Eat Right Around Chicago

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Can You Eat Right Around Chicago?

Since the fall of 2009, I have been traipsing, tasting and touring the great city of Chicago.  I have wined and dined with an aim to eat right from Andersonville to Lakeview, the Pilsen and all around the Loop.  I can't possibly remember every location or each bite, but I know that I've had Polish near Midway; French by Maude, One Sixtyblue, Bistro Margot, Bistro Campagne, Red Rooster, Bistro 110, Kith and even Kin; Burger at Paramount, the Counter, Kumas, DMK and among Five Guys; Vegan with Karyn both cooked and just raw; all of Rick Bayless; had to "Go 4 Food" in Chinatown; went from farm to table with a Girl and a Goat, at a Gilt Bar, Nightwood and The Publican; watched the chefs at Avec and Davanti Enoteca; learned to fly at Blackbird and Bluebird; picked pasta at Tocco, Coco Pazzo, Spiaggia's, Rasta Pasta, Terragusto, Roseangelis and Francesca's; did prix fixe at Sola and Moto; ate with chopsticks all over town from iNG, Urban Belly, New Tokyo, Sunda, Joy's, Jeannie's, Pingpong, Shanghai Terrace to Le Colonial; loved Lou and Gino and Spacca Napoli pizza; got whimsical with Graham Elliot; pie and home brew at Piece and Nella Pizzeria; fell in love at Great Lakes; noshed on Chicago hot dogs and lobster rolls at Fish Bar; cruised the Mediterranean in Greektown, Casbah Cafe and A La Turka; chicken pot pie where ever I could find it; Hot Chocolate, a Green Zebra, Toast, Orange and a taste at the Kitchen; tried Rockit, Table Fifty-Two, The Drawing Room, Hugo's Frog Bar, Belly Shack, Carnivale and MK; tapas at Cafe Iberico and Cafe Ba Ba Reba; met Fred's at Barneys; south of the border at Big Star, Mi Tierra, Zapatista, Cesars, Cafe El Tapatio, Chilam Balam and even Chipotle, or New Mexican at Abiquiu Cafe; Indian at Marigold, Standard India and Hemas; Fat buns at Ann Sathers; cheese with my wine at Webster's, the D.O.C., The Tasting Room, Bin, Bin 36, Volo, 404, Eno, the Purple Pig and sipped champagne at Pops; BBQ at Chicago q, Smoque and Chicken Hut; bellied up to the bar at Jacks, the Gage, Schubas, Cooper's, Minibar, Mystic Celtic and Wilde; meat at ZED451, veggies at Spring, cold queso at Bandera and brunch at Gemini Bistro; hearty at Hearty and HB; BYOB'd when we could and we can't remember the rest!   
While I dined around for fun, my other objective during this two year quest was to eat right.  And now that I'm trading my residence in the City of Big Shoulders for an apartment in the Big Apple, it's time to give a final answer to the question:  can you eat right around Chicago?

The answer is...yes, but only sort of.  Chicago is packed with marvelous cuisine with amazing chefs cooking up remarkable food.  And I feel strongly that if you're going dine at their establishment and spend the $$$, you should eat what they are best at creating, the way they created it.  So, I'm not ever going to advocate trying to change a chef's recommendation to suit your diet, unless you're at a restaurant where your dinner was cooked, not prepared (you know what I mean) or if you have a dietary restriction.  I know that's hard to hear from a dietitian, but if you want a dish drastically changed, then you may want to make it at home.  Problem is, many chefs are making mouthwatering meals that are delicious, but high calorie and heavy in fat without being nutrient dense or very creative.  To my dismay, sometimes it's like they're not even trying, just tossing in more butter.  But rather than skip the top dishes across the country or request grilled chicken everywhere you go, here is what I - a person that dines out for dinner not just for special, wants to taste the tastiest menu options, is determined to remain a healthy body weight - has to say for you to eat right around:  

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Vegan Lunch with Vital Juice

Yes, that's right, I had a vegan lunch with Vital Juice.  You know that I love veggies, but I think you may have picked up on my fondness of all things dairy and noticed that I include meats and seafood in my weekly fare (not daily, but weekly for sure).  Just to make sure we are on the same page, vegan means sans animal for wining, dining and living.  For those that proclaim vegetarianism as you enjoy a piece of salmon, this is not the case for vegans - vegans opt out of wearing or eating anything that contains any trace of animal.  It is also the premise and practice of successful Chicago restaurateur, Karyn Calabrese of Karyn's Raw, Karyn's Cooked and the location of my vegan lunch - the most recent addition and style-y - Karyn's on Green

