Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: 4th of July Food

As you know, the 4th of July is coming up and Danielle’s Dish loves any holiday where there’s food involved! If you’re still planning your 4th of July menu, take a look below for some of the best recommendations from the biggest non-foodie there is!

Hot Dogs:
  • What’s a barbecue without hot dogs? However, let’s ditch the filler Oscar Meyer dogs and get some all-beef hot dogs instead! The all-beef dogs will keep you full longer, and they are juicier and just taste better when they’re nestled in a fluffy, white bun. Some Danielle’s Dish favorite all-beef brands include Vienna Beef, Hebrew National, and Boar’s Head. I’ve typically found Vienna Beef and Hebrew National in my Midwest grocery stores. Boar’s Head is harder to come by, but if you find them you’ve hit the jackpot.
  • There’s nothing better than getting raw brats and letting them boil in beer for a beer-brat taste. However if you are in a hurry, get the Johnsonville pre-cooked brats. They still taste like brats and all you need to do is throw them on the grill! Easy when you are on a time crunch!
  • For hot dogs and brats, get King’s Hawaiian Sweet Sandwich buns. The sweet flavor complements the grillables, plus I feel like they have preservatives in them which makes the buns last longer without getting moldy. If you are making burgers, head for your grocery store’s bakery and get pretzel rolls!
  • You can’t beat macaroni salad and potato salad from your local grocery store’s deli section. The mayo goodness always goes great with grillables. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with fresh corn on the cob or watermelon slides on a hot summer day.

Danielle's Dish would love to hear about what you are planning to eat this 4th of July! Please share your 4th of July food recommendations in the comments below!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Maple Bacon Long John

Specialty doughnuts are all over Chicago, and if you haven't tried a Maple Bacon Long John you must try one of these ASAP for breakfast, dessert, or a mid-day snack. I ate this Maple Bacon Long John at Glazed and Infused in Chicago, but I know there are multiple doughnut spots in Chicago (and most likely in other cities) that sell Maple Bacon doughnuts. This one takes the cake (literally). I felt like I was eating breakfast within a doughnut. One of my favorite things to do at breakfast is dip my bacon in the maple syrup I use for pancakes or waffles. This is a way for me to eat my bacon and maple syrup without the sticky mess - and the cake-y part of the doughnut reminded me of the inside of a cake or waffle. So while this doughnut is unique, it definitely won't cure your chocolate or vanilla frosting craving - so save room for a second doughnut if you need to take care of your sweet tooth!


  • If you like pancakes, syrup, and bacon, and typically eat those items on the same plate during breakfast, then you will love the bacon-y, syrup-y combination of the Maple Bacon Long John.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Sluggo's Pizzeria + Captain Sundae in Holland, Michigan

I was in Holland, Michigan, with friends for the Tulip Time festival in May (there were so many tulips when I was there!) and we ate at two places that excited my taste buds so much that I'd go back to Holland JUST to eat at Sluggo's Pizzeria and Captain Sundae! And the great news is - these places are right next door to one another so you can grab Sluggo's for lunch or dinner, and then get a sundae for dessert at Captain Sundae!

Let's start with Sluggo's, a small pizza joint located in a Holland strip mall. It is very simple inside, nothing fancy except for the counter, soda fountain, and a few booths and tables for patrons to sit at. You go up to the counter, place your order with the individual behind the register, and then you sit down and they bring your food out to you all hot and fresh!

They have a variety of daily specials, one of which I'm really excited to share with you all - you get a 2 topping, seven inch pizza, breadsticks covered in Italian dressing, your choice of dipping sauces for the breadsticks (I chose ranch and marinara), and a fountain drink all for the low price of $6.63 (that's WITH tax). Maybe that's an average price for the area, but after coming in from Chicago that is a STEAL! And the quality was unreal. The cheese tasted very fresh (I can't even tell you what kind of mozzarella they used but it tasted better than the cheese I've had at a Dominos or Pizza Hut) and the Italian dressing on the breadsticks was genius. I don't think I can have breadsticks again without Italian dressing!

To top it off, we walked to Captain Sundae after our pizza to try a delicious ice cream sundae. I'd actually been talking about this place before we even went to Michigan, since I saw pictures of the ice cream sundaes online and they looked all custard-y, vanilla-y, and covered in toppings.

