Monthly Archives: December 2009

TKGO’s Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for us. Of course, our baby was born this year (our blog, which we now have a legit domain for, hooray!) over a pitcher of sangria, and we lived quite the life. We cavorted around New York City and tasted the best cup of coffee we’d ever had, we lounged on the beaches of Rio and ate our way through ethnic neighborhoods. A whole new world of nightlife exploration opened to us as we both finally turned the magical age of 21, and we finally started to get our butts into Chicago regularly to appreciate the culturally vibrant city right at our feet. We found ourselves let loose and living for months in some of the indisputable best cities in the world (Barcelona? Buenos Aires? New York City? We still can’t believe how lucky we were.) One of us even went from map illiterate to directions guru, and we both fell in love with Twitter. (Follow us!) We danced flamenco, samba and bhangra, visited countless candylands, brunched and shopped. We loved every second of it.

This coming year will see a new section added to the blog: City Guides, full of TKGO original content, multimedia and don’t-miss travel hot spots. This year also includes graduation, which means at some point we’ll have to figure out what to do with our lives — or at least the next year or so. Can’t we just do this forever?

Here’s to hoping 2010 is full of countless travels and discoveries, for us and you!

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Sweet Treats to Greet the New Year

Too much rhyming?

When I think of New Year’s Eve, I think of all the goodies laid out on tables all over the world to satisfy hungry party-goers. Here are a few of my favorite spots to find those delicious morsels.

Cesibon, Naples, Florida

 

My sister at Cesibon in Naples, Florida, by Tara for TKGO

 

I’m currently in Naples, Florida, with my family for the holidays, and my favorite part of the whole city is the homemade gelato from this little stripmall shop. Let the owners (who are French but studied gelato-making in Italy for years) tell you which two flavors to mix. You may be surprised, but coconut and pinneapple is a heavenly combo!

Find Cesibon at 8807 Tamiami Trail N, Naples, Florida 34108; (239) 566-8363.

Caramelito, Buenos Aires

 

Caramelito in Buenos Aires, by Tara for TKGO

 

You can’t even walk inside this tiny store, it’s so packed with nuts, wrapped candies and dried fruits (with the pits still in!). Pick up a little of everything—I like the fig varieties the best—for a good party.

 

Find Caramelito on the corner of Pasteur and Viamonte in Buenos Aires. Courtesy of Google Maps.

 

Glup’s, Paris

 

Glup

 

This French version of Candyland is packed wall to wall with pour-it-yourself sugary treats. You name it, you’ll find it: watermelon sours, licorice ropes and everything in between.

Find a list of Glup’s locations here.

Tara for TKGO

Flying Trapeze

Last spring when I was interning at SELF magazine I started to hear a lot about trapeze as the next fitness trend. Celebrities were doing it, Equinox was incorporating it into its classes and Cirque du Soleil was going strong. I always thought it seemed thrilling, so when my friend Sam asked me to join her for a class one day, I was all in.

We headed to the España-Streb Trapeze Academy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for their half-price Wednesday evening classes. It was right before Christmas, so the two-hour class was fairly empty. We arrived a little late (thank you, NJ Transit!), but still had plenty of time to swing. It was Sam’s second time on the bar but my first, so one of the instructors gave me the fastest introductory session (literally, two minutes) on a stationary low bar in the warehouse circus-y gym.

For some reason I had thought trapeze would be like simple, mindless swinging, and I was surprised at how much physical exertion it took. For starters, the bar is heavy. Like, quite heavy. You also have to keep your body “tight” when you swing, which goes against any natural impulse, and use it to build and maintain momentum. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush, though, especially when you take the first hop/mini jump (“but don’t look down!”) off the platform.

The instructors really just trust in your physical capabilities and throw you into it, encouraging you to try some simple tricks even your first time in class. I attempted a knee hang my second time up and succeeded, which was exciting. Sam, however, was a little more advanced than me it being her second time in class, and she actually did a knee hang and then had one of the instructors swinging on a neighboring bar grab her extended arms and catch her. Unfortunately I didn’t catch that one act on film, but I do have some photos and videos of our swings at Streb.

If you’re feeling up to it, I definitely recommend trying out a flying trapeze class, but be warned — your arms, back and abs might be absurdly sore for a few days afterward.

 

After class (trying to look professional)

 

Karina for TKGO

Chicago French Market

How very Harry Potter. Between tracks 8 and 9 of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, descend a staircase and follow signs toward MetraMart, where you’ll soon find the Chicago French Market: a glowing oasis of underground vendors of cheeses, produce, meats, fresh sandwiches, sweets, popcorn and pastries galore! Naturally, we spent hours talking and tasting.

