Saying Goodbye to Chicago…My Last Suppers

Posted by Krista on July 9, 2014

011Too many people asked me “Where are you going to eat before you leave?” before, I, uh, left Chicago. And then they would look at me strangely when I would say “Oh, I don’t know…I’m probably just going to order some curry from Rangoli and maybe some twice-cooked pork and string beans from Chengdu Impression.” What they wanted me to say, I do not know. (Don’t ask the question if you’re not going to like the answer.) I had no desire to hit Alinea again. (Sorry, left hungry and stopped for tacos that one time.) I was a little sad that I never visited L20 because I do love seafood more than most Chicago people. But well, other than that, I wasn’t really dying to try anything in particular.

So you know what I did before I left Chicago? I ate A LOT of chicken wings. At Jake Melnick’s downtown. I LOVE Jake Melnick’s! I love Pancho’s wings! Pancho, whoever you are, I love you. I sat at the bar at Jake Melnick’s and I ate a lot of chicken wings and drank a lot of beer. (They have A LOT of different types of beer to drink.) Sometimes I ate chicken wings with friends, sometimes I ate chicken wings by myself. But most of all, I ate chicken wings.

I also ate a lot of Chengdu Impression. It’s a very long story how I ended up in Lincoln Park during the last few days in Chicago, but I had to go to Home Depot a lot and going to Home Depot meant a trip to Chengdu Impression. The staff at Chengdu Impression are super sweet. Ask them for their help in ordering. I hope they do very very well because everything they have is all pretty delicious.

Ah, and Chicago Bagel Authority! My friend Jen’s English husband Leigh LOVES the Chicago Bagel Authority so while I was in the neighborhood, I had to check it out. I did. Many times. Although the New Yorker in me died a little every time I ate one of their **steamed** bagels, they were very tasty. And I kinda liked the intensely flirtatious bagel maker. He had nice eyes.

What else…I finally went to Longman & Eagle and it was very good but in hindsight, I don’t really remember anything we ate. I suppose that was my “cross it off the list” moment.

I did spend a lot of time at Scofflaw, drinking all the Temple Destroyers with Ben & Gerry and then Antonia. (Antonia says she’s now obsessed with verdita and is going to attempt it. I will be there.) I don’t remember much about my time at Scofflaw either, but that was obviously for other reasons. (And remember, I am not a big mixed drink person.)

Other things…Binny’s has a new wine tasting room, so I spent a lot of time there. Ah, and I had a nice lunch at Ramen San, although I hated their stools. Hated. I really need to start that “comfortable restaurant seating” business I’ve been thinking about.

My last meal in Chicago was at Nico Osteria. I stayed two nights at the very lovely Thompson Hotel. ((My stay at The Thompson Hotel was another Hotwire bargain!) I found it easier to camp out at Nico for the afternoon after me and my five suitcases checked out of the hotel. I ate a lot of Nico’s delicious focaccia olive bread. You should too.

So…I think that about sums up my last few days/weeks in Chicago. I’m sure it’s not the last time I’ll visit the city. But hopefully when I do, it won’t be MINUS FORTY DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. (Which also, coincidentally, is equal to minus forty degrees Celsius.) So goodbye Chitown. Thanks for all the beer.

P.S. That photo is from the Chicago Distilling Company in Logan Square. You should visit!

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Goodbye, Chicago

Posted by Krista on June 25, 2014

photo (1)I’m on a plane!

To London.

Yes, if you’re reading this Wednesday evening Chicago time, I have purchased a one-way ticket from Chicago to London and I’m somewhere in the sky right now.

My belongings sit in a container in a port somewhere in America, ready to depart. A lot of Americans I know think I’m crazy. (“Wait…you’re moving to London on Wednesday?” and “You don’t have anywhere to live??” and/or “You still don’t have a plane ticket?”) But my parents and Uncle George and Aunt Ursula and legions of taxi drivers across Chicago don’t think I’m crazy, and that says something now, doesn’t it? 

