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!

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The First Time

It’s always better the first time around – more exciting, more memorable, more fun. That first time you try out that new restaurant, and it then becomes your favorite. That first time you take a mouthful of the ramen, and the springiness of the noodles and the richness of the broth is forever ingrained in your food memories. That first time you meet someone new over a meal, and time just flies like the conversation is endless. When the second time comes around, it is less exciting. You know what to expect, you discovered most of what is new about the person, the place, the thing. It is that uncertainty, whether it will truly be as good as everyone says it is or be a complete disappointment, that makes the first time so great. Treasure the first time, savor the moment, because it will only happen once.

These are my first moments at the following restaurants in Chicago. Even though the food may be the same the second time around, it will never exactly feel or taste the same as the very first time.

Vinci – Lincoln Park

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I came here with my sister to use a Groupon deal that I bought a while ago. $20 for $40 to spend at an Italian restaurant, count me in! I got the Spinach pappardelle – hand-made spinach pappardelle with roast duck, mushrooms, ovendried tomatoes, truffle oil, parmigiano. I loved the noodles. It definitely tasted very fresh. The slight chewiness and springiness of the noodles were perfect. The meal was great, and we even got a table right next to the window. A lot of the guests at Vinci that night were there for a pre-show dinner. I wish I knew about this show that was going on, because I would have liked to go.

Wasabi – Logan Square

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My friend invited me here, because her friend from NYC was visiting Chicago for the week. I am a huge fan of ramen restaurants if you haven’t noticed already, and I was excited about trying another ramen place in Chicago. I’ve had some pretty excellent ramen in NYC, but none that have really stood out to me in Chicago. This place was excellent. As good as or even better than the places in NYC. I loved it! I got the Tonkotsu Ramen – egg noodle, rich pork broth, berkshire pork cheek, soft boiled egg, marinated bamboo shoot, scallion, sesame, kikurage mushroom. The thing that makes or breaks a bowl of ramen is the broth, and this broth was spectacular. I was tempted to drink all of the broth after I finished my noodles! I loved the richness of the broth. The ingredients in the ramen were also quite tasty. The soft boiled egg, which isn’t quite as runny as a poached egg, but not quite as solid as a hard boiled egg, was the perfect texture for the ramen. 

The Girl and the Goat – West Loop

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My friends have been raving about this place for a while, and I finally got to try it. This restaurant owned by a Top Chef contestant is known for having one of the best foods in Chicago. I had high expectations for this place, and I was not disappointed. The small plates are meant to be shared, but my friends and I weren’t too hungry. We each ordered one dish. I ordered the scallops served with squash, onions, and other ingredients. The scallops were so soft. I took the first bite, and I couldn’t believe what I was eating. These are the best scallop I ever had! I hope the next time I go, the scallops will be as good as I remembered it being.

Cafe Iberico – River North

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I came here to meet up with a Georgetown friend who just recently moved to Chicago for his job. I am so excited more fellow Georgetown Hoyas are here in the city! Cafe Iberico is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The highlight of the meal in my opinion was the Iberico Styled Paella – chicken, pork, and rice baked in a pan with saffron sauce. All of the flavors from the meat and seafood infused into the rice making a fragrant and delicious dish. I could eat this for lunch any day!

My firsts with all four of these restaurants were spectacular. I don’t know what the second time will be like, but I hope if I return again it will be good as the first time.

 

 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Eat Down. Tip Up.

A simple concept with a catch phrase that pretty much explains it all. It was started by my good friend and ten other people post Hurricane Sandy. See their website here. Eat Down. Tip Up consists of these following easy steps.

1. Go out to eat downtown.

2. Tip generously.

3. Post a photo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (#EatDownTipUp)

You hear a lot about aid for families that were hit hard by hurricane Sandy, but what about the businesses? What about the restaurant staff that went days without pay, and most likely not reimbursed in some cases because the employer simply cannot afford to? This concept reaches out to restaurants, through community support, to help them keep afloat. No pun intended…

New York restaurants have an 80% fail rate within the first five years. Meaning for every 1,000 enthusiastic restaurants that open up every year within five years 800 of those will close. Say goodbye to that beloved cafe on the corner of the street or that lounge you and your friends frequent every Friday night. With the fail rate being so high, there is no doubt that Hurricane Sandy will increase the fail rate for many restaurants this year. When the margins for profit are so slim, the costs of Hurricane Sandy may place some restaurants in the inevitable 80%. Something as little as replacing the furnishings and decor in a restaurant can push them over the edge. The post Sandy expenses go on and on including replacing all perishable foods, replacing damaged kitchen equipment, and the long clean up process.

