Bien Trucha in Geneva IL

We tried to eat here last year, but the line was out the door. This time we arrived well before 5 o’clock opening on a weekday and sat outside in the crazily-warm November breeze in the al-fresco area watching traffic go by. A woman came out to light our votive candles on the table; sorry we were not able to order a drink. Presently a gentleman came out and asked if we had reservations, we did not. He explained there was the “fancy” dining room with more large-plate selections, and the main room with small plates – he would try to get us into the dining room.

Come 5 PM we were escorted by the same gentleman (who as it turns out was an assistant manager) into the small room — he was not able to get us into the main room. Bummer, On the way in he described briefly the history of the space. We sat at a nice table for two at the window – good to be early. A busboy brought wonderful chips and a black bean dip with a subtle spice — nice change from the usual salsa. I ordered a guacamole-of-the-day with pomegranate pips – one of the best guacs I have had. I will say again, chips were excellent.

The server Jessica introduced herself and her trainee at her hip, and pointed at the wall full of different tequilas. I ordered a Tradicional margarita, she asked if I wanted to try an “upgrade” tequila and described the differences. I stuck with the stock version. My wife had a Coladita, pineapple juice and coconut liquor. Both were good; the margarita was not great, and for $10 seemed small. I have trouble identifying good tequila, so it may be better than I can tell.

The server described the dishes available. I chose the Bien Trucha tacos, with grilled skirt steak & chorizo. Wonderful. My wife had the a la Diabla with sauteed shrimp and a butter-mojo de ajo. The tacos came 4 to a plate, sized to be easy to eat. We traded a taco (food is very shareable) and we both liked the other’s dish.

For our dinner drinks, I had a Michelada with Negra Modelo Dark and various flavorings in a salted glass, as I had discovered in Cancun, and it was as good as I remember – reminiscent of a Bloody Mary with a Mexican twist. My wife had the Chelada which was basically Negra Modelo Dark in a salted glass with lime. She preferred the Michelada. I forgot how good they are, especially in summer.

Summary: wonderful meal and drinks, fun, loud atmosphere, impeccable casual service. I would not hesitate to return, perhaps with a reservation to try the larger-plate dining room.  They also have a lunch time “LIL DONKEYS” menu that really looks good. Recommended.

Also reviewed on Yelp

On My Boyfriends’ Bicycles

Our friend Shannon Mayhall appeared in a play reading. What is a play reading? The playwright wants to see it performed, see where we laugh and don’t laugh, before everything is locked in stone. So we trucked down to Elgin to eat our fave Shanghai Restaurant in downtown area a block from Hemmens. Good dinner, nice iced coffee. Mmm.

Then drive two blocks to park and walk to the historical Professional Building and up the elevator to the 8th floor and in a lovely old room with white pillars. The event is free, but first-come and we sit in end seats on the second row. There is free wine and cheese in the back, and water, and the playwright is selling her Whiskey Mattimoe mystery paperbacks in the back. I bought the first, Whiskey on the Rocks.

When the players come out, they are on bikes. Not bikes, but music stands which they carry around and dismount from. The director, Richard Pahl, explains beforehand that this is to simplify the reading, not having to balance, and you can put the script on the music stand. Most of the actors are pros, and don’t really need the script.

The play was a nice one about a wild woman who rides helmetless thru a bunch of boyfriends and steals bicycles from them. She is in an accident. Shannon was the main female, and was magnificent. I talked to Richard at intermission and he said if she was available, she could easily work downtown. I agree. She has presence.

Afterwards, the playwright, Nina Wright, came out and talked, and commented on how different the Saturday and Friday audiences were in their reactions. Richard said the cast knew where the audience would laugh on Saturday, so were able to play up their parts a bit more.

Lots of fun. A neat way to see a play-in-training.

Bangkok House & Shanghai Restaurant 11 Douglas Ave, Elgin, IL
Elgin Art Showcase, 8th floor of the historical Professional Building, 164 Division St., Elgin IL
Newspaper Article

College Tour 2009 – Dubuque IA

Kelly goes to Clarke College for PT. We wanted the campus tour, so we walked down Clarke St. for two blocks and saw several dorms, all named after nuns, and a bigger building. That was it. No quad, bookstore, anything. Hey, whatever works.

Her rental house is across the street, and the house next door to hers was full of dudes cooking and drinking beer and throwing Baggo. Ah, I remember it well. She showed us around a bit, and we met her roommate who was sunbathing (or trying to – the wind was a big brisk for bikini weather.) Her roommate and our other contact, Jordan, begged out of lunch due to finals. So we headed off to lunch. First we drove down HUGE hills to Loras, where several friends has gone. It was a nice typical campus, more on the order of Grinnell. Clarke reminded me of IIT – utilitarian, all business – without the Mies buildings.

