Monthly Archives: February 2010

TKGO City Guides, Evanston Launches!

We are excited to announce that TKGO City Guides, Evanston has arrived!

After four years living in Evanston, Illinois and attending Northwestern University, we’ve finally compiled our list of don’t-miss spots for eating, meandering and shopping in our favorite Chicago suburb. This is not an exhaustive list of everything Evanston offers, rather a well-curated selection of reviews for what we consider some of our favorites and most interesting spots in the city. As always, we love to hear from you, so drop us a comment with your thoughts, feedback or suggestions.

While you’re on our City Guides page, check out other available guides: TKGO City Guides, Acapulco, TKGO City Guides, Buenos Aires, TKGO City Guides, Philadelphia and TKGO City Guides, Princeton. These guides are always changing as we return to the places we love and update you on our new favorites, so check back periodically for changes.

Our next endeavor, TKGO City Guides, Chicago, will debut at the end of next week.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

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The Bloomsbury Group

One of Northwestern University’s hidden treasures is the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. It’s located conveniently right on campus and best yet, it’s free for anyone who ambles in. Still, few students take advantage of the opportunity to see art from Mapplethorpe, Michelangelo and Motherwell on display, all of which happened in the past year.

We recently stopped in to see the current exhibit, A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections, which runs through March 15. The British modernist group included artists and writers (plus an economist) Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, E. M. Forster, Roger FryDuncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes.

 

"Dancers" (1910-1911) by Duncan Grant, from the Tate Museum (tate.org.uk).

 

The Bloomsbury group was, in essence, a group of friends that became a self-proclaimed “family.” Lacking a common ideology or artistic style, friendship was the only glue that held them together. Bloomsbury was a terribly unchic part of London in the early 1900s, and they spent their time there experimenting with styles and surfaces that defied Impressionist and Post-Impressionist tradition. At the Charleston Farmhouse (their vacation home in East Sussex) and the Omega Workshops (in Bloomsbury), they learned from each other; Vanessa Bell was called a hopeless painter by critics before she met Roger Fry. Walking through the five rooms of the exhibit, you not only see each artist’s experiments with different artistic styles, but the works of those around them, whose influence is obvious.

What stuck with us the most was not the art, but the camaraderie. And as corny as it sounds, when reading about their collaborations, we couldn’t help but see some of ourselves and TKGO in the Bloomsbury artists and their movement. Good friends are all you need to start a project that changes the way the world is perceived.

(Unfortunately, museum rules prevented us from taking photos, but check out some images at the Block Museum official site. For more information on the Bloomsbury Group and images, take a look at this site.)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

New Orleans in Need

Between the Saints taking the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras madness, it’s been quite the past couple weeks for the city of New Orleans.

I love New Orleans. It’s a charming and vivacious city with loads of personality. They’re big on music (it’s the birthplace of jazz), they’re big on food (beignets and jambalaya are my personal favorites), and they’re big on celebrating (case in point: Mardi Gras). The circumstance in which I first experienced The Big Easy, though, was a little different.

 

Abandoned home in the Lower Ninth Ward

 

Two years ago I spent my spring break with 13 other Northwestern students in New Orleans. The trip was through the Alternative Student Breaks group at NU, and we spent a week repairing houses in the Lower Ninth Ward. When we arrived it was two years post-Katrina, but in parts of the city and especially in the Lower Ninth Ward, it looked as though the devastating storm could have just passed through. The Lower Ninth Ward, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and the area Katrina hit hardest, was almost a ghost tone with stretches of half-wrecked and abandoned businesses and homes continuing for miles. Our first time driving around the Lower Ninth Ward we sat in the vans staring out, shocked and silent. We couldn’t believe it could possibly still look like this.

 

Abandoned business in the Ninth Ward

 

Even two years after my trip, the rebuilding effort in New Orleans is far from over. Just a few days earlier I was reading Time magazine’s “The Moment” piece on New Orleans. “New Orleans is still a high-poverty, high-anxiety mess. Some of its neighborhoods have barely begun to rebuild, and it’s still outrageously vulnerable to coastal storms. Its levees are too weak, and the wetlands that once protected it from hurricanes continue to melt into the Gulf,” writes Michael Grunwald.

Unfortunately, domestically and abroad we have experienced too many other disasters since Katrina, but it is too soon to shift our focus from rebuilding and protecting our country’s most unique city. We still have a long way to go.

