As I’ve written before, I love to host and cook for friends. We had an impromptu brunch with a friend who was visiting Chicago for the weekend. It was last minute, so I had to come up with whatever I had in the house.

Grocery Gal La Criolla

Spanish tortilla adapted from La Criolla’s recipe

We had enough potatoes and eggs to whip up our go-to brunch recipe: Spanish Tortilla. My husband follows an authentic recipe from friends in Barcelona, and I’ve been adapting mine from a spice-filled recipe from La Criolla’s website. While his thinks it’s tortilla blasphemy to add garlic and spices, I love it. So we created a scenario that was the best of both worlds: my husband’s authentic one, my spice filled one, and our friend could try both. I had gotten some garlic tops from Amish Farmers the previous Friday and I added those to my tortilla. I even cut the potatoes two different ways so there was not questioning which tortilla was which.

Grocery Gal LaCriolla spice

Her and His spanish tortilla components

Along with two types of Spanish tortilla we also had manchego cheese, a staple in the Grocery Gal household. Unfortunately we were out of Cava (my stash from Vin Chicago had been exhausted), so we couldn’t make our standard brunch drink of Cava with apricot nectar. It seemed as good of a time as any to continue our Spanish theme and open up a box of Beso del Sol Sangria. Sangria for brunch? Why not!

Beso del Sol Grocery gal Caputo's

Beso Del Sol Sangria – 3 liters in one handy box

I am usually skeptical of premixed drinks. I found Beso Del Sol at Caputo’s, and after reading that it was imported from Spain, I thought I’d give it a try. My original intentions were to bring the sangria to a barbecue I was going to later that day, but with 3 liters hidden in one handy box, I thought it was ok to test out a few glasses in advance.

We drank the sangria straight, with no fruit. The only reason the drink was sans fruit was I couldn’t  remember what type of fruits to put in the drink. Apples, yes… but I’d have to go downstairs and get some out of the fridge. Oranges, oh yeah! But I didn’t have any in the house. Had they recommended fruits to add on the box, I would’ve bought them when I bought the sangria. Fortunately the sangria was perfect on it’s own – it didn’t need any fruits.

What I loved about it was it wasn’t too sweet. It had a slight sweetness to it, but nothing so sweet that you couldn’t drink more than one glass.

So round one of entertaining with Beso Del Sol’s sangria was a success. How would it be a few hours later at a summer barbecue? I’d have to wait and see.

There were beverages a plenty at the barbecue, but I seemed to be the only one enjoying the sangria. It had cute, bright packaging – but no takers. Was it the boxed wine stigma? Perhaps. Had I transferred it from a box to a pitcher filled with fruits, it might’ve sparked more interest. It wasn’t until the hostess brought the box and some glasses to a table of friends that everyone tried the Beso Del Sol, and subsequently fell in love with it, too. They agreed with me – it wasn’t too sweet and was refreshing on a warm summer day. They couldn’t believe that tiny box held 3 liters of tasty goodness, and was only $19! Fortunately, all my friends have an outpost of Caputo’s near their homes or work, and I’m pretty confident they’ll be picking up a box or two real soon: one for brunch and one for their next barbecue!

Beso Del Sol Sangria. I bought mine at Angelo Caputo’s in Elmwood Park.

 


It’s 6:45am on a Saturday, and I’m driving on the Kennedy heading to Lincoln Park. Why am I doing this? I wake up Monday-Friday at 5:30 and this is the one day I can really sleep in… it’s not even 7 and I’m already in a car driving 60 mph on the expressway?

I’m on my way to Lincoln Park’s Green City Market to meet up with Efren Candelaria and Chef Gabriel Moya, two of the four partners behind Sobremesa Supper Club. The other two, Felipe Cabrera and Mayra Estrella, Efren’s wife, were busy with their own to-do lists for the next night’s dinner. I had strict orders to meet Efren and Chef Moya at 7:15am while they would be shopping for fresh, locally grown, sustainable produce which are the cornerstone of their amazing Sunday dinner events. If you haven’t heard of Sobremesa yet, shame on you! Chef Gabriel Moya has already been identified as one of Chicago’s “finest up-and-coming ‘underground’ chefs” by the Huffington Post. Their mission statement sums it up: they’re a Latin inspired, locally sourced dining experience that looks to foster community through food, relationships, and dialogue. The only thing that’s missing in their mission statement is how incredible the food tastes!

