Eating Out

July 02, 2008

Dining out with kids

Max's trademark "Big Smile"With a name like Foodmomiac, it should not surprise any of you to learn that my husband and I love eating out at restaurants. Before we had kids, we ate out a LOT. This included weekend breakfast (often both days) and dinners out both Friday and Saturday. When I was a restaurant reviewer in Ann Arbor, we were out more than that, and at one point, I remember thinking that eating out was a chore. Ha ha ha. I should have tried throwing two active kids into the mix. Now THAT's a chore!!

As I've written about elsewhere, my husband and I manage to sneak in a date nearly every Saturday. Friday nights, though, are reserved for family, and it is often quite challenging! My kids are now 6.5 and almost 3, and they definitely don't behave well all of the time. However, the following tips have certainly helped us enjoy our family nights out a bit more:

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April 13, 2008

Ma Village, Let Me Show You It


Recently, CityMama wrote an ode to her small city, waxing poetic about all of reasons she is so content and happy to be living there. Well, the weather in early April in Chicago doesn't come close to matching the weather she has in the Silicon Valley, but in an effort to get myself through these last chilly days, I thought I'd talk a little bit about all of the reasons that I DO love living where I do, which is the city neighborhood of Roscoe Village. Many of my fellow Chicago Mom Bloggers are in the suburbs, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Heck, I grew up in the suburbs! But, I love the city lifestyle, and being in Roscoe Village offers the best of all worlds. Here's why:

Continue reading "Ma Village, Let Me Show You It " »

January 14, 2008

No designs on being Julia Child

J0237684 Mommy guilt manifests itself in many ways. For me, one of the biggest is at dinner time.

Cooking has never been my cup of tea. It always seemed more of a chore than anything else. My mom often worked second shift, thus many a day she left work by the time we were getting out of school. My dad would be home soon after and by the time I was 12, cooking dinner was part of me pulling my weight. My younger sister throughly enjoyed seeing me struggle with cooking. Her perfect older sister couldn't make rice? Ha!

During the decade I spent child-free after leaving my parents home, I did some cooking, but rarely attempted to do more than easy pasta dishes occasionally adding chicken. When I got pregnant I thought that I'd be better. We'd eat balanced meals including more vegetables. I have to say that compared to our child-free days, I'm doing better. But not good enough.

Continue reading "No designs on being Julia Child" »

December 05, 2007

You can't light 'em if you got 'em!

Duke_logo_2 I have been looking forward to January 1, 2008 for a long time. How long? Since the smoking ban was announced a few years ago. Sure, Indiana is mocking us for passing it, but that's Indiana. I don't go out gambling very often anyway. BUT the times that I have gone, I've stuck with the non-smoking floor, which isn't as exciting as the smoking floor. So that blows a small hole in the theory that non-smoking floors are dead because you can't smoke. Um, no...why not put a craps table down there too?

But this isn't about gambling. This is about EATING OUT! I can NOT wait until one Wednesday night when we don't want to cook and think, "Oh, Duke of Perth would be perfect!" and we won't have to try to get in there early before the mob of smokers descend  on the place. 

Continue reading "You can't light 'em if you got 'em! " »

September 19, 2007

Amen, Sister!

After reading Stephanie Fosnight's column in the Pioneer Press on restaurant-going with autistic kids, I sent her an email response.

I have two, count 'em, two such children. Eating out is one pleasure I would not forgo when we adopted the twins over ten years ago. I have found that other diners do not care to be involved in a social experiment and prefer that families with disabled children just stay home . . . for the next twenty years.

The onus is on us parents to make the trip successful.  I have been doing this for twelve years, so I have developed a few tricks:

-Go early, so that the restaurant is not too crowded and

Continue reading "Amen, Sister! " »

August 28, 2007

Bringing Families Back to the Table

  Originally uploaded by Foodmomiac

Last night, we gathered up the family (including our au pair Paty, the newest member), and headed to a big event at Crust: Eat Real. Crust is the first certified organic restaurant in the Midwest, and we had wanted to try it for a while. This event was the perfect opportunity.

