It's no secret to my friends, that I love a man with some good solid facial hair. Beards and mustaches = I am a fan. So I really love Upton's Naturals Fake Meat products. I mean, look at that packaging. It may be fake meat but the mustache is all reaaaal. (wait, what?)

Upton's is based in Chicago and specializes in Sietan - essentially wheat meat - protein made from wheat gluten, which if you're really resourceful, you can make yourself. Learn HOW. Just try and tell me this doesn't look appetizing.

So with my wheat meat, I make a "scramble" of onion, shitaake mushroom, and seitan. I liked this pretty pic of the mushrooms. I could eat mushrooms all day.

And here is the finished product. With a little cheese on top, it was quite delicious and really took about 10 minutes to make. I also sprinkled bacon bits over the dish (not really!)

Check out Upton's mustache pics and their recipe blog for inspiration. Oh and more great mustache pics here too.

And let's get a close up on that gorgeous facial hair.


Tomato Vodka Hummus

I recently became the lucky recepient of a Fox & Obel gift certificate. For those of you who don't know what this place is - it's magical and Chicago's answer to New York's famed Dean & Deluca (must fine food shoppes always have 2 names?) Fancy foods line the walls and crowd the aisles and on this day, I may have spent hours there, deciding the best possible way to spend my F&O money.

Once home, I decided cooking for myself was boring so I invited some friends over to share in my gourmet loot. The dish I decided to put out while people arrived was hummus, and I utilized my exotic new Tomato-Vodka Mustard to flavor the bean spread.

Made in Napa Valley

And my favorite flaky French salt.

And the finished product, which doesn't even need a recipe, it's so easy. Put the following in a food processor: 2 cans of Garbanzo beans (chickpeas if that's your thing), the juice from one lemon, olive oil, mustard, salt & pepper, cumin and blend. It was enjoyed.

Later in the night, we started a congo line but that's for a different blog.

Fox & Obel
401 East Illinois Street
Chicago, IL 60611-4319
(312) 410-7301


Chicago French Market

View from the taxi. Photos by Javier Ayala

As a celebration of the nice weather last week, friend Javier planned a "secret lunch outing". The 4 of us headed out around 12noon, weaving through tourists and side streets, blindly following our leader Javier, until we hit the Water Taxi platform. The $2.00 ride is totally awesome and you can ride it all the way down to Chinatown (yep). This is a recommended activity.

We hoped off at the Madison stop and walked over to the new Chicago French Market, which is less French and more Grand Central Station, but still cool. Numerous food stalls line the large indoor space, selling everything from fresh fish and olives, to Italian gelato and freshly fried Belgian taters. I had my first "raw" meal (a lifestyle promoting the consumption of un-cooked, un-processed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet) at food stall RAW. and while it was good, not cooking your food comes at a price...

My $13 raw burrito. The raw sour cream was made out of cashews.

Samples get me every time!

From Raw's web site: "...RAW. food stewards, Carole Jones and Polly Gaza, find it important to incorporate 100% organic raw vegan food into one’s diet and celebrate the taste of the whole food in its natural state without altering or diminishing the nutritional content.

While this certainly tasted good and I'm all for healthy food consumption (most of the time), eating exclusively raw food seems a bit extreme, not to mention labor-intensive and possibly annoying to those you dine with (oh and expensive). But I still recommend tasting it, and RAW. is a good place for that.

The cheese stall sold cheese encased in wax, to look like a beer. I want this. It's not raw.

Chicago's French Market
131 N. Clinton
Mon - Fri: 7am - 7:30pm
Saturdays: 8:30am - 6pm

Digital Dish #14 - Is This For Real?


Looking to spruce up your springtime music collection? Download Mr. Vinyard's latest Digital Dish HERE.


Chinatown Birthday

Friend Kate (and occasional "Voice of Meat" on this very blog) celebrated her birthday this weekend with a group dinner at Phoenix in Chinatown. Not only is Chinatown a short 10-minute bus ride down Cermak for me, but I feel strongly that, at least within my group of friends, C-town is majorly underutilized. I was happy to join the birthday girl and friends on this outing.

The birthday girl and her stylish man, Desi, sparking like a new pair of diamond earrings.

We had a private room with this awesome "Lazy Susan", which to me, looked like a giant hamburger bun. Lazy Susan is such a weird name for this device but we all agreed, we each need one of these on our tables at home.

Everyone ordered Mai Tai's, which were extremely tart but a hit. I stuck with Tsing Tao, my fav Chinese beer.

Carmen's hair looked awesome.

Dumplings. Delicious. I didn't get a pic of the crab rangoon but it was a favorite for most at the table.

More mai tais.

The crew, lazy susan'ing. We ordered family style - Kung Pao Chicken, Broccoli and Beef, Sweet and Sour Pork, Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt, Veggie Fried Rice, & Veggie Lo Mein. (check out Chris in this shot, super excited for the eats)

The Crispy Tofu with Spicy Salt was interesting - the exterior was crunchy but the tofu itself was extremely soft. I loved it. Others, not so much.

Post-Phoenix we headed to Joy Yee's Noodles for some bubble tea.

This was my first bubble tea shake with tapioca pearls and I have to say, I am now a fan. Their jelly-like texture and mild flavor were oddly addictive. This was banana-coconut with green tapioca.

Micah is probably the #1 fan of my blog so here he is for all my readers to see. This is what success looks like.

Leaving Chinatown, we saw this amazing piece of cartwork (artwork that appears on the exterior of the car). I wish they had added "I'm just hanging out" below Garfield.

Later that night, we celebrated Earth Hour at Kate's apartment by lighting candles and turning off all the lights from 8:30 - 9:30. It was romantic.

The city, as seen on my trek home from the Ashland Pink Line Station. A nice view and perfect end to a great night. Happy birthday Kate!

Phoenix Restaurant
2131 S Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

Joy Yee's Noodles
2159 S. China Place
Chicago IL, 60616


In Pictures: Mexico

This was my brother's one souvenir purchase. His Mexican wrestling name is La Pinata. I know.

Chicago's own La Pasadita in Cozumel! Who knew!

The bloody finger really helps illustrate the point.

My new friend, Roger the Rooster, Coconuts bar's mascot.

Jackson loved the grasshopper made out of palm leaves.

Um, my dad. Yeah. Super cool.

Fresh shrimp ceviche, super limey.

The fresh catch, soon to be served to awaiting patrons. Note the t-shirt worn by the fisherman.

Can't beat that cloud-free sky.

Fresh flash-fried red snapper.

Kayla and Kevin's double birthday celebration.

Habanero salsa - SUPER hot and made with vinegar. It left your lips tingling long after a bite.

The lovely Veronica cooked us all dinner one evening...

...and here are the results. Amazingly good.

I wish Campbell's sold this in the US - zucchini flower soup!


Mariachis doing "El Rey" in honor of Peen's dad.

First stop after getting off the plane...

I was envious of the colors in Cozumel, houses, murals, walls - it's very bright.