November 24, 2017

Epic Bars, gluten-free and decidedly non-vegetarian

epic-bar-beef-habanero-cherryI’m on a mission to find snacks that do not spike the blood sugar but have a little more excitement than raw carrots or celery. Voila! Epic Bars come in flavors like Bison Bacon Cranberry, Chicken Sesame BBQ, Beef Apple Bacon, Turkey Almond Cranberry, Pulled Pork, Lamb Currant Mint, Salmon Sea Salt Pepper, Venison Sea Salt Pepper and Wild Boar Bacon. These gluten-free snacks are shelf stable and perfect to throw in one’s purse or briefcase. Aside from the varieties containing fruit, I did not see any added sugar in the ingredient lists.

I buy my bars at Whole Foods or online through Amazon. One of these times, I might try buying directly from the Epic web site since they carry the full product line in all of their flavors.

Epic also sells bone broth, animal oils like duck fat, “bits” in the various meat flavors and Hunt & Harvest Mixes which they bill as meat-centric trail mixes.

Vegetarians may be quaking in their non-leather boots, but these products are paleo-friendly and the animals are humanely raised on open pastures. The Epic web site maintains that their healthy lands invite birds and animals, “hold ground water, build topsoil and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.” That’s all well and good, but they also make a fantastic Bacon snack bar.

Olli electric driverless buses, testing in a city near you?

Family members have stated that “you’re not getting me in one of those contraptions that don’t have a driver.”  They may be eating their words sooner than they think.

Olli is a driverless, electric bus that can transport 12 people, is 3-D printed and is operated by IBM’s Watson, “a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.” In other words, it’s a computer program that can understand human language and instructs the vehicle where to go and how to get there. Passengers will be able to summon a bus using an app similar to Uber.

Trials just started in Washington, D. C. with Las Vegas and Miami to follow later in the year. The  Olli mini-buses can be 3-D printed in ten hours and assembled in just one.
As someone who does not like to drive, I say, “Bring Olli to Chicago, pretty please!”

“Making a Murderer” Mania: Popular Netflix Doc

I love watching crime tv drama, but now the true crime bug has bitten me thanks to Making a Murderer, the engrossing ten-part documentary series on Netflix. I know I must not be alone in this avid interest because I keep seeing follow-up articles in magazines and blog posts.

Film-makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos filmed the plight of Steven Avery over the course of ten years. Avery was incarcerated 18 years for a crime he did not commit, with DNA testing exonerating him and getting him released from prison in 2003. Two years later, he was arrested again for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. By 2007, he was found guilty of murdering her with the help of his nephew, Brendan Dassey who likewise was found guilty.

The TV series provides fascinating footage and recordings of the police investigations, the suspect interrogations, interviews with family members of both the accused and the victim plus video footage of the actual trials. We also see the press dogging everyone for photos and quotes.

These criminal, legal, judicial and police activities are not happening in a big urban area, but in rural Manitowoc County in the state of Wisconsin. Aside from the guilt or innocence of the suspects, the film makes the judges, lawyers and police officers look either like buffoons or patently evil. One could hope that this is an aberrational situation. Or cynically conclude that our criminal and legal system is rigged against the poor, the less educated and the fringe members of society.

If you can stomach real crime, please watch this series and let me know who you think the guilty parties are.  As for me, the jury is still out. Sequel, anyone?

Nature Boardwalk in the Lincoln Park Zoo

Between now and when the snow flies, make a trip to the Nature Boardwalk in the Lincoln Park Zoo. The walking path, made from recycled plastic winds around the pond in front of Cafe Brauer next to Farm in the Zoo. You will be rewarded with the sight of meadow flowers, and perhaps dragonflies, swallows or frogs. On the day we were there, we were lucky enough to see two young families, a mother duck with her ducklings and a mother goose with her goslings. I felt decidedly less urban for an hour.


Hot Diggity! Hot Doug’s!

