Buen Provecho.

My mother called this morning in order to inform me of a blizzard that is coming to Madison! Supposedly there hasn’t been one this bad since 1992, we will see if that is true, however this crushed my dreams of feasting on some tasty Mexican cuisine in the near future. One of my favorite things about Madison is their mix of ethnicity in the restaurants.

First is one I have actually been to with my Dad when he visited, Eldorado Grill. This unique Mexican restaurant, located on Willy street right off the capital square, is one of my favorite areas when I want to escape the hustle and bustle of State Street. Their specialty is working with fish and putting a twist on authentic Mexican entrees. I had the Pasilla Chile Chicken Enchiladas which were served with the sauces decoratively displayed on the plate leading to a taquito style enchilada. My dad enjoyed the Market Fish Special which appeared shaped as a butterfly. The food is pleasing to the eyes and palate.

La Mestiza is an authentic Mexican restaurant I have not had the luxury of dining at but according to Urbanspoon and other sources it is one of Madison’s best hot spots for a traditional Mexican meal in a great atmosphere. There is a location downtown and on Madison’s outskirts, on Odana Road. They pride themselves by having food that is “…from the ordinary to the extraordinary eclectic Mexican cuisine”.

Mango Man Cooks! The story behind this restaurant helps make it a must on my eating to-do list. Thony, a Madison food-cart regular, gained much popularity from selling food on the capital square as well as around the UW campus. Once people started demanding more amazing cuisine he opened up a restaurant, Café Costa Rica, on South Butler Street with plans of opening another downtown on Willy Street. Mango Man, which is who he came to be known as, does a phenomenal job of serving Mexican food with a Caribbean twist. The Mojito’s are supposedly to die for while the rest of the menu will leave you wanting more as well!

Finally, there is L’Etoile. This is not Mexican cuisine but chef Tory adds his own Mexican spices and accents to unique entrees. At L’Etoile they strive to use all local farm ingredients which creates a delicious and seasonal menu. Chef Tory’s experience in the kitchen is gaining popularity all over Wisconsin and reviews compare him to Chef Rick Bayless, who has two extraordinary restaurants in Chicago, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. Chef Tory and his crew have also opened up a new gastropub, Graze, which follows the same principles of cooking comfort foods from grass-fed animals. At Graze the chefs strive to offer a higher level of regular pub food that allows its customers to enjoy their company while grazing.

Apologies if you are like me and stuck inside because of a storm-to-be, but at least your imagination will be satisfied!

¡Buen Provecho!

 

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Bon Appetit with a Lunch Bag.

This post is strictly for my sister but all my readers in Chicago can benefit!

My older sister received a lunch bag for Christmas and even though she didn’t say anything, I knew she had no idea when she would use it. My sister and I have become very similar over the years, it has probably helped that I am not the annoying 6-year-old trying to “hang out” with the teenagers, but one difference we still have is our use of the kitchen. While when I have the availability, would spend hours making yummy treats or mouth-watering meals, she would rather use her skills to get us into this months top rated restaurants and experience someone else’s cooking. I must clarify that this is in no way a bad thing, we both benefit from each others skills and as a reader so do you! However, this post is so my sister can put her shiny new lunch bag to good use.

Daily Candy is a blog I follow, and as before, I found something I couldn’t let just sit in my Gmail inbox. This “restaurant” brings the home cooked meals into your home, without you having to do the work.

Cindy, my new role model this year, is a women who left the corporate world to find her true passion, in the kitchen. After having years of success in America’s typical workforce she now spends her time baking tiny pies filled with comfort. Her website Small Comfort displays about a dozen pies she makes from scratch and sells them fresh or freezes and ships them. My sister, or anyone else, can purchase these pies to have for a comforting dinner after a long day at work or pack up and take to work, in a lunch bag perhaps?? They are all made weekly with fantastic ingredients and a perfect flakey crust. A few delightful examples are… Classic Chicken, Potato Leek, or Roasted Root Vegetable. There are many more and she ranges from traditional pot pies to some with a twist, and can even deliver a vegan one if that satisfies you more.

Check out her website or visit her at Logan Square Kitchen’s Pastry Market, February 12th and 13th, I’m sure she will not disappoint you.

Bon Appetit with a lunch bag.

Bon Appetit with a Brita.

My older sister works on the Brita account for a PR firm, so I naturally have my own Filter for Good water bottle along with my very own Brita Water Filter.  With the new year still new, one of my resolutions has been to drink more water, in an effort to do so I had to unfortunately dust off my neglected Brita filter.

