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Category: Chicago

Lollapalooza 2017 Dining Guide

For some people, music festivals are all about the music. But since the day-long nature of festivals require — at least for me and everyone I know — eating at some point, those of us who give AF what we put in our bodies face a challenge second only to scheduling conflicts about which of the 34 food stalls to grace with our presence.

But since catching all your favorite acts are key, I’ve taken some of the guesswork off your plate so that you can spend more time at the stages and less wandering the food court, staring at everyone’s plates as they leave the stalls. (Please, I know I’m not the only one who does that.)

If I’m being honest, I’m pretty disappointed with the Chow Town line-up, which is pretty anemic and nearly all the vendors have disappointed me at some point in time. A lot of my fave vendors of Lolla past won’t be attending this year, including Momofuku (though, honestly, they’ve been disappointing lately anyway). Plus, I just can’t stand Graham Elliot or his restaurants. But, Lolla has never claimed to have a Michelin star and there are still plenty of absolutely delicious and terribly unhealthy options, as well as some pretty good options for those of us who are tryna keep our summer bods going, don’t eat meat, or can’t/don’t eat a certain grain protein.

My Top Picks

Cheesie’s (Chow Town North) Grilled cheeses are pretty hard to mess up and easy to prepare quickly, meaning you’re more likely to get a freshly made ‘wich. Cheesie’s is famous among stoners and frat boys throughout Chicago for their mac n’ cheese grilled cheese, i.e., mac n’ cheese is the cheese in the sandwich.

Kuma’s Corner (Chow Town North) This Chicago staple is returning to the Lolla scene after 5 years. They have a reputation to uphold, so I’m going to assume they’ll do a good job, even if they aren’t able to make their ginormous metal-themed burgers with all the toppings.

Lifeway Kefir (Chow Town North) Refreshing, tangy, and totally acceptable as dinner during Lolla, Lifeway has yet to disappoint. You can load it up with fruit and it’s easy to walk with, so you can take it with you as you run from Bud Light to Samsung.

Goddess & The Grocer (Chow Town North) These guys are catering champs, so you don’t have to worry about them struggling to bring their restaurants to the small tent. I find Goddess to always be fresh, though perhaps a bit on the small side.

Windsor Ice Cream Shoppe (Chow Town South) One of the best deals in Chow Town. These GIANT ice cream scoops mean you’ll get more than one lick in before it melts all over your carefully curated festival wear.

Pork & Mindy’s (Chow Town South) In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve still never tried Pork & Mindy’s. However, I do know they’ve had some practice with big crowds and food stall life with Lolla 2016 and Taste of Chicago, which means they probably have worked out some kinks that will make them a solid option. Besides, nothing says summer like pulled pork, and I’d place them above Robinson’s on that front.

Sausage Haus (Chow Town North) Again, untested by yours truly. But since it is run by an events catering company, I put some faith in them to be experts at scaling up. Let me know if they don’t toast the pretzel buns though, cause I’ll quickly axe them from this list.

Godiva Summer Treats Truck (Across from Pepsi Stage) No idea what this is, but it sounds *sweet*

Chipotle (Across from Pepsi Stage) This is also new, and I also have no idea what this really means. If it’s truly Chipotle, this could be a great option! I’ll scope on Thursday and report back!

 

For those looking for healthy options or with dietary restrictions, I’ve just put categorical lists below, with my faves underlined:

Healthy Options

The Goddess & the Grocer (Chow Town North)
Kamehachi (Chow Town North)
Lifeway Kefir (Chow Town North)

In years past, there’s also been a farmers market that has fresh fruit and other healthy options. I don’t see it on the map, but I’ll update if it is indeed there on Thursday!

 

Vegetarian/Vegan Options

BJ’s Market & Bakery (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Broken English (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Cheesie’s (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Chubby Wieners (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Connie’s Pizza (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Country BBQ (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Dark Matter (vegan, Chow Town North)
Dia De Los Tamales (vegan, Chow Town North)
Edzo’s Burger Shop (vegan, Chow Town South)
Harold’s Chicken (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Harris Ice (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Kamehachi (vegan, Chow Town North)
Kilwins (vegan, Chow Town North)
Leghorn Chicken (vegan, Chow Town South)
Lou Malnati’s Pizza (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Mad Social (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
MBurger (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Rainbow Cone (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Pizano’s (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Sausage Haus (vegan, Chow Town North)
Tallboy Taco (vegan, Chow Town North)
Goddess and the Grocer (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Lifeway Kefir Shop (vegetarian, Chow Town North)
Smoke Daddy (vegan, Chow Town North)
Windsor Ice Cream Shop (vegetarian, Chow Town South)
Wow Bao (vegetarian, Chow Town South)

