Monthly Archives: November 2009

Shades of Puerto Rico

By now you might have read my posts about the ice cream, café and musical acts I came across during my two weeks in Puerto Rico, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that beautiful little island where almost everyone drives SUVs (not so beautiful, but very true). Since it’s beginning to get colder and more drab in both my New Jersey and Chicago-area homes, I decided it was apropos to share some of the especially colorful and inviting photos I took during my time in PR.

Some pictures I took while lounging on the beach in San Juan or strolling through Old San Juan (which reminded me of both Lisbon and Sevilla; see if you think I’m right on that). Others are from a weekend jaunt to Fajardo or the natural wonder, Las Cavernas de Camuy. And the last image is a shot of my aunt and cousin, my beautiful and gracious hosts, and me out to dinner at Parrot Club (delicious, by the way; the mojitos especially) on my last night in Puerto Rico.

Karina for TKGO

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A TKGO Thanksgiving

We are thankful for…

  • Northwestern’s Intercampus shuttle, which gets us into one of the country’s most vibrant, tasty cities — Chicago — in record time and for free.
  • Mayan hot chocolate, particularly at ice skating rinks.
  • Flights that aren’t delayed or canceled.
  • European scarves that cost five euros on the street but still manage to keep us warm and looking trendy.
  • WordPress for blogging made easy.
  • The last year of our lives, which for Tara meant living in Buenos Aires, exploring South America and then months in New York City. For Karina that involved living in Barcelona, exploring Europe and then months in New York City. (We realize how lucky we are.)
  • Happy Ending Lounge, our favorite hipster, grab-bag springtime nightspot in New York City.
  • Our crazy, wonderful, multicultural families. And each other, of course!

 

TKGO at Happy Ending

 

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Partying in Pilsen Art Galleries

We took advantage of the free shuttles Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art was sponsoring to Halsted Street in Pilsen for November’s Second Friday to check out the art gallery scene last week. We’ve ranked a few of our favorites for you. Check it out and visit one tonight!

6. Concrete Age Artworks, 1932 S. Halsted St., 312-226-3542. This gallery focuses on innovative home furniture. Most is made of concrete (as evidenced by the name of the place) and fashioned in modern designs. We love the slate-colored kitchen sinks and the sleek angles of all the designs.

5. Chicago Art Department, 1837 S. Halsted St., 312-226-8601. One word can describe this place: packed. And with free wine in the back, what else could we expect? In the current exhibit, 14 artists answered the question: What does $200 mean to you? The resulting artwork is as diverse as Pilsen, representing everything from new jeans to intangible moments. See the exhibit online here.

4. Alexander J. Fedirko, 1932 S. Halsted St. #206, 313-550-2519. The detailed work on this second-floor gallery merits a good, hard look. Don’t miss the floor-to-ceiling portrait of all the U.S. presidents in black and white. The one piece you can’t leave without seeing is the artist’s 2009 rendition of the view from atop the Sears Tower, done in four black and white oil paintings suspended from the ceiling, corner to corner, to form an enclosed space you can step inside.

3. Vespine Gallery, 1907 S. Halsted St. The paper here is not whatever’s sitting in your printer. Coffee table books of handmade cardboard-thick white sheets illustrate species of whale in shimmering dark blue lines on a table toward the back (right next to the most delicious homemade hot chocolate we’ve ever gotten for free). In the front, vibrant red and creme-spotted mushrooms pop out of the wall (the mushroom cap is a book with the cover facing outward and the pages posing as a mushroom’s gills.


2. Artpentry, 1827 S. Halsted St., 312-624-8687. This is by far one of the coolest galleries we’ve seen. In one corner, you’ll find a pile of old school speaker boxes, rewired to plug into your iPod or other headphone jack (and the sound quality is great!) called the Gentleman’s Boombox. In the other corner, artist Floyd A. Davis IV screenprints t-shirts, and in another he’s hung geometric sketches. Davis may just be one of the more interesting people we met that night.

 

The Gentleman's Boombox

 

 

Listen here to Davis’ interview with TKGO where he discusses how he’s a “Renaissance Man” and  the origin of his Gentleman’s Boombox. (The audio can play on iTunes.)

1. Studio 101 Gallery, 1932 S. Halsted St. #101, 312-624-8291. We rank this number 1 not because it’s the best gallery, but because it’s the most fun! The current exhibit is an iPhone photo exhibit, with photos taken by artists from their iPhones. The art/technology fusion continued as Twitter feeds (#iphoneshow) were projected onto the ceiling, allowing guests to post notes that could be seen throughout the studio. Chalkboard paint on the wall also encouraged guests to participate (as did the Tecate in the back of the room). With techno and trance beats running through the speakers, this place turned into a party fast! Great way to end the Friday night art gallery tour, if you ask us.

