Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicago – August, 2012
Chicago in August you say???  Actually the weather was grand!!!  I was planning to take the red eye from LAX to ORD but at 9 a.m. Monday morning United Airlines called and offered me an earlier 6:46 p.m. flight and a $250 voucher to take it!!!  Not a hard decision to make.  However, I arrived in Chicago at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, not at 5 a.m. as originally planned.  I was staying at the House of Two Urns ( and they were good enough to just charge me half price for my half night which worked out really well for me.  The House of Two Urns is a delightful bed and breakfast about 45 minutes from the airport on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  The CTA is 5 minutes away and with a 3 or 5 day pass you can travel easily throughout the city.

I had a delicious breakfast in the morning, i.e. French toast with berries and cream, carrot raisin muffin and fruit and chatted a bet with a very interesting Colombian doctor specializing in childrens’ brains!!!  First stop was Millennium Park to walk around and under the famous cloud gate designed by Anish Kapoor who creates enormous works of art.  I saw an exhibition of his in Bilbao several years ago and was mesmerized by his creativity.   The centerpiece of the park is the Jay Pritzker pavilion, an outdoor performing arts band shell designed by Frank Gehry where concerts are performed.  There is also the Crown Fountain designed by Jaume Plensa composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers.  Faces are displayed on the 50 foot towers with water sprouting from their mouths – pretty incredible. 

Afterwards, I walked down Clark Street to Blackbird ( and had a delicious prix fixe lunch, i.e. fluke with sea weed and edamame, sturgeon with wild mushrooms and onion noodles and macaroons with strawberries and cream.  There is also a cute little restaurant called Avec next door but it doesn’t open until 3:30 p.m.

I took the CTA out to Andersonville where a hundred years ago Swedish immigrants arrived and helped to rebuild Chicago after the 1871 fire.  The Swedish American Museum tracks their journey from Sweden with old suitcases, rail tickets, clothes they wore, houses where they lived, etc.  Along North Clark Street are many unique shops and bakeries.  Back into town walking along Chicago Avenue I heard some jazz music coming from the Museum of Contemporary Art ( so I went inside to explore.  Tuesday on the Terrace was going on outside and the museum was free – what luck!!!  I had just seen the play “Red” about the famous artist Mark Rothko and was delighted to find some of his paintings on view.  Dinner at Balena  ( was excellent, i.e. shaved octopus salad with green farro, pasta made with duck yolks, brown butter and sage and chocolate hazelnut tart with chocolate nib ice cream for dessert.

In the morning I met my “greeter” at the Visitors Center, 77 Randolph Street.  You must register ( 10 business days in advance for a free 2 – 4 hour guided tour of Chicago with a local person and you can choose where to go!!  I chose art, architecture and ethnic neighborhoods and was delighted with my walking tour of the outside art, i.e. Calder’s “flamingo”, Picasso’s “Picasso”, Chagall’s “Four Seasons” mosaic, etc., old mansions, Chinatown, etc. ending at Naha ( where I had lunch.  I love their mezze platter which comes with hummus, cheese filled phyllo triangles, eggplant, Greek salad, pita bread, tabbouleh and Greek string cheese – so delicious.  Dessert was chocolate pave with a chocolate filled beignet.  Afterwards I wandered down Superior and Franklin Streets visiting the art galleries and then along the Chicago River Walk as it was a beautiful day.

Dinner at Michelin-starred Sepia ( and it was wonderous.  It started with a complimentary glass of Riesling champagne followed by robiolo filled agnolotti with sautéed chanterelles, warm lobster custard with truffles, scallops with yellow pepper romesco and chocolate mousse with peanut butter crunch.  It was really fun to watch Sepia chef Andrew Zimmerman win iron chef America when I returned home on Sunday after experiencing such delicious fare.

