Category Archives: Dining

THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME 2018 DINE-AROUNDS!

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Travel is not the only thing that This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM) offers.

When I first conceptualized TIDFM back in 2015, I did so with the idea that I wanted the business to be a conduit for providing uniquely curated experiences for women age 50+.

One of the ways in which TIDFM carries out its mission of connecting women age 50+ is through its Dine-Arounds at   outstanding Chicago restaurants.

The first gem on our itinerary is a Vietnamese eatery well known in Chicago as Pasteur.  Several of us will be traveling to Southeast Asia in 2019, and I thought what better way to learn about Vietnamese culture except through its cuisine. We will dine there on Saturday, May 5, 2018!  Pictured below is a Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad and Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps.

 

The second restaurant on our Dine-Around schedule is Eddie Vs Prime Seafood scheduled for Saturday, July 21, 2018. This outing is particularly special because TIDFM will also host its second Annual Book Swap. My gift to my assignee is the book “Stockdale” written by author Priscilla Lalisse-Jespersen.  I’m excited about passing this book on and the pleasure I derived from reading it.

Each attendee will bring a used book to share/give to another attendee who has been assigned to them. Also, when presenting the book to their assigned partner, each will explain a little about the book and why they enjoyed it prior to presenting the book to its new owner.

On Saturday, September 29, 2018, our Dine-Around will take us to Mexique, a fusion experience of Mexican and French cuisine.  I love this place!  You will be amazed at what Chef Carlos Gayton does with the Roasted Monk Fish.  It will explain why he is slated to receive his first Michelin Star ⭐️.

And, lastly, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate will be the venue for our last dining experience for 2018.  Even though the food is out of sight, the desserts are epic — Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate!  Check out Mindy’s Milk Chocolate Coffee Mousse highlighted below, right.

 

What’s the best part of all of these outings?  Not the food, although the food is magnificent and not the lovely decor, although beauty is evident.   It’s the conversation. It’s the laughter.  It’s the sharing. And ultimately the best part are the new relationships that are forged and the opportunity to be with like-minded women!

Bon appetite!

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MORE CULTURE SHOCK IS ON THE HORIZON!

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In October of 2019, I will escort 10 excited women to Bangkok, Thailand (The Land of Smiles), Taipei, Taiwan and three cities in Vietnam — Hanoi, Hoi An and Halong Bay!

Experiencing a country’s culture, particularly its food scene gives you a close up glimpse of what the people cherish.

When I visited China in 2005, I really found out what culture shock was all about. Asia was unlike any of my previous travels.  Toilet usage, certain spices, Tai Chi in the parks and fresh, fresh fish, Communism and the way the Chinese interface with these facets of their culture are unforgettable.

I suspect Southeast Asia will present to us nuances that will shock us even more.

What’s the use in traveling if you don’t experience and see something diametrically different from your normal.

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GOOD FOOD IN PUERTO VALLARTA!

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ALCATRACES — Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
While in Puerto Vallarta in February 2018, I and some friends dined at a delightful restaurant called Alcatraces. The decor was warm, colorful and cozy. It was the first time that I saw an entire wall draped in stacked stone, and artwork created by Mexican artists laden throughout this gem added an authenticity that compels you to learn more about Mexico generally and Puerto Vallarta, specifically.

As aesthetically pleasing as the decor is, the food is equally appealing. We started with an appetizer of a huge deep fried Porto Bello Mushroom loaded with shrimp, onions and cheese — a gastronomic phenomenon. For my entree, I had the Barbeque Ribs — most tender and with outstanding sauce. I paired my meal with a Pacifico Beer! Now, that was heaven.

The service was attentive and warm, and our waiter made satisfying recommendations.
Please pay Alcatraces a visit on your next trip to Puerto Vallarta! You will walk away mesmerized by the entire experience.

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Traveling — A Different Kind of Vacation

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What was the unexpected?  Taking a vacation in the middle of a harsh Chicago winter — one that I never even entertained.  Winter has mainly been something to suffer through while I waited on the dawn of spring when it “made more sense” for me to take a vacation.