 

Lower Nine

 

To learn more about the organization my ASB trip volunteered with (Lower Nine), click here.

Karina for TKGO

Chinese New Year 2010

The Ox is out — make way for the Year of the Tiger! If it’s your year (if your birthday was in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998… or 2010), you are supposed to wear an article of red clothing every day for good luck. Apparently, a red scarf or even earrings will suffice, so that could be doable! Tigers are unselfish, independent, daring, impulsive and noble.

We’re both big fans of Chinese New Year celebrations. Tara went to the parade this year in Chicago’s Chinatown, and growing up, Karina has celebrated the holiday with her family.

The present: Chicago does it right

This year, like many, Wentworth Avenue was packed with Chicagoans wandering the streets and hanging out in every dim sum joint and bakery in Chinatown hours before the parade. Unlike in China, when not a single person works during the New Year, all the Chicago restaurants, shops and bakeries face the biggest business days of the year. Here’s a look at this year’s parade and celebration, from behind throngs of onlookers.

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Tara for TKGO

The past: A family tradition

In early elementary school, Chinese New Year was about gold coins, red envelopes and re-reading Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year (great book, by the way). Once my family adopted my little sister from China when I was nine, celebrating the holiday became much more involved. My family joined the local chapter of Families with Children from China, and my mom became one of the group’s organizers. In fact, one of her major annual undertakings was planning and executing the organization’s Chinese New Year celebration. The events were cultural blowouts of food, (hello, unlimited Chinese buffet) music, activities and performances. We took over a restaurant for it every year, and the event sold out every year. We had lion dances, yo-yo artists, ribbon dancing, martial arts and one year, a famous Chinese paper cutter.

 

I always looked forward to the event, and now that I’m away from home for the holiday, each year when the day comes around, I feel as though I am missing something.

Karina for TKGO

A Very Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is also, appropriately, called Pączki Day wherever there are Poles or Polish immigrants — in this case, the greater Chicago area. The jelly donut-like pastry, which means “little package” in Polish, is deep-fried and stuffed with custard, fruit filling or cheese, and topped with sugar glaze or powdered sugar. Apparently, pączkis (pronounced “poonch-keys”) were first made to quickly and deliciously use up eggs and lard prior to Lent, which the Roman Catholic church prohibits during the pre-Easter period.

Bennison’s Bakery in our very own Evanston, Illinois hosted a pączki-eating contest to benefit Haitian relief efforts this past Saturday, where six teams of two had five minutes to consume as many of the pastries as possible.

It was a little much to watch the teams wolf down the gooey pastries, but it didn’t stop us from wanting to taste some for ourselves after the contest. Luckily, the bakery had extra trays of cheese, cream, apricot and raspberry pączkis, which they offered to spectators for free(!). The traditional flavor is prune, which Bennison’s refrained from including in the eating contest, probably with the contestants’ digestive systems in mind.

The pastries are delicious, with a rich filling encased in a fluffy dough exterior, and Bennison’s strikes the ideal proportion of filling to pastry. Prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard and apple pączkis are $1.28; the special whipped cream and strawberry-filled pączkis are $1.96. Stop by Bennison’s to try one! (Tara likes the prune, Karina favors the cheese.)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

To Valentine or Not to Valentine

Dinner and a movie can make for a great evening, but alternatives are usually better. Whether you’re single or one half of a couple, below are some events at and involving Chicago-area venues we love.

Shop

 

Event flyer

 

The Bonanza! Vintage Blowout Sale at Berlin Nightclub (you know, the one almost under the Belmont Red Line stop) will feature selections from The Sometimes Store, Knee Deep Vintage (one of Tara’s favorite Chicago vintage boutiques), Clothes Optional and Kokorokoko. (DITC will also be there with some non-vintage clothing.) Going broke? Don’t worry — there will be $5, $10 and $20 racks. The shopping event goes from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., but ’80s music will play until 4 a.m. There’s no cover so come and go as you please, but if you find yourself nearby at 9 p.m., stop in for a Valentine’s Day drag show! Visit the event’s Facebook page for more info.

