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.

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dining in the shadow of lewis and clark – cycling, travel

The book “Undaunted Courage” chronicles the 38 man Lewis and Clark expedition to new and marvelous places. Some 200 years later on my bicycle I chanced to follow their steps for nearly 200 miles along the mighty Missouri river.

Expecting to live off the land, Clark and his crew were all expert hunters and brought with them 400 pounds of lead to make bullets and the following food supplies:

150 pounds portable soup ( bouillon )
3 bushels rock salt/spices
30 kegs of spirits

The expedition also traded with the native Indians for squash, venison and fish along the Missouri, but after thirty miles on the trail we found “Trail Smokehouse” – and learned Missouri is barbecue.

Missouri knows BBQ - and this pulled pork was perfect

Missouri knows BBQ – and this pulled pork was perfect

Funny how a great sandwich and a glass of dark beer can energize a fellow. The river was very high, and one section of the trail was flooded taking us about five miles around through mud and water before we finally rejoined the trail. At the end of the day nothing says sixty miles through 90 degree heat like a frozen Margarita.

makes the heat an ancient memory

makes the heat an ancient memory

In the morning it was waffle house and grits… ( I was born in the South after all ) It reminded me of Lewis writing in his journal about using the last of the butter, or his first taste of buffalo. Near Rocheport where the eagles and hawks soar over the river near the cliffs you can ride up, park your bike and get a fresh pizza made in his outside wood oven.

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The expedition found the bugs so thick that they often smeared their skin with grease or sat in the smoke of their fires. We had deep-woods Off, but this little gem of a restaurant had tents for shade, and giant outdoor fans to create a gentle breeze to keep the heat and bugs away.

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Clark’s team went through lean times, where they were forced to trade for horses and dogs from the Indians to eat, or the river was so dangerous that they had to wait until it subsided before continuing on. We had missed the rain, but the river was racing by full of trees and other obstacles. It wasn’t all hard times, when fruit and berries were in season, Clark and his men enjoyed berry tarts, or Morel mushrooms. Near Jefferson City after the hottest day we found a little place “Prison Brews” with a motif like an old prison. In it they brew some fine beers, but most importantly – make their own root-beer. I had that first.. what a way to start a meal.

A "Prison Brews" root-beer float - root-beer and vanilla ice-cream

A “Prison Brews” root-beer float – root-beer and vanilla ice-cream

They had a fine Stout that Jan enjoyed and my Blue Cheese Burger proved, life in Missouri can be pretty fine.

Blue-cheese burger and delicious slaw - life is good

Blue-cheese burger and delicious slaw – life is good


south dakota burger heaven – food

The day on the Michelson trail was done. I’d ridden the best part of fifty miles uphill, avoided getting caught in a tempestuous downpour and met Jan for a car ride back to the hotel in Custer City. I’d showered, oh glorious hot water, and we caught the Preakness and the triple crown, it was turning out to be a very good day. Little did I expect it would get even better.

Jan picked out a little place, Black Hills Burger and Bun Company, family run only open from 11:00AM-2:00PM and 5:00-7:30. They take no reservations, you just show up and they take your name.

Family run, committed to quality - always a good combination

Family run, committed to quality – always a good combination

We gave our names and while we waited outside as the mountain sun began to wane Jan tried to convince me that a 900 pound piece of rose quartz in the rock shop next to the restaurant really wasn’t for us. Soon enough, they called our name and we went into the little restaurant.

We started off with a craft beer, Alaskan Amber on tap and then split a Greek salad.

Fresh and zesty with lots of feta cheese and kalamata olives....

Fresh and zesty with lots of feta cheese and kalamata olives….

Everything was crisp and fresh, and the dressing was a basalmic that complemented without overpowering the olives, the feta cheese, cucumbers, greens and tomato slices. Everything about the salad showed their commitment to food.

I ordered the “Iowan” burger, with Maytag Farms blue cheese, garlic aioli, carmalized onion and bacon. They bake their own bread for buns and the baked bean side featured a mix of beans and was as fine a baked bean combination as I have had.

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As I say, “Hunger is the best sauce,” but this meal stands as both subtle and hearty. A sip of beer, a taste of beans, a bite of the savory burger… life is good.

We could have hurried out, and I was surprised they didn’t hurry us out like happens in the city sometimes but after we finished I went for the coconut custard pie. I was crossed up, expecting a coconut cream pie, but this had almost a rice pudding texture with the coconut and custard complementing each other perfectly. I had calculated with my map-my-ride tool that I had used about 4,000 calories on the ride so ice-cream of course.

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Then it was back to the hotel thinking what a fine trip so far. If you head up the Black Hills way you won’t be sorry to stop by this fine food establishment.


a taste of Paris in Philly – food

An art opening requires a celebration, and after the opening we had a nice brunch at Parc. On a nice day you can sit outside and gaze across to Ritenhouse Park where college girls in sundresses walk by, or you might see a woman saunter by with black and white poodles, a perfect fashion accessory. The day was perfect, and Parc is a fine place to have a brunch.

While you look at the menu, the pastry basket is a wonderful start…

a pastry sampler - croissant, chocolate croissant, madeline, lemon curd and wonderful butter and raspberry jam

a pastry sampler – croissant, chocolate croissant, madeline, lemon curd and wonderful butter and raspberry jam

And then of course the champagne arrives, a rose since it’s warm outside

when it's warm - rose is often just the right way to enjoy bubbles...

when it’s warm – rose is often just the right way to enjoy bubbles…

Next, the pate…. this was called “Chicken Liver Parfait” it came with a grain bread which was heavenly – it gave texture to the pate and the thin layer of rasberry on top of it. This was rich… a bit of pate.. a sip of champagne… a smile at the sun or the passers by…. This choice was a risk, but you know what they say about risk and reward…

pate with bread, mustard, and pickled onion....

pate with bread, mustard, and pickled onion….

And then “Eggs Norwegian” – a twist on Eggs Benedict – replacing the ham with smoked salmon. The fried potatoes were perfect – this meal required no seasoning… every flavor complemented the other

Perfectly poached - the salmon, egg yolk, muffin and sauce were perfect

Perfectly poached – the salmon, egg yolk, muffin and sauce were perfect

I thought Parc was a small place, but inside it was bustling – I will absolutely dine here once again. And… how can I not like a restaurant with this wallpaper in the men’s room…

Now that's a French men's room decorum.

Now that’s a French men’s room decorum.


the french christmas table – food

Everyone has their holiday favorites, but I thought I’d share this list that illustrates why I so love France. In the little village all the restaurants are closed for family is very important, so as the note I received from my beloved sister and brother in-law in France shows… one must make do…

French cooking frenzy,
amuse bouche: cappucino of chestnuts with flakes of foie gras
starter: coquille st jacques “Normande”, (scallops in calvados cream sauce )
salad: field salad with apples and toasted walnuts, vinaigrette of walnut and maple syrup
Terrine of goose Foie gras with truffles
Beef Tournedos with jus, truffled potatoes
Cheese plate (Abundance, Reblochon, Langres, Burgundy double cream with Truffle
Buche de Noel
wines: Sauterne, St Romain (Burgundy white)…Champagne!!!!
We are Christmasing
Tomorrows menu is even better

Merry Christmas


Holiday cheer – food

A vendor took us to lunch, a holiday/goodbye thing.

Liquor 43, with the flavor of vanilla.

Liquor 43, with the flavor of vanilla.

A memorable end to a feast. May your holidays be a feast of joy and light.


food

The human body is made to fast – but oh those midnight snacks….