So when I was invited to spend time in Puerto Vallarta last month, I went with the flow and decided to spend some winter time doing something different, but this time in 80+ degree temperatures.

Typically, when I vacation, it is traditionally to locales where there are loads of historical monuments to behold, great shopping districts to experience, restaurants to sample and jazz clubs to get my music fix satisfied.

Although these destinations are exciting and filled with constant activity and fun stuff, I must admit that my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was a different kind of vacation. Total relaxation ruled the entire week.

Although I took advantage of a few excursions — a tour the historic Lady of Guadalupe Church, viewing the sculptures along the Malecon and shopping, the best part of this trip was the time I spent at Palenque Spa getting a mani and pedi, along with a deep tissue massage, partaking in sumptuous meals like the one at Los Alcatraces La Marina, sipping champagne on the golf course and more importantly just kicking back on the beach in the most comfortable lounge chair while immersed in a collection of essays written by Samantha Irby sharing the company of special friends.

And I can’t forget the time I spent on the balcony watching daily sunrises and sunsets.

My mind was not bogged down with the items on my To Do List, or work related issues or making decisions.  My mind was clear — as clear as the waters in Mexico.

I think I can get used to that!

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Eating Well and Using Your Creativity in the Process!

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There are countless ways to express your creativity — through the written word, creating an aesthetically pleasing home environment, building a business or through a variety of artistic endeavors.  But nothing can compare to creating a colorful salad 🥗.

The salad pictured below was a three person endeavor created at my home for a Paella Party back in June.  In this beautiful bowl was Spinach, Red Leaf Lettuce, Grape Tomatoes 🍅, Red Onion, Mandarin Oranges, Cranberries and Bleu Cheese.

Eating is a necessity, but preparation and cooking is an art form!

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JUST ME AND SOME SOUP!

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I was in the process of making tomato 🍅 soup when the thought hit me that life is indeed good.  When this revelation came (and I have that revelation often), I could clearly see that it is something special about remaining mindful and in the moment as you complete any task.  My taking the steps to create a heartwarming pot of soup wasn’t lost on this point.

I didn’t have a television on nor did I feel compelled to turn on any music.  It was just me, a pot, a knife, a spoon, some tomatoes, chicken broth and a picture window in my kitchen that allowed me the blessing of looking onto my backyard as I prepared my dish.

First, I did a rough chop of eight Roma Tomatoes; I diced some fresh garlic (about 3 cloves — I just love garlic) and I slivered about 6 sprigs of fresh basil.  I poured the chicken broth into my pot, added everything else and slowly simmered that pot of what was clearly becoming a concoction of deliciousness.

I have to admit that the most exciting part of making my tomato soup is pulling out my hand emulsifier to thicken it.  Somehow I feel like a real chef when I use it.

However, the most memorable part of the process was how consciously aware I was of every chop and every stir.  The blessing was being present every step of the way. I didn’t hurry through my soup making; I wasn’t thinking ahead about changing the linen on my bed, and I wasn’t thinking about solving any problems at the office.  I just lost myself in the task at hand — Making Soup!

AND THAT I’M CONVINCED IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS!

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2017 RECAP OF THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME ACTIVITIES — IT WAS A GOOD YEAR!!

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As I reflect over the 2017, I realize it was an extremely busy year.  It was a year of a lot of firsts for me, particularly as it relates to building my two year old business This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM).

It was a year that allowed me to see how I brought dreams to fruition for others and just how much satisfaction I derived from playing a role in that.  It was also a year where I faced some long-standing doubts and fears, and surprisingly I came out on the other side!  I like to do yearly recaps mainly so that I can not only see what I’ve accomplished, but examine the misses and areas where I still need to grow, as well.

