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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Run to Munch has moved to RunToMunch.com but I’ll still post here a bit in hopes of getting more people to resubscribe and re-link to my new blog.  =)  Please re-subscribe on the new link, wordpress doesn’t allow me to transfer subscriptions =(.

Our third day in Chicago we go less ambitious.  I wanted to do two things:

1. Visit Brooksfield Zoo

2. Eat at Calumet Fisheries

However, neither were next to each other and each involved a trek of an hour out of Chicago via rail or bus combo.  It was Sunday and we decided to stay inner-city.  Well relatively… since we went north.

Our first stop was a neighborhood called “Ukrainian Village.”  I wanted to visit it and see if it compares to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, NY.  Alas very few things do but none the less the little village did have it’s charm with being smaller, friendlier and cleaner than NY!

Interesting part of Chicago neighborhood layout is that north is Wicker Park, a hipster hood of “vintage” shops and yummy cafes.  Midday you can see the babushkas walking along side the skinny jeans trotting hipster.

I scouted yelp for a place to feed my belly and stumbled upon Shokolad

Tony was HUNGRY and ordered “Gutsulske Pechenya” which was cubed beef, potatoes, carrots, lima beans, & celery combined in a clay pot & cooked until tender. Served with freshly backed ricotta rolls.  I ended up eating half his rolls while scooping up the soup.  It might have been 95 degrees outside but tasty hot soup is still tasty!

I went a little less heavy and ordered one of my childhood favorites!  Blueberry Varenyky!  Oh how home sick they made it!  I wish there was a place in Boston I could get them.  I could always make my own but I got two left hands when it comes to cooking.  So good with sour cream!

We then continued to walk around the check out the churches and all the residents in their Sunday wear.

This was one of the cooler 10 churches we saw; but I’m not sure which is called what.  Afterwards we took a bus outward to Lincoln Park

They had a really cool green house with free entrance!

The problem with wearing yellow is that I think I confused all the bees!  They loved me.

So many cool orchids!

Giant Fishies!

Aside from the botanical building, Lincoln Park also has a free city zoo!  They guy was feeling the heat as well

And this was my first time seeing a hippo out of water!  They are huge!!!!!! So cool!

We left the park to go search for Fro-Yo, however we never made it to fro-yo

Instead we got distracted by a pizza joint… We saw a bunch of people outside and wondered why!  Chicago Pizza & Grinder over Co.  So we came to a halt of something shiny and walked in.  The guy that owns the place doesn’t take your name, he just remembers your face as you wait to get seated.  Luckily Tony and I are small so we took a TINY but cozy booth right away.  While we were deciding between pizza or continuing for fro-yo, locals assured us we have to eat here, it’s the best, they been going here for YEARS… so how could we say no to the eager faces looking to share their joy.

Tony and I were actually not that hungry so we decided to split a small salad and a half pounder (of pizza).  And yes that’s their version of a small side salad.

The pizza! I’m usually not a fan of Chicago Style pizza being a New Yorker and all I view it more as a pot pie with tomato sauce. However, call it what you might this was quite tasty!

Yes I look dirty and exhausted.  Walking around miles in 95 degree weather definitely throws vanity out the window.

After the pizza and frosty adult beverages I forgot all about the Fro-yo as we walked back south to North Beach where I ran the day before.

It’s so beautiful!  Chicago Peeps you’re too lucky!

We were totally in love with Chi-Town!

This picture was taken from the Navy Pier as night which aside from the city view was very uneventful.  They didn’t even have an arcade… I was really itching to play some skeeball… None the less a great day and sadly our last full day.

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After a day of walking around downtown Chicago we slept in with no alarm.  I still stayed on Boston time and took a run instead.

Finally after much wasting time around the hotel room, we made it outside.  We made a stop at Wrigley Field.  It was actually a small mistake as I decided to randomly exit there.  A game was happening so it was a bit insane.

Madness… so we got back on the train and went further north until the train went no more.  Then we took a commuter rail further north.  Finally we arrived somewhere that was within a mile walk of the Chicago Botanical Gardens.  

Much to our surprise it was free!  I guess that’s why the sales tax is like one million percent.

There was a creepy statue that glared at us

Of course with our luck it started to pour!  But not before we got to watch a food demo and have a tasty sampling

Who knew that avocados and blueberries worked so well!

So it rained and rained after eating and waiting for over an hour we sucked it up and purchased this fashionable wear.

There was a mile of walking to the train so I was worried for my electronics.  Well… needless to say as soon as we got fashionable, it stopped raining.  You welcome Chicago Botanical Garden visitors.  Luckily admission to the park was free so I considered these overpriced ponchos as part of my donation to the gardens.

Proof that it really did rain!

There was a pretty rock garden/water falls thing

and trees!

