Category Archives: Travel

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.

IMG_7084

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.  

IMG_7125

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.

IMG_7102

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!

935570_2074003447219_993946158_n

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.

1462883_2074005367267_1483410083_n

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.

995539_2074004647249_1227070466_n

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!

1452138_2074004967257_61293452_n

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.

IMG_7183

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!

IMG_7168

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!

IMG_7171

Baby raccoons! Cute little banditos.

IMG_7201 - Copy

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.

1460192_2074007927331_579748567_n

The sneaky monkeys and I.

IMG_7212

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.

IMG_7213

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.

IMG_7076

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

MOVE in Chicago

The best way to spend my days off is exploring new places in Chicago. The excitement about going to someplace new and trying new things is exhilarating. I love the sense of adventure! The idea that you don’t know what to expect till you get there and see for yourself. Perhaps I will make it my New Year’s Resolution to experience new things with the idea that everyday is a chance to understand and learn more about this world we call home.

I stumbled across this video, MOVE,  last summer documenting the adventures of an international traveler. As a starry eyed college student, I remember thinking what a wonderful way to spend your life, and I still think that. Learning about the lives of people all over the world and how they may be different or the same as you and I, is the most appealing thing about adventuring around.

Sadly I do not have any trips planned for the future, but hopefully soon. As for now I’ll be doing lots of adventuring around in Chicago. There are so many places I’ve never been to even though I grew up here. Time to get up and MOVE in Chicago.

Chicago French Market – West Loop

from the Chicago Sun Time

Chicago is lacking in indoor markets that are quite abundant in NYC. I love indoor markets, because it is a centralized area where you can pick up many different one of kind goods. It’s an overstimulation of the senses in the best possible way. When I found out that Chicago had a French Market, I just had to make a trek there. It is not that big, but offers a lot of different types of hot foods, produce, and even fresh meats and seafood. The macaroons at the Chicago French Market is suppose to be the best. I had to try them for myself.

20121208_152918

These macaroons are from Vanille Patisserie. In order from left to right – cranberry orange, red velvet, mango passion, and lemon. We were wondering what happened to the poor red velvet macaroon, because it looks a little deformed. The macaroons were one of the cheapest macaroons I have ever seen coming in at $1.50 a piece. It was also slightly smaller than the macaroons I have eaten in the past. Overall the macaroons are okay. I like my macaroons to be slighly chewy with an airy, light crunch. Some of the macaroons that we tried were a little on the soft side, dissembling when we tried to break it in half. The cranberry orange was a little disappointing, because the flavors were so weak. My friend says these are the best macaroons, so maybe the ones we got were a bad batch.

Christkindlmarket – The Loop

20121208_163015 (1)

Christkindlmarket is a German market in downtown Chicago around the big Christmas tree. When I saw the Christmas tree up close and personal, it was a little disappointing. Apparently there was a contest to pick the best tree, and this was chosen. The tree is what we would consider top heavy. There is a lot of empty space, because of the lack of branches on the bottom of the tree. Perhaps with the addition of large ornaments it would have looked less barren. Kind of reminds me of a larger, bigger version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. A Christmas Tree is a Christmas Tree no matter how barren. It was still magnificent to look at.

from ilovepasta.com

The market was super crowded. As much as I dislike crowds, there was a sense of Christmas joy and spirit at the Christkindlmarket. I loved looking at all the stalls and seeing all the German goods they had for sale.

IMG_20121208_215652

One of the stalls was selling these star lights. They came in all different colors with unique cut outs. I would have bought one, if they weren’t made out of paper. It just didn’t seem like it would last very long.

Longman & Eagle – Logan Square

from peppermintbliss.com

This gastropub had a great casual, rustic atmosphere which I thoroughly enjoyed. The dining seats at each table did not match. All painted the same color, but slightly different in terms of style.