So for all that it brought, here is TIDFM’s 2017 recapped:

TRAVEL

January — I, along with nine female relatives, took (what has become known as “The Cousins’ Trip”) a four day jaunt to Atlanta, Georgia. Our cousin and her husband treated us royally.  The trip was made especially memorable because we traveled there during the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  birthday was being celebrated in his hometown.   It was also magical to spend that time with family members.  We took in the movie “Hidden Figures”, saw Roy Ayers perform at the City Winery, ate at some fabulous restaurants, laughed and talked, talked and laughed, and more importantly, we paid homage to Dr. King by visiting his grave site,  along with that of his dedicated wife and comrade Coretta Scott King.

 

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March — I was able to visit a close friend who lives in Berkeley, California.  This was the first time that I spent my entire time in Berkeley versus spending time in Oakland or San Francisco.  We saw an art exhibit at Berkeley Museum of Art, ate Bi Bim Bap at a  Korean restaurant (ate there twice because I can never get enough of Bi Bim Bap), watched a myriad of movies at her home and toured the campus of The University of California, Berkeley.  I have always wanted to see this campus, especially because of its history of protest, advocacy and of being a change agent.

A visit to the Bay area would not be complete without paying a visit to the outstanding restaurant Burma Superstar!  That place! That place!  They offer every imaginable way to please your palate; their coconut rice alone will have you begging for more, and the variety of Burmese food offered is amazing.

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September — I finally got to travel to a city that I have been longing to visit for quite some time.  This trip, like my excursion to Atlanta, allowed me to spend time with family — 3 cousins — who made my trip so special.  Not only is Seattle a most gorgeous city, its food scene is amazing and as diverse as its residents.  You want good ice cream?  There is Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.  You want really good Sushi?  There is Trappers.

And I can’t  forget my visit to the famed Pike’s Market, The Northwest African American Museum and the city’s Space Needle!

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The University of Washington’s campus is picturesque, and situated on that campus are some of the most architecturally unique buildings I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, Seattle’s weather is my kind of weather.  Although it was overcast on several days, the breezes and fresh air made the trip all the more enjoyable.

Also, Seattle gave me a chance to be mesmerized by The Chihuly Exhibit held on The Seattle Space Museum Caampus — what magnificent work!

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October — Reykjavik, Iceland — Not a place I would have ever imagined myself visiting until I came across an incredible fare offered by Southwest Airlines, but AM I GLAD I DID!  Naturally, once I really began to research Aurora Borealis (aka The Northern Lights), I was determined to witness this phenomenon first hand.  On a cold Iceland evening, I got my chance.  How awe-inspiring it was!

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Who would have thought I would have paid to join an excursion to whale watch?  I maintained the attitude that “as long as I am here, I might as well immerse myself in Icelandic culture.”  It was cold and wet, but I felt like a trooper because I pushed myself to do something that I would never have done before.  I saw not only whales, but but I saw humpback dolphins, and other unrecognizable water bound animals.

I shivered my butt off, but I enjoyed every minute.

 

 

 

I was also able to partake in a two hour Icelandic Beer Class where you not only tasted a variety of beers (that was a lot of fun), but I learned about what was going on historically in Iceland at the time those beers were crafted.  Our class members were from Canada, Italy and Sweden.

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Of course we took the obligatory city tour — Reykjavik’s Cultural Building was hosting a run of Tosca, along with some lesser known productions and exhibits.

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We also saw the building (pictured below) where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev held in 1986 made progress toward creating The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and The Soviet Union.

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The highlight of the city tour was seeing the Lutheran Church Hallgrimskir, which is one of Iceland’s hallmark tourist attractions. Running a close second was bathing in the iconic Blue Lagoon.

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November — The end of the year saw me revisit Sydney, Australia, but unlike my first visit in 2015 where I went Down Under solo, this time I escorted eight women aged 50+ to the land of Oz!  It was a monumental trip because it was the first official excursion for This…I…Do…For…Me and it was the first time some of the ladies had ever left the United States.  AUSTRALIA WAS EVERYTHING!

