Toast and Jam – Eating Chicago

DSCN0229KFlight was already in town when Kitty, Pegerty and I drove in. We picked her up at this cafe called Toast.

DSCN0232Drove to our Logan Square neighborhood and immediately stopped in for coffee at Jam. Good place to wait out the downpour until our noon check-in time. They gave us mini-brownies while they prepared our order of cups of soup and a pastry to share.  Very nice about letting us split and sample things.

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I am so excited about this veggie diner that I don’t know which way is up!

We had a late lunch (around 3:30)  at the truly amazing Chicago Diner whose slogan is “Meat Free Since ’83.”  Kitty is pretending to be sad about the meatlessness  of the meal. (Photo by KFlight.)

I don’t usually go in for fake meats, but I had the vegan rueben with a side of balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts and it was fabulous. We shared that, the spicy Thai Basil Stir Fry and the Portobello Truffle Melt with sweet potato fries between the four of us.

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We took the El to Margie’s Candies around 8:30 at night for our supper. No food for us, just ice cream. (Not on my plan, but this was the exception to make!)  We really hit it right. Walked in and were seated almost immediately. Very cramped little place. When we left there was a line out the door.

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They’ve been around since 1921, and they know how to scoop. Delicious hot fudge is served on the side. We sampled coconut, mint chocolate chip, coffee, strawberry, vanilla and…another one I’m sure!  It’s all lost in a sugar haze!

DSCN0329Started out Saturday with coffee and pastries from Metropolis Coffee Company. KFlight and I went out and picked up the goodies and brought them back to the apartment for a quickie breakfast before we set off into the city.  Good coffee, friendly and spacious shop.

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We met up with Chicago poet Ruth Goring for a ride on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel (more on that later!) and she led us to Cafe Iberico, a wondrous tapas restaurant. Spicy potatoes in the foreground. Ham wrapped, goat cheese stuffed dates in the background (not for me!).  We also shared mushrooms, smoked salmon and Tostadas de Pisto…sort of a Spanish ratatouille on toast points. Delicious and fun. Plenty to share amongst five people.

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Yeah, we had to track down some Chicago style deep dish pizza. It was deep and wide at Art of Pizza. Not much atmosphere at this place, but it was hopping with dine-in patrons and lots of carryout. It was interesting to take the bus there and back in the evening on Saturday.

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KFlight had to leave very early on Sunday morning.  Pegerty, Kitty and I went back to Jam and tried their custard French Toast and some potatoes, etc.  Another great experience at that restaurant. Very loud, but also very friendly.

We ended up the weekend at the Logan Square Farmers Market where we selected breads, cheeses, spiced tofu, etc. to take back to Indiana with us. The rain had just stopped, but the vendors were out and happy to share their wares.

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Chapa Grill – Van Nuys

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Tried a new-to-us Mediterranean restaurant called Chapa Grill the other day when in Van Nuys on Songmaker business.  Wow, a fellow in the open kitchen stretched the dough over a huge form, seasoned it, and baked it fresh as we waited.  You know I love this kind of thing.

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I also love it when a restaurant tosses me a little something on the house while I’m waiting for my meal.  This slaw with fresh dill was amazing.  I would love to know how to reproduce it.  No dairy as it’s a no-dairy kosher establishment.  The pickled radish and cabbage in the back ground has a scary amount of food dye in it, but works really well with the shawarma.

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Chicken shawarma plate with “hot potatoes” (sauteed with onion and peppers) and tabbouleh.  Excellent tabbouleh, with the flavors well-balanced.  The potatoes were fine, but I probably would have enjoyed the house hummos even more.  Hydra loved his mashed potatoes.

The meal was served with a little dish of tahini, too.  I made shawarma “tacos” with my pita.  The leftovers were amazing too.

There were a couple of families there with tables covered in dishes and side dishes, and the service was just fine.  I’d say don’t go with a taste for the beef/lamb shawarma as they didn’t have it when we were there, and according to several Yelp reviews, they may very seldom actually serve it.

I think I’d be very happy with their 8 salad sampler…or maybe their felafel, which gets high marks from other visitors.

A Dark and Stormy Night

One of the heaters on the patio at the Granville in Burbank.

It was a dark and stormy night in the San Ferndando Valley, but we had an appointment to have our taxes done in Glendale so we braved the weather.   We always have a good time with Chuck Hards of Hards & Wright. Maybe that’s partly because we always work it so we get money back.  If you need a good tax guy, though, seriously, call Chuck.  Good guy, fun to talk to while he’s putting together your return.

Photo by Hydra…he’s right, he had the angle!

As we did last year, we went straight from the accountant to The Granville in Burbank.  We got there in time for happy hour, so I had a delicious cocktail.  This one is ginger and bourbon, homemade berry lemonade and freshly muddled mint.  Yum!

We sat on the patio, which is sheltered from the rain by canvas walls that drop down but which is partly open to the sound of the rain.