The evening was a fundraiser for an organization called Purple Asparagus. Here is the mission of Purple Asparagus:

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August 12, 2007

Who said the suburbs aren't fun?

Promenadebolingbrook1 The husband, child and I went to this brand new shopping district today called The Promenade Bolingbrook located in Bolingbrook off of I-355 (right near Ikea).  It is nothing short of AMAZING.  No longer will we be sitting inside on these hot, hot summer days.  The Promenade Bolingbrook is an outdoor shopping area that is laid out like a little town.  It has streets running through it and a TON of shops like Janie and Jack and J.Jill.  It has some restaurants new to the area like Gordon Biersch Brewery (who provided us with exceptional service) and Teds Montana Grill.  The best part of this place for summer, however, is the children's play area.  It has fountains spouting up from the ground and the surface is nice and cushy, so there is no fear of your child getting really hurt if they fall.  The area is somewhat enclosed and loaded with benches.  Finally!  Somewhere different for parents AND kids.  Then, if all of that wasn't enough, I come to find that there is an INCREDIBLE family area!  It's inside and air conditioned.  There are couches and tables and toys for the kids, very large changing stations and even PRIVATE NURSING AREAS!  That's right, your own little room with a swanky recliner and a door.  Seriously, did a woman design this place?  But honestly, I couldn't have been more excited to be here.    I'm slapping myself silly that I haven't visited The Promenade before today.  The center just recently opened at the end of April and hasn't even had their grand opening yet.

The Promenade also has a stage for concerts and special events planned each month.  I'll be taking Hailey this week to meet Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Clifford, the big red dog, for story time.

Check out their website and have fun rolling your cursor over "Kara" on the main page.  You can make her eyes roll.  Yeah, the Chicago heat is definitely getting to me.

August 10, 2007

Choo-Choo! All aboard the newest Whole Foods

Whole_foods_2August 8th ushered in a new Whole Foods in Chicago's South Loop. It's just a few minutes from my office and many of us were eagerly counting down the days. When I walked in, I was floored! The angels sang and my recyclable tote bag was hungry for new items. I went back today to get photos and more details, but alas, corporate rules prohibit such fan girl antics. I am hoping that their regional media folks will grant me a personal tour. But here are my thoughts from memory!

Continue reading "Choo-Choo! All aboard the newest Whole Foods" »

August 09, 2007

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Ice Cream!

072907_006b_2 OK.  Maybe "WE" don't all scream for ice cream...  but I'm convinced that instead of "mama" or "dada", the first words I ever uttered were "soft serve".  I think I can actually time line my life to date in ice cream scoops.

When I was a kid, nothing on earth could coax me away from the brisk shower of an open fire hydrant in the height of summer.  Nothing except the tinny jangle of bells from a paleta cart or the warped music box melody from an ice cream truck.  I was a mere puppy to their Pavlov.  My favorite paleta flavor was and is coconut.  For some reason, all the other kids, complained about the bits of coconut in the paleta, but that's exactly why I LOVED them.  I always wonder if they're still $.50.  I'll never forget begging - and i mean BEGGING - my mother for enough change to make a $1 to savor some ice cold, soft serve, chocolate-vanilla twist (nestled deep in a crisp wafer cone).  It never ceases to amaze and depress me that to introduce my own children to these two nomadic dessert novelties, I will actually have to leave the Beverly neighborhood's environs, since here they are both banned.  I sh*t thee not.

Whenever I missed the paleta or ice cream truck man (and yes, he was always a man and even as a child, I thought it was very sexist.  I would've made a GREAT ice cream vendor), I'd explain to my mother, with sophisticated drama and emotion, the devastation and horror of that traumatic fact.

Eventually, she'd give in and walk me to one of two places - the Walgreen's or the Baskin-Robbins.  Does anyone else (besides my mom) remember when some of the Walgreen's stores actually had soda fountains and diner food? I was always assured a scoop of french vanilla, a dollop of paper white whipped cream and a cherry on top of that.  The Baskin Robbins offered (and still offers) amongst it's 31 flavors - Bubble Gum ice cream, which was basically vanilla with teeny tiny, square, multi-colored chiclets in it (now, the ice cream is bubble gum flavored).  I really didn't like that ice cream at all, but I would always order it because for some reason that was the trendy ice cream that all the COOL 7 year old hipsters were devouring. 

