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Archive for March, 2008

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Nothing says St. Patrick’s Day more than a pint of Guinness. But what if it’s a cupcake that’s made with Guinness and looks like a pint of Guinness? Oh, and did I say it has chocolate in it as well?

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Yes, I’m Irish, in fact, my grandfather came over from Ireland in 1918 when he was 11 years old, so there. So, in honor of my Irish heritage, I made a Guinness Braised Beef for dinner. The first couple times I read the recipe I didn’t realize that it would take 3.5 hours. Good thing I read it through one more time, or we would have been having beef for breakfast. It sounds like a lot of work, but really, once it’s in the oven, there’s really nothing to do. To begin with , I browned the beef, made a quick roux, added beef broth, red wine and Guinness. Then over the next 3 hours garlic, bay leaves, mushrooms, shallots, rosemary, carrots, parsnips and potatoes are added. Cook it until everything is tender and you’re done.

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Indian Plate

I met a friend for lunch the other day at another favorite restaurant, Cafe Brenda. And I noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time at Cafe’s named after women. That’s just fine with me. It’s better than eating at placed with no history in their names, like Applebees, TGIFridays, Outback Steakhouse. You get it.

But anyway, we had a delightful lunch in the the bright, sunny dining room. I had one of the daily specials, the Indian Plate. It included Black Bean Dahl, Jasmine Rice, Yogurt, Chutney and Green beans. Sticking out of it was a crispy Papadum. The whole place smelled like curry when I walked in so I knew it would be a good choice. I was right.

Brenda Burger

My friend ordered what she always orders, the Brenda Burger. It’s a burger made of brown rice and nuts. It looked hearty and really delicious. I didn’t dare ask for a bite.

After eating there, I looked back at my posts and realized I hadn’t reviewed Cafe Brenda yet. I have reviewed her other restaurant, Spoonriver, a number of time, but never the original. So here you go. They’re both fabulous, each with their own personality. An ideal day would be lunch at one, dinner at the other. Takers?

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Breakfast Burrito

So, while sister was in town the other day I brought her to the Midtown Global Market just to show it off. She and her husband love to cook all kinds of food, including Indian, Morrocan and Middle Eastern, so I knew she would just love the place.

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Top Chef Starts Tonight!

Top Chef Chicago

As all good foodies know, tonight is the start of Top Chef Chicago, Season 4. Personally, I think last season got a little cheesy (no pun intended) with all the crazy challenges. I voiced my opinion on the Bravo site, but, as you could guess, I’ll still be watching this season. And on the edge of my seat with a glass of wine. Even Husband gets into this show, so Wednesday nights will certainly be exciting around here!

If you’ve never seen Top Chef shame on you. But basically, 16 chefs from around the country/world battle it out each week to ultimately earn the title of Top Chef. Each week they take on a quick fire challenge, and then move on the elimination challenge. The chef that wins the quick fire challenge gets immunity and can not be eliminated that episode. Early on, if you’re paying attention, you can figure out who has a shot, who doesn’t and who’s still on the show just because they’re “colorful.” I try to remember that it’s still reality TV. Oh well.

Oh, and a secret. A friend of mine went to a wedding in Chicago this winter that was catered by Top Chef chefs. She said the food was amazing and that was all she could say about it. Wish she could tell me more!!

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Ahi Tuna

We made it back to Cafe Maude, and again were seriously satisfied. Of course we started with the House Cut Fries, but we also went with the Seared Ahi Tuna Appetizer. Little crostinis served with a slice of tomato, a dollop of guacamole and the lovely lightly seared tuna with a pinch of microgreens. The tuna melts in your mouth, and obviously anything served with guacamole is genius.

Shrimp, Lovely Shrimp

For the entree I had the Lime and Garlic Grilled Prawns. Served at room temperature on a cold (what looked like israeli couscous) salad, they were full of flavor and perfectly prepared. Husband had the Sea Scallop pasta and Sister had the Chicken Flatbread, which was way too big for one person. (We’ll be having it for lunch tomorrow as well).

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Not only is it really good for you, but it’s easy, versatile and tastes really good. The other day I was really not in the mood to cook. Weird, eh? And I craved nothing. Even stranger! So I went to the co-op and let the food speak for itself. First thing I saw were some grape tomatoes. Then in the back cooler, some tilapia. I want to say it was fresh, but when you live in the middle of a continent, you take what you can get.

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Since I was still not craving anything, I kept it really simple. A splash of olive oil, the tomatoes, a handful of chopped green olives and some fresh herbs that were left over from another meal. After broiling for about 10 minutes, the fish was flaky, and we served it over some white rice. So simple. So easy. So healthy.

Oh yeah, it’s Friday. Have a good weekend.


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