They also had a really awesome Japanese garden but I didn’t take any pictures there because I was enjoying being peaceful and zen.

When we got back, we had a real fancy dinner…

It’s not a true vacation until Subway is consumed.  Sometimes you just want something cheap, and filling and Subway hits the spot.  Smelling flowers make you hungry.  Don’t worry we kept it classy with some wine.

As we walked from our hotel to Millennium park I can tell you that the Magnificent Mile gets a whole lot less magnificent.  I guess all the crackheads and bums only come out at night in Chicago while on the east coast they work full time full day of creeping little girls out.

The hatch thing had an evening concert as well and they were performing Broadway songs!  We even got a seat mid-show.  No need to sit on a grass or watch in envy for all those well prepared lawn chair peeps.

Great performance!  And I only got 1 mosquito bite. A winning night.

I even found the bean I couldn’t find the day before in daylight.

Of course the night didn’t end there, as we walked back to our hotel we saw fireworks!

I think they are shot from Navy Pier.

So day 2

1. Lots of flower and train travel

2. Some more rain

3. Subway – Spicy Italian is the only way to go!

4. Free concert in the park

5. Fireworks!

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Sorry if you get this post twice in your email, I hit publish by mistake before I was done!

Tony and I took a 6AM flight from Logan to Midway which let us explore the most in day one without having to pay for a hotel the night before.

It was early and after checking into the hotel we started by walking down to Millennium Park… Well actually correction, I started by walking us in the wrong direction (north vs. south).  It was a good mile uptown before I said to myself, hmm the lake seems to be on the wrong side!

I have to admit, seeing a real metropolis distracted me from my usual sense of direction

After doing the embarrassing tourist turnaround, we made our way to the park

They have a very cool outdoor bandshell where an orchestra was performing! Also, what makes Millennium Park even cooler was that 12 years ago it was a wasteland of parking lots and railways and now is one of the greatest urban parks out there!  Per Google this is what is used to look like:

Projects like this always go beyond budget and have a ton of corruption behind them but the results are still so amazing and great for a city.  Down with parking lots up with parks! Roar!

We walked past the smells of Taste of Chicago (I decided to pass on sausages and hot dogs in exchange for finer snobby dining) and made our way to Buckingham Fountains.  We had lunch reservations at 1:30 and it was mind over stomach!

Also a sad but gross display, Toms are comfortable BUT nothing including Toms will be comfortable in 95 degree weather as you walk around for miles being a tourist.  My feet cried for flip-flops and I’m pretty sure these shoes lost 10 months of wear from me pressing in the back.

Finally it was time to walk over to Blackbird for our reservations.  I was super excited after reading about it on yelp, blogs and Anthony Bourdain’s love for Chef Paul Kahan.  I’m an impressionable foodie…

I opted for a 3 course special, I think it was like $25 bucks or something.  My first course was great.  kombu cured fluke with spring mojo verde, spruce tips and lardo.  I love cured salty fish, its the little Jewish gal in me. After the first course, I was excited for the main entree…

Yup.. that was it.  My cat could vomit up a bigger plate of food!  Give me a slice of bread with it at least.  Those are small thin pieces of wood-grilled sturgeon with some kind of sour white sauce on the side.  It tasted great but I was hungrier afterwards then I was before it.

Then there was the terrible service.  It’s not that our waiter was rude, he was quite polite and seemed like a nice fellow, but each course took over 35 minutes to get there.  I get it that when you sit down things take a while to get started but you usually don’t have to wait 35-45 minutes between each plate.

Before the dessert came out, I was wondering if the chef drove out to the woods to pick the blueberries himself.  We got there at 1:30 PM and it was 3:30PM on a Friday.  The place was mostly empty so it wasn’t that they were swamped with orders.  Finally after staring for 45 minutes at my mostly empty plate, this came out.  No apologies, no explanations, as if I really have nothing better to do than sit and stare at an empty plate for 45 minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, the blueberries with hay ice cream, smoked honey meringue, thyme were delicious, but I was starting to get a splitting hunger headache.

Tony got a burger that he claimed was tiny but it looked like a meal fit for a king compared to mine.  Luckily he had some fries that I stole as my plate became empty fairly soon.

Two hours later and more hungrier than before we walked back to the hotel for a nap.

Artsy parking lots?

After nap time we went to a random sketch comedy thing I found on GoldStar comp tickets.  I highly recommend if you’re bored with nothing to do and want to go out check out the comp section.

We walked around Wicker Park, a sort of Williamsburg wannabe.  I loved all the shops, and restaurants and could have started a new home there and been happy.

Luckily for our second meal of dinner.  It did not disappoint!  Cumin, a modern Nepalese resturant was just what we needed to regain our confidence in Chicago dining.