I left the confines of my home office and put on a dress for this lovely lunch outing because I was invited, along with other Chicago bloggers, writers, dietitians and fitness folks and ChicagoNow's Mark Beier from Chicago Fit Club, to the Chicago launch of Vital Juice.  You don't drink this juice, you read it.  It's a website and daily email that gives you the lowdown on new and healthy eateries, workout hot-spots, spas and wellness events in Chicago.  Partnered with Karyn's creative cuisine, it was a healthy and tasty mid-day break.  Check it out...

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Dinner in Naples...Chicago, That Is

I dream of sitting in a piazza, sipping Prosecco, eating a fresh Neapolitan-style pizza with a fork and knife (yes, my dream includes an uncut pizza that I eat from the center out with a fork and knife).  I'm remarkably comfortable in the heat of the late day sun and I don't have a care in the world.  The summer breeze makes me feel fine.  If I'm dining like this, in a piazza, then I must be on holiday (sounds more luxurious than vacation).  A girl can dream and a Chicagoan can easily find a bit of this Italian bliss in their backyard.  One of my many favorite Chicago locales for a summer's afternoon pizza and Prosecco is Spacca Napoli Pizzeria on Sunnyside and Ravenswood.  Chicago Magazine agrees as Spacca Napoli is 15 on the July 2010 Best 25 Top Pies in Town.  Following an 11 mile run on Saturday, we took our weary wings to this authentic, friendly Ravenswood neighborhood gem.  We capped the day with my favorite gelato from Paciugo Gelato in Lakeview.  Benissimo!  

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Chicago's Farm-Fresh Nightwood Restaurant

Last night, we headed to the Lower West Side of Chicago, called Pilsen, for a farm-to-table, mind-blowing dinner at Nightwood Restaurant. I had very high nutrition hopes and great food expectations.  So many restaurants leave me feeling lovelorn; I desperately wanted Nightwood (with its dance club sounding name) to be the one.  Like I was considering a prospective mate, they had everything I was looking for.  A menu that is updated daily, based on season and availability, makes the knees of my bees weak.  When they boast simplicity, I imagine varied and colorful, hand-cut veggies, fresh herbs and robust, unpretentious flavors so that you make that m-m-m-m-m-m face with each bite.  I fantasize about a nutrient dense, farm-fresh meal with the perfect wine pairing and all the vegetables I can eat...finished with a delicious dessert that can't be skipped.  After this birthday dinner for Mitch, I have very little to say about Nightwood Restaurant except:  I think I'm in love.  

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High Res Make-Over

Although Eat Right Around is about food, nutrition, fitness and more about what is healthy for your body, I have decided to stretch a bit and tell you about a recent venture (or adventure) I had that was healthy for my mind.  I spent a weekend being professionally "styled" and photographed!  It was so amazing that I have to share the good work of the professionals that did this for me.  I enlisted the expertise of acclaimed LA stylist, Daria Maneche (lucky for me, she is friend of 20+ years) and the fantabulous, famed Chicago photographer, Brian McConkey

From Frump to Fashion

Maybe you're like me?  Do you relate to the gal they bumrush on the show What Not to Wear?  Do you sometimes say, "I can't walk in those!" or "who cares what I'm wearing?!".  How about Mitch's favorite, "I'm ready to go. I don't need to shower, I swam this morning."  If this describes you, we are cut from the same comfortable cloth.  Prior to my life-altering weekend, I owned three pairs of Dansko clogs in three different colors and four pairs of sneakers (and Crocs).  I recently ate at Pasta Palazzo in sweats - not "cool" sweats, that's an oxymoron - worn sweats from the Gap, circa 1999.  I wear make-up and what I mean by that is that I dab a brush in translucent powder and sometimes put on mascara.  I like layering T shirts, fleece is comfortable, belts are to keep your drawers from sagging, suits are for grown-ups and heels are dumb.  My socks sometimes have cherries on them or kitties.  I have a tank that says, "I'm Bored".  That said, here is why I really need help:  my schizophrenic closet is full of style-y separates that don't match me, or each other, with labels like DVF, Nannette Lapore, Yoana Baraschi, Theory and denim from Barneys Co-Op.  So, I buy things that look like someone would look cute in, but I don't bother to wear them, I reach for a long sleeved T and I'm out.  

