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September 2007

August 2007

Back to Shan Grocery for a Bunch of Goodies~

Img_2057Last week, I spent a whole lot of time revisiting some of my favorite haunts, ones I've not been to in eons.  One of the best is Shan Grocery.  I hadn't been there in months and months and since my last visit, they've gone and created a whole new restaurant.  Used to be, it was just a tiny cafeteria in the back of a dusty convenience store, but now they have a connecting doorway that leads to a brand spanking new dining room.  Though it was just me eating, I couldn't help but order two entrees and three appetizers.  The prices are so cheap (I got out of there for $16 bones) and the food is just so tasty, I have to sample everything.  These chubby little meat-stuffed eggrolls are my favorite of all time ($1 each).  Crispy, flavorful and filling, they're the perfect snack.  You can buy them up front in a glass case by the sweet counter, too, just in case you don't have time for a full sit down.
Shan Grocery and Restaurant
5060 N. Sheridan

*Look for the slew of cabbies and strip mall.  It's tucked in the corner~
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Sailing is back on in Chicago...

Img_2106Finally, the weather is back on track and you all know what that means!  MST is back in the game...Me and Lisa took the boat out today for hours and it was nothing short of awesome.  There were light winds and loads of sun, so we just lolled around at an easy clip and got sunburned.  I got all my new cushions put in, which I love!  The yellow cushions that I had recovered in the cabin are so cute and I got navy cockpit cushions from Bottomsiders and they make the cockpit so much cozier.  Both totally-worth-it investments and I am hating the fact that sailing season is over in a few months...it really makes my stomach churn.  Or that could be all the mouthwatering food I just wolfed down at La Unica~

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Hi, My Name is Chicago: Please Take Advantage of Me

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Every Wednesday, I get an indispensable magazine in the mail entitled:  Time Out Chicago.  You must know it, si?
I love this mag; I freelance for this mag; I, however, DO NOT take advantage of this mag.
Man, there is so much going on every week in Chi, I am totally overwhelmed.  I barely make it thru the issue before
the next one comes and I realize I've missed all events listed due to my stay-at-home-and-drink nature, so, here's what I'm going to do...
every Wednesday (mmm-hmmmm), I'm gonna plow thru the glossy pages of TOC and figure out what I'd really take advantage of...if given the time/energy/money/fore-warning/gumption (none of which I seem to have when it comes right down to it).
I start off so inspired to rip into some new events/restaurants/deals, and then outta no where...I'm back at Los Niches tucking into a bowl of Chicken soup...or out sailing on pretty Lake Michigan....or taking care of a sharp edge by
participating in Gruppo di Amici's 1/2 price glass of wine on Tuesday's deal.  No more!  I will dissect this mo-fo stat and let it be known exactly what I am missing--every week on the week....
Let's start with the issue I just got today....here are the jewels I've pulled for your no-show pleasure:

1.  The Family Guy Live on Sept 15 at The Chicago Theater (p. 13):  One word--Stewey

2.  La Oaxaquena (p. 32):  The photo of a full-on deep fried fish at this Oaxacan restaurant looks just about good enough to eat. 

3.  CJ's Eatery (p. 35):  I'm loving the idea of banana bread pudding with peanut butter anglaise.

4. Cuban Island (p.36):  Minty mojitos and ropa vieja are what dreams are made of.  I'm still trying to find the best mojito in Chicago--the one with the CRUSHED ice.  Perhaps this joint has it?

5.  Sabri Nehari (p. 36):  Please just read the food review.  This is my next pitstop for sure.

6.   Tents (p.44):  I cannot believe I haven't been camping this summer.  I mean, its only been either 106 and sweating buckets or pouring rain.  Go figure.

7.  Wheaton All-Night Flea Market (p.47):  a/  Why have I never heard of this and b/ Where is Wheaton?

8.  Spa Forever (p. 50):  So, first timers get any hour long service for a paltry $49.  Nice.

9.  Chicago Outdoor Film Festival (p. 52):  Great! It's the last show of the season.  Dude, summer is over!

10.  Hamsa-Fest (p. 55):  I'd go for the African fair-trade coffee, the Moroccan tea and the Arabic eats alone...the global music is a bonus.

11. Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (p. 56):  You'll want to come to this tidy little fest just so you can visit the Pilates Chicago booth where I will be...touting my upcoming Pilates retreat in glorious Mexico.

12.  The Field Museum (p. 66):  Darwin and the Galapagos.  I mean, what's not to love?

13.  Chicago Printmakers Collaborative (p. 72):  I love printmakers and the creative genius of it all.  I wish I had some sort of skill.  One I could sell.

14. The 11th Hour (p. 92):  Because I just wanna see it.

That snazzy list sums up everything that I'd wanna see/do this week in Chicago...but be forewarned, I will most likely not partake in a single one.
I suck, I really suck.


Pho Hoa and a Mess of Vietnamese BBQ (sorta)

Img_1948Even with all the rain pouring down this week, I managed to partake in a plethora of banner meals. Several were so good I went back twice within 36 hours. Topping the list of note-worthy dishes are the BBQ ribs I ordered by chance at Pho Hoa, an always-bustling Vietnamese diner in a narrow stripmall in the heart of Uptown. I braved the chaotic parking lot in front so I could hit up a nearby Vietnamese grocery store. They hawk the prime ingredients (fresh mint and tiny sugar rocks) in my current addiction, delicious Moroccan gunbarrel tea, and I love scouring its aisles for exotic ingredients.

After I strolled out of the grocery store, I figured I'd best get some lunch, and Pho Hoa's convenient proximity landed me inside. Once, a few years ago, my intrepid dining pal Lisa and I had a funky batch of pho and vowed never to touch the stuff again. But with the rain and all, I couldn't seem to get it out of my mind: the slurping noodles, heady broth, crisp bean sprouts, fresh lime and butter-soft chunks of meat all floating languidly, just waiting to be divvied up on a giant ceramic spoon and attacked.

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Trips, Trips, Trips

007_20aSo, I've been working on a list of my next big trips.  Sadly, but happily, there are so many new journeys I need to take, but some shine a little brighter than others.  You've probably read about how I'm going back to Indonesia in a few months, so that is one...and then, there is my Pilates retreat on Isla Mujeres, Mexico in February.  Well, then I have a pal getting married in Germany next summer, so that one is a for sure...and if I'm in Germany, I might as well hit up Italy--this time Sicily.  OK, getting past those already planned trips, I'm looking to go to Colombia and Panama soon for coffee trails and Spanish lessons; I'd love to jet over to Nosy Be, Madagascar for some scuba (once I learn in Indo, of course); Turkey and Montenegro are HIGH on the list...Turkey for sailing and Montenegro for vino; then there is Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam...that trip is all about herbal remedies and deeper spirituality; of course, I gotta trek the Great Wall of China sometime soon and ride horses in Mongolia--those have just been on the list forever.  Ahh, I'm deliriously exhausted now....just so much...so much...and man, I haven't even mentioned the food...
*The photo is from earlier this year in Zanzibar by the way---that escapade was all about snorkeling, spice farms and little fried goodies...


Flourish Bakery has the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Around

Img_1952I am always (re: desperately) on the hunt for the best cookies around.  I might have found them.  There is a super-cute bakery on Bryn Mawr called Flourish and I just so happened in there one day this week when I was at a real sugar low.  They'd just brought out a batch of fresh baked cookies (everything from chocolate chip to oatmeal to peanut butter) and I promptly ordered up a choco chip and a squishy looking brownie to go.  As I eagerly hurried across the street to my double-parked truck, I couldn't help but slyly dunk my hand in the sack and rip of a chunk of cookie...and brownie...oh, the bliss.  The cookie, especially.  It was exactly the way a real cookie should be...super soft with an ever so slight crisp around the edge.  Both treats were washed down with ice water in a matter of minutes and I was happy as a clam and back on the move...mission accomplished and now, I feel sorry for every other cookie out there~
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Whole Grain Pizza on the Back Porch...

