Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Restaurants that complement Chicago sights

Berghoff's on Adams Street, well placed for architecture walks, is among Chicago's oldest, family-owned restaurants.the oldest

Berghoff's on Adams Street, well placed for architecture walks, is among Chicago's oldest, family-owned restaurants.

If you are doing the art and architecture walks or shopping, you need some suggestions on where to revive or take a break. If going to the theater, you’ll want to know a good place to eat within walking distance.

We could say luckily for tourists, commuters and residents Chicago is a foodie town so there are several options. But luck has nothing to do with it.

Once known for its steaks (after all the stockyards were here), expense-account, three-martini lunches, Sunday family dinners and neighborhood German, Italian, Greek and Chinese eateries, the city’s dining options began to expand about 1986-87 when James Beard award-winning chefs J Joho (The Everest Room), Charles Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s) and Rick Bayless  (Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo and their restaurants became house-hold names among people looking for exceptional dining-out experiences.

Ironically, as experimental dish combinations took hold among chefs opening their own places, steaks and ethnic eateries came back in style.

Of course, some old-time Chicago favorites such as Gene and Georgetti’s for steaks in River North (north of the Chicago River, west of Michigan Avenue) and Berghoff’s for German food in the financial district (on Adams Street near LaSalle Street) made it through the fads.

Terzo Piano on the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing terrace has indoor seating but when the weather allows, sit outside for a skyline view.

Terzo Piano on the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing terrace has indoor seating but when the weather allows, sit outside for a skyline view.

Now, new restaurants open every week in the West Loop, South Loop and River North areas that circle downtown. Arguably, the problem is that Chicago’s vibrant dining scene means there are enough good choices to fill more than a month of lunch and dinners in and near downtown Chicago.

The following is a small sample of places to try. They are reasonably-priced gems. Reservations are strongly recommended for lunch or dinner.

When shopping Chicago’s  “Magnificent Mile” along North Michigan Avenue from Wacker Drive to Oak Street, you can walk a couple of blocks either side of the Avenue and find excellent eateries for lunch or dinner.  Two of them are Café des Architectes in the Sofitel Hotel 20 E. Chestnut St., just west of Michigan Avenue, near the Hancock Building north of the Chicago Avenue midpoint and Coco Pazzo Café at 636 N. St. Clair, east of Michigan Avenue, south of Chicago Avenue.

When doing an art or architecture walk, try to do lunch at Terzo Piano on the terrace of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing. Or go nearby to Park Grill at 11 N. Michigan Ave. under Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate “Bean.”

The Park Grill in Millennium Park is a rink-side seat to ice skating in winter and strollers in the park the other seasons.

The Park Grill in Millennium Park is a rink-side seat to ice skating in winter and strollers in the park the other seasons.

To get good, light ethnic foods in time for a performance at Symphony Center home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Michigan Avenue near Monroe Street or a Broadway in Chicago show at the Bank America Theatre  on Monroe Street near State Street, try to get a reservation at Russian Tea Time, 77 E. Adams St.

Further south and west, is 312 Chicago at 136 N. LaSalle St. It is around the corner from the Cadillac Palace on Randolph Street which also does Broadway in Chicago shows and it’s about two blocks from the famed Goodman Theatre on Dearborn Street whose “Death of a Salesman” production traveled to New York.

Not everyone’s favorite restaurant is mentioned here and it’s OK to stumble on a place while walking and try it. There are so many good places, it’s hard to go wrong. So, enjoy Chicago!

Photos (c) Jodie Jacobs

Three tips to help plan your Spring Break now

If you live in one of the states that felt winter’s arctic temps or wild winds or unpredicted floods (and that is most of the United States), you deserve a treat.

So, don’t wait until you can actually escape to somewhere fun, interesting or colorful for Spring Break. Start planning now while the skies are grey or work impinges on sleep. Part of the fun of getting away is thinking about where to go and what to do when you get there.

Here are some tips to help you decide but they require fairly quick action because spaces and tickets go quickly.

Become familiar with cruise line deals. For example: Go to Princess to find half-price fares. The cruise line delivers what it promises. However, other cruise lines such as Norwegian also do last minute deals. The lines want to book their cabins and some of the destinations are perfect for a spring break.

Tie your spring break with something you’d love to try or do such as expert cooking.

Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site

Members of a food enthusiasts class who wanted to learn more about Southwest dishes and preparations are at the San Antonio CIA site

The CIA, not the spy organization, but the Culinary Institute of America, offers food enthusiast courses at its Hyde Park site in New York, its Napa site in California and its San Antonio site in Texas. The places are in interesting vacation destinations.

Tie the spring break to a sport your family loves such as baseball’s spring training.

Go to Major League Baseball for the schedule to see what ties in with your spring break. By baseball definitions these are warm vacation destinations. The Cactus League is in Arizona and the Grapefruit League is in Florida.

Bonus tip: Have fun so don’t worry about what you can’t change.

Five top things to do now in Chicago

It doesn’t matter if you have visited Chicago or are now thinking of putting the city on your summer vacation list. Chicago simply does not stay still long enough to make any experience old or boring.

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

Millennium Park, home to the city’s famed “Cloud Gate” (“The Bean”) and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, keeps adding and changing sculptures and concerts.

The Art Institute of Chicago, connected to Millennium Park by the Sky Bridge over Monroe, moves from one block buster exhibition to the next. The theater scene, home of 200 live stage companies including Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres and Broadway productions, keep turning out Jeff and Tony award winners.

Just as important, new restaurants pop up weekly and new and remodeled hotels cater to today’s plugged-in generation and suburbanites who want to take advantage of Chicago’s downtown attractions.

With so much going on, planning a weekend can either be fun or a challenge. Here are five top Chicago destinations that can be centerpieces of a great vacation minus the confusing what-to-do part.

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago

  1. You don’t have to know anything about art to find something fascinating at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The world-class museum happens to be showcasing French Impressionism from the Musee d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and its own collection now through Sept. 29, 2013. However, adults and youngsters ooh and ah at the miniature furniture and interiors in the Thorne Rooms and Medieval arms and armor.
  2. If you make it to Chicago before Aug. 18 you can still catch Goodman’s beautiful production of “The Jungle Book.”  Another hot 2013 ticket is the “Book of Mormon.” At the Bank of America Theater through Oct. 06, 2013. This is  the writers’ and director’s recently revised production which many critics think is even better than the original.
  3. Visitors often talk about and recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river boat tour. However if the price or times don’t match your pocket book or schedule you’ll do fine with the other boat companies’ architecture tours.  If you don’t mind walking you’ll like the Architecture Foundation’s tours that go inside buildings.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.

  4. Movie and television producers love Chicago. To see where some of the 80 movies set in Chicago were shot such as “Dark Knight” and “Blues Brothers” take the Chicago Film Tour. The guides are knowledgeable. You see parts of Chicago that even locals have not visited. And you see clips on the bus while traveling.
  5. You’ve heard of China Town, which is fun and interesting. But other Chicago neighborhoods also have their own character and unique restaurants. You can learn more about the city and explore some of its culinary scene with Chicago Tours and Sidewalk Tours.

Enjoy Chicago!

Photos (C) by Jodie Jacobs

For More endless summer ideas visit summer blogs

Green Bay: Go for football legends, stay for color and food

Fall destinations Series: Part 1 is Green Bay, Wisconsin

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.

Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau stand tall outside the Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Green Bay Packers to appreciate the team’s famed Lambeau Field but you arguably should be an admirer of cheese curds and hometown brewers to appreciate this northern Wisconsin town.

Imagine running out into the stadium to the roar of the crowd via the players’ tunnel or being allowed up on the exclusive club level. You get to do both when you take the stadium’s tour. The cost ranges from $8-$11 depending on age and military status.

As a Packers’ tour guide reminded us, Lambeau is up there with Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park as one of the historic stadiums on sports fans’ want-to-see list.  Dedicated Sept. 29, 1957, with the Green Bay-Chicago Bears game, the field was called City Stadium until renamed Sept. 11, 1965 after Curly Lambeau died. It is owned by the City of Green Bay and Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District with shareholders who live all over the world.

Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.

Visit Algoma, about half an hour from Green Bay, for its fishing and historic winery.

But the Greater Green Bay Area has enough to see and do to fill out a football weekend or a fall getaway.

Outdoors

Color explodes around this northern Wisconsin area so bring hiking or good walking shoes to enjoy the scenery.

Explore the L. H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve’s 920 acres of forest and meadows on the Bay’s western shore. The preserve has nine miles of hiking trails beginning at the Interpretive Center.

Bring the fishing gear and head to nearby Algoma, about a 35 minute drive. The fish always seem to be biting here.

Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Peter Rabbit likes to visit here at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Visit the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, a delightful 47 acres of rose, shade and seasonal gardens for adults and a terrific place where children will find butterfly and Peter Rabbit gardens and a frog bridge.

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth on the Foxy Lady and see the town from the water.

Indoors

Visit Hinterland, an artisanal brewery. It has $5 tours on Saturdays by appointment that includes two beers but stay to do dinner because, as with the beer, the quality and variety is way better than a typical pub.

Relax at Titletown Brewery because the place is fun, has terrific atmosphere and good, handcrafted beers and burgers. The brewery is in the old C. & N.W.R.R. depot, a historic building designed by Chicago architect Charles S. Frost at the turn of the last century. Titletown also has decent cheese curds.

Do a wine-tasting at Captain’s Walk Winery in a historic Green Bay house or at its parent location, The von Stiehl Winery in a historic Algoma building. No worries if you don’t know a lot about wines. Both places are delighted to answer questions and both have award winning wines.

Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.

Parallel 44 winery grows its grapes on site and has excellent tastings.

To see a vineyard and taste award winning wines drive over to the Parallel 44 Winery in Kewaunee.  Owners Steve Johnson and wife Maria Milano have figured out how to grow a mix of varietals that produce excellent wines and survive Green Bay winters.

Learn a little more about the area and the science behind football at the Neville Public Museum. It is fun for youngsters and adults. The museum’s mission not only covers history and science, it also has an art component. Currently on exhibit are some terrific WPA paintings.

Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.

Take a train ride around the National Railroad Musuem but also tour the barns and the exhibits.

Just as you don’t have to love football to appreciate Lambeau Field, you don’t have to be a railroad buff to enjoy peeking into old railroad cars. The National Railroad Museum has a Green Bay address but it is on the edge of town that is also considered Ashwaubenon. Save enough time to visit the engines and old cars tucked into barns on the property, tour the museum which currently has an extensive dining car china exhibit and take a ride around the property.

Dining

Green Bay is not just brew-pub food although some of the pubs turn out exceptional meals. Please leave a comment in that section with a recommendation or an experience. With only two days to sample the culinary scene I have only two recommendations.

The best dinner I’ve been lucky enough to eat anywhere in United States was at Three Three Five, a private dining club downtown Green Bay that opens to the public only on Wednesday nights.

Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five

Chef Christopher Mangless works on dessert for patrons of Three Three Five

The rest of the time chef Christopher Mangless and his staff are turning out dishes for the club’s patrons, Hollywood celebs and political notables such as former president George W. Bush. When asked how people find out about him, his restaurant and that he caters dinners everywhere, Mangless  said “word of mouth.”

He is also known as The Traveling Chef. Wednesday is a farmers market which helps him decide what to serve that night. Even though his dishes, which are small plates, are very creative and beautifully plated, you can identify what you are eating.

I wish he were based in Chicago so I could eat there once a week, or at least, once a month. BTW, Mangless’ cheese curds side dish was among the best I’ve sampled.

The next best cheese curds I’ve eaten was at The Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, Wisc., a nice detour when coming from Milwaukee or Chicago.

While in Green Bay, also check out Ogan a restaurant on the Fox River. You’ll like the food and the view.

Stay

The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.

The Tundra Lodge's waterpark, restaurants and atmosphere work for families visiting Green Bay and its proximity to Lambeau Field works for adults.

With little time to check out the many accommodations available, I opted for Cambria Suites, a business-style hotel that is about a good football field toss from Lambeau. The suite and bathroom were comfortable, modern and clean.

However, families might like The Tundra Lodge which has a North Woods atmosphere and is also near Lambeau. It has regular restaurants, a snack and shop store and  an indoor-outdoor waterpark.

When to go

Green Bay’s ski and snow mobile trails are a winter treat. Fox River, the Bay’s waters, and Lake Michigan make the area a good fishing place, spring, summer and fall (unless you want to add ice fishing for winter). Add the leaf color changes in the fall and you may make it a year-round destination. In addition, even if you aren’t into football, Lambeau Field is worth a stop any time of year.

Do a two-for-one getaway

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.

Cruise the Fox River to its mouth and see Green Bay from the water on the Foxy Lady.

Tie a visit to Green Bay with a vacation in Door County. Green Bay is at the foot of the peninsula so it is about 10 to 20 minutes from The Door depending on your destination.

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