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Open Market at Block 37, Chicago.

I used to attend Dose Market regularly when it first opened. It was fun to have a place to shop for specialty food, clothing, books, magazines, and creative trinkets all under one roof guaranteeing great people watching, shopping and eating to spun music. I started asking friends to join me, but by that point it was starting to outgrow it’s space. A few months later, I made the mistake of inviting a LOT of friends to meet me at Fete which was like Dose Market but at night. The event was oversold and was so overcrowded that half my group couldn’t even get their cocktail which came with the admission ticket purchase or get upstairs to buy food. We stood smooshed around a table and just talked about we would be toast if a fire broke out, threw all our unused drink tickets on the table and left to get dinner and drinks somewhere else. It was a miserable affair for all of us and turned a lot of us off to going to these type of events

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But I thought I’d be the guinea pig for this new space and give them one more try. I attended the opening night of Tasting Table’s Open Market. Open Market is a culinary artisan fair comprised of local purveyors and restaurants. Some of the offerings were cocktails, appetizers, sandwiches and desserts, jarred sauces, spices and truffles. A fun way to sample, shop with friends to music spun by Uncanned Sounds. This was the right space for them as it is expansive, spread out and lots of room to walk around. It was much more organized too with a line for tickets and a coat check. You can take the train or pay $10 parking in the Block 37 building  with validation and if you don’t mind paying the $6.47 up front through Eventbrite (which gets you a cocktail) then I think you might really enjoy attending this event.

Oh, and I left with my purchase of white Alba truffles by Rare Tea Cellar.
http://www.rareteacellar.com.
I was so excited that when I arrived home, I got out of my car with my seat belt on.

White truffles from Rare Tea Celler
White truffles from Rare Tea Cellar
Le Sirop cocktail syrups by Femme du Coupe
Le Sirop cocktail syrups by Femme du Coupe
The Bristol
Always great to see these guys from The Bristol.

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Open Market by Tasting Table at Block 37

The rest of the photos can be seen here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/loustejskal/sets/72157638439129335/

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Gresca in Barcelona [restaurant]

Gresca is a restaurant in Barcelona with minimalist design, casual attire and has modernist food at affordable prices. They call these bistronomicas. Rafael Pena who worked under Ferran Adria of El Bulli, is the owner of this hidden little gem and his wife works the front of house.

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Trying so hard to stay awake to wait until 8pm to eat my dinner so I could adjust to the time change from Chicago, I was surprised to be only one of two tables. However, by 10pm, the little place was bustling with conversation and flowing wine which seemed to be prime time for eating on a work night. Almost all of the tables were full and people were still peeking inside to decide if Gresca was a place they would choose to eat their late but typical Barcelona dinner. This place was such a find. Very unassuming and hidden and anyone walking on the street would easily pass it by.

You can see a few items with a brief description below but if you don’t have time, then at least view the Instagram video in the link below of their Egg Souffle which was the highlight of my meal. Inside the “meringue” held a yolk surprise sitting atop what seemed like parpadalle, but were really thinly sliced long potato “noodles” tossed in a butter and light cream sauce.

http://instagram.com/p/hO9c9omVG-/

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Egg Souffle

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Parmesan Cheese Crisps

Parmesan crisps were brought out to each table before bread. Light, perfectly salted, airy and warm.

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This was a tiny bite from the chef. Cod with shaved almond curls on top of yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Scallops. The thin white part is pork belly. The long tan and pink striped peels are dehydrated fish eggs. Cauliflower is made into a cream sauce and is also “reformatted” to become shaved sprinkles in the center of the scallop dish.

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Pina Colada

I asked my waitress to bring me their best dessert. This is the Pina Colada. The “coconut meat” filling was actually frozen foam so it was thinner than a shaved ice, yet the temperature wan’t really frozen but just cool. A scientific food mystery! The coconut shell was entirely edible and comprised of a milk chocolate “vermicelli.” Think of how a Triscuit cracker breaks apart in your mouth, yet all the little cracker sting pieces are still distinguishable except it’s frozen chocolate so it melts or has a delicately layered crunch if you chew. Inside the coconut was a pineapple liquid with the tiniest hint of rum.

