Reasons I love Edgewater: Brunch and a $27 Subaru

I’ve spent about 5 years living in the Edgewater neighborhood (split between two tours), and I’m starting to think that this is the place I belong.

Love it or leave it, Edgewater is as strange as I am, which might be why we get along so well.

Unpretentious and often bizarre, “the edge”, as our silly lamp post neighborhood banners say, is the sort of neighborhood tumblr_muz19rIelV1qmywbko1_500where you can eat really fancy, really expensive ice cream on one block, and get shot on the next.  Yeah. We live on “the edge”.

Whatever.

All I know, is that this past Sunday was kind of a pivotal moment for me.  The GF and I have been scouting this tiny diner two blocks from our house for the past several months.  You know the type… the decor hasn’t been updated since 1963, and you’re pretty sure the food is going to be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.

Sunday was the day we finally bit the bullet and went to Alexander’s for breakfast. I’ve never seen waitresses that good. My omelette was the size of my ass. The coffee was free-flowing. You get half a banana as a garnish, and homemade salsa on the side. Alexander’s was everything I hoped it could be, but I’m a little afraid to admit it lest you start going there too. I want Alexander’s to be my little secret. A place where we can walk to on a Sunday and always get a table, and always have fantastic service. Please don’t change, Alexander’s. You haven’t changed since 1963, so there’s no reason to start now…

… and then on the way home we came across a $27 Subaru.

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Yeah. That’s my ‘hood. We are a match made in heaven.

High Art and Haute Cuisine at TASTE, a benefit for HSDC

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When someone tells me to drink fine wine in the name of art, I say,

“Where do I sign up?”

It’s not too often that my worlds of dance and domesticity collide, but it’s worth mentioning that an upcoming soiree benefitting  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is right up my alley (and by that I mean drinking on a Monday night in a swanky cocktail dress).

Hubbard Street is one of the city’s finest dance companies, and having just kicked off its 36th season, the timing is perfect for a celebration. This TASTE is the fourth of its kind, and will feature fine and rare wines from Hart Davis Hart Wine Company (vintages ranging from 2000-2010) alongside savory bites from Chef J. Joho of Everest – where the event is being held. For an event of this caliber, the $275 price tag is likely to be totally worth it.  I’m thinking my first glass of wine is coming from a bottle worth at least that much…

You know you want this.

Scott and Allison Ohlander, left, with Craig and Maria Brahamat restaurant L2O for TASTE 2013. Photo by Robert F. Carl.
Scott and Allison Ohlander, left, with Craig and Maria Brahamat restaurant L2O for TASTE 2013. Photo by Robert F. Carl.
Hart Davis Hart tasting table in L2O dining room, TASTE 2013. Photo by Robert F. Carl
Hart Davis Hart tasting table in L2O dining room, TASTE 2013. Photo by Robert F. Carl

TASTE takes place Monday, November 4, 6-8:30pm at Everest (440 N. LaSalle St., 40th fl.). Tickets are $275 and can be purchased through Jeanne Newman, Manager of Individual Giving and Special Events at 312-850-9744 ext. 130. Space is limited; all proceeds benefit Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s artistic and educational programming.

The Fanciest Bathroom I’ve Ever Seen

Every once in awhile, it’s fun to schmooze downtown at a fancy place – the sort of place where you might go hang out as a tourist.  Last weekend, the GF and I got an opportunity to meet up with some friends at the Radisson Blu hotel bar before a dance performance at the Harris Theater.  The bar was fancy enough, but the bathroom was out of this world.  We all decided it was like being inside a disco ball. I wouldn’t want to be the guy that placed all those individual mirrored tiles (and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make for the most flattering image).

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But wait, there’s something else!  The toilets are named after my guilty pleasure band.

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Pride, Organized Chaos, and a Crafty Lady

At times the chaos was only somewhat organized, but when a group of strong, resilient motorcycle chicks work together to get a non-profit organization up and running in six months, put on a major fundraising event and secure participation in the Chicago Pride Parade, there are bound to be a few moments of contention.

But in the end, everything got done, the fundraiser was successful, and nearly 50 bikes lined up two by two to take Pride by storm.

What do I have to do with motorcycles?  Not much, but over the past year I’ve come to really appreciate the culture and solidarity these women give so much of their time and money to.  There really isn’t a valid comparison to being out on the open road with the wind in your face, and the loyalty that comes from being a part of a community of riders.

Plus, it goes really well with the vintage image…

The view in the rear view mirror at Chicago Pride 2013
The view in the rear view mirror at Chicago Pride 2013

I kid…

…not really.

But seriously, I’ve had the pleasure of working on media relations and social media for these women for the past 3 months and it’s been such a joy to become involved with the newly born, philanthropic 501(c)3 Organized Chaos – Chicago.  As an Associate Member of the club (which basically means I get to hang out with them and ride on the back of my gf’s motorcycle…) OC took me under their wing and helped me to meet my fundraising goal for the Ride for AIDS Chicago with a smashing event at Spyner’s.  I thought about their generosity a lot this past Saturday while I was peddling 80 miles in my last big training ride before riding 200 miles in 2 days, and I thought about it again yesterday as we proudly rocked the crowds on Halsted Street.

