Foodie Friday: Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar

Here in Chicago we have many wonderful restaurants and it’s often hard to choose where to go for a special event. We had such a choice recently when our son and daughter-in-law were in town and we wanted to have a family dinner. When the Michelin Guide 2014 Recommended Union Sushi and Barbeque Bar popped up in the discussion, I was sold. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Click into photo for source

Click into photo for source

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Restaurant Visit: Circa 57 in Arlington Heights

We have been eyeing Circa 57 since it opened. The problem is that Music Man and I are eyeing it through different lenses.

Circa 57 is a new restaurant in downtown Arlington Heights, Illinois, and includes the space at the corner of Vail and Campbell previously occupied by the Grand Station restaurant and Peoples Bank. It’s got a wonderful location!

I was intrigued by the possibilities of their food mission. Music Man wasn’t so sure — he wasn’t interested in ever going back to the food of 1957, thank you very much. I was relieved to actually see the menu. Even though it includes throwback style food, many of the offerings are updated for the more sophisticated tastes of today. Continue reading

A Visit to Chicago’s GT Fish & Oyster Restaurant

Chicago is well-known for its wonderful restaurants, and over the holidays, my family had the opportunity to experience several gastronomic delights. For the next few Fridays, I’m going to continue what I started last week with our visit to Eataly, and will feature some of Chicago’s great dining establishments.

Named after its Michelin-starred chef, Guiseppe Tentori, GT Fish & Oyster has been open since March 2011 at 531 N. Wells Street in Chicago. The 115-seat restaurant’s menu focuses on fresh, seasonal seafood presented in small plates designed for sharing, and the pricing is designed to fill a hole in Chicago’s market by offering outstanding seafood at mid-range prices (source). On the high side of what we consider mid-range, the prices are probably fair for the quality of the food.  Continue reading

Eataly Chicago — a Foodie Fantasy Destination

Yes, I typed that right. EATALY — a very cute pun on Italy, but Eataly is more than just a cute name. It’s truly a foodie fantasy destination right here in Chicago.

Co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, the Chicago location is housed in the former ESPN Zone location near Michigan Avenue at Ohio and Wabash. The 63,000 sq. ft. food palace is the second Eataly location in the U.S. The only other U.S. outlet in New York opened in 2010, but media hype says that the next location will likely be in Philadelphia.The first Eataly opened in Turin, Italy, in 2007 and there are now Eataly locations in many major Italian cities.

Eataly Chicago is a foodie destination with 23 restaurants and food bars, one fine dining restaurant and lots of food products for sale. Upon opening on December 2, 2013, Eataly was overrun with locals and tourists, which resulted in its having to close for one day on December 9 in order to restock after its first week of business. We waited until the Sunday after Christmas to venture downtown to check out Eataly and I was not disappointed. It’s a foodie’s paradise. Continue reading

Travel Diary: Convito Cafe

Convito Cafe and Market in Wilmette, Illinois

Convito Cafe and Market in Wilmette, Illinois

Convito Cafe and Market in Wilmette’s Plaza del Lago shopping district is a long-time favorite on Chicago’s north shore. Under the direction of Nancy Brussat Barocci since its inception in 1980, the Convito brand has grown and changed with the years under Brussat’s capable leadership. Now  partnered with her daughter, Candace Barocci Warner, the Convito Cafe and Market continues to offer a warm welcome to diners and shoppers looking for regional European specialties with a focus on French and Italian cuisines. In addition to its traditional restaurant, the Wilmette location also offers a market featured prepared foods for take-out and fresh pastas, breads, cheeses, wines, and sauces.

On a recent visit to the Convito Cafe, my friend and I ordered four items from the appetizer menu for our lunch.

GotMyReservations - Convito Cafe Calamari

Fried calamari – crispy, tender squid with zesty cocktail sauce

GotMyReservations - Convito Cafe Bruschetta

Bruschetta – mozzarella fresca, fresh tomatoes & basil warmly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil

GotMyReservations - Convito Cafe French Onion Soup

Onion soup gratin française – rich broth baked in a crock with gruyere & parmigiano reggiano topped with crispy onions

GotMyReservations - Convito Cafe Crabcake

Summer crab cake with a corn-radish-lime relish & roasted red pepper coulis

We accompanied our meal with a nice rose and a light white; the wine list was appropriate for the summer season and individual glasses of wine were priced reasonably. All of our meal items were perfectly prepared and served with lovely garnishes and presentation. Convito Cafe and Market offers a refreshing and satisfying visit to the countryside cuisines of Italy and France and is highly recommended.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)




Bicycle Togs — Travel Diary

With the availability of bicycle rentals in so many cities, travelers have the option of getting some exercise while seeing the sights from a different vantage point. Here in Chicago, Paris-style Divvy bike racks are popping up all over the city, and not just along the lakefront. I’m not talking about you hard-core folks who go to Provence on bicycling tours, but with soft-core city cycling comes the need for soft-core bicycle clothing and gear, and that’s where we’re traveling today.