I chose the Tommy Turtle sundae, which is a traditional turtle sundae made with vanilla soft serve. But the warm hot fudge and caramel made it a real treat. Apparently George W. Bush made a stop here before and tried a Tommy Turtle. And I don't blame him.

  • If you find yourself in the Holland, Michigan area, definitely stop by Sluggo's Pizzeria for lunch/dinner, and Captain Sundae after for an amazing soft serve dessert!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: McDonald's Happy Meal Mascot

It's no secret that I enjoy eating McDonald's in certain situations - like when I'm starving, or after a night at the bars with my friends. I think it's the Big Mac Sauce that really hits it home with me. I decided to get a McDonald's Happy Meal since I wanted Taco Bell in addition to McDonald's one night (no joke) and YIKES! This picture from the Happy Meal box is probably the scariest thing I've seen in my life:

What is wrong with the Happy Meal box? The new Happy Meal mascot "Happy" has these bulging googly eyes that look so fake and WIDE OPEN (and why are his eyelids at the bottom of his eyes instead of at the top?) and he has this gigantic smile with these HUGE crazy straight teeth and you can see the slight shadow of a tongue in the back of his mouth that's really pink and strangely real looking.

If you don't already think the new Happy Meal mascot looks scary, just look at what he does when you hold the Happy Meal box in your arms! He looks like a biter:

  • As an adult, the new McDonald's mascot potentially looks like he's about to eat me, as well as haunt me in my dreams
  • If anyone reading this review has kids - what does your child think about this new mascot?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Taco Bell Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco

I tell ya, when I ordered Taco Bell's new Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco this past Sunday, I felt like I was ordering a mouthful. Could there BE any more syllables or words in Taco Bell's newest creation? (I encourage you to say that in Chandler Bing's voice from "Friends"). It's pretty much the Cool Ranch Doritos shell, stuffed with chicken, a spicy sauce, lettuce and cheese (or for all you overachievers who like to get the supreme version like me, it will come with the addition of tomatoes and reduced-fat sour cream). It looks delicious in the pictures and in person, and it resembled the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos I've gotten in the past.

However YIKES. Spice alert! If you can only eat Taco Bell mild sauce before the fire alarms start going off in your head, then this taco will most likely be too spicy for you too. I had to get out a half gallon of milk and start chugging after my first two bites of this taco. The spice factor definitely comes from the spicy sauce layered on after the chicken, but I kept trying to figure out if this was the same sauce that Taco Bell puts in their quesadillas, or if this sauce was brand-spanking new and created specifically for this taco.

Everything else about this taco is fantastic minus the sauce. No wonder I'm still so thirsty and dehyderated today, it's the spice!


  • If you like spicy, by all means order the Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco.
  • If you have a similar spice threshold like I do, the order the Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco without the spicy sauce. Or honestly, order a different menu item that you may be craving more. My Taco Bell oldie but goodie favorites include the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, the Crispy Potato Soft Taco, or even the traditional Crunchwrap Supreme

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Chicago q

I'd never been to Chicago q until I had their weekend brunch recently. And I still don't understand why it took me so long to try this place out!? BBQ joints are right up my alley. This restaurant is in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, not far from late night bar/where bad decisions are made/dance club Hangge Uppe and Chicago's Clark/Division Red Line Train.

I think the restaurant on the exterior looks like a little Greek white house, like what you'd see on the island of Santorini. It's very quint and surrounded by the Gold Coast high rises.

But enough about the exterior. I'll cut straight to the chase, and let you know the highlight of the meal was the carrot cake pancake I ordered as a side. It literally tastes like a carrot cake in pancake form - all you'd need is the cream cheese frosting and you'd be set! It's definitely sweet and could easily substitute as a dessert, so you should try the side version first before deciding if you could eat the carrot cake pancakes as an entree.

For my main dish, I chose the pulled chicken sandwich with fresh, fluffy honey butter cornbread. There was also a side of pink stuff on the plate, but I can't tell you what it was because I thought it looked like pink slimy worms and I didn't try it. The waiter brings out an assortment of barbecue sauces ranging from mild to hot that you can put on your sandwich, and honestly the mild sauce was amazing. It was a mildly sweet barbecue sauce, which paired perfectly with the sweet bun that housed the pulled chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed the sandwich, with the exception of one bite which tasted like chicken fat and I had to spit that piece out. However this was one of the better pulled chicken sandwiches that I've had in the city, so even with the fatty piece I still approve of this sandwich.

