June 21, 2018

Flats and Sharps Music Stores

Remember the days when you could go to the downtown loop and find sheet music stores where you could actually peruse the current hits and Broadway shows?

Thank heavens for the few music stores that still carry a selection of piano, vocal and instrumental sheet music. Flats and Sharps in Rogers Park with a second store in Norwood Park carries a good selection of sheet music, instruments and musical accessories.

They also have music lessons and host open mikes and other concerts. If only every neighborhood had a musical nexus like Flats and Sharps.

A while back, I was looking for the sheet music purveyor, Coulson’s, which used to be near the 410 S. Michigan Avenue Building and was told it had moved. A Google search informed me that they now have a store on the 6th level of the 900 N. Michigan Avenue Building. The next time I pop in Bloomingdale’s, I plan to check out Coulson’s selection of sheet music.

I know that almost all sheet music is available on-line, but there’s nothing like going into a music store and seeing the classical, pop, Broadway and rock tunes on display. The real treat is when the clerk actually can recommend their favorite new show, the best beginning adult piano book or the new Leonard Cohen songbook that just came out. Brick, mortar, personal attention and music! I’m there.

http://www.flattsandsharpe.com/

https://coulsonssheetmusic.com/

Healthworks Cacao Powder

My current vice is Healthworks cacao powder (ordered online from Amazon) which I have used in some surprising ways. Yes, it has caffeine, but I find if you mix it with healthy carbs or protein, it seems to mitigate that “coffee jag” feeling.

One of my breakfast favorites is McCann’s Steel Cut Oats (from Mariano’s) with cacao powder and unthawed, frozen organic cherries mixed warm into the cooked oatmeal. I steam the oatmeal in a vegetable/rice steamer and pop the frozen cherries (from Costco) into a toaster oven. I no longer have a microwave, but that appliance could help you unfreeze the fruit, too. You don’t have to perch over a hot stove while these foods cook.

I use 1/2 cup of dry oats, 1 cup of cherries and a tablespoon of cacao powder. When the oats are cooked and the cherries are unthawed and warm, I mix them together with the cacao powder. You will have a modest amount for two people or one generous portion if you like a big breakfast.

Another breakfast treat is a chocolate omelet. I mix 1/2 cup of egg whites with a tablespoon of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 5 drops of stevia. My current favorite is Sweet Drops English Toffee by SweetLeaf. If this sounds strange, think of it as breakfast, caffeine and dessert, all in one.

I have even started making my own sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate using cacao butter, cacao powder and stevia. My method for making chocolate will be in a future article.

Does anyone have a sugar-free, dairy-free mole recipe? Imagine chili with chocolate. My taste buds are already dancing!

Please send me any of your ideas for using cacao or cocoa powder in recipes. Signing off, fellow chocoholics.

Defloured, baking gluten-free goodies for Chicago & Milwaukee

My dog Ralph turned me onto a bakery called Defloured. On walks, he would bee-line to this storefront and routinely use his paw to knock on their front door. Johanna, the baker/owner has become one of his favorite neighborhood friends, due in no small part to the treats he receives from her and her staff.

Defloured is a gluten-free bakery and creates sweet treats that suit many restricted diets. These are not your cardboard tasting health foods, but delectable brownies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.

Not only do they sell delicious products from their Andersonville shop, but their baked goods are sold at some of the more discerning coffee bars, grocery stores (Whole Foods) and restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

They also create custom cakes for events and cookie or bar trays for parties. Not only can they do gluten-free bar and cookie trays, but Defloured also can do vegan or dairy-free cookie trays.

Ralph and I both agree that this bakery deserves a big high-five paw up.

http://deflouredbakery.com/

New Apple building graces the Chicago River

I continue to cheer every time a new structure is added to the Chicago River scene. The new Apple Store under Pioneer Court at Michigan Avenue and the river bridge was constructed with international supplies and know-how.

The architectural firm that planned this glass marvel is Foster + Partners from London. A Dubai company supplied the carbon fiber roof panels. The glass elevator is from Japanese company, Mitsubishi. Granite is from a quarry in China, and the leather throughout the store is from France’s Hermès.

The architecture is a mixture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style with wide eaves paired with 21st century glass laminate walls that make the building appear to be transparent. The views of the river and the surrounding buildings make this a new Chicago jewel.

The interior features a 6 K resolution screen that literally floats above the seating for visitors. Yes, the main purpose of the building is to sell Apple products but architectural buffs and tourists alike will want to pay a visit to this new Chicago architectural wonder.

Photo by E. Doyle

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/

New Amazon bookstore on Southport in Chicago

Since March 2017, Amazon has had a bookstore on Southport in Chicago, the only one in the Midwest. I finally got around to stopping in last night. As a supporter of independent bookstores, I had mixed emotions about the internet behemoth setting up shop in Chicago.

Let me confess that I bought a book. As a Prime member, the store sold me the book I wanted for the low price I had found on the internet. My debit card info showed up on their system confirming that I was a Prime member and away I went with my selected book. The salesclerk said I could also download the Amazon app to buy products in the future.

As a downside, the book selection is not deep. Amazon’s on-line best-sellers are apt to be the majority of books available and all book covers face out which looks nice, but limits stock space further. There is comfortable seating throughout the store for customer use.

The store is also a hub for all things Amazonian like the Echo, the Kindle and the Fire. I was intrigued by the Phillips lamps and light bulbs which can be controlled by digital assistant, Alexa. There were also small items for kids in the children’s literature section.

A coffee bar within the store, but separated by glass from the merchandise, has limited indoor seating. Outdoor tables now overlook the trendy Southport boutique and restaurant crowd.

It occurred to me that Amazon saved the free prime shipping fee by selling me this book for the low internet price. Might they be thinking of using this model for other items they sell?

Amazon has several other business concerns under its umbrella such as imdb.com, audible.com, AbeBooks, Goodreads, Twitch.tv, Woot, Zappos and now Whole Foods Market.

Oh, and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has also invested in airbnb, Uber, Google and he bought the Washington Post newspaper in 2013. His space company, Blue Origin will begin offering rocket ship rides in 2018. Talk about a vertical and horizontal operation!