Mini Beef & Guiness Pot Pie

When Danielle and I went to London, we ate the most delicious savoury pot pies on our first pub night there and I’ve been waning to make my own at home ever since. I finally did it last week, due to the combined forces of Pi Day (3.14….get it???) and St. Patrick’s Day.

My go-to pot pie situation is usually Chicken Pot Pie, and I’ve made so many variations over the years. None of them got blogged for some reason, so here’s a quick break to list some of my favourites:

Instead of another chicken variation, I made cute little Mini Beef and Guinness Pies. I used this recipe from Elly that I’ve had bookmarked for about two years: a rich beef stew with mushrooms, carrots and celery, plus a can of Guinness*, braised low and slow for a couple hours. The only change I made was to use 1 lb of beef instead of two, but I kept all the vegetable and liquid measurements the same. I made a double pie crust recipe, and used little disposable 6″ pie plates. When all was said and done I had four mini pies, but probably could have squeaked out five if I re-rolled my pastry scraps and rationed the stew better.

Beef Stew

In London our pies were served with mashed potatoes, gravy and a pea/carrot/leek mixture, but I just went with a fresh green salad and it was perfect. I’m assuming these pies freeze well unbaked, so I have a couple tucked away to eat later.

*I find Guinness revolting otherwise, but it’s great in here!

Mini Beef & Guinness Pies

Source: Elly Says Opa

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb (or 2lbs if you want it extra beefy) stewing beef

2 medium or 1 large onion, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 celery stalks, sliced

8 oz cremini mushrooms cleaned and sliced

4 garlic cloves, grated with a microplane

2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

12 oz Guinness

1 1/2 cups beef broth

+ salt & pepper

+ a double crust recipe of your favourite pie dough OR store bought OR puff pastry

+ 1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp water (egg wash)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a dutch oven or other ovenproof pot with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add about half the beef, seasoning with salt and pepper, and browning on all sides. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the other half, adding a bit more olive oil to the pan if needed.
  2. In the now empty pot, add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms, and cook for about 5-8 minutes, until veggies are softened. Stir in the garlic and rosemary, then stir in the flour until everything is evenly coated, and let cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the Guinness and beef broth, plus salt and pepper, and stir. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and place in the oven, and let braise for about 2 hours. I’m assuming you could also do this in a slowcooker instead of the oven, probably for 6-8 hours or overnight (on low).
  4. Once cooked, let cool FULLY before making the mini pies.
  5. Roll out your dough and cut it into about 7″ circles to line the bottom of your mini pie plates (or just make one big pie in a regular pie dish). Portion out the stew into the pies. Cut smaller circles of dough out for the tops of the pies and crimp the edges over to seal. Use a knife to cut a few vents into the dough so steam can escape. At this point you can wrap the pies with a layer of plastic wrap, and then tin foil, and freeze.
  6. To bake, brush the egg wash over the top of the mini pies, which will help them brown.
  7. Bake in a 350° oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

 

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Kitchen-Sink Dutch Baby

Dutch babies are something that I had never heard of before I started reading food blogs almost 10 years ago. This isn’t something I ate growing up, and I unfortunately don’t have a cast-iron skillet that was passed down to me through the generations! For this reason, I usually bypass any and all dutch baby recipes, but when it comes to Baked Sunday Mornings, it’s worth a special trip to a friend’s house to borrow one.

Dutch babies are basically giant puffy pancakes. The batter is made in a blender (I used my immersion blender) and poured in the hot skillet, and then baked in the oven until golden brown. The Baked version also has buttery bananas, chocolate chips, walnuts (I left this out), a dusting of icing sugar and a suggestion to serve with maple syrup. Kind of a lot going on, which is why this is the “Kitchen Sink” version.

