Back in the ‘Nati

Welp, after a week of fun in Chicago, I’ve moved back home until it’s time to leave for my semester abroad in Barcelona. I’ll be starting a new blog for that adventure, but for now here’s a photo montage of my last week in Chicago.

A walk through a garden. I liked calling it a grotto.

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Tanner enjoying some popcorn at the showing of The Jungle Book at Pritzker Pavilion.IMG_0844[1]

Doughnut Vault!

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2 of each kind….

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Taco Night

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Yolk for Brunch.

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Margaritas at El Hefe on the last day of work.
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In line at Hot Doug’s.

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Fancy cheese and wine night at Pritzker Pavilion.

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With Monet at the Art Institute.

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Sandwiches from Little Goat Bread at the French Market.IMG_0871[1]

Blanket fort!IMG_0886[1]

Somehow, after all that food and indulgence, I found out that i actually LOST 5 pounds by the time I got home. This is comforting, but very, very surprising.

 

gettin’ fancy

So in my new life as an adult, living on my own, and paying bills, I’m also free to do whatever I want. Like eat ice cream for dinner. Or watch Netflix in my underwear. And even though I’m tempted to just each nachos and queso dip every night for dinner, a girl still has to maintain some class every now and then. By “class” I mean doing none of the above, wearing a dress, and acting like I know what kind of wine to order at a bar. Here are some pictures of my classy night out with Tanner and my Uncle Dan at The Gage.

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Mmmmm…….salivation.

Notice how there are no pictures of me, because I could probably never look as pretty as this food does. In case you were wondering, that’s

1. a scotch egg

2. bison tartare (that’s a quail egg on top. our waiter came by and prepared the tartare by mixing in the sweet sauces, the capers, that green stuff, and the meat, using the yolk as binding. then we served ourselves some on the crostinis. heaven)

3. mussels vindaloo

4. a venison burger, rare (the waiter insisted that I have my meat rare. i was worried about it being blood, gamey and gross, but it was great. subtly different from a regular burger… maybe even better. the accompanying fries kind of overpowered the taste in a bad way though)

5. chocolate ganache tart (there were little crusty chocolate things that tasted almost EXACTLY like Cocoa Krispies, only better)

Everything was delicious.

 

my life as an intern

So, this wasn’t supposed to be a food blog, but it’s kind of turning into one. I can’t help that it’s honestly one of my favorite things to talk about, take pictures of, and share with people, but I thought it might be nice to take a little break and talk about me instead of what I’m putting in my mouth.

Cool?

Cool.

After all, I have been doing a lot more than eating. Like I say in my lame “About Me” page, I’m here in Chicago interning at architreasures, an arts-based community organization, and STR Partners, an architecture firm. For the past nine weeks I’ve been learning so much about how to apply my skills in the real world (which has some similarities and differences to stoodio lyfe). For all you archi-majors, here are some things that I’ve noticed:

1. Non-profits work longer hours than architects. No, seriously. I thought I was going to be working major overtime for STR, but at architreasures I ended up staying late a couple days a week to finish a project, and I often volunteered with their workshops on Saturdays. Now, the fact that architreasures only has 5 full-time employees and 3 summer interns compared to STR’s 20-member full-time staff does make a difference, but working on weekends and being in constant contact with artists, volunteers, etc. seems to make the two organizations very different.

2. There are a lot more limitations while working in a real firm. Namely, money. Because STR designs for public schools and other academic buildings most of the time, there are a lot more rules about what you spend money on and how creative you can be with your designs and use of material. I like to have some restrictions as a challenge, but I can see why using linoleum flooring and CPS-designated paints in every project could get a little old.

3. Expect to do the same thing more than once. Not because you screwed up, but because documents get amended, added onto, or deleted after the architect meets with the client or the contractor. Even though it would be nice to draw everything perfectly and understandably the first time, I’ve realized that this NEVER happens. Ever.

