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Hot Doug’s Book Coming Soon

2 May

Doug Sohn of Hot Doug's photo from

According to sources, it looks like the Mayor of Encased Meats himself, Doug Sohn of Hot Doug’s, will add author to his growing list of accomplishments.

Within the publishing world, word has it that Sohn is penning a book: Hot Doug’s: The Book. The book is going to be a celebration of his and Chicago’s passion for sausages along with contributions from some of the more famous Hot Doug’s patrons such as Doug Seibold at Agate Midway. The book should be out in Spring 2013.


This Foodie Went To BlogHer Food ’11

23 May
Downtown Atlanta

Downtown Atlanta

Last week I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer Food 2011 in Atlanta. One of the great things about my job is that it affords me the opportunity to experience and learn new things all. the. time. It’s one of the many reasons I love it. Anyway- BlogHer Food was not my first blogger conference, but it was my first food blogger one and it was pretty interesting.

Networking at BlogHer Food 2011

Networking at BlogHer Food 2011

So from the perspective of someone who LOVES food and loves food blogs- I was in awe. I was surrounded by the authors of words I’ve been reading for years and it was a pleasure and honor to be among them. The conference was made up of a decent mix of well established bloggers and newbies to the world. At the very least, this allowed for good discussion at various vantage points.

The conference’s breakout sessions were modeled much in the way a blog post is- interesting perspective and insights with lots of space for comments. One of the most interesting sessions I attended was Recipe Writing: Copyright, Credit and Etiquette, paneled by Dianne Jacob, David Leite, and Liza Barry-Kessler.  The blurry lines of recipe copyright laws makes for a lot of confusion about adapted recipes versus inspired-by recipes or about stealing recipes outright. The rule of thumb I took from it was to source it, including a link, author and if the recipe is in a book, link to the book’s sale page on Amazon.  If you have any question about whether or not you should source a recipe- the answer is YES! Better safe than sorry.

While to content of the conference was engaging, though I didn’t always agree with it, being able to meet lots of new and old writers was a treat indeed. I got to chat with Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and I’m hoping he comes out for an event in the fall (I told him he needs to meet and eat at Hot Doug’s!).  David Lebovitz was there and absolutely hilarious in all of his matter-of-fact glory.

Roast Beef Crostinis

Roast Beef Crostinis

The food at the conference was good; way better than normal hotel conference food. I loved that they had vegan and glutton free options. The real deliciousness came when we ventured into Buckhead to sample Top Chef All Stars’ Richard Blais’ Flip Burger. Outstanding! I had the butchers cut burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions and it was outstanding. The sides were equally amazing; we got to sample the fries, vodka infused onion rings, Brussel sprouts and fried pickles. Heaven.

I opted to stay at the Ellis Hotel instead of the Westin and their Terrace restaurant was equally delicious. It’s all locally sourced produce, meat and dairy and you can immediately taste how fresh everything is. I also loved the second floor terrace balcony. It’s a great way to watch the streets from an elevated perch.

All in all, it was a fun trip that definitely rejuvenated me to be better about this blog (though I still wish I had an extra hour every day I could use for it) and I think moving forward, I’m going to commit myself to telling the story better. Yes, we all love food. But I want to continue telling you WHY I love it and why it means what it does to me.

2011 Michelin Guide Chicago Announces Bib Gourmand Winners

10 Nov
Bib Gourmand Awards

Bib Gourmand Awards

You might be fooled by the title of this blog into thinking I’m an actual “foodie”- or whatever that may mean. The truth is I’m someone who loves delicious food, going to Chicago’s gem restaurants (i.e. not trendy/hot/fancy), cooking meals for my husband, son, and friends, and a nice glass of wine here and there. Since we had our son in March, I feel like I should change the title of the blog to “The Lapsing Foodie” since going out to eat is harder than it used to be, but I’ve already bought this site’s domain, so I’ll hold onto it for now.

When we do go out to eat, there are a number of wonderful restaurants just blocks away from our house and we feel right at home as soon as we go through their doors. That’s what is so great about Chicago; the neighborhoods are almost like their own small towns and each area has their prized restaurants.

All of this being said, you can imagine how thrilled I was that the Michelin Guide Chicago announced its Bib Gourmand winners this morning and our neighborhood was well represented.

