November 21, 2017

Early Voting in Chicago (and in states that allow it)

usflagI strongly recommend casting your vote early if you live in a state that allows it. My wait was only 20 minutes at 4:30 pm on a weekday. Chicago has early voting up until the day before the election. With multiple voting locations and convenient hours, you have no reason to miss doing your civic duty this November.

To find your local Chicago voting venues:

If you live in the 48th Ward in Chicago, one of your voting options is:
Edgewater Library, 6000 N Broadway
Monday, Oct. 31 to Friday, Nov. 4: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 5: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, November 6: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, November 7: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For other states:

Little Free Library

LIttle Free Library in Andersonville

Have you seen little painted structures on people’s front lawns that resemble slightly larger bird houses? Chances are, if you look more closely, the little buildings will contain books and might also have a little sign that says “Little Free Library.”

In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a miniature little red school house in honor of his school teacher mother, placed it on a post in his front yard and filled it with free books. That initial Little Free Library has been joined by thousands of other small structures filled with books around the globe.

As of January 2016, there are over 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U. S. states and in over 70 countries worldwide. One man’s idea bloomed into a global movement that promotes literacy and community in just seven years.

The motto of Little Free Library is “Take a Book – Return a Book.” Their web site gives detailed information on how to find existing Little Free Library book exchanges, how to start your own library, how to donate money to the organization or where and when you can attend Little Free Library Festivals. The next one is Saturday, May 21 in Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.

The next time you see one of these Little Free Libraries, open the door and see what book awaits you.

Some are simple little boxes, while others are elaborate fantasy projects. Here is a gallery of Little Free Libraries on Flickr:

Posh at Steep Theater – U. S. Premiere

On a recent freezing cold night, my husband surprised me with tickets to see Steep Theater’s current production, Posh in its U. S. premiere. Written by Laura Wade, the Edgewater theater company had great success with one of her previous plays, Breathing Corpses, lauded as one of Timeout Chicago’s best shows of 2008. Having had outings at London’s Royal Court Theatre and the West End, Posh introduces us to a ten member private club for rich British college students.

The club’s annual dinner at a pub builds to a frenzy as the young men smuggle a prostitute into their party, harass their waitress, destroy the dining room and finally assault the restaurant manager. Warfare between the working middle class and the entitled upper crust has never been so entertaining or brutal. A blind man brought his seeing-eye dog to the performance and the noise and fury of the riot scared not only the poor canine, but me as well.

Director Jonathan Berry, no stranger to Steep, helms a talented cast of actors who have surprisingly good English accents. First act which takes some time to engage the audience could be trimmed, whereas act two is like a well-oiled machine, say a buzz saw. The musical soundtrack with classical choral works and techno pop mirrors the tug of war between tradition and progress and the entitled versus the working class.

The theater is tiny so one feels a part of the action. If you hesitate to be up close and personal with the riotous second act, you may be advised not to sit in the front row.  Nothing like a bracing evening at the theater where the characters just go wild! Posh provides much food for thought.

Midsommarfest – 50th Anniversary in Andersonville

Every June, 50,000 people descend upon Andersonville for a weekend celebration of Midsommarfest featuring food, music, crafts and alcohol. This year, June 12, 13 and 14, the party will be even bigger since the festival is marking its 50th anniversary.

You will want to do some Clark Street window-shopping so you can see the vintage photos from the 1965 Midsommar Fest.  The retro car styles, hairdos and clothing will certainly give you a chuckle.

You don’t have to be resident to enjoy the festivities. Admittance is only $10 with kids under 12 and seniors being free. As added incentive, if you spend $30 at an Andersonville retail establishment or service provider and get a receipt, you are entitled to a free beer at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce booth. (Restaurants and bars are excluded.)

There will be five stages featuring live events and entertainment including a Chicago Hula Hoop Festival, the Bow Wow Lounge Pet Parade and yoga classes provided by Smarty Pants Yoga and Bikram Yoga Andersonville.   Some of the performing groups include Joel Hall and Gus Giordano Dance companies, the Windy City Cowboys, the Jazz Institute’s Jazz Links Youth Ensemble and dozens of  live music groups of the “party hearty” variety. There is even a Miss Andersonville pageant!

