Category Archives: drinks

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!

Tagged

“Are you still blogging?”

These last couple of days I’ve been asked by a several friends whether I was still blogging. Guess I have faithful readers out there! I sat there trying to figure out a reason to give them why this blog has been abandoned for a couple of months. I thought well… maybe I have become too busy with work, but that is not a good excuse. Busy yes, but you can always make time for something you feel passionate about. Maybe I just haven’t been eating out enough? That is completely absurd, because I’ve had some pretty tasty dishes these past couple of months. I guess the only reason left is I just became lazy. Lazy with old age I suppose.  So here I am blogging, hoping that this will continue into the summer.

Summer has finally arrived in Chicago. It felt like winter lingered on forever. I am glad the Winter season has passed, because there is nothing better than summertime in Chicago. It’s finally beach time, patio time, outdoor chilling time. Which in my opinion are all the best types of time.

Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar – Bridgeport, Chicago

My friends and I finally wandered over to the Bridgeport neighborhood bar called Maria’s Packaged Good and Community Bar. This bar has become my new favorite bar with delicious one of a kind cocktails, large selection of beers, a patio, friendly patrons, a speak easy dark vibe. What is not to love? Totally my kind of bar.

The inside is dark and moody with ventriloquist dolls sitting on the top shelves. Old fashioned beer cans align the wall as decor. A  little creepy once you notice them, but I think it fits in appropriately with the general vibe of this place.

I ordered the Hornswagglers High Tea which was made with Earl Grey infused Van Gogh Vodka, Filbert’s Cream Soda, and a lemon wedge. I was quite surprised after the first sip, because this cocktail tasted amazingly very much like Earl Grey Tea. I’ve tried Early Grey infused cocktails and foods before, and I have always been a little disappointed in the lack of flavors. This cocktails was the exception. Maybe I’ll just have to replace my regular morning cup of Earl Grey with this cocktail. Kidding.

I noticed on the beer menu there was a craft beer that I have tried when I was at the Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, MI just a couple weeks ago. I had to try it again. The Founders Old Curmudgeon, an aged ale, was as smooth and dreamy as I remembered it to be.  I am a fan of bitter tasting foods, and this beer had a bitter, almost dark chocolate taste to it with a sweet bite at the end.

Overall my friends and I had a great time at Maria’s. The crowd was super friendly and easy going. I was up at the bar counter trying to order my Founders Old Curmudgeon when the guy next to me asked what I was drinking. I told him the #10, and he ended up putting it on his tab since the bar was quite crowded. I told him he didn’t have to do that, and he responded with a very nonchalant “Well I don’t have to do a lot of things”. This place is definitely filled with hipsters, but not your pretentious Northside hipsters. Easy going, friendly Southside hipsters.   I will definitely be back here!

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.

Ambiance

My friends always associate the word ambiance with me, and that is the very essence of me. Foodifyme wordpress readers might notice that I frequently use the word ambiance in my food blogs to describe an atmosphere that elevates the dining experience.

from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

am-bi-ence noun \ˈam-bē-ən(t)s, ˈäm-bē-än(t)s\: a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing: ATMOSPHERE

It is spelled two ways, ambience and ambiance, with the original spelling derived from the French word ambiance.

I fully believe that when eating out it should not only be about the food, but the experience in itself, although this is a highly contested issue among my friends. The experience of being seated surrounded by a new place that takes you to another era, another world, another universe. That experience you cannot get from dining in your our dining room or at friend’s place no matter how good the food may be. It’s just not the same. The food and mood of the restaurant go hand in hand to make a one of a kind experience for any foody!

If a restaurant has just okay food, sometimes the ambiance makes up for just mediocre food. The best restaurant on the other hand offers both quality food and an inviting, unique atmosphere that creates a certain mood to the entire experience.  A lot my favorite places that I frequent have this mysterious, secretive quality to them equipped with moody, dim lighting and aged, vintage decor. This ambiance provides a breathtaking experience that becomes unforgettable.

Here are the recent places I’ve been to.  Note some of these pictures are taken from the lounge’s website.

The Violet Hour – Wicker Park, Chicago

A speakeasy tucked away in a the most hipster neighborhood in Chicago, Wicker Park.