For those reading in New York or thinking about visiting soon, eat down and tip up. Support your local restaurants, so they may continue serving you your favorite dishes and providing you with unforgettable dining experiences. Support the waitress that provides you excellent wait service and the invisible staff that keeps the restaurant running. What better excuse to try new restaurants and retry old restaurants. If I lived in New York, I would validate dining out by calling it a good cause – a good cause for my taste buds and a good cause for the NYC community.

Eat down tip up was inspired by this Anthony Bourdain tweet from November 3.

Read more about eat down and tip up including personal restaurant stories here.

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!

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.

Los Angeles, where people wear winter scarves and gloves in 60 degree weather

Greetings from Los Angeles! Nothing better than escaping the cold, chilly Chicago weather with a trip to LA before I start real life working. Visiting and living in the other major urban cities, Los Angeles definitely has a very different feel. Spread out on 502.7 sq miles compared to 234 sq miles in Chicago and 468.5 sq miles in New York City, LA is the largest urban city in terms of surface area. Though LA does have the largest surface area, the population in LA is a lot smaller compared with NYC: NYC with 8,244,910 inhabitants compared with 3,819,702 in LA. With that there is a lot of space in LA. Everything is super spread out making LA seem more like a populated suburb than the urban cities I am use to.

One thing that I can get use to for a while is this LA weather. My cousin noted that the weather does not drastically change as in Chicago or NYC where the four seasons are quite apparent. I am a big fan of warm weather! Apparently when the weather starts dipping into the 60s, the people of LA start breaking out their winter gear. I was so confused, when I saw people walking around in the daytime with scarves, gloves, and even puffy winter coats. A bizarre sight when the temperature is in the 60s! Maybe because I am not use to warm weather all the time I feel the need to take advantage of every single warm day in LA by wearing sandals, dresses, skirts, and t-shirts. When I get back to Chicago, I will sadly have to convert back to puffy winter coats, sweaters, and boots.

CALFORNIA dreamin! Here is a picture update of my adventures in LA so far!

on USC campus

Here I am in front of a water fountain on USC campus. The campus is huge and very beautiful. There are a lot of relaxing places outside to just chill around. What a wonderful way to spend the day! If I went to school at USC, I would have so much trouble focusing and actually going to class. Why not just spend the entire day sleeping on the grass outside, basking in the sun?

dinos at the Natural History Museum

We stopped by the Natural History Museum. They had a very large collection of dinosaur fossils. I learned that it is easier to discover fossils on the west coast where it is mostly desert compared with the west coast where the fossils may be hidden in large forests.

Trying my best to fend off the big Polar Bear, but obviously failing.

We walked through the Rose Garden. What a magical garden with all of the towering palm trees in the background!

The Space Shuttle Endeavor recently rolled into the Science Center after retiring from many missions into outer space. Here is the beauty!

farmer’s market in Culver City

The farmer markets in LA are fabulous. Lots of fresh produce at reasonable prices! After seeing some fresh greens and salad leaves, I was craving a fresh salad.

Urth Farmer’s Salad at Urth Caffe

I got the Urth Famer’s Salad at Urth Caffe after visiting the farmer’s market. Inside the salad were locally grown baby spinach salad with peppercorn dressing, heirloom tomatoes, French radishes, grilled artichokes, onion, shaved fennel, glazed pecans & shaved parmesan cheese. The spinach leaves tasted so fresh! I could get use to year round fresh produce!

This outdoor art display of lamp posts called Urban Light at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was featured in the movie No Strings Attached. It must be so gorgeous at nighttime when they turn all the lights on.

Here is Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher at the Urban Light display at LACMA in a scene from No Strings Attached.

Kalbi Bun

I had this Kalbi Bun from a food truck outside of LACMA. There are so many food trucks in LA. There is just something so whimsical and cute about buying a meal from a food truck. Wish they had more of these in Chicago!

More LA adventures to come, sans scarves, gloves, and puffy winter coats of course.

Hello Fall, Goodbye Summer

Hello WordPress viewers! It’s been a while since I wrote a new post for foodifyme. Please excuse my month long hiatus away from my beloved blog. With the changing of seasons, there also has been a lot of new changes for me: last minute travels to the east coast, meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and most importantly scoring an array of job offers. It’s stressful not having any job offers, but it is also quite stressful when there are too many. At the end of the day I chose to stick around Chicago, stick around to the city I call home. Though I truly loved the beauty and the small town feel of Charlottesville and the attraction of NYC, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave the city I grew up in, the city I have yet to fully explore and live in. All of a sudden things got very real, as if they weren’t real before. To many more years of food adventures in Chicago!

Check out my food highlights from the last month.

Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia

I made a small trip to Charlottesville, Virginia for an interview and to visit my very good friend from college. Growing up in Chicago and going to school in DC, I am definitely not use to small towns. Surprisingly, I loved Charlottesville! There was something so calming and soothing about being surrounded by miles and miles of trees and mountains in the distance. Here I am on the highest point at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s retirement home after his presidency. I felt like I was on top of the world!

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s retirement home

My friend and I were driving on the road, when Sweet Disposition by the Temper Traps came on. Perfect song for cruising through beautiful Charlottesville.

Fry’s Spring Station – Charlottesville, Virginia

Mushroom Pizza

My friends who live in Charlottesville took me to Fry’s Spring Station for happy hour pizza. All pizzas, cocktails, and beers were half off. What could be better! I got the mushroom pizza. The mushrooms and cheese tasted very fresh! I loved pizza dough, thin yet still chewy and crunchy.

Clyde’s – Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Corned beef hash with sunny side up eggs

Since Charlottesville was simply a 3 hour bus ride away from DC, I made a quick weekend stop in DC. My college roommate and I ate late brunch at Clyde’s in Georgetown. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day! You can never go wrong with eggs especially with runny yolks. I loved the combination of liquid yolk over starchy foods like potato hash. A perfect meal to start the day even though we ate brunch at 3PM. oops!

The Bongo Room – South Loop, Chicago

I have been meaning to try out The Bongo Room for a while. It is known for having one of the best brunches in Chicago. They only serve the Chocolate French Toast Tower on the weekends, so I came with a friend on a Sunday. This rich, chocolatey dish is extremely heavy. The bittersweet chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone was topped with a banana creme brulee sauce, bananas, and shaved chocolate. Dessert for breakfast? Bring it on! This was definitely too much for one person to eat alone, so my friend and I shared this along with another brunch dish.

Ming Hin Cuisine – Chinatown, Chicago

Cage Free Chicken Hot Pot Casserole

I came here to eat with my family. It was my first time trying this new restaurant in Chinatown, and it was excellent. The food was good, and surprisingly so was the service. When you go to authentic Chinese restaurants, you do not expect good service. You go for the food, and not the atmosphere or the service. Ming Hin offered all of that. A beautifully decorated dining area, friendly and attentive service, and authentic, delicious Chinese food.

the interior of the restaurant

toothpick in a pouch

I thought this was really great. I have never seen a toothpick packaged in a pouch before. How classy!

C foods for Carmen

The other day while riding the train home, I got on the train in Wrigleyville. The specific stop is Addison for those who are familiar with the Chicago train system. Wrigleyville is known for being bro central. Go there if you want to have a broey good time, otherwise stay away. I had to go to Wrigleyville for a meeting, and got my monthly dose of broiness. I thought I experienced enough broiness till I overheard a group of bros’ conversation.

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

– random bro on the train

What? Bro, you’re only going to eat foods that begin with the B? B foods for Bros. Thus if a bro is only going to eat foods that begin with the letter B, I am only going to eat foods that begin with the letter C. C foods for Carmen.

It is quite hard eating foods that begin with C. I am not the type of person to binge on junk foods, and it just so happens that a lot of junk foods begin with the letter C: chocolate, cookies, cake and chips. C for junk food catastrophe. Luckily eating C foods was not so bad. Here is a list of C foods I ate this week.

C is for Chicken Salad (Thai)

My family and I went to Panera for lunch one afternoon. I got the Thai Chicken Salad. It was surprisingly quite spicy. I wasn’t expecting it to be spicy. When it turned out to be mildly spicy, it was a lot to take in especially for someone who cannot handle her spicy foods. This salad came with a bed of romaine lettuce, a mix of vegetables, edemame, chicken, crunchy asian crackers and a spicy, peanut dressing.

C is for Cheesy Fried Mac and Cheese Wedges

Kind of cheated with the C foods here, but I really wanted to show you guys these Mac and Cheese Wedges. What a brilliant idea! Mac and cheese dipped in batter and fried, so the outside is crispy and the inside is filled with mac and cheese goodness.

C is for Cake

I love cake! Here are three different types of Chinese cakes. The white one is a white chocolate cake. The second one is a chocolate mousse cake. The third one is a chocolate cake with jellies in the middle. Chinese cakes are usually a lot lighter than American cakes. The cake part is definitely less heavy and more airy. The frosting is not as sweet and not as rich. Sometimes American cakes are too much for me. Chinese cakes are the perfect, light dessert without pushing you over the edge into a sugar high.

C is for Cheeseburger

Cheeseburgers make for a solid meal. This cheeseburger came with fries and an orzo salad. Yum!

Ending this C foods for Carmen post with a punny sign. Harharhar

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