Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pal: Part Drei

Don't know what Foodie Pen Pal is? Catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2!

I received my package in the mail around the middle of April. Immediately, I was taken aback by how heavy it was! O_o What was in this thing?!

Crystal Light On the Go Energy Wild Strawberry drink mix
Mint Cookie Joy
Blueberry Muffin Hot Cereal with flaxseed
Ring Pop
Mentos Fruit
Starbucks Hot Cocoa with Toasted Marshmallow
Old Fashioned Peach Pie (This was the heavy piece of the package!)
Stride iD Berry Melon gum
Orbit gum
Orchard Bar Strawberry Raspberry bar

Plus a card!

Well, ... I DO have a sweet tooth, so this package was perfect! I pretty much ate the chocolates and the Mentos fruit right away. I had the hot cereal the next morning and the peach pie as a "snack" later that day. Suffice it to say that everything was annihilated by the end of the week. ^_^ Thanks for the Foodie Pen Pal experience! Check out what I sent to my recipient, Sarah, at her blog: http://szubarik.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cafe 101

Mango cake from Joli Kobe

For Mother's Day, my stepmom wanted to go to Cafe 101. She found out the restaurant was closing, so the dinner was pushed up a bit to accommodate. My parents know the owner of the restaurant (apparently, she used to work for them when they owned a restaurant back in the day), so it was also a social visit. I honestly don't remember the food but clearly I took pictures of dessert! This mango cake was bought by one of my siblings from Joli Kobe. I went to Joli Kobe once for lunch; see my post about it here. This cake was awesome. I do credit the bakery for their cake-making skills. It was just the right size/amount, too.

Trader Joe's Maryland Crab & Corn Chowder

So, I was in a time crunch today and I opted to grab lunch from a nearby Trader Joe's. I don't typically grocery shop for meals at Trader Joe's - though I do like getting certain items from there. I picked up the Maryland Crab & Corn Chowder because I hadn't had chowder in a while. Why not? Seafood, corn, and potatoes all in one bite? Yes, please! 

I ATE THE WHOLE THING IN ONE SITTING. IT WAS GLORIOUS. Part of me wonders whether I can replicate it at home! ^_^ I guess whenever it gets cold again... haha... in Georgia. HAHAHAHA. It's going to be a while. :oP

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Baby's 1st Birthday Party

I was invited to a friend's daughter's 1st birthday party. A few things to note here: This was the first 1st birthday party I've attended (barring those of my siblings). I did not know what to expect or what to bring as a present. I actually ran late because my GPS took me in a different direction (thanks, GPS!). 

I was surprised to find a spread of edible goodies available in vibrant green and pink colors. My friends know how to put on a party! The birthday girl got her own cupcake, and it was hilarious watching her try to eat it. She went straight for it after "blowing out" her birthday candle, haha. Starting the sugar rush at a young age! I did bring a birthday card and, knowing she was turning one, I opted to get lottery tickets for her parents, haha. This may sound harsh but I don't see the need in buying toys because the child will usually have A LOT of toys already; it's also likely the other parents + babies in attendance brought toy presents. Perhaps a cardboard box will suffice? The lottery ticket might become a "tradition" for future 1st birthday parties. This is new territory for me - Pardon me while I learn!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Figo Pasta

Garlic bread and olive oil

Zucca special - butternut squash ravioli

My first time eating at Figo Pasta! I was having a dinner date with my sister, and chose the butternut squash ravioli partly because of the ravioli and partly because of the cream sauce. I'm a sucker for creamy sauces. 

We beat the dinner crowd - as crowded as it can get on a weekday evening - and the meal came out hot and fresh. NOM... I was tempted to lick my plate clean! I was disappointed with the garlic bread though. Seriously? Olive Garden provides more garlic bread than that. O_O We asked for more garlic bread a couple of times. The serving size of the pasta was decent, though I've heard that they've gotten smaller since the company became franchised. Sadness. It's always a double-edged sword when a company grows bigger/scales up - there's something that gets lost in the mix.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chicago - Day 4

The fourth day in Chicago was also our last day. This was technically a half-day since our flight departed around 4:45 pm. :o\ We had dim sum at MingHin Cuisine in Chinatown. Unfortunately, we were in a rush so we did not have the chance to explore the Chinatown area. Suffice to say that there's an "old" Chinatown and a "new" Chinatown. I think we were in the "new" part. The dim sum was very quick and unusual because there were no traveling carts. You order off of a set menu - all dishes are pictured and labeled but not described - and the waiters bring the dishes to your table. Interesting. From the restaurant's perspective, I can see how this would be beneficial because you won't have food going to waste in those carts. As is customary with dim sum, we ordered too much. I hate leaving food behind but we had a full day ahead and didn't want to carry a to-go box in our travels.