If you don't want to fly Daria in to work your closet and teach you how to shop smart and style right, then look for a local expert.  Check out ChicagoNow's own, Barbara Glass or search the other "style" blogs out there for an expert near you.   

Say Cheese!

As for the photographs:  if you have a blog, you're going to be on TV, launch a book, be featured on a website or in a magazine, have a picture on your work website or for goodness sake, even a Facebook profile or you just want to feel like a million bucks, engage a professional photographer for a shoot.  For me, it was all of the above, so Mitch gave me a photo shoot for my birthday (back in November) and I decided it was time to make good on it. 

Brian McConkey of Chicago was the obvious choice of experts to work with.  Brian is located in Chicago, takes an average of 700 actor pics per year (nope, I'm not an actor, just a dietitian, doesn't matter), has a dry wit, easy-going humor and is outrageously talented!  You want to feel at ease and have someone make you look better than you thought possible?  Brian is your man.  He'll hook you up with his longtime trusted make-up and hair stylist, Rachel Reiman to make sure you're done up right.  After the shoot, his "worthy assistant", Katie Adam, touches up photos of your face with a bit of digital, but natural looking magic.  Hell, I'd recommend doing it just for fun.  It's worth the price of admission just for the experience.

Here is what I learned...

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5 Courses at Rick Bayless's Topolobampo

You may remember, from a previous post, that I'm scared of prix fixe.  So when I sat down to dine at Rick Bayless's Topolobampo, I had to face my fear of again.  I was dining with fellow Chicago food experts, David Grotto, acclaimed author of 101 Optimal Life Foods and 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life; American Dietetic Association Media Spokesperson, Toby Smithson, Christine M. Palumbo from Speaking of Health, Cathy Kapica of Lazy Cook, Crazy Cook and Shannon Gomes who works with California Strawberries.  Needless to say, we were all wanting to eat right and some of us decided to see how Bayless's Celebration Tasting Menu would do.

When you're dining at Topolobampo and you choose the tasting menu, you may be challenged to Eat Right with Ease if you lick your plates.  If you taste, rather than clean, then Rick offers a variety of foods that will provide you a nutrient-rich dining experience.  If you choose to skip the tasting menu, then you can Eat Right with Ease at Topolobampo because there are many non-fried, vegetable rich, mild and spicy options for you to enjoy a la carte!   

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12 Traits of an Eat Right Wine & Cheese

Tomatoes and pasta, pizza and beer, tomato soup and grilled cheese, tofu and vegetables, cereal and milk, almonds and dates, chicken and pot pie, wine and cheese - all simple, culinary partnerships that I adore.  With the latter in mind and an aim to eat right, I enjoyed an evening out at the Tasting Room in Chicago's West Loop.  There are many wine bars speckled around Chicago and I have a special fondness for a few of them, including the Tasting Room (as well as Eno at the InterContinental on N Michigan Ave).  Believe it or not, I do believe that you can eat right around wine and cheese.  On the heels of my Tasting Room taste, I thought I'd share what I look for in a delicious, somewhat nutritious wine and cheese experience.  

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Support Clean Water Project - Friday at Sunda

Chicago's Sunda New Asian on 110 W Illinois Street is co-hosting a dinner for the UNICEF Tap Project this Friday night and I'm totally going.  I'm going for a couple of good reasons.  First, the proceeds support UNICEF's water and sanitation programs to bring clean and accessible water to millions of people around the world.  (Check out the project's website - it's quite compelling.)  Second, after cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, there will be a four-course family style menu created by Executive Chef Rodelio Aglibot that includes an open premium bar. And they said something about surprise celebrity guests...maybe Oprah will be there! 

The total cost, and I mean total - beverages, tax, gratuity - is $100 per person.  For those that stay-up after 10 pm, the ticket price also includes VIP entry to the after-party at The Underground, located at 56 W. Illinois Street and there will be a Grey Goose open bar until midnight.  You're welcome to just attend the after-party portion of the night by donating $25 at the door at The Underground from 9 pm-11pm, but then you miss the food!

Sunda New Asian
FRIDAY, MARCH 19th, 2010
7 pm - cocktail reception with hors d'oeuvres
8 pm - seated dinner
10 pm - after-party at The Underground

For more information or reservations contact Jamie Weil via email at or at 310-270-3054.