Kelly wanted to try the Star Brewery, but we did not know where it was. But using GOOGLE via text, she was able to call the place on the way there and get directions. You get there on 5th St (or the bridge on 3rd), not 6th as someone had said.

The Dubuque Star BreweryThe Star Brewery is along the Mississippi behind a dike. It used to be a brewery, but it closed several times, and the city saved it from being demolished and turned it into a tourist attraction and dining and retail center. Retail is still coming, not quite there. It may be a hard sell, being so far from town. Nearby is the Diamond Jo Casino, and a nice looking museum along the river.

You walk thru a series of halls with unfinished retail, and find a small museum, a wine shop with tastings, and an elevator. You take the elevator (we did the stairs) and are in the lobby of the restaurant. We were seated at two tables pushed together right by the window, where we could see the river and the train tracks, and watch the bridge open to let the barges go through. Way cool.

Bette and I split the Asian salad with shrimp. Kelly had a chicken breast breaded in buttermilk batter – she liked it. I had the Star Burger with wonderful sweet potato fries. Why don’t more places (like McDonald’s) have sweet potato fries? I had a couple of Fat Tires, and Bette a Stella Artois, and Kelly a Bud with Lime. I kind of expected a microbrewery, but the draft beer selection was merely average.

On the way out, we had to dodge the train – an actual train came by as we walked along the river, and stopped on the tracks, blocking the 5th St exit. So we found the bridge after getting lost in the Coast Guard station.

On the way back, we visited Jordan in the Mary Ben dorm, with a great view of Kelly’s house, dropped Kelly off, and headed home. Bye, Iowa.

Star Brewery – 600 Star Brewery Drive Suite 200 – Dubuque, IA

Sanibel Spring Break 2009 – Saturday & Sunday

Saturday
On Saturday we went to the Twins game. The spring training park is in Ft Myers at the home of the Miracles, Hammond Stadium, and Sam had obtained tickets. We headed over early sans Bette who was still feeling sick. We parked on the ball fields ringing the stadium, and crawled over the tailgaters who must have arrived sometime last night.

The tickets were a reasonable $21, seats in 203-5-3, with a great view of the field. I love small parks. We briefly considered selling the extra ticket, but thought the extra space might be nice too.

I was waiting in line in the right field bar/concession area, and after a subliminal crack, a foul ball bounced off of a garbage can not 4 feet from me. If the garbage can was not there, I would have a) made a spectacular grab, or b) been killed. I prefer not to know how it would have ended.

Premium Beer Served: Lots to choose. Started with a Land Shark, but switched to Dominican Republic Presidente beer, which had a nice color and taste. Plus, very fitting for a baseball game.

Sunday
We spent Sunday sand castling. Sam & I dug, Bette snoozed, and Karin sat in the beach chair for moral support.

We headed out to dinner to Il Tesoro, located in the old Twilight Cafe location. This translates to “The treasure”, but all we treasured was finally leaving.

Sam and I split a bottle of Colle De Duca for $30. Was good. We decided on the Grilled Calamari for an appetizer for $9. We had never had grilled Calamari before, and it was quite good. I miss the oily part though.

We had various salads; Arugula and the Tesoro Spin Salad. Ok.

I had Pollo Fiorentia ($19), a chicken breast folder over some filling. We also had Lobster Ravioli ($28), Pollo Fiorentia ($19), and Pescatora Risotto ($24).

The sad thing was, the food was good. It just took over an hour to see it, and the waiter (coded AJ on our receipt, but since the head chef is A.J. Black, probably not correct) was a condescending jerk. He would run over once every 20 minutes and say, “it looks like it is up next” and then scuttle up to the counter to bring food to another table. Other tables came and went before we got our salads. We had to ask for bread brought automatically to other tables. I like to dawdle over dinner, but come on. Finally the preggers Karin blew up at him and he pretended to care. No offer of free entree, no offer of free dessert, no apology. He got a bad tip, and I will never go back. Never.

Il Tesoro, 751 Tarpon Bay Rd, Sanibel. (Zagat Review from yours truly)

Sanibel Spring Break 2009 – Friday

Friday

Arrived on time. Waited a bit at the Enterprise counter, got our car, a Toyota Camry. I kind of liked it, Bette found it hard to back up – bad visibility. It had a little storage area in the front with AUX jacks for the MP3 player. Zippy. Nice. Uneventful drive down from Tampa. Took a little side trip to North Fort Myers to see old family friends, Dorothy and Ron, who winter on a golf course and move to Wisconsin in the summer. Not a bad deal. Nice to see them.

Karin and Sam rented a Mitsubishi convertible. The back seats were impossible to sit in, especially with my hip. It was fun in the front seat, though. We ended up driving when all four of us had to go anywhere.