4. It’s a lot quieter here. As opposed to studio, I mean. Whereas in school people are blasting dub-step from their computers as they work the night away or shout across the room (thus disturbing “studio culture”), the offices I work in are nearly soundless. People rarely talk above a normal speaking voice and use headphones if they need to listen to some jams while they work. It’s so quiet most days I can even here the kids at the day care below us playing and shouting (for awhile I thought there was an animal or an abandoned child beneath the floorboards…not kidding).

5. People still say “fuck” when they fuck up. For some reason I was surprised by this, but I guess it’s a hard habit to break. It’s also quicker and easier than crying wen you slice your finger with an Xacto or accidentally print on 8 by 11 instead of 11 by 17 FOR THE TENTH TIME.

6. Successes are celebrated in the best way possible. As in, with a party and/or alcohol. And snacks.

7. Lunch & learns/workshops = FREE LUNCH. Although I though L & Ls were only at school, I’m so glad that they are present at work too. L & Ls give you the opportunity to learn about new architectural products (lighting, structural systems, furniture), all while stuffing your face.

8. Macs aren’t THAT bad. I know, I thought I’d never be saying that either. Even though I think Apple products are kind of pretentious and force you into buying extras like card and disc readers, I’ve grown used to Macs since I have to work on them every day. Even though I don’t think I’ll give up my PC anytime soon, I’m glad that I’ve at least had this opportunity to become fluent in both platforms and learn two new computer programs (ArchiCAD and PowerCADD) in the process.

Aaaaand….hopefully I don’t sound to preachy here, but I’m about to give some advice:

9. Network. I volunteered weekend time and after-work time to help architreasures with their fundraiser and got to meet members of their Board, many of whom are architects. Even when an opportunity may not have anything in it for you, still go for it! You never know who you’ll meet or what other opportunities may stem from it. That being said, once you’re at said event, talk to everyone and let them know who you are and get to know who they are. You’re wasting your time if you just hang out in the corner. On the other hand, don’t be too desperate or needy. Even if you’re a recent graduate and haven’t found a job yet, resist the urge to shove 20 of your business cards into people’s hands and beg them to hire you with, wide, bleary, puppy-dog eyes. Please no. Be cordial and try to have a real conversation with them about their work. Exchange information if you think it’s appropriate and just enjoy the time spent talking with them, especially at a casual or social event.

10. Ask questions. I never do this enough. I do about 10 Google searches and follow twice as many tutorials before I may ever ask a real person a question. I sometimes see asking questions as a weakness, something that pinpoints me as being foolish or even stupid. However, I found this to be a major misconception when my boss told me she actually gets worried when people aren’t asking any questions. If people aren’t asking questions, they may be making false assumptions on projects or even delaying the project’s completion because they are unsure of what to do. Of course, you could just be perfect. But I’ve also noticed that people in the office generally ask each other questions just to double check or get their input on something. Even the partners ask questions! Seeing this has really made me less self conscious about approaching people with my uncertainties. I’ve even developed the habit of preparing questions to ask each time a project is being explained to me or while I am working on one. Still, their are such things as stupid questions. In order to avoid asking the same question over and over again, get in the habit of taking notes as well. You will thank yourself and your supervisor will thank you.

other people’s sammiches

As a follow up to my last post about the Turkey and Muenster Sandwiches with Blueberry Jam I made, I decided it would cool to share all of my favorite sandwich sites and blogs. You may think that there may not be too many on my list, but there’s a special place for food that’s tucked between two pieces of bread. Just take a look at my Pinterest boards, and you’ll see the love that I have for something that’s pressed, grilled, sliced, or stacked. Sandwiches come sweet, salty, savory, and sticky, but they’re always perfect to me.

In no specific order, here are the sandwich sites I love best:

Grilled Cheese Social. I love everything about this blog. Even the writing and personal stories (which I usually skim over in a food blog) is vibrant and fun to read. Save that part for when you’re trying not to drool over your grilled creations cooling off after they’ve been made. Side note: I’ve never once succeeded in this, no matter how important it is for the good of the sandwich. Drool, everywhere. Sandwich, gone.

Glorious Sandwiches. Oh man. This Pork, Nectarine, and Boursin sandwich is calling my name. These are the sandwiches that give me courage.

