Denny’s Diners Partners with the Fantastic Four! #DennysDiners

Is your family looking forward to the new Fantastic Four movie as much as mine is? Set to open nationwide on August 4th, and starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan, this movie promises to be a blockbuster this summer. What better way to get pumped for the new movie than with a delicious meal inspired by the movie?

Denny’s Diners is pleased to partner with this sure-to-be hit by offering a Slamtastic Four as part of their new menu, featuring a selection of iconic Denny’s dishes inspired by Marvel’s first family of superheroes. Available now, the new menu explodes with dishes such as the sizzling Human Torch Skillet, The Thing Burger and the Invisible Woman Slam®. Fans of the movie will love the new offerings.

FSM Inside Spread

The Invisible Woman Slam looks like it’s going to be my favorite. Blueberry pancakes, topped with fresh strawberries and bananas, served with eggs, bacon, and hash browns – yum, yum yum! The perfect breakfast for me – I love pancakes topped with fruit any day of the week.

Invisible Woman Slam

The Dr. Doom Lava Cake is sure to be a hit with my kids. And who am I kidding? I totally want to try it too! It looks like the best chocolate overload, doesn’t it? Chocolate topped with chocolate ice cream – you can’t go wrong!

Dr Doom Lava Cake

What’s more,to celebrate the highly anticipated movie, Denny’s is offering one lucky Fantastic Four fan a trip for two to the movie premiere on Aug. 4. Now, through July 19, fans may visit www.dennysfantastic4.com to enter for a chance to win the trip of a lifetime. Don’t wait – enter today!

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If you could have a super power, like the characters in Fantastic Four, what would you choose to have? I’m thinking invisibility would be my choice – what about you?

Denny’s Partners with Dreamworks Animation on New Kid’s Menu #DennysDiners

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Denny’s. I am a #DennysDiners Ambassador, however, I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

I am so excited that I can finally announce that I am a Denny’s Diners Ambassador for 2015. What this means is that I will hear about exciting news on Denny’s and can share them with you. This partnership comes at a great time because, honestly, it’s been a really long time since I’ve stepped foot in a Denny’s restaurant. Circa 2000 in Miami Beach after a very, very late night, to be exact. But I digress.

Dennys-Logo

Needless-to-say, it was about time I tried Denny’s again. Not only because Denny’s is America’s iconic family diner, but especially considering Denny’s new partnership with DreamWorks Animation, and the fact that I have a Madagascar-, thus Penguins-obsessed 4-year-old. (He received the new Penguins movie in his Easter basket and asks to watch it every single day.)

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Kicking off with Penguins of Madagascar, Puss In Boots and Turbo FAST, in addition to many popular characters such as Shrek appearing throughout the year, the colorful characters adorn Denny’s kids menu in a variety of interactive, themed puzzles and games to enjoy during mealtime. And anyone who knows my son knows that he can be a bit loud at times, especially when he’s bored, and I’m happy to report that the new DreamWorks Animation kid’s menus at Denny’s kept him occupied throughout our entire wait. Thank you, Denny’s!

Denny's Kids Menu

Kids can also color the DreamWorks characters featured on the Denny’s kids menu then use the DreamWorks COLOR app to bring their drawings to life. The characters literally jump off the menu in 3D! So cool!!!

DreamWorks-COLOR-app

As a mom, I was happy to see all the options Denny’s offers to kids. Lot’s of fresh fruit and veggies but, when given the option (my mistake) kids will hardly ever choose those. We dined at Denny’s for dinner – ONLY $3.49 for kids – and my son inevitably chose the Goldfish crackers. I was more than happy to add a bowl of grapes for just $0.89.

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There are 5 lunch/dinner options for kids including my son’s favorite, chicken nuggets!

Kids Chicken Nuggets

So take this opportunity to visit your local Denny’s with the kids and reacquaint yourself with all they have to offer. They will love it!

Tell me, when’s the last time you visited a Denny’s.

Connect with Denny’s

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Connect with the Family Over the New Menu Options at Olive Garden #OGTastes

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you already know that I love a good family outing – especially one that my whole family can enjoy!  And if you know anything about me, you definitely know that I like to EAT.  A lot.  So, for me especially, a good family outing will almost always involve food.

OliveGarden DRI stock 300x146 Olive Garden Adds 20 New Menu Items Including a Lighter Fare

Olive Garden has been my family’s go-to when looking for a good place for Italian food.  Their food is consistently good, and everyone in my large family leaves there satisfied.  Well, after the endless salad and breadsticks, I should probably say we all leave there stuffed.  Yeah, stuffed is more like it.