Kids can enjoy a climbing wall, a giant inflatable slide, face painting, theatre games and many other family activities.

If you feel like being an honorary Scandinavian, you can catch a traditional Maypole dance, a Swedish-American Children’s Choir, Nordic Folk Dancers, the Merula Choir or the Nordland Band. Skol!

Parking during this weekend can be a challenge. Buses that will get you to the vicinity include the 22 Clark, the 36 Broadway, and the 146 and 147 Express buses;  the red line elevated train with a stop at Berwyn is also a convenient choice. May the Norse gods bring good weather.

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt

I’m always looking for small food items that make big flavor improvements, basics like vinegar and salt. Balsa Mela, a Balsamic Apple Vinegar is my current passion for salads and vegetables.

Andrea Bezzecchi of Acetaia San Giacomo cooks apple juice and apple vinegar and ages the naturally sweet liquid for up to three years in oak, cherry and juniper barrels.
You can drizzle it on ice cream or fruit, add it to cocktails or make your own savory vinaigrette.  A few drops on steamed fresh asparagus is the perfect spring dish.
And just like wines and champagnes, it isn’t officially Balsamic vinegar unless it comes from the Italian regions of Modena and Emilia-Romagna.

If you can’t jet off to Italy, where can you find this ambrosial product?  I have written about The City Olive before, but it remains the shop to visit when you need a unique party gift or ideas on how to put more zing into your own cooking.

Another taste sensation is the Vignalta Sale Alle Erbe delle Marlunghe, or herbed sea salt from Italy. I don’t generally over-salt my food, but this product is so aromatic that just a pinch improves the flavor of eggs, vegetables, fish, poultry or meat. The concoction contains fresh herbs typical of Veneto regional cuisine like rosemary, garlic, sage and black pepper. Bring the taste of Italy to your kitchen. The City Olive will also ship purchases.

The City Olive
5644 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60660

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

Cedille Records, Chicago’s own classical recording label is marking its 25th Anniversary this year. Started by Jim Ginsburg back in 1989, the label has made it their mission to record Chicago artists and composers along with international material that needs a wider listening audience.

Some of the notable artists on the roster are violinist Rachel Barton Pine, soprano Patrice Michaels, violinist Jennifer Koh, flautist Mathieu Dufour and pianist Ursula Oppens. Groups include the chamber ensemble eighth blackbird, Gaudete Brass, Fifth House Ensemble, both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Orchestra as well as illustrious conductors such as Carlos Kalmar, Paul Freeman, Stephen Alltop, Anne Heider and Christopher Bell. They also highlight the work of Chicago composers including Easley Blackwood, Stacy Garrop, Leo Sowerby, Lita Grier, John La Montaine and William Ferris.

Cedille regularly sponsors live concerts and features a large catalogue of recordings for purchase. You might consider getting on their mailing list which entitles you to a free download of the week and 25% off a CD of the week. Cedille is a  Chicago non-profit treasure which deserves our support as it enters its next quarter century of providing superlative Chicago-connected music.

Cedille Records/Cedille Chicago
1205 W. Balmoral, Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-2515

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

I visited the Andersonville Farmer’s Market this week on a dog walk and ran across the Terry’s Toffee booth with owners Terry and his partner Michael in attendance. They gave me a sample of their insanely good toffee and chocolate-covered popcorn, Wackerpop. I reached into my purse to find only change and nary a credit card. With regret, I looked at the various varieties of toffee, McCall’s Dark (the toffee recipe is from Terry’s grandmother McCall), Lemon Paradise, Hazelicious, Koffee Toffee, Chai-cago Spice among others and that addictive Wackerpop.

I dejectedly went home empty-handed.

To my astonishment, a bag of Cran-Orange Terry’s Toffee was hanging on my door knob when I got home, a gift from a neighbor whose mail I had retrieved. Sometimes the universe IS listening.

