The Cabin’s Picnic Basket

received_10159980303335577.jpegSummer may be months away, but recently Jen and I got to go on an honest to goodness picnic. Right here in Chiberia, you can eat comfort food and be transported back to those carefree days of summer and camp. Situated between Irving Park Road and N Pulaski is the Cabin and its sister bistro appropriately named The Cabin’s Picnic Basket. One of the owners of this charming little bistro is Sherill Bodine. This is a new venture for Sherrill . She has authored many books, is a known fashionista, and a Chicago socialite and philanthropist. Partnering with brother and sister, Harry and Maria Nyholm . she has the perfect place to just a grab a nosh. Sherill had added that she has always felt how important family has been to her. “I just wanted to have a place where families could sit together and enjoy a meal and each other.” She smiled in her stylish way.

Entering the Picnic Basket , you don’t sit at an ordinary table. You sit and eat your food at honest to goodness picnic tables. Sherill told me that the tables were designed by an artisan from Kentucky. The walls are designed with a log motif that transports you to the dining hall from summer camp. The food is simple but good. The meats are quality too, coming from places like the original Manny’s Deli in the loop. “We tried many combinations and recipes to arrive at the current menu.” Sherill said.20180201_133832.jpg

Each sandwich is put together individually and there is a variety of condiments and breads to chose from. Cheese lovers rejoice because as well as getting choices on the sandwiches, you can also order a cheese tray for those mellow afternoons . Sip some wine and then have some brie or gruyere paired with crackers and fruits. Since it was a typical Chicago day, we were enjoying a soup and sandwich combo. Jen gave the mac and cheese a thumbs up. (Not easy to come by) The chili was mostly meat, hardly any beans which I like.

20180201_135110.jpg20180201_135133.jpgThe sandwich I enjoyed the most was the signature. It was hearty and reminded me of the kind of sandwich that you would make at home. The marble rye bread made it and they definitely don’t skimp on the meat.I got to warm up with one of my favorite winter soups, a nice thick, cheesy broccoli and cheddar soup. Even the potato salad was something special, it had the right amount of spices that mixed together to create a delicious accompaniment for the sandwiches.20180201_135211

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20180201_135802.jpgNo detail is overlooked and you will get that homey feeling as the staff takes care of you . In the spring, the menu will also include ice cream to add to that family feel. If you want to have a sandwich with that old fashioned touch , come to 4102 N Pulaski Road . They also put together some great party trays as well for your next function. Oh and you can also get pizza from nearby Eastside Café as well. They are also open seven days a week.20180201_142653.jpg

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For a Red Carpet Experience –CMX Treats You Like a Star

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There is nothing like going to the movies. You may just enjoy just watching a DVD at home or on your device, but it still doesn’t compare to the experience of putting yourself in the theatre. With sophisticated sound systems, cushiony seats, and custom menus, there is nothing like it.

Last week, Jen and I had been invited to experience the CMX Cinema at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie. First we decided which movie to see. Looking through the selection of movies, we selected the Oscar nominated movie , “The Post” Upon arrival, we were greeted and given a tour of the theatre. Everyone was super nice and helpful.
The seats were just like a dream. I don’t even think in first class, they are this comfy. You can actually kick off your shoes and prop up your feet and enjoy your movie.  There are places to stash that purse, shoes, and shopping. You can also charge your phone while you watch. 20180213_181250.jpg

When these people say VIP treatment they mean it. You don’t have to leave your seat, just press a button and your server will take your order from their extensive beverage and food menus. The menu has something for everyone from entrees to the kids menu. The prices are very reasonable too.  The Stone Bar has trained mixologists to make any cocktail and also to create something you will enjoy.  Wanting to escape the cold, I chose a wine slushie with a rose and vodka mix. Took me to the tropics with its fruity garnish and taste.20180213_181736.jpg