Here are a few pictures from Pride, and be sure to check out Organized Chaos if you ride, want to ride, or just want to be a part of an incredible group of women (like me). Photos (except for my mugshot) courtesy of chicago.gopride.com

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Old Town Gets a Fresh New Neighbor

Photo by Bret Grafton, http://photografton.com/
Photo by Bret Grafton, http://photografton.com/

When I was first invited to the grand opening of Plum Market, I pictured a small cafe / grocer much like Panozzo’s or the once lovely City Provisions, which closed earlier this year. I got dressed up to meet new blogger friends from the Chicago Blogger Network under the assumption that I’d be spending a leisurely hour or two perusing, schmoozing, and sipping on free coffee.

Boy, was I wrong.

The coffee line...
The coffee line…

In spite of massive thunderstorms that moved through overnight I arrived at Plum Market’s inaugural Chicago branch to find a line hanging out the door of a relatively massive grocery store.  More akin to Whole Foods than City Provisions, all of Plum Market’s 27,000 square feet of organic goodness were packed to the gills.  I never found any of the bloggers, I never got a free coffee (for fear of running out of my free hour of parking waiting for it), and wondered the store in somewhat of a culture shocked daze after spending three weeks in unpopulated Wyoming.

After securing my bag of “blogger income” (i.e. free samples) and navigating the store, a few key points came to mind:

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  • Grocery stores can be very beautiful.  Aside from my obsession with piles of fresh food, Plum Market goes a step beyond in it’s stunning design elements, bountiful hot and cold bars, and specialty areas.
  • People other than hipsters enjoy organic food.  I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but sometimes being waited on by a disinterested dirty hipster is a turnoff.  The staff at Plum Market are clean cut, friendly, and very helpful.  If they can keep it that way I’m totally sold.
  • What’s good for Old Town is good for me.  Just north of Division and Wells, Plum Market is in an ideal location bordering hoity-toity-ville, gross bar-ville, and homeless-man-hanging-out-by-the-red-line-ville.  This market will easily satisfy the residents of Old Town, is walking distance to the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, and hopefully will give the miserable Jewel at Clark and Division a run for it’s money.  Though grocery stores don’t necessarily make for great tourist attractions, Plum Market extends Old Town’s charm a little further to the South then the average visitor would be apt to walk, and provides a lovely stop to grab a cup of coffee and a break before turning around and heading back.

Experience Plum Market for yourself at 1233 N. Wells St. Store hours are 8am-10pm; free parking for 1 hour with validation. For more information, visit www.plummarket.com or @PlumMarket on twitter (#PlumMarketCHI).  Plum Market is also on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Where did I go?!? The Past Two Months in Pictures

After Spring Break, $#^t got crazy.

Between school, Chicago Dance Month, putting on a show, and training for RFAC, I was so busy living my life that I didn’t have any time left to blog about it.  Now that the dust has settled a bit I’m back in action.

Phew

#wipesbrow

Thanks for your patience.

In an effort to get readers caught up with all my goings-on, here are some highlights from the past two months in Instagram form:

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Apparently, the steps to my PhD all fit on this handy little flow chart now hanging in my office #ifonlyitwerethateasy
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Summer makes me contemplative
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The mountain of fitness journals I graded
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Planting the garden at Vedgewater
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First commencement as full-time faculty… regalia is weird.
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Writing with Max
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First training ride with the Chicago Ride for AIDS

Starbucks Around the World: ORD Oasis

I know what you’re thinking… haven’t you visited this Starbucks before, Lauren?  No, not really.  It’s just that it’s an exact replica of the Belvidere Oasis.  This one is off (or rather, on top of) Highway 294 near the airport, and I visited on my way to Aurora to see Olivia Newton-John in concert.

Yes. That Olivia Newton-John.

Anyway, though thankful for the caffeine jolt, this was a rather odd Starbucks experience, hence my somewhat lack-luster smile.  I asked for one of my favorites: a short Americano with the shot on top.  I was told that they don’t make short anything, while the cashier had her hands on a bunch of short cups.

“Uh, ok, how about a short coffee?”

No, they only have tall.

“Um, ok, what about a single espresso?”

This they understood.  Apparently, there is no price listed for a short Americano.  I asked why they had short cups, and she said, “Oh, that’s for the kiddy cocoa.”

That’s cool, but here’s the thing: you could have easily charged me for the one shot of espresso, and added a bunch of hot water to it in one of those short cups.  If she were to ever visit another store, she might realize that Americanos are priced simply on the espresso shots.

The water is free.

Anyway, I’m sure this nice lady doesn’t make a habit of traversing the world for Starbucks-es as I do, and to be honest, I didn’t have that revelation about the water until I was back in the car drinking a cold shot of espresso doused in half and half.

I will say, also, that the espresso shot itself was very, very nice.