Recently I was invited – sans family, whoop – to a tasting at Olive Garden to try some of their new menu items.   Don’t hate, but I got to try each and every one of these items:

Olive Garden New Menu

The new appetizers were amazing – my personal favorite was the Crispy Risotto Bites.  They were the perfect blend of crispy and chewy, and I could have eaten several of plates all by myself.  They were seriously that good!

Olive Garden Appetizers

Then there was a new salad topper, Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad Topper – added right on top of Olive Garden’s already-yummy signature salad, and plenty of new main entrees.  Here are a some of my favorites:

Olive Garden Main Entrees

It was definitely a treat to get to try all of these menu items – the Chicken Abruzzi was one of my favorite entrees.  So much flavor in one bowl, and it’s less than 575 calories!  That’s what I’ll be getting on my next trip to Olive Garden.

And hat’s off to the kitchen and wait staff at the Olive Garden in Melrose Park.  They were all amazing and made the event memorable for all who attended.

Olive Garden Melrose Park Staff

The Olive Garden in Melrose Park has been open for less than six months, and seated at my table was a couple that had their very first date at a restaurant that formerly occupied the space.  Sweet doesn’t even begin to describe them! I was so glad that we got to chat at the event.

So – drooling yet?  Which new menu item are you most excited to try?

Connect with Olive Garden:

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

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Indulge at the All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Logo

For me, not every date night begins and ends with dinner and a movie.  I like to do things that are a little unconventional and unique.  Well, there’s that…and the fact that sometimes I don’t want to pay the hefty price tag that can accompany a nice steak dinner.  Sometimes, my sweet tooth gets the better of me and all I crave is a decadent dessert.  Enter: All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Exterior

I have visited the All Chocolate Kitchen twice now – once for a date night with my husband, and another time out with my teenager for some mom/daughter quality time.  I have not been disappointed at All Chocolate Kitchen, and have enjoyed myself both times.  The dining area is large enough that – even on a busy weekend – finding seating wasn’t an issue.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you enter All Chocolate Kitchen are the giant sculptures made entirely of chocolate.  Yes…chocolate.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Hockey

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Astronaut

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Tree

This entire tree is make up of chocolate! Even the counter is made from sugar. Talk about good enough to eat!

Then, there’s the desserts.  If I’m honest, choosing what you want and finding a spot to order can be a bit confusing.  There are lots of employees behind the counters, but patrons walking around deciding on what they want to order and lines of people waiting for a particular counter can cause a bit of a crowd near the desserts so it’s hard to find what you want and where to stand to order.  My first time there I was a little lost, but got the hang of it for my second go-round.  Walking around, you’ll see what I’m talking about, and you’ll also want to eat EVERY dessert you see.  It’s definitely a chocoholic’s heaven!

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Truffles

The gelato station looked amazing, and you are allowed two samples per visit.  On a warmer day I would have opted for the gelato, but in the middle of a Chicago winter, I had to pass.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Gelato

When I saw that All Chocolate Kitchen offered crepes on Saturday nights, my dessert selection was easy…I can never turn down yummy crepes.  Especially ones with bananas and Nutella!  It comes with a shot of Apple Cider too.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Crepes

My daughter had the Devil’s Food Cake, as seen on the Martha Stewart Show.  It was served with a raspberry puree and was extremely rich and decadent.  Anytime you can please a picky teenager is a small victory if you ask me!

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Devils-Food-Cake

While the desserts at All Chocolate Kitchen are undoubtedly mouthwatering and delicious, my favorite item on the menu is their Mocha Coffee.  Served in an oversized coffee mug, the flavor of the Mocha is out-of-this-world chocolaty and the best I’ve tried.  A must for me every time I visit now.  Yes, even at night.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Mocha-Coffee

I loved how there are all kinds of seating here too.  You have your traditional tables and chairs, and you also have sofas and oversized comfy chairs…you can’t beat the laid-back atmosphere.  Totally random?  The old-fashioned phone booth in the dining area.  Cool, but so random.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Phone-Booth

One thing I was not pleased with at the All Chocolate Kitchen was the condition of the restroom.  Granted, this is a food establishment, but someone should still look in on the restrooms from time to time.  I’ll spare you the photographs, but there was no toilet paper in the holder and the floors were filthy, filled with dirty paper towels and there was even paper in the sink.  Yuk!

