Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln Square’


Apple Fest Aftermath

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 by Tracey

We are coming off an Apple Pie high here at The Chopping Block after last weekend’s Apple Fest in Lincoln Square. We literally baked hundreds of pies for this event, 350 to be exact. I was part of the baking team that baked 152 apple pies last Thursday, and let’s just say that shift took its toll on me. I’ll spare you the tears but after one serious blister from holding a knife, one carpal-tunneled wrist act up, one cast iron burn and countless apple-juice-in-the-eye occurrences, I can honestly say that I am not a huge fan of Apple Pie.



















Now I understand that nothing is as American as Apple Pie and all that, but it just isn’t my favorite dessert. I’ve tried The Chopping Block’s famous Apple Pie recipe and it certainly isn’t to be ignored. It’s a delicious, never-fail kind of pie. But even though I don’t like Apple Pie, I do love other apple-flavored desserts. Here is one of my favorite apple-centric recipes in case, like me, you don’t really jump on the pie bandwagon. Oh also, Pumpkin Pie is not one of my favorites either. But more on that in October.

donutBaked Apple Donuts

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1  1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1  1/2 tbls ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup unsweetened applesauce, from jar

1  1/2 cup fresh apple, peeled and grated

For the Coating:

Unsweetened applesauce, from jar

1 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Dash of ground nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. In another large bowl, stir together melted butter, eggs, sugar, buttermilk and applesauce. Stir in fresh apple.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir with wooden spoon. Add another 1/3 of flour mixture and stir. Add remaining flour and stir just until combined.
  5. Spoon batter into a large Ziploc bag. Seal and snip the corner off one end. Squeeze batter into the cavities of a donut pan sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Fill each cavity 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full (to help donuts keep their pretty shape when baking, use a clean finger to gently even out the batter in each cavity and clean off the center knob of the pan). Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops of donuts spring back slightly when touched. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.
  6. For the outside coating, combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Brush each donut with a light coating of applesauce. Then dip into cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.  Let cool completely before eating, if possible.  A second dip into the cinnamon sugar creates an extra crunchy coating. These are best enjoyed the same day!

Tracey is an avid reader of youth fiction, nonfiction essays and cookbooks. She collects journals and agendas, Hello Kitty memorabilia and books of all genres. She has her BA in English from Loyola and her MA in Writing from DePaul. She hopes to one day write her way through Europe, master the French language and visit the nation’s largest amusement parks in one summer. Tracey was born and raised in Chicago (the city not the burbs) and currently lives in Logan Square with her cats Trixie, Milly and Archie. She’s slightly addicted to Pinterest.


Restaurant Food I Crave

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Quincy

I love being a chef! It’s that simple.  Well, it really isn’t that simple.

Being a chef involves years of training, stressful work and brutal hours. But it can also be one of the most glorious jobs. Chefs work hard, no matter if they work in a small neighborhood joint or a gorgeous, dimly lit, tablecloth and candles on the table fancy place. They work so that we all can experience the joy of food. Have you ever ate a meal that gave you goose bumps? I have! It’s about food that trips over the tongue and leaves fascinating sensations in your mouth and on the brain.

I’ve been very lucky to have experienced some amazing meals in my life. And yes, I’m one of those people who photograph some of them with my cell phone camera. Other times, I completely forget the cell phone in my pocket. I guess that happens because I’m so intrigued with what I am eating at the time. I might have missed taking a photo of whatever deliciousness I was eating, but I can assure you that the memory lives on.

Here are a few of my best restaurant food memories in photos:

Last October, some of my colleagues from The Chopping Block and I were invited to take part in one of the most glorious meals ever created.  It was part theater, part art and a hell of a lot of creativity. The restaurant is called El Ideas in Chicago. Every time a plate was placed on the table, each and every one of us let out a sigh of pure amazement. A chef came out from the open kitchen to explain each dish being served. The presentation and vast list of ingredients and components that went into each dish boggled my chef brain. Sometimes, I could not even process all of the ingredients. I remember just needing to dig in, to dive into this work of art that was just placed in front of me. And dive in I did! These two photos demonstrate that lack of patience I had.















I travel to Mexico once a year to a small colonial city called San Miguel de Allende. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. They have fabulous restaurants, amazing chefs and great food. My favorite restaurant there is Mare Nostrum. It’s a small Italian restaurant run by Giulio, who is from Italy and his wife Brenda who is from Mexico. I swear it’s the first restaurant I hit after the plane lands and I unpack my bags. Guilio makes a Bolognese sauce that brings tears of joy.  Placed on one of his made to order freshly made pastas, it’s a plate of food that’s out of this world!















