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Chicago, IL

Renaissance Girl is a Chicago lifestyle blog for every twenty-something and millenial, which focuses on food, lifestyle, travel and events.

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Food + Drink

From the perspective of a food and drink blogger, avid traveler and epicurean, Renaissance Girl brings you restaurants, reviews, events, drinks and recipes from an amateur chef and food blogger around Chicago and New York.

Living the Mediterranean Diet

Laura

I'm all about finding new ways to make little healthy changes in my life. Because even though they are convenient and save time, unhealthy snacks, additives and fast food really have negative side effects. Living the Mediterranean Diet is a new cookbook that incorporates the classic utilization of lean seafood for protein, plenty of vegetables for vitamins, and not to be afraid of the right carbs and starches.

This refreshing cookbook dives into the benefits of vegetables and sporadic healthy fats. With recipes like Heirloom Tomato & Kale Pizza and Seared Scallops over Spinach, you can be good to yourself and still have unique and flavorful food.

Photography courtesy of Ulysses Press/Nick Nigro, Bay Ewald, Dulcet Creative

A Best Kept Secret: Miku Sushi in Chicago's Lincoln Square

Laura

Miku Sushi, a Japanese restaurant known for their sushi and ramen, is currently celebrating its one-year anniversary. And fortunately for their diners, owners Stanley Liem and Sara Katekaew refuse to cut corners.

Photos courtesy of Kurman Communications, Inc. 


The Maki menu has three sections; Signature, Classic and Traditional, and the Flaming Dragon is the most popular. This roll is brought to the table literally on fire and includes shrimp tempura, salmon, super white tuna, black tobiko, scallion and honey spicy mayo. The menu also offers soups, salads, hot and cold plates, skewers, nigari, sushi and sashimi, and large entrées. When it comes to ramen, Miku understands the significance of superb preparation. 

We get our sushi grade fish from the renowned Tsukiji Market, the largest fish market in Japan. We choose the freshest fish of the day and it is flown directly to Chicago. It’s definitely a challenge, but we believe we owe it to our guests to serve only the freshest and finest.
— Owners Stanley Liem and Sara Katekaew

For reservations, call at 773-654-1277 or visit www.mikuchicago.com.

Eating + Drinking in Chicago's West Loop

Laura

After working all day, it can be hard to cook the new recipes that catch my eye. So when I'm low on time or energy, I peruse around my current neighborhood to get a taste of what I crave. I love experimenting, so join me and check out my latest favorites in the West Loop of Chicago.

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What Happens at Fremont

Laura

In the River North neighborhood of Chicago, "What Happens at Fremont" introduced Fremont as one of Chicago's new social dining venues. Bloggers, writers and editors with content similar to Renaissance Girl mingled on Fremont's second floor with a gorgeous skylight view of the city above.

Cuisine from chicken and waffles to flatbread complemented ice-cold Moscow mules among various custom cocktails throughout the evening. The contemporary aesthetic of Fremont makes it an ideal place to treat yourself with unique fare in a comfortable atmosphere, whether at lunch, after work or hanging out on the weekend.

Photos courtesy of Christopher Andrews and Fremont Chicago.

Rainbow Veggie Wrap

Laura

In an era where fast food has all but taken over, it’s nice to make your own food once in a while. So I wanted to share an awesome recipe that I whipped up for Lauren Cecchi New York to keep healthy New Year's Resolutions in line! This veggie wrap is good for you, leaves you filled and tastes delicious, plus is an amazing mixture of flavors and textures!

renaissance girl

Ingredients

2 tablespoons pesto
1 large leaf of green cabbage (for wrapping)
1 handful red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sweet potato or squash roasted in cubes
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
1/2 avocado sliced lengthwise
3 thin slices fresh mozzarella

veggie wrap

Recipe

Peel and cut sweet potato/squash and roast in the oven at 350º for 20 minutes. Slice remaining vegetables and mozzarella. When sweet potato/squash is cooked, lay out cabbage leaf and spread pesto. Starting from the middle working outwards, layer red cabbage, pepper, sweet potato/squash, avocado, mozzarella and onion. Roll wrap and cut in half. Enjoy as your next meal, or half as a midday snack. Bon Apetit!

