Archive for April 2011

22 April 2011

Street Food Friday: Gaztro-Wagon

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food

Happy Friday everyone! Since I leave soon for the culinary mecca known as Italy, it’s only fair that I have my last pre-vacation post be about food! And my favorite kind of food: street food.

That’s right, it’s Street Food Friday!!!

Doni, Gretchen, Lacey and I are highlighting trucks and carts in Chicago, Portland, Austin and New York and this week, it’s my turn! So let’s take a closer look at the Godfather to Chicago food trucks: The Gaztro-Wagon.

Name: Gaztro-Wagon

Twitter handle: @wherezthewagon

Website: http://www.gaztro-wagon.com

What is it: Bringing popularity to a new kind of sandwich, the naan-wich (all sandwiches made with naan bread) and specializing in modern street fare. It was started by Matt Maroni (on the right in the below photo), who actually staffs that truck 12 months a year (I’ve been out there in -1 degree weather, and he’s there!)

They are so nice!

What I ate: Wow, I wish I could list everything I’ve had here. Because the menu rotates, what I get varies weekly but this week, I soothed my Nola-missing nerves with a sandwich called The Bayou. It included crawfish and Andouille sausages and tomato creole.  And it was pretty d*amn tasty but the crawfish got a little lost with the Andouille. Looks like this will be my only trip to The Bayou.

What else is on the menu: The menu varies daily in terms of what is available and below is what was left when they stopped at my office.

But for the larger menu, I have my eye on the warm lobster and hash, pork Pozole, wild boar belly and pheasant thighs. Yes, they all sound amazing.

Verdict: I do love the Gaztro-Wagon and end up hitting it up at least once a month. The naan-wiches are hearty, tasty and a really nice blend of ingredients and flavors I wouldn’t normally make myself. My only complaint is that as the wagon gets more popular, food selection isn’t as wide, especially when they make two stops in a day. As you can see in the photo above, several options were sold out when they got to my office. This is a larger issue with Chicago food trucks, since it can’t be prepared on-site but it’s still frustrating when you’ve been looking forward to it all day, only to settle for your third or fourth choice sandwich, which is still $8-12.

But then again, I’d rather deal with that than lose the food truck movement here overall.

20 April 2011

Pre-Italy for one nerves

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: travel

Last year, before I went to Napa for a week, I posted some of my pre-vacation fears because, well I was nervous. It was the first long trip I would take alone and I was still early in my travel for one adventures so anxiety was high. Some of my nerves were normal and maybe a little crazy but getting them out there helped.

And now it’s time to do that again.

In just a few days, I leave for my Italian vacation.

I’m excited and shocked that it’s finally time to go but I’m also scared as sh*t.

My mind cannot turn off about things I’m nervous and worried about, such as:

  • What if I don’t sleep on the flight? Will Advil PM really do the trick?
  • What if I have an awful time overseas?
  • What if I get lonely? Two weeks is a long time!
  • What if no one speaks English and they throw pasta or food at me when I butcher the language?
  • What if I get lost, miss my train or have literally no idea where I’m going?
  • What if my hotels are awful and I run out of stuff to do?
  • What if I don’t get to do everything I want?
  • What if I get flagged at customs and get the “friendly” security check?

Wow, re-reading this, it’s amazing I’m not clinically crazy. Goodness.

The thing is, no matter how much I research, ask questions of friends that went to Italy, etc., I have a tendency to get worked up about the unknown. Why? Because I have no idea what to expect, especially because it’s international travel.

I’m so grateful to those that have answered my questions and lent me books about the trip and I think I’m panicking because I’m feeling like I’m pretty prepared to go.

I guess what I’m most scared of is that after all this planning, travel and money, I’ll leave disappointed but I have to let that fear go.

So I’m trying to get everything done this week and then focus on the main thing, being able to go off the grid while I’m gone so I can really relax.

Woo! Here we go!

What about you? Do you ever get pre-travel nerves?

18 April 2011

Weekend recap: Could Nola be the new Vegas?

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food, Friends, travel

Okay, New Orleans isn’t exactly like Vegas but after spending four days there, I still FEEL like I came back from Vegas. Goodness, I am TIRED.

I have to give credit to Katelin because she made the connection.

Yes, I got to go back to the lovely New Orleans for a conference late last week and this weekend and it was amazing. New Orleans is quickly becoming one of my favorite places and will always have a special spot in my heart because it was the first solo vacation I took almost a year ago.

It’s funny that I was there almost a year ago and that trip helped me get to where I am now, which is going to Italy this week. Holy cow.

Anyhow, yes, I love New Orleans and its major selling point (separate from Abita and beignets) is that it is warm without being too miserable right now. We’re in the 40s and rainy in Chicago (hate)  but we had amazing weather in New Orleans, 70s and sunny with only one day of humidity. It’s true that weather can really affect your mood because I was happy as a clam there!

