Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ethyl's Truckin' Thursdays

I think food trucks are just about the greatest thing since sliced bread, but (and I'm sure you're all tried of hearing about this) working out in the awful, mind-numbing, lifeless suburbs doesn't allow me to take advantage of their daily wares. I've already told you about Food Truck Tuesdays, but I found another weekly food truck gathering: Ethyl’s Truckin’ Thursdays.

Starting tonight, Ethyl's Beer & Wine Dive will host an array of food trucks every Thursday from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. in their parking lot in the West Loop. I've heard conflicting reports on just how many trucks will be there, but you can count on at least four every week. Tonight will feature Gaztro-wagonSouthern MacMeatyballs Mobile5411 Empanadas, Haute SausageFlirty Cupcakes and Sweet Ride.

By the way, I just heard that Food Truck Tuesdays has been extended through July, so you still have a chance to head out there.

If you're interested in learning more about the city's food truck movement, check out this website.

I REALLY want to try this one! via

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You can't go home again; I miss you Santa's Village!!!!!!!

Mention Santa's Village to anyone who grew up in the Chicagoland area, and you'll most likely see a big smile spread across their face. Santa's Village was THE place you begged your parents to take you when you were little. Not only was it a kid-friendly amusement park opened all summer long, but it was SANTA themed! Candy canes, reindeer, ice cream. Joy of joys!

Images via Theme Park Review. It's a really weird website.

But all good things come to an end, and, after a large drop in attendance, it closed in 2006. Here is the tragic story of Santa's Village, as told by Wikipedia:

Santa's Village was a theme park that operated in East Dundee, Illinois from 1959 to 2006. The buildings were modeled on what an average child might imagine Santa's Village would look like...The unsuccessful launch of the "Typhoon" roller coaster, decreased attention to the aesthetics of the park and a decline of patrons eventually prompted the corporation to sell. The sale did not proceed as smoothly as hoped and with many setbacks and unmet deadlines the park had to shut its doors. In August 2006, the park announced its permanent closure.
This was my favorite ride. Mostly because I was (and still am) afraid of just about all theme park rides, and this one was pretty tame. And I liked sitting in something that looked like a doughnut.

Well, this year Santa's Village came back in some weird mish mash park that include something called Paintball Explosion and Azoosementpark. I never gave much thought to actually going to check it out, but the in-laws wanted to go with my husband's niece and nephew, so off we went.

It was probably one of the most depressing things I've ever seen.

Not only is the "amusement park" about a quarter the size, but there are now maybe a dozen rides built only for very small children. The park is clean, but it looks extremely old and worn. And there is a very strange collection of sad looking "exotic" animals. There were two turtles literally attacking each other! We had to call the zoo staff to break them up!

I guess if you're looking for something to do with a few five-year-olds on a summer afternoon, you could take them here. (P.S. admission is $16.50 for anyone over three.) Otherwise, don't bother tainting your fond memories.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Did You Know, Chicago? - The Streets of Chicago

As a reverse commuter, I often find myself winding along the city streets in an effort to avoid massive traffic jams. I have become very curious about Chicago streets, and, thus, the streets are the topic for this week's 'Did You Know, Chicago?'.

Every wonder why, if Chicago is on the grid system, we have those really random and annoying angled streets? These streets were originally Native American trails, established even before this place was called Chicago. Clark Street follows part of the old Native American Green Bay trail. Lincoln Avenue was called Little Fort Road and was founded because it ran on a ridge over the giant marsh that used to be Chicago.

Lake Shore Drive is such a strange invention. Who shoves a three-lane freeway on the edge of a giant lake? Well, it was originally just supposed to be a cute lakefront path for the carriages of Chicago's high society, but when the auto age came around someone thought it was a good idea to put cars on it. The Drive has been extended and realigned a ton of times, but it's still a giant mess.

The triangular-shaped intersection of Ashland Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Divsion Street forms the Polonia Triangle, also known as the Polish Triangle. This used to be the center of Chicago's enormous Polish community. (Another fun fact: Chicago is home to the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw.)