Cerise Happy Hour @ Virgin Hotels Chicago

Laura

Since spring isn't arriving as quickly as we'd like, Cerise, the rooftop bar at the Chicago Virgin Hotel, hosted a "Backyard" happy hour to create some summer ambiance. Mike's Hard Lemonade let us escape the brutally cold weather in Chicago. The "Backyard" Happy Hour featured specialty drinks, games, and tunes. 

Mike's set up bean bags/corn hole and giant jenga to kick everything off., then the dj and specialty drinks became the focus of the evening. It's always nice to pretend you live somewhere warm, and this event brought summertime vibes to the contemporary rooftop bar & lounge.

Bake-At-Home Meets Farm-To-Crust

Laura

 

As an Italian living in Chicago, it's safe to say that pizza is a passion for me. So I am always excited to learn about classic and innovative takes on my favorite food.

And with Bake425, fresh and locally sourced farm-to-crust ingredients are prepared in-house and delivered to your place.  Bake425 is one year old and based all around the North Shore of Chicago and in Hinsdale.

The pizza comes pre-assembled and you can choose from their recipes or design your own pizza. Then, all you do is pop it in the oven! Pizza, cookies and gelato are just a few of the mouthwatering options.

Pair your meal with a craft beer or bottle of wine and you have a fresh, easy and healthy spread.

 

The Best Food, Beer + Skiing in Michigan

Laura

Not only does Michigan have wonderful summers full of perfect sunsets, loads of beaches and great restaurants, but this midwestern destination is also magical in the wintertime. Petoskey (Northern Michigan) averages over 122 inches of snow a year, which makes for perfect snow bunny conditions. Whether you like to ski, snowboard, skate, sled, or just enjoy a drink and admire the snow from the great indoors, there's plenty to do.

Mercedes Evolution Tour: Bastille Performs in Chicago

Laura

At Navy Pier's stunning Aon Grand Ballroom, Bastille took center stage to celebrate the new Mercedes-Benz GLA and CLA on The Evolution Tour. The tour is taking place across America, having started in New York and moving on to Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Austin.

With this Chicago stop of the Evolution Tour located at Navy Pier, a dazzling firework display happened while DJ Ruckus started his set. His act was followed by the massively talented Bastille, who drew in a crowd to fill the entire ballroom. Hits like Pompeii and Bad Blood filled the room with incredible acoustics accompanied by stellar audio and visual effects. With their rendition of Bad Blood, the stage flooded with pulsating red lights that truly showcased the mood of the music.

The event also exhibited a pop-up shop to create screen-printed Cotton Heritage shirts and a millenial-targeted selfie station. Guests enjoyed custom Wodka cocktails, Heineken, plenty of Skinny Pop and Kind Bars as they took in the music, decor and sights of the ballroom. The Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour successfully introduced its new offerings in an attractive way.

Three Unique Teas to Savor

Laura

One of the healthiest things you can enjoy is tea, so why not make it delicious? An ancient Chinese Proverb states, "Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one." Pretty much every type of tea has numerous health benefits

White tea, green tea, oolong tea, and black tea all contain caffeine and provide a refreshing energy boost. Alternatively, herbal tea can calm you down to a relaxed state of mind. Whatever your needs, these are a few of my favorites:

Sweet Pumpkin Muffins

Laura

Are you craving a little taste of fall? With the pumpkin craze at an all-time high in America, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing the word pumpkin. Pumpkin is actually considered a Super Food since it’s low in calories and fat, plus it’s a rich source of fiber and the antioxidant Vitamin A! So I decided to try out a new pumpkin recipe for Lauren Cecchi New York.