The Bib Gourmand award is a Michelin Guide distinction awarded to restaurants judged to offer very good food at a very good value. For Michelin’s purposes, a “very good value” means an appetizer and entree, plus a glass of wine, will cost $40 or less. The Michelin Guide Chicago won’t announce their stared recipients until next week, and while I’m eager to find out who made the cut, the Bib Gourmand are more our taste. “These restaurants represent the inspectors’ favorites,” says Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guide. “I call them the gems of Chicago, restaurants that deserve to be recognized for good food.”

The restaurants awarded include, Los Nopales, Opart Thai, Brown Trout, Lula Café, Spacca Napoli, Urban Belly, and West Town Tavern. Surprisingly left off the list was Chicago’s encased meats emporium, Hot Doug’s, which is leading some to speculate if Doug will be awarded a Michelin Star (since Bib Gourmand recipients will not be awarded a Michelin Star). We shall find out next week!

Lula Cafe

Lula Cafe

2011 Michelin Guide Chicago Bib Gourmand Winners:

Ann Sather
Belly Shack
Bistro 110
The Bristol
Ceres’ Table
De Cero
Frances’ Deli
Frontera Grill
Gilt Bar
Girl & The Goat
Green Zebra
Han 202
Kith & Kin
La Creperie
La Petite Folie
Los Nopales
Lula Café
M. Henry
Mixteco Grill
Opart Thai House
Paramount Room
The Publican
The Purple Pig
Raj Darbar
Riccardo Trattoria
Spacca Napoli
Taste of Peru
Thai Village
Twin Anchors
West Town Tavern

The Harvest Season

19 Oct

Fall is definitely upon us and with the beautiful weather we’ve been having, it’s a sin to stay indoors on these lovely days. This past weekend we trekked out to Glenview to Wagner Farm for some good ol’ fashioned tractor rides, pumpkin patches and Halloween fun.

The Merritts enjoying the autumn beauty

Checking out the tractor!

I love the strong correlation this time of year between autumn festivities and cooking in the kitchen. When I’m outside on crisp days, it inspires me to cook and even (gasp) bake! I don’t just want to decorate the house with gourds and squash, I want to make meals out of them. We’ve had butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash at least once a week this season.

It’s also fun because now I’m not only making food for me and my husband, but for the baby as well. He’s a big fan of butternut squash and sweet potatoes as well as broccoli and apples (random and sounds kind of gross, but not bad).

For the other Mama foodies out there, here are a couple easy little recipes I’m using, with harvest ingredients, for the baby’s food.

Peas and Pears

  • Peel three pears, trim out seeds and dice
  • Steam for 15 minutes
  • Puree and place in a bowl
  • Steam about three cups of broccoli
  • Puree the broccoli
  • Mix in the pear puree
  • Voila!

TIP: store in small GladWare containers. They’re cheaper than the “baby” marketed versions and the lids stay on better.

Butternut squash and sweet potatoes

  • Peel (carefully!) the squash, de-seed it and cut into cubes
  • Peel potatoes (about three) and dice up
  • Steam squash and potatoes together for 20 minutes
  • Puree together
  • Voila!

Sinfully Simple Lasagna

9 Oct


Lasagna from Women's Day

Lasagna from Women's Day


Growing up, my mom was known throughout my family, immediate and extended, for her signature lasagna. I have memories of her making pan after pan for large family parties out in eastern Long Island; she even catered my uncle’s wedding with lasagna. So needless to say, the term lasagna was always one associated with much labor and ferocity. But my God was it delicious.

As I started to dabble in the kitchen, lasagna remained one of those culinary entities that intimidated the hell out of me. Visions of bubbling sauce, boiling noodles, messy aprons danced through my head. But it was the New Years eve of my sophomore year in college that I decided to embark on the quest to serve lasagna at a party with friends.

I called my mom, got her recipe and set forth. It wasn’t pretty. But, it wasn’t that bad. Once I was able to wrap my brain around it (sauce, noodle, ricotta, cheese, sauce and repeat) I realized this could be a really fun dish to improvise and play around with.

Fast forward 10 years and I still enjoy making lasagna. I love to add veggies, flavor aspects, etc… And just recently, I discovered the most amazing tool out there to even further simplify this no-longer-as-scary-as-I-thought dish: no-boil noodles. I thought they were a myth. I thought they would taste like leather (and maybe to more refined pasta pallets, they do, but not to me).  Turns out, the no-boil noodles just got lasagna back into our monthly meal rotation. This is also a great meal because you get a ton of leftovers for lunch throughout the week.