We also munched on the cheesiest nachos while we waited for our entrees to come. Jen chose a mammoth cheeseburger with fries and I indulged by getting the filet mignon. That steak was so tender and juicy. I can’t believe they prepare everything there. It was paired with herbed potatoes and crunchy asparagus spears. Delicious !20180213_184101.jpg

20180213_184121.jpg20180213_182136.jpgFinishing up the meal, we pushed the button by our seats and ordered dessert. Jen had a huge chocolate chip cookie that was nice and warm and it was covered with vanilla ice cream. Cheat night was so easy with goodies like my triple chocolate milk shake and get ready for this, they will also make you shakes with liquor in them.  That shake was so thick and chocolatey.20180213_192900

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With so many choices on the menu, you can theme your meal to your movie. You can also shop following or before your VIP experience. So take a break and treat yourself to a movie and more at CMX Cinema in Skokie.20180213_174549.jpg

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Wilkommen and Happy Anniversary Hofbrauhaus Chicago

Saturday night, Jen and I had the honor of being the guests for the fifth anniversary of Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont. It’s hard to believe that outside of Dowtown Chicago there are so many great places to eat, shop, and stay in nearby Rosemont. We were so excited for this event, especially since both of us have Germanic ancestry. We couldn’t wait to try the Germanic and Bavarian foods.

One of the little perks that we received was a commemorative t shirt. That wasn’t all, we got the best VIP treatment all night long. Hofbauhaus Chicago prides itself on their beer and it would have been rude not to have tried it. I chose the fruity Hefe Weizen. It didn’t have that t heavy beer taste. It was light, yet satisfying. You can’t enjoy beer without enjoying some of the special Bavarian snacks. My personal favorite was the sauerkraut bolchen.Talk about yummy. Fried balls of cheese and sauerkraut and sausage. Jen wasn’t too crazy about them. She was more into the freshly baked pretzels. These pretzels came with a tasty cheese sauce, sweet mustard and onion mustard. We also sampled many tasty sausages. I couldn’t wait to dig into my German meal. Taking a recommendation from our server, I decided on Jagerschnitzel. The meat was so tender and juicy. It was one of the best cuts of pork that I have had in quite a while. I fell in love with the spatzle. Jen ordered a hamburger and some delicious potato salad with a mustardy taste. With all that great food, you definitely won’t go away hungry.

Since it was a special occasion, we were treated to special entertainment. But every day at Hofbrauhaus Chicago , it is a party. There are special beers for every month of the year and special menu changes as well. Diners are entertained by live bands and drinking songs. We also got to witness some Hofbrauhaus hijinks as two of the guys at our table were treated to shots and swats by one of the beautiful servers. We were also treated to a parade, led by the award winning Rheinischer Verein Fanfaren group. VIPs from the company and the special Prince and Princess marched around the hall and then there was a ceremony that resembles the opening of Oktoberfest where a special keg was tapped.

It was time to explore the dessert menu and Jen and I tried two sweet treats. I gave into the apple strudel and was not disappointed. The flaky crust and piping hot apples reminded me of apple dumplings from my native Ohio. Jen opted for a piece of the Black Forest cake. One taste was pure heaven with its layers of cherry and frosting.

It is very easy to get to Rosemont. It connects to downtown Chicago and also can be easily reached by the CTA. With All State, Rosemont fashion Outlets, and all the fun spots, it is a great place to celebrate a birthday or plan a family staycation. Rosemont is also adjacent to O Hare for visitors looking for accommodations close enough to the city. For more info on Hofbraushaus go to their website.

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Take Some Time for Yourself –Courtesy of  Neutrogena and Kerry Washington 

We all have very stressful lives , whether we are at home or being a lady boss.  The stress and trying to fix our lives and our loved ones as well, can take a toll. Sometimes,  you just have to put your hand up and say Stop!  That is the time to say  “It’s me TIME!”  This is especially the case at this time of year.

