November 24, 2017

Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix

With the Great British Baking Show on hiatus, Netflix has added an Aussie baking show called Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Much flashier than its British counterpart, the Zumbo set is reminiscent of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The season starts with twelve contestants of varying ages and both genders. Each program features a general assignment that all current contestants tackle. The two lowest scorers have to undergo a Zumbo test to create insanely complicated dessert creations. The lowest scorer of that competition is eliminated. Like other reality cooking shows, the winner is the last one standing.

The hosts are genius Australian dessertmaker Adriano Zumbo, British cook, writer and broadcaster Rachel Khoo and Gigi Falanga, their outspoken Brazilian cooking assistant.

Some viewers may not like the colorful flash, the quick camera edits and dramatic music this show embraces, but I find the program untaxing and cheery after a rough day. Non-chef that I am, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is a veritable palate-cleanser for me. Sweet indeed.

Davis Theater in Chicago’s Lincoln Square

I had heard that the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square had undergone a recent facelift but I was pleasantly surprised at how successfully the old theater was transformed. The lobby is welcoming with a display of old movie paraphernalia, a cheery concessions stand and reclining chairs with cup holders in the three different viewing rooms. Art deco touches, both new and vintage are found throughout building and the renovators uncovered the original vaulted ceiling in the main 300-seat auditorium. The sound system appeared to be much improved also, plus a wireless mike system was installed for film events and corporate rentals of the space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The addition of Carbon Arc, a bar/restaurant that is attached to the movie lobby is the biggest change. You can take food into your movie using a tray that snaps into the back of the seat in front of you. Think of an airline meal experience but with more leg room, a cushier seat and more sophisticated meal selections.

Even the bathrooms got a design redo with graphic wallpaper and a clean silver, black and white palette.

Thanks for this loving restoration go to theater owner Tom Fencl, the designers of Analogous Company, Kennedy Mann Architecture and the National Park Service which lent money on behalf of this historic landmark building. Kudos for not just tearing the building down but finding a way to modernize the operation while not destroying its connection to the past.

Non-chain movie houses and bookstores have a chance of survival if they become social venues for their communities. Davis Theater is now a lovely destination in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

https://www.davistheater.com/

Farmer’s Fridge for Healthy Food on the Run

At O’Hare airport, I was trudging past the usual fast food concerns with hunger pangs lowering my food selectivity. All at once, I caught sight of an automated food kiosk called Farmer’s Fridge in the American terminal. The bright green colors immediately made me think of fresh and possibly healthy food. Jackpot!

I had brought my own vegetables (don’t ask), so all I needed were some protein sources. Peppered hard-boiled eggs and chicken breast came in cute little hard plastic jars that popped out of the machine after I easily paid by debit card. I also bought a snack with chocolate covered fruit and nuts. Yum!

Some of the larger jars contained veritable full meals with colorful layered ingredients. I plan to check out salads like the Peach Caprese with basil couscous, romaine lettuce, peaches, yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette, or the North Napa salad with cabbage, mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, feta cheese, pistachios, dried cherries and vinaigrette.

Heartier dishes like Soba noodles and Salmon Nicoise also appear on the menu. One can opt for protein snacks like Phoenix Bean Tofu or the afore-mentioned chicken or hard-boiled eggs. You can also add various flavors of LaCroix water as one’s beverage.

Breakfast options include almond butter oatmeal, Greek yogurt and granola along with pineapple coconut chia pudding.

The kiosks are refilled every morning with unsold food donated to zero percent, an organization that disperses unused products to local food pantries. There is also a slot on the machines to recycle empty jars.

Farmer’s Fridge food kiosks can be found at venues like McCormick Place, Willis Tower, The Rookery, Revival Food Hall, Block 37, the Merchandise Mart, Northbrook Court and at various hospitals and educational venues. Some kiosks have 24-hour access. For a more complete list, go to: http://www.farmersfridge.com/location

All ingredients, calories and nutritional facts are viewable on the kiosk screen so you can make intelligent healthy food choices.