Western Avenue is the longest street in Chicago, and one of the longest in the country. It's also one of the most dangerous streets for bicyclists.

In my opinion, Halsted is one of the most diverse streets in the city. From north to south you have Boystown, old Cabrini Green, Goose Island, Greek Town, Hull House, fancy West Loop restaurants, Taylor Street/Little Italy, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Englewood and all the way to Chicago Heights.  

Hope you weren't on Lake Shore during the Snowpocalypse! I was! Fortunately I got of Lake Shore about 20 minutes before they closed it down and made people abandon their cars.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's a "Pride Market Tasting" Kind of Weekend

There's tons of great events happening this weekend, but, more importantly, it's Pride weekend! The closest thing we have to Carnival, the entire Boystown neighborhood is THE place to be this Saturday and Sunday. Check out the calendar for a complete list of Pride happenings - my favorite is the annual Pride Shabbat beach service - but you NEED to make it out to the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday. Absolutely the best parade you will see all year.

(I will say that the parade seems to get tamer every year. The city now puts up baracades and made it illegal to throw things into the crowd. When I moved to the neighborhood, people thought nothing of running topless along the parade route. Those were the days...)

The Taste of Chicago kicks off on Saturday. Be sure to read my Taste of Chicago Survival Guide before you go! I'm really excited for some of the new restaurants this year.

You know I don't usually recommend going out to the suburbs, but I do have to say that the annual Long Grove Strawberry Festival is adorable. Long Grove in itself is cute as a button, but when you toss in fresh strawberries hand-dipped in homemade chocolate, it's heaven. The festival starts today and runs all weekend.

The Randolph Street Market Festival will host its second installment this Saturday and Sunday.
A quick tip: don't be like me and completely miss the inside. Not sure how that happened, but I think I skipped half of the market that way. Here are a few photo highlights I took last month:

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taste of Chicago Survival Guide

I can't believe it's already time for the Taste of Chicago! This year the Taste has kicked it up a notch with new vendors and programs, but a festival that attracts millions of people every year can still be a bit intimidating. Even more so if you're not a city person.

Photo from Wee Windy City

Now, here are some of Chicago Quirk's helpful suggestions when attending the Taste of Chicago. I'd like to preface this with the fact that I love the Taste, and you'll have a great time!

Try to avoid going to the Taste on the weekend. Last year, 700,000 people were at the Taste on July 3, and that's actually down from the over one million people that came the year before. The most ideal time to go is during your lunch hour or for a weekday dinner.

Bring the smallest purse/backpack you can find. The crowds are massive and a big bag will smack you and everyone else in the face. You also want to make sure it zips closed and can't be easily taken off of your shoulder. Chicago doesn't have a huge pick-pocketing problem, but the Taste always gets hit.

Make driving your absolutely last resort. You won't be able to find decent parking, and the sheer amount of people will make it impossible for you to get down the block. If you're coming from the suburbs, try to park at an outlying EL station and take the subway in. If you're taking the Metra, the stations are nowhere near the festival so either plan on walking or taking a cab. I'd recommend hopping on a bus, but there are going to be so many re-routes it probably isn't the best idea.

Instead of waiting in the loooonnnnngggg line to get your food tickets, you can buy tickets in advance at Dominick's when you show your Frest Values Card. Tickets will be sold in strips of 12 for $8, but if you buy them at Dominick's from June 16 - 23 they're $6 per strip. Definitely worth it.

Leave your maxi skirt or dress at home. The city trys to keep the festival clean, but it's pretty impossible. Any long clothing will become a magnet for ice cream and sauce puddles. And it will probably get stepped on.

Via Taste of Chicaog photo gallery

And since you know I love my funfacts, here's a few tidbits about the Taste of Chicago:

The festival started in 1980 when a group of restaurants received a $150,000 budget from the city to host a Forth of July food festival. Around 250,000 people attended this one-day festival.

