Friday, July 29, 2011

just friends

A few weeks ago I had my last 'visit' with B10. I think we both knew it would eventually come to this and it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be because I'm so into B19. We are still going to stay friends, which is fine with me because I need some more city friends. Plus I do enjoy B10's company and the way he's straighforward with me. I told B10 a little about B19 and he said something that really hit me. He advised me not to become one of those girls who only hangs out with her boyfriend. OMG.....I realized I have no more city friends. All the friends I did have either moved away or did something to really hurt me and in turn I ended that friendship. This is a whole other long, tragic blog that I will get to one day.

I considered sending out an e-mail begging some of my friends to move to Chicago just so I wouldn't end up as 'that girl'. I thought dating was tough, but actually, finding new friends is not that easy either. I have a few co-workers that are pretty cool, but I'd like to meet some people outside work. So where does one start making friends?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chicago Chocolate Tour

Ready for dessert? My friend and I went on a fantastic tour with Chicago Chocolate Tours. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was quite impressed with the tour and would go on one again. They offer different tours, but we chose the one of the Gold Coast and Mag Mile. Our tour guide, Courtney, was really good. She had good public speaking skills and a great personality. Our first stop was Teuscher Chocolate which is a Swiss Chocolatier. We got to sample their truffle filled with a Dom Perignon cream. It was amazing and made me want to eat a dozen more.

After this we headed on to stop two, More Cupcakes. I do enjoy a good cupcake, but I hate all these trendy cupcake places that have opened and decided to charge $8 for a cupcake. We got to try their basic chocolate cupcake and could have purchased more, but I just wasn't in the mood for paying through the nose for a bacon cupcake. The interior is small and the cupcakes are displayed like works of art. I guess if you live in the Gold Coast you can afford to have cupcakes from here.

Next stop was Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter. We got to go behind the scenes here and were welcomed into their back room where we got to see how croissants are made and got a mini-lecture on Belgian bread and chocolate from the owner. We got to sample their white chocolate bread, dark chocolate cake and some regular Belgian peasant bread. It was all very good.

When we were done here we went to the uber famous Sarah's Pastries and Candies.
Which is on Oak Street (sort of like or Rodeo Drive) and is frequented by Lisa Ling, Martha Stewart and Jim Belushi. Sarah is a local gal so you gotta appreciate that. She also does wedding cakes which I'm sure I'll never be able to afford.

Our final stop was Argo tea where we tried their delicious Chocolate Mint Tea. This is one of my faves, but if you like white chocolate then I suggest their red velvet drink. Just as an FYI they are a Chicago based company and also see Vosges chocolate bars made with their teas.

This is a really fun activities for a ladies/girl day out or a fun idea of something to do with an out of town guest. Tours were about $40, but I think it was well worth the money.

sushi and shaved ice

After my adventures in Pilsen yesterday I spent a delightful evening in the company of B19. I am not pursing any other bachelors at the moment and this includes letting B10 know that we are now just friends. It's a big shift for me, but I feel good about where things are heading with B19. However, that's now why I'm writing....I've got some foodie stuff for you.

So after a long, hot afternoon in Pilsen my chariot arrived and whisked me away to Butterfly Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine. This type of place is right up my alley and I was pretty hungry after being out in the hot sun all day. Clearly the two tacos I had earlier were not enough to fill me up. I have mixed feelings about this place. The sushi was good, but not something I'd go out of my way for. However, it's the service and ambiance that just rubbed me the wrong way. Let's start with the food. We ordered the Thai escargot as an appetizer. This was delicious, but I am a huge fan of escargot so it doesn't take much to win me over. I did something really embarrassing though and ate most of the escargot myself. B19 had never had escargot and he tried one and then when he went for more I had devoured the entire plate...whoops. We ended up getting four different sushi rolls which were all very good, but nothing really blew me away or made me think that i needed to come back to this place for sushi. It's just good quality sushi so if you live in the area then you should go here, but I suggest getting take out.

The first thing that really annoyed me is the fact that the tables were so close together. You actually had to more your table if someone wanted to get out at the table next to you. I hate this because who wants to sit so close to the table next to you that you hear every word of their conversation? This just made for a very uncomfortable environment. The other thing that bothered me is the fact that they brought our sushi out before we were even done with our appetizer. They did the same with the table next to us where they brought their sushi and main course out at the same time. I was very annoyed that they were blatantly trying to turn the tables really fast and had absolutely no respect for the diners who wanted to enjoy their meal. I could understand this a little more if it was lunch time, but it was 8pm on a Friday night.

