23 September 2018

June 2018 WISCONSIN to Home 8 - Cheese Please

We cabbed back to the hotel. Another dicey but safe trip from our cab driver.

The next morning, after a hotel buffet breakfast, we headed back to Palatine. On the way we stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was a quick off-and-on from the freeway.

We browsed the huge facility. So many varieties of domestic and international cheeses. They have many samples to taste. Wisconsin's famous cheese curds below.
They also have a large selection of beer and wine for sale.

A nice room for cheese and beverage tastings. Also, cheese head hats for sale. Not my style.

We chose Uniekaas reserve gouda, Henning's fenugreek cheddar, vampire garlic slayer, and some jerkies for Mike. The best was a maple infused white cheddar. Doesn't sound like a good combo, but it was delish.
It took an hour longer to get home than to get there. Traffic was pretty much at a standstill for much of I-80 and I-94 in Illinois and Indiana. It is always a pleasure to cross the the Indiana-Michigan state line. This "lighthouse" is at the state line Welcome Center, an icon depicting the many Michigan lighthouses. Back to home sweet home.

15 September 2018

June 2018 WISCONSIN Milwaukee 7 - James and Bonnie Concert

It was just over a mile from our hotel to the Lake Michigan Summerfest site. It was still dripping hot, so this time we took a cab. Our driver was pretty gutsy, but also pretty safe. Drop-off was a block from the entrance. What excitement--James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt on the same bill.

Thankfully we had our tickets in hand as there was a line at the will-call window. We waltzed right in. Summerfest is advertised as the world's largest music festival and is set up in a fair-style atmosphere. On the 75-acre site are carnival rides, typical fair food stands (hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob dipped in vats of butter, funnel cake, etc.), and several stages for simultaneous music events.

We had about an hour before the concert started, so we slowly sauntered over to our music venue. On the way we grabbed a bite and a beverage and perused the t-shirt stand. Mike and Nancy made a purchase there.
The major venue was huge with seating for 23,000 peeps. Most of it was stadium chairs, but some lawn seating rimmed the top. That is the biggest outdoor venue we've ever seen. Not many there when we arrived, but it was cool and comfortable with the large canopy and light breeze.

We sat about in the middle of the red "3" on the right side. Darn good seats!
We people watched and chatted while we waited.

It didn't take too long for the place to fill up.
Bonnie Raitt's sock monkey sat on an amp. I tried to find out the meaning behind that little monkey, but it has alluded me. I guess it is an inside joke.

Bonnie and James came out together to start the show. She in her flaming red hair. He is his newsboy hat. They played maybe two songs and then Bonnie took over.

She had been out of the loop for a while with medical issues, but she was back tonight with a vengeance. A gorgeous, strong voice. Among other faves she sang "I Can't Make You Love Me," "Thing Called Love," "Since I Fell for You." and, of course, "Something to Talk About."
 Backgrounds changed across a big screen. This first was Bonnie's.

These showed behind James. He talked about this house as though it was his own and maybe it was at some point. He talked about his family and his dog. So personal and personable.
 This was my fave though. Gritty New York.
James Taylor played so many faves--"Fire and Rain," Carolina on my Mind," "How Sweet It Is," "Sweet Baby James," "You've Got a Friend," and more. With most songs he told a little story on the background of it. Made them even more special.

At one point he pointed out that the moon was rising behind us over Lake Michigan (to the left). It was beautiful with silhouettes in front of it.
It was a long and wonderful concert. The back-up players were fabulous, too. Luis Conte on percussion and what a set-up. He was born in Cuba, so you know he's got the beat. Steve Gadd on drums, of Modern Drummer Hall of Fame fame. Michito Sanchez on percussion who previously played with Elton John and Cosby, Stills, and Nash. Walter Fowler on keyboard and horns. Vocals  were Arnold McCullar (back-up for many famous singers) and Kate Markowitz. And on fiddle was Andrea Zonn. There were a few more, but these stood out.

Here's the fair as we departed.

