March 28, 2017

Frank Sinatra Jr., some undersung praise

One of the personalities whom I encountered at the Pump Room was Frank Sinatra Jr. who like his father enjoyed the atmosphere and food at this famous supper club.

One night when Frank Jr. was dining at the Pump Room, he introduced himself and gave me advice on how to improve the stage lighting. I found him to be friendly, gracious and helpful.

Another time, he and his big band had been rained out of a Grant Park outdoor concert so he took the whole crew for dinner at the Ambassador East eatery. A few of my musical colleagues played for him and said working with him was a good gig. He used great arrangements and knew what he wanted, having been his father’s music director and conductor starting in 1988.

Frank Jr. had a lovely voice that was similar to his father’s, but comparisons always pointed out that he did not have his dad’s magic.

He had enough of the entertainment gene however to keep singing, acting, songwriting and conducting from 1963 until his death on March 2016. Look up his bio on wikipedia to see how involved he stayed with music and tv projects until his death.

His list of performing venues was impressive too, up until the end, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and Town Hall in New York City.

I’m thinking kind thoughts about this man who sometimes found it challenging to live in the shadow of his famous father on this his birthday week.

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

http://www.oakstreetbeach.com/

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

http://www.castawayschicago.com/

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

http://www.bacinos.com/DIVERSEY/contact.html

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

http://thedockatmontrosebeach.com/

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

http://www.nachomamasbeachbar.com/new-page/

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

Delicious book by food devotee Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, the former food critic for the New York Times and Gourmet magazine’s editor-in-chief has successfully dipped into the world of fiction with her first novel, Delicious.

Having read her non-fiction work, Garlic and Sapphires where she details going in disguises to New York restaurants, I expected good writing from her, but reading Delicious is akin to eating a really fabulous meal.

Wilhemina “Billie” Breslin drops out of college to take an entry level job at Delicious, loosely based on Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazines. She encounters fascinating characters in the world of printed media, food and New York culture while battling her personal demons. Food aficionados will get a kick out of James Beard figuring into the plot.

Reichl is the executive producer for the PBS program, Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and editor of the Modern Library Food Series. Some of her other works of non-fiction include Tender At the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples and Remembrance of Things Paris.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/lg-tone-pro-wireless-stereo-headset/

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/jambox-speaker-by-jawbone/

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/02/those-in-power-a-swedish-political-tv-drama/

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/12/the-presidents-hat-and-the-red-notebook/

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-and-the-quest-for-a-fantastic-future-by-ashlee-vance/

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/my-current-favorite-taste-sensations/

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/rajas-cup-the-anti-oxidant-coffee-substitute/

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/10/terrys-toffee-and-wackerpop/

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/balsa-mela-and-italian-herbed-salt/

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/03/lyfe-kitchen/

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/outdoor-fun-in-chicago/

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

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

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/cedille-records-celebrates-25-years-as-chicagos-classical-record-company/

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/accuradio-hand-crafted-by-music-lovers-not-by-a-computer/

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/02/flipboard-a-new-way-to-get-your-news-fix/

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/07/metacritic-when-you-want-to-know-what-the-critics-think/

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/printed-music-in-the-digital-age/

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/07/sheet-music-at-your-fingertips-forscore/

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/irealpro-app-for-your-portable-device-or-desktop/

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/music-app-happy/

Eataly: now a much calmer dining experience

I wrote about Mario Batali’s Italian food emporium, Eataly here in Chicago when it first opened, but the crowds kept me from sampling any of the restaurants within the complex. I had to be satisfied with purchasing take-home foodstuffs.

Earlier this week, I dined there around 5 pm (pre-theater) on a Tuesday and was immediately seated in the Fish and Vegetable area (Il Pesce & Le Verdure).

I sampled a well-prepared salmon filet with mixed mushrooms and lentils in a mushroom brodo (broth to you and me), as well as Branzino, a whole oven-roasted sea bass with white beans, grilled escarole and salmoriglio sauce, a Southern Italian condiment made of lemon juice, olive oil minced garlic, chopped oregano and parsley plus salt and pepper. The sea bass came with fish fins and face but once I got past the skin and bones, the inside flesh was succulent and perfectly cooked.

Here’s hoping that enough people are frequenting Batali’s Cbicago homage to Italian cuisine to keep it open since it does provide excellent food, but not so many that one has to wait an eternità/eternity for a tavolo/table.
My original blog post on Eataly, April 2014:

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/food/page/3/

Exceptional lamb at Barba Yianni

I ordered Barba Yianni’s Ari Psito last week, Greek for sliced roast leg of lamb and was delighted yet again. Growing up, lamb was always this boring meat we would eat at Easter along with cloying mint jelly. Not so at Barba Yianni where the lamb is tender, moist and tasty.

Anas Ihmoud, proprietor of this Lincoln Square Greek restaurant favorite gave me some background information on the delicious meat. Their lamb is not frozen or pre-packaged. The 8 to 12 whole lambs per week that Barba Yianni uses are locally-sourced from Midwest farms and are butchered in-house into the variety of cuts needed for the menu.

Other lamb dinner dishes include the kabobs, baked lamb with rosa marina, braised lamb in a tomato sauce, lamb chops and a leg of lamb sandwich featured at lunch. Who knew you could develop a jones for lamb?

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan

West of Michigan Avenue

I finally made it down to the Chicago Riverwalk which is undergoing a transformation that should impress natives along with visitors to our city. From LaSalle to Lake Michigan on the south side of the Chicago River, marvel at the additions of concrete, wood, metal and landscaping that make this a most inviting promenade.

