I was recently invited to an event funded by The Beef Checkoff with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Living Well 2013. It was a quick 36-hour door-to-door trip to one of my favorite cities with a partnership I’ve loved working with in the past. Thanks to The Beef Checkoff for providing me the opportunity to attend this event and grow further in both my beef and blogging education! I’m so excited to share my inspirations from this trip with all of you over the coming weeks. As you’ve probably guessed, The Beef Checkoff covered my travel accommodations throughout the trip, and everything I’m about to tell you is my 100% honest opinion.
As Soon as I Arrived in Chicago, It Was Time for Lunch. I headed to:
- Epic Burger. I knew one was less than a mile away from where I was staying, and after my last visit to one of Chicago’s best burger spots, I knew I wanted to try to fit in a burger if I had time. Knowing I had a progressive dinner ahead of me, I ordered a junior burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, Wisconsin cheddar, and epic sauce. It totally hit the spot.
- Instead of getting fries or a milk shake with my burger, I decided to hit up Yogen Fruz on my way back to the hotel. I had never been to froyo place like this before. You choose a yogurt base (chocolate, vanilla, and fat free vanilla) and then an ingredient to blend into it to further flavor the yogurt. I chose vanilla yogurt combined with blackberries. After your dish is blended, you get to choose three toppings from the bar. There were lots of options of crunchy toppings, various fruits, and also some sauces, to boot. The girls helping me suggested the yogurt chips with the blackberry flavor, and I’m glad I took them up on that suggestion because I never would have chosen that on my own. I added shredded coconut and sliced almonds as well. It was a great combination and really enjoyed each bite. The yogurt was completely smooth, with even blackberry flavor throughout. I really liked this place and would definitely visit again if I’m ever near one.
Places We Ate During Our Living Well Progressive Dinner Friday Night, After Appetizers and Wine in the The Wit Library
- Sable Kitchen was our first stop off the trolley we took on an evening tour and progressive dinner in Downtown Chicago. Here we enjoyed a gorgeous local artisan cheese board, a roasted beet salad with pistachio crusted goat cheese and honey, and short rib sliders with a root beer glaze and crispy onions. Both the salad and sliders were divine. If I was a local, I could see myself hitting up Sable for those sliders two or three times a month; the short rib was so tender and the carmelization from the root beer paired with the crispness of the onion was perfection. While we were in Sable’s back room, we each took a turn introducing ourselves and sharing a bit about our blogs before breaking out in normal conversation. The group of people I was with were all so wonderful to chat with and the room was filled with noise of people sharing stories and laughter. It was lovely.
- Next we headed to Mastro’s where we had a pre-dinner carving demonstration with third generation butcher Kari Underly. I learned so much from the short demo and was lucky enough to be seated next to Kari throughout dinner, too. The group at my table had some great conversations and I really enjoyed myself at dinner. We started with a chopped salad, followed by a wonderfully tender, medium-rare petite fillet. We shared sides family style, mashed potatoes, sautéed broccoli and the most wonderfully savory, warm sautéed mushrooms, which would qualify as a “divine bite” in my world.
Awesome Gifts We Received from The Beef Checkoff
- A copy of Kari Underly’s book, The Art of Beef Cutting. One of the major takeaways I have from this trip is to invest in a good knife and start buying more beef from the market to use in multiple meals throughout the weekend. On top of the demonstration from Kari on Friday, at lunch on Saturday, Chef Dave Zino showed us how to get three different dishes out of one top sirloin steak and I’m excited to put some of the knowledge I learned and literature I brought back with me (like this book!) to use when I’m meal planning in the coming weeks.
- Sable makes their own beef jerky and little pouches of the delicious snack found there way into our going-away meals at the conclusion of the conference. This stuff has such a great flavor and I snacked on it all Sunday afternoon, a bite or two at a time.
Favorite Dishes from Living Well Meals
- Those short rib sliders I mentioned before from Sable were out of this world. I must try to recreate these soon.
- Beefy Sweet Potato Hash which I cherished on a warm tortilla as a special kind of breakfast burrito on Saturday morning. [We ate on the rooftop of The Wit. The food was spectacular and the views were extraordinary!] I loved this dish SO MUCH and was so excited when I heard that the recipe was included on the jump drive we received from The Beef Checkoff. Then I checked to make sure it was available to share with all of you, too. Try this stat: Beefy Sweet Potato Hash I plan to host a brunch with this soon! Who’s coming over?
Great Leaders Spotted on My Run in Chicago
- George Washington
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tools I Impromptu Taught About to Other Social Media & Blogging Rock Stars
- Buffer, of course. [for those who may not know, Buffer is an app that lets you schedule social media updates. I love that the upgrade [$10 a month “go awesome” plan] allows me to access all of my various accounts [THS, HLB, HLS, etc.] from one spot. I love that Buffer tracks the analytics on my tweets and Facebook updates so I can pay attention to when people are most reading what I’m saying on any specific account, and which are responded to the most. I love the interesting articles Buffer shares on their blog, too. And I love that if you sign up with my Buffer referral link, I get an extra space to fill in my Buffer, too. 😉
- Pocket. Which Julie does a great job of talking about here: Savvy Blog Talk: Get Pocket
- Learned about food photography from spectacularly talented Jennifer Marx in a delightful presentation titled, “Tips and Ideas to Show Your Food in Its Best Light.”
- Made Fiesta Frittata with my team, Eila, Amy, and Biz [Holy intimidation by awesome cooking skills, Batman!] during a cooking challenge activity. It was like we were on the Food Network! Each team was challenged to recreate a classic dish [ours was breakfast caserole] with a chosen for us beef option [we got lean ground beef] focusing on keeping the recipe nutritious, delicious, and simple to make. Our frittata was a hit; so scrumptous and totally makes me think my teammates could easily be a finalist in Master Chef [Biz – I’m serious. You could be the next Master Chef, lady!] I’ll be sharing the recipe for this wonderful dish soon.
Happy Unexpected Surprises from The Weekend
- The amount of greens we were served. Now, I knew we were going to be eating lots of healthy things besides beef, but I definitely ate four salads in the 36 hours I was in Chicago. And each was completely different than the next and the last was also delicious.
- I was really inspired by a bunch of the chatter that was happening about healthy meals for the family and children. Including two presentations which had large segments focused on family dinners and meals for children. Considering I have no children and no desire to have children, I was really impressed by the list of notes I jotted down at the airport Saturday evening. I have so many thoughts swimming around in my brain and can’t wait to share more of them with you soon!