03 September 2018

June 2018 ILLINOIS to WISCONSIN 6 - Side Trip to Summerfest

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel buffet--cheese omelettes, waffles, good coffee. T&N picked us up for a side trip to Milwaukee. The drive from Palatine north to downtown Milwaukee was 77 miles and about 1-½ hour drive.
Along the way we saw this cool car. Wonder where it was headed.

I have to say the room we got at the Hampton Inn-Downtown was not my fave. Harsh lighting and bare decor with one small high window that looked up an air shaft. It felt damp and dungeon-y. But our focus was the James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt concert that evening, so shan't dwell on the room.

We needed a bite, so we walked a few blocks to the Miller Time Pub and Grill. We enjoyed lunch here a few years back when we attended the Milwaukee Bead and Button Show and it did not disappoint. Burgers were the top pick and really good per comments of my pals. I had something veggie.

After lunch Mike took a nap and we other three meandered our way to the waterfront Summerfest ticket office where our tickets were on hold. We enjoyed the sights along the way.

This was a huge mural on the side of a multi-story building. One day I'll try to decipher the rebus or maybe a blog reader can figure it out and let me know what it says.
We enjoyed pieces of outdoor art placed throughout downtown. Nearby plaques explain each. This piece is by Tom Friedman called "Hazmat Love." It is made of tinfoil, baking tins, and roasting pans. The description says it is a commentary on effects and struggles of the environment.
Artist Hank Willis Thomas titled this one "Liberty." This is an arm with finger "spinning" a basketball, inspired by a 1986 photo of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Even "You are here" maps were nicely decorated.
We criss-crossed the Milwaukee River a few times.

A vertical drawbridge over the river. This one rises straight up to allow tall boats to pass through.

Buildings were historic and interesting. This is a beaut!

Just love these giant ladybugs, almost a story tall each.

We picked up our tickets and headed back to the hotel to refresh.

June 2018 ILLINOIS Chicago 5 - On to Dining with Chef John (or not)

We reversed direction again going north toward the village of Winnetka. We saw so many beautiful mansions along the way up the Lake Michigan shoreline. They were not Hearst-sized mansions, but bigger and grander than Mike and I will ever live in. Here are a few pics, all taken from the car window as we cruised along, but none do justice to the real thing.

Here is a street looking down a short block to Lake Michigan.
Lovely homes lined those side streets and both sides of the lake shore drive. Many protected by gated entrances.

We arrived in downtown Winnetka a little early for our dinner reservation. So the gals did some window shopping in the upscale stores along the main street. I bought some candy "kissy-shaped lips" for my mom. The guys found a nearby park bench and watched some young men play bocce ball.
Our ultimate destination here was Mino's Italian Restaurant to enjoy a fabulous meal created by our friend, Chef John Korycki. He was also our culinary tour guide and wealth of knowledge on two recent trips to Italy. See" https://www.facebook.com/CHEF-JK-Travels-353135194866954/. As a matter of fact, our fab friends Lynn and Sandy are on a fourth Italy trip with Chef John as I am writing this.

Before moving to greater Chicago, he was executive chef at the Kalamazoo Radisson Hotel restaurant Zazios and the first Director of Culinary Education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Currently he is executive chef here at Mino's.

UPDATE: Shortly after our visit we learned Chef John is no long associated with Mino's.

The restaurant is cleverly converted from a former gas station.

The interior is a mix of modern and industrial left over from the former garage.
Our waiter was great, but sadly informed us that Chef John had the day off. Oh, well, we were going to enjoy our meal no matter what.

We started with Bellinis. This cocktail is a mixture of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar. It originated in Venice, Italy (one of our favorite spots.)

Dinner included margarita pizza, rigatoni with anchovy sauce, and Mediterraneo salad with potato slices, pepperoni, and artichokes. Of course, there was much wine and Peroni beers to wet our palates. We ended with shots of limoncello. I guess we were enjoying our meal so much that I forgot to take any food photos. Everything was tasty and delish!

Sorry to miss Chef John, but here we are anticipating our meals.