Oh yeah, and that plane ticket problem? Obviously I solved it. Thank you, Internet, which allows you to purchase magic paperless tickets to and through the sky with bits of plastic at the last possible minute.

You know what the weird thing is…10 years ago on June 26, 2004, I published my first ever blog post on the then “Krista in London” site on Typepad.

If that’s not a crazy big sign from somewhere, I don’t know what is.

So yes London, I have come back for you.

P.S. I took that photo under the El tracks in Chicago at that point in Lincoln Park where Bissell dead-ends into a parking lot around North Avenue. Tunnel vision, for sure.

Posted in Blogging, Chicago, London, United Kingdom, United States | 7 Comments

Eating & Drinking in New Orleans

Posted by Krista on April 22, 2014
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Bartenders at the Sazerac Bar at the Hotel Roosevelt

I had no set expectations of food in New Orleans. Drinks, sure. I thought everyone would be wandering around with Hurricanes. Also, I thought I’d see a lot of women taking their shirts off on balconies. (Do not Google Girls Gone Wild.) And a lot of Ann Rice fans dressed like vampires. Those were my preconceptions.

But actually, New Orleans was a lot better than I imagined. Very good actually. It has this old/new thing going on and I kinda liked that. Here’s where I ate and drank.

Sylvain, 625 Chartres St, French Quarter. Mary on Twitter recommended this dark and romantic little gastropub and we were glad she did. Great, personal service and nice food. Then again, I think we were all starving so we would have eaten anything. But really, this was very nice. 

Emeril’s Delmonico, 1300 St Charles Ave, Garden District. I made a last minute OpenTable booking and figured that while we were in New Orleans, we might as well eat at an Emeril’s restaurant. This was the surprise of the trip. I loved my spiced duck and our server was funny and personable. Also, the space was gorgeous. I would go back here. And no one said Bam! Yes!

Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville Street, French Quarter. I took myself on a little oyster tour of the French Quarter one night. I didn’t expect to like Acme Oyster House. It’s loud, there’s neon, and there is a huge queue to get in. Plus, it’s a little dirty. And they skipped over me in line multiple times while they seated parties of two. (I hate that. How many parties of two do you have to seat until you seat the solo diner?) But my server Pam was fantastic…a true veteran…and the baked oysters were garlicky and delicious. Thinking back on all the oysters I ate, these were my favorite. Hot, garlicky and pure unadulterated fun.

GW Fins, 808 Bienville Street, French Quarter: I waddled into GW Fins after Acme and appreciated the change of pace. GW Fins is large and airy and quiet and the bar was empty when I arrived. I ordered some smoked oysters, which arrived almost poached-like, the shells piping hot. I took my server’s recommendation on the wine and passed an enjoyable 45 minutes chatting away about restaurants in New Orleans. It was she that sent me to R’evolution next…

R’evolution, 777 Bienville Street, French Quarter. Dark and rich feeling. Everyone looked expensive and slightly famous. I sat next to a journalist and his wife, who’s skin had been preserved through the blessings of modern medicine perfectly and eerily well. R’evolution served me their fire roasted oysters, but I think they had been left too long to cool before they arrived. Either that or I was still thinking about those oysters at Acme. I liked the ambience of R’evoluton and the service and the wine list, but the oysters left me wanting. So too the Death by Gumbo I had the next day. (Why I went back twice, I will never understand.)

Verti Marte, 1201 Royal Street, French Quarter: The woman who had had all the plastic surgery done told me to get a Po’Boy at Verti Marte. She had seen Angelina Jolie there once. (“Her arms are like toothpicks.”) So I dropped in in between tours and ordered a fried oyster po’boy and the guy behind the counter looked at me like I was 1. crazy and 2. speaking a foreign language. They get zero points for service here, although the woman at the register was nice. The sandwich though was delicious. Five or six really fat fried oysters and some delicious sauce and salad on a pretty good baguette.

 Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, French Quarter. Everyone told me I would love it here. Everyone is wrong. This is a tourist trap. Sit on the carousel bar stools and watch the bar spin around. I left without ordering anything. Full of tourists. 