But, if I didn’t have to go to the restroom I would never know…so let’s say I didn’t and move on, shall we?  I loved the All Chocolate Kitchen and I know I will be back.  Like the saying on the wall in their kitchen says, “Anything is good…if it’s made of chocolate.”

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Wall

So if you’re a chocolate fan, you must try the All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL.  After all, anytime is Sugar Time.

All-Chocolate-Kitchen-Sugar-Time

The All Chocolate Kitchen is located at 33 South Third Street in Geneva, IL.

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Family Eats: Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria in St. Charles

This weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday.  It kinda stinks to have a birthday in the first month of the year – the month where you really try to adhere to your New Year’s resolutions.  You try to save money, cut costs, eat better, blah, blah, blah.  Well for the hubby’s b-day this year, we decided to abandon all of our resolutions and headed out for family pizza night! Charlie Fox's Pizzeria Logo_St Charles_IL It’s hard for us to find a spot we all love – well, with a picky toddler and all – and pizza is usually a safe bet.  I wanted to try a new spot and saw that Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria has been voted “Best Pizza in Kane County”  for like, years and years running.  How had I never heard of this place?!?!

Charlie Fox's Pizzeria_St Charles_IL

We started off with a Charlie Fox specialty, Charlie Chips. Kettle chips covered with bacon and mozzarella cheese and served with ranch dressing and jalapeños on the side.  I had never had anything like that before.  Tons of cheese over crispy chips.  Very heavy…and very good!

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Charlie Chips_St Charles_IL

The birthday boy also got his pick with the Carnivore specialty pizza.  It seemed like there were pounds and pounds worth of sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, ham & bacon on a single pie.  Way too much meat for my taste, but it was my hubby’s pick and he loved it.  The crust was fantastic though!  I’m a Chicago girl, through and through, and I know my pizza.  And I’m picky about it too.  Charlie Fox’s thin crust was nice and crispy and perfectly delicious.

Charlie Fox's Carnivore Pizza_St Charles_IL

A nice touch to entertain families while they wait?  Trivial Pursuit cards!  I loved this game growing up and it was fun to take turns testing the family’s (mostly useless) knowledge with these cards.

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Trivial Pursuit Cards_St Charles_IL

The one thing I would change about my visit though, was the service.  I hate to knock a good place, but we weren’t greeted when we walked in and waited around for a few minutes (after reading the “Please wait to be seated” sign).  There were two employees at the registers checking out a single take-out customer, and we had to approach them to ask if we would be seated.  And it didn’t get better as the evening went on, unfortunately.  Lots of little things. While I was disappointed with the service at Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria, they weren’t voted Best Pizza in Fox Valley for nothing.  It’s a great spot for the whole family, and the food doesn’t disappoint! Bon appetit! signature

My Vero Moment: An Afternoon Date with my Hubby

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.  All opinions are 100% my own.

While the temperature here in Chicago is still hovering at around 90 degrees, school has officially been back in session for a few weeks now.  Thank goodness the back-to-school shopping and paying all the school fees are over!  (Side Note: School fees are astronomical where I live.  Way too much for a public school…but I digress.)  Open houses and orientations are over and life around here is finally starting to get back to normal, and I’m so glad because I have been burnt out!  My oldest has started high school (YIKES!) and I have been in desperate need of a break.  Enter: Mariano’s!

Marianos Gelato Signage

The other day, my husband and I were able to sneak away for an afternoon break at my all-time favorite store, Mariano’s.  Hey – who says running errands isn’t a romantic date?!?! Smile  (If you want to see more photos from my Mariano’s visit, you can view my full album on Google+.)

I absolutely love the quality of food at #MyMarianos.  Everything is really fresh and delicious (and they also serve the best mac ‘n cheese).

Marianos Hot Bar

One of the things I love about shopping and eating at Mariano’s is their dining area.  It’s so nice to take some time away while you’re shopping to sit and enjoy a meal too.  Say hi to the hubby…

Marianos Dessert with Hubby2

For me, the very best part of visiting Mariano’s is the Vero Coffee & Gelato shop.

Marianos Vero Logo

It’s located right and the front of the store (yeah, you know how to get us, Mariano’s) and I can never leave the store without some of their yummy coconut gelato.

