A Few Days in Chicago


When you’re spending a long no-kids weekend in Chicago and want a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood – close to Broadway shows, good eats, Magnificent Mile and the Art Institute of Chicago – I love the Langham. Located along the Chicago River, this modern yet comfortable hotel has just enough bells and whistles to keep you pampered but also not feeling like you’re tip-toeing around in a museum. The hotel has lots of small living-room-inspired spaces to put your feet up and a nice bar to warm up because baby it was cold outside!

It was November, and we were celebrating an anniversary gift to ourselves, seeing Hamilton. Was it worth the quick trip from the west coast? Yes and YES. I won’t go into my critique of the show because I’d just be echoing all the best reviews. As for securing tickets, I have to thank the representative at American Express Platinum Card Concierge. She was fun to work with, very resourceful, and got the job done within hours.

Here’s a list of where we dined.

The Langham | 330 N Wabash Avene, Chicago, IL 60611 | 312.923.9988


Yup, I had to get the ubiquitous waiting-in-line picture. It was all so surreal for my husband and I, before and even more so post-show.

Hamilton at PrivateBank Theatre | 18 W. Monroe Street Chicago, IL 60603


Our celebration continued at Boka where we were fortunate to have Augustus take care of us. It was like the kind of care you get at Lazy Bear but on a smaller scale since it was just the two of us. He was so impressive with his knowledge on both food and wine, was polished, and super friendly. Post-dinner drinks at the bar with craft cocktails and a painting of the eminent Bill Murray concluded our five-star experience.

Boka | 1729 N Halsted Street., Chicago, IL 60614 | 312.337.6070



I LOVE this place! Good morning espresso, artisan pastries, a fine selection of small-batch chocolates, and yummy avocado on toast. And the cafe was only a few blocks from our hotel. What a bonus!

Goddess and the Baker | 33 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603 | 312.877.5176



Spanish cuisine with a contemporary vibe at this neighborhood gem. Lots of delicious small plates as well as platos grande, like the paella mixto (probably one of the best I’ve ever had). For a standout dish on the pintxos (casual bar) menu, get the duck confit empanadas.

Salero | 621 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 | 312.466.1000


Our last dinner was at Momotaro. We were one of the first guests of the evening but within one hour, our elbows were practically rubbing with next-table diners. And I understand why. Great cocktails, fresh and flavorful sushi (served with mild-temperature rice that would make Jiro proud), outstanding cooked dishes, and an all-around fun atmosphere.

My welcome cocktail was the popular Monk’s Journey, which consisted of Ketel One vodka, Chareau Aloe liqueur, matcha green tea, and lime. Bottles of sake followed. As for the food, I spent more time savoring each dish than capturing images. Though, as you’ll see, we had time for a few good ones.

Momotaro | 820 W Lake Street, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.733.4818


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Dandelion Chocolate Tasting


We had the pleasure of attending a private tasting at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco where Todd (co-founder) and Cynthia, from my favorite small-batch chocolate maker, gave a comprehensive tour of how they make chocolate. From sourcing cacao beans and sorting nibs to tempering and hand wrapping, the journey was fascinating. So many surprising flavors coming from various regions, including Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Madagascar. If you appreciate the bean-to-bar movement, I highly recommend the tasting or just visiting Dandelion Chocolate. If you can’t get to San Francisco, they do have an online shop where you can purchase bars and pre-order their 2016 Advent Calendar. It’s a fairly large work of art, and inside each San Francisco landmark door is a treat made by one of their favorite local chocolatiers. My kind of countdown! In the meantime, here are some images from the tasting. Enjoy!

A view from the loft at the San Francisco location.

After tasting the different Dandelion Chocolate bars, we did an interesting blind tasting comparing other brands including Patric, Åkesson’s, and TCHO as well as some big brand names that surprisingly use cocoa powder instead of real chocolate. I was also stuck by the high levels of sugar used in some of the more manufactured chocolate bars. I couldn’t even finish the small tasting samples, it was cloyingly sweet.

