Friday Faves: September 28, 2012

Wasn’t I just reminiscing about the end of summer five minutes ago? How is it already October?

While I ponder that, and other life mysteries, please enjoy a few of my favorites from the week.

One of my most anticipated TV shows premiered this week — The Mindy Project. It was pretty damn funny (even if my husband said the show was on before… when it was called Scrubs). And if you haven’t read her book yet, do yourself a favor and pick up (or download) a copy. Truly laugh out loud funny, to the dismay of my fellow passengers on a flight last summer.

We’re at the homestretch for 2012. But if you’re still making plans for travel through the end of the year, the New York Times offers you 45 recommendations. I’m biased toward number four, but 16, 27 and 36 are at the top of my list.

Having been to several of these cities and even lived in one, I can vouch — most of these little buggers are pretty dirty.

Since I was in Wisconsin for work this week, I’ll share with you two of my favorite restaurants there — neither of which happen to be in Milwaukee, which is where I was. Harvest is an adorable locavore establishment that’s won a host of accolades (deservedly so). Just on the other side of the square is L’Etoile, which also supports local farmers and thus, serves incredibly fresh, delicious food. It’s a bit fancier than Harvest, but neither is to be missed.

It’s unfortunate that my sister no longer lives in Florida, because I can no longer tease her about things like this.

I’ve got a few gal pals doing the online dating scene. And while these tips seem oh-so obvious, their anecdotes lead me to believe that for some, they simply are not.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany

Though I’ve been to Germany a handful of times, I’ve only been to Munich once, and not for Oktoberfest. I was there the week leading up to New Year’s Eve in 2007, but only for about 24 hours. The bulk of those 24 hours were spent in various bars doing what one does when in Germany. (That’s not true; there’s plenty more to do in Germany. But not on that particular trip.) I even made it to Hofbräuhaus, which I think is a must.

The Oktoberfest ship has sailed for me. I can barely stay up past 10 p.m. on a Friday and that’s without beer. But I would happily visit Munich again.

Panes Bread Cafe in Chicago’s Lakeview

I’m a big fan of neighborhood sandwich shops. When we left the South Loop earlier this year, I was so sad that we wouldn’t be able to pop over to Pannozzo’s on Saturdays for their to-die-for prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich (oh, and their meatball sub when I was really hungry).

So thank goodness we recently found our new favorite in our new neighborhood — Panes Bread Cafe. The place is adorable. There are probably about ten or so cafe tables plus another handful out front. Inside, the walls are painted a bright, sunny orange and funky light fixtures and stars hang from the ceiling, nicely complementing the kitschy artwork.

This family-run establishment bakes their own bread and it makes all the difference. I love that they also have a little sample tray at the counter while you wait to order — and it’s not a little cube of bread but a whole piece.

Fresh baked bread

My personal favorite is the Todo Italiano, smothered with homemade pesto and generous portions of grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, provolone and thinly sliced prosciutto. I’d probably be content with thinly sliced prosciutto and any of those loaves of bread, but I do love pesto, too. The bread is lightly crusty on the outside and warm and fluffy inside, and the cheese is gooey and melty. (Yes, melty. It’s a technical term.)

Todo Italiano

The hubby is partial to the Oaxacan Pork. I’ve witnessed him eat this sandwich two days in a row, for the record.

Oaxacan pork

I always go for a sandwich, but there are plenty of other offerings on the menu, too, like pizzas, salads and pastas. Their pasta salad looks quite tasty, but I’m always too full with just a sandwich. Still, the dessert case beckons and I’d be a liar if I said I’ve never eaten one of their sugary chocolate chip cookies.

Dessert case

Tips

  • Panes Bread Cafe is cash only.
  • The sandwiches are hefty. You very well may not need/want dinner if you have one for lunch.
  • They are open seven days but tend to be crazy busy during the lunch hour during the work week. Saturday afternoons for a late lunch are a little less hairy. Either way, worth the wait.
  • You can also call your order in so you don’t have to wait.

Friday Faves: September 21, 2012

Bring on the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Fall officially starts tomorrow! And it actually feels like fall in Chicago. I had to wear a jacket to work more than once this week. After a pretty balmy summer, I’m ready.

So in honor of autumn eve, I share with you some of my very favorite things about fall.

I know, I know… I have a tendency to wax poetic about how Chicago has great festivals during the summer. Well, there are a handful worth checking out in the fall, too, like Apple Fest in Lincoln Square, which just so happens to be tomorrow. Another good one is the Berghoff’s Oktoberfest celebration. I think by now I’ve made it clear how I feel about brats, and last year’s was 47′ so who knows what this year will bring. (If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.)