So in honor of my mother, who I love, and her famous lasagna, here is my, ridiculousy easy version of her acclaimed favorite:

Sinfully Simple Lasagna

*Please note- I don’t, ever, follow recipes to a T, so you’ll have to forgive that when I share my recipes, they’ll look like I how I prepare them- lots of guesstimates.*

  • Box of no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 jars of tomato sauce
  • Veggies (I like carrots, spinach, and mushrooms- but add whatever you want here)
  • 1.5-2 cups of Ricotta cheese
  • 1 large log of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. First things first: turn on the oven to 350.
  2. In a large lasagna-like dish, wipe a bit of olive oil on the pan and then put a layer of sauce on the bottom.
  3. Add noodles so they don’t overlap but cover the pan
  4. Add more sauce
  5. Add dollops of ricotta throughout, on top of the sauce
  6. Add a thin layer of shredded mozzarella cheese
  7. Add veggies (here I would add spinach and mushrooms)
  8. Add another layer of sauce
  9. Add noodles again
  10. Add more sauce
  11. (Do you see the pattern here?!)
  12. Add ricotta
  13. Add veggies (here I’d add the carrots)
  14. Add a little more sauce
  15. Layer the top with mozzarella cheese and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
  16. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour (the top should be browning, melted and bubbling).


Chicago Gourmet: Everything you ever wanted to know…

20 Sep
Chicago Gourmet

Chicago Gourmet

With Chicago Gourmet less than a week away, I thought I’d share some information about this amazing festival, going on its third year in Chicago.

Chicago Gourmet is a premier epicurean experience aimed at promoting Chicago’s impressive culinary community. It was created by the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) to celebrate and honor both Chicago’s culinary achievements and the creative vision of the chefs, Master Sommeliers and wine and spirit makers who are participating. It also highlights Chicago as an international culinary destination via its unparalleled epicurean talent. ‐day event, presented this year by title sponsor Bon Appétit, will offer attendees the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines, beers, spirits and culinary creations; attend celebrity chef demos and booksignings, educational seminars and tastings conducted by Master Sommeliers and wine, beer, and spirit makers; and learn about today’s most interesting epicurean trends firsthand from the culinary innovators who are creating them in Chicago and nationwide.


Q. When will Chicago Gourmet take place?


A. On Friday, September 24, from 6 to 9 p.m., Chicago Gourmet will kick off the weekend with a cooking competition – featuring 15 of the city’s top chefs – to find the best burger in Chicago. Hosted by


On Saturday, Chicago Gourmet will run from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Sunday, the event will begin again at 12 p.m. and close to the public at 5 p.m.


Chicago Gourmet will take place Friday, September 24, through Sunday, September 26, 2010. Bon Appétit Executive Chef Cat Cora and Chef Art Smith, and presented by Allen Brothers Steaks and MillerCoors’ Blue Moon, this lively, interactive event will take place at the Harris Theatre’s Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park. The event is open to the public and entry is $75 per person. Tickets may be purchased at

Q. Where is Chicago Gourmet being held?


A. Chicago Gourmet will be held on the grounds of Millennium Park. General admission to Chicago Gourmet includes full access to the festival area, including live cooking demonstrations presented on two stages at 30 minute intervals, premium wine and spirits tastings and seminars on epicurean trends.


Q. How much does it cost to attend Chicago Gourmet?


A.  A oneday ticket for either Saturday, September 25, or Sunday, September 26, costs $150.  A weekend pass, good for admission to both days of the festival, costs $250.


Q. What is the Grand Cru and how much does it cost?


A.  2 to 3:30 p.m. each day, will offer attendees tastings of the finest wines in the world, as selected by our Master Sommeliers. During these exclusive 90


The ultimate Chicago Gourmet wine experience, the Grand Cru Tastings, which take place from minute events, the Master Sommeliers will be on hand to present and discuss their selections. The Grand Cru is a separate ticketed event that costs $175/person and requires a general admission ticket. Attendance is limited to 200 people per day.

Q. Where can I purchase tickets for Chicago Gourmet?


A. For uptodate information about Chicago Gourmet, and to purchase tickets, please visit


Q. What’s new for Chicago Gourmet in 2010?


A. The The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade will bring to Chicago Gourmet a Fancy Food Show consumer retail event. The Fancy Food Show Pavilion will feature 60+ specialty food and beverage purveyors that will showcase and sample their products in the sprawling South Promenade Tent.