Neutrogena has paired with that ultimate fixer, Olivia Pope, aka Kerry Washington, to bring a special limited edition of Neutrogena’s own Rainbath shower and bath gel.  Whether she is on set , directing for the first time,  being a mother, or just being Kerry, she stresses that she needs some “Me” time. I love the purple packaging and the plum smell makes you want to eat it. It has that rich and sophisticated feel to it.  The product softens and conditions the skin. It is also great for using for shaving as well. Hey, you can even use it in your bath water for the ultimate pampering experience.  It also makes a great holiday gift for your favorite gladiator.

Kerry knows about pampering. So does Olivia.  Running the world, being Command of B613, and keeping her Presidential boyfriend happy take their toll. Olivia can use her Neutrogena products in the shower by herself or with a friend. 

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“Cooking Should Be Fun” says Culinary Council Star – Bill Kim

                    

There is no need to panic when you  have to cook for holiday guests.  You can throw together a unique and tasty meal and you don’t even have to have stress out about it. Last Friday, foodies gathered on the seventh floor of the State Street  to learn, to laugh, and to taste the cooking of Celebrity Chef, Bill Kim. Kim is the owner of the popular Chicago restaurants , Urbanbelly and Belly Que . He is a graduate Kendall  College and has worked at many restaurants . He has also worked with the late Charlie Trotter. He is also considered a pioneer for making casual cuisine more gourmet.

With his young assistant, Kim started out the demonstration with the 7 Flavors Sangria Punch Bowl Mocktail  . The punch contained many different juices and fruits, including apple, grape, and the non traditional Asian lychee and pear.  Next , he continued with a lively shrimp dish where the shrimp was poached with a special sauce. The appetizer was served on top with an endive leaf and some of Kim’s sauce to add a little kick.

 The star of the party was the Simple Asian and Latin Holiday Pork Loin. Kim pointed out that it could be done with basically any kind of meat. Recently, he made the sauce with his Thanksgiving leftovers and it was a big hit. 

The finale was a festive Korean Milk Chocolate Pudding  that had cinnamon in it to give it that special taste. It made it a little too spicy for my taste. It was very rich though and chocolatey.

Attendees could meet and greet with Chef Kim following the event. Macy’s also had some of his sauces for sale and offered a special deal with purchase. 

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 A Century Year Old Tradition – The Walnut Room at Christmas

           

      

 Chicago is definitely a holiday town.  If you are hankering for a white Christmas, the Windy City will cater to every childhood notion about the season. From the stores on the Mag Mile to the trees, you will definitely be feeling that Christmas spirit.

Get into that holiday spirit by having lunch in the Walnut Room.  Before it was Macy’s, the State Street store was called Marshall Field’s. Look all around the store and you will find remainders of the old staple of Chicago. One of the parts of the store that was kept was the Walnut Room.  Best known as the first restaurant in the country and also the longest continuing restaurant in a department store. , Macy’s is definitely a stop on your holiday trip to Chicago. It will put the biggest Scrooges in a yuletide mood.  But be warned. YOU WILL HAVE A WAIT .   You will have to go to a stand and then signup for a pager. This will give you an opportunity to explore what was once the premiere store of the Midwest. The store has a rich history as well as great shopping in the present Macy’s tradition. When your table is ready, it will summon you back for your Christmas experience.

The centerpiece of the room is the Great Tree.  This 45 foot symbol of the season has been in the same place for at least 50 years. Early in December, Macy’s welcomes Santa and lights the tree. Diners can take photos and selfies right by the tree. You also might be fortunate to be welcomed by the many sugar plum fairies that stroll around and grant wishes. But this is just part of the fun, there is also the food .