As I got a little older, I got invited to birthday parties at Zephyr Cafe and Margie's Candies (which I heard opened a new location on Montrose).  At Zephyr's, the fate temping parents of the birthday celebrant would ALWAYS order the "War of the Worlds" - a dessert (?) consisting of 30 scoops of ice cream and basically the contents of every jar of dry or liquid topping they had in the building.  A similar dessert was also offered at Margie's called the Royal George - a 25 scooper. I can hear the parent's internal negotiation now, "Sugar High/Crash?  They'll sleep it off!  Cavities?  They're baby teeth anyway!  Viral Meningitis?  It'll boost their immune systems!"  Usually, my mother was around to steer me clear of those beasts and to "smaller" sundaes like my favorite turtle sundae at Margie's - which is still almost the size of my head.

When we moved to a nearby suburb for better high school options, I frequented the Sugar Bowl for old fashioned banana splits and vanilla cokes, Swensen's for birthday parties, and the original Ben and Jerry's on Armitage for special trips back in the city to visit friends. 

After graduating college, I hiked around Spain for a while and I'll never forget sharing my first scoop of Haagen-Dazs ice cream with a handsome Spanish goth boy in the Barcelona shop.  Shortly thereafter, I moved to San Francisco where I shared other kinds of scoops with other kinds of handsome boys at Double Rainbow (which opened a Chicago location shortly after we moved back!), Fenton's and Ghiradelli.

Today, the kids, the thin man and I "frequent" our local parlors (especially since my old school parlors - except for Margie's - are all gone) - Oberweis (I try to ignore his politics), Coldstone Creamery and Original Rainbow Cone (when there isn't a line around the block).  I hear a whole new line up of parlors have sprouted up on the north side to replace the old ones, like Australian, Sweet Occasions, Bobtail and Village Creamery (which has Filipino flavors like Buko, Jackfruit and Halo Halo!).  And happily, I have the rest of the summer to check them all out - again and again and again!  ;)

July 24, 2007

Chicago: A Virtual Tour

                                   xxxxxx                                                                       Blogher 866649040_066da225b0_m_2

Selfmademom has already provided our readers with many excellent suggestions about what to do in Chicago while visitng our wonderful city during BlogHer.  I am now prepared to supplement that information with a virtual tour of a weekend downtown!

My husband and I stayed in the Loop this weekend as a treat for ourselves because we haven't had a night  out of the house together since our almost-3-year-old was born as a public service to you all who are coming to Chicago for BlogHer this week!  My husband magically turned some air miles into a reservation for a suite at the lovely Renaissance Chicago Hotel [I knew there just had to be a silver lining to all that business travel he does] and my in-laws wanted to take the kids for the weekend, so we hopped onto Lake Shore Drive and in a mere 20 minutes became eager tourists in our own new city. 

And let me tell you, visitors to Chicago are in for a huge treat - my only problem with this city is that there is far too much to do.  How do we choose?  Here's what we came up with:

Day One

1. As soon as we checked into our hotel mid-day on Saturday, we talked to the concierge about getting tickets for a riverboat tour - there is no better way to be wowed by this city!  There are a couple of choices, but we were able to get last-minute tickets on Chicago Line Cruises Architecture and Historical Cruises.  We spent an hour and a half out on the water, and the views of the skyscrapers were heart-stopping.  I've always paid more attention to Lake Michigan, but now I get it: we are really lucky to have the Chicago River running through our city. Despite the fact that our particular docent appeared to have taken diction lessons from Marge Simpson, we enjoyed our tour immensely.  A tip: arrive early to get seats up on the deck!

2.  On the way over to the river cruise, we made a stop at HotTix for some half-priced tickets to a show that evening.  We were hoping to get in to see Wicked, but alas, it was sold out.  However, we were able to get tickets to a very good show at the Steppenwolf Theater, a venue I've been dying to get to since moving here.  There were tickets to many shows still available in the early afternoon, including some other excellent theaters.

