Looking to the Future….Turning a Hobby into a Reality.

Hello Readers!

Yes, Mike and I have been back for almost a MONTH! It seems like FOREVER! I have been cast in a wonderful show at The Apollo Theater here in Chicago, and Mike is busy (always) with putting the fest up.

My love for finding good food has not stopped, though and I am proud to announce (with help from Mike) that I will be starting MY OWN  professional blog/food review WEBSITE called I’d Come Back For That!

We will be going to restaurants all over and picking one “Signature”  dish and telling you why that dish is worth the trip, and telling you why I Would Come Back For That!

We are getting ready to launch In June 2013 and will be a once a week blog. I will be reviewing everything from summer food fests to fine dinning. So stay tuned! I can’t wait to start this journey!

Thank you for reading!

Jillian

Best of the Best: Service

Over the course of our trip, we had some of the best food, had once in a life time experiences, and met some great characters along the way. This blog post today is dedicated to all the people that served us on our journey. Whether it was a hostess, a manager, or simply someone giving us directions, this is the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY of WHO we encountered, PART ONE: THE GOOD!

BEST OF THE BEST!

Louisville, KY

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Louisville was one of the best stops on our tour. We went into Louisville not expecting anything, and BOY we were astonished! If you are ever in the Louisville area, please please stop by MEAT. It’s located above The Blind Pig In the Butchertown section of Louisville. I posted about this bar before, but it was so unique that I have to talk about it again. The atmosphere creates this “Back to the Future” feeling where everyone drinks classical cocktails in a speakeasy which was created by an “Imagineer” from Disney. Think WALL-E meets Edward ScissorHands, with a little Steam Punk thrown in. Yes, the cocktails were fantastic. (don’t go in asking for a Jack and Coke though, get the REAL DEAL! The cocktails are one of a kind!) BUT The best part about this bar was, of course, the bartender- Bradley. Not only did he make me feel like a flapper from the 1920’s, but he had great drink suggestions, other places in Louisville to check out, and he sat and talked whiskey and other spirits with me the whole time. 🙂

The craziest thing about our whole time in Louisville was that every time we had a server or bartender, they knew the previous server or bartender that recommended that bar or restaurant. SO here it goes! Louisville Six Degrees of Separation:

Jillian (Me) knows Danielle (My Manager)  who knows a manager at RYE

The Bartender at RYE (Sorry no name for this one!) Gave us the suggestion to go to MEAT.

Bradley at MEAT knew our previous bartender and just spent the weekend with him celebrating his birthday.

After MEAT Bradley told us to go to this OTHER bar (which at this point I totally forgot) Where we met up with our first bartender from RYE.

He then gave us a great lunch place to go to: MAYAN CAFE (Which was fantastic)

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YUM! Mayan Cafe

Our waitress at MAYAN CAFE, was a girlfriend of one of the managers at RYE (whom we had met) and who also knows Bradley, had been to the same birthday party, and also informed us that Bradley lived above the MAYAN CAFE.    Kevin Bacon? I love that story 🙂

Chattanooga, TN

Ok, so we never ate in Chattanooga. ( We were way too full from ARNOLDO’S in Nashville) But we decided to stop and take a bit of a breather in the art district of Chattanooga, TN. Once again, we were caught of guard! Chattanooga has a beautiful downtown and art district area! They have a breathtaking sculpture garden, artsy lunch cafes and plenty of galleries to keep your artistic side flowing. We stepped into the RiverGallery on East Second Street in the Bluff View Art District. While Mike and I scoped out art (and a few knickknacks that we took home) we also met some really interesting and fun young ladies! We even got our recommendation about THE OLD SCHOOL DINNER there! Their hospitality was definitely noted and if I am ever in Chattanooga, I will be back!

Charlotte, NC

Not all the restaurants we went to were fine dining. There were some spots I wanted to hit that didn’t even have reservations. Such as COWFISH SUSHI AND BURGER BAR. Yes the name sounds crazy, and the concept is even crazier. Think sushi and burgers. IN ONE. That’s right! It’s American style sushi (I mean REAL AMERICAN) one of our rolls had pulled pork, called BARBA-Q-SHI.

