This was our fourth trip to Chicago and Royce’s second. Bryan’s sister Shannon graduated from the French Pastry School, and the reception after the graduation ceremony had a buffet filled with everything they learned to make during their six months of study. Can you guess why we came?
We flew into Chicago late on Thursday afternoon. We took the train into the city and walked to Dana Hotel where we stayed. It was centrally located, (and there was a Whole Foods around the corner!) but not really our style and had really annoying elevators. For dinner we all met up at Frontera Grill (it was our second time eating there because it was darn good mexican food). It is not your run-of-the-mill Mexican consisting of different combinations of rice, beans and cheese, but rather the more inventive, more interesting and more authentic kind with menu items featuring varied ingredients and more unusual flavors.
Friday, we went to the Chicago Cultural Center on our way to the Graduation Buffet & Reception. It was a neat building, but the art installations were mostly terrible. There was one interesting exhibit of photographs from crumbling American buildings that stirred our imagination for remodeling old buildings. Then we headed over to the French Pastry School for the Buffet. It was awesome, crowded and there was too much to eat! We couldn’t possibly taste everything. Cakes, Macaroons, dinner desserts, candies, nougats, breads and pastries galore. Yum! Yum! Yummy! In the evening we dined at Shannon’s new place of employment: The Pump Room. Once a famous Chicago hotspot for celebrities, has now been remodeled into what is a beautifully designed and hip space inside the equally cool Public Hotel, which we originally had wanted to stay in. We were seated at “Table 1″ the table where all the VIP’s sit, at least that is what they told us! The food was delicious and after the meal Shannon’s future Pastry Chef co-workers came to our table and presented us with nearly all the deserts they serve in the restaurant. They were all delicious! Shannon will be in good hands! After the restaurant we went to go see Shannon’s apartment around the corner and her incredible roof top view.
Since we are training for the Portland Marathon in October, we had to go out for a 5 mile run on Saturday. Starting off we ran from our hotel through the city to Lake Michigan’s shore. Along the shore there were many people out exercising, despite there being zero shade, and hot, humid, stagnant air. Even though the terrain was mostly flat, Megan was about to pass out. We had to rehydrate many times due to the heat and fortunately we came across the Green City Market, a farmers market in Lincoln Park and a spice shop called the Spice House, where we stopped and looking around at their offerings. Both were very cool places to go and highly recommended. Megan survived the run, but it was an exceptionally hot Chicagoan day so we decided to go somewhere cool and air conditioned, so after showering off the whole clan headed over via long bus ride to the Shedd Aquarium. Royce was asleep for the first half of the aquarium experience, but once he woke up he was overjoyed to see penguins, Beluga whales, sharks, fish, monkeys and other sea creatures (monkey’s were not swimming…). It was a joy to watch him get excited. That evening we ate Indian Food at Jaipur, which was good, spicier than normal and made everyone poop more than normal the next day .
On Sunday, Bryan and his dad took a bike ride around Chicago for their Father’s Day gift from Royce. The bikes were rented from Bobby’s Bike Hike. Before heading to the airport to fly home, we all had a wonderful Italian lunch at Quartino, also recommended as it is surprisingly authentic and they even have Italian language papers in the front!
It is always good to come back home, but we had a great little trip to Chicago and it was one of the rare happenings where all the food we had was great! When that happens, it tends to leave us feeling like the trip was a major success.
We wrote an article about of adventures in Europe last summer, discovering our ancestral roots in Italy and Croatia, and about meeting online pen pals in Ulm, Germany. The Orange County Register will be running the article along with photos we took in this Sunday’s Travel section. You can check it out here!
This past weekend we went to attend Bryan’s sister Jimi’s graduation from UC Santa Cruz. We stayed with Bryan’s family in a home they rented near the beach. Our first stop was at Staff of Life, a health food store to stock up on food for the weekend. We loved this store, and a few others we happened to pop into while walking around the downtown area. Santa Cruz is very health conscious, made evident by the many organic restaurants and grocery stores, completely putting Southern California to shame. Every restaurant even if not “organic” seemed to make an effort to use organic ingredients on the menu. To us this seemed huge, because you are lucky to even find a health conscious restaurant in Orange County offering organic salad greens on the menu. Our first night we went to La Posta Vecchia to celebrate Bryan’s 26th birthday. La Posta is an Italian restaurant specializing in house made pasta, and all the food was quite well done!