Thursday I took the CTA out to Oak Park to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and home.  I had just read “Loving Frank” and was very interested in seeing his genius.  The first part of the tour was visiting 20 of his homes with an audio guide which took about 90 minutes and then the visit continued inside his home and studio with a very knowledgeable guide.  The guide explained Wright’s philosophy of building, etc. but did not touch much upon his life which I found rather interesting.  It was an excellent tour.  Lunch at Pump Room was rather disappointing.  The restaurant was lovely and the reviews were excellent but the roast carrot salad which they toted as better than ABC Kitchen in NYC was not particularly memorable and the cherry crisp was rather ordinary.

Thursday nights the Art Institute of Chicago ( is open until 8 p.m. so I spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition, the new Renzo wing and some of the permanent galleries.  I was fortunate to get a reservation at Goosefoot ( in the Lincoln Square neighborhood that evening for dinner and Chef Chris Nugent’s 8 course tasting menu was extraordinary and was he!  I was in heaven as I ate for 3 hours the shrimp potato soup, duck breast with spiced beluga lentils, Angus beef with goosefoot, crispy goat’s milk cheese and the chocolate mousse with sea beans.  You wouldn’t want to miss that one!!! 

Friday morning I took the bus to the Robie House created by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 for his client Frederick C. Robie.  It is considered to be a masterpiece of the prairie style and is renowned as a forerunner of modernism in architecture.  Afterwards I visited the Smart Museum of Art ( nearby which has a wonderful collection of Asian and modern art including a dining table and chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Robie House and No. 2 painted by Mark Rothko.  Lunch at the ever popular Frontera Grill on North Clark Street.  Luckily I had made a reservation as the restaurant is jammed with people all day long!!!  My banana leaf stuffed with jicama, cucumber and fresh pineapple strips with fresh lime juice was a delicious starter, following by cheese “quesadillas” which were more like empanadas served with 3 salsas and chocolate pecan pie a la mode with chocolate sauce – soooo good!! 

I walked along Clark Street up to tree lined Astor, one of the most famous streets in Chicago, filled with beautiful mansions. As it is so easy to get around with the CTA pass I headed to Chicago Avenue and walked along Lake Michigan for a while.  Dinner at MK ( was simple as lunch was pretty filling but my scallops with chanterelles, grapes and macona almonds and chocolate cake and shake were very tasty indeed.

In the morning I went to the Green Market in Lincoln Park where many chefs go to buy fresh produce and locals pick up their weekly fresh produce boxes.  There are also food stand manned by different restaurants preparing delicious breakfast/brunch dishes, i.e. pulled pork sandwiches, huevos rancheros, pancakes and bacon, etc.  It reminded me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and their Saturday market.  Afterwards I visited the Field Museum (  which has a whole range of incredible exhibitions including the House of Gems, the House of Jade, the Ancient Americas which houses a wonderful historical array of American Indian antefix and a superb collection of Totem Poles.  You could spend days in there!!! I walked by Agora (which means meeting place in Greek) in Grant Park comprised of 106 nine-foot tall headless torsos made of cast iron.  The figures are posed walking in groups in various directions or standing still. It was donated by the Polish artist Magdalena Akakanowicz who was deeply affected by WWII.

My final lunch at Café Spiaggia (  overlooking Lake Michigan.  I had a delicious arugula salad with Capriole Farm goat cheese and sweet Methley plum slices, cheese ravioli with sweet corn and pesto and ricotta, Michigan cherry and chocolate filled  cannoli.  I picked up my bag from the hotel and took the CTA straight to the airport.  I will certainly return as Chicago is one of the great American cities to be sure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beef Satay
2 lb. flank steak or sirloin cut into strips

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4C sake or sherry wine
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
½-inch piece gingerroot, finely chopped

Peanut Sauce
1/2C peanut butter
½ tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. sake or sherry wine
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1C coconut milk
1/4C chicken stock
1 Tbsp. molasses

Mix marinade ingredients together, add steak and marinade for 30 minutes.  Puree peanut sauce ingredients together in a food processor.  Place steak on skewers and broil or grill.  Serve with peanut sauce.
MAKES:  40 skewers