Category Archives: Uncategorized

Revival Food Hall, Bridgeport, The Wormhole/Wicker Park – frigid Chicago

With subzero temps and icy snow on the ground, Christmas 2017 in Chicago was not conductive to outdoor activity, which is a big change from last Christmas when it was so pleasant we took our dog for a romp on the beach near my stepdaughter’s condo in Edgewater. But this year, we walked as much as we could tolerate, with help from two pairs of socks, down jackets, thick scarves covering our face from the nose downward.

We enjoyed well-deserved hot chocolate at The Wormhole, a bohemian coffee house in Wicker Park and made it about a block in the bitter cold to a little boutique for some post-Xmas sale shopping. At Night, we met my old friend Polly and her husband Jamie (who drove down and around from their home in Traverse City) for dinner at a favorite restaurant, Andy’s Thai Kitchen (the one in Edgewater, which is not only more convenient to where we stay but takes credit cards).

On Wednesday we talked ourselves into thinking it was slightly warmer (it wasn’t but the sky was brilliantly blue over the icy pale blue lake) and walked from my aunt’s apartment on Astor Street to Uniqlo on Michigan Avenue for some sale-priced winter gear and then to chaotic Eataly, the Italian food madhouse for some fresh prosciutto, mozzarella and fungi pizza, sitting at a high top table in the middle of a rush of shoppers. Our only other purchase was rustic bread with cranberries and apples, which made a delicious breakfast today. We kept walking, over the river to Revival Hall, a new food court/Hall in an old building. I’m told the poke place, the bbq place (smoke) and the Thai noodle place are good to try but we only had coffee and some too-sweet bakery goods. I was Intrigued by the”Detroit-style pizza” place, something this native Detroiter never heard of before. Dinner was with my dear aunt at one of her favorite places, Shaw’s for fresh fish, creamed spinach, hash browns and peppermint ice cream with hot fudge.

Today was cold and grey. We wandered a few blocks in Andersonville, shopping at Foursided and the bookstore, Women and Children First, and ending up eating at the nearby Middle East Bakery & Grocery after we learned that Edzo’s was closed (we drove all the way to Evanston, only to discover this). Now driving in the dark across Illinois. Fortunately it stopped snowing after the city of Peru. Our best meal was Emma’s fabulous homemade Korean brisket, roasted rosemary potatoes, collard greens and chocolate cake (with ground coffee but no flour)…not available to the public, sorry.


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Prince Show and the Bachelor Farmer Cafe – Minneapolis

My favorite piece at the art show honoring the late great singer Prince at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was a portrait by an apparently well-known Minnesota “crop artist” who used a variety of crops (bromegrass, grits, canola, etc.) as her medium. The show was only two rooms worth of stuff – a lot of photos, some painted portraits, a giant mural and some glass sculpture but always nice to wander through the bright high-ceilinged spaces of the museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

my favorite bachelor

Lunch was at the bustling Bachelor Farmer Cafe in the warehouse district where we had fresh-tasting squash soup and an very Scandinavian-feeling open-faced toasted sandwich. The cafe is at the front of the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant, where we had a great meal over Memorial Day weekend.

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When next in NYC, LA, SF or London – April Bloomfield’s picks

This from a NYTimes Q and A with chef April Bloomfield, whose restaurants we’ve recently gone to (Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall; the Spotted Pig in NYC).

London recommendations:  in Hackney, Violet (cute tea shop/bakery); in Shoreditch, Lyle’s (“clean simple food”)

In LA: Hearth& Hound (her new place in Hollywood for “wood-fired food.”)

In San Francisco: her place, Tosca Cafe or Marin Brewing Company (in Marin)

In NYC: her places – Breslin Bar & Dining or the John Dory in Flatiron district; White Gold Butchers, Salvation Taco.; recommendations – Kunjip in Koreatown.