Looks like Paris, doesn't it? But it's Chicago!

Looks like Paris, doesn’t it? But it’s Chicago!

As a middle-aged woman, the last thing I want to do is wear skin-tight bike shorts around town while sightseeing or going into a restaurant. I was thrilled when a friend referred me to Terry — the “original women’s bicycling store.” At Terry, I found the perfect solution to my dilemma, the padded bike skort.

Terry's Flare Skort is the perfect solution to bicycling in cities.

Terry’s Flare Skort is the perfect solution to bicycling in cities.

I own this skort in the print and in black. It has a padded bike short underneath with leg bands that are not too tight, and the skirt has two large hip pockets where I put my iPhone and use the Map My Ride app when riding around town. It comes in plus sizes and is comfortable enough to walk around in, even with the padded seat. It hits me just above the knee at my 5′ 2″ height, and is a respectful length. Normally I wash my bike gear in my washing machine, but this week I washed it in the bathtub (as I usually wash clothing while traveling). The padding took two days to dry, so be aware of that, but I probably could have squeezed out more water with towels. It will fold up into a small ball in the corner of your suitcase and come out looking brand new.

All over Europe, we have seen women commuting on bikes, dressed in their work clothes. I don’t know if they are wearing bike shorts underneath their dresses, but they could do that as well. With a simple bike short liner under your dress, you can pedal in comfort and modesty even in your cute sundress!

GotMyReservations -- Shopping by Bicycle

With a basket and my bicycle togs, I can get my exercise and my errands done.

I also picked up an old Vera Bradley small backpack at a garage sale this summer, and was really excited about it. It’s lightweight and breathes, so even if I actually carry it on my back, it’s comfortable. It’s big enough to put my wallet and my camera in it, leaving my removable basket for library books, groceries, or goodies from the farmers’ market. It’s a win-win, both at home and while traveling, but I would choose a more sedate pattern to use in Paris :).

Next time you are packing for a trip, try taking along a bike skort. Worst case scenario is that you will use it as a cute skirt…

I’m linked up today to Wanderlust Wednesday at Time Travel Plans,   The Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been”, Travel Photo Monday” at Travel Photo Discovery, and “Travel Photo Thursday” at Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!


25 Days of Holiday Recipes: Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin

Doesn’t it sound like a fun job to work in a spices store?

I have recently been able to experience the world of Penzeys Spices — a place where cooking is kindness, and that kindness can change the world. Really. That’s what their job application page says and that’s been my experience when shopping at two different locations in the Chicagoland area. I am impressed and want everyone to consider shopping either in person or online at Penzeys — it’s a beautiful place to spend a holiday afternoon.

Although I stocked up at the store on whole nutmeg and sweet curry powder, I already had a lot of spices in my cupboard. I went through them and threw away a lot of old spices. I also moved them into glass jars rather than plastic. Penzey’s also sells glass reusable spice jars in several sizes which is good for the environment as well as not leeching plastics poisons into the spices. I also put some spices into small canning jars and yard-sale glass spice jars. I labeled them using my trusty Brother P-touch labeler and I was pretty darn happy. My alphabetized spice cabinet is looking sharp.

When I realized that I had a big rosemary bush on the patio that was not going to live through the winter, I started looking for recipes to use up some of that luscious rosemary goodness. I discovered that Penzeys’ web site has recipes linked up to the order pages for the different spices. I was in business with a recipe for Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin.

Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6 Servings

Serving Size: 4 oz.

Calories per serving: 170

Fat per serving: 6g

Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin



Heat oven to 450°. Rinse the roast and pat dry. In a small bowl, mix together the GARLIC, THYME, ROSEMARY, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 TB. of the olive oil, salt and PEPPER.

Rub the seasoning all over pork loin.

Note: We bought a small 2 1/2 # center cut roast and cut it into two pieces. I put the second piece into a plastic bag and put half the marinade on the roast; we'll have this another meal since there's only two of us now in our empty nest.

Spread the remaining olive oil evenly over the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the pork in the pan. Roast at 450° for 30 minutes; lower the temperature to 350° and continue roasting for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 155°. Remove the pork to a cutting board; cover with foil and let stand 15 minutes or until the temperature reaches 160°. Slice and serve.

