Tag Archives: Chicago

Was that July?

Holy Crow People!

Is it just me, or did July fly by like a bat outta hell?? Granted, for the most part this summer has felt like an extended fall, but is it really August already!?! YEESH! I felt like it was just last week that I woke up and looked at what my July had in store and thought, “Bring It.”

Let me tell you, July heard my challenge and Brought. It.

The month started off with 3 days on the set of a major motion picture that was filming in town.  Let me just say that film sets are not the place to be when you are an extra on a special needs diet.  Thankfully I thought ahead and brought food, for the most part.  While lunch was covered, the first day I discovered there was no hot water for oatmeal, so that made for an extra long day.  I also failed in the bringing of enough snacks.  Thankfully there was lots and lots of fresh fruit available for me to nosh on.

If this means something, you know what I worked on.

If this means something, you know what I worked on.

It was a fun couple of days where I got to see, but not interact, with some pretty famous people.  I have no clue if I will make it into the finished film, but I will know I was there and a part of something magical that ignited a spark that had been a bit dormant.

After that, rehearsals started picking up for my summer show.  This year I was thrilled to be a part of the Chicago Community Theatre premier of SHREK: THE MUSICAL.  Now, before you get all eye-rollie with me, the script is by the same gentleman who brought us the brilliantly touching RABBIT HOLE.  Shrek is actually one of my favorite newer musicals because the story is one I relate to and there are several songs that I absolutely adore!  But it also involved 2 weeks of rehearsal every night with no internet connection to fill the time between.  This is when my amazing cast shone.  This was probably one of the closest casts I have worked with, and there was so little internal drama that it was heavenly.

The Queen of Hearts and Shrek having a staring contest.  The Queen had to shrink a bit.

The Queen of Hearts and Shrek having a staring contest. The Queen had to shrink a bit.

So those two events filled a bunch of time.  One Saturday of the month saw me attending both an open background call for TRANSFORMERS 4 and then doing background work on an Exxon commercial.  I was paid to look at the Chicago skyline and get color on what was the hottest day of the year.  Granted, if you have been in Chicago you know that it is not too hot and we have had very, very few warm days, so it actually got me a little bit of color!

This month also saw Brandy Wendler returning to Chicago for the 2013 Mrs. International Pageant.   When she got into town we met at the headquarters of ENJOY LIFE FOODS for a tour.  This was a fantastic visit a) because they sponsored Brandy in her pageant, and  b) they are an awesome company that is free of the top 8 allergens.  If you have not tried their food, I highly recommend you pick something up.  Brandy and I have a fondness for the Plentils, and I am also a big fan of the Decadent bars.  After some talking and getting us suited up in our white coats and pretty pink hairnets, it was time for the tour.  All I am going to say is “WOW.”  Wow that this company still packages things by hand, wow that they do so much in so little space, wow at the steps they take to ensure the food is safe, wow, wow, wow.  The Marketing Manager, Kasey, was an absolute joy to have as a tour guide and somewhere she has a picture of Brandy and I climbing Mount Plentil.

With the Enjoy Life sign

With the Enjoy Life sign

Brandy and I are ready to tour the Enjoy Life facilities.  We make the red hair nets look GOOD!

Brandy and I are ready to tour the Enjoy Life facilities. We make the red hair nets look GOOD!

I have bad posture, but with the frabjulous Kasey of Enjoy Life.

I have bad posture, but with the frabjulous Kasey of Enjoy Life.

Brandy was in town to compete in the Mrs. International pageant.   While I could not afford a ticket, I was dying to see her in her finery and bring her some celebratory cupcakes, as I was that confident she would do well.  So, on Friday I got in touch with the fantastic FrannyCakes and we decided that it would be fun and go “crash” the pageant.  Ok, I should probably define that.  By crash we meant go hang out in the lobby, get the results, see Brandy and her handsome hubby after the show.  So…we met up for dinner of a cupcake each at Swirlz Cupcakes before heading up to Skokie to hang out at the mall before it was time to hang out in the lobby.  Granted, by hang out at the mall, I really mean go to Barnes & Noble, get tea, read magazines.

Some of these are FrannyCakes, some are mine.  Can you guess which is which?

Some of these are FrannyCakes, some are mine. Can you guess which is which?

After a bit of light reading, we headed over to the venue to hang out in the lobby and see how she did.  Sadly, we forgot that the first night they only announced who won Most Photogenic and not the Top 10.  Oh well.  We still got to see Brandy and JR, as well as Andrea and her new beau who had come in to cheer.

Yup, we went to a beauty pageant.

Yup, we went to a beauty pageant.

