A Squared: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Parmesan Dijon Roasted Potatoes

I've been all about potatoes lately. For a few years there I rarely ate potatoes-- afraid of white carbs and what they'd do to my waistline, which is sad. Because I love potatoes. I'm German and Irish, after all. Potato love is in my genes.

After I got over my fear of carbs and learned that 'everything in moderation' (including alcohol) is actually a viable way of life, I've reunited with potatoes. I love going to the farmer's market on Saturdays and seeing dozens of colorful potato varieties and taking them home to try... Who knew that they came in so many colors, textures, and flavors? And let's be honest, they come from the earth and they're all natural so how bad can they really be for you (again, in moderation)? Unless you're deep frying them.

Well, rest assured. We aren't deep frying them today. Instead, these potatoes are sliced and tossed in a flavorful combination of dry herbs, spicy Dijon mustard, and grated Parmesan which adds a salty crispy coating reminiscent of French fries, but without that whole deep frying thing. I used a bright and flavorful spice blend from The Spice House here in Chicago, but you can customize this with the herbs of your choice. I'd recommend garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, chives, and/or ground thyme for some seriously tasty results. The result is everything that roasted potatoes should be: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with tons of flavor.


  • 1 Tbs. butter, softened 
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. The Spice House Lake Shore Drive Seasoning or other dry herb blend
  • 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, oil, Dijon, and spices. Stir in potatoes and Parmesan until completely coated.

Prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread potatoes out evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes until potatoes are browned on the outside and fork tender inside.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Labor Day Barbecue: My Top 10 Entertaining Essentials

Labor Day weekend is coming up and although it's arriving a lot later than normal this year, it is still known as the unofficial last weekend of summer... which is kind of sad. With that in mind, it's always nice to throw a little summertime celebration over the long weekend and soak up the last of summer before the chill of fall starts to roll in. I've pulled together 10 of my current favorite items that are not only adorable, but functional and perfect for outdoor entertaining:

1. Mason Jar Condiment Caddy - Store your flatware in a cute, functional, and outdoor appropriate caddy complete with chalkboard tags.
2. Outdoor Placemats - I love the classic striped pattern on these placemats! And they're made of durable fabric that's outdoor dining-safe.
3. Plastic Wine Carafe & Glasses - Enjoy your wine al fresco without the fear of wind blowing over and breaking your glasses. This carafe and stemless glass set is made of durable recycled plastic and is perfect for an outdoor spread.
4. Melamine Ice Cream Bowls - Serve dessert outside in style with this adorable set of ice cream bowls, made from durable melamine in vibrant red and blue. Ice cream sundae bar, anyone?
5. Galvanized Tin Beverage Dispenser - These beverage dispensers are so perfect for entertaining-- indoors and outdoors. But for an outdoor party, I love the idea of filling this with lemonade or flavored water to keep your guests hydrated and out of your kitchen.
6. Melamine Gingham Plates - Nothing says 'picnic' like a gingham pattern. Like the ice cream bowls, these melamine plates are super durable for outdoors and perfect for piling high with delicious food hot off the grill.
7. Hot Dog & Marshmallow Cookout Set - Make your barbecue interactive by letting your guests fire their own dinners. This adorable cookout set comes with all the tools that your crowd needs to cook their hot dogs and toast their marshmallows over an open flame.
8. Metal Whale Tray - This tray is just the cutest! Pile up this adorable metal whale tray with all of your barbecue snacks and essentials. It's a fun nautical piece that's perfect for celebrating the end of summer.
9. Galvanized Party Bucket - An essential! Fill this rustic bucket with ice and then pop in your beers, sodas, and of course, a few bottles of rose so that your guests can help themselves to a cold beverage.
10. Outdoor Bar Cart - To make your outdoor entertaining easy and impressive, consider investing in a bar cart. If I had the room for this, I would buy it immediately! Your beverage dispenser, glasses, and party bucket could all live here on this weather-resistant cart-- the perfect outdoor beverage station!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Farro Salad with Tomatoes & Roasted Red Peppers

If you've learned anything about me after following this blog for some time, you'll know that I love my dog, making over my family recipes, and eating/cooking anything with tomatoes and mozzarella. So it should be no surprise that those two ingredients are stars in this recipe.

