Chicago Favorites: !Bang! Bang Pie Shop

A beautiful Saturday afternoon, six girlfriends, and the most adorable pie and biscuit shop.

Bang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateThe shop’s tables are made with salvaged wood from the nearby Rebuilding Exhange. Awesome, right?Bang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateBang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole Zarate Bang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateHomemade jam, butter, and coffee roasted in-house? Check, check, and check. (Their iced coffee, lemonade, and iced tea are on tap!)Bang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateSavory tart with local vegetables and goat cheese. Nom!
Bang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateFreshly torched s’mores pie, and blueberry cheesecakeBang Bang Pie Shop | Photo by Nicole ZarateOf course, I had to buy an extra slice and bring it home for J. Brownie… er… pie points?

!Bang! Bang Pie Shop (Logan Square)
2051 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

The Simple Yet Essential Chocolate Chip Cookie

I’m kind of a sucker for cookies. Thin and crispy, moist and crumbly, slightly burnt, undercooked… I’ll eat them all. Especially chocolate chip cookies, and this is the perfect recipe. Soft, chewy, and the way all cookies should be: a cinch to make.
Chocolate Chips | Photo by Nicole Zarate Eggshells | Photo by Nicole Zarate Chocolate Chip Cookies | Photo by Nicole Zarate Chocolate Chip Cookies | Photo by Nicole Zarate Chocolate Chip Cookies | Photo by Nicole Zarate

Find the recipe for these perfect chocolate chip cookies here. Enjoy!

Simple Things: Sunday Morning Coffee

Sunda Morning Coffee | Photo by Nicole Zarate

Sunday Supper: Grilled Poblano and Chicken Tortas

My love for tortas started out with a mistake. A wonderful, tasty mistake.

At a beloved hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, I quickly perused the menu that lacked descriptions, and hastily ordered a torta (my foggy mid-workday brain translated it as “tostada” that day). Instead of a salad, a sandwich was placed in front of me. Chicken grilled to perfection, creamy guacamole, melted cheese… and ohhhh, the bread. Bolillo or telera rolls are traditionally used for these Mexican sandwiches– crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside (like any good bread), with just enough heft to hold all the stuffins. And, like any good sandwich, the possibilities for a torta are endless.

sf-tortas01 sf-tortas02 sf-tortas03And, of course, no meal is complete without a cold beverage to wash it all down…

Grilled Poblano and Chicken Tortas
(Adapted from SF Gate)
Makes 4 sandwiches

4 poblano chile peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken cutlets ( 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick, about 1 1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Juice of 2 limes, divided
4 bolillos, telera, or other soft rolls, split lengthwise down the middle
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1 large or two small ripe avocados, pitted and sliced thin
1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

Combine 2 tbsp olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and juice of 1 lime. Add chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and minced chipotle peppers in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Place the peppers and the chicken on two separate plates. Rub the peppers with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Season the chicken with salt and pepper as well.

Grill the peppers cut side up for about 10 minutes, then flip and continue to cook on the other side for about 5 minutes more. On another portion, grill the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side until cooked through. Remove from the grill and set aside. Let chicken rest for ten minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread chipotle mayo on the bottom half of each roll, then sprinkle with queso fresco. Layer the avocado, chicken, poblanos, and red onions on top of the cheese, then squeeze the juice of the remaining lime over the onions. Place the top half of the roll onto the sandwich, serve immediately, and enjoy!

LA Favorites: A-Frame

A few weeks ago, J and I made our way back to California for a family visit. (Boy, had I taken that weather for granted!) There were a few places we knew we needed to go back to. In-n-Out, of course. Maybe our favorite breakfast spot. And definitely A-Frame.

Located in our old ‘hood in the Mar Vista/Culver City/Venice-ish area, A-Frame was the last restaurant we ate at together before heading East. And it was frickin’ amazing.