I ate this up in no time, and it’s kind of a cool idea for a brunch because you could slice it into wedges and serve, instead of standing at the stove flipping pancakes and missing all the fun. I would probably leave the bananas out next time (not too keen on banana desserts), but I would leave everything else as is.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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February on Planet Byn {2017}

by byn on February 28, 2017

in Monthly Recaps

Valentines

February is my most dreaded dreary month, and this year I started it with NOROVIRUS, so it could only get better from there:

  • Jenny, Heather and I trekked up to Richmond Hill to see Molly Yeh do a food demo and talk about her new book Molly on the Range. I’ve followed Molly’s blog over the years, but only made my first recipe of hers in December when I made Chicken Pot Tot Hotdish (basically Chicken Pot Pie with Tater Tots on top). I wanted to go see her more because of her interesting life (half-Chinese/half-Jewish, Julliard trained percussionist-turned food blogger, who now lives on a farm in North Dakota) and overall adorkable persona, plus the fact that the list of recipes she was making at the demo sounded delicious (spinach & feta rugelach, cauliflower shawarma tacos, chocolate tahini cupcakes). She was super cute, and I loved listening to her talk about her life and travels, and how she gathers inspiration from her family and farm life to develop her recipes. We got to try all the food, and everything was so good. The girls and I all bought the book and I can’t wait to make a bunch of stuff from it. Jenny already has and you can read her post about it here.
  • After not baking for all of January (no one wants to eat your treats post-holidays), I made so many Valentine’s Day treats this year for my friends. These Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Hearts of course, but also giant heart shaped sugar cookies with royal icing (pictured above, with a “We Go Together Like” theme, ripped off Cake & Loaf), plus a Valentine’s Day remix of these Confetti Cookies to send to Alexis and her family.
  • My Galentine Lydia came over to watch the Bachelor and I made us this Marinated Goat Cheese with Crostini from Shutterbean, and some Rosemary Roasted Cashews from my friend Gwendolyn. Both recipes are actually from The Barefoot Contessa, love that.
  • Lydia and I also went to meet Aoife & Brad’s new baby Nolan and I brought a small care package of Oh She Glows GF Faves: Banana Bread Muffin Tops and Super Seed Granola, both in OSG Everyday.
  • I haven’t been able to get a good picture of them, but this is my current favourite dinner: Swiss Chard & Mushroom Quesadillas. I’m finding I’m like 75% vegetarian at home (and currently going through another lengthy chicken aversion), so I love when I find a new meatless meal that I love.
  • Here are some of the Planet Byn All-Stars I made this month: Swedish Meatballs, Sloppy Janes, and My Favourite Buttermilk Pancakes for Pancake Tuesday!
  • I was in Florida for the last week of February and picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s new non-dairy frozen yogurt (it’s made with almond milk). It was decent except I didn’t finish it due to the fact that we also got pints of Blondie Ambition and Chocolate Cheesecake Core at the same time.
  • Finally, on a bittersweet note, Gastropost came to an end this month. It meant so much to me because it connected me with my first foodie friends! At the very first meet-up they hosted, I met Libby & Carole, my fellow OGs – Original Gastroposters – and we’ve been friends ever since! You can check out a bunch of my posts here, with links to the print editions of National Post my photos appeared in. A few of my favourites: Maple Syrup Tarts (my first mission), Fresh Strawberry Tart (I was the Mission Inspiration for this one), S’mores Ice Cream (the 100th Mission), and of course, thanks to Gastropost, I got to bake cookies for Chuck Hughes!

 Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I’ve been obsessively watching the Oscars since 1994 when I was in Grade 10 (Pulp Fiction was robbed!), and I love them so much I cannot adequately express my emotions. Every year I say I’m going to see each movie nominated for Best Picture, and I’ve still never done it (made harder since 2009 and the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to include up to 10 nominees). This year was the closest I’ve ever come, and I saw 6/9!!! Kristine and I did really well over the past few months, seeing La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Lion and Hidden Figures, plus I watched Hell or High Water and Moonlight on demand at home. So close!
  • My new TV obsession is Riverdale on Netflix, and I also got Season 3 of The Americans from the library to watch which is so great. Plus I rushed my girls out of El Caballito last Thursday to get home in time for Season Finale of How To Get Away With Murder, and my jaw literally dropped open in the last 2 minutes. I freaking love that show!
  • When I was in Florida I finally read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (totally motivated by Lorelai Gilmore on this one), It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman (50% great Bachelor gossip, 50% useless advice on break-ups), The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon  (now #3 on my Teen Romance YA Power Rankings after Eleanor & Park and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chung (this may be racial profiling, but I couldn’t help but compare this to Crazy Rich Asians, and it was not as good).

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The New Orleans

Mardi Gras is coming up this Tuesday, so our treat this week is in honour of New Orleans: a pralines and cream ice cream cake. You can see by my picture that I took this in a different direction, so let me first explain what this recipe is supposed to look like.

The recipe as written consists of four homemade components:

  • Classic Pralines
  • Sweet & Salty Caramel Sauce
  • Brown Sugar Praline Ice Cream
  • Graham Crumble

The pralines and caramel sauce are swirled into the ice cream, which is then spread into a springform pan in layers with graham crumble in between.

Because I had no need for a 9″ ice cream cake calling my name from the freezer every day until I ate the whole thing, I cheated a bit in order to scale this recipe down. Instead of making the ice cream, I bought a small carton of Dulce de Leche Häagen-Dazs, which is caramel ice cream that already has a dulce de leche swirl in it. I made a half recipe of the pralines and the graham crumble. Once the ice cream softened a bit sitting at room temperature, I just layered the three components up in my sundae glass until it was full.

Praline Crumbles

The pralines are SUPER sweet, and I think would be nice stirred into vanilla bean ice cream for contrast, because with the dulce de leche ice cream, it was a bit of overkill. I loved the graham layers though, it reminded me of this ice cream dream from a few years ago.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Blood Orange Margaritas

by byn on February 24, 2017

in Cocktails

Blood Orange Margarita

Blood Oranges are the biggest scam of the citrus world since Meyer Lemons. I actually haven’t bought any in years, because I kept excitedly bringing bags of them home, only to cut them open and find they were barely pink inside.

I randomly picked some up last week, and lo and behold they were actually a deep ruby red once I sliced through a couple. Yes, the colour is gorgeous, but don’t try and tell me they have a “berry-like flavour”. Nice try, Galen!

Citrus Scam

Inspired by my friend Weedy’s tropical dinner party last month, I mixed up a Blood Orange Margarita. I have a nice roster of summer cocktails in the archives, so this is a nice option for the winter. I normally don’t get too excited for winter citrus, but this is something I can get on board with, especially on a dreary mid-February afternoon.

Blood Orange Margarita

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 1 cocktail

Ingredients

1/4 cup blood orange juice

3 tbsp tequila

1 1/2 tbsp triple sec

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

+ blood orange slices

Directions

  1. Stir all ingredients together and serve over ice!

 

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7th Blog-iversary!!!!!!!

by byn on February 16, 2017

in General

Seven years of blogging! To be honest, 2016 was not one of my best years, but when I’m stressed/sad I like to channel that energy into doing nice things for other people, usually in the form of baked goods. Let’s take a look back at the past year:

My Favourite 5 Posts of the Last Year:

  1. Apple Cider Caramel Corn + Thanksgiving 2016 – hands down my favourite post of the year. I just loved hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time, and I documented every step of it so I’ll be ready to do it again.
  2. Speckled Easter Egg Cake – I love, love, love the way this cake turned out! It was so pretty and just the epitome of SPRING! A ton of layer cakes actually came out of my kitchen this year, and I loved them all: Turquoise Ombré, Take 5, Strawberry Supreme, Caramel Banana.
  3. S’mores Cupcakes – These were a huge hit at my nephew’s birthday party, and any recipe where I can use my kitchen torch is a bonus.
  4. Frozen Strawberry Cheesecake Pie – My signature summer dessert! I made this twice in two weeks during strawberry season and just loved it.
  5. Buffalo Chicken Nachos – I only blogged a few savoury recipes this year, and even calling these nachos a recipe is a stretch, but they are so, so good!