Fall in a cup, or Pumpkin Spice Latte, as Starbucks calls it. I pretended that it wasn’t pushing 90 degrees when I enjoyed my first one of the season several weeks ago. But no matter. As far as I’m concerned, once this delicious concoction makes its debut, fall is here.

It’s not just Pumpkin Spice Latte. I will happily devour anything pumpkin that I can get my hands on this time of year. Like my husband’s fluffy pumpkin waffles. Or this little gem a co-worker recently shared. Combine 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Mix it all together until smooth and creamy, and then spread a schmear on a warm, toasty bagel or English muffin.

… and while I’m stuffing my face with pumpkin deliciousness, thank goodness I’ll have something good to watch. Yep, fall TV’s back. I’m looking forward to the usual suspects (I’m talking to you, Modern Family and Parenthood), but I don’t know when I’ve anticipated a show as much as The Mindy Project.

Of all the seasons, fall is probably my favorite for fashion. I love layering. And I love scarves. And boots, especially brown rugged, somewhat weathered looking ones. Gals wear boots year-round in London. When is that trend going to catch on here?

Now excuse me while I go whip up some of that yummy pumpkin cream cheese spread. Happy fall!

Farm to Table Fare in Chicago’s River North

Farmhouse Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois

It’s pretty much a sure bet that a restaurant that has things like Wisconsin Cheese Ball and Wisconsin Cheese Curds on its menu is going to bode well with me. You had me at “Wisconsin cheese,” Farmhouse.

Having just celebrated its one-year anniversary, Farmhouse is a farm to table, or “farm to tavern,” as they call it, restaurant. So everything served is as fresh as it possibly can be, because it’s sourced locally, right here in the Midwest. The beef comes from Illinois, the fish (which I was told was caught just two days ago) is from Wisconsin (as is that yummy cheese), and even most of the beer and wine is locally-sourced, like the champagne from Michigan.

Hands down, the best thing I’ve eaten at Farmhouse is the Half Roasted Amish Chicken. Normally I shy away from chicken when dining out. Boring… But I’m so glad I gave it a chance at Farmhouse. The skin was subtly crisp and the meat was so juicy. Oh, and it sat on a pile of Buttermilk and Blue Cheese Smashed Potatoes. Oh yes, they were rich, creamy and delicious. There were big chunks of blue cheese and potato skin and I just couldn’t stop myself.

There are plenty of places that embrace the farm to table concept, but what I appreciate about Farmhouse is that they practice that concept not only with the food, but throughout the whole restaurant. Over 85% of the materials and furnishings in the restaurant were salvaged. It truly feels like a farmhouse and has such character. The lower half of the walls upstairs are pressed tin ceiling tiles like you find at many of the old bars in Chicago, and there’s a great big long table upstairs that used to be a handyman’s workbench (in fact, they used it as a workbench during the build out of the restaurant).

The place has some serious character. And some seriously delicious food.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Oahu, Hawaii

Halona Blowhole in Oahu, Hawaii

Several years ago, I had some very lucky friends who had to live in Honolulu due to the husband’s job. I know, terrible, right — had to live in Hawaii. I piggybacked on their luck and made myself the lucky girl who had friends to stay with when she visited Hawaii. (I still have the friends, they’re just not quite as lucky anymore as they now live in Chicago, just like me. Not that Chicago’s a bad place to live. Most of the time.)

Halona Blowhole

One of the super cool things they took me to see was Halona Blowhole, this natural wonder (okay, it isn’t really a natural wonder but it does occur naturally), which, under the right conditions, can spew water up to 30′ in the air. Pretty impressive.

And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Okay, folks. The blog is back in action. And I finally found a theme that I’m happy with, so my life can return to its regularly scheduled programming. And hopefully you enjoy the new, albeit a lot like the old, look.

The two things you can expect anticipate on a weekly basis are Wanderlust Wednesday and Friday Faves. Wanderlust Wednesday will highlight either someplace I’ve been along with a fabulous photo, or someplace I’m dying to visit — maybe one of the places I’ll be visiting in the near future. Friday Faves is my version of a roundup of anything interesting I’ve found online that week, sometimes travel-related and sometimes not.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with a scene that I got to enjoy yesterday morning — Montrose Harbor. I was up bright and early for the Astellas Oncology Chicago Lung Run which basically looped around the harbor. It was a totally gorgeous morning, so much so that I scratched my head as to why I don’t normally drag myself out of bed at 7 a.m. on  Saturdays to enjoy views like this more often. Being surrounded by this type of scenery makes running that much more worth it.

