Chicago Trip Report

September29

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I have been to greater Chicago many times as The Keg Restaurant in Evanston was my responsibility when I held the position of Midwest Marketing Director for the Keg Steakhouse and Bar. Funny thing though, on all those trips, I never left Evanston. So too, when I was at a conference in Wheaton, I never had the opportunity to venture uptown. My first brief visit was when D and I were en route to Sicily. We took a train directly from the airport to the city centre.

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The architecture of Chicago is amazing. There is constructed beauty everywhere you turn. We got to enjoy the city scape from both a hop on hop off bus tour and a boat tour.

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I loved the architecture itself but the reflections appealed to me even more so.

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The beauty of Chicago is in the details. Check out how exquisite the Target Store is below.

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We stopped in to admire Magnolia Bakery.

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We spent an amazing half day at the Art Institute of Chicago. Their Impressionist collection rivals New York and the Muse D’Orsay in Paris.

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But the art is not limited to the museums. The attitude in Chicago is lighthearted and playful.

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This Picasso is out in the open, right downtown for all the enjoy.

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We did our fair share of shopping. This is Macy’s in the former Marshall Field’s building. It was more like a palace than a department store.

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Kath’s quote: “Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.” ― Nelson Algren

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How to Transport Foraged Mushrooms by Guest Blogger-Alice Kulyk

September28

When I pick mushrooms I like to take a basket for collecting. The opening to my basket may be a little too big because as I walk the forest and bump into trees, debris falls into it. I would prefer a cleaner collection, but am too attached to my basket at this stage.  Since it is a bit bigger, I can collect a lot more mushrooms before returning to my car to empty it and go out again to collect more.

A lightly woven basket allows mushroom spores to be distributed as you walk about the forest to encourage more mushroom growth. I personally don’t like a plastic pail or bags as the mushrooms may sweat.

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Stackable cardboard boxes for produce from Costco are absolutely a must for storing your mushrooms in the car. I always bring 3 or 4 of them. A large find of  mushrooms doesn’t get squashed the way they could in bags or large pails. Two or three pounds of mushrooms can easily fit in a box and stay fresh until you get home. They also breathe better in cardboard.

When walking through the forest hunting for mushrooms, I always keep my knife (not too sharp of one) in my basket till I come to a clump. I have tripped a couple times on a fallen log or hole in the ground. Keeping your knife in your hand could be dangerous if you fall.

It is also a good idea to carry tissue or a cloth to wipe your knife or hands in case you are cutting mushrooms that could be poisonous. It is always better to cut through the stems of a mushroom as you do not want to disturb the mycelia threads by pulling out the entire mushroom.

Kath’s quote: “Take a trip to the forest and experience the greatness of getting on your knees and picking your own food and going home… and eating it”. -Rene Redzepi
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Sydney’s & Sous Sol

September27

Winnipeg is such a food-centric community that its Chefs are given celebrity status. Case in point: I have been following the career of Chef Michael Schafer since he medalled in the Gold Plates competition and re-opened a beautiful restaurant at The Forks, that being Sydney’s. Since then he has birthed Rudy’s, a downtown urban bistro and Sous Sol a funky basement restaurant that is as comfortable as being invited to a friend’s family room.

I was delighted when I recently received an invitation to a “concierge” evening at Sydney’s. When I rsvp to manager Carlos, he said “Food Musings, ah yes, Michael Schafer has been a fan of your blog for years”. Michael confirmed this when I finally got to meet him in real life, walking from the executive bus he had hired to escort us from Sydney’s to Sous Sol.

Michael has appointed another Chef Michael, namely Michael Robins to head up the kitchen at Sydney’s. I had met Chef Robins when I was writing a story about Sous Sol. He is another talented grad of the Red River College’s Culinary program. Winnipeg is blessed with so much gastronomic talent from the college. But, I am getting a head of myself.

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As bloggers, Instagrammers, Free Press writers and concierges from a number of key Winnipeg Hotels assembled, we sipped on a fine sparkling white wine and the food started arriving.

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Poached shrimp in a sweet chili and mango sauce and vegetable wonton with sesame dressing were both tasty but we (accompanied by Sister #3), were most impressed by the smoked gold eye crepe with caper aioli and pickled mustard seed. The seeds popped in our mouths like caviar. We agreed that it was the little things like those mustard seeds that elevates cuisine from “delicious” to “sensational”.

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I snuck away to peruse the recent décor updates to the dining room. The goal was to relax the ambience a bit to make Sydney’s more appropriate for a variety of dining experiences. I think that the revamp is right on the money and have been encouraging friends to give the dining room a try for their Friday night dinner dates.

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Once we had been escorted to our tables in the dining room more appetizers were set in front of an enthusiastic bunch. We loved the Manitoba trapist cheese selections and the Chef’s ode to McNuggets with clever duck sausage morsels to dip into honey mustard.

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My personal favourite was the Beef Tartare with mini grilled cheese triangles for scooping up the silky meat. This was all served before we made personal selections from our customized menus.

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Sister #3 chose the Charred Beets as her starter and she swapped tastes with me and my Mango Peanut Salad. Both wonderful.