This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.” – Bernard DeVoto “The Hour”

This quote perfectly summarizes the essence of The Violet Hour. A dimly lit lounge with modern decor that exudes a certain magical, coolness about it. The entrance is not as secretive as the other speakeasies I have been to. Instead of taking your number and calling you when your table is ready, they make everyone wait outside until there is an open table for your party. Thus there is a very noticeably long line outside of what would normally be an unsuspicious door. Kind of gives away the best part of going to a speakeasy, finding it.

The Violet Hour has a set of house rules associated with the speakeasy. The most amusing one is their last rule:

“And finally, please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.”

Please keep the unclassiness outside of the The Violet Hour!

The long ceiling to floor curtains create an illusion of magic, kind of reminds of the land of Narnia. When you enter into the Violet Hour, you pass through two sets of these ceiling to floor velvet curtains. What’s behind the curtain? Well let’s see.

Unlike the other speak easies, the Violet Hour has a more modern theme than the usual rustic, old fashioned, vintage theme. The high back chairs complement the long velvet curtains along with the very dim, moody lighting.

I ordered two drinks here. The drinks are a bit pricey coming in at $14 a drink, but at a place like this you are not only paying for high quality drinks, but the chance to lounge at the Violet Hour. Pictured is The Lay of the Land, a gin based drink. I also got the Gates of Paradise, a vodka based apple cider drink.

Lay of the Land – Letherbee, Lemon, Strawberry Preserve, Green Chartreuse

Gates of Paradise – Zubrowka, Apple Cider, Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Blackberry

The Gates of Paradise was definitely my favorite. The combination of all of those ingredients made for one delicious drink.  Overall it is a bit loud for a speak easy since they play music in the background. Other than the noise level and the lack of mysteriousness surrounding the entrance, the Violet Hour is definitely worth a visit. Their menu changes every season, so I will have to go back soon to try the Gates of Paradise again!

The Bedford – Wicker Park, Chicago

Seems like all the hip places are in Wicker Park! The Bedford is a restaurant/lounge located underground in what use to be a bank.

Pictured above is a peak at some of the dining area seating. Also pictured on the left is one of the two entrances into the bank vault!

Here I am with my friend in front of the bank vault doors. We didn’t get seating inside the bank vault, but I would love to lounge in the bank vault next time.

This is what the inside of the bank vault looks like. Notice all of the authentic bank drawers lining the walls. How many people could say they sipped a cocktail inside a bank vault?

I wasn’t too hungry, so I just had a drink at The Bedford. They had their own version of  the Dark and Stormy called Darker and Stormier, the drink on the left. This drink was more on the heavier side.  No wonder it was darker and stormier than a regular dark and stormy! Look at all that rum. 

Darker & Stormier – Dark Rum, Allspice, ROOT Liqueur, Jamaican Bitters, Lime, Ginger Beer

There’s something so very special about lounging inside an authentic bank. The next time I come I will make sure to get seated inside the bank vault!

Gilt Bar – River North, Chicago

Finally venturing outside of Wicker Park to River North. Gilt Bar is a small dish (think of tapas) styled restaurant with a full bar serving classy cocktails and range of liqueurs.

The lighting inside this restaurant is whimsically beautiful. Lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, lit with a warm glow from the visible filaments inside the lightbulbs. A gorgeous cascading, web-like ceiling lamp in the center of the room. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of all of lighting.

Here is a picture that captures the warm, alluring charm about Gilt Bar. I took this without flash on my phone. I think it came out pretty well!

A lot of people have been raving about their Truffle Pasta, so I just had to try it for myself. It was definitely a unique dish. It is a little bit too heavy if you were to have it by itself. The creamy sauce it came with was so strong that I started feeling a little sick towards the end. I loved the pasta. You can definitely taste that it was hand made that day. Overall I think this plate is better when shared with someone else.

I got a side of the Blackened Cauliflower to balance out the heaviness in the Truffle Pasta. I have never had cauliflower like this before. It seems like they roasted the cauliflower giving it a slightly crunchy exterior with a hint of smokiness. It was served in a weak vinaigrette sauce and vinagrette onions. Gilt Bar did a very good job in dressing up the cauliflower.

My friend and I both ordered the Pimm’s Cup, a classic summer drink made with the UK liquor Pimm. It had just the right amount of sweetness and kick from the ginger beer.

Pimm’s Cup –  pimm’s, lemon, ginger beer

The thing that made all three of these experiences exquisite and memorable is the unique atmosphere that they provided. Each of them slightly different. A modern styled speakeasy, a restaurant inside a bank vault, and a restaurant, bar with the best ambiance lighting. Ambiance really does make a difference. The next time you dine out make an effort to notice what type of atmosphere the place has. For me there is nothing better than sipping a delicious, classy cocktail in a warmly lit lounge with a couple of good friends. Makes for a fantastic night!

