasta to the pan and toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper (if needed) and transfer to serving bowls or plates. Top with mozzarella and basil and serve.

Looking for another easy pasta recipe? Try Spaghetti with Red & Yellow Peppers or Baked Pastina Casserole.

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tastemaker Top 10 with Holly of [Im]perfectly Balanced

The Tastemaker Top 10 is a collection of 10 questions asked by me and answered by some of my favorite bloggers. Here they will tell you a little bit about themselves, their blogs, and of course, their favorite foods and restaurants. Today we're talking to Holly, a Dallas-based designer, blogger at [Im]perfectly Balanced, and a business colleague and friend in real life. I love this girl's southern flair and some of her responses had me giggling... check it out!

Name: Holly

Blog: [Im]perfectly Balanced

Location: Dallas, TX

In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about your blog. 

Now, tell us about your...

1. Favorite meal, food, or cuisine: 
 Fish wrapped in parchment paper, with spinach, white wine, lemons, herbs and steamed in the oven. So simple.

2. Least favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
 Anything pretty much with cinnamon in it...

3. Favorite restaurant in your city:
Origin Kitchen + Bar

4. Favorite restaurant outside of your city:
 City Grocery, Oxford, Mississippi
5. Favorite food memory. Going to my grandparent's house on Sundays for lunch or dinner. My grandmother would make a full spread. My favorite thing was her fried okra and she would have our own little jello cups made for my brother, sister and me.

6. Favorite guilty pleasure food: CHIPS in RANCH DIP!

7. Favorite ingredient (something you love to cook with, or something you see on a menu and know you have to order): Right now it's Brussels sprouts or mushrooms.

8. Favorite kitchen tool, utensil, product, etc.: My hand blender.

9. Favorite recipe: That's hard...let's try this one: http://www.imperfectlybalanced.net/2014/02/tasty-tuesday-warm-shaved-brussels-sprouts-salad/

10. Favorite thing about blogging: I love sharing my recipes, adventures with everyone, but I love going back and looking through my old posts and reliving those memories.

11. Five favorite blogs/blogs that A Squared readers should know about:

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Holly!

Do you have a blogger that you'd recommend to be featured on the Tastemaker Top 10? Or are you a blogger that would like to participate? Email me at aasquaredblog@gmail.com and let me know!

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, May 26, 2014

BBQ, Picnic, & Cookout Recipe Round Up

If you are a US-based reader then you likely have today off in observance of Memorial Day. Happy 3-day weekend to you! Since that likely means you're at the beach, in the backyard, driving back from some great weekend getaway, or like me, have saved all of your errands and 'to do's' for today, I figured I'd save the 'heavy' reading for later in the week.

Instead, since this weekend is the unofficial start of summertime I decided to share a new recipe round up. These A Squared recipes are perfect for a summer BBQ or picnic: whether you are hosting or attending, there is a recipe here for everyone. And don't forget to check out my Pinterest page for a huge collection of recipes-- both mine and other favorites from around the web!

Main Dishes:
Asian Grilled Chicken 
Balsamic BBQ Chicken
Basil Grilled Chicken Breasts

BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches 
Beef Skewers with Cherry Tomatoes & Parsley Sauce   
Bison Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions & Horseradish Aioli
Carne Asada Fajitas
Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise
Citrus Pesto Tuna
Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
Fish Tacos with Tangy Slaw

Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Greek Grilled Porkchops  

Greek Pasta Toss 
Grilled Chicken Banh Mi with Red Gold Sriracha Aioli
Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwiches   

Grilled Rosemary Balsamic Tuna
Grilled Sesame Salmon with Vegetables
Grilled Scallops with Salmoriglio 

Lemon Grilled Chicken
Mom's Flank Steak Marinade 
Orange Chicken Salad
Paprika-Rubbed Steaks with Pickled Onions
Red Wine Flank Steak Marinade 

Swordfish with Mango Avocado Salsa 
Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad 

Side Dishes:
Asparagus, Red Pepper, & Potato Salad
Brussels Sprout Salads 
Cajun Corn 
Dijon Roasted Zucchini & Potatoes   
Green Bean & Tomato Salad 
Grilled Corn Panzanella 
Grilled Corn Salad

Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Honey-Glazed Cipollini Onions

Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes
Marinated & Grilled Squash
Orange Sesame Brown Rice Salad