The Green City Market is easily Chicago’s go-to place for locally sourced food. From May to October they’re on Clark Street at Lincoln on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and from November to April in the Peggy Notebart Museum on Saturdays only. Chicago doesn’t offer a seven day traditional free standing market like my favorites La Boqueria Market in Barcelona or the Naschmarkt in Vienna do. The Green City Market started in 1998 and grew to Chicago’s premier Farmer’s Market, with the closest rival being the City of Chicago’s Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market.

Grocery Gal Green City Farmer's Market Chicago

The Quiet before the Storm at (what I think is) Chicago’s largest Farmer’s Market

And because the Green City Market is one of Chicago’s favorite markets, I had to meet bright and early at 7:15am. There are a ton of benefits to arriving early at the market: parking meters didn’t go into effect until 8am, the market was extremely manageable to walk through, the people at this hour were serious about shopping, and I could easily see Efren’s bright yellow Colombia soccer jersey as I walked over to meet them.

Grocery Gal Sobremesa Green City Market

There’s Efren in the middle of the photo

When I caught up with them (on time, too!), Chef Moya reminded me of myself as Grocery Gal: he was focused man on a mission; just let him go shop and stay out of his way while you just step back and take it all in. Shopping is just part of the long process; after you leave, and get to work on the prep. The Sobremesa chef has an idea what he’ll cook for their Sunday night dinners based knowing what produce is in season, but he refines his menu here based on what looks good at the market. It’s really amazing.

Sobremesa Supper Club Grocery Gal Green City Market

Looks like this will be on Chef Moya’s menu tomorrow

Chef Moya Sobremesa Grocery Gal Green City Market

Stocking up on more organic scallions from King’s Hill Farm

I really enjoyed watching Chef Moya purchase produce from a variety of farmers. Sobremesa supports the community of farmers at the market, not just one vendor. It follows Sobremesa’s theme of fostering community through food and relationships. The bulk of the ingredients used in their dishes are sourced from the Green City Market, and many of the vendors know Chef Moya well. What really stuck with me was the chef was the one choosing what he was purchasing; it wasn’t just placing an order and getting something delivered. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the care and thought that goes into each meal they create.

Grocery Gal Chef Moya Sobremesa Nichols Farm

Buying produce and talking World Cup with Nichols Farm

Yes, when it’s that early, you could get the best of what’s there to offer, and the throngs of people who enjoy the market a weekly social event had yet to arrive. But what I enjoyed the most was watching the dialog between the Sobremesa crew and the farmers.

A quick 30 minutes had gone by and both Chef Moya and Efren were saying their goodbyes. There was still a lot of prep work needing to be done for the next night’s dinner. As long as I was at the market and the crowds were still non-existent, I was going to do a little shopping myself. We said goodbyes and I couldn’t wait to see their creations tomorrow on Instagram.

The perimeter of the market focused on produce, while the interior parts were more artisan products including baked goods, jellies and honey, cheeses, meats and such. If you weren’t a cook, there were crepes and wood fired pizzas ready to order and eat there. There were a fair number of Wisconsin artisan food products, and one that caught my eye was Black Garlic North America: fermented black garlic that was super sweet and smelled incredible. I am aware of the many health benefits of eating fermented foods, so I picked up a clove. I headed back to my car by 7:56am, and I still had 4 more minutes before I’d have to feed a meter!

North America Black Garlic Grocery Gal Green City Market

Sweet and savory wrapped up in one: fermented black garlic.

So, the big question still is, what did Sobremesa end up buying, right? I was lucky enough to have them send me a picture of the day’s bounty. The rest of the images I grabbed from their Instagram feed.

Sobremesa Supper Club Chef Moya Grocery gal

Photo courtesy of Sobremesa Supper Club.