I went with cauliflower florets deliciously cooked in nepalese spices with tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste and Tony went we a chicken curry dish and we had ourselves a happy feast!

So day 1:

– Lots of walking, Toms are bad for 95 degree weather

– Chicago is fun to explore, especially millennium park

– Don’t eat at Black Bird unless you’re not very hungry and have 2 hours to sit and stare

– If you’re in Wicker Park, check out Cumin!  You must, you must! It was so good.  Looking at the pictures is making me drool!

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I’ll continue my Chicago recap with my second favorite part of the trip; dining at Girl and the Goat!  After running in Chicago, this was my favorite.  It was a struggle finding space for a reservation as it seems to be booked months in advance. Luckily I had a perfect day for a 4:30 dinner; Monday the day we flew back to Boston.  97 degrees where all we could do was seek refuge in air conditioned stores and watering holes.  4:30 couldn’t come soon enough.

Upon entering I was surprised by how large the space was with open windows and daylight lightening up the room.  After a few minutes, we got seated and our eyes were evaluating our options…

Tony got himself a cognac, bourbon cocktail while I stuck to beer.  I tried the Salt Lake City Dubhe Imperial Black IPA  which I never had before. It had the taste of mild stout with the crispness and hop of an IPA.  Very fun.

We picked out 6 tapa style plates.  Our first was this tomato bread that they make fresh in the restaurant with a side of spicy pickles .

Next was the bristol bay sockeye tartare with truffle vinaigrette, summer squash & popiah. I wasn’t sure what popiah is but I assume by the process of deduction it’s the crisp bread on top.

Next came the goat empanadas and I think this was my second favorite out of the 6 plates we got.  I don’t remember exactly what was on it since I didn’t take a picture of the goat part of the menu, but it was delicious.

Next was grilled baby octopus with guanciale, favas, radish and pistachio-lemon vinaigrette

This was our first time trying octopus.  It was more tender and juicier than calamari and I love it.  I don’t think Tony was into it as much but I traded him some extra from the other plates for more of this dish.  It was my favorite out of the 6.

Next were the scallops with foie gras vinaigrette, klug plums, sweet onion & brioche crouton. Scallops are awesome; ’nuff said.

Our final of the 6 plates was the Pig Face… Not quite sure what to expect before it came out.

I let Tony do the honors. Wood over roasted pig face with sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple & potato stix.  Even after eating it I wasn’t sure if I really was eating a Pig’s face.  Well thanks to google I now know that Pig Face is a “gelatinous dish that’s composed of cleaned pig head, minus the organs.”

Our waitress was perfect.  We told her that we had to leave by 6:15 to head to the airport and she made sure we were paid and all set to leave exactly by then.  However, we just couldn’t help ourselves and ordered a 7th dish.  Zucchini bread and maybe a second beer haha.

Overall Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat was one of the finest and unique dining experiences I have had.  I don’t think I have eaten anywhere where I can try such a diverse and yet well prepared set of dishes.  If you live in a cave and are like me who never heard of Stephanie Izard; she’s the only female winner of Top Chef and this is her resturant.

So if you find yourself in Chicago and are going out for one nice meal, try to get in here!  They always have a set of walk-in tables but I’m not too sure how long the wait is.  Luckily, there’s a comfy set of couches and a great bar to wait by.

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I’ve been idle on R2M and DailyMile because I was marching (actually with the heat it was more like crawling in a zombie stumble) the streets of Chicago.  A recap with gratuitous photos is in the works.

On Thursday night while I was packing I decided it was a good idea to pack 4 sets of running clothes because of 4 days in Chicago means I’ll go running 4 times… right?

Total times I went for a run was once!  Lesson is that I should pack half as many work-out clothes as I think I will be using and chances are I still won’t use them for anything else besides sleeping in.

The North Avenue beach path was only half a mile north of our hotel!

This path almost made me want to quit my job, sell my house and move to Chicago!

I was envious of this amazing urban beach right in the backyard of Chicagoans; that is until I saw how expensive it is to rent there and realized that if I did live in Chicago I would be too cheap to live by North beach.

Had Tony not been waiting for me at the hotel room I think I could have ran forever.  By the time I was done the weather was hitting 85 degrees.  And yes this was the coolest day out of the 4 we were in Chicago for.  Good thing I brought my own water bottle with me.

Overall about 5.5 miles on a lovely beach path.  I’m not sure the total distance as my runkeeper app and Iphone in general was going crazy bouncing signals all over the place.

I almost missed out on this scenic run!  I went to the hotel gym and wanted to hit the TM before Tony woke up only to be welcomed by a broken machine and two occupied ones.  Luckily, I was stubborn and just took it outside.

