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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sensational Suburban Steakhouse: Sullivan's Lincolnshire

Ok. I am not going to brag here (lying...), but I had the best lunch ever the other week. Chef Brian Gray of Sullivan's Lincolnshire demonstrated how to make the restaurant’s featured menu item, The Summer Fling, a signature filet and fresh Maine lobster half. The Chef also made the world’s best macaroni & cheese, for which I requested a to-go bag for all the leftovers- it was THAT good. I was invited by my friend Beth Engelman of Mommy on a Shoestring (who so graciously lets me bring my kid crew to events even though they tend to interrupt JUST a tad!). 




Here's what I love about this restaurant- it is affordable, the atmosphere is elegantly similar to a downtown Chicago restaurant, and every item I sampled was completely delicious.

Affordability


I had a date night at a different restaurant a few weeks ago. I love to go all out with appetizers, salad, steak, the works when date night rolls around because, well, they unfortunately are a rarity in our household. At the end of the night- $200 bill. Yikes. 

At Sullivan's Lincolnshire, they have a Prix Fixe Menu for $39 which includes a starter, soup/salad and entree (yes, filet is included). So many prix fixe menus don't include the good stuff, but they put their specialties in the mix. The Summer Fling (pictured below, lobster and filet) is only $42.




Atmosphere

We live in the 'burbs but love hitting up gorgeous restaurants that make us forget the day to day craziness of having kids. I get to put on heels and wipe the applesauce off my face. I just want to freaking have a NICE EVENING if I am putting in the effort, and Sullivan's Lincolnshire delivers on all fronts. They even have an outdoor patio that overlooks a pond- can't beat outdoor summer dining. 

Food

I have been to some of the most iconic steakhouses in downtown Chicago- Ruth's Chris, Gibson's, Morton's, etc... and Sullivan's Lincolnshire is the only one to get my medium rare request down to a T. Is there anything more disappointing when you order filet than having it come out over done? (yes, #NorthShoreProblems I know, but I survive on leftover PB&J during the week so I want my steak to be done MY way, especially if I am making food someone else's way all week).


My handsome lunch date
Besides the steak, they have amazing sides like garlic horseradish mashed potatoes and, my fave, the world's best mac n' cheese! Recipe compliments of the chef.

World's Best Macaroni and Cheese



Ingredients:
1 qt heavy cream
3 cups half and half 
1/2 lb. Smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 lb. White American cheese
1/2 tsp white pepper
1.5 Tbsp kosher salt

Method of preparation:
  • Heat heavy cream and half and half in a heavy bottom sauce pot and bring to a boil. 
  • In the meantime, mix cornstarch and water to make a slurry. 
  • Once cream mixture comes to a boil, add slurry and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens. 
  • Cook for 3 to 5 minutes to cook out the starch. 
  • Add cheeses and whisk to incorporate and melt. 
  • Add the salt and pepper and whisk to incorporate. 
  • Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta in a casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake until heated through.
Bonus- Cocktails

Listen to this description: The Knockout: We macerate fresh Hawaiian gold pineapples in clementine vodka for up to two weeks before we hand-crush the fruit to extract the infusion.
Sign. Me. Up. 

Sound like a great place to kick back and enjoy an awesome meal? They are located across from the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire. They were also rated in the top 15 steakhouses in the Chicago area by Zagat- and there is some pretty hefty competition! 

GIVEAWAY: Want a FREE APPETIZER? I am giving away a coupon to a lucky winner- simply like this post on Facebook, comment on the post, pin a photo to Pinterest, or Tweet the post with the hashtag #SullysLincolnshire...any one of these gets you entered. Simple, right? 

Here's a sample of what you could order...Crispy Shanghai Calamari:




Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary meal and bottle of wine by Sullivan's Lincolnshire for review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The New Lazy Pants

Ok. Anyone else out there with me? The yoga pant thing that so many moms have going on- IT. IS. OVER. Yes, I am sure I offended SO many people by saying that. Here is a caveat: If you are doing yoga or anything athletic, by all means, pull on a pair of relaxed waistband pants.

Maybe it is the fact that I don't work out. No. I absolutely don't- I am the first to admit that I have zero motivation. My workout consists of piling both kids into my ridiculously overweight stroller and doing laps at Old Orchard. I consider huffing it to as many stores as possible while pushing close to 100 pounds a workout. But that's me.

There is another option on the day when you can't squeeze into that ridiculous pair of skinny jeans, don't feel like shaving your legs in order to put on a dress, or are hitting the friendly skies and want to look a little more chic than your tatty stretched-out ahem...."workout" pants are going to afford.

This is it. Ready for it? Have you calmed down enough to see what I am going to bring? Have you stopped hating me for ruining your yoga pant-clad fun enough to keep an open mind?

The silk track pant:


Drawstring? Check.
Stretchy waist? Check.
Wrinkle-free? Check.
Comfy as sweats? Check.
Still classy? Check.

You can wear this with a soft vintage t-shirt and still feel chic. I am SO in.


The brand is Harlowe & Graham. The place is Nordstrom Rack. The price is $30. Go forth and find comfort.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DIY Construction Birthday Party

For my son's 3rd birthday, I picked a construction theme. Why? Because I am so incredibly fed up with Lightning McQueen, Dusty Crophopper and Thomas the Train (the absolute worst; let's be honest- Thomas is a whiny, selfish little kid who has some pretty lame friends). I wanted a theme where everything wasn't pre-made (oh, look! Lightning McQueen plates, cups, napkins AND pinata!). Call me crazy or a glutton for punishment, but I love keeping it real and making my own stuff. (And don't get defensive, go all character-theme you want- I am just a boho artist trapped in a mom's body and probably should have been a Burning Man sculptor, so I need a creative outlet).

