A day in Chicago, IL

February 4, 2018

I woke up saw that it has snowed during the night leaving a fresh blanket of snow.  I hadn’t see that in a long time and after I finished admiring it, I thought it is too cold to go out, might as well go back to bed.  I did exactly that and enjoyed it.  My original plan was to catch and early train to Chicago, have lunch, do some sightseeing and then dinner.  It ended up being a late lunch/early dinner and going to see the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in the Millennium park.

I always pay attention to articles that talk about food destinations and ironically, I rarely see Chicago on the list yet there is no shortage of world renown chefs in the Chicago area and no shortage of great places to eat.   How is it that San Antonio ends up on the top 10 foodie destination list and Chicago doesn’t?

At the very top of my list of places to try was Girl and the Goat, which is Stephanie Izard’s restaurant.   She was the first female to win Top Chef and I got to meet her at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival last year and I thought she had one of the best dishes that night.  I knew I was not going to get into the Girl and the Goat restaurant without a reservation but I might be able to grab a table at one of her other restaurants.

Sophon and I caught the 11:33 train into Chicago.  My coworkers Frank and Falise gave me the rundown on where to go. Falise recommended Randolph street and how it has been the meatpacking district  which is now cool and hip.   I really appreciated them telling me about different restaurants and areas that I should check out.  As I sat on the train, I checked opentable and made a reservation at the Little Goat Diner on Randoph Street.

The Little Goat Diner was an amazing experience.   This was not a place where you were going to get eggs and hash browns, everything looked very good.  Making the decision on what to get was the hardest part of the meal.  We finally decided on Goat Chili and cheese fries, I landed on the special – a biscuit with ham, pimento cheese, eggs and maple syrup, Sophon went with Okonomiyaki which is a Japanese Pancake.    If we hadn’t had enough to eat, Sophon had to order Banana Cream Pie.  It was all fantastic.

As much as i would have loved to walk around the area, it was cold and Sophon, who had never seen snow and puts on a winter coat and hat when it drops into the 60s was really struggling.  We Ubered a ride over to the Cloud Gate and spent some time there before walking a few blocks to pick up some Garret Popcorn.   We caught another Uber ride to Union Station where we headed back out to Naperville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A cold day in Naperville, IL

Pierogies and gravy

Friday and Saturday – February 2 and 3, 2018

I grew up outside of Rochester, NY.  After college, I moved to Los Angeles.  I am frequently asked if I miss the seasons or the snow,  I don’t hesitate when I answer, “absolutely not” as memories of scraping ice off windows, shoveling sidewalks, pushing stuck cars out of snowbanks, continually putting on and taking off coats, scarves, gloves, hats and boots along with months of gray skies.  Winter on the Great Lakes is not easy which is why I opted for the sunshine and palm trees of Southern California.

I have been working in the Chicago area and it has been great spending time and revisiting the Great Lakes area.   I was asked to stay over the weekend in case I was needed for a major cut-over at work.   Not exactly the ideal time of year but I have come to realize that the Chicago area has a tremendous amount going for it and at the top of my list is the foods.   Great Chefs, plenty of eastern European and German food along with a lot of Italian American.

Sophon joined me and I picked him up at the airport on Friday night after work.   Sophon had never seen snow before or had experienced freezing temps. In the airport garage he commented on how cold it was, and that was in a garage!  We headed to dinner and at the top of the list was the Bavarian Lodge.  A German lodge-like atmosphere with German specialties .   We were not disappointed.  Potato Pancakes, Pirogies and a huge pork shank with a side of applesauce and sauerkraut.  I thought I had been transported back to Germany!

 

Pork Shank

Potato Pancakes

The following day, we hung out in Naperville.  We had lunch at Cooper’s Hawk, and later in the day we went to downtown Naperville to get Chicago deep dish pizza!   At Giordano’s we had a small deep-dish pizza which was more than enough for both of us.