 

#iphoneshow!

 

TKGO gallery hopping

 

 

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Brazilian Iced Tea

On the beaches of Rio de Janeiro (specifically the infamous Copacabana), a man or woman passes you every minute or so selling something: a hand-dyed wrap to put between your skin and the burning sand, a popsicle, a refreshing beverage. They offer Coca-Colas, coconut juice boxes, whole coconuts with straws, Sprites, water bottles—the list goes on. But the beach bum favorite, hands down, is Matte Leão.

 

A shot of Matte Leão from atop Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Matte Leão (pronounced “mah-cheh lay-ow”—don’t forget to say the “ow” syllable through your nose, indicated by the tilde above the ‘a’) is Brazilians’ favorite way to keep from melting on a hot day, at least in Rio. This iced tea is made from the same yerba mate popular among Argentineans and throughout the rest of South America, but Brazilians do it differently.

The flavor is similar to American iced tea, instead of the bitter taste of steeped Argentinean yerba mate. Sugary sweet enough that one sip fills your mouth with flavor, Matte Leão has the consistency of water, rather than the thick, syrupy feel of soda. The easiest flavors to find are the Original and Diet, but Lime, Peach, and Apple aren’t too hard to dig up.

The best part? The caffeinated beverage comes in a little 300ml cup with a peel-back lid (like a yogurt top) that you can open only part of the way to keep sand out of your drink while you lie on the beach. Unlike a glass with ice and liquid, it’s easily transported all over town while you run your errands.

[Before you play the video below, remember: This is Brazil! The U.S. would rate this ad PG-13.]

The bad news? The drink is only available in Brazil. But because the Coca-Cola Company just acquired Leão Junior, the company that produces Matte Leão, we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find it on shelves soon in the U.S. If you can’t wait (or if you live in a cold climate, like us), latinmerchant.com and brazilshop.com sell Matte Leão tea bags for a hot version.

Tara for TKGO

Brunch and Bongo

Breakfast has always claimed possession of my favorite foods, yet I love casual, slow-starting weekend mornings. So to me, brunch is perfection.

Brunch in New York City is an institution. When Tara and I spent spring and summer in New York, we were happy and regular participants in the brunching ritual, meandering up to Tartine for a pleasantly cramped French brunch, across the street to Market Table, heading downstairs to the Blue Ribbon Bakery with its fresh-baked bread. (And those are just a few of our favorites…) I’ve never had even a mediocre brunch in the city that never sleeps — or stops eating. (Yet stays so skinny!)

This morning I saw what Chicago has to offer. A couple of friends and I had heard good things about The Bongo Room in Chicago’s ever-trendy Bucktown/Wicker Park area, so we went with high hopes and hunger. The scene was reminiscent of brunch on the fringes of Tompkins Square Park in New York City’s East Village, except a little slower and more spacious (which is often how I describe Chicago in comparison to NYC). We waited for about a half hour for a table — meaning we spent it shopping at the Free People boutique two doors down — and then sat down to menus with enough (but not overwhelming number of) breakfast and brunch offerings, and brunch specials.

 

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Inside The Bongo Room, by Karina for TKGO.

 

For me, one of life’s biggest questions is whether to go sweet or hearty at breakfast/brunch. But at The Bongo Room, the standard omlet vs. French toast debate was upped with choices like the “spinach, red pepper and feta benedict” and “chocolate tower French toast,” which someone a table over ordered. It came covered with thick shavings of white and milk chocolate. Some of the plates were so sweet they almost could’ve been on a dessert menu (“red velvet hotcakes,” anyone?), but then again, that’s why I love breakfast/brunch — you can get away with that.

The music in the restaurant ranged from Justin Timberlake to one of my new favorites, The Noisettes, (nope, no actual bongos) but never gave the air it was trying too hard, although at times I felt as though I was subconsciously tying to eat in rhythm when it the tunes got a little clubbier. The decor on the other hand, was simplistic yet fresh. I loved the spartan wooden booths that gave it an updated homey feel.

The best solution to my perpetual brunch debate, for the record, is to split dishes with a friend. My friend and I went half and half on the “sweet potato and black bean breakfast burrito” (I love sweet potato anything) and the” zucchini and pumpkin flapjacks.” Pumpkin has to be my favorite seasonal flavor — just last night I indulged in the limited edition pumpkin spice Red Mango — and these dense yet lightly sweet pancakes came with warm chocolate creme drizzled with caramel to be used in lieu of standard syrup. All in all, the eats were a trendier version of indulgent breakfast foods that would make a toddler ecstatic… and hyper. And that’s how brunch nosh should be.

 

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Pumpkin and zucchini flapjacks, with the white chocolate creme/caramel sauce on the side, by Karina for TKGO.

 

Taste for yourself at 1470 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL.

Karina for TKGO