Sazerac Bar at the Hotel Roosevelt, 123 Baronne Street. One of my favorite stops of the trip. I really loved the vibe and the fittings and the bar tender. Am I a sazerac fan? Probably not. But I still enjoyed my drink. Also full of tourists, but a different sort of tourist. Highly recommended.  

At the end of my time in New Orleans, I found myself wishing I had more time to see and explore. It’s a unique American city. I put it up there with Boston and San Francisco as cities foreigners should really visit to get a sense of the different cultures of different places. You should go.

Posted in New Orleans, United States | 1 Comment

Tours in New Orleans

Posted by Krista on April 21, 2014

Somewhere in my late 30s, I became a fan of city tours. In the old days, I would just hang out with a guide book. But now, everywhere I go now, I look up all the city tours available and sign myself up for anything that sounds remotely interesting. BUT…the tour must be less than four hours long. I really lose interest at that point. Actually, I think that 2 hours and 30 minutes is my max…unless there is food and drink involved. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO BE STUCK ON A TOUR BUS FOR FOUR TO EIGHT HOURS. Here’s who I toured with while I was in New Orleans.

Ghost & Vampire Combo, French Quarter Phantoms. NOT RECOMMENDED. First, you have to go to a totally sleazy pub to meet the tour group. Not my kind of place. I mean, I like a dirty bar, but this was just awful and unsafe feeling. Then, our tour guide, Tess, was the most boring tour guide ever. She seemed annoyed to be taking us around and was just reciting things. A good tour guide makes all the difference. Tess was not it. This group is a machine…there were three or four tours that went out at the same time, given the number of tourists. I wish I had one of the other tour guides and desperately wanted my time back at the end of the evening. I remember nothing. $20.

St. Louis Cemetery #1, Free Tours by Foot: Recommended. Great tour guide (Elizabeth B) who was passionate about New Orleans and knew all the stories. And it’s a free tour, so there’s that. (I gave her $35 at the end because she was really good and knowledgeable and passionate and interesting.) You get a little New Orleans history, a little Katrina, a little voodoo, a little religion, a little Nicolas Cage. The one thing for me is that after 90 minutes in the cemetery, I was ready for a chance in scenery. This is a HIGHLY focused tour. But still short in comparison to what else is out there. And still good and interesting.

Drink & Learn New Orleans: HIGHLY Recommended. I really loved this tour. Our tour guide was funny and informative. She had all sorts of great stories about New Orleans and its cocktails. PLUS…you get a saddle bag of cocktails at the beginning of the tour. That’s the schtick…drink your cocktail while Elizabeth tells you the history of New Orleans as you wander through the French Quarter. In contrast to French Quarter Phantoms, the bar you start and end at during this tour is quite pleasant. At $50, this tour was worth every penny.

So…those are my tours…I’ve neglected food and drink though and hope to get to it in a later post!

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My Stay at The Ritz Carlton New Orleans

Posted by Krista on April 20, 2014

I had a conference to go to in New Orleans earlier this month so I made a weekend out of it and stuck around. I had never been to New Orleans before and was excited to see what the city had to offer. Plus, at various odd times, the Floridian in me wants some Southern food. GRITS!!

Well, unfortunately for me, what the city had to offer that weekend was WRESTLEMANIA XXX. Yes, the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania with Hulk Hogan coming out of retirement and everything. Wrestling fans from all around the world — who knew this was such a global empire! Hotel rooms were hard to come by, especially central ones. For my conference, I was staying at the iconic Hyatt from Hurricane Katrina. 1000+ rooms! And they couldn’t accommodate me for the weekend, just to give you an idea. So The Ritz it was. Not many wrestling fans stay at The Ritz, apparently.