 

On Saturday night, temperatures dropped and it began to snow.   It was the first time I had seen it snow in years.   Sophon had never seen it, we went downstairs and threw some snowballs and after a few minutes decided that it was time to go back inside where it was warm.

IL

Chicago Area

 

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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2017 – Food Fight and Bloody Marys

Blood Mary Bar

Affacado

Sunday November 5th, 2017

One of my favorite events is the brunch event.  This year it was called Food Fight & Bloody Marys.  I love a brunch food and I love bloody marys.  What is not to love about this event?  There were two teams and you pick your favorite team and vote.   This year this was a men’s team vs a women’s team.   In my opinion sex has nothing to do with ;s how well a chef can make good food.

There were a lot of good dishes on both sides.  The women’s team had more sweet dishes and the men’s team had more savory dishes.  I am about savory but it wasn’t that easy.  There was the chef of Republique, a couple of blocks away from me in Los Angeles who made Brioche that was really good.   There was a Kouign-amann with Maui Onion and Bacon that was really good.   i think it was the Island Breakfast sandwich made by the men’s team  that won me over, eggs, spam, cheese between  two pancakes, it was a Hawaiian take on a McMuffin.  It wasn’t an easy vote but if I am wanting to have to go back for seconds then I have to vote for that team!

 

 

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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2017 – Taste of the Seasons

Adam Richman

November 4th, 2017

This is event took place outside of Waikiki in Ko Olina,  the Aulani and the Four Seasons share a man-made lagoon where the event takes place.  There is no shortage of really good food and drinks and the night ends with Fireworks.

I sat next to Adam Richman who has been in a few  shows related to food and travel, Man vs. food is probably his most notable ones.   He was hosting the Master o f Ceremonies.  We had met him and his Mom once before at another Food and Wine Event.  It was fun talking to him and what projects he is working on.  He seems like a really nice guy and I noticed that every time they served a dish, someone was walking up to him to talk or he was needed on stage.

At the end of event, I realized that I hadn’t taken but a few not so good pictures.  The problem with events like these is choosing between enjoying it or trying to get decent pictures.   Oh well, there is always next year! Continue reading

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Leonard’s Bakery

Malasadas

Saturday November 4th, 2017

This vacation is flying by, I cannot believe it is just about over.   There are just a couple of Hawaii Food and Wine Events left and back on a plane to Los Angeles.  How time flies!

This morning, Cindy, Sophon and I decided to get our steps in.   It was the least we could do since we were headed to Leonard’s Bakery.  This bakery has been on my list of places to try for a long time but every time I visit, I realize that there are more places that I want to eat than there are meals.

Leonard’s serve malasadas – a fried Portuguese doughnut without the hole, stuffed with custard or jellies and then rolled in sugar.   At Leonard’s, malasadas aren’t sitting in the case, waiting for people to purchase them.  You order them and 10 minutes later, they hand you box filled with hot, just out of the fryer malasadas stuffed with the filling you requested.   I am not a big fan of doughnuts but this was worth the stop.

Afterwards we stopped at Safeway to pick up a few items and saw there were almost a dozen different flavors of SPAM, we had to pick up a few to try.  We were actually looking for Garlic flavored SPAM but they were sold out.   We also stopped at Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed.  The food wasn’t bad but the people there didn’t like working there.

Leonard’s Bakery

 

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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2017 – Uncorked

Saturday November 3rd, 2017

Tonight’s event was “Uncorked” sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines.  If you are a crafsty person who cannot figure out what to do with extra wine corks, the picture below should inspire you.  “Uncorked” takes place on top of the Hawaiian Convention Center in Waikiki.   The lineup of chefs was impressive with a lot of recognizable names from “Top Chef. I also noticed that there were quite a few chefs from Los Angeles.

As I mentioned before,  we tend to run into people that we have met in earlier Hawaii Food and Wine Festivals previous years.  i have noticed that there is a group of us that keeps ending up at the same table. Who knows, maybe they simply assign the tables in alphabetical order.

