a cycling day in Chicago

We hopped the train to downtown and just outside of Union Station is Lou Mitchel’s restaurant. Since 1923 Lou’s has been at the start of famous Route 66, that American mother road connecting East to the West during the dust bowl ( 1930’s ) as people migrated to California hoping for new chances and prosperity.

A Chicago Institution since 1923 - worth the stop

A Chicago Institution since 1923 – worth the stop

Route 66 has long faded, replaced by the super highways that bypass the small towns, but Lou’s has kept some old traditions. You get a donut hole ( baked there ), a complimentary orange slice and prune with breakfast, and a free tiny serving of ice cream after your meal.

these are some seriously fine donut holes

these are some seriously fine donut holes

We had omelets which were light and fluffy, but the whole-wheat toast baked there was sublime. A bite of omelet, a bite of toast, a sip of fresh squeezed orange juice… life is good.

Kingly toast - on their own bread - no need for jelly or jam - just a bit of butter.

Kingly toast – on their own bread – no need for jelly or jam – just a bit of butter.

With a bit of ice-cream to cleanse the palate we were off. Chicago has adopted some European ideas for bike lanes and in many places the bike lane is next to the sidewalk inside the parking lane. This creates a wall of parked cars to protect cyclists – and I felt safe on those roads. We headed over to the 606, a new elevated bike/jogging/hiking path that runs over the streets. You can cycle for forty city blocks without a light or car nearby. It was one of the best planned paths I’ve seen – and at $95 million to complete – it’s certainly costly. But it makes Chicago safer and better for living.

Cruising down the 606

Cruising down the 606

Heading North about 35 miles through the luxurious Evanston and nearby burgs along the lake you view awe inspiring houses but we had The Botanic Gardens and butterflies in mind.

The butterfly house at the Botanic gardens

The butterfly house at the Botanic gardens

Then North another 15 miles for lunch…

Another great Chicagoland place for hot dogs

Another great Chicagoland place for hot dogs

Then ten more miles to the train-station and home. Chicago is a cyclist’s friend.


Ditkas – food chicago

If you watch football you know of Mike Ditka, the Hall of Fame player and coach. He has a namesake restaurant in Chicago and after losing a bet on my beloved Browns against the Bears we settled with lunch at the restaurant of “Da Coach.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the milieu was upscale with some memorabilia but it was tastefully presented, this place was about the food, comfort food with large portions.

We started with a glass of cab, the “Hall of Fame” red and it was quite good. The house brand is made out near Napa by Terlato wines.

A Ditka/Terlato cab drinks very nicely

A Ditka/Terlato cab drinks very nicely

We had our eye on the filet mignon sliders, but chose the pot roast nachos. They were great, the kind of snack that you just can’t leave unfinished. The delicate meat combined with the salty chips and a zesty but not too hot halipeno slices was just right.

The pot roast nachos were outstanding - but almost a full meal

The pot roast nachos were outstanding – but almost a full meal

The bread rolls were excellent, but not photogenic. For my entree I had a pork chop ( well done by request ) served with mashed sweet potatoes and apple chutney and cherry jus with a side of creamed corn. The chop was cooked perfectly, and I admit I gnawed a bit on the bone after the meat had been dispatched. The sauce was very good.

charred perfectly, with apple chutney

charred perfectly, with apple chutney

The creamed corn was not your traditional canned green-giant corn of my youth. This wasn’t sweet and had a hint of garlic but was smooth and rich to the taste. It was outstanding. My friend took the remaining corn home and they fed it to his very aged mother in law who had been off her feed. She finished every bite. I suppose that solidifies the cream corn as comfort food!

putting the c in comfort food

putting the c in comfort food

For dessert, just a little vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce. The perfect ending to an excellent meal.

the perfect finish

the perfect finish


Chicagoland hodgepodge – cycling

After an almost endless winter, on the first good day we took the train downtown for a road trip.

We got down early enough so the traffic was light and the drivers are cycling tolerant but those little bike lanes make city cycling exciting! As the city wakes, the energy is incredible.

past all the crazy down-town riding to the fun

past all the crazy down-town riding to the fun

There are so many things to see – we rode past a rugby team practicing, then along the beach front “Gold Coast” just full of young people and dogs strolling, jogging, riding, fetching – every possible combination.

I saw a woman body builder riding, and secretly coveted her triceps and her small stomach 🙂 We lunched at Super-dog, a wonderful one of a kind hot-dog place Chicagoans so love – there we saw a group of Hispanic kids acting like Hells Angels on their souped up mopeds.

with a sign like this, you know it has to be good

with a sign like this, you know it has to be good

We passed a cancer walk, and a bike race, and a run for charity and if you ride far enough, a temple.

the magnificent temple

the magnificent temple

We saw a model in a diaphronous gown posing in the wind at the waterfront – holding a yoga warrior pose while her gown danced in the wind. When we rode by and the photographer had to stop, she told us “Thanks that pose was killing me”

We passed a sculpture park, where we saw Adam and Eve and Martians – Skokie has a park that is full of modern sculpture making statements even I could comprehend.

Adam, Eve, and me.  Sculpture parks satisfy that need to touch...

Adam, Eve, and me. Sculpture parks satisfy that need to touch…

but the image that stay with me — a little girl, perhaps three or four standing in the woods before her mother playing her tiny violin. Chicago is unusual in all things. I needn’t have ridden 62 miles to discern that, but like the woman cranking her wheelchair bike over the hill – some journeys are worth the effort.


Kappy’s in Skokie – food root beer

In the middle of the cold snap I dropped my wife and daughter off at the airport for a trip to Costa Rica. That left me frozen and forlorn by Skokie Illinois. I stopped at a friendly looking place place called Kappys. A family owned and run place for thirty years, the owner came out and greeted every customer, many by name.