After our dinner we headed back to my hood and went to Cloud 9. I've been here a few times and always liked it, but this was by far my best trip. They had green tea flavored shaved ice this time. I adore anything green tea and especially like green tea ice cream. I think the first time I had it I was at the Japan 'exhibit' in Epcot center. So of course I had to go for this. I decided on a mango drizzle and then to be extra Asian I got the red bean topping. Now, before you freak out this wasn't a baked bean topping (although it looked like it), but the sweet red beans that you find in a lot of Chinese sweets. It was all a winning combination and I will certainly be back for it again sometime soon.

Are you full yet? Well save room for dessert because my next blog is going to be about my chocolate tour....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pilsen adventure

I wanted to explore Pilsen since I moved to Chicago, but for some reason I never made the trip. I'm quite taken with Mexican food and culture so it baffles me that I haven't visited Chicago's 'Mexican neighborhood'. Yesterday I finally had my Pilsen adventure. I started my afternoon with some tacos. I read some pretty good reviews about Birreria Reyes de Ocotlan which is a small little joint that specializes in goat. They make birria, which is a goat stew. I've had this stew before in Mexico and since it was 100 degrees out I decided to pass on that and went for the tacos. Their menu is simple (basically goat and a few types of tacos), but there were definitely some items that were new to me (cows head, goat liver, tongue). I opted for 2 tacos and I'm glad I did two instead of three because these were quite filling. I got the chiva (goat) and cabeza (cows head).

Let's talk about the cows head first. This taco is filled with various parts of the cow's tender head meat (brains, cheek, eyes, tongue), but if no one told you what you were eating you would just think it's the tenderest, juiciest beef taco you've ever had. If you can get past the idea of what you are eating, or at least convince yourself that it's something else, then you are in for a treat. The goat taco was also pretty good, but I've had goat a lot before so this wasn't as new and exciting as the cabeza. These tacos were packed full or flavor and were the type that needed two tortillas. I paid about $6 for the two tacos and a horchata - not a bad deal at all. The only complaint that I would have is that the air didn't quite seem to be working at full speed so on a hot day it was not as comfortable as I would have liked.

After my lunch I walked up to the National Museum of Mexican Art . I was quite impressed with this museum for a few reasons. The museum is free, but I left a $5 donation because I was so impressed with what they had done. The museum is not huge, but has a fantastic permanent collection and 3 rooms of rotating exhibits. What I like most about this museum is it had personality. There was this an temporary exhibition of art from Benito Huerta that really caught my eye. It's only there until the end of August so I suggest you check that out. The museum also had a really nice gift shop.

After art in a gallery I took in some art on the street. Pilsen is known for its murals that depict scenes from the Mexican community. They are often political or social commentaries. I found quite a few along 18th street, but I'm sure there are many more to see. Here are a few of the murals I visited:

If you want more info on the exact location of these murals then just e-mail me and I'll send you that info.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

why Mad Girl might be a little crazy (or my trip to MSI and Hyde Park in 100 degree heat)

So maybe it is hotter than hell out there, but I wasn't going to let the heat scare me away from doing something fun on my vacation. I've never been to Hyde Park and thought that I would make a stop off at the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Smart House and then wander around the University of Chicago. Of course, I choose to do this when the heat index is about 105 degrees.

I'm a member at the MSI and wanted to see the Smart House for a while. This is a house that is totally sustainable. It's a modular home that is furnished with recycled materials, creates its own power and is wired with all sorts of cool gadgets. You have to pay a bit extra to do this, but I recommend doing so. They take you on a tour of the house and then let you roam around the gardens afterwards. I decided to keep it green by purchasing a bobble which is a water bottle with a built in filter. It costs about $15 but think about how much you will save by not buying bottled water.

After the MSI I walked to the U of C campus which is only about a 10 minute walk away, but in the heat it felt like forever. I made my way down Midway Plaisance (site of the World's Fair) and walked up Woodlawn to the Robie House. This is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses and as a member of the National Trust I got a 50% discount (yes, I'm a member of everything). This tour was nice, but not nearly as impressive as the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in Oak Park, which I highly recommend.

I also took a nice stroll through the UIC campus which has a really nice 'place of higher learning' feel to it - I think it was the ivy climbing up the sides of brick buildings. I was wandering through the campus when I came across the Flirty Cupcakes food truck! Score! Of course I had to have one of these much tweeted cupcakes so I got the Curious George which was a chocolate banana cupcake with a salted carmel frosting. It was very tasty, but not worth $3.75.