Sportive types can rent kayaks, electric bikes, surrey bikes that seat 2 to 6 people, recumbent bikes or motor boats for $150 an hour. Chicago Architectural boat tours are featured east of Michigan Avenue. Besides all of these floating and wheeled options, I saw people on motorized scooters, Segways and blue Divvy bikes so walking seems quite quaint.

There are several food and beverage concerns on the south side of the river such as City Winery, O’Brien’s and Flander’s Belgian Beers & Fries, but I prefer the foliage east of Michigan Avenue which lends great charm to Cyrano’s Cafe and Wine Bar and the Tiki Bar which features periodic booze cruises.

More established restaurants on the north side of the river include Smith & Wollensky, Dick’s Last Resort, Lizzie McNeill’s, Fulton’s On the River and Lagniappe Cajun-Creole Joynt.

The Riverwalk connects to the lake front by a viaduct that contains wonderful ceramic mural art. There is also a dark undeveloped corridor into Lake Shore East which you can pass through to get to Millennium Park. Navy Pier is also accessible from the Riverwalk but the narrow path across the North Lake Shore Drive bridge is a danger zone where bikes and pedestrians dodge one another.

I have written previously about the water taxis on the north side of the river which remain an excellent way to view the city from the water level. The Wendella sight-seeing tours also embark from the north side of the river although that side of the river has not been part of this latest development project.

Next visit, I plan to investigate the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum which promotes events that involve bridges and the Chicago River. A link below contains the fall bridge lift schedule.

You may want to visit the Riverwalk in the next few weeks to avail yourself of the outdoor dining. Pray for an Indian summer!

McCormick Bridgehouse events:
http://www.chicagoriver.org/events/tagged/McCormick%20Bridgehouse%20&%20Chicago%20River%20Museum

Cyrano’s Cafe on the River:
http://www.cyranoscafeontheriver.com/

Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tours:
https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/

       

 

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.

http://andersonville.org/events/midsommarfest

Yes, Chef – Culinary master Marcus Samuelsson’s autobiography

I was dimly aware of the name Marcus Samuelsson long before Top Chef and the current celebrity chef rage. Back in 1994, he was notable for being the 24-year-old executive chef at the famed New York Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit and for having been raised in Sweden but looking  definitely African in photos. I was curious about his story, but knew nothing more about him.

Zoom ahead 20 some years later and his autobiography answers many of my questions. His African father is an Ethiopian Orthodox Church priest with an Ethiopian mother that died of tuberculosis when Marcus was only three years old. He and his sister, Linda, were adopted by Anne Marie and Lennart Samuelsson and raised in Goteberg, Sweden. The memoir traces his journey as an apprentice chef in Europe and his successes and failures in the U. S. market.  Highlights of his career include winning Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV and being invited to guest-chef for Barack Obama’s first presidential state dinner in the White House.

The book illuminates not only this man’s path to becoming a well-known chef, but shows his examination of being black in a predominantly white profession. Samuelsson, now a U. S. citizen, is  ultimately shown to be a citizen-chef of the world as he traces his Ethiopian, Swedish, Austrian, French, American and global influences.

I listened to this autobiography in an audiobook format with the author reading the text, allowing me another layer of understanding this fascinating individual with the multi-cultural background and palate.

Burlington, Iowa: charming Mississippi River town

A performing engagement took me to this Iowa town with church spires and graceful architecture nestled on the hills overlooking the Mississippi River. Some of the most impressive homes are situated on the bluffs over-looking downtown and the river valley.

The Bart Howard Foundation was the entity that hired me to perform a program which included the song “Fly Me To the Moon” and other songs connected to the Burlington native-son Howard. Fans of cabaret may want to make a stop to see the Bart Howard Room in the Des Moines County Historical Society. Photos and memorabilia of Bart and friends dot this jewel-box room. A grand piano and cafe tables are put to good use when the occasional performer is brought in to present a cabaret class or program.

Martini’s fine dining restaurant provided excellent steaks and seafood with a million dollar view of the sunset washing over downtown Burlington and the river.  Big Muddy’s was literally river-side with excellent casual food such as burgers, a nice salad bar and a dinner buffet. For entertainment, The Washington nightclub downtown books a wide variety of music including jazz and blues in a cozy setting with bar and table seating.

I was pleasantly surprised at my lovely hotel room in the Catfish Bend Casino and Pzazz Hotel. The venue name conjured up images of rustic digs that were a far cry from the plush bed, spa bathroom, fleecy bathrobe and flat screen TV that I encountered. A daily generous breakfast buffet was included in the room rate. Staff members were friendly and helpful. I would visit this hotel again in a snap.

Hosts Bob McCannon and Sandy Miller from the Foundation made sure that I got the cook’s tour of the area with visits to the West Jefferson Street Historic District, a glimpse of the vertiginous Snake Alley and a stop to see wonderful water color paintings in the Arts For Living Center. We even made it to Mosquito Park to view a panoramic vista of the town and river. As opposed to my Iowa expectations, I saw not one corn field.

Des Moines County Historical Museum and Bart Howard Room
http://www.dmchs.org/

Martini’s Grille
http://www.martinisgrille.com

The Washington Nightclub
http://www.thewashingtonmusic.com/home-page#!__home-page

Pzazz Inn and Spa
http://www.catfishbendcasino.com