20121208_173434

This Housemade Ricotta Gnuddi with cider gel, babyfennel, micro celery, toasted hazelnut, braised cippolini vinaigrette, and celery froth was delicious. The ricotta balls were delightfully crunchy on the exterior and soft on the inside. I loved the vinaigrette that it was paired with.

20121208_175431

This pumpkin risotto vegetarian dish was delicious! I loved the infusion of pumpkin into the risotto. It came with a poached egg on top. There is nothing better than a runny egg over a bed of carbs.

20121208_175445 (1)This Slagel Family Farms Burger with aged Widmer’s Cheddar, North Country Bacon, and briochh was okay. I’ve had better burgers. The best part of this dish was the Beef Fat Fries. They tasted so fresh with a slight hint of smokiness. Next time I will try to order just the fries.

20121208_182555

When our waiter came by with the check, he placed these two chocolate chip cookies on our table, complements of the restaurant. My friend and I stared at the cookies, because they are about the size of a quarter. Teeny, tiny chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious, but I never seen such a small cookie before.

20121209_114419

Our check also came with this quirky postcard which I took home. I think I might frame this. Longman & Eagle, you just get me. “It seems just so awkward…” 

I learned that Longman & Eagle has six available hotel rooms above the restaurant owned by the restaurant. That would be kind of like a bed and breakfast inn. Wake up, stroll downstairs for brunch at Longman & Eagle, maybe take advantage of the $3 whiskey shots at the bar, and stumble back into your hotel room upstairs. With the smallest rooms for about $90 a night, no wonder these rooms are booked three months in advance.

How about you? Time to get up and MOVE in your city. Let’s be explorers together.

Los Angeles Part 2 – Being A Cali Girl for a Week

Landed in Chicago last Sunday, and I was happily greeted with a bizarre 60 degree weather in Chicago. Can’t complain right?  You have to keep in mind though that whenever there is extremely warm weather in Chicago the next day it will be extremely cold. It’s like you have to sacrifice freezing temperatures for one day of LA weather in Chicago.

I have this theory about people in California especially in places where it’s sunny year round like LA. The more sun people get the happier they are. Doesn’t matter if you are having a bad day, some sunshine makes everything go away. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers are a bit more on the bitter side. All of those skyscrapers and high rises never let sunshine through. The same can be said about Chicago, but because Chicago has that Midwestern charm I think Chicagoans are friendlier. At least I would like to think so! Everyone I met in LA was so friendly. Definitely getting that Cali, hipster, chill, cool vibe from those in LA. Perhaps it was the certain areas of LA I was hanging out at, because I heard people in LA can be a bit phony and pretentious. I’m thinking Beverly Hills.

Even though I loved being a LA girl for the week, I think I prefer Chicago and NYC over LA. Guess I’m a Chicago girl at heart. Here’s my picture documentation of me being a California Girl.

Look at that clear blue skies with no clouds in sight. All that open green space with palm trees. Paradise? I think yes!

Bottega Louie – Downtown LA

This Italian restaurant and bakery is one of my favorite places that I went to in LA in terms of eateries. It definitely did not fit the ambiance of the rest of the places I went to in LA which seemed more hipster and chill. Bottega Louie reminds me of a place that would do really well in Georgetown, DC or Manhattan, NYC. A bit pretentious, classy, and a good looking customer crowd. My cousin and I split a pizza, half Burrata (burrata, grana parmesan, rapini, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and prosciutto di Parma) and Artichoke (roasted artichoke, chevre, mozarella, tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, Italian parsley, fleur de se). The toppings tasted so fresh! LA is known for their extremely healthy and fresh ingredients, and I can really taste that in this pizza.

Being a bakery, Bottega Louie’s bread is the best I ever had. I loved the complimentary bread. You bite into it, and the outer layer cracks right when you sick your teeth in opening up to a soft, moist inside. Plus look at that design of the bread. How pretty!

