As a college foodie, one of my favorite parts of coming home to Chicago for the summer is the wide variety of culinary opportunities available to those with a serious appetite. I WILL accomplish everything on my culinary bucket list for Summer 2014, including:
1. A Ravinia picnic
The ambiance and live music don’t hurt, but a Ravinia staple, and the aspect that requires the most preparation, is the picnic spread festival-goers tote to the concert. There’s not much better than a perfect summer night filled with snacks ranging from a variety of Foodstuffs cheeses to a Tomato, Nectarine, and Mozzarella Salad , or from fresh Sea Ranch sushi to a box of homemade Seven Layer Bar Cookies. The Ravinia Festival is held at 418 Sheridan Rd, Highland Park, IL 60035.
2. One last stop at Hot Doug’s
Hot Doug’s, a shop that has served up a gourmet twists on a Chicago classic for over half of my lifetime, closes its doors this October. The last time I visited, I was #blessed enough to indulge in the “Dave Kingman,” now renamed the “George Mitterwald,” a zesty Santa-Fe style chicken sausage unlike any chicken sausage you’ve tried before. Because my palate has matured a bit since I was 14, and since I know the next time I visit will (sadly) be the last time, I hope to take on their famous Foie Gras Hot Dog (shown above) and Duck Fat Fries. Hot Doug’s is located at 3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618.
3. Hold an Eataly Chicago v. Eataly NYC Face-Off
I’m hoping that the offerings from my hometown Eataly can light a candle next to the creamy, rich polenta experience I was lucky to enough to have at Eataly NYC last summer. Having already tried the vegetarian mini-concept, Le Verdure, I’m looking to indulge in the fresh fish at Il Pesce and finish things off with a Nutella crepe at the Nutella bar upon my next visit. Eataly Chicago: 43 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611.
4. Leghorn Chicken
While I’m accustomed to my family’s annual Popeye’s Fried Chicken Banquet, Leghorn Chicken in Ukranian Village may win as the coolest fried chicken spot in existence. Way more than just deep-fryers and grease, Leghorn utilizes a type of chicken long considered useless, and transforms it into a crispy, juicy pickle brined or spicy treat. Best of all, they live up to their motto, “Make Pickles, Not War,” by remaining a socially and politically conscious space. Leghorn Chicken: 959 N Western Ave, Chicago IL.
5. Food Truck Face Off at Techweek
After a full day of tech, the Food Truck Face Off held just outside of the Merchandise Mart serves as a sunny and delicious respite from computer-talk. For under $5 per item, you can browse offerings from local trucks and learn about how technology inspires their food. If the pasties, hearty puff pastries with a variety of inventive fillings, and sausage trucks that showed up last year make a return appearance, you’re in luck. For more info, check out http://bit.ly/1jkIcXz.
Thus far, I haven’t met a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant concept I haven’t liked. I am loyal to Joe’s for great steak, RPM Italian for a trendy scene and rich homemade pastas, and Hub 51 as a standby for entertaining friends from out of town. So obviously, now that the people behind Lettuce restaurants have opened a cozy, cool spot for Ramen, I’m excited about the prospect of adding it to my list of Lettuce favorites. I can’t wait to try the Smoked Salmon Nigiri with Wasabi Caviar and the Shoyu Ramen with chicken broth, molten egg, and mushrooms, yum. Ramen-San is located at 59 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654.
7. Can Boltwood seamlessly replace Evanston neighborhood favorite Lulu’s?
When I first saw the above picture, I was shocked. The warm colors and cluttered layout I had grown to love from Lulu’s, a pan-Asian restaurant staple my family had visited since I was a little girl, has been transformed into a modern, rich wood-lined restaurant serving farm-to-table food. Looking back on my eating experiences at Lulu’s, I don’t think I enjoyed the food as much as the familiarity. I’m going to keep an open mind upon my first visit to Boltwood, Lulu’s replacement from the chef of The Publican. Boltwood, 804 Davis St., Evanston, IL.
8. Long Grove Strawberry Fest-June 20
The lengthy drive to Long Grove becomes worth it once you sink your teeth into a sweet, refreshing strawberry ice cream bar on a stick dipped in dark chocolate or a savory strawberry ceviche. Some of the strawberry offerings sound wacky at first, but everything you taste is surprisingly enjoyable as you stroll around the charming town. For info: http://www.visitlonggrove.com/event/long-grove-strawberry-festival-2014/.
9. Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches and a Movie at the Park
The Chicago Park District shows free movies, from A League of Their Own to Anna Karenina, at parks throughout the city over the course of the summer. What better accompaniment to a beautiful summer night and one of your favorite movies than the newly introduced (and much hyped) waffle ice cream sandwich? South Loop brunch spot Waffles serves up sandwiches ranging from Bananas Foster to a sweet potato waffle with chocolate, cinnamon-swirled ice cream, and chocolate sauce that you can pick up and munch on while movie-viewing. I’d say that beats the standby popcorn or Buncha Crunch!