Category Archives: breakfast

Living the Pura Vida in Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio

Hello online blogging world! It’s been quite a while, and a lot of food adventures have breezed by. A week ago I came back from Costa Rica after a week long vacation. As I was talking to my friend at the airport terminal waiting for my flight back to Chicago, she mentioned she read somewhere that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world. After coming back from the lush paradise and back to the chilly realities of Chicago I can believe that. There’s something naturally simple about the Costa Rican life. Of course I was on vacation, but I can see how the day to day Costa Rican life is the pure life.

On my flight from the States to Costa Rica I sat next to a local heading back to Costa Rica. She told me that in Costa Rica people always greet each other with the phrase “pura vida” meaning the pure life. I didn’t fully understand the phrase till I experienced Costa Rica for myself. People greet each other with this phrase, and it essentially means the simple life. Learning to embrace life to the fullest with the genuine appreciation for everything. Though Costa Rica is becoming the mecca of tourism in Central America there are still many parts of Costa Rica that are knee deep in poverty. Huts with roofs made out of sheets of metal perched on the side of the mountain are not an uncommon site. But yet they all go about their day with a smile and the contagious phrase pura vida. Learning to live and to be truly happy with whatever you have is a true skill of the pura vida lifestyle.

Manuel Antonio – Costa Rica 

The first location that my college roommate and I visited was Manuel Antonio, a beach city along the southern coast of Costa Rica. IMG_7082This is the view from our hotel balcony. Just being surrounded by so much green was so soothing. Hidden behind all of the foliage is the open area where we had breakfast every morning.

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This is the traditional Costa Rican breakfast consisting of eggs, gallo pinto (rice and beans), fruit, and some type of sweet bread. I had this breakfast for three days in a row! Plus eating it in the open air dining area made for a perfect start to the day.  

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We spent many days bumming around on the beach. The view was just breath taking. Since we went during low tourism season it felt like we had the beach all to ourselves. We were bombarded by locals trying to sell us all sorts of things including cigars, handmade wooden bird whistles, coconut drinks, and even horseback riding along the beach.

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This is the flower that was in my fruity strawberry mojito drink. Nothing better than drinking a fruity drink on the beach.

IMG_7140We rented these reclining beach chairs for the day. When the tides came in, I dragged my chair into the tides. Let’s get washed away!

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We headed into the downtown area Quepos for dinner. A staff at the hotel told us the beaches were definitely not as great as the one we went to earlier that morning, but the view was spectacular especially during sunset.

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Since Yelp does not work abroad, I used TripAdvisor to find a good place for dinner. I wanted a traditional, non touristy dinner experience and Bohemia Cafe popped up. As we headed into Quepos I forgot to take my phone where I screenshotted the Bohemia Cafe TripAdvisor page which contained the name and the address. Luckily while wandering through Quepos we stumbled across Bohemia Cafe. It was tucked away on the other side of a small stream that ran through the town.

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This place was owned by a young lady and her mother. The restaurant is actually located in the living room of her house! As we approached Bohemia Cafe I saw the owner, her mother, and her baby sitting in the living room. The living room was tastefully decorated with a very carefree, Anthropologie like decor. The windows did not have any glass or screens on it just bars. An open living room felt so pure and wonderful. The owner is also a seamstress. She displayed her clothes and accessories that she made in her living room. I loved everything about this experience. My kind of ambiance! We were literally eating dinner in someone’s house!

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I got the Mahi Mahi with Passionfruit sauce. The Mahi Mahi tasted so fresh. It came with sides of brown rice and plantains. The meal was delicious. I wanted a traditional, authentic dining experience, and this was more than I could have ever imagined.

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The next day we went to the Manuel Antonio National Park to experience more beaches. This time I hid under trees, because of the terrible sun burn I got from the first beach day. Lesson learned!

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We encountered so many friendly raccoons. They darted across the beach to people’s bags and scavenge through for food. Here they are in action! As I commented in glee that they looked so cute, my friend exclaimed that they were rodents. Well I have never seen a raccoon before, so this was quite an exciting experience for me especially being so close to them!

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Baby raccoons! Cute little banditos.

