Tag Archives: Chicago

Shot of the Week

Deadmau5 Congress Theater ChicagoThe green of electronic musician Deadmau5‘s mouse ears are the centerpiece of the neon stage at the October 22, 2010 show at the Congress Theater in Chicago.

Tara for TKGO


Social Drinking in Argentina (yes, that’s caffeine)

The first time I felt like a porteño (Buenos Aires native) happened while on a family trip to Bariloche, after I had been living in Buenos Aires for nearly four months. The tour guide and van driver were passing mate and offered it to me. I took the cup, emptied it and handed it back, and they proceeded to fill it again and pass it along.

My mother nearly had a heart attack.

Sharing straws isn’t a tradition in the U.S., but in Argentina — you have to get over it. Mate (mah-tay) is a heavily caffeinated, appetite-suppressing tea that Argentines drink even more frequently than Americans drink coffee. The ritual is this: The host brings out the cup, the straw, the tin that holds a supply of broken mate leaves and a thermos filled with hot water. The host fills the cup roughly three-quarters of the way with mate (more for a bitter, stronger flavor) and then fills it to the brim with boiling hot water that always scorches the amateurs. Then he inserts the metal straw, which has a filter on the end to keep the leaves out of the consumer’s mouth. He or she passes the cup to the person beside him, who drinks until it is empty, and then passes it back to the host, who refills the cup and continues to pass it around the circle, refilling between people.


It's my turn to drink in our post-work day mate circle in my host mom's apartment in Buenos Aires


Naturally, the process takes a while. That’s the idea! The Argentine lifestyle is similar to the European lifestyle in that both have a vibrant cafe culture. Talking and drinking (but rarely getting drunk and never getting crunk) is part of the daily routine. In the office, breaks for mate happen every hour and last 15 minutes. At home, a mate circle forms after work to wind down from the day before dinner, and another forms after dinner to help the meal settle. You bring it on trips, to the park and even to school, where your professor might whip out a cup to send around the 30-person classroom.

But how could an entire country love the same beverage? It must taste like candy! The simple answer is no. It does not taste like candy. Nor have I met a single person who grew up in Argentina and does not like mate. If you don’t like it, you put two tablespoons of sugar in the tea before you put in the water. Voila, like sugar in coffee, it takes away the bitter flavor (and tastes slightly more like candy). Because the tea leaves aren’t changed between refills, the first few people get more bitter-tasting cups than the others. Those who hate the bitter taste can drink last.


My host mom, María Eugenia (Maru for short) next to her thermos and her favorite brand of mate, Taragui


Give it a try at home! My favorite brand is Taragui (above). You can find many offerings in large cities where South American products are sold. In Chicago, try La Única in Rogers Park. The cups are traditionally made from a special gourd, but now many less expensive brands are made of wood and metal. You can mail order cups and their straws as well for a hefty price (of course they’re usually the expensive gourd kind) or you could wait until Karina goes next month and beg her for a shipment!

Tara for TKGO

Tattoo Culture

Communities do not just exist internationally, but also within our own borders. As individuals seek a sense of belonging — or even of isolation — they create smaller circles that thrive and change as a country might. The American tattoo community has a similar dynamic. To some, tattoos are the highest form of art, and to others, simply a convenient way to apply an indelible eyeliner. Margo DeMello, Josh Howard and Nick Colella offer three perspectives from the community.


At The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co., by Tara for TKGO


Margo DeMello
Author of Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community

“People mark themselves to mark themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a group—to make themselves different and stand out from the group, although ironically, or maybe not ironically, that marking makes them part of a group as well.”

“Part of what has happened in the United States in the post World War II period and much more recently is we’ve lost a sense of community, and that’s part of what I think people are still striving for these days. … I think tattoos are just another vehicle for that.”

“Everybody’s getting tattoos now. It did used to be a working class tradition in this country, limited to certain social groups, like sailors, soldiers, gang members, convicts, bikers. Now practically every social class in this country is getting tattooed.”

“Tattooing has always been stigmatized in the West because it’s typically associated with the under classes, but since the 80s the art form has also been transformed. … Part of the process of making tattooing acceptable to the middle classes is separating it from its traditional American roots and making it foreign and exotic. We see far more non-Western and non-American designs than we ever did before.”

Josh Howard
Tattoo artist at The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co.

“I don’t think I’ve tattooed one biker in the last few years. A lot of the people are younger kids, but you know you tattoo someone who’s 80 years old getting their first tattoo. It’s a little more acceptable now.”

Nick Colella
Tattoo artist at The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co. for almost 17 years

“The stigma is there, to a degree, but it’s not as heavy as it used to be. People are getting a little more curious, and they realize that their lives aren’t going to drastically change if they have a tattoo on their arms or back.”

