Eat your way to Chicago’s East Ohio Street

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While Mario Batali may not be the most reputable business owner when it comes to sharing with his employees, he’s done one thing right: Eataly. With a location in New York, and a newly established spot in Chicago, Eataly is literally the Disneyland for adults who love some good Italian food and wine. Less than a week after it’s official opening, I visited Chicago’s Eataly on East Ohio Street to see what my favorite foodie friend was gushing about. With 23 restaurants/places to pack in some tasty bites, a storewide grocery market, a bookstore, and a kitchenware store, Eataly blew my average-consumer mind.

Fresh mozzarella cheese being made by an Eataly employee

Fresh mozzarella cheese being made by an Eataly employee

Here’s the dish: Eataly caters to the city-dwelling yuppie. When you head up the escalators to the second floor, you are greeted by an array of restaurants serving anything from wine and cheese to fish to bread to pasta to veggies. As an under-21 vegetarian Millennial living on an alcohol-free college covenant, Eataly was a little bit intimidating – I couldn’t drink any of the alcohol, the menus are mostly written in Italian, and the place was packed with stylish people who looked like they had done this social-eating-experience before.

Patrons sitting and eating while others shop and wait in line

Patrons sitting and eating while others shop and wait in line

Here’s where the theme park idea comes in: If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, you’ve experienced the FastPass life. If a line is super long, you get a fast pass for the ride, and come back to a significantly shorter line at a specific time in the day. At Eataly, you make your reservation for your desired restaurant, they take your cell number, and when your table is ready, the restaurant sends you a text to come and begin the eating experience. What do you do while you’re waiting anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half? Eat at another restaurant, or do some shopping.

My friends and I made reservations at the fish restaurant, Il Pesce, and after they told us it would be about a half hour wait, we headed over to the Il Pizza & Il Pasta restaurant to see how long that wait would take. They told us an hour – which would be perfect – we would head over after we finished at Il Pesce.

We were hangry, so we headed over to Panini, one of the food options that doesn’t require you to sit down, to pick up an appetizer of sorts. My friends got ham and cheese on focaccia, and I got zucchini and goat cheese on focaccia bread. I’m not the biggest zucchini fan, but this bread concoction, served cold, was delish.

A vegetarian's delight!

A vegetarian’s delight!

While you eat your bread, you can see bakers making your bread!

While you eat your bread, you can see bakers making your bread!

Our Il Pesce reservation opened up, and the three of us decided to share a dish so that we would have room for our next restaurant option later.

Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm some Mediterranean fish filled with lemons and herbs, and potatoes underneath, gathering up all the juices.

Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm some Mediterranean fish filled with lemons and herbs, and potatoes underneath, gathering up all the juices.

Can't forget the side of sautéed mushrooms!

Can’t forget the side of sautéed mushrooms!

The meal was great, and we were content. However, we felt that Eataly had more to offer. So, while we waited for our pizza/pasta reservation to open up, we did some browsing around Eataly.

I bought some fresh butternut squash raviolis for dinner the following night.

I bought some fresh butternut squash raviolis for dinner the following night.

The butchery

The butchery

Cheese, both freshly made in house and imported from Italy.

Cheese, both freshly made in house and imported from Italy.

A beer brewery

A beer brewery

Freshly made desserts

Freshly made desserts

Get some imported Italian chocolates, cookies, and sweets!

Get some imported Italian foods including sauces, pastas, meats, cheeses and sweets.

So. Much. Bread!

So. Much. Bread!

An hour or so later, we finally got the text that our pizza/pasta reservation was ready. It was worth the wait.

Butternut squash raviolis for the vegetarian

Butternut squash raviolis for the vegetarian

A meaty pasta for my meat-loving friends

A meaty pasta for my meat-loving friends

Gotta get the greens in there somewhere!

Gotta get the greens in there somewhere!

Overall, Eataly was a grand experience. My adventure here didn’t even include the kitchenware section, which would be a great place to shop for those last-minute holiday gifts. Pricy for the average Millennial college student? Yes. However, this would be the perfect place to splurge while celebrating the holidays, a birthday or going on a date night. Prices are reasonable when you split dishes with your friends. If you’re looking for a loud, hip, sophisticated and gourmet to meet up with your favorite foodie friends, check out Eataly Chicago.

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Goodbye, Processed Foods!

