News & Features

Review– Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human

July 26 2015 - 11:06 AM

Years ago during the height of the Vietnam War, I read African Genesis by anthropologist Robert Ardrey and was horrified by his notion that we evolved from killer apes — although that certainly helped me to understand and accept our thirst for war.  In contrast, Richard Wrangham’s notion that we evolved from a species of ape called Homo Erectus that used fire to cook their food instead of just eating raw food is much less alarming.  He introduces each chapter with an epigram that drives his thesis home like this one by Carltoon Coon:  “The introduction of cooking may well have been the decisive factor in leading man from a primarily animal existence into one that was more fully human.”  Wrangham explains how “catching fire” led to “family” structures wherein females of the species tended the fire, kept them burning, and cooked the meat that faithful, protective males brought “home.”  The cooked diet ultimately led to changes in our physiology, including brain size, and contributed to our longevity and eventually our ability to survive as a species.  Wrangham gives anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss credit for initiating this revolutionary idea.  According to Strauss who wrote The Raw and the Cooked:    “Cooking establishes the difference between animals and people . . . . Not only does cooking mark the transition from nature to culture, but through it and by means of it, the human state can be defined with all its attributes.”  Fascinating.  So we didn’t evolve from killer apes, but cooking apes.  Much less disturbing.

Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made us Human
By Richard Wrangham


Old Irving Beer & BBQ Challenge

July 26 2015 - 9:51 AM

Summer is at its zenith.  Each of these precious, warm and sunny Chicago weekends during the sun’s Midwestern sojourn warrants rejoicing.  And there’s hardly a better way to celebrate summer’s glory than with some barbeque and beer.  Both entities take center stage on Saturday, August 1, as brewmasters and pitmasters unite for the second annual Old Irving Park Beer & BBQ challenge.

This special event will feature 15 local brewers, each bringing two event-exclusive beers, one for pairing with a specific BBQ pork dish, and the other for entry in the Best Beer competition.  If you’re following, that’s 15 BBQ dishes and 30 special beers, all from some of the city’s most outstanding brew- and pitmasters.  Breweries in the mix include DryHop Brewers, Off Color, Half Acre, Begyle, Haymarket, Solemn Oath, and Revolution.  Pitmasters will represent kitchens such as 4Boys BBQ, Estrada, Los Banditos Guajillos, OL’ No. 7, Up In Smoke, and Porknado.

Event attendees will not only be treated to mouthwatering pork and exceptional beers, they’ll also get to vote on their favorite pairing and favorite beer. As an added bonus, a roster of celebrity-chef judges will be part of the electorate, too, including Stephanie Izard of the “Goat” restaurant series, Barry Sorkin of Smoque BBQ, and Joaquin Soler of Smalls.  Attendees can mingle with these Chicago cuisine superstars while overindulging in gobs of pork and lakes of beer.  Good luck topping this.

Ticket prices start at $50 for general admission ($60 at the door), and $75 for VIP ($80).  VIP’s are rewarded with early entry, 12 p.m. as opposed to 1 p.m. for others, plus the chance to mingle with the celebs. Now’s your chance to snob out on beer and barbecue in front of Izard and Sorkin – admit you know you’ve always wanted to.

All event proceeds benefit St. Viator Parish & School in Old Irving, whose pupils have included Haymarket owner and event participant John Neurauter and three other generations of his family.   You can find more event information, including a full roster of participating breweries and pitmasters, here at the website.  I hope you can attend.  Meanwhile, my mouth waters.

Old Irving Park Beer & BBQ Challenge

St. Viator School Parking Lot

3644 N. Kedvale Ave.

Chicago, IL

–          M. Sheppard

Home Cooking

5 Blogger Summer Recipe Picks

July 23 2015 - 1:00 AM

Everyone enjoys a good restaurant patio and a glass of wine in the summer. What I might prefer even more is grilling out, making some drinks and hanging out with friends at home. There are so many options out there, so we scoured the web for some great new, seasonal recipes. Here are some of our faves that made our list:

1. Sweet and Sour Cherry Salty Dog by Heather Christo

I love starting off a recipe roundup with a good, strong cocktail. This one looks so good I literally want to eat it. Cherries, grapefruit juice and vodka – what could be a better combination?! I’d considering switching up the recipe and adding lime instead of lemon and subbing in tequila, but that could be dangerous.

2. Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers by Shutterbean

Sweet and savory is a great combo, especially in the summer heat. I’ll eat pretty much anything off a grill, and skewers are usually number one on my list. Pineapple caramelizes on the grill, adding a ton of flavor to often bland shrimp. The sauce even has some of my favorite things – Sriracha, fish sauce and cilantro.

Charred Corn with Pistachio Cilantro Lime Rub

3. Charred Corn with Pistachio Cilantro Lime Rub by Joy the Baker

Corn is such a summer staple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a barbeque to plain old corn on the cob. Don’t get me wrong; it’s delicious. But why not elevate it with a flavorful, herb-infused rub? Joy the Baker is one of my absolute favorite bloggers, and I cannot wait to try this beautiful and flavorful combination she dreamed up.

4. Sorghum and Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad by Choosing Raw

Choosing Raw has a killer Instagram based off of her healthy, inventive recipes. Don’t let the healthy slant she puts in food deter you. Everything is seasonal, fresh and full of flavor. Sorghum is the spotlight of this dish. It’s an unusual grain that is known to boost energy and promote digestive healthy – plus it’s gluten-free! Corn, radishes, zucchini and fresh herbs give this summery salad plenty of color.


