Every year around this time, Vishnu turns into this crazy guy who only talks about football. Fantasy football.
Quarterback this, tight end that, points this, playoff that.
Honestly, I never really cared about all the hype. It actually annoyed me that football ruled our lives.
Until this year that is.
This year a group of eight girls in Chicago decided to find out what all the hype is about. They wanted to know why their husbands/fiances/boyfriends spend hours agonizing over something called a draft. They wanted to understand why someone would “throw away” hundreds of dollars in multiple fantasy leagues. They wanted to understand why the crazy smack talk was even necessary.
And so the girls set up their own fantasy football league (with the help of my awesome colleague Thea!). They picked a date and time to conduct their draft. They created a draft order. They came up with fun names for their teams (i.e. Par’s a Playa, Show Me Your TDs, Anksta’s Gangstas, The Plastics). They even have a “no involvement from your significant other” rule.
And then they drafted their teams.
Sure some of them may have picked players based on how strong they looked or by how cool their names are or if their names sounded vaguely familiar. But let’s be honest, most picked top ranked players because that’s what the system told them.
And of course, the night of their draft Yahoo was acting up and randomly kicking people off.
But these eight girls persevered. Even though none of them had ever participated in anything like this before, they persevered.
Needless to say, my first couple of days in Chicago have been nothing short of fun. Not only was I reunited with Vishnu after three weeks of living apart, but I also got to try two amazing Chicago restaurants!
My friend Ankita made a reservation for me and Vishnu at RPM for Monday night– our first date in three weeks (I am so dramatic)! This was my second time dining at RPM and Vishnu’s first.
Let’s just say this was the perfect way to kick off my month in Chicago! As we walked in, I couldn’t help but notice the chic décor – beautiful chandeliers, soft curtains – so romantic!
After being seated, we spent a few minutes deciding what to order. In the end, we decided to share a few different things.
We started out with two cocktails. I ordered a strawberry spritzer type of drink and Vishnu got a ginger blueberry drink – summer in a glass. When our waitress told us about the appetizer special, we knew that was what we had to have. I’ll describe it as best I can – mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, basil and tomato stuffed baby squash tempura battered and lightly fried. Essentially mozzarella sticks taken to the next level! For our entrees we ordered two dishes – eggplant parmesan (SO cheesy, so good!) and this seasonal corn pasta (little ‘purses’ stuffed with roasted corn, ricotta, and mascarpone in a light butter sauce). And the grand finale was light, fluffy donuts coated in cinnamon sugar served with two dipping sauces – Nutella and whipped mascarpone.
Warning – [crappy] iPhone pics ahead!
The food was just as delicious as I remembered! And every dish that passed by our table looked so good!
During dinner, Vishnu and I talked non-stop, catching each other up on life and planning other fun things to do in the city. I missed my man so much!
On Tuesday night, we went to Sierra Tavern, except this time it was a group date! Jayesh, Ankita, Samir, Roshni, Vishnu, and I spent the evening stuffing our faces eating and talking…and laughing. Oh the laughing!
No pics of food – just three lovely ladies!
This restaurant also has a very special, laid back vibe. The décor is unique and welcoming – perfect for a big group of people. And our server was very accommodating and offered lots of recommendations.
We were promptly seated. Then began the deliberations about what to order. We decided to order a few different things and share, which was the perfect plan because I got to try a little bit of everything!
We started with beers for the guys and sangria and wine for the girls. Food wise we ordered mushroom truffle pizza, shaved Brussels sprouts salad with almonds and some kind of cheese, potato gnocci in a cream sauce, and tagliatelle with mushrooms in a truffle sauce. Jayesh and Vishnu ordered a couple of meat dishes that they also loved! And of course, we had to order dessert – donuts! The difference between these donuts and the ones at RPM is that they were bigger and came with three sauces that you ‘infuse’ into the donut. Delicious and cool!
There is a reason why everyone was so hyped to eat here. The food is out of this world!
To all my fellow foodies, please make an effort to visit both of these restaurants the next time you are in Chicago. I promise you won’t regret it!