Chicago q also has unlimited mimosas for $20 until 3 pm, so if you're looking to extend your Sunday Funday this would be the place to do just that! I unfortunately had a commitment later in the afternoon that prevented me from doing unlimited mimosas, however I'm sure I'll be back to try this soon because there are a lot of menu items I still want to order!

  • If you enjoy carrot cake, then you must try the carrot cake pancake!
  • If this is your first time trying the carrot cake pancake, I'd recommend getting it as a side order to see if your sweet tolerance could potentially handle the pancakes as an entree
  • The pulled chicken sandwich was a good mix of a sweet bun and mild bbq sauce. Be mindful that the chicken may have a bit of excess fat on some pieces.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Kinder Happy Hippo Candy

I bet you are hungry for dessert or a snack, so if your grocery store has an international foods or an international candy section, check out Kinder Happy Hippo candy! I'm pretty sure the first time I tried this candy was in Europe, and I was ecstatic to see it sold in a pack at my local US grocery store.

It's a wafer shaped like a hippo, and filled with two types of cream filling. One of the fillings is milk-flavored, and the other is hazelnut-flavored. I'm a huge fan of Nutella, so if you feel the same way about Nutella as I do, you'll most likely enjoy this candy. Plus, I mean, come on. This candy is cute and shaped like a hippo, who wouldn't want to eat it!? It's also small, so if you have guilt eating dessert, you shouldn't fret about having this.

With that being said, it doesn't have a strong chocolate flavor so keep that in mind if you have a chocolate craving.

  • If you like the taste of hazelnut, try a Kinder Happy Hippo!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Chick-fil-A

I am a humongous fan of Chick-fil-A's food. Even before Chicago got a Chick-fil-A, I heard great things from multiple people who'd been to a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the southern United States. Honestly, I think my favorite part about Chick-fil-A, besides the taste of the food, is I don't feel completely gross and full after eating a meal there. It's probably because I'm eating chicken instead of a giant beef hamburger with slabs of bacon, a fried egg, and twenty different cheeses (I mean, that still sounds good, don't get me wrong).

Danielle's Dish recommends that you order the Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich for a lunch with lots of flavor, but it won't bog you down during the day and you won't feel like you need a nap right after. It's a piece of Chick-fil-A's famous grilled chicken topped with colby-jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato, all served on a multi-grain bun. If you think it sounds too healthy, trust me the addition of the bacon and cheese really makes the sandwich what it is. I'm pretty sure it comes with pickles too, but since the taste of pickle juice makes me cringe I always ask the cashier to please keep the pickles off. The sandwich also comes with a packet of this amazing honey mustard dressing that's more sweet than mustard-y, and it is a perfect combination with the chicken and the fluffy bun. Actually, if for some reason you have honey mustard dressing left over, you should use it for your waffle fries.

That gets me to the next best part about Chick-fil-A. The waffle fries. Why don't more fast food restaurants decide to include waffle-like fries as part of their fry selection? The waffles create a much better dipping mechanism so you actually get a decent amount of sauce on your fry. Note if you get a small-size waffle fry there won't be tons of waffle fries in the box because the fries are so big and the container is so small. So upgrade to the next bigger size to get more fries and more bang for your buck. Also you want to get PLENTY of Chick-fil-A sauce for your waffle fries. It's this mouth-watering combination of what I think is ketchup and honey mustard that once again isn't too mustard-y and you'll probably end up licking the entire container of sauce clean (disclaimer: Danielle's Dish may have licked sauce containers clean in the past).

  • For a meal that won't weigh you down during the day, head to Chick-fil-A and try the Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
  • Definitely order a side of waffle fries, and you MUST try the Chick-fil-A sauce with your meal

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: Blaze Pizza

There's a new-ish pizza joint that opened in Chicago - Blaze Pizza. I like to think of it as the Qdoba or Chipotle of pizza - because instead of building your own burrito, you build your own individual thin crust pizza! You go through the line with your pizza crust and you tell the nice person behind the counter what kind of toppings you want on your pizza. Then they bake the pizza in one of those awesome ovens where you actually see the fire, and then about 3-4 minutes later you get your pizza.