I knew I wanted to eat somewhere in Hyde Park, but I really couldn't find too many good suggestions nearby. I guess that Lincoln Park and Lakeview have spoiled me with their selection of restaurants. I decided I'd give this place called The Big Easy a try. It's a Cajun joint that got mixed reviews on Yelp, but Cajun sounded really good to me. Well I make my way (in 100 degree heat) to the restaurant and it turns out they are closed for lunch. I checked their hours before I went and make sure they'd be open, but when I got there there was a handwritten note taped to the door stating that they wouldn't be open until dinner. UGHHHH! That's annoying as all fuck.

I turned those lemons to lemonade thought by heading home and getting a manicure and then ordering some BBQ from The Pork Shoppe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

a nice summer meal

I am not Julia Child, but I do like to get fancy in the kitchen every now and then. Here is a simple summer meal you can prepare for someone special. I'm not much for sticking to a recipe so these are just guidelines.

caprese salad on a stick

  • assemble on a toothpick: mozzarella cheese, basil, some sort of tiny tomatoes

  • dip in balsamic

  • cover about 2 cups crustless day old bread in cold water and soak for 15 minutes

  • boil 3 cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan for about 3 minutes. drain.

  • in blender: 3 cloves garlic. bread (squeeze extra liquid). 2 tsp salt, 2lb beefsteak tomatoes, 1 four inch cucumber (peeled), a few dashers of white wine vinegar and a few dashes of sherry vinegar. You can also add a sliced green pepper, but I don't like those so I used some Creole seasoning I got from the Spice House.

  • puree until smooth

  • with machine running pour in 1/2 cup EVOO ( actually added a little blood orange olive oil to the mix) in a slow, steady stream and blend until emulsified.

  • blend in 1 cup of cold water and season with salt and pepper.

  • refrigerate until chilled (at least 3 hours or up to 1 day)

sauteed shitake mushrooms and spinach

  • saute 6 cloves garlic and one shallot in some olive oil

  • add sliced shitake mushrooms and saute for about 10 min

  • add spinach and saute for another 5 min

truffle mashed potatoes

  • boil potatoes in chicken broth until tender (about 10 min)

  • drain, but reserve some of the liquid

  • mash in chicken broth, half and half, butter, truffle oil and pepper to your liking

seared scallops

  • head a skillet on high and add 1tsp butter and 1tsp veg oil

  • when skillet is hot add scallops - DO NOT touch/move/or otherwise disturb them

  • after 2 minutes check to see if the bottom of the scallop has a nice carmel crusted color

  • once you have the sear then flip them and cook for about 1 more minute. sides should still be translucent and soft

fruit with balsamic

  • cut up peaches, berries, strawberries...whatever you have

  • drizzle with balsamic (I'm going to use a pomegranate balsamic)

pair with...

  • prosecco

  • a nice rose (yes, it's okay to drink these)

  • saison (a French country ale)

  • blood orange Italian soda

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mad Girl's little bag of tricks

Sometimes a gal finds herself sleeping over at a guy's place. You never know when this can happen and sometimes you don't plan for it. I put together my own little kit for just such an occasion because I like making my walk of shame just a little more glamorous.

  • hair tie and some bobby pins for taming that morning after hair

  • condoms

  • hand and face wipes

  • aspirin

  • Colgate wisp mini-brush

  • contact case and solution

  • feminine wipes (SweetSpot makes some awesome on-the-go-wippettes, but you can also find individualy packaged wipes in the feminine care isle. I just got some from Playtex).

  • compact

  • lip gloss

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the end of an era

Today I went to see the last Harry Potter movie. This was a bittersweet moment for me. I've read all the books, attended midnight book release parties and have seen every movie in the theatres (except Deathly Hallows part 1). It's so strange to think that it's all over. It's the end of an era.

Harry Potter brought me back to that childhood excitement of reading. I quickly got sucked into J.K. Rowling's world and would stay up late just to finish the books. What's the last book that you stayed up past your bedtime to read?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

bizarre foods

Where did I discover my love of exotic eating? You would think that a girl who refuses to eat salads or lunch meat would certainly avoid eating such delicacies as grasshopper but it seems I've got a bit of the Andrew Zimmern bug inside me. Last Friday B19 and I went to Chicago's Dog House ( where I enjoyed a delicious alligator sausage. The sausage was served with a sweet chili sauce and caramelized onions. I will certainly return to this place to check out their other exotic creations.