Beard Papa's Perfect Puff

For several years now, work has taken me to NYC, so whenever I went east, I would squeeze in a cream puff run to a Japanese bakery chain called, Beard Papa's.  As luck would have it, in late 2009, Papa brought their love to Chicago's loop on the pedway level of Block 37, Suite 50 on 108 N. State.

It may seem like bearded papas have little to do with the most decadent, delicious, puffy, creamy, delightful handfuls of the tastes dreams are made of, but, whatever the name, Beard Papa's cream puffs are amazing.  (According to Metromix, it is named after the owner's grandfather's beard.) 

I love Beard Papa's puffs for the pleasure it provides, but as a dietitian, I am very fond of its modest calorie contribution.  If you choose the traditional cream puff, it will cost you a mere 220 calories, 13 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar.  While a chocolate dipped is offered, the bare naked cream puff is perfect, just the way it is. 

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Can you Eat Right and Hearty?

I know.  The word, hearty rarely implies, "low-fat", "light", "low calorie", "veggie-rich".  Actually, I'm pretty sure it conjures images and mouthfuls of warm, yummy, comfort foods, just like Mom used to make, and smother in gravy.  Yes, it makes me hungry too.  That's why I had to taste what the Food Network famed partners, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, were serving at their Chicago restaurant, Hearty.  Can you eat right and hearty?  

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Why I'm Scared of Prix Fixe

I love everything about dining out. 

I love being escorted to my table, assessing the area like I'm buying a house - looking for quiet neighbors, great view, comfortable weather. 

Yes, I'd love water - tap please. 

I love cloth napkins. 

I love opening the menu for the first time, evaluating it for the tastes I crave, knowing that I can choose anything I want. 

I love contemplating the wine and when the server has a suggestion and describes it with descriptors that are meaningful, not just "fruity" or "dry". 

I love the anticipation - will the server be personable, will we love the specials, will I remember my meal, will we comment on the way out, "that was the best meal we've had in a longtime". 

I love that you have to look right at your dinner mate when you talk and because of this intimacy, you learn so much about each other and solve so many of the world's problems (but only if the food is good). 

I love that the size of the table matters to me and that I like to look out the window, rather than into the restaurant. 

I love it when the server truly loves food and respects time rather than being too rushed or moving too slowly.  I love it when they tell you that you should try this, or that they don't think that is all that - and you can tell that they mean it. And I love it when they're right and you share a look that says, "wow, that was a little bit of heaven in my mouth". 

I love it when the food makes me proclaim, "holy shit, you have to taste this," or "this is just stupid," or "I think the Chef loves me," or "AMAZING!" or when I can't say anything at all because I'm weeping. 

I love dining out for these reasons, and so many more. 

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart and abashment that I confess:  I am scared of Chicago's restaurant week and I'm scared of prix fixe menus.    
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Coconut: Health Nut or Nuts?

I had a lovely Tom Kha Kai soup (sometimes called, Tom Kha Gui) for dinner last night.  Although I wasn't inspired enough to talk about the restaurant, it did get me thinking about coconuts.  I've noticed that coconuts have been getting more attention in the past few years; such as questions about the fat in coconut oil or milk, and coconut water as a beverage.  And I've been asked, "what's the difference between coconut water and milk, and are they good for me?".  Here are my answers...
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Things That Make You Want to Do-It

It's Valentine's Day and for those that think this is a real holiday, you may be planning a night out with your mate, partner, spouse, luvva or someone you'd like to do it with (have dinner, that is).  While peacocking may be your attention-grabbing tactic of choice, there are other things that may get you (and your partner) in the mood.  Here is a list of foods that are not your typical "aphrodisiacs" (I left out oysters) but have been considered for their sexual prowess.  Word of caution - unlike most of the nutrition tips I provide - the science is a bit "loose" when it comes to foods that turn you on [insert bad joke here] - and I've focused on foods you eat, rather than the science behind sexy scents.  Lastly, I've included a couple of things that may help you want to "do-it" over the long term and their supporting science is more robust. 

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Healthy Super Bowl...Really?!?

The "Wing Bowl" Buffalo Wing Eating Contest Is Held In Philadelphia
As with many annual events or holidays, Super Bowl parties have become a gathering for us to fill our faces with high fat, high sugar, unhealthy foods.  Because of this, it creates an opportunity for nutrition experts to give helpful hints and share tricks of the trade to lower the fat, sugar and calories in your favorite recipes.  Between the bombardment of recipes, tips and ideas for party planning, I have become concerned about this odd behavior that we repeat year after year.  So, rather than provide you more ideas for creating the best, healthiest Super Bowl party ever, I have some issues for reflection.     