These pumpkin muffins are insanely delicious and easy to make, plus you can have them with breakfast, lunch or dinner. You probably have most of the ingredients laying around at home, so whip some up for a weekend treat.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 can (15 ounces) 100% Pure Pumpkin
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water or orange juice

Recipe

Preheat your oven to 350° F and paper-line or grease 30 muffin cups. Combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in a large mixer bowl; beat until just blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until blended. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Bon appétit!

Crawfish Boil on Chicago's Ohio Street Beach

Laura

Who doesn't love hanging out at the beach with good people? Oh, also with an endless buffet of crawfish, corn, potatoes and open bar. This was my last Saturday in June at Crawfish for Cancer, a crawfish boil hosted in Atlanta, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, DC and NYC. Proceeds benefit research for Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of Cancer. 

This event was at the beautiful Caffe Olivia at Ohio Street Beach in Chicago.  I was greeted warmly and walked in to the sounds of a band quartet and an well-dressed, exuberant crowd. The bar served beer including Miller Lite and Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy and Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, which made for a delicious Arnold Palmer.

Making my way towards the back of the event, I took in the stunning view of Chicago's Lake Shore Drive with the skyline towering behind, the sun shining down on the crowd, and people relaxing on the beach just steps away. Music emanated from yachts dotting Lake Michigan, as they were having parties of their own. Then, there was another sight to behold: a giant silver chef's pot boiling crawfish, corn, potatoes and oranges over an open flame.

The chefs carefully monitored and tested the crustaceans as they neared perfection. Once they were perfectly boiled, the chef parted a crowd of tipsy yuppies like the Red Sea as he carefully transported the pot to a long table donned in a red and white checkered tablecloth, sprinkled in Cajun seasoning from end to end. People watched with their eyes wide as he emptied the steaming pot across the table, filling it with bright red crawfish, yellow corn and potatoes and orange halves. I took the liberty of scooping two paper plates together for a failed attempt at scooping a serving. I resorted to picking up boiling hot crawfish, corn and potatoes with my bare hands into my plate, wiping the red juice and seasoning on my white shorts. 

I sat down at the event coordinators table, and my picture was taken after I struggled to open crawfish for the first time, appreciating every tiny morsel of meat in each one. It tasted similar to crab, and luckily I could fill up on potatoes and corn due to the small nature of crawfish.

Others hummed around me, discussing plans for after parties while some resorted to spending their remaining time at the open bar. Taking in the feeling of sand under my feet, the view of the John Hancock amidst the Chicago skyline, the beautiful blue water, the bustling preppy crowd and the smell of seafood, I felt very grateful. Events like this make me love Chicago more and more.

Taste of Randolph in Chicago

Laura

One of the many great things about Chicago is the staggering list of festivals, concerts, fairs and parties in the summer. There is certainly always something to do in the Windy City when the weather is finally nice. And during the third weekend of June, the Taste of Randolph showcased some of the best eats from restaurant row in addition to unique vendors showcasing beautiful jewelry, apparel and home goods in the west loop of Chicago. But most importantly, the beer and music was flowing all weekend.

With 10 bands performing on Friday, 24 on Saturday and 24 on Sunday, there was no shortage of entertainment. Big names like The Dandy Warhols and Best Coast headlined each evening to bustling summer crowds. Two stages acted as bookends of the several blocks of vendors at The Taste of Randolph, encasing the festival in acoustics.

Upon arrival, exploring the different stands was an easy choice. Various vendors included Greenola Style, which sold fair-trade and sustainable accessories that were as pretty as they were unique.

Another fun stop was Transit Tees, which supplied a bevy of Blackhawks shirts to celebrate the dynasty that makes Chicago proud. Other unmarked stands displayed rustic signs with clean typography and simple sayings such as "sweet home Chicago", in addition to enlarged photography and original artwork depicting the Windy City.