Having driven by Hot Doug’s for literally years and seen lines of people waiting to gain admittance, my husband and I finally made a trip to this “encased meat emporium.”
Open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 AM to 4 PM, this is basically an early to late lunch spot. I’m not a big sausage or hot dog fan, but I chose a lamb, goat cheese, raita concoction that I have never seen or tasted anywhere else. Here is a sample of their exotic specials: Ribeye Steak Sausage with Chimichurri, Ardagh Wine Cheese and Fried Onions, Brown Ale and Chipotle Buffalo Sausage with Dark Beer Mustard and Hickory-Smoked Sweet Swiss Cheese, along with Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck Sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fleur de Sel. These are definitely not Oscar Meyer recipes. More recognizable “dog” fare is also available.

My husband went whole hog with the Dave Pound, basically a corn dog and an order of cheese fries.The sausage superstore does the fries in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays, so my husband got to sample this delicacy. I’m not a fan of fried anything, but I must say that I stole a few cheesy potato strips that were pretty delicious. As a nice surprise, we were also able to buy Sioux City Ginger Ale and Mint Cherry sodas.

We opted for the delightful patio to the side of the restaurant. The wait staff brings your food when the order is ready. I couldn’t eat this way every day, but this made an interesting detour from our daily food fare.

Hot Doug’s!
The Sausage Superstore and
Encased Meat Emporium
3324 North California, Chicago, IL 60618
Phone: (773) 279-9550

Midnight In Paris

Finally, a movie for adults that touches upon travel, history, literature and romance all with the distinctive wit that we’ve come to expect from Woody Allen. From the opening montage of Parisian scenes, you know you’re in for a charming ride. “Midnight In Paris” joins a string of Allen movies from this decade that I can recommend: Melinda and Melinda (2004), Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). His next film is set in Rome and I can only hope he writes a love-letter for the Eternal City as he has for the City of Light.

Western Charm in Durango, CO

Location was the determining factor in choosing the Leland House, one street over from the bustling Main Street in downtown Durango, CO. Our room was small but delightfully decorated in a fishing motif. The included breakfast was served in the Rochester Hotel, the sister property across the street and included homemade scones, muffins and tea breads. Freshly baked cookies are available in the dining room later in the afternoon. A friendly and helpful staff makes this bed and breakfast a cut above other hotel choices. Rooms include small kitchens and flat screen TVs. Suites definitely look worth the extra dough. The one we viewed had a charming balcony. Free parking in the back is an added benefit. Complimentary bikes available so you can check out the scenic path near the Animas River.

Downtown Durango has a host of dining and shopping options plus fine art galleries.
Don’t miss the Karyn Gabaldon Fine Art Gallery (check out her paintings plus the Chinese antique pieces and jewelry) and Toh-Atin featuring the bronze statues of sculptor Kevin McCarthy. Overland is a family-owned clothing chain of 13 stores featuring leather garments. Over 20 years ago, I bought items from them that I still wear. I added one of their winter coats to my wardrobe this trip and my husband opted for some of their comfy shoes.
Dining options are plentiful. Sure, there are some chain outlets like Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery, but the accent is on unique places like Ken & Sue’s for inventive dishes using local produce. Catch the live jazz provided by wind player Jeff Solon and guitarist Kevin McCarthy at Mutu’s Italian restaurant. Venues we want to try on our next visit are Cypress, Eno, Himalayan Kitchen, Carver’s, and the Bar D Chuckwagon Supper Show outside of Durango. Don’t miss the Durango Recreation Center, a comprehensive health club for the whole community replete with pools, indoor running track, gymnasium, free weights and machines plus showers and lockers. A nominal sum gains you admittance.

Durango Community Recreation Center
2700 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301

Karyn Gabaldon Fine Art Gallery
680 Main Avenue
Durango, CO, 81301

Ken & Sue’s
636 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301-5438

Leland House
721 E 2nd Ave
Durango, Colorado 81301

Mutu’s Italian Kitchen
701 E. 2nd Ave.
Durango, CO 81301

Toh-Atin Gallery
145 W. 9th St.
Durango, CO 81302

Durango Community Recreation Center
2700 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301