We wanted to squeeze in the Skydeck and the Navy Pier but only had time for one, so we chose the Skydeck at Willis Tower. (I had been sick during my time in Chicago, so it made sense to go to an indoor attraction versus an outdoor one on the water.) FYI: There is no student discount for this tourist site. The elevator ride was pretty quick. The views at the John Hancock Observatory are a bit better but it was still neat to stand in the glass platform and take pictures. :o) We met up with a few friends of mine at a pizza place called Lou Malnati's. Lou's was one of three popular pizza places that had been recommended to us; the other two are Gino's East and Giordano's. To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of Lou Malnati's. We ordered the "Lou" pizza which was basically vegetarian. To me, there wasn't a lot of flavor to it. If I go back sometime, I'd love to try out the other two places or maybe some hole-in-the-wall.

Afterwards, we met up at our host's place and gathered our luggage. Our host drove us to the airport - awesome! Fortunately, we had packed most of our things that morning. Overall, the weather was pretty dreary during our visit but I really enjoyed the "smallness" of the city (compared to New York) and the general cleanliness of the streets. Because Atlanta's public transit system is so lacking, I always enjoy and appreciate the public transit systems of other cities I visit. It's really nice to get around a city on your own two feet. I was also glad my sister was able to hang out with me. We hadn't been on a trip together since before she started college! Hopefully, we can make this a regular "thing." :o)

MingHin Cuisine - a dim sum restaurant

I've never ordered dim sum this way before but I'm sure it's a lot more efficient than ordering from carts.

Outside the front door of MingHin

Skydeck at Willis Tower

My sister and I

Lou Malnati's

The Lou - Spinach mix, mushrooms, and sliced roma tomatoes, covered with three cheeses.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chicago - Day 3

My sister and I treated our host to breakfast at Lou Mitchell's. The hostess offered us doughnut holes while we waited for a table (I declined). That was kinda nice. I ordered the apple and cheese omelette - I had expected the apples to be IN the omelette but they were on top. Curious. Even more curious was how sweet the apples were! I couldn't finish them but I finished the rest of the omelette. The service was excellent!

Afterwards, our host dropped us off at Millennium Park where there was an interesting set of statues on display. There were more than the four I provided below and all were quite colorful and patterned in their own way. I just preferred the color blue over the others. ;oP Of course, we had to visit the Bean. Every tourist picture of Chicago includes this "infamous" structure. Surprisingly, the Bean has only been around since 2006 (in its complete form)! I'd say it's holding up pretty well thus far. We took a bus to the Magnificent Mile, a popular shopping area north of the park. For a Friday, there were a LOT of people out shopping. We stopped into a few stores but ultimately did not buy anything. 

We found our way to a Portillo's (a friend's suggestion), so I figured we could split a hot dog and call it a "snack." I believe we got a beef hot dog which included: mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. No onions for me, though. It was definitely an interesting combination of flavors and it worked. Half of a hot dog was a good call for us both. :o)

We met up with a couple of my college friends who drove in from Michigan to hang out with me. They had moved to Michigan from Georgia for work a couple of years ago, so I rarely get to see them these days. My sister and I were so thankful that they drove because we were tired of walking, haha. Since it was pretty chilly, we found an indoor place to check out: the Chicago French Market. This place has an interesting parking policy, where you get "free" parking when you spend $20 inside the market. >.> Yep, the quotation marks are there for a reason. Anyway, my friend discovered a vendor that sells rainbow cookies, a childhood treat, so he was pretty happy. We definitely met the $20 minimum to pay for parking! 