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The other banditos at the beach were these monkeys. While we were in the outdoor showering area one of the monkeys stole a shampoo packet from a lady’s purse. Then a group of three monkeys sitting on a tree branch opened the packet and started rubbing it on themselves. Pretty adorable.

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The sneaky monkeys and I.

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They called these the traditional Costa Rican platters. I personally love side dishes, so these platters were perfect for me. The plantain at this place was so great! Since Mahi Mahi was the fish of Manuel Antonio, I couldn’t help but have Mahi Mahi again.

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Wouldn’t be a meal without ceviche! I got the fish ceviche, and both my friend and I agreed that this was one of the best ceviches we both had. The fish was so fresh combined with the perfect tanginess of the juice was perfect! My mouth is salivating just thinking and writing about it.

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We had dinner at a really fancy hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant was situated on a very high cliff so it overlooked the tops of the rainforest. A golf cart took us all the way up there. I tried the Mahi Mahi, and this was the best Mahi Mahi I have tried in Manuel Antonio. There was some type of batter on the Mahi Mahi giving it a crunchy exterior and a juicy soft interior. Priciest meal in Costa Rica, but for this Mahi Mahi it was definitely worth it.

Next stop Arenal Costa Rica! Look out for another blog post soon!

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Can it be Summer forever?

Everyday I have off I try to take advantage of everything that Summer has to offer, before I get holed up inside when winter comes along. You know those bitter cold Chicago Winters? I can honestly say those are the days when you basically do not want to go anywhere, but stay indoors. Here’s what I was up to this weekend. Some intense Summer loving.

Bridgehouse Tavern – Near North Side

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A co-worker recommended this place saying it had a great patio right along the Chicago river. It was the perfect location for brunch on a sunny Summer day. The brunch itself was okay. I wasn’t feeling that great, so opted for something light – fruit and house potatoes. Nothing too spectacular. My friend got the trout hash which turned out to be quite salty.

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The best part about this place was the view. Being right along the Chicago river, my friend and I boat and people watched as the boats made their way along the Chicago river. Big boats, small boats, large yachts. It was the perfect day to be on a boat, and an equally perfect day to watch the boats pass by. I could spend hours doing that. We saw as people docked their yacht and climbed up to the Bridgehouse Tavern patio for brunch. What a life!

The Second City – Old Town

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The Second City is one of the best comedy clubs in Chicago. I went several years ago, and the show was hilarious. I came back  for a Sunday afternoon showing of What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell You. We got our tickets from Goldstar.com which is a website that sells discounted tickets to shows and events. We ended up with front row seats right in front of the stage. Best seats in the house! The show was definitely geared towards Chicagoans poking fun at Rahm Emanuel, Blagojevich, Daley, The Art Institute, Chicago tourists. It was definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. In comparison to the other show I watched (The South Side of Heaven), the comedy was lighter and fluffier compared to very dark, twisted humor in The South Side of Heaven. Personally I think the other show I watched was better. The improv, the skits were funnier and more memorable. And who doesn’t like dark humor?

The Twisted Baker – Old Town

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We stopped here after The Second City for some late afternoon baked goods. I got the spinach quiche. It was delicious! The crust perfectly buttery and flakey, and the inside with the perfect combination of spinach, eggs, and cheese on top. People had books, laptops with them at this bakery. Reminded me of my college days when I would sit at a bakery for hours studying and people watching.

Carriage House – Wicker Park

We came here for dinner, and decided on outdoor seating. Have to enjoy these warm, sunny days as much as possible! Though I was quite tempted to eat inside since the decor was so cute. Carriage House is a southern  restaurant with small styled plates to be shared. The waitress told us the head chef is from South Carolina, and all of the dishes were inspired by his childhood. We ordered 5 different dishes. Here they are!

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We ordered the Charleston She Crab Soup – buttermilk cracker, crab salad and sherry gastrique. It was definitely on the saltier side, but had a very robust crab flavor.

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Next was the skillet cornbread with rhubarb jam and foie gras cream. I never had corn bread with toppings on it before. The combination of all three was delicious!

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Since it is a southern restaurant we had to try their fried chicken. This was a boneless Fried Chicken thigh – bread and butter pickles, sweet potato hot sauce. The chicken was perfectly fried. Moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. I loved the sweet potato hot sauce that they paired with this dish. The orange colored hot sauce was sweet and tangy with a slight heat.