And the benefit about going back this time is that I could go back and see specific things I wanted because I already canvased the French Quarter last year. It’s amazing how much you remember when you start walking around.

Plus, there was lots of good food to be had as well, including:

Beignets – I’m not ashamed to say I went to Cafe du Monde EVERY DAY (and twice on Saturday)

Soft shell crab po boy – There are no words

BBQ lobster – yes please

Homemade ham and cheese soft pretzel. I wanted to slather this all over my body

Yes, the food in New Orleans is beyond tasty but it was also great to hang out with bloggy friends too, including Katelin, who I never get to see enough.

Okay so maybe Nola isn’t exactly like Vegas (even though there were some crazy outfits and lack of pants wearing), but between the walking and late nights/early mornings, my body sure feels like it was.

Clearly, I need to visit Nola more often, and stretch before walking all day. But I did get to bust out the flip flops so I’m still happy!

How was your weekend?

Movie Review: Fulfilling my Victorian movie love with Jane Eyre. Take me to the moor.

12 April 2011

Managing by the Golden Rule

By: Jessica B.

I cannot believe it but an episode of RHONY inspired this post. Yikes, it’s true. But what I saw really shocked me and I had to write about it.

In the premiere episode last week, Pinot Grigio-soaked, deer-in-headlights, Ramona interviewed college grads to work for her “marketing company,” which I put in quotes because I doubt its real validity. Granted, this segment was edited for TV but it was really horrifying to watch, especially  because I’ve been involved with interviewing and hiring in my real job (notice, no air quotes.)

What resulted on TV was a really cruel, inappropriate, unprofessional attack on these poor girls. Normally, I don’t feel bad for office staff on reality shows. Mostly because I think they are hired for effect and are the worst kind of people to work in those offices (see Kell on Earth as an example. Maddening.)

Anyhow, Ramona proceeded to condescend, insult and really beat down these poor girls in their interviews. She even went so far as to tell one that the self “package” she presented wasn’t up to her standards, an then proceeded to give her samples of her “skin care line” because the girl had a little facial acne and told her how she should improve her clothing so it was more aligned with what Ramona would want presented from her staff. That poor girl left crying and honestly, I probably would too.

I’ve been in the working world for a long time and if there is one thing I’ve really learned, it’s to manage by the Golden Rule, aka treat others as you would want to be treated. I’ve had some awful, awful bosses, who tried to break me down and crush my self-esteem. Many times, this worked, leaving me in constant tears and anxiety that I would do something wrong and get another tongue lashing. Once, I even had a guy try to  beat me down in a JOB INTERVIEW, only to tell HR after he did it as a test to see how I would react. Let’s just say, I told HR I wasn’t interested anymore.

And despite the scars these women and men have left, I am not that person to the people I manage. Why? Because it’s not productive and it certainly doesn’t help them. Sure, sometimes I have to be firm and have tough talks but I would NEVER berate them or insult them in order to make myself feel better or feel more important.

So Ramona, shame on you. I would say that I hope you learn from this situation, but I doubt you will, so I’ll go pour myself a glass of wine and just enjoy the train wreck that will be this upcoming season. Cheers!

What about you? Have you had a really bad boss or interview before?

11 April 2011

Weekend recap: Using my Groupons

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, Food

Happy Monday everyone! Now that I’m getting so close to my trips, I need to be careful about how many groceries I have in my house because, well I don’t want to waste food!

So, if I don’t have food at home, it’s time to go out…and use some Groupons! I have a tendency to be a Groupon hoarder (just like gift cards!) because they are like trading cards. You collect and collect and then WHOOPS time to use them! So now I have a new policy, no more Groupons until I start using at least two of them. Well this isn’t locked in stone but you know what I mean :)

And this weekend, after being scalded by water (accidentally) at the salon, having my welcome mat stolen (and later returned) and binging a little bit on Easter candy (SO GOOD), I took Sunday night off and went out with a good buddy for dinner at Takashi.

I won’t lie, I don’t know much about this place, but my food friends love it so I bought the Groupon and decided to finally use it.

Food porn, COMMENCE….

Duck fat fried chicken. So d*mn good I wanted to lay down and beg for mercy. I would go back JUST for this dish

Prosciutto-chicken coquettes – Is it wrong that I wanted to eat them like chips?

Ramen with egg noodles and beef. Being a carnivore, I wish there was more meat (TWSS!)

I’m so fortunate to have friends that love food like me and are willing to go to try these places with me.

Now, of course I have to buy ANOTHER Groupon, I just have to wade through the the offers for Botox (no joke), lash extensions and teeth whitening for another gem like this.

Do you use Groupon or other deal lists like Living Social? Do you have a tendency to collect them too?