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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.

Pictures include my favorite Venetian specialties, polenta with cuttlefish, and black pasta, Choucroute Garnie from the Alsatian region in France, and local tea at the Drake Hotel.

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 arm chair, 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


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pictures

This blog is now open on my website, and I can post daily. I thought I'd share a couple of pictures from my recent trip to New Orleans. The Carnival celebrations started on the 21st of February, and two parades passed right by the hotel on Canal Street. The wrought iron work is simply amazing. The fountain is at the Court of Two Sisters-an historical restaurant that serves a jazz brunch daily.