5. Wild Berry Lemon Thyme Tarts by Love Comma Cake

I can’t stop whipping up berry filled desserts in the summer. They are relatively healthy and use all of the affordable produce that is delicious and in season. These adorable mini tarts call for blueberries and blackberries, but you can really use any berries you have on hand. I love the addition of thyme to make this not your average dessert. I’d even consider garnishing with fresh whipped cream and mint…or a side of ice cream couldn’t hurt.


What are some of your favorite summer dishes? Comment below and let us know!

Images courtesy of Choosing Raw and Joy the Baker

Home Cooking

Healthy Chocolate Strawberry Crisp

July 16 2015 - 9:00 AM

Summer desserts to me mean blueberry pies, peach buckles, strawberry rhubarb crumbles and drippy vanilla ice cream melting over the top. I’m always looking for a way to change up my recipes. What better way than to add chocolate?

Chocolate covered strawberries are a classic combination. I’ve never seen such a pie, so when I found a recipe for one I knew it couldn’t be bad. This recipe actually calls for very little sugar (only a bit more than 1/4 cup in the whole thing) and no butter. Coconut oil holds the crisp topping together, and coco powder gives the chocolatey flavor.

I’d recommend eating this warm. Try adding some fresh whipped cream. Maybe some more chocolate. And whatever you do, don’t lose this recipe so you can make it again and again.

Get the full Chocolate Strawberry Crisp recipe here >>

4 Best Frozen Sweet Spots

July 10 2015 - 3:53 PM

We know the Eater came out with their top frozen treat spots last week, but our favorites weren’t even on their list! We’ve got a pretty comprehensive foursome: creamy gelato, flavor packed ice cream, refreshing Italian ice, and a new take on froyo that will have you hooked.

1. Amorino
While Amorino isn’t native to Chicago, this new hotspot is driving in locals like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a tiny storefront with a lot to offer.

Amorino’s claim to fame is that they can fit however many flavors you want into any size cone – and they mean that. They’ll slap on the flavors spoon by spoon until you get a beautiful, and delicious, floral arrangement of gelato.

I can’t even begin to decide which flavor I liked best. The hazelnut flavor rivaled Eataly’s. The strawberry had a nice burst of freshness. And the tiramisu was even more creamy and delicious than the dessert itself. I’m going back to try the rest of the flavors.

2. George’s Ice Cream & Sweets
George’s up in Andersonville serves up some of my favorite ice cream in the world, straight from Madison, WI. The Chocolate Shoppe is native to Madison, and they make the craziest combination of flavors. George’s has all that and then some, also carrying an array of chocolate dipped treats, cakes and candy.

My absolute favorite flavor is Yippee Skippee: the creamiest peanut butter ice cream with swirls of salted caramel, brownie chunks and pieces of salted caramel pretzel. You’ll just have to stop by and try it yourself.

3. Miko’s Italian Ice
For something on the lighter side, you can’t go wrong with Miko’s in Logan Square. It’s a tiny walk-up window you might almost miss, if it wasn’t for the line of people outside eager for a sweet scoop.
They carry a lot of the typical flavors, but the crowd favorite is always banana chocolate chip. Reminiscent of banana bread, this creamy concoction isn’t too sweat and will more than fulfill your ice cream craving.
Stop by when you’re on the way home from 90 Miles or Irazu and you won’t be disappointed.
4. Annette’s Ice Cream
While Annette’s has the exterior of a neighborhood joint, it’s one of my favorite summertime spots in the city. The walk up window is always teeming with people eager to try a new ice cream flavor, Italian ice, frozen yogurt or even Italian froyo – which is exactly what it sounds like.

I usually go for an Italian froyo PB&J style with creamy, peanut butter soft serve and raspberry Italian ice. It’s an amazing combo I’m not sure why other places haven’t caught on to.The ice cream flavors are also abounding, with options like carrot cake, peanut butter cookie dough and key lime pie. You can’t go wrong at Annette’s.


What’s your favorite place for a scoop of ice cream or a heaping cone of gelato? Comment below and let us know!

News & Features

Foodie Events: Shedd Aquarium BLU Fundraiser

July 08 2015 - 9:00 AM
I love a good excuse to get dressed up and drink and eat good food. Even better? When it supports a worthwhile charity. On Saturday, July 25th Shedd’s Auxiliary Board is hosting its annual BLU fundraiser at the Shedd from 6:30-11:30 pm to raise funds for the aquarium’s animal care, conservation and sustainability.


The event promises over 1,000 young philanthropists and 32,000 animals in attendance. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to go – there will also be food & drinks from over 30 premiere restaurants and beverage vendors, lakeside dancing, fireworks, access to the Shedd (no waiting in line this time!) and aquatics show seats. It will even feature a brand new amphibians exhibit.

Attendees will be able to sample food from:

  • Jellyfish
  • Kaiser Tiger
  • More Cupcakes
  • Mexique
  • The Radler
  • Honey Butter Fried Chicken
  • The Florentine
  • Sunda
  • Luke’s Lobster

And many more!

If you’re as excited as we are about this, you’re in luck. We’re giving away 2 sets of tickets to the fundraiser. Just comment below by telling us why you’re passionate about animal care and sustainability, and we’ll select the winners the week before the event.


If you aren’t lucky enough to win free tickets, you can buy tickets to BLU here >>


Photo courtesy of the Shedd Aquarium