Happy Hour is the Happiest Hour of the Day

This happy hour came a day too early. I just received my Registered Nurse (RN) license number today, so now I am officially a Registered Nurse. Carmen, RN! Having a license makes things so much more real and that much more official. I can introduce myself as a RN now. Yesterday I went to a happy hour downtown at Devon Seafood Grill with some of my girlfriends. Lots of catching up over delicious drinks and tasty seafood appetizers. Felt like a scene out of Sex and the City where Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha caught up over some drinks and food. Happy hour just sets up such a good atmosphere for catching up with friends. With good food, good drinks, and good company happy hour is truly the happiest hour of the day!

Devon Seafood Grille Happy Hour – Near North Side, Chicago

The happy hour special here starts at 4PM and ends at 7PM. The happy hour specials include $6.50 martinis that are different for everyday of the week. There are $6 and $7 appetizer dishes along with $1 raw oysters. I love seafood, and this happy hour is perfect for any seafood lover.

biscuit/scone

You know how most restaurants serve you complimentary bread, Devon Seafood Grill serves you biscuits. It tasted more like a scone than a biscuit. It wasn’t as flaky and buttery as your average biscuit, but it was still tasty. The waiter served it straight from the baking pan, so you know that it is fresh.

with my Chocolate Martini

I came on Tuesday, so the happy hour martinis were chocolate and espresso martini. I was in a chocolate-y mood, and decided on the chocolate one. It tasted like an extremely milky, alcoholic, cold hot chocolate. The combination of all the flavors together made for a great martini. You can still taste the bite of the vanilla vodka, but combined with the godiva chocolate liqueur, cream, and chocolate syrup it created an adult cold, hot chocolate.

lobster tamale

My friend ordered the lobster tamale, and I got to try a little bit of it. It is more like a corn tamale with lobster sauce over it. I was expecting there to be lobster inside the tamale like any other tamales. It was kind of a disappointment seeing that the lobster was on and not in the tamale. The tamale was pretty good! I loved the sauce that came with the lobster. It tasted like thick lobster bisque. YUM! The combination of the lobster, tamale, and the lobster sauce made for a really great tamale.

Lobster Roll

I ordered the lobster roll. The lobster was just all right. I thought that there could have been better flavoring to bring out the flavors of the lobster. The bun on the other hand was great! It was buttered and perfectly toasted. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The fries that came with the rolls were excellent as well. Seasoned with what tasted like Old Bay. The fries were fried to perfection. I just wished it came with more fries than a teeny tiny espresso cup packed with fries.

Chipotle Shrimp

My friend said this dish was just mediocre. I don’t think the combination of a cheese sauce with shrimp is that appetizing. I always thought of shrimp as more of a light food that should be paired with light sauces. The Chipotle cheese sauce tasted good, but maybe not the best pairing with shrimp.

I love happy hours! More happy hours to come!

Goodbye DC, Till We Meet Again

Being away from Chicago, and back to the comfort of my college city. It felt like I was at home away from home. The familiar faces, familiar shops, familiar environment and culture. I absorbed it all like a sponge with pure joy. Enveloped in comfort, in familiarity. When I was in college at Georgetown University, I had a to-do list of things I wanted to do before I graduated. I didn’t get a chance to do a lot of it with school work, internships, and job searching. All on top of the anxiety of graduating and entering the real world. I finally got the chance to do the things on my to-do adventure, and I couldn’t have been happier. Check out what I’ve been up to.

Phillips Collection – Dupont Circle, Washington, DC 

Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint

I always wanted to check out the Phillips Collection. It is known for being a lot smaller than your usual art museum, but small doesn’t always mean bad. The Phillips Collection was small in a very intimate way. The art was housed in three houses that were connected. As you walked through the Phillips Collection it seemed like you were walking through someone’s home. Chairs and benches everywhere, long hallways leading to other room, intricately detailed staircases that led to other galleries. The place was such a great escape from the urban life of the Dupont Circle neighborhood surrounding the Phillips collection.

