Entries Tagged as 'tortas frontera'

A Few More Days in New York

June 10th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Last week I was out in New York for work for a few more days.

tortas_frontera_ohare
Like every trip, mine began with a stop at Tortas Frontera at O’Hare. I was actually kind of afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop because of timing, but then my flight got delayed an hour and I had more than enough time. I changed it up this time and instead of getting a torta, I got the tortilla soup and the fully loaded guacamole. The soup broth was really rich and flavorful. The guacamole was good, but getting all of the toppings was a mistake, I think. I’d stick to just one or two or none next time. Also, maybe it was a fluke, but the chips were SO salty.

long_island_city
Even though my flight was delayed, I arrived early enough to visit with Jeannette and Yvan and Juliette (6 weeks old now, I think). The skies were bright and mostly sunny in Long Island City, so I don’t know what was up with the delays. It seemed fine on the Chicago side too. It didn’t even start raining in New York until later at night. Dallas was flying to Newark at the same time I was flying to New York and he had way more issues than I did.

element_times_square_kitchen
I stayed at an SPG property called the Element Times Square West, located at 39th and 8th. I booked the room because it was a good rate, but it ended up being pretty nice and spacious for a New York City hotel room. Not that I used it, but each room in the hotel had a kitchen with a big fridge, two burners, a sink, dishwasher, microwave, dishes.

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Even though I think the Element was on the lower end of the SPG spectrum, they still had the Heavenly bed that they have at the Westin, which was nice.

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The view from my room at the Element.

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Most days I took the subway to and from work, which made me feel like I was living there again.

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While at work, one of my coworkers was on vacation for two weeks so I used his desk. He has a pretty nice view of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge!

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The food in New York is always great! With my coworker, Stephanie, I had lunches at Flavors Cafe, where we got some great salads, and CRISP, a modern Mediterranean spot. My coworker from Chicago, Ranee, has been traveling to New York a ton and took me to Zaitzeff, a great burger spot. The menu is short and to the point, not straying all over the place with fancied up burgers. All the beef is grass-fed here. I got a cheeseburger with avocado and grilled mushrooms and it was amazing. Ranee and I split fries and neither of us finished them, but I was so full from the burger that I didn’t even eat dinner really! I think I had a fruit cup!

I also met up with Jess one night and we had dinner at Tia Pol, a tiny little Spanish tapas spot on 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd. I’d hoped to see her new apartment that she just bought and moved into the week before, but it was getting late. I was still glad we could catch up while I was in town!

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Lastly, but not leastly, the food highlight of the trip was when I finally visited Eataly with Ranee and her cousin, Isabelle. Eataly is a high-end 50,000 square foot Italian food market and shopping center. Mega chefs Mario Bitali and Lidia Bastianich teamed up with restauranteur Joe Bastianich (Lidia’s son) for this amazing creation. The shopping and the tasting rooms are all mixed into one huge crazy experience. You walk along and look at meats and cheeses and then theres and area to sip wine while eating meats and cheese. You’re looking at the bins of fresh produce, when you stumble upon the vegetarian restaurant. There’s seafood and freshly made pasta, a beer garden, an amazing bakery, meats and produce and a whole line of Italian desert stands. I could have spent all day there!

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In the end, we put our names in for the pizza and pasta spot and there was a wait, so we went to the vegetarian restaurant, sat at the bar and shared and artichoke that was BY FAR the best artichoke I’ve ever eaten. As we were finishing, with perfect timing, we were texted that our table was ready for dinner. I love gnocchi, but a lot of places screw it up, so I don’t order it too much, but I figured this was the place to get it. The gnocchi here was served with braised lamb shank ragu and was AH MAZE ING! To finish, I had the salted caramel gelato. OMG. So done. I’m sort of glad I don’t live in New York because I’d go broke at this place!

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6 Days on the East Coast

May 23rd, 2013 · 1 Comment

Day 1:

tortas_frontera_ohare
My trips these days always begin with tortas from Frontera at O’Hare. YUM!

Day 2:

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The view from my New York hotel. Empire State Building on the left!

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After a long day of meetings, my team went out for dinner at Brasserie Les Halles. This is the French restaurant that is the home base of Chef-at-large Anthony Bourdain. I had the French onion soup and the cassoulet (a French casserole with a white bean base, three kinds of sausage, duck confit and pork belly!). For dessert I had chocolate mousse that was made with Valrhona chocolate, a high-end French chocolate. Everything was SO delicious. My coworkers and I just kept commenting how great everything was!

