Friday, October 28, 2011

A new state!

Knocked off another state this week. I hadn't even realized that I've never been to Virginia before. To me, I guess it's just one of those states that feels like I have to have visited at some point.

I was in Richmond for work, and I was fortunate enough to visit during the city's Restaurant Week (Cleveland's is next week!) I tried The Hill Cafe in the Church Hill neighborhood on Wednesday night and got a great meal for its Restaurant Week special of $25.11, of which $2.11 is donated to the food bank.

When visiting someplace new, I like to try local cuisine as much as possible, so I sampled fried oysters, shrimp and grits with bacon, and pecan pie. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know this, but the pecan pie I had from two different places had a lot of syrupy chocolate. When I've had it in the past near home, I don't remember it being so chocolately.

Last night, we tried Comfort, which was just featured in GQ this week. Comfort is to Richmond as Melt is to Cleveland -- cult following, comfort food, funky staff and no rezzies accepted. Each dish comes with a choice of two to three Southern sides (of course I opted for three). I had the luscious meatloaf with sweet potatoes, squash casserole and fried okra. I also tried a Legend Brown, a yummy, local brew.

After dinner, I convinced our group to check out The Fan neighborhood since it sounded cool. We went to tiny Bacchus, but since there wasn't room at the bar, we moved on to The Fan House. Lots of cool drink selections here, and the mixologist didn't disappoint. I tried a proseco drink (#11) with sweet potato purée because it sounded so crazy, and it was goooood.

I was disappointed that places seemed to be pretty spread out in The Fan since we couldn't just walk from place to place. I wish I had some daylight hours to explore, particularly since I heard there are a ton of galleries in that area.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the charming old row houses from the 1800s in the city, particularly those by VCU, this year's March Madness Cindarella story. (Incidentally, I saw Davidson soon after its storybook March Madness a few years ago during a Charlotte trip.) I also liked the refurbed old tannery and tobacco buildings in the much character.

I wouldn't be disappointed if I was able to visit Richmond again, particularly since it's 90 minutes from Virginia Beach. Hopefully I can get some daylight hours to properly explore the neighborhoods and galleries.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Doing Good with Foster the People

Yesterday was another mash-up of eating out, shopping and connecting with former Clevelanders, this time with a volunteer twist.

My friend Carli has been doing PR for the Do Good Bus, which has linked up with the band Foster the People during its U.S. tour. The Do Good Bus kidnaps Foster the People fans who are up for an afternoon of mystery volunteering in the city where the band is playing that night.

I made a donation to help get the bus on the road and my pic made the back of the bus (I'm below the flash to the left).

Before catching the Do Good Bus, I browsed some shops in Bucktown and Wicker Park (wait till Pickle sees his surprise). My faves were Psychobaby (custom baby clothes), The Red Balloon, P45 and Cynthia Rowley. I kid you not, but the only thing I bought for myself were some cult Cynthia Rowley Band-Aids. Trust me, I've spent enough on meals and wine this week.

The Do Good Bus took us to an organization called The Gaia Movement, which collects clothes, toys and books in bins throughout Chicago, farms a small garden to source food for a church's food pantry and teaches people about sustainability and the environment.

I sorted and cleaned books and helped box them up for Christmas deliveries for kids...ahhh, so heartwarming. I had a great time meeting new people and comparing our best book finds. Mine were a bunch of Harlequin novels clearly aimed at lusty single moms. See below.

When I was going through the piles of books, one of the garden team leaders came over and asked if I wanted to help out with the garden. I sheepishly told her I'm not an outdoor girl and that I was enjoying the cool, shaded warehouse environment. :)

Once we got back into the city, the band interrupted its sound check to come by and say hi. We got a picture snapped of Mark Foster, Carli and me to represent the Cleveland connection. (Note that I made Carli pose with the broom she was using the clean the bus.) Mark was nice enough to sign the postcard I was sending to Dylan.

It's so funny, but when Carli and I saw the band in Cleveland in June at the Grog Shop, they were parked on the street with one van that was hauling them around the country. Four months later, they have an entourage of four sweet buses (five couting the Do Good Bus) and will be on SNL Saturday (featuring a surprise guest!!).

Heading home today to see my boys, whom I miss like crazy. Can't wait to veg and eat salads for the next few days.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Michigan Avenue and Two Dinners

Yesterday was a lovely, relaxing day. I'm staying in Bucktown, so I found a gym to help me lessen the guilt of all the gorging I've been doing. However, I didn't even make it back home before stopping to eat a cheddar and figs grilled cheese sandwich at a wonderful cafe called Birchwood. The staff are so friendly and helpful, and I loved sitting on the patio. (Even DailyCandy wrote about it, so you know it's awesome.)

