Enjoying Epicurian Diversity Chicago Style

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

My Sweet Home, Chicago!

 

There isn’t much that rejuvenates and inspires quite like a trip back to a place where you feel roots and strong ties; to land, community, and the general life. Going back home to Chicago is always a special treat for me because I get the opportunity to explore so many different ethnic foods (that I miss when I’m away). I also get the chance to spend time with people I love, who love me back and know the me I used to be and appreciate the person I’ve become. The above view is the Chicago skyline taken from the balcony of my sister’s condo where I was staying.

Mmmm.... Sushi!

Mmmm…. Sushi!

I got to do all of the above on this trip…and also had the chance to enjoy the musical mecca that Chicago becomes in the summertime. I knew this trip was going to be foodie fantastic when my sister picked me up from the airport and we started our weekend with sushi. Neither her hubby nor mine are big fans, and neither were with us, so we indulged at this fantastic place called Kamehachi. Our server was wonderful, the food was beautifully prepared, and we were able to enjoy outside seating in mid-70 weather.

My sister was also a big fan of their hibiscus tea. Me? I believe you don’t fruit the salad and you don’t flower the tea…LOL! But it worked for her, and it was refreshing. Did I mention we also did not have a wait to be seated? Heck, in Chi-town, the Open Table app is all the rage to prevent wait times, but it never became a concern. We still used it several times, though. Better safe than sorry.

Tapas and Café Iberico

Tapas and Café Iberico

Dinner that night was later, so we decided on some fun, not too heavy fare. One of the beautiful things about Chicago means being able to WALK to many of the places we visit. This beautiful evening was no exception. After my brother-in-law got off work we headed to Café Iberico for some tasty tapas!

For those of you who don’t know the history of tapas, it’s kind of interesting. This was Castillian Spain’s version of bar food. In fact, even the word tapas is a reference to lids….often used to cover the food to keep fruit flies away. 🙂 Want to know more about the stuff? Click HERE for your Spanish history lesson!

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

Lemon Pancakes and Asparagus, mushroom, and bacon omelet

The following morning my sister introduced me to the joys of brunch at Kingsbury Street Café. Nestled next to the VIP Lounge (Yes, Phil, it’s a strip club), it served the most luscious lemon pancakes. Because my sister’s sweet, and I’m a bit savory, we decided to order stuff we could share. Their multigrain toast baguettes were fresh, with a sweetness that did not require any jams (at least in my opinion). The omelet? To die for…AND they didn’t overcook the asparagus. Did I mention they had fabulous coffee as well?

What was really awesome was that one of my childhood best friends had left her kids with her hubby and come into the city to spend the weekend with us…just like we did when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved to hang out with her munchkins, but this was some much needed grown up unwinding time, complete with booze.

Drinks and Indian Food

Drinks and Indian Food

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Breakfast at Hotel Sister

Yup! Once she got to town we decided it was the perfect time to pop her cherry. It turned out, she’d never had Indian food, so we took her to Jaipur Indian Restaurant and introduced her to the joys of things like naan, samosas, chicken tikka masala, dal, and the ever so tasty gulab jamun!

And when we’re eating all sorts of flavor exploding dishes, it only made sense to enjoy some lemon-tinis. 🙂

Of course, the morning of the concert I had the pleasure of enjoying familial hospitality at my sister’s place. She made the most amazing baked French toast with a caramel praline topping. She even had home made/tapped syrup that a close friend of theirs harvests on his own. How cool is that?

She also pampered me with awesome cappuccinos and lattes that she made, herself. The only thing missing was the fancy froth designs, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss it. I mean, who am I kidding? It’s not like the folks at Starbucks bother decorating my froth before they put lids on my drinks, either…and hers were even tastier (and FREE!)

Me and a childhood bestie

Me and a childhood bestie

After such phenomenal home service we decided to chillax a bit, catch up, and enjoy the day. We took my sister’s dog for a walk, visited their local animal shelter, the Anti-Cruelty society. It was pet adoption day and I thanked my lucky stars that I live far away, because it helped prevent me from coming home with every puppy they had up for adoption. How cool is it, though, that they had Darth Vader and some Storm Troopers to help get all those adorable furry friends into new, loving homes? Yeah….there were a lot of folks doing just what my friend did. Selfies with the Star Wars villains. 🙂 Me? I stuck to the huggable, loveable Dalmatian. My sister’s pup got plenty of love and attention from everyone. In fact, their official professional photographer insisted on taking a pic of her dog with the white storm troopers. (While I’m thinking on it, please hold a good thought for him. He’s been having some eye issues that are going to need to be resolved with doggie surgery. We’re hoping they won’t have to take his eye.)

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

A couple of friends stopped to by to surprise me!

Fish and Chips with Cider

Fish and Chips with Cider

That afternoon, after our dog walking adventure we got ready for an early supper, then the Blake Shelton concert. We decided to head to Duke of Perth for the best fish and chips in town, and some cider to wash it down. What was really awesome was that because I’d checked in on my phone app, a couple of childhood friends stopped in to say hello and give hugs! Don’t you just love surprises like that? It made my day to know that they went out of their way just to stop and say hi.