I am so glad I did this because surprise surprise a friend pointed out that Madison’s water levels are nearing a little bit on the danger side. In an effort to try and explain to all my friends why it is an absolute must to use the Brita, I found this article. . .

http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Madison_Water_Utility_

Statement_on_Hexavalent_Chromium_112206514.html

Hopefully you will find it helpful and decide to bon appetit with a Brita.

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

Obviously this post is about COFFEE, my new-found love! I never was a coffee drinker because I heard it stunts your growth, but since I am almost 5’9” I think I am allowed a cup now and then. I enjoy a piping hot latte or mug of mud most when it is in the negative degrees and I have to walk twenty minutes to class. I thought since it’s been in the single digits in Madison for the past few days this would be a perfect blog post.

Today on my way home from yoga I stopped to get a “double, small skim latte, no whip” … I’m learning how to properly order my drink… from one of my favorite cozy cafes on State Street. Steep and Brew is a locally owned coffee shop that has their own blend of coffees that have received national attention. They also have an assortment of teas and treats along with my new Bodum to go!! I bought this today because I brought back some amazing Alterra coffee with me from Sheboygan. I don’t want to waste the coffee beans by sharing it with my whole house and had no access to a french press. This coffee mug acts as a french press but gives you the freedom to run to class with it…. Genius!

My next recommendation for coffee, or tea 🙂 in Madison is from Cafe Espresso Royal. I love this place because it is narrow and intimate, all the seating is set up for one or two people and it is always packed. When I’ve been studying too long and the winter weather has struck me with a cold I come here for their “Ginger Dragon”. This drink is a tea because they steep ginger for a few hours then add lemon and honey. Sometimes it turns out a little spicy but it is the best remedy for a sore throat.

Finally, there is Fair Trade Coffeehouse, about a block from my house and a PERFECT place to grab a book and study or meet up with old friends. Fair Trade works with Equal Exchange to have hand-picked coffee beans from around the world. They are also only one of ten other coffee shops that is part of this program, 61 Beans. In addition to their amazingly organic coffee, they also serve tasty treats and outstanding Panini sandwiches and even have vegetarian options.

Sidenote… to add sugar to your coffee but stay on the healthy side try honey instead of the sugar packs!

Sometimes you need to kick back and relax with a cup of joe.

Trader Joe’s Favorites.

I just found this Trader Joe’s Most Favored Items List and needed to add to in these mix of food posts. To give you a bit of background, since I am a college student and have a slight obsession with food, particularly veggies, Trader Joe’s has become my number one place to grocery shop. What college student is going to trek over to a Whole Foods and drop bank on one bag of groceries, (without bashing Whole Foods) I am unfortunately not that student.

With out further adieu here is the list put out in 2010 by Trader’s, and I’ll even give you my cross-listed favorites.

 

Photo retrieved from http://www.traderjoes.com/pdf/attachments/traderjoes-2010-favorite-products.pdf

1. Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken: Absolutely great and should be nowhere else on this list but number one. I like to add lettuce and tomatoes with a Hoisin sauce and wrap up in a tortilla. This was my favorite snack after dance practice in high school!

2. Triple Ginger Snap Cookies: BEWARE it is very easy to eat the whole box before you get home, they are awesome and have real whole chunks of ginger. The ginger helps with digestion and the calmative qualities warm you up on a cold day, it can even ease an unhappy tummy.

5. Frozen Croissants: You all know I love these via my earlier post.

7. Charles Shaw Wines: Two Buck Chuck…enough said.

8. Greek Yogurt: This is the best thing for you for breakfast, it has higher amounts of protein than regular yogurt and the probioticshelp keep your digestive system on check.

12. Candy Cane Joe Joe’s: Only around during the winter holidays but I believe I would be suffering from intense obesity if they were sold year round.

20. Almond Butter with Flax: Almond butter is much healthier than regular peanut butter because of the amount of protein almonds harbor. Flax is a source of fiber filled with Omega-3 fatty acids that aids in digestion and weight loss, it has also been seen to be anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous! All those bonuses from a spread on your toast.

26. Frozen Joe’s Diner Mac n’ Cheese: This is not your regular Mac n’ Cheese because instead this is made with Gouda, Cheddar, Swiss and Havarti cheeses!! Mmmmm

Last but not least….

33. Frozen Sweet Potato Fries: pop these in the oven and you have a great addition to any meal or a healthy snack.

 

As you can see I am a Trader’s fanatic and want nothing more but to convert all of you.

Bon Appetit, Trader Joe’s style.

A morning surprise.