 

Gluten-Free Options

BJ’s Market & Bakery (Chow Town North)
Connie’s Pizza (Chow Town South)
Kamehachi (Chow Town North)
Kilwins (Chow Town North)
Leghorn Chicken (Chow Town South)
Lifeway Kefir Shop (Chow Town North)
Smoke Daddy (Chow Town North)
Dark Matter (Chow Town North)
Dia De Los Tamales (Chow Town North)
Edzo’s Burger Shop (Chow Town South)
Pork & Mindy’s (Chow Town South)
Rainbow Cone (Chow Town South)
Tallboy Taco (Chow Town North)
Tank Noodle (Chow Town North)
Sausage Haus (Chow Town North)

 

Sweets & Treats

Harris Ice (Chow Town South)
Kilwins (Chow Town North)
Rainbow Cone (Chow Town South)
Lifeway Kefir Shop (Chow Town North)
Windsor Ice Cream (Chow Town South)
Godiva Summer Treats Truck (Across from Pepsi Stage)
Again, no idea what this entails, but Imma find out!!

 

Beverages

Da Beers Garden, which should be chillin’ across the street from Pepsi Stage, is likely to have solid craft beer options as well as some foods that are vaguely German, like pretzels and sausage — at least in prior years this has been the case.

Cupcake Vineyards can be found in the “wine lounge” west of Kidzapalooza, since nothing says “wine, please!” like kids, amirite???

If for whatever reason you find yourself craving coffee, Dark Matter is the way to go. I’m not even sure if there are other options for coffee around the festival, but regardless, Dark Matter is my #1 coffee in the city.

Also note that this year you can pre-order your beer through the Lolla App and skip the lines!!!!!!!!! I know, right?! I almost hesitated sharing this lest it increase wait times. But then I decided to go VIP so 😎. Enjoy, plebs.

 

Vendors I’ll Be Skipping

    • Graham Elliot and his overpriced and progressively smaller lobster corndog.
    • Leghorn Chicken, which was super disappointing at Mamby
    • Rainbow Cone, an unpopular opinion, maybe, but I think the layering of chocolate, strawberry, something yellow with maraschino cherries, mint chocolate chip, and orange sherbet is just disgusting.
    • Connie’s Pizza, Lou Malnati’s, Bacino’s and Pizano’s seem like a good idea — just grab and go. But I’ve found that pizza at festivals is usually soggy and never hot enough. If you must, I’d vote for Lou’s, since it’s classic Chicago, and Pizano, since it’s thin crust and therefore less likely to be a soggy mess. But, again, haven’t had pizza here since Lolla 2013, so I’ll have to scope the scene.
    • Tank Noodle, while beloved, tends to drop the noodle with their festival versions. The noodles tend to just be clumpy and oily (Sorry, Tank Noodle, I know this does not necessarily reflect on your restaurant!)
    • Broken English and Tallboy because they serve tacos, and festival tacos always come on nasty tortillas that are a shame to abuelas everywhere. They’re also usually a rip off.

 

General Rules of Thumb

  • If a vendor has a food truck, chances are they’ll be better at this food stall thing since they’re used to making things quickly in a small kitchen. There may even be a food truck lot on the south end of Grant Park.
  • Eat at weird times to avoid the lines.

For a guide to the festival as well as my 2017 guide discussing what’s new this year and who I’m seeing, head to TotalBadNass.com.

 

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#GivingTuesday2016

A little while back, I wrote a post about the frivolity of this blog given the fact that so many people in the world are facing such great adversity that they will never be able to ponder things like “who makes the best donut in Chicago?” This #GivingTuesday, I am supporting organizations that are helping improve lives so that more people can have the time and security to enjoy life’s pleasures. See below for a list of all the organizations I’m giving to this Tuesday and how you can help support them as well. And, remember, time can be given, too.

Chicago Youth Centers
Chicago, IL

Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) serves children of all ages in Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, providing academic enrichment and access to resources students otherwise would not have so to help fill the gaps in Chicago’s present education system. For example, some of their 6 centers now feature Maker Labs, which further encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and social learning that is the cornerstone of CYC’s efforts. Donate now at chicagoyouthcenters.org/donate/. Or, if you’re interested in volunteering or joining the Auxilliary Board or a local board for one of the centers, shoot me an email at threetimesperday@gmail.com.

