Architectural Open House @Chicago 2017

Every October since 2011, Chicago Architecture Foundation have been hosting a two day Open House in Chicago for the public to tour the inside of the architectural buildings throughout the city for free. This year, there were over 200 participating buildings spread across the city with expansion to Evanston and Oak Park, Illinois. Because it is only a two day event with some buildings having limited operating time and day, it is not possible to view all the sites in one year.

This year, I finally able to give it a tour. Living in Chicago for so many years, I wasn’t interested in this tour before until some friends of mine posted interesting pictures. At that moment did I realized that there are so many interested places hidden within Chicago. Although some of the places can be accessed on a regular day, some are only open to the public through this Open House. Because the architectural buildings are spread out throughout the city, we decided to start in the south loop first and work our way north. We printed the maps and coordinated our tour accordingly to the hours of the operations of each building of interest. Our tour plan started off at financial districts which surprisingly each building does have a vault (I thought there was just one vault on the list). Then we headed different decks of the high rise buildings to view the river from above and finished it off with a 360 degree view of the entire city on the 77th floor of the Aon Building. Overall, We were able to tackled 12 sites within one day with long lines for most of the popular sites despite it was cold and raining. At this rate, it might take us 20 plus years to complete all the sites on the map. Below is the link to some of the photos taken on that day.


Private Cuisine (私房菜) @Go4Food

A week ago, a friend of mines asked if I would be interesting in trying out private cuisine (私房菜). I heard that term before, but never knew what it really meant. Private cuisine are dishes that are not set on the menu; it is specially tailored to you based on your requests.  Obviously, I wouldn’t pass out on this opportunity.  One of the advantage  of this dinner for me was skipping the menu choice. It has always been a pain to choose from the menu and especially when the menu is like an encyclopedia with no graphics.  Overall, I really enjoy the meal and the great experience.


Matcha Red bean paste Macaroon

Surprisingly, there’s expiration date on almond flour. The almond flour bought earlier this year must be used before the 21th of the September. This is a call for macaroon! Macaroon has been a miss and hit for me. Sometimes it turns out right sometimes it cracks. I haven’t made any for awhile and this time, I’m using Amanda tastes recipe with some addition of my own, I present to you Matcha Red Bean Paste Macaroon.


3 egg white (room temperature)

75g sugar

120g Almond flour

150g powdered sugar

1/2 tsp of matcha green tea powder

green liquid coloring

red bean paste (for filling)

The methodology is the same as for any macaroon and it is widely on the internet. Combine and sift the almond flour, powdered sugar and matcha green tea powder together in a bowl. On the other hand, beat the egg white with sugar until it reaches a soft peak. Once it reaches a soft peak, add 1 to 2 drops green coloring. Fold in the flour with the egg white mixture until it reaches consistency. Pipette the mixture unto a parchment paper and hit the pan of batter unto the table to get most of the air bubbles out. And lastly, let the batter sit for 30-1 hrs until the top is dry. Once the top is dry, it is ready for the oven. I preheat the oven for 300 degree F and lower it to 275degree F before I put in the batter for 15minutes. As for fillings, I use the ready made red bean paste from the supermarket. It was much of a success with only a few cracks.

Raisu, A Japanese Fine Dining

Summer is all about taking advantage of the nice warm weather for adventures. This summer, I went bold and tasted the newly open Japanese restaurant at Irving Park neighborhood in Chicago. For a non raw fish fan, this restaurant just blew me away by the presentation and the freshness of the fish. Other places that I had tried in the past, the texture and quality of the fish had turned me away from eating raw piece of fish. The quality, the cut and the ingredients placed on the fish just melts in the mouth. They have signature sushi and sashimi that topped with different ingredients for different fishes. For fish lovers, this is a great place to stop by.




Total Solar Eclipse 2017 All Across America

On August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse can be seen across America, from coast to coast. This is the first time, as far I can remember, to witness a total solar eclipse.  For those of us that lives in Chicago, the closest and best place to view totality is in Carbondale, Illinois which is roughly 5 hours from Chicago.

On the eve of the solar eclipse, my friend and I began our mini journey. We packed up our cameras, solar glasses and snacks for our long way drive. We first make a stop at St. Louis to see the famous Arch Gateway; there were so interesting things happened there. First and foremost, we were lucky enough to find a parking spot near the iconic Arch and best of all, the parking was completely free on Sunday! And things starts to get quite interesting from there on. First, the south entrance of the Arch was closed for remodeling, then with conflicting decision to go up the Arch, we were told that ALL tickets were sold out for the day. Thirdly, there was plenty of soap but no water nor papers to wash/ wipe hands after bathroom breaks, we have to grab some paper from the only food vendor on shore and washed the soap off in the Mississippi River. And Lastly, on our way back to get our car, we were shocked to see the shattered glasses on the ground surrounded our car. Lucky enough, after carefully examined the car, the glasses were in one piece attached to the car, unharmed. The mystery of how and where the scattered glasses came from was unknown. I was pretty sure it wasn’t there from when we parked. But overall, it was quite a view of the iconic Arch and the famous Mississippi river. The busy helicopter ride was only $37, although the ride did not last long.

