Terra & Vine

Yesterday was busy, and I got to spend it with a few of my faves. 

After lots of time with my little girl, I headed out on a rainy day to Terra & Vine, a rustic Italian-Mediterranean restaurant in in downtown Evanston, to celebrate one of my oldest friends.

Google Maps failed me so I was the last to arrive, but I liked what I saw when I walked in: a friendly hostess, a gorgeously-designed restaurant, and my friends chatting happily.

But I have to confess a secret: I took two photos during lunch. Two. One of the massive pull apart cinnamon roll we had for our first course,


 and my beautiful Italian Cobb Salad (no cheese, champagne vinaigrette dressing instead of creamy Italian). 


Bonus: In the first photo, you can see the sweetly-detailed glass that my Diet Coke came in. If you know where I can find those, I will buy you a coffee. I mean it. I need those glasses. (Sidenote: I have a glassware addiction. It makes moving often difficult…)

Ok, ok, back to T&V. I gave up cow’s milk (except butter) for lent, so I appreciated the substitutions on my salad (didn’t eat the cream cheese frosting either). On that note, our waiter was so nice, attentive, and a hoot. A real character. I appreciated his energy, and his eye on my Diet Coke for refills.

Back to the food. Delicious. I would have showed some restraint on that cinnamon roll if it didn’t smell so good. And the waiter recommended it, so how could we say no?

And even though I made changes to the Italian Cobb Salad, I thought it was pretty stellar, too. I liked the presentation of rows of toppings–every bite was unique. The quality of the ingredients and the freshness was very obvious, too. I enjoyed it almost as much as catching up with my friends.

There is something so filling about spending time with friends. Especially sans little humans. I love my EJ, but she needs to practice the art of dining out. (Rule #1: Stay seated unless you need to use the restroom. Speaking of which T&V’s was pretty and clean, which to me means a lot.)

The question for me is always, would I go back? Yes, for sure. It’s a great meet up spot for friends and young families. They just started offering brunch and lunch, and I can also vouch that the avocado toast looked so tasty!!! The veggie sandwich, too, but lots of bread. Oh, and the fries aren’t bad either…

I’ll also return because I need to scope out that exotic black-and-white tile and those glasses again, too. See you soon, Terra & Vine!

I Heart Eataly Chicago

I love Mario Batali for many reasons. Here are just a few:

1. First and foremost, he is an amazingly talented chef on the Food Network.
2. Mario has red hair, like my handsome husband.
3. His wife’s family owns a dairy goat farm (I have a current obsession with goat farms after meeting Gretta of Gretta’s Goats).
4. Mario is a Midwestern man during the summer; he has a home in Michigan.
5. He—and his lovely business partners—gave me Eataly Chicago.

I know I go to a lot of restaurants, but this one is oh-so-different. The first time I went (and, I confess, I’ve been back since!), I was like a kid in a candy store—except my candy includes cured meats, cow’s milk-alternative cheeses, fresh pasta, a Nutella bar, and made-to-order sheep’s milk cannoli.

Eataly takes up at least a city block, and it’s a sensory overload from the moment you walk in. It’s two floors that consist of a fine Italian market, restaurant, brewery, and more, all in one. Because it’s a bit overwhelming, I’ve developed a system to navigate the space: walk counterclockwise around the perimeter of the store. It hasn’t failed me yet!

My first visit to Eataly was with my good friend, Lindsey. I took the subway from my office and arrived in 10 minutes (dangerously close). We wondered around the first floor, wide-eyed. It’s there you’ll find the information desk, produce, a Panini bar, a coffee bar, Nutella bar, gelato bar, sweets bar, housewares, packaged sweets, jams and jellies, and packaged dairy (milk, butter, yogurt, and eggs too).

We walked up to the second floor, where we were greeted by a fried food bar to our left, cheese and cured meats to our right, and a wine bar directly in front of us. We opted for wine first: Prosecco for me and red for Lindsey. One of the many good things about Eataly: you can drink and shop. Mario, you’re one smart cookie.

We then decided to stop at the cured meats and cheese bar. Because I try not to have cow’s milk cheese in January—call it a New Year’s cleanse, of sorts—we ordered a wooden board of delicious cured meats. I found out when I went with Hope (in February, post-cleanse) that when you order the meat and cheese platter, you get sweet jams and honey on the side, too. I dare you to try both!