The first Taste of Chicago was held on Michigan Avenue, but due to large attendance the festival was moved to Grant Park the next year.

The Taste of Chicago is the second largest tourist attraction in the state of Illinois. It attracts more than 2.5 million visitors every year from all over the world.

Happy Tasting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

S'mores Cookie Bars

I wanted to bake my dad something special for Father's Day, but he's extremely picky. He wanted to make my mom's special Dump Cake from our family camping day, and he was disappointed when I said I couldn't do that because I couldn't recreate a three-hour campfire in my apartment. But, going off of the idea of camping, I decided to try a S'mores Cookie Bar recipe I pinned last week from Cornflake Dreams.  
Image via Love in the Oven
Even though my final product wasn't nearly as pretty as Love in the Oven's, it was tasty. And this was not a difficult recipe. Even as I was making it I thought I was doing it wrong because it was so easy. The only thing I would do differently is to take it out of the oven a few minutes earlier. I have a hyperactive, old Chicago gas stove, so they were just a tad overcooked. Other than that, definitely a keeper!

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown and regular sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Did You Know, Chicago? - The Everleigh Club

My favorite Chicago history book is called "Sin in the Second City," and it's about the Everleigh Club. Located in the Levee District (more about that another time), it was the most luxurious and famous brothel in Chicago history.

Now, I'm not trying to say prostitution is glamorous, but this place was as close as you could get. So glamorous that even the Prince of Prussia stopped by. And if you were going to be a prostitute, this was the place to work. The girls had to be at least 18 year, well read, pretty and undergo regular doctor exams. No drug use, and no forced labor.The clientele was extremely refined and wealthy, and the girls made a very nice salary. They lived in extremely decadent surroundings, making them more courtesans than prostitutes.

Even if you haven't heard of the Everleigh Club, you've most certainly heard a few references to it:

The term laid - as in "I just got laid" - came from the Everleigh Club. Gentlemen would joke about getting "Everleighed," which was eventually shortened to "leighed" and then spelled how we know it today.

Marshall Field Jr. died from a gunshot wound in 1905. While the accident was officially said to have happened at home, it's debated that he was shot by one of the Everleigh girls.

Have you ever heard the saying that champagne should be drunk from the slipper of a beautiful lady? When the King of Prussia was visiting the Everleigh Club, one of the girl's slippers flew off and spilled champagne. One of the members of the prince's entourage drank the champagne inside the slipper, and the trend stuck.

There's a new Everleigh Club in town, although this one is completely legal. The Everleigh Social Club was founded by the amazing Michelle L'amour and is an extension of Studio L'amour. This private club that celebrates the "Beautiful Life" and a new artistic movement called Cyprianism. The club puts on regular events like Naked Girls Reading, a monthly cocktail club and burlesque shows.

The Everleigh Club at 2131 - 2133 South Dearborn Street. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the building.

The Japanese Throne Room

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's a "Chicago Cultural" Kind of Weekend

I'm very excited for this weekend. Not only will I get to have an awesome barbecue with my family for Father's Day, but I'll going to my first Fiestas Puertorriquenas! I've been to the parade downtown, but I've never been out to the festival in Humboldt Park. I plan to get my salsa and margarita on.

Are you a history buff? The Bronzeville Historical Society is presenting an Underground Railroad Tour tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. (Does it make me a bad person that I had no idea the Underground Railroad reached all the way to Chicago.) Tickets are $40 and the tour starts at the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Church and includes a visit to the Oak Woods Cemetery and Stephen Douglas Tomb. And, for a little added camp, your narrator will be dressed in 1860's attire.

Embrace your inner hippie at the 23rd annual Peace Fest Chicago in Lincoln Park all this weekend. The festival features musicians, drum circles, vendors and lots of general activists. Wanna try the latest in vegan and vegetarian eats? This is the place to be.

