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Posts from the ‘where we’re eating’ Category

That toddlin’ town

Recently, I ventured to Chicago for the first time ever (flying through doesn’t count) to see the sights and meet a BFF from LA “in the middle,” so to speak. We had a ball and all our Midwest assumptions were squashed immediately upon seeing the Blue Line station at O’Hare. “Damn, this is some nice public transpo,” we thought. And it just got better from there. Here are some of the major reasons why we love Chicago and wouldn’t be opposed to be being Midwestern if this is what it entails (except for that winter, oof!).

Frank Sinatra sang about it

At each new discovery, we both broke out singing “Chicago, Chicago.” It seemed a fitting anthem for the weekend. Set this to play as you keep scrolling.

Prices you can live with

Coming from LA and NYC, we are constantly hovering in a state of financial precariousness and every credit card swipe for those delicious $25+ brunches is like a little stab wound. We went to two amazing brunches in Wicker Park (Milk & Honey Cafe) and Andersonville (M.Henry) where we had our food minds blown and paid max $15 total per person/per meal/per place (that includes tip, all our coffees, side dishes, etc). Above are the incredible huevos rancheros ($6.75, holy bananas!!) and lavender cake at Milk and Honey (couldn’t resist it, I love lavender in food).

Cleanliness

Everything about Chicago (well, the parts that we saw) was clean. And organized. And pretty (so many picture perfect tulips!). With miles of elevated track all over, you’d think there would be lots of under-the-bridge nastiness going on. No, siree. Not in Chicago. It was clean as a whistle, and in fact, the turn-of-the-century iron elevated tracks add tons of character. Pictured here is the Blue Line cutting through Wicker Park.

Cultural Gems

Every corner you go around at The Art Institute, you think “Wait, THIS IS HERE?!” One of the best surprises was seeing Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte or A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I had this weird moment where I saw it at the end of a dark tunnel and I was teleported in my mind back to Mrs. Rushford’s 10th grade humanities class. I did a project on pointillism and after all my research, I felt oddly close to the painting. Seeing it in person all these years later felt like a homecoming of sorts.

Enviable real estate

We saw so many gorgeous Victorians in Wicker Park, but the whole city is covered in beautiful pre-war apartment buildings with big apartments, many with those classic Chicago back staircase terraces, some with enviable waterfront views, all at much better prices than New York. What did I tell you?! So much to love, especially for someone who values having a good home space.

Neighborhoods

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Drawing courtesy of University of Michigan

As our guide book told us, Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. We explored mostly the Loop, Wicker Park, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. We strolled past so many lovely boutiques, cafes, book shops, restaurants and tree-lined streets that 2.5 days didn’t seem like enough to take it all in, but it just gives us more reason to go back! Next time I want to see the University of Chicago, Hyde Park (Obamas!) and venture north toward Jefferson Park to get a taste of Little Poland.

A Trip Down Under

But it wasn’t to Australia (which would be nice right about now). Try a more local destination – down under the Manhattan Bridge, Dumbo.

Here’s a little run-down of the Sunday adventure. Started with the wonderfulness that is Vinegar Hill House at brunchtime (Irish coffee to start, followed by a bread bowl of beef chili), peeked at where the Commodore used to rule over the Brooklyn Navy Yards at the Commandant’s House (now privately owned, Little and Evans Sts), found perfect paintings and a dream dining room table at Olga Guanabara on Pearl Street (go there, the owner is a friend!), sauntered past beautifully restored loft apartments on Water St (and newly constructed McLofts, as my friend cleverly dubbed them), picturing what it would be like to live at the Selling New York exclusive clocktower penthouse listing, seeing the kidlets revel in Jane’s Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and watching the sun set as we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. And to top it all off, I’m lucky to have a Sunday kind of love to share all the sights with.

Literally the definition of Dumbo.

A well-styled restaurant. And yummy. But we’re suckers for typography and décor.

McLofts in construction. They have the whole gorgeous warehouse window thing figured out.

The dream table for my dining room. Wouldn’t mind taking the painting home either.

A dessert that will blow your mind for a holiday you’ve probably never heard of

When I arrived in France in January 2008 to start my semester abroad (holy crap, can’t believe was 4 years ago now already!), I was greeted with the most wonderful of foods, galettes des rois or King’s cakes.  They are sold in bakeries all throughout France during the month of January for La Fête des Rois or Epiphany (also known as the Twelfth Night). GdR are these amazing puff pastries (or brioche in Provence) filled with frangipane, a sweet, fluffy almond paste. It was the first of many mini cultural love affairs that made up my 8-month stay (of course sugar played a leading role!) and made me a Francophone for life.

Quick background for fellow agnostics (and non-Christians) out there, Epiphany is a Christian holiday that traditionally falls on January 6th (for Catholics) and celebrates the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. Naturally, the pagan (food) tradition associated with it has long since outshone the actual religious significance, so now they are a treat for families and groups. There is a fève inside the cake (literally a bean, now traditionally a figurine of some sort) and whoever discovers the fève in their piece is the King or Queen for the evening. Paper crown obligatory.

I crave galettes every January (leftover sugar high from Christmas?) and was disappointed to find that the new Parisian transplant Ladurée didn’t carry galettes in their Madison Avenue boutique this year. So I turned to a neighborhood favorite, Épicerie Boulud (A++), and the tried-and-true New York chain Financier Patisserie for my galette fix this year. Go get some now or call your local bakery and see if they make them… they are the best. It’s only once a year! Bon appétit mes amis!

Cue the melted cheese

The fall temperature drop finally allows for comfortable consumption of some of the yummiest hot foods – soups, roasts, and among others, my lifelong frenemy melted cheese in the form of fondue. I love fondue for oh so many reasons. First, it’s always a treat because mentally you’re saving up for it. It’s not like you can go and clog your arteries every week by consuming pounds (slight exaggeration) of liquified fat (also dramatic). Second, you get the best of every food group with les baigneuses (“the bathers”) ranging from meat, carbs, fruit, veggies and… hmm, what other food groups are there? Third, it’s a sharing meal so it involves of talking, which makes me doubly happy (just don’t wave the crazy long fork too much, you may have a victim).

Kashkaval – 856 9th Avenue (between 56th and 55th Streets)

This is a neighborhood gem of a restaurant for Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. A smorgasbord of European/Mediterranean/near Middle East menu offerings are served on teeny tiny tables or taken home to eat if they’re from the deli/olive bar/cheese shop that takes up the front half of the space. 9th Avenue may seem like a hike, but it is well worth it once you make it. The fondue here is simple and hearty and slightly off the beaten path. Have you ever eaten Kashkaval fondue? Did you know Kashkaval was a cheese? Because I didn’t until I ate here. Yup, it’s a Balkan yellow sheep’s milk cheese and it’s good.

Mmm… there’s more!

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