And, for the record, it just so happens that HotTix is located directly across the street from Ann Taylor Loft - which is having an excellent sale so that we can buy new clothes before BlogHer they can clear out summer clothes - and Intelligentsia, the best coffee shop in Chicago! [And if you can get a good-looking guy to hold your coffee for you while you shop, all the better!]

3. After the riverboat cruise and a stroll along the River Walk, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our night out. It's a quick cab ride ($8) over to Steppenwolf, which is in Lincoln Park.  We recommend dinner at Vinci, an excellent Italian restaurant, which is just down the block from Steppenwolf on Halstead.  The Vegetarian Plate was delicious!  We needed reservations, but made them that afternoon without a problem.  I would suggest taking advantage of the outdoor seating on a summer night.

4.  We took another cab back to the hotel, enduring the most harrowing ride of our lives.  We were both nauseated when we got out.  Not only did we not tip this driver, but we told the group that was eager to jump in upon our arrival to wait for another one.  Then we ran.

Day Two

1. We lounged around the hotel room for hours.  Sleeping in, room service, blogging reading the relaxation.  As my husband pointed out, just having 5 quiet minutes is relaxing when you have young children - so having a day and a half all to ourselves was divine.

2. Back to Intelligentsia by way of Border's for reading material.  I made that stop at Ann Taylor Loft that I'd been dying for since yesterday, and found some great bargains! 

3.  We walked over to Millennium Park, bought a picnic lunch in the Cafe there, and strolled over to the magnificent Pritzker Pavillion to eat on the lawn.  Live music, lots of families...there's always something great going on here, and don't forget to check out the Crown Fountain!  Here's the schedule of events.

4.  From Millennium Park, it's a short walk over to the Art Institute of Chicago - and wow, is it worth seeing.  This is a world-class museum, and we loved both the classic Impressionist art and the incredible modern art, especially the photography.  There's an especially impressive exhibit by Jeff Wall going on right now.  The outdoor cafe at the museum is excellent and I've heard that the indoor cafe is also a treat.

In the late afternoon, we got back in the car and headed home to relieve my wonderful in-laws.  It's remarkable how, in these child-raising years, a day and a half away can be all that's needed to feel refreshed and like a sane adult again.  (Equally amazing is that it's possible to do so much in such a short time when you're in Chicago without your kids!)

I feel so lucky to live in this magnificent city, and truly hope that all you visitors enjoy it!

July 16, 2007

The scoop on what to do in Chicago during BlogHer 2007

chicagoskyline.jpgConsidering I live in the host city of the 2007 BlogHer conference, and I blog with many fine Chicago mommies on this site, I thought it was my our duty to share with all visitors some things to see or do in the city outside of meeting our favorite bloggers and partying it up. I even recruited a few friends to help expand my short and narrow-minded list. Trust me, we're better than any concierge at the W.

Sadly, my hubby nixed the idea that I camp downtown Chicago for the weekend. Boo.  But, if you are so lucky to be staying just off the Magnificent Mile, you might just enjoy the following in the Windy City.  (I personally believe the nickname is derived from politics, not by the strong winds off Oak St.  Just be glad you're not visiting us in December!)

Eating Out: Why watch what you eat? You're going to be hanging out with all women for the weekend, anyway.

  • Pizza-  Although I prefer New York Style pies, many like Chicago-style pizza, with its oddly square-cut pieces that leave you with only a few crust options and center pieces of all cheese. But I digress.  Some choices for the 'za: Giordano's, (Rush St. location), Lou Malnati's, or Gino's East (East Superior location).  I like Lou Malnati's the best, but you'll have to take a cab. The deep-dish pepperoni pie just might be worth it, though.
  • Quick bite or snack- My friends at the Chicagoist turned me onto this neat little market off the Mag Mile called L'Appetito.  Seriously, the sandwiches rock.  And they won't cost as much as the peanuts from your snack bar.
  • For the serious foodie in you - Head on over to Randolph St.  A short short cab ride away will offer you 3 consecutive blocks of some of the best eats in the city.  I'm partial to the sushi at Sushi Wabi.  But I realize that if you're flying in from California, you're probably laughing at the idea of sushi in Chicago.  So go to Red Light or Avec instead. Your stomach will thank me.