Marianos Vero Gelato

And this time, I also decided to try their Café Mocha too.  I’ve never ordered coffee here before – and, boy was that a mistake!  It was seriously the best café mocha I have ever had.  Don’t believe me, my husband stopped back at the Vero counter before we left to pick up another cup!

Marianos Dessert

If you’re planning to visit a Mariano’s store, don’t forget to sign up for their Mariano’s Rewards Card!  (The kiosks to sign up are located near the registers.)  In addition to exclusive savings and personalized offers, the Mariano’s Rewards Card also offers you rewards at Vero’s too!  When you buy 10 gelatos you get one FREE!

Marianos Card

Overall, I had a great afternoon date with my husband, and it was nice to catch-up on things while our teenager is back in school.  Definitely a My Vero Moment to remember!

And, speaking of memorable moments, have you checked out this cool video of a flash mob opera at a Chicagoland Mariano’s.  It’s so cool and I wish I was there!

To learn more about Mariano’s, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter, and you can also check out the Mariano’s Community where you’ll find more ways to save at Mariano’s!

Chicago with Kids: Downtown Elgin Harvest Market

Downtown Elgin Harvest Market

I have been meaning to check out the Downtown Elgin Harvest Market for awhile now.  The farmer’s market is held outdoors, in the parking lot of the Centre of Elgin.  My precocious toddler, who owns a DVD of Copy Kids where the entire 115-minute DVD shows toddlers eating fruits and vegetables, seems fascinated with produce, and he’ll usually try anything at least once.  Exposing my kids to different experiences is very important to me, and I knew that he’d be interested in seeing local farmers sell their goods (with some items he’s only seen in books).  The educational opportunities than can be found at a local farmer’s market can provide kids, even a young toddler, with knowledge about healthy eating and kids love to learn about where their food came from.

The Downtown Elgin Farmer’s Market isn’t very large, but the variety of items sold there kept my little guy occupied and he just kept running from table to table to see what each vendor had.  I think that most people think that a farmer’s market is just about the food, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s locally owned and produced food and handmade items.  It was a small space, but there was a lot to see.

My toddler was certainly charmed by the vendor sharpening knives on a foot-pedaled contraption – seriously, this thing was so vintage!

Elgin Market Knife Sharpening

From there, he quickly spotted the produce vendors (not very many here I’m sad to report) and ran to their table.  He stopped at each fruit and each vegetable to name them all…and touched almost everything, I’m afraid.  The rich colors of the many fruits and vegetables excited him, and there were quite a few that he didn’t know.

Elgin Harvest Market Produce

He just had to touch everything!

Elgin Harvest Market Green Peppers

I, for one, was very impressed with all the produce varieties he did know and he insisted on buying some raspberries.  The prices were not necessarily lower than what you’d find at a grocery store, but knowing that these items came from a real, working farm in our area was important to me, and I was happy to support local businesses.  Other vendors included a smoothie stand, a hot dog stand, various olives, fresh baked bread in all kinds of flavors, and spices.

Elgin Harvest Market Spices

He’s overwhelmed by the choices!

My favorite part of our visit was a small vendor stand that sold tamales and fried vegetables.  And we all know how anything fried tastes extraordinarily good! Smile  My son tried a little bit of everything and wanted to be told what each veggie was before he ate it.  (Sweet potatoes were the hands-down favorite.)  The women at this stand were so nice and friendly…they even gave him extra sweet potatoes!  They were reasonably priced too – a large tray of veggies, a tamale, and a bottle of water only cost me $7.00!

Elgin Harvest Market Fried Veggies

Do you frequent a farmer’s market in your area?  What are some of your favorite items to purchase at a farmer’s market?

Creating Delicious Meals with Marianos Market

The new Mariano’s Market opened in Harwood Heights this week and I couldn’t be more excited!  I visited them on opening day and they must be doing something right – the store (& parking lot) were JAM PACKED!  I had to park over a block away just to get in!  Normally I wouldn’t bother visiting a store that was so crowded, but for Mariano’s I had to give it a try. And Oh. My. Word. I’m so glad I did!

Marianos Harwood Heights

Mariano’s is unlike any other grocery store I’ve been in – for one, their produce was so fresh. A huge peeve of mine is produce past its prime in other supermarkets. Mariano’s definitely delivered on that and so much more. The amenities in this store were so fantastic. Not only did they serve hot, delicious food and drinks at their numerous “mini-restaurants” but they also had indoor seating so you could enjoy your meal while you shop.  Todd’s BBQ served barbequed meats and side dishes, OKI Sushi Bar had an on-site chef, Squeez’d Juice & Smoothie Bar mixed more than 250 varieties of smoothies, Vero served coffee and homemade gelato, and their Meat and Seafood section will grill your meat for you while you shop!  Look no further for quick & fresh dinner options – Mariano’s has got you covered!