Diners at Sobremesa each get a hand written menu of their vegetable-forward meal. I’ve attended two of their events and have saved both menus because it’s just been such a wonderful experience. There’s so much love an passion in what they do it’s inspiring; and with their locally sourced vegetable focus reinforces community and thinking about where food comes from. They’re helping to support small business all while keeping a smaller environmental footprint.  Follow them on Facebook and get into one of their dinners as soon as you can.

Chef Moya Sobremesa Efren Art menu

It’s just perfect. Wish I had been there! Photo courtesy Sobremesa Supper Club

Sobremesa Supper Club Foodie Pilsen

The beautiful (and delicious) end result. Photo courtesy Sobremesa Supper Club.

Sobremesa Supper Club. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to find out about upcoming events.

Green City Market. Clark Street at Lincoln. Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 880-1266

 

 


I have a really old hand mixer. It still functions, but sometimes thick batters slow the motor down. Hamilton Beach offers the Soft Scrape 300 watt hand held mixer, so I thought I’d give that a try. I had recently purchased the Healthy Gluten-Free Life cookbook, stocked up on a ton of different gluten-free flours at Kamdar Plaza, and wanted to find out how a gluten-free banana bread would taste. The recipe was also dairy free, so I thought this might be a thicker batter and as good of a recipe as any to test out that 300 watts of power in the Soft Scrape hand mixer.

Grocery Gal Hamilton Beach 62637 mixer

Starting to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones

I plugged the mixer in, and it immediately turned on. The thumb switch to the 6 levels of speeds engages rather quickly. I wish there was a type of safety between off and “1.” Fortunately, the ingredients didn’t go flying, but I knew I had to keep that in mind in the future.  I often cook with my stepson, who absolutely loves being in charge of the hand mixer, but with the ease of this mixer turning on we would have to exercise some caution.

Hamilton beach 62637 blender reviewThe ergonomics of the hand mixer were a little off. My thumb kept on hitting the “boost” button, which I didn’t intend to do. The mixer actually doesn’t need the boost button. There’s so much power, I rarely had to go above 3. It definitely is a powerhouse, but it needs a better way to harness it. My four different types of flour, starches, applesauce, coconut oil and other ingredients mixed together in a snap.Hamilton Beach 62637 product reviewThe mixer features a new soft-scrape beater which I tried for another recipe, but I prefer the traditional stainless beaters that comes with it. The single whisk will be a great piece when making whipped cream, too.

One of the things I really liked about the Soft Scrape 6 speed hand mixer was the case that keep everything organized in one place. My current hand mixer is in a pantry while the beaters are in a drawer. This give the mixer and nice flat edge to stand up with all the accessories contained in one place. How did the gluten-free treats taste? Pretty great; I’ll definitely be trying more recipes from the Healthy GF Life!

Hamilton Beach Soft scrape review 62637

End results with my mixer in one nice neat package.

Hamilton Beach Soft Scrape 6 Speed Mixer. MSRP $34.99


I love food. I’m definitely more of a savory person than a sweet one, but who doesn’t love something sweet once in a while? I heard about Nutwhats, an Arizona based company that uses green chile and beer in their sweets and I just had to try it!

They offer two types of products: a traditional Nutwhat Britty which similar to a traditional brittle, but with much more exciting taste combinations like Pecan, Almond, Cinna Walnut Oat and Jalapeno Beer. The Green Chile Beer Britty had the perfect hint of green chile with the peanuts; and the beer made it not too sweet. It was just perfect. You can taste the butter without it being too overwhelming.

Grocery Gal Nutwhats Bitty  Brittle

Just a sampling of the Nutwhats choices

The more sweet confection in their offering is Scribbles. The ingredients in the incredible Cashew Coconut scribble seems simple enough: cashews, coconut, sugar, sweet cream butter, Belgian dark chocolate, sea salt, pure vanilla, but I don’t think I could ever come up with something this tasty on my own. I’m normally not a milk chocolate fan, but the type they’re using in their Peanut Pretzel Scribble super-deluxe enough for my dark-chocolate palate.

