Saturday, April 12, 2014

Katic Breads by Margot Justes








This morning was one of those wonderful surprising moments. I went with next door neighbors and friends to a train station for a croissant and coffee.

The Palatine train station utilizes the space well, every second Saturday of the month they allow vendors to sell their wares. One such vendor is the Katic Breads Bakery, situated right next door to Starbucks, and they couldn’t be better positioned.  

They open at eight, we got there ten minutes before eight, and they were already busy. The plain croissants are superb, brought back memories of Paris for me, but they were sold out. I got an almond croissant instead, then went next door to Starbucks for my coffee. It was a delicious continental breakfast. A slice of heaven.

The croissant was flaky and moist, and you could actually taste the almond filling. I loved the idea of sitting in a train station enjoying a decent cup of coffee and savoring a delicious croissant.

The vendors are there every second Saturday of the month through May. In June they’ll be in my neck of the woods, at the Northbrook Farmers Market. I plan to be there for coffee and a croissant, and I’ll go back to Palatine in May.

I bought a baguette, a Kalamata Olive bread, and a whole wheat sourdough. I’ve tasted their breads before, and everyone was a success. I happen to love good bread, and as you can see will go out of my way to find it.

There isn’t a bakery you can visit, they travel to farmers markets, but contact information is 605 Plum St. Aurora, IL 60506 www.katicbreads.com. The website is worth a visit because they post their schedule, and you’ll get an idea of the passion the baker holds for a good product, and it clearly is reflected in the taste of the breads, and the brisk sales I saw today.

I loved my Saturday morning. Hope yours was wonderful too.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Red Apple and Polish Food by Margot Justes









Once in a while I crave a bit of stick to your ribs and everywhere else type of home cooked goodness. Polish food, specifically the Red Apple restaurant in Chicago delivers the perfect meal. They are located on 6474 N. Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago. 773/588-5781. It’s a bit of old home for me, one of those places that bring back many memories.

As with most Polish restaurants, it is a buffet filled with potato pancakes, pierogi, sauerkraut, sausage, tongue, tripe, chicken, ham, roast beef, you name it, the buffet has it. Even a few things you won’t name unless you have an Eastern European background, things like tripe, tongue and gizzard stew-all delicious and worth a try.

I go there for the pierogi, sort of like an Italian ravioli, often filled with potatoes, (my favorite) meat, cheese, sauerkraut, plums, really any filling you prefer. The potato pancakes and tongue are my favorite dishes too, of course there is the schnitzel, sort of a elongated moist hamburger perfectly seasoned, along with the mushroom gravy that goes well with everything. The bigos, or hunter stew made with meat and sauerkraut is delicious too.

There is a salad bar with the usual selection, along with shredded beets and herring in vinegar sauce, cucumbers in sour cream, and many other choices. The sweets are wonderful too, from kolaczki to cheese cakes, to assorted cakes, and fruit. 

I imagine there are babcias (grannies) in the kitchen cooking the food, it does taste homemade, and really yummy. The atmosphere is bright and cheerful, and I could hear Polish spoken at a few tables. Like I said, many happy memories.

If you haven’t tried Polish food, this would be a perfect place to sample the cuisine, it’s basic, hearty and just plain good food.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com


Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Irish Pub by Margot Justes












It was time to acknowledge that I was a year older, and that meant going out to dinner with family to celebrate.  It’s a lovely tradition, and the birthday person gets to pick the restaurant.

My grandkids already picked their place. We’re going to tea at the Peninsula Hotel. They both love high tea.

For my birthday, I picked an Irish Pub. To clarify, I don’t drink beer, don’t like the flavor or the smell, however I love a good meatloaf, and even more, Shepherd’s Pie. The pub had both, and the Shepherd’s Pie was the best I have ever tasted.

Chief O’Neill’s is located on 3471 N. Elston, Chicago, IL 60618 773/583-3066 www.chiefonneillspub.com

We started with the Kerrygold Flatbread; caramelized cabbage, roasted potato and Kerrygold Smoked Cheddar. The combination was delicious. My grandson ordered the Bruschetta, because that is his favorite appetizer.

Next on the menu was the Corned Beef and Cabbage, along with a really delicious Guinness Infused Meatloaf-I finally found a way I like beer-in my meatloaf. The Shepherd’s Pie had ground sirloin and veal, along with peas and herbs, topped with browned mashed potatoes. Seasoned perfectly. The Corned Beef Burger was high, served with perfectly done steak fries.

For dessert, we shared a key lime pie, Crème Brulee, and a positively yummy bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.

I was told the beers were good, as was the cider, and Irish coffee.

I have to go back for their Sunday Brunch, and to try the Scotia Eggs; hard boiled eggs wrapped in minced lamb, coated in bread crumbs and fried. I make a simpler recipe at home, just slice the egg in half,  roll it in a breakfast sausage, and cook it in a nonstick skillet.  Makes a great appetizer, or a wonderful breakfast addition.