Out and About: You don't have any kids with you... steal away for a few!

  • Millenium Park- Everyone was skeptical when Millenium Park was built, but even the harshest critics were proven wrong. This free, 24.5 acre park has some of the coolest outdoor art I've ever seen.  And a free 8 a.m. exercise class will help you burn off all that great food you ate.  For more information about what to do at Millenium Park, read Kim's great round-up.
  • Lincoln Park - I know it's like so cliche Chicago and all, but really, this park is 'da bomb. There's a free zoo, (petting zoo too!) a beach and conservatory.  And, oh yeah, every Saturday morning there's a fresh "Green City" market.  (It opens at 7:00 a.m. so you have no excuse!)
  • Architectural Tour - Chicago's got some of the best architecture around, and the best way to see it is from our beloved river.  Take one of these river tours because it gives you the prettiest (and most relaxing) view of the incredible Chicago skyline.  You could take a walking tour instead, but well, I'm feeling too lazy right now to recommend that one.
  • Navy Pier /Lakeshore Drive - Oh right, most of you are staying right next to this quintessential Chicago landmark and wonderful walking/ bike path. If you can break away from all the great speakers for a moment or two, tour around the Navy Pier grounds, ride the ferris wheel or rent a bike.  The view of the pier is great from any angle!
  • Be like the paparazzi - If you don't have time to do any sightseeing, the ladies at Cool Mom Picks are giving incentive to stalk out your favorite bloggers at the conference. Go on a BlogHer scavenger photo hunt and earn points to win cool stuff.

Shopping: You would all be lying if you didn't want to do a little shopping while you're all alone in the nation's third largest metropolis.  Unfortunately, we don't have that cool "no sales tax thing" that New York City does, but we do have some good places to get some great duds.  Trust me. I like to shop. A lot.

  • State Street - Believe it or not, State Street between Wacker and Madison has some of the best discount shopping in any 4-block radius I've seen.  Besides checking out the summer sales going on at our beloved Marshall Fields, er, Macy's flagship store, you're just a stone's throw from Nordstrom's Rack, Filene's Basement and H&M.  You didn't come all the way to Chicago to go boutique shopping, right?
  • Oak St. - If you're hitting it rich from your blog, you can probably afford to buy a thing or two at one of the chic boutiques on this famous Chicago shopping block just off the Mag Mile.  I'm not yet, so I just go down there and drool over the diamonds in the window at Graff. (I wonder how many more click-throughs I'll need for that canary yellow one?)
  • Boutiques - Unfortunately, most of the good boutiques in Chicago are a cab ride away.  But if you're in need, check out Wicker Park (stretch of Division St. near Damen Ave.) or Armitage Ave. between Sheffield and Halsted streets.  Lori's Shoes is still my favorite place to shop in the city.  Even if it's worse than O'Hare's security lines on a Saturday.

Most of all, enjoy the conference and your visit to our wonderful city!

Sara also blogs at Self-Made Mom.

July 10, 2007

Super Taster

Kim_postOn the children's CD NO put out by They Might Be Giants there's a song about John Lee, super taster, a real-life superhero. A man who can't drink coffee or beer for their bitter tastes, but loves sweet treats like ice cream and pie. "John Lee, super taster, tastes more than you do. Everything has a flavor, some flavors are too much." I instantly recognized myself in the song. I am a super taster! As such, I'm very sensitive to strong, bitter tastes and even the slightest hint of hot spices can set me off.

Granted, I come from a home in which the most exotic spice to grace our food was sea salt. When I was in college and overheard some in the dorm cafe ask for pepper, I was stunned. I always thought pepper was on the table just to keep salt company. In my 18 years, I'd never actually seen anyone use it.

Ultimately, my sensitivity to spices is an unfortunate combination of nature and nurture. Unfortunate because DH loves spicy food. On our second date he took me for some exotic cuisine. It was hot and spicy and I couldn't handle it after about two bites. DH was incredibly disappointed in my lack of fortitude; I didn't sleep with him that night either. Frankly, I'm not sure why he even asked me out again.