In the words of Seth Meyers from SNL's news, "Really?!?!"  We can't figure out how to not overindulge on Super Bowl Sunday?  While I appreciate that it's an opportunity to teach people how to make healthier choices year-round, I'm concerned that we can't figure it out. Here are my questions for consideration. 

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Chocolate Prix Fixe at Sola

Without much planning, we headed to Sola Restaurant on Monday night (I didn't even shower) and had the most amazing meal we have had in a long time.  It was so wonderful...we filmed it. 

Note:  First video experience and so excited to add a new element to the Eat Right Around blog!


Veggie Blues

I frequently order meatless meals at restaurants.  It makes me very happy when a chef does veggies right - full of flavor, cooked with care and creatively combined.  Because of this, I know it's possible to serve a gorgeous, fulfilling, memorable vegetarian meal.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that some of the loveliest meals I've eaten have been rich in vegetables and poor on meat.  Given my adoration for vegetables, I was eager to dine at one of Chicago's few vegetarian and typically venerated restaurants.  I was so looking forward to it!  I had heard so many good things about this local establishment that I was salivating at the mere thought of the farm-fresh, seasonal, expertly-crafted vegetarian fare.  Who would do vegetarian better than an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant, right?  Who would be more creative, seasonal, sustainable, diverse, cutting-edge and skilled at preparing delicacies with vegetables???  I'll tell you who...chefs at other restaurants.   

My experience at this vegetarian restaurant was just OK.  It was not the amazing, veggie-tale experience that I dreamed of as a dietitian.  Maybe my hopes were too high...I wanted a place that would turn any meat-eater on...make Mitch fall in-love...exude creativity and culinary amazement.  It just didn't.  Here are my comments:   

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Bagels, Nash-Vegas, Spicy Mustard & Chicago Diner

I remember when my family switched from Sunday morning doughnuts from Purity Supreme to these large, shiny, rings of chewy, dough-love served fresh from the oven from this hole in the wall called, Bagel Alley in Nashua, NH (it had just opened and it was wicked good).  Bagel Alley is still a hometown favorite, serving up bagels the size of your face to carb-lovers across Nash-Vegas, New Hamm-shah. 

I moved from Nashua in 1990 and ended up in Chicago in the summer of 2009 by way of Durham, NH - Boulder, CO - Albuquerque, NM - Columbus, OH - Arlington, MA (no, I'm not running from the law).  I have chomped on some great bagels over the years, albeit not daily, but with the same fervor and adoration as I did as a Spring Street Junior High and NHS student.  The roll-with-a-hole at Beatniks Bagels in Boulder, Wolfe's Bagels in Albuquerque and Bagel World in Salem, MA deserve a nod, but my bagel love started in "The Best Place to Live in America" (1987 & 1997).  And now I seek a suitable ring of yeasted wheat dough in Chicago.   My favorite so far is The Bagel on Broadway for it's entire diner (below), but I am looking for recommendations. 

Before I head to the diner part, you should be aware that bagels bring in anywhere from 200-500 calories per serving depending on their size.  If a 123 gram bagel has about 350 calories, barenaked, then I estimate that a Bagel Alley-sized bagel is a light 600 calories without a bit of spread.  Hey, they're wicked good - live free or die - but remember that when having a bagel (have one once a month or once per week, but not daily).      

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Park Free, Be Green & Eat Right

Everyone loves free parking...and everyone should visit their local farmers' market!  Chicago's only year-round farmers' market, Green City Market, is a one-stop-shop.  It has all the food you need to eat right around (at home) for the week.  I love my dinners out, but prefer my breakfast and lunch at home, so a visit to the farmers' market is a must.  Here's some of what Green City Market offers... 

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Eat Right at a Colombian Steakhouse?

Perfect for a group or party, the Colombian-style steakhouse is a fun and spirited option for a night out with a bunch of people.  I visited one of the Chicago options called, Las Tablas Colombian Steakhouse this past week (not on my Meatless Monday, of course).  If your group of friends decides to take up one of their large tables, will you be able to eat right?  
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Chef says, You Choose to Eat Right!