I love making a huge batch of pasta or grain salad to have on hand for lunches or for quick dinners-- especially if I'm dining without Alex or if I'm on the go. And this seems to be the case more often than not lately. We have both been traveling a lot for work over the past few weeks without much sign of it slowing down until November. I'm exhausted just thinking about it, so dinners like this farro recipe make those days and weeks just a little bit easier to digest.

This farro salad is so easy to make. There's basically no cooking required except for boiling the farro and roasting the peppers (unless you buy the jarred kind) and all you have to do here is chop, mix, and enjoy.

This salad includes my favorite traditional caprese ingredients like mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil along with some extra vegetables to turn this into a hearty meatless dish. Chopped spinach adds tons of healthy bulk to this salad and chopping it finely is the key to making this salad last for several days. Larger pieces of spinach will feel mushy after being stored in a salad that's pre-dressed for several days. And roasted red peppers add some sweet flavor to this savory salad.

I can't say enough good things about this salad: It is so simple, full of flavor, healthy, meatless, and perfect for lunch or dinner on a busy day... or for several days.


  • 5 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups cooked farro  
  • 1 cup roasted red pepper, chopped *Use the jarred kind or make your own with this recipe
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced 
  • 8 oz. mozzarella ciliegine, halved

 In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add farro, red peppers, spinach, and tomatoes to the dressing. Stir well to incorporate dressing into all ingredients.

Fold in the basil and mozzarella. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

West Lakeview Guide: Wrightwood Furniture Company

One of the places that I have come to love most in this neighborhood is-- surprisingly-- not a restaurant. Wrightwood Furniture Company is a local store located on Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview selling some of the coolest rustic and industrial-inspired furniture and home accessories I have seen in a while. Imagine the kind of great things you find at West Elm or Restoration Hardware, but more unique and more affordably priced. That's what you'll find at Wrightwood.

Wrightwood Furniture Company was founded by a father and son team who were veterans of the wholesale furniture business and tired of working with major furniture retailers. So, they opened Wrightwood Furniture Company where they sell unique items that they have designed or sourced directly to the customer. And because they ship the items directly to the store and they've cut out many of the middlemen involved in the purchasing process for major furniture stores, they're able to keep prices low for the consumer.

Alex and I love popping into Wrightwood when we're walking down Lincoln Ave. Their inventory is constantly changing and their big warehouse-style space is always filed to the brim with cool finds: Everything from cool industrial shelving and tables to beautiful upholstered ottomans and throw pillows to cool small accessories like hooks, baskets, and art. Plus, they're dog-friendly! So, Clery can shop with us too.

We moved into this neighborhood last summer after buying our first home-- a loft-style condo with an industrial feel. The high ceilings, exposed ductwork, and concrete details really drove our design decisions. Discovering Wrightwood just a few blocks away from our place was amazing (because they carry so much great stuff that I want for our place!) and also scary (because I want to buy it all!).

They carry a variety of these worn metal bistro chairs that I love. We have these gray ones at each end of our dining table and the matching stools at our breakfast bar.

We also love their line of Chicago flag-inspired home accessories. I had been eyeing this pouf for a long time to add to our living room. I love these poufs for both extra seating and a place to put your feet up and the rustic burlap fabric and the nod to Chicago were perfect for our place. And as you can see, Clery almost immediately claimed it as his own.

We also walked by one day and spotted this trunk in the window at Wrightwood. Surprisingly, it was Alex who suggested that we return the next day and check it out. We were looking for more linen storage options in our guestroom and also figured that this would make a great toy chest for our future kids too.

And how cool is this industrial abstract foosball table!? Alex and I both fell in love with it and I snapped this photo to send to my parents. I'm trying to convince them to buy it for the basement mancave at their cabin!

Wrightwood Furniture is a hidden Lakeview gem-- and perfect for anyone looking for unique furnishings and home decor that's well made, modern, and a bit rough around the edges. They're located at 3036 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago, they're open 7 days a week (10 AM to 6 PM), and they'll deliver around Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Recipe Re-Do: Potato, Corn & Green Bean Salad

Today I'm making over a recipe that was already a bit of a makeover. A few years ago I posted a recipe for potato and green bean salad. Side note: it's crazy that I am say I wrote a blog post "a few years ago." Time flies.

