Friday, June 30, 2017

Hip Chicago Food: Roister

The endive salad at Roister; beets stained the endive red

The last couple of times I've gone to Chicago, I've tried to get reservations at Alinea. One time, the entire staff was in Spain while the restaurant underwent a reboot. The other times, we just haven't been able to score a reservation.

Avocado toast
Not only that, many of the Grant Achatz offshoots are closed on Mondays, which was the only day we had free on our last trip to the Windy City. Luckily for us, a friend told me about Roister, in the burgeoning Fulton Market area. We had climb around construction barriers and gigantic trucks to reach our destination, a large, casual place with an open kitchen and huge hearth that us used for many of the dishes.

We went for lunch, since we had a 3:30 flight home (that left at 8pm, but that's another story).  Portions are small, and expensive (the tasting menu at Alinea is $275) but since it was just barely noon, we saved money by not sampling any of the excellent sounding cocktails.

We shared avocado toast with an English muffin grilled in that open fire and everything butter on top. It was delicious.

Grits with scallops
Then we had a salad of endive with pistachios, beets and blue cheese. This is a classic combo, with an interesting addition: tangerine. Expertly done.

Finally, we shared grits, with scallops, egg yolk sauce and parmesan. Bit salty, but quite tasty.

That was it for the vegetarian (or pescetarian) portion of the limited menu; there's also a fried bologna sandwich and a friend chicken sandwich. Or, if you're feeling flush, a $53 Japanese hamburger.

Somehow, just with coffee and the automatic 20% service charge, we spent over $70 on lunch. 

But I'd definitely return for drinks and appetizers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Take Your Pet - To a Luxury Hotel!

The Freshpet bounty

There are hotels that take dogs, but charge you an extra fee. Of they accept dogs, but warn yo that they can't go on the furniture. Or that body shame your dog, allowing you to only bring dogs under a certain weight.

The Soho Grand Hotel takes dog friendly to a whole new level. This luxury boutique hotel has a bespoke dog park right next to the hotel. No exhaust fumes or cobblestone-sore paws for your pooch. The park has water stations, shade and benches.

The Soho Grand also provides dog beds, organic treats, bowls and waste bags.

Dr. Katy, 2nd from right, and pets up for adoption
I had always wanted to treat my dog, Karat, to an afternoon here and got an opportunity thanks to Freshpet, which had a "Take Your Pet to Work" day.  My dog, a labrador retriever, has a sensitive stomach, though she hoovers up trash from the streets. Freshpet uses real chicken and vegetables to create its food, and the table of people food and pet food was hard to distinguish.

As a vegetarian, what I liked about the food was the roll of chicken, turkey or beef could be sliced and served with minimal handling by me, the meat-averse. We hosted a dog who ate a raw food diet and just the smell was enough to send me searching for kale.

The Freshpet food is cooked at low temperatures, to preserve nutrients, and it has to stay refrigerated. No worries about it spoiling with Karat; she scarfs her food so quickly that we have a special insert in her bowl to slow her down.

The kitten missed her friend
Dr. Katy Nelson, host of The Pet Show with Dr. Katy and a veterinarian in Virginia, said the food meets an animal's nutritional needs and said that anecdotally, some overweight dogs actually lost excess weight by transitioning to this diet.

The Soho Grand bikes
The "Take Your Pet to Work" day included adoptions from Animal Haven and the ASPCA, but we just adopted a kitten and are maxed out on pets. If you adopt a pet from one of these organizations by July 31, you get free Freshpet food.

Dr. Katy said that pet-friendly workplaces are good for both pets and employees and it seemed true at the Soho Grand, where everyone was happy.

I know Karat wants to spend more time at the Soho Grand and I definitely want to check it out. The hotel provides free bicycles and my cocktail-loving cousin says the martinis are unparalleled. What a great base for exploring NYC.

Note: I was a guest at this event and did not receive any compensation, though Karat did eat a lot of treats.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Tale of 2 Mazdas: How to Mix Business and Pleasure

Choose your adventure: surfboard, bikes or kayak?

Many parents fantasize, while driving the carpool minivan, about the hot little convertible or speedy sports car that they would rather be driving. Mazda gave me the opportunity to drive both the sensible new 2017 CX-5, a compact sport utility vehicle, and the sporty 2017 MX-5 Miata RF, a hard-top roadster that opens up at the touch of button, at the recent Mazda Design Event.

Which Mazda is for you?

Perfectly framed: the Mazda CX-5 on the left and MX-5 Miata RF on the right
The surprising thing way, both cars managed to delight everyone. That the Miata was fun is a given. The two seater, particularly in the soul red I drove, and the smooth 6 speed manual transmission has fun built into its DNA (there is also a 6 speed automatic). 

The CX-5 has its own unique charms. Look, I love both a chocolate chip cookie and a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. I'm not here to say one is better than the other. Sometimes you need a cookie, sometimes you want pie.
My focal point in my room's patio; around the corner, a private outdoor hot tub

And sometimes you have more than one person driving with you, or your dog, a couple of bicycles, maybe a kayak on the roof. The CX-5 fits the bill here, with extras like a crisp Head Up Display that incorporated speed limit, navigation and current speed, all projected at the perfect focal point.

The Mazda CX-5 also has rear doors that open wide, for ease of installing a child safety seat, strapping your kid into the seat, or helping an elderly parent into the car. Along with heated and ventilated rear seats, the CX-5 cossets all its passengers.
The MX-5 Miata RF; add some zoom zoom to your day

The lap of luxury, for less

Mazda hosted us at the exquisite Rancho Valencia Resort, where rooms are over $600 a night, and the cars driven by the other guests elected a well-heels clientele: Range Rovers, Bentleys and Mercedes-Benz automobiles dominated the parking lot. But the sparkly new Mazdas fit in, at less than half the price of those luxury cars. Which may be why there were two distinct Mazdas on display: a CX-5 for the daily grind and a Miata for weekend fun.

The only lemons are on the trees

Instead of splurging on a Bentley, you could buy both, and still have enough cash on hand to spend a weekend at Rancho Valencia Resort.
Lemon grove at Rancho Valencia

There is a citrus grove on site, with lemons and oranges, an olive grove and a rose garden

The 5 star, 5 diamond resort has a world class spa with a full complement of fitness classes included with a stay: pilates, spin, and an open air yoga pavilion where we took a class in Zazen, a seated meditation. Mazda designers study Zazen in Japan, a practice that involves keeping your eyes open and focusing ahead of you..
Outside the yoga pavilion

Posture is paramount, which translates into the Mazda design. Comfort is important. And the quiet cabin, whether in a convertible or an SUV filled with kids, lets you focus on the task at hand: driving.

Note: Mazda covered my transportation, lodging and food. Opinions and Zoom Zoom delight are all my own.