CYC-maker-lab-chicago-youth-centers-STEAM

Slow Food USA
Nationwide

“Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.” This is a line from Slow Food USA’s manifesto. Slow Food supports programs such as school gardens to help cultivate the next generation of healthy eaters. Too few Americans are educated on what healthy, wholesome eating really is, and while there are of course socio-economic barriers that must also be tackled, Slow Food is working to spread the message, support farmers, and preserve food as a staple of culture. Become a member at slowfoodusa.org.

Mimi Edelman

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Chicago, IL

What do you think of when you think of the holiday season? While for many of those reading this blog imagine massive feasts surrounded by family or friends in a warm, cozy home, for so many people in Chicago not only is a large meal far from given, a meal at all may be. The Greater Chicago Food Depository, or Chicago Food Bank, is helping ensure children, families, and those in need have access to food year-round and are working to make hunger a thing of the past. Find out how to donate or get involved at www.chicagofoodbank.com. Or, if you’re not from Chicago and wish to donate to your local food pantry, find a list of pantries nationwide by visiting www.feedingamerica.com.

annual-report

Passion Works Studios
Athens, Ohio

Passion Works is a collaborative effort between disabled and non-disabled artists in a community that used to be home to a massive mental hospital that used lobotomies for treatment. Passion Works is a non-profit helping to dismantle the stigma about learning disabilities by providing a place where those with disabilities are able to create gorgeous art. Order a flower, painting, or even a wedding bouquet now at passionworks.org and get free shipping until December 31st!

Official Passion Flower

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What I Love This Week: Schwa (Part I)

The last few weeks of work have been hard. Back-to-back deadlines have meant I’ve had to do late nights and weekends, which means cancelling on friends, missing social events, and moving plans. This, coupled with my propensity for anxiety, has meant the past few weeks were straight up brutal.

I’ve always been an anxious person. About three years ago, a particularly blunt and honest friend told me — just a few weeks into our friendship — that I probably had an anxiety problem. In many ways, it serves me well. I have never missed an assignment, am able to get passionate about almost anything I’m working on, and learn very quickly. However, it also causes me to get nervous and snippy when, say, my brother is running late to brunch and the server won’t seat our massive party until everyone is present. (Hypothetically speaking…) It also can lead me to be short-tempered or impatient, and this behavior is what I have been specifically trying to nip in the bud. However, when things seem to be piling up, or my life feels off-balance, I can start to feel overwhelmed and deeply unhappy. This, I’m sure, tends to happen to everyone. But non-anxious people seem to be better at letting something fall by the wayside and avoid feeling crushed by the pressure to perform.

So, anyway, that gives you a bit of insight into my mental health on the third week of seemingly non-stop deadlines and late nights amid the crushing backdrop of the realization that what I currently do for work is likely not what I want to make my career. Before you sigh “Millennial,” hear me out. I love working. I imagine myself always working a lot. However, I imagine myself doing it in a profession I love so dearly, that it is not my job, but rather an extension of my life. I’m still figuring out what that profession is, and in the meantime, I love the job I have right now, which is, all things considered, an amazing gig: I’m compensated nicely, I am empowered to take on a meaningful role, I get to freely communicate with my “superiors” and benefit from their experience, advice, and leadership styles, and I have an office full of peers who are constantly making me a better person through constructive criticism or by good example. However — here comes the anxiety again — every so often I find myself lamenting my youth that feels like it is slipping away and the experiences that I am missing all for a career I don’t want. Obviously, this is terribly dramatic. But, that’s how I felt towards the beginning of last week.

Amid this crazy work schedule, PIF scheduled a surprise birthday dinner for me, and, after being pushed a week due to deadline chaos, was rescheduled for Tuesday, July 26th. Somehow, despite a report due that Friday, the stars aligned (actually, shout out to Alexis who made those stars align), and I was skipping towards the 22 bus by 6 PM, meaning I had more than 2 hours to get ready for dinner.

And when I say ready, I mean mentally and emotionally ready, because although PIF had tried to keep a secret (he never can), I knew where we were going that evening.

We were going to Schwa.

