Monthly Archives: April 2010

TKGO City Guides, Barcelona Launches

Well, it’s finally here: TKGO City Guides, Barcelona is up for your pleasure, enjoyment and planning. Listings include finds like a restaurant that bottles its own sparkling wine and a retro amusement park on top of the tallest mountain in Barcelona, not to mention an absinthe bar once frequented by the likes of Hemingway.

Check back on TKGO City Guides, Naples, too, for some new additions. And as always, we’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park

As graduation approaches (signaling the end of my time inhabiting the North Shore), I have been frantically searching for opportunities to cross items off my Chicago Bucket List. This past weekend my mom was in town, and with her rented car we drove southwest to Oak Park to peep displays of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural genius — something I have planned to do for years.

We arrived at the Oak Park visitor center and, warned the Unity Temple was only open for about another hour, rushed over to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house of worship on Lake Street. The Unitarian temple was the only of his masterpieces we entered, since all the other homes (with the exception of his personal home and studio) are private residences.

After exploring Unity Temple, we visited the architect’s nearby home and studio to rent headsets for the self-guided walking tour. We spent about the next hour walking around Lloyd Wright’s home neighborhood and pausing to learn about ten of his Modern residential creations with our super touristy — but very informational! — audio gear.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The architect’s work, with its clean, straight lines and strong angles apparent in everything from the Unity Temple’s organ and light fixtures to his houses’ windows, is impressive even to the untrained eye. Learning about the thought process and intention behind Lloyd Wright’s designs reveals even more brilliance.

Here are some points I picked up and found helpful to understanding Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park architecture:

  • The homes Lloyd Wright designed in Oak Park are from his Prairie Period, which was around the turn of the 20th Century: about 1892 to 1908.
  • The Prairie Period is characterized by long, horizontal lines intended to reflect and work with the flat Midwestern terrain.
  • Lloyd Wright considered the hearth the center of the home, symbolically and, in his designs, literally.
  • The architect was fascinated with Japanese art and design.
  • Lloyd Wright often obstructed or hid the front door; his homes aren’t designed to appear inviting to the outsider. He was more concerned with creating architecture that complemented nature and the surroundings.

My mom recommends the book Loving Frank as follow-up (or if you want, pre) education and entertainment to an Oak Park trip. I haven’t started reading the historical fiction novel yet, but the guy’s life did take some soap opera-worthy turns.

Also, if you happen to be at the Northwestern University Library, ask the archivists about original FLW documents we have somewhere in that massive structure.

Karina for TKGO

Bobotie: South African Meat Pie

Unlike my dad’s secret Monster Burger recipe (which he won’t even send me via email because “the Internet is too easily hacked”), my mom’s updated South African bobotie recipe is one to share.

 

bobotie, recipe, South Africa, Cape Malay

 

My dad is South African. My mom is a Wisconsinite. When she wanted to surprise him one night, she picked a recipe from South African Gourmet Food and Wine by Myrna Rosen and Leslie Loon, a cookbook my dad’s mother (South African to the core) swears by. But when my dad saw the bobotie she made, he had no idea what it was. He’s from Johannesburg, and this is a dish typical of the Cape Malays, who live closer to Cape Town on the Western coast. Since this fortunate mistake, bobotie has become a family favorite and we’ve tweaked the recipe over the years.

Bobotie is a South African meatloaf, to put it shortly. It’s fruity and moist and goes well with a side of rice pilaf. You can easily update this recipe to fit your own tastes. Play with the proportions of the fruit, spices and nuts, but don’t mess with the custard, bread and meat amounts, which hold the juicy dish together.

My mom teaches a quick lesson in making bobotie

Karen’s South African Bobotie

1 1/2 lb ground sirloin
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
2 slices bread, soaked in milk and squeezed out
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
dash pepper
handful chopped blanched almonds
1 tart apple, peeled and grated
1/4 c raisins
2 tbsp apricot jam
1/4 c dried cranberries
1 banana, sliced
4 tbsp fruit chutney, with extra to garnish

Heat oil in large frying pan and add onions, garlic and saute until golden brown over low heat. Add meat and cook until nicely browned and no longer pink. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients including soaked bread. Place mixture in a greased pie pan or ovenware dish.

Custard

1 c milk (or 1/2 c milk and 1/2 c cream)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 larg eggs
1 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves

Whisk custard ingredients together except bay leaves and pour over the beef mixture. Arrange the bay leaves in the center of the meat pie.

Bake at 350 F for approximately 50 minutes. Cool five minutes or so before cutting and serve with any fruit chutney.

Tara for TKGO

Cuban Paladar Dinner

A common question I get since returning from Cuba is, “How was the food?!”