Scanwiches. Epitome of food porn. Each sandwich is cut in have and beautifully “scanned,” fully exploiting it’s, uh, folds of meat for all to enjoy. This website doesn’t have recipes, per say, but with listed ingredients and the detailed photos, I think you can figure out the assembly on your own.

How Sweet It Is. Okay, this isn’t technically a sandwich blog, but How Sweet puts out some good sandwiches pretty often. Check out the Sandwiches category page and pay special attention to what I’ve got my eyes on. Savory: crispy zucchini grilled cheese with dijon horseradish aioli or Sweet: grilled fontina + blackberry smash sandwiches.

Sweet-sonian. Not a sandwich blog either, but man this cucumber goat cheese grilled cheese looked delicious and refreshing at the same time.

Closet Cooking. Again, not a sandwich blog, but this site features some tasty grilled cheeses.

Enjoy!

sammiches

If you don’t already think I’m weird, you might after this post. Because I just put jam on a turkey sandwich.

I’d like to say it was an accident, that I was drunk and I thought that the turkey and cheese were actually peanut butter, but I actually thought really hard about this recipe. I stared at my mother’s homemade blueberry jam in our refrigerator for awhile, wondering what potential it had that went past a PB & J or a pancake topping. I recalled the turkey-bacon sandwiches on croissants that I would sometimes eat at school, which had a cranberry jam slathered on top, wondering if I could do something similar with the blueberry variety.

So I took a risk and made Turkey-Muenster Sandwiches with Blueberry Jam. My mother is probably sticking her tongue out in disgust by now before she reaches for her own bell jar of jam and eats it in more “acceptable” ways (on a muffin, topping for ice cream, with a spoon…). But I urge you all to not turn away! Take the risk and break free of the sandwich rut you may be in!

Turkey-Muenster Sandwiches with Blueberry Jam

Ingredients:

2 pieces white bread

thin slices of thin-sliced turkey (less is better)

1 slice muenster cheese

spoonful of blueberry jam (Linda Sabatelli’s specialty)
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The first pass at this sandwich was pretty good. It tasted like Thanks-summer (a mish-mash of Thanksgiving and summer). Still, I had way too much turkey on the sandwich pictured above.

So then I tried it grilled, with less meat and more of the cheezes. This was extra yummy because the cheese was warm and melty and mixed with the jam perfectly.
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So even though this particular creation was good, I’m eager to try more sandwich combinations like this. Plus, I’d really like to title my next post “Jam and Ham” or “Deli and Jelly.” Maybe ham with an apricot and dijon spread? Or maybe substituting the jam with real fruit, like cooked apples or pears! I’m getting excited.

i hate muffins

Hate is a strong word. It may be a little too strong used in this title, but I do bear a grudge against muffins. MAKING muffins, at least.

You see, I’m not very good at it.

I know, I know…how can someone screw up muffins? It all seems pretty simple, and then I remember that you can’t just fill the batter to the top of the cups or that the bake time is usually lower than an actual cake. Things get pretty ugly then.

However, I wanted banana bread on Monday, and the bananas were ready for a new life. Being without a bread pan, I had to resort to the muffin tin. UGH.

But, because I’m posting this and you may have already scrolled down to the pictures, we both know things turned out alright.

And for me, this was my FIRST batch of semi-successful cupcakes/muffins EVER. I say semi-successful because I browned the bottoms of the muffins just a little too much. But they were extra-successful with the second batch, which I made with chocolate chips. Yummy.

Also, I decided to use Greek yogurt in this ince it’s supposed to be healthier and I have a lot to use before I leave Chicago. If you’re interested in making some cute cupcakes yourself, here’s the recipe!

Greek Yogurt Cupcakes

from gettin’ my healthy on 

Ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 c 0% Greek yogurt
  • 1 c ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 medium bananas)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1 c chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add yogurt, bananas, eggs, and vanilla and mix.
  3. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing just until combined. Mix in walnuts.
  4. In a greased bread pan, bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

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chinatown, chicago

I know I posted a few pictures of Chinatown, but I never got down to really talking about it. I feel like I’ve been cutting you all short (by you all I mean my mom and whoever else has time to read this). So, I will now describe my journeys through the little piece of China in Chicago.