My knowledge of Schwa was that shit could very well go down. The chef, Michael Carlson, was unpredictable, prone to cancelling the night of a reservation, and that the whole staff often got drunk throughout service. (Like the enablers we are, we still planned to bring some bourbon for the kitchen.) However, up until this point PIF had had enough conversation with Carlson that made it clear cancellation was unlikely and that the restaurant was a little more predictable these days, though you still get a reservation by calling the restaurant during the week and hoping you get through. PIF never gives me enough detail when he retells interactions, but I imagine these conversations went like this:

Early July

PIF: *ring ring ring*
Carlson: Hello, Burger King, may I take your order?
PIF: Uh, I’m looking for Schwa?
Carlson: This is Burger King, do you want a burger or what?
PIF: Uh, no, uh, I’m looking for Schwa…
Carlson: Yeah, dude, this is Schwa.
PIF: Oh, *nervous laugh* great! Do you have anything in a few weeks?
Carlson: Sure, how about Tuesday July 19th?
PIF: Oooh, perfect, cause Anthony Bourdain says Tuesday are the best days to eat at restaurants.
Carlson: My restaurant is good every day.
PIF: *Laughs*

They discuss wine and he tells PIF to bring champagne, a non-oaky Pinot Noir, or a white Burgundy.

After my deadline is shifted

PIF: *ring ring ring*
Carlson: Hello?
PIF: Hi, uh, I have a reservation for July 19th, but something came up…could I move it a week?
Carlson: Your girlfriend is making you change it, isn’t she?
PIF: Yep.
Carlson: Sure, come the following Tuesday, 8:30 PM.

Afternoon of July 26th

PIF: Phone rings and he sees it’s Schwa.
PIF, thinking it’s Carlson cancelling: Hello?
Carlson: Hey, man, you still coming tonight? (Oh, the irony that I am now so flaky that the most flaky chef needs to make sure we aren’t flaking.)
PIF: Yep!
Carlson: Cool, see you then.
PIF, remembering that I told him we may need to bring wine glasses since I read they don’t carry it: Oh, also, should we bring stemware?
Carlson: Nah, man, we got you.
PIF: Okay, cool, ’cause we read online…
Carlson: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Though PIF and Carlson were BFFs by now, little old anxious me was having heart palpitations as I got dressed. I wanted to look cool, but not snooty. How was I going to act? I’m obviously a food geek, and this wasn’t Alinea where you have to fake it til you make it even though you can’t afford the wine pairing and you’re trying to convince them you’re still as high society as the foreign dignitaries sitting two tables over and getting a special menu. How do I exude coolness without seeming like a total douchebag, anyway? I eventually opted to just put on a comfy dress that covers any tummy bulge and flat sandals, cause nothing would be worse than tripping in heels in a tightly packed 800-something square foot restaurant.

PIF arrived at my apartment with two bottles specially picked by Melissa at WineHouse — a real champagne, of which only a few bottles are made each year, and a light Pinot Noir — as well as 750 mLs of Buffalo Trace (his fave affordable bourbon) for the chefs. And after a quick costume change on my end, we were out the door.

To be continued…

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The First Annual
Three Times Per Day Lollapalooza Dining Guide

The Chow Town vendor list has been released, so I only feel it is my civic duty to create a list of the must-try vendors at Lollapalooza this year.

As a general rule, it is usually “safer” eating at a vendor that normally operates as or otherwise has a food truck, since they’re more used to cooking outside of a traditional restaurant. That said, a good chunk of Chow Town does not and some still knock it out of the park. Don’t expect any of the food to be life changing — even if you’re in VIP — or cheap. But follow this guide to improve your chances of getting something that won’t be disappointing.

Note: I’m not sure yet what specifically each vendor is bringing, so as of now the list is based on my expectations. I’ll update as much as I can throughout the festival with my fave (and least fave) items!

The Safe Bets
Tried and true, these stops are unlikely to disappoint.

Momofuku Milk Bar – This is at the absolute top of my list. A brand new edition to Chow Town that somehow (and THANKFULLY) is coming to Lollapalooza despite not even having a store in Chicago, Momofuku is world-famous. PIF waited in line all by his lonesome while on a biz trip to New York just so he could bring back some crack pie and a compost cookie for me to try. I’ve never had Milk Bar at a festival, but knowing how used to large crowds its stores are, I have absolute faith in it nailing it at Lolla. If you get to the festival early enough for there to not be a line, def a place to stop by.

The Goddess and the Grocer – These guys are catering champs, so you don’t have to worry about them struggling to bring their restaurants to the small tent. I find Goddess to always be fresh, though perhaps a bit on the small side. That’s okay, you’ll just have room for some Momofuku : )

Lifeway Culture Shoppe – This kefir did not disappoint last year and, since some people may still be hesitant to try this slightly sour fro yo, that means less time spent in the line for Rainbow Cone…

Windsor Ice Cream Shoppe – One of the best deals in Chow Town. These GIANT ice cream scoops mean  you’ll get more than one lick in before it melts all over your carefully curated festival wear.