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and man it is tasty! Upon arriving, we were told that it would be an hour wait. Now, by this time I was HUNGRY (something that normally didn’t happen on this trip) I was tired and I didn’t care were I was eating, I just needed to relax. I sat down on one of the benches and started to look up other places to eat that night. This whole time I noticed that I was alone. That usually never happens (especially if you know Mike) So I start to look around,for my then, missing boyfriend. I see him at that bar and I ran to him. He explained that we should eat at the bar and he can stand….not a big deal. This place was PACKED for 8pm on a week night! I slowly started to agree when our buzzer light up and we were greeted by a smiling hostess telling us our table was ready! I was so happy. I guess Mike had told her about our trip and she got us in right away! After that the meal was SO FUN! if you are looking to take a group out somewhere that has the atmosphere of a sports bar with kick ass sushi and good drinks, this is the place for you! The server was more then attentive (Taking us through the whole menu, which you will NEED!) and never skipping a beat! The manager came by as well and gave us a taste of THE COWFISH’S best dishes! If you go, try one of the milk shakes! But you must be twenty one or over! Much love out to the COWFISH TEAM! We had a great time!

Philadelphia, PA

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Our actual cheese steak from ZIO’S Pizza

I loved Philly. If there was a city that I felt at home in, it was Philly. Philly is like Chicago, but the streets are 50% smaller. Imagine Chicago with one lane roads everywhere and everyone eats soft pretzels. That’s Philadelphia. Mike and I did a Food tour while we were there. City Food Tours (cityfoodtours.com) takes non-philadelphians (we did have one native on the tour!) and takes them to the best non-touristy foodie places in Philly. You get some history, food (cheese steaks and pretzels of course) and sightseeing in two hours. While Mike and I weren’t totally crazy about the cheese steak, the tour guide was fantastic! Not only did she know about Philly -4th generation, she even told us her family background- You could tell that she loved it! Feeling her passion made me want to come back home to Chicago!

Philadelphia was not only good to us because of the tour, but we had the best dinner at SBRAGA. Now, I wont go into too much detail (still going to write a post about this one!) But I will say that the service at SBRAGA is outstanding. We decided to do a wonderful tasting menu with 4 courses each. Not only were our servers recommendations spot on, but she also mid-coursed us anything that we missed. (Mike, OF COURSE, told them about our trip and everything.) The food was outstanding, the service was spot on (there was never a time where I didn’t have water, we never waited too long, I always had a drink, and the manager even stopped by) SBRAGA knows how to make a dinner memorable! I felt right at home!

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My tasty dessert at SBRAGA

There were lots of other great servers on our trip but these were THE BEST!! ( GIRL AND THE GOAT, CHICAGO, TOSCA, WASHINGTON DC!) Stay tuned for the WORST! It only get UGLIER from here 🙂

Much Love!

Jillian and Mike

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Chef Jerome and Sister Louisa’s Church Bar.

So far on our trip we have seen just about everything, and we have eaten just about everything as well.  Some places we stumble upon just aren’t about the food.

Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium

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That’s right. You heard me. A CHURCH BAR. I’m not kidding.

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They even have Church Organ Karaoke. Complete with church choir robes and pulpit. Authentic.

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Walking into this bar is literally like walking on to another planet. The 2 story bar is covered in these cheeky/risque paintings that made me laugh out loud. I felt like this place should be transported from Atlanta to Louisiana. Everything had that almost dirty but sexy thing going where you don’t entirely know if it’s safe to use the rest room or not (it totally is). You know how in the summer, on really humid days, your skin gets a little dewy, making you look kinda hot but makes you feel gross? That’s this bar. The lower level is set up like a typical bar (minus the signs that say “Fuck Fear” and  “God Loves Lipstick Lesbians”) But the top level is full of mismatched chairs, actual church benches and cozy couches you can snuggle up on to hear the latest church organ rendition of your favorite Lady Gaga Song.

Besides singing with the church organ, you can also challenge a fellow church goer to a game of ping pong.

I highly recommend trying their homemade sangria 🙂 They can really know how to pour a drink.

Chef Jerome’s Old School Diner

While passing through Chattanooga, TN we stopped at a really wonderful art gallery called The River Gallery. We met some great people there and one of them mentioned The Old School Diner. He said, “If you can find it, you have to go”

So, We did.

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After some hunting around for a bit, we pulled up to this. That my friends, is a carpet driveway.