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This Hoppin’ John dish with rice, pork belly, and peas was alright. Nothing to spectacular. I thought it could have been a little bit more flavorful.

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By the time we got to this fifth dish I was already feeling quite stuffed. This dish Mushrooms, Truffle and Egg – grits, oyster mushrooms, soft egg, truffle vinaigrette and shaved thomasville tomme was good, but very heavy. The cheesy grits, cheesy mushrooms, and eggs was a little too much for me. Perhaps if this had come towards the middle I would have enjoyed it more. It was still very tasty. I love mushrooms, and these oyster mushrooms were tasty.

What a wonderful Summer day! By the time I got home after all of this I was thoroughly exhausted, but in a good way. To more Summer days.

Food Memories in the Making

Lately I’ve been coming to terms with my twenties, realizing I only get to be in my twenties once. Once you turn thirty it is all over. I’m joking of course, but it is in your twenties when you participate in self-discoveries, make mistakes, get into ridiculous situations, and laugh about it all in a couple of years with your friends. The conversations will start off with “Remember the time when…”, and the memories will flutter back just as vivid as day they were made. What is life without memories, without stories and shared experiences that bring people closer.

I believe that it is truly those memories, both the good and the bad, that really make people who they are today. I told my friend that I love listening to people’s problems, and she told me if a stranger heard that he would probably think I am a little nuts. The truth is I like to listen to people’s problems, because I am interested in knowing what events and life stories make people who they are. Though I would think that someone in their twenties have had less to experience than someone much older, I still enjoy listening to my fellow twenty-somethings. Perhaps they should call the twenties the age of listening, reminiscing, and making memories.

Now what has this twenty-something year old been up to? Let’s take a look!

Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club – Boystown, Chicago

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My friend invited me here for her sister’s birthday. My friend who took me here is always raving about this place, and I just had to check it out for myself. It is quite a fun lounge in Boystown, LGBT central in Chicago. This lounge is known for their hourly Diva shows when their Diva of the night comes out to impersonates female artists like Madonna, Cher, Pink. They lip sync while dancing ferociously to the songs. The night I went Sunny Dee-Light was performing. Pictured is her impersonating Pink.

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The drinks here are so fun. This one is called I Kissed a Girl.  It even came with a glow stick and rock candy. For a girly drink, it doesn’t get better than that.

This place is super fun for a group of girl friends. Singing the night away with the Divas while sipping the tasty, girly drinks makes for a fun girls’ night out.

Nana’s Organic –  Bridgeport, Chicago

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I am a huge fan of brunch. Unfortunately with my evening nursing work schedule, I don’t get to enjoy brunch that often. When I do, I love to visit this local place in Bridgeport. This is my second time here at this local eatery known for their fresh, organic foods. I got the breakfast sandwich with chicken sausage, potatoes and greens. Again it was simply delicious! The best part of the sandwich was definitely the English muffin. I have never tasted an English muffin as fresh as this one before. It was soft, but still appropriately crunchy from being toasted to perfection. What a great way to start the day!

Ahjoomah’s Apron – Chinatown, Chicago

This place just recently opened up in Chinatown. It is the first Korean restaurant to open up in Chinatown, and being a fan of Korean food I needed to try it. We walked in, and the decor looked really modern. Large pictures of Korean dishes on the wall with descriptions of the history and making of the dish. I think the feel they were going for is healthy, authentic Korean food, and with the decor they really nailed it.

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We tried the seafood pancake. This was my favorite dish of the night. I loved the slight spiciness of the pancake. Kind of like a more doughy version of an American omelette.

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We tried the Pan Broiled Salted Mackerel. I’m not a really big fan of mackerel, but this was quite flavorful. It was pan fried so the exterior was crunchy, capturing the flavors of the fish on the soft inside.

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Of course we needed to try one of the Korean beefs, and we settled on Bulgolgi. I thought the beef was tender and flavorful with the bulgolgi sauces. Nothing spectacular, but still good.

Overall this place was okay. I’ve had better Korean foods, but I did really enjoy the very modern yet still authentic atmosphere of Ahjoomah’s Apron.