The Green Mill is having an evening of cabaret songs from Singers on New Ground this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Singers on New Ground has created an eclectic mix of old and new cabaret songs, and each piece has a different theme: political commentary, comedy and love. If you haven't been to the Green Mill yet (shame on you), then this will be a great first experience.  

And now, an ode to the Green Mill:

Photos from Windy City Author, Project Loop, Soul Strut  
 Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Critical Lass

Every summer I promise myself that I'll ride my bike more, but come September I may have hit the Lake Shore path once. I like to blame it on the fact that my bike sucks - it's a mountain bike I bought with my Bat Mitzvah money freshman year of high school - but what I really need is motivation. Motivation in the form of Critical Lass.

Critical Lass is a new bike ride exclusively for women and transgender cyclists. Anyone can join the ladies for their monthly trek through a different Chicago neighborhood. The rides start at the Polish Triangle (Division/Ashland/Milwaukee) at 6:30 p.m. and ends at a local restaurant or bar for cocktails and conversation.

If the name sounds familiar, it's because the ride was created as an alternative to Critical Mass. But instead of loud, rowdy hipsters taking over the street - which can be very entertaining to watch - it's a leisurely ride with the girls.

Tonight's ride will tour Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park. Stop by Marble afterwards for a beer and 20 chicken wings for $2. If you want to join the bike ride, be at the Polish Triangle by 6:00 p.m.

And since I absolutely need a new bike, here are some of my favs. So cute!
Clockwise from Top Left: Kearney Cycles, Ladies Cadillac Fleetwood Cruiser, Velorbis Classic Vintage, Ivanhoe Townie Three Speed,

And don't forget that it's still Bike to Work Week!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Movies in the Park

Summertime in Chicago is packed with so many festivals and outdoor concerts that we tend to forget about the awesomeness that is Movies in the Park. Just plop yourself down in front of a giant screen with dozens - sometimes hundreds - of your closest friends and try not to get eaten by mosquitoes while you enjoy movies with no admission price.

Movies in the Park kicks off tonight with "North by Northwest" in Belmont Harbor and "Airplane!" in Montgomery Ward Park and runs through September 16. There are 174 films playing in parks all over the city, so click here to view the entire summer movie schedule. Bring a blanket, snacks and a bottle of wine in a nondescript thermos, and you've got yourself a great evening. (And please don't be one of those jerks that sets up lawn chairs in the second row.)

Image via carfree chicago

Here are some of my summer must-sees:

"A League of their Own"
June 15 - Chicago History Museum

July 1 - Margate Park

"The Social Network"
July 5 - Montgomery Ward Park
August 20 - Harold Washington Park

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
July 16 - Jonquil Park
July 18 - Wicker Park

"The Dark Knight"
June 23 - Churchill Field

"Michael Jackson's This is It!"
July 26 - Palmer Park
August 19 - Lowe Park

"Space Jam"
August 2 - Gill Park

"The Sandlot"
July 23 - Norwood Park
August 18 - Humboldt Park, Little Cubs Field, 1339 Luis Munoz Marin Drive

August 12 - Kilbourn Park

"Raiders of the Lost Ark"
August 25 - Lake Shore Park

"My Fair Lady" 
August 27 - Jonquil Park

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
August 30 - Grant Park: Grove 5

September 9 - Athletic Field

Monday, June 13, 2011

Did you know, Chicago?

Happy 100th post to me! To celebrate, I've decided to let my geeky side shine through a little bit more with a new series. I love random Chicago facts, so every week I'll present  "Did you know,Chicago?" and give interesting tidbits about Chicago favorites. (Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you the square footage of the Merchandise Mart.)

I absolutely love Lincoln Park Zoo. It's beautiful, free and has great history. I researched the zoo a little bit last night, and I found out a few things you might find amusing:

The zoo made its first animal purchase in 1874: a bear cub for $10. The bear pit was built in 1879, but the bears learned how to climb out and would regularly roam the zoo at night.

