Luella’s Southern Kitchen

A few weeks ago when it was cold and snowy I had the opportunity to warm up the best way possible; by settling into some great comfort food at a new spot in Lincoln Square called Luella’s Southern Kitchen. I loved the cozy down-home feel of the restaurant from the wood-paneled walls to grabbing your utensils from a kitchen armoire one might picture in an old southern mansion.

The inspiration for Luella’s came from Chef/Owner Darnell Reed’s grandmother who first moved to Chicago from Mississippi in 1943. When Chef Darnell was growing up he loved her cooking and would hang around in her kitchen after school until his mom would pick him up. As he grew as a professional chef, working for Hilton Worldwide in cities such as London, Paris, Miami, and Morocco Darnell continued to turn to Luella for recipes and techniques.

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Peche New Orleans

When you win two James Beard awards a month prior to my visit, your restaurant is definitely going to be on my radar. Peche was named both Best New Restaurant of 2013 and their chef, Ryan Prewitt was awarded Best Chef: South. Peche’s menu was very similar to many restaurants in Chicago featuring shared “small plates” and that allowed us to try several different dishes from their seven section menu. Even though our reservation was at 10:00pm the restaurant was packed solid and filled with both New Orleans natives and tourists alike.

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Borgne New Orleans

Before leaving for New Orleans I was sure to stalk as many menus as I possibly could, talk to everyone I know who’s ever been there, and brush up on the last season of Top Chef in order to stake out reservations at the best places. Going down for a wedding limited us to two dinner reservations, so the competition was fierce!

It was highly recommended that we try at least one John Besh restaurant while we were there; so after stalking every menu of all his restaurants in town we settled on Borgne. Chef Brian Landry’s menu  had featured a ton of fresh seafood, just enough butter, and the southern comfort we were looking for our first night in town. To say that he set the bar high was an understatement. We didn’t have a better meal while we were in town, and we ate…a lot.

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Crispy Salmon with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Hash

The other day I went on a Trader Joe’s shopping trip in which I bought maybe a little too much fresh produce for one person. While I was sitting at my desk at work thinking about what I should make for dinner, this recipe popped into my head like it was sent to me from the food gods.

Recently I’ve been really into making delicious umami creations and this hash has a little bit of sweet, savory, bitter, spice and butteryness all rolled into one bite. Paired with perfectly crispy skinned salmon seasoned simply with salt and pepper this can be an easy weeknight meal or a decadent date night recipe. Loaded with lots of vegetables and healthy fats from the salmon, olive oil, and nuts this original Stephanie Eats Chicago recipe is filling, flavorful and healthy.

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Jellyfish Chicago-Sushi for Brunch!

If you’re a fan of pan-Asian cuisine and sushi any time of the day I’ve got the perfect new brunch place for you! Jellyfish, a Chicago celebrity hot spot is now offering brunch at their beautifully decorated gold coast restaurant. This year-old restaurant known for their creative sushi rolls and bright Asian flavors recently started serving brunch on the weekends.

Jellyfish invited me in to try some of their most popular brunch dishes, along with some other lunch and dinner options. I’ve worked with Jellyfish several times  and I honestly couldn’t think of one bad thing to say about their service and their food. Brunch was no exception. I’ve been lucky enough to meet with several members of Jellyfish’s team, Chef Jason, Chef Puje, General Manager Alain, and Managing Partner Joseph DeVito.

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Meals Made Easy: Blue Apron

Meal Service Name: Blue Apron

Description: Originally worn by apprentice chefs in France, the Blue Apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking. Complete meals with 500-700 calories per serving, take on average 35 minutes to prepare, ingredients are pre-portioned to save time and reduce waste, and easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards. Recipes focus on ingredients that are in season from artisanal purveyors, fresher than the supermarket, and specialty ingredients are provided that are hard to find in any old grocery store.

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My Audition for Check Please! Chicago

This week I submitted my audition video for the new host of Check Please! I was a little bit nervous to put myself out there but I figured I didn’t have much to lose!

I wanted my video to be a mini Check Please! episode and instead of focusing on a restaurant like the show does, focus on me and my signature dish…my chipotle fish tacos with mango salsa. If you remember, I used them for my Bobby Flay audition this past summer. I developed my script to be conversational, but at the same time added some things in that I knew I wanted to emphasize. I’m lucky enough that one of my coworkers is a video whiz and was willing to help me out film and edit the audition video. She really did a great job and made it look super professional. I had two of my friends and my sister help as well by joining me at the table and talking about why I’d make a great host and about my tasty fish tacos! My favorite part of filming and was coming up with my own Anchorman-style sign off…”Keep Eating Chicago!”

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My Audition for “Bobby Flay’s Best Home Cooks”

In early August a casting agency reached out to me through my blog to audition for a new Food Network show called “Bobby Flay’s Best Home Cooks” (working title).  Needless to say, I was thrilled about the opportunity. The show’s premise is to have duos of amateur chefs with no formal culinary experience battle against each other in a series of cooking challenges in a chance to be crowned the best home cook in America!

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Lightly Fried Soft Shell Crabs

Soft shell crab season only lasts for a few months out of the year. Some years I miss it completely, but this year I was lucky enough to have it twice! Once, prepared at Hugo’s Frog Bar, one of my favorite restaurants in the city; and the second time I made it myself at home, with a little help from Whole Foods.

Soft shell crabs are surprisingly easy to prepare and really require only five ingredients!! You may not have a chance to prepare them this year, but keep this recipe in mind for the future!

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Fish Tacos with Homemade Mango Salsa

Lately I’ve been using a lot of fruit in my homemade dishes because soon it will be fall (it may already be but I’m pretending it isn’t yet) and we’ll be stuck back with our faithful friends, the apple, the orange, and the banana. Now, where there is nothing wrong with these tasty fruits, I’ve been trying to send summer out with a bang and this means lots of salads with strawberries, tons of smoothies, and of course my famous (as it’s known in my office) mango salsa!

I’m constantly working on ways to improve my fish tacos and after several tries I’ve come up with the perfect recipe and now everyone will have a chance to make them!

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