Cafeteria Food Fight

Today, the Chicago Tribune reported that one local school, Chicago’s Little Village Academy, is forcing children to eat at their cafeteria or go hungry. The school has mandated that unless a child has a medical excuse such as an allergy, they are not allowed to bring a packed lunch from home. According to school Principal Elsa Carmona, her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

How, praytell, is forcing young children to choose between hunger and meager, unappetizing slop “protecting students”? And how is it helping them to make healthful choices on their own?

My children don’t eat school cafeteria food, mainly because they wouldn’t choose to eat it at all. This week, their school menu touts the following unhealthful things: breaded chicken (fried in oil of course), cookies, cheeseburger and potato smiles (again with the oil!), fruit cup (lots of sugar in that!), brownies, tamale pocket, cheese its, cheese pizza and chips. Given their own choice, my kids choose things like turkey sandwiches, bananas, apples, peanut butter sandwiches, homemade soups and juice. As a parent, these are choices that I reinforce. It’s not the purview of the school to decide what my child eats. It is their job to teach them math, science, reading, critical thinking, etc. I certainly would take it as an affront if I was told that I could no longer send whole wheat turkey sandwiches, bananas, crackers and juice to school with my children because the school (and government) knew better what to feed them.

The other thing that I find most horrifying about this story is that the ban on homemade lunches puts money directly into the pockets of the school district’s food provider and that the government pays the district for each free or reduced price lunch that is served. So in effect, the taxpayer is footing the bill for school lunches that are often thrown away uneaten. What a waste of money, time and food resources!

The article also points out that the overall nutritional quality of the meals is poor (albeit improved from last year, yay.) and that there has been a drop-off in the number of students participating in meals. Now, taking into account that this school and many other districts have breakfast programs, that means that many of the children that qualify for free or discounted breakfast and lunches aren’t eating anything all day long until they get home after school. How does Principal Carmona expect students at the school to be able to concentrate and learn over the distraction of their empty bellies?! For shame!

David Zelken Dominates a 3.5 Pound Chimichanga!

Our friend from Shareasale, David Zelken absolutely dominates the “Big Mel” challenge at Dos Diablos, a new Mexican restaurant in Chicago. The “Big Mel” is a 3.5 pound Chimichanga with all the fixin’s. My big question here, is – where the heck did a skinny guy like David pack in all this grub.

The one, the only, Carolyn Tang

Today, Wade and I had the pleasure of talking with the extraordinary Carolyn Tang from (If you are in the affiliate marketing industry, you will also recognize her as the ShareASale goddess she is.) We didn’t really have a set topic this time, so we covered a myriad of subjects in our 35 minutes or so, ranging from Carolyn’s own love of food, why she started her website and her favorite recipes to a fast paced discussion of our favorite Food Network hosts and shows. (I still miss the original Iron Chef! Come back Hiroyuki Sakai!)

Carolyn has always been one of our favorite folks because of her work in the industry, but now that we know she’s a foodie too, we love her even more!


Carolyn Recommends:
Foodie Mag: Saveur – gourmet food magazine full of recipes, techniques & culinary travel
Great Chicago Eats: Gioco – hip, Italian eatery located in a Prohibition-era speakeasy
Facebook Application: Food Porn – user submitted pictures of incredible food

Her own recipes:
Steamed Pork with Ground Rice
Orzo with Asparagus and Cheddar

Chicago Hot Dogs – I think I’ll stick to their pizza

Wrigley FieldOn June 11th, I met up with my little brother in Chicago and we went out for Chicago style pizza, as I mentioned in my previous post. What I neglected to tell you was why he was there in the first place. He and one of his good friends decided to make a series of baseball stadium pilgrimages this summer and part of their journey happened to bring them to Chicago at the same time I was attending a conference. They kindly let me tag along to the Cubs game that evening and we watched a riveting game where Kosuke Fukudome hit a three run homer in the first inning, Alfonso Soriano was hit with a pitch by Jeff Bennett of the Braves in the second inning, and the Cubs went on to win it 7 runs to 2. (Check out their travels at

Chicago DogAnd what’s a trip to the ball park without a hot dog? I figured if there was anyplace to try a Chicago Hot Dog, it was definitely at Wrigley Field. I mean, it’s the great American pastime, so they surely would be featuring real Chicago food, right? During the top of the sixth, I hopped up and went down to the concession stand to pick up a couple of Chicago Dogs. I asked the guy at the counter what goes on an authentic Chicago hot dog and gesturing to the condiment stand, he said “everything EXCEPT the ketchup.” So I loaded up my all beef hot dog with everything they had out, except the ketchup, which really wasn’t much…just mustard, pickle relish, and sauteed onions, all on a poppy seed bun. Honestly, it looked pretty pitiful for the grandiose song and story I’d been told about these.

All in all it tasted fine, but really…it was just a boring hot dog, just like I’ve had a thousand times. Verdict? If this was a “real” Chicago Hot Dog, they were uber lame. If it’s not a real Chicago Hot Dog, someone please get me one to review, because as good as the Cubbies were, their stadium food left a lot to be desired.

I’m in love with Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

This past week I went to Chicago to attend a conference and while I was there, I had the fantastic opportunity to sample a Chicago classic, the deep dish pizza.

A bit of Chicago pizza history…according to Wikipedia, the “deep dish” pizza was invented in 1943 by Ike Sewell, owner of Pizzerria Uno. I walked past Pizzeria Uno as well as their sister restaurant, Pizza Due, several times during my stay and I can honestly say, they were packed each time.

Gino\'s Pizza - Bob signs the boothOn Sunday afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with two of my friends who had agreed to assist in my Chicago food scene deflowering. We met at Gino’s East and I was immediately struck by the crazy decor. Everything, and I do mean everything, is covered in graffiti, some of which dates back decades. Luckily, one of my friends is a Chicago native and he explained some of the restaurant’s unique history.

Apparently, the restaurant moved locations to its current locale after they lost their lease at the original spot. When they moved, they brought the wood paneling and booths along, so customers could continue to scribble their names. While I didn’t have the opportunity to add my own signature the first night I went there, I certainly did four days later when I returned with my little brother!

Chicago style deep dish pizza from Gino\'s EastOk…on to the pizza! I’ve had tons of pizza (who hasn’t) and I’ve even had what some places claim to be deep dish pizza, but they totally lied. The pizza I had last week was absolutely heavenly. The crust is nearly indescribable. It has this crunchy, almost fried quality, but still retains that nice chewy factor. It didn’t taste like a yeast based bread, so I’m guessing it was probably cornmeal based. The pizza is built backwards from what I was used to as well. Sure, the crust was on the bottom, but the sauce was on the top! In layers from the bottom up, we had crust, cheese, sausage patty, pepperoni, chunky tomato sauce. The sausage patty was the most intriguing part of the pizza…it literally was a patty that covered the whole pizza. None of the small, overcooked little crumbles. This was a sausage pizza! The sauce was very rich and I really liked that it was thick and chunky. There was no picking this pizza slice up, it was strictly a knife and fork affair.

Gino\'s Chicago style deep dish pizzaI was only able to eat about a slice and a quarter before I started picking at it. It was incredibly filling and fabulous. Now I just need to find somewhere out here that can make pizza like that, or I’m going to have to start finding reasons to go back to Chicago regularly!

P.S. My two amazing Chicago friends took me to the Chicago Blues Festival after dinner and we saw B.B. King perform and it was absolutely divine. The concert rocked, dinner was wonderful, but by far, the highlight of my trip was spending time with you two. Many, many thanks guys!!