The original sea lion house was built in 1889, but the 18 sea lions were moved in before it was completed. They all escaped and 17 were found in a Clark Street restaurant. The missing sea lion dove into Lake Michigan and was never seen again.

When Judy the elephant refused to board the train to be taken from Brookfield Zoo to Lincoln Park Zoo in 1943, she had to be walked the whole way.

Lincoln Park sea lion cave, 1908

Crowd at the Lincoln Park sea lion cave, circa 1910

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's a "Naked Zombie Ribfest" Kind of Weekend

I haven't been as talkative as I usually am due to the 2+ hour morning AND evening commutes I've had this week. Thank you construction/rain/stalled cars/Lake Shore Drive/Blues Fest/general bad drivers.

But that's okay, because it's Ribfest weekend!!!!!!! No, not the Naperville Ribfest (which I don't recommend to anyone.), Ribfest Chicago. I plan to spend Sunday eating my weight in delicious ribs and deep fried stuff.

I'm sure you're aware that Blues Fest is this weekend. I'm not one for giant music festivals, but I'm thinking I'm going to have to visit the Essie Pop-Up Shop. They're giving Blues Fest attendees free manicures all weekend on Jackson Blvd, using shades from their new Braziliant collection. Awesome!

And while you're downtown getting your nails done, check out the Zombie March Chicago in Millennium Park on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Any and all undead can participate, and you can even get your make-up applied for free before the march.

Ever wanted to ride your bike naked through the city? Check out the World Nake Bike Ride tomorrow from 8:00 - 11:00 p.m.! If you want to know where to go, join the mailing list or ask to join the Facebook group. The ride is between 12 and 22 miles across the city. After just a few miles of bike riding I feel like the seat is halfway up my rear end. Imagine where it would be after 22 miles of naked riding.....

There's some weirdness happening over at Metro tonight. Alien Queen: The Concert pays tribute to the band Queen and the movie Alien. The show will include special guest DJs and the premier of Battlestar Fantastica, a variety show featuring Mattrick Swayze & the Power of Cheer, Cameron Esposito, DoubleDJ, Ray Gunn, Electro Sapiens, The Force, Fruit Orgy and Chicago Tap Theatre. (Tap dance shout-out!) I'm very confused, but if you want to see it tickets are $16 in and advance and $20 at the door.

And don't forget the gorgeous Old Town Art Fair and the Wells Street Art Festival.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food Truck Tuesdays

I can't even tell you how excited I am for this! Every Tuesday in June the city's food trucks will gather in the parking lot at Halsted and North Avenue for a massive food truck orgy!

I've been kind of annoyed that I haven't seen many food trucks at the summer festivals, but this definitely makes up for it.

Monday, June 6, 2011


As my husband and I were scooting from the Printer's Row Lit Fest to the Chicago French Market Strawberry Festival this past Saturday, I was reminded of an important event that I failed to highlight: SlutWalk.

If you're not familiar with SlutWalk, please read below. If you are familiar, read below anyway. It's a really great article.

SlutWalk offers outlet for a dressing-down of perception
Barbara Brotman
June 6, 2011

It was an intriguing emailed invitation:

Mom, do you want to go with me to SlutWalk?

Hmm. Well, over the years I have accompanied my daughter to playgrounds, petting zoos, hiking trails and nail salons. But for someone who spent years trying to keep two daughters in the equivalents of pinafores, SlutWalk sounded like a questionable mother/daughter outing.

However, my older daughter, 22, had sent a link to the explanation. The SlutWalk, held Saturday in the Loop, was a response to a Toronto police constable's remark that women would be safer from sexual attack if they avoided dressing like sluts.

The comment ignited protests in Canada and the U.S. Women at the marches dressed scantily and vowed to reclaim the word "slut" as an expression of sex-positive freedom. My daughter, who just graduated from the University of Iowa, where she headed a women's group, intended to march with several friends. Would her old mom like to dust off her feminist credentials and join in?

Her old mom has long been on the journalistic observer side of things. But in that role and for the glimpse into the thoughts of her generation of young women, why, I'd love to.