For gravy, save 2 cups of the water you cooked the potatoes in (assuming you're using the gravy for mashed potatoes; if not, 2 cups of water is fine). Remove the roast from the pan and drain off all but 2 TB. fat (if there is any). Place the pan on the stove top, pour in the potato water and let sit a few minutes. Scrape up browned bits from pan. Pour juice through a strainer into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and reduce liquid by 1/3. Reduce heat to medium low, taste and add salt to taste. Thicken with 1-2 tsp. ARROWROOT or cornstarch dissolved in 1 TB. water.


Cook time is variable from 60 - 75 minutes; use a meat thermometer.

Nutritional Information: Servings 10; Serving Size 4 oz. (103); Calories 170; Calories from fat 60; Total fat 6g; Cholesterol 70mg; Sodium 115mg; Carbohydrate 1g; Dietary Fiber 0g; Sugars 0g; Protein 25g.

Back to your travel dreams — Penzeys is a great place to take the relatives or to pick up a house gift. They have stores in twenty-seven states. The next time I have friends visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park or shopping at the Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I’m going to include a stop at Penzeys on our itineray.

Recipe courtesy of Penzeys Spices; links are to Penzeys and Oh, Olive for the garlic olive oil. I featured Oh, Olive here in a previous post.

Chicago Day 8: Public Art

I’m linked up today and for the rest of the month in the 31 Days Challenge at The Nester. By clicking the tab at the top of the page, you can easily access all of the 31 Days in Chicago posts. If you’ve got a story to tell about your experiences in Chicago, I welcome guest posts. Join the fun by emailing me, or if you’re not ready to write, go to The Nester’s web site to follow some other stories this month.

Chicago is well-known for its public art.

You have probably all seen Cloud Gate, our “bean” in Grant Park.

You probably have also wondered about our Picasso.

You may have even seen the Batcolumn.

But have you seen Carpet by Ellen Harvey (2007), a mosaic of hand-cut marble? I used to ride the CTA from this station, but I’ve never seen this amazing piece of art work.

If you’re a visitor to town or a staycationer, an exploration of the Chicago Public Art Program website might be in order. We are surrounded by art and it enriches our daily lives in sweet home, Chicago.

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Chicago Day 6: Got Culture?

I’m linked up today and for the rest of the month in the 31 Days Challenge at The Nester. By clicking the tab at the top of the page, you can easily access all of the 31 Days in Chicago posts. If you’ve got a story to tell about your experiences in Chicago, I welcome guest posts. Join the fun by emailing me, or if you’re not ready to write, go to The Nester’s web site to follow some other stories this month.

There’s a lot going on in Chicago this month; we’re celebrating Illinois Arts and Humanities Month.

Looking for something different to do? Are you a local or a visitor? Either way, these offerings are just a sampling of what’s available in Chicago’s diverse cultural community. After all, we are the home of at least thirty colleges and universities, including world-renowned Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Unnatural Spaces: A Performance and Conversation

Sunday, October 14 – 7:00 PM – Hairpin Arts Center (2800 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago)

Pink Slime. Bullets. Parking meters. Lead poisoning. Exes. Asbestos. Trash and trash talking. Poetry meets the stage in Unnatural Spaces- a fast-paced, often-funny look at the environmental choices we all make to eat, look beautiful, get around, stay on budget, and make it through the day. Join us for this one-night only free performance of Unnatural Spaces followed by a post-show conversation on environmental justice with Anne Evens of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Martin Macias Jr. of Radio Arte and Chicago Fair Trade, and others. Limited seats available. Make your reservation now.

Art, Culture, and Struggle: Exploring Possibility and Imagination

Thursday, October 25 – 7:00 PM – Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (800 South Halsted Street, Chicago)

Join artists Josh MacPhee and Ivan Arenas for a conversation exploring the connections (and disjunctures) between art, culture, and struggle. MacPhee, a Brooklyn-based street artist, designer and activist, will present a slideshow based on the content of the newly released “Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics.” Arenas, a Mexican-American scholar whose work focuses on the relationship between urban spaces and political subjects, will share insights from his work as an artist and scholar in Oaxaca, Mexico. Together we will explore the complex ways that art and cultural production affects our communities and our struggles for equality and justice.

Thanks to my friend Michele for participating in the “guest post” program; you can read her interesting account of traveling in Ireland here. Michele is a professor at Northeastern Illinois University and also does career counseling for students at the College of Lake County.

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Chicago Day 5: We Are Activists

I’m linked up today and for the rest of the month in the 31 Days Challenge at The Nester. By clicking the tab at the top of the page, you can easily access all of the 31 Days in Chicago posts. If you’ve got a story to tell about your experiences in Chicago, I welcome guest posts. Join the fun by emailing me, or if you’re not ready to write, go to The Nester’s web site to follow some other stories this month.

Whether or not we always agree with each other, in Chicago we care and we show it by our actions.

Obviously, these photos are just a small representation of the thriving community that is Chicagoland. I love living here.

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