Marianos Collage

I have never shopped at a grocery store that provided such exceptional service and whose prices remained reasonable.  I shopped all around Mariano’s and never once thought “Oh, I wouldn’t pay so much for that.”  The personal touches Mariano’s offers would certainly make me want to pay more, but fortunately I didn’t have to.  I even signed up for the #MyMarianos reward card using their fast and easy kiosk because I just know I’ll be back! Smile

While I was at Mariano’s I picked up some ingredients I needed for dinner.  Since the produce was so fresh at Mariano’s I made a Southwest Chicken Salad that my husband says is the best salad he’s ever had. No joke.

Southwest Chicken Salad with Homemade Tortilla Strips

Southwest Chicken Salad

Ingredients (for salad):

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 packet Sazon (Hispanic seasoning)
  • 1 Tbsp. Adobo (Hispanic seasoning)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 50/50 lettuce mix (1/2 spring mix, 1/2 baby spinach)
  • 1 large tomato, diced (I used a can of diced tomatoes because I forgot to buy some)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large avocado, sliced
  • 1 pkg. corn tortillas
  • olive oil

Ingredients (for dressing):

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in a pot of water that covers the chicken by 2 inches and bring to a boil.  When boiling, add the Sazon, Adobo and bouillon cube, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes. When done, cube. (I place my cubed chicken back in the water when they’re done to continue to absorb the flavors, but that step is totally up to you.)
  2. To make the tortilla strips, oil both sides of the tortillas and cut into 1/4 inch strips.  Place on lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy (not doughy).
  3. Place lettuce, tomato, green and red pepper, beans, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  4. Make dressing by whisking all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss with the salad, add chicken cubes and garnish with avocados and tortilla strips.

I even made a dessert based on a sample I tried at Mariano’s (and an excellent recommendation I received from a Mariano’s employee).  You will totally thank me for this later.

Marianos Pizzelle

These Italian waffle cookies are the bomb! All I did was add a little whipped cream (from a can) and sliced strawberries. OMG…soooo good!

Italian Pizzelle Dessert

Enjoy!

Learn More!

To learn more about Mariano’s, please visit their website or the Mariano’s community that has tons of new weekly content and food ideas.  You can also connect with Mariano’s on Facebook and Twitter!

You can also check out my entire Mariano’s shopping trip by viewing my Google+ Album.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study forCollective Bias® and Mariano’s #cbias #SocialFabric.

Chicagoland Spots: Rockford Art Museum

Venue: Rockford Art Museum

Website:  http://www.rockfordartmuseum.org/

Location: 711 North Main Street, Rockford, IL  Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from Chicago – off of 1-90 in Rockford.

Hours: Open daily from 10:00am – 5:00pm

Parking: Free – plentiful

My Experience:  Rockford is located about an hour from my home so I don’t get out there very often.  This past weekend, though, my daughter had a volleyball tournament in Rockford and, since she hates when I stay the entire tournament (which lasts all day, BTW) I figured I’d take some time for myself in the afternoon to see some sights in Rockford.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d find much to do in Rockford.  But after driving around for awhile, I noticed that Rockford is actually really pretty!  Since visiting the city, I learned that Rockford is the THIRD largest city in Illinois so of course there’d be a ton to do, right?!?!

When I drove up to the building I was surprised that the Rockford Art Museum wasn’t the only attraction at that address.

Rockford Art Museum

The entire building is named the Riverfront Museum Park and it also houses the Burpee Museum of Natural History, the Discovery Center Museum (which we will be back to visit very soon!), the Rockford Dance Academy, the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, and Northern Public Radio.  This facility is HUGE!

Outside, I noticed a moving structure that immediately caught my attention.

Rockford Moving Structure

The wind gets caught in the metal cups, causing the yellow stars to spin.  Pretty cool, huh?  This was looking promising!

Inside, the Rockford Art Museum’s gift shop looked like a shopping mall store.

Rockford Art Museum Gift Shop

It looked so bright and inviting that I was instantly sure that I did the right thing by venturing out for the day.  I loved the glass windows and the Rockford Art Museum logo etched in the glass.

