Hearty Italian grub…Chicago–

BOOM!  This is the lively Italian joint around the corner from the Old Town Ale House that Bruce Elliott loves, that Anthony Bourdain used to love, and that so many of us others currently love–it’s called Topo Gigio, and it ROCKS. . .let’s check it out, and see what’s what.

This place is lively…there is an open-air bar to the right of the restaurant…we pop in here, order some drinks, sip away, and take in the action.  Everyone is in a good mood. . .summer is so much better than winter–people want to wear loose clothes, sip beverages, and feel a warm breeze on their faces…this is what we want, things should be like this ALWAYS.

We wisely made a reservation…the place is packed…we probably would not get in without a reservation…at least not quickly, and I am no fan of waiting two hours for a meal…so we are happy to have reserved ahead of time…you should do the same.

After our beverages, we approach the host desk, he sees our name on the list, and we are seated pronto.  Once seated our waiter expertly tells us about the specials…leaves us for a moment so we can contemplate the menu…then returns for our order.  During this visit we are gobbling calamari grilled in garlic and oil, a shrimp and lobster pasta, and a seafood pasta with all of the fruitti de mare to include mussels, clams, squid, scallops, and probably a fish of some sort. . .everything is washed down with a Pinot Grigio…niiiice!

All of the food here is tasty and hearty. . .this is not the best Italian food that we have ever had, but it is all serviceable and satisfying.  The best part of dining at Topo Gigio is the vibe…again, this place is LIVELY…it’s loud…everyone is in a good mood…the staff are all switched-on and welcoming and helpful, and we are extremely happy to be here.  It’s great yucking it up in the heart of Old Town here in Chicago. . .come on into Topo Gigio, sit down, have a drink, order some food, and have the time of your life–bellissimo!!

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It’s lovely out there.

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#1 diner…Chicago–

WOW!  I love a good diner, and Lou Mitchell’s here in Chicago is one of the best…possibly the number one joint in town for diner grub, in my humble opinion–jaaaa!!

We pop over here for a late breakfast after hanging at The Art Institute. . .during this visit we are gobbling salmon eggs benedict with really creamy hollandaise sauce, corned beef hash with home fries and eggs over easy, a side of sausage gravy to smother everything with, delectable buttered rye toast, and free-flowing cups of black coffee. . .mmmm, aaaahh–this stuff is extremely hearty and tasty…we are totally happy.

The best part of this whole experience is the lovely woman who greets us at the door and gives us each a donut hole to inhale as we are escorted to our booth. . .such a sweetheart, and that donut hole is fresh, warm, and soothing…thank you, darlin’, we’ll be back to see you soon.

Please make your way over to Lou Mitchell’s the next time you hang in Chi-town. . .they have been doing the diner thing since 1923, and they are still going strong.  We love this place, and I am confident that you will, too.

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It’s lovely out there.

Relaxing museum…Chicago–

I keep hearing that many people think The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the best museums on Earth…quite possibly THEE best.  Well let’s have a look at this baby and see what we think.

The Art Institute is in a great location…right on Michigan Avenue and right next to Millennium Park smack dab in the heart of town. . .we like this location a lot.

There are multiple buildings that make up the entire Art Institute complex: an older stone and concrete structure on the avenue…and then in the back we have more contemporary buildings with lots of glass walls that allow light to stream in the hallways and congregation areas, but there are lots of smaller galleries where the light is controlled and the viewing experience is cozy, intimate, and flowing…very uncluttered feeling here. . .we like this a lot.

Everything seems to be covered throughout The Art Institute: ancient Egypt, Africa, Southeast Asia, subcontinental Asia, Indigenous and Aboriginal works, Europe–various centuries, “modern” art–Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ is here along with ‘American Gothic’, North America, South America, lots of fun exhibits–we see one of photography from Burkina Faso and another covering the works of Charles White–niiiice, sculptures galore, etc. and so on. . .we like all of this a lot.

My favorite part of The Art Institute of Chicago is the easy-to-find-and-navigate entry area and the relaxed flow of the entire facility.  We never feel crowded in here…we are never jostled by other visitors…we are free to roll along here, there, and everywhere in this wonderful complex of buildings while taking in all of the fun and interesting works.

I give a big thumbs-up to The Art Institute of Chicago. . .we love it!  Is this the best or greatest museum on Earth?  Well, I would say that there is no such thing as the best or greatest museum or anything…there are different great museums all over the globe…each has powerful attributes that others do not have, but when thinking back on visiting them all: the Louvre, the Prado, the Tate Modern, the MOMA NYC, the Met NYC, the Archeological in Istanbul, the Picasso in Barcelona, the National Gallery in Taipei, etc. and so on, all I can say is that it is an honor to have the opportunity to see, feel, and experience all that people have created over the short time of human existence…and I am honored to spend time here at The Art Institute as well.

Come to Chicago…pop into The Art Institute for a couple of hours or so, go have lunch, and feel good about being alive right here and right NOW.

It’s lovely out there.

