Friday, October 31, 2014


well - we didn't get out fast enough to avoid snow altogether.... it was snow big flurries this morning and is cold and windy .... so our timing is off by one day...

today pack the car and get things ready for our caretaker -  but in two days all four of us will be in warmer climes- with the sunshine, blue sky and beach!

two views of our public beach-

the view from the Beach House-

The view from Moore's Stone Crab and Mar Vista

The View from Tide Tables---

fun and sun and extended vacation awaits!!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

greetings from goosefoot

So last night we had our final "farewell 2014 Chicago" dinner at goosefoot- if you follow this blog you know it is one of our favorite places to eat in our neighborhood.  The Michelin star doesn't do it any harm and actually makes us happy that it will attract diners from the loop and out of town - that will keep a neighborhood restaurant alive and well for quite some time....

the menu has a few changes from our most recent prior visit in mid September... since the goosefoot store has opened next door, they have more cheese choices so this will change more frequently (per Molly - our co-favorite server - along with Isabel!) And we had a new prep on the amuse (it comes in a new ceramic piece that is taller and more dramatic than the prior presentation.)

the white we chose showed fabulously! really perfect- drink it now if you have it...

a new soup which paired the ever present fall squash soup with tart cranberries to cut the cloying squash - really excellent with just a touch of curry...

then we moved on the red which opened up nicely with a bit of breathing room-

we love the updated salmon dish with the ginger infused soy -

the duck course above and beef course below-

a new cheese- we liked it immensely -

the traditional palate cleanser of yuzu and beet-

then the desserts - with a new presentation on the final (pineapple) dessert-

to finish it all off - hot chocolate with cardamom

really first rate meal as we knew it would be--- another tried and true place we can highly recommend!!!

tonight we are off to the Chicago Humanities Festival for a lecture/concert by Darlene Love-

And this rounds out the season for Chicago 2014... fun times - we made new friends (Mark & Mirella who are also part time - dashing off in September to Honolulu for their time in better climes) and got to spend a lot more time with Mon & Beth (yea!) had a lot of amazing meals and some great theater and a fabulous road trip - remember Buddy's Pizza in Detroit? went to France, went to Maritime Canada, saw/heard some excellent concerts and got to see a bit more of old friends Dick, Ali, Mark, Laura, Liv, Mick and Neil.... we even had time for a few Chicago Gourmets meals... other friends are as over scheduled as we are so it was tough catching up with Sheila, Mary, Brian & Tina - but there's always next year!

See you next week in Sea Sand and Sun! when we arrive to spend time in Lucy & Penny's playhouse in Florida... stay tuned - stone crabs, grouper, great theater... excellent festivals - food and music - all coming up!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

reality venice

Before we go to Venice the dream/ghost world... let's check in a bit on Venice in real life.  Venice is inconvenient for real life... there are almost no roads (the exception lies along the waterfront where the giant parking garage offers a place for drivers to leave their cars before they enter the land of Venice the dream...and it does continue on along the water for a while beyond the car park- to the area of the port so that trucks can supply both Venice and the giant cruise ships that come in daily disgorging the day trippers for their six hours in Venice.

This situation is all caused by history- the Venetians ruled the seas and had an empire that stretched throughout the Adriatic and into the Mediterranean seas...ultimately to Constantinople (where you can't go back to...LOL) One of the most famous of all the spoils of war rests atop San Marco - the four bronze horses looted from Constantinople (then re-looted by Napoleon and returned again to Venice to their home atop the center of the loggia of San Marco)  The Venetians had defended their City/State in the lagoon for centuries after they moved from the mainland to escape the hordes of goths and visigoths, vandals, huns and various other tribes of Europe.  Living on the water had always had its advantages and disadvantages.  Good news you get away from the creepy guys who live less civilized lives but are fierce fighters... bad news is you have to build on water by sinking thousands of tree trunks for your foundation and less foreseeable - no cars or other motorized vehicles because the space between the hundreds of tiny islands you have made with your trees and built upon are connected by little, sometimes medium hump-backed bridges with lots of steps....

above poster - "Venise et le Lido, travel poster for ENIT, ca. 1920" by Vittorio Grassi (1878–1958)

so what we have here is one of the most picturesque places on the planet (although other places come to mind - like Lijiang up on the Tibetan plateau in China -which has its own venetian characteristics done a la Chinoise) - but it is now the 21st century and places where people live (even if only for a night or two) need police and fire protection and ambulances etc... And while Venice is a shadow of its former population (now something around 60,000 people -down from a high of 150,000 just before the black plague hit and killed about 1/3 of the Venetians) they still need city services.