My story to get Blaze Pizza started when a new location opened in Chicago this past week. Apparently if you liked Blaze Pizza on Facebook, you got a free pizza on opening day at their new restaurant. Silly me, I thought no one would be in line for free pizza after work. Unfortunately the line was twice as long in the evening as it was during the lunch hours. I was still interested in trying out this new pizza concept, so I went to the second Chicago location that's been open for a few months on Belmont Avenue.

I decided to try the gluten-free pizza crust with the traditional sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, chicken, bacon, onions, green peppers, and garlic. This was my first time trying gluten-free crust, and I couldn't tell the difference between gluten-free crust and a regular pizza crust. Granted, I haven't tried Blaze's regular pizza crust, but the gluten-free crust definitely didn't taste any different than the normal pizza crusts I've had in the past.

It was a delicious pizza, don't get me wrong. It's great if you are with a group of friends and everyone wants something different on their pizza. I.e. you could make yourself an extra cheesy pizza or an extra meaty pizza if you really wanted (I'm pretty sure I counted 5 different cheeses you could get on your pizza)! That's probably why I'd go here again. However, I felt Blaze was a bit on the expensive side if you went with the build your own pizza option with multiple toppings (and price goes up if you add a gluten free crust or vegan cheese to the meal). I also wasn't completely full after the meal, hence why I maybe felt the price was a bit much. It's a better deal if you only wanted a 1 topping pizza or a simple mozzarella cheese pizza, but really who wants to do that when all those toppings are sitting right in front of you at the counter?

  • I recommend you try Blaze Pizza at least once for the experience! It is delicious, although I felt on the expensive side for what you get (it would be around $8 with Chicago tax for a regular crust pizza with multiple toppings, and add an additional $3 to that cost for a gluten free crust or an additional $2 for vegan cheese).
  • Great place for anyone who has food allergies, with Blaze's gluten-free crust option and vegan cheese!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Panda Express

Orange Chicken. Chow Mein. Those are the two menu items you must try at Panda Express! The best times to go to Panda Express include: when you want fried Chinese food from a fast food/chain restaurant, when you are hungover, when you want some Orange Chicken because you're craving the taste, or because you want some Chow Mein because you had it once before and it was fantastic.

I'm not going to lie to you and say any of this food tastes authentic. I got the Orange Chicken at a local Chicago Chinese restaurant and was surprised that the Orange Chicken actually tasted like oranges! Actually, a coworker got the beef from Panda Express and the beef tasted almost exactly like the chicken so I can't tell you what's going on there. All I can say is, it's fried goodness and I'll probably be going there for lunch again tomorrow.

  • If you are in the mood for some fast food Chinese food, come to Panda Express and you won't be disappointed! Especially if you order the Orange Chicken and Chow Mein.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Food News Fridays - 5/2/2014

Your favorite day of the week is BACK! It's all the food news you may have missed during the week, and you can get caught up on it right here on Danielle's Dish!

Review: Houlihan's Breakfast Buffet

If you have a Houlihan's in your town, I recommend you stop by their breakfast buffet! At the Chicago location I went to, the buffet only cost $9.99 (not including beverages) and lasts until noon on Saturdays and Sundays. This is a steal compared to other breakfast buffets I've been to in the city.

You'll find scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, french toast, fruit, yogurt, pastries, cereal, and an omelet station where a chef will make you a customized omelet. The omelet was by far my favorite part of the whole experience.

All in all, the buffet's delicious and gets the job done, but like most buffets it's not the highest quality food. However for $9.99, I thought it was as good of quality as any breakfast buffet I've been to before. Houlihan's also only serves breakfast food at the buffet, so if there's anyone in your party who's looking for a burger or sandwich, you'd need to order it off the menu.

  • If you're looking for a cheap brunch, head to Houlihan's and get your fill on breakfast food!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Rocks Chicago 1/2 Price Burger Wednesdays

I am a HUGE fan of Rocks, with locations in Lincoln Park and Lakeview in Chicago. I'd say it's a bar/restaurant hybrid, with delicious food yet also late night hours.