Not that I was complaining, of course. You could do worse than The Ritz for a stay in New Orleans. Here’s what I liked and disliked:

What I Liked…

  • The location…just two blocks from Bourbon Street, The Ritz was super easy to walk to/from with most of the things I wanted to do for the short amount of time I had. You might know I love walking, so this was awesome.
  • The bar…live music most nights I was there! Great bands too.
  • The spa! I didn’t use the spa for any beauty treatments, but after a day of a lot of walking, I really needed a hot tub. The Ritz has one! It was great. Although they wouldn’t show me to the locker room because I wasn’t using the spa so I had to get changed in the bathroom. Annoying.
  • Room service. Biscuits and gravy for $10. Pretty fantastic.

What I Disliked

  • The whole “you can have free Internet because you’re a Marriott Rewards member but only on so many devices” thing.  I have A LOT of devices. Also, even though I was a Marriott Rewards member and I was supposed to get Internet for free, they still charged me for it so I had to deal with that at check-out.
  • The distractedness of the check-in staff. It was like my desk clerk had memorized a script. It was off-putting. I expected better of a Ritz…something more personal and welcoming. He was talking so fast I had to ask him to slow down.
  • The lack of security cameras. Maybe they were super-secret-hidden cameras but there were a couple of times where I came in off the street and there was no doorman to greet me. And no cameras. (Again, unless they were very well-hidden.) Call me a wimp but because New Orleans has its unsavory bits and there are A LOT of drunken louts, I did feel a little unsafe in and around the hotel at times.

Would I stay here again? Maybe. It was expensive. I was trapped into it because I booked my plane ticket to New Orleans before I booked my hotel room and when I booked the plane ticket, I didn’t realize that Wrestlemania was in town. I am sure there a are places to stay in New Orleans that are just as nice as well as cheaper, so I might look at those first before I commit to The Ritz again.

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Sojourn in Palm Springs

Posted by Krista on March 26, 2014

My friend Julie just celebrated the 19th anniversary of her birthday. What better way to celebrate than rent us all a house in Palm Springs, California where it is HOT and DRY and NOT SNOWING?  We booked Villa Moda (pictured) through LuxuryRetreats.com and couldn’t have been happier with the price, process and the service. The first morning, we had a little trouble with the hot water and our concierge was out at the house in 20 minutes. I would definitely use them again. They have properties all over the world.

While we were in Palm Springs, we got up to some mischief and mayhem. Here are some of the places we visited that you should consider too:

The Spring Resort & Spa, 12699 Reposo Way, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240: We loved the natural hot springs at this compact but peaceful little spa. I met an older couple in the 104 degree pool who had visited earlier in the week and liked it so much that they were back for another visit. The nine of us enjoyed massages, scrubs and other treatments with dips in the pools in between. Highly recommended.

In & Out, many locations: Double-double Animal Style. My first time. (Hey, I’m from the East Coast and live in the Midwest! I don’t get out west much.) Delicious. Highly recommended.

Copley’s, 621 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Dude, Cary Grant used to LIVE HERE. So that’s awesome. We sat around the fire and enjoyed our very inexpensive California sparkling wine. Definitely worth a visit. Although I did definitely feel young…

Trio Restaurant, 707 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262. Very welcoming to our large party. The food was good and the sparkling wine was VERY affordable. (God, I love California.) Popular with bachelorette parties, just so you know. Would I go back here? Maybe. But they did very well by us.

Birba, 622 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262. We had some competent cocktails here while I forced everyone to play a gazillion rounds of Heads Up on my iPhone. We had fun here. I’d go back.

Norma’s at The Parker, 4200 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264. What Norma’s lacks in taste, it makes up for in style. This place has a good vibe, but the food is just okay, in my opinion. I’d still go back just so I can feel cool. Robert Downey Jr. was arrested here, fyi.

Dessert Hills Premium Outlets, 48400 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230: Prada! Gucci! Everything. Totally under construction so not very peaceful, but I think it will be awesome when it’s done. We enjoyed the ride through the dessert to the outlets and all the big windwills along the way.

I really enjoyed my time in Palm Springs. I would totally go back. You should too. And use LuxuryRetreats.com! (Seriously not getting paid or otherwise in saying that, just to be clear.)