“People have been getting the same things for years. They might add their own little twists, but they’ve all been done before. That’s why people get them. They’re iconic.”

“I think people want to make it a deep representation of themselves, which is fine. People get tattooed for all kinds of reasons. But it’s not as heavy and deep as people want to make it out to be. I think people should get tattooed if they like the design. People are always asking me, What do your tattoos mean? They mean nothing! I get tattoos because I like wearing them.”

Tara for TKGO

Eating Snow Ice in June

Taiwanese xue-hua-bing — or “snow ice” — is the latest low-cal summer treat to hit Chicago

A muggy Chicago June day sent us in search of a cone, cup or bowl of something refreshing, and we found our sweet relief in something both cool and cultural: Taiwanese snow ice.

Xue-hua-bing is wispy and fluffy, and has the consistency of frozen, slightly thicker cotton candy. The ice, which also is surprisingly creamy, is somewhat chewy at first but melts in your mouth. It condenses in the bowl, though, so you have to eat quickly!


Our half-eaten bowl of mango snow ice with mango drizzle, by Karina for TKGO


Unlike ice cream, snow ice in Taiwan isn’t made with milk. Traditionally, people will drizzle vanilla-flavored snow ice with condensed milk and top it with sweet red beans. In Chicago, however, it has been Americanized. Cloud 9 on Belmont adds skim milk to its mixture, and serves other flavors more familiar to the North American palate. Mango is the most popular flavor, but vanilla and strawberry also are available. Our vote? Definitely go for the classic combo of vanilla ice with condensed milk and red bean drizzle. Other “drizzles” (which essentially are syrups) are chocolate and fruit flavored, and many customers opt to order chunks of fresh fruit topping.

Cloud 9 serves two sizes. The snack size, at 150 calories with 1 gram of fat, costs $3.79, and the regular size costs $4.79. Both sizes look like mountains because of the air that gets worked into the ice when it is shaved, but we promise you can eat it all. (The calorie count is proof!) One “drizzle” is included, and toppings are an additional $.69. Keeping up with the trends, Cloud 9, which opened a month and a half ago, serves its snow ice with biodegradable bowls and forks.

The only down side? No samples! Because snow ice can only be served freshly shaved from a large block, it’s impossible to spoon out of a bin like Ben & Jerry’s. But if we had to choose between Ben & Jerry’s and snow ice, we prefer the airy Taiwanese dessert. Check it out at Cloud 9 at 604 W. Belmont Ave., or watch below for a shaving tutorial:

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Hotel Bars

Many of my undisputed favorite drinking spots happen to be located in hotels. I think what mesmerizes me about a good hotel bar is how it feels like an integral part of its city, but also a separate retreat at the same time.

If you pick them (hotel bars) right, you end up with an entertaining mix of in-the-know locals and jetsetting visitors. And if you’re like Tara and me and won’t be posting up in any high-priced hotels any time soon (hello, recent college grad budget), it’s also the cheapest way to experience some of the more upscale, trendy and elegant digs.

Below are my current three favorites, all of which are scattered around the U.S. I’ll be traveling in Italy soon; any you recommend I check out over there?

21c Museum Hotel / Louisville, Kentucky / 700 W. Main St.

The 21c doubles as a contemporary art museum, which, if you know my penchant for contemporary art, pretty much makes it my favorite place ever. The bar area is long and narrow, decorated in whites and lit with bright pinks and purples. I was here Derby weekend, and it was definitely buzzing, but still maintained a relaxed feel. Stop by the elevator area to get in touch with your inner child and interact with one of the falling-letters works (picture below).


21c Museum Hotel Bar, by Karina for TKGO



Fun with falling letters, by Karina for TKGO


Four Seasons / Chicago / 120 E. Delaware Place

The median age at the Four Seasons probably hovers around 45, but it’s intimate, comfortable and relaxing. You never know who you’ll end up sitting next to and talking with, and that’s the best part of it. Since it’s small, pretty much everyone ends up meeting and chatting, even if that’s Emmitt Smith in town to film Oprah (true story), the friendliest bartenders in town — Paul’s the best — or some post-work colleagues.


Four Seasons Chicago bar, courtesy of official site


Bowery Hotel / New York, NY / 335 Bowery

Technically, you’re supposed to know someone to access the bar, but just slip any name at the door (if they even ask) and you’ll be fine. It attracts a young, trendy crowd, but anyone and everyone blends in and lets loose, from the hipster set to fashionistas and the occasional celebrity. The bar area is spacious, above street level and partially outdoors, which makes it a beautiful summer destination, and the indoor part includes an open area that is inevitably the site of dance parties.