Imagine my surprise when I saw they had a premium root beer on tap, Sprecher’s from Wisconsin.

I'm drowning my sorrows

I’m drowning my sorrows

Since it was early, I went the breakfast comfort route…. Biscuits and gravy, eggs over easy and sausage…. Chicago is a great place to eat, there’s great places at almost every corner.

premium root beer, Kappys a great place to dine in Skokie

premium root beer, Kappys a great place to dine in Skokie


cooper’s hawk – food

My dad enjoyed his cups. But every year for one month he would abstain from drink. Of course he always chose February, the shortest month. I suppose leap years were an extra trial. Therefore I will return in March to the blogging world. Hope to see you in a bit.

It’s funny how pecking order works at a business lunch. The waitress approaches the end of the table and asks the junior member what he prefers for a beverage. He hesitates, then blurts out iced tea. Around the seats she goes, and lemonade, Arnold Palmer ( a Chicago drink of 1/2 lemonade 1/2 iced tea ) , water, coke join the list until she comes to the leader. He looks around, says “I’ll have a glass of wine,” and immediately seven other orders get changed.

Restaurants grow and change, and this one continues to grow and gets better and better.

Cooper’s Hawk has a big wine list as they are a vintner, I took a taste of a Meritage ( a blend which should drink like a Bordeaux ), but it was a bit lite so I settled on a nice oakey chardonnay.

nice oak, clear, no aftertaste - a good wine

nice oak, clear, no aftertaste – a good wine

Of course a larger group means more appetizers — the Mexican egg rolls and calamari were fun, the potstickers outstanding. I even tried the crab-cake, and found it full of crab meat which retained the feel and light flavor crab is so famous for. This was a great warm up.

all good, but the goyza ( potstickers ) and crab cakes were out of this world

all good, but the goyza ( potstickers ) and crab cakes were out of this world

Then the cheese plate and pretzel bread. I suspect that if I were Super-man, pretzel bread might have qualities of kryptonite.

a fun mix - a cheese plate helps conversation

a fun mix – a cheese plate helps conversation

kryptonite to weight watchers.... sigh I'll have one more piece

kryptonite to weight watchers…. sigh I’ll have one more piece

One thing I admire at Cooper’s Hawk is that they really offer good lunch selections with smaller portion size. I chose the pork medallions, mashed potatoes and asparagus. It was Estafee ( a reference to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy Papers for Sci-fi fans, which translates to essential and great )

Not to much, but each bit bursting with flavor

Not to much, but each bit bursting with flavor

Then it was time for dessert. I was up for something different, and tried their home-made ice-cream sandwich. Thin slices of banana, a wafer with a crisp toasted texture delicious ice-cream and a very light subtly sweep syrup. Each bite was a delight of texture, balanced flavor, subtly sweet wrapped around the richness of ice cream. This is one of the best desserts I have chanced across.

exceeding every expectation...

exceeding every expectation…

Of course then it’s the expresso ( the smallest amount of coffee possible ) to get through the afternoon.

Great meals are always enhanced by conversation and company. The people and sharing are what makes dining fine.


white chocolate – food

Expense accounts are Sirens, urging us to abandon restraint and indulge the senses…. Oh the calories…. On the other hand I suppose we must help out the economy…. This has been a week of lunching out as the merger rolls on and local vendors stop by for one last visit.

When you dine at White Chocolate in Naperville if you can eat on the patio ( not feasible when the temperature is 8 degrees ) or in the small room the experience is the best. The big room is too loud for my taste as it makes conversation difficult. But when it comes to the table, only good words come to mind.

Start with the Ahi tuna sushi

sushi always makes a fine starter

sushi always makes a fine starter

Then move to the soup, a tomato gin soup with mushrooms and a hint of bacon. It’s a bit salty but rich and creamy. It was perfect for dipping the pretzel bread which came with honeyed butter.

perfect for dipping the pretzel bread

perfect for dipping the pretzel bread

Their French Dip sandwich and fresh roasted beet salad. The prime-rib is thinly sliced and so tender that it really does melt in your mouth. Their home made creamy horse radish makes the perfect compliment to this wonderful sandwich.

french-cut with home made and creme horse-radish

french-cut with home made and creme horse-radish

For dessert, a desert with one extra “S” we tried the banana creme pie. It has a thick crumbly graham cracker crust, filling and white chocolate swirls. It is very good. A little espresso to try to keep me awake in the afternoon.

notice the white chocolate swirls...

notice the white chocolate swirls…

I always enjoy visits here, too bad with the merger this might be the last one…


foie gras – food Chef Amaury at 33 West

How to celebrate ? Call ahead to your favorite chef and ask them to do a foie gras. It’s not on the menu, but if you’re lucky….

Martinelli Jackass Hill Muscat Alexandria,

Martinelli Jackass Hill Muscat Alexandria,

Start with a sweet white, it adds perfectly to the rich taste of the foie gras.

why not have the main course first ?

why not have the main course first ?

Foie gras, on a roasted lady apple with mushrooms and a heavenly sauce.

Next the big red which opened up wonderfully as we dined.

abadia-retuerta which really rose to the occassion

abadia-retuerta which really rose to the occassion

The salad…

baby greens, dried cranberries, goat cheese, candied nuts and a champagne vinaigrette

baby greens, dried cranberries, goat cheese, candied nuts and a champagne vinaigrette

The soup…

cannellini bean, smoked bacon, onion mascarpone

cannellini bean, smoked bacon, onion mascarpone

For dessert, a cheese plate…

artisanal cheese plate

artisanal cheese plate

A wine infused fig, Amish blue cheese, Bellavitano with a wine rind, pistachios, local cheeses and a drizzle of caramel, organic honey, cranberry jam

Another great meal from Chef Amaury.