“Old” Chinatown takes up most of Wentworth Avenue starting at the intersection of Wentworth and Cermak. A big red pavilion that reads “Welcome to Chinatown” makes this pretty obvious. When our Chinatown tour guide, Ploy asked us what the four Chinese characters said, my guess was YOLO. It actually says: “The world belongs to all,” written in the handwriting of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic. I think my guess was pretty close though.

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Ploy led us on a decadent tour through Old Chinatown and NewChinatown (a coule blocks North), where we sampled “real” Chinese food and forgot about the blasphemies of Orange Chicken and General Tso. Even though I missed my Sweet n Sour Sauce just a little bit, the surprisingly delicious flavor in the taro puffs (which is a potato-like vegetable) and even the “Chinese” broccoli Tanner and I tried made me forget all about that heretic Panda Express. And hey, while I’m using all of these religious analogies, I should mention that the tour wasn’t ALL about food. We also visited a Buddhist temple and Ping Tom Park, where Ploy told us more about the history of China and one of its most popular religions. I really liked that she included personal stories of her time growing up in Hong Kong and Thailand as well. Even though the food was enough to keep me content, Ploy’s stories about the origin of some Chinese dishes, the miraculous powers of ginseng, and even how people in China tap the table to indiscreetly say “thank you” really rounded out the experience and gave me some time to digest after each mini-meal.

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If you are thinking about taking this tour or are just super nosy about what we got to eat, here’s a list:

1. tea, taro puffs, pork buns, Chinese broccoli, and pork dumplings at Triple Crown Restaurant. I don’t have any pictures of these because I was fighting against three grown men to get my fair share of food, but I plan to go back. For the pictures, I mean…

2. green tea with peach at Ten Ren. I went back for more…

3. ma po tofu, rice, eggplant (look at that purple!), spicy cabbage, and fried chicken with spicy peppers at Tony Hu’s Lao Sze Chuan. Very spicy, but so worth the tears, runny nose, and four cups of water.

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4. peking duck “crepes” with cucumber, scallions and “pancakes” at Lao Beijing, another Tony Hu restaurant. Ploy was so cute as she demonstrated to the group how to make a duck crepe using Tanner’s plate and ingredients. She tenderly placed several bits of duck meat and skin on the “pancake” (more or less a tortilla), followed by perfectly positioned sprigs of cucumber and scallion. She lighting baptized the creation in a plum sauce and had Tanner fold the pancake to make a sort of duck burrito. I was greteful for this demonstration, knowing that Tanner and the other men would have probably loaded up there ’tillas with the meats and ignored the green stuff. Or maybe that was me….

(I actually took a picture of this one too cuz it was so pretty)

IMG_0602[1]5. egg custard tart at Saint Anna Bakery. The crust was so good but the filling tasted like an omelet. I like omelets. But I didn’t know how to feel about this.

IMG_0638Even though the final restaurant and dessert didn’t impress me too much, Tanner remained curious and proceeded to get dried plums from a candy store as well as pork cookies, a moon cake, and other Chinese sweets from the local stores. I thought they were all pretty gross, being low in suger and lacking any chocolate at all. Or maybe it was the fact that most had either vegetables or meat in them. Bleh.

Overall, however, I found the tour of Chinatown to be worth every cent ($60 from Chicago Food Planet Food Tours). Ploy’s narration and the food we sampled made me feel as if we were actually in China for a little bit, and our day spent in this part of Chicago sparked my interest in actually going there myself and sampling more authentic food from local restaurants  After I got home I immediately looked up where I could get some quality dim sum in Cincinnati and quietly wept at the sparse results. You probably think that’s pathetic but I believe it’s a REAL ISSUE. Someone please let me know if you frequent a great dim sum place near the 45247 area code or just happen to own a little Asian woman with some great cooking skills (I’d like to borrow her). In the meantime I’ll be contacting Tony Hu to see if he can open up a couple places in the Nati.