I can go on and on about some of the other amazing restaurants there such as La Posadita, that has the most amazing rooftop view of San Miguel, as well as The Restaurant, known for its fine dining and inventive approach to foods of not just Mexico but from all over. But I must mention the restaurant San Augustin. They are known for the most delicious, made to order, churros you’ve ever eaten before.  They are served with your choice of three types of hot chocolate: Mexican, French and Spanish.  I tend to go with the Mexican hot chocolate.  These churros arrive to your plate, piping hot, coated in a generous amount of cinnamon sugar.  They are crispy on the outside and so moist and flavorful on the inside and definitely a favorite of mine.















Back here in Chicago, I dine at one of my favorite local restaurants at least once a week. Sunshine Cafe in the Andersonville neighborhood is old-school Japanese. Don’t go there looking for fancy sushi, maki rolls or sashimi. It’s old school with tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki and tonkatsu. The owner Joanie (who happens to be one of my favorite people) is a tiny dynamo in the kitchen. She’s over 85-years-old and still has it!  By the way, if they ever have rainbow trout on the menu as a special, do yourself a huge favor and order it.















I also love a local, incredibly charming Thai restaurant called Jin. It’s run by Jin, who is in the kitchen, and her husband, Chai, who works front of the house. Chai is a friendly man, with an ever-present smile and a willingness to get a laugh out of you, as he’s graciously seating you at your table. As for Jin, there is no one nicer, kinder, sweeter and willing to share the dishes of her homeland. We often have Jin surprise us. She will create some of the tastiest, spiciest, most flavorful, authentic dishes from Thailand. Her soft-shell crab curry is a thing of beauty! I’m not really a huge fan of soft-shell crabs, but her version in a silky, curry sauce is astounding. If she has mussels on hand and offers them as a choice, go for it.  You won’t be sorry.















Then, there is Mas Allá Del Sol. I cannot say enough about this awesome restaurant. My very first experience with the concept of Mas Allá Del Sol, was with the original restaurant, Los Nopales in Lincoln Square, which has always been one of my favorites. Run by Chef Adan and his wife Mirea, you might also see one of their two daughters waiting tables at either restaurant. Adan took the concept of Los Nopales and created a restaurant a bit larger and more upscale, but still totally approachable and homey.

I don’t know what this man does with steak, but whatever it is, he needs to patent it. His Carne Mas Allá del Sol combines the tastiest and perfectly marinated grilled skirt steak, served with a chile morita and tomato sauce, borracho beans (which are pinto beans cooked in beer and bacon) and served with fried panela cheese, grilled green onions and an avocado relish. It’s wonderful! The meat slices just like butter, with a moistness and tenderness that’s unbelievable.















One more dish I want to mention is the Braised Lamb Shank.  It’s a huge hunk of lamb shank, that has been braised for hours in a light tomato, chipotle sauce and served over corn mashed potatoes, with tops of verdolagas (purslane).

lamb shank
























These are just a few of my favorite restaurant food must haves. I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to travel to several foreign countries and dine on amazing and unusual dishes in my life. But I’m also grateful that I have the opportunity to enjoy some great restaurant food right here in Chicago.

What restaurant dish do you crave? Share with me in the comments, and I’ll check it out!




Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.


As American as Apple Pie

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Andrea Miller

September is the month of the apple. Apple festivals are being held across the country, and as we all know, the highlight of any festival is the pie. After all, the way to measure whether something is truly American is to ask whether it is “as American as Apple Pie.” So, the results of a 2013 survey commissioned by the company that makes Mrs. Smith’s Pies shouldn’t surprise you.

Apple Pie Survey27% of people polled chose apple as their favorite pie flavor. It was the clear leader over other tastes:

  • Chocolate 14%
  • Pecan 14%
  • Cherry 13%
  • Pumpkin 12%
  • Key Lime 10%
  • Other 10%

If you are craving Apple Pie at this point, you won’t have to wait much longer. Lincoln Square’s Apple Fest is just around the corner.

Saturday, September 20


Lincoln Square

IMG_2011This day is packed with apple goodies and family fun. There’s live local music in Giddings Plaza, shopping, kids activities and of course, plenty of apples! Try Candied Apples, Hot Apple Cider, Apple Pizza from our friends at Himmel’s and The Chopping Block’s Famous Apple Pie. We love it so much, we even willingly share the recipe.

