Snow Days

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My Epic Pass arrived in the mail today! Woohooo!!!!

There have been a few early storms so I’m seriously stoked to get out there and board. I’m hoping to head out to the local mountains this weekend. As for the rest of the season, my Colorado trip is booked and Mammoth in January is pretty much set, but everything else is tentative. Check out my schedule:


I can’t wait!!!!

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A Little Bit Of A Slump

[Source: Harry How, Getty Images]

Of late, it has not been a happy time for “Coon n’ Friends”. After a nice 6-0 winning streak, the Kings have gone 1-6 in their past 7 games, with the only win coming from a shootout against Boston. Yes, of course I’m really disappointed, but no, the sky is not falling! Every team goes through tough periods. You can’t expect any team to win all 82 games; that’s just ridiculous! I really hate reading all the message boards after a loss because everybody jumps on the “trade ______” bandwagon. However, I do agree that there are issues that we need to take care of:

– Our PP is seriously horrendous. Even with a man advantage, we have difficulty with puck possession in the offensive zone. When we do keep the puck in, our plays are so damn predictable, it’s no wonder every team seems to be able to shut us down on the PP.
– What’s up with all the turnovers?! One person comes to mind when I think turnovers and that is JJ. When JJ is on his game, he’s great. When he’s not, his mistakes usually lead to goals for the other team. But let’s be fair, JJ is not single-handedly bringing down the Kings.
– TM doesn’t want to break up the 2nd line, which is understandable given that they have been the dominant scoring line since the regular season started. However, the Smyth-Stoll-Williams line has been less and less effective in the last few games (the line hasn’t scored since the Boston game), perhaps due to the fact that the other teams are adjusting their focus to neutralize our “hot” line. It’s time for TM to consider shaking up this line – what do we have to lose?

I eat: The Purple Pig

I looked at the Purple Pig’s menu multiple times when planning Foodcation 2010, but I didn’t get the “OMG, I have to eat here” feeling so the restaurant never made it onto our itinerary.

Fast forward to our last night in Chicago.

We didn’t have time to eat before our fireworks cruise so by the time it ended (around 10:30PM), we were starving. Using our fabulous new phones (HTC Evo), we searched for the closest place to eat. Well, what do ya know. The first restaurant listed was the Purple Pig. The food gods must have wanted us to eat here.

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The Purple Pig, whose tag line is “Cheese, Swine and Wine”, is located on Mag Mile, two blocks north of the Michigan Ave. bridge. The Mediterranean inspired dishes are served tapas style so we ordered 5 + dessert.

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(1) Shrimp & Clams with Rosamarina
(2) Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs
(3) Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes
(4) Scallop Spiedini with Chickpea Aioli
(5) Jamon Serrano with Duck Egg, Asparagus, Grilled Bread

I can’t really say one dish was my favorite; they were all so delicious!!!! The shrimp and clams were so light and refreshing, the bone marrow was rich and decadent, the pork shoulder and scallops were perfectly tender and oh my gosh, you all know how much I LOVE runny eggs!

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(6) Butterscotch Bodino

What a great ending to a fantastic meal! The butterscotch pudding was thick, smooth and had just the right amount of sweetness. YUM!!

Fate works in funny ways. I’m really glad it led us to the Purple Pig.

Verdict: 5/5
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

Beauty and the Beast

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2008 – Phantom of the Opera
2009 – Rent
2010 – Beauty and the Beast

I’ve now watched three shows at Segerstrom Hall in the Orange County Performing Arts Center (OCPAC) and I have yet to be disappointed with my seats or the production. I’ve usually sat in the center between rows L-O; the view is great.

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This past weekend, I watched Beauty and the Beast and WOW, what a great show! Even HENRY thought it was entertaining πŸ˜€ Just like the movie, my favorite characters of the musical were Lumiere, Cogsworth and CHIP (he was SO DAMN CUTE!). Most of the special effects were fantastic; I only found the “wolves” to be really cheesy.