Rockford Art Museum Logo

I was fortunate to visit the museum when I did.  The day before, a new collection opened titled Between Heaven & Earth by Michele Feder-Nadoff.  Michele is a Chicago native and one of the artists that are a part of the Rockford Art Museum’s Permanent Collection.  The entire first floor of the museum was filled with her work than spans her years as an artist.  From clay and bronze sculptures, to abstract paintings and chayah drawings, Michele’s work captivated me.  I wandered the halls of the Rockford Art Museum completely in awe of the works before me.  Her early work featured abstract mixed media collages that used an interesting assortment of everyday craft supplies like beads, buttons, yarn, fabric and sequins assembled together so beautifully and intently.  The colors of the canvas drew me in and I was eager to see more.

Probably one of the more interesting pieces featured Michele Feder-Nadoff’s chayah drawings.  The repetitive, simple brushstrokes singularly insignificant, but breathtakingly beautiful by the thousands.  I enjoyed her work very much!  Her Heaven & Earth collection will be featured through April 14, 2013.

The Rockford Art Museum’s Permanent Collection is located on the lower level.

Rockford Art Museum Anderson Gallery

The Permanent Collection features an eclectic mix of art by a variety of artists so make sure you head downstairs before you go to check it out.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my “Me” time at the Rockford Art Museum and I’m glad I decided to check it out.  I plan to head back to the Riverfront Museum Park in the coming weeks to check out the Discovery Center Museum with my son so check back for my review soon.

And on a totally separate note – not everything on my Rockford excursion was great.  After the volleyball tournament, my daughter and I were starving and I suggested stopping at a Mexican restaurant I spotted on the way to the museum for dinner.  From the outside the place looked huge and I liked the name of the place: Panchero’s Mexican Grill.

Pancheros Mexican Grill Rockford

However, when we got in, I quickly realized that I entered a knock-off Chipotle Restaurant that, sadly, was not as good.

Pancheros Mexican Grill Burrito Bowl Rockford

My Carnitas Burrito Bowl failed to impress and I would have rather been dining at Chipotle. Sad smile

Hope you enjoyed my review and, if ever you find yourself in the Rockford area, drop by the Rockford Art Museum!

Chicagoland Eats: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Venue: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Website: http://www.cheeseburgerinparadise.com/

Location: 1608 South Randall Road, Algonquin, IL.  Located in the Algonquin Commons Shopping Center, north of I-90.

Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:00am-12:00am; Fri-Sat: 11:00am-1:00am; Sun 11:00am-11:00pm (Friday Night Karaoke! 8:30pm-12:30am)

Parking: Plentiful, but there are a lot of other restaurants/bars in the Algonquin Commons shopping center, so you may have to walk a little.

My Experience: When I first drove up to Cheeseburger in Paradise, I immediately noticed the tropical, beachy vibe with what looked like a giant lighthouse as the building façade. Very cool.  The interior is all decked out with tiki bars, surfboards, and other beach décor, too.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Algonquin

Keeping with the tropical theme, the hostess greets guests from behind a tiki bar.  (Sorry – this pic is a bit blurry.)

Cheeseburger in Paradise Tiki Bar

One thing you should know before heading to Cheeseburger in Paradise is that their menu is huge!  I highly suggest checking their menu online before you head out…otherwise it’ll be awhile before figuring out what you want.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Menu

I visited Cheeseburger in Paradise on a Friday night with a group of girlfriends so, of course, one of the first things on our minds was DRINKS!  They really make a pretty drink at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Check out a few that we ordered:

Cheeseburger in Paradise Euphoria

This was my drink of the night: Euphoria.  It’s Frozen Sangria, Margarita and Strawberry Daiquiri layers, garnished with Lizard Lips.  It was soooooo good!  I had to be careful not to drink a ton of them.

Cheeseburger in Paradise Lizard Lips

Here’s a close-up of my Lizard Lips…isn’t he a cute ‘lil guy? LOL

Cheeseburger in Paradise Coronita Rita

This one was probably my favorite, though.  It’s a new drink offered by Cheeseburger in Paradise called a Coronita Rita!  It’s a margarita topped with an overturned 7 oz. Corona bottle.  The beer slowly drains into the margarita for a truly unique taste.  Just as delicious, of course, as it is unique.

