Follow me through the adventures that take place in my kitchen, in restaurants or in other kitchens. Cooking and food are my passions and I want to share my experiences of cooking, baking and eating with you.
I'm a Greek self-taught cook who lives in Chicago. I learned a lot about cooking from both of my grandmothers, my mom and dad, family and friends. Passing on timeless traditions through food is one thing I strive to do in life.
These are my journeys through culinary exploration...
clraptis (at) gmail (dot) com
Tartaleta de Manzana Tart of local apples (honey crisp, golden supreme, Jonathan) with Mexican cinnamon and browned butter. Salted pumpkinseed streusel, warm caramel sauce, brown butter ice cream, caramel corn.
This is only my second time having dessert at Frontera (I had some tres leches cake when I went there the very first time for my birthday). It was a reccomendation from Jonathan the bartender and was shared between myself, my mom and our newfound friend Julie from San Fransisco. Although we kept mentioning how full we were, we kept taking bite after bite!
I can always make room for an apple dessert… especially during the fall season. This one is without a doubt the best one I’ve had! The choice of apples were some of my favorites, especially honeycrisp. But the brown butter ice cream and caramel corn were incredible extra touches that gave the dessert an extra depth of flavor and texture. LOVED it!
Camarones al Pasilla Oaxaqueno Wood-grilled, adobo-marinated fresh Florida shrimp in a smoky sauce of Oaxacan pasilla chiles and roasted tomatillos, served over queso añejo mashed potatoes, braised local Swiss chard
This shrimp dish from Frontera Grill pleased my taste buds with its smoky-spicy flavor. Wood-grilling these plump shrimp gives the dish an extra boost. The potatoes were so creamy and silky - I love the añejo cheese blended in.
My favorite part of the dish was the Swiss chard. Do you see that burst of red/magenta color?? They always say you eat with your eyes first! The chard was perfectly prepared and cooked. I’ve ordered dishes with greens at other restaurants and have been left disappointed. A lot of the time the greens are just thrown in there, so they end up being bland and flavorless. This local chard was so full of flavor that after I was finished with my plate, I continued to pick around the reamining shimp and potatoes to find the rest of it.
This dish is on their “especialidades” menu, which changes every month. It might still be available next month - but I wouldn’t risk letting it pass you by if shrimp is your thing!
Sopes Rancheros Crispy corn masa boats with savory shredded beef, roasted tomatoes, avocado and homemade fresh cheese
I took my mom to Frontera Grill (finally) so we could have an amazing dinner. They don’t take reservations (unless you have a party of 8 or more and you make them 6 months in advance) so there was a 3 HOUR wait. I promised my mom it was worth the wait… and at the end of the dinner she agreed that it was!
My whole family shares a love for greasy Mexican food - but Rick Bayless proves that gourmet Mexican cuisine will win you over. The fresh, spicy and smoky Mexican flavors are enhanced by the use of organic and “home grown” ingredients from their rooftop garden. Not to mention, they are known for their selection of premium tequilas and hand-shaken margaritas.
Mom and I made friends with a woman from San Fransisco (Julie) who was in town for a convention. She came in a day early so she could eat at Frontera and send photos to her husband via text message. They are both BIG fans of Rick Bayless. After almost two hours of waiting we were able to snag 3 seats at the bar. This was my first time sitting at the bar, and in my opinion it was more fun!
The bartenders, despite the fact they were crazy busy, made time to interact with their customer dining at the bar. We included the couple sitting next to us in on our fun and by the end of dinner it was almost like we all were long-time friends! Our bartender, Jonathan, made us feel right at home, bought us a round of drinks that we didn’t need and talked Julie, my mom and me into sharing a dessert… even though we were so full we were about to burst.
This was by far my most fun and most delicious experience at Frontera Grill. If you live in Chicago or just in town visiting and have never been here before - put it at the top of your priority list. You won’t be disappointed… even if there is a 3 hour wait! :)
Sea Scallops in a Bacon Mushroom Sherry Cream Sauce from Glenn’s Diner
Took my mom for a quick Friday night meal at Glenn’s Diner in Ravenswood. They have between 12-14 fresh catch fish dishes that change daily on their menu. Our server recommended this dish because of the sauce - and he was right, it was delicious!
Went to Lockdown (again) this weekend. It has become somewhat of a “reward” to have a burger there after a week of eating right and working out regularly. :)
This time I had the Lockdown Warden:
Burger on a pretzel roll infused with bacon, leeks, garlic, shallots and stuffed with cheddar cheese. Topped with crispy fried leeks and shallots that were tossed in truffle oil.
I love burger patties that are infused/stuffed with ingredients instead of it being topped. When the extras are sitting on top of the burger, I undoubtedly will lose half of the goodies as they slip out from under the bun and onto my plate (or lap). This genius idea of stuffing the patty itself with yummy things like leeks, shallots, cheese and BACON is the best way to get a guaranteed taste of it all in each bite.
Lockdown does it again! Next visit I’m going to try the burger with kimchee, bacon and a fried egg. Mmmmm!!!!
A friend of mine had been dying to take me to his friend’s bar, Lockdown Bar & Grill, to try some of the “best burgers in Chicago” (as he put it). I was skeptical because nothing compares to a Five Guys burger in my opinion.
2 weeks ago, he finally convinced me to meet him there - and I have to be honest, I went back again one week later! The burgers are THAT amazing.
Pictured here are the two burgers we ordered during our first visit:
Cruelty to Animals(left) - 10 oz. Angus burger topped with bacon, porkbelly and prosciutto
Punk Bitch(right) - 10 oz. Angus burger topped with crispy prosciutto, gruyere cheese and a garlic mustard cream sauce
These burgers were cooked to perfection, super juicy - not at all greasy. The array of different toppings and burger options exceeded my expectations! Did I mention that these two burgers in particular were served on PRETZEL rolls?? Pretzel rolls = key ingredient to a successful burger (IMO). This is the definition of an amped up burger.
My choice was the punk bitch and I was more than pleased. The prosciutto was so crispy and added that perfect pork-generated saltiness that I live for (especially on a burger). The gruyere and garlic mustard cream sauce combination added a flavorful touch. It was DIVINE!
I got the chance to talk with PJ Zonis, one of the owners. His vision for this place is such a great idea. The atmosphere is rockin’ - they play live concert DVDs of all kinds of rock bands (think ACDC, Guns and Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc.) on their flat screens mounted all over the bar walls. He and his partners wanted this to be a bar that serves delicious food. I think they hit the nail on the head with this place. Even though it is a bar with exceptional food, the focus they put on the food/menu is top priority. Their kitchen is open until the place closes and we’re talking bar food that does NOT disappoint!
If you live in Chicago or just visiting and burgers are your thing, I suggest you make trip to Lockdown at some point. No matter what burger you order, you will be satisfied!
I was in Las Vegas last week on a business trip. A vendor took me out to dinner at Onda Ristorante at the Mirage. This was my meal (after appetizers of green olive and sun-dried tomato tapanades, mussels and caprese salad).
Salmon Saltimbocca served with tuscan white beans and lemon butter sauce
Although I could have used another piece of prosciutto wrapped around that filet (of course), the salmon was tender and flaky… cooked perfectly. I’m a huge fan of citrus - so the sauce could have been heavier on the lemon flavor to boost the tang. Overall I was pleased with the meal though. Nice restaurant, quaint atmosphere and pretty good food. I recommend it!