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Anne from A Squared shares her Favorite Meals Ever

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Today my friend Anne is sharing her favorite meals ever. I loved reading her list which includes a restaurant in Florence near the school where I studied abroad and some Chicago eateries I haven’t tried yet.
Hi all!  It’s Anne from over at A Squared. I was so excited when Kit approached me for another guest post here on The Kittchen, but had no idea that the topic would be so tough to tackle!  I have my favorite foods, of course, but coming up with a list of my best meals ever was much more difficult than expected.  There are just too many great and memorable ones to choose from!  After much thought, I have finally come up with a list of some of my all time favorite meals… enjoy!
Breakfast/Brunch — Sola in Chicago’s North Center serves my very favorite brunch. I have dined at Sola several times for brunch and dinner, but it is definitely the brunch that keeps me coming back. The restaurant is a little off the beaten path in one of Chicago’s north neighborhoods, but the trek up there makes the delicious brunch even more worthwhile! Sola’s specialty is Hawaiian-American fusion, so meals there often take me back to my Hawaiian honeymoon… probably another reason I love it so much! I’m a huge fan of their tropical mimosas (pineapple and passionfruit, to name two) and their big fluffy omelets– the one with pears and bacon in it is a fabulous (and unexpected) salty and sweet combination. They also serve a special omelet that features seasonal ingredients from Chicago’s Green City Market. Perfect eggs aside, my husband and I always order the malasadas to share. Malasadas are Portugese-style doughnuts that are very popular in Hawaii. Sola serves them warm, rolled in sugar, with chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces. You must order these when you go.

Honorable Mentions: Meli Cafe (where Kit and I have brunched together before) in Chicago’s River North serves up some of my favorite egg dishes and the breakfast potatoes and chocolate waffles (when they have them on special) at Ocean Breeze Cafe in Newport, RI are delicious.

Lunch — Truth be told, I’m not much of a lunch girl. On weekdays I typically brown bag it at work or occasionally buy a salad. On weekends I veer more toward brunch because who doesn’t love pancakes at 1 PM? So, my answer to this one is a little different. It’s a side dish, but one that I could eat by itself for lunch– or dinner or brunch too. My Oma’s (German for grandmother) potato salad is one of my all time favorite foods and reminds me of big family barbecues and Sunday lunches during the Michigan summers of my childhood. Oma would prepare pounds of this salad and it would just disappear. Her recipe is simple, yet surprisingly difficult to replicate. No matter how many times my mom or I try, it never tastes as good as Oma’s always did. Redskin potatoes are boiled, cooled, and sliced and then tossed with sliced red onions and fresh parsley in a simple vinaigrette. I made my own version and included green beans for a slightly different take on it and included the recipe here on A Squared last summer. When you have grown up on this potato salad, those other mayonnaisey or eggy versions can never compare.

Honorable Mentions: A Falafel Salad at Roti in Chicago (one of the only fast casual restaurants where I’ll buy lunch on a weekday), tomato soup at the Beach Bar in Clark Lake, MI, and also Willowtree Chicken Salad, a staple in any Rhode Islander’s diet.
Dinner — I love Italian food. If I could eat pasta every day for the rest of my life, I would. And I wouldn’t ever be sick of it. I have had so many great Italian meals that it is tough for me to narrow this down to just one best dinner ever. Also, you can’t compare an Italian restaurant in Italy to one on the States… apples and oranges. So, I am picking one of each!
Italy: Trattoria Za Za in Florence. Florence is full of amazing restaurants, but this was the one that I always went back to during the months I lived there. They serve classic Tuscan dishes and have the cutest little patio right on Piazza del mercato centrale, which made dining there even more special. Their ribollita (Tuscan bread soup) gets high marks, but my favorite thing to order at Za Za was pasta with salsa di noci, a creamy walnut sauce. It’s a really unique sauce made from walnuts, cream, and ricotta that you can’t find often in the US unless you’re at a restaurant that is a bit more authentic. They served it on tagliatelle and also over ravioli and I totally fell in love with it. It’s like a lighter alfredo sauce with a really rich earthy flavor from the walnuts and nutmeg.
US: Scoozi in Chicago’s River North. I have dined at a lot of the more buzzworthy Italian restaurants in Chicago, but Scoozi is the one I will always go back to. There is nothing fancy, pretentious, or revolutionary about the place. It just has really good food and I have never had a bad meal here. It’s one of the first restaurants that Alex and I dined at after moving here– to celebrate landing my first job in Chicago– and we have continued to come back. My favorite meal at Scoozi is the Brussels sprout salad followed by the butternut squash ravioli (when it is in season). The salad is crunchy and tangy with crushed hazelnuts and a simple vinaigrette. All of their rotating ravioli and gnocchi entrees are delicious and they offer them in tasting trios as well, which is great for someone who loves food and is also indecisive (like me)!
Honorable Mentions: Davanti Enoteca in Chicago’s Little Italy (the crostini with fresh ricotta and honeycomb is beyond amazing!), Balena in Chicago’s Lincoln Park (Brussels sprout and pancetta pizza. Enough said.), and Acqua al 2 in Florence, Italy (home of the famous steak with blueberry sauce).

 

Dessert — This is a tie for me too: One is of the homemade variety and the other is a restaurant favorite.

Homemade: Cut Out Cookies with Buttercream Frosting. These cookies remind me of Christmas, my childhood, and all things sugary and happy. I have great memories of cutting out, baking, and frosting these cookies with my mom and my siblings growing up. And now my husband and I bake them during the holidays and deliver them to friends and coworkers. The cookies are soft and buttery– just as they should be. And the buttercream frosting is rich and delicious with a super sweet vanilla flavor. It’s a versatile recipe and is also the perfect cupcake frosting and if you add cocoa powder to it– surprise! Chocolate frosting.

Restaurant: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago’s Wicker Park is famous for its dessert. Dinner there is good, but dessert is truly memorable. I’m a huge fan of the chocolate “souffled” tart– a perfect sweet and salty, hot and cold dessert consisting of a rich dark chocolate souffle cake, salted caramel ice cream, and a pretzel crisp. And as their name suggests, the hot chocolates are their signature menu items. I especially enjoy them in the summer and served over ice with a homemade marshmallow. They are super rich and chocolatey– the Medium (with caramel) and the Mexican (with cayenne and cinnamon) are my favorites.

Honorable Mentions: The French macarons at Vanille Patisserie in Chicago, the housemade pies at Grange Hall Burger Bar in Chicago (they change monthly and my favorite is the key lime), and the tangy goats milk and rich dairy-free chocolate gelato at Gelateria dei Neri in Florence, Italy.

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