A few other fun things from this year:

  • I got a few travel posts up, which take me forever, but I love writing (London + Chicago). Danielle was also in town for another epic Toronto Tour of Treats, so that’ll be my next recap.
  • This year also marked the return of the Guest Blogger! My friend Weedy wrote all about her Homemade Bailey’s.
  • My favourite treat of the whole year was a Choux Ball filled with milk chocolate pastry cream from XO Bisous that I somehow need to re-create!

Finally, the traditional recap stats:

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts {from the last year}:

  1. Derby Cookies
  2. Homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream
  3. Pistachio White Chocolate Cheesecake (this is a shame, because I hated it)
  4. Minecraft Birthday Cake 2.0
  5. Strawberry Supreme Cake

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts {from the archives}:

  1. Dinosaur Birthday Cake
  2. School Bus Birthday Cake
  3. Shimmer & Shine Birthday Cake
  4. Chocolate Whoopie Pies
  5. Toffee Bar Crunch Pie (aka Skor Bar Dessert)

No new goals this year, but the same ones that always pop up: have people over for dinner more, actually make things out of the cookbooks I buy instead of letting them gather dust, make more pies (especially now that I know the secret to a good crimp!) and tackle more bread baking projects (English muffins, pita bread, naan, etc).

I’m sure it’ll be another delicious year! Thanks for reading!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Hearts

by byn on February 14, 2017

in Cookies

Linzer Hearts

I think I’m ready to declare that Valentine’s Day is my favourite baking holiday, or at least tied with Easter. There’s no pressure, no expectations, and if I can spread some love with treats, well that’s my joy in life anyway.

I haven’t blogged my Valentine’s Day baking in the past, with the exception of these amazing Beyoncé conversation heart cakes we made last year for Baked Sunday Mornings! I usually just make heart shaped sugar cookies with royal icing, and last year I added pink puffy heart shaped marshmallows into the mix. This year I made my standard cookies, except jumbo-sized and with a “We go together like…” theme, based on an idea from Cake & Loaf in Hamilton.

I was also trying to think of what I could make for my friend Janelle, whose main loves are s’mores, Nutella and crispy brownie edges. I knew these linzer hearts would be perfect. The dough is like a brown sugar sugar cookie, with a whole cup of ground hazelnuts mixed in, and the finished cookies are sandwiched together with Nutella.

In Formation

Did you have any doubt that these were absolutely amazing? I love the little peek into what’s inside, and they’re just a perfect, cute Valentine’s Day treat. I always say Valentine’s Day is where crafts and baking collide, and after not baking for all of January, it was so great to be immersed in this project. J said these are now her favourite, so I think we have a new Valentine’s Day tradition!

Happy Valentine's Day

Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Cookies

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla

+ Nutella for sandwiching

Directions

  1. Add the flour, hazelnuts, baking powder and salt to your food processor and process until the hazelnuts are in fine crumbs (I rubbed a pinch of the mixture with my fingers to check).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Add the hazelnut mixture and mix in until well combined and no flour-y parts remain. Split dough in half, and pat each into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  4. Heat oven to 350° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Let discs of dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so to start to soften up just a bit.
  5. Clear a large workspace and dust it with flour. Roll out dough until it’s about 1/8″ thick (don’t want them to be too thick because you’re sandwiching two cookies together). Punch out heart shapes and arrange on cookie sheets. In half the cookies, stamp out a little heart shape from the middle. I re-rolled the scraps 2-3 times to get as many cookies as possible.
  6. Bake cookies for about 9-10 minutes, then let cool completely.
  7. Take the cookies with no cut out and spread a nice layer of Nutella over top. On the cookies with the little heart shape cut out, dust some icing sugar over top. Sandwich them together and get ready for some happy Valentines!

