Taste Chandler | Annual Foodie Festival in Arizona

Last night I attended the Taste Chandler’s Culinary Festival in Downtown Chandler.  Single ticket was $35 and Couples admission was $50.  All tickets included 12 drink tickets, redeemable for 12 drinks! Chandler was smart to offer free bottles of water. You can eat and drink for 5 hours, which was a great value for the price.  We visited both lounges and went back to the Vintage 95 Wine Lounge a few times sampling the different wines.  12 tickets went a long way with the generous pours in the lounge!  Chandler did a good job organizing the event, with hand wash stations, plenty of rubbish bins, and music.

This is a great opportunity for restaurants to showcase their food.  Some of them achieved this goal, while others saved me time and money to ever visit their establishment.  This is a tasting event, about a tenth the size of Taste of Chicago, but a similar concept.  Each vendor brings small plate portion or a small single serving.  This allows you to sample a little bit from everyone.

Places now added to my “skip it” list:

  • Dos Gringos Mexigrill steak tacos tasted like low-quality dog food.  If I step foot into a Dos Gringos it will be to order a drink, maybe.
  • Irish Republic offered Jamison meatballs that went straight into the garbage after one bite.  I fear a second bite would have ended my night right then and there.

If you are going to do one thing, then do it well:

  • Coach & Willie’s lobster bisque was delicious.  We were actually in line for another vendor, when the woman beside me and asked if we had tried the soup.  Then she insisted that we immediately get our soup before they run out.  It was a little salty on the finish, but tasty and flavorful.
  • Grimald’s Brick Oven Pizzeria mixed it up with perfectly flaky cannolis.
  • Latitude 8 Thai Grill quenched our thirst with a refreshing vanilla vodka thai tea, mixed right in front of us.

    Le Cordon Bleu
  • Le Cordon Bleu is a culinary school that I always look forward to.  They served a choice of pasta, salmon with rice, or filet mignon with seasoned mashed potatoes.   It was one of our first plates to taste, and I am glad we arrived before they ran out of filet.
  • Yoli’s cafe served chicken tacos with sweet cabbage slaw.  I had never heard of this little gem, but I plan visit them soon.  She accommodated my special request, and gave me a coupon.

Superstars:

  • Pearl Sushi Lounge served sweet chili edamame, salmon poke with avocado “tacos”, and a crunch roll.  The greeter was informative, provided coupons, answered questions, and gave a complete description of everything we sampled.  I will definitely use the coupon, and plan to wear pearls for the Girls and Pearls Thursday night happy hour special!
  • Bourbon Jacks Bar and Grill started with a pretty good pulled pork sandwich, then finished with a fantastic black bottom pecan pie.  The pecan pie was so good that I ate 2 servings!
  • Udder Delights is the ice cream store for my favorite little local dairy, Superstition Farms.  The pumpkin ice cream was fantastic and served with an even better pumpkin ricotta custard.  The pairing was pumpkin heaven!  Even people that said they really do not like pumpkin agreed it was tasty good.
  • Shimogamo is one of my favorite sushi restaurants in town.  Since they were
    Shimogamo preparing sushi on-site

    preparing and serving food in an outdoor festival, they were did a great job with the delicious salmon and white fish sushi with crunch rolls.  They brought a portable refrigerated case, hand-made everything right there by their best sushi chef, and customized each plate with preferences.  It was by far the

    Sampler plate from Shimogamo

    BEST dish served at the festival, and it is not nearly as good as what they serve in the restaurant.  Seriously, they are that good!

 

Tempe Town Lake Activities | Explore this Man Made Lake in the Heart of Tempe, Arizona

The temperature is starting to cool off and people around metro-Phoenix can finally venture outside with less fear of catching fire, or at least it feels that hot all summer long here.  Today a friend and I took my dogs out for a walk along Tempe Town Lake, the man-made lake in the middle of bustling University town Tempe.The park around the Lake is home to many festivals and concerts, so be sure to check out upcoming events here.

I prefer to plan my own event at the Lake.  Bring a picnic basket for a fun family activity during the day, or romantic get-a-way in the evening. There are plenty of bike paths,  walkways, shade trees, and benches.  The dogs love to walk around the lake with me.  There are mountain views to the north of the lake and the park is well kept and clean.

The main attraction is the lake, and there are quite a few activities to enjoy on the water.  Today we watched people sailing, kayaking, fishing, and on paddle boards.  There is a boat rental office on the south side of the lake for small boats, hydro bikes, and kayaks.Lake or land, the sunset is worth hanging around to watch.

 

Quiessence Restaurant – Phoenix, Arizona Fine Dining

Quiessence is one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area and the choice for my Birthday dinner.  The menu changes daily featuring fresh, local ingredients.  The best dining option is in the Tasting Menu that is a 5 course chef’s choice (you do not order any specific food, but you can specify Vegetarian and/or food allergies).  An optional wine pairing is available, and highly recommended (if you like delicious wine).