This year, the event will feature two new attractions: the Bon Appetit Marketplace Tent and the Fancy Food Show Pavilion. Bon Appétit Marketplace Tent will offer guests the opportunity to meet and mingle with the magazine’s top editors and Executive Chef Cat Cora while enjoying sips, bites, and special promotions from our favorite brands.

Q. Who are the participating chefs for 2010?

  Rodelio Aglibot, Sunda New Asian

  Ted Allen, Food and Wine Ambassador for Robert Mondavi

  Jerome Bacle, Courtright’s Restaurant

  Jimmy Bannos, Heaven on Seven

  Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig

  Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, XOCO

  Carlyn Berghoff, Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group

  Graham Elliot Bowles, graham elliot

  Frank Brunacci, Sixteen

  George Bumbaris and Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Café, Prairie Fire

  Niall Campbell, Firefly Grill

  Gregory Carso, The Metropolitan Club

  Michael Cisternino, Tavern at the Park

  John Coletta, Quartino

  Federico Comacchio, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush

  Judy Contino, Bittersweet Pastry Shop

  Cat Cora, Bon Appétit

  Chris Curren, Blue 13

  Christophe David, NOMI

  Radhika Desai, English

  Stephen Dunne, The Paramount Room

  Dirk Flanigan, The Gage/Henri

  JoMarie Frigo, Nonna Santiʹs Biscotti

  Klaus Fritsch, Morton’s The Steakhouse

  Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier, Terryʹs Toffee

  Dirk & Terry Fucik, Dirkʹs Fish & Gourmet Shop

  Gale Gand, Tru

  Jose Garces, Mercat a la Planxa

  Luigi Garcia, RIVA at Navy Pier

  John Gatsos, Tavern on Rush

  Carlos Gaytan, Mexique

  James Gottwald, Rockit Bar & Grill

  Elvia Granados, Francescaʹs Restaurants

  Laurent Gras, L2O

  Koren Grieveson, Avec

  Mark Grosz, Oceanique Restaurant

  Kevin Hickey, Seasons, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

  John Hogan, Keeferʹs Restaurant

  Sandra Holl, Floriole Bakery & Café

  Tony Hu, Lao Szechuan

  Brian Huston, The Publican

  Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat

  Randal Jacobs, Elate

  Paul Kahan and Michael Sheerin, Blackbird

  Gene Kato, Japonais Restaurant

  Paul Katz, Harry Carayʹs Italian Steakhouse

  Bill Kim, Belly Shack, Urban Belly

  Diane Kochilas, Avli Restaurant, Pylos Restaurant

  Eddie Lakin, Edzo’s Burger Shop

  Mariano Lanfranconi, 5411 Empanadas

  Bernie Laskowski. Park Grill

  Chan Le, Le Colonial

  Dale Levitski, Sprout

  Joshua Linton, Aja

  John Manion, Branch 27

  Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia

  Shawn McClain, Spring, Green Zebra

  Michael McDonald, one sixtyblue

  Jason McLeod, Balsan at the Elysian Hotel

  Nathaniel Meads, Fritz Pastry

  Mario Navarro, Gene & Georgetti

  Martial Noguier, Café des Architectes

  Chris Nugent, Les Nomades

  Chris Pandel, The Bristol

  Nicole Pederson, CHouse

  Ryan Poli, Perennial Restaurant

  Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno

  Thierry Rautureau, Rover’s

  Toni Roberts, CHouse Restaurant

  Alain Roby, Hyatt Regency Chicago

  Arun Sampanthavivat, Arunʹs Thai Restaurant

  Marcus Samuelsson, CHouse, Red Rooster

  Patricio Sandoval, Mercadito Restaurants

  Mario Santiago, May St. Café & Catering

  Mindy Segal, Hot Chocolate

  Carol Wallack and Alex Shalev, Sola Restaurant

  Patrick Sheerin, The Signature Room at the 95th

  Jackie Shen, Red Light

  Bruce Sherman, North Pond Restaurant

  Michael Shrader, N9NE Steakhouse

  Kerry Simon, Simon at Palms Place, Simon LA

  Art Smith, Table FiftyTwo

  Mark Sparacino, Prosecco

  Chad Starling, aria

  Todd Stein, cibo matto

  Giuseppe Tentori, Boka Restaurant

  Jacques Torres, Jacques Torres Chocolate

  Rick Tramonto, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood, RT Sushi Bar & Lounge

  Jared Van Camp, Old Town Social

  Paul Virant, Vie

  Randy Waidner, Gibsons Restaurant Group

  Stephen Wambach, EPIC

  Michael Wisner, Zapatista

  Takashi Yagihashi, Takashi

  Shelley Young, Chopping Block

  Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia

  Randy Zweiban, Province


Q. Who are the participating wine, spirit, and beer experts?


A. Master Sommeliers participating in Chicago Gourmet 2010 include:

  1. Serafin Alvarado,

Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois

  1. Fred Dame,

Heirloom Wine Group

  1. Doug Krenik,

Loosen Bros. USA

  1. Geoff Kruth,

Guild of Sommeliers

  1. Alpana Singh,

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

There will also be a wide variety of mixologists, winemakers, master brewers and master distillers taking part in Chicago Gourmet, as well as in the Dine Around program.