Dark Matter Coffee – My favorite coffee in Chicago, Dark Matter is strong, smooth, and delicious. I don’t usually crave coffee during music festivals, but if you need your fix, skip the Starbucks on Michigan — an iced Dark Matter is the way to go.

The Ones I Have My Eye On
Though untested, these are the spots I’m looking forward to.

Pork & Mindy’s – Pork & Mindy’s got some practice at the big crowds and food stall life earlier this month at Taste of Chicago, which means they may have worked out some kinks that will make them a solid option. Especially if they bring their “Bao to the Pork” sandwich (yes, all their items have names this punny).

MAD Social – I’ve definitely been oogling at MAD Social’s Instagram as of late, and though I doubt their Lolla stall will live up to their restaurant, it still as potential.

Franks ‘n’ Dawgs – Brioche buns. ‘nough said.

Healthy Eats
Trying to stay on track? Check out these eats to avoiding eating back all the cals you’ve burned walking from Samsung to Bud Light…20 times.

Lifeway Culture Shoppe – Healthier than ice cream, kefir is a great way to cool down if you’re craving a frozen dessert. Plus, you can layer it up with fruit or other toppings if you’re scared of the tang (but don’t be!)

The Goddess and the Grocer – Fresh ingredients and small portions make this a safe bet for the conscientious eater.

Proceed with Caution
The ones I haven’t had much success with. If you go for it and find yourself thinking “that was the worst $8-15 I ever spent,” well, I tried to warn you.

Tank Noodle – Though the restaurant is beloved, their festival versions are — in my experience — just…not good. Expect clumpy dry noodles served kinda like slop. (Sorry, Tank Noodle, I know this does not necessarily reflect on your restaurant!)

Rainbow Cone – This is always a fan favorite, but it’s gotta be because it’s just so weird and big ’cause I do *not* like my orange sherbet with mint chocolate chip. If you’re into that, by all means, go ahead and wait in that long ass line.

Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs (and, really, all barbecue) – I have had exactly 0 experience with Robinson’s, but the idea of messy ribs/no sinks to wash off/stick hands in a dusty festival sounds miserable to me.

Lou Malnati’s – If you have to do it, just go to one of their brick & mortar restaurants for lunch or something.

Dia De Los Tamales – While my gut says tamales are a good street food, the idea of dry or cold tamales is unappealing. Implementation is crucial here, and the restaurant itself has mixed reviews.

Graham Elliot Bistro – Destined to be overpriced. Plus, Graham Elliot just annoys me ever since his bistro was so not cool about accepting a Gilt coupon. No one made you put out a Gilt coupon, assholes.

Kilwins Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream – The moose is cute and all, but Kilwin’s on a normal basis is nothing to write home about, let alone in 95 degree heat.

Disclaimer: This list is non-sponsored.

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What I Love This Week: Ritual

You know what they say, time is money.

Well, time is not money — it’s invaluable. And whereas the time I spend commuting can sometimes be put to better uses, like reading the newspaper, the time I spend waiting in line I often just spend small talking and anxiously counting the people in front of me. Considering the amount of time I’m willing to wait (and how often I do wait) for good food, this is a bit of an issue. Luckily, I recently discovered Ritual, an app that essentially let’s you cut the line by planning ahead. And you won’t even get the stink eye.

Simply download the app, fill out your profile, and order! The app will tell you when to leave your location to pick up your food or beverage and when you get there, simply walk right up to the counter, grab, and go. It’s that simple, and you’ll save minutes every order. Which adds to hours…which adds to days.

What’s more is you can even save money through Ritual discounts and promotions. Even get started with $5 off by using promo code RACHAEL2190 or going to http://invite.ritual.co/RACHAEL2190.

And, as always, let me know your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I do get a kickback when you use my personal promo code. However, I only vouch for products I truly love. Regardless of whether or not you use my code, Ritual is a great way to save time and money at your normal spots.

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What I Love This Week: The Doodle at Doodle’s Doughnuts

3X Doodle

Per the suggestion of a (female) coworker, I’ve recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Sandberg, she is the current COO of Facebook and the previous Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. As such, Ms. Sandberg is one of the few female executives of a Fortune 500 company and has made it her mission to speak out about what needs to change in the business world in order to better accommodate female leaders, as well as what women can do to be successful within the current system.

As soon as I began reading Lean In I began to notice my own failures to lean in. Meanwhile, my male peers appeared to have no issues leaning in hard.

