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Posts about Chicago

Post-trip bookin'

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: June 5, 2012 - 9:15 AM

Those of us who love to travel also tend to be passionate about food. We often search out great eateries before we go, and sometimes plan a good bit of our trip around these gastronomic sojourns.

This can have a delightful carryover effect in our own kitchens, especially now that so many great restaurant chefs write a cookbook or three. (And of course now, many recipes are available on the Interwebs.)

My first foray into this realm was the chicken tortilla soup from Rick Bayless of Chicago's Fronterra Grill. It's now a staple in our menu rotation, and a great winter company dish. Then came morel-dusted scallops from Patrick O'Connell's Inn at Little Washington in Virginia (amazing kitchen below).

And then I got serious. Smitten with the food at Donald Link's New Orleans mecca Herbsaint, my way better half and I decided to cook our way through his "Real Cajun." The amazing smothered pork roast, the biscuit-y chicken and dumplings and the uplifting sauce picante have been beyond stellar.

Eating these dishes doesn't quite transport us to New Orleans, but at least we can see it from there.


This travel contest seems too good to be true

Posted by: Updated: February 29, 2012 - 11:49 AM

There are contests and then there are contests. This one sounds too good to be true. The San Francisco-based tour company Viator is looking for travelers with wanderlust and video acumen. Winners will get an all-expenses-paid junket to visit 20 cities in 60 days, shooting video in two-person teams. Official details are slated to be announced March 1, but Escape Artists got the scoop a little early and is happy to share the following press release. (We're also guessing Chicago will be among the cities on the list, so we've included a photo from the North Pond restaurant in Lincoln Park) Launches “Win Your Dream Travel Job” Contest – 60 Days, 20 Cities, 1 Video Camera – All on Viator
 Final Contestants will tour the U.S. or Europe to film their adventures and document their experiences; Facebook votes will determine winners of the $10,000 Grand Prize
San Francisco, Calif. – March 1, 2012 –, the leading resource for more than 9,000 tours and activities in over 150 countries, has launched a global casting call to find four passionate travelers with a knack for capturing their passion on film. Winners will have the opportunity to film and star in travel videos featuring some of the world’s most amazing and iconic travel hot spots – truly the globetrotting adventure of a lifetime.
Viator’s “Win Your Dream Travel Job” Contest will give four finalists, paired in teams of two, the chance to travel and shoot video for Viator as part of the company’s ongoing effort to create the world’s largest video library of tours and things to do in popular destinations worldwide. One team will film destinations in North America, the other in Europe, with both visiting approximately 20 cities in 60 days to document top local attractions, tours and things todo.  Viator will provide each finalist with professional video equipment and cover the cost of round-trip airfare to and from their destination; along with up to $15,000 per person to cover additional travel expenses including accommodations, local transportation and meals.
Once each teamreturns, both will submit “Wrap-up” videos to Viator’s Facebook page. The video receiving the most votes from Facebook users will earn the winning team a grand prize of $10,000.
“This contest is as good as it gets for those who love to travel and have an eye for shooting video,” said Ms. Barrie Seidenberg, president and CEO of Viator, Inc.  “But this is also a great opportunity for Viator as it will enable us to give our customers even more insider access to a real traveler’s first-hand experiences with a new destination, new activity or new culture. Seeing with your own eyes what your personal experience might be like before you book is an invaluable travel planning tool.”
To enter the “Win Your Dream Travel Job” Contest, contestants must create a unique one-to-three minute video that demonstrates their filmmaking talents and love for travel, and cover specific topics such as top travel tips or a memorable travel experience. No experience is required, other than insatiable wanderlust.  Videos must be submitted to no later than April 25, 2012.  The 10 contestants whose video entry receives the most Facebook votes will be guaranteed an opportunity to interview with the Viator team. Contestants can enter multiple videos but each must be unique. The judging panel, which includes three-time MTV VMA award winner Jeff Clark, executive producer for Viator, will meet with semifinalists on a rolling basis with one finalist being selectedevery two weeks beginning March 15, 2012.
To be eligible, contestants must be 18 years of age or older as of Jan. 1, 2012 and possess a valid government-issued Passport. Contestants should refer to the full details of the contest and the official contest rules before entering.  
Contest updates and chronicles of the winners’ journeys will be posted regularly to the Viator Travel Blog as well as Viator’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and  
About Viator
Viator® is the world’s leading online resource for travel experiences, providing access to more than 9,000 tours, attractions and activities in 800-plus destinations in more than 150 countries. Viator– the Latin word for traveler – offers a one-stop shop to plan, research and book trip activities via its Web and mobile platforms with resources such as more than 300,000 traveler reviews, ratings and photos, suggested itineraries and the Viator Travel Blog. Viator’s in-house travel experts hand-pick trusted local operators to ensure quality, value and service, all backed by a low-price guarantee. Viator sells its products through, the Viator Tours and Activities App for iPhone, the Viator Ultimate Experience Guide for iPad, ten local language sites in Asia, Europe and Latin America and more than 2,000 affiliated sites that include major hotel chains and airlines, online travel agencies, city-specific sites and more. Viator is a privately held company, with lead investment from The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. Founded in 1995, Viator is headquartered in San Francisco with regional offices in Sydney, London and Las Vegas.