The next morning, we start heading out to Carbondale, Illinois before traffic hit. Roughly half way through, we were struck in traffic. The way the traffic was moving, we thought we will be there after the Eclipse. There was indeed a lot of cars but the traffic is not as bad as we thought as we exit each town. I believe we arrived approximately 2 hours before totality so my friend gave me a tour of Southern Illinois University campus and her history as a student there. It was amazing how vivid she remember the events and the places she ever stayed and experienced. Initially, we planned to view the eclipse at the campus lake, however, we decided to find a spot at any ground since the moon is starting to cross over. Around 10-15 mins (maybe a little bit more)  from Totality, a huge cloud (enough to last over 30 mins or more) happen to pass over the eclipse. There’s boos from the crowd.  Around 1 minute or so, announcement was made to stay positive all over the campus. Miraculously at totality, the sun just pierced through the hole of the huge cloud where we can all witness that special moment. The whole place suddenly turn dark for 2 minutes and 42 seconds and everyone was cheering. It was very touching, I was shaking especially when taking those special photos at that moment; I really call it a miracle.  Life lesson: do not give up, there’s always hope.

On our way back to the city, which I failed to realized was the heavy traffic. EVERYONE is going home at the same time and imagine the population that came to Carbondale. We were struck in traffic for almost 11 hours which normally takes 5 hours.  After seeing the non moving traffic at I-57, we took reroute back to take the local, which is also bad but not AS bad as I-57. On our way back, we were both sleepy and tried our best to keep each other awake. Worst of all, midway through the drive, we were hit by a heavy storm where it was almost impossible to view the road and my cell phone was completely out of battery. Kudos to my friend who drove the entire trip and bring us back in one piece.

The Next Total Solar Eclipse in 2024 at Carbondale, Illinois. See you there!




French Night: Chez Moi

I always want to try French Cuisine; the cuisine that is known for its exquisiteness.  I always have the mentality that French dishes are served in a very small portions on a very large plate with rich sauces at a very high price.

We were excited that one of the French restaurant was part taking in the restaurant week. We were very excited and decided to try it out. My first ever French experience (french fries don’t count!) We were already planning to have dessert or another meal afterwards, thinking our stomach will not be satisfied from the small portion of food. When our food arrived, contrary to our beliefs, the food at Chez Moi is at a reasonable size. It won’t considered a French experience without trying out the French’s famous luxurious escargots. Startled by the green color at first, but I was amazed how smooth the texture was. The other dishes ordered was  pretty amazing with rich favors. It was worth the experience.


Cuban Cuisine- 90 miles

Cuba is only 90 miles from the southernmost point of USA, yet I was not too exposed to their culture and their cuisine. We were wondering what food are they known for?

Recently, my friend and I discovered a few Cuban places in the city. We started out with their sandwiches and their coffee at a Cuban cafe. The spicy sauce they put into the sandwich was very favorable that I have never try elsewhere. What amazes me is their tiny cup of coffee. Although the cup was tiny, it was very strong that we had to add quite a few packets of sugar.

Given the positive experience, we went to another Cuban restaurant to try other specialty besides sandwich. Inside 90 miles, the decors on the walls resembles Latin style. There’s outdoor patio, two dining rooms (one of them over the tent) and another outdoor lounge on the other building connecting by a small bridge. After a few recommendations from our server, we made our order (calamari, empanadas, beef, and pork entrees served with black beans, plantain and rice). When the food runner brought the calamari, our eyes were widened.  It came with 3 bread stacked above a puddle of black sauce. We had calamari at many different restaurants before, but we had never calamari in an unrecognizable state. At first I thought, did we ordered the wrong appetizer? As we spoon through the sauce, we realized it is calamari. This must be the black ink from the calamari. Our mouth and teeth were blackened as we eat the bread.The taste was pretty good, not thick at all and quite flavorful. We even ask for more bread to accompany this sauce.  The rest of the food came right after. The empanadas (beef, goat cheese and shrimp) was bigger than expected but was great. I love the sweet plantain, it makes a good dessert. The meat especially the pork is very tender and juicy yet had that smokey taste to it. The beef was a bit salty for me. Overall, it was another great experience, the food and the atmosphere. We tried something new and quite interesting and learn not to judge a book by its cover.