This past girls’ weekend was too much fun! Like I mentioned in my last post, Purvi and I hadn’t spent much quality time together since our weddings over two years ago. But we changed that by trying different restaurants, exploring different neighborhoods, and relaxing, all while catching up on life.
Quick side story (that is still relevant) – while chit chatting Thursday night, we realized that it’s been five years (to the weekend) since Purvi and I moved in together my last year of grad school. We decided to dedicate the weekend to celebrating that!
We kicked off Purvi’s arrival with dinner and drinks at Balan’s. The food is pretty good, but what I really love about this restaurant is the location. It’s smack dab in the middle of a very busy and fun area. It also doesn’t hurt that the truffle mac n’ cheese is out of this world delicious!
While we didn’t make it to the beach this time around, we did get to spend a few hours by the pool one of the days. I can’t remember the last time I relaxed by a pool. We spent our time reading (I got Purvi hooked on Gone Girl!), talking, and swimming. It honestly felt like we were on vacation on some faraway island!
One of the places I definitely wanted to take Purvi to was Andiamo. After trying their pizza with Vishnu, I am determined to take all of our visitors there – it’s that good! We enjoyed a half eggplant and tomato/half rosemary potato with gorgonzola pizza. Again, not only is the food worth your while, but the ambiance and the service are great as well.
And of course we spent an entire afternoon ducking in and out of stores on Lincoln Mall Road. While neither of us bought anything, we did build up quite an appetite and decided to eat lunch at Huahua’s Taqueria. This was actually a new-to-me restaurant, and I’m so glad we decided to check it out. The menu is full of fresh Tex-Mex type items, but the main highlight are the tacos. Purvi and I decided to get two tacos each with a side of queso to share. One of my tacos was stuffed with a spicy veggie mixture and tofu crema, while the other one had fried avocado. I will definitely be back!
Purvi, like me, loves to run. In fact, she just started training for her 2nd marathon! I couldn’t let her leave without experiencing my favorite running route, so on Saturday evening, we went for a 4.5 mile run. Running with Purvi made me realize how much I love having a running partner. The time seriously flew by. Maybe I can convince Vishnu to run with me again!
Something else Purvi and I have in common is our love for dancing, so on Saturday night we met up with our friend Khusbu and her coworkers for a girls’ night out. We started with dinner at Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita and then went to a lounge to dance the night away. Good times were had by all!
We slept in a little on Sunday and then just hung out around the apartment for a few hours before showering and heading out to Coconut Groove. I knew Purvi would love this neighborhood and its cute little restaurants and shops. After walking around a bit, we decided to eat a late lunch/early dinner at Lokal. The veggie burgers we ordered were super hearty and tasty, but the fries stole the show – perfectly seasoned and surprisingly not too greasy. I told Vishnu that we have to go back soon, as it is definitely his kind of restaurant – great food, a huge selection of beers, and a fun quirky vibe.
After dropping Purvi off at the airport, I went for a short walk and then proceed to fall asleep at 9:45. I was wiped!
Anyways, here’s to a fun girls’ weekend with a great friend! I can’t wait to do it again soon.
What would your ultimate girls/guys weekend include?
What a celebration! I don’t even know where to begin.
Roshni and Samir’s wedding was magical and everything they wanted and more! They were honestly glowing the entire time!
I’ve been thinking about this recap for a few days now, and I really don’t know how to put into words how much fun we all had. Every minute of every event was so full of love and happiness. Personally, I loved hanging out with Roshni and her family a few days before the main events started, reuniting with all of our friends, spending time with my parents and sister, seeing Roshni and Samir finally get married, etc.
Instead of writing a play by play about everything, I thought I would share some of my favorite moments AND lots of pics!
1. As I mentioned in my previous post, I stayed with Roshni for a few days before the wedding. The night I got to her house, her parents were hosting a pizza party. One of their friends makes the BEST pizza (homemade crust and all). Basically, their kitchen area morphed into a pizza parlor. It was awesome. We ate outside on their beautiful deck and enjoyed several pieces each while talking about how excited we were for the days to come.