Oregano & Garlic Roasted Potato Wedges 
Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette  
Oven Baked Fries 
Potato & Green Bean Salad
Roasted Potato Salad with Lemon Yogurt Dressing
Roasted Root Vegetables
Roasted Spicy Lemon Broccoli
Roasted Vegetable & Spinach Quinoa Salad
Roasted Vegetable Salad 
Roasted Zucchini  
Simple Roasted Baby Potatoes  
Spinach, Tomato, & Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette  
String Beans with Lemon & Caramelized Shallots
Stuffed Tomatoes 

Summer Vegetable Gratin  
White Bean & Artichoke Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette 

Sweet Treats:
Black Bottom Cupcakes 
Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Fresh Whipped Cream
Grilled Peaches With Frozen Yogurt 

Individual Peach Crisps for Two  
Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Blondie Bites 

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Pear Oatmeal Cookie Crisp   

Prosecco Cupcakes with Prosecco Buttercream Frosting 
Raspberry Swirl Lemon Cake Bars
Red, White, & Blue Fruit Pops

S'mores Krispie Treats 
Strawberry & Lemon Curd Shortcake  

Everything Else:
Deviled Eggs
Fresh Strawberry Mint Sparklers     
Greek Grilled Chicken Appetizer with Tzatziki & Red Pepper Pesto
Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa 

Homemade Remoulade [and crab cakes]  
Mom's Artichoke Dip 
Rosemary White Bean Dip

Friday, May 23, 2014

Green Bean & Tomato Salad

Happy holiday weekend Friday! Do you have big plans for Memorial Day?

Memorial Day for most of us is the kick off of grilling and picnic season, so I wanted to share a BBQ-ready salad recipe with you today. It's the perfect side dish for burgers, grilled chicken, or steaks and it's an easy one to transport and eat to any picnic you may be attending this weekend.

This salad was inspired by a salad I tried at one of our neighborhood Italian restaurants last summer. We were sitting on their patio enjoying dinner outside on a warm night and this salad caught my eye: crisp green beans and meaty tomatoes tossed in a sweet vinaigrette. They also added crumbled feta to theirs, which was amazing. A little feta and some toasted pine nuts could actually transform this salad into a delicious vegetarian entree. For the purposes of a backyard BBQ though (where temps could get warm), I'd recommend steering clear of cheese.

This is sort of the alterna-picnic salad: there's no potatoes, mayo, or macaroni involved here, which means it's also pretty good for you! Fresh veggies and a light vinaigrette make this flavorful salad deceptively tasty and a great guiltless addition to your picnic spread.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!


  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil  
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. dry parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add green beans to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the beans well and immediately rinse with very cold water or pour beans into a large bowl filled with ice to stop them from cooking.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together olive oil and next 7 ingredients (through salt and pepper) until combined.

Add green beans to the dressing mixture and toss to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and red onion and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Looking for another non-lettuce salad to serve? Try Roasted Vegetable Salad or Potato & Green Bean Salad!

Follow on Bloglovin

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In The Loop: Vapiano

So, remember how I had lamented before about the lack of good dining options in the Loop? Well, I have finally found another good one to tell you about!

Vapiano's Loop restaurant is their second in Chicago (the first is up in Lincoln Park), but this is hardly their first. The restaurant chain was founded in Germany and they have over 120 restaurants worldwide, with just a small handful here in the US. It's also a totally different concept from most US restaurants, but the concept and the vibe were definitely reminiscent of some of the cool fast casual restaurants I visited while living in Europe.

Vapiano is a fast casual Italian restaurant, but it's also part bar, part lounge, and a great place for lunch or dinner. I think it would be a perfect place for cocktails and snacks with friends after work! Not only is it the perfect location (in the heart of the Loop), but payment at Vapiano is all on a cool card system. Different stations cater to different foods: one for pasta, for pizza, for salads, and of course, the bar. You walk up, order the food you want, tap your card, and it adds your items to the card and you pay on your way out the door. It's great if you want to linger a while and decide on food as you go. It's also ideal if you're with a group: you can avoid the insanity of dividing up bills.

Alex and I popped in a Friday night after work and it was the perfect way to wind down with a relaxed dinner. We started at the salad station and split a caprese salad. It was a really good size and would make a great entree for one person, so it was great for sharing too. I loved the addition of peppery arugula to the traditional tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad. It really rounded it out nicely.

As normally happens with us at Italian restaurants, Alex ordered a pizza and I went with pasta. Alex went with the Americana Pizza, a traditional red pizza topped with spicy Italian sausage and thick sliced Sicilian pepperoni. The pizza was also a really generous size, so he was able to take half of it home to enjoy for lunch the next day.