The other day our family had a lovely trip to Devon Avenue and stopped to eat at Indian Garden. The lunch buffet was about $9 per adult and kids ate free-a great deal. And while the smells were enticing and the food was tasty, I just couldn't hack it. I mostly stuck with the nan (bread) and water.

"Are you okay?" My friend asked midway through the meal, "your face is all red."

"You should feel her nose. It gets really cold when she eats spicy food," volunteered DH as he closed in to touch it. "And when our mom eats spicy food her nose sweats," the boys giddily announced to the entire restaurant.

No one said being a superhero was easy.

Read my published "Super Taster" essay (musings on coffee and kids music) here.  Kim challenges her delicate tastebuds all over Chicagoland and writes about it at Scrambled CAKE, where this post originally appeared. She also muses at Hormone-colored Days. Photo by singhajay 

July 09, 2007

Kids Menus - Yay or Nay?

Cuban food!
Originally uploaded by Foodmomiac.

I am totally torn on the issue of kids menus. My snobby food half wants to agree with the recent NY Times article that derides them for making "blandly tasty foodstuff ... the de facto official nibble of our young."

My overworked, fed-up mom half can totally appreciate the benefits of the kids menu. As I wrote about just yesterday, sometimes kids menus can be a wonderful thing.

My kids are great eaters (this photo is Max eating Cuban food at Cafe 28 tonight), but sometimes a five year old just wants a chicken nugget. Thoughts?? Do you guys like kids menus? If you are at a restaurant without a kids menu, what do you do? (We usually order the kids' dinners from the appetizer section.)

July 08, 2007

My Summer Plans Usually Involve Milkshakes

Dawg_3 At the library yesterday, I ran into a mom-friend I know from my daughter’s school. She has three young children, a scrap-booking business, and is very active in the school’s PTO. I hadn’t seen her in the three weeks since school let out. She apologized for her grunginess. I apologized for mine. She told me what the free movie in the park was that night and that she would be there with her family. “Cool,” I said. “I’ll look for you.” Before I could rush off to an impromptu ice cream date with Sis, my friend pulls out this awesome notebook she put together. “I want you to see this,” she said, pushing it toward me. I started paging through it, stunned by the simple low-tech brilliance of the thing: a one-inch, flexible three-ringed binder (off the school supply list) filled with copies of the sort of brochures mothers pick up all over town. Bike trails, family swim schedules from pools in the area, a list of free days for all of Chicago’s museums, trolley service and routes, lists of movies playing in area parks, etc. “Most of this stuff is free,” she said. “I try to keep to a budget. I just stick it in my backpack, so it’s handy!” Instantaneously, an image popped into my head. An image of my chair at home, overflowing with piles of miscellaneous brochures and newspapers—reminders of all the things I haven’t been doing with my girls this summer. . . . Oh, well. That's a project for another day. We had some serious milkshakes waiting for us at Superdawg, and I really wasn't thinking about how much they would cost.

July 05, 2007

More Help For Dieters

Irene_070307 After having 2 kids back to back and getting pregnant while I was 20 pounds over my ideal weight, I seem to be on a constant diet.  The problem is that life is so complicated and fast-paced that I never have time to make my lunch (or dinner for that matter).  It seems that I'm either running through a drive through or calling in something for pickup.

Thanks to an article in the Chicago Tribune, I think I will be curtailing my eating out adventures.  Instead, I think I will make a considerable effort on making lunch - even if it is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Even before the article came out I know that most of us KNOW that the kitchens in restaurants aren't always clean.  At least as clean as the kitchens we have at home.  And, because of the amount of food that gets prepared and the number of people in restaurant kitchens we all know that little critters may inadvertently get side-tracked on their way to where they really need to go.  But, eeeeeewwww!

So now I am in a quandary as what to do for lunch.  I could go home and make myself a little PB&J, but who wants to get in their car and drive all the way home.  Then again, I am not up for a little unwanted "flavor crystals" in my take out sandwich!  Bleh!

July 01, 2007

You Call This a Happy Meal?

Cow_2 The current Veggie Booty recall got me thinking about my earlier bouts of food paranoia. In fact, my essay on this very topic appeared in the print issue of Chicago Parent exactly one year ago. Coincidence? You decide.