Anyway, that potato and green bean salad was a twist on one of my all time favorite dishes: my Oma's German-style potato salad. This simple side dish usually consists of boiled potatoes, crisp onion, fresh parsley, and a simple vinaigrette. I added crunchy green beans and spicy Dijon mustard in my last iteration and loved the fresh and flavorful result.

This time around when I decided to make this salad I also had some fresh corn in my fridge. Corn is one of those foods that just tastes like summer and any corn that you get in any other season just doesn't compare. It's so sweet and juicy at this time of year that I figured it would be an excellent addition to this salad. Some fresh corn and sweet summer basil are simple additions that make this salad taste totally new.

The original version of this potato salad was served at almost every family gathering that I can remember my Oma hosting when I was a kid. And if it wasn't on the table, then mashed potatoes were! I especially remember it in the summer served alongside grilled barbecued chicken at her backyard picnic table. And my new version makes an equally delicious summer barbecue side dish! Whether you're serving a crowd or you're just doing some simple grilled chicken at home on a weeknight, this salad is a healthy and flavorful side for anything hot off the grill!

  • 1/2 lb. baby red potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2/3 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbs. champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup red or white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh basil, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add potatoes and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes (give or take up to 5 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes).  Drain the potatoes and cool completely.  Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and set aside.  Tip: The cooler the potatoes, the easier to slice so sometimes I like to boil the potatoes the day before or earlier in the day and refrigerate them before slicing.
Separately, bring another pot of water to boil.  Add the green beans and cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans turn bright green, but are still crispy. During the last 1 minute, add corn to the pot. Boil and drain the green beans in a colander and rinse with very cold or ice water.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and Dijon mustard. Slowly stir in the oil while whisking and season with pepper and salt.  Add sliced potatoes, cooled green beans and corn, sliced red onion, parsley, and basil to the bowl and toss gently to coat.  Add any additional salt or pepper to taste. 
Serve cold or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Top 10 Food & Wine Apps

Over the past few years I have come to rely on my iPhone for just about everything: directions, weather, banking... I can stay up to speed on all of it on my iPhone. But more and more, my smart phone has become an excellent resource for supporting my food habit too! Whether it's an app designed to help me make a reservation, order delivery, or study up on the hottest happenings in the food world, there's an app for all of that. I've downloaded and uninstalled my fair share of apps, but there are a few that are still on my phone and getting tons of use... and here are my 10 favorite apps for food and wine lovers. They're all free, fun, and will make your life easier and more delicious. Cheers!

1. OpenTable - This one is my tried and true favorite. Search for restaurants in cities around the world, make a reservation right from your phone, and earn points toward dining credits for future meals when you fulfill your reservations. If you're dining out and making reservations to do so, why not also get rewarded for it? I've been using this app for years (back when it was just a website and not an app) and would recommend it to anyone.

2. Hello Vino - This app is perfect for wine drinkers. Hello Vino will suggest different wines that pair best with whatever food you're making or ordering. You can also search for wines for specific occasions, by your taste preference, and search and save your favorites.

3. Reserve - Make reservations at some of the hottest restaurants via your own Reserve concierge. One of the coolest parts of this app? Everything from the reservation right through paying the bill and tipping your server is all handled in the app. We used the app for a recent dinner at Formento's and had a great experience! Download it in the App Store and enter promo code LYCOXB in the Payment section of the app to receive a $20 credit to use toward your first Reserve reservation! Currently available in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

4. Postmates - My newest obsession. This service is something like Uber, but for food delivery. Drivers are on hand and available around the city and assigned to pick up and deliver your food from a variety of restaurants-- even several that don't normally participate in delivery services. Confession: We've used Postmates for Chipotle delivery at least 3 times already. Use code fsvd to get a $10 credit toward your first delivery!

5. Eater - Eater is the best place to find out news in the food industry: hot new restaurants, changes in chefs/ownership, and which restaurants are coming, going, getting a facelift, or offering new menus. It's always part of my daily reading list. And the app is a great way to find their most buzzed about spots near you.

6. Grub Hub / Seamless - A classic-- or classics, now that they are under the same ownership. These app are two of the easiest and most well known for ordering delivery or takeout. With extensive search options and filters, it's simple to find exactly what you're craving-- and have it come straight to your door!