The next show I’m looking forward to watching is Wicked (March 2011). Yes, I’m lame…I’ve never seen Wicked 😦

I eat: Alinea

When Alinea calls you and tells you that they have a 5:45PM seating available, you scream at the top of your lungs, jump up and down on the sidewalk before calming yourself to say, “Yes, I’ll take it”.

As I was planning Foodcation 2010, I didn’t think there would be much of a chance of us dining at Alinea given the huge wait list, but I prepared myself nonetheless; I didn’t make concrete dinner plans for our first two nights in Chicago, just in case.

Our flight from Philly arrived in Chicago at 3:30PM and we checked into our hotel by 4:30PM. This meant that we only had 45 minutes to settle in, change and get ready for dinner! I was really stressed, but like I said, whatever it takes! The hotel concierge recommended that we take a taxi to Alinea since we would be dressed up for dinner, but we decided to take public transportation instead. I see no shame in taking the subway/bus while dressed up, although, I would NEVER do that in LA.

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Alinea is located in a gray, nondescript building in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. If not for the valet parking sign outside, you would not know that this gray building with big windows houses one of the best restaurants in world.

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Behind the big black doors is a fuchsia lit, narrow hallway. You begin walking down the hallway, entranced by the bright color, but all of a sudden, sliding doors open to your left and you are pulled back to reality. Welcome to Alinea.

Keep in mind, menus were given to us at the end of the meal, not the beginning. We were to interpret the dishes on our own, with all of our senses.

English Pea: Iberico, Sherry, Honeydew
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We started our journey with a manipulation of English Peas. The peas were blanched and pureed with cream and then freeze-dried and shaped into free-form shards. Accompanying the peas were powdered Iberico ham, honeydew spheres and drops of sherry vinegar. With each bite, we got a different combination – peas with ham, peas with honeydew, or all of the above. The peas proved to be a great canvas for the distinct flavors of the other ingredients. This was one of my favorite dishes overall.

Shrimp: Fermented Black Bean, Cinnamon Aroma
Yuba: Shrimp, Miso, Togarashi
Chao Tom: Sugar Cane, Shrimp, Mint
Distillation: of Thai Flavors

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Next, we took a trip to Asia. Even without knowing what exactly was in each dish, you could recognize such Asian ingredients as miso, fish sauce and black bean.

Tomatoes: Pillows of Fresh Cut Grass Aroma

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Our sense of smell was put to work during the heirloom tomatoes course. The plates were placed on top of deflatable pillows filled with the aroma of fresh cut grass. With the help of gravity, the aroma escaped from the pillows as we ate the tomatoes and for a few minutes, we were transported out of the restaurant and into a garden after springtime showers.

Pork Belly: Curry, Cucumber, Lime

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The pork belly spring roll course gave us an opportunity to be “hands on”. After making our own stand with metal prongs, the servers placed a sheet of spring roll paper on the stand and topped it with delicious pork belly. What we wanted in our pork belly spring rolls was totally in our control; we had 11 different ingredients to choose from. Henry being adventurous, used everything. I, on the other hand, do not like cilantro or mint so I opted out of those items. This course was very refreshing and fun. I liked the idea that fine dining wasn’t limited to using proper silverware.

King Crab: Plum, Lilac, Fennel

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The next course offered three variations of King Crab combined with three ingredients: plum, lilac and fennel. With each variation, the temperature of the dish and the level of richness increased. This was a great stepping stone to the more rich and savory courses of the meal.

Hot Potato: Cold Potato, Black Truffle, Butter

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“Eat this right away” was what our server instructed us to do for the hot potato course. I kind of freaked out a little bit because I notoriously take forever to get the perfect shot, but this time I just had to let it go. We pulled the pin out, letting the hot potato/truffle/butter fall into the cold potato soup and knocked all of it back. Delicious. I can see why people rave about this course.