The first realization that I had conformed – at least in part – to gender norms was a slap in the face. During our weekly meeting, a managing director with whom I work rather closely announced that he had a new case but was very busy and was looking for an analyst to take the lead on it. Obviously, it was a great opportunity. I immediately began thinking of excuses for why I shouldn’t volunteer: he would have just asked me if he wanted me to do it, I have a lot of work on my plate, I don’t have the quantitative skills. While I was hesitating, a less experienced male analyst who had never worked with the managing director before walked right up and said he’d love to help.

Shit, I immediately thought. This is exactly what Sheryl was talking about. 

Before that point, part of me had thought while reading that I don’t exhibit the typical behaviors of the working woman. After all, I’m highly confident and work in a female-heavy office, which makes it easier to speak up and be involved. And yet, here I was, sitting like a lame duck while my male counterpart walked right up and grabbed the metaphorical trophy. At that moment, Lean In became my manifesto.

I immediately began thinking of excuses for why I shouldn’t volunteer.

Despite critic feedback to the contrary, I don’t think Ms. Sandberg’s advice is limited to a single type of woman, namely the working woman. I don’t even think it’s even solely directed to women. As the daughter of a kickass stay-at-home mom who touts the importance of finding a partner as opposed to a rich/handsome/cool husband, I appreciated Ms. Sandberg’s commentary on how men and husbands can support women and wives, and, perhaps more importantly, how women can support other women. All too often, I’ve witnessed or experieIMG_9430nced women failing to support – or worse – deliberately trying to sabotage other women. This can happen within the workplace, but it also happens when stay-at-home moms throw shade on career moms and vice versa. Or when women who choose not to have children are criticized for their decision. Women are much more powerful as a whole than as individuals or subgroups and we should all be supporting each other as we make it increasingly possible for more women to pursue whatever will be most fulfilling for that individual and encouraging each other to do so. Men have been doing this all this time. When one woman sacrifices her gender for her own individual gain, she sets the entirety of the group back and therefore injures her own success. It’s a vicious cycle that I believe we are now in a position to break.

So to get the ball rolling, I wanted to use this week’s What I Love This Week to give props to a woman who pursued her dream and started a business that is doing something totally unique while simultaneously serving a demographic that has, perhaps inadvertently, been shut out of the market. Dana Lanier, a long-time doughnut maker in her own home, founded Doodle’s Doughnuts to help spread the love her IMG_9442home state of California has for Mom and Pop doughnut shops. Unlike all the other doughnut shops in Chicago, Doodle’s does not mimic Harry Potter’s bedroom-under-the-stairs aesthetic. Instead, it’s in a large two-floor space with lots of light, seating, and colors that make it easier to navigate strollers and hold play-dates. It’s also the only doughnut shop located in Old Town (sorry, Dunkin’, you don’t count).

Doodle’s signature doughnut, The Doodle, is a Bismark doughnut that’s filled with your choice of vanilla or chocolate cream and covered with pure white icing. Each Doodle comes with a mini piping bag of icing in your choice of color, with the option to purchase more colors if you’re really feeling like Picasso. Besides being fun to decorate, The Doodle (I had chocolate-filled and can’t speak on the vanilla-filled) was beautifully moist with a perfect filling-to-dough ratio.

Doodle’s sells a variety of donuts in addition to Doodle, including the Samoa doughnut, which I would not recommend over either The Doodle or the maple bacon doughnut. Want them to hold the doughnut? Not a problem — Doodle’s also sells strips of honey Sriracha, candied, or standard bacon.

However, the combination of being unique, fun, and delicious makes The Doodle my must-try for the week. And, as with all doughnuts, make sure to get it nice and early so you get them a peak freshness.

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Madison & Rayne Promo Code!

Hey, everyone! It’s no secret that I love Madison & Rayne, a Chicago-based business that does the meal prep for you and delivers the ingredients right to your door. I first fell in love when I won a food photo contest and got to try a week of free meals, which you can read all about here. I’ve been using it ever since and am consistently impressed by the quality of the ingredients and creativity and variety of the dishes.

As a total food snob who works a lot but loves to cook, Madison & Rayne has allowed me to eat out less, but get higher quality, home-cooked meals. In fact, I attribute learning how to select better cuts of fish and cook them perfect entirely to M & R. I cannot rave about it enough.

You don’t have to take my word for it, because now you can try it yourself at a reduced cost! Use promo code RN30 at check out and get $30 off! 

Disclaimer: I pride myself on recommending only what I find to be truly the best — this is not a paid advertisement. PIF & I get three meals delivered each week, which we pay for in their entirety. 