You can buy Terry’s Toffee at the Galleria in Andersonville or order the Wackerpop and other products online at:

The Galleria, Space #8, 5247 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640

Jin, La Fonda, Jerry’s Sandwiches and Pasteur restaurants

I love having relatives and friends visit because it affords me the excuse to eat, drink and be merry while showing off our city, Chicago. My middle sister visited and we took them to a fantastic Lakewood-Balmoral/Edgewater Thai restaurant called Jin. This sibling and her family have traveled in Thailand and pronounced Jin as having some of the best Thai food they have eaten in the States. The friendly service and Thai movies projected on a dining room wall add to the stylish ambiance.

We chose a couple of other Lakewood-Balmoral/Andersonville spots for my brother and his family, La Fonda, a Colombian restaurant and Jerry’s, a sandwich emporium. La Fonda is frequently partially empty which always puzzles me because it has delicious food and friendly service. Colombian cuisine bears a resemblance to Mexican food, but also has touches of Argentinian and Cuban food with fried plantains, cassava, beans and a large selection of beef, chicken and fish entrees.

Jerry’s bills itself as having cosmic sandwiches and drink and I can’t argue. Mini corn dogs, Philly pretzels and fried cheese curds make this the perfect place to take teenage boys. Angus or Waygu Kobe beef  burgers come with an overwhelming selection of toppings. My husband, a grilled cheese fan couldn’t decide which of the nine options he should order, finally opting for Good Ol’ American. The sandwich menu seems to go on forever featuring pork, steak, corned beef, turkey, chicken salad, seafood and even vegetarian. Some of the notable selections were Cheesesteak, Hot Meatloaf and Nola Roast Beef Po Boy. Everything we ordered was top notch. My only complaint was the noise level which made shouting across the table necessary, but then again, our mouths were full most of the time.

My youngest sister recently met us to try the current version of Pasteur for Saturday lunch. A little history is in order. My husband and I first encountered Pasteur on Lawrence and Sheridan. It had simple, well-prepared Vietnamese food but bare-bones decor and Lazy-Susan contraptions on the tables telegraphed “hole in the wall” status. They moved to a Broadway location in Edgewater adding much more style to the venue and upping the artful presentation of its food. After a tenure on Devon called Bistro Viet, the owners re-opened the Broadway location with spectacular decor and a charming back patio. The menu is more upscale as well with items like duck and shrimp won ton soup, sea scallops with apples, peas, carrots in a balsamic reduction, and pineapple calamari.
Open for lunch as well as dinner, try the Banh Mi Viet specialty sandwich with your choice of seafood, meat or vegetables garnished with pickled carrots, cucumber, daikon and fresh herbs. This may not be the best value for your money in terms of food, but if you want a lovely atmosphere to go along with your Southeast Asian dishes, give Pasteur a try.

Jin, 5458 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640 –

La Fonda, 5350 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL –

Jerry’s Sandwiches, 5419 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL –

A second location is in Wicker Park, 1938 W. Division Street (at Damen)

Pasteur, 5525 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL –

Return of City Olive

I was ecstatic that City Olive, the former Andersonville shop dedicated to olive oil and other delicious meal accoutrements, is opening a new location in the fashionable Roscoe Village neighborhood. Owner Karen Rose has made it her mission to help people combine healthy eating habits with delightful taste sensations. Her olive oils, spices and tapenades make excellent hostess gifts and raise any dinner to a higher level. I just purchased beer vinegar and basil dijon mustard. We’ll see if they make it to that party next week or end up in my own cupboard.

City Olive – Roscoe Village
2236 W. Roscoe Street
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 687-9980

A second location will re-open in the Andersonville district this summer at 5644 N. Clark Street.


Tapenade with a twist

My new obsession is a pomegranate/olive spread with carmelized garlic, called PomOlive, available at the Wednesday Andersonville Farmer’s Market, as well as other food markets. At $6 for an 8 ounce container, the product is a little expensive, but my taste buds say its worth it. Produced by Leila Love, Inc.