The food at Gresca has a way with making the flavor of the food itself stand out in a subtle way.

Gresca
Calle Provença, 230, Barcelona.
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday.
Phone: 934 51 61 93
Dress code: Casual

 

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Ham, Water, and Potatoes [“Live Your Life” by Yuna]

Today in Barcelona, I set out to buy a bottle of water and ended up at a fine food specialty shop talking with the store people for over an hour and coming back to my hotel with a bag full of Iberico meat samples and canned seafood.

I have never taken Spanish but grew up in a household where my parents spoke to me in Visayan (Filipino) which is made up of many Spanish words like the days of the week, colors, food and clothing. I can get by if I need to eat, find directions or buy clothes or yell at someone. I took some French so if they don’t speak English, I get around Barcelona speaking either broken Spanish or what little French I remember from high school. Amazingly, speaking French gets me closer to what I’m looking for even though I use pantomime (made up sign language) and make up half of the rest of the words. I’m like an Asian Marcel Marceau that actually talks, using Spanish, French, English and my body. It must be entertaining enough because three times (in the 24 hours I’ve been here), they have ended up walking me (sometimes over a block) to wherever I need to go. I have bought water, needed an ATM and a wanted a bottle of wine for the room which I never got but read below. Obtaining each of these simple things has been quite an adventure with different people. Yes I can buy water from the hotel desk, ask the concierge for a map or use my iPhone, but I want to explore the old-fashioned way without technology while I’m here, interact with the locals and practice my Spanish. The only way is to make yourself vulnerable and feeling a little silly at first but I did that when I was here in the spring so very little warmup time was needed this time.

This morning, I wanted water for my hotel room. After mistakenly being brought to restaurants, I found a nice lady who so sweetly put my arm in hers and walked me over 2 blocks down little tiny streets to find this place.

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Being that I have no real agenda until tonight, it made perfect sense to get a bottle of wine for the room as well. I asked random people on the street for “wine” then “vin,” then put my hands to my lips and then finally somebody wanted to help this wino. A man walked me to a bar at 10:30am, (you have to get over being embarrassed if you want to explore), then once inside the waitress walked me down the street to this adorable little fine foods specialty shop. Inside were canned seafood and vegetables, cheese, wine, and Iberico.

http://instagram.com/p/hQdTlKGVMK/

I learned about the different Iberico and whether it comes from the front or back legs which are very different in taste. We used google translator the entire time racing with our iPhones to find out the words for clams, mussels, asparagus and sausage. Later, they asked if Americans called animal legs, “arms” and “legs” to differentiate. I told them we didn’t because if we said our animals had arms, they would stand up and wave to everyone with their “arms.”

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The Iberico at this shop is all farm-raised, fresh and natural. To get this point across to me took quite a bit of stumbling around phrases and resorted to using iPhones and drawing on Post It notes. The man told me their pigs were “very nice” and “the best” because they only ate “boletta” which they couldn’t figure out what to call it so they said it’s “like a Christmas fruit.” The lady drew a picture of it and they couldn’t stop laughing when I asked if it was a potato.

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I was too full to sample the different types of Iberico but they insisted I bring some back to my hotel. As they said goodbye to me, they waved and the lady started laughing and as she waved her arm, she said, “Potato!” When I got back to the hotel, I looked up “bellota” which doesn’t mean potato, but “acorn.”