I spent the majority of my day on Michigan Avenue, and the blisters on my feet are living proof. Strangely, my wallet really isn't much emptier from that jaunt. I've been spending all my money on food and drink vs. goods. However, at Zara, I purchased mommy-and-me scarves (not matching though). They have BABY SCARVES. BABY SCARVES. The one I bought hopefully will go nicely with the Pickle's pea coat from Gap (I know I have a problem).

I hit up the new Topshop, which just opened a couple weeks ago, but their stuff never fits my linebacker shoulders. I had a moment of panic in the dressing room when I thought I wouldn't be able to get the cute star-pattered sheer top I was trying on back off. No rips!

Met up with friends for drinks and a sampling of the foursquare-raved-about garlic bread at Michael Jordan's new steakhouse in the Intercontinental Hotel. Crowd was older and the service was lackluster, but we were entertained by our server's throwback look to the Robert Palmer Addicted to Love video. And, the garlic bread was amazing. The chicken and waffles appetizer also was really good.

Finally got to go to Avec for a late dinner, and the dates are all that everyone have said they would be. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long for a table. My friend Mary and I both had our inaugural sampling of bone marrow, and neither of us were converted fans. However, I still want the antique bone marrow scoops that I saw at the Art Institute on Monday.

Hitting up some baby shops in Bucktown this morning and then meeting up with Carli on the Do Good Bus. Back home to the Cleve tomorrow to relieve Phil of our sick kiddo. He has the worst luck when I travel. :(

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Art and Indian food

So, no extreme relaxation brownie needed yesterday. A visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, some Cakebread chardonnary at The Wit and a delightful meal at Cumin did the trick.

I tried to live tweet my visit to the museum, but Twitter was S L O W yesterday so my tweets weren't quite in real time. Here's a link to them. My faves were the kimono and war posters exhibits and a little one-on-one time with my fave painting above.

My friend suggested that I try the restaurant in the new modern wing, Terzo Piano, and it was fantastic. I had the due piccole, which was a flatbread pizza topped with microgreens from The Chef's Garden in Ohio, goat cheese and beets. I'm so glad I asked my server what it was since it was listed in the salad section and it wasn't really clear what the presentation would be.

After my afternoon at the museum, I walked to Edelman's Chicago office. The building is impossible to miss because it was designed by the same architect as the World Trade Center towers. It's also right by Millenium Park. I walked on the bridge from the new modern wing to Millenium Park, which is something I didn't get to do the last time I was here.

At Cumin in Bucktown, I had my favorite Indian food staples: naan, samosas, paneer mahkani and saag (this time with lamb). Awesome!

After I finish up some work, I'm hoping for a wonderful, wandering afternoon outside in the sun.

Tomorrow, I'm doing an afternoon of volunteering on the Foster the People sponsored Do Good Bus with my friend Carli, who's coordinating publicity for the bus' efforts during the band's U.S. tour. The weather outlook looks great.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kicking off birthday month in Chicago

Beth (D&E alumna) and Mary (MT alumna) at Big Star
Hello! I am alive. I am surviving the chaotic balancing act that is Christina the individual with Christina the wife and mama the mother. During hectic times, I tend to go social media dark. Here is a glimpse into the light.

I have been busting my ass the pass six weeks trying to prove that I can do it all. Sacrifices include my twitching right eye, hating myself when I put work first, and spending "quality time" with my hubs while I work on my laptop in bed with ESPN on in the background. Such is life, and I'm certainly not the only one.

I find myself in Chicago during the kickoff of my birthday month! and I have the fortune of meeting up with five friends over five days. Mwah! I'm here for a trade show this weekend + Monday and then attempting to take "vacation" the rest of the week. Try, try again, I will continue to attempt. :)

Tonight, I met up with agency alumna from my past two Cleveland jobs in Bucktown. Fun! We tacoed it up at Big Star (super strong and cathartic margaritas), pretentioused it up at Violet Hour (goat cheese=yum and brandy=yuck) and caloried it up at Hot Chocolate (love those lusty Mexican hot chocolates).

The last time I was here, Mingus was in my belly and I was keeping him a secret. Now, I'm trying to sync my schedule so that I can Skype with him and his daddy #firstworldproblems (yes, I just used a hashtag not on twitter...get over it XOXO).

At the NACS show for convenience store execs, here are my favorite new products:

Lazy Larry Extreme Relaxation brownies are da bomb!


Perky Jerky! Holla!