The French Market was also a way to kill some time before dining at Little Goat for dinner. Mwah ha ha ha.... A friend had told me about Girl and the Goat but there were no reservations available (and it's also, sadly, out of budget). Little Goat is literally across the street and has a no-reservation policy. The two restaurants are the brainchild of Top Chef fourth season winner, Stephanie Izard. (Atlanta favorite Richard Blais was the runner-up during this season.) The wait time was about 45 minutes, and I got a cup of chamomile tea in the meantime. (I was still not feeling well.) When we got to our table, we asked the waiter what he recommended. Out of all of his recommendations, we predominantly leaned towards the goat burger. This was a great choice, hehe. I ordered the All-American version which included pickles, onion, American cheese, special sauce, lettuce & tomato, on a sesame seed bun. (WHOA... Did anyone else have a McDonald's commercial flashback?) The goat burger was pretty awesome - I didn't even need a side because the patty was 8 ounces. O_o Yep, that's enough to fill you up. 

The night was still young, so we drove around to the John Hancock Center to catch a nighttime view of the city. In lieu of purchasing a ticket to the Observatory, we went to the Signature Room Lounge on the 95th Floor. We each got a(n overpriced) drink which cost less than four Observatory tickets and chit-chatted for an hour or two. The tables closest to the windows were already taken, so we enjoyed the atmosphere more than the view. My sister tried venturing into the nearby dining area to take pictures but was shooed away. However, we discovered the restrooms offer a great, unobstructed view. :o) That was a pleasant surprise! So thankful my friends took me and my sister back to our host's place instead of taking public transit. We'd been walking in boots all day and we were tired. Sometimes a car is nice to have around.

Apple and cheese omelette - Michigan sugar sweet apples and Old English cheddar cheese

Millennium Park

Millennium Park Amphitheater

The Bean

Portillo's Beef hot dog

Chicago French Market

Little Goat 

All-American goat burger

Self-explanatory, don't you think?

Expensive drinks, awesome view. Tables next to the windows were full, so we had something of a view. We found the best, unobstructed view in the restroom (of all places).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chicago - Day 2

On the second day of Christmas... oh wait... Let me start over. :oP My sister and I slept in and went to a brunch/breakfast place for lunch. -___-" We dined at Yolk. I selected a fiesta salad off of the specials menu while my sister opted for an eggs benedict dish. Afterwards, we took public transit to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the San Francisco Giants. I love that we could literally walk from the metro station to the stadium - awesome! We got some glove-swag for attending, which was great because it was cold and misty throughout the game. The weather was too much for us - particularly me because I'd been battling a cold from the night before - so we left early. As further blasphemy, we didn't bother to check the final score. This really offended some older guy we met the next day, for some reason. 

We ducked into a Starbucks near the field to figure out our next move. We decided to hit up the Chicago Cultural Center. I had stepped into this building from another entrance the day before and saw nothing worth seeing. Apparently, one entrance makes all the difference! My sister and I perused the building's few floors, one of which housed a small auditorium (there was a jazz performance that evening). Another floor had tall ceilings with intricate architecture and another floor contained an art gallery/installation - interesting! There's also a visitor information center inside but we didn't think to visit it until after operating hours. Oh well.

I noticed a Garrett's Popcorn shop, so we bought a small Chicago mix - sweet CaramelCrisp with savory CheeseCorn. Great snack! The small was really big, actually. We held onto that popcorn bag until we returned to Atlanta, haha. Handy! I met up with a friend and his wife at a Thai restaurant, Tiparos, which was close to our last destination of the evening, Second City. I didn't realize Second City was a combination of smaller theatres/venues - that was pretty neat. It reminded me of Centre Stage in that respect. We had picked up discounted improv tickets earlier in the day near the Chicago Cultural Center. ;o) There were three performances - Baby Robots, Half & Half, and Portion Control. Baby Robots were clearly newbies - they had a couple of solid individuals but the overall performance could've used some polish and that takes time. Portion Control was the most experienced of the bunch. These ladies KILLED - they worked so seamlessly together. Half & Half was sort of the middling group - they had some great skits and some not-so-great skits. What put me off at first was the fact that they had a little dance routine at the beginning of their sketch. ... WHY?? This is improv, not So You Think You Can Dance. -___-" We found out they end their routine the same way. >.> Overall, we ended up having a lot of downtime between venues so we moseyed a bit here and there. The improv shows started pretty late though, so we had a truly full day. O_o

Fiesta quinoa salad - Quinoa, avocado, corn, black beans, tomato, red onion, chicken breast, and mixed greens all tossed together and served with homemade southwestern chipotle dressing

Wrigley Field - Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants

The first 10,000 attendees at Wrigley Field received a free pair of Chicago Cubs texting gloves!

Chicago Cultural Center

Garrett's Popcorn - Chicago mix

Tiparos Pad Thai Chicken

Second City