First night dining was at the resurrected Twilight Cafe. We had visited the previous incarnation twice before, and were sad to see it missing last year. They took over the old Riviera restaurant digs on West Gulf and reopened, with the same wonderful marinated grilled broccoli. We met the chef, Chef Robert Parks, who seated us and confirmed, yes, this is the same Twilight Cafe, and yes, they had the broccoli…

Based on a NPR story, Wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher from the Wall Street Journal said to never buy wine by the glass, cuz you don’t know how old it is. So Sam and I split bottles this trip. For this night, we did a McWilliam Shiraz. And we had the Combo and Mozzarella appetizers.

Karin had the Build your own Pasta, with the Sausage and Bolognese options. She complained that the pasta was not cooked enough and the dish was very wet. Sam had the paella (Shrimp, scallops, grouper and mussels tossed
with saffron rice, peppers and chicken stock), and seemed to enjoy it, even though it was different than the classic Spanish paella. I had a wonderful New York Strip, done rare (topped with crumbled bleu cheese and crispy fried onions with roasted garlic and red pepper mashed potatoes – not South Beach!). Bette had the blackened grouper and loved it.

We left happy (except for Karin, perhaps) and I welcomed Chef Parks, standing behind the bar/counter back to Sanibel. Nice to see a good place come back.

Twilight Cafe,
2761 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel Island, FL

Williams Street Public House

Out on the run after looking at cars, need some food. We were near Crystal Lake, went to Williams Street again. We were not disappointed.

We are trying South Beach now, so were picky about our selections. I picked steak fajitas, hot, sizzly, good fixins, no fries, just three tortillas. Bette had a Southwest Shrimp Salad, lots of shrimp, nice. We each had one glass of wine. Perfect.

Only problem: Coffee was a little weak. Not as good as last time. We mentioned it to the waitress, who was amazed as they get it pre-brewed in concentrate ala an orange juice dispenser. Mmmm.

Good service. Again, recommended.

Pizza Night

Since I replied with this to my old Friend Lori on Facebook, I thought I would put it here for reference in case a) the Rosati’s computer fails or b) we lose the receipts taped on the inside of our cabinet.

Our standard Friday night (or during the week more often) pizza is the 14″ Chi-Town Pan with “Fabulous Four”, Italian sausage, mushroom,onion, green pepper. Make sure you say “well done.” I would put it up against any Giordano’s or Uno’s comparably equipped.

That said, beware. They are a franchise, and I have heard uneven things about various other stores. The one here in Woodstock IL is owned by Mike Rosati, one of the Rosati family and our daughter’s friend. He makes good stuff.

Website (with Mike’s store) see www.myrosatis.com
Another Corporate website (Mike’s store not listed here, but see menus). Same family story. Perhaps the brothers had a fight.

Williams Street Public House

Out running around, let’s stop for dinner. Bette suggested the Williams Street Public House, a new restaurant from the Woodstock Public House team. She enjoyed the lunch she had there, so what the heck.

We each had a nice glass of wine. Bette noticed on the menu there was a charge for extra dressings. She usually has an extra dressing to try, and started moaning that she had been charged last time, and explained so to the waiter.

I had the Monstro Burrito, (Mexican??) which was excellent. Bette had a grilled salmon, and we finished up with Carrot Cake and excellent coffee.

As we were having dessert, one of the owners came over and explained the 50 cent charge for dressing was for people who come in and order a salad and water and ten dressings. People such as ourselves who order wine and a full dinner are exempt, and the wait staff has discretion to remove that charge. Then we discussed the Woodstock restaurant scene, such that it is.

Great place (nicer space than Woodstock, definitely), good food, and the management is really on top of things. Recommended.

Williams Street Public House, 83 Williams St, Crystal Lake, IL

Dance Therapy Recital

On 10 July Bette and I attended the Faculty/Student Benefit Concert for the Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling Department of Columbia College, Chicago. Why?

We responded in late spring to a letter from Alexandria, a local DMTC Master’s candidate (who actually attended Marian Central) who, for her thesis, held a series of workshops for bereaved parents, using physical activity (or movement) to bring relief. The usual attack is via long drawn out sessions of discussion, which Bette and I both found useful after Sarah died, but this was different. There was discussion, but also a lot of breath work and physical activity. The last session, we played in a 12 foot loop of a diaphanous stretch fabric, which opened our eyes to play and remembering things. She also took some video of us acting out scenes from our memory.

Her thesis was turning these experiences into dance.

The dance was called Buried Treasure, and was part of a series of recital pieces from the students and staff of the department. It was a lot of fun, and the music was very good too. I always find new music when attending these things (just like working with Poms). And I was thinking, I should have invited Poms (and alumnae) to this – they would have loved it. It was a benefit for some scholarships for students, who were awarded them after the dance was over. Just like a Sarah clinic!