If you live outside of the Chicago area, you may want to petition the Farmer’s Fridge to add a kiosk to your frequent haunts. Your taste buds and waist line will thank you!
http://www.farmersfridge.com/

Trip Advisor: become a reviewer

Many of you may consult tripadvisor for lodging, airplane and restaurant advice, but are you also submitting your own reviews when you take trips?
A friend of mine is an inspiration. She has submitted 150 reviews and has 53,000+ readers. If you want to consult her reviews on hotels, restaurants and attractions, do an internet search with the words:
Go_Ask_Eddie tripadvisor

I am trying to catch up by writing some restaurant and hotel reviews from a recent visit to Lake Okoboji, Iowa. If you have not been to this lake community, do yourself a favor and spend some time there next summer. Here is a link I wrote reviewing an Okoboji motel called the Vintage Block at this Midwest mecca for lake resort fun. My review is currently the first one of 234 submissions:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g38247-d2234236-Reviews-Vintage_Block_Inn_Suites-Okoboji_Iowa.html

Perhaps you might want to start adding your own reviews on tripadvisor about your travel experiences. You can help steer people away from sub-standard venues and guide them to the best travel choices. Bon voyage!

Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store

I fondly remember giving a concert in the old Three Arts Club in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Built in 1914 to house women involved in music, painting and theater, the brick building was the architectural work of the storied Holabird & Roche firm. With sadness, I heard that the club had been sold to developers in 2007.

Much to my relief, Restoration Hardware has created a five-story emporium that has left many of the architectural details intact. The courtyard houses a delightful restaurant called the Three Arts Cafe which kept the old fountain and features an all-weather glass ceiling that allows diners to be bathed in sunlight.

The food is as impressive as the setting with a curated menu including “seasonal ingredient-driven” recipes. The shaved vegetable salad was beautiful to look at and to eat with brightly colored root vegetables and baby greens dressed with finely chopped pecans and cider vinaigrette. For sheer gluttony, I ordered a side of bacon which was the thick-cut kind found in British cuisine. My luncheon partner ordered a bacon club sandwich which she endorsed by eating every morsel.

The menu is small but there are several items that entice me to make return visits such as the Truffled Grilled Cheese sandwich, the slow roasted chicken with garlic confit and the house-made chocolate chip cookies served warm out of the oven.

After lunch, we strolled the five floors of rooms decorated with Restoration Hardware furniture, lighting fixtures, accessories, bedding and even some articles of clothing. The top floor has two outdoor terraces which must be divine in the warmer months. The main floor has a Three Arts Club Pantry that sells scrumptious looking donuts and hot beverages.

A visit to this historic building is like a mini-vacation with excellent food and drink sampled before or after one peruses the five floors of tastefully decorated display rooms. I’m wondering if they would let me move in?

3artsclubcafe.com

La Quercia Prosciutto Americano

If you like Prosciutto di Parma, you may want to try La Quercia, a cured pork meat product handcrafted in Iowa and billed as Prosciutto Americano.
The packaging proclaims that no nitrates or nitrites have been added, only those that occur naturally with sea salt. The pigs were raised without hormones or antibiotics on the Norwalk, Iowa farm of Herb and Kathy Eckhouse.

I found my 3 ounce package of the thinly sliced aged ham at the local Mariano’s in the deli case with salami and other refrigerated meat. Try wrapping a prosciutto slice around a Persian pickle or a wedge of ripe cantaloupe. Yum!

Consult La Quercia’s web site to find out if their Prosciutto Americano is sold at a grocery store near you. Iowa gives Parma a run for its money.

www.laquercia.us

Orange food binge

Imagine my surprise when unloading my grocery bag recently, I discovered that I had purchased only foods that were orange. And it wasn’t even Halloween.

First out of my bag were the bunches of carrots with long, slender shapes that oven-roast particularly well with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

My sack also contained organic yams and red garnet sweet potatoes which still looked orange when cooked. Instead of butter or sour cream, try hummus or salsa as the filling. Mariano’s has also started carrying thinly sliced sweet potatoes so you can easily make your own baked chips. 

Moving to my citrus selection, I had one mandarin satsuma orange, a blood orange, a Murcott mandarin, a couple of clementines, a Cara Cara navel orange and my favorite orange, the Mineola. Oh, yes, I also had a small bag of kumquats with edible peels. For some reason, I find toasted cashews to be the perfect accompaniment for all of these citrus beauties.

And then there were my two Ataulfo (or Manila) mangos which are much easier to eat now that I have my very own mango-slicer.

There had been a sale on orange peppers at Mariano’s so they were also there in my produce array.

I ended with a can of organic pumpkin puree which is always welcome in my cupboard. Whip a half cup into whole eggs or egg whites, plus sweetener and cinnamon, scramble them and you have dish that could be either breakfast or dessert.

Was I filling a vitamin deficiency or merely attracted to the vibrant color orange? Perhaps I will intentionally select all red or purple foods next shopping expedition. Eat the rainbow, indeed.

