Madtown vs. Chitown

by Jenn (eating bender) on April 19, 2010

Wow, thank you for all of the positive feedback and responses on my last post. I am so appreciative of this community and all of the wonderful people in it. It’s because of you that I am able to better step outside myself and gain perspective. So glad that you’re as excited about the upcoming  journey as I am!

If you’re clicking over from the Daily Spark, welcome! I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with Stepfanie Romine recently and her blog – and writing style – are truly wonderful.

I’m excited to share with you a very exciting weekend filled with blogger delight. My business partner Jill and I had the opportunity to visit Madison, Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday to speak at Branded: Make Your Mark, the University of Wisconsin PRSSA Annual Conference. It was a chance for us to talk to college students about ways to utilize social media tools to brand themselves in their industry and reach out to recruiters and companies for job opportunities.

The conference was fabulous, but there was also plenty of foodie fun to be had :)

On Friday night, we visited Sushi Muramoto. Jill was showing me around town for the evening and said this was the best sushi in Madison. She was right!

We tried the crab croquettes to start and then we split a dragon roll, with tempura shrimp, eel, avocado and masago mayo, as well as another specialty roll whose name escapes me!

Everything was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We spent the rest of the evening chatting with Jill’s awesome friends and were graciously put up for the night by our fabulous hosts, Mike and Rob. They were so gracious that the next morning, Mike even made us fresh espresso! Helloooo caffeine buzz!

Thanks for the hospitality :)

On Saturday morning, we ventured to the Capitol for the grand opening of Madison’s famous Farmer’s Market. I was amazed at all of the people who showed up. I can only imagine how fun it must be in the summer, when fresh fruits and veggies are in abundance. I’ve already promised a return trip!

After our quick walk around the market, we headed over to Gotham Bagels for an impromptu tweetup (are we social media nerds or what?) with some great company.

Gotham has the BEST bagels I have ever had. Seriously. They are hand-rolled, generously portioned and oh-so-doughy and delightful. I chose the whole wheat bagel with walnut raisin cream cheese. The shmear was absolutely fabulous – with large chunks of walnuts and raisins in every bite.

I really would like another one of those for breakfast.

Anyway, the rest of the day was filled with fun at the conference, but the blogginess was yet to come! That evening, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Julie and Kristie!

These two ladies are absolutely fabulous. But more on that later.

We were originally going to go to The Old Fashioned but the wait was a bit too long. Instead, we ended up at The Great Dane, another Madison pub restaurant.

What do we get at pub restaurants?

First, you start with a beer – perhaps a nice Irish Ale.

Then you proceed to live it up to the fullest – it is a bloggie get together, after all – and try a Madison and Wisconsin staple. Cheese curds!

They reminded me a lot of mozzarella sticks. For dinner, I chose the Baja Burger, which came topped with guacamole and salsa. It was everything a burger should be: flavorful, satiating and satisfying.

The girls and I proceeded to talk about topics related to my last post (Julie is planning her May wedding and Kristie is approaching her first anniversary in June!) while enjoying said beer, cheese curds, burger and fries :) You can read all about some of the key points in Julie’s post, but what it all comes down to is that when I’m out of town or dining with friends for a special event, I approach my dining choices as I would any other activity I do while I’m there. It’s meant to be fun and experiential, not stressful.

It was great to get their perspective and Julie was kind enough to let me stay over. Bloggie sleepover included – what else? – plenty of gabbing and a viewing of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution!

Thanks again, Julie!


So marked the end of my blogger extravaganza weekend in Madison. But wait, you thought we were finished? No, no – not even close! We’re bringing it back to the Chi for some more fun.

Hello, bloggers!

On Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting up with several of my favorite Chicago bloggers and our guest of honor from New York City – Gena! From left to right in the picture above we have Lin, Me, Gena, Val, Mara, blog reader and awesome person Elese and Maya! Ruby Red Vegan (Robyn) and her friend Hoda also joined us. I have read her blog for a long time and instantly recognized her!