Grocery Gal Nutwhats Bitty  Scribble

Their Scribble secret is Belgian chocolate

Nutwhats Britty and Scribbles taste like they were made by hand with a lot of love. I liked having something sweet that was heavily nut-based where I would happily eat each ingredient on its own.

Nutwhats grocery gal bitty brittle scribble

Photo courtesy of Nutwhats

If you’re a Grocery Gal fan living in Arizona, go pick these up at specialty grocery stores. For those of us in Chicagoland, we’re limited to mail order at this time.

Nutwhats. 1.855.688.9428


There’s something super deluxe about French cookware. Is it the colorful enameled cast iron? The cute fluted cruets? Its iconic style? Lids so heavy that you could hospitalize an intruder with? Maybe it’s one or maybe it’s all those reasons. I have a few pieces by two well-known brands I either purchased on sale or were given to me as a gift. I love using them, but they’re so large and heavy that it’s really limited to a big batch of chili, soup or stew.

At the International Home & Housewares show I came across Revol, a French Cookware company, who has taken the traditional French cookware style and turned it on it’s ear. What drew me in were their sleek and modern white Revolution cocottes with bright colored lids. When I mentally prepared myself to hoist up one of those heavy lids, I was surprised at how light its was. How’s that? It’s ceramic!

Grocery Gal Revol French Cookware chicago

Image courtesy of Revol

Revol creates cookware that’s stylish, lightweight and so versatile. My pantry has been filled with CorningWare for years; it’s a powerhouse for baking, serving and freezing, but not for stove top cooking. Nor is modern day CorningWare super stylish. Revol takes that functionality to another level – it can be used on all heating surfaces (including induction!), is easy to clean, and yes, I’ll type it again, super stylish.

Revol Cookware Grocery Gal Chicago

Image courtesy of Revol

One thing I’m guilty of, though, is never reading directions. I had a lovely small Revol la cocotte, so lightweight and the perfect size for my small family. I first time I used it was to make pierogi. I boiled the potatoes, sautéed the onions and finally par-boiled the pierogis before their final sauté. The piece cleaned up after it soaked for a bit. There were some dark spots on the base from my1948 Universal Marlboro gas stove that needed to be scrubbed out with a scrubby pad.

Revol Grocery Gal

Oops -that was a little too hot

For something that was touted as so easy to clean, why did I have to soak it? Well, that’s when I dug out the paperwork that came with la cocotte. It was there, right in front of me (in fact, it was in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean), that Revol porcelain cookware should not be use with full heat, and should also use the same gradual rise in temperature as my other French cookware. Luckily I had only made that mistake during my first time using it, and now I know how to use it correctly. I just have to be patient while cooking!

Grocery Gal Revol

Fancy French cookware in my 1960 Winnebago trailer

I love Revol’s small size, the stylish look, it’s light weight and attractive price (for the small size). Online you can find my tiny cocotte at Chef’s Catalog, and larger versions there and at Sur La Table. I love being able to bring a meal from the stove to the dining room table in something pleasant to look at without worrying that I might throw out my back.  Bonus points for it not having a large handle sticking out of it, either. It’s perfect for everyday use, and we even took it camping with us – you just need to remember to cook slowly and at a low temperature.

Revol Porcelaine.

 

 


Before the internet, there was mail order. Growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s I’d love to get catalogs in the mail, addressed to me of course, from places like Current, Lillian Vernon and the chocolate motherload: Swiss Colony.

I didn’t know or care where the Swiss Colony was located. I would dream every year that maybe this was the year my mom would buy me a solid chocolate Chris Mouse, mint chocolate twelve layer log cake, or a box of petit fours for my birthday. What would I get? Some European style cake with real whipped cream  with a hazelnut or real fruit filling that everyone but me loved. In hindsight, her choices were much smarter and healthier, but as a kid all I wanted was buttercream.