Macaroons galore! I tried the earl grey and dark chocolate macaroon. Both were so delicious, but I think I had more fun just looking at the beautiful macaroons. So petite, colorful, and yummy. What’s not to love?

I was too full from all the pizza and bread, carb galore, to try any of these petite cakes and desserts. The next time I go back to Bottega Louie I will save my appetite for only desserts! YUM!

Hollywood

First time in LA and of course we had to check out Hollywood. Even Mickey Mouse has a Hollywood star.

Here I am with the Harry Potter cast’s hand prints and shoe prints. Emma Watson is one tiny lady. Her hands and feet are about the size of mine.

In-N-Out

I finally got to try In-N-Out. Californians always rave about how amazing In-N-Out is, and I think they might be overdoing it. After trying In-N-Out, Shake Shack, and Five Guy’s, I definitely would say Shake Shack comes out on top, then In-N-Out, and then Five Guy’s in terms of their burgers. Read this seriouseats burger review of all three chains here. The In-Out burger was a bit lacking. I thought the patty was a bit on the skimpy side. The bun being a classic white burger bun was definitely not as good as the potato buns the Shake Shack burgers are served on. Now I really want to venture to the east coast for a quality Shake Shack burger.

Bench from 500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies. There are two scenes in the movie where the two characters sit on this bench. Those who have seen the movie know what I’m talking about. For those that have not you should watch it. It is a great movie! The view from this bench was amazing. Though it is overlooking parking lots and random buildings, it is relaxing spot to just sit and enjoy the little things in life.

To the right of the bench is this beautiful grassy area. Perfect for dozing off in the sun. I love the feeling when the sun hits your face in just the right amount of warmth and light. I could stay there like that forever.

The Getty

We went to visit The Getty, an art museum in LA. I loved the way it was laid out. Instead of being one big building, The Getty consisted of many smaller buildings that were connected through outdoor paths that weaved through flower and sculpture gardens. I am a big fan of impressionism especially the works of Degas. This painting, Dancer Taking a Bow (the Prima Ballerina), captures the complex and delicate beauty of ballerinas.

I also really enjoyed the rooms with the French decor and furniture. Imagine sleeping in this monstrous bed! Maid service please!

If only I could take this home with me. A clock that is intricately beautiful.

View of LA from The Getty. I thoroughly enjoyed my week long trip in LA. The people, the food, the culture, the places were all spectacular. You can definitely notice the stark difference between the go go go east coast culture and the more laid back west coast culture, two completely different worlds. Perhaps there is some truth in my sunshine theory. If you see a cranky east coaster on the street, tell them to take a vacay to the west coast and they might come back refreshed and hopefully a little less bitter. I think the world needs more sunshine-y, happy people.

Universal Studios Orlando and Harry P. Leu Gardens

Continuation of my trip to Orlando. I was suffering from serious Disney World withdrawal during the first couple of weeks back in Chicago. Listening to my Disney playlist on repeat, getting excited for Disney movie marathons and spreading my enthusiasm for Disney magic. Unfortunately the Disney magic obsession has slowly died down, but I think I will always have a little bit more spark and a little bit more whimsical magic in me after this terrific trip.

Universal Studios Orlando

Harry Potter World – Hogsmeade

Butterbeer in Hogsmeade

Harry Potter World – Hogwarts

My favorite part of Universal Studios Orlando was Harry Potter world. It was a lot smaller than I imagined, but still great to walk through. A real life version of what I imagined from reading the books, and what was pictured in the movies. If you ever wondered what Butterbeer tastes like, it tastes like a super sweet Coke float.

The Lorax in the World of Dr. Seuss

I loved the World of Dr. Seuss. The world where imagination comes to life. The things I love about the Dr. Seuss books are how unique his wording is and how creative the characters look. Everything looks like it came from an entirely different universe. Dr. Seuss is quite the character.

The Lorax at the parade

Here I am eating a monstrous chocolate sprinkle dipped sundae on a stick. Talk about a sugar rush!