Next time you’re traveling and the hotel gym is a complete disappointment like it usually is, take it outside!  You might be surprised by what you find.  I just followed some other running person that led me to this.  Dude probably thought I was a creepster.

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Saturday was our second day visiting my parents’ bungalow in Monticello, NY.  After our bums (okay just mine) was a bit sore from pseudo mountain biking we figured we should try hiking.  I picked the Minnewaska State Preserve as somewhere I once have been 10 years ago that provided long carriage roads of walking.

Our first goal after parking was to walk from Minnewaska Lake to Awosting Lake.  Something that was a simple 3 mile walk down a carriage walk… a three mile walk in 90 degrees but still seemed easy.  Then we got distracted by something called a “Blueberry trail”

Big bad bear….

We figured how long could something called a Blueberry path be…. Clearly we did not check our maps…  This bridge was made by a very ambitious group of girl scouts or so the sign said.

In the end the Blueberry path was 2 mile hike that included moderate ascends and descends that were pretty easy had it not been 90 degrees.  At least we didn’t starve

Funny thing about this picture is that I have one from 10 years ago back when I was a chunky kid who hated the world and all that punk rock anarchy oi oi oi teen angst.

We did finally find an end to the very delusional blueberry path (or hike) that came with an amazing view!

These views were what made me want to return here!

We relaxed and snacked by the lake.  Some people were swimming but I’m a pansy who gets cold easily so I just watched and basked in the heat.  Afterwards we took an easy 3.5 mile walk around the Lake Awosting

I love daisies!  The 3 mile hike back to the car however was a little rough….

We continued onto the never ending path of return to our car!  5 waterbottles and 11 miles later we were ready to go eat and rest…

Of course it’s been hours since our last McDonalds stop…

We start looking a little like this if we go too long without food

And there’s only so much granola & nuts you can eat… so a stop was required….

Dear aspiring chefs: Please go to upstate NY and open us businesses so next time I’m there I don’t have a diet of McDonalds!

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Tony and I are visiting my parents in their summer bungalow.   Usually we just sit on the porch drink some vodka and eat some pickles Russian style; however, this year we decided to make an effort to do some nature things.  On Friday we decided to actually use our bikes.  We had a similar plan last year but ended up not touching our bikes the whole weekend after dragging them down for 5 hours from Boston.

So Friday we got up, got our stuff together and drove the 70 minutes out to the Catskills Scenic Trail.  In upstate NY, every thing is over an hour away!  The CST is almost 20 miles with an additional 7 miles that have been recently added.  The path used to be a rail line that ran from Bloomsville to Grand Gorge and is no longer being used for freight.  In the 1990s it was reborn through a “Rails to Trails” project.  Similar to what we hope to do with the Bike to the Sea path that will eventually go through Everett, Malden, Lynn, Swampscott and Revere.  The CST is open year-round for horseback riding, bicycling, jogging, walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. With its wide path, gentle grade and durable surface, the Catskill Scenic Trail has become an ideal recreational destination as it traces a leisurely path through stunning Catskill Mountain terrain.

On our drive up, we got a little hungry and stopped by a “General” store.  I tried to order a 6 inch vegetable sub but instead this is what I got served.

Yea, clearly Tony made the smarter choice with his pizza.  Total fail.

Luckily as we continued driving, we passed by something familiar and safe.

Yes, correct this would make it our 2nd McDonald’s stop in 15 hours.  I got an unsweetened ice tea the size of my head and Tony reunited with his Angus Snack Wrap love.  I don’t know how I would survive without extra-large drinks!  Mayor Bloomberg, I drank my heart out!

We did finally after a few confusing turns find the trail head to the Catskills Trail in Bloomsville.

We biked past bridges

Past fields and mountains

We didn’t know how far we would make it up this 26 mile trail as whatever we biked there, we needed to bike back!

After 10.8 miles we finally called it an end and turned back around.  I was also getting paranoid about how my road tires were doing on this mix of rock and packed dirt trail

Tony used a mountain bike while I huffed and puffed on my little Jamis Coda Femme, my baby city hybrid.

Overall we both survived the 21 mile bike ride.  It only took us 3 hours.  I bike slower than I run.  It’s sad, I know!  The Catskills Scenic trail is not a concrete trail so using a road style hybrid was difficult and I was always a bit paranoid.  I did deflate my tires to keep less pressure on them and that seemed to work.

Don’t tell Tony but I want to one day return and do the full 52 mile round trip!  Maybe when it’s cooler (it was 85 degrees outside).  Okay I lie, I’d prefer to run it but  I know that won’t happen for a while!

Mountain bike or road bike?  I’m a hybrid type of gal.  I like the versatility and I’m not really a big Lance Armstrong wannabe so I have no desire for speed on concrete unless I’m in my running shoes.

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