As we walked in, it felt like I was walking into someone’s house. We stood in the front room for a bit until a fairly tall man walks out and hugged Mike and I. With a deep southern accent he said “Now you are home”

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We had no idea what to expect! We heard the food was good but nothing else. At that time we were the only ones there. After ordering (which was easy) Chef asked to see us in the back…and we helped make our lunch!

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This is the Wheelchair Platter. And it was AMAZING! Some of the best grilled shrimp and ribs I have ever had. They literally put me in a wheelchair to get me out of there I ate so much. If you are ever in the Savannah area, PLEASE check this place out. Great hospitality (Chef gave me a back rub!)  and even better food. It’s actually a favorite for Ben Affleck. He has his own “room” at the diner 🙂

until next time!

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Love Jillian and Mike!

Indiana and Louisville! DAY ONE!

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AND WE ARE OFF!!!!

DAY ONE OF OUR CULINARY EXPERIENCE!!!

We headed out of Chicago bright and early and traveled down to West Lafayette, Indiana for our first stop on our 12 state tour. Mike grew up in this area and took us to a spot owned by a high school friend!

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Nine Irish Brothers in West Lafayette, IN “Irish Breakfast” 

OK, So I have had this before so I was really looking forward to the salty bacon and a side of the soda bread! But soon after this breakfast we quickly discovered a problem. WE WERE FULL. SO FULL. And we needed to eat again in about 3 hours.

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The Owlery in Bloomington, IN

We even got one vegetarian place in! Hipsters would love this spot.

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RYE in Louisville, KY

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MEAT, Louisville KY

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Mayan Cafe, Louisville

Louisville was the BIGGEST surprise EVER. The food and bar scene is kinda amazing. Unlike anything in Chicago. For instance, every place we went to had Mezcal! They even made Mezcal Mules!  Great town, the most FRIENDLIEST people, and AWESOME food!

SO it begins! Restaurant Week Chicago!

SO IT HAS STARTED….

Restaurant Week is now upon us here in Chicago and nothing is more exciting/overwhelming/terrifying then this week. I work as a server in a chef driven restaurant and this is a very scary time for everyone! Every night is staffed like a Saturday. We are doing over 400 this Saturday, and I don’t think we have ever done that many covers!

For people who don’t know, Restaurant Week is where restaurants get together and offer pre fixe menus for a very affordable price, 3-4 courses 22-33 dollars per person. It’s one of the best ways to go to those five star places that might be a bit out of your price range. It’s great food, great prices and a wonderful way to experience food you may never have had otherwise.

This week just so happens to be RIGHT before my ROAD TRIP!

So I have had the opportunity reservations at the following places:

Tuesday, February 5th

Lunch: Aria

Dinner: Branch 27

Wednesday, February 6th

Lunch: Sepia

Thursday, February 7th

Lunch: Bistromonic

MEAL ONE

Lunch At Aria: What I Ate

WOW! What a way to start off my road trip! Aria was very impressive! Chef Tommy Greer’s taken Modern Asian Cuisine and made it comforting and mouth watering.

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I was greeted with warm pita bread and a variety of sauces ( I was never told what they were) and a wine menu. I was told a little bit about the special menu for the day but was never given instruction on either of them. Could I order from the other menu? I had no idea. Thank goodness the Restaurant Week Menu looked so good that I didn’t even need the other one!

My Three Course Meal Consisted of:

Beet Salad

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This was a wonderful light beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese. The beets were wonderful with the light vinaigrette! and it just looks pretty!

Short Ribs

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Ok, I mean just LOOK at this dish! The potatoes were perfect. I loved the salt of the bone marrow aus jus.

The thing that I REALLY loved about Aria is that my main dish came out HOT, like really hot. For some reason I loved that. I could see where people might complain about it because I did have to wait to eat the potatoes, but hey, it was fresh!

Truffles

OK! forgot to take a picture Can’t put EVERYTHING UP!! Go for yourself! But I am going to tell you that the White Chocolate Banana is kinda awesome. 

MEAL TWO

Dinner at Branch 27: What I ate

Branch 27 is a completely different place than Aria. The waitstaff at Aria wear button up shirts and ties. At Branch, I are at the bar with a bartender that could have been an American Eagle model.

Rabbit Empanadas

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These empanadas weren’t that awesome. Kinda dry infact. It looked like one of those Hostess pies you get with the cherry filling. But the sauce/creme they had to go with it was amazing! Side salad was great and light as well!