I had the taco trio from the sharables menu.  One beef, one shrimp, one chicken.  The shrimp was the best.  That’s me…I like a variety so I don’t really have to make a choice.

The Granville really does create a lovely atmosphere.  I’d like to have a smaller version of this lamp for a little alcove in our house.   We waited out some of the rainy Friday night rush hour traffic in considerable comfort.

Final Fling! – Bamboodles & The Burbank Airport Marriott

Kitty anticipates

Kitty doesn’t know it yet, but this big bowl of noodles at Bamboodles in San Gabriel is going to be as tasty as it looks.   This is the place Antipasta, Braveheart and I tried to visit when we had our joint Tibetan Feet Soak experience this past spring.

Knowing Kitty would have to begin her journey back to  Indiana early on Saturday morning, we returned to the Tibetan Feet Soak place for another massage on Friday afternoon.  Another delightfully relaxing experience.  Though we noticed it didn’t last quite as long or make us quite as giddy as the first time.

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At Bamboodles, we ordered the Green Tea Pork  Noodle Soup combo ($8.49)  and the House Special Dumplings combo (7.99).  Each came with a beverage and a cold dish.  She liked the bean curd and bean sprouts best of the salads and I liked the potato and seaweed the best.

But the really wonderful thing was the fresh noodles in a simple delicious broth with the green tea pork.  One of the servers brought us more broth when he saw that we had more noodles in our bowl after taking a couple of servings each.  The house special dumplings were flavorful. I like that the stuffing was not ground so finely that you couldn’t tell what was in it.  There were flavorful bits of onion, etc, inside with the pork.

Nice atmosphere.  This is another place I’ll crave in the future.  Just mapped it and it’s 20 minutes from work, 57 minutes from home (that’s sans traffic, of course).

How far would you drive for a good  meal?

After dinner, we walked around the area a little, looking at all the other inviting looking Asian restaurants.  A hot pot place right next door looked good.  There was an Asian fusion restaurant kitty-corner from Bamboodles in an impressive old building…it boasted Tibetan Grill.  Hmm?

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Our last stop of the visit: the Burbank Airport Marriott.   This was the view from our room on the 7th floor, looking down at the main entrance.  We got there around 8:30 I guess.  Checked in and went down to the whirlpool/pool for a little  more self-pampering.   There was a bit of an issue with fewer robes and towels than we needed but we made do and the maid found us with  towels and brought a second robe to the room when the laundry was done.

After the hot tub, we relaxed on chaise lounges around the outdoor pool.  The temperature was just perfect for cooling off just enough and drip drying a little.

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Didn’t turn off the lights in our room until almost midnight.  The colors remind me of the room we had on Mont St. Michel.   Had to set the alarm for 4:45 in the morning so we could get Kitty across the street to the airport.

I’m so lucky to have Kitty in my life!   It’s too bad we live so far apart, but we keep in very good touch on the phone at least twice a week if not more.

She called around midnight Indiana time to let us know she’d gotten home all right.  It took 2 flights, a train ride and a 40 minute drive to get back home, but my wonderful sister Pegerty had the heat on in the house and homemade cinnamon bread, etc. waiting for her when she got there.

Good family is a fortune beyond measure.

Pasadena City College Flea Market – Treasures!

"Red Pine" - Deborah Butterfield

The next day Hydra, Kitty and I  headed over to the Pasadena City College Flea Market, which is held on campus the first Sunday of each month.  (This was October 3rd…I’ve been having so much fun that I haven’t stayed current here!)

Parking on campus is $2.00, but otherwise it’s free (and there is some street parking in the area).    It’s been a while since we’ve been here, and they’ve changed the location a bit.  It was quite a walk from the parking structure where we left the car and the parking structure/lot where the vendors were set up.

It’s a lovely campus, complete with a man-made stream and sculpture like this.  It’s “Red Pine” by Deborah Butterfield.  One of her pieces is also in UCLA’s  sculpture garden.  We recently saw one of her sculptures featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow.  They explained that each piece of driftwood is actually created by Ms. Butterfield and cast in bronze!

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PCC’s artificial stream.  Quite nice, actually.

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The guy who was selling this told me it was a hundred years old, which I doubted.  Regardless, I thought it was worth the $5.00 asking price.  I love little pitchers and this one is solid and uniquely square.   I looked it up online when I got home and found that it is Mason Vista Pink from the mid-20th Century and is selling on eBay and elsewhere for $35-45.00.  I don’t buy things to make a profit, but it’s nice to know my eye for old stuff is becoming educated a bit!

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Another great find I wasn’t looking for!   Bought 10 of the seller’s set of 16 glasses for $15.00.  They look just perfect inside the new china cabinet.

They don’t have a mark, but they’re so nicely done.  The seller told me that the prior owners of these glasses were the Koppels.  He was with the 90th Bomb Group in World War II.  They were neighbors to Mickey Rooney’s family.  When he was little his family didn’t have a piano, so he would go to their house where they would let him play.

