What To Eat/Do/Make on Valentine’s Day in Chicago

Vintage_Valentine_02

Valentine’s Day is two short weeks away and most people have their reservations made and flowers picked out. But for those of you who are looking for something different here are some fun things that anyone can enjoy.

Make

Image via foursided

Image via foursided

How fun is this? Make your own Valentine’s Piñata Bar! Twosided’s Valentine’s Piñata Bar let’s you pick your a piñata and candy to make a gift anyone will appreciate. I might even gift myself one.

Deca Restaurant Whoopie Pies

Image via decarestaurant

Make some Whoopie pies with this cooking class at Deca restaurant on February 14th & 15th.   For more information and reservations check out their website.

Eat

tart cherry orecchiette

Why not skip all the restaurant hassle and make a meal at home? Meez Meals has your back delivering pre-chopped and pre-measured ingredients. The special Valentine’s Day menu includes orecchiette with tart cherry alfredo and arugula risotto. Available to order from Feb. 2 – 7 for a Feb. 10 delivery

Do

Image via oldtownschool.org

Image via oldtownschool.org

Get your dance on at Global Dance Party at Old Town School of Music with Yuyo Verde. Yuyo Verde is a Tango-based band of Argentinian and American musicians.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Talk a walk among orchids and palms for free at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. It’s cold outside so stepping inside the warm conservatory will feel like stepping into an exotic locale.

Image via ticketfly.com

Image via ticketfly.com

St. Valentine’s Day Massacree at The Hideout. This year’s lineup are honky tonk heartbreakers featuring tributes to Patsy Cline. So there might be a tear in your beer but you’ll be in good company at the Hideout. Fri, February 14, 2014 10:00 PM – $10.00

If your just not feeling it at all Timeout has a list of Anti–Valentine’s Day movies.

Chicago Restaurant Week @TortoiseClub – River North

Tortoise Club Dining Room 1

“Comfortable clubhouse and a lively lounge” perfectly sums up Tortoise Club in River North. Tortoise Club is about a year old but feels like your grandparents old school club in a good way because you have all of the fancy schmancy and none of the stuffiness, the vibe is upbeat and fun. Plaid wallpaper covers the walls, old men with beards in paintings, white table cloths, proper service, live jazz band and beautiful Red Room and Library for private events.

photo-feature-redroom

Image via tortoiseclub.com/

Rich classic comfort food dominates the menu and on cold winter night it’s just what you need. The specialty cocktails are well made, I recommend Continue reading

Dusek’s in Pilsen – Come For the Food, Stay For the Punch House

Dusek's Window

Dusek’s is in the gorgeous Thalia Hall built in 1892 by John Dusek. The building has been completely rehabbed but keeps some old timey touches with a tin ceiling, brick walls, and plenty of refurbished wood. Thalia Hall upstairs is opening soon and will have live music while Duseks’s has the food on the ground floor and downstairs the Punch House has your drink. There will be no reason to leave this building.

Thalia-Outside-1

Image via dusekschicago.com

Word is out so a bit of patience may be required depending on when you show up as they do not take reservations. We got there just shy of 7pm on a Saturday night and the wait was an hour and a half for a table for three. Good news is you can wait at the Punch House bar where the eight house made punches, bar snacks and oysters can help pass the time. We found seats at the bar upstairs and decided to eat there.

I loved everything but the winner of the night was the first dish, black and white risotto with turnip, salsify, parsnip and smoked one hour egg. This is a rich dish but I could have easily had another order. The creamy and buttery risotto paired well with of the slight spice of the root vegetables. And who doesn’t love a perfectly cooked egg on top?

Dusek's Black & White Risotto

Griddled Panzanella Salad – Roasted romaine, griddled rosemary sourdough, pickled red onion, cucumber, oil-cured olives, fennel, tomato, and marjoram. This was a perfect counterpoint to the rich risotto dish with so many fresh flavors and crunchy textures.

Dusek's Griddled Panzanella Salad

Since we were eating at the bar it only made sense to get some bar food, stuffed pretzel with beer mustard. The pretzel is puffy and flaky and one step away from a croissant. The mustard has a pungent spice that is nice and did I mention, the pretzel is stuffed with cheese. So good!

Dusek's Pretzel

The crispy pork shank was the dish that kept on giving. It had everything saltiness, sweetness and umami with root vegetable hash, cheddar hush puppies, braised greens, and maple gastrique. The pork portion was very generous and we even had leftovers.

Dusek's Crispy Pork Shank

The drink menu has 23 craft drafts that your server will pair with any of the dishes. I am in a middle of a cleanse so did not have any drinks but did have a sip of the House Gin and Tonic and it was tasty. Letherbee gin, hopped tonic syrup, water, and CO2.
Dusek’s is worth the trek to Pilsen and wait for the table.  I will be back for the food and the music when Thalia Hall opens up.