Swiss Colony Chris Mouse Grocery Gal

Chris Mouse welcoming me to Swiss Colony’s signature gifts

Years passed with never a package arriving from the Swiss Colony. Packages from Austria came instead, filled with rich chocolates that I didn’t like, but I was still hopeful that one day a special red and white striped package would arrive addressed to me.

Fast forward years, no… decades, later and I’m heading off to New Glarus, Wisconsin. Better known as Little Switzerland, I drove a few hours from Chicago to camp with my husband and see the New Glarus Brewery. The town was great; structures built by Swiss settlers in the 19th century and, despite some expected touristy kitchiness, were the real deal. Driving through the region, we stopped in Monroe, Wisconsin to get some provisions for dinner. Along the way in a random strip mall, I read the words: “The Swiss Colony.” Those three words pulled at my heartstrings and brought childhood memories rushing in. I begged my husband to pull into the strip mall, and finally, I was going to make my childhood dreams a reality.

Swiss Colony Outlet Monroe Wisconsin petit four

The familiar logo from my childhood

Get this, it was an outlet store, to boot! I hoped they took credit cards, because I had big plans on stocking up. I walked into the cheese portion of the store and had a variety of soft pub style cheese to choose from. Port wine and cheddar was calling my name, so I grabbed one and put it in my basket.

Grocery Gal Swiss Colony cheese Chicago

Soft cheeses – including ones with Port Wine – from the Swiss Colony

What next? I didn’t want to waste much time; I was on a hunt for the evening’s dessert, but saw my favorite American-made cheese, Grand Cru by Roth, for 50% off. I first came across this amazing alpine-style cheese at the Whole Foods in Milwaukee (shhh, yes, I occasionally shop there), and it was the closest cheese I have found in the US to my beloved Bergkäse from Austria. That went into the basket next.

Roth cheese Grand cru swiss colony grocery gal

Roth Cheese at 50% off – the hidden gem inside the Swiss Colony outlet store

I then switched over to the next room which focused on Swiss Colony’s signature desserts. A bag of 25-30 random petit fours looked tempting, but I instead focused on the nicely packaged assortment of 9, 5 in vanilla and 4 in chocolate, for $1.99. They were also buy one get one free, so how could I resist? I exercised some discretion and passed on the layered mint cake. With it being May, there weren’t any Chris Mouse chocolates; I guess I’d have to come back closer to Christmas.

Grocery Gal Swiss colony mint chocolate toret

The mint chocolate layered torte I always dreamt of getting for a birthday cake

Happy with my bounty, I paid for my goods and excitedly waited for that night’s special dessert. A few hours later, I carefully opened up the package of petit fours and sat down to enjoy the dessert I had been waiting at least 30 years for. I took a bite, and was… disgusted.

Grocery Gal Swiss Colony Petit Four

I waited over 25 years to finally get these. I should’ve gotten them back in the 80’s

My childhood pastry dreams were shattered! It tasted super sweet, synthetic and somewhat stale. Ok, maybe that’s just the vanilla one. Maybe the chocolate one was better? Maybe it was because I bought these at the outlet store in May…?

How could this be? I took a look at the ingredients and found natural, but a lot of artificial ingredients. This couldn’t have been how they made them when I was a kid? Or did they, and that’s why my mom never bought them?

However, Swiss Colony fans, don’t fret; it is just my opinion. I brought the second unopened box of petit fours to work. The last Friday of the month is enthusiastically called “Food Friday,” where everyone brings in snacks to share. I was wondering if anyone would eat these discarded cakes of mine? Well, guess what, they were the hit of the day! My coworkers loved them so much that they quietly rationed them amongst the themselves and hid them from the other departments. When I offered to bring the other opened box on Monday, everyone eagerly said yes.

So, maybe I just have a selective palate and don’t like things super sweet? Then it’s just more petit fours for everyone else. While my childhood dreams of pastries from the Swiss Colony didn’t live up to my adult expectations, the price on the Grand Cru made it all worth while. See, there’s something for everyone. You might just have to drive up to the outlet mall and find out which is your preference.