Q. What is the Dine Around?


A. The Bon Appétit and Chicago Gourmet Dine Around extends Chicago Gourmet beyond Millennium Park into the city’s best restaurants. From August 30 through September 26, dine in five participating restaurants, save your receipts, and redeem them for a complimentary oneday Chicago Gourmet ticket at registration. Enjoy the special prixfixe meal or simply dine from the regular menu; either receipt is valid toward the free ticket. For complete offer details visit

Cookbook Review: The 10 Things You Need to Eat

10 Sep

Guest post from the Foodie Librarian: Hana Field

The 10 Things You Need To Eat

I know to eat my veggies and whole grains, even if I sometimes forget why. I can throw around words like calcium, antioxidants and riboflavin, and give a good definition for at least some of those words. The truth is that while I take careful notes, I usually forget the details- that is, I know B12 is good for you, but I don’t remember where I read this, and why it’s actually good for you.

The 10 Things You Need To Eat And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them is by former Food Network host and cookbook author Dave Lieberman and New York Times reporter Anahad O’Connor, with great narrative and is packed with information that is easy to digest. The book focuses on recipes surrounding the 10 foods – tomatoes, avocados, beets, spinach, quinoa,  lentils, cabbage, super fish, nuts and berries–and gives several pages of introduction to each food.

Throughout the book, bits of information are presented with a mix of history, examples, case studies and humor. Lieberman and O’Connor use everyday vocabulary, but I didn’t feel like I was being talked down to.  I learned a lot about pairing foods, especially with fat. For example, mixing tomatoes with healthy fat like olive oil increases your body’s ability to absorb the tomatoes’ nutrients (think Caprese salad or even pizza). I learned too many things to write them all here, but I will say this – I don’t think I’ve ever read a cookbook cover to cover, and with 10 Things, I did just that.

The first recipe I tried was the Stewy Chipotle Black Beans over Quinoa, mainly because I already had the ingredients on hand, but also because it could be brought to lunch in one container and seemed like I could be full afterward.

I’ve been on a mission to make lunches more than empty calories or a filler between breakfast and dinner;  I want lunches that are nutritionally packed and satiating.  I gave up on “veggie sandwiches and wraps” that are full of roasted eggplant, red peppers and other foods, while delicious, just aren’t going to keep me full until dinner. Just because I want a meatless lunch doesn’t mean I don’t want a combination of protein, fiber and carbohydrates.

Stay tuned for some easy weekday brown bags. For now, read on about the spicy black beans and quinoa from The 10 Things You Need to Eat.

Stewy Chipotle Black Beans over Quinoa

  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 canned chipotles packed in adobo, plus 2 tablespoons sauce
  • Two 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, tough stem revived, finely chopped
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened but still red, about 5 minutes.
  3. Finely chop the chipotles and add them to the onion, along with the adobo sauce, black beans, stock, garlic, and lime juice.
  4. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is thickened and slightly reduced.
  5. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste and finish with the chopped cilantro.
  6. Serve over the hot quinoa.


I used my favorite vegetable bullion, Rapunzel, instead of chicken stock and added a little extra chipotle sauce.  The recipe is great how it is, but allows room for variations and creativity–I can’t wait until Fall when I can add butternut squash to this recipe.

I liked this book for the nutritionally packed recipes and the easy to read information about the ten foods (I loved the case studies linking pizza to good heart health). The second recipe I tried from this book, avocado soup with cilantro, coriander, cumin and lime, turned out to be a delicious surprise (I had some doubts about the flavor combination, but it works!).  I now have high expectations for the third recipe I want to make–spinach linguine with spinach, arugala and walnut pesto.  Unfortunately, the book is due back at the library tomorrow, but I just may write down a few recipes before returning it.

The 10 Things You Need To Eat And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O’Connor, HarperCollins, 2010.