Bogotá Eats – Ceviche, Chocolate Santafereño, Andrés D.C. & Más

Plaza de Bolivar Bogotá AliciaBogotá knows how to eat. From empanadas, ceviche and chocolate with cheese to every type of world cuisine can be found in this city. Our last day in Bogotá we went on an eating spree. Before touring around the colonial barrio of La Candelaria again we headed to famous La Puerta Falsa, Bogotá’s oldest running restaurant (1816). They never opened so we to La Puerta de la Tradición next door and had one of the most iconic Bogotano snack: chocolate santafereño (or chocolate completo). Piping hot hot chocolate with a chunk of white cheese to drown in the chocolate and served with buttered toast. This is a must try food for Bogotá. May sound weird but the sweet chocolate and mild cheese work well together. Trust me.

Check it out the Tastemade video I made of the yummy chocolate with cheese —> https://www.tastemade.com/v/oz_AxhfVQVOxLmLUNaPHIg

More beautiful sights in La Candelaria:

Bogotá Reflecting PoolsBogotá Candelaria 1

For lunch we went to the Zona Rosa neighborhood in the northern part of Bogotá which is chock full of bars and restaurants (and great shopping). Wanting to take advantage of the weather we looked for a patio and found Restaurante 1492. Feels good to sit outside on Christmas Day. Everything here is fresh, fresh, fresh! Continue reading

Christmas Eve in Bogotá

JW Marriott Xmas Tree

Christmas is usually celebrated on Christmas Eve in Colombia. It is recognized by many that Jesus was born at midnight so families go out to dinner or gather with family in the evening and start toasting (Christmas, birth of Jesus) around 11pm.

We started our Christmas celebration in the afternoon at my birth family’s house. Traffic in Bogotá is notoriously bad and Christmas Eve is no exception. It took us over an hour to get there but we had fun people watching and checking out the activity on the street along the way.

Bogotá Traffic Xmas Eve

Bogotá Fish in Trunk

One of the Colombian dishes I have been wanting to try is ajiaco. It’s a thick soup that involves some of my favorite foods: potatoes (3 types of Andean), chicken, sour cream, avocado and a corn called Cuzco. The soup is also made with a herb called guascas. Colombian comfort food at its finest and homemade at that. Continue reading

Beautiful Chaos in Bogotá Day 2

Red House Candelaria Blur

Bogotá has its own set of rules. Figuring out these rules is part of the adventure when traveling. Bogotá can make you feel like you have to earn your place but there is a sense of mutual respect once you prove you can mange it. It is then you can concentrate on the magic that is discovered on the side streets and in the faces of the Bogotanos.

If you let the chaos get in your way you miss the beauty. Traffic is bad, like takes 2 hours to get across town in rush hour bad. And let’s not talk about the pollution. But Continue reading

My Journey Back to Bogotá

Monserrate

¿De dónde eres?

This has always been an interesting question for me, where am I from? I suppose the answer depends on who is asking the question and where it is being asked.

Located at almost 9,000 feet in the Andes Mountains Bogotá is the beautiful, thriving, immense, pulsating city of my birth. The temperate climate (think San Francisco) keeps everything green for its 8 million people. Bogotá is a city in transition and with that comes the stark contrasts of old and new, money and poverty. The staggering beauty of the Andes surrounds new skyscrapers and the colonial cobblestone streets of Candelaria.

Candelaria Street

Adrenaline pumped through my veins upon seeing Bogotá, although I have been here before. But really this is my first time. I left when I was a month old so I don’t remember the sights, sounds and smells that make Bogotá distinct.

Despite the raised eyebrow when I let them know I do not have a Colombian passport at immigration it was a speedy entry into the sparkling international terminal. Our luggage passed the sniff test of the drug/bomb? dog and we jumped into an old taxi. The slight neck movement and faint eyebrow frown that I have come to expect from people in Latin American countries when they hear my American accented Spanish was made by the driver.  Sorry to catch you off guard but there is a reason I speak like this. I love the first glimpses of the scenery from the airport ride, like the previews to a movie. Only this time I felt myself straining to see something familiar to prove I am from here.

I should take a minute to explain that this isn’t my typical trip or vacation. These four days are a journey. A journey back to my birth country to meet my birth family. I was adopted and came to the US as a baby. I started a search last year for my birth family. I decided to buy a ticket to Bogotá before I had news of my family as I wanted to see the city I was born in and where I am from regardless of if my family was found or if they wanted to see me (of course I wanted to be accepted by them but in these situations you have to be prepared for anything). The day after I bought my ticket I got the call they had been found.

So there I was in my city, ready to meet my flesh and blood. It is impossible to communicate the feeling of how surreal and impossible this moment in time was for me. It was truly awesome in the sense this word is supposed to be used.

This is a still from a video of me moments before meeting my family for the first time. Smile on my face and clenched fists…fear and wonder…

Alicia Walking to Meet Urregos For The First Time

Soy de Bogotá. It feels good to be home.