Oh yeah, we did eat while we were there too. Winking smile  And I know “cheeseburger” is in the restaurant name, but I was in the mood for something a little different.  Since moving to the suburbs a few years ago, it’s been really hard to find Latin food – or, good Latin food I should say.  I’ve been craving Cuban food for months now and was glad to see the El Cubano on the menu.  It’s a Cuban sandwich with ham, salami, pork, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles, pressed until golden-brown.  But could they make it as good as the Cuban sandwiches I remember?

Cheeseburger in Paradise El Cubano

Let me be the first to tell you – that it was Damn Good!  I love the way the flavors of the meat, cheese and pickles taste together.  A very savory meal, indeed!

So the next time you find yourself in the vicinity of a Cheeseburger in Paradise, stop in!  The food is really great and you’ll be sure to find a Cheeseburger in Paradise nearby – they’re located in 14 states!  Check out their locations to find the one nearest you.

And, of course, there’s always the alcohol! Open-mouthed smile

Cheeseburger in Paradise Drinks

Chicagoland Eats: Burnt Toast Restaurant

Venue: Burnt Toast Restaurant (Elgin)

Website: http://www.btrestaurant.com/

Location: 2942 N. Randall Road, Elgin, IL  On Randall Road, just north of I-90.

Hours: Mon–Sat: 6:30am – 2:30pm; Sun: 7:00am – 2:30pm (just open for breakfast & lunch)

Parking: Normally I wouldn’t mention parking for a restaurant, but it’s important to note that if you head here on a weekend, parking could be hard to find.  The lot (used by both Burnt Toast and an adjacent restaurant) was almost full and cars park haphazardly throughout the lot.  I arrived at 1:00pm on a Sunday (close to closing time) and it was hard for me to find a spot.  Be prepared to drive around for a while looking for parking.

My Experience: What initially drew me in to try Burnt Toast Restaurant in Elgin was the building.  The restaurant exterior reminds me of a quaint family home in the mountains.  Like something I would see on an episode of House Hunters on HGTV.  The outside intrigued me enough to check it out.

Burnt Toast Elgin

The waiting area was full, of course, but thankfully most were large parties and I was just having lunch with a friend.  Within 10 minutes our table was ready…not bad for such a packed house!

When walking into the main dining area, my first impression was “Whoa – this place is HUGE!”. By the looks of the building on the outside, I had no idea that the restaurant was so spacious!  This photo shows only half of the dining area.

Burnt Toast Elgin Inside

The menu at Burnt Toast definitely caters more to the breakfast crowd with a wide variety of pancakes, eggs, waffles, crepes, skillets, and such, but they also offer a moderate selection of lunch items like salads, sandwiches, burgers, and the like.

While perusing our menus. I happily sipped on my giant cup of coffee.  Loved the cup size, but one drawback for me was that they don’t offer any flavored creamers. Sad smile  I love my coffee, but I love it a lot more when it tastes like French Vanilla.  Winking smile

Burnt Toast Elgin Coffee

What happened next, though, was probably the biggest letdown of my experience.  While still trying to decide what to order, we all heard a load BOOM*CRASH and the entire restaurant went silent.  A waitress dropped a plate of food as she was delivering to a table just a few tables over from us.  The dropping of the plate is not what bothered me – mistakes happen, I get that – but the waitress’ attitude about the whole thing was really disgusting.  Instead of quietly turning to the couple (whose plate of food now lay on the floor) to profusely apologize, she instead bent down to pick up the mess from the floor, rolling her eyes the entire time!  She looked as though she were trying to call attention to herself, rather than try to diffuse the situation.  Even though my plate wasn’t the one all over the floor, I felt really bad for the couple as they sat in their seats, dumbfounded.

Anyhow, our waitress was attentive enough and quickly took our order.  I decided on the Cobb Salad, while my friend ordered the potato pancakes.  (The same girl that dropped the plate a few minutes earlier delivered our food, but this time – THANKFULLY – without incident.)

Burnt Toast Elgin Cobb Salad

Notice how much bacon is on my Cobb Salad?!?!  I think there must’ve been 10 slices of bacon crumbled on top!  The salad came with lots of meat and lots of cheese with a side of warm cornbread.  I liked the salad well enough, however, the yolks of my eggs were a little soft in the center.  (No worries, I still ate it. Smile)

Overall, my experience at Burnt Toast Elgin was decent.  Nothing bad enough happened that would deter me from visiting again – although next time I’ll likely opt for a breakfast item.

Have you ever visited Burnt Toast in Elgin?  I’m curious to know what you thought.

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