In the spirit of adventurous eating here's a few other things that I've eaten that might make some other people squirm:

sweetbreads - Not on the top of my list of favorites, but if you are going to try them then I suggest going to The Publican.
fois gras - I know this is the trendy thing to eat, but I really wasn't that impressed.
bulls tongue - had this sliced with gravy when I was in China
grasshopper - had some chopped up as an appetizer at a Mexican restaurant in Chicago
caterpillar -deep fried and crunchy. Had these at Sticky Rice.
ant egg omelet - also had this at Sticky Rice. You really can't taste the eggs though.
rabbit- schezuan rabbit in China. Yummy.
elk - in a tamale from the Green City Market
ostrich- at Rockit Bar and Grill. ostrich is really lean and much better than beef.
various cow parts -in a steaming bowl of pho at Tank Noodles. I honestly can't identify all that i ate, but I'm pretty sure there was stomach, intestine and some cartilage in there.
pigs feet - in delicious croquette form at Topolobampo.
blood sausage - I've had this a few times mostly as part of an Irish/English breakfast.
beggars chicken - a whole chicken (feathers and all) cooked in a clay pot until it implodes on itself. Had this in China.
fat - not sure how else to describe this, but also had this in China where it was a delicacy.
bison - on a burger at Wilde.
escargot- I guess some people would object to eating snails, but the ones at Bistro Zinc are my favorite.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

what is it with guys and communication?

So last night at 11:34pm: Hi, this is B17. Sorry I've been out of touch. I as busy and then had family over. Want to watch some tv or something? Are u working this weekend? I really did like B17. We went on two dates and I have a very nice time with him. However, he stopped messaging me and then sent me a message on OKC a few weeks ago which I replied to and told him he could just text me and we could hang out sometime. I think it's been over a month since I've seen him. I get being busy, but why couldn't he have just told me that upfront. To me this seems like he really wasn't into me that much and had a bunch of other things going on. He's sitting alone on a Friday night and is horny so he decides to text me. Not sure how I feel.

So, I have 3 options:

Text him back and make plans to hang out next week.

Text him back and let him know I'm involved with someone else (which is sort of true)

Don't text him at all.

Please weigh in with you advice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

summer reading list

I really have no idea why I don't write about books more often. It's how I've made my lively-hood for the past 10 years so I do have a few things to say about the subject. Today I'm going to share some of the titles on my reading list as well as a few of my recommendations for summer reads.

Teen Dystopian Novels are the new Vampire Romance. Blame it on the Hunger Games (haven't read it? stop reading this blog and go get a copy...I'll wait) but this theme is all the rage. Here are a few that I've read or plan to read this summer (which shall also be known as The Summer I Read Way Too Many Teen Dystopian Novels)

Wither by Lauren DeStefano - I devoured this one. Imagine a future where all diseases have been cured, but girls die at 20 and boys die at 25. The main character is a very strong girl (no weak love-lorn, vampire dating wimp) who is kidnapped and sold into a marriage. It reminded me a lot of A Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Very spooky.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Dystopian Chicago. 16 year olds tested for aptitude. Choices to be made. A main character with a cute shortened nick name.

Matched by Allie Condie. Another Mormon writes a book I'm sure to be obsessed with. With names like Xander and Cassia and big brother watching this is sure to make my heart race.

Also on my summer reading list...

Beaten, Seared and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America by Jonathan Dixon. Because I'm clearly not going to be attending the CIA any time soon.

Try This: Traveling the Globe Without Leaving the Table by Danyelle Freeman. I love my food writing. Freeman has a website called Restaurant Girl and was a guest judge on Top Chef Masters.

The Map of Time by Felix J.Palma. The plot reminds me a bit of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, but this book has been a bestseller overseas so I'm going to give it a shot.

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. Because I'm an educated drunk.

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks by Juliet Elperin. There is a secret shark week fan buried deep inside of me.

Witches of East End (Beauchamp Family Book Series #1). Family of witches? Count me in!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. This books is a mix of fiction and photography. Seems like it might be a darker, more twisted play on Series of Unfortunate Events.

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal. That right, Elizabeth and Jessica all grown up!!!

Other pics for summer reads

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. A work of historical fiction told from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife.

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. A fantastic descriptive work of food writing.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Laugh your ass off funny.

