Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Millenium Park Concerts

I went to Millenium Park last night for my first concert of the season. Millenium Park has a lot to offer to Chicago residents and visitors and most, if not all, of it is free. They have a free concert every day from noon to 1 pm. Also, many nights after work there are concerts as well as on the weekends. Last night we headed out after work, picked up sandwiches and a bottle of wine from Pastoral, and were off to the park. Best part: you can bring in booze. I can't think of a better way to spend a summer evening - wine, food, friends, and beautiful weather. Concerts range from classical to ethnic to rock. Here is the concert list for the summer: http://www.millenniumpark.org/parkevents/allmusic.aspx

They also offer free workouts on Saturday mornings and free Chicago greeter tours on a daily basis. Plus currently there are two temporary architectural pavillions designed by Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel that are up for the next couple of months.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Carnivale is one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago. And luckily it is right next door to our condo.

The Husband got a coupon by email for his birthday last week. You had to spend $50 and you get $25. I love a good deal so we went out on Thursday night after he got home from Germany. My birthday is next week and I have a coupon as well so we're heading back again for drinks and appetizers one day after work.

For drinks I highly recommend the raspberry mojito or the passionfruit daiquiri. The passionfruit daiquiri was just like being back in Brazil again. The Husband likes the caipirinha.

For appetizers we like the guacamole and especially the ropa vieja. You cannot miss out on the ropa vieja.

For an entree I really like Mama Mendez' Arroz Con Mariscos. The Husband had Fideos this past week which is a pasta dish and I believe a more recent menu addition. He like it. He's also had a couple of the chicken dishes and enjoyed them as well.

The Husband also got a free birthday dessert. It was pineapple and chocolate and was very good.

Inside the bar is typically very crowded on the weekends. The dining area is big and loud. It's not a romantic place because of all the noise but it's great for big groups. There are some side rooms that are quieter. If the weather is nice the patio is a great place to eat although it closes down at 11 pm because of a neighborhood noise ordinance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing

I went to the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing weeks ago when it first opened. Unfortunately The Husband hijacked both the camera and the computer that had my pictures on it and took it to Europe for his work trip. So I finally have the pictures back.

First, a couple impressions. Very crowded and possibly not enough stairs for circulation. I know crowds will die down though. I love the restaurant and cafe on the roof. I can't wait to go one night this summer. The new bridge is a little bouncy but don't worry it's perfectly safe. I love how the interior is so light an airy which is atypical for a museum.

I only did a quick whirlwind tour of the museum and Millenium Park since I was on my lunch hour but managed to make it through almost the entire modern wing. They have a great section on architecture which is such an important art in Chicago.

I'll admit that sometimes I just don't get certain pieces of art. I just don't have an eye for it. I couldn't tell you why some pieces are special or why it costs so much money if it looks like something a 4 year old could have done.

Tops on that list of "art I don't get" would be the creepy clown videos. Skip these at all costs unless you want to have nightmares. Or are into very eccentric art. I'm traumatized after seeing them.

The Art Institute of Chicago is free on Thursday and Friday evenings during the summer from 5 pm to 9 pm.

Bad News on the Travel Front

Just as we were getting ready to book our hotels for Thailand and Cambodia and really delve into the planning, I got another paycut at work. While our budget worked fine with a 10% paycut, a 20% paycut and only working 4 days a week is pushing it and we might need to cut back on travel savings and skip the big trip this year.

Problem is almost any other trip would be more expensive since we don't have to pay for the flights to get there.

And I might die if I have to go a year without an international trip. I'm half joking but after going on 4 trips in the last 9 months I'm kind of addicted.

In the last 24 hours I've been trying to think of ways to save money on our trip. Skipping Cambodia and going to Chiang Mai instead would save us some money since flights to Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is located are so expensive. Angkor Wat looks amazing though.

Hotels can't be cut back on much since almost half the trip is booked using hotel points. We have food and incidentals budgeted at $75/day. We can probably cut back on that a bit but food is one of those tough areas where you don't know how much you'll spend.

The last thing is activities. Activities are always our highest spending category on almost every trip and this one is no different. I'd really hate to go to Thailand and not be able to go to Thai cooking classes or not go sea canoeing or snorkeling in Phuket. Unfortunately, doing cool things costs money.

Leave me a comment and let me know if you have any magical money saving ideas for our trip!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bin 36

I went to Bin 36 last week with a girlfriend for a little celebration. Bin 36 is located downtown right north of the river and next to the House of Blues. Bin 36 is heaven on earth to me. My two favorite things are there - wine (including wine flights!) and cheese (including cheese flights!). Over the course of the evening we each had three wine flights. I started with a sparkling wine flight, then moved to a sauvignon blanc vs. chardonnay wine flight, then finally an Italian wine flight. All amazing. And I liked them in that order too. I also managed to try 6 different cheeses. I'd highly recommend Nancy's Camembert and Carles Roquefort. After flight number two I got hungry again and ordered three of the cheeses again. Cheeses are $3 or $4 each. Wine flights are fairly inexpensive and start at about $12. We sat at the wine bar and service up there was fantastic. Unless you have a small group it will be difficult to get a seat at the bar though. I highly recommend trying this place. I can't believe it took so long for me to go there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coalfire Pizza

Another restaurant we tried Memorial Day weekend was Coalfire Pizza. It's kind of in a random area of town but it's walkable from our condo or easily accessible by the Grand Avenue bus. They cook the food in coalfire ovens up to 800 degrees, Neopolitan style. We can't say enough about this place. The Husband thinks it might have been the best pizza he's ever had. I loved it too. And the service was amazing. We'd each ordered a glass of wine with dinner. When The Husband went to order another they left us nearly 1/3 bottle on the table on the house. We shared the white pizza with mozzarella, ricotta & romano cheeses, fresh basil, garlic infused oil, oregano & fresh ground pepper. We also split the caprese salad which had delicious mozzarella for only $7.50. Highly recommend this restaurant but they don't take reservations so you might want to try an off time.

Dunlay's on Clark

I am completely behind in my posting and have been meaning to write this for weeks.

We were up in Lincoln Park on Monday of Memorial Day weekend and decided to hit up one of our old favorites from when we lived in the area. Dunlay's on Clark is a nice little neighborhood restaurant. They have an outdoor patio in the summer which is perfect for a daytime drink. The Husband likes the burger here. My favorite is the sinfully unhealthy blue cheese and chips. For dessert, the chocolate chip served in a cast iron skillet with ice cream on top is not to be missed. Another plus is Tuesday's is half price night on bottles of wine.