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48 hours in Chicago

Early morning coffee/pastries at Wormwood or Metropolis or Medici in Hyde Park (croissants are amazing) or Donut Vault

Brunch at Bakin' and Eggs in Lakeview or M. Henry in Andersonville or Walker Brothers in Wilmette

Lunch Italian beef at Portillo's with a side of chocolate cake (or a chocolate cake shake!) or bbq at RUB in Rogers Park

Dinner at Bandera (get the chicken) with live jazz overlooking Michigan Avenue, or pizza at Giordano's or Malnati's

Dessert at Hot Chocolate or Grand Luxe Cafe

Drinks at the 95th Floor of the Hancock

Graduation Dinner for 15

My two favorite celebration restaurants are Bandera on Michigan Avenue and Wildfire for steaks. There's a Wildfire downtown, and one also in Glenview not too far north. They have a few party rooms, and killer filets. Bandera is American food with live jazz every night and a wall of rotisserie chickens. It's a nice place for celebrating, with a small-ish menu of excellent food. Can't go wrong with either of those two. Congratulations!

Breakfast for Dinner in Chicago?

The best breakfast you can find in the city is at Walker Brothers. Make the trek up to Wilmette. You will NOT regret it. Not sure if they have milkshakes on the menu, but I bet you could get them to make you one. The breakfasts there are legendary, served all day, and the only thing on the menu. It's my comfort food place.

New Hampshire Pizza, You're Up!

Every summer we'd stay with my relatives in Seabrook and I lived on Cristaldi's Pizza right near the corner of 286 and 1A. Perfect beach pizza.

Best diner pancakes in New York

Clinton Street Baking Company is THE pancake place to go. For diner pancakes, hit a diner. My favorite is the Metro Diner at 100th and Broadway.

NYC Cooking Class Recommendations?

Second the French Culinary Institute.

I had the good fortune of participating in a class there. It was a blast and well-taught. Highly recommended.

Best chocolate cake

Silver Moon Bakery, Broadway & 105th. Chocolate ganache cake. Don't forget the vanilla ice cream.

Need Chicago restaurant recommendations

Best breakfast around is Walker Brothers Pancake House. There are a few-- I think the closest would be just north of Evanston. Worth the trip.

A Hamburger

We've had good burgers at Toast on the UWS. Shake Shack is pretty darn good, too. Fred's on Amsterdam and 83rd is great, too.

What to do with bacon and onions?

Add some potatoes and you have the world's best home fries.

Event help

Union Square Greenmarket? What kind of organization does it have to be?

Birthday (mostly solo) Dining Suggestions in NYC

Happy Birthday! I'd love to hear where you went!

Getting creative with...carrot greens?

Post them in the Free or Pets sections of Craigslist. Bunnies love them.

"Thanksgiving dinner" sandwich in NYC

It's on the menu Thursdays at Haakon's Hall in Morningside Heights-- Amsterdam at about 119 or so.

Anyone have Good Edible Gift Ideas for Weddings?

There's a sweet housewarming tradition from It's A Wonderful Life. Get a pretty basket, line it with a pretty kitchen towel, and include the following: bread, that this house may never know hunger; salt, that life may always have flavor; and wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever (and write that part out on the card so the gift makes sense.) Get a box of herbed bread mix or the like, a nice salt in a grinder, and a bottle of wine or sparkling grape juice. Cost is less than $20, and it's a dear little gift.

What lengths do you go through for your favourite?

I brought two whole pizzas home on the plane from Columbus, Ohio, to Florida for my husband. He misses his Donato's Pizza something awful, so I packed aluminum foil and wrapped up the pizzas well. He ate them in the parking lot of the airport when he picked me up. Some things you just can't make yourself.

Turkey Bacon

It's never the same as real bacon, but I always look for the "South Beach" turquoise emblem on the package and get that one. It was Louis Rich for a while, now it's something else I think. That's how I pick.

Sal and Carmine's: A Post-Sal Pilgrimage

Thanks for this review. I just moved to Morningside Heights this week and had an itch for pizza tonight. Sal and Carmine's, here we come!

Fort Myers, Florida

I live here in Fort Myers... can't say that much is really notable, unfortunately. And I'm not a fish-eater, so that doesn't help, either. My mother enjoyed Three Fishermen Seafood, just south of Colonial on the west side of 41 (Sam's Club plaza). If you're going down to Naples, Randy's Fishmarket always gets great reviews. A typical vacation-y place for a family is Cheeburger Cheeburger (various locations), but only because of the choices of sizes of burgers. Their shakes are excellent, though. If I were you I'd venture over to Sanibel Island; breakfast at the Lighthouse Cafe (call ahead for seating), lunch at The Hungry Heron (huge homemade portions), and a nice dinner at The Green Flash on Captiva.

I'm sad to say that we eat at chains most of the time. But if you're looking for a fun non-food thing to do, either rent Jetskis from Island Watersports at the Holiday Inn on Fort Myers Beach, or go on a dolphin cruise out of Sanibel Harbor (which is, ironically, not ON Sanibel, but just before). Feel free to email me if you need more suggestions. Oh, and bring your sunscreen! The sun is at its closest right now.

Cooking for your pets

So funny-- I was wondering the exact same thing a few days ago but realized that my two bunnies shouldn't really have sugar... or flour... or anything other than raw veggies and timothy hay. Doesn't make for exciting cooking. My extended family says I just need to have a child.

Give Me Your Best Beef Stew Recipe

I think the true test of a good beef stew is not just what's in the stew, but what you do with it. Here's my best recipe. If I wasn't married, my husband would propose over it.

For two
Into the crock pot goes:
1/2 lb beef for stew (cubed beef)
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/2 lb baby carrots
1 heaping tsp Better Than Bouillon beef base
Twice around the pot with soy sauce
2 T Soy Vey teriyaki sauce
A couple of glugs of worcestershire sauce
Water to almost cover

Let that cook on low all day (8 hours or so).

When you get home:
Add a slurry of 1 T cornstarch/1 T cold water to crock pot to thicken.
Make mashed potatoes (I use flakes. Don't judge me.). Add garlic salt for a little kick.
Nuke 1 cup french fried onions for one minute.
Pour shredded colby jack cheese into a bowl.

To assemble, in individual bowls or plates:
1.) a layer of mashed potatoes
2.) a layer of shredded cheese
3.) a layer of beef stew with onions and carrots
4.) a generous sprinkling of french fried onions

You're welcome. :)

What's been your most sucessful office treat?

Cookie dough brownies! Make one batch of One Bowl Brownies from the Baker's Chocolate box (or whatever your favorite brownies are). Spread batter into a 9 x 13 pan. Make one-half batch of Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie dough, light on the chocolate chips. Drop cookie dough in small blobs all over the brownie batter. Bake. Top with Hershey's chocolate frosting--just a thin layer to keep in the moisture.

Counter/toaster oven help!

Ooo, I LOVE mine. It's a Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven

and it's wonderful! We use our more than we use our regular oven, it's so great. The convection makes things cook evenly, thank goodness, so we can even bake in it. (No, I don't work for Cuisinart. I'm just really in love with my toaster oven.) It's a bit pricey at $179 on the Cuisinart website, but you could probably shop around online a bit and find a better deal.

Scanpan: who has one, how do you like it?

LOVE them. They brown well, cook evenly, and clean up like a dream. So easy! I had one of the lids lose its handle-- the screw corroded! I called customer service and they sent me out a replacement right away. That's my only problem in five years. I count them among the very best purchases I've ever made!


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