 

Posted in Palm Springs, Travel | 2 Comments

Dillmans, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 18, 2013

IMG_6415I went to Dillman’s for lunch the other day. It is all dark and cozy with chandeliers. My server said “for sure, for sure” a lot. It was distracting. Also distracting? The rose was listed under “Whites” on the wine list. Less distracting? The chicken liver and lovely toasty warm brioche. A very generous, tasty and satisfying portion at $9.95.

Best part? COWSHED PRODUCTS in the bathroom. SOHO HOUSE CHICAGO, I am coming for you.

The Verdict: Go for the chandeliers! And wash your hands with all the Cowshed! Have the chicken liver with ALL the toast. For sure.

Dillman's on Urbanspoon

Posted in American, Chicago, River North, United States | 1 Comment

La Sirena Clandestina, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 16, 2013

IMG_6389Look at this restaurant. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want to stay here all day? It’s so pretty and serene and the light is coming through the windows JUST SO.

But someone is having a bad day, and it’s not me. I’m having a great day. It’s Friday! It’s lunchtime! Everything is great and everybody is happy!

It’s my server who is having a bad day. He’s not mean or anything…he’s just…absent. And I don’t mean that he’s not physically present, because he is physically present. He’s just mentally absent. He just doesn’t seem to want to be there. At all. And he doesn’t want me to be there either. He doesn’t seem to want me to eat or drink and he has no recommendations on anything. Everything is good here, he says. All the wines are nice, he says.

IMG_6388But everything is not good here. The eggplant empanada is bland and tasteless and doesn’t deliver on the promise of its appearance.

IMG_6387The salmon ceviche, on the other hand, is quite zingy and tart.

IMG_6390The feijoada is good but I am really jonsing for some farofa to sprinkle around everything.

The Verdict: I like the look of La Sirena Clandestina. I also like the sink in the bathroom. The food was good but I think I’m going to have to give this place another go to say for sure.

La Sirena Clandestina on Urbanspoon

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Tanta, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 15, 2013

IMG_6385I like meeting people from the Internet. People like Francis who says to me one day, “I’m going to Lima by myself. You should come!” And I say things like “Francis, you can’t say things like this to me because I will actually come with you.” And before you know it, Wendy and Maureen are coming too and Francis turns out to be the TRAVEL MASTER ORGANIZER and has an agenda for us and everything and we eat all the fruit and drink all the pisco sours and leave Lima very very happy.

Francis proved to be the master organizer yet again when he marched us little ducklings off to Tanta, the new Peruvian place in Chicago by Peruvian chef Gaston Arcurio, whom some may be familiar with from World’s 50 Best Astrid & Gaston. (Almost wrote Gastrid and Ashton there. Whoops.)

I’m worried about Tanta’s location. Although it’s in River North, it’s in a bit of a desolate stretch of Grand close to Lasalle. Signage is also a little discreet for River North, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I can imagine the tourists walking by…”Should we go here? I don’t know…Tanta? What does that mean? Do they have steak here? Do you think I can put ketchup on it? I hope they open at 5.”

But once inside, I love the space. I love the bar and would happily come back here to dine solo. I love that it’s not too uber-stuffed with tables and chairs. There’s an appreciation of personal space here that is just really nice.

That being said, personal space is on overdrive at the back of the restaurant at our table, which is too wide and too long for our party of five. I am the fifth wheel. And the restaurant is LOUD and my hearing is not as bionic as it used to be. I am alone at the end of the table, but the lovely and gracious Mr. Stashwick is a wonderful table-mate.

Enough babble. Let’s talk CHICKEN. I cannot profess my love of a full roast chicken enough. Roast chicken is one of my absolute favorite things to eat and to make. (Yes, you read that correctly…to make!) While I hate restaurant chicken breast entrees (too frozen Restaurant Depot for me), I love a pick-at-it-all-day-and-all-night-long roast chicken. And Tanta’s is probably one of the best I’ve ever had. The presentation is awesome…so many sides and lovely crisp potatoes that are even crisp the next morning when I polish them off as leftovers for breakfast. Seriously, this is very good stuff, very excellent, supremely competent stuff.