Life, on the Line: A Chef's Store of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death and Redefining the Way we Eat by Grant Achatz. Local celebrity chef. Never going to be able to afford to eat his food so I got his book.

good date/bad date

On Sunday I had a really nice date with Bachelor #19. We were supposed to meet at Wilde because he really wanted to try their bison burger. Well, we get there and the place is closed due to power outage. The mythical bison burger is turning into some sort of a joke with us. We keep talking about it, but never get a chance to eat it. Anyway, I suggest we head to my standby, Duke of Perth. As we get closer to the Duke he suggests the Mexican restaurant across the street (can't remember the damn name of that place though). I've never been, but will never pass up a chance to have a margarita. So we go in and take a seat on their delightful little patio. The setting is perfect, the food is awesome (carnitas and carne asada!!) and the 'ritas are spot on. B19 ordered everything is Spanish, which was a bit of a turn on. He made sure I had plenty of margaritas and shared his carne asada with me. It was a really pleasant meal which he insisted on paying for....he's a gentleman like that.

After our meal we head to the gelato place by my house. I get some sort of crazy gelato combination and he orders vanilla and strawberry...hmmm. I know this is going to sound strange, but I was a bit disappointed in his choice. Just hope he isn't vanilla in the bedroom :). We got our gelato and i suggested a walk to the lake front. We made our way to Belmont Harbor and things got a little more flirtations. As we walked to the lakefront we came across a trapeze school! Very cool and I think I might try that this summer. We watched for a bit and then head to the lake where we just chilled out and enjoyed the view.

I'm really enjoying spending time with B19. We've been on 3 dates with no sex (go me!), but I'm pleased to report that he is a good kisser. He even has that very kissable lower lip, just like B10. The other strange thing he does is make sure that I walk on the inside of the sidewalk (also like B10). However, that's where the comparisons end (well except they are both Mexican). It seems that B19 is way more willing to treat me like a potential girlfriend. Am I just playing my cards right this time? Maybe there is something to be said about holding off of sex for a bit. Don't know if I can wait much longer, but it's nice to know that we can go out and have a good time without sex.

Now for the bad date. I met Bachelor #18 for drinks last night. I had to cancel on him last week because I just felt like poo and really wasn't very excited about going out last night either, but I'm not a girl who cancels plans and we were going to meet at Delilah's so it couldn't be that bad. Now B18 is a pretty cool guy, but there wasn't a lot of chemistry on our first date -just a pleasent time. However, I did feel that a second date was in order. I'm not sure if it was my mood or what, but there things just felt awkward last night. There were uncomfortable silences and the bar didn't have the air on so I was feeling a little nauseous after a few beers. I think that about an hour in I was ready to go, but tried to tough it out. The date lasted about and hour and a half and i had to apologize and head home. I just really wasn't feeling it with him and feel sort of bad about it. Maybe, it's the weather, maybe it B19 or maybe I'm just done with random dates.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mad Girl is a little tired of dating

I've just about had enough of dating. I can't believe that I've been on dating sites for 2 years and have gone through 19 Bachelors. I thought that at some point I'd meet a guy worth keeping around. Actually, I think I met a few worth keeping around. However, it seems that after a few dates they always tend to drop off the face of the earth. This makes me wonder what I'mdoing it me? is it them? am I meant to be single forever?

I'm in a bit of a salty mood right now because I was supposed to have a date with B10 last night and I was really looking forward to seeing him because it's been over two weeks and as you all know - I like B10 a lot. Well at about 7:30 last night I text him and here's what unfolds:

Me: So what's the plan for tonight?

B10: No plan :( my car's fucked right now, I have to take it to the shop tomorrow. I'm fucking freaked out that it's gonna cost me a lot.

Me: :( that sucks. Want me to come down to your next of the woods?

B10: Nah, I'm at the bar with the new roommate right now lamenting my fucking life.

Me: Um...ok

B10: I know, I'm sorry.

Now, a few things about this really piss me off. First, this really isn't a B10 sort of move. He's actually a really good guy and hasn't ever pulled shit like this. Also, why couldn't he have texted me that afternoon to let me know we weren't going to hang out? It's really fucking hard to make other plans at the last minute and I had a glorious Saturday night free with a Sunday off! This is a rare thing in retail and now it's wasted.

I'm just getting tired of all the dating. I want to find someone who's constant in my life. I'm about ready to give up and just accept my inevitable state of spinsterhood. Guess I have to drag my ass to the gym now because at least I won't be a fat lonely spinster.