They say that the first step to recovery is admittance. And here we go: I admit that I have a snacking problem, and it isn’t an eating-my-carrot-sticks-like-crazy sort of deal. Although my problem flares up primarily at school when I’m stressed or anxious, that is no excuse. Graham crackers and peanut butter, goldfish, chocolate goodies, chocolate-filled trail mix… you get the idea: I am a processed-food snacker. Now that I’m home and living a significantly more relaxed lifestyle this summer, I am looking to challenge myself.

Roughly four years ago, I went vegetarian as a new year’s eve resolution. It was great. I remain a vegetarian because of many reasons, one of them being the fact that I am eliminating chemically-injected and mistreated animals out of my diet. However, I have come to realize that when I eat processed foods, I might as well be eating the bad meat – it is just as bad for my body (and soul!), and I defeat the purpose of my vegetarianism.


Food, Inc., one of my favorite documentaries, and one of the reasons I became a vegetarian. I seemed to have neglected the whole segment on processed foods…

Oreos, boxed macaroni (I LOVE mac ‘n’ cheese), potato chips with my lunch, soda on the weekends, Goldfish, PEANUT BUTTER, even that Snapple at the deli that contains 5% juice… none of these things are making me feel better or live healthier. To make things worse, when I go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes, I am tempted by all of the organic products that call my name. ORGANIC BOXED MAC AND CHEESE. ORGANIC POTATO CHIPS. ORGANIC FROZEN FRENCH FRIES. ORGANIC JAM WITH HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. ORGANIC ICE CREAM. These products may be organic, and they may even contain whole grains or some kind of vitamin, but it doesn’t mean that I will benefit from them in any way.

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Photo courtesy of iheartthemart.com

In an effort to see how I could change my diet once again, I looked no further than Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Diet. While Kris’s story amazed and inspired me, I had also read about the 21-day raw food challenge in VegNews (an awesome magazine, btw, and you should subscribe), and I thought that the reviewer’s remarks were intriguing and challenging. However, after some contemplation, I have come to the realization that I am on summer break, and I am home. What does this mean? I have my mother’s wonderful home cooked meals right at my fingertips. Although I realize that you can have crazy good meals on a raw diet, it is not the same, and I am not ready to sacrifice mama’s meals. Instead, I will work on making sure that the meals have simple changes that avoid unnecessary dyes, chemicals, and ingredients whose names I can’t pronounce.

So, I have decided to eliminate processed foods out of my diet. To keep me motivated, I am following the rules of the 10-Day pledge to eat REAL FOOD. This website (or movement, really), called 100 Days of Real Food, is run by a woman named Lisa Leake, and it has everything one needs to live out a happy and healthy life filled with good food minus the addition of processed ingredients. I was so inspired that I even made her Whole-Wheat Cookie Cake recipe. I changed it up and used almond flour to replace the whole wheat flour, and I made them into individual cookies instead of a cake. I can’t complain – they taste pretty good 🙂 (and yes, I can hear you haters saying that dessert defeats the purpose of going processed-free, as well…)

To curb my lunchtime-chip-eating-desires, or my nighttime ice cream snack, I have begun making smoothies with fresh fruits (strawberries, raspberries, bananas) from the farmer’s market, ice, and greek/fat-free yogurt. They’re sweeter than any scoop of ice cream, and I need to take advantage of the fresh fruit while it’s here (*cough before I return to the never-ending Illinois winter where nothing survives or grows*). I have also made and canned one of my favorite meal accompaniments, ketchup. Goodbye, Heinz and random/unnecessary ingredients!  Next, I would like to begin making my own bread and bagels, but until then, I have bought whole wheat breads from the farmer’s market. Additionally, I need to jar up some homemade jam.

Here’s to the elimination of processed foods! While the challenge is 10 days, I hope to love it so much that I continue to live processed-free for the remainder of the summer and into the school year. I invite you to do the challenge with me – actually, I dare you!

Featured photo courtesy of stylelist.com

A Day Well Spent In Monterey

Monterey, California. Nestled on the southern edge of Monterey Bay, when you get your first view of the city, you feel as though you have entered into your very own Steinbeck novel. Roughly two hours (by car) from San Francisco, this city is a gem and its location is prime. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, Monterey has something for everyone.