Day 3:

dean_and_deluca
There was a Dean & Deluca cafe just down the block from my hotel. Very different than the Soho market I used to visit, but still very good when I stopped by for breakfast.

freedom_tower
The Roundarch Isobar office is not far from the Word Trade Center. This is One World Trade Center, otherwise known as “Freedom Tower.” Just a few days earlier, “on May 10, 2013, the final component of the spire was installed atop the skyscraper, making One World Trade Center tentatively the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third-tallest building in the world by pinnacle height, with its spire reaching a symbolic 1,776 feet (541 m) in reference to the year of American independence.” Look at how incomplete the building was about a year ago when I was in New York.

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Security badge photos are the worst!

seltzer
The East Coast has the best seltzer. I used to drink the Adirondack seltzer when I was traveling to the Boston office a lot last year.

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The Garden was around the corner from my hotel.

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Going to meet up for dinner at Chelsea Market… Ze Olde Office is across the street.

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Chelsea Market

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I was a little early so I walked around Chelsea Market….

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…. and went to my favorite chocolate shop, Jacques Torres. Remember when we got a personal tour from the man, himself?!?

giovanni_rana
I met Jess, Tien, Jeannette, Yvan and Juliette at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in Chelsea Market. This was Juliette’s first dinner out. She’s only 4 weeks old!

rana_ravioli
I had ricotta ravioli with asparagus and it was served in a crispy Parmigiano Reggiano bowl! The food here was so good. All of the pasta was freshly made on site!

Day 4:

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I left New York to go to Boston, but before going to the airport, I met up with Jeannette and Yvan and Juliette for coffee.

juliette
Juliette is so precious! Only a month old!

Day 5:

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Dallas used to live in Boston and I spent a lot of time there last year so it was fun to walk around and talk about places we both had visited. This building is behind a plaza where I used to visit food trucks at lunch. It wasn’t painted like this last year!

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Dallas showed me this place, Chau Chow City where he used to go to dim sum with Billy and Ging and Josh. He said it was the best dim sum in Boston. Funny because I used to walk past this place every day when going from my hotel to the office.

annas_taqueria
Dallas loves Anna’s Taqueria, so we had to go there for lunch.

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After lunch we walked around Beacon Hill and then through Boston Common, where there was a Youth Pride event going on.

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I stopped at the Intercontinental Hotel to use the bathroom and we ended up staying for a while to watch the Blackhawks lose to the Red Wings.

r_d
That night we went to Colleen’s wedding. More on that later!

Day 6:

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I had to head out of Boston in the evening, but before doing that, Ross and Chelsea picked us up and we went to visit Matt and Molly. We’ve hung out with their daughter Lucy many times, but it was our first time meeting their identical twins, Theo and Quinn!

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I’m holding Theo and Dallas has Quinn. They are about three months old.

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Uncle Ross, Lucy and Quinn.

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Aunty Chelsea and Lucy were picking flowers in the backyard. We had an impromptu barbecue and sat outside to eat. It was so nice out. And Matt and Molly’s whole yard is in full bloom. I especially liked the lilacs and they have a ton of them!


Excitement at the airport in Boston. I was just sitting there when all of a sudden flashing lights and an alarm went off… throughout the terminal. Everyone just acted like it was nothing but then I saw some firefighters walk by. A few minutes later the alarms turned off. False alarm?

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In the cab home. I never noticed the vomit clean up fee.

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Back From Japan

April 22nd, 2013 · 4 Comments

We’re back from Japan. The weather was really great in Tokyo and Kyoto and I was really hopeful that when we returned to Chicago, that spring would be in full force, but it actually snowed little hail balls the day after we returned! On April 19. Blerg. We had a great trip. It was really fun and was definitely the most exotic place I’ve ever been. We saw a lot of amazing things and ate a ton of amazing food. And it was great to see our friends that we had not seen for a long time. I’m not sure where to begin with all the things we did on vacation, so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.

Dallas and I have been talking about visiting Japan for a very long time. Like since 2005? Or 2004? (Note: We met in 2004.) Dallas’s family and the Matsuda’s grew up a few blocks from each other in Waimea on Kauai. Dallas and Tandy are the same age and Dallas brother, Jordan, and Tandy’s sister, Marissa, are the same age. They were very close as kids and spent a lot of time together and went on family vacations together, etc. One of our trips to Hawaii was for Tandy and Chris’s wedding and one of Tandy and Chris’s trips back home was for our wedding. Anyway, Tandy and Chris’s professions brought them to live in Japan back in 2004 or 2005 and we totally wanted to go visit them. Then I got laid off at the end of 2005. In hindsight, maybe it would have been the perfect time to go, but at the time we were very uncertain. Tandy and Chris moved back to Washington DC. We missed our chance…..

….. Until now. Tandy and Chris’s jobs brought them back to Japan for a 3 year stint and this time we were not missing out!! I mean, we could go there any time. … but having friends that live in Tokyo and speak fluent Japanese is definitely helpful! Also, as luck would have it, Tandy and Chris had a spare bedroom that we were welcome to use and Dallas and I had enough airline miles to fly to Japan for free. Not only that, but we had enough miles to fly back in first class! It all fell into place.