Waiting to meet her at the Thompson Center Plaza, I watched young women gather and get ready to march. Rape was no distant cause for them. One of the friends my daughter would march with lived in a sorority house outside of which a young woman was raped last year. Now her friend carries a sweater to throw on top of sleeveless dresses when she walks home, which she does with an escort.

No one was wearing a sweater here. Some women had dressed in lace-up corsets, black stockings and exposed bras. One was bare-breasted except for hot pink pasties and decorative rhinestones.

Most, however, were dressed in clothes that would have earned a grandma's approval. And the modest were no less committed to the message — that women should be able to dress any way they want without being sexually attacked.

Women are still being blamed for being victims, said Megan Captaine, 24 (sundress over swimsuit top and capri leggings).

"We teach women, 'Don't get raped.' Personally, I feel it would be a lot more effective to say, 'Don't rape'" to men, she said.

She and her friends, who work in theater or hope to, are proud to take up the women's rights cause.

"I call myself feminist any day of the week," said Arianna Soloway, 19 (strapless-in-a-cute-way dress over shorts).

But for women embarking on adult life now, what does that mean?

They and other marchers listed causes not yet won: equal pay for equal work, firm guarantees of reproductive rights, safety from sexual assault.

Soloway, who is studying directing at Columbia College, wonders whether she will face obstacles in her work life.

"Even in theater, where there are a lot more women working, a lot more directors and artistic directors are men," she said.

Being a woman has its advantages, said Captaine, an actress and set-builder. She just started a dog-walking business and finds that her nonthreatening appearance makes her feel safer on the streets than her male colleagues do.

On the other hand, she gets peeved when she is at the hardware store looking at power drills — "because I like power drills" — and "a guy will come up and say, 'Honey, are you lost? Do you want gardening?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm going to build a fake house on a set.'"

Will they someday face the conflicts between work and family, and men and women, that bedeviled the lives of women before them?

Laura Stratford, 24, a writer, actress and small-theater founder who also works a day job, suspects that she might — and she was raised by an at-home dad and a working mother.

"You want to be that perfect mom who spends a lot of time with the children but not give up on the things you want for yourself," she said. "Even now, trying to balance work and art, I'm beginning to see the problems."

The march began to coalesce. I met up with my daughter (perfectly respectable shorts and a tank top) and off we marched.

Avon breast cancer walkers nearby cheered. A CTA bus operator held her hand out the bus window and the ebullient marchers lined up to slap five. It was supportive, it was a good cause — but for a mother, it was not completely fun.

I still find the word "slut" repugnant. And I was uncomfortable with the number of men taking pictures — and at young women seductively posing. Sex positivity is grand, but the leering it can inspire is creepy.

Of course, as the marchers insisted, a rape victim should not be blamed for wearing too little or drinking too much. Still, I never wanted my daughters to do either. There is a place in life for erotic dress, but I would hope there would also be a place for prudence, self-respect and social context.

And by the end of the marching and talking, I had a feeling most of these young ladies have that balance down just fine.

It's their turn to make their ways in the world. What will their lives look like? What will feminism be for them?

"I think there are a lot of conversations to be had," Captaine said.

I think the conversations are in good hands.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a "Marilyn Monroe, Sausage and Books" Kind of Weekend

I think it's safe to say that we have finally made it to summer! I'm definitely hitting the Printer's Row Lit Fest and Sausage Fest this weekend. I'm hoping to make it over to the Marilyn Monroe brunch on Sunday, but that might be derailed by a much-needed trip to Ikea.. I love my apartment, but four years and a wedding registry later, it's time to reorganize.

Printer's Row Lit Fest - June 4 - 5
This was my very first Chicago festival, and it's still one of my favorites! I dare you to think of a book that you can't find in one of the dozens of book vendors throughout the Printer's Square neighborhood. And there's a very extensive schedule of events happening on both Saturday and Sunday, including cooking demos from Chicago's top chefs. If you have time, check out the Saturday evening festivities, Lit After Dark.