Harry P. Leu Garden 

I wandered over to the Harry P. Leu Gardens on my first day, since I got in way before my friends did. I spotted this beautiful fountain in the Rose Garden.

Though people are not suppose to do this, people etched their names into the bamboo.

At first I thought this was a sundial, but it is an actual clock with the flowers and plants adorning the face. How unique!

Check back on Wednesday for a post that was inspired by this quote that I overheard from a bro on the train. Bros… gotta love them.

Today we’re only going to eat foods that begin with B: burgers, brats, beer … and bananas

– random bro on the train

Everyday is a Magical Day in Disney World

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day Weekend! Over Labor Day weekend I went to Disney World, “the most magical place on earth“. I didn’t quite believe in this Disney magic till I got to Disney World, and every conversation with a Disney employee ended with “Have a magical day”. Wandering around Downtown Disney, a large outdoor shopping and dining area, all the trees were twinkling with white Christmas lights. There was even a store that sold Disney themed Christmas items year round called 365 Days of Christmas!  Booths sold light up Mickey Mouse ears that made for a festive night. A colorful merry-go-round spun around to the tunes of classic Disney songs.

Most importantly the continuous stream of Disney songs that brought back childhood memories of watching the classic Disney movies. For a twenty-something college grad like me, it is fun to pretend to be a kid for a weekend. The entire ambiance of Disney World brought out the kid in me. Thrilled and ecstatic to be in Disney World. To pretend to be a child, free of responsibilities of the real world, even if it is only for a weekend.

Downtown Disney

Let the magical memories begin in a place where all dreams come true!

dragon made from Legos

enjoying a drink at Paradiso 37

cilantro rice, fried sweet plantains and griddle corn cakes

Paradiso 37, a restaurant that features food from North, South and Central America, was a great place for a upbeat dinner. We sat outside overlooking the lagoon. There was also a live singer singing old and new hits. We made this dinner into a karaoke session belting out hits such as Adele’s Someone Like You to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Not only was the atmosphere terrific, but the food was delicious too. I got a combination of different sides. I really enjoyed the cilantro rice. It was the perfect texture with just the right amount of flavor. I never had griddle corn cakes before. Tasted like a softer, moister version of corn bread. Yum!

Rigatoni Calabrese – Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, escarole

On our last night at Disney World we ate outdoors at Portobello, an Italian restaurant. I really enjoyed this dish. It was one of their lighter pastas with a chicken broth reduction sauce. The rigatoni was cooked to perfection, and really absorbed all of the flavors of the broth and the other ingredients.

the wonderful world of Disney

I’m a princess

Had my little kid moment, and tried on Belle’s dress from Beauty and the Beast. I love the weird looks I am getting from the man and his daughter in the back. I could just imagine them thinking “Why is that big girl in a princess dress?” Well this is Disney World, and I can totally try on a princess dress if I want to. My shining Disney princess moment!

Disney’s Coronado Resort

These are pictures of the Coronado Resort where we were staying. A beautiful Southwestern themed resort with a gorgeous lagoon in the middle. The luscious greenery added to the picturesque resort. I loved how the water had such perfect reflections of the resort.

The pool area in the resort. Funny story about our pool adventure. My friends and I were standing around in the pool bopping to some poolside Disney songs. This preteen boy swimming underwater resurfaced in the middle of our circle. This happened more than once. The final time he resurfaced in the middle of our circle, he appeared out of the water. He then proceeded to do that hair flick, where you whip your head back and water flies out of your hair, and gave me this face. I didn’t realize what was happening until my friend told me that he must have thought I was a preteen, and subsequently tried to put his flirting skills to use. I do look young, but preteen young? Must find a way to look older, or more my age. I don’t think putting on that Disney princess dress helps in looking older. Oh the wonders of Disney!

I have only seen a couple of rainbows in my life, and this was just so breathtaking to see. It’s a circular rainbow around the sun. How magical!