Aside from shopping and music, many came for the food. From Southern comfort food at Wishbone to the chill treats at Cone Gourmet Ice Cream, there was something for everyone to try outside his or her culinary comfort zone.

The Taste of Randolph brought together the community like only Chicago can. StarEvents, The West Loop Community Organization, Silver Wrapper and Raney Images certainly pulled off a vibrant weekend.

You can find even more choices of how to spend your time in Chicago through outlets like Thrillist and Chicagoist. If you crave more of what Taste of Randolph offered, these sites have regularly updated lists of things to do.

Photos courtesy of Raney Images.

Wild Berry Beauty Smoothie

Laura

While trying to walk the line of making food that is both delicious and healthy, I learned that smoothies are an easy solution. The following is a fun smoothie recipe that I whipped up for Lauren Cecchi New York. This simple recipe will not only give your immune system a boost for the winter months ahead, it will give you a glowing complexion. The antioxidant-packed ingredients help regenerate collagen and renew skin cells quickly for a natural glow.

Ingredients

1 Cup blackberries

1 Cup raspberries

1 Cup Greek yogurt

1 Handful ice

1 Cup kale

1/2 Cup pomegranate juice

10 mint leaves

Recipe
To make this delicious mixture, pick up some blackberries, raspberries, pomegranate juice, Greek yogurt, kale and fresh mint at your grocery store. The berries and juice add a sweet and tart flavor, the yogurt contributes a smooth consistency, and the mint adds freshness. Measure out your ingredients then throw them together in a blender and voila! To garnish your beauty booster, pour the blend in a pretty glass and top with a sprig of mint and a couple berries. This super easy smoothie is great for breakfast, lunch, midnight snack or really anything in between.

A New Menu at Sullivan's Steakhouse

Laura

Along with fellow members of the Windy City Blogger Collective, I recently sampled the new summer menu at Sullivan's Steakhouse in River North. Let me tell you, I didn't leave hungry or thirsty!

I started the night with their lovely seasonal cocktail, a smooth gin martini with a rose petal garnish. Our table was then given demonstrations of wine tasting, cocktail mixing and cooking. Although us WCBC bloggers were presented with so many items and drinks, my favorites were the gin martini, sea bass and cheddar au gratin potatoes.

I had a fun and relaxing evening with new and old friends, and I look forward to going back to Sullivan's this summer. Cheers!

Classic Chicago Restaurants and Landmarks

Laura

If you live near or plan to visit Chicago anytime soon, you'll thank me for this Renaissance Girl-curated list of places to see in the windy city. 

First on my list is the infamous Goose Island, which has won a variety of awards including the World Beer Championships, World Beer Cup and World Expo of Beer. Plus, the original is just 10 minutes south of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

Next on my list is Chicago Q, an award-winning barbecue restaurant in the Gold Coast neighborhood. This place doesn't mess around; the food is amazing and the atmosphere is hip meets fine dining.

There's a reason you hear so much about deep dish pizza in Chicago. Pizzeria Uno is where deep dish was actually invented by Ike Sewell in 1943. This is deep dish pizza done right, so if you're going to try it anywhere, it has to be here. 

Garret's Popcorn is home to original Chicago-style caramel-cheese popcorn (since 1949!). Do yourself a favor and check out any one of their amazing stores; you'll feel like a kid in a candy store!

The Art Institute of Chicago was voted the #1 museum in the world by Trip Advisor Traveler's Choice. With everything from Monet to Van Gogh, it's easy to wander around for hours to appreciate the masterpieces.

Whether you're visiting for business or play, you have to check out the shops on Michigan Avenue, aka the Magnificent Mile. There is a huge variety of shops and restaurants from mid-priced to high-end, so there's something for everyone.