Hank’s Oyster Bar – Dupont Circle, Washington, DC 

Tuna Dip

I met up with my college roommate here for happy hour. I am a huge fan of happy hour, because of the cheap foods and cheap drinks. Best hour of the day! We got a tuna dip to share.

happy hour oysters

As well as $1 raw oysters! YUM! They offered three different types of oysters from various areas on the east coast. They tasted quite fresh!

Washington National Cathedral – Washington, DC

National Cathedral

The National Cathedral was even bigger than I imagined it to be. A huge cathedral with lots of grassy surrounding areas including a mini garden. I wandered around the cathedral in what seemed like a never ending maze with secret tunnels leading to mysterious places. Felt a little bit like Hogwarts from Harry Potter! Or what I imagined it would be like.

I loved all of the stained glass windows in the National Cathedral. It was gorgeous to see the light penetrating the glass in an array of colors.

Kafe Leopold – Georgetown, Washington, DC

Fruit Tart

My favorite cafe in DC is Kafe Leopold. I have blogged about this cafe twice already. The thing I love about Kafe Leopold is the European atmosphere. Feels like I am transported away from America to a little city in Europe. Tucked away on M street, let’s hope this place stays in DC forever. I will be coming back to this place every time I visit Chicago. We got a fruit tart to share for dessert. The fruits were fresh, the custard was just the right amount of creaminess and richness, and the crust was flaky without being too hard. Another great dessert from Kafe Leopold.

Amnesty International Protest – Glover Park, Washington, DC

Amnesty International protesters outside of the Russian Embassy

I was walking around near Georgetown, and saw a group of Amnesty International protesters outside of the Russian Embassy. They are protesting the injustice experienced by three female members of a Russian band that publicly protested against President Vladimir Putin in Russia who are now jailed and put on trial. I found out after doing some research about this incident that the band is called Pussy Riot which makes for interesting posters.

Oya – Chinatown, Washington, DC 

We had a girls’ night at Oya, a Asian-fusion restaurant, complete with cocktails, wine, and small appetizer dishes. The inside of Oya was amazing. A dimly lit dining area with a fresh white color scheme. The back wall was adorned with white fake flowers and fountains. It felt so glamorous inside. Perfect for a girls’ night out. I got the ginger based cocktail. I love ginger based drinks, and this one was great. A cocktail with a strong ginger kick.

I got the shrimp and grits for my small dish. It was tasty! Shrimp and grits done asian-fusion style. It was interesting to taste the combination of a normally southern dish with Asian flavors. The shrimps were flavorful, and cooked perfectly.

The Reef – Adams Morgan, Washington, DC

in The Reef

We went to The Reef in Adams Morgan afterwards. A bar with large aquariums and tropical fishes. How cool is that?

Visiting DC was a great trip, but it’s good to be home. It’s good to be home in Chicago.

NYC, big city of dreams

There’s something surreal about NYC that leaves you captivated, wanting more. During my most recent trip there, I finally realized how dirty, how crowded, how dark NYC really is. Yet even though I realized it I certainly didn’t mind. There seemed to be a whimsical quality of NYC that constantly draws me in, and leaves me wondering what new things NYC has for me. I was walking down the streets of NYC with my very good friend from NY, and she exclaimed to me “I think you are more in love with NYC than I am”. I think that is true. To a budding new romance with what seems to be the big city of dreams. Here is a tidbit of what I’ve been up to in NYC.

Ai Fiori – Midtown, Manhattan, New York

I came here for Restaurant Week Lunch. Sometimes Restaurant Week is a hit or miss, but this place was definitely worth it. The atmosphere of this place, and the dishes were really great. This is what I got.

Zuppa di Zucchine – chilled zucchini soup, basil, lemon

For my appetizer dish I got the chilled zucchini soup. I appreciated the portions of this restaurant. My friend and I were worried that we would be too full for exploring afterwards, but the portions were just right. I loved all the different flavors of the soup – the slight sourness from the lemon, the sweetness from the zucchini and basil, and the chilled quality of the soup.

Razza – pan roasted skate wing, baby romaine, white bean purée, preserved lemon jus

The highlight of my lunch was definitely the pan roasted skate wing. I was a little scared that the skate wing would taste really fishy, but it tasted great. It was extremely tender and flavorful. The lemon sauce that it came with really helped to add flavors.