What else did I do??  New headshots were taken, I worked on a commercial for Exxon by lying around a park all day, stood in line for an extra cattle call for the next Transformers movie, attended a holiday party, and I got together with friends to feed our SYTYCD addiction.  It was a crazy busy month, but boy, did I have a LOT of fun!

In other news, it is now mid-August and I am late posting this because I have been cast in yet ANOTHER show.  My goal is to get at least one post up a week, as I juggle rehearsal, work, exercise, lessons, and all the other craziness that is my life.  If I miss, please bear with me, I am not done with y’all yet!

The One Where I Met April Peveteaux

I am going to be completely honest.  I am a bit lazy and usually do not have time at night to go blog exploring, so unless I hear about a great blog from someone or stumble across it, I probably have never heard of it. Which was the case of GlutenIsMyBitch.   At the beginning of March several people I follow on Twitter started posting pics of these supercute “Fuck Flour” buttons and talking about this book they picked up titled Gluten is My Bitch.  Even though I had sworn off buying any more books until I got through my backlog, I swung by the Book Cellar to get my own copy because with a title like that, how could I refuse?

Word

Word

To say I love this book would be an understatement.  While April apparently has encountered more “run to the bathroom NOW” scenarios than I have, so many of the emotions that she talks about resonated deeply.  It didn’t hurt that her writing style and tone are more than a little bit sarcastic.  Plus the recipes look simple enough that even I couldn’t mess them up — if I ever decide to make one.  You can only imagine my happiness when I saw that she was swinging through Chicago and doing a presentation at the Printers Row Lit Fest.  In fact, I was so excited that I started to make the EL trip into the Loop a week early! D’OH!  Thankfully a well-timed tweet from April saved me from the embarrassment of wandering around like a lost and confused puppy.On the proper day, Chicago decided it was finally time to crank the heat up a bit and supercharge the humidity in her honor.  You know, ACTUALLY give us a day that felt like it belonged in the season we were in and a great day for the city to show off how fantastic it is when the temperatures rise and we all come out of hibernation.  After a quick stop for an iced coffee IV, I was bright-eyed, busy tailed, happily caffeinated, and on my way to Printers Row and the Good Eating tent.  Upon arriving I quickly spotted local GF bloggers Betsy and Andrea.  We did a brief bit of catching up then it was time for April.  Thanks to some pesky health and sanitation regulations, we could only look on as she literally whipped together 3 party appetizers, all while having a conversation with Monica Eng from the Tribune.

Polka dot retroish dress and a hand talker.  April has cool points to spare

Polka dot retroish dress and a hand talker. April has cool points to spare

What I loved was, just like in her book and blog, April was completely open about her challenges, including those fun pre-diagnosis loo runs. Granted, I think she had many more “crap your pants” moments than I did, but every Celiac is different and her stories were just hilarious.  Even though every Celiac/Gluten-Free person is different, while she spoke I looked around and saw so many people nodding their heads in agreement and understanding.  After about 30-ish minutes, they opened the conversation up to questions.  Through all of this, April continued prepping food that we couldn’t eat!  Ah, those pesky laws.

April prepping some sushi grade tuna.

April prepping some sushi grade tuna.

At the end it was announced that April would be signing books under another tent.  You know, that thing I did not bring because I wore my pin purse and the book didn’t fit?  Yeah.  That book.  And somehow I ended up being one of the first in line.  The day was saved when one of the volunteers gave everyone a post-it to write their name on for their autograph.  Just like a in a cartoon, a lightbulb went off over my head.  I realized that I could have her sign the post it  and I would place it in my book when I got home!  Brilliant!

My signed Post-It in place next to the title page.

My signed Post-It in place next to the title page.

I was already feeling pretty good, and my geek-o-meter was hovering in the high zone when it was my time to have my “book” signed.  The geek-o-meter went through the roof when, before I said a word, April stated:  “I know you.”  We have never met in real life.  We have never talked.  We have had some Twitter exchanges, including getting the previously mentioned button, but that was it.  A funny thing happens when the geek-o-meter maxes out.  I get loud – er.  I actually apologized to April because I felt that after that moment, I started yelling and being a spaz, and pretty much all those things that happen when I get really excited and lose my cool.  You know, when I geek out.  April was gracious, fun, and awesome.  I even got a picture with her:IMG_1945 Cute, right?  Except April was behind the table and I was in front of it.  My brain did not even THINK about asking if I could go around to get the picture.  Nope.  My brain saw an open space on the table and decided that I would just sit on the table and lean back.  Cuz that is what you do, right? April has already blogged about the “inappropriateness” of this picture.  I am going to apologize for the whiteness of my thighs in this picture.  I don’t pre-tan and this was the first day that felt warm enough to wear shorts.  Which means my legs have been encased in jeans for the past 9 months or so.  So they are blinding.  But really, this picture is thightastic.  Enjoy!