Our Sydney, Australia  Itinerary Included:  The Sydney Opera House Tour, The Royal Botanical Gardens, Cronulla Beach, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Seeing the Southern Cross at the Sydney Observatory, Sea Life Aquarium, Madam Tussaud, Watson’s Bay and Doyle’s Restaurant, Bondi Junction (for shopping) Day Trip to The Blue Mountains and numerous restaurants representing Thai, Greek, German, Italian and Mexican Cuisines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OTHER 2017 THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME GROUP OUTINGS AND EVENTS

  1.  We took a Greek Cooking Class at Sur La Table in Chicago;
  2.  I and 12 TIDFM patrons participated in a Wine Tasting and Food Pairing led by Sommelier Brian Duncan at Eddie Vs on The Gold Coast;
  3. We attended The City Winery’s Sunday Concert Series; classical, jazz and choral music was the fare;
  4. We attended a Salute to Katherine Dunham at The Harold Washington Library;
  5. We attended both The Annual African American Film Festival and viewed a film monthly at The Gene Siskel Film Center;
  6. TIDFM sponsored its First Annual Book Swap and Dinner at Eddie Vs;
  7.  We attended three theatrical productions — Hamilton, An American in Paris and The Bodyguard;
  8. TIDFM in conjunction with Chisiko offered a Women Warrior Masterpiece Art Class at Robust Coffee Shop;
  9. We attended The Chicago Cultural Center’s showing of the documentary “Still I Rise” featuring the life of phenomenal Activist, Writer and Renaissance Woman Maya Angelou;
  10. We attended a musical performance featuring drummer extraordinaire Terri Lyne Carrington and Liz Wright;
  11. We attended Dixon School’s Annual African American Cultural Festival;
  12. I attended “Black Girls Gather” in Chicago hosted by “For Harriett “Writer and Activist Kimberly Foster;
  13. I was invited to join The Shanghai Committee for The Chicago Sister Cities Program;
  14. I even learned how to play Mah Jong;
  15. Attended The Annual Good Food Conference;
  16. I threw my first Paella Party (see pics below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am excited about 2018, as TIDFM will be traveling to Greece in September!  We will continue to experience the wonderful cultural scene that Chicago offers.

I will keep you posted on our other exciting events scheduled for throughout the year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  MAY PROSPERITY ABOUND! #thisidoforme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY ULTIMATE SOLO COOKING ADVENTURE — CELEBRATING MEALS ONE AT A TIME!

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Kweli Kitwana is a regular contributor to this blog (This…I…Do…For…Me!).  She openly shares her journey from taking care of others all of her life to now giving herself permission to focus on herself.  In this post, Kweli discusses how single people can have a great dining experience.  

Thank you, Kweli for sharing. 

Over two years ago, I found myself single again. Wait, let me rephrase that — over two years ago I ended 37 years of taking care of others, and I found a path toward taking care of myself. With this came the responsibility of rethinking how I nurture myself (including cooking for one). This seemed simple enough, because, I always saw myself as an excellent cook, host and creator in the kitchen. I could whip up a party for 20; a meal for eight; and make homemade vegan cookies by the batches–all in one day!! So, cooking for one, should have been easy.

It turns out that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  Truth be told, I didn’t really understand that all of that fanfare of cooking was “fed” by making others happy and full. In retrospect, I now see it was fueled by a deeper journey with my own personal relationship with food.

I recall going on my first “singles” shopping trip during which I noted, I needed apples. Wait, I thought, I don’t need apples, I need AN apple. Looking at the apples, I realized at that moment I could choose any apple I wanted without the slightest consideration of one other person. It felt liberating, yes; but, it also brought about a complicated emotion. At that moment I knew that I hadn’t ever taken full control of my health, as I deferred my nutrition to other folks’needs.

Taking a survey of what I wanted meant one clear thing — doing for MYSELF what I have done for others!! It meant embracing, celebrating and recognizing that eating is an individual experience.