Made with Granny Smith apples and handmade butter crust, our deep-dish Apple Pie is baked to perfection and served in a 10″ cast iron skillet. You can either keep the skillet or return it for a refund. Beat the crowds, and pre-order your whole pie today! Our pie will also be available by the slice (topped with homemade whipped cream) so you can enjoy a slice of heaven on the go.

Do you agree with the survey results? What’s your favorite pie flavor?

Andrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 10 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Public Relations. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block's mission to get people to cook. She'll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.


Grillin’ and Chillin’

Friday, July 18th, 2014 by Quincy

I really give my grill a good workout this time of year.  But I haven’t always had a love affair with my grill.

I recall a very important dinner party involving sea scallops. My parents had flown in from Texas and some good friends were joining us. After that not so successful grilling experience, I thought about a separation from my grill. I considered buying a new grill that would be superior, with greater firepower and more features to my liking.  Instead, I stuck it out with my old grill.  I learned to master the piece of equipment that, at times, confounded me.  I have also mastered grilling sea scallops perfectly.

Now that I’m a bona fide “grill master”, I concentrate on other elements that go along with entertaining outdoors for friends and family. There’s nothing that compliments those grilling masterpieces more than a beautiful and comfortable outdoor space.
























Here’s a checklist of some of the things I use whenever I grill:

  • Full tank of propane
  • Grill that has been cleaned and oiled
  • Sturdy grill brush
  • Great pair of tongs
  • Bottle of grapeseed oil
  • Finishing salt
























I have a gas grill, so I always check to make sure that my propane tank isn’t empty. That may seem obvious, but I have made a few last minute runs for new tanks before! I always make sure to season my grill grates to create a non-stick grilling experience.  To do that, I heat up my grill till it’s good and hot. I take a wad of paper towels, grip them with a pair of sturdy tongs, dip the paper towels into a small bowl (about ¼ cup) of vegetable or grapeseed oil and then rub the oil soaked paper towels along the hot grill grates.  The more often you do this, the better seasoned your grates will become.

A sturdy grill brush to clean your grill grates before each use is necessary. Also essential is a sturdy spatula that will come in handy when flipping juicy burgers. A fish spatula will seriously make turning filets of fish or even a whole fish much easier to accomplish.

I use grapeseed oil for my food when grilling because it has a high smoke and burn point of 420 degrees. The smoke point is when oil begins to smoke and burn, which in turn affects the flavor of whatever you’re frying, sautéing or grilling.

After finishing up whatever I’ve just grilled, no matter if it’s meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and even fruits, I finish it off with a tiny sprinkling of a good sea salt.  I really like Maldon Sea Salt, which we carry at The Chopping Block.  It’s a flaked salt that has a clean taste and because it’s flaked, it gives a bit of a crunch to your finished food.

An outdoor deck space is just as important to me as the grill and its tools.  Guests will enjoy a lush and plush back deck, with lots of seating, an outdoor table, great outdoor lighting, some candles, hanging plants, soft pillows, and comfy cushions.  Do I sound more like an interior decorator then a chef? I think there’s a little bit of decorator in all of us chefs. After all, we create beauty on the plate and appreciate the same for our surroundings.
























I’ve done some pretty awesome things on my grill over the years, but the best part is continuing to experiment and discover new aspects and intricacies of my grill.

Here are some of my favorite and noteworthy dishes I’ve mastered on the grill:

Peaches grilled with brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh vanilla bean and brushed melted butter.  Top with fresh thyme, Black Isot Pepper and drizzle with agave syrup.  This was not only a tasty dessert, but was also a pretty darn good looking dessert. I suggest serving it topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
























Last night, I grilled some sea scallops and laid them on a pool of roasted tomatillo sauce and topped them with a mango and avocado relish and fresh lime zest.  I served this with grilled zucchini, spiced with a sprinkling of ground ancho chile and cinnamon.
























Another favorites dishes is grilled Italian sausage and mini cheddar burgers topped with grilled onions and tomato.  To please my doctor, there was no bun for the burger.  The burger and sausage were complimented by grilled asparagus, wrapped in prosciutto, grilled striped white and purple eggplant brushed with garlic grapeseed oil and fresh thyme. Lastly, there was roasted corn with poblano pepper butter, crumbled cotija cheese and a tiny sprinkling of smoky paprika.

