The uncropped photo.  It's thighlicious.

The uncropped photo. It’s thighlicious.

Oh, and if you have not picked up the book — DO!  It is actually one of the more accessible “Welcome to your new life” books I have read and it is one of the few ones that felt like it was written by someone less than perfect.  You know, human.  And funny.  Cuz we all need to find the humor in our “where is the nearest loo” moments!! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1617690309/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d11_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0TPPEGXTR5B92302VH74&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846

Why Is the UC GF only during Bulls/Blackhawks?

Last month I attended the P!nk concert at the United Center after forgetting to eat all day. I figured it would be no big deal, since they have a Gluten Free “stand” (ok, actually it is a table) on the main concourse. Except it was closed. Because I am, well, me, I sent a couple of tweets calling out Levy Restaurants and the United Center, plus I sent a couple of emails to Levy Restaurants. Eventually I received a response from Milan Stojakovic, the Director of Operations at Levy Restaurants. Sadly, I don’t know if he is the DoO for the UC, or all their venues, but he did answer all my questions regarding Gluten Free food and beverage options at the UC.

First off, I mentioned that with the addition of floor seating, even with sections blocked off it looked like concerts had a higher capacity then sporting events.  Milan admitted that the capacity for a concert was around 22,000 people versus 10-15,000 for sporting events.  Other special events like the circus/ice show are closer to sporting event numbers.  However, more people does not equal more concession revenue.  Ok, I admit that I can see that.  Isn’t the point of going to a concert to watch the idiots around you get hammered??  No?  Guess that is just one of the perks I enjoy….  =)

Apparently, you can ask the staff during concerts where the GF options are, but when I was there all the staff seemed kind of clueless.  And I wasn’t going to ask a security guard where the GF food was, ya know?  They have enough drunken eedjits to deal with.  So here is the skinny, since the main concourse stand is closed during non-sporting events and the website is shit.  Each stand is supposed to have GF options available, but they are not clearly marked and the staff is not well-trained.  That being said, Milan told me that sections 316 and 333 always have GF options available.

Here is my biggest beef — the website is no help and if you are in the arena you have no way of knowing if you can eat/buy a beer.  You could ring Levy Catering in advance at  (312) 455-7412 to find and arrange accommodation.  I also left the suggestion that the UC/Levy put a sign on the cart saying:  “This location is currently closed.  Gluten Free offerings are available in Sections 316 and 333.”  Then no security guards would be distracted from their girl watching/guessing who is going to be the drunkest.  And us GF’ers can enjoy a beer and a hot dog at a concert/circus/ice show/monster truck rally/whatever.

Cheers!

 

 

Food Coma! aka Chicago GFAF EXPO!

On May 21st, I had the chance to wander the GFAF Expo in Chicago. I’m going to admit to my newbie blogger mistake and state that I did not get a lot of pictures of the food. I’m a people person and love people in pictures, so I am going to give you a LOT of those. And promise that I will try to remember to take product photos in the future!

Since I am not much of a morning person, ESPECIALLY on the weekends, it a minor miracle that I got to the Expo by 9:30am. My first mission was to say “Hey Girl” to Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bakeshop.  I met Kyra last year when she was giving a baking class while I was the head expediter, and it is always a joy to catch up with this two-time CUPCAKE WARS champion.  This year Kyra was promoting her new line of cupcake mixes and I snagged the last box of Snickerdoodle mix while picking up my own Crave Bakeshop tee:

Brilliant Chef.  Fabulous Woman.  Love her hawd!

Brilliant Chef. Fabulous Woman. Love her hawd!

Gotta admit, I love that the only part of my Star Wars tee you can see is the “Ta” as the Crave tee is VERY ta-ta friendly!

To the left of Kyra’s booth were the fabulous people from Rudi’s Bakery.  During the morning they were grilling up pieces of their cinnamon raisin bread (yum) and in the afternoon they were dishing up grilled cheese.  I am so mad I did not get the name of the ladies representing the company, as they were fabulous and I am so excited to try the wraps they gave me to sample.  Review on those coming later!