We met up at the famed Chicago Diner. I had never been before and was excited to finally see what all the rave reviews were about. I went with the specialty: Radical Reuben.

It was absolute bliss! The flavor of the seitan was so real it’s scary. I also had the vegan cheeze, which I had never tried before and was pleasantly surprised by it. On the side were sweet potato fries – yum!

We had great conversations and I even left with some goodies! Val made melamacarona, a traditional Greek dessert, and Mara brought me one of her ridiculously amazing cupcakes.

Seriously, have you seen the way this girl frosts cupcakes?! I’ve told her she needs to open a shop but for some reason she keeps shooing away my idea. I’ll convince her eventually **evil laugh** :)

So delicious! There were also some PB & Co. goodies in her bag, which I will definitely be trying ASAP! Thanks for being such an amazing friend, Mara.

There was so much blog love to be had. But wait, it’s still not over because…

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Gena once again for lunch today!

Our lunchtime selection? None other than the Whole Foods salad bar, of course.

It is such a treat when I am able to visit the Whole Foods salad bar. Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Every time.

Today’s salad was no different. I started with a bed of fresh greens and topped it with a grain salad, marinated mushrooms, grape tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, carrots and fennel, cucumber and kale salad. So fresh and delightful. I also used a mixture of dressings, including lemon juice, flax oil and a new one for me – agave. I had never used agave on a salad before and was surprised by the sweetness it provided. I’m a definite fan and will be using it again in the future.

The food was wonderful but the company was even better. I’ve told her this so many times already that she probably thinks I’m crazy, but Gena is one of the most genuine and intelligent people I have ever met. Perhaps it’s her far reaching vocabulary from being a fabulous book editor, but this girl knows her stuff. She tells it like it is and at the same time has such a warm, approachable demeanor.

You can read her recap of her time in Chicago so far here.

And that – finally – was all she wrote. Are you still with me? Did you think it was possible to cram so much into one weekend? I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

How was your weekend? How has the transition into a new week been so far?


{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica April 20, 2010 at 2:10 am

WOW! What a trip! Very cool that you were meet up with more bloggers & twitter friends!! And the food? Love that you sampled the local fare! Local food says so much about a place, you have to give it a go! Madison looks totally gorgeous too. I’ve always wanted to visit there. Being a Big 10-er, I always think its amazing to experience cities where the other Big 10 schools are. LOVE your jacket in the last picture. You are such a naturally gorgeous lady :) Hope you have a great week.


2 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

You are such a naturally sweet and awesome lady :) Thank you so much for the kind compliments on the jacket! I totally hear you on the Big 10 schools – any chance I could get you to experience Evanston, IL?? :)


3 Jessica @ How Sweet April 20, 2010 at 4:18 am

You have had the best couple days! That is so awesome that you got to meet so many bloggers. :) I want to try Mara’s cupcakes!


4 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

Come to Chicago and try them! :) I would love to meet you!


5 Melissa S. April 20, 2010 at 4:32 am

whoo hoo! what a great weekend for you and all those bloggers and work!

i totally think mara should open a shop…i’d move to chi town just to work for her. no joke.


6 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 9:02 am

Could you just move to Chitown anyway? Please and thank you :)


7 Lauren April 20, 2010 at 4:35 am

Madison looks beautiful and it also looks like you had such an incredible time there!! I am so happy for you and for all of the wonderful and exciting things happening for you! :)


8 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:40 am

Thank you, Lauren! You rock :)


9 MarathonVal April 20, 2010 at 6:25 am

Haha, now I’m jealous of your Monday lunch! Jenn + Gena + WF salad bar?!?!? Sounds like an award winning combo if I’ve ever seen one before 😉

So awesome to see you again, it’s been too long since we got to meet up last – next time let’s not wait 5 months! Have a wonderful week and good luck with the 10K training! :)


10 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:41 am

Let’s definitely not wait 5 months, ok? I see a Val-Jenn meet-up in the very near future! And please come running with me sometime?! 😉


11 Mara @ What's For Dinner? April 20, 2010 at 6:41 am

Ok, if it means Melissa will move to Chicago to work in my cupcake shop… hmm… :)

It was SO wonderful to see you!!!