What’s the best thing about waking up in the morning? In my opinion, it’s the smell of breakfast. As I have stated in past posts I am not a breakfast fan so when I report about a breakfast spot or treat it means they are GOOD, GREAT possibly even FANTABULOUS.. or basically out of this world!

This scrumptious taste of heaven is from Trader Joe’s, and is definitely on the list of being one of TJ’s Bests. I have snapped a picture of the croissants but they come in a variety oftreats. Others that I enjoy are the cinnamon rolls that we add nuts to or the chocolate croissants. They are found in a teeny box tucked in the freezer section of any Trader Joe’s grocery store. The tricky part is they must be thawed over night. This allows the dough and yeast to proof so in the morning when you pop them in the oven they come out crispy but so airy and chewy on the inside. I love making these and trying to pull off as if I am a french chef who has slaved away perfecting this buttery croissant.

Here they have been proofing all night and we love to coat it with an egg-wash so they are shinny and have a crispier crust. Next they will be ready to bake, oooh I can’t wait for the finished product.

 

The final product oooh yum yummmm….

Bon Appetit thanks to Trader Joe’s.

Day-trip.

Going to Chicago for a weekend get-away or on your back to school like my best friends? Go ahead and check out this post by Daily Candy’s blog… it’s all about fun adventures to do and places to explore in Chicago.

Also interested in checking out exciting new blogs? My bestie, Betsy, started up a new one, The Pitch. She posts a photo a day and is looking on expanding her topic. We are both new to the blog scene and always accepting fun tips and blogging secrets.

 

 

Photo retrieved from http://www.shoestringmag.com/road-trips/on-road-again-budget-friendly-road-trip-ideas.

Hello San Francisco Dining.

This post is one near and dear to my heart because it’s in my stomping grounds!! I am a die-hard Giants fan and love frequenting the tasty Californian cuisine in the entire Bay Area when I visit my Dad and stepmom who have resided on the edge of the Marina and Cow Hollow.

The first ooh la la dining hot spot is La Boulange Bakery. My father and stepmother live on Franklin so our most visited La Boulange is located on Polk Street. This french bistro is filled with fresh-baked almond croissants, orange and cinnamon morning buns, various breads and many more treats. They also have a full menu for breakfast or lunch but it is always a crowded place, so give yourself some time. My favorite option is to go early and grab a fresh squeezed orange juice with the homemade granola or the fantastic french toast. The special part about La Boulange is it brings France into many of the San Francisco neighborhoods. You can follow them on twitter, @laboulange, or check out their blog, Ze Boulange Blog, to see what’s new and exciting! (photo retrieved from http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60713-d1074228-Reviews-La_Boulange_Cafe_Bakery-San_Francisco_California.html).

Next is Blue Barn on San Francisco’s quaint Chestnut Street. This place is one of my favorites because of their “U-Pick Salad”. Here they have dozens of fresh vegetables and a variety of lettuces, you can also add your choice of proteins and dressings. The limit is six but I can’t limit myself to the fresh goodness combined in these salads. If you aren’t obsessed with salads like me then try one of their gourmet grilled cheeses. There are seven outstanding sandwiches with extraordinary cheeses from local dairy farms. If you still aren’t enticed with these options then try sampling one of their chef inspired salads or sandwiches. They have vegetarian and vegan options and everything consumed is wholesome, organic and all locally grown.

The restaurant, Lo Coco’s, has been a favorite of mine ever since I was 5 years old when my dad and I used to venture there every Friday for Pesto Pizza, a House Salad with a side of Garlic Bread and two Root Beers. By the time I was ten they knew us by name and didn’t even need to ask what we wanted to order. This Pizzeria started with two brother’s and the original is in Terra Linda, California, but we choose to drive out to San Anselmo for the atmosphere. All the Pizza’s I assume would be amazing because of the thinness of the actual pizza which leads up to the bubbly and chewy crust, however, we always stuck with classic Pesto or Cheese. After dinner in the summer you can walk to the park behind the restaurant and stay for a fun night of Film Night in the Park. (Photo retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/19934744@N00/2526383455/).

For breakfast when we were on our way to the Russian River or hoping over to Napa to visit some family we always chose to make a morning stop at Fred’s Cafe in Sausalito. This cozy breakfast joint is my dad’s favorite place because the chefs cook the eggs to perfection while the coffee is hot and the orange juice is frothy and fresh, but it also might help that he thinks it’s named after him! When you eat here you have to order some scrambled eggs, even if it’s a small side. I am not one who is big on breakfasts but Fred’s knows how to make my mouth water. My family also considers ourselves orange juice snobs and Fred’s exceeds our expectations. Finally, the close atmosphere where you sit with other joyous customers creates a delightful experience.