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Angel Food Cake

Is it possible I’ve never eaten Angel Food Cake before in my entire dessert-eating life? I’m trying to think back and I can maybe remember eating some as a kid, but I’m not 100% sure if it was Angel Food Cake, or just a random sponge cake from the grocery store. In any case, it was pretty forgettable.

I was intrigued by this week’s recipe for Angel Food Cake, with a whole tablespoon of vanilla bean paste in it, plus a milk chocolate glaze drizzled over top. I made a few substitutions for this recipe:

  • I wasn’t that interested in having a dozen leftover egg yolks, so I used a carton of egg whites and had no problems.
  • I didn’t have any cake flour, so used all all-purpose flour.
  • I also didn’t feel like making a trip to Bulk Barn, so I used regular sugar instead of super-fine sugar (and didn’t grind it in my food processor).

Angel Food Slice

The recipe still worked well with my substitutions, but I have to say, Angel Food Cake is just not my thing, even if it’s covered in milk chocolate glaze. Something about the texture, which is kind of, hmmm, is chewy the right word? I’m sure my co-workers will eat it up tomorrow in no time.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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January on Planet Byn {2017}

by byn on January 31, 2017

in Monthly Recaps

Franks Best

I really tried this to cook at home in January and bring my lunch to work every day, which turns out is easy on your bank account but SUPER BORING. Instead I had friends over a couple times and tried out a bunch of new recipes. Here’s a recap:

  • January always kicks off with a feast for the Golden Globes, and this year my crew requested Beef Bourguignon (I use this recipe, sans sour cream), white cheddar mashed potatoes and corn spoonbread. I had issues with that spoonbread, because it never rose and was driving me nuts, but it still tasted pretty good. I also made a simple arugula salad to add something fresh to our plates, plus Salty Honey Pie for dessert.
  • My one dinner out this month was a HUGE disaster. I took my vegan friend Josie to Pai, because I knew they could modify quite a few of their dishes for her. We ordered Pad Thai with veggies and green curry with tofu, and halfway through eating, Josie found a piece of chicken in the curry. We basically got up and left immediately, but not before I got all shouty with the manager. Warning: Do not take your vegan friends to Pai!
  • I had a few of my foodie friends over for a super casual dinner and made this Baked Rigatoni & Meatballs from the Planet Byn archives (still delicious!) and a Caesar Salad. Tasty G brought her party bread (aka Pull Apart Garlic Bread) and Jenny brought an 8″, triple layer chocolate cake. For three people. This is why I love them!
  • I went over to Nicole’s to hang out with her and my six months old friend Francis Levi, and she ordered us the most delicious pizza I have put in my mouth since the first time I had Pizzeria Libretto in 2012. Frank’s Best from Maker Pizza (pictured above) is topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, rosemary, roasted garlic, olive oil, mozzerella, parmesan, sea salt and honey and words can’t even describe how obsessed I am with it.
  • Back in the summer when I made these Fresh Strawberry Margaritas, Weedy said she was going to freeze some and she’d bust it out in the winter when we needed it most. She did just that last week, along with some pretty epic nachos and an avocado mango salad. I brought this Piña Colada Cake and we had a pretty tropical Friday night.

Weedy

  • I made a bunch of stuff from OSG Everyday this month, which you can check out over here.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I only read one book this month and it was terrible. Life After Life was on a bunch of year end Top 10 lists in 2013, and I had been meaning to read it ever since, and it was the biggest waste of time ever. Not a great start to my year of reading, womp womp.
  • January is normally a barren wasteland of movie releases, but Kristine and I saw a movie a week this month and had no misses (with the exception of one questionable ending, you guess which one had it): La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Patriots Day and Lion. I can’t even pick a favourite, they were all so good and all made me cry.
  • I had NOROVIRUS these past few days and binge watched The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story while I was home from work and it was FANTASTIC. I remember bits and pieces of the trial from when I was in high school, but this was a deep dive back into it from all angles. Highly recommend!