12 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:41 am

Haha – now we’re talking!


13 Karla April 20, 2010 at 7:58 am

It looks like you had an AMAZING weekend! How fun!! And good choice on the Chicago Diner–I just made a trip there too :)

How cool is the landscaping on college campuses? That star in the flowers is so neat! Great pictures, as always, Miss Jenn.

And let me say now that I totally believe that you will rock your blog no matter what you decided to do. You know I’ll be reading and enjoying! If you ever need to chat it out about the coming months, wedding stresses, etc. you know where to find me! 😉

And your jacket in the picture with Gena? Love. Where did you get it?

We should chat soon. Hopefully we can arrange a Gchat or even another meet-up before the end of April? Have a terrific Tuesday!


14 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

I know exactly where to find you and believe me, I will be chatting with you soon :) Wow – does that make me sound creepy?!


15 Lauren @ Eater Not a Runner April 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

Looks like so much fun! I have this week off so I am enjoying every minute :-)


16 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:43 am

Woot! Glad you enjoyed yourself!


17 adrienmelaine April 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

There’s a risk in packing too much into a weekend- but as long as it’s all fun stuff, there’s never too much you can fit in! You’ll just spend the whole week trying to catch up on everything else!


18 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:43 am

I completely agree with you! As long as it’s all fun, there’s no complaining once “catch up” begins :)


19 cookeatburn April 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

SO glad I got to see you :). And yes, we will definitely fit that run + farmer’s market trip in the next time you come. It’s a necessity!


20 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:44 am

Yes it is!! Let’s do it :)


21 Heather Eats Almond Butter April 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Wow, what am amazing weekend Jenn.

I’m drooling over all the food (espec. the walnut raisin cream cheese and rueben), but the company you shared it with looked even better.

Love Mara and all the other great Chicago bloggers, and how cool you got to meet Gena. I WILL meet her someday!

CD and I tried to go to the Chicago Diner last time we were in town. However, it was over Labor Day weekend and so crowded. There was no parking anywhere! Oh well, maybe next time. :)


22 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:45 am

Thank you, Heather!! You will definitely need to try the Chicago Diner next time. Just let me know when and I will be there :) I can’t wait for the next time we’ll meet!


23 anutritionisteats April 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

What a great sounding trip!! I’m from the Madison area so the beer and cheesecurds totally made me smile!


24 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:45 am

Yea cheese curds! I’m on a mission to find some in Chicago 😉 They’ve got to be somewhere, right?


25 BroccoliHut April 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

What a trip! I can’t stop staring at that bagel–it looks truly heavenly.
So glad you got to have a “tweetup”–I will have to incorporate that into my vocabulary somehow:)


26 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

Haha – please do :) There should be a social media dictionary!


27 Pure2raw twins April 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

What a fun weekend!! I am so jealous you got to meet Gena, I cannot wait to me her, and you!!
Congrats speaking at Make you Mark!! That is awesome

And yes Mara’s cupcakes look amazing! I love cupcakes.


28 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:47 am

Can’t wait to meet you, either!! Thanks for the congratulatory wishes :)


29 Ruby Red April 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Hey Jenn! It was great to meet you!! Your face looked familiar right away – and I had no idea who would be coming that day besides Gena! And I totally agree with you: The price of the Whole Foods salad bar is so worth it! It is one of my favorite places to build a meal because you can pick exactly what you want and how much, and it is refreshingly fresh! It can be really hard to get a decent portion of veggies at a restaurant, but not when you are dining at Whole Foods.

