Dining Away from the Desk: What I’ve Been Up to Over the Fall, Plus Recipe of the Day: Day 14, Immunity Soup

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Aloha, fellow blog readers! Thanks for following along, even though it’s been a minute since I’ve truly sat down to write a long post. Thanks to my number one (or possibly only) fan, my Mom, for always saying things like, “I sure wish you’d blog soon so I have something to read.” Point taken, yes, bloggers need to blog occasionally, and to my other loyal readers (still probably just Mom) – don’t worry, Mom has plenty of other available reading options, but I figure it IS time to let you know what I’ve been up to this fall, including three very memorable events: The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl, Tony & Tina’s Wedding & the opening of True Food Kitchen.

The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl

Let’s start with the Dinner Crawl, shall we? In September, the fabulous Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce reached out to me to see if I had any interest in attending their Fall Dinner Crawl. Let’s just say I had a high to quite high level of interest, and before long, I’d secured two tickets for Main Squeeze and I to crawl along the Knife Route, which included the following restaurants:

The Pasta Bowl  |  Urbanbelly  |  Dove’s Luncheonette  |  Dimo’s Pizza  |  Feast Restaurant  |  Goddess & Grocer  |  Urban Icing  |  Coast Sushi Bar |
Red Door  |  Club Lucky

Excited didn’t even begin to cover how…excited…I was to be a part of this extravagant food tour of Bucktown/Wicker Park. While some of these are old favorites (Coast Sushi, anyone?!?!), a few were new to me, so that made the anticipation level even higher.

The gist of the crawl for any of the routes is that participating restaurants offer at least two small menu portions for crawlers to sample. Participating restaurants can also pair this with drink deals, but alcohol is not included in the price of the ticket. Please note the price of the ticket alone is WELL worth the money, as we got to try so many different restaurants and left totally stuffed. But, naturally, we also participated in the drink deals at most (all) of the restaurants.

First up on our tour was The Pasta Bowl. I’d been to their location on Clark, but had actually never made it to their Bucktown/WP shop, which opened about two years ago. I was slightly nervous about making The Pasta Bowl our first stop, because there was a long night of eating ahead of us, and I felt pasta would be A TRAP!!! so that I wouldn’t be able to eat as much as I wanted to, which was everything at every restaurant. We were greeted quickly, and served a lovely mini caprese salad, and YES!, a plate of pasta. The pasta was their signature dish, Farfalle Pollo, with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic-buttered mushrooms, plum tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and their world famous house cream sauce.

The Pasta Bowl Chicago

The Pasta Bowl in Chicago

I vowed to eat only a few bites of it. I knew it was a trap.

…I ate all of it…and wished I could have had more. Damn, I’m the worst at dinner crawls.

Next up on our crawl was Dove’s Luncheonette. Have you been to Dove’s? It’s fantastic, but expect a wait during busy times, like brunch and weekends, as it’s pretty small inside. Despite being packed for the crawl, we managed to be seated immediately, and were served two delicious items. I wish I could tell you with 100% certainty what these items were, but it’s been awhile, and I’ve (of course) lost the evening’s menu.

Dove's Chicago

This was some type of zucchini/squash combo with a mole sauce. Yum!!

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….annnnnnnnd the torta with ham and cheese, pickled onion in a spicy sauce. Yes, I was beginning to feel stuffed.

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What to do when you’re feeling stuffed? Have a beer with your fried rice at Urban Belly, of course!! This was an exciting foamy treat!

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Continuing the drinking over at Feast, we tried the Mini Pimm’s Cup (how have I not had a Pimm’s cup before?!). It was outstanding!! We also had caprese skewers and salmon dip on rye baguettes.

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Then we went to Dimo’s and had the Mac n’ Cheese pizza. Cause calories be damned!

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And scarfed down some buffalo tots at Goddess & the Grocer…

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At this point we were supposed to go to Red Door and Urban Icing, but we were running out of time. We made the executive decision to unfortunately skip those two, and instead went to Coast where we were absolutely delighted to find that my FAVORITE SUSHI ROLL OF ALL TIME from Coast, my FAVORITE SUSHI RESTAURANT OF ALL TIME, was being featured. The White Dragon from Coast is easily one of my most craved foods ever!

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Last on our stop, but certainly not least, is neighborhood favorite Club Lucky. I could barely look at food at this point into the crawl, but Main Squeeze happily tucked into a giant plate of pasta, potatoes and chicken. Sigh.

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All in all, we had a ball on the dinner crawl, and we’ll DEFINITELY be doing it again next fall! Hope to see you there!

Tony & Tina’s Wedding

Next up on the list of must-see events is Tony & Tina’s Wedding. No, not just a random couple’s wedding we were invited to, Tony & Tina’s Wedding is an Off-Broadway completely interactive theater experience where the guests (audience members) participate in the wedding (play). We went on a Friday evening a few weeks ago and had a COMPLETE BLAST. We truly felt like we’d been to a wedding afterward!

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Here’s the scoop – Tony and Tina are two fictional Italian-American lovers from Queens, determined to be married in spite of more than a few crazy family members and friends. You, the audience, are invited to their big, dysFUNctional wedding, complete with church service and reception. The wedding service takes place at Resurrection Church in Lakeview, and the reception is at “Vinnie Black’s Coliseum,” just around the corner on Belmont. To be clear – Tony & Tina’s Wedding is a comedy in every sense of the word, and pokes fun at many Italian stereotypes. From Tina’s indomitable mother, to Tony’s spitfire “mother-in-law,” you run the gamut of big personalities. Tony & Tina’s wedding runs into February, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Oh look, here I am, dancing with Tony!

Oh look, here I am, dancing with Tony!

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True Food Kitchen

Next up – the opening of True Food Kitchen in River North. I was extremely lucky to have my parents along with me for their friends and family opening, and the extremely gracious and attentive staff made sure we tried a wide selection of their amazing, healthy menu. For those that aren’t familiar with True Food Kitchen, it’s a restaurant concept from Dr. Andrew Weil, as my Mom would say, the guy who helps make the shoes she wears (Vionics, for people with plantar fasciitis). He’s into clean, healthy eating and a proponent of the anti-inflammatory diet. True Food offers a wide variety of paleo friendly and gluten-free dishes, prepared with anti-inflammatory ingredients. Their slogan is “Honest food that tastes really good,” and yes, trust me, everything is SO fresh and amazing! Below is a brief sampling of what we had, and it is all OUTSTANDING. Mom and Dad loved it just as much as I did!

True Food Kitchen

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Ok, so now on to a recipe for today. Let’s end with a clean-eating soup from Dr. Andrew Weil. Just tuck this one away for the new year, if, like me, you’re basically on the pro-inflammatory diet for the next 2 weeks…

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Immunity Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 2 1/2 pieces astragalus root  (about 15 inches total)
  • 10 cups mushroom stock
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce
  • Salt
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • ½ cup chopped scallions1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the shiitakes, carrots, astragalus root, and Mushroom Stock. Bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
    2. Add the tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.
    3. Remove the astragalus root pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions before serving.

And one last note – do this!!

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