Swiss Colony Monroe Outlet Store. 652 8th St, Monroe, WI 53566 www.swisscolony.com


I’ve written about the pleasant aromas in many of the delis I’ve stopped in at. Each time I stop in at Danny’s Old World Market, I’m also hit with an aroma, but not always the most pleasant. It’s not bad; it’s just a combination of the variety of spices which can be off-putting to some. However, I don’t let that ever discourage me; I’ve been coming here for at least ten years.

Grocery Gal Old World Market Uptown Jamaican

Free parking available

Old World Market is in an nondescript strip mall on Broadway, north of Asia on Argyle and south of Foster. They specialize in African, Jamaican and Caribbean foods and has been my go-to spot for years for Jerk seasoning and Ting grapefruit soda. Yeah, now I can find some of those items at Fresh Farms and Pete’s Fresh Market, but if you live by the lake, I highly recommend stopping in, getting some jerk seasoning and chicken legs and prepare yourself for a great barbecue treat.

Grocery Gal Old World Market Uptown Jamaican

So many choices; choose any “hot” one and you’ll be happy

There are a lot of items at Old World Market that I don’t know how to cook with: which are namely palm oil, dried fish and goat. I love Jamaican style curried goat – when I’m ready to make it one day (hard when living with a vegetarian), I’ll definitely stop here to get the meat.

Grocery Gal Jamaican Old World Market

Dried Fish at Old World Market

Grocery Gal Jamaican Old World Market

I love curried goat. When I will make it one day, I’ll come here to get it

Jamaican style sodas Grocery Gal Old World Uptown

Jamaican style sodas

My purchases at Old World are limited: the aforementioned jerk seasoning and maybe a Ting to go. With a handful of Caribbean recipes in my purse, I feel I could have a more well-rounded experience at Old World market. I might just have to start searching that curried goat recipe….

Grocery Gal Old World Market Jamaican Uptown

Who needs some habaneros?

Danny’s Old World Market. 5129 N Broadway St #1, Chicago, IL 60640. 773-989-4440. Open 7am-10pm. Closed at 8pm on Sundays.


Over the past few years, local farmers markets have begun to gain momentum throughout Chicago. There are neighborhood and independent markets in many communities. Last Sunday I visited a new addition to Chicago’s Northwest Side – the Belmont-Cragin Farmer’s Market. I first found out about the market on Everyblock with it’s well-designed poster catching my eye.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Market

A well designed flyer will always catch my eye

The market is ambitiously held every Sunday. It’s not far from the neighboring Portage Park farmers market which seems to interchange it’s weekends with the Jefferson Park Sunday Market. Do we really need another Farmer’s Market? With one like Belmont-Cragin, my vote is yes!

Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market Grocery Gal

Despite it being in a parking lot, it’s a great market

The market is located in the Belmont-Cragin Business District, directly on Belmont, east of Central Avenue (right by A&G Fresh Market) in a PNC parking lot. While it’s not the most glamorous location, it will hopefully gain many new customers from the Belmont traffic. It’s slightly west of the original Gene’s sausage shop.

What I liked about the market was it’s European Market flavor, featuring sustainable and artisan goods including jam, pastries, granola and cheeses, in addition to produce. As the growing season progresses, there will be more produce available, but on the second week there was still fresh asparagus, a variety of herbs and tons of gorgeous flowers for sale. Every vendor there had a purpose. There weren’t any corporate sponsors – like Directv or Xfinity – who were at the Portage Park Farmer’s Market that same Sunday.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

Herbs, vegetables and lots of beautiful flowers

I bought a delicious chocolate croissant from St. Roger Abby and the most incredible Pain de Sophia from Katic Breads. Where I’ve been reluctant in the past to buy a $6 loaf of bread from Eataly, I cannot wait until this Sunday to try another loaf of their amazing bread. The Pain de Sophia was recommended to me by Michael from Brightflower Farm, and he was spot on. The complex flavors of anise, cumin and fennel interspersed in organic wheat flour are addicting. I’ve had two slices of the bread for breakfast everyday this week with just a touch of butter. If you’re living gluten-free, there were tons of sweets from D-ology, too.

grocerygal-belmont-farmers-6I’m not traditionally a granola person, but Spice Roads Granola sucked me in with their sweet curry walnut granola. I eat it with plain yogurt and love it.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

Pain de Sophia and Spice Road Granola!