And you are so lucky to be so close to the Chicago Diner! I had forgotten how good the seitan on the Reuben is…


30 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:48 am

Hey girly! So great to finally meet you, too. Glad you feel the same way I do about Whole Foods! Oh, and I’m officially craving the Reuben. Good recommendation :)


31 Gena April 21, 2010 at 6:24 am


I love our lovefest. I will continue to tell you how amazing and genuine and smart I think YOU are, since it is most def the truth. And I’m really happy you feel that way about me. I cannot wait for many more meetups, conversations, and mutual compliments. This is only the beginning. xoxo


32 Jessie April 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Wow, you really crammed in a lot in a short weekend! You must be exhausted (but well-fed!). Your eats just kept getting better and better until I was drooling!

I love your perspective on eating out and enjoying yourself! :)


33 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

Definitely well-fed :) I hope you have a fabulous weekend, Jessie!


34 Gabriela (froyolover) April 21, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Awww – such lovely pics, girl!
I bet you´ve had an amazing time :)
Have a great night!
Brazilian XOXO´s,


35 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

Thank you, lady!


36 Mimi Honeycutt April 22, 2010 at 12:43 am


Even though your blog is famous the bloggersphere over, I’ve just started reading. I can see why! You have such a lovely voice, and I love your thoughts on the things you’ve posted. I look forward to reading more!

– Mimi


37 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:55 am

Hi Mimi! Wow – I’m blushing over here. Thank you so much for the kind words! I am glad you enjoy the blog and seriously, there is nothing more rewarding to me than hearing you like my writing style/voice. So thank you for making my day and I look forward to checking out your blog and following you on your journey as well. Have a FANTASTIC weekend!!


38 Katherine: What About Summer? April 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

whatever town you’re in, you have beautiful food in front of you! I’ve been craving sushi so much lately and that pic is about to push me over the edge…


39 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:51 am

Thanks, Katherine! Now I’m craving sushi, too…


40 Heba April 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hi Jenn!

Awesome post! Whole Foods is one of my favorite places to make my own salad for lunch. I often get inspired by the recipes and ingredients in the food bar!

By the way, I just came across your blog and I really love it (added your blog to my blogroll!). I just started blogging in March and I get excited every time I find a fellow food blogger who lives in Chicago. It would be awesome to meet other foodie bloggers in person and try out new restaurants. :-) Let’s be in touch about other meetups going on soon!

Have a great weekend! (even though we’re not expecting great weather in Chi :-/)



41 Jenn (eating bender) April 24, 2010 at 8:52 am

Hi Heba! Congrats on starting your own blog – I will definitely be checking it out! So awesome that you live in Chicago – there is a big network of us here and we would love for you to come on our next foodie adventure. Let’s definitely stay in touch! Hope you have a fabulous (rainy) weekend as well :)


42 Heba April 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thanks, Jenn! :-) Here’s the link to my blog: I’m still new at this, but I’m loving every minute of it. Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear feedback! :-)


43 Ally @ Sweet & Savory April 25, 2010 at 7:47 am

What great opportunities you are getting with your work partner – keep up the good work! I love me a cheese curd:)


44 Jocelyn @ Peace.Love.Nutrition April 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

WOw look at all those blogger meet up! Looks like fun. I want to do one here in NYC


45 Lauren @ Eat, Drink, and Be Hopeful April 26, 2010 at 10:55 am

Oh I love meet ups! It’s so much fun to meet people with the same interests as you! Especially when there is good food involved. Looks like so much fun!


46 April 26, 2010 at 7:55 pm

this is one of those posts where we see how many gorgeous women we can fit into one post. beautiful<3 love ur blog xo


47 April Rueber April 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I went to Madison last year and had those same cheese balls! So good! Madison was such a great town with great food. I am going back soon so thanks for the additional foodie suggestions. :)


48 thewhatkateateblog April 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I need to get my booty to Chicago for a meetup! Cheese curds are all of the place in Iowa, too. Glad you had fun in Madison – I absolutely love it there!


49 The Tipper April 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm

This looks like such an amazing weekend! All of the food looks absolutely A-MAZING! I would love to try cheese curds sometime but it’s those croquettes that sound fantastic! And sweet potato fries are my absolute favorite side to just about anything!


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