Lamb: Reflection of Elysian Fields Farm

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The first of our meat courses was to be a reflection of Elysian Field Farms, Alinea’s long standing supplier of lamb. The lamb loin was cooked sous vide and skewered with a spruce branch to represent the trees on the farm. Served alongside the lamb were ingredients that represented the lamb’s diet (corn and oats) and surroundings (grass).

Black Truffle: Explosion, Romaine, Parmesan

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In between the two meat courses was an explosion in your mouth, literally. A black truffle explosion, to be exact. I love truffles so this course was absolute heaven.

Tournedo: A la Persane

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The second of the meat courses, referred to as an antique concept, was an interpretation of August Escoffier’s “Tournedos a la Persane” recipe. Notice how the beautiful china adds to the antique feel; Alinea is all about the details. This course brought us back to the basics: simple plating, great combination of flavors and textures. Perfect.

Bacon: Butterscotch, Apple, Thyme

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So, how do you transition from savory to sweet? With a dehydrated slice of bacon dipped in butterscotch of course!

Lemon Soda: One Bite
Transparency: of Raspberry, Yogurt
Bubble Gum: Long Pepper, Hibiscus, Creme Fraiche

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Our dessert courses began with a trio of fun dishes that were reminiscent of candy such as lemonheads (Lemon Soda not pictured), fruit roll-ups and bubble gum.

Earl Grey: Lemon, Pine Nut, Caramelized White Chocolate

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A play on tea and cookies, the earl grey course was my favorite dessert. Loose tea leaves were finely ground and combined with crumbled shortbread dough. The innovation didn’t stop there, of course; the other elements of this dish really helped elevate it to a whole other level. The lemon curd spheres brought out the citrus component of earl grey while the white chocolate strands masked some of the bitterness.

Chocolate: Coconut, Menthol, Hyssop

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Now for the dessert finale. I’ll let the video speak for itself. Excuse my “Oooohhs” and “Aaaahhhs” πŸ˜›

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The perfect ending to this extraordinary meal would have been to meet Chef Grant Achatz. Unfortunately, the stars did not align as he was on vacation. The end of August seems to be a popular time for Chefs to take vacation. We did, however, get the opportunity to tour the kitchen. I guess we’ll just have to come back and dine again in order to meet the great Achatz πŸ˜‰

The End.

Verdict: 5/5
Alinea
1723 North Halsted
Chicagom Illinois 60614

Bad Luck

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Los Angeles Kings

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The first game I attended this season turned out to be the Kings’ first loss at home. Talk about being bad luck 😦

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I purchased my premier seating tickets through: livingsocial.com. At Staples Center, premier seating is basically the section between the 100s and the 300s – the 200s surround both nets. Food and drink service (as in you order and they serve you – you still have to pay) is included in the premier section so you literally can stay in your seat all night long, unless you have to go to the bathroom of course. I actually prefer the premier seats to the 100s because you have a more elevated view of the entire ice rink while still being close enough so that you can clearly see the players and the puck. Although it’s exciting to be so close, if you’re too far down in the 100s, it’s hard to see what is going on if it’s not happening right in front of you. The downside is that the price for a single ticket game in the premiers is usually more expensive than the 100s (other than center ice), so if you go for the 100s, I suggest you choose from row 15+.

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Did you notice that Staples Center was packed? The Kings are back and I could not be more proud πŸ™‚

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We love LA! β™₯

[Continue for game bullets]

Foodcation 2010: Second City

It’s been three months since we returned from Foodcation 2010 and I’m finally getting around to posting about our last stop: Chicago. That’s some serious backlog! (Read about NYC and Philly)

We only had one reason to go to Chicago and that was Alinea. So imagine my disappointment about being put on a 20+ person wait list. We had booked all of our travel/lodging months beforehand and I thought calling one month before to make a reservation at Alinea would be enough, but it wasn’t; Alinea begins taking reservations two months prior to the month you plan to dine. For example, if you want to dine on August 24th, you better start calling on June 1st! More about Alinea in another post.