As a new market, Belmont-Cragin will need a steady stream of customers to stay successful; it doesn’t have the deep pockets that other markets have for advertising. However, they keep it real and aren’t bringing in the corporate sponsors the same said markets are. This is a Farmer’s Market – I’m not looking to choose a satellite provider! Keeping their focus on local, sustainable and artisan goods supports local  businesses along with giving residents something special in their own back yard. And, many of the vendors have great samples, too! Even if you’re not near the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, take the time to visit them some Sunday. There’s something special happening here, and Grocery Gal wishes them a lot of success!

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

The hand painted sign gives it a definite European feel

Belmont-Cragin Farmer’s Market. 5446 West Belmont Ave…rain or shine. Every Sunday 10am-2pm until October 26th.


As a first generation American from European parents, there was always chocolates in my house. They were usually from Austria, Switzerland or Germany and unless they were Edelbitter, better known as dark chocolate, I hated it. My mom grew up in the same part of Austria where Milka hails from. Despite their cute purple and white cows and packaging geared toward kids, I never liked their chocolate. How could a child not love such delicious gifts from the cocoa gods? The milk chocolate was too creamy and the everything tasted like nougat, aka hazelnuts, to me. Yuck.

Fast forward many years, and now dark chocolate is in vogue with it’s health benefits being high in antioxidants all while reducing the risk of heart attacks. Who knew Grocery Gal was so ahead of the game? While I enjoy picking up an occasional bar of dark chocolate at Aldi or any European-style markets I shop at, I recently came across a brand that stopped me in my tracks.

I was unable to attend the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago this year because it feel during the work week, but Marich Premium Chocolates out of California offered to send me some samples. It’s a second generation business of candy makers, and while they don’t offer your traditional box of chocolates where you bite into something and hope you like it, they offer chocolate covered items, which means you know exactly what you’re getting into. The box arrived and I felt like it was my birthday!

Marich Chocolate Grocery Gal packaging

Who wouldn’t love to get this in the mail?

The packaging was absolutely gorgeous. What a great gift for a client (I used to work in real estate marketing), hostess gift or just a gift for myself?

Grocery Gal Marich Premium Chocolates

Hey, that’s me!

I was floored. The attention to detail was something you don’t see nowadays. I loved seeing my name and reading a bit more about the family in their coversheet; a variety of chocolate goodness tempting me beneath the semi-transparent sheet. When I finally removed the sheet, the cocoa gods were finally smiling on me: a variety of chocolate covered almonds, cashews, sea-salt caramels and chipotle almonds…. ALL IN DARK CHOCOLATE!

Grocery gal dark chocolate marich california

dark, dark and more dark chocolate

Now, don’t worry. If you prefer milk or even white chocolate, Marich has you covered. But for so many years I’ve had to pass on deluxe chocolates from Godiva, Guylian, Lindt, hell, even Fannie Mae, because I don’t like milk chocolate.

And the taste? Wow. Most dark chocolate is considered bitter, which I love, but Marich has this decadent cocoa butter taste in every bite, which is heavenly. I started with the sea salt caramels. I skimmed the nutritional label and saw “3” and “serving” so I rationed them out three at a time. Boy, did I enjoy them! Each piece melted in my mouth and had a rich cocoa butter flavor; not the creamy, nougart-y taste I despised. I was making them last for a long time with my 3 caramels per night… until I took a closer look at the packaging.  I read, “three servings per box?!?” so I gobbled up the remaining 10 or so caramels without hesitation or guilt.

Marich offers a variety of chocolate covered fruit (cherries, strawberries, blueberries), nuts (macadamias, cashews, almonds) flavors like chipotle and coconut curry!!, caramels, toffee, and espresso beans. Not a chocolate fan? They also offer jelly beans and licorice. Their flavors are all-natural and they also offer sugar-free varieties, too. What about prices? There are tons of options under $10, including snack packs at $2.50 each. I was surprised at the pricing and will definitely use Marich as my go-to place for gift boxes.  I’ll throw in a few extra things for me, too. You could give someone a delicious gift with a good variety for under $25. Make that two gifts and a little something for you, and Marich will ship it for free (orders over $55)!