Major drinking spot…Chicago–

Bourdain shot a whole episode of his show in and around this bar a couple of years ago…it’s the Old Town Ale House in the Old Town section of Chicago…let’s check it out and see what’s what.

The Old Town Ale House is owned and run by a dude called Bruce Elliott…he has a relatively famous blog online called ‘Geriatric Genius.’  Bruce writes about EVERYTHING on his blog…his thoughts on politics, people, Chicago, art, drinking, people, the state of the universe, etc.. . .it is well worth checking out…do it and let me know what you think, I’ll be sipping a whiskey at the end of the bar awaiting your thoughts.

Anthony Bourdain loved this bar and the owner, Bruce.  It’s easy to see why…this is a no b.s. place, it’s dark, it’s atmospheric, it’s inviting, somewhat imposing…fascinating with Bruce’s paintings lining the walls and lots of characters hanging at the bar with whom one can chat or not chat–totally up to you.  Sad that since Bourdain hung himself recently there are now paintings depicting the nastiness of Asia Argento, Bourdain’s supposed girlfriend and the suspected catalyst that drove him to do such a silly thing…ugh, nevertheless we sip away.

This a great bar for daytime drinking. . .sit inside here, sip away, look out the window at the famous Second City Theater across the street. . .you know that Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner, Murray, and so many others hung out here after shows at Second City. . .fun to let the imagination run wild thinking about all those fun people poppin’ in here.

Plus, Old Town in Chicago is a great neighborhood…lots of delicious restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, etc. that we can spend days and weeks exploring. . .I think we might just have to do this…or maybe we are doing it now…hmmm, sip, sip away…it’ll all come back to me at some point.

I could ramble on and on here, as you can see, but I won’t.  Please pop on into Old Town some time, hit the Ale House, sip on somethin’ soothing, and while away the minutes, hours, and days of life as time goes sailing by.

It’s lovely out there.

Tasty Chinese grub…Chicago–

Stephanie Izard runs a joint called “The Girl & The Goat” that we absolutely LOVE.  Stephanie also runs this spot, “Duck Duck Goat,” and it ain’t bad at all. . .let’s check it out.

Duck Duck Goat is all about Chinese food, and it seems to be focused mostly on Szechuan cuisine which makes us very happy because we love Szechuan grub…bring on the heat, baby!

During this visit we are gobbling the mapo tofu, chongqing chicken, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), a whole fish, and crab fried rice.  All of these dishes are extremely tasty, but they have been toned down for the “white man” and other gringos dining here who would not be able to handle or totally appreciate full-on Szechuan seasonings.

The mapo is tasty but could have more kick…the chongqing is tasty but could also use a lot more kick…the soup dumplings are somewhat flat and droopy with not a lot of soup flavor inside them–this is a very hard dish for an American chick in Chicago to do–we admire her courage…it is good to see her attempting to share this delicacy with midwest U.S. folks, but more work needs to be done to make these better. . .better yet, simply come to New York City or Taipei or Shanghai to taste better versions of xiao long bao. . .our whole fish is good, delicious, but it leaves us wanting for something more magical. . .and the winner for us here is the crab fried rice–it is rice fried with tasty crab meat and wonderful seasonings…so simple, so magical–we love it and want to eat this again and again and again.

Please eat here if you have never tasted these dishes before…you will like them.  Stephanie Izard knows how to run a restaurant, and this place is humming along smoothly and deliciously. . .but don’t think this food is “authentic” or “the real deal” because it’s not.  It is simply a certainly a good version of Szechuan dining for gringos here in the great midwest of the U.S. of A., and there ain’t nuthin’ wrong wit’ dat.  Pop in…check it out…gobble away…you will have a good time–I gar-ron-taaaayy!!

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It’s lovely out there.

We’ll always have Paris…

Paris is still the most beautiful city on planet Earth.  Gorgeous architecture, delicious food, magical wine, interesting people…civilized approaches to humanity, equality, art, literature…an overall wonderful approach to culture and that wonderful ‘joie de vivre’. . .mmmm, aaaaahh!

Come on over here again. . .have lunch, walk along the Seine, feel the sun on your face, smile…things ain’t so bad, and they will only get better and better in the jagged-line way that humans do things. . .sacre deu!

I send you magical vibes from Paris, France. . .feel them. . .they will help you walk with a skip in your step today and every day.

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It’s lovely out there.

Lunch…EAT IT!

It was so good the first time that we have returned to Chez L’ami Jean for another lunch…located on Rue Malar in the 7th arrondissement of Paris this place is easy to find and hard to forget.

This time around I am devouring a housemade terrine, a roasted pigeon with head and beak included, and a red berry dessert with a sweet crumbly bit that melts when I put it in my mouth. . .jaaaa!!

Everything is cooked to perfection and served with flair and professionalism, as usual.  We wash the meal down with another bottle of something dry, crisp, minerally, and delicious.

It feels so good eating food like this in places like this in towns like this. . .once again we are elevated above regular living and into the heights of magical living. . .I wish we could all stay here together forever and ever and ever.

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It’s lovely and delectable out there.