Preparing family meals can be tricky. Catering to the fickle food preferences of my children is always a challenge. But I must also factor in restrictions such as my eldest son’s severe food allergies and consider that my husband is lactose intolerant, avoiding carbs and loves spicy food, while I am spice intolerant, crave carbs and love cheese. However, it was the summer I became obsessed with foodborne illness when things got especially dicey around our table.

It began innocently enough when a cousin sent me a copy of Michael Pollan’s article “This Steer’s Life.” (New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002). Pollan bought a calf and followed it from farm to feedlot to the family dinner table. His detailed article is loaded with observations and ruminations on modern cattle raising, slaughtering and processing methods. Disgusting as it was, I was hooked and hungry to learn more of the gristly truth.

Next, I devoured Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and was a changed woman. Within weeks I’d binged on a series of related books including Nicols Fox’s Spoiled: Why our Food is Making us Sick and What we Can do About it, Peter Lovenheim’s Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf, and Ruth Ozeki’s compelling and amusing novel, My Year of Meats.

My ears perked up at mentions of massive meat recalls and widespread bouts of food poisoning. Additionally, I’d become a regular at the website of Safe Tables Our Priority ( a resource and advocacy group on food safety/foodborne illness. I’d sob as I read heartbreaking stories of young victims of deadly bacteria.

With little fanfare, my husband stopped eating red meat. I also stopped, but I was loud—determined to save my loved ones from microscopic dangers like the potentially fatal Listeria bacteria that could quietly multiply on the surface of their lunchmeat even in a properly chilled refrigerator.

My childhood tendency to sneak a spoonful of raw ground beef as it defrosted on the kitchen counter was merely a gross habit in the 70s; now it could be a deadly one. “This is not your mother’s ground beef,” I cautioned an aunt with a penchant for burgers so rare they practically moo. I’d ramble about the evils of crowded feedlots and unnatural animal diets. I’d detail dramatic changes in meat processing operations that can lead to contaminated meat. I’d cite statistics like, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

My kids not only picked up on my concerns, they were party to them. How many preschoolers can explain why it’s foolish to eat cookie dough containing raw eggs? A fast food dinner with extended family resulted in this conversation:

My 4 year-old son to my 3 year-old niece: I’m glad you didn’t get the chicken nuggets because they are really so bad for you.

Niece: But my brother’s eating them.

Son: Ooooh, that’s bad.

Five-year-old nephew: No, they’re good for you. They’ve got protein. My mom says they help me grow.

Son: Well, MY mom says they make you sick.

My 63 year-old mother:  Kim, you’re making your kids crazy!

Continue reading "You Call This a Happy Meal?" »

June 29, 2007

Open Thread Friday - what to do with your children in Chicago this weekend!

Hello Chicago.  We decided to have an "open thread" on Friday of each week.  Everyone reading Chicago Moms Blog is welcome and encouraged to comment, and join the conversations!

For today, we want to know, What will you be doing with your children this weekend? Are there any local/Chicago events that we should know about?  Are you taking your kids to the movies or the park or are you just going to "crash" at home?  Are there any musicals, plays, sporting events going on? Are there Farmer's Markets or Street Faires? What about Fourth of July events?  Please.... do share!  Curious Chicago minds want to know.

June 25, 2007

I'd Forgotten How Yummy Veggie Can Be

Blind_faithI went to visit my friend, Dorothy, up in Evanston this afternoon.  For once we did not have an open house at our place, but Dorothy did.  I used to live in Evanston once upon a time.  Live is a stretch since when my stuff was parked in an apartment in Evanston, I was hardly there.  Instead I was young and traveling all over the world with my first job out of college.

But, I digress.  I didn't have a lot of time and Dorothy only wanted to be away from her place as long as the open house was being held so we decided to go to a local restaurant.  I know that I give the 'burbs such a beating, but Evanston is as close to be NON suburban as a suburb can be.  First of all it's so close to the city.  And, secondly because of Northwestern University it still has a city kind of vibe.