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The Tomato Bisque was also deemed delicious (must have been the bacon)!

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A cleansing sorbet arrived and then we were ready for our entrees. Artic Char with lentils, greens, almonds and salmoriglio (a southern Italian condiment) was chosen by our table neighbours and they were happy to let us feast with our eyes.

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Sister #3 loved her choice of Duck Breast with pickled butternut squash, golden curry and baby potatoes.

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I am crazy about truffles and ordered the New York steak for just that reason. I was delighted with the squash and garlic mashed potatoes. The New York was perfection-pan fried in what I suspected was a nub of butter, just like my Dad always prepared steaks when I was growing up. He managed what became Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon and he knew his beef, so this is the ultimate compliment in my mind.

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Thinking that I would love to go home and get into my stretchy pants, we were escorted by Schafer to his pet project-Sous Sol. He described how he distressed the space and furniture himself prior to opening. I love the cozy lower level space and would have been satisfied with a night cap, but Chef Michael Robins had been busy putting out some more satisfying nibbles.

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Including the most divine lemon tarts I have ever tasted AND the piece de resistance of

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mini crème brulees!

The evening from start to conclusion was a culinary treat and I am enthusiastic to return to both spots very soon (especially because D had plans that evening and was disappointed that he couldn’t join me).

Sydney's at the Forks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sous Sol Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quote: “If you are a chef, no matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music”. -will.i.am

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Sydney’s heart shaped crostini!

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Mercat a la planxa-Chicago

September19

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Our final evening in Chicago, I suggested we check out a tapas restaurant not far from our hotel. We were sat by a window so that we could watch the world wiz by on Michigan Ave.

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Mercat a la Planxa, is a Chicago Tapas restaurant where we took a culinary tour of Barcelona with Catalan-inspired cuisine. Chef Jose Garces’ mod-Mediterranean kitchen delivered a pot-purri of savoury tastes.

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We started with refreshments of course. One girlfriend was delighted by this flight of sangrias.

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I loved my pear cider and another girlfriend enjoyed her cucumber mojito.

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An amuse bouche of bruschetta arrived at our table. We agreed unanimously that we had come to the right place.

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My traditional tapas choice of Montadito (small bread with topping) Escalivada (roasted eggplant) arrived first. We shared the crostinis which were also topped with white anchovies, roasted red bell pepper and whipped goatcheese.

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Next up were Cepes (wild mushrooms)/ Butiffarra (Catalan sausage) enhanced by bacon marmalade! These too were delectable.

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Our third plate to share was the Truita (rainbow trout) de Navarra (a province in Spain), with a crisp piece of Serrano ham, green beans and sherry aioli. Delish.

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I added an order of Patatas Bravas just for good measure and remarkably it was the dish that I was most crazy about. When I have enjoyed Patatas Bravas at my favourite tapas restaurant at home in Winnipeg, they were presented like potato wedges. These plumb discs of potatoes must have been carefully formed, cooked and then patiently lined up on the rectangular dish. The smoke paprika aioli put the heavenly dish over the top!

The night was still young so we did some exploring in hopes of finding a gelato spot.

Mercat a la Planxa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quotes:“Short story collections are the literary equivalent of canapés, tapas and mezze in the world of gastronomy: Delightful assortments of tasty morsels to whet the reader’s appetite.” ― Alex Morritt

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Lake Life: Summer of 2016, Part 3

September9

 

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What else do we do to make summers special at the lake? We eat!

D loves to cook the entire supper on the barbeque, so as to not heat up the cottage. This was the last evening of our holiday: grilled pork tenderloin, squashed potatoes, eggplant and corn.

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We often sit out at the table on our front deck. Dining el fresco is especially lovely when surrounded by the tall pines and birch trees.

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When old friends joined me from Toronto and Vancouver the week that my Mom passed away, they did most of the cooking. I sat back and basked in their love and attention.

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We take turns cooking when we are there on a given weekend. On this day Boo and the Frenchman were at it with freshly sliced pineapple and cinnamon and walnut French toast. Yes it was as delicious at it looked!

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This simple meal was a particularly poignant one. The day that Mom died, Sister #3 and I stayed behind to pack up Mom’s things. Mom’s favourite meal was a tomato sandwich and she loved summer tomatoes that were ripe and bursting with flavour. She must have eaten half a tomato and had the second one wrapped and waiting for her in her little fridge. It would be impossible for me to describe the taste of that second tomato half.

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Sometimes word gets around that we are all assembling at one of the six beach houses that my family owns. Sometimes it is for happy hour and other times it is at dinner time. You are instructed to bring along whatever you were cooking for supper and if you have enough to share “great”, if not, someone else is bound to have more than they need. This last weekend when one of my nephews hosted a games night, appetizers were brought along. They too were as tasty as they looked.

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This weekend, was a little chillier and the wasps have driven us inside. We got out table extensions and folding chairs and eight of us assembled for an impromptu dinner of pickerel, shrimp, scallops, corn, potato wedges and green beans. Life is good, is very good indeed.

Kath’s quote: “Better is a dish of vegetables served with love than a fattened calf with animosity”. -Proverbs 15:17

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