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What I Love This Week: Sepia

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This What I Love is a bit overdue. However, I assure you that finals and the nice weather — rather than a lack of enthusiasm about this restaurant — have distracted me from just sitting down and typing this up.

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The cheese plate

As I may have mentioned previously, I work in the Loop five days a week. That means five days a week I’m eating lunch (and occasionally dinner) in the Loop. Because of this, I spend a significant amount of time researching the best places to grab a bite during my lunch break.

The other day, PIF suggested we try Sepia. We’d passed it a million times before, but we’d never made it in. It happened to be a light work day for us both so we decided to meet there for lunch at 12:30.

After a few back and forths, we found the door and headed in. The space — a refurbished 1890s print shop — is both beautiful and cool. Every last detail has been planned to a T, including the bread “plates” that are wood planks with a carved out space for the butter knife.

We sat in the front bar space. Since it was a sunny day, I wanted to soak up the sunlight through the window. However, the back room is so gorgeous, I highly suggest visitors choose to sit back there if you can. The server brought us bread which was warm and shaped like a bare tree branch. We gobbled it up and ordered the cheese plate, sunchoke soup, pumpkin cappelletti, and potato gnocchi. All were amazing, but the sunchoke soup with charred sweet onions and apples was truly a standout.

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A sunchoke.
(Source: www.theproduceguide.com)

The gnocchi was absolutely perfectly pillowy and the short rib ragu that accompanied it was deliciously rich and salty. The pumpkin cappalletti, which were more sweet and delicate, paired perfectly with its heavier counterpart. All of the cheeses were unique and interesting, but it was the one dish we could have done without had I not been craving cheese so badly. We finished our meal by sharing their cookies, which are made fresh every morning. I’m not even a peanut butter fan, and yet my favorite one was their peanut butter and jelly-esque bar.

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PIF and I both agreed it was one of the best lunches we have ever had. In fact, PIF ended up going back later that week for their Happy Hour, which he reported was amazing as well. Amid the repetitive and half-assed lunches that litter the Loop, Sepia is fresh, thoughtful, and delicious.

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Sepia
West Loop, Chicago

Best for: Business lunch, lunch with parents, when you can take a longer lunch break, Happy Hour, dinner dates*
Price:
 $$ to $$$, depending. For lunch, you can get away with appetizers.

*Based on our intuition and to be tested soon

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The Great Donut-Off: Old-Fashioned Edition

The subject matter of this post was originally posted in December 2015. When the blog was wiped out because of what I can only imagine was karma for all the times I’ve said I was not feeling well to avoid social situations, inciting a chain-reaction of water flooding my computer (the details aren’t important), this post got erased. Dismissing those who told me to move on, it has now been rewritten because that is how much I cannot bear to see people eat terrible donuts.

One of the major motivations behind creating this blog was that I noticed many of the popular food Instagrammers were promoting eateries that were just…not good. This — dare I say — deception was particularly rampant with donuts. Three Times Per Day was designed for you, reader, as a place to get the tried-and-tested, not-for-sale truth. (And as a personal creative outlet for myself.)

In the spirit of this mission, I decided to put my biology degree to good use and craft a double-blind (well, almost) experiment to determine who in Chicago makes the best plain Old-Fashioned donut. So stop reading about the upcoming Presidential election and focus on the more important issue-at-hand.

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Experimental Design

On Sunday morning, along with all of the others attending houses of worship, PIF and I woke up early and headed out into the crisp air to begin collecting the test subjects. The week before, I had carefully selected the competitors and mapped our route by which we would collect each specimen: Stan’s, Firecakes, Glazed & Infused, Do-Rite, and Doughnut Vault.

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One-by-one, I bought old-fashioned donuts from the 5 different locations and tucked them away into my inconspicuous bag, so as to not give myself away at any of the shops, as if any of them knew or cared who I was. Along the way, we met the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Lincoln Park,” a rough Italian-ish man whose brother owns Mista Pizza in Lakeview and who runs a fishing boat during the summer months, which he said he sells to various restaurants along Diversey. Do with that information what you will.

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Once we arrived home, I set up the experiment. Careful measures were taken throughout to preserve the integrity of the experiment. For example, PIF was not allowed into any of the shops lest he see the donuts (or break something) and be able to identify them later. Likewise, I was careful to not stare at any of the donuts while waiting to order, a skill I had mastered from years of being too absorbed in my phone.