7. ibotta - This one is a little different from the rest, but hear me out. If you love to cook or entertain at home, ibotta will reward you for the items you're purchasing at the grocery store. Did you buy asparagus? You earn 20 cents cash back! Maybe a bottle of Yellow Tail Wine? $1 cash back for you! ibotta will reward you on purchases at several major grocery stores, pharmacies, and big box chain stores and will give you cash back via Venmo, Paypal, or in gift cards. It's a win-win for regular grocery shoppers like me!

8. Sprig - Need an easy dinner at home that's not greasy takeout? Try Sprig! Sprig's healthy, local, chef-inspired meals rotate on a daily basis and are typically delivered in about 15 minutes. We tried the service one night and were blown away by the delicious flavor, hearty portions, and quick service. Download the free app on your phone and use code COLVIN5064 to get $10 off your first order! Currently available in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago.

9. Foodspotting - Foodspotting is the quintessential app for any foodies (like me) that photograph their restaurant meals. Snap a pic, upload it, and let other users know how you liked it-- and they'll let you know if they liked it too! One of the most compelling/addictive parts of this app is the ranking. Foodspotting ranks its global users based on likes/usage and awards badges for expertise. You're looking at an expert in Lobster Rolls, Brussels Sprouts, and Cheese Curds, among other things here.

10. ChefsFeed - Find out where the chefs are eating! I love to use this app when I'm planning my travels-- it's how I discovered the delicious Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. ChefsFeed features chefs who have provided lists of their favorite dishes at their favorite restaurants dozens of major US cities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's for Brunch Wednesday: Ham & Mushroom Strata

Since it's my birthday week, I can do whatever I want (kind of). And today, I want to have brunch for dinner... specifically, this ham & mushroom strata.

Not too long ago, I rediscovered strata and decided that it was delicious. And how could it not be? It's an entire brunch spread baked in one pan-- like french toast meets omelet and becomes a casserole. And totally customizable based on your tastes and preferences.

We recently had house guests in town for the weekend and I was-- admittedly-- not a great hostess. We had a busy week leading up to the weekend, so we weren't able to prep like we normally would-- including stocking our fridge, which was pretty bare by the time Friday rolled around. So, on Sunday morning when everyone was sleeping and I decided to make brunch, finding something to make was a bit of a struggle. So, I surveyed my refrigerator and realized I had bread, eggs, and milk: the beginnings of my new favorite brunch food strata. While I didn't have the broccoli and bacon on hand that I used in the last one I made, I got creative with what I found in my own kitchen that day to create a very French-inspired strata with mushrooms, ham, Swiss cheese, and fresh herbs.

I know that I have featured a lot of mushroom recipes around here lately for someone who professes to not be a mushroom fan, but I truly enjoy them when sauteed in white wine and then combined with a salty meat (like ham, or like pancetta in this flatbread), sharp Swiss cheese, and earthy fresh herbs. And those flavors and textures work together beautifully in this strata, which tastes delicious and looks both rustic and elegant at the same time.

It's the perfect brunch dish to make for guests because it's impressive and easy to make-- even for a crowd!


  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup ham, diced
  • 4 cups French bread, cubed
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in mushrooms, sage, 1 tsp. thyme leaves, and salt and pepper. Carefully pour in the wine and sauté for an additional 8-10 minutes, stirring often until liquid in the pan has reduced and is almost completely evaporated. Remove from heat.

Lightly grease a small baking dish with olive oil. Layer the cubed bread evenly in the dish. Follow by sprinkling the mushroom mixture, ham, and remaining thyme leaves evenly over the top of the bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, mustard, remaining thyme leaves, and pepper. Pour evenly over the top of the ingredients in the baking dish. Sprinkle cheeses over the top and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Cover and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, uncover and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until egg mixture is set and not liquidy.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lakeview Neighborhood Guide: Coalfire Pizza (Coalfire Two)

Coalfire Pizza is known to many Chicagoans as home to some of the best pizza in the city. It's not deep dish-- in fact, it's very thin Neopolitan-style crust. And it's not touristy or trendy-- in fact, their original location is located off the beaten path in the West Town neighborhood. That never stopped Coalfire from having a line out the door though. And lucky for us on the north side, they have just opened up a second location-- "Coalfire Two," on Southport in Lakeview. I'm ashamed to admit that I have never been to the West Town restaurant-- even during the 4+ years that I lived nearby. So when Coalfire Two opened just a few weeks ago, we made sure to visit as soon as possible... and now I understand the hype!