I had a great time customizing my pasta with the chefs at Vapiano. I ordered the Pesto Rosso, a fresh tomato pesto sauce with toasted pine nuts. The chefs let me pick from a handful of different pasta shapes and also on add-ins like chicken or shrimp. I settled on papardelle and skipped the meat (since we already had a big salad back at the table) with a little fresh grated Pecorino Romano on top. Their pasta is made fresh in house and I love that great chew you get from fresh pasta. It was perfect with a light, but flavorful sauce like this tomato pesto. I would totally order this combo again!

Although we were full, we did save some room for dessert. And the great thing about dessert at Vapiano is that they're individually portioned and served shooter-style: in both small and larger sizes. Alex went with the strawberry-topped panna cotta and really enjoyed it. I opted for their featured tiramisu, which included a layer of fresh berries that night. It was such a great twist on traditional tiramisu.

Dinner in the restaurant was great, but it was even more fun to find out that Vapiano also sells their fresh pasta by the bag. We took some home and were able to enjoy it for dinner at home later that weekend too!

The next time you find yourself in the Loop-- shopping with the kids at Macy's, in need of a cocktail and a snack after a long work day, or meeting up with the girls for lunch-- stop in to Vapiano! There is truly something for everyone here.

Follow on Bloglovin

Editor's note: Our meal at Vapiano was complimentary, however the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Bison Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions & Horseradish Aioli

Memorial Day weekend is already just a few days away. Can you believe it? Alex and I don't have any big holiday plans-- a dinner with friends, some furniture shopping for the new place, and probably some packing and purging at our current place. I am hoping that we'll have a warm weekend and can spend some time grilling and hanging out on our deck too. It's one of my favorite ways to spend a warm weekend evening!

If you're looking for a little grilling inspiration for this weekend, give these bison cheeseburgers a try! Bison burgers are my favorite way to accommodate my husband's red meat cravings and my desire to eat something lean, but tasty all in one dinner. Our grocery store sells them in packages of four patties (super convenient), but you can also usually find ground bison in the meat department or deli of most major grocery stores. I decided to amp up the flavor here with some sharp cheddar cheese slices, sweet caramelized onions (one of my favorite burger additions), and a super zesty horseradish aioli that I whipped up using one of Red Gold's #EasyAioli recipes. It's a great compliment to the sweet onions and the earthy burger and all of that on top of a toasted onion bun is summer grilling perfection!

And remember to head over to Red Gold's Facebook page (through May 28) for your chance to win a $225 aioli party prize pack!


For the aioli--
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can of Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained well
  • 3 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp. dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 
For the burgers--
  • 1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divideSalt and pepper
  • 2 bison burger patties
  • 2 sandwich-size slices of cheddar cheese
  • 2 onion rolls, sliced in half and lightly toasted

For the aioli, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add butter and 1/2 Tbs. olive oil. Once melted, swirl in the pan and add onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are very soft and slightly browned, at least 15-20 minutes. Remove onions from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush the grates with oil or cooking spray and season the bison patties with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the burgers for 6-7 minutes on each side until the centers are hot and slightly pink. Right before removing from the grill, top each patty with a slice of cheddar cheese.

Spread aioli on the top and bottom of each bun. Place the bison patty on the bottom bun and top with caramelized onions. Serve immediately.

Looking for more burgers? Try Chicken Burgers with Rosemary-Garlic Mayo or Turkey Burgers Parmigiana!

Follow on Bloglovin

Editor's Note: Products were provided to me by Red Gold at no cost. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Tastemaker Top 10 with Katie of Live Half Full

The Tastemaker Top 10 is a collection of 10 questions asked by me and answered by some of my favorite bloggers. Here they will tell you a little bit about themselves, their blogs, and of course, their favorite foods and restaurants. Today we're talking to one of my new favorite Chicago bloggers Katie. She writes Live Half Full, a food, fitness, and lifestyle blog about living life in a healthy balanced way. Cool, right? Here's Katie...

Name: Katie Adams

Blog: Live Half Full 

Location: Libertyville, IL

In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about your blog.
I blog to hold myself accountable to keeping a healthy balance in life through eating good food, exploring the world and working towards fitness goals.

Now, tell us about your...

1. Favorite meal, food, or cuisine: 
I have a soft spot for Polish food since my family is Polish. On Christmas Eve we celebrate with a traditional Wigilia meal and I always make mushroom soup. It's my go-to whenever I'm sick or in need of some comfort food as well!

2. Least favorite meal, food, or cuisine:
I honestly can't think of anything I'm aversive to- I'm the worst least picky eater!