I loved the decor, a lot of beautifully carved wood, and stained glass. It was a cold day, and we were lucky enough to sit near the fire place. The place is cozy, and the parking was easy and free. Free in Chicago is rare.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Beograd by Margot Justes




Chicago is a multi cultural city, and one of the wonderful aspects of that diversity are the ethnic restaurants.  I recently went to Beograd Cafe, a Serbian restaurant located at 2933 W. Irving Park Rd. Chicago Il 60618 (773/478-7575) www.beogradchicago.com

I posted the address and phone number, just in case you’re in the Chicago area, and want to try this restaurant. The food is positively scrumptious.

My next door neighbors and friends are Serbian, and I have had Serbian food at their house. I have also visited Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, and the food is similar, so the cuisine as a whole was not a surprise, but it was well prepared, fresh and utterly scrumptious.

We started with the Shopska salad; tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and feta cheese. Then we moved on to the Burek, a savory dish made with filo dough and filled with cheese and spinach, potato or cheese and meat. They have other fillings, but we sampled the three I listed. This is a huge round dinner plate size of goodness, and they didn’t skimp on any ingredients. I tasted all three and had no favorite. I’d go back just for the Burek. Next time I’ll order one to go.

We also ordered a meat plate, the Beograd special that included lamb, chevapchichi, a traditional Serbian sausage, pork sausages, pork chops, and Serbian style hamburgers, along with ajvar, a vegetarian spread made with roasted red peppers and eggplant that went really well with the warm and delicious hot bread.  

We didn’t skimp on desserts either, there were crapes, I tasted the Nutella version which was excellent, we also ordered a Dobosh Torte, seven layers of thin sponge cake, layered  with a rich chocolate cream, and a walnut torte.

To finish the meal we had Serbian coffee, very much like the Greek and Turkish versions but not quite as strong.

I found out they’re open for breakfast and I have plans to go back for breakfast, and certainly dinner.

If you try the restaurant, let me know how you like.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Celebrations by Margot Justes






We celebrate occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, good news, when we need stress relief, we find a reason to celebrate. In reality, we try to find a reason to celebrate anything that is a bit special.  



How do we celebrate? In my case that usually means a get together with friends and family, a restaurant meal, or if it really is a significant celebration, if possible I take a trip. I’m not getting younger, and while my body still let’s me I want to see as much as I can. I  want to play tourist.



On my recent getaway from a really miserable Chicago winter, I took an easy cruise to the Bahamas, and in the process met a few people who were perfectly content to stay in their little town, or county.



One such person, did go on the cruise, but refused to get off the ship. He got ‘away’ and wanted to be comfortable in familiar surroundings. He wasn’t an isolated incident on this particular cruise.
Frankly, I found that to be incredibly sad. As Mark Twain put it so succinctly,  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”  If we don’t get out of our comfort zone, we’ll never learn about other cultures, society, or even something as simple as different celebrations.



Back to my point, I think I had one a minute ago...we take the time to celebrate, to spend time with friends and family.  I know we take pictures, and some even write about the happy times. We keep track of what we celebrated, we leave a trail of memories for others to follow.



I have been asked to combine my food(ie) tendencies and my love of travel. I’m not a foodie, I don’t really know what that means, but I love to try all types of different ethnic foods, and as the saying goes ‘I like to eat’.  I will keep a journal of the different restaurants I visit, or the few things I actually prepare at home, and will attempt to remember to take pictures of the food, before it is decimated on the plate. Hopefully, there will be a few blogs with pictures about Chicago area restaurants that I will post.



The first blog next week will be on Beograd, a Serbian delight, followed by my birthday ‘celebration’ at Chief O’Neill’s, an Irish Pub. I’m a sucker for a good meatloaf ,or Shepherd’s Pie. I also love the occasional Kiszka, a Polish blood sausage for breakfast. You’ll see pictures.  



There will of course be more blogs about travel. My next trip will be with my grandkids this summer. I’m looking forward to showing them a bit of Europe, and hope to instill in them the love of travel.



On that note, I’m delighted, and exceedingly happy to report that A Hotel in Bath was nominated for the In'Dtale Magazine "RONE" Award.



Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Fire Within
Blood Art
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carnival Time in New Orleans by Margot Justes







Chicago’s winter this year has been brutal, and I was lucky enough to be able to escape it for a brief respite. A seven day cruise to the Bahamas first took me to New Orleans.

I thought Mardi Gras was only celebrated on the designated day-not so-the Carnival season starts the weekend before and carries on for a full week, ending the following Sunday. This year it started on the 21st of February.

I never thought I’d be anywhere near a place that celebrated Mardi Gras, not a big fan of crowds, but I couldn’t escape the beginning of the Carnival season in New Orleans.  I was there the first day of the festivities. That meant the first two parades that passed right on Canal Street, literally outside the main entrance to the hotel. How could I not participate and see the floats-after all-they’re legendary.

I joined the crowd on the street, young and old alike piled against the barricades along the street and waited for the fun to start. For me it started much earlier.  I walked on Canal, Bourbon, Royal and Decatur streets in the early afternoon, and the party was already in full swing.  Alcohol was freely flowing, as were the masks and various holiday accoutrements, from feathers, too-toos, beads and face paint. 