The Verdict: I will be back here soon. You should go too. Maybe we should go together and drink all the Pisco Sours together.

P.S. It’s perhaps worthy to note that we received special treatment the night we came in because Francis was super-excited about the restaurant’s opening and had been in touch with Gaston Arcurio and staff. The chef came out a few times to talk with us, along with some of the other senior staff. Also, we were comped a few dishes; my apologies but because I was not in charge of the bill, I’m not sure what exactly we were comped but it was a small amount in relation to the overall bill. We tipped as if we had not been comped, of course.

Tanta on Urbanspoon

 

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Enchiladas at Flo, Chicago

Posted by Krista on August 29, 2013

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I woke up one morning, craving enchiladas. I can’t explain how these things happen to me, except that they do sometimes. While still horizontally ensconced in Frette, I did a bit of thumbing around on the old iPhone until Flo popped up. Good reviews, good enchiladas, and easily accessible by Divvy Bike, my newest infatuation.

I showed up to Flo by myself and took a seat at the bar. I wasn’t the only one, alone at the bar, placing my order. That gave me instant confidence in this “New Mexico” restaurant. Normally, in this part of town, I don’t run into that many solo diners. Especially this early in the morning. But I was one of at least three.

The enchiladas arrived. They were simple and perfect. And at $9, also a pretty good value. By the time I left, the line for Flo was out the door. Hipsters, families, and tables for one.

The Verdict: I can only speak for Sunday brunch — which I’ve done here now three Sundays in a row —  but you should go. Get the enchiladas.

Flo on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Mexican, Noble Square, United States, West Town | Comments Off

Beatrix, Chicago

Posted by Krista on August 27, 2013

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Long-term readers will know that on Fridays during the summer, I can leave work early if I want to. And I’ve been trying to do that this summer, trying to get out there and explore places and do things and see things. Someone told me that I would love Beatrix so I went to Beatrix on one of my Friday afternoons. Because I am trusting like that.

And I did like Beatrix. Sort of. I mean, I liked the chairs. There are a lot of different chairs at Beatrix. It’s one of those new-school/old-school all day free-wifi restaurants with lots and lots of chairs for people so you can sit down or you can stand up or you can stay for 20 minutes or you can stay for EIGHT HOURS (like the people across from me did). Lots of interesting, different chairs. Really, there’s something for everyone. Really, it felt like a total ripoff of London’s Hoxton Hotel.

“Have the burger,” some guy at the bar urged me. “I just did and it was really really good.”

Apparently that man has never had a burger in HIS ENTIRE LIFE.

Because the burger was shite. Super shite. Overcooked sawdust.

And the fries were undercooked.

And the pickled vegetables were still too raw.

When I left, I was angry at myself for wasting my Friday lunch here. Very angry.

All that being said, they were jackhammering the road outside the restaurant and you never would have known it inside the restaurant. That’s some good sound-proofing they’ve got going there.

The Verdict: But no.

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

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Carriage House, Chicago

Posted by Krista on August 25, 2013

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I eat at Carriage House a lot. Sometimes, I get off the train after work and I think to myself “Whole wheat pasta in the microwave at home or dinner at the bar at Carriage House?” That is WAY too easy a decision to make. I like it here. I like their wines, I like their service, I like their food. Sadly, the Lyonnaise salad and its soft pillows of pork belly is off the menu for now — I’ve been eating a lot of that — but then the asparagus popped up and it is LUSCIOUS.  Slow poached egg, sherry and sorghum vinaigrette, cornbread crumbs, crawfish tails and béarnaise. Pretty fantastic. But also, apparently, now off the menu. God damnit.

So here’s what I think of though while I sit at the bar at Carriage House. I look out the window and I see all the people all going to all the sports bars and I wonder…with food this good RIGHT HERE, why would you go to a sports bar for waffle fries? Why?

Carriage House on Urbanspoon

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