I hope some of these food ideas inspire you to grill and some of my back porch decorating ideas entice you to chill.  You know what else helps with that grilling and chilling thing?  Enjoying a glass of your favorite cold beverage. Cheers to your glass of wine, lemonade, or easy summery cocktail: take your favorite summer fruit, put it in a blender with some water, a bit of sugar and turn it into a refreshing fruit water.

Our outdoor grilling patio at Lincoln Square is another great place to grill and chill. Check out some of these upcoming classes:

The Thrill of the Grill

Global Grilling

Chicken on the Grill

Rendezvous Under the Stars

Summer in the City





















Quincy has been a Chef Instructor with The Chopping Block since 2006. He has a great passion for cooking and enjoys teaching others to cook. When he is not at The Chopping Block, he can be found trying out new recipes on friends and family. Quincy also travels throughout Mexico, especially in the town of San Miguel de Allende, where he checks out the many new and exiting restaurants opened by chefs from all over the globe. This love of traveling has also taken him to such far off places as China, as well as several European countries, which brings inspiration to his cooking and teaching.


Lincoln Square’s Good Eats & Drinks

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Robyn

One of the biggest perks of working at The Chopping Block is that I get to be in Lincoln Square every day. Nestled in the armpit of Lawrence, Western and Lincoln, this neighborhood is host to lovely scenery, attractive young couples, playful puppies, a shocking number of babies, and lots — LOTS — of good eats.

That being said, it’s great to work here, and it’s nice that on lunch breaks and after work I can pop out to any of the following good spots for nosh and/or beer and/or wine. But, I have to admit, it’s getting a little out of hand. Every day? I mean, EVERY day?

This is how Lincoln Square gets you:


  1. genesRegional, curious shops. Gene’s Sausage Shop across the street from The Chopping Block is always a fun place to pop in and explore (woah, the candy Polish kids eat is so weird!), and it’s definitely got the best prices on meats and deli salads in the area. With this in mind, I always walk in planning to grab a cheap little something, and walk out with a $5 bottle of Kombucha.
  2. Provenance Food and Wine? Same idea. It’s a place you enter to gaze at the beautiful oils, vinegars and chocolates and leave with a $15 block of delicious cheese.
  3. selmarieCharming, tiny cookies. At Cafe Selmarie, the romantic French pastry shop, you will feast your eyes on gorgeous tarts and bonbons sitting fresh-made in the pastry case. The vision: you’re sitting with a book on their bistro-style patio, sipping red wine and taking an hour to nibble through a single, quarter-sized sugar cookie because you’re French now. The reality: 10 sugar cookies, two beers, and half a quiche later, you’re sunburned and full.
  4. badappleBad ass burgers and damn delicious beers. The Bad Apple, a bit down Lincoln from the square itself, is one of our favorite places to pop in for a few beers and some laughs. Of course, when the menu comes around I suddenly realize I’ve been robbing myself of the true stuff of life—unique bar food and fancy beverages—for too long. I know we were going to go home after and cook, but who knows if I’ll ever have the opportunity to try a bacon and peanut butter veggie burger again! This could be my only chance! And I have to get this one funky beer to go with it! Fail.
  5. taqueriaSalsa verde. Okay, so we’ve all been eating red salsa at Chi-chis since we were seven. We’re over it. Salsa verde, though? With the chips? Now that’s something to sit down and wait for! Taqueria El Asadero down at Lincoln and Montrose has the right idea with this. At least once a week when I’m off work and starving, I can’t not go to this ten-table joint for some of the best vegetarian tacos and, yes, salsa verde, in Chicago. That is, I do this instead of going to the Jewel right next door and getting the goods to cook for myself. Because my tacos just aren’t that good. I don’t know what “el asadero” means, but I’m guessing it’s close to “place where you spend all your money.”

What’s your favorite place to blow your paycheck in Lincoln Square? Reply here and let me know.

Robyn recently moved to Chicago from Boston, where she taught math and reading in an urban high school. During that time, she discovered with dismay a huge lack of food knowledge and access in her students' communities and got totally fired up. She started cooking with the kids and created a class in which students learned how to budget for and select healthy, ethical, sustainable food. She is now at The Chopping Block with the hope to further the mission of getting the world to cook! In her free time, Robyn enjoys cooking and eating, bicycling and running, blogging and reading and adventuring.