America · Food · Illinois · Living Abroad · Travelling

The First Weekend in Chicago – Part 1

(I’ve split it into two parts because otherwise it may get a little long…)

So… first job was food and household appliance shopping – first stop was Target! I can never get over the scale of these places – it’s got everything! However the locations of items can be odd – we spent about 15 minutes hunting for freezer bags. 

Then we headed to Little Italy through Greektown in order to find our favorite cafe so far, Scafuri’s. I was sad to find initially that they seemed to have stopped selling their amazing cannoli – they have been an abiding memory since last time! Instead I drowned my sorrows with this delicious chocolate yeasted donuts (with echoes of ‘funny drops’ chocolate – can’t get used to calling it funfetti!)


I also had a coconut-chai latte which whilst delicious was probably quite expensive… not a treat for every week!

After that we investigated Jewel-Osco, a supermarket. Very nice but it was expensive and we had to walk about a mile and a half with heavy bags! However it did have a wing bar…


Afterwards we went on a walk to the centre. We headed through the downtown area and then walked to Buckingham Fountain which was actually running this time – last time there was no water. It’s a lot more impressive now!




The Buckingham Fountain

This building worries me…

The Loop


We also sampled the first of our Chicago delicacies – the hot dog, specifically the Polish. This is from Max’s Take-Out (we had to go there…) and were well worth it! I even went for all the toppings – mustard and all! 


Max ate half the pickle after his fell off – they still aren’t my favorite things!

After this we then wandered along the waterfront to the Shedd Aquarium and on to the Adler Observatory. We didn’t go in at this point – we are saving that for winter! 

The Shedd Aquarium’s big statue of a man with a fish.

The Adler Observatory – there were two weddings and associated photographs going in about 10 metres apart!

Lots of views of the skyline.

Here ends Saturday…

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America · Arizona · California · Food · Travelling

Post-Flight Jet Lag

I’m back in England now and suffering from the curse of flying west to east – Jet lag! I tried to avoid the worst of it – I slept about four hours on the plane (discovering that eye masks are actually a massive help in sleeping was a game changer!), stayed up until the evening and tried to keep to as normal a routine as possible, but it’s not completely worked, so I’m going to be productive and use this time to write about a few of the final thing we have done, places we saw and food we ate in our final days in Phoenix and San Francisco.

On the final Sunday we all went out for brunch at the Biltmore hotel, which was undergoing HUGE renovations at the time – it looked unrecognisable inside from our previous visits! All the interiors were halfway through being repaired, the main entrance in particular was being redone at the time! However, brunch at Frank and Albert’s was still delicious. I decided on the huevos rancheros, which featured a lot of guacamole, cheese and the most delicious chorizo, all with added black bean purĂ©e which is always a bonus!


The Biltmore is also the only place where meat and cheese is a necessary addition to a Bloody Mary. This wasn’t my drink so I can’t vouch for if it added to the flavour, but it definitely added interest!


After brunch we took a wander around some of the grounds of the hotel, Nathaniel did some painting and we enjoyed the sunshine for a short while. The hotel has some beautiful features to it and I can only imagine it must be a lovely place to stay! 





In the afternoon, Chloe and I tried to replicate the Arizona baking-cookies-outside challenge, however we chose the wrong week in which to visit for that! Despite earlier in the year having been unbearable for Phoenix, we hit right in the middle of monsoon season. Thunderstorms, yes. Humidity – oh yes! But temperatures hot enough to bake cookies on the hood of your car? Not so much. We nearly made it with one set on the hood of the car inside the garage, but the heat just wasn’t there (and the batter was disposed of before the experiment could be finished…)


Test site one – by the swimming pool. (The shadow is me – they weren’t in the shade). These were not a success – they were disposed of after being eaten by ants and stood on… 


On the car bonnet in the garage – the one closest to working!


On the car bonnet outside – much cooler than in the garage so not a real success either…

The final evening in Phoenix was completed by night swimming (after a steak barbecue and many cakes!) and water balloons- the perfect way to cool down.


If only this was appropriate in England!

The next day (Monday) we flew back to San Francisco, just for one night. Landing in the late afternoon we arrived at our hotel, checked in for our flight the next day and also realised we had got there just in time for cookies – you know it’s a good hotel when they give you tea and cookies/brownies at 4pm! We then headed out to Chinatown and enjoyed a massive Chinese Szechuan banquet for our final meal (we hadn’t eaten yet!)


Chicken and lemongrass potstickers and fried wontons


Spicy beef and vegetables

Apparently I failed to take pictures of the rest but it also included hot and sour soup, cashew chicken and mixed fried rice – alongside the fortune cookies and tea! Absolutely delicious, particularly the beef, but I definitely don’t feel the need to eat Chinese food again for a while!


San Francisco in the evening

The next morning we walked around through the districts of Mission in order to prepare for the long flight ahead, particularly with regard to food – I do not have faith in airline meals! We started with breakfast at Hayes Valley Bakeworks with this wonder:


Maple-bacon-cinnamon rolls – whoever invented this is a genius. I’m a sucker for that flavour combination anyway and this was simply divine!

After walking through from our hotel to Mission and around the surrounding areas for a few hours, we broke for lunch/brunch at about 11 at El Taqueria Farolito, a recommendation which proved to be an amazing find. Absolutely huge burritos – I had the regular and I dread to think what the large would have been like! We made the rookie mistake of ordering chips as well – not a plan! The proteins were also hugely varied – we went for the safer options of carne asada (steak) and chorizo but we could have had beef tongue, beef head or beef brains! Maybe next time!


Finally to complete I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Bi-Rite Creamery (also in Mission) – another recommendation which I was happy to receive! After vacillating between flavours such as peach cobbler, basil and watermelon-coconut I finally decided to go with the black sesame and strawberry balsamic combination. Definitely a good final dessert in San Francisco.