During my spring break, I took an out-of-town friend to show her one of my favorite parts of California. Making a day out of it, we arrived in Monterey around lunchtime. A carnivore and a vegetarian, we were looking for some cheap eats. Eventually, we wound up at Sly McFly’s. Since they don’t have a website, I found a review page on Yelp. Although there are mixed reviews, Sly’s was a great place to grab a reasonably priced lunch before heading outside to explore. Is it gourmet? No. However, it didn’t break the bank, the service was friendly, and the view was great. With bay windows and an open door, you could get in some prime people-watching while listening to strangers play a lonely piano outside on Steinbeck Plaza.

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Next, we explored Cannery Row until we unexpectedly reached the entrance of *wait for it* The Candy Factory. From chocolate to jelly beans to the tartest of sour candies, this place is a dream come true for the inner child in us all.

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Finally, we arrived at the destination we came to Monterey for: Bay Bikes. With Comfort Cruiser Bike rentals starting at $8 per hour, we rented our bikes for two hours and headed down the beautiful Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Ask the employee for a map, directions, or a recommendation on where you should ride – they’ll be happy to help!

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Bay Bikes is located right next to the coastal trail.

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We began at Cannery Row, and biked on the coastal trail toward Pacific Grove. Eventually, the trail runs out and if you are on a bike, you must ride on the side of the road (for your safety, Bay Bikes offers free helmets you can rent). We turned right on Ocean View Blvd., and made our first stop at Lover’s Point Park. If you’re walking, there is a small trail that runs along the coast and off the road. However, it’s too narrow for bikers.

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Upon catching our breath again after witnessing the beautiful view, we continued along Ocean View Blvd., making “picture moment” stops along the way. Eventually, that road turns into Sunset Drive when you reach Asilomar State Marine Reserve.

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As we got closer to Spanish Bay, we decided to stop at a small beach inlet since we were beginning to run short on time. With a free bike lock that Bay Bikes lent us, we kept our bikes on the side of the road as we explored the coastal trail.

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Running out of time, we headed back the same way that we came. The bike ride was an awesome and cheap way to see Monterey, and I would highly recommend it because of the fact that you can pull over and take in the sights whenever you want, and on your own time. Make a trip to Monterey! You won’t regret it.

Jesus, creepy bunnies and tobacco. It’s Easter time.

For most of American society, Easter is less about Jesus and more about the chocolate that a creepy white bunny delivers overnight. Growing up, my favorite Easter Pastime was the annual Easter egg hunt. As a competitive child, my only goal on Easter was to collect more eggs than my brother and my cousin could find.

Now, as a student at an Evangelical Christian College, Easter brings less competitive significance and more contemplative appreciation for what my Savior did for me and everyone else who claims to be a Christian. However, I still enjoy the commercialized Easter egg hunts, chocolate gifts, and creepy bunnies at the mall. Here are 5 fun facts, pictures and videos regarding Easter celebrations all over the world.

1. Thanks to HappyPlace, you can now check out “40 Easter Bunnies more terrifying than a crucified man coming back from the dead.” Prepare yourself for childhood flashbacks, second-glances and nervous giggles of fear.

2. According to In The Capital, the people of Papua New Guinea have ditched the chocolate and replaced their sweets with tobacco. Instead of plastic eggs filled with candy, trees outside of churches are covered in sticks of tobacco and cigarettes. After Easter church service, smokes are handed out and the congregation literally lights up.

3. In the southern city of Haux, France, locals gather up and divulge in a giant omelet that is served up in the town’s main square. According to Woman’s Day, the omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people. It is said that when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town to grub on some omelets. Napoleon liked his omelet so much that he ordered all the townspeople to gather up the next day and make a giant omelet for his army. How this originally relates to Easter is uncertain, but it has become a modern Easter-day tradition!

4. Maybe America should just ditch the Easter Bunny idea. These kiddos probably support the idea…

5. On a slightly more normal and meaningful note, in Bermuda, people celebrate Good Friday by flying home-made kites. According to the Huffington Post, the tradition is said to have begun when a local teacher from the British Army had difficulty explaining Christ’s ascension to Heaven to his Sunday school class, so he decided to made a kite. The flight of the kite represents the ascension of Jesus, and the cross-shaped kites continue to be made with colorful tissue paper, long tails, wood, metal and string.

Whether you celebrate Jesus or fear the Easter Bunny, enjoy your Easter, friends!

Cover photo courtesy of ethanhickerson

Batteries to Bluffs Trail (San Francisco Presidio)

Let’s admit it. The mobs of tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf and the flocks of suburban high school girls at Union Square can get overwhelming. You want to enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer, but you would love to skip the crowds (and parking fees and overpriced bottles of water).