 

 

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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2017 – Spice Market

November 2, 2017

I have been attending this event for a few years now and continue to love it.  The lineup of chefs change every year but they have a lot of the same events year after year.  Thursday night is on the pool deck at the Modern Hotel, Friday is on top of the Hawaii Convention Center, Saturday is in Ko Olina and Sunday (and of my favorite events) is the Brunch at the Outrigger Reef.

I started coming to this event with my friend Cindy. Unfortunately, she could not make it last year due to the timing of it.  Both of us were glad that she made it this year.  It is one of our favorite events and even though I continued to go without her, I felt bad she couldn’t go.

One of the best things about the event is that it raises money for local culinary schools, agricultural programs and other organizations.  Not only am I attending a great event, I am contributing to something I believe in. Continue reading

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Oahu – Moana Surfrider

November 1st, 2017

We said goodbye to Kauai and boarded a short flight to Waikiki.  As we boarded our flight a girl who was in her twenties, turned around and asked a Hawaiian guy how long it would take to drive to Lihue to Waikiki.   I thought the guy was very nice with his response indicating that we don’t yet have cars that allow us to drive across the ocean.  He turned to me and made this funny face indicating that he was shocked he was asked this question.  Personally, I would have had some fun with her, telling her that you couldn’t drive but I heard you  could take the bus.

We were staying in the Moana Surfrider.  I had wanted to stay at the Moana Surfrider for a long time.  It is was the first hotel built-in Waikiki back in 1901.  Each and every time I walked past it with the row of rocking chairs along the front porch, I thought I want to stay there.  Unfortunately, travelling is not what it used to be.  Frequent Traveler programs where you earn status, free upgrades while receiving discounts make it more tolerable and I didn’t have any sort of status with Starwood hotels.   I was happy to hear with Marriott (who I have status with) bought Starwood hotels. I can cross this off my list of things to do!

Although it was not the best hotel that I have stayed in, I enjoyed my stay! Continue reading

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Kauai Opaeka’a Falls

October 30th, 2017

The day of the helicopter we decided to watch the sunrise.  I noticed that we weren’t on the side of the Island to get good sunsets so we decided to watch the sunrise.   We weren’t the only ones. I think most of the hotel was up and there was even a  Hawaiian Ceremony going on where they blew the conch shell to welcome the day.   There was no need for a conch shell, there are a lot of wild roosters and chickens on the Island, they made sure daybreak was announced early in the morning every day.

Beside the helicopter tour the rest of the day was spent hanging around, taking pictures and of course eating.   We stopped at a bakery and got macadamia nut sticky buns and lilikoi (passion fruit) shortcake cookies.  We visited Opaekaa falls while revisiting a couple of places we had stopped before hoping to get a better pictures with better light.  It rained a lot on this visit but overall, pretty fortunate. Continue reading

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Kauai by Helicopter

October 30th, 2017

I did a helicopter tour when I went to Kauai with my parents.  My mother refused to go on the helicopter,  I thought it was one of the best things I have every done.   Most of the Island is Inaccessible by car and this was a great way to see it.  When I decided to come back to Kauai, the top thing on the “things I want to do” list was a helicopter tour.  Having taken Helicopters tours in NYC and Hawaii, I didn’t want to get stuck in a middle seat making it difficult to see things much less getting good pictures.   I found Mauna Loa Helicopter tours that offered private tours in smaller helicopters.    They also offered a “doors off” option but I couldn’t convince Sophon.

Kauai is the most filmed Island.  “Raiders of the last Ark”, Jurassic Park”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”,  “Avatar”, “King Kong”, and of course there were all the old Elvis movies and “South Pacific”.  Of all the Hawaiian Islands, I think it is the prettiest.  I loved every minute of the tour – waterfalls, valleys and that Na Pali Shore.

I will probably be revising this page, I have video and a lot of pictures which will take me a lot of time to sort through. I decided that I should set something out there while moving on the Hawaiian Food and Wine Festival in Waikiki.  Here are a handful of pictures.

 

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