Our second day we drove down to the downtown area and walked around all the shops. It was a breath of fresh air to be in a shopping plaza that was not full of chain stores. Taken by surprise by all the unique offerings we returned to feed the meter about 4 times after realizing each time that we were not done yet. We spent a few hours reading various books in the Bookshop Santa Cruz, delighted by their unique selection of titles. Afterward we ate a late lunch at Chocolate Cafe, where we had some delicious mediterranean food and split a chocolate truffle.
The next day Jimi’s graduation took place in a beautiful setting on the University’s campus overlooking the ocean. It may have been beautiful, but it was also midday and very hot! Luckily we thought ahead to bring a large beach umbrella and there we various people trying to mooch off our shade. After the ceremony we headed over to Pearl of the Ocean, for a Sri Lankan dinner. Unfortunately Megan felt ill and had to leave with out trying the food, which was wonderful. The whole family is quite fond of Indian food and we found Sri Lankan food to be similar, but incorporating flavors from South East Asia. Later we discovered the restaurant was named the best new restaurant in Santa Cruz and we can’t disagree that it is worth stopping by. Sunday evening we flew back to Orange County via Southwest Airlines, thankful to be skipping out on the 8 hour drive back.
“Just when you think your going on vacation… BAM! Food poisoning!” – this is how one sympathizer described our situation this weekend. Sadly, Bryan was on the receiving end of a quick and dirty case of food poisoning the night before our departure. Once again we spent the entire night before a trip completely awake, but this time with a lot more diarrhea and a about a gallon of barf to top it off. Assuming he had gotten it all out of his system and beginning to feel better, we decided to re-hydrated and head to John Wayne Airport. It was less than a minute from entering the security line that we realized that it was not all behind us. Right in the middle of the security line blocking the entrance to the metal detector, Bryan leaned over and hurled into a plastic bag. He spent a few minutes in a bent over position as people tried to squeak by in disgust. At this point we were just thankful that it wasn’t coming out the other end. After disposing of a bag of pure liquid puke we boarded the flight and Bryan endured a long and torturous trip.
Arriving in Seattle around noon all we felt like doing was sleeping. So while our travel companions Drew and Allison explored the city the rest of the day we were unfortunately confined to our hotel room trying to sleep and watched a movie. Despite her lack of sleep, Megan was a trooper and waited on Bryan hand and foot. But we know too well that Megan gets very cranky with lack of sleep and it began to come out that evening as she began cursing every detail about the W hotel that we were staying in. The hotel was nice but some of her complaints were valid such as the lack of black out curtains, lack of sound-proof windows and hallway noise. Others were just the crankiness talking such as the low sheet thread count and shower-tub existence, but preferably those things could also be fixed. Bryan got so used to Megan as a slave-wife that at one point when he was feeling better he began using her as a human cup-holder with out knowing it. Forcing her to hold his drink in between sips.
The next day we walked around the city visiting Pike Place Market and some shops before taking the ferry to the nearby Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge had a small little town named Winslow that we stopped in before walking along the shore trail back to the ferry. The best thing about the town was Churchmouse Yarns & Teas (I guess the owners just couldn’t decide which to sell so they sold both!) and a delicious ice cream place called Mora Iced Creamery with 48 flavors of homemade ice cream. Later that night we went to Canalis Restaurant, where we had an enjoyable meal, however, Bryan was still unable to put down much food and if you know Bryan’s love for fine dining you can imagine his frustration. The dinner was also filled with some memorable laughs. First, we had an incredible awkward bread boy who insisted on escorting Drew to the restroom, where he somehow recounted to Drew the whole of our dinner conversion (spooky). Then as Drew was exiting the restroom another patron was trying to push the door open while not looking he mistook Drew’s left pectoral for the door knob, creating a groping story that Drew could not wait to share when he returned tableside. The meal was finished eloquently with Bryan’s rendition of MJ’s classic, “Man in the Mirror.” Some of the other dinner guests may have commented that it sounded as if the whole song was performed in high notes MJ only achieved mid crouch-grab, however Bryan stands behind is performance.