Flashback!

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Chicago Eats {July 2016}

by byn on January 18, 2017

in Travel

Chicago at Night

This past July, I confirmed something I’ve suspected was true for a long time: Chicago is the perfect place for a long weekend trip. I’ve wanted to go forever, especially since I was supposed to attend a conference there a few years ago (but ended up not going), and had to hear my entire office tell me how much fun they had without me (MAJOR FOMO). It’s a short 90 minute flight from Toronto, you can walk almost everywhere, and there is SO MUCH good food. In a tragic twist, my foodie friends went back in May, but I already had Adele tickets for July, so we couldn’t go together. But on the bright side, stalking their Instagrams was like a trip preview, and helped me narrow down all the things I wanted to try. We rolled into town on a Friday afternoon, and left on Monday evening. Here’s what I ate in between:

  • Giordano’s: I knew the first thing I wanted to eat in Chicago was DEEP DISH PIZZA! I did a lot of research online on this topic, but every “Best Deep Dish in Chicago” article I read had a different winner. I decided to go with Jenny’s recommendation of Giordano’s, and this was where we headed as soon as we dropped off our bags (the other contenders were Lou Malnati’s and Pequod). We ordered a medium Chicago Classic pizza (eight slices for four people) which has pepperoni, green peppers, onions and mushrooms. The crust was at least three inches thick and the pie was just oozing with cheese. I was surprised how un-greasy the crust was, because I was anticipating something like Pizza Hut pan pizza, but I could not have been more wrong. You know how most pizza has a chewy crust? At Giordano’s, it’s more bready, even flaky, as you get to the end of each slice. My advice is to not order any apps (we did because we were starving) and even then you’ll probably only be able to eat two slices. My other tip, which our waiter told us as soon as we sat down, is that it takes 45 minutes to 1 hour for one of their deep dish pizzas to cook, so like, call from the runway and it’ll be ready when you get there!

Giordano's

  • Molly’s CupcakesElly sent me a huge list of recommendations, and one was Molly’s Cupcakes. I was completely and totally smitten! It was just one of the cutest bakeries I’ve ever been in. There are big wooden swings you can sit on at the coffee bar, long communal tables, and a sprinkle bar, I repeat, a SPRINKLE BAR! You can custom design your own cupcake, picking from cake, filling and icing options, or you can choose from their huge selection. We tried four: Cake Batter, Cookie Monster, Molten Chocolate and Boston Cream. Loved them all.