Coalfire doesn't take reservations and is known for having big crowds of hungry diners waiting during peak hours. With that in mind, we showed up at the beginning of the dinner rush on Friday and managed to snag two seats at the bar right away-- a great way to start our evening! We also started with a few drinks: a craft beer for Alex and a glass of summery rose for me. Like Coalfire's food menu, the drink selection is smaller and simpler than other restaurants, with a focus on the highest quality offerings-- like great wine and interesting domestic and imported beers (like an Italian Saison that caught both of our eyes), and craft cocktails like that night's featured Annie Clark: a combo of Prosecco, St. Germain, and Limonata soda.

For food, Coalfire offers a few signature pizzas along with the option to make your own. They're pretty serious about how a good pizza comes together: with rules about how many toppings should go on a pizza at one time (including the vegetable to meat ratio) and they don't offer substitutions on their signature pizzas. I learned this the hard way when I tried to order mine "light on the sausage." That said, they clearly know what they're doing because the pizzas are perfectly cooked, the flavors are amazing, and they've got loyal patrons (including Steve Wilkos, whom we passed coming in on our way out that night) lining up to eat here.

Coalfire serves a few appetizer and salad options and while the burrata sounded amazing, we opted to go straight for the pizzas: one for each of us. We also both happened to order pizzas that are unique to the Lakeview location that you won't find on the menu at Coalfire's West Town location. Alex loves spicy food, so he ordered the Stracciatella & Sausage pizza. Their signature crispy charred crust was topped with sweet traditional tomato sauce, a generous amount of melty stringy stracciatella and mozzarella, along with spicy calabrian chiles, thinly sliced red onions, Berkshire sausage, and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

Alex's pizza came out first, so I stole a slice of his while I waited for mine. The flavor combinations in this pizza were wonderful. It had great spicy flavor, but wasn't so overpowering that I couldn't enjoy it-- exactly the kind of heat that I like. The red onion and basil added a touch of sweetness along with the salty sausage. To my surprise, Alex-- a deep dish pizza lover who often refers to Neopolitan-style pizza as "cheese and crackers"-- loved this pizza. Thin, crispy charred crust and all.

I went in the opposite direction, ordering the Pesto pizza-- a sweeter flavor profile than Alex's spicy pie. This pizza was perfect... I don't even know what else to say. It was a super interesting combination of flavors and ingredients and textures that worked together so well. A base of traditional herbaceous pesto was topped with generous dollops of creamy burrata, toasted pistachios, and crumbled sausage, finished with a drizzle of honey. I loved this pizza and had to stop myself from eating all 14 inches of it at the restaurant. And I have to admit: While they didn't go light on the sausage like I wanted, it didn't even matter. This sausage was unlike any that I've had on (or picked off of) a pizza before: it was flavorful, fine, and crumbly, and not grisly like a traditional Italian sausage.

I'm already planning our next visit to Coalfire. It's reasonably priced, conveniently located, and some of the best thin crust pizza I have had since Italy. And I've had a lot of pizza.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Snapshots of Birthday Weekend

It's my birthday! While having a birthday on a Monday kind of sucks (because Mondays), it does give you a great excuse to make the entire weekend before your very own Birthday Weekend. And while last year's 30th birthday weekend was a whirlwind of friends, family, and surprises, this year it was all about laying low with my little family and just enjoying our city and each other.

We kicked the weekend off on Friday night with a visit to the new Coalfire Pizza in Lakeview. I'm ashamed to admit that we lived a walk away from the original Coalfire Pizza in West Town for 4+ years and never went... Since they followed us up north and I had heard the hype, we hurried over to try it and wow! This pizza is seriously good. Stop by tomorrow for more details on the food!

We got up early on Saturday and made the 3 mile(ish) walk to Green City Market. The weather was beautiful and it is absolutely one of my favorite summer Saturday activities-- and building a weekly menu around our farmer's market haul is such a great way to guarantee we eat well in the summertime.

Clery loves it too! The longer the walk, the better. And he got to sample a few blueberries (his favorite) at the market too.