On the other side of Crave Bakeshop were the wonderful people from Taste Guru.  This is something that I am going to try soon because for $25-ish dollars, you get a box of GF goodies sent to your house every month.  And y’all know that $25 does not get you a box of goodies in a store.  Plus, it is a great way to try out new things!  Hi to Laura and Heather who were rocking the booth!  (and Andrew??  This is when I stink with names)

One product I am excited to try out is the GF Harvest  (aka Canyon Oats) instant oatmeal.  The cups totally remind me of the Quaker instant oatmeal cups my co-worker has for lunch every day that smell SOOO GOOD!  I have a feeling that the GF Harvest cups are going to be delicious.  This family has 3 generations of Celiacs, so they know the importance of avoiding cross-contamination and clean oats.  Forrest Smith started this company while he was in high school(!), and he is someone who fits right into this geeks sphere, as we had a long talk on Star Wars and the Avengers.

Gluten Twin Powers - ACTIVATE!  I promise, Forrest does not turn into a bucket of water.

Gluten Twin Powers – ACTIVATE! I promise, Forrest does not turn into a bucket of water.

I did have a mission this expo:  GET MORE RED APPLE LIPSTICK!!!  Last year I had a quick moment to talk with Jay and Andrea about how hard it is to find a good red, they helped me find the perfect shade (ironically enough named: Red!) and I got a cool shimmery lipgloss.  This year I was on a mission to get more lip color and pick up some eye shadows out of their new (in the past year) eye shadow line.  The goal was to get there early, before they got swamped because all day Saturday their booth looked a bit like this, if not worse:

This is actually a calm moment for Jay, Andrea, and Stephanie

This is actually a calm moment for Jay, Andrea, and Stephanie

I ended up making my largest purchase of the expo here:  2 lipsticks, a Rallye Balm, one new gloss, 2 eyeshadows, and an eyeshadow case.  Added bonus:  the bags they put everything in are super cute and will help with makeup and/or jewelry storage!

After this, the expo started to look a bit like this:

This is not the most crowded, just a representation on the day.

This is not the most crowded, just a representation on the day.

Needless to say, I started to be a bit choosy with where I visited, which means I missed some great products, but here are some of my “Best of.”

Kiki’s Simply Awesome Greek SpinichFeta Pocket.  One word — YUM!  I kept coming back for more samples of these because I could not get over how light and flaky the crust is.  Sadly, my sweet tooth was burnt out, so I did not try the dessert she had, but my love affair was with that pocket.  Right now these can be found in a couple of resturaunts in the greater Chicago Area, but I hope she expands into retail soon.

Kiki with her AMAZING SpinichFeta Pocket

Kiki with her AMAZING SpinichFeta Pocket

Something I almost passed by because I have been burned by pizza too many times was the Smart Flour booth.  In fact, I probably walked past it a half dozen times before finally stopping to talk to them.  I am so glad I did because if I had not I would have missed out on a delicious gluten-free freezer pizza hitting market in June.  In talking with one of the gentlemen at the booth, I found out that these pizzas had actually been made about 6 months out and were sitting in a freezer in an attempt to give the consumer a similar experience to what they would have when they hit the market.  To avoid some of the “cracker-like” crispness so many frozen (and non) pizzas have, they removed the rice flour.  Good crust, great taste, the slices of pizza did not last long on the expo floor, and I do not think they will last long on shelves either.

Smart Flour Foods -- must find at my grocery store!

Smart Flour Foods — must find at my grocery store!

Another love was Outrageous Baking out of Boulder.  I have a long standing love affair with banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, pretty much any sweet bread out there.  I am just a lousy (sometimes lazy) cook who does not want to whip up a big loaf that I would devour.  But that did not stop me from purchasing a loaf of their gluten, dairy, and soy free pumpkin loaf and cinnamon spice bread from these ladies.  The lemon poppyseed and chocolate zucchini are also pretty tasty, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere, right?

ZOMG YUM!

ZOMG YUM!

One of the things that EVERYONE told me I needed to try were the Glutenfreeda “Hot Pockets.”  I have been in love with their cranberry cinnamon oatmeal for about a year now, so seeing that they were also coming out with an “instant bowl” made me happy, but I was very distracted by the hot pockets.  While the crust was a bit, well, grey, the flavor of it all was pretty amazing.  I made it a point to try them all, but forgot to take note on the different flavors.  All I know is that when these hit stores, I will be there to purchase for the occasional lunch treat.

4 flavors to choose from

4 flavors to choose from

So, you know how I mentioned forgetting to take pictures every once in a while?  Well, one of my biggest lapses came about with my favorite free of the top 8 allergen cookies on the market:  Cybele’s Free to Eat.  I will admit that I only tried the Chocolate Chip because it was so tasty and reminded me of an extra crispy Toll House.

