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Instagram is my little social networking buddy and it’s been my creative outlet since my absence from this blog and since taking a design hiatus from invitation work. I really think it’s an amazing app and besides getting to follow great amateur and professional photographers alike via their camera phones, I get to catalogue little visual tidbits of my days, marriage, foodie searches, Dallas adventures and that dapper canine we call Hoosier. It’s really fun to look back through my photos and recall what we’ve been up to. Unfortunately, Instagram is only available on the iPhone, but you can follow my feed here or discover some photo feeds you’ll really love (also check out Webstagram and Followgram if you don’t have an iPhone)!

Without further ado, here are my three favorite food-related photos. I couldn’t blog for the second time this year and not include food!

Made my first two layered cake! Super simple coconut cake I found on All Recipes, but I replaced the Cool Whip icing (gross, I strongly dislike Cool Whip)  for a homemade whipped frosting topped with toasted coconut.  I also followed some revisions reviewers suggested: used yellow cake mix, nix the condensed milk, and don’t allow cream of coconut to touch the bottom of the cake. It was a hit and I’d highly suggest making it.

Hynpotic Donuts! Dallas finally has a fun donut shop that’s completely worth the trip. We were eager to try this place out after discovering the Donut Vault and Donut Plant this summer. That bacon one is called Canadian Health Care and I’m currently salivating just thinking about it. Excuse me.

Lastly, I leave you with the photo of the dinner Jon cooked for me on Valentine’s – pasta carbonara. Yes, it looks as good as it tastes and yes, I do feel overwhelmingly fortunate to have him as a husband. No, I don’t know really know how he loves me. Yes, I am slightly offended you asked that question, but I’m over it so let’s be friends again. Pasta carbonara is a rich entrée that melds the flavors of broccoli, bacon, egg noodles, and an egg over easy on top that you break as soon as you begin eating because the yoke serves as the creamy sauce for the noodles. It was delightful to say the least.

All photos here were taken in Instagram via the iPhone 4s camera. Amazing what mobile technology is capable of these days, huh? Well, if you’re on Instagram, definitely let me know what your screen name so I can check out your IG photo feed!

Giordano’s
Price: $ – $$
Rating: Meh…. 
Something You Should Know
: There is a 30 minute wait if you order a stuffed pizza.

A reader specifically told me to skip the deep dish pizza because she felt it was overrated, but I have such an affinity for pizza that I couldn’t resist. Sadly, I felt like the coveted deep dish pizza was uninteresting and just a lot more cheese and calories filled with each bite. Looking back, I wish I had tried at least one more pizza place, but after this experience I decided to pursue other foodie endeavors.

Just Indulge
Price: $
Rating: Pretty good!
Yummy concretes and chocolate goodies made in-house. I had the vanilla concrete mixed with caramel and added a toffee bar on top. Yum!

{We made some friends from Florida while waiting in line! Definitely a highlight!}

Hot Doug’s
Price: $
Rating: Don’t miss out!
Something You Should Know: Bring Cash and expect a wait
It’s on Anthony Bourdain’s “13 Places to Eat Before You Die ” article for a reason! I’ve never had a hot dog quite this good and I’ve never seen a hot dog joint with both good ol’ hot dog, bratwurst and sausage combinations as well as gourmet options. I love the personality of the restaurant as well. For instance there is a dog called The Salma Hayek and below its name in parenthesis it says “Formerly the Madonna, the Raquel Welch and the Ann-Margret” with the description simply saying “Mighty Hot!” Hilarious!

Kuma’s Corner
Price: $$
Rating: Pretty good
Something You Should Know: The burgers are bigger than your face, they have a great beer selection and there’s generally a long wait.

The burgers here were pretty good: a generous size, fresh toppings, nicely melted cheese. What disappointed me was the quality of their sides. Jon had their chips and I ordered their fries and they were nothing to write home about, but I understand that the star of the dish is the burger of course. Just thought it was worth mentioning! The customer service was great and considering it’s a heavy metal joint that’s open until 2am, Jon and I can’t say we were too bothered by the music selection or atmosphere.

 

Doughnut Vault 
Price: $$
Rating: My mouth is salivating at the sheer thought of having a DV donut…..
Something You Should Know:  Cash only + They open at 8:30 and close whenever they sell out so don’t dilly dally when making a trip out!

The buttermilk doughnut is $2 and the glaze donuts $3. Easily the most expensive donut you’ve ever paid for, but clearly also worth their price once biting into them. The above photos are of their chocolate glaze, vanilla glaze and pistachio donuts!  And I don’t think the photos do a good job of conveying the size of these donuts. They are huge! In addition to their  donut’s visually pleasing appearance, don’t you just love the way they’ve designed their exterior with the vintage painted menu and blue paint? I couldn’t get enough photos of it!


