I’ve been so busy here getting ready for Ramadan that I almost forgot to share with you some exciting news.  At the end of June I went to Chicago for the day to meet with some other great Midwestern bloggers.  Verizon Wireless selected us to be a part of their Midwest Savvy Gourmets’ program for the next six months.  The program pairs food bloggers with the latest technology.  I’m pretty geeky when it comes to technology so I was excited to see what was in store.

Verizon Midwest Savvy Gourmets

Verizon put us up at the really awesome Hard Rock Hotel in downtown Chicago. (Travel bugs take note this is a great hotel!) Saturday we were in for a full day of activities. When we first arrived and went into the conference room I think all of us were surprised to see Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen sitting at the table.  I truly assumed that we would be equipped with a new device, shown how to use it and fed.  I didn’t know that we would be treated to some real insight from a great food blogger.  Jaden’s presentation was so informative and she was so candid and open when answering any and all of our questions.

After lunch we all waited in anticipation as the Verizon reps revealed the device we would be getting.

Motorola XYBoard

There it is!  New Motorola XYBoard’s for all of us! I have Motorola’s earlier Xoom tablet that worked pretty great but the XYBoard truly has a lot more capabilities. (Hello Netflix streaming!) I’ve been having a lot of fun with my tablet but there is one feature that I love more than anything else – tethering.  You’ve probably heard by now about Verizon’s Share Everything plan.  What that means is that I can access the internet through my XYBoard and set up my own wireless network, granting my cell phone or laptop access to the network.  I’m going to talk more about what this means for me in another post but you should all know – it’s awesome.

After we were all set with our devices, everyone was released until dinner.  It was a super secret surprise. We boarded a bus and were driven away from the hotel. I’m not going to lie we went to a non-descript neighborhood that didn’t look too promising. I was starting to feel a little let down.  We arrived at a run down building and were told to walk through the tall gate in front. Inside was a large green lawn and a building with a large open room. It looked like this;

Clandestino for Verizon

I was so surprised- just goes to show you can’t judge a book by it’s cover! We were being hosted in a building that once served as a convent, and then transitional housing for Lithuanian refugees, and currently as an event space. Our meal was prepared by Chef Efrain Cuevas of Clandestino.  His concept is an exploration of local food and culture.  Menus are inspired by the season using the freshest ingredients. Events materialize each month, that’s right there’s no restaurant locale, and dinner guests are given only 24-48 hours notice before the meal. If you’re in the Chicagoland area I highly recommend watching for upcoming events and getting in on one of these meals.

Raspberry Plant Centerpieces
Raspberry Plant Centerpieces

We were treated to some snacks beforehand including a cauliflower ceviche and Mexican style corn on the cob. When we sat down for dinner we were in for an even bigger treat.  The multi-course meal was paired with local beers (I passed on these and stuck with lemonade). Each course was beautifully plated and it was evident a lot of thought went into the menu planning. I only got a good picture of the first course because as the sun went down it was too hard to photograph.

Shrimp and Beets

The Menu went like this:

Course One: Grilled shrimp with jicama and striped beets

Course Two: Microgreen salad, grilled asparagus and four different local cheeses (love the cheese)

Course Three: Marinated hanger steak tacos with avocado

Course Four: The best Cornish Hen I’ve ever tasted with greens

Course Five: Mixed Berry Shortcake and vanilla ice cream

Seriously the best meal I’ve had in such a long time. I had a wonderful time at this event and meeting other Midwest food bloggers.  Watch for more posts in the coming months about how I use technology in my kitchen.

I’d love to know – what’s the best meal you’ve eaten lately?

Disclaimer: I was provided with free products, this delicious meal and travel accommodations as a part of my participation with the Midwest Savvy Gourmet program.  All opinions are my own