Another item I failed to get pictures of are the Enjoy Life Decadent Bars.  I tried all 4 flavors (S’mores, Cinnamon Bun, Chocolate Sunbutter, and Cherry Cobbler) and they are all pretty amazing, but the Cherry is my favorite.  So good.  And the ladies at the booth were super awesome and knowledgable.

Part of the Enjoy Life team after a successful Expo

Part of the Enjoy Life team after a successful Expo

If you got their early enough (ie before 1pm) you could take the New Planet Beer tour.  Peter and Sarah would talk you through each of the 5 flavors available while giving you a pour to try.  I am not much of a beer person, but when I have the beer craving I will reach for the New Planet Raspberry or Blonde.

Standing like Peter from New Planet

Standing like Peter from New Planet

Holy crow, this is getting long!  A couple more finds to wrap things up:

Ian’s has a new French Bread pizza that is pretty tasty.

Keeki Pure & Simple is a line of Gluten Free nail polishes, chap sticks, body washes and sunscreens.  I ended up purchasing 2 nail polishes and a root beer float scented chap stick.  I promise I will publish a review!

Schar, oh Schar.  How I love thee.  On top of the new Ciabatta rolls that are delicious, they have 2 new wafer cookies that rock my socks.  The first is a chocolate covered hazelnut that reminds me  a bit of a giant Kit Kat bar.  The second is a Lemon wafer that has so much lemon flavor it ought to be illegal.  DELICOUS!

Enzymedica has an enzyme supplement that helps when you accidentally ingest gluten.  I am now carrying in my purse to have at the ready when I have an accidental glutening!

Freedom Foods is an Australian cereal (at least here in the States) company.  I purchased a box of their Maple Crunch and will review it later.

Van’s, maker of the toaster waffles everyone seems to love, has a new breakfast cereal on the market.  I am excited to try it, especially since I discovered my beloved Cinnamon Chex contain GMO ingredients.  The people at Van’s gave me a box of their Cinnamon Heaven to try out and I will report back on that as well.

I think those are the bulk of my highlights.  I am sure someone or something got missed in here and I will probably just do a photo blog of some more of the photos I took at the Expo.

Until next time!

The Adventures of She-Liac in Chicago

This past weekend was the Chicago Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo. This was my first time attending as anything other than a volunteer. In the week (!) leading up to the Expo, I was asked if I would be willing to dress up as a superhero to promote a T-Shirt company. Considering I used to dress up for work (and still do for theatre), having the opportunity to create my own character was something I jumped at! I have to send big thanks to the staff at both Ragstock and Beatnix Clothing for helping me figure out the pieces.

Since I am a geek, I even started putting together a back story for her.  The only reason I am not sharing it, is because I am playing with ideas to grow with it and maybe turn it into a comic.  How cool is that??  Just need to talk to some people, but I had it in my mind.

I took to my Facebook page and to Twitter to try to come up with a name.  I knew the shirt had a big “GF” on it, so I thought the name should have that as well.  Laura, who writes tweets for Taste Guru and is a fantastic blogger in her own right, gave me a bunch of suggestions based on the article she was editing including “Sorghum Siren.”  I love alliteration and creativity that comes when you are working on something new.

Anyway, Saturday morning came and I got suited up and headed to the booth.

She-Liac!

She-Liac!

To say I did not know what to expect would be an understatement.  My thinking was that no one was going to want to meet a character they did not know.  And considering I could not even remember the name I came up with (Glutonazon), my thought was that it was going to be a LOOOONG 7 hours!

Ready for Action at the GFApparel.com booth

Ready for Action at the GFApparel.com booth

I was wrong.  It started out a little slow, because the booth was near the center back of the expo hall and there was not a lot of business, but then I started wandering.  My favorite moment of the day actually occurred during that first pass through the hall.  There was a boy of about 4 there with his parents, who were manning a booth.  He saw me and immediately told his father he wanted a shirt like mine.  I took him by the hand and we headed to the booth where he immediately started wearing his shirt before his dad even PAID for it!  It made me smile and made my heart happy.  The next day his mom told me he put it on again as soon as he got up.  **Happy Moment**

The rest of the day was taking pictures with people, including 4 ladies from the Notre Dame GIG group, coming up with a motto (“Fighting Hidden Gluten One Crumb at a Time”), taking more pictures, walking, trying a couple of products (more later), enjoying conversations with vendors and guests, and being pulled into booths for pictures.  I learned a lesson that will be valuable moving forward.  This character is a brand.  She is someone I love with a message I am passionate about.  Moving forward, before I take a picture in any booth, with any merchandise, or with any logo, I will be 100% sure that I love and support the brand.  It was very flattering but I know there is at least one picture out there with me in the booth of a product I do not like/enjoy/support.  Lesson. Learned.