Img_2054After a whirlwind day of eating and drinking yesterday, today was a make-a-pretty-pizza in my own home kind of day.  I was up at the crack of dawn to get my new cushions for the boat, and after meeting my sewing expert at the boat, Lis and I jammed down to Little Italy to partake in Sweet Maple Cafe's biscuits and gravy.  Gotta tell ya, that place has gone downhill.  Oh, it's still charming but the staff seems lost and the food came out cold.  Our sweet waitress remade the food, but still...it put a damper on the glory of the morning.  No worries, though...after hitting up the Evanston farmer's market (ah, the blackberries, blueberries and white nectarines are at their prime), I went straight home and  dolled up a whole grain pizza crust with olive oil, cheddar cheese, fresh basil and peppers from my little back porch garden and sweet tomatoes from the market.  What a simple and beautiful little creation.  So fresh, healthy and inspiring.  I then proceeded to dunk each slice into a vat of ranch dressing...shame on me, I guess, but I'm blaming it all on the rain...the never ending rain...


Los Niches: Chicken Soup at its finest...

Img_1927Sweet Jesus...I am obsessed with Los Niches and their chicken soup.  It's a tiny, family-owned Colombian restaurant on North Clark that keeps the prices low, the portions huge and the atmosphere cozy and simple.  I cruised over there earlier in the week knowing that Monday was pollo soup day and I was not disappointed.  They serve each heaping bowl ($5.95) with a huge scoop of rice, sliced avocado, salsa verde and fresh limes.  I also tend to order a handmade arepa con queso ($2) with mine, though I can never eat it all.  I have never had bites of food this good, this utterly mouthwatering.  So made-from-scratch; so rustic; so easy-on-the-eyes....Fall is on the way, and this is the soup that will help you make it through those long, cold days.

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MST on the road is the way it shoud be...

Dscn2369I belong on the road, in the air, or on a boat.  It's just that simple. To be in any of those circumstances is the very core of my wanderlust soul and it's what makes me happiest and propels me directly into my perfect MST element.  Man, it's like I turn around and catch a glimpse of my life and wonder the the heck I am doing with myself.  Sure, accomplishments are made left and right (which is AWESOME), but them I hit a wall...or rather, I get caught up in something else and sort of abandon the original plan.  I have no examples for you...they're just there.  I know them intimately and I know what I'm capable of...and though I will admit, I do look damn good on paper, it's the feelings that are flowing around in my soul that tend to get ignored and shoved aside and at times, left behind.  No mas.  Tonight I start Spanish class...ok--I guess I'll toss out an example.  So, I'm taking 8 weeks worth of Spanish class here in the city--once per week at Spanish Horizons.  That is all great, but REALLY what I am fully obsessing about is straight-up leaving the USA and driving in my trusty SUV all the way down the the very tip of Panama so I can pick coffee beans, perfect the cortado and smoke a sweet cigarillo (though I don't smoke) whilst knocking off the Spanish lessons in a really dusty, really rural environment.  I mean, GOD!!!  MST, why not just be content with the 1:45 lesson that is happening tonight?  One more cuba libre and I just might be.  It's early, the day is young...PS--the photo is my ziplineing in Nicaragua.  Mucho gusto.


Born Cooking: Barcelona + Pipe Dreams

Dscf0952Last year, I spent months in Barcelona working on America's Next Top Model.  When I wasn't hunkered down in the production office, I was off wandering the narrow streets of this always seductive city.  One of my favorite areas by bar was the Barrio Gothico.  I would spend hours lolling about, slowly absorbing every nook and cranny in the ever-changing landscape of this eclectic 'hood (re: getting happily lost every other turn).  I have yet to find an American city that enchants me the way foreign cities do.  Many are like big city/small villages and the majority of peeps hush puppy their way from place to place, as opposed to the insane neck-and neck grind I'm loathing more and more every day.  I used to saunter by Born Cooking, an adorable, teensy bakery/cafe all the time and I'd just stand outside the front window, silently pawing the fresh baked goods inside. Lately, I've been waxing poetic about ditching all things urban and heading off to some small village to open a lively cafe.  Really, you only live once and I think I need to spend a good chunk of time here in the very near future attempting the impossible...or what most consider "pipe dreams."  More on that endeavor soon~