I also received a tip that there will be a flash mob at the fest on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

Marilyn Monroe's Birthday Brunch @ Kit Kat Lounge - Sunday, June 5, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles = Heaven in Your Mouth

I don't usually post recipes as I don't usually cook, but this is currently sitting in my refrigerator right now, so I felt I had to share.

I pinned this Cookie Dough Truffle recipe from the awesome Love & Olive Oil last week, and I made it for a Memorial Day barbecue. I didn't actually try one until the party which turned out to be a bad idea; I very loudly and obnoxiously exclaimed that they were AMAZING.

The recipe is really simple, but I had no idea where to find chocolate candy coating. (And by 'didn't know where to find' I mean I went to one grocery store, and it wasn't there.) So, I made my own from a Hershey's recipe, and it was pretty easy. And the result is heaven in your mouth.

Image via Christine's Cuisine

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Candy Coating Ingredients:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of shortening

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Directions:
Beat butter and sugars and in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed (or by hand) until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.

When dough is firm enough to handle (it may help to lightly flour your hands), form dough into 1" balls and arrange on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Place sheets in freezer and let chill for 30 minutes.

Using forks or a dipping tool, dip cookie balls into candy coating to cover. Tap fork on side of pan to remove any excess coating, and return to waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until set.

Store, chilled, in an airtight container for up to 1 week (though good luck making them last that long).

Candy Coating Directions:
Place chocolate chips and shortening in medium heat-proof bowl. In separate large heat-proof bowl, put very warm water (100° to 110°F.) to 1-inch depth. Carefully place bowl with chocolate into bowl with water; water should come halfway up side of chocolate bowl.

Stir chocolate and shortening CONSTANTLY with dry rubber scraper until chocolate and shortening are melted and mixture is smooth. *Do NOT get water in bowl with chocolate. (If water cools, replace it with very warm water as directed above; water temperature is important to success). Remove chocolate bowl from inside water bowl.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chicago Quirk's Favorite Things: Merz Apothecary

Before there was GNC or CVS there was Merz Apothecary. Nestled in the absolutely adorable Lincoln Square (a very underrated neighborhood), this is one of my favorite places for my all natural beauty needs.

Image via The Scoop
 I've been visiting this store for 10 years now, and I'm endlessly baffled by all of the stuff they sell: soaps, teas, lotions, homeopathic cures, candles, baby items, aromatherapy, vitamins, all from around the world. My husband isn't one for speacialty products, but he buys the snootiest shaving stuff from Merz. (It got him to start shaving everyday so I'm very happy.) I think it's so much fun just to sift through all of the different items they have.

Photo Via Second City Style

Photo Via Second City Style

Did you know that Merzs Apothecary has been around for 136 years! It was founded in 1875 by Peter Merz, a Swiss pharmacists who opened his store in German Town. (Now called Lincoln Square.) An apothecary is actually a modern day pharmacists, minus the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of education. They answered all of your questions about which medicines to take and how to cure what ails you. The store became extremely popular with its European neighbors, and it remained a family business until 1972 when it was purchased by a Pakistani pharmacists, Abdul Qaiym.

Qaiyum, who heard about Merz from his German in-laws, kept the 'days of yore' atmosphere of the business and expanded to include even more natural products and remedies. Even though it has a new Lincoln Square location, Merz still has the turn-of-the-century European feel of the original store. (Hand-carved wood, tin ceilings, the works.) Even if you don't plan on buying something - and you definitely will - the store itself is gorgeous and worth visiting.

And even if you don't visit the store itself, you can stop by the mini store in the Palmer House Hilton. It used to be located in the State Street Macy's - it's been there since the Marshall Field days - but they moved to the Palmer House last November. I'm not sure why, but the company press release said its because they wanted to partner with another historical Chicago business. (Did you know the Palmer House opened in 1871?!)

Have you ever been to Merz Apothecary?