The parade started at about eight thirty in the evening, streets were closed making access difficult, if you were unlucky enough to want to go anywhere near the parade route. Carnival is big business in New Orleans. The floats are amazing, simply stunning, as are the costumes. The floats were colorful, garish and over the top, just perfect for the Carnival excesses. Marching bands, and of course the required political cars streamed along the street, one after the other. They were still going strong at midnight. I however was not. 

I’d never go out of my way to go anywhere during Carnival time, but this was an unplanned opportunity to see a bit of it, before it got really crazy on the actual day.  I was told Mardi Gras is absolutely nuts, but by that time, I was already on board ship. That being said, it was a wonderful opportunity to see a bit of the famed festival.

This was not my first trip to New Orleans, and I had fond memories of Café du Monde, so of course I stopped for coffee and beignets. The beignets were as I remembered them, absolutely delicious, the coffee I thought lacked strength and depth.  I remembered it as being more flavorful. Maybe my palate has changed, or maybe they’ve adapted the coffee to suit everyone. I do love my coffee on the strong side, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  There is something to be said for going back, and still take pleasure from the experience.

This was a first time I tried the colorful King Cake, and I loved it. Purple, gold and green colors decorate the top, sprinkled liberally with coarse sugar. Filled with a light cream center, the yeast dough is moist, and every bite is truly heavenly. I was told there are many versions, but I only sampled the one the hotel had to offer. Between the beignets, the King Cake, a huge lunch at the Court of Two Sisters, a Muffalata sandwich at the French Market, and the Shrimp Po-Boy, I can say the food is yummy.

Surprising to see were the many art galleries that lined the streets. Everywhere you turned that was a gallery, or local art was sold in a souvenir shop. Since my time was limited, I took the On and Off Bus, it’s a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of the city.

The French Quarter has not changed, it is alive and well. Effects of Katrina are still evident in many places, but the tourist trade is doing well, and that helps the area recover. The spirit of the locals is amazing and gracious.

Visit Paris from your armchair, A Hotel in Paris, is on sale for only 99. through Sunday.
http://www.amazon.com/A-Hotel-in-Paris-ebook/dp/B007KLPEU8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1332155482&sr=8-2

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
www.mjustes.com



Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Island of Delos by Margot Justes




I wanted to be the first one to visit Europe with my grandchildren. Sydney will be twelve by the time we leave, and Anthony will be nine. Right now he’s more interested in the fact that the cruise ship will have a basketball court, and a swimming pool, and the gelato bar won’t hurt either.  He’ll go along with anything that is selected. So it’s up to Sydney to select the excursions, and pick what she wants to see.

Both kiddies are avid readers, but Sydney gets to choose. I loaned her a few of my travel books. One of our stops this summer will be Mykonos, Greece. For Valentine’s day I bought them a journal so that they could write about their  experiences. Anthony was excited, and actually picked his own journal.

I asked Sydney what she wanted to see in Mykonos. She looked through the guide book, and said ‘I’d like to see Delos.’ I explained that it is a live dig, not a touristy place, and that the only thing she’ll see were  ruins. Unbelievable ruins, but still ruins. I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be disappointed.  Her reply was simple, ‘I like ruins

I’m looking forward to seeing it through their eyes. Delos is by no means a touristy visit. Below is a 
blog I wrote right after my first visit there three years ago.

I included pictures of Mykonos as well, it is a lively and lovely island.

About a thirty minute ferry ride from Mykonos is the island of Delos. And what an island  it is. There are approximately 25 people there, all either archeologists or security personnel.

The island is bare, there are no snack shops, no hotels, no restaurants, the only bathroom is on the museum, and the wind can whip up in a quick frenzy. The island is in fact quite desolate.  And absolutely stunning. 

There is a museum, that is the only modern accommodation for the tourist. Books and other Delos souvenirs can be bought there, but that is the extent of the touristy trade. The rest of the island is in ruins. Magnificent ruins. It is an immense site and one not easily forgotten.

Delos is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Archeological traces indicate the island was inhabited as early as 3000 B.C. Some of the ruins are so well preserved that you can actually imagine what the structures looked like and how they were utilized.

From the Doric Temple of Isis to the Archaic Lions to the mosaic floors that are to this day in great shape. Truly inspiring, when you think about the age of those mosaics and remnants of ancient buildings.

Off the beaten path, I observed an archeologist crouched on a low portable chair, a pad and pencil in hand as he meticulously measured something on the ground and then put it on paper. I snuck up on him and watched as he quietly continued his research. Time stood still and the serenity on the island was disturbed only by the fierce whipping wind.

If you ever find yourself in Mykonos, do take the time to visit Delos. I promise, you will not be disappointed, you will in fact be enthralled. The terrain is rough, wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking in worn and uneven footsteps that are three thousand years old . It doesn't get better than that.
Cheers,
Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
www.mjustes.com