Afterwards, there was a nice reception catered by the Melting Pot fondue (chain) restaurant, with a fountain of chocolate martinis and chocolate fondue with fruit and Rice Krispies treats. We were able to talk to Alexandria, who was pouring (free) wine, and she told us she had reviewed the video for our physical presentation and used that to choreograph the dancers for her piece. A lot of thought went into it – amazing. She used the best line, “Everyone grieves in their own way”. If everyone remembered that, the trip would be a lot easier.

Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL
Melting Pot, 609 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60654

Update– here is the playlist — I love music for these things – artists have lots of ideas!
1. Savage Acquiescence / “Fade To Black” by Apocalyptica from “Inquisition Symphony”
2. a sublimer / “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” by Radiohead from “In Rainbows”
3. Communion / “Journeying” by Steve Halpern from ?
more to come…
4. “Nobody knows the trouble i see” / trad. spiritual
4a. “Trampled Rose” by Alison Krauss from “Raising Sand” (unbelievable)
5. Buried Treasures / “Silent World” by Donna Lewis from “Now In A Minute”
6. Matters of Self / “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap from “Speak For Yourself”
7. moving through / “Guaranteed”, “No Ceiling” and “Rise” by Eddie Vedder from the “Into the Wild” soundtrack.
8. Beating / “Feedback”, “So Much Betta” by Janet Jackson
9. Euphoric – Inherent – Drive
10. Shapeshifting
11. Disquieted Front / “Biscuit” by Portishead from “Dummy” (Sarah had this album!)
12. Two Moons
13. Work, Play, Love
14. BESS in Hip Hop / “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson, “Dance and Shout” by Shaggy, “Track 1” by Dabrye, “Go Girl” by Pitbull

Triathlon 2008 — Race, snack, and Vincent: a post-race party

We arose early, to grab some coffee and fruit and headed out at 7 to the race site. We found Sara there by phone. Sam was in an early wave, and was in the water by the time we got there, so we waited on the beach for him to come out. Their running friend Gretchen was also racing, but we missed her. After Sam came out, we went to the transition area, but he was too quick by the time we got over the bridge.

We crossed the other ped bridge and chatted with Sara and her friends from East Troy and Amy, her BFF from Whitewater who arrived soon after dropping off Sara. Our Sarah’s friend from Woodstock, Alexis, now living in St. Paul, met us on the beach. Sara moved off to occupy her slot in Wave 39, and waited to go into the water. We found in her in the chute out to the water, and then moved to the other side of the beach to wait for her to come out.

After she came out in a surprisingly short 20 minutes (Sara did the sprint course, and swam much better than she expected) we tried to get thru the crowds on the ped bridge to the transition area. Bette pushed a little and butted in line, and saw Sara. We didn’t, but waited to see Sam come in from his bike. He came in about ½ hour later, and by that time we were found by Uncle Lou. We cheered, he came to kiss Karin, and he was off on the run. Sara came in about 30 minutes later, and we cheered her and she trotted off on her shorter run.

Then we headed off to the finish line, staked out our spot near the bridge, and waited. Sara came in soon, and then Sam and Gretchen. Turns out Gretchen was cramping and was feeling bad and bailed before the 2nd lap.

We headed back to Sam and Karin’s and made burgers and dogs for lunch and visited. Alexis and Gretchen headed out, and we prepared for our evening with Chef Vincent.

Sam ran this there with Chef Vincent’s team, a fundraiser for Fraser, a support organization for Minnesota special needs persons and their families. Sam raised quite a bit, including OUR donation, and all the team runners got a nice Chef Vincent running jersey and invites to the post-race party at his establishment, Vincent: A Restaurant in the Nicollet Mall. We valet parked and passed white linen alfresco seating and were directed up the stairs.

We were on time, and it was still empty, but the wine was out and some of the food was there, so we dug in. Vincent is a French native, and the restaurant leans French, but he had an eclectic combo of appetizers – and lots of them. My favorite was the Veggie tempura and the salmon toast, and the beef thingies – heck it was all good. Nothing was bad. Okay, the fries were the real thin ones, and those are very hard to keep warm. Everything else was great.

Sam and I talked to Vincent, and he is an interesting guy. Nice, and with a lot to say. We chatted about his work with the organization and his restaurant. Then I spoke with a gentleman, Joe, who is taking Vincent and a bunch of bikers to ride around Provence. Joe’s Mello Velo tours were about $3K less airfare, but the idea of waking up at 10, riding thru wonderful countryside, and returning to a chef-cooked dinner sounds really nice. Except they do 100 miles a day – a bit much for this couch potato.

We headed back to the house, and sat on the porch with some more wine discussing how weird our families are till 11. Time for bed.

The next morning, Amy and Sara, along with Lou and Joan came by for a fresh Frittata breakfast from Chef Sam. Joan and Sara rode back with us to the Fort and home.

Vincent: A Restaurant, 11th Street and Nicollet Mall