I’m going to fix a couple of things and I hope that She-Liac appears at more GF events in the future.

Promoting the GFBar Celiac Sweater project while beating up the Biebs.  (photo by GFB)

Beating up the Biebs and promoting the Gluten Free Bar Celiac Sweater project with a fellow warrior. (photo by GFB)

With Alissa from Breaking up with Captain Crunch and Betsy from Gluten Free Betsy (photo from Alissa)

Charlie’s Angels pose with Alissa from Breaking up with Captain Crunch, and Betsy from Gluten Free Betsy (photo from Alissa)

Fighting gluten with Jennifer, the Allergista.  (photo by Jennifer)

Fighting gluten with Jennifer, the Allergista. (photo by Jennifer)

With Joel of Enjoy Life

Endorsing a favorite with Joel of Enjoy Life Foods

Posed and Proud with Erica of Celiac and the Beast

Posed and Proud with Erica of Celiac and the Beast

Gluten Free Food, Fun and Festivities with Dr. Schar!

This weekend is a BIG weekend for Chicago Glutards.  It is the sixth annual GFAF Expo. This is the first year I am not volunteering, so my experience this year will be much different for me.

But on to tonite!  This evening Schar Gluten Free hosted a “Gluten Free Food, Fun, And Festivities” evening at D’Agostino’s Pizza.  It was a night for locals, bloggers, and expo vendors to get together, kick back, relax, and enjoy some delicious and safe food.

I need to start with the food because I ate so much I was afraid I would need to be rolled out of the restaurant.  It was SO GOOD!!  There was Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Salad made with Chicken Tenders, Chicken Tenders, and 6 different types of pizza (Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage, Vegetarian, Margherita, and the Dags Special).

Chicken Tenders

Chicken Tenders

The salad was your standard issue restaurant salad.  What made it great were the pieces of chicken tenders on first.  At first, I thought there were croutons on top of it, which made me question the Gluten Free training program, but when I looked closer, I realized it was chopped up pieces of tenders.  The tenders themselves were YUM!  Don’t think the overly crispy ones that I used to inhale at fast food restaurants when I was a kid.  This was real pieces of chicken, properly coated, not crispy at all, but with a flavor that was just calling out to be dredged through a sauce and enjoyed in a bite or two.  As you can see from the picture, they were a hit.

Chicken Parm

Chicken Parm

I need to admit that I have never had Chicken Parmesan before tonite.  I really did not even know what it was.  For the uninitiated like myself, it is breaded chicken that is quickly pan-fried, topped with pasta sauce and mozzarella and served on a bed of pasta or rice, in this case fusilli corn pasta.  Since I am unfamiliar with the dish, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I really felt like there was a TON of sauce on top of the chicken and barely any on the pasta, so it tasted a bit dry.  This was not my favorite dish of the evening, but some dish had to be the least favorite, right?

So. Many. Choices!

So. Many. Choices!

Lastly was the pizza.  OMGoodness, the pizza.  I ate soooo much pizza.  First off, I have to say that the restaurant only offers a super thin crust pizza, so if you want anything else, you need to pass.  But if you don’t care about the thickness of the crust as long as it tastes good and the toppings are good, then you will like this pizza.  I did not try the cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizzas, partially because I really wanted to try the other flavors.  The vegetarian pizza had spinach, onions, mushrooms and tomato and made my mouth smile, which tends to be rare as I love my meat pizzas.  The Dags was topped with sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onions, I thought it was tasty and went back for seconds.  But the pizza I went back for thirds was the one that I was told that I HAD to try — The Margherita.  The crust is coated with olive oil and garlic, then topped with basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan.    Seriously, some delicious things going on with that pizza!

But honestly, the best part was meeting up with friends like Sarah, Mary, Denise, and Andrea; getting to meet people I follow on Twitter like GFreeLaura, RockinGFgal, and Gluten Free Betsy: bloggers whose work I enjoy including Alissa and Elyse; and finally getting to meet people who are making it happen in the GF industry like Denise, Ken, and Anne from Schar, and Jason and Darin from Find Me Gluten Free.  I know there are many people I missed, but it is late, I had a margarita and some Angry Orchard, so I hope they forgive me.

Just some of the amazing GF people that came out in a hail storm.

Just some of the amazing GF people who came out in a hail storm.

ZOMG! I Saw P!NK! (with video)

On my birthday I received this message from my friend, Mel:   “Happy Birthday. We are going to see P!nk!”  HELLS YEAH! And on Saturday the 9th, it finally happened.