Our final day was Easter Sunday and Drew and Allison headed out to an church service with a friend while we opted to sleep in and try to explore the city a bit more. We took a useless and rip-off of a street car ride to nowhere and the rip-off and mostly useless monorail down to the Space Needle. Combined it was nothing but a total waste of $9 in transportation that took us only 1 mile to the pointless area around the space needle. Plus there were some major creepers riding the monorail. From there we took a cab over to the Pioneer Square area where we walked around a bit and found that we quite enjoyed that area. It was the more historic part of town. The old city that was mostly destroyed in fire years ago is buried below street level. There is not much to see other than a cool toy store , book shops and a Utilikilts which is a hardcore kilt store attempting to make kilts mainstream clothing for men. We got the impression that in a few years it will become a hip thriving neighborhood.
So all in all sadly Seattle was a downer for us. We were really looking forward to this trip and given the circumstances we did the best we could but it is truly difficult to enjoy a vacation when you are tired, feel like crap, and repulsed by the thing you looked forward to most: food. We didn’t get to see a whole lot outside of the downtown area but here are a few things we learned: Even though we only spent about 10 minutes in Pike Place Market it was no doubt one of the best things to see in the city and we wish we would have been able to go back. The busses are free, but don’t pay for monorail or the street car; taxis are useful as is the light rail to the airport. The W hotel is not as hip as they want you to think it is. Most importantly: Don’t get food poisoning before a trip.
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi is a bestselling novel in which the author recalls her trip to Venice where she meet first met a Venetian man named Fernando. Before really even knowing this “stranger” as she calls him, she relocates her entire life to the Italian island where she marries him and renovates his apartment before deciding to sell it, move out of Venice and start a new life adventure together (which the author has written subsequent books about). De Blasi is a middle aged divorcée who feels she has gotten a ‘second chance at love,’ and for this reason makes this book only appealing to middle aged and older women. I apparently missed that memo when buying the book based solely off of high amazon reviews in the travel literature section. Up until the last two chapters I was a little bored with the book, as I resent reading about how delicious food is that I can not actually taste myself (the author loves to talk about food in detail). For me the book picked up in the last two chapters because they began talking about getting the heck out of Venice and opening a bed and breakfast in the countryside. For me the novel got a bit more youthful and adventurous at this point and even left me hanging because I want to know what happens next! Damn you De Blasi! Not sure I want to read any more of your granny romance novels, but I want to know what happened to you after you left Venice! What do I do now? Well I guess I did buy another De Blasi book…so stay tuned for that review. All and all I enjoyed reading it but am not in love with it. So beware of glowing reviews on Amazon.com if you are under 45, and if you are over 45 its a sure bet you will love it.
I just received my 100% Organic wool socks from Ireland and they are fabulous! I have been reading for some time about how great wool is, especially organic wool, which is very warm, breathes well and wicks away sweat. Wool is the perferred sock for hikers and anyone who knows anything about keeping warm in a cold climate. I purchased them from Gael Song. Here is the product description:
Some fortunate sheep graze on grassland that has seen no artificial fertilizer, and the sheep are never subjected to chemical dip. From these happy flocks comes soft organic wool. The wool itself is minimally processed by environmentally friendly methods – no dyes or bleach, just the color of those contented sheep. Thick, soft socks keep your feet warm and happy. Natural Cream, Oatmeal, or Brown.
So unfortunately my socks and the sheep from which the fibers were taken are more pure than I will ever be. But on the bright side I am supporting the responsible and traditional methods of raising sheep in my ancestral country. All this talk about happy sheep, knitted wool and pristine grassland has gotten me thinking about our trip to the Emerald Isle in 2005. While staying in Dublin we took a bus/train tour south to a few Irish towns and along the way we stopped in Avoca, Ireland at Avoca Weavers. It was no secret that the tour company and Avoca were in bed together and knew quite well that after the tour showing how the wool was processed and how the looms worked to weave the garments we would be more likely to make a purchase at the store. Well the joke was on them because we were too cheap to buy anything that day and their goods were probably overpriced anyway.