Amid a flurry of Chicago eating options, a quiet breakfast spot thrives

Posted by: Updated: November 28, 2011 - 4:47 PM

CHICAGO -- Everyone agrees: Chicago is a major-league eating town. From its cliche deep dish pizzas to its upscale gourmet restaurants such as North Pond and  Spring, there is something for everyone along Lake Michigan. But nothing's more thrilling than finding an out-of-the-way, unpretentious gem with good prices and good food.

To wit: The City Cafe at 3234 N. Pulaski, just west of Interstate 94 between W. Addison St. and W. Belmont Av. We were heading over to visit our nephew's new house and intentionally got lost to wander the Sunday morning, rainy streets of my hometown.

Just as our hunger and edginess began to build, we spotted the City Cafe in a decorative corner building. My daughter ordered the huevos ranchero. My wife picked a fluffy spinach omelette, My son, complaining about being rushed, jumped on a huge breakfast burrito. I ordered the 2-2-2 special, which included two eggs, two slices of French toast and two slices of bacon so crisp I'd swear an iron was involved.

My breakfast came with a homemade custard sauce made with sugar and milk that rendered the maple syrup unnecessary. Our waitress joked that she couldn't tell us how they made it. The whole deal cost $5.50 and the massive breakfast for four came in at a reasonable $36.

Owner and chef VIcente Duran (left, with assistant chef Pedeo Coss in the hat) said the 2-year-old family business justed expanded its hours at the request of the neaby Kindred Hosptial staffers who frequent the place. Perfect way to start the day.


Black Friday, Chicago style: mobs, deals and protests

Posted by: Updated: November 25, 2011 - 4:04 PM

CHICAGO -- Black Friday 2011 in the Windy City brought unusually balmly sunshine and the typical crowds on Michigan Avenue, deals in the stores and animal rights protests outside Elan Furs and other places still selling mink coats and other politically incorrect fashions..

The deals included 40 percent off at places such as Eddie Bauer and Banana Republic. Garman GPS devices were going for $209 instead of the usual $350, which doesn't seem like such as great deal. Lines of at check-out stations were long, at Eddie Bauer (lower right).

And just like every years dozens of organized protesters descended on the furriers, shouting things such as:


Anthony, the doorman at my friend's condo near Lake Michigan, said the highways were jammed at 5 a.m. for the door buster electronics deals.

The beatific weather was only supposed to last one day. The weekend was slated to bring back the typical Chicago crud. Tonight's entertainment: Ike Reilly at the Double Door.

Travelling vicariously

Posted by: Bill Ward Updated: November 22, 2011 - 10:23 AM

I didn't get to Chicago or San Francisco during the last few months, but I did the next best thing: connecting friends who love great food with some of my favorite restaurants, then hearing about their experiences after they returned.

My friends Brad and Rose never had been to the Bay Area, and there are so many great options there that it's hard to distill them (also the case with Chicago). There's wonderful Vietnamese (Slanted Door), stupendously fresh and inexpensive seafood (Swan's Oyster Depot), countless Chinese treasures and some of the nation's best Italian eateries (A16, Quince).

I mentioned those but strongly touted three places: the dim sum mecca Ton Kiang, the classy brasserie Boulevard and our personal favorite, Zuni Cafe (which merely boasts ridiculous oysters, about the best burger around, definitely the best roast chicken I've ever had and myriad fancier options).

With late notice, Brad and Rose had to scramble to get into Boulevard and Zuni, and weren't able to make it to Ton Kiang. But they positively gushed about their experiences, and my mouth was watering during their soliloquies. (In fact, it would be hard to even write this if I were not headed to Zuni myself on Saturday .)

Earlier this fall, my longtime buddy Kyle emailed me for Chicago tips. Knowing his palate, and how similar it is to mine, I suggested three places: perhaps America's best Mexican restaurant, Frontera Grill, and the neighbor/partners Avec and Blackbird.

Kyle and his lady friend were wowed and dazzled by Rick Bayless' fantabulous cooking at Frontera, but they spent much of their trip basically parked at the other two places, especially the more informal Avec. Kyle's one of the most articulate people I know, and hearing hiom recount his experiences at all three places was almost as much fun as actually being there.





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