Each donut was assigned a number randomly and I quickly scratched the coordinating bakery and number on a piece of paper before squirreling it away in the credenza. Then each donut was placed with their number on the table.

This picture is so much uglier than the others and contrasts with the professional vibe I was going for, but serves a practical purpose.

The experiment would go as follows:

Each donut was cut into fours. Each study participant would be given a slip of paper and a writing utensil and would then try each donut, ranking them from 1 (best) to 5 (worst) on their slip of paper. To control for the fact that sweets tend to not taste as good the more you eat, or so I hear this happens to people, each participant would need to taste test in a different order. No participant (except PIF and myself) would even be aware of where we obtained the donuts from.

Though I only had 5 participants lined up, including myself, the group represented the full spectrum of eaters: the non-American with a sweet tooth, the health-conscious hippie, the hungover guy, the stoner, and, of course, the critical foodie.

Since some of us were running a little late that morning (you can guess which two), the rest of us headed to grab some breakfast before we began (which, I might add, only further solidified me having no clue which was which). Once we returned and all the study participants had arrived, I recited the instructions and we began the experiment.

Data Collection & Analysis

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In differing order, each study participant tasted and privately ranked each sample. Once finished, the papers were collected and scores were entered into Excel.

Each rank represented a certain number of points. The donut ranked as the best received 5 points, the second best received 4 points and so on, with the worst donut receiving only 1 point. These points were then tallied per bakery. The bakery receiving the highest number of points would then be the winner and the one receiving the least would be the worst of the bunch. The results were as follows:

Conclusion

The winner of best old-fashioned in Chicago was…Firecakes! Followed extremely closely by Do-Rite, Doughnut Vault, and Glazed & Infused. So closely, in fact, that a single vote could have changed the order or even the winner. There was, however, decidedly a loser. And that loser was Stan’s.

We’ll be back to increase our “N” size and perform more experiments with other flavors. Until then…have thoughts on the result? Have a flavor/style you want reviewed next? Share in the comments!

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Review of Madison & Rayne

A few months ago, a picture of one of my favorite recipes won me a free week of Madison & Rayne meals.1 The New Year brought a lot of changes for me that even further limited my available free time, so this timing could not have been more perfect.

For those unfamiliar with Madison & Rayne, it’s a meal order service that comes only partially prepared. So you order by Saturday, and on Tuesday a little green bag arrives that is perfect for reusing when grocery shopping on your non-Madison & Rayne days. Then, the meal only takes minutes to make and you get to eat fresh, delicious food that’s likely better than whatever you would (or could) whip up in that time.

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Along with the ingredients, Madison and Rayne sends a detailed recipe card that walks you step-by-step how you can make the perfect dish, including how to organize your work bench (much appreciated, since one of my biggest cooking flaws is starting to cook before laying everything out).

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For our first meal, both PIF and I got roasted salmon with chipotle squash & coconut soup, black eyed peas, and broccoli. I was immediately impressed by the quality of the fish. Seriously, look at that thick, fatty salmon.

Normally, PIF is the chef de fish, but I wanted to take shot at it. And, voila:

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Look at that crunch

Meal number two, we decide to mix it up. Since PIF is allergic to shrimp and I don’t (usually) eat meat, I got lemon oregano shrimp orzo and PIF got pork posole soup, which officially marked the first and only time I’ve ever cooked meat for PIF.

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Because the first salmon dish was so amazing, we decided to go back to a salmon dish for our next meal. This time it was pan roasted salmon, avocado & pumpernickel panzanella, kale salsa verde.

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With all the energy saved on prep, I got to try my hand at plating. K, I’ll keep working on it…

Overall, my impression of Madison & Rayne was nothing but positive. It enabled me to eat gourmet, healthy, and delicious food even when I didn’t have time to run to the store or to tired to spend an hour cooking. I looked forward to seeing what was inside that little green bag and I even learned transferable skills. I most definitely would use Madison & Rayne again even if I had to pay for it, and in fact, probably will, likely under their chef tasting program, which you can customize and costs $14 per serving. And honestly, the quality is such that it’s better than what you’ll get pre-made for the same price and, if you like cooking, there’s some value-added from that aspect as well.

In summary, I was majorly impressed by the quality, convenience, and flavors of Madison & Rayne and highly recommend it for those who enjoy cooking but don’t always have the time to do it from scratch.

For $30 off your first order, check out this post!

 

1. Thanks, ChiataGlance for recommending I enter and for Chicago Food Whores for throwing the contest and selecting me! Check them out at www.chiataglance.com and www.chicagofoodwhores.com.

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