Essentially, this is what she was trying to explain to me. I looked up “iberico acorn” and according to Gourmet, “JamĂłn IbĂ©rico de bellota refers to the cured leg of a pata negra pig that has been raised free-range in the old-growth oak forests of western Spain. The pigs eat a diet rich in acorns, wild mushrooms, herbs, and grasses, yielding meat that’s richly flavored and low in saturated fat. Each ham is cured for a minimum of two years before reaching the market.  A 15-pound bone-in leg of jamĂłn IbĂ©rico de bellota retails for around $1,300, or $87 per pound. Each pig requires at least 2 acres of land for ample foraging. That, in turn, strictly limits the amount of jamĂłn IbĂ©rico de Bellota available each year.”

When they say life is not about the destination but about the journey, I guess I found my bottle of water, forgot the wine, but gained a memory that will remain with me for a lifetime.

“Live Your Life” by Yuna

Find your light
Don’t hide from what you are
And rise before you fall
And hope for something more
Live if you really want to
Live if you really want to

All my life I’ve been looking for something amazing
It’s almost like I’ve been stargazing
The sky is right above me
We were meant for something bigger than this
Don’t ever try to dismiss yourself cause you don’t have to

(Chorus)

All my life my dreams just seemed so far away
And now it’s like theyre here to stay
I hold it close to me
We were meant for something bigger than this
Don’t ever try to dismiss yourself cause you don’t have to

(Chorus) x2

Live if we really want to
Live if we really want to
Live if we really want to
Live if we really want to

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It’s quite appropriate that it’s rainy in Chicago the morning after Charlie Trotter passed away. I sometimes like when it rains because it gives me permission to feel gray. The hardest thing about Charlie Trotter’s passing for me, besides how it hurts to see the restaurant world grieving, is thinking about his wife because I know what it’s like to wake up the next day and find yourself a widow. And even though you move forward and may do many great things, it’s all because of, and without your best love. Watching the world move on while yours is still a nightmare becomes your day-to-day, until time spreads out the pain. The pain will always be there but it’s spread out and the sharp edges get dull. You search for places, people and things that hold no ties to your past so you can find a way to soften the bite, sometimes finding yourself comforting complete strangers who feel the need to tell you how they were connected to your other half. For the most part, I just wanted to sit by the ocean.

She will hear great things about her husband that will leave her feeling grateful and special that he chose to be with her out of all the women in the world, yet perplexed at the irony because she will hear the most dribble from some whom maybe he didn’t really care for. And she will laugh about that. She knows many great things, bumpy faults, deep thoughts, random wishes, hopes and fears that nobody will ever know because she knew him better and deeper than anyone. Better than his own mother and his best buddy since kindergarten.

My thoughts are with the restaurant community, but heavily with his wife. I can imagine because I know. All the routine tasks she will have to take on alone that most of you can do with your eyes closed. Filling up the car or bringing in the groceries can be her emotional land mines. Or realizing she doesn’t know where the stamps are kept. And then there’s the question of what to do with all his socks. You don’t want to throw them away but you don’t really want anyone else to have them.

Once it quiets down and people see her laughing again, the decisions that used to be shared will lie scattered as her own. She will wish many times for someone to genuinely disagree with her, not to challenge her, but to push her in the direction she was already headed. She will one day hate that everyone will only treat her so fragile-like and will crave for just one person to tell her like it is. Everyone will crowd her when she wants quiet. Everyone will assume she wants space when she wants to be in a crowd. She will learn to  fine tune that perfect balance of experiencing “happy” without the sting of bittersweet because some of her happiest moments will be her loneliest moments. She will see and experience many more beautiful things in life but secretly wish she could turn and give that look to him without saying a word. And she will, even though he’s not there.

Time does not heal all the wounds and you are not only dealt what you are able to handle. You find a way, but are forever changed.

Later that day when Charlie Trotter died and I was thinking about how his wife just lost the best part of herself, Illinois passed the same sex marriage law. While people were cheering and getting excited, all I could think was, “We are actually for and against love, state by state?”