With the Le Cordon Bleu Challenge slated for tomorrow night (it's not too late to get tickets!) at the venerated Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, I was able to "sit down" (via email) with the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services, Chef Marshall Shafkowitz, to get his POV on healthy dining out, teaching today's chefs, pork belly and his Chicago favorites.  He includes some great insights that we can take to the menu - like how much we order or what to ask about the food being offered.  He also assures us that chefs receive training in nutrition, but reminds us that we are the keepers of our food choices when we sit down to dine. 

Here is more detail about what he had to say in response to my burning questions and some not-so-serious gripes (e.g., pork belly and butter, ha-ha).  I've bolded the statements I really like and find useful.     
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Dine out on Meatless Monday!

Did you know that removing meat from your diet just ONCE PER WEEK can help reduce your risk of chronic disease - you know, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer?  And, it reduces your impact on the environment by reducing your "carbon footprint" by saving water and fossil fuel.  I've decided to join the brigade led by the non-profit initiative, Meatless Monday, in coordination with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and encourage you to join me! 

To get your Meatless Monday started, here are some ideas for dinner tonight! 

Please note, I haven't made my way to Karyn's yet (the vegetarian hot spot in Chicago) but stay tuned...

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Eat Right with (Some) Options: Duchamp in Bucktown

In honor of the recent engagement of our friends, Susanne and Evan, we dined at Duchamp on 2118 N Damen in Bucktown.  It's a comfortable place, lots of wood, fine lines, unpretentious service and for the warmer months, seats about 100 on their side patio.  Like so many popular Chicago restaurants, Duchamp's reviews focus on their top notch burger or their drippy, indulgent delicacies, so I was concerned about their eat right options.  But thankfully, Duchamp achieved an Eat Right Rating of Eat Right with Options...or at least some.  

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Le Cordon Bleu Challenge, Top Chefs and YOU!

Do you like watching those TV shows featuring top Chefs?  Don't you like it when they compete?  Haven't you always wanted to try the food they create?  Have plans on Thursday, January 14th???  If you have $25 for charity and an appetite for flavorful, creative, culinary competitions and the talents of Chicago's own Top Chef, Chef Stephanie Izard, Chef Ron Aleman and Chef Radhika Desai, then the Le Cordon Bleu Challenge is a must-attend for you!

The Le Cordon Bleu schools in the U.S. invite local residents to watch as Chicago chefs, personalities and students team up to compete for the Le Cordon Bleu title.  The competition is taking place to celebrate the re-naming of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, formerly known as the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.  Watch as teams, led by  alumni Chef Ron Aleman, Chef Stephanie Izard and Chef Radhika Desai, compete against each other to capture the coveted Le Cordon Bleu Ribbon.

Come serve as a judge at this exciting event and be a part of the celebration, as many of the Le Cordon Bleu schools in North America adopt the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts name.

Attendees will be able to taste the competition dish created by each team and vote to determine the winner.  A portion of the evening's proceeds will be donated to the local Ronald McDonald House. 

Where: Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, 361 W. Chestnut

When: Jan. 14, 2010, 7:00 p.m.  -  9:30 p.m.

The evening includes: Cocktail reception appetizers, three tasting portions of the featured entrée, dessert and silent auction.

A portion of the proceeds from the evening will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Cost: The Le Cordon Bleu Challenge Event will be offered on a first come, first serve basis. Space is limited.  Entry to the event is $25 per person.  For tickets:

See you there!  

Eat Right at a Sports Bar: Rocks Bar Lakeview

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Bummed by menu at a bar (not Rocks)

Here's the scenario:  your friends call to see if you want to go watch the a sports bar.  You fidget, your palms start to sweat, you crinkle your face in despair - you want to go, but can't stomach the thought of hot wings and ribs, greasy napkins sticking to your stained fingertips, loosening your belt for relief and filling your gut with all that is melted and fried.  If you skip it, you miss out on a night with good friends and there's nothing on TV now that So You Think You Can Dance is over (and Jacob didn't win).  The horror if you go and try to eat right:  the "healthy", wilted iceberg lettuce salad, non-fat, taste-free, Italian dressing, mocking your every bite, oozing with melancholy and restriction.  Aaah, what's a sports fan to do???   Get a hold of can do it.
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Unwind at Near North Chicago Restaurant - Le Colonial

While I am certain that this Chicago restaurant in Near North is amazing year round, I'd like to recommend it as a "must-visit" this holiday season. Le Colonial's elegance, warmth and romantic ambiance creates a stunning dining experience on a cold, winter's eve.  Combined with their attentive staff and delectable, French-Vietnamese cuisine, Le Colonial is an ideal end to a bustling day of shopping, or a welcoming setting for a holiday celebration.  You'll find comfort in their space as well as in the their menu; you will also find it quite easy to eat right.  