The Lincoln Park location has a patio to drink outside during the summer, or if you are in Lakeview you can sit on their sidewalk seating if you want to enjoy the weather. The Lakeview location was renovated this past winter, and now the indoor seating centers around a giant bar with a lit-up display of liquor bottles. It's pretty cool if you ask me, plus now it makes me want to hang out there late at night since the place centers around the bar.

If you're in a slump during the middle of the work week, you're in luck! Rocks in Lincoln Park and Lakeview both offer a Wednesday special where all burgers are 1/2 price (all burgers come with a choice of side). This used to only be a Wednesday special in Lincoln Park, but Rocks Lakeview started including the 1/2 off burger deal as well after they re-opened after the renovation! So now your hardest choice after choosing a Rocks location is, which burger should I eat?!

My favorite burger is The "Red Eye," which is topped with an egg over easy, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle, and sandwiched between a soft pretzel bun. By the way, since the renovation, I noticed the pretzel buns are even softer than they were previously, so I encourage you to order anything on the menu with a pretzel bun.

My favorite side used to be fries tossed in buffalo sauce, with ranch dressing on the side (although the fries would get soggy from the buffalo sauce). My friend had this AWESOME idea to get tater tots tossed in buffalo sauce, and after I tried it I realized it's AMAZING since the tots are a lot crispier than the fries. So now that's definitely my go-to side. And who am I kidding, I do not like soggy things, especially soggy fries.

My one word of warning, be careful if you come in during a Chicago sports game. Last time I came in, the Blackhawks game was too loud on the TVs and my group of friends and I could barely hear one another when we tried talking.

  • Come to Rocks for 1/2 price burgers on Wednesdays. It's a fantastic deal and they're actually delicious burgers.
  • Actually, you should probably come to Rocks anytime anyway - except maybe not during a Chicago sports game if you want to talk to people.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Public House Chicago

Public House Chicago is one of those places that has a restaurant-like feel during the day, but at night it apparently gets crowded with the late night bar scene. I'll be honest, I've only ever been at Public House for the food and never late at night to drink - so this review pertains to their food I had at lunch. Word for the wise: many tables were filled when I arrived, so if you have a big group or even a client lunch, I recommend calling ahead and reserving a table.

I started by having their fried Wisconsin cheese curds (cheese and fried things are my two weaknesses). The curds were surrounded by a soft, breaded outer shell and accompanied with marinara and ranch-like dipping sauces. I'm actually not convinced the second sauce was ranch because it didn't leave a strong taste in my mouth like ranch dressing does, but I liked it and would ask for it on a burger or sandwich. I was very satisfied with the curds, although a bit greasy. They were perfect having been out the night before.

For my main course, I ordered the fried chicken sandwich, which had american cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a "special sauce." This is where I went wrong - I assumed in my head that the special sauce would taste similar to McDonald's sauce, since pretty much every other place that has a special sauce mimics McDonald's Big Mac sauce. Alas, this special sauce tasted like what I thought was Frank's Red Hot sauce, and I was not having it. I like Frank's, don't get me wrong, but I have to be in the mood for a buffalo sauce. So with that being said, I managed to eat half of the chicken sandwich, still feeling bitter that the special sauce wasn't so special.

I ordered the parmesan-garlic fries as my side. They were a good mix of parmesan and garlic where I didn't feel my breath was so garlicky that I needed a piece of gum right after the meal. You can also see the parmesan cheese on the fries when they come out, which I like the reassurance that the cheese is actually on my food.

  • Order some cheese curds as a starter
  • Only order the fried chicken sandwich if you like the taste of Frank's Red Hot sauce, otherwise ask the waitress to leave the special sauce off
  • Get parmesan-garlic fries instead of standard fries if you want to add a kick to your french fries

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: KFC Double Down

KFC brought the Double Down back on the menu starting April 21st, 2014. The Double Down, if you haven't heard, is melted cheese, bacon, and a sauce my taste buds could not identify, all sandwiched between two breaded chicken patties. Since I hadn't tried it when it launched in 2010, I thought, what better time than the present!

After spending $5.94 and waiting 7 minutes to try this infamous sandwich made with chicken patties instead of bread, I was ultimately aghast by the money and time I wasted.