Budweiser Missed the Mark by Dissing Homebrewers

Laura

On Sunday, some 120 million viewers across the United States tuned in to this year’s Super Bowl pitting the Denver Broncos against the Carolina Panthers. During the game, the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser Busch Inbev (ABI), the Belgian-based makers of Budweiser, ran an ad called Not Backing Down, in which they asserted that making Budweiser is “NOT A HOBBY.” I’m sure the nation’s million-plus homebrewers were shocked!

Well, no, not really. The hobby of making beer is usually done in small batches at home by passionate beer lovers. Budweiser is made in massive automated factories (not what I would consider “brewed the hard way,” as suggested by a Budweiser ad aired during last year’s Super Bowl)—it’s actually about as far from a hobby as you can get. As homebrewers, we brew beer because we love beer with full flavor and by brewing beer ourselves we can hone in on the flavors we like most. And beyond that we can experiment and create new beer flavors that no one has tried before. Budweiser is the antithesis of homebrew: beer that’s made to be as light in flavor as possible and to never change.

So if you are someone who wants to experience the diverse array of flavors and aromas beer has to offer, try homebrewing! If you’re interested but not quite ready to make the leap to homebrewing, try something from one of more than 4,000 small and independentAmerican craft brewers, many of which started as homebrewers. And, if you are already a homebrewer, keep doing what you’re doing, and cheers!


By Gary Glass, American Homebrewers Association Director

Photography courtesy of Getty Images

15 Minute Apple Crumble

Laura

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I've been on a health kick lately, but I have a sweet tooth the size of Rhode Island, which poses a problem when I want to be healthy. But I read somewhere that when I'm craving sugar, I should caramelize fruit. That way, I can satisfy my sweet tooth and I'm not eating empty calories, thanks to the starch and vitamins in fruit. I love making apple pie, but that does contain a fair amount of sugar and butter, so I decided to nix the crust and make an apple crumble today. I totally whipped this up as I went along, but it's a perfect snack for one that was super easy to make and delivered on flavor. 

Ingredients

1 apple cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 graham cracker

1/2 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 

Recipe

Cut apple into thin slices and heat skillet to medium heat. Add canola oil to coat skillet and add apple slices. Add brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves and stir until coated. Cook apple slices on both sides until caramelized, then remove from plan to plate. Crumble graham cracker and stir in skillet until toasted. Top apple mixture with graham cracker crumbs. Bon Apetit!

Lagunitas Opens a Massive Brewery in Chicago

Laura

I recently had the pleasure of touring Lagunitas Brewery in Chicago and talking with their events coordinator, Laura (great name!) and marketing manager, Karen. I walked in and was greeted by friendly administrators and a long tunnel covered in original artwork plus windows to machinery. This brewhouse is second to their original brewery in Petaluma, California.

This was all imagined. My brother imagined a tap room hovering in the center of the brewhouse, and to make it a reality for people to appreciate, that’s awesome.
— Karen

I was then brought to their "adult day care," an expansive man cave with eight taps, giant Jenga, couches, and the like. I sampled their Cappucino Stout, a delicious breakfast beer. I learned that Lagunitas Brewery has insane distribution; they export to 40 states in America and across the pond to England, Ireland and Sweden! 

agunitas also creates eight new beers a year in addition to their regular lineup! Like an artist, the beer craftsman are inspired by anything and everything to make new brews. And after touring their crazy-huge manufacturing facility, I saw their gorgeous tap room, which was smack dab in the middle of the glorious 300,000 square foot facility.

To my surprise, beer is completely dependent on water. The PH balance of their water needs to be perfect for ideal flavor, and Lake Michigan water is pretty different from water in California. But according to Karen, Lake Michigan water is so good that the California brewery is changing their water's PH balance to resemble Lake Michigan water. Cheers to Chicago!

To see this incredible wonderland, you don’t need to know a thing about beer. And if you’re open to seeing cool new things, this is right up your alley. Take a brewery tour to meet amazing people and sample every delightful beer free of charge - no reservations needed.