Here is what I did, feel free to copy every single damn thing if you want. Heck, I even provide the pdf printables for you- no copyright, no "download for free only if you give us your e-mail passwords, complete control of your computer via a robot virus and your first born."

As for the invite? I am horrible and whipped up an almost exact replica of one I found on Etsy, so needless to say I can't show it to you because I feel bad (and it has all my personal info on it). Lucky for me, I have some Illustrator skillz that I acquired by reading an awesome training book instead of paying a grand for classes. Lucky for you, there are some pretty cool invites on Etsy- this one only costs $12.50 for the design and you can print it out. Get the link here!

DIY Construction Birthday Party Invite via Etsy | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

The Food

We usually grill out. My husband gets overheated at the grill and stuck in solitary confinement while he cranks out burgers like a Hot N' Now line cook (remember that restaurant?? Best fries EVER. Maybe it was the munchies talking, but....I digress). This year, I decided to do a "Build a Taco" bar. We pre-cooked pounds and pounds of seasoned ground beef, threw it in a crock pot, added dishes of toppings and forgot about it. (Although one of the kids at the party asked me why we were having tacos at a construction party...I smiled sweetly and said "Taco" starts with a "T" as does the word "Truck," like it was the most natural explanation in the world).

DIY Construction Party Buffet with Labels | all dressed up with nothing to drink...


The Drinks

We have a kegerator at our house- best investment if you are a frequent party-thrower. I also put out ingredients for White Wine Spritzers (read my post for recipes here). Great drink for a party that begins before noon so we can all have a cocktail without feeling like total alcoholics.

White Wine Spritzer Party Cocktail | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

I had Iced Tea and Lemonade for those on the wagon.

DIY Construction Party Beverage- Gasoline for Lemonade | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

The Dessert

I had Sand pudding- vanilla pudding with crushed Golden Oreos on top (there was a recipe online for some layered dessert using Cool Whip, but I almost tossed my cookies after reading the ingredients in that stuff).

DIY Construction Party Dessert- Sand Pudding | all dressed up with nothing to drink...


As for the Birthday Cake- This is literally the easiest cake ever. It cost me a whopping $5 and took no time at all to make and didn't matter if it was screwed up.

Step 1- Grab a boxed chocolate cake, Oreos and some frosting.
Step 2- Bake the cake.
Step 3- Put the cake in a dump truck (after disinfecting it....).
Step 4- Frost the cake and top with crushed Oreos.

DIY Construction Party Dump Truck Birthday Cake | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

I asked my son what the best part of his party was, and he said eating the cake out of the truck with a fork after everyone left.

The Entertainment

I think you need a little entertainment for the kids- both to make it fun and to let the adults have cocktail time while their kids are busy.

My mom made a Wrecking Ball piñata by buying a basketball pinata and covering with black crepe paper. We tried to find a blow up doll to put on it to channel a little Miley, but no such luck. I then took Amazon boxes, which I have a surplus of because I am obsessed with getting things in two days in the mail, and covered the front with kraft paper. I then drew black rectangles on them to represent windows and doors (obviously I did this while pre-partying the night before as you can tell by the slightly wonky rectangles). The kids had an absolute BLAST using the  piñata to knock down the boxes all day! Breaking the  piñata was secondary entertainment.

DIY Construction Party Games- Building Bash | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

DIY Construction Party | All dressed up with nothing to drink...

DIY Construction Party Wrecking Ball Pinata | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

My dad made a life-size Jenga game- he is pretty much the most handy person ever. Read all about his greatness in my Father's Day post here. The adults hung out for more cocktails after the kids went down for naps and played this for hours.

DIY Life Size Jenga Game | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

I also had a photo prop for the kids to pose behind.

DIY Construction Party Photo Prop | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

The Decor

I found Caution Birthday tape on Amazon in addition to plastic hard hats. I used a paint pen to write all of the kids names on the hats, which they used to collect their winnings from the pinata bash. We also spray painted "Happy Birthday Bryson" in the lawn- cheapest sign ever.

DIY Construction Party Lawn Sign | all dressed up with nothing to drink...

I put up signs for everything to incorporate the theme. Here are all the food and supplies labels- download pdf files via Google docs link here

All in all, it a pretty easy party to plan and execute! My main pointers for any party with over 10 guests:
  • Crockpots, crockpots, crockpots- make everything in advance and keep it warm. Don't cook when people are there if you can avoid it. It can be overwhelming and almost rude if you totally ignore your guests. Take it from me, I've done it.
  • Beverage dispensers- use these to pre-mix a signature drink so you aren't mixing cocktails all day and night.
  • Trash cans- you can never have enough. Always use plastic ware, plastic cups and paper plates (yes, you can make them cute, I'll show you how eventually).
  • Signs- label everything so people aren't confused. Make the labels match the invite to keep the theme.
  • Find a way to label the cups- if you are using glass, use a wet erase marker. If using plastic, print out labels with a cute jpeg and have people write their name and attach to their cup.
  • Get other people to take photos and send them to you. Immediately.
  • If you can get away with it, have your kid open gifts after everyone has gone home. Otherwise, pieces get lost, people cry, and you can't remember who gave your kid what. Old schoolers think this is rude, so make sure to take a photo of your kid enjoying their gift and send as a thank you (use Postagram- easiest Thank You notes ever).
  • Have fun, and if you aren't having fun, have a cocktail. Or 5. Just don't swing at the piñata after.
Enjoy and please share your party faves with me as well!