Logistically, this took some planning. I needed to downsize my effort without reducing and skimping on the outcome. Therefore, I committed to creating a beautiful, nutritious and kick-ass dining experience for myself every dang gone day!!

Here’s how I do it:

It seems silly to say this, but you simply keep doing what you always do, except on a smaller scale.

I bought myself a toaster oven. It makes cooking for one really easy.  How about that?
I literally created a set of toaster oven size bakeware for myself. I did this at the local ceramic studio. It may sound overwhelming to some, but it was simply rolling out clay, firing it and designing it. I wanted to cook in and eat on some special dishes. You can also buy toaster oven size bakeware if you aren’t interested in making your own.

Another helpful hint is that I shop in the bulk food section at my grocer.   Here I could buy small batches of grains and spices. Also, I get to explore more foods by purchasing them in smaller quantities.

Buying  produce when it is on sale and cutting them up to freeze gives me the option to eat more variety. Fresh is great, but I have realized when you eat as a single person, you have to plan for getting the most from your produce.

Giving myself permission to cook small batches of rice, beans and other items, I typically cook for more. I had to stay aware that the directions on most items are for 2-4 servings. Unless you want to have leftovers, do the math for one serving. I regularly cook one cup of dried beans.

Speaking of leftovers, I don’t like eating the same thing over and over, so I avoid this by  cooking using the “single-method.” I have become extremely creative!

For instance, I bake a cookie (or two…ok, three) at a time (cutting the recipe in half) and freezing the dough.

I have invested in various sizes of mason jars. These suckers are the best thing for storing food!! But, I also use them to bake small batch recipes.

Here is what I’m saying — treating yourself to a great meal is not only a good way to take care of yourself, but it’s been the best thing I done for myself in a long, long time. Now, I look forward to cooking and eating alone.

 

September and October 2016: A Recap of Travel, Education And Fun

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imageEvery two months, I will provide an update on my travels, activities and any new venture that materializes.  Here is what I had the opportunity to experience during September and October 2016:

TRAVEL:

From September 9-20, 2015, I experienced Wonderful France that featured excursions to Paris, Avignon, Arles, Aix-En-Provence, St. Tropez, Nice, Monaco, Lyon, St. Paul de Vence, Beaune and St.  Balme Maxime.  This entire trip was fun, educational and whimsical.  The food was great and the historic sights were amazing!

In October, I was honored to return to my undergraduate institution Oberlin College for the OA4 (Oberlin Association of African American Alumni) reunion.  It was amazing to see classmates that I had not seen since commencement. To be able to reminisce while walking the campus and getting reconnected to the college that served as the foundation for my path in social services was almost surreal.

Also in October, I had the chance to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for The International Congress of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE). Not only were the workshops well presented, but I was blessed to meet my colleagues who work in other parts of the world.  Staff and board members from other LBFE chapters — Madrid, Barcelona, Romania, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Ireland and the U.S. — were able to meet and share best practices for working with isolated elders.

THEATRE

In mid October, I attended The  Court Theatre’s (Chicago) production of “Gem of the Ocean” written by renowned playwright August Wilson.  Wilson wrote The Century Cycle plays (one for every decade from the 1900s to 1990s), and after having seen this production, I can proudly say I have seen all 10 of Wilson’s masterpieces.

NEW RESTAURANTS

I, along with five “This I Do For Me” participants, experienced an absolutely delectable meal at Francessa’s on Taylor in September, and at Pizza Capri and Chant, in October.

READING

In September, I read the seminal work “The Sisters Are Alright” — a must read that examines the stereotypes that plague African American women. The author Tamara Winfrey Harris did a beautiful job with this book.  Also, “Leave Your Nets” written by mystic Joel Goldsmith was devoured by me in October.

MUSIC

In October, I saw the musical phenom Cecilie McLorin Salvant in concert, and immediately following the concert, I purchased her latest CD entitled “For One to Love.” I am also listening to “Live in Cuba” by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Lets see what November holds!

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