I doubt they ever let the rambunctious Mickey drink out of these glasses, but it’s kind of nice to place them in history a little.

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After the flea market we headed for the Delacey Street Grill, but found that it’s no longer there.  Sigh.  Over on Green Street, we found Bucca di Beppo and remembered that we’ve liked that in the past.  We feasted on shared chicken with artichoke hearts and capers, chopped anitpasta salad and a huge serving of bruschetta.  Mmmm.  Kitty and I split a limoncello for dessert.

Stopped at Vroman’s Bookstore for a hour or so.  I spent part of my hoarded gift certificate from Antipasta on Jarretsville by Cornelia Nixon.

I love Vroman’s.  While I can’t fault Barnes & Noble for becoming a meeting place that is fueled by books, going to Vroman’s reminds me of what I’m missing in an independent bookstore.  I could spend half a day just browsing the shelves filled with staff recommendations.  And it was heartening to see so many more volumes of food writing on the shelves.  Stuff I’d heard about on NPR.

I need to go back and spend more time there.  What an amazing resource!

Little Ethiopia

Merkato

Kitty and I had an L.A. day on Saturday, October 3rd.   Went over to Little Ethiopia (Fairfax) for lunch.  We had our usual fried fish, and also ordered a beef dish that the server recommended.

Merkato Lunch

The sides and beef were served on one big plate, with a side of injera (the spongy tortilla-like stuff made out of teff) and the trout was also served on the side.

You don’t get silverware here.  You tear off pieces of the injera and use it to pinch off bites.  It’s kind of tangy, but I like it.  The trout here is fabulous.

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Spices, legumes and injera to go!

After our meal, Kitty suggested that we stop by other restaurants.  Next year, we’ll try one of those.  Almost all of them were lower cost than Merkato, and they looked nice.

As we stood by the door with a menu a friendly man with a lovely Ethiopian accent caught my eye.  We chatted about Ethiopian food.  He likes the place next door to Merkato the best, and suggested that next time we try one of the more traditional stews, like Doro Wat, a chicken stew.   He said they only really eat fish during fasting times that don’t allow for other kinds of meats.

Wish we’d talked to him first as the beef at Merkato was good enough, but nothing terribly special.  I’d asked for a recommendation but I should really ask about what’s a really good example of the cuisine rather than let someone suggest something that’s less traditional but more likely to please the U.S. palate.

This old dog is still living and learning.

Field Trip to San Gabriel – Wednesday 5/27/2009


Oh, the things I do in service of my writing. I mean, really, it takes a lot of commitment and research to write a blog. This is part of the wonderful Vietnamese meal Braveheart, Antipasta and I shared today. We wrapped these meats and veggies in rice paper and dipped them in various dips. Yummy!

Wish I knew what the name of the restaurant was. It was on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel and “pho” was part of it. If you’ve been to San Gabriel, you’ll know that this doesn’t help much.

Before this, Braveheart and Antipasta introduced me to Chinese-Style Herbal Foot Soak! I’d never even heard of this, but Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel is packed with foot soak/massage places… and noodle houses. A little bit of heaven!

We went to a place called China Tibet Foot Soak, where we sat in big reclyners. The attendents brought out big wooden buckets filled with very hot water laced with fragrent herbs. I put my feet on a little platform in the bucket, the massuesse put a towel over my legs and the bucket, and I steamed for a while. Really hot!

Then cold water was poured into the hot water until it was tolerable to soak in and I soaked a while. Although Antipasta said last time she was there, the television was on, it was nice and quiet today.

I had my first professional reflexology foot massage. (I think my brother, Texaco, tried to give me one a long time ago after he came home to Indiana from Vietnam or California, but I’m pretty sure it tickled too much to be effective.)

When my massuesse started pounding on my legs but Antipasta and Braveheart’s weren’t doing it yet, I almost laughed out loud. It just seemed too funny that one person could get really rough treatment and the others not. But sure enough, they both got a drubbing too!

It was really really intense, but I decided to let her do it as vigorously as she wanted to, to see what the experience would be like, and to let the reflexology work if it works. It wasn’t very relaxing because it was pretty much painful. Next time I’ll forgo the intensity and just get a nice wimpy foot rub.

Next was the neck and back rub, which was terrific. A person can really whale on my back and I love it.

All this took about an hour and 45 minutes and cost only $35.

Braveheart pointed out a place where you can get the same treatment for $15!


This one’s for you Boise. Even though it’s blurry, it’s the best shot I could get of an L.A. kook on the move. Can you see this?

It’s a guy riding his motorcycle on the transition from the 5 to the 14 at sundown, wearing a leather top hat and carrying a big white German shepherd on his lap.

Yeah, that’s right, a big white dog. Who didn’t look very comfortable, and who kept shifting back and forth, making the bike wobble beneath them both.

I was about to call the police on them when they exited the freeway. It’s really not fair to the dog or to the people that might have the terrible experience of running over either of these fellows.