There are millions more I could rave about ranging from, Mamasitas for a twist on Mexican, The Grove for Sunday brunch or a weekday lunch, and  Amici’s for East Coast Pizza but this is all for now.

Bon Appetit in the California Republic.

 

Photo retrieved from http://www.platesusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=LPART15&Category_Code=LPART

The perfect yet healthy addition.

This receipe is my all time favorite salad dressing. While I was vegetarian I was able to perfect a healthy but very tastey salad dressing. All you need for this is extra virgin olive oil, a good thick balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. The higher quality olive oil and balsamic is what makes this dressing wow your taste buds. However, sometimes I choose to spice it up by adding dried rosemary or hot spices. Although whatever salad you are making this pairs great by adding flavor but doesn’t mask any flavors of the fresh vegetables.

My favorite salad with this dressing is used with baby bibb lettuces, apples, avocado, walnuts and a good cheese. I like to use an aged Gouda, Sartori Belle Vitano Gold, or Parmesan.

If I don’t have walnuts (which offers an excellent source of protein) I choose to make my own croutons. In order to do this I take stale bread and chop it up to half-inch squares and put in a plastic bag with olive oil, dried rosemary and salt. Then place them spread out on a cooking sheet and broil until golden brown, this only takes about a minute or two. Then flip them and watch carefully, they cook faster the second time. Be careful with these because sometimes its easy to eat them all before they make it to the salad.

Eat well and stay healthy, Bon Appetit.

 

 

(Photo retrieved from http://www.nomeatathlete.com/southwest-caesar-salad-grilled-tempeh/)

Hello Sheboygan Dining.

Sheboygan is home of Johnsonville brats paired with a Hard Roll. In the summer this delicious combination added with your favorite fixings are found all over Shevegas! However, there are many more delicious Sheboygan staples that are year round.

My first and absolute favorite is the Weather Center Cafe. This is an eclectic, artsy café nested in with many other shops andrestaurants on The Sheboygan River front. Their Weather Center salad with homemade spinach vinaigrette is a refreshing choice that pleases everyone’s palate. Pair this with one of their daily fresh-baked scones or muffins and you may never want to leave. Over winter break I have camped out there almost every other day having lunches with all my pals. It is also ideal in the summer as well by taking a walk and having breakfast outside soaking up the sun. The best of all is that a Sheboygan local, Teek, owns it and serves his community by creating fresh, real food! (Photo retrieved from http://sheboyganwalkingtours.com/Howland.html).

The next stop is Italy at Stefano’s Il Ritrovo. This restaurant is one of Stefano’s four restaurants in Sheboygan but my friends and I have coined Il Ritrovo as the best. It is an Italian Pizzeria with all the ingredients imported straight from Italy. The menu consists solely of appetizers, soups, salads and pizzas, but that is all you need to choose from because they are the best! I won’t suggest my favorites because you simply can’t go wrong here.

Attached to Il Ritrovo is an Italian deli and grocery store that separates it from Stefano’s other restaurant, Field to Fork. This restaurant is exactly what it sounds like and follows Stefano’s theme of serving organic and locally grown food. Almost anything on this menu can be purchased in the deli or grocery. They also have a phenomenal juice bar that serves fresh fruit juices and exotic green drinks. My favorite here is the “Green Drink” which is a blend of apple or pears, lemon, ginger, wheat grass, spinach and lettuce. Have this for breakfast and you are bound to obtain super powers! (Photo retrieved from http://www.trattoriastefano.com/about_us.html).

The fourth restaurant is ideal for a fancy-pants meal with your family or loved one. The Blackwolf Run Restaurant is located in Kohler Wisconsin, a part of the well-known Blackwolf Run Golf Course. This elegant yet cozy restaurant is gorgeous in the winter because of its dark wood and warm feeling it leaves you with. However, in the summer the large glass windows, framing the golf course below you, accompany the wonderful meal. Chef Paul Smitala knows how to combine perfectly paired ingredients always creating a masterpiece. One masterpiece, the Corn Sausage Chowder, has become very popular around Kohler and Sheboygan, especially on a cold winter night. (Photo retrieved from http://www.americanclubresort.com/restaurants/bwr_restaurant.html)


You can always find a good meal or cool place to hang out in Sheboygan and even though the name may sound silly, don’t let it fool you!

Bon Appetit on the Michigan shore.