Now off to make more twenty-something year old memories! If only my work schedule didn’t get in the way… Oh the life of a twenty-something year old.

Carmen, the Early Bird

There is nothing like the peaceful stillness of the wee morning hours. The feeling that just for one minute life is going in slow motion, and not sprinting at the speed of light. The idea that just for an hour or so you have time for yourself before embracing the hard realities of the world outside. I always thought of the morning as the best time of the day, when the mind is fresh, the body is rejuvenated, and the day begins anew again.

I try to explain this morning concept to my friends who are all night owls, and they look at me in disbelief that even on my days off I continue to go to sleep before 10PM and wake up before 7AM. Of course if there is a night out on the town, my sleeping schedule gets thrown off. Other than that I am pretty consistent with my early night and early morning sleeping habit. My friends don’t understand how I voluntarily wake up so early everyday, that waking up early is enjoyable. That is just the way I have been for a long time, and I love being that odd morning bird.

One of my favorite parts of being an early morning person is brunch. I love the smell of breakfast foods especially eggs and potatoes. Though the variety of brunch food options are limited, it never gets old for me. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, and I would like to share with you the wonders of waking up early and enjoying a delicious plate of breakfast foods. I hope I can tempt you to come over to the light side of early mornings.

Wildberry  Pancakes and Cafe – The Loop

I’ve been here twice, and both times I left delightfully satisfied. Sometimes brunches leave you feeling stuffed in a bad way. You start the morning off wanting to hit the gym to burn off all of the calories you consumed in an artery clogging brunch. Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe’s brunches are light, but still delicious.

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This is the Wild Berry Belgian Waffles. I have had Belgian Waffles before. Waffallonia in Pittsburgh. The Belgian Waffles were quite disappointing. I was expecting crunchy, sugary Belgian waffles, and instead got regular waffles. They were really great waffles, but since I was expecting Belgian Waffles it did not suffice. I enjoyed the fresh berries that came with these waffles. It would have been better if there was some type of wildberry glaze or syrup with this waffle.

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These seasonal pumpkin pancakes were great! I am a big fan of all foods pumpkin – pumpkin bread, pumpkin scone, pumpkin cupcake, you name it and I would love it. This pumpkin pancake was no exception. I loved the strong pumpkin flavors and aromas with this pancake. The pumpkin gave this pancake a moist, fluffiness that a normal pancake would not have. This is a must try at this restaurant!

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Kind of looks like the spongey human brain or the spreading of a bacteria colony? How appetizing! This is actually potato pancakes. I loved the thinness and crispiness of these potato pancakes which the waitress described as more like latkes than a pancake. Delicious!

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This Garden Sizzling Skillet with two over easy eggs, hot potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. This dish was a little underwhelming. There was no seasoning on the vegetables leaving it tasting very bland. It would have been great if they added spices or fresh herbs to the vegetables.

The Original Pancake House – Near North Side

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I came here on New Year’s Day after a night out for New Year’s Eve. Nothing like a hearty brunch especially when one suffers from the aftermaths of New Year’s Eve. The sausage patties were flavorful and slightly crispy from being pan fried. I love the combination of potato hash and the runny yolk of an over easy egg. These potatoes were a bit on the softer side. I prefer my potatoes a bit crunchier, but that is just personal preference.

Nana’s Organic – Bridgeport

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This has to be one of my favorite brunch places in Chicago. I ordered the Nanadict, Nana’s Organic’s version of an Egg Benedict. Two poached eggs on top of a bed of chorizo and a pupusa. Most Egg Benedicts come on top of an english muffin. In the Nanadict they came on top of a pupusa which is a thick corn tortilla. It tasted denser than an English muffin which was great in helping to soak up the poblano cream. I loved the home fries that came with this dish. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dish itself wasn’t extremely heavy or fatty, but having a side of farm greens helped to ease the digestion process. I would like to think that by eating farm greens it cancels out whatever other foods I ate. If only…  The Nanadict was so unique, and definitely tasted quite special. I definitely want to go back to Nana’s Organic to try more brunch dishes.

Nothing beats sharing stories and catching up with good friends over a delicious brunch. I always look forward to weekend brunches. My favorite part of the week and one of the perks of mornings!