The Walnut Room really gets in the spirit. They have even prepared a special menu just for diners . You can even go home with a special souvenir mug. On this particular day, I enjoyed one of the pointsettas. This consisted of cranberry juice and sparkling wine in a flute. Very elegant and appropriate for this historical landmark. Jen had a delicious lemonade. Since I was feeling like a kid again, I decided this time to just get when I was a kid and that was a cheeseburger.(Till the age of ten when my late father said no more cheeseburgers when I would get them in whatever type of restaurant we were eating at.) We finished off the meal with a real special treat, a caramel macchiato pot de crème . The white chocolate mousse was rich and the sea salt caramel sauce mixed to give almost a tirasmu taste to this fancy dessert.

The Great Tree will be up until January 7. The Walnut Room has special holiday hours and also is having a special breakfast as well. For more info go to macyrestauraurants.com . Make it a special Chicago with this holiday tradition. 

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 Chicago ‘s Cheesiest Place… Gayle’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese

It’s November, and that is right next to turkeys, snowflakes, and Santa. It also means that Indian summer is a memory and the city earns the title the Windy City. These days can be brisk and cold. You need some good old fashioned comfort food and I found it right here in downtown Chicago. Gayle Voss has made something as simple as grilled cheese and made it into an art form.  Visitors coming in from O Hare from all around the world have been eating it, as well as the many shoppers, retail store workers, and others that populate the State Street area. But it is not Chicago that has captured this humble shop, the New York Post has officially declared Gayle’s one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in America. But what makes this place so special? Perhaps it’s the details and organization of Gayle Voss and the rapport she has with her workers. Or maybe it is the farm fresh ingredients and love that she puts into each menu item that she sells? Whatever  is the formula , it works.

We walked in this morning and found Gayle and her crew putting together a cake kit that Gayle claims is the easiest chocolate cake that you can make and yes even non cooks like me can make. The kit is for a mocha chocolate chip cake to die for. Along with some other goodies, Gayle is selling these kits for 12.00.,  if you need an original and delicious hostess gift. She even makes them pretty with holiday trim and gift bags. Perfect to appease that future mother in law. There is just so much on the menu and all of it looked so good. Since it was breakfast, we had to try the “Breakfast club first. The “Club” comes with three options and we chose the first one which had pork sausage , egg, butterkase cheese (which Gayle swears by and uses on quite a few other sandwiches)and pure maple syrup. It is like eating an old fashioned breakfast at a pancake house with the sourdough bread. Much better and heartier than those other breakfast sandwiches. I will definitely be getting one the next time I am on my way to OHare. Since Gayle’s is right down from the Blue Line at Jackson, it is a convenient place to grab breakfast while you are waiting for your flight. With those cold winds blowing,  we also got the chance to pair up two old favorites, the classic grilled cheese with the tasty tomato pesto soup. The soup contains pine nuts and you just gotta dip the classic in it. It will bring back memories of those cold mornings when school was cancelled and mom made toasted cheese and tomato soup. The “sweetie pie” is so sweet you will swear you are eating a breakfast pastry with the tangy mixture of swiss cheese , pecans, and raspberry jam. Gayle has named some of her sandwiches after the places where she gets those yummy ingredients. For example the Jake is named for Jake’s Country Music where she gets her meat products. The Jake reminds me once more of home with the apple butter spread on the ham and gouda. Yummy. The River Valley  is named for the River Valley Ranch  where the mushrooms are grown. No cans here. What was the taste treat here was the sweet onion marmalade that was spread over the grilled mushrooms. My personal favorite !  We also got the chance to munch on the world famous cheese curds made from the sourdough bread crumbs and deep fried with the butterkase cheese inside. They were little balls of heaven according to Jen.

Next time you are downtown, head over to Block 37 and visit Gayle and her gang. They will leave you with a taste you won’t soon forget and you will understand why Chicago travelers find this cheese utopia.  Gayle’s is located at 108 N State Street , Suite 27 , right on the Pedway and they are open from 7 to 3. Starting Nov 20th, Gayle’s will be open from 7 am to 6pm so holiday shoppers and travelers can indulge. Gayle will also special make your order spicier or gluten free as well.
http://www.gaylesandwichshopchicago.com

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