3. Favorite restaurant in your city:
My husband and I love Firkin because of their great beer list and awesome food.

4. Favorite restaurant outside of your city:
 Last year we travelled to Paris and happened upon Breizh Cafe. The restaurant serves traditional buckwheat crepes with an Asian influence, which was an unexpectedly amazing combination.
5. Favorite food memory. I was a Synchronized Figure Skater all my life and got to travel all over the world. On my college team, my friend Megan and I were the ones who would try all the unidentifiable foods and explain them to our teammates. They found it very entertaining and if we ever got the chance to be on Television we would call our show "Two Fat Americans."

6. Favorite guilty pleasure food: Ice cream, Bagels, Chocolate.

7. Favorite ingredient (something you love to cook with, or something you see on a menu and know you have to order):  I love anything local and seasonal and love taking advantage of the Farmer's Market in the summer to challenge myself to try new things.

8. Favorite kitchen tool, utensil, product, etc.: I love ramekins and find myself using them for everything. They are great for sauces and the basic size is typically a half cup which is perfect for one serving of ice cream.

9. Favorite recipe: Since I'm dreaming of warmer weather, I would say my Summer Caprese Quinoa Salad is something I can't wait to make!

10. Favorite thing about blogging: I've met so many great people through my blog- I love meeting people who share the same interests as me.

11. Five favorite blogs/blogs that A Squared readers should know about: For recipes I love Back to Her Roots, Iowa Girl Eats, Kelly the Culinarian, Skinnytaste and Damn Delicious.

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Katie!

Do you have a blogger that you'd recommend to be featured on the Tastemaker Top 10? Or are you a blogger that would like to participate? Email me at aasquaredblog@gmail.com and let me know!

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wine Riot Chicago Recap

Attention: Wine lovers. I just went to a great event and I think you would love it!

I recently went to Wine Riot at the Great Hall at Union Station here in Chicago. The event was presented by Second Glass who had invited wine vendors from around the world offering tastings of over 250 different wines. In addition to tastings, Second Glass also offered several classroom-style seminars throughout the event so that you could brush up on your knowledge of all things vino.

So, I grabbed my best friend and fellow wine lover Alexis and we headed over to Union Station to catch the Saturday afternoon session (there were sessions held on Friday and Saturday evenings too) of Wine Riot and get our tastings on.

I have been to other beer and wine festivals before, but was really impressed by the organization and attention to detail of this event. They had great wayfinding to help attendees determine a wine tasting "track" for even the pickiest wine drinkers. Looking for South African wines? Head this way! Interested in trying all sparkling wine? Head that way to the Bubbly Bar!

And speaking of the Bubbly Bar, this was one of my favorite parts of Wine Riot! I love a good sparkling wine and the Bubbly Bar was the place to be for that. Sparkling wines from around the world were arranged in order from sweet to dry-- the perfect way to sample them!

There was also a smartphone app for the Wine Riot event, which made it super easy for me to track all of the wines that I was sampling. They were all listed in the app and then we had the ability to rate the ones we tried: Love, Like, or Meh. All of the votes were rounded up in real time and the top picks were displayed on monitors around the space. It was such a great way to see what everyone else in attendance was liking so we made sure to stop by and try it!

Out of all 250 wines available for sampling, these were the top 10 wines according to Wine Riot attendees:

1. NV Casa Vinicola Zonin S.P.A. Prosecco *One of my top picks!
2. Bonfire Wines Ember
3. NV Scharffenberger Brut "Excellence" *One of my top picks!
4. Freixenet Cordon Rosado *One of my top picks!
5. 2010 Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux *One of my top picks!
6. NV Reixnet Cordon Negro Cava
7. 2012 Roscato Rosso Dolce Pavia *One of my top picks!
8. Madria Sangria
9. 2012 Roscato Bianco Dolce Italy
10. 2013 Oyster Bay Chardonnay  

Now, don't be upset if you missed out on this Wine Riot event. The good news is that Second Glass has several more events coming up this year-- in Chicago and other cities! In Chicago, you can check out the following:

  • Riesling Riot Chicago, June 14, 2014
  • Wine Riot Chicago - Fall, October 17-18, 2014
  • Night of the Bubbles, November 14-15, 2014

And if you're in/near New York, LA, or Boston, Wine Riot is coming your way too! You can check out a full schedule and buy tickets here!

Wine Riot is a great time, so be sure to attend in a city near you and let me know what you think!

Follow on Bloglovin

Editor's Note: Press passes were provided to me to attend the event at no cost. The opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...