I have to admit to spending a bit of time trying to figure out just what one should wear to a P!nk show.   The final decision came down to a tank top or a corset.  Eventually I chose the maroon tank as it was in the “pink” color family…kind of.

Think I could be the next Covergirl??

Think I could be the next Covergirl??

The Mel and Mel show arrived at the United Center and did a little bit of wandering. Let me tell you, tour tchotckeys are EXPENSIVE!! Much more expensive than I remember. I looked to my right and I saw a HUGE CoverGirl sign (P!nk is their newest spokesmodel) and headed down there where I discovered they were doing free manicures and doing a photo shoot. Hello, I’m in!  Since the manicure line was a bit long, I just did the photo.  If I ever do one of these again, I don’t think I’ll use any props because I am all the prop I need.  On the other side of the arena we found free mascara and could make a video stating your truth about love.  You know I did it and maybe I will share it.

As we wandered the concourse, we looking for food and discovered that the Gluten Free Table was closed. Since this show was pretty close to a sell out, this left me hurt, sad, confused, and HUNGRY!  This blog has actually been delayed because I sent an e-mail to Levy Restaurants, who run the food locations at the arena.  It took 2 weeks but I finally heard back from the Director of Operations at the United Center.  Currently we are playing a game of phone tag, but when we connect I will share the information.

Well, they have a GF booth, even if it is closed for all but sporting events.

Well, they have a GF booth, even if it is closed for all but sporting events.

The opening act was The Hives.  Their backdrop was fun-the face of a mad puppeteer with strings coming off his fingers and onto their set.  They had 2 stage ninjas that were fun to watch as they kept cords from getting tangled, playing tambourine, and generally just running around the stage.  I wish I could say something good about the band, other than they looked dapper in their top hats and tails, and they had a lot of energy, but after a while it all just blended together and sounded the same.  But a bonus was, the lead singer ended up coming up into the stands to the row right below me and stole (and took a bite out of) someone’s ice cream.  I was not a fan of the music, but their energy and craziness made them a fun opening act.

Mmmmm.....ice cream

Mmmmm…..ice cream

IMG_0216After their set, and while their gear and backdrop were coming down to open the stage up for P!nk, this guy came into the stadium at various locations around the lower bowl and began (kind of rudely) interacting with the audience.  His costume looked like something Two-Face would wear and just before the curtain dropped for P!nk to take the stage, he introduced himself as the host of a new show called “The Truth About Love.”  During random points during in the show he would come out, generally when there was a costume change going on, but overall I do not think he added anything to the show,  Eventually it reached the point where I rolled my eyes if he appeared.IMG_0217

When P!nk took the stage.  WOW!  The stage itself needs to be described as best I can as it was one of the more elaborate stages I have seen.  There were staircases on stage left and right with what I will describe as “old fashioned” street lights along the railings, leading to a platform up stage rear (aka the back of the stage).  Suspended above this platform was a heart-shaped video screen that was used to best effect during “Give Me Just a Reason.”  This platform was an elevator lift that lowered behind a wall so P!nk and the dancers could re-enter the main level through a door.  The main level featured ramps stage left and right, a speed lift stage left and right, and a slower lift center stage.  Extending from the stage right front was a walkway that went out, then curved toward center.  The apex of this was a rose shaped (and painted) piece that doubled as another entrance point.  Behind all of the decor were multiple video screens used to great effect, and crowning the stage was a BIG  “The Truth about Love” neon sign.  Basically, there was a LOT of real estate here, and it was all used to great effect.

My best shot of the stage

My best shot of the stage

One last thing to mention before I go into how amazeballs the concert was.  The band, backup vocalists, and dancers rocked out.  Earning awesome points right away was the fact that it featured one of my favorite things — a she-bassist.  I just love a woman playing bass guitar and I always say that one of these days I am going to learn how to play one.  Until then, I will continue jamming and ruling the Bass play on “Guitar Hero” and enjoy watching others keep the rhythm onstage.  The rest of the band consisted of a guitarist, drummer, keyboard player, and a rhythm guitar/”other” musician.  The 2 back up vocalists rocked the house, and the 6 dancers (3 male 3 female) worked like there was no tomorrow.  Did I mention that the male dancers provided some might fine eye candy?  This whole group, including P!nk, seemed like a big family who threw a party and invited us all to sit down around the (gluten-free) kegerator and have fun.