The Great British Baking Show on Netflix

Did you notice that many American home and food shows disappeared from Netflix at the end of 2016? Scripps Networks Interactive which owns HGTV, the Food Network, the Travel channel and DIY decided they could make more money elsewhere. Search the word “house” on Netflix and not much concerning design comes up.

Food and home reality show bingers, fear not. Netflix has countered by adding a few shows produced by British TV producers such as, Escape To the Country, Grand Designs, Hidden Homes and my surprising favorite, The Great British Baking Show.

It’s no secret that I am neither a baker or a cook, but there is something very compelling about this food reality show. Much like Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, thirteen amateur bakers compete weekly to avoid being the one sent home that episode. The one left standing at the end of the season is the winner and dubbed Star Baker.

Each show, the contestants are asked to bake everything from breadsticks, petits fours and baklava, to displays using multiple baking skills that must be artistic and highly edible. Two judges critique the culinary results: Mary, a very proper English matron who has impeccable manners and wicked baking skills along with Paul, a grey-haired, blue-eyed demon who can spot any baking flaws and points them out with acerbic precision. The proceedings are narrated by two goofy British ladies who throw in puns, foreign phrases, quips and an ever-varying pronunciation of the word “bake.”

Small wonder that I must have a snack handy while watching this show. Like my big dog drooling at our steak dinner table, the sight of all of these beautiful baked wonders gets the salivary glands pumping. Carrots and celery just will not do!

Three seasons of this show are currently available on Netflix. Paraphrasing Oliver Twist, “More, please.”

Ray and Joan, book by Lisa Napoli

The book cover features the title Ray & Joan by Lisa Napoli, but the smaller print expresses the content of this non-fiction work impeccably, “The man who made the McDonald’s fortune and the woman who gave it all away.”
We read of the initial relationship of Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers who had a successful fast food venture in California, to the humble beginnings of Kroc’s Des Plaines version of the concept, all the way to the explosion of “golden arches” fast food franchises all over the world.

I was surprised that music played a role in the bond between Ray and his third wife, the former Mrs. Rawland Smith. The McDonald’s boss had been a working musician in the Chicago area before finding his real passion – sales. He was in the Minnesota Twin Cities on company business and saw an elegant blonde playing the piano at a fine St rezeptfreie potenzmittel viagra. Paul restaurant. Their romance was bumpy, to say the least, with her husband and an intervening marriage for Ray getting in the way of their ultimate romantic partnership.

After the death of Ray, the book loses a little of the drama, but it is fascinating to watch Joan Kroc grow into becoming a sometimes secret and passionate philanthropist. Napoli features a long list of beneficiaries of the Kroc largesse including Notre Dame, NPR and the Salvation Army.
Would that all multimillionaires were as generous as this former cocktail pianist.

Kumquats, Persimmons, Golden Kiwis & Dragonfruit

Kumquat tree

Kumquat tree

Three cheers for the availability of new fruit varieties in your local grocery stores. I just discovered kumquats, tiny orange-like citrus fruit native to Asia, which can be eaten like grapes or sliced in half for salads and desserts. Watch out for the seeds as you munch on these snacks packed with Vitamin C.  gold-kiwi-9708645
As much as I like regular Kiwis with green fruit interiors, Golden Kiwis with sweet yellow flesh are even better. The egg-shaped fruit is originally from China, but New Zealand adopted the kiwifruit as their own and started to export it to the U. S. and the world.
Keep your eye peeled for the occasional shipment of Golden Kiwis. dragon-fruit-cut

One of the oddest-looking items in the produce department is dragon fruit, technically a cactus of indeterminate origin, but generally found in tropical climates. It goes by other names such as pitahaya or Hylocereus undatus, but the curly leaves are reminiscent of dragon scales, hence the name. Cut the fruit in half and you will find an unusual white fruit interior with black edible dots that look like poppy seeds. It does not taste like anything comparable but
the slight sweetness and pudding-like consistency is perfect for a snack or dessert. hachiyapersimmon

Persimmons have been a personal favorite of mine for a few years now, but the grocery stores seem to be stocking this fruit with more regularity in the fall. The heart-shaped version is called Hachiya and can be chalky tasting before it ripens. It is best to eat them when they resemble a water balloon. Fuyus, which look like a flat tomato, are less astringent and can be eaten before they are fully ripe. I’m still looking for an Asian type called “cinnamon or chocolate persimmon” which has sweet dark brown flesh. Perhaps a visit to Argyle Street or Chinatown is in order. Who knows what other fruit delicacies I might find in an Asian grocery?