XOCO
Price: $$
Rating: Pretty good
Something You Should Know: A contemporary Mexican sandwich restaurant started by the renown chef, Rick Bayless.

Jon and I ordered two entrees, but the one above is the one that I think is more than worth raving about! The bread in XOCO’s sandwiches lean towards the crispier (aka kind of cuts your mouth up) side, but when dipped into this spicy flavorful soup, it’s a myriad of flavor, textures and ingredients in each bite. Top it off with their limonade (lime instead of lemon) and you’re golden! Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what this entrée is called, but after looking at the menu it might be the Ahogada.

Julius Meinl
Price: $$
Rating: Yummy in my tummy
Something You Should Know: It’s a European based restaurant.

Their egg bakes are the bomb and I loved their bread pudding-like French toast. Yums!

Wormhole
Price: $
Rating: Pure Awesomeness
Something You Should Know: Don’t miss out on their delicious macaroons for just a $1!

Humorous, chill, and old school (did you see the NES!) would be the three adjective I’d use to describe the atmosphere of this coffee shop and absolutely delicious would express how much we loved their coffee and macaroons. The Wormhole received great ratings on Yelp and we could clearly see why. It’s located in the artsy district of Wicker Park (shout out Laura!) and it’s completely worth the trip (I shopped at some local thrift stores while Jon was sippin’ on iced coffee).

Big Star
Price: $
Rating: Rocked my world
Something You Should Know: It’s located in Wicker Park and it doesn’t have a sign that says the name of the restaurant, it just has that red and black star.

I mean, it’s clear to see that the place is just cool. It’s even better to know that the food is great too. That pork and pineapple taco, known as the Tacos Al Pastor, above was my absolute favorite. I want ten of those right now! Jon somehow managed to devour the loaded  Sonoran hot dog that had a bacon wrapped dog topped with pinto beans, lime mayo, and the essence of life. Just kidding, but seriously it was difficult even attempting to bite into the hot dog because of its size. The beer battered tilapia taco was also scrumptious!

Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwiches (aka Banh Mi)
Price: $
Rating: Get in my belly
Something You Should Know: Cash only + Featured as one of Chicago’s top cheap eats!

Okay, down to our final eatery! It was 9:45 at night, I was hankering for one last Chicago treat and Bon Bon happened to be open and down the street from where we were staying. It was meant to be. The above photo is the pic we took when we came back the next morning to eat there one more time since Jon was too full the night before from eating the “heart attack in a hot dog” at Big Star to eat a sandwich (meaning I ate a sandwich by myself…yes, I love food that much). We only had the opportunity to try their ginger chicken and charred pork banh mi but they were both phenomenal and less than $5 each. When you’re eating out so much, it’s nice to have a break on your wallet while not compromising a tasty filling meal. Oh, and the Thai tea and surprisingly their crinkle sweet potato fries were wonderful as well. Be sure to ask for their special Sirachi mayo sauce and say hello to the owner. He’s a sweetheart!

——

Here are a few basic foodie tips Jon and I have to offer from our experience in Chicago:

TIP 1: I have recently appreciated Urban Spoon much more than Yelp because the site lists the top 10 Foodie Finds in the area that bloggers and food critics alike are discussing. This is how we discovered both the Donut Vault and Kuma’s Corner.

TIP 2: BRING CASH!  We can’t tell you how many locations were cash only!

TIP 3: Be ready to travel all around the city for good food. It can be kind of time-consuming to figure out which buses and trains you’ll take to get to a certain area, but it’s worth discovering all the different pockets of a city and trying the best local restaurants that you can’t experience at home.

——-

A HUGE thank you goes out to those of you who were kind enough to share your recommendations with me. It deeply influenced our trip and enhanced our Chicago experience! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m still feeling full from the trip (and that was two weeks ago). Gotta love this blogging community!

Rachel from Benign Objects: I have developed a penchant for St. Germaine’s Elderflower liqueur. I like drinks that are not overly sweet and are very refreshing. My recent favorite is the French mojito which consists of fresh mint, St. Germaine, rum, lime and club soda. For something non-alcoholic, I love soda water with fruit and mint. Sounds weird, tastes refreshing.

Bekka from Minted Condition: Mojitos, of course! There is something so refreshing about mint in the summer. (image via Design Sponge)

Danni from Oh, Hello Friend: Strawberry Lemonade! My favorite :) (image via Pinterest)

Jaime from Send More Mail: The Arnold Palmer: Homemade lemonade and iced tea mixed.  So refreshing!