My Birthday Tasting dinner included a chilled vegetarian starter, bread (do not eat too much of the bread, pace yourself!),  meat & cheese appetizer (not quite fast enough with the camera), yellow squash salad with yogurt dressing, perfectly fluffy gnocchi pasta, salmon and fingerling potatoes, lamb with stuffed mini bell peppers, and desert course (complete with birthday candle).

Chilled vegetable starter
Yellow squash salad
gnocchi pasta
Salmon
Desert, complete with birthday candle

Quiessence is only open for dinner.  There is limited patio dinning and plenty of window side tables to enjoy the beautiful surrounding area on The Farm.  For a more romantic experience try to plan your dinner before sunset.  Be sure to make reservations.  Open Table is my favorite on-line reservation system and the mobile app is really easy to use.

Arizona Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try a three course meal at a much reduced fixed price to try out the scrumptious food from Quiessence!

Chocolat du Bouchard Naperville Chocolate and Coffee Shop | Tasty Treats in the Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois

Le Chocolat du Bouchard is a delightful, little, neighborhood chocolate & coffee shop located in Downtown Naperville (Chicago suburb in Illinois).   They have a variety of chocolate everything!

Chocolate, and More Chocolate

The decor is charming, the entire store is inviting you to come in and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake with your coffee and a lazy afternoon.

The girls enjoyed picking out a special chocolate from the case.

And Coffee, of Course!

The espresso is top quality, great with a dash of chocolate or delicious on its own.  The service is consistently good.fresh espresso coffee

If you are hard-core, then try a slice of cake with your coffee.  They offer gluten-free, milk or dark chocolate, and many flavor options to choose from.

Yum!

June 2014 Update – Chocolate Shop Expansion!

They have added an extra room with more chocolate related gifts, chocolate bar, and this gorgeous chocolate apothecary for even more selection of chocolate goodies!

Chocolate gifts

Chocolate gifts

Behold, the expanded Chocolate Bar!

Chicago Museum Science Industry | Explore the Science of Transportation of Land, Sea, and Sky

I like visiting museums.  I am fascinated by engineering and basically how stuff is made.  Recently, while in Chicago, we toured the Museum of Science and Industry.  Like everything in Chicago, it was not a cheap visit.  

With so many things to do and see, here are my favorites; interactive exhibits, like the tornado and hot-air balloons from the Science Storms, an actual 727 airplane suspended from the building, vintage firetrucks, and displays of vintage & modern aircraft and spacecraft!Above the basic admission, they offer extra tours, exhibits, and other “add-ons”.

A captured German U-boat (submarine) basic exhibit is included in the general admission, with option to add-on a guided tour. If you have time, definitely add the tour!  Great for children 10+, the tour is informative and just really neat!  Two doorways are cut into the side and you walk (almost) the entire length of the boat!  It was amazing to see the navigation stations, kitchen, bunk beds, torpedo storage, and so much more!

Chicago Museum U Boat JenThereDoneThat.com
WWII German Submarine at the Musuem

Our final add-on was the coal mine tour.  This is the original and has been a permanent exhibit since 1933.  The coal mine is a great family activity, perfect for Children 5 and up.  The tour starts in a working coal mine elevator and includes a quick train ride and lots of fun-facts.  There is working equipment that spans old and modern mining techniques.

There were many other exhibits and activities that we wanted to see, but our trip was cut short due to lousy transportation.  If you are visiting from a Chicago-suburb, it is much easier to drive directly to the museum and pay to park.  Otherwise, you may experience a significant delay on the bus or train.  There was an event downtown that resulted in many bus routes being detoured, so we ended up in the worst part of South Chicago for a bus transfer.  I would not even recommend walking from the train station at 55th/56th.  If you really want to take the bus, or have no other options, the X28 is the best option.

I really enjoyed our visit to the museum and will plan to go back on our next visit to the Chicago area.

June 2014 Update – Made it back to the museum and brought my two favorite little girls, ages 4 & 7 years.  They loved the coal mine tour, and earned a ton of stickers for participation and correct answers during the tour.

We went on a “free” day and the museum was packed with people, mostly school children.  The extra cost add-on tours were a break from the bus loads of kids and other families enjoying the museum at no cost.  For a family of 4 or more, the free day is really worth it, if you can handle the crowds and noise.

There is currently an add-on tour of Treasure of the Walt Disney Archives that displays various Disney props and costumes.  There is also a hands-on drawing portion of the exhibit.  The girls were mildly interested, but spent most of the entire 10 minutes in the exhibit starting at the cartoon clips shown on multiple screens.  I adore all things Disney, but this was just a waste of time & money for the girls and adults.  Save your money and spend 10 minutes looking over the images from the website, they offer better views than those in person behind the display glass.

SI_FC2The Fairy Castle was a nice break from the crowds, even thought it is part of the free collection the exhibit enclosure automatically limits the number of people at a time.  The multi-level castle has an enclosed garden, ballroom, library, and so much more.SI_FC

There are many interactive activities and games for the kids.  Including solar car racing, life-size hamster wheel, hot-air balloon launches, trains big & small, and a miniature rocket launch.SI_RocketsThis is absolutely one of my favorite museums, and once again, one of the highlights of every visit to Chicago!

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