For a while now I’ve been a huge fan of Roy Choi, who is the mastermind behind A-Frame, along with his other establishments Chego (another fave!) and Sunny Spot (a must-try next time I’m in LA!) Most importantly, he started off with the Kogi truck, which started the food truck revolution that so many of us are familiar with today. With a talent that combines his Korean background with Mexican influences of his hometown of Los Angeles, Roy Choi has created a unique and groundbreaking cuisine– no pretentious frou frou food, just Damn. Good. Food. A-Frame serves self-professed modern picnic food, meant to be eaten with your fingers and shared. And, to me at least, it doesn’t get any better than that.
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(Clockwise from top left) “Kitchen Fries” of different varieties of potatoes with kimchi sour cream, baby back ribs glazed with hoisin-chili sauce, dessert (more on that below), and sesame leaf wrapped shrimp tempura with a shoyu (soy sauce) dip.

The dessert– well, that deserves a standing ovation. This is the BEST dessert I have ever been served in a restaurant, and as you may have guessed, I have eaten a lot of desserts. It’s called “Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang”, because until you’ve tried it, chu really don’t know, mang. Churros— fried and made out of POUND CAKE, for goodness’ sake– are rolled in cinnamon, and served with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. Your eyes will roll back in your head. Yes. It’s that good.

A-Frame (Mar Vista/Culver City area)
12565 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066

The Perfect Bite: Caramel Shortbread Squares

Let’s just say this post has been a long time coming; this is definitely a favorite in my immense arsenal of dessert recipes. If there’s one thing to make when you want to impress, perhaps before asking for a big favor, it’s these irresistible bites of thick and gooey caramel sandwiched between buttery, crumbly shortbread and velvety chocolate. I like to use dark chocolate to help balance out the sweetness of the caramel, and if you’re feelin’ fancy, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top won’t hurt one bit.

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Find the recipe for caramel shortbread squares here. Enjoy!

Chicago Favorites: Sun Wah BBQ

Middle of winter. 14 degrees outside.

The solution? Dinner out with family– hot tea, steaming bowls of soup, and Peking duck.
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Be sure to have the Beijing Duck Feast, which I believe isn’t even on the menu but everyone orders it. They bring out a plump, juicy roasted duck and carve it tableside, then serve it with steamed bao, pickled daikon, and hoisin sauce. The duck itself is delicious, but once you eat it with all the other ingredients, you’ll be dreaming about it for days. Once carved up, the duck carcass goes back into the kitchen to make broth with wintermelon, as well as fried rice (pictured below), which are soon brought back out to your table.


Other goodies include (from top left) the aforementioned duck fried rice, fish with ginger and green onions, Chinese broccoli, and a combination BBQ plate.


Corn egg drop soup and fried fish balls –tender fish with a perfectly crisp, slightly sweet crust– are also definitely some of my favorites.

Sun Wah BBQ (Uptown/Argyle)
5039 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640

Apple Pancake

I grew up eating apple pancake, which is essentially the apple version of a Dutch Baby— it was a special breakfast treat my family would order from a local restaurant every now and then. This is no ordinary pancake (I think I may have sworn off typical pancakes altogether), and you’ll see why when you taste it in all its warm, apple-y custard glory.

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Find the recipe for THE apple pancake here. I like to add a little more sugar to the batter and top each serving with powdered sugar. 🙂 Enjoy!

Clementine Posset

Every winter, I look forward to buying crates and crates of clementines. Sweet, juicy, seedless, easy to peel… what more can you ask for in a citrus fruit? As delicious as they are on their own, I wanted to do something else with the bowl of clementines sitting in my kitchen. And then I remembered I had a recipe for a clementine posset lost amongst the hundreds of “need to try!!” recipes I had bookmarked.

What’s a posset, you say?

I don’t know either.

Apparently, it’s a hot drink originating from Britain, made with milk curdled with wine or ale. These days, you’ll find it more commonly describing a dessert similar to pudding. Clementine pudding!!




Find the recipe for clementine posset here. Enjoy!

It’s Cookie Time!!

Why sure, the first week of January is the perfect time for cookies, right? You certainly want more cookies after gorging yourself on sweets during the holidays, right? …..Right?

Okay, I’ll be honest, I spent about a week straight in the kitchen during Christmastime and while I took photos, didn’t quite have the time to blog. So feel free to save the recipe for these peppermint bark cookies for next holiday season, or whip them up anytime this year– who says that chocolate and peppermint (layered on shortbread and drizzled with white chocolate!) is only for the holidays? Not me.



Find the recipe for chocolate peppermint bark cookies here. Enjoy!