Later that night, we hung out in the basement and told our favorite Roshni stories! Before going to bed, we helped Roshni’s mom decorate the house for the next day.
2. Roshni’s pithi ceremony was special because it was the first official wedding event. The pithi is a religious event where multiple prayers are said, and the bride is covered in a turmeric paste to purify her before the wedding. I still remember my own pithi ceremony and how real everything felt in those moments. I had that same feeling watching Roshni go through it all!
3. I gave Roshni and Samir one of their wedding gifts on Wednesday night because I wanted them to look through it before all the craziness started. I used the site Mixbook to organize a memory/photo book for them. Then their family and close friends created unique pages with pictures and messages for Rosh and Samir. From the expressions on their faces as they flipped through and read the messages , I knew they loved it. I am so thankful to everyone who contributed!
4. Thursday night was the mehndhi/henna party at Roshni’s parents house. And by party, I mean party! There was so much delicious food, including paneer tikka masala and Bombay sandwiches. And don’t even get me started on the dessert! There was also an open bar and great music. I think my favorite part was watching Rosh get her mehndhi done. Personally, I love mehndhi and how it takes everything to a new level, especially for the bride!
5. Friday morning things changed a little for me. I woke up, said hi to my friend Ankita, and realized that I lost my voice overnight…pretty much completely. I sort of freaked out because not only was I MCing the Sangeet later that night, but I was also playing Roshni in the skit we put together. AND I was giving a speech on Saturday night. Ankita and I stopped at a Walgreens on our way to the hotel and picked up a few things to treat whatever it was I had. Luckily, I was ok that night…I think everyone understood what I was saying.
But things got worse on Saturday and I went from having a very scratchy sounding voice to nonexistent one. My sister actually delivered my speech for me as I stood next to her. I was VERY upset that I couldn’t do it myself but having Aekta do it actually worked out just fine. She did an excellent job being my voice that night! In fact, lots of people said she sounded just like me!
6. The Sangeet (a music/dance party for both the bride and groom’s side to celebrate the upcoming wedding) on Friday was an absolute blast! Vishnu and I successfully (or at least I think so!) MCed the program. We also pulled off two really fun dances. One of which can be found here! The whole night was just awesome. Even though I only got four good hours of sleep, it was well worth it!
7. On Saturday, all of the bridesmaids got their hair done and their saris put on together. Everyone was so excited and looked so beautiful! Roshni picked out gorgeous blue saris for us to wear. A little bit later, Roshni joined us as we waited for the ceremony to begin. I know I’m biased, but she was the most beautiful bride ever! She looked SO relaxed and happy!
We even got to witness Roshni and Samir’s first look! Look at how big his smile is – the sweetest thing ever!
The bridesmaids also took turns going down to watch the baraat (the groom’s welcome procession). Samir and his groomsmen (including Vishnu) were having a blast dancing! They then got on a pedal trolley and made their way around the hotel all while dancing and screaming. It was awesome. I also happened to catch their boomsmen (what they called themselves!) song!
Then came time to walk down the aisle. I was a little nervous about tripping but it all worked out! Haha. I teared up while watching Rosh walk down the aisle with her uncles. Again, she looked SO happy and just really really ready to get married! She took everyone’s breath away!
8. After the wedding, we relaxed a little and then got ready for the reception. It was such a blast! We also did one more organized dance as a group. This was actually the first time Vishnu and I performed a dance together (he’s not really into dancing the way I am!). And then after dinner and the most amazing wedding cake ever (chocolate cake with caramel cream and chocolate ganache!), we literally danced for three hours nonstop!
9. This isn’t particular to any one day, but it was so fun watching Roshni get ready for each event. Her excitement was contagious, and she looked absolutely stunning. And equally as fun was helping her after each event. So many bobby pins and safety pins! The night before the wedding I literally tucked her in and made sure she went to sleep so that she could wake up at 4 am to get ready!