Looking for a touristy place to take my visiting college friends, I looked no further than Yelp to find just what I needed. Knowing that San Francisco has great outdoor activities, I decided to look up the people’s choice for hiking trails. As I weighed my options, one trail kept appearing: the Batteries to Bluffs Trail.

An easy drive from the Bay Bridge, we eventually arrived at a parking lot located on Langdon Court, nestled beside Battery Godfrey. Although the lot was small, there were plenty of spaces available, and best of all? The parking was free. We gathered up our gear and headed to the top of the battery, where we were met with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge to our right, and Baker Beach down the coast to our left.

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After catching our breath, we began our journey along the trail. Beginning on top of the mountain – or more like a cliff – the trail eventually slows down to the first flight of wooden stairs. The trail continues, alternating between stairs and a dirt path, with constant views of the Bridge and Baker Beach. Although this is a great trail for walking and even running, it is nearly impossible to have a bike on this trail, due to the amount of stairs and the narrow nature of the path. Since it has so many staircases, the path seems rather short. Eventually, you will reach Battery Crosby, which can serve as a nice resting spot if you want to continue to another trail. We took the path up to the Coastal Trail that is parallel to Lincoln Blvd, turning right at the next trail opening to the “Sand Ladder.” It was indeed a ladder made of stairs that were covered with sand, as well as many little lizards who were enjoying the sunshine.

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We eventually made it to the beach, where we found a spot with many pebbles and rocks that we could skip into the ocean. Keep in mind that Baker Beach can also be considered a nude beach. Whether you like to strip it all off, or wish to block the eyes of your innocent children, the beach is large enough to have a spot for everyone – and a spot with prime views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Once we were done, we took the path closest to Battery Chamberlain, which led us up to the Coastal Trail alongside Lincoln Blvd. We skipped the entry back to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and chose to go straight down the path, which led us right back to the parking lot. We grabbed our picnic lunches and sat atop Battery Godfrey, taking in the gorgeous views of the ocean.

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If you’re looking for a bathroom, just head down the trail that leads toward the bridge. It will take you to the Visitor’s Center where you can use the public restrooms. Whether you want a peaceful hike for yourself or a place to take the family, the Batteries to Bluffs Trail is a wonderfully cheap way to enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer.

Do the Harlem Shake.

Con los terroristas…” If you haven’t heard these words yet, it is bound to happen soon. For the past week, these lyrics have repeated through my computer speakers as I watch different friends and feeds post new videos imitating the “Harlem Shake.” The more I watch it, the more I begin to think that it is the new “planking,” “Gangnam Style,” or “milking.” The dance begins with one lone dancer, typically wearing a mask and standing in a public space. At a certain point in the catchy song titled “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, the bass drops and the scene changes to a large group of people who seem to be going a little bit crazy. If you YouTube “Harlem Shake,” you will stumble upon many videos that contain the same choreography, but differ in settings. Here’s an example titled “Harlem Shake v33 (Portland Edition),” taken from Youtube:

Obviously, there is no previous knowledge on dancing that is needed. You simply need a small group of people, and you can accomplish the dance. My question, though, is how did the Harlem Shake become such a big deal in so little time? And what exactly makes it a big deal, especially for younger generations?

On Urban Dictionary, the Harlem Shake is described by one user as  “A new stupid dance crass on YouTube, and people just making idiots of themselves. Usely only about 30-45 seconds long, where it starts out as one person dancing and everyone not noticing. Til about half way and then everyone in the room dances and shakes usely masked to hide their shame.” While this definition describes the phenomenon quite well, it doesn’t answer the question as to where the dance originated.

According to Wikipedia, “The Harlem shake, originally called the albee, is a dance introduced in 1981 by a Harlem resident named ‘Al B.” The dance was originally named after him, but it became the Harlem shake after its popularity grew beyond the neighborhood. According to Wikipedia, Al B was quoted saying that the dance is “a drunken shake anyway, it’s an alcoholic shake, but it’s fantastic, everybody appreciates it.” Al B said it came from the ancient Egyptians, and described what the wrapped up and immobile mummies did back in the day. In 2001, the Harlem shake became mainstream when G. Dep featured the dance in his music video, “Let’s Get It.”