Tartaletta – chocolate creameaux, salted caramel, hazelnut, fior di latte gelato

This was my least favorite part of the meal. Perhaps it is my fault. I didn’t realize that this dessert had so much caramel in it. It was like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but completely filled on the inside with caramel. It would have been great if only I didn’t hate caramel so much. Caramel is too rich, too sweet for me. I picked at my dessert trying to eat the chocolate. The gelato was excellent. Really helped to tone down the bit of caramel that I did manage to eat.

8th Street Wine Cellar – Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York

wine and tuna sliders

What an amazing happy hour. Entire bottles of wine for $18. My friend and I decided to split a bottle of Riesling. Sipping wine and eating the tuna sliders from 4PM-7PM. We were the first ones there, before anyone started rolling in after work. I loved the intimate atmosphere of this place. Casual, comfy, and cozy. Nothing like catching up with a friend at 8th Street Wine Cellar. Especially over a good bottle of wine which we almost managed to finish, but did not want to feel to inebriated on a Tuesday night when the sun was still out. In the big city of dreams anything goes. Sharing a bottle of wine on a Tuesday night at 4PM, why not?

Hudson River Pier – Manhattan, New York

sunrise

What a wonderful view from the pier! This place is the perfect spot to hang out and wander around. It definitely felt like an escape from the commotion of downtown Manhattan. Watching families enjoy a family outing, couples being in love, friends laughing and catching up, and people walking peacefully around on their own.

lady walking a kitten

Not expecting to see this happen at all. A lady was walking her very reluctant kitten at the pier. As a cat owner I know that my cat does not like to be walked. She would sprawl out on all four legs clutching to the ground as we try to tug and pull her along. Poor kitten… She must not be very happy.

NYC has been good. The freshness of the sounds, sights, people tickle my senses. Till we meet again my love.

Urban Cities Galore

Finally finished taking my nursing licensing exam. I can stop studying and begin my summer once again! Back to foodaging, blogging, and eating. Here is a little bit of some Chicago and NYC food outings I’ve been up to. Happy Summer everyone!

House of Sushi and Noodles – Lakeview, Chicago

Salmon Avocado Roll

We went here for my very good friend’s birthday dinner. Happy birthday Conny! The special thing about House of Sushi and Noodles is that they offer the option of getting sushi buffet. All you can eat sushi buffet for $18! Sounds like a pretty good deal, but to eat your money’s worth you should eat at least 4 rolls. It’s a great way to try out the many different types of rolls, but walking away with a massive food coma, food hangover, or food baby is no fun. I opted out of the buffet option and ordered off the menu. The salmon avocado roll tasted pretty normal. Like your average salmon, avocado roll which happens to be my favorite! My friends who did the buffet ate ate about 30 pieces of sushi each. That’s about 5-6 rolls! Oh dear…

Chicken Yakisoba

The Chicken Yakisoba was alright. The chicken was a little bit on the dry side, but I really enjoyed the noodles. The slight crunch, slipperiness, and saltiness of the noodles cannot be beat.

Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar – Near North Side, Chicago

Blood Orange Liquor Cocktail

My friends and I are big fans of happy hour! We came here to celebrate the end to my study madness for the nurse licensing exam. I got the blood orange liquor cocktail which was delicious. I loved the ruby red color of the drink. The slight tartness and sweetness of the drink was perfect for an extremely hot Chicago day.

I Love Paraguay – Sunnyside, Queens, New York 

From left to right- Chipa Guazu, Tortilla, Baked Chicken Empanada

I never had Paraguayan food before, and this place was really good. I got the opportunity to try many new things that really surprised my taste buds in a good way. The Chipa Guazu tasted like a moist, sweet version of corn bread. There was even actual corn inside. The Tortilla was not your usual tortilla. It was almost egg like similar to the texture of egg foo young but less moist. The Baked Chicken Empanada was great. I loved the crunchy exterior of the empanada.

Hide-Chan Ramen – Midtown East, Manhattan, New York

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen

I was really excited to try this place since the food blog seriouseats said this was the best ramen in NYC. Unfortunately I was let down by all of the rave and excitement. The ramen here just did not taste like the best bowl of ramen. You can pick the level of richness of the broth either rich or normal. The rich broth had richer flavors and an overall increased oil and fat content compared with the normal broth. I thought the rich broth was filled with so much flavor, but at the same time the richness and oiliness was overwhelming towards the end. The main problem about this bowl of ramen for me was the noodles. You can select the firmness of the noodles ranging from soft to very firm. I got mine firm, and the firmness was great. That was not the problem. For me the problem was the size of the noodle itself. The noodle was a lot skinnier in comparison to other ramen noodles I have had. Perhaps it is just a personal preference, but I never thought the size of the noodle would be a problem for me. With skinnier noodles it did not catch as much of the broth flavor as a wider noodle. Overall the rest of the ramen was great, but without perfect noodles no ramen could be considered number one.