Maddy from The Maddy Chronicles: When the temperatures reach unbearable highs, the only thing that can quench my thirst is an ice-cold frappuccino. And after sampling the new Coconut Crème flavor, I think I’ve found a new summer drink obsession.

Jennifer from I ART UI was really inspired by Kate’s Strawberry Basil Lemonade recipe. Once summer hits, it will definitely be my go-to drink.

Dionne from City of Dionne: There is this drink that they serve at a local cafe here, Empire, and it’s called the Milky Way.  It is AMAZING.  It’s like an iced mocha but so much creamier and more flavorful.  Whenever friends that have been here come to visit again, having a Milky Way is one of the first things on their list.  It’s incredible!

Jaclyn from The Late Afternoon: It’s not a drink, but Otter Pops are a must-have once summer hits. I can go through a ton of those in one sitting! The pink one is my favorite :)

Justine from Urban Scarlet: My go-to summer drink is a mint-cucumber cocktail — Oh so refreshing! And don’t you dare leave out the dash of alcohol either… :)

Lillian from Unstitched: On hot summer days, I love preparing lots of variations of flavored water with lots of ice.

Remember when you were a teenager? Hanging out with friends, playing sports, procrastinating on projects and going to parties? Well, the five foodies photographed above decided they would likely do all of the above and cook, bake, style and photograph food as teenagers and start blogs that would each develop a tremendous following. I know how you’re feeling, I too feel like I was totally unproductive as a teenager!

A few of these future chefs have hit their twenties, but they’re still going strong with their food experimentations and what’s even better is that they’ve decided to collaborate together to create a blog entitled The Kitchen Generation. This fresh new blog offers recipes, cooking tips, styling advice and is sure to be a great addition to your reader.

If you’re a food lover like myself, even at 26 (or whatever your age may be) it’s never too late to attempt to discover your love for cooking, but how I wish I was half as gifted as these young food gurus!

{all photos via the authors of The Kitchen Generation}

I am absolutely smitten with downtown McKinney, a suburb about half an hour outside of Dallas. The downtown square  has the ideal set up of antique stores and locally run restaurants that crafters and girlfriends flock to by the dozen.  My cousins Tami and Lisa and I have a tradition where we spend the day together to celebrate each of our birthdays and take photos of our adventure. To celebrate Tami’s 23rd birthday we began the day with a lunch at one of my fave restaurants, Spoons. If you go, I highly recommend you order a warm entrée. Comfort food is best served hot!

Afterwards we hit up a few antiques stores and tried to keep out mouths closed so as not to drool over all the vintage goodies.

Tami is a huge reader and had always wanted a photo in a bookstore. Downtown McKinney was the perfect spot to find a charming bookstore with a black and white tiled floor. Isn’t she adorable?

I quickly identified my favorite store in the entire square – Pantina Green Home and Market. While walking around the square my interests were immediately peaked upon seeing the bold (and brilliant) choice of wallpaper within the shop. Patina Green immediately lured me in and my cousins and I could not have been more thankful to discover such a gem. Patina Green consists of…

{remember the post with the pretty flowers? They’re from here!}

an eating area with the aforementioned wallpaper and

some rustic charmed seating,

a farmer’s market with locally grown fruits and veggies and

an antique shop that will make your heart flutter. In love yet? Well I certainly hoped as much! And I have to say that I met one of the owners of the shop who 1)was sincerely kind and 2)insisted I visit their restroom. Naturally, I obliged.

A tall burlap curtain, stunning settee, sink with vintage fixtures and coin tile floor in a restroom? I nearly camped out there for the evening.

To end the day we proceeded with our cousin tradition which was to take some fun photos of each other to remember the day.

If you’re coming to Dallas anytime in the near future you’ve got to put downtown McKinney on your list of places to visit. You won’t regret it (unless it’s a 100+ degree weather…).

ila Handbags Giveaway Winner

Alright! I know several of you have been waiting with great anticipation for the giveaway winner of the ila Handbags so I won’t keep you waiting any longer! The winner is comment #15….

Hannah from Culture Connoisseur

Hannah, I am so excited for you and I appreciate all your support. Be sure to contact me to let me know you’ve seen your name drawn! And definitely check out her blog for great recipes, photos and travel tips!
A huge thanks goes to Paula and Brian for offering such a generous giveaway and partnering with TEL. They are just as neat as their awesome bags and I hope you’ll all consider supporting them and telling your friends about their handbags! Also, I really appreciated those of you who took the time to let me know how excited you were about the giveaway (and how much you hoped I’d draw your name). The Eclectic Life will not be a big giveaway blog, but I definitely don’t mind giving away products I’m obsessed with, like ila Handbags, on occasion and a product that I think you’ll love just as much as I do. Feel free to let me know if you’d like to see more giveaways in the future!
Happy Monday friends!