It wasn't a sandwich, really. There wasn't enough bacon and cheese smashed between the patties to call it a sandwich. It was more like, let's spread a thin layer of bacon, cheese, and a strange sauce between two patties and expect someone to eat it like a sandwich, even though you should probably eat both pieces of chicken separately - using the bacon, cheese and sauce like a dip or seasoning.

  • Only try the Double Down for the sake of saying you ate a sandwich which has a lot of controversy surrounding its nutritional content. Otherwise please take you time and money elsewhere - or order something - anything else, really - from the KFC menu.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Olive Garden

I loved Olive Garden as a child (and still to this day!) - I mean, who doesn't enjoy the breadsticks, the raspberry lemonade, the spaghetti, and the mint chocolates at the end of the meal? At one time I was so picky I didn't even eat the salad, but I've grown to love the salad and breadsticks and I'm proud to say it's my favorite part of the Olive Garden experience.

I'm sure many of you have gone to Olive Garden and tried the foods I ate when I was there this past Thursday, however I'd like to provide my commentary so you know exactly what goes through my head as I'm chowing down on that one last breadstick, or forkful of salad, or spoonful of pasta.

To start with the salad - always order the classic garden fresh salad with the Italian dressing, and ask your waitress to put freshly grated cheese on top of the salad. It's Olive Garden's Italian salad dressing, which I am sure is not in the least bit healthy, that really makes the salad an Olive Garden salad.

Since the breadsticks come out with the salad, I recommend having 1 breadstick with the salad, and then waiting to have a second or third breadstick once your entree comes (hopefully you order an entree with a tomato or cheese sauce). Because guess what. Dipping the breadstick in your pasta's sauce is the best thing EVER!

For the main dish I decided to try something I'd never tried before - and I chose the Tour of Italy. For a little over $17.00, I got myself a portion of lasagna, fettuccine alfredo, and chicken parmesan. The lasagna had what I thought was ricotta cheese in it (or whatever cheese it was, I definitely liked it!) and the portion of fettuccine alfredo was the perfect size for 1 person. Unfortunately I've seen others struggle to eat an entire entree of fettuccine alfredo themselves, and it hasn't ended well and sadly fettuccine alfredo doesn't keep well as leftovers. The most disappointing part of the Tour was the chicken parmesan. It was a thinly breaded chicken breast that didn't have much flavor. The majority of the flavor came from the tomato sauce and cheese that covered the top of the chicken. I would have been so sad if I'd just ordered chicken parmesan as my entree, so be warned if you are a chicken fan.

Olive Garden did have some newer menu options this time around. They had small plate appetizers if you want a starter but not a ton of food. They also offer a build-your-own pasta option, where you choose the noodles and sauce for your entree, as well as any extras like meatballs. Olive Garden also offers lower calorie entrees, as well as gluten free pasta if that's up your alley!

  • Always order salad and breadsticks
  • Don't order the chicken parmesan under any circumstances

Friday, April 25, 2014

Food News Fridays - 4/25/2014

This new weekly series helps you get caught up on food and chain restaurant news just like I do! This also comes in handy because everyone knows what fast food and chain restaurants are, and can hopefully relate to the excitement of this information (like the new Taco Bell fast food concept being a BIG DEAL).

Here are some of the biggest stories from this week:

McDonald's own Ronald McDonald goes through a makeover

The makers of Taco Bell create a Mexican fast food concept that caters to foodies (who's coming to Huntington Beach with me?!)

America apparently loves fast food breakfast - and uses creativity to come up with breakfast menu options

Man rides camel through Burger King drive-thru to pick up meal

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Bub City vs. PorkChop Mac and Cheese

I’m excited to announce I had Mac and Cheese twice in one day at two separate Chicago eateries! To further illustrate my love for this cheesy, noodle-y side dish/entrĂ©e, I'm that person who wishes I could eat Mac and Cheese at every meal! If you also fancy a piping hot dish of creamy Mac and Cheese, and you are in the Chicago area, here’s my take on two different Mac and Cheeses.
The first Mac and Cheese I had was at Bub City**, a country/barbecue joint in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. I ordered the Baby Back Mac, which is Bub City’s original Mac and Cheese with chopped, barbecued baby back rib meat and topped with melted cheese and green onions. The dish also came with poblano peppers but since I have a low spice tolerance I told the waiter to leave those out – be warned if you don’t like spice either.
My initial reaction was that the Mac and Cheese itself (i.e. just the cheese and the noodles) is something I’d order again – it had the right amount of cheese and creaminess. They must bake it in the oven because it comes in a little cast iron serving dish. 