We ended up at Blind Faith Cafe - one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants.  I'm not a vegetarian by all means.  In fact, I would consider myself an uber-carnivore.  So, if I tell you that the food was good - it really WAS good.  So good that I didn't miss the meat.  On top of that, their desserts are awesome.  I've loved their vegan cupcakes with the rich, yummy icing since I first sank my teeth into one.  This afternoon I had a taste of Dorothy's profiteroles and they were beyond delicious.

Every time I go to Blind Faith Cafe, I think it's possible for me to become a vegetarian.  It's crazy but it is THAT good!

May 31, 2007

I Love Me Some Portillo's

Portillos_hot_dogIt's a muggy, 84 degree day out here in the suburbs.  We spent the majority of the day gathering up items for our first ever garage sale.  From what it seems, suburbanites flock to these things.  I'm hoping to clean house with this one. 

I digress.  The toddler was getting bored and I was hungry.  Nothing in the cupboards or refrigerator seemed to appeal to me so I decided it was time for our daily trip to Target.  Apples, bananas, tortilla chips...I threw it all in the cart.  Still, nothing sounded good.  Disappointed, we got into the car and started to drive away when all of the sudden, the heavens parted and the light shone down.  PORTILLO'S.  Yes!  PORTILLO'S!  Perfect.  Exactly what I want!  I want one of their juicy, jumbo hot dogs with all the fixins; onions, relish, tomatoes....mmmmmmm.  I start salivating.  We pull up in the drive-thru, which unbelievably is not packed.  Portillo's drive-thru is ALWAYS packed, no matter what time of day it is.  People know where to get the best beef in town around here.

The first Portillo's hot dog stand was known as "The Dog House" and it opened in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park.  Dick Portillo, born and raised in Chicago, is the owner and operator of Portillo's Hot Dogs, Key Wester Fish & Pasta House, Barnelli's Pasta Bowl and Luigi's House.  I've tried all of his "concepts" and give them all an A++.  The man knows his food.  Luckily, I live just down the road from all of these fine restaurants.

So, I get up to the drive-thru window and I order myself the mouth-watering hot dog that I've been craving.  I also get some regular sized fries (the BEST fries) and are you ready for this?  A piece of CHOCOLATE CAKE.  No, no, wait.  A piece of THE chocolate cake.  It's so chocolaty and moist and rich and...and...whoa.  Calm down, Amy.  Well, if any of you have ever eaten at Portillo's and HAD this cake, you know exactly what I'm getting at here.  Portillo's also ships and caters too!  We actually had Portillo's catered for Hailey's first birthday party.

I am fully satisfied.  I know whenever I can't seem to find anything to please my taste buds around the house, I can cruise up the road and get me some Portillo's.

May 27, 2007

I Didn't Mean to Hear the Guy-versation

Einstein_bagelsThis morning I was at the Einstein Bagel place on Diversey.  If you are familiar with Lincoln Park, it is the Einstein Bagel place that was by the Coconuts Records and was closed only to be opened a year later next door.  Don't ask me - I never could understand those types of things.

Not surprisingly, the place was not full because of the long holiday weekend but the only table that was available was one next to these 2 guys.  They were 20 to 30 something (people I could relate to) single (something I USED to be able to relate to) guys (never been able to relate to) and one of the guys was talking about a failed relationship.

Normally, I don't listen - I make it a point NOT to because I have enough crap of my own to deal with.  But, the one guy was talking so loud and glanced every few sentences at me like he was talking to me.  The gist of it was that he wanted a serious relationship but his girlfriend didn't and she was playing games.  Finally, last night they had a conversation and they agreed to end it.  What floored me was that this guy was saying the exact same things that some of my girl friends say when a relationship ended.

I realized that guys aren't so different than we are in the things that they want for themselves.  You know - getting married, setting up house, having kids.  And they talk to their guy friends about when relationships go bad.  They actually obsess over the driftwood that their relationship has become.  Yeah, they're different in that hair sprouts in odd places like their backs, ears, and necks but really they aren't so different.

Seriously, I didn't mean to hear their conversation - really I didn't.  But in some odd way I was actually glad to see that guys actually care.  I wish I had known that when I was single.  Maybe it would have made me less cynical.