Mahi Mahi and Soba Noodles

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This was so tasty! The fish was perfectly cooked and the slaw that was mixed in with the chili mayo was a nice way to cut through the spice. Only one thing to make it better: Make the soba cold, and the fish hot…It’s a Chef Bill Kim thing 🙂

Bread Pudding

I ate it all

No Seriously, I am not going to post everything and dessert is always the best! Go see for yourself!

I have two more places to go! Tomorrow for lunch I am meeting some wonderful girls at SEPIA! Can’t wait!

Much Love,

Jillian ( Mike is in Indiana :(..)

Us!

Eating Kale and thinking Cheese steak

What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?

 

 

ImageThis is a picture of what I had for breakfast. A wonderful kale and tomato salad with mushrooms.

 

This is my big prep for our Culinary Road Trip of bliss that sets sail on Feb. 11th. I am eating clean and vegan till then! I plan on weighing about 100 pounds heavier when I get back…

While picking out kale from my teeth, I got the sudden urge to pick a few cities and start researching. Mike is going out of town for an acting gig the whole next week, YES. I KNOW. So that means I have to plan the majority of the road trip MYSELF!

The cites that I focused on today were:

  1. Washington D.C
  2. New York
  3. Philly

 

When I was researching D.C I stumbled upon a wonderful site! Washington.org! Its a FULL planning website that lets you search places, attractions, events and monuments in D.C and adds them to a “wish list” for you. You can actually plan your whole trip according to price, neighborhood or anything else!

I was SO HAPPY!! not only was there a website with everything I needed to plan out our day in D.C. but it was easy to use,  and I now have an account and can log in using my phone to access all the info I need when sightseeing. 🙂

While on washington.org, I came across the best find of the day!! D.C. also has FOOD TOURS!!!

 I quickly called up Mike, who has out, to tell him the good news! I was pumped! He agreed that we should of course do one! I scrambled off the couch, grabbed our trusty map/calender and couldn’t wait to book this!

The D.C Food Tours combine sightseeing with food. One of the 6-7 tours they have is called “Capital Hill” – Literally takes you around Capital Hill and then 5 restaurants and you get a “taste” of each place. It’s a hardy meal, while walking and seeing D.C. I WAS SO EXCITED!!!

 

Needless to say-they of course-they don’t do tours on the day we will be there (insert sad music here)

 

HOWEVER, they have sister tours in other cites!  PHILLY HAS ONE AND IT RUNS EVERYDAY!!! My food tour is avenged and I WILL be on one! Eating LOTS of cheese steak.

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. Lots of Love,

 

Jillian And Mike!

 

 

Our Culinary Road Trip!

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What I’ve enjoyed most, though, is meeting people who have a real interest in food and sharing ideas with them. Good food is a global thing and I find that there is always something new and amazing to learn – I love it! Jamie Oliver

I love this idea. Food can honestly change the way I feel about my whole day.

Culinary Road Trip?
As a “food enthusiast” ( I will never say foodie… ) My hubby and I decided that a Culinary Road Trip would be the best first vacation for us. We are a new couple so spending 14 days in a car together should be interesting 🙂

This blog is going to be a place to share our pictures and crazy antics along the way! ( Facebook might get sick of it)

We are 13 days away from leaving

Here’s what we have done so far:
1. Made ” map” of where we are headed. Our trip will take us from Illinois down to Florida to New York and back.
2. We have calculated driving times, stops, and how long to stay where.
3. Made a few KEY reservations. (Details to made later, not giving away everything yet!)
4. I made a list of clothing options ( bc I’m also a fashion enthusiast)
5. Looked up roadtripamerica.comTotally going to be using that.
6. Cleansing my body. Yup that’s right! Mike and I plan on eating whatever we want on this trip so we are eating very healthy ( vegan-esk) until we leave.

Vegan??
Yes that’s correct. I’m eating vegan ( or at least trying) until we leave. I really enjoyed the lifestyle while living in California and feel so much better while eating this way! I might also do a vegan cleanse when I return… And I’m sure there will be dietary restrictions (besides our awesome restaurants) during the road trip. Please read The Kind Life for inspiration or just more info on eating and becoming vegan!

Any other tips on road trips? We would love to hear it!

Much love,
Jillian and Mike

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