However, the Baby Back Mac to me was a man’s Mac and Cheese – and by that, I mean I live with a man who thinks every meal should include at least one meat dish. This Mac and Cheese was too meaty. Every bite included a piece of the baby back rib meat, and honestly I savored the bites that did not include baby back rib pieces. I wish I’d ordered baby back ribs separately, and then ordered a side of the original Mac and Cheese (Bub City calls it Pheobe’s Classic Mac if you're looking on their menu).
**Note: Bub City is a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, and I encourage you to check out the Lettuce Entertain You Web site if you want delicious restaurant recommendations in Chicago!
The second Mac and Cheese I had was at PorkChop, a bar/restaurant in Chicago's West side known for its barbecue. Great spot to go before heading to a Bulls or Blackhawks game!

At first glance, it looks like the cheesiest, gooiest Mac and Cheese EVER! However, this was not the case when I sunk my teeth into the first spoonful. Why, do you ask?

We ordered the Mac and Cheese as an appetizer for a group, but unfortunately the appetizers were brought out without plates and silverware. By the time we got our utensils, it had been 5-10 minutes that the Mac was sitting out, and unfortunately the cheese dried onto the noodles and it lost its cheesy consistency.

PorkChop, I’ve had great experiences with you and your Mac and Cheese in the past, but please bring out the essentials with your appetizers (i.e. plates and spoons) and this will help customers enjoy your food while it’s still hot!
  • If you’re looking for and craving a meaty Mac and Cheese, try Bub City’s Baby Back Mac
  • If meaty Mac isn’t your style, try Bub City’s Phoebe’s Classic Mac (no meat, just cheese and noodles).
  • I’ve had positive experiences with PorkChop’s Mac and Cheese before, but this last experience left me eating noodles with dried-up cheese.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: Bakers Square Honey Mustard Club Pita and Pie

I’ll be the first to admit I’d never been in a Bakers Square until the afternoon of Saturday, April 19th. We didn’t have Bakers Square (known for its baked goods) where I grew up, but I always got my dessert fix at our local Perkins. My co-worker, who also used to work at a Bakers Square, provided me with this restaurant recommendation last week and it did not disappoint (thank you Lisa!). She summed it up best by saying, “Casual Dining at its Finest - Bakers Square.” 
For those of you who’ve been to a Perkins before, Bakers Square is a similar setup. There are pies/baked goods in a case by the entrance, breakfast is served all day, and at the end of your meal the waitress hands you a check and you pay at a register which is conveniently located next to all of the pies. So if you didn’t already get a slice of pie with your meal, you will probably walk out of the restaurant with a pie anyway because who can resist staring at the French Silk Pie when you’re trying to pay your bill. And yes, I did order a slice of pie with my meal AND walk out of the restaurant with a whole pie.
Upon recommendation I ordered the Honey Mustard Club Pita, which is a fluffy, warm pita stuffed with bacon, carved turkey, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, and Swiss cheese, all melted and topped with Honey Mustard dressing and served with a pile of hot, golden french fries. Words can’t describe how filled this pita was - they aren’t messing around at Bakers Square and pictures say 1,000 words (or something like that).

I thoroughly enjoyed this pita, and wouldn’t hesitate to eat it again if I found myself at a Bakers Square. The drizzling of Honey Mustard dressing added a unique flavor to the pita sandwich. If you’ve had Chik-fil-A sauce, the Honey Mustard dressing was just as good - if not better. Actually, if they sold a jar of this stuff, I would have probably taken some home and used french fries, tater tots, chicken nuggets, burgers, bread, crackers, chips, etc. as dipping mechanisms for the Honey Mustard. However please note: if you aren’t a huge ham fan, I’d recommend asking for the pita without the ham. It was ham from the deli and not carved ham (like the carved turkey that came on my pita) and I didn’t understand why they didn’t stick with the symmetry of carved meats. When the waitress took my plate away, only the deli ham remained. Rest in peace deli ham, rest in peace.
Of course being at Bakers Square, I had to end my meal with a slice of pie. I tried a slice of OREO® Cookie Crunch and OH MAN. It literally TASTES LIKE OREO® COOKIE IN PIE FORM! There was a fluffy silk middle layer that tasted like the frosting, which was sandwiched between an upper and lower crust which had the same taste and consistency of a chocolaty cookie.