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We booked a room at Allerton, which is located on Mag Mile. To me, the location was the best aspect of the hotel. I love how lively and vibrant Mag Mile is! It reminds me a lot of NYC and you all know how much I LOVE NYC! πŸ™‚

As with NYC and Philly, the public transportation in Chicago is very efficient. We purchased a 3-day pass (available at CVS) for $14 each, which we used to go to Hot Doug’s, of course.

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After about 50 minutes on public transit and another 50 minutes waiting in line, we were finally standing in front of Doug, himself, ordering:

– 2 “Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel”
– 1 “Red Wine and Demi-Glace Venison Sausage with Fig Goat’s Butter and Raclette Cheese”
– 1 “Saucisson Alsacienne: Bacon Sausage with Creme Fraiche, Caramelized Onions and Tomme de Savoie Cheese”
– order of DUCK FAT FRIES

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One word: AMAZING.

To burn off the 3000+ calories we consumed at Hot Doug’s, we walked around the city.

First up on our walking tour was Millennium Park. We were in town for “Chopin in the Park”, a bi-centennial birthday celebration of Poland’s greatest composer, FrΓ©dΓ©ric Chopin. Perfect timing! Chicago is Warsaw’s sister city, which is why it was part of the celebration. We stopped to listen to a little boy play Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 64, No. 1 (aka Minute Waltz) and Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2. I recognized both pieces instantly – anyone who started playing piano at 4 years old and practiced 3 hours a day would.

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After Millennium Park, we made our way to Buckingham Fountain (cue: love and marriage, love and marriage :)) …

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… and ended our walking tour at Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower), where my camera battery ran out after my first shot inside! BURN. Thank goodness for back-up point and shoot!

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We also used our metro passes to visit the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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While Chicago is certainly beautiful during the day, it is even more so at night. Chicago has the most breathtaking skyline I’ve seen so far. Even better than NYC. YES, I said it!

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The above is my best attempt at a panorama. Taking pictures at night without a tripod is hard enough, but on a moving boat? Forget about it 😦 Anyway, we were on a boat for a fireworks cruise. During the summer (~Memorial Day through Labor Day), there is a fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday night at Navy Pier. Sure, you can experience the fireworks show for free at Navy Pier, but with a cruise, you can sit back, relax and soak in some history, all while enjoying a breathtaking view of Chicago. At ~$30/pp, Lake/River boat tours may seem like a tourist traps, but I highly recommend them!

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Trivia time!

In what direction does the Chicago River flow?
a) West to East, towards Lake Michigan
b) East to West, away from Lake Michigan
c) Both directions

Well, according to the research of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the University of Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, the answer is c) both since it is believed the surface flows away from Lake Michigan while deep, deep below, the flow is in the opposite direction because of a density current. Anyway, the original flow of the river was West to East, towards Lake Michigan, but engineers reversed the river flow in the 1900s due to concerns regarding the pollution of the city’s water source.

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Between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan lies the Chicago Harbor/River Lock. This device allows boats to easily transition from the lower water level of the river to the higher water level of the lake. That’s right! I got my learn on πŸ˜€

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Ok so, you can’t go to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza, right?! Right. Since I’ve never had deep dish pizza before, we went to Giordano’s for lunch, waited about an hour for a table, and guess what? After one bite, I decided: I HATE DEEP DISH PIZZA! It’s really an abomination to the pizza I grew up with and love. The crust in the middle of the pizza was mushy, there was too much sauce that wasn’t seasoned properly and worst of all, you can’t eat this kind of pizza with your hands. Yea, I know I’m being Captain Obvious with my last point, but seriously, how awful is that?! There’s a time and place to be prim and proper and eating a pizza is not one of those times.

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Well, this trip was certainly different than our past trips since it was heavily based around food. And while I loved this food tour of ours, I did find myself missing the outdoor activities. For our next annual trip, I’m going to try to have more of a balance between food and the outdoors. Life is all about balance πŸ™‚

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Chicago Eats (+our verdict):
Hot Doug’s, 5/5
Giordano’s, 2.5/5
Blue 13, 3/5