Dallas wanted to go to Japan in the fall, but I pushed for the spring, not wanting to put it off any longer! So in January we booked our flights for the April trip. That seemed like a big hurdle.. and after we did it.. I was kind of like “holy $*!#, we are going to Japan!! I don’t know anything!!!!” So I just started reading and reading and reading. I have only been to Mexico and Canada outside of the United States and both are really very easy to navigate. I have to admit Japan kind of freaked me out. Would people be able to speak English? Would we be able to find our way around? How does the money work? Tensions sometimes run high when we’re traveling and get turned around. Were we going to be constantly bickering?!? Ahhh! In hindsight, I shouldn’t have freaked out so much. Dallas got the international plan on his phone and Sprint allows for unlimited data, so we used it a ton. Also, a lot more people spoke English than I’d expected. There were only a few times when people looked at me with a blank stare. Also, especially in Tokyo, there is a LOT of English. Before we left we exchanged money at Citibank, so we’d have cash on hand when we arrived and wouldn’t have to worry about finding a place to get money. And the exchange rate is about 100 yen to 1 dollar, so pricing was pretty easy to figure out. Example: 1,000 yen = 10 USD.

One added bonus that we didn’t even think of when we were booking, but that I learned while doing research, was that we would be arriving in Tokyo at THE HEIGHT of sakura season, the cherry blossom season. This is so popular and well known in Japan!!! Only problem? As our trip got closer, the weather in Japan got unseasonably warm and everything blossomed early!!! It matched a 2002 record for earliest blooms EVER!

I know there are a ton of places, maybe less developed, less urban places, we could go where things are maybe more difficult to navigate, but now that we’ve done Japan, I feel more confidant about going a other places. I’ve been bitten by an international travel bug!!! But all that will have to wait. This was our big trip of 2013 (no Hawaii this year) and next year we’re for sure going to Hawaii for Dallas’s 20-year Kamehameha class reunion, so … it’s gonna be a while til we go anywhere else! At least I know I can do it when the time comes.

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As far as our trip, we started out at O’Hare. We got there extra early, but that was ok. We chilled out at our favorite, Tortas Frontera, for food and drinks. We actually met a girl from Chicago who was living in Boston so we had a lot to talk about.

Our flight to Narita was a direct, 12-hour flight. In coach. But, it wasn’t full at all, so we could spread out a lot. I took photos of the food, just because I knew we were flying first class on the way back and wanted to compare. We had no idea what to expect in coach on an international flight and were actually quite surprised.

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First up, snack mix.

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This was the first time ever in coach that we had free beer/wine/liquor in coach. Also? Free movies on demand. Every seat had a screen in the seat back in front of it. And the movies were pretty current. Example: We watched Silver Linings Playbook, even though I already saw it :). Still, Dallas chose to watch some anime on his iPad. It was a long flight so there was a lot of time to watch several movies!

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Meal one was a weird mix of western and eastern: Lettuce salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing, a bun with butter, crackers and cheese, a brownie, bottled water, two pieces of sushi, and a choice of teriyaki chicken or steak.

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Somewhere in the middle, it was dark and a lot of people were sleeping, we got meal two: A really crummy, super-cold turkey and cheese sandwich on a bun. And three pieces of candy.

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Finally, a while before landing, we got meal three: Your choice of pizza or chicken with rice, fresh fruit and Milano cookies.

Overall, not great, but not the worst ever. Also, wayyy more than we expected. I was stuffed, actually!

narita_airport_toilet

Landing at the airport in Narita, I had to pee really bad. The fancy toilets at O’Hare have got NOTHING on the fancy toilets in Japan. Slightly intimidating at first, but by the end of our trip, I was sad to go back to the pathetic American toilets.

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At the airport, we needed to purchase tickets on the limousine bus into Tokyo. Narita is not actually in Tokyo, kind of like how O’Hare is not actually in Chicago. We were to shuttle to the ANA Intercontinental Hotel in Tokyo, which was very close to where Tandy and Chris live. We ended up just missing a bus and had to wait about 50 minutes for the next one. Dallas sat with the luggage while I took the opportunity to exchange our JR vouchers for actual passes. More on that later. While I was doing this, I came across my first Japanese vending machine. Did you know that Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita? There’s about one machine for every 23 people. They’re everywhere. And we grew to love them. I knew Dallas would want tea, so that was easy. I decided to try something new and just picked a pretty looking bottle. Big mistake. I tried to take a drink and nothing came out. Turns out it was a GEL!!! What the heck!

So, anyway. It looks like I took about 1,200 photos in 11 days!!!! I’ll be sorting through and posting here as time allows!

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