Inside an actual cacao pod. What does this fruit taste like? The fruit has the consistency of a banana and has a mild citrusy flavor. The Dandelion Chocolate team have worked with cacao producers in Venezuela, Belize, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and more.

The bean slicer is used to test each cacao for the best quality beans.

We tasted the blended sugar and cacao from one of the melanging cylinders. The nibs and sugar grind for 24 hours before they are stored in blocks. That’s my spoonful before it was quickly devoured. #betterthanNutella

The final product packaged in some of the most beautiful paper. When Dandelion Chocolate opened a pop-up in Japan, the local team loved the paper so much, they created a small stationery collection with the designs.

Dandelion Chocolate
740 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

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Emo, Selfie-Taking Mannequins


A sad statement on our current culture or easy last-minute costume? I’m not judging, these mannequins look like they take better selfies than I.  Read article on Complex

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Cruises Far Away

I’ve never been on a cruise, by choice. However, the new ad campaign from Celebrity Cruises has peaked my interest. Bravo on embracing worldly views with gorgeous graphics.

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Ice Cream Social & Gummy Bears

ice-cream-socialTo me, this was the perfect day and set up for a back-to-school ice-cream social. Our kids are spoiled having these awesome moms who put together such a fun and delicious event.

I wanted to thank them but not with the usual flowers or wine. And I wanted to actually make something, a DIY gift. While perusing Pinterest, I found this rosé wine gummy bear recipe on the dessert blog, Sprinkle Bakes. I couldn’t resist.


The recipe is easy to follow. You’ll want these cute gummy bear molds, but what a bonus (especially if you have kids). A few notes… Measure out the gelatin powder if you cannot find individual .25 ounce packets. Mine came out a bit chewy from too much gelatin. Use a toothpick to add the pink food coloring. Mine were more red. I squeezed out too many drops. The Sparkling Wine candy flavoring oil is a must for retaining an authentic taste.


Finally, package these little treats in vellum envelopes and seal it with your favorite washi tape.

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Almond Chai Breakfast Clusters


Our kids started school yesterday, and I am still trying to figure some healthy snack alternatives. Since they both like granola, I’ve been looking for an easy no-bake recipe. I found this one in the Paleo Magazine. Try the recipe “as is” then adjust to your own tastes. Of course, I added chocolate! Sometimes I add more cinnamon and less cardamon. If your child does not have any nut allergies, this savory and filling snack is good anytime of the day. Enjoy!

Almond Chai Breakfast Clusters
Makes 12 clusters (or 24 mini clusters)

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup raisins, dried currants, or dried cranberries (I used 1/3 cup of dried cranberries and 1/3 cup of bittersweet chocolate chunks.)
¼ cup creamy raw almond butter (unsweetened)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp. ground flaxseed

Line 12 cups of a standard muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside. I used 24 mini-muffin tin tray. These hearty treats work well as a two-bite snack with our family.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the almonds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt until the nuts are finely chopped, about 10-15 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Stir in the shredded coconut and raisins. If you are using chocolate chunks, chop them for a few seconds in a small food processor.

In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together the almond butter, honey, and applesauce. Whisk constantly until the almond butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and mix in the flaxseed. Pour over the nut mixture and stir to combine thoroughly, making sure all of the pieces are coated.

Use a small one tablespoon cookie scoop and divide the mixture evenly between the 24 mini muffin cups. Press the mixture firmly into the bottoms of the lined muffin cups to create tightly packed clusters. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Store the clusters in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


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Goodbye Maya Erickson

This Black sesame-cocoa-cassis-charcoal creation was our favorite. We called it the goth prom dress.

Maya Erickson, the pastry chef extraordinaire who had me loving dessert again, is leaving Lazy Bear. I am so very sad! Wishing her the best of luck. I know she’ll be a success wherever she goes. Read More

More favorites…

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