You’ll find old favorites like Espression by LavazzaVanille Patisserie and Pastoral, but the new-to-town retail locations are the most exciting! You no longer have to order Sweet Miss Giving’s online, and Provo’s finally expanded from its Riverside, Illinois location.

One of our New Years’ resolutions? Always have spare change and an extra 15 minutes every time we pass through Ogilvie. With this many goodies below the tracks, it’ll be hard to forget.

Here’s what we tasted:

Saigon Sisters

We’re no strangers to the Vietnamese answer to hoagies and subs (having tasted bánh mì sandwiches in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown), and Saigon Sisters didn’t disappoint. We ordered a Porky (braised Duroc pork belly, pho flavors, hoisin glaze) and a Frenchman (duck confit, pickled mustard seeds, candied kumquat, rouille). We happily devoured both. The Vietnamese baguettes, made with rice and wheat flour, were the perfect balance of crispy outside and soft inside, and the pickled veggies added the right amount of tang. We loved that the Sisters offers a vegetarian sandwich and a classic bánh mì, too. This is the only location — it’s not a chain!

-Tara and Karina

Necessity Baking Co.

We used a free $10 scratch-off coupon we got after making a purchase (gosh, we love the French Market) to purchase a loaf of olive bread before leaving, even though we were about stuffed from our culinary purchasing tour of the market. The bread at Necessity Baking Co. is so soaked with olive oil, we ate it on the way home, sans condiments. But if you want to make a sandwich out of it, try lightly buttering both sides of two slices and throwing in a little gruyere and/or swiss. Nothing beats a gourmet grilled cheese!

 

Kalamata olives, mmm

 

Provo’s Village Bake Shoppe

When I first saw the foot-and-a-half long slab of poppyseed coffee cake, my heart dropped. Just like my grandma used to make! Except it was $6 (far less than what she paid for ingredients) and much more authentic (she got the recipe from her Danish grandparents but was born and raised in Wisconsin). With a light glaze over the top of the lumpy poppyseed mixture and crisscrossed ribbons of puff pastry, it’s unmistakably homemade, and unmistakably an authentic recipe. Provo’s has a location in Riverside, but this is its first in Chicago. I’ll be back for the kolachkis!

 

Some of Provo

 

-Tara for TKGO

Canady le Chocolatier

We visited the French Market on a good day, because the employees of Canady Le Chocolatier knew exactly what to recommend. TimeOut Chicago had just named their crème brûlée truffle — complete with a hardened sugar disk on top — one of its 100 Best Eats of 2009. I picked up one to see what all the fuss was about (it was delicious). Sticking with the Chicago theme, I also went with a raspberry truffle, which had a cello and the words “Chicago Symphony” adorning the top of the dark chocolate ganache. Then I chose another (completely gratuitous) chocolate topped with flecks of sea salt to indulge my sweet/savory hankering. If you can’t get to the French Market, Canady has a location at 824 S. Wabash, 312-212-1270.

 

Canady

 

 

My choices

 

Sweet Miss Giving’s

As if we needed another excuse to purchase baked goods! Sweet Miss Giving’s is a “premier bakery and jobs program,” and more than 50 percent of the profits go toward the formerly homeless and HIV/AIDS-affected men and women living in Chicago.

After sampling pieces of the banana cream pie muffin and chocolate toffee pecan cookie (thank you, free samples) — not to mention asking what exactly was in every item displayed in the cases because it all looked so delectable — I decided on a small pumpkin upside-down cake. It was lightly sweet, moist and had pecans and cranberries baked into the bottom. I planned to save it for breakfast the next morning, but needless to say, that didn’t happen.

The bakery outpost is reason enough to trek to the market; it’s their first and only retail outpost. If you want the goods otherwise, you’ll have to go through their site to order catering, wholesale or gift packages.

Karina for TKGO

Chicago French Market, 131 North Clinton at MetraMarket (in the West Loop). Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m.—7:30 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m.—6 p.m. Not open yet: Bowl Square, Chundy’s Bistro, RAW. (We were especially sad that Frietkoten wasn’t open yet either, where we hear the Dutch fries and Belgian beer are some of the Market’s highlights!)

Christkindlmarket Chicago

We’re both big fans of the German influence on Chicago (Tara especially when it comes to the sausages and brats a-plenty available in the city), and Christkindlmarket is a prime example of why. The annual Christmas market, which runs from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, is the largest such bazaar outside of Germany. The goods and grub — and even the vendors, many of who come to Chicago annually just to sell at the market — are authentically Deutsch. We escaped from final exams to spend a couple of hours wandering past the booths and, of course, eating along the way. (Hot mulled wine — a.k.a. “glühwein” — in Christkindlmarket boots! Potato pancakes! Sausage soup! Candied nuts! Bavarian soft pretzels!)