Marich Premium Chocolates. 2101 Bert Drive, Hollister, CA 95023. 800-624-7055. www.marich.com


Living on the northwest side of Chicago exposes me to a variety of Polish delis. I am pretty loyal to my local Montrose Deli, but one night I was a few minutes early meeting my father at Old Warsaw Buffet, and had an opportunity to stop in at Deli 4 You. I don’t know why so many Polish delis cover their windows with decals of food, like the private coffeehouse-meets-soccer-club joints peppered throughout the city. Maybe they’re trying to keep me out, but Grocery Gal still wants to see what’s inside….

Deli 4 You Norridge Grocery Gal

Windows hiding the goodness inside

I had plans to cook a beer can chicken the next day and needed to grab a whole chicken. If you haven’t tried cooking a beer can chicken, I highly recommend it. For years I subscribed to Real Simple magazine, and every recipe I tried tasted terrible: except their beer can chicken recipe. Any recipe that starts out saying “open a can of beer and drink half of it,” is a winner in my book.

I went inside Deli 4 and it had the familiar Eastern-Euro smoked meat meets bakery smell in the air. It’s a compact store with all the regular Polish staples there. I’m very partial to Montrose Deli’s pork snack sausages, and saw Deli 4 You had their own. After being greeted only in Polish by the woman at the deli counter, I asked for one sausage apologetically in English.

Grocery Gal Deli 4 You Chicago

Murals give it a homey feeling

Grocery Gal Deli 4 you blood sausage

While I’m adventurous, I haven’t tried the blood sausage

Grocery Gal Chicago Deli 4 You readymade food

Heat and Eat dinner options

I noticed they had a nice selection of smoked fish, so I ordered a small piece of smoked trout. I like how you can purchase small pieces and not have to be stuck with an entire smoked fish. Finally, I got what I originally came in for: a whole chicken. I had a choice between a traditional Purdue chicken and an Amish one, and bought an Amish one for about $2.29 a pound. The chicken wasn’t the cheapest price, but I know it’s not their main business, so I was fine spending a little extra.

Deli 4 You Grocery Gal Smoked Fish

Smoked trout and salmon in nice, small chunks

Prices were good; my favorite Lowell Old Country Style pickles were on sale, as was some dark chocolate for smoring in the back yard later in the week. Definitely a solid stop if you’re in the neighborhood looking for some smoked sausages, smoked fish and even some creamy Polish pastries.

Grocery Gal Chicago Deli 4 You Pastries

Creamy cakes are pretty popular Polish pastries

grocerygal-deli4you-lowellDo you like Kit Kats? If so, be sure to buy some Prince Polos the next time you see them. They’re the Eastern European version of Kit-Kat, covered in dark chocolate and not as sugary. There must’ve been a sale going on that I missed, but the customers before and after me in line were really stocking up. A standard price is 3 for $1. I knew my dad was going to be waiting on me, but I might’ve missed out on the Prince Polo deal of the century.

Grocery Gal Blog Prince Polo Candy bar deli 4 you

I missed the Prince Polo display, but the guy behind me didn’t!

When I did my research on Deli 4 You, I found, as with most delis I like, they have multiple locations. This Deli 4 You was in Norridge on Harlem, while their other location is in Prospect Heights.

Oh yeah, and what did I do with the smoked trout? I made a great salad from a recipe I found from Food & Wine. It was beautiful and deeee-lish!

Grocery Gal smoked tuna grapefruit salad

Components for a really great salad

Grocery Gal Blog Deli 4 You Norridge smoked trout

Smoked trout salad with crispy skin

Deli 4 You. 4343 N. Harlem Ave, Norridge, IL 60706. 708-457-1700. Open Monday – Saturday 8am-8pm (till 9 on Fridays). Sunday 9am-5pm.