After looking around the internet for a nice pair of socks this former tourist has decided with regret that it may have been cheaper and easier to have bought some wool souvenirs in Ireland at the time. First of all, there are very few online options for 100% Organic wool socks, and these were the only ones I found from Ireland. Number two, even though a stop on a bus tour may not be the most authentic ‘mom and pop’ type place to purchase a souvenir, we would have still brought home a piece of your trip and supported the indigenous local trade. That being said, with what I now know, the next time I have the pleasure of being in Ireland I will try to seek out the most authentic place to buy wool, a place that supports the local tradition, culture and the environment. Maybe this place will be a roadside stand, a country shop or better yet perhaps I will meet an old Irish shepherd in a pub who mentions that his wife hand knits socks from his organic sheep. Ahhh… a girl can only dream.
I purchased the ‘brown’ socks, (which look a little more like nice dark gray-brown to me) and because they are undyed I know they are made from the ‘black sheep’. I thought they were thicker than they looked in the picture, and the medium size is pretty roomy for my foot, but neither bothers me as I am quite pleased just to own a pair of socks this lovely. They are very soft and warm, and I find that I can really feel them “breathe”. On another note they smell very earthy and distinctively woolen. I know after being worn by my stinky feet and once they are cleaned the smell is likely to dissapear, but there is something satisfying about the smell they have. Perhaps it is comforting to smell where the natural fibers came from. The socks I purchased were $20 + 6 dollars shipping and are by far the nicest and pricest socks I have ever owned.
But lets get one thing straight: I am a sock person! Over the years I have had socks off all sorts of colors patterns, heights and textile blends, but I have never had a single pair of premium socks. One after another these socks would deterate quickly, usually at the heel and I would have to throw them out and purchase more. I thought this was just the downfall of being a sock owner until I watched an episode of Martha Stewart’s television show a few years ago. During the show Martha taught Bette Middler how to mend a pair of her cashmere socks (can you get more typical Martha than that?). I remember thinking two things while watching…’ooooh cashmere socks sound nice and soft, I should get a pair someday’ and ‘why would anyone repair socks? they always wear out so quickly and are pointless to repair.’ Recently I solved this mystery: wool and other natural fibers will last a long time and will not wear out like synthetic ones do. So my money spent was a good investment you see; premium price with a purpose I say! Another misconception about wool that I learned was not true was that ‘wool is itchy.’ How can this be when cashmere and merino wool are soft? They are still wool. The truth is that wool only becomes itchy when it has been chemically treated, which was my only experience with wool from American chain stores.
A Year In Provence by Peter Mayle has become an international bestseller and inspired a delightful romantic comedy called A Good Year since it was written and published in the late 1980′s. In it (the book) Mayle, and englishman and his wife purchase a home in the region of Provence in Southern France. The book takes you through the ups and downs of owning a property and taking up residence in the French countryside, where the food and wine is perfection, but renovations of a 200 year old farmhouse can be a slow and sporadic process. The descriptive detail will have you both laughing, drooling and yearning to spend even a month in Provence. The curiosities of the culture of Southern France and the humor that goes along with the story of a foreigner is what makes this book such a delightful and relaxing read. Life seems to move at a slower pace, beauty has a no-frills elegance and pleasure comes with out effort. We were transported us to Provence. Convinced that we too would adore living in this region and jealous that it was not us who actually do.
Immoveable Feast by John Baxter was a wonderful book about how one Australian man prepped a traditional French Christmas feast. The author goes into great detail to describle what it takes to impress Parisian in-laws with a delicious Christmas dinner. Through reading this book I learned a lot about French culture and traditions. The book was quite funny and the descriptions made me so wish I was invited to this feast as well. I highly recommend this book!
Check out our photos (credited to Bryan Rosenkrantz, even though Megan probably shot a few!) in the Orange County Register. Today’s paper ran Megan’s dad’s story on our June visit to Lake Bled in the travel section today. You can check it out here. Also stay tuned for our article on visiting distant relatives in Europe coming soon!
We spent the weekend housesitting for Megan’s aunt in Hollywood. Megan was feeling a little under the weather but we managed to have an excellent meal at Osteria Mozza and took a trip to the Getty Villa in Malibu.