Check back on Sunday for a post on the rest of my trip: Universal Studios Orlando and Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens!

Sandwiches at the Secret Garden

One of my favorite things to do is to go to gardens. There’s something so peaceful about wandering into secret places filled with the aromas and vivid colors of flowers and plants. I like to think of them as secret places, because when I go to gardens I like to wander around without a map. I know that it is not the most efficient way to see the entire garden, but it adds an element of mysteriousness to the adventure. Kind of like the book Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett where a little girl finds the entrance to a hidden garden. Closed off from the rest of the world the secret garden seems so surreal. A place where anything goes, and fairies, unicorns and magic exist. Well to my disappointment no fairy sightings or unicorn encounters at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but there were a lot of breathtaking  views and gorgeous spots perfect for daydreaming. Take a look! 

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe, Illinois

Homemade bread rolls

I baked some bread rolls the day before. It made for an excellent sandwich for our picnic at the garden.

Using the bread rolls I made I had a Turkey Swiss sandwich with edamame hummus from Trader Joe’s, lettuce and raisins.  I discovered in college the wonders of pairing raisins and turkey sandwiches together. The sweetness of the raisins really add a unique element to any ordinary turkey sandwich.

Japanese Gardens

First time seeing a swan up close.

Waterfall Garden

view from on top of the waterfalls. Paradise!

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.

Hello DC, I’m just visiting

You never realize how much you miss a place till you leave and come back. The comfort of a familiar place that you spent so long living and learning in. When I left DC in May without plans to permanently return back, I felt excited about leaving DC. Free from what I thought was a suffocating atmosphere. During my visit to DC this week I felt so sentimental and a wave of nostalgia hit me from out of no where. Though I always expressed my dissatisfaction with DC noting how it doesn’t provide that urban feel that Chicago and NYC has, I realize now that DC will always have a special place in my heart. It’s cleanliness, quaintness, and all the memories that have been made in DC I will always remember. It’s good to back even though I’m just visiting.

Ingrid Michaelson Concert – Wolftrap, Vienna, Virginia

Ingrid Michaelson!

My roommate from college and I went to two previous Ingrid Michaelson concerts before, and this one is our third one. She was opening for Rufus Wainwright, so not exactly her concert but still worth going to. She sounds the same and maybe even better live! Love her.

Wolftrap music venue in Vienna, VA

Wolftrap is an outdoor music venue with a very wooden, camp-y feeling with typical seating and lawn seats. It was out in the middle of nowhere which added to the outdoorsy and natural feel of the place. Perfect summer night.

Here’s just one of her many great songs. She sang this song during the concert, and it gave us all goosebumps.

Georgetown University Georgetown, Washington, DC

Georgetown University

I never really appreciated the beauty of the Georgetown University campus as a student. I guess once you get use to something for so long you stop appreciating it as much as you should be. A gorgeous day roaming around the Georgetown campus.

The famous Healy Hall clock tower. During my last week as a senior at Georgetown University somebody climbed the tower and managed to steal the clock hands. I guess they are safely returned now.

Sweetgreen – Georgetown, Washington, DC

The thing that I love about Sweetgreen froyo is that tartness of their yogurt. There is only one flavor of yogurt which makes things simple. Plus that one flavor of yogurt is really good. Sometimes froyo could be too sweet, almost like soft serve. Sweetgreen’s froyo is known for being on the more tart side which I love. I got mine with fresh peaches and strawberries. Perfect treat for a hot summer day.

Pizzeria Paradisio – Georgetown, Washington, DC 

Bottarga – Paradiso Tomato, Minced Garlic, Parsley, Parmesan, Egg*, Bottarga

I’ve been here a couple of times, and they have really good brick oven made pizza. There is a slight burnt, crispy taste from being cooked in a brick oven. I especially love the Bottarga, because they put eggs on top of the pizza. Never can go wrong with putting eggs on anything!

More DC adventures to come.

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. =)