10. And finally, the best part of all is knowing that two of my very best friends are finally married! Roshni and Samir are incredible human beings that deserve all the happiness in the world. Can’t wait to see where their love takes them next!
Since meeting Robin last year, I’ve really gotten into wine. And by “really gotten into wine” I mean I actually pick something other than a Riesling when given the option! Robin’s super knowledgeable and has taught me a lot about different types, the way they’re made, how different regions affect taste, etc.
So when I was recently given the opportunity to try four different kinds of CK Mondavi wines, I jumped on it! And I invited Robin over for a personal tasting.
Before I share more about the types of wine we tried, I have to mention a few special facts about CK Mondavi. CK Mondavi is the only American made/grown win in the “supermarket wine under $10” category, AND it’s sold nationwide in every US state. If you’re “really into wine” like me, this is the perfect time to try CK Mondavi wines because a percentage of each bottle sold between May-August is donated to Intrepid Fallen Heroes (up to $50,000), an organization that supports the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.
Robin and I had the pleasure of trying the following CK Mondavi wines: Blonde Five, Chardonnay, Scarlet Five, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Blonde Five – very fruity with a sweet aftertaste. This was Robin’s favorite out of the four we tried. We thought it would pair well with white meat, fish, and summer vegetables.
Chardonnay – a little oaky with a mix of fruity and citrus flavors. We both liked this one and thought it was fairly refreshing. This wine would pair well with a heartier meal – pasta and a creamy cheese sauce perhaps.
Scarlet Five – a full-bodied and well-balanced wine with hints of cherry and plum. Surprisingly, this one was my favorite. I loved the bold flavor and aftertaste. This wine is special as it based on five red varieties – Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Personally, I think this would go with any food pairing!
Cabernet Sauvignon – slightly more full-bodied, oaky, with hints of lemon. Again, this wine was also refreshing but a little bolder than the Blonde Five. This would pair well with some chicken/seafood and creamy pasta.
Overall, we were fans of all the wines and agreed that we could see ourselves buying a bottle…or two…in the future.
Not only did I try the wine, but I cooked with it as well! I made what is quickly becoming mine and Vishnu’s favorite homemade meal – risotto. It’s rich, creamy, and delicious. And when you use a good wine, it increases the flavor so much!
A quick tip for cooking with wine – pick something you like to drink. I’m not a pro by any means, but that always works for me.
This particular risotto was made with the Chardonnay, shitake mushrooms, and basil walnut pesto. I honestly could’ve eaten the entire batch myself! It would pair perfectly with a side salad and a glass of wine for the perfect summer meal. You could also serve it with baked chicken/fish for some extra protein.
One more tip – remember to be patient when making risotto. This is a dish that can’t be rushed. When the recipe says to allow all the liquid to absorb before adding more, make sure the liquid is absorbed! Just trust me on that!
Shitake and Basil Walnut Pesto Risotto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
10 ounces of shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
2/3 cup Chardonnay (or wine of choice)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup basil walnut pesto
½ cup parmesan cheese
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and allow to melt. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook until shallots are translucent (about 5 minutes).
In a separate saucepan, heat broth over medium heat.
Add rice to shallot and mushroom mixture and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add wine and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes until wine is absorbed. Keep your eye on the rice and stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/3 cup broth to rice mixture and stir until broth is absorbed (don’t stop stirring!). Repeat until all the broth has been incorporated and absorbed. Turn the heat down to low. Fold pesto and parmesan cheese into the rice mixture. Adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy!
Basil Walnut Pesto *Note: this pesto will be a little thicker than usual because it is being added to the risotto.
1 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Add basil leaves, walnuts, and parmesan cheese to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon juice and olive oil and process until the mixture is creamy in appearance. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
If this doesn’t make your mouth water, I’m not sure what will!
I hope you enjoy lots of wine and delicious homemade meals (made with wine!) this summer.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Hello and welcome to My Inner Shakti! My name is Parita, and this little corner of the internet is where I like to talk about all the things I love - my husband, my family and friends, health, fitness, recipes, personal development, etc. Thanks for stopping by!