Don’t you think these macaroons are styled beautifully? Wait til’ you see the actual store that houses these brightly colored French pastries.

Honestly, have you ever seen a more immaculate macaroon shop? If yes, send me the link immediately, if no, please read on. Anagrama is the brilliant firm behind the branding and interior design of Mexico’s first macaroon patisserie, Theurel and Thomas. The entire shop was selected to be white to contrast and enhance the color of the macaroons.

My initial thoughts upon discovering this gem of sweet tooth goodness was “Boy, I really want a macaroon” and “The upkeep of this store must be ridiculous.” I mean, imagine trying to clean your stark white house everyday when you know the only thing coming through it are the delicious colorful crumbs of macaroons. I’d like to see what the daily maintenance for this place is. I’m way too type B to even consider the thought of maintaining what’s supposed to be perfectly clean on a regular basis. I’d much rather do math (and I hate math!).

Do you have a favorite macaroon flavor? Do tell!

{photos from Anagrama and Yatzer via Eclec Chic}

The awesome Kim from Yellow Songbird is hosting a link up party featuring a snap shot of your choice! It was difficult to decide, but my natural inclination, like in most cases, is to go towards food! I posted the recipes I’ve been wanting to try earlier this week and a reader asked to see my own photos of this curry dish so naturally I thought I’d make it (since I had most of the ingredients anyhow) and show y’all the results.

I really appreciated the small list of ingredients and the ease of the recipe itself, but as someone who enjoys a really flavorful curry, this wasn’t quite the recipe for me. I did end up doubling the amount of red curry paste and I added some Siracha to it as well, but it didn’t turn out how I hoped it would. That’s just my preference though! Even with sites like Cooking Light or the Pioneer Woman, you’ll naturally find recipes that suit your palette much better than others so I will definitely be trying other recipes by this chef, for sure. Hope your weekend is full of foodie goodness!

{all photos by The Eclectic Author}

On my recipe list to make:

The “Perfect Hummus” by A Couple Cooks

Homemade focaccia bread by Sunday Suppers (inspired by my friend Rachel who’s been making bread from scratch lately).

Cannelle et Vanille cooks, styles, and photographs food with perfection, but I must confess, her recipes are a little over my head at this point in my cooking career. If you can recommend a doable recipe of hers, please, send it over as quickly as possible to hello@vivjordan.com. If you want to tell me I’m ridiculous for being intimidated by her recipes then please contact me at goodbye@vivjordan.com.

Homemade cranberry fro-yo with crisp rye and cocoa granola by Scandi Foodie.

A Vegan and Gluten free “Alfredo” spinach pasta by With Style and Grace.

I have a serious weakness for curry. Coconut basil chicken curry by Eclectic Recipes (what a fitting name for a food blog *wink*).

Banana-stuffed French Toast by Panini Happy.

I have to end with a dessert, naturally. Here are the s’more bars by The Crepes of Wrath.

 

Other great recipes I’m begging to try (while drooling over the photos):

1) Pizzelle’s homemade croissants (this multi-talented blogger also authors the beautifully written blog, Not Your Average Ordinary)

2) A banana milkshake by Coffee, Light and Sweet

3) Garlic Fries from Cooking Light’s list of their top 20 best recipes of all time (I’ve done a couple of these so far and they’ve each been a hit)

 

What’s on your cooking to-do list?

 

Now this is fashionably hilarious. Plus, I really love strawberry iced donuts with sprinkles. I’ll take two oversized ones, please! {via That Lucie Girl}

Jon and I are fortunate enough to be teachers so our spring break starts officially today after work! Woohoo! We’re starting the break with a trip to Austin with some friends and we’ve got food, food and more food on the brain! With all the anticipation of sushi, bbq and late night food trips I thought I’d share one of my favorite food photographers, Anders Schonnemann. He has a great eye for shooting food and the pure texture of that raspberry sherbet resembles the softest silk material I can imagine. I wouldn’t mind a bite of that chocolate dipped pear either.

Some Austin stops: Kerby Lane, Salt Lick, Mozarts,and  Liberty Bar. Where else should we hit up while we’re in Austin? What’s a must-try on your list? I have to admit….I don’t really like Hey, Cupcake (I’d rather take a Sprinkle’s cupcake) but I’m open for suggestions, especially dessert places!

Have a great weekend friends! I hope it’s full of friends, laughter-filled conversations and of course a delicious dish or two.

{all photos by Anders Schonnemann}

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