the avena shake from irazu on n. milwaukee ave.

I wasn’t in #Illinois for more than 48 hours when I found myself hitting places that are old favorites. Of things I love very much, the avena (oatmeal) shake from Irazu on N. Milwaukee certainly places in my top ten. Irazu is a family-owned restaurant in Wicker Park that has grown over the years. The flavor is Costa Rican, and their standout dish is actually this shake. Avena con leche (oatmeal with milk) although you can choose water or soy milk. As for ingredients, I would guess a blend of ice, milk, oatmeal, cinnamon, sugar, and maybe some nutmeg.

Chicago Illinois Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant Avena shake

If you’re super hungry, you can add a burrito, sandwich, taquitos, empanadas, or another one of my go-tos: the palmito salad. Be sure to have cash on hand as Irazu doesn’t accept credit/debit cards. Disfrútate (enjoy yourself).

tender

The adjective tender has a couple meanings. My favorite is probably this:

Showing gentleness and concern or sympathy

Is there anything more tender than pink hydrangeas? I think not.

Chicago Illinois Garfield Park Conservatory Hydrangeas Flowers

I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory this afternoon to get my flower fix, and fix fixed. These tiny buds and petals are magic. Feathery soft and the perfect shade of pink. How tender.

pączki for the mardi gras win

Mardi Gras is serious fun in the South–especially New Orleans and Mobile–where the Krewe fêtes are plentiful, the parades are noisy and joyful, and King Cake comes in all different flavors and varieties. In the North where you can find Polish bakeries, Mardi Gras means pączki (pronounced ponch-key). And these calorie-busting, jelly-filled doughnuts at local bakeries draw long lines.

Paczki Mardi Gras Chicago Illinois

Source: Melissa Wang via Flickr

Pączki are also enjoyed on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), and the reason for making pączki is to use up all of the ingredients (lard, sugar, eggs, fruit) before Lent kicks in. Bridgeport Bakery on S. Archer in the South Side of Chicago has an unassuming storefront, but you’d never guess they sell tens of thousands (yes, tens of thousands) of pączki on Fat Tuesday, also known as Pączki Day. If you didn’t make it to Bridgeport Bakery this week, don’t fret. They sell four different varieties of pączki all year round.

colectivo coffee on n. milwaukee ave. in chicago

It’s not often that two of my friends simultaneously rhapsodize about the new coffee player in town (#Chicago), but they were this past Sunday. And I was all ears.

The new player is Colectivo Coffee from Milwaukee so it was fitting to find a Colectivo on N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. I pulled my rental car over pretty immediately.

Colectivo Coffee Logan Square Milwaukee Avenue Chicago Illinois

The coffee shop space is wonderfully conceived and designed. And the coffee itself is distinctive–sharp, acidic, strong. Really strong. Not for the weak willed.

Curious to try some yourself? You can check out all of their locations here.

sentimental

I’m not one to get too attached to stuff/things, but every now and then I do. And that now and then was yesterday when I asked my handyman to haul away two lovely chairs I bought years ago when I was in Chicago. Two chairs and a bulky console table that I never loved and won’t miss. But those chairs? Seeing them hauled away made me wistful, sentimental, and kind of teary sad. I suppose they remind me of the life I once had and that I currently lack. The days should get brighter soon, I’m thinking/hoping. And in the meantime I’ll focus on being positive and grateful for everything I do have, which is a lot and which includes two brand new chairs. (Not as wonderful as the older ones but they’ll do/I’ll do just fine.)

how not to sound like you’re not from here

“You don’t sound like you’re from here.” I get this a lot. I open my mouth, and my squarish accent betrays my Midwestern upbringing. I’d try to speak more Southern, but the fact is I can’t/won’t. The dialect is far too pretty and wonderfully varied throughout Mississippi, and I’d hate to do it an injustice.

The above stated, there are ways to lessen your squarishness, if you’re like me. Let’s begin with basic courtesies. Ma’am is square one. If I’m running errands and a woman helps me, I always say, “Thank you, ma’am.” Always. In Chicago, to address a woman as ma’am means she’s old, and I always wince when I’m called ma’am. In the South, it’s a sign of respect.

In Mississippi, there are correct pronunciations for city/county/street names, so follow me on this:

  • Biloxi is buh-luck-see.
  • Lafayette is luh-fye-yet.
  • Starkville is stark-vull. Any city that ends with “ville” is pronounced “vull.”
  • Amite is am-mitt.

In the Midwest, any summer backyard gathering that involves grilling meat is called a BBQ, but that isn’t the case here. Barbecue is a food science and practiced differently, depending on what part of the South you’re in.

This next difference I really love. If someone does something really nice for you in the South, you say, “I appreciate you.” It’s a wonderfully personal way to express one’s gratitude. And with this biscuit/post, I should say I appreciate you, blog readers of mine.

the pulse quickens

Chicago. I lived there for 25 years and still call it home. For the time I’ve lived in Mississippi, I have made a point to visit home several times a year to spend time with friends and to check on my brother. And there’s just something about Chicago, or perhaps big cities, that makes my heart beat faster. The pulse quickens.

I visited last month and saw beautiful lights at O’Hare:

Holiday lights O'Hare Airport Chicago Illinois

Escaped the chill of December a couple times to get hot cider and coffee with friends. This is the Avondale Coffee Club (excellent cider), a newish coffee shop on Elston near Belmont:

Avondale Coffee Club Chicago Illinois

And Buzz Café in the Arts District of Oak Park:

Buzz Cafe Oak Park Illinois

To get my fix for flowers and plants and to appreciate all things green, I headed to the Garfield Park Conservatory where the theme of the Holiday Flower Show is Tickled Pink:

Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago Illinois

Heart.