So, the show.  WOW does not even begin to describe it.  I could probably put every alternative for brilliantly amazing in here and STILL feel like I have not adequately described it.  From the opening number (“Raise Your Glass”) performed on bungee cords, to her final encore (“Glitter in the Air”) performed on silks, P!nk wowed me and made whatever was paid for my ticket absolutely worth it.  While the aerial work is the “wow”, the thing that sets her apart from other performers, I felt like it was utilized at the right moments and for the right songs.  The numbers where other forms of movement/dance were used were also properly placed and it never felt like something was done just to do it.  One of the numbers that I really enjoyed the staging of was a cover of Chris Issaks’ “Wicked Game.”  For this number she stood center stage with a stand mic, and the male dancers moved her around.  It was simple, interesting, powerful.  During numbers like “U + UR Hand” or “Walk of Shame” for instance, it was just a freaking party.  It just made me sad that the singles from her first album were pretty much rolled into a brief medley — even if that medley had a killer dance break.  But I also understand that she has grown and evolved from that period of time, and am thankful that she did anything from that album at all.

Most of the night, this was the level I was at….and by the end I probably broke it:

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Dork-O-Meter

I wish I had the words to describe how much I love the music P!nk creates, how much of it seems to be ripped from my own life.  She blends the tough with the vulnerable and finds a way to plant the tongue firmly in cheek.  2 of her more recent songs (“Perfect” and “Try”) are anthems that I play to pick myself up when I have a rough day, while others (too many to name) are ones that I play when I am in a fantastic mood and just want to let it all out and have fun.  So, I just want to leave you with this before I go.  It is from the concert and it combines the aerial work that blew me away, with the dancing, and the raw emotion that I love.

Stay Passionate,

Mel

GF Chicago– Bountiful Eatery

IMG_0267Have you ever liked the IDEA of something more than the actual thing itself?  That is how I feel about Bountiful Eatery, a gluten-free, quick service restaurant located in the Lakeview Neighborhood. Yes, GLUTEN-FREE!  I could eat everything here and not have to ask a bajillion questions about cross contamination or ingredients.  When I first learned of this restaurant,  I did a happy dance. And my happy dance is a sight to behold.

The first time I visited, I ended up getting my order to go. I was feeling lazy, cooking was not an option I wanted to entertain, and I had a movie waiting at home to watch, so I decided to try them out on my way home from work. Originally I was going to order the chicken kabob, but the person behind the counter made me feel like it would be such a hassle to get that,  Instead, I ordered the chicken breast pita with a side salad. In general, it is known that I am a bit of a character,  but I thought I would have pieces of chicken inside the pita with the spinach, tomatoes, and the “zesty yogurt spread.”  What I received was a whole chicken breast placed in a pita. This was not easy to eat, and a disappointment because I really wanted hand food. The side salad was also a disappointment as it tasted like something that I could get out of a bag at my grocery store.  Overall, I was disappointed, but they have brunch!

IMG_0268My second trip was my first attempt at trying their brunch menu,  but I missed the end time by about 30 minutes.  So instead of pancakes I ordered a grilled cheese and turkey from the kids meal  and had them add some avocado.  Since I had the option of a side salad or chips, my instinct was to go for the salad, but when I saw that eating in would get me the same plastic container of salad I didn’t care for my first go round, I opted for a bag of sweet potato chips.  As an added bonus, I decided to try their smoothie menu and got the Choco’Nut (low fat chocolate yogurt, banana, skim chocolate milk, and all natural peanut butter).  YUM all around!  The avocado added a fun twist to the grilled cheese that had me wondering why I had never tried it before, and the smoothie was a further celebration of my new found love of chocolate, peanut butter, and banana.  This is a meal I would come back for, and with the 20% discount they are giving for flashing your gym card, one that clocked in around $12!  If my sweet tooth needed further tempting after that smoothie, they have brownies and desert bars from Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery for sale.

Third time was the charm, in terms of FINALLY getting brunch and I eagerly ordered the Pumpkin Pancakes and another Choco’Nut smoothie.  After a bit of a wait, my 4 pancakes arrived with a side of fruit.  Issue #1 — I had to ask for butter, or a similar substance, for my pancakes.  Maybe it is just me, but shouldn’t that just come with the pancakes, along with the syrup (maple, in this instance)??  Issue #2 — the pancakes just kind of tasted blah, until my last one.  That last one had that distinctive pumpkin taste with melted butter and maple syrup that I had been longing for the entire meal.  Overall, the experience was just a bit meh.

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Pumpkin pancakes, fruit cup, and choco’nut smoothie.

I know I am going to come back here, as I hear other items are good and I want to give them a try.  Plus they have a nice smoothie menu, which is always a win in my book.  I just really wish I could drum up more enthusiasm for the food, because I like the concept so much.  Here is hoping…

 

Bountiful Eatery, 312 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657

 

ToM