Check out our photo slideshow below of hand-painted ornaments, cuckoo clocks and Daley Plaza decked out for the holidays. It runs through December 24.

Happy Holidays from TKGO!

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

In Defense of Cruises

A friend of ours is currently on a cruise from Southern California to Mexico. When I found out, I was a little surprised. She’s well-traveled and culturally-adventurous, and cruises don’t generally attract those interested in exploring the ins and outs of a city like a local, which I know she enjoys doing. I think she was surprised to find herself on one too, judging from her text message that contained the phrase, “…Forgot how ridiculous cruises are.”

For a span of time, my family was all about cruises. While I was in middle school, we boarded three different cruise lines to three different places. The first one was like our test-run. It was a short Carnival cruise that touched on the Caribbean and part of Mexico. Our second one came a few years later to Alaska on Celebrity Cruises and the third (and at this point, final one) was an all-out Caribbean tour thanks to Royal Caribbean Cruises.

In my pre-teenage and early teenage days I considered cruises were the ultimate form of family vacation and travel. I roamed the ship with my new-found best vacation friends Now, though, I’m a little ashamed to admit to serious travelers that I’ve been on so many. Why? Many consider the stereotypical cruise-goer a close relative to (if not the same as) the socks and sandals clad, overweight, Hawaiian-shirted tourist. Our cruises invariably boasted 24-hour buffets. One ship even had an ice rink and a Johnny Rockets. Thousands of people unloaded almost daily into small ports where all the souvenir shirts read some variation of “Yah, mon.” When you look at the profile of a typical cruise and cruise ship, it’s just plain hokey.

But at the time, it worked. My sister was still little, I was itching (more like fighting) for an ounce of vacation freedom and my parents were looking for some relaxation. A cruise was everyone’s happy compromise for a one-size-fits-all form of vacation. And to be honest, in retrospect, we did some pretty cool stuff. We snorkeled with sea turtles in Barbados, fed and swam with stingrays in the Cayman Islands (pre-Steven Irwin incident, RIP). We went rafting on a glacial river and kayaking in an ocean inlet in Alaska. And to this day, I recall the sights from the dock of our cruise ship bound for Alaska as some of the most stunning I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, I’d recommend that cruise to anyone and everyone interested in seeing more of Alaska than Sarah Palin on TV. (It’s really a lush, beautiful place. Warm in the summer, too.)

I’ve thought back on past trips and re-assessed my family’s temporary cruise obsession. It’s made me realize, even more than before, travel really is what you make it.

 

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska (as seen from the cruise ship deck)

 

 

Snorkeling in Barbados (L: My younger sister, R: Me)

 

(I apologize for the quality of the photos; they come the pre-digital camera era. Hard to imagine…)

Karina for TKGO

Souping in Winter Park

After hearing the locals rave, I had to satiate my curiosity.

Our latest endeavor is a Northwestern University student-organized ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado, and because it’s early season we’re more than happy just to have snow! About half the mountain is open, and we’re both thankful for the fresh layer of powder laid down yesterday. But more than any other cold-weather food, I am thankful for soup. So after a long day of skiing, I grabbed my roommate Chenault (who also ventured to Viet Town with me) and headed into the Village at Winter Park.

The Back Bowl Soup Company succeeds in every way. The owner greeted us when we walked in and let us sample the five soups of the day, including Red Bell Pepper, Chicken Tortellini and Green Chili. We decided on the Mushroom Cheeseburger, a savory, hearty broth full of onions, ground beef, and, of course, mushrooms, all covered in melted cheddar cheese. The owners are still working on a weekly menu of set soup offerings, but until then they try to offer a chili, a veggie option, a beef option, and a chicken option every day. The more popular selections are a Thai Coconut Chicken, all the chilis (from Mountain Chili with White Beans to the Green Chili, which the owners recommend for breakfast), the delicious Mushroom Cheeseburger and the vegetarian Potato Leek. Don’t forget the bread bowl!

While the soups are worth the trip, the service is what gives the place five stars. The owners brought Chenault and I a complimentary serving of bread pudding while we devoured our soups, and of course offer every customer a sample of every soup before asking them to make such serious decisions.

Back Bowl Soup Company, 110 Parry Peak Way (ask the locals to point you in the right direction or you’ll never find it!), the Village at Winter Park, 970-624-0010. Find the “daily soup report” on Back Bowl’s web site.

-Tara for TKGO