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David Hockney retrospective and a “highlights tour” at the Met – NYC

1hockney.jpgI arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Monday morning just as a free tour was starting, focusing on “museum highlights.” Curious about what constitutes a “highlight,” I joined the one-hour tour and saw things I’ve never seen during many previous wanderings around the Met. Later I asked our guide if the highlights vary by guide and tour and she said “yes.” Which only makes sense – there are far too many highlights to pack into one hour. We made six stops (I dutifully wrote them down on a brochure and then left my list, by mistake, in a bathroom) – I knew only the last piece well, because, interestingly, it was a 2007 mural by the Ghana-born Nigerian artist  El Anatsui, who had a big exhibit several years ago at…the Des Moines Art Center. Other works included a 17th century painted Japanese screen,  Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream, 1899,  (of a black man aboard a ship in very rough seas), the  Velasquez portrait of Juan de Pareja (1650) , an ancient Virgin and Child carved wood reliquary (late 1100’s) and a reproduction of an 1884 Rodin statue (Burghers of Calais.)

Schnechen “snail” at Greenberg’s

From there I went to my original destination – the David Hockney retrospective which I recommend also. His bright colorful paintings of Los Angeles, in particular, are enough to bring cheer on a drab winter day (not to mention the sunny fall day when I saw them). Here’s the original of a poster I have had hanging in my office for years. (The colors in mine, I realize now, have faded).

I also stopped for a little schnecken at Greenberg’s bakery on Madison Avenue, near the Met. And enjoyed the warm artichoke salad with my wonderful Aunt Shelby at Bella Blue on Lexington and 70th.


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Here’s my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about smoked fish on Minnesota’s North Shore!

If you’re looking for smoked whitefish in Northern Minnesota, here’s a travel story I wrote….

An Iowan takes in the region’s tourist basics, but it’s the taste of the fish that stands out.

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Note to self (and others): skip the “basic economy” plane fare. Stay with “Standard” fare.

Yes, it’s technically cheaper but the Basic Economy ticket isn’t worth the savings – and probably won’t save you anything in the long run, especially if you happen to travel with luggage, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Basic Economy Fare as sold by Delta, United and American, is about $30-50 less than “Standard” fare but lots of downsides including:

On all three airlines: no seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate. Worse, you’re the most vulnerable to losing your seat if the flight is oversold (aka “involuntary denied boarding” or “getting bumped.”) If you’re traveling with a group or family, there’s no hope of sitting together.

United and American: You can’t put anything in the overhead bin without a $25 charge each way (so there goes your modest savings from getting the Economy fare.); You also board in the last group, further reducing your chances of finding bin space.

Delta gives you overhead space but again, you board last.

United: you can’t even check-in online unless you’re checking luggage (i.e. paying $25). you have to check in at the airport. And, oh, no frequent flier miles. (American and Delta let you have miles.)

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Busy Heathrow, Francine pick up!, gloomy weather, Iowa in Mortlake — Hello London!

img_1294I’ve never seen such a long line at Heathrow’s arrival passport control. It started even before we got to the main waiting area, with a long line in the long hall leading to the waiting area. Fortunately, the maze of a line in the waiting area moved fairly quickly so after an hour or so, I was with my dear pal Francine, whisking our way under a very gloomy sky to Mortlake where where we had a nice little catch-up and lunch, then walk to Mortake where Francine took the train to work and I wandered for another hour or so, jet-lagged but trying desperately to keep going. I stopped in at the new location of the sweet little cafe Pickle & Rye which I was pleased to see has retained its Yank decor (including such Iowa knickknacks as a UI Hawkeye cap and a mug from Marshalltown’s Maidrite outpost, an Iowa-born fastfood chain serving “loose-meat” sandwiches.) The owners, one of whom is from Iowa, are visiting Iowa right now, as it turns out but hope to catch sight of them later in the trip. NOw comfortably ensconced at Francine and Russ’s lovely flat on Shalstone Road and will attempt to stay await until late evening British time.

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