You know, I say, Cuba isn’t really revered for its food. Menus are heavy on rice, beans and meat, and dishes aren’t too adventurous flavor-wise. The food was fine, though, and most of the time solidly good, especially at restaurants like Bodeguita del Medio and El Aljibe. That is, except for one of the most deliciously unreal meals of my life.

Cocina de Lilliam is perhaps the most famous paladar in Cuba. A paladar is a small, privately-owned, family-run (and operated from the family’s home) restaurant. After the fall of the USSR and drop-off of Soviet subsidies, Fidel enacted a law that allowed small, privately-owned restaurants (paladares) to exist. Tourism money talks, even in a Communist country.

Lilliam Dominguez runs the paladar out of her sprawling Miramar home (the Havana neighborhood with old mansions from the days of Batista), and all of the tables sit on a picturesque outdoor patio surrounded by lush plants. After hearing our guide rave about Lilliam’s cooking, a group of about 12 of us knew we needed to go. Because of the size of our group, Lilliam offered us a special meal: for a flat group price, she would bring us out dish after dish of her choice; no menu, no options. Since some of the best meals I’ve had have resulted from just letting chefs go at it and plates come, I was salivating even before sitting down.

Below is a photo gallery of some shots from our epic, hours-long meal, where moist, garlicky homemade breads and sauces, crispy fried tarragon and a sweet stew with lamb so tender it broke apart at the touch of a fork preceded plates of lightly citrus grilled tilapia, mashed sweet potato and cheesy chicken-peach crepes. (Plus what seemed like hundreds more dishes.) If you think I’m a little short on photos, I apologize. I was a little preoccupied savoring an unparalleled meal. Buen provecho!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Karina for TKGO

Indoor Stargazing… Even at Night

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is impressive. The building is beautiful, the telescopes are numerous and the activities amuse adults and kids alike. But add a bar and an unparalleled view of Chicago’s nighttime skyline? Now we’re talking.

Adler After Dark takes place every third Thursday of the month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with plenty to drink at the bar, including wine, beer and featured cocktails that change monthly (April’s is the $7 Silver Surfer, a mix of “Silver Tequila, Rum, Vodka, Sierra Mist and dash of lemon and lime”). Although you can’t take that deadly cocktail through every exhibit (notably the moonscape, which would be most fun to play in after a few Silver Surfers), the major attractions are open and staffed with museum employees who know a thing or two about what you’re looking at.

[A special thanks to Mac LeBuhn, who kindly agreed to appear in almost every photo below.]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During regular museum hours the Doane Observatory is closed to the public, but Adler After Dark breaks all the rules. (The telescope here is the largest in the Midwest available to those of us who do not have a PhD in cosmology.) If you don’t make it to Doane, the South Terrace offers a view of Saturn, rings and all. The planet is so far away that the light it gives off takes an hour and 12 minutes to reach the telescope, which means when you look at Saturn, you see the planet as it looked an hour and 12 minutes ago. Cool, right? Get this: A second telescope was pointed at the Sears Tower, with a close-up of about 40 or so office windows. Hunting for steamy affairs has never been so easy.

Don’t miss a ride on the early 20th century-era version of an IMAX theater (beverages allowed) or the photo shoot that puts your face under a newspaper headline.

Tickets at the door are $10 for students and members and $15 for non-members, but buy early online and prices drop to $7 and $10, respectively. For more info on the exhibits Mac and I saw, check out the museum’s exhibit page.

Tara for TKGO

Baseball in Cuba

Q: How do you write and say “homerun” in Spanish?

A: Jonrón, pronounced “hone-run.”

Of all the experiences I went to Cuba hoping to have, attending a baseball game topped the list. Cubans are crazy about their national sport, and despite my — I’ll admit it — general ambivalence toward the game in the U.S., I knew it would be unlike any sporting event stateside. Plus, I think my visit would have felt incomplete without witnessing such a central aspect of Cuban culture.

Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect; we arrived on the island just as the 2010 Campeonato, the annual Cuban baseball championship, was gearing up to start. This year the opposing teams were the Industriales of Havana (who ended up winning the seven-game series) and Villa Clara from Santa Clara. Magically, our tour guide finagled for us to squeeze in for a few innings of one of the sold-out championship games during our stint in Santa Clara. “They are visiting Cuba from Canada and all they came here to do is see a baseball game! You’ll break their hearts if they can’t go in!” he begged the guards.

The energy and intensity in the stadium was unrivaled. Villa Clara fans cheered as though they never had before every time a new orange-clad batter stepped up to the plate, horns sounded nonstop and drums pounded throughout — and this was only the first half of the game.

I captured some scenes from the game in the video below, including our walk into the stadium (yes, that is an American wearing the Yankees shirt in front of me) with everyone unabashedly sizing us up, the “beating” of a stuffed lioness — a lion is the Industriales‘ mascot — and a good-natured memorabilia exchange between two rival fans.

Karina for TKGO