Venice is built upon a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.   Although there are no historical records that deal directly with the founding of Venice, tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice consisted of refugees from Roman cities near Venice such as Padua, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino and Concordia and from the undefended countryside, who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasions.

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.  Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface.  Most of these piles were made from trunks of alder trees, a wood noted for its water resistance. (blue text is from wikipedia)

but I digress again- I find this the most fascinating of cities on so many levels and over the course of five trips have spent much time learning about its history- but we are back to police and fire protection and the commerce of a city on water.  In the mornings while having my breakfast on the Grand Canal overlooking Santa Maria della Salute I also watched the boat come for the linen delivery and take away - as well as the trash barge with its mini-crane to remove garbage from the hotel.  Day to day life must be supported despite the veneer of magic... on to some photos-

the cab stand- and the bus-

the police department patrol vehicles-

the firehouse (or fire palazzo as is the case in Venice- LOL) and the fire "trucks"-

then the linen containers that were switched each morning at the hotel-

and the trash barge with its little crane for the garbage dumpsters-

so while all of the tourists and short term visitors have their fantasy life of traveling back in time to an era where you heard only footsteps on stone bridge steps- Venice finds a way to take care of business despite being located on 100+ islands built upon tree trunks in the middle of a swampy lagoon and manages to remain one of the most romantic places on the planet...

and here are just a few shots of why it still has this hold on us-

I had once read this- Piazza San Marco - described as the living room of Europe... certainly, if you travel you will find yourself sitting here for a drink or coffee or an ice cream at some point in your life, so perhaps it is an apt description...

iconic gondolas- everywhere - but these days it seems we only saw Asia passengers (perhaps they are the only ones who can afford the ride, or perhaps the stereotype of ultimate tourists)

the doges palace - tell me you don't think Venice when you see these arches!

even the aqua alta - is iconic Venice- we sat with coffee watching the water rise and the tourists walk around or through depending upon their footwear---

the smaller side (off the Grand Canal) canals offer photo op style views about every ten feet!

another Venetian icon- the poles (which serve as kind of a garage or "carport" for your boat - here one in the moonlight from the bar we stopped into for a nightcap - on the Grand Canal-

a fleet of official vehicles "parked" on the Grand Canal, outside government offices (perhaps this is where George Clooney went for his official marriage ceremony on the Monday morning after his wedding)

in further posts I will do a Grand Canal tour and a few choice shots of San Marco and some night photos (for more atmosphere- LOL)  So as always, stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

tried and true

to some it may seem like we never eat at home- and this is understandable given many of the recent posts to semifreelife. however this is mostly due to our wanting to catch up with folks that we won't see over the winter before we leave town for warmer climes.

So tonight we had our farewell dinner for the fall of 2014 with long time partner and friend Neil.  We headed to Restaurant Michael in Winnetka - somewhat of a hike out of the city, but worth it for excellent food and no corkage on Tuesdays!

everything was first rate and here is the menu for this evening- we started off with a Dom Perignon champagne - and had two bottles of excellent red burgundy for starters I had the tuna and salmon tartare and Phil had the foie gras and Neil had the sweetbreads and escargot combo... then I had a salade Lyonnaise before the mains came-

the mains - I had the salmon, Phil the venison and Neil the guinea fowl-

Phil ordered a chocolate souffle for dessert and then the wait staff brought a couple more desserts the chocolate bombe and the creme brulee- which I tried and which Phil and Neil finished off before waxing off the chocolate truffles to end the meal.  Good food, good wine and good friends - make for an excellent evening out...

tomorrow night our final big dining out event for the 2014 Chicago season- goosefoot... then we have arts events for Thursday (Chicago Humanities Festival and a concert for Phil Friday at City Winery) - rounding out our year of social events here in Chicago until our return in the late spring... meanwhile, at home we are eating weird combinations of things from the freezer and frig in order to get that cleaned out before we go- so it is very much form the sublime to the ridiculous on the eating here- hotdogs and potstickers anyone? No? well we can offer you leftover gumbo or a plain omelet...LOL

I promise I will actually get us back to Venice at some point - so keep on coming back....