“Demons” by Imagine Dragons

When the days are cold
And the cards all fold
And the saints we see
Are all made of gold

When your dreams all fail
And the ones we hail
Are the worst of all
And the blood’s run stale

I wanna hide the truth
I wanna shelter you
But with the beast inside
There’s nowhere we can hide

No matter what we breed
We still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

Curtain’s call
Is the last of all
When the lights fade out
All the sinners crawl

So they dug your grave
And the masquerade
Will come calling out
At the mess you’ve made

Don’t wanna let you down
But I am hell bound
Though this is all for you
Don’t wanna hide the truth

No matter what we breed
We still are made of greed
This is my kingdom come
This is my kingdom come

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

They say it’s what you make
I say it’s up to fate
It’s woven in my soul
I need to let you go

Your eyes, they shine so bright
I wanna save that light
I can’t escape this now
Unless you show me how

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

Stamps and Socks (SONG: “Demons” by Imagine Dragons)

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Angels [Song: “She Talks to Angels-Acoustic” by The Black Crowes]

Would we be lonelier if we didn’t have Facebook to connect to so many people? Or are we lonelier because we are connected to so many people yet at times feel disconnected to all of them? There are some really rough waters out there right now for a handful of people on my Facebook today and will be for quite a while even though we will continue joking, smart-assing, meme-ing, eating, drinking and dancing. After loss, there is pain is in that split dichotomy between your frozen state and the rest of the world which seems to be spinning so fast all around you. Today in my feed, someone lost a mother, someone else a sibling and another almost lost a child to suicide. I’m so sorry it’s tough right now.

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Escada uses the best dress clasps. Two smooth, stately, solid pieces of metal. Their quality threading is sewn strongly on the underside of the dress so there’s no risk of getting one of the clasps caught when there’s just no time to redo your makeup.

I don’t know when the day finally came, or how many dinners, events, and dresses with zippers and clasps it took, but it took a lot.

If your husband dies before you, there will be that moment that you first have to fasten the back of your dress by yourself. It can be something so little to the rest of the world like a dress clasp that will emphasize you are still making plans, having fun with old friends doing new things or doing old things with new friends. Laughing. Eating. Walking. Sitting. Thinking. Feeling. Breathing. Blinking.

But then one day, which for me was about two years after my spouse died, you will be able to fasten those two metal clasps on the back of your dress on the first try. You will be very conscious of that next breath and realize that the lump in your throat isn’t there. You will discover that the wall of tears that used to cascade down your cheeks from a single blink of the eye is gone. You will blink again to make sure. The day will come when you can fasten your dress unscathed and don’t have to redo all your makeup. One day you will realize that the sneaky Thief of Grief has moved on, perhaps to return in another disguise as another little thing to rest of the world. But until then, we all float on.

“Float On” by Modest Mouse

I backed my car into a cop car the other day
Well he just drove off sometimes life’s ok
I ran my mouth off a bit too much oh what did I say
Well you just laughed it off it was all okAnd we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on any way well

Well, a fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam
It was worth it just to learn from sleight-of-hand
Bad news comes don’t you worry even when it lands
Good news will work its way to all them plans
We both got fired on the exactly the same day
Well we’ll float on good news is on the way

And we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on ok
And we’ll all float on alright
Already we’ll all float on
Now don’t you worry we’ll all float on
Alright already we’ll all float on
Alright don’t worry we’ll all float on

And we’ll all float on alright
Already we’ll all float on
All right don’t worry even if things end up a bit to heavy
We’ll all float on alright
Already we’ll all float on
Alright already we’ll all float on
Ok don’t worry we’ll all float on
Even if things get heavy we’ll all float on
Alright already we’ll all float on
Don’t you worry we’ll all float on
All float on

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The Back of the Dress [Song: “Float On” by Modest Mouse]

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How to Squash Fear [Song: “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” By Tame Impala]

I didn’t realize how much I lived in fear until I lost my true love and had to find my way home alone. It took the worst to happen for me to realize you need to live your life for yourself, not for what others think you should be doing. But when you have everything you need, there is no way to see that until after you’ve lost it.

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