They don’t do the dance all throughout the video, but keep an eye out for the snippets and lyrics that contain “Harlem.” According to Wikipedia, The Harlem shake is sometimes associated with a similar dance move called “The Chicken Noodle Soup.” This dance evolved from the Harlem shake, and it became popular in the summer of 2006 when DJ Webstar and Young B brought it back to life. “The Chicken Noodle Soup” was featured in various songs and raps, including Mac Dre’s song, “Thizzle Dance.”

Once again going under the mainstream radar after 2006, until this month (February), when the Harlem Shake Internet meme went viral on Youtube. This new Harlem Shake, named after the song “Harlem Shake,” released by Baauer in May of 2012, has nothing to do with the original harlem shake by Al B. The interwebs can thank Youtube comedy vlogger Filthy Frank for starting this trend in early February.

If you are seeing what I am seeing, Filthy Frank’s Harlem Shake is quite different from the original dance of Al B. This leads to my final questions: why has this become so viral, why do people want to imitate the new Harlem Shake, and what does this say about the state of our culture?

In an article titled “Shake What Your Internet Friend Gave You,” found online at The New Yorker, when writing about the Harlem Shake craze, Sasha Frere-Jones states, “What is seems to be is not a dance craze but, rather, and Internet-language craze, a replication based on imitating the syntax of a particular video.” The Harlem Shake doesn’t require much – most all of the Youtube videos are no longer than a minute, they all contain Baauer’s song, and they don’t require any special kind of dance move – you simply need the right people at the right time. It seems as though the crazier, or more far-out you dress, the more attention you will get.

These trends come just as quickly as they go. A few summers ago, my Facebook feed was filled with pictures of my peers “planking-” laying flat on the most random surfaces, such as tables, counters, bridges, roads, etc. It became incredibly popular, but at some point when everyone started to do it, the trend faded away. In a time where our lives seem to be built on the internet, it can be difficult to feel unique, to stand out in the crowd. When something becomes popular, everyone wants to have it. When there is a unique Youtube video that seems to be socially un-acceptable but easy enough to re-create, you have the chance to make yourself just a little bit cooler and make the trend just a little bit better. Everyone has the opportunity to re-create something completely new to humankind, until it reaches a point where the trend has been tried too many times, and people get sick of it – the new and shiny appearance wears off and it simply becomes a used good, just like the annual iPhone or seasonal fashion.

What do you think the next mainstream video or picture trend will be? How will you try to beat the uniqueness and craze of the new Harlem Shake?

312 Chicago

Sitting on a corner in the Chicago theater district, 312 Chicago knows how to treat you like family while giving you a meal to remember. Known for its authentic Italian food, this restaurant offers the perfect balance of sophistication and first class service.

   Stepping food into 312 Chicago, you are greeted by a hostess that will take your coat and seat you at a table located either on the first floor with a view of the open kitchen, or the second floor with a panoramic view that looks out onto the Chicago Theater District. With a loud and busy atmosphere of diners and staff, 312 Chicago offers the perfect spot for a date night or celebratory meal.

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   Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu at 312 Chicago offers something for every type of diner. With a dinner menu offering soup and salad under $10, pasta under $20, and specialty meat and fish dishes under $30, the customer pays for quality ingredients that are added to dishes that contain outstanding flavors.

For the vegetarian, 312 Chicago does a grand job in making options available. The Carpaccio di Barbabietole – an appetizer with roasted beets, baby greens, ricotta cheese, hazlenuts and blood orange vinaigrette offers a light and healthy beginning to the meal. For dinner, the homemade Tortelloni stuffed with butternut squash is accompanied with Parmesan cheese and brown butter sage that pairs with the squash to make an incredibly warm and savory meal. With a diet that can often prove to be disappointing when dining out, the vegetarian can find solace at 312 Chicago as they pack warm and inviting flavor into every dish.

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For dessert, 312 Chicago offers anything from cheesecake to carrot cake to cannolis. For the chocolate lover, the Torta di Cioccolato – flourless chocolate cake, Chantilly cream, shaved chocolate, and a wild berries sauce, offers a richly grand finale to a satisfying meal.

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When asked why a college student should come to 312 Chicago, Tina, the manager at 312 Chicago replied, “You come for the service. You come for our staff and our food that you can’t get anywhere else. Every restaurant has their own distinctive feel, and you should come here because we try to be as authentic as possible, we try to give you warmth and comfort and make you feel like you’re having a nice night out.”

If you are looking for friendly and attentive service, a flavorful meal made from top- notch ingredients, and an inviting atmosphere, stop by 312 Chicago.

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