Since we got an extra early start, Alex and I got breakfast at the farmer's market. The plum & cream cheese danishes from Bennison's Bakery were so delicious-- just sweet enough, soft, and fresh. And these fresh raspberry peach smoothies from Seedling Farms were perfect on that almost-90 degree morning.

We spent some time lounging on our deck in the afternoon and found out that we have a decent view of the annual Air & Water Show from there.

And my sweet husband remembered that at one point I had mentioned wanting a bigger cast iron skillet. So as he put it, he bought "the biggest one I could find" for me. I have so many great recipe ideas for this one... can't wait to put it to use!

Sunday started on a lazy note-- my favorite kind of Sunday! A little breakfast at home while I got a little writing done was a perfect way to start the day.

And even though it was crazy hot on Sunday, Clery was ready to get a move on. So, we headed out for a family walk around the neighborhood. It's another one of my favorite simple ways to enjoy the weekend.

The weekend wrapped up on a really delicious note: at Nico Osteria. Alex took me to Nico for my birthday dinner where we got to sit at the chef's table (always an exciting way to dine out), sip wine, and eat a ton of amazing upscale seafood and Italian food. Stay tuned for more details on our dinner!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lakeview Neighborhood Guide: Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market

As a food and restaurant lover, I have to say that the prospect of moving to Lakeview from downtown last summer was a scary one for me. I loved being in walking distance from the trendy, well known, or new restaurants that Chicago offers and was definitely less accustomed to having solid nearby neighborhood spots as my alternative. I've been pleasantly surprised, however, at the caliber of restaurants that Lakeview offers though-- and even happier to see how many great new ones have opened over the past year. And Fahlstrom's has been one of the biggest hits for me so far.

Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market is a unique concept: it's part fish market (hence the name), part upscale seafood restaurant, and part casual diner (with breakfast entrees available all day). Alex and I have contemplated dining here several times while walking by and finally stopped in for dinner on a recent Saturday night to find a free high top table in the bar areas of this bustling restaurant. The atmosphere is casual and reminiscent of the old school seafood restaurants in my home state of Rhode Island with chalkboards advertising today's catches, an expansive seafood counter, and an adorable side patio.

While I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of seafood entrees on the menu, Alex knew exactly what he wanted to order when we sat down. He started with one of his favorites: a cup of creamy New England clam chowder. Fahlstrom's chowder is made with bacon so it had a wonderful smoky flavor and hearty chunks of clam and potato. The chowder had a nice thick consistency and lacked that fishy taste that can be off putting in some chowders.

I may have had difficulty selecting an entree, but I knew exactly how I wanted to begin my meal: with the smoked shrimp. This shrimp was so good! It was full of smokiness and slightly sweet from being smoked in brown sugar and whiskey. The shrimp was served chilled, peel on, with spicy cocktail and thick tangy tartar sauces for dipping. I'm not usually one to order a shrimp cocktail when we are out, but this is something really special and I would certainly order it next time-- even as an entree!

For main courses, Alex went with the "Crabster," Fahlstrom's Alaskan King Crab stuffed roll. This play on a lobster roll features warm crab leg on a soft butter toasted roll. It is simply flavored with the traditional mayo and celery salt and topped with a heaping helping of their house coleslaw. I'm a big fan of crab and Alex is a lobster roll lover, so we both really enjoyed this sandwich. Sandwich sides are ordered a la carte and they're not your typical fries and side salads. Alex selected a potato pancake and I couldn't help but steal a few bites. It was a good size, crispy on the outside, creamy and soft in the inside, and well seasoned, not bland. It was delicious on its own-- no ketchup needed here!

I had the hardest time selecting a main dish from their vast seafood menu. I finally asked our server for her top 3 choices and ended up selecting something I normally never would have. The Arctic char was pan fried and served with a spicy shrimp Diavolo sauce. The generous fish filet was perfectly cooked and the sauce packed a ton of heat and flavor. A few plump shrimp were cooked in the sauce and served over the Arctic Char, making this a really substantial entree. It was all served with a side of roasted potatoes and kale. And while I could have done without the salad bar-esque kale, the potatoes were crispy and a delicious way to soak up that Diavolo sauce.

I'm so excited that Fahlstrom's is a part of this neighborhood-- and I'm looking forward to returning again very soon!

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