Montrose Harbor

Friday Faves: September 14, 2012

Notice anything different? Yeah, I’m not too crazy about the new look and feel here, either, but I made some changes to the blog to allow me to do more with it. Unfortunately, that also meant losing my old design. And while I could spend hours and hours and hours playing around with the 789 themes available (!), I unfortunately have a day job. So bear with me while I get this sorted. And expect a better design later. I might have to try a few on for size before I find the one.

In the mean time, here are some links for you to peruse.

Ladies, here’s how to be friends with another women — the honest to god truth. “Don’t tear other women down because even if they’re not your friends, they are other women and well, this is just important.” Amen.

Crazy as it may sound, Galway was our least favorite destination on our trip to Ireland this past spring. But this write-up makes me think we need to give it another shot.

Not the sleekest looking website, Which Budget is still, in my humble opinion, one of the most useful resources when booking flights across Europe.

As the New York Times says, if you haven’t already made plans to be a leaf-peeper, you’re risking being too late.

And even though fall is in the air, I can’t resist sharing this delicious, albeit summery,  Cilantro Lime Dressing recipe which I just tried.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Seven years ago, right around this time of year, my mom, sisters and I took a girls’ trip to Bar Harbor — or Bah Habah, as the natives call it.

It was a gorgeous time of year to visit with the leaves changing color. We unfortunately got rained on the entire weekend, but rain be damned! We still traipsed through the picturesque town center, had a few beers at Geddy’s and saw Cadillac Mountain.

Bar Harbor, Maine

We stayed at an idyllic B & B, the Coach Stop Inn. It was quaint, picturesque, charming — basically choose any of the fluffy words you’d use to describe a B & B in New England and that was Coach Stop Inn. Best of all, the inn is located a bit off the beaten path, not in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor, so it made for a quiet, relaxing respite after a day of sightseeing.

At the time, Coach Stop Inn was run by a young husband and wife duo; the husband was the chef who prepared yummy blueberry fritters on most mornings. They were decadent!

It seems that the inn has since been sold but luckily is still in operation, although as the photos on the website suggest, it’s been updated slightly. Personally, I preferred the charming Victorian style that it previously had, but it looks to be equally comfortable now and is likely still a great place to stay.

Coach Stop Inn

Lakeview East Arts Festival

With summer winding down, I feel the need to take in any last street festivals that Chicago has to offer. It was a real toss-up this weekend, what, with the German American Fest, Renegade Craft Fair and the Lakeview East Arts Festival. As much as I love a good brat and beer, we opted for the arts festival instead. Every year I think I’m going to go but never do, so this year, I did, dammit!

Put on by the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, this was the eighth year of the festival. With our $5 “suggested” (demanded) donation each, we were able to peruse the 150ish art stalls displaying everything from paintings to photography to jewelry and more. (I really hate when festivals “suggest” a donation, yet there’s always a guy with a money box standing at the entrance, essentially forcing you to pay. I have no problem paying a $5 entrance fee, but just call it that then. Interestingly, the arts festival brochure dubbed it a free event for all ages.)

There were some kitschy stalls and some really cool stalls. One that we especially liked was Second Chance Art & Accessories, which had all kinds of really neato pieces like framed maps, mirrors, hooks and so on.

Second Chance Art & AccessoriesSadly, we have no room in our current home for their Premier Cru Vineyard Wine Storage Table (nor do we need another wine storage piece, KP kindly reminded me). Still, I loved that this — and all the pieces — have a unique little story on how it came to be.

Second Chance Art & AccessoriesThere were plenty of great gift ideas, too, like these darling little jelly spoons from Heartfire Studios. Because really, your jelly does need a spoon of its own!

Heartfire Studios jelly spoonsWhen I saw a Chief coaster at Reformado Photography’s booth, I knew I had to have it. There were so many to choose from, many with iconic Chicago photos, but plenty of others featuring everything from sports teams to the Paris metro.

Reformado Photography coastersMany of the artists touted Chicago-centric pieces, like the guy from Twosided. KP and I have been looking for a piece of art in a specific size to add to our living room collage, and we fell in love with the Chicago box we found at his booth (it’s the brown wooden box in the upper left in the pic below). This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a really cool piece of art. There are latches on the top and it looks kind of neat when opened, too, so we’re deciding if we’ll hang it opened or closed.

Art from Twosided

We’ve got under a month left of festivals, kids, so choose wisely.