Molly's Cupcakes

  • BeatrixShauna Sever called Beatrix’s “Oh My! Caramel Pie” her favourite dessert of 2016 on Instagram, so I knew I would need to have that at some point during the weekend. It was so sinfully good: a buttery shortbread crust, filled with a deep, rich, complex caramel custard. I can’t find the recipe online, and it’s a damn shame. I also had a simple but delicious “Straight A” salad [arugula, Asian pear, almonds, avocado, asiago] with lemon dressing and loved the combo so much I recreated it at home a few times in the summer.
  • Umami Burger: My plans for Shake Shack were abruptly changed for Saturday night due to a protest on Michigan Avenue, so instead we headed up to Wicker Park where our dessert destination was (more on that in a minute) and found Umami Burger, which Juliet & Jacoby used to talk about on their old Food News podcast on Grantland. I didn’t know what to expect, not having fully researched before we went, but it was incredible! I had the Throwback Burger, which has white cheddar cheese, miso mustard, umami ketchup, soy pickles and minced onions. Delicious! The fries came with four dipping sauces (I’m a sucker for dipping sauces!): umami ketchup, truffle mayo, and two spicy sauces I can’t remember the name of. My friend Sarah also ordered the maple bacon sweet potato fries (sprinkled with rosemary salt and chives) and they were crazy amazing. When are you coming to Canada, Umami???!
  • Frontera Grill & XOCO: Speaking of stalking people on Instagram, I copied Annie’s idea of having a Rick Bayless brunch at Frontera Grill, followed by churros across the street at XOCO. Brunch was delicious, but I was having severe menu paralysis and kept changing my mind from more traditional brunch dishes, to Mexican street food snacks, to full on enchiladas. I think had we gone later in the day I would have had the latter, but ended up going for the former since we were there at 10:30. To drink, I had a cocktail called Good Day (fresh orange juice, tequila, Cointreau, Aperol & champagne) and then Frontera Hot Cakes, which are corn cakes topped with whipped cinnamon pecan goat cheese, plus red-chile glazed bacon and sunny side up eggs. Sadly the churros from XOCO were not that great, so you can skip those.
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream: My life is complete, because I have FINALLY had Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream!!!!! Last year, Danielle and I were so distraught when we went to Atlanta, as all the Jeni’s stores were shut down due to a bacteria breakout in their factory. Even though there are so many of Jeni’s recipes all over the food-blog-osphere, I just had this thing about actually trying the real deal before trying to make it at home, so I would know how it’s supposed to taste. First of all, shout to all the staff at Jeni’s, who are so sweet and helpful as you’re trying to decide what you want! They are so patient and sampling is highly encouraged. Even though I was studying the menu for weeks in advance, I still couldn’t decide when I got there. I ended up going pretty basic with Salty Caramel and Milkiest Chocolate, but I did not regret it. It’s rich, creamy, dense and deeply flavourful.

Jeni's

  • Doughnut Vault: Chicago is known for amazing doughnuts, so I went on a little doughnut tour while my friends were rock climbing in Millennium Park (you can see where my priorities lie), and my favourite hands-down was Doughnut Vault. I had an Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnut (their signature), dipped in a fresh blueberry glaze and I loved it! The others I tried were decent, but my main criteria is that you have to at least be better than Tim Horton’s, and I’m sorry Firecakes and Glazed & Infused, but you are not.

Doughnut Vault

  • Little Goat Bakery: I ran out of time, so didn’t get to eat at Little Goat Diner (sister to The Girl & The Goat), but I did stop into the Little Goat Bakery and picked up a S’mores Cookie and a White Chocolate Dulce Rosemary Scone to take home. Both were just perfect, so I’ll definitely head back there for a meal next time!
  • Garrett Popcorn: Finally, I had to pick-up some Garrett’s to take home. This is the originator of Chicago Mix popcorn, the combination of cheddar and caramel flavours that sounds so wrong, but tastes so right. My only note here is that the cheddar popcorn had already started to soften by the next day (the caramel stayed crispy though), so if you’re planning on bringing it home, buy it at the last possible minute.

 Other non-foodie related notes:

  • I stayed at the Godfrey Hotel in the River North neighbourhood, which I absolutely adored! The ‘L’ train doesn’t run through that neighbourhood, so it’s a bit quieter, and there are great views of the city. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and many of the restaurants mentioned above were close by, which was great.
  • In terms of “touristy” things to do, over the course of the weekend we walked through Millennium Park  (this is where Cloud Gate/”The Bean”) is, visited Navy Pier, and went on an architectural river boat cruise of the city. I wasn’t sure if I would like this, but ended up loving it! The tour guide was so knowledgeable and it was a nice way to learn more about the city and its history, while still being outside, enjoying a sunny day (as opposed to being stuck inside a museum or whatever).
  • The Target downtown was not great for clothes (only got one skirt), but I did stock up on Pretzel M&Ms! Paper Source was my favourite store of the weekend!
  • Obviously Adele was just absolutely phenomenal, like you can’t believe that voice is coming out of that person. She is so chatty and funny, telling stories between songs, so you’re laughing one minute, then sobbing the next as she belts out Someone Like You. You’re just convinced that you would be best friends by the end of the show. So worth it!

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