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Eat Right with ChicagoNow Radio - Listen Here!

In case you missed it, you can listen to the podcast of ChicagoNow Radio, WGN 720

I had a great time chatting it up with host Bill Leff and the fabulous blogger, Patricia Diesen of Chicago Eats Allergy-Free

Chicago Burger - The Counter for the Calorie Counter

I took out-of-town visitors (my parents) to Lincoln Park's The Counter this past weekend.  People have been buzzing about their burgers (along with other Chicago burger joints) so I thought I'd give it a try even though famed burger spots are often greasy and cheesy with a side of fried belly fat.  Oh joy, oh yum, The Counter offers more than just diet destroying fat calories!  

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Invitation to My Christmas Challenge

You are invited to join my Christmas Challenge.  Your reasons for taking on this challenge may differ from mine, but whatever the situation, here's the challenge:  eat right over the holidays and either maintain or lose weight.  What?!?!  Have I lost my mind, you ask?  No, I haven't. 

Here's the Deal:  I am registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  I did not race (at all) this past season therefore stayed at my pre-season, sedentary weight earned after the 2008 triathlon season.  As it stands now I'm carrying a bag of 10 lb apples that I usually don't bring along on a swim, bike or run.  Therefore, I need to get back to my performance weight - a healthy weight with a lower percentage of body fat.  My pre-season starts now - yes, timed perfectly with the holidays.  My season training begins March 1st and sports dietitians agree, you do not try to cut calories when you're ramped up in training mode - you need the fuel - so now is my time to lose the apples. (If Ironman is in your future, check out: for your training and nutrition needs.) 

The Challenge:  It's the holiday season and there will be parties, cocktails, dinners, get-togethers and food-galore.  I am going to attend, and enjoy, each and every invite (especially since I usually complain that I never have a Christmas party invite) and this year, my calendar is already starting to fill up!  (Luxury problem.)  The challenge is, I need to shed this small dog (get it? 10 lb dog).  Therefore, if you are interested, I encourage you to join me - join the challenge to maintain or drop the dog during this food-focused season. 

Your Invitation:  I invite you to follow me, but really, I invite you to join me.  Leave your comments, track your progress and answer your questions. Let's not do this alone.  I am sure that your questions and comments will help others and I would like to help you as well!  Free registered dietitian (click the link for my creds) at your service...and for me, a host of readers to help me stay on track and focused.  

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Rick Bayless Spices Up Chicago with Xoco!

Chicago's River North just got a little spicier, thanks to Rick Bayless, famed and acclaimed Iron Chef owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Frontera Fresco and five fabulous cookbooks.  I've dined at Frontera Grill (although I haven't told you about it, so I must return) but was looking forward to Xoco with a wee-bit of trepidation.  Yes, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to eat right at this quick-service, "hot-from-the-fryer" el restaurante.  Not to worry, Eat Right Around lectores, Rick Bayless did not disappoint my drive for good health.  

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Veggie Pusher in Lakeview Italian Restaurant

I recently experienced a restaurant first - the server in a small, Lakeview Italian restaurant called Angelina Ristorante pushed vegetables on me!  I nearly fell off my chair and I may have teared up a bit.  You know I love a nutrient-rich meal and the best way to do that is to eat veggies galore. 

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Chicago Restaurant M-m-m-m-m Otom!

Amidst the warehouses of Chicago's West Loop sit some spectacular dining spots.  On Fulton Market you will find Moto and its more casual sibling, Otom (see, it's spelled backwards?).  While Moto is now on my "must-eat" list, Otom has a big check mark...been there, loved it, ate right.

Otom has an understated but elegant interior, and the staff is warm and friendly.  I think it's so wonderful when restaurants have a knowledgeable and approachable staff.  I think that being able to describe the menu and comment on specific dishes is a real value-add.  And a kind, approachable demeanor makes the meal.  (Note to restaurant managers/Chefs:  please let your staff try the food they are serving; we need their advice.)  Sorry for the tangent, it's been on my mind.  Thankfully, at Otom, the server smiled easily, knew what he was talking about and didn't look sideways when I asked for some details.  Off to a great start!   


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