Salsa

San Valentín Salsa Sunday at the Cubby Bear is a favorite Sunday night spot of ours, as we’ve told you before. But this Sunday, in honor of Valentine’s Day, extend your night into an epic salsa affair. If you’re going as a couple, head to Carnivale first (702 W. Fulton Market) for dinner specials and the music of Los Guitarristas, not to mention the killer mojitos and free roses. Afterward, bring your bill and three friends to the Cubby Bear (1049 W. Addison) and you’ll all get in free. Carnivale’s dinner specials and music run from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and the Cubby Bear has DJs working from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., along with some $3 drink specials. Click here for more info on Carnivale’s event, and here for the Cubby Bear event. If you’re headed to the Cubby Bear but not Carnivale, you can still get in without paying the cover if you fill out this form and print the email.

Celebrate

 

A photo of last year's new year celebration, courtesy of ChicagoDragons.com.

 

The Year of the Ox is on its way out; it’s the Year of the Tiger! OK, so not yet, but Chinese New Year just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day this year. At 1 p.m., the Lunar New Year Parade will head down Wentworth Avenue between 24th Street and Cermak. Don’t miss the 100-foot dragon! Other activities start at 11:30 a.m., but we recommend the Phoenix restaurant for some of the best dim sum in Chicago before watching the parade.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Saints v. Colts: A Food Fight

Football players can eat, that much is definitely true. But what, exactly do they eat? In honor of the Super Bowl tomorrow, here are a few descriptions (and successfully-tried recipes!) of regional specialties that keep our boys on the field. We’ll take any excuse to talk about food!

Indianapolis Colts

Before it was even certain the Colts were headed to the Super Bowl, the team chef placed a huge order to be shipped to Miami of — get this — granola. Apparently, what keeps these boys charged is homemade granola from Scholars Inn Bakehouse, a Hoosier chain of European-style bakeries, cafes and restaurants based in Bloomington, Indiana, but with locations in the Colts’ beloved Indianapolis. Granola? The former SELF intern in me is proud.

My friend Adryanna (the same one who turned me on to Bare Escentuals makeup) knows the owners of Scholars Inn and clued me on this funny bit of information, and I still can’t get over it. I expected the Colts to swallow whole, uncooked eggs for breakfast à la Gaston, not chomp on granola! But everyone needs some sweetness, I suppose. I’m hoping to get an order of the granola in soon so I can taste for myself, because this stuff must be good.

 

Courtesy of ScholarsInn.com

 

Luckily, the granola is available for purchase for $5.95 from the Scholars Inn Bakehouse Online Store. Just click the image of the granola to go right to the product! The original brand is what the Colts refuel with, but I’m partial to try the dark chocolate cherry version they have… Mmm.

Karina for TKGO

New Orleans Saints

Running back (and boyfriend of Kim Kardashian) Reggie Bush knows his New Orleans cuisine, and I don’t just mean muffuletta sandwiches. His personal chef, Gason Yen Nelson, is a New Orleans native who makes him his own baked bean creation to keep him on his game. And it just so happens, nola.com/The Times-Picayune released this magical recipe so fans can fuel like Reggie. Thank you, Chef Nelson!

 

Reggie Bush, 25, flexes his Bush

 

I gave the recipe a shot and loved it. Not only is it easy to make (all the ingredients are foolproof — you can play with how much of each you add, or throw in extra seasonings), but it’s also delicious inside tacos, slathered on a bun like a sloppy joe or just dished on a paper plate next to a hot dog. Serve it on game day!

Chef Nelson’s Bush’s Baked Beans

 

Photo by Eliot Kamenitz at the Times-Picayune.

 

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1/2 lb 80 percent lean ground beef
16 oz can of Bush’s Best Original Baked Beans
2 tbsp honey barbecue sauce
1/4 c brown sugar (or to taste)
3-4 green onions (green parts only), thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Granulated garlic

Heat oil in a skillet and cook the shallots until tender but not browned. Add ground beef and season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Saute until beef is cooked through. Drain the fat.

Add beans, barbecue sauce and brown sugar. Cook and heat. Serve topped with green onions.

For a more complicated recipe, check out the Saints’ tight end Jeremy Shockey’s chef’s variation on bourbon chicken, called Shockey-Way Chicken, also reported by the Times-Picayune in association with nola.com. These chicken thighs would make great game day appetizers.

 

New Orleans Saints Snack Helmet from the NFL Store, $54.99, courtesy of the NFL Store web site.

 

And of course, how you present these delicious snacks is up to you, but you should be aware of a certain opportunity for $54.99 (pictured at right). Just saying.

Tara for TKGO