Bowery Hotel, courtesy of Intoxicologist.wordpress.com


Karina for TKGO

Joining the Hunt for the Stanley Cup

Thanks to the Blackhawks’ win on Wednesday, the Stanley Cup has returned to Chicago after 49 years of absence.

Since 1995, tradition dictates each player gets 24 hours with the 34.5-pound Cup (and its Hockey Hall of Fame chaperone) during the year it remains in the team’s possession. What do the players do with it? In 1996, Colorado Avalanche assistant captain Sylvain Lefebvre and his wife had their first child and baptized her with the Stanley Cup. But lucky for Chicagoans, most players celebrate with it at bars and steakhouses.


Hawks captain Jonathan Toews hoists the Cup before the Crosstown Classic on Sunday, courtesy of Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT


If you plan to spend your summer hunting for the Cup (like us), you’ll need help from social media. Follow @WheresTheCup on Twitter to keep track of the Cup’s busy nights on the town. @BillyDec owns nightclubs Sunda, Underground and Rockit, and updates frequently. He let his followers know the Cup would appear at Rockit after the Crosstown Classic yesterday (and he’s really proud of his game 5 shots at the United Center). To learn about the Cup’s scheduled TV and other public appearances, follow @NHLBlackhawks. Google Maps helps pick out trends, like the Cup’s fetish for steakhouses, including Gibson’s, Harry Carey’s, and Tavern on Rush.


Google Maps users track the Stanley Cup


Since the parade through the streets of Chicago Friday morning, the Stanley Cup has been spotted at Wrigley Field for the Crosstown Classic on Sunday, and Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Adam Burish and Patrick Sharp brought it to Underground, Sunda and Manor on Saturday night.

If you give up, tune into The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight at 10:30 p.m. (CT) for a glimpse of the Cup at the end of the show. And if you’re up for a laugh, check out this love affair between the Cup and a soap opera actress in 2006:

Happy hunting, and comment if you catch it!

Tara for TKGO

Q&A with Roxana Saberi

Roxana Saberi is an American foreign correspondent and former Iranian political prisoner. After her release in May 2009, she wrote Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran, released March 30, chronicling her experience in Iran and her five months in Tehran’s Evin Prison. I interviewed Saberi for The Rotarian, Rotary International’s U.S. magazine. To read the full story in The Rotarian, click here.


Roxana Saberi at Northwestern on April 13, courtesy of Hallie Liang for The Daily Northwestern


Tara: You made a rule for yourself not to cry before your release. Why was this so important to you?

Roxana: Not crying was a message to try to stay strong and to try to keep a positive mentality. I cried enough before that, it’s not like I was holding in my emotions. Enough is enough. It doesn’t help to think about the past, or the world beyond the prison walls. I should think about what I do have.

Tara: What are some of the greatest lessons you learned from the women with whom you were imprisoned?

Roxana: One is to try to change challenges into opportunities. Sometimes through suffering we can have an opportunity to become stronger. And even when you’re imprisoned you still have a power to control your attitude.

Tara: What aspects of your trials bothered you most?

Roxana: There are so many problems with both trials. The first trial I didn’t know was my trial until after the first 15 minutes. It was just a joke, it was a sham. I didn’t get the attorneys I wanted. I was threatened I shouldn’t take them and the attorneys I had, I was not happy with. I think they were under a lot of pressure from Iranian authorities, so much so that they have been intuited into sacrificing their own principles to have me as their client.

Unfortunately a lot of Iranians are falsely accused of crimes, including espionage, through the soft revolution or whatever charges they fabricate. In my case, in my false confession, they knew. ‘We know you’re not a spy’; they told me this in private. It made me wonder, do they knowingly falsely accuse people to tighten their grip on society and to silence people? In many ways it is not unique.

Tara: What message do you want readers to take from the book?

Roxana: What happened to me is happening to a lot of people who are still in Iran today. They are faced with many injustices. International support and media attention helped in my case. I think similar support can be given to them as well.

Tara: Do you understand Iran better now, after your imprisonment?

Roxana: I understand certain aspects of Iran better than before. One way, I’ve seen how certain people in power are so blinded by their want of power that they’re willing to go to almost any means to keep that power, including trampling on the rights of individuals. In the long run this only breeds resentment. Instead I think they should tolerate different ideas and allow for an exchange of ideas and try to tackle the roots of problems instead of people who speak about them.

Tara: Do you love Iran any less after being imprisoned? Do you love it differently?

Roxana: I love it just as much as before. In fact, I met some of the best Iranians I’ve ever met in prison; they were my cellmates.

Hungry for more? Listen to Roxana Saberi’s hour-long presentation to Northwestern students, detailing her experiences in Evin Prison:

Tara for TKGO