Although Duke of Perth is quite well known for their whiskey, we wanted to be sober enough to enjoy seeing Dan + Shay, The Band Perry, Neal McCoy, and, of course, Blake….at the legendary Wrigley Field! Now, I’ve always enjoyed Neal McCoy’s music, but after catching his sense of fun and humor, I’ve decided I’d be perfectly okay with being in the center of a Neal and Blake sandwich. 😉 Next to Blake, he was my favorite part of the night.

When the time came to say goodbye to my sister and my favorite town, it was with a heavy heart. There’s something about my home town that uplifts me. I love that no matter how often I come back I discover some new gem either while still being filled with nostalgia. What do you love most about going back home? Or, if you never left, what places would you recommend to someone visiting your home town?

I’ll leave ya’ll with this awesome song… Tell me how many famous guitar players you can name. 😉

Super Hero or Happily Ever After?

I was on the phone with a gal pal of mine last week when plans for the weekend came up. Her boys were going to be camping with her husband, so she was planning mother/daughter time.

Her: My 12 year old daughter has her first celebrity crush.
Me: Awww!
Her: So let me ask you a question. If a 12 year old had a crush on an Avenger, who do you think it would be?
Me: Probably Captain America…or maybe Thor.
Her: Right! Captain America was All-American…clean cut. Thor…well, everyone has a crush on him these days. But not my daughter!
Me: Really? Who is it? I guess I could kind of see Hulk! Please tell me it’s not Ironman…he’s just a bit naughty for a 12 year old!
Her: Not my daughter. She has a crush on Hawkeye!
Me: Ok…I can see it. His a bit of a badass boyscout…but with a dark side.
Her: Yup! Jeremy Renner…most of his characters are that way. I guess she’s a lot more like her mother than I realized, LOL!
Me: (laughing) I guess so! I really loved him in his Bourne movie.
Her: Absolutely! So, since hubby and the boys are away this weekend, I’ve decided to indulge her crush and take her to see Hansel And Gretel…Of course, that indulges me, too.

Well, as it turned out, hubby and I took a very good friend to see that same movie to celebrate her birthday…. If you haven’t seen the trailers for this movie yet…let me give you a taste.

As I sat there watching previews before the movie started I couldn’t help but think back to my childhood. Growing up, I remembered being told fairy tales…just like most of you. The usually started with a Princess…had an Evil Witch (or maybe a Dragon) and had a happy ending! They were mostly sweet and light…kind of like the Disney movies.

But there was this other side…the Fairy Tales I read about. Yes, I was that girl who checked out Grimm’s Fairy Tales from the library when I was in 3rd grade. I was fascinated with how different many of those tales were from their Disney counterparts. They were darker…scarier…definitely not so saccharine sweet! And I LOVED them! In fact, I loved reading them as much as I thrilled reading Greek Mythology! It seemed more realistic somehow…even at that young age. It also fed my thirst for “other” worlds and adventures. It opened my mind up to possibility! I wouldn’t say I was cynical already…but I was well aware that the sugar of Disney tales…while cute and great for “little” kids…was just too “goody two shoes” to be within the realm of possible.

It seems that there Hollywood is finally starting to tell the darker, scarier versions of these stories, too! I first noticed it with Red Riding Hood (which I still need to see)…

That movie was followed by Snow White And The Huntsman…which I DID see…and enjoyed! Sadly, I’m not a huge Kristen Stewart fan, and this was the movie in which she had the “affair” with her director. She was actually pretty good in this movie…though, there’s no question that Chris Hemsworth definitely stole the show. I also really liked that Snow White ended with her Prince, and not The Huntsman…leaving him available for my fantasies. 🙂

While watching Hansel & Gretel (which, in my opinion….was good, not GREAT), they played a preview for Jack The Giant Slayer…an interpretation of the Jack In The Beanstalk story. It looked action packed…and awesome! It was also pretty cool seeing Obi Wan playing this kind of role…and yes, I’m well aware of the fact that he was played by Ewan McGregor…but I love the series enough to always associate him with that character. See for yourself…

Now my buddy WordSurfer can get all in depth as to the history and import of the darker fairy tales… And I’d agree. But most important to me is the fact that it’s pretty awesome to see some of my favorite stories from my youth being brought to life (albeit with all sorts of different Hollywood twists) in these action packed movies in the same way that all my favorite superheroes are! The fact that a couple of them are playing dual roles as superheroes/fairy tale heroes is just icing on my cake!

Don’t get me wrong…there’s room for those Disney princesses… I still enjoy those stories, too. But there’s nothing quite so thrilling to me as a bit of action packed nostalgia. So let me ask you…what kinds of books/stories/characters were you drawn to as a child? What do you think of this new Hollywood trend?