You may have noticed earlier that I said I also walked out of the restaurant with a whole pie. I got the French Apple pie for Easter Dinner, which brought me back to childhood with its apple crisp-like crust and sugary coating. These guys really know how to make their pies, and they make them well.
  • Order the Honey Mustard Club Pita without the ham
  • Ask for extra Honey Mustard dressing because you are probably going to want it
  • Get a slice of pie. Or a whole pie. No matter what you get from their bakery section I’m highly doubting you’ll go wrong. If you think otherwise, shoot me a note because I unfortunately did not have enough stomach space to try every pie.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Birthday Cake M&M's

Unfortunately all I can say is no. If you are in the mood for M&M's, I advise you to stay away from the Birthday Cake variety! The initial bite tasted like chocolate, but the end result was the fake taste of birthday cake that I had stuck in my mouth for the next hour. I have nothing against M&M's in general and love all the other flavors, but this one didn’t do it for me.

If you have a friend who wants to try these, suggest to them to bake a Funfetti cake with chocolate frosting, and that should give them the chocolate and birthday cake taste they desire.
  • Stay away from Birthday Cake M&M's.
  • Eat the Plain ones, Peanut ones, Peanut Butter ones, or even the Pretzel M&M's instead!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Qdoba Queso

Sometimes when I leave work, the bar, the mall, my house, etc., I crave a meal with Qdoba queso. Maybe it’s because my second apartment in the City was near this beloved Mexican fast food establishment. I’ll always stay true to Qdoba’s original 3-Cheese Queso, but when I found out Qdoba was offering a limited time Queso Verde and a Queso Diablo I had to check it out!
Qdoba actually offers a “queso sampler” for those like me who are interested in trying these foreign queso flavors.
Also, let me preface that my spice tolerance only goes as high as eating a Taco Bell Mild sauce.
When I first tried the Queso Diablo and felt fire in my mouth, I wasn’t surprised as the kind woman scooping out my Qdoba warned that it was spicy. However, the Queso Diablo DOES have a smoky flavor to it instead of cheese - like if you had decided to put your mouth over a fire pit and inhale the smoke. I do not recommend eating Queso Diablo or putting your mouth in a fire.
My lunch partner, however, had the brilliant idea of asking for a cup of half Queso Diablo and half 3-Cheese Queso. We mixed it up and it tasted like 3-Cheese Queso with a hint of spiciness and smokiness (but much more enjoyable than if we’d had Queso Diablo by itself). It was about as spicy as a Taco Bell Mild sauce so much more doable to eat. I would only recommend ordering this if you want chips and queso and are looking for a slight spicy kick to your queso (which will still taste like queso).
Queso Verde reminded me of when parents try to sneak vegetables into not so healthy foods to get kids to eat healthier. I cannot confirm or deny that there are actual veggies in Queso Verde, but it tasted like vegetable cheese to my taste buds. I’m also not a fan of green salsas or the Taco Bell Border Salsa Verde, so potentially if you are a green salsa fan this might be a fit. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me.
If you still want to try Queso Diablo and Queso Verde even after my review, get to Qdoba before May 4th because after that it’s gone! Not to worry, they will continue to sell the famous 3-Cheese Queso we all know and love.
If you do head to Qdoba, I recommend signing up for Qdoba Rewards where you get free chips and salsa or a regular drink just for signing up. Every time you order a meal, you are on your way to earning rewards points that add up TO more free Qdoba!
  • Do not order Queso Diablo unless you like really spicy food and a strong smoky flavor to your cheese
  • Do not order Queso Verde unless you like cheese that tastes like vegetables, or you have an affinity for green salsas
  • Do order half Queso Diablo and half 3-Cheese Queso if you want a spicy kick to your chips and queso
  • Do ALWAYS order 3-Cheese Queso because it is the best ever