Bungalow Bar – Seaside, Queens, New York

stolen from google search

After a chilly day at Rockaway Beach, we were exhausted and in desperate need of food. We were in the mood for some American, and this place looked perfect. Rockaway in Queens is a completely different environment compared with the rest of New York. Being an actual island, Rockaway had a strong island atmosphere. The locals seemed to be a lot nicer and cheerier. The cars were friendlier to pedestrians. The roads are paved, but repatched so many times that it was no longer even. It seemed like I was on a tropical island far, far away from the States. Bungalow Bar was no exception. Located overlooking the water, the bar had a really great view of the water. We even got to see someone fail over and over again at water skiing. She just couldn’t stay up in the water.

Bungalow Burger

The burger was alright. Nothing exceptional. The star of the meal were the waffle fries. Seasoned well and with great crunch.

eating time

Something amusing happened today that I thought was funny. During my interview for a nursing position in Brooklyn, New York the nurse manager asked me what I do for fun. I told her that I like to eat, and that I had a food blog. She giggled at me and just smiled. I hope that’s a good sign about the interview. Guess she doesn’t get a lot of interviewees who manage food blogs. =)

Eating My Way Through Chicago

Last week a monstrous heat wave had descended upon the entire country including Chicago. With temperatures soaring into the 100s and breezes that only help to spread around the warm heat, one does not venture outside unless it is just for a brief moment. Indoor days for sure! Here is a collection of some of things I’ve been up to during the heat wave.

Opart Thai Restaurant – Near South Loop

This restaurant was listed as best Thai restaurant in Chicago by Chicago Reader. I am not convinced it is the best, but it is pretty good. The curry was full of flavor. The chicken was a little bland, but with the curry sauce was great.

with Thai iced tea

My friend Chris with his Thai iced tea. The decorations on the wall made it feel really modern with an authentic Thai atmosphere.

Alcoholic Ginger Beer – Binny’s

ginger beer

Ever since I had a cocktail with ginger beer in it I have been on the lookout for ginger beer. Some people told me that alcoholic ginger beer does not exist, but alas I found an alcoholic ginger beer when I went to Binny’s. It said to serve the beer chilled over ice and with a slice of lime. I made the drink this way, and it was delicious! The bitterness of the ginger paired with the slight sweetness of the beer, and the sourness of the lime went so well together! I am not a big fan of beer, but this one I am a huge fan of. If you are looking to try a new kind of beer give Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer a try.

 Shanghai Bistro – Chinatown

Shanghai Soup Dumpling

This restaurant recently opened up, so my family and I went to give it a try. We got the Shanghai Soup Dumplings which were definitely a disappointment. There was not enough soup inside the dumplings, and the skin was too thin. I’ve had the best soup dumplings in NYC Chinatown where the soup dumplings were exploding with soup and flavor. These soup dumplings do not even compare.

Lamb casserole

The lamb casserole was great. The lamb was tender and filled with flavor. My mom really enjoyed the dish noting the large portion of lamb they gave.

This was my favorite dish. The flavors of this dish were incredible. The saltiness and crunchiness all cooked in just the right amount of oil made for a really great dish.

Now that the heat wave is officially over time to head outside and have more outdoor adventures!

Soda, Pop, Coke, Sody Pop

generic names for soft drinks by geographical location

You call it soda in the east and west, pop in the midwest, coke in the south, and sody pop if you just want to be original. I’m not such a big fan of pop (yes, I am from the midwest, and that’s what we call it over here), but after watching this youtube video about a soda pop fanatic from LA there’s something exciting about drinking out of a cool glass bottle of the most exotic flavors of pop.

He is the owner of Galcos Soda Pop Stop in LA that carries soda from smaller soda companies. No Pepsi products. No Coca-Cola products. He carries coffee soda, Rose water soda, lemon-lime soda made from real lemon-lime, and so much more.

Take a look at the video and learn about the wonders of the everyday drink, pop. Or soda. Or Coke. Or Sody Pop.

As I was writing this I found myself reluctantly calling pop, soda after the Galcos Soda Pop Stop video called it soda. Pop all the way!