Next, we wandered around, passing the rotisserie bar, peeked in the brewery, and made our way to the refrigerated cured meat and cheese section. I was in heaven. Friends, take note: Eataly is the best place to build the perfect gift basket.

Past the fish and butcher stations, you’ll pass the fresh pastas. During my first visit, I brought home some fresh pasta, as it was part of their weekly special. Yes, every week, there’s a new deal on everything from pasta to fish (Branzino this week!) to toothpaste to pasta sauce. What a great way to sample some of Eataly’s finest!

If you’ve ever wanted to see endless varieties of dried pastas, faro, risotto, sauces, pestos, olives—this is where you want to go. Then, comes the best part of Eataly: the pizza and pasta restaurant. I’ve sampled the pizzas with buffalo mozzarella (apparently I’m not allergic to buffalo milk!), and had a fresh pasta dish (with mushrooms) and a dried pasta dish (with pork, parsley, and pecorino) from their menu. Not a bad meal yet; although, during my visit with Hope, I was completely stuffed because of my lack of self-control around mouth-watering carbs. Whatever you do at Eataly, you need to eat at this restaurant.

After the carb fest, the rest gets blurry. I blame it on the food coma. There’s a bountiful wine section (as you would imagine), fresh breads (watch the bread makers—they’ll toss flour at you!), beauty products, and lots and lots of olive oil.

Each time I’ve been, I have been too full for dessert; however, why not bring some home for my hubby? First, fresh cannoli, and then a rich semifreddo sweet with a blackberry on top, both packaged to perfection.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: go to Eataly. I haven’t even begun to share all of the elements I love about this place, but you have to discover them for yourself. Mangia and salute!

Eataly Chicago
43 East Ohio
Streeterville

20140206-193617.jpg

20140206-193626.jpg

20140206-193634.jpg

20140206-193646.jpg

20140206-193656.jpg

20140206-193704.jpg

20140206-193730.jpg

20140206-193740.jpg

20140206-193749.jpg

20140206-193800.jpg

20140206-193812.jpg

20140206-193821.jpg

Girls’ Night Out: Mary Lee’s Bachelorette Party

My friend Mary Lee is getting married next month, and we recently celebrated her bachelorette party! Mary Lee and I met through our good friends Jill and Jeremy, as Mary Lee is engaged to Jeremy’s twin brother, Ryan. (They make a really cute couple, I might add!)

We started the night at Mary Lee’s twin sisters Kate and Allie’s adorable apartment in Logan Square. (Yes, lots of twins in this post!) Jill was already there prepping with the sisters when Jess (my sister-in-law) and I arrived. (Another twin fun fact: Jess and I are married to twins!)

They served snacks and cocktails, including a pink drink that was reminiscent of jungle juice in college. My gosh, it was good…and dangerous. We opened presents, took pictures (see below!), and then headed over to Orso’s in Old Town for dinner.

We were seated right away downstairs, but passed through the main dining room, a lively bar area, and piano man on our way to our table. Drinks were included in our meal package, so out of habit and nervousness, I ordered my old standby: rum and diet coke.

Bread and olive oil were placed on the table, along with family-style appetizers of bruschetta and peppers and sausage. Yum! By this time, I noticed Mary Lee and her friend were drinking French Martinis, which looked delicious. I had to try one.

There are many variations of the recipe online, but here’s the gist:

Ingredients
fresh pineapple juice
vodka
Vermouth
raspberry liqueur (recommended: Chambord)

You wouldn’t think pineapple juice would be in a French cocktail, but it was tasty…too tasty. I ordered another.

Back to the food! Next came a house salad, followed by mushroom risotto, chicken vesuvio, vesuvio potato wedges, and ravioli. And for dessert? Tiramisu, of course! Are you full just reading about it?

I’m bummed I only RSVP’d for the dinner because the girls were headed to Second City next. I had such a blast, and am so glad I was invited to celebrate Mary Lee and meet her friends